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Old 02-11-2014, 06:28 PM   #1
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Diving Into Deeper Water - Need Advice for 125 Gallon and Plumbing 55 Gallon Sump

This is my first post to the forum, though Iíve been an occasional visitor for a few years now (since first getting into the aquarium hobby). Started out with a leaky 30 gallon Hex tank from my parents basement, quickly upgraded to a 55 gallon standard tank (due to aforementioned leaks), added a 30 gallon bowfront to another room in the house about a year later, and now weíve purchased a 125 gallon tank, planning to move the inhabitants of the other two tanks up a step (the guys in the 30 gallon will get the 55 gallon, the denizens of the 55 will move to the 125, 30 will likely be taken down or turned into a vivarium). All weíve worked with so far is freshwater, and for now, are happy to continue to do so. The new 125 came with a 55 gallon sump tank, and while I pride myself on being a pretty handy guy, Iíve never done plumbing work of any sort, so setting this thing up is a little intimidating. I fully intend to plumb it myself, and Iíve been doing all I can to research the topic, but Iím hoping that some of you who have the accumulated wisdom of years in the hobby might be able to give me some suggestions, advice, and pointers.

A little background, in case it should prove relevant. I am a professional model maker by trade (specializing in consumer electronic mockups and prototypes), so part of my job is being well-versed in the use of all manner of hand and power tools. Aside from that, Iíve been building things as a hobby ever since I was a child, and enjoy learning new techniques and methods for doing so. My point is, Iím comfortable doing the work myself in almost all cases, and have most of the tools I could possibly need to execute the work (I think?). With all that said, I AM NOT versed in the engineering aspects that might be relevant to advanced aquarium setup (flow dynamics relating to pumps and pipes, the minutiae of electricity, etc.)

Weíve previously worked with various power filters, but our two current tanks are set up with canister filters. Doing a lot of reading online, I had long since decided that if we ever got a larger tank, there was no question that I wanted to include a sump in the design. It sounds like there really is no good substitute for them, even on a freshwater setup. I purchased the 125, stand, and 55 sump tank on Craigslist, from a female version of Ace Ventura. Seriously, the lady was a professional equestrian dressage trainer, had several birds, dogs, and more fish tanks than I have rooms in my house. This tank, supposedly, was brand new when she got it, though the stand and sump tank were previously used. She purchased it, never had time to get it properly set up, and it sat in her living room for two years before she decided to get rid of it. I believe the stand is a scratch-built, home carpenter sort of setup, but itís extremely sturdy. While she could have been lying about the tank being brand new, I honestly donít think so. This thing is immaculate. Even the overflow bulkheads are spotless (You know that region between the inner and outer walls of plastic? No residue of any sort between them).

A Note on Weight:
I am well aware that this setup will weigh significantly more than any of our current tanks, and unfortunately I have no choice but to situate it parallel to the floor joists (and it only sits astride two joists at that). I have done some reading on the hazards this presents. Before getting this tank up and running, I will be adding at least two additional joists directly underneath the tank, spanning from the relevant load-bearing wall to the steel support beam running the length of the home. Our home is a very standard ranch-style setup. The joists in question are only about 16 feet in length, so Iím not overly worried about the difficulty of this task. I had considered placing jack stands directly underneath the tank (our basement is unfinished, so I donít really care about the aesthetics), but doing so would put a jack stand directly in front of one of my basement doors, in addition to the annoyance of having multiple immovable pillars sticking out two feet from the wall in my home gym area.

The Basic Setup:

-Attached are a photo of the basic setup, as well as a plan view I drew up that eliminates all the unnecessary stuff in the way, giving a section view of the tank and stand, along with dimensions I thought might be useful.

(Refer to image Front View (Small) and image Aquarium Plan (small))

-The tank came pre-drilled with the holes illustrated in the section view provided. I presume that the people who built the tank and pre-drilled it would know what the ideal sizes of holes for the system would be, but Iím curious anyway. Do you, who know the hobby well, feel that when bulkhead flanges and everything are accounted for, that these stand pipe and water return holes are sufficiently large to allow for quiet operation, efficient flow from the pump, and ideal aeration of falling water into the stand pipes? I understand that itís hard to get holes drilled in this thick glass, but Iíd rather take the trouble and time to get it done now than live with less than ideal filtration on down the road.

-Is there a good rule of thumb to determine how tall the stand pipes should be in a setup like this? I donít really understand (and havenít seen any real references to) whether the overflow chambers should be mostly empty, mostly full, or what difference it would make either way? Whatís quietest? Whatís most efficient? Is there an agreed upon middle ground somewhere?

-Do most people, when installing the bulkheads between the overflow chambers and the outside world below the tank, utilize rubber gaskets on the PVC bulkhead, or permanently bond the threads with PVC cement? My only concern is that rubber gaskets are likely to dry out eventually, and I canít even imagine what a nightmare it would be to disassemble those bulkheads on a live tank to replace the gasket in the event that it starts to crack and leak. I suppose, depending on the setup, turning off the pump and pulling the standpipes out of the bulkhead would leave the overflow chambers essentially empty of water, in an ideal situation. If this were the case, disassembling those bulkheads would actually not be much of a hassle, would it? Iím thinking out loud here, because my understanding of how the plumbing of this system works is still far from complete.

-What do most of you utilize in terms of a standpipe design? Iíve read about this ďRichard DursoĒ standpipe, which appears to have a capped top, a gooseneck, and a small hole drilled in the pipe somewhere. Supposedly, this design is very quiet and doesnít drain during a power outage. Are any of you familiar with this design? Are there other layouts I should consider?

-I read in a few places about standpipe and water return layouts that placed the entire tank/sump into a ďclosed loopĒ situation, making it extremely quiet and immune to draining problems in case of a power outage. Is anyone familiar with this sort of setup? The claims for the Durso standpipe sound similar, but I donít think that was what they were referring to when I was reading on this ďclosed loopĒ scenario.

Sump Placement Ė Under Tank or In Basement?:
-Iím curious about the advantages of having the sump in the basement? Iím not averse to drilling holes in the floor (I used to install and sand hardwood floors, so if I ever need to move the tank, I can fix the holes), and the basement is unfinished, so having a sump down there doesnít bother me. Aside from moving the noise of the pump to the basement, does this layout really gain me anything? If the tank and sump are set up correctly, a power outage is simply going to drain the pipes into the sump, which should bear the extra water without flooding anyway, right? Obviously it would be easier to access everything downstairs, but are there other benefits Iím not considering? I imagine a pump thatís up to the challenge of this is going to cost a lot more, right?

Sump Design/Accessories:

(refer to image Aquarium Sump Plan (small))

-Will this sump setup work as-is? Do those glass bulkheads look like an efficient layout? Iím thinking in terms of the sump holding all the necessary water in the event of a power outage, as well as overall efficiency. I donít mind stripping out the bulkheads and re-doing them if thereís a superior layout that would be worth the extra time and effort, but I havenít seen much nitty-gritty detail as to why a sumpís bulkheads are laid out in some specific way vs. another.

-I know basically nothing about the ideal contents of a sump, in terms of media, etc. Iíve seen bio bags, bio balls, ďberlin filtersĒ, media baskets, all sorts of things. I really donít know what sort of setup is best for a freshwater aquarium like this.

-How does the plant refugium thing work? Iíve heard itís useful as an additional filtration process. What sort of media is best to ďpotĒ said plants in a sump? Do we need to vacuum this media like we would the show tank media?

-Which region of the sump would be the best place for the drains to drop into? Where would be the best location for filtration media? Does the refugium go in between the filtration area and the pump return, or does the filtration area rest between the two?

-Is it ok to just put heaters in the sump? Iíve seen many people do this, but I wondered if itís as efficient as placing the heaters directly in the show tank? Iíd obviously prefer them in the sump for cosmetic reasons, but I also donít want the fish to suffer for my aesthetic sensibilities. Is it more efficient to use one big heater, or multiple smaller ones? If the sump is placed in the basement, and the water is going to travel through 10+ feet of PVC pipe exposed to open air between, is that going to affect the temperature in the show tank upstairs?

Pump/Plumbing:

-So the pump that came with the setup is an AquaEuro EU-1340. I havenít been able to find any details about this pump online at all. It's a submersible, 120V pump that operates at 60Hz and draws 1.6 Amps (125 Watts). It has an Hmax of 13.5 Ft, and a maximum throughput of 1340 Gallons per Hour (supposedly). Any estimations as to whether or not this thing would be sufficient for this aquarium? I assume the situation changes if I move the sump downstairs, as it has all that extra height to push the water? This pump says it has a maximum height of 13.5 feet, but Iím sure splitting the output to two separate outfeed pipes would hinder that somewhat. If I have to buy a new pump, does anybody have a recommendation? What are the advantages (or disadvantages) of using a submersible pump as opposed to an external one?

-Iím a little confused on what the ďdual overflowĒ design of this tank means for the plumbing layout. Do we require two separate pumps, plumbed independently? Can one big pump handle everything? Doesnít adding a ďTĒ junction to the plumbing drastically affect the performance of the pump? Is there some sort of symmetry required in the plumbing design to assure that both outfeeds are replenishing the same amount of water to the tank? Does that even matter?

-Iíve seen some sump layouts that involved an auxiliary water outfeed that immediately fed back into the sump, used as a relief system for an extra powerful pump so that the pump can run at full power. Is it bad on the pump to be throttled back? I think the designs I saw involved a ball valve so that the amount of ďextraĒ water could be controlled. Does anyone have a good explanation as to what purpose this serves? I have ideas, but would like to hear it explained by someone who really knows the systems.

-Iíve seen many people mention a device called a ďchiller.Ē I assume this has something to do with mitigating the heat generated by a large pump system, but Iím not entirely sure how it fits into the overall picture. If the pump is generating heat, wouldnít that just take some of the load off of the tank heaters? I have no idea how much heat weíre talking about these pumps generating, so pardon my ignorance. How do you know if you need a chiller or not?

Miscellaneous:
-Are there other considerations I should be thinking about when designing this system? Common pitfalls Iíve not addressed yet? Keep in mind, the largest tank Iíve used so far is a 55 gallon with a canister filter. Anything beyond that (regarding larger tanks or anything to do with a sump) I am completely ignorant of, excepting the things Iíve read online (which Iíve covered most of above).

-Does anybody have recommendations as to good books on these topics, additional web resources that might be of value to me, etc.? I poked around on Amazon for awhile and couldnít find a single book that seemed to discuss the matter of sump systems at length.

(refer to image Power Housing (small)

-It seems that the previous owners were plugging all their accessories into this home-made outlet box, which appears to be ganged into a single extension cord. Iím no electrician, but is this safe? Nevermind the fact that they have electrical wiring and multiple non-GFI outlets directly underneath a tank full of water, but theyíre ganging ALL of the outlets to a single plug. My brother-in-law tells me he used to run all the electrical systems in his 110 gallon tank off of a single outlet, but Iím not usually a fan of trusting in a single anecdote for a matter that could burn my house down. I guess in theory if everything on the circuit comes in under the amperage of the breaker, it COULD all go through a single outlet, but as I said earlier, Iím not well-versed in residential electricity. Obviously if I moved the sump to the basement most of this stuff is going to be plugged in down there, but if I were to leave it in the stand, does this setup as shown seem like something any of you would use?

In Conclusion:
Yeah, I realize how sad it is that I actually felt the need to write closing statements to a forum post, but this thing has become rather epic in length. First off, if youíve read this far, thank you. If you can chime in on any of the thousand questions I asked, it would be greatly appreciated. Not just by my girlfriend and I, but by our bevy of very large, very cramped angels who are looking at me more harshly by the day, as if to say ďyou know, weíre not getting any smaller, and this 55 gallon house just isnít cutting it anymore!Ē
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Old 02-12-2014, 08:46 AM   #2
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I'm just wondering if this may also be worth posting in the saltwater section. Sumps and chillers are more SW, there are people here with FW sumps but if no luck this section, you could try them.
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Old 02-13-2014, 10:20 AM   #3
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A good suggestion, I will do that.

It occurs to me that the initial post may be a bit intimidating in scale for many. I certainly don't expect anyone to comment on EVERY aspect of it. If you happen to read any particular bit and feel you can contribute some insight, I'd appreciate any and all information on any of the topics raised.
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Old 02-13-2014, 07:15 PM   #4
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I know a chiller is mainly used in SW to reduce water temperature - I've briefly looked at them but the expense is too much and the fish cope with my summer/winter temperature swings.

I have a 150gal and have one heater on left side. I'm thinking of adding a heater on other side as this one is cranked up but find some fish hang around heater in winter and some quite happy. So still thinking. My heater is set at about 25c or 79f and gauge on other side reads 22c or 72f in winter.
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Old 02-14-2014, 06:49 AM   #5
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I'm going to tentatively promise to come back and read your whole post but it was kind of daunting and it's almost 3AM and why am I not sleeping?

So I'll make a short reply now and return later.

Our system is much smaller in scale but we have a 90g with a 29g sump underneath. Overall it's really quite simple as far as plumbing goes. We have an overflow box rather than pre-drilled but the end result is the same.

The Richard Durso standpipe - is that a noise reduction element? We put something like that on ours, also try googling "Hofer Google Buster", it takes less than $5 in materials and is completely silent. I do not know if these are the same thing.

The return pump to the tank goes into a return tube. It's a vertical tube that extends down into the tank and has holes drilled every 1" or so. The top hole is JUST below the water line. If the power goes off, the water line barely drops and then the sump stops siphoning. There is 0 chance of an overflow.
Even though you have pre-drilled instead of an overflow box, the idea is the same. The water level will not drop below the top of the overflow box, and an "emergency air hole" in the return will prevent a back-siphon into the sump.

I'm very sorry as again I read very little of the post, but not because i'm disinterested, it was just a poor selection for me as a middle-of-the-night read.
If I remember I will just try to take some pictures of our setup, would this help? Even though it is smaller, the idea is really the same.
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Old 02-14-2014, 06:54 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steelcrystal View Post
Sump Placement Ė Under Tank or In Basement?:
-Iím curious about the advantages of having the sump in the basement? Iím not averse to drilling holes in the floor (I used to install and sand hardwood floors, so if I ever need to move the tank, I can fix the holes), and the basement is unfinished, so having a sump down there doesnít bother me. Aside from moving the noise of the pump to the basement, does this layout really gain me anything? If the tank and sump are set up correctly, a power outage is simply going to drain the pipes into the sump, which should bear the extra water without flooding anyway, right? Obviously it would be easier to access everything downstairs, but are there other benefits Iím not considering? I imagine a pump thatís up to the challenge of this is going to cost a lot more, right?
How accessible is your basement? This would be the most important thing.

I access the sump every day to dose ferts. The sump has to be topped off every few days (any evaporation will show in the sump not the main tank). If you can't reach your python to the basement, forget it!

There will be more water in the pipes if the sump is in the basement, so the water level of the sump will be lower. (pro? con? I don't know)

Is your basement cold? will be more to heat the water if so.

You're going to need a mad crazy pump to make up that head space.

But if you WANT it down there, go for it! People certainly do. It just sounds tougher to me personally - but your situation is totally different from mine.
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:37 AM   #7
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So it sounds like the chiller is something I can dispense with. Glad to hear it. I've also seen some sump designs where people actually put PC case fans over the sump and it lowered the water temperature by several degrees, which is far cheaper to do. If temperature is a problem, I might look into that first.

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Originally Posted by threnjen View Post
If I remember I will just try to take some pictures of our setup, would this help? Even though it is smaller, the idea is really the same.
Yes, that would be very helpful, thank you! Right now I'm interested to see as many ways of laying out the sump plumbing as I can, just so I have some basic idea of what people are trying to accomplish and how.

Here's the page for the Durso standpipe design. Home - Durso Standpipes

I'll definitely investigate this Hofer Gurgle Buster standpipe further, it looks promising and many people are claiming it's quieter than the Durso design.

I have a sink within reach in the basement, so siphoning/adding water in the sump won't be a problem if I put it down there. I guess my two biggest concerns are ease of maintaining/working in the sump if it's in the stand, and the noise the pump will generate. I've just never used the sort of pumps that a tank this big will require, so I have no basis for comparison to know if the noise is going to bother me or not.
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Old 02-14-2014, 05:53 PM   #8
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I'm sorry because I can't help you very much at all, but I was in a similar position before (long post, not a whole lot of replies ). I really couldn't tell you much of anything about a sump, I don't really know anything about it. I think it's a tank below that works as extra filtration, and that you can put plants in to take out nitrates, right? If so, then anacharis, hornwort, and water wisteria will grow very well and soak up lots of nitrates. But if not then just ignore it! I'm pretty sure I'm wrong about that. I can help you with stocking if you'd like. What are you planning on?

Good luck!
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Old 02-14-2014, 07:51 PM   #9
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Took a bunch of pics, give me a while to get things organized.
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Old 02-14-2014, 08:20 PM   #10
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OK, here we go.

Setup. 90g over 29g sump.




This is the basic sump. This is before the tank was ever set up, so it's not exactly the same now but the basic setup is the same.
I have a thread about how I built the sump on another forum that is more detailed than I will post here: In-progress sump design - Aquarium Forum

The overflow goes into the top of a sterilite 3 tray system that I found that just happened to perfectly fit into the 29g aquarium. The water flows through 3 trays of mechanical media (sponges of increasing fineness). To accomplish the flowthrough, we cut out the bottom of each drawer except for a small frame of plastic, and set the commonly used "egg crate" lighting diffuser from Home Depot in the bottom of the tray to support the sponges.
For the actual plumbling, we have the overflow tubing which is 1" diameter going onto a 1" nipple to threaded male, threaded into a 90 degree elbow. I cut a hole in the top of the sterilite trays that just fits the elbow which is just snugly pushed in. It can easily be pulled out if needed.

After going through the mechanical trays, the water passes through bio balls (I will eventually replace these). I also have some other various stuff in there... seachem matrix pond, sponges.
To hold the bio balls, I built a "cage" out of the egg crating + zip ties. The cage is held up off the floor by some pvc plug pieces filled with silicone that I just glued to the floor of the sump. A front baffle forms the front support of the sterilite trays, and keeps the cage in place.
The bottom of the baffle has a large u cutout. Water flows down through the balls and exits out the bottom of the baffle.

Then the water goes up and over another baffle into the return area.

The basics of the return area are just the return pump and the heater. This is all you REALLY need there.



I have lots of other crap in there though But you don't need to worry about all the other stuff!
The last pic of the sump there shows a great view of it in action.


Here is the return pipe in the tank. You'll see the top hole is right below the water line (our overflow is adjustable height, so it's easy for us to set that, you might need to carefully measure for your static overflow).
We have the return pump tubing come up to a nipple to threaded male and then 2 90 degree pvc turns to this pipe in the tank this keeps the pipe in place so it doesn't slip around.
That top hole, when the power goes off, will stop the siphon to the sump almost immediately because the water level drops below it and it sucks in air. So we have relatively little water drop to the sump when I turn off the pump system (which I do every water change of course)


Here is a REALLY terrible drawing, lol. This is the basics of my setup. There's only one power item in there, the pump (well and you would put your heater down there). I personally have no problem with the sound, we use a Tunze Silence pump and it is very quiet.
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