The New Tank

Thursday, the new tank went up.  Aquariums are similar to owning a boat in the sense the two happiest days are the day you first start it and the day you get rid of it, but Thursday was also tax day and we got started on the setup much later than planned.  Brown and I spent most of the time tracking down documentation while shouting stuff like “Are you sure the dogs aren’t dependents?  Because they don’t do shit!” around a very bemused fish guy.

Overflow Accessory Kit - for those times you don't want your floor drenched in salt water

Overflow Accessory Kit - for those times you don't want your floor drenched in salt water

I’ve easily set up a couple dozen aquariums during my lifetime but I’ve never done any plumbing on one.  It is a lot more involved than I had read and, as I mentioned in an earlier post, there are very few instructions on how to do it… it’s like joining a secret society where the other members assume that the act of joining means you already know everything there is to know about the rituals involved.  I didn’t, so I hired a guy who did, and watched the process.

The first step is to install the overflow kit (first image, left).  If your tank is predrilled by the manufacturer (AKA: holes in bottom), the kit comes with pipe and brackets sized to fit those holes.  Even then, it’s still not plug-and-play.  It’s plug, check the size of the hole, remove plug, cut the pipe to fit, use the cement to bond the pipes to the plug, check the size of the pipe, add Teflon tape for sealant, and then play.

The overflow is designed to keep the water from your tank from flooding your house in the event of a power failure.  Water goes through the inlet holes cut into the overflow box (No. 1, in image), a black hard plastic box glued against the back wall of the tank (it’s in the back corner in that image). Water moves down into the sump through the intake pipe (No 2, in image).  The water level in the overflow box is always slightly lower than the water in the tank because it’s always in the process of leaving the tank to travel down into the sump.  If you have to cut off the pumps to feed the tank, or in the event of a power failure, the water in the overflow box will only drop to the level of the meshed opening on the intake pipe.   This excess water – about half a gallon or so – is absorbed into the sump system and won’t make a huge sticky, salty mess.

See all that stuff in there, Homer?  That's why your robot never worked.

See all that stuff in there, Homer? That's why your robot never worked.

Once it hits the sump/refugium, more stuff happens.  The water travels down from the intake pipe on the left through what is basically a flexible vacuum hose (No. 1, second image).  It hits the skimmer chamber (No. 2), where the heating and mechanical filtration occurs.  Then it travels into the refugium chamber (No. 3), where the natural filtration occurs,  Finally, it it moves into the pump chamber (No. 4), which moves it back up into the tank.  You can’t see it from this angle but there is also a ball valve in the output pipe (No. 5) that allows me to control the flow of the water and to speed up or slow down the number of gallons per hour that is moved through the tank.

Acquiring this information has been a time-consuming and confusing process for me – Honestly, I really did feel like an idiot.  Last week, to try and understand the innermost workings of the Secret Society of Sumps and Refugiums, I posted a few messages on some aquarium forums that basically said, “hey, I have no idea how to start.”  The only reply I received said “The water goes in on the left and goes out on the right,” which was delivered much in the same way a woman described the subways to me when I first moved to New York…  rolling her eyes and walking away as quickly as she could, she said: “If the numbers are going down, the train is going downtown, and if they are going up, the train is going uptown.”  This, like the reply about water flow, was actually surprisingly helpful to align the puzzle pieces in my mind.  Still, no regrets whatsoever about hiring someone who knew what he was doing; it was faster, cleaner, and very instructive.

And I have learned that I shouldn’t have cheaped out on the pump.  I invested such a huge amount of money in the tank and the lights that when it got to the pump, I figured a pump was a pump was a pump so I bought the most inexpensive one I could find.  For any fellow hobbyists out there, DO NOT purchase a Rio Hyperflow pump.  Our refrigerator is twenty years old, on its last legs, and sounds like a lawnmower when it starts up but I couldn’t hear it last night over the grrrrraaaaawwwwwwaaaaa of the Hyperflow.  And it’s not a seating problem – I had no idea how to set up a sump but I do know how to mount a pump.  This thing is just a piece of crap. I booted up my computer at three in the morning just to place an order for an Eheim pump, which are extremely expensive but are about as silent as you can get.  I’m aiming for  “peaceful hobby accompanied by the sound of trickling water,” not “are you sure you took the spoon out of the garbage disposal?”

I still can’t see through the sandstorm, so there will be a live rock post tomorrow!

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~ by KBSpangler on April 4, 2009.

4 Responses to “The New Tank”

  1. This post helps with the wannareef feelings. Yes, I would like a host of invertebrates and colorful things, with occasional slug because who doesn’t love slugs? No, I would not like quite so many containers of water, which would leak, of course, and I can’t really follow the diagrams so clearly, no slugs for me.
    Which means you must post pictures.

    • My photography skills? Not so hot, sadly. My boyfriend’s are so I’ll ask him to take some shots of the tank in action.

  2. and this… is why i must save a great deal of money so i can have some one else do the initial set up.

    ❤ your blog.

    • Soooooo expensive, I swear. I had a generous budget specifically for this tank and I’m still running over it.

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