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Help with continuous automatic water drip/change system.

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by yashaswibs, Jan 29, 2010.

  1. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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    Hi guys.
    I am quite tired of weekly water changes on my 90 gallon tank and want to go for a drip system. I have immediately run into trouble.
    --- The tank is not drilled and would need and overflow- the Aquacorals shop near my house in Maine suggested that the best overflows are either Eshopps or Lifereef. She has the former (hope I got the spelling right) but it will not handle any flow this low- about 4gph and instead will have creeping up of air and breakage of siphon. How do I overcome that?

    Ideas appreciated.
     
  2. shoggoth43

    shoggoth43 Lifetime Charter Member
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    If the overflow in question has a separate siphon tube you can replace it with a much smaller diameter one. You need to make sure that any air bubbles that get in the siphon will flow out. The best way to visualize this would be to start a siphon using some airline tube into a bucket. Then place an airstone underneath the inlet. You should see small bubbles build up in the airline tube until they form large bubbles, but it should still flow tthrough the tube as moving pockets of air and you'll have to put a LOT of air under the tube before you can break the siphon.

    If you try to do the same with a larger U tube you'll just end up with a massive air pocket and break prime. It's a combination of water velocity in the tubing and the size of the air bubbles you can form that cause the problem.

    Bubbles X large diameter tube X low flow velocity = flood
    Bubbles X small diameter tube X higher flow velocity = working drip system

    The obvious question is where are the bubbles coming from? They'll come from a few possible places. One is the overflow action itself can drag air down to the point that the siphon inlet sucks them in. This usually requires much more flow than a few GPH - say 100 GPH or any amount where there's splashing into the overflow. You might have a leak in the system like a cracked U tube or poor PVC joint if you build one of those PVC pipe overflows. The most likely culprit is that the very low GPH allows the water to outgas since you have a nearly stagnant amount of water closed at the top with gravity on both ends of the tube. You'll have a relatively low pressure area at the top of the tube "pulling" gases out as the weight of the water on either leg wants to dump out the bottom. By keeping the water velocity up and moving the flow along, any bubbles created are either moved out of there by velocity, say for example a 100 gph with a 1/2" tube, or more likely in this case, the bubble can only grow so big before it fills the diameter of the tube as in the case of airline tubing. At this point relative pressure on the tank side of the siphon will push this bubble along and out the tube before it can become a problem. Since you can only build up a couple of small 1/8" bubbles or whatever size of the tube you're fine.

    If you go this route you should be able to customize your flow with the proper size tubing. Plus it's pretty cheap for a couple feet of each diameter tubing to play with.

    -
    S
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Just use a Tee off a canister filter instead.
    Use a small electronic float valve in the tank.
    A solenoid can be used to time and drain the tank, and then the float will refill it.

    You can do this slowly(advised) and say set the timer for changing the water at 10% the volume a day.
    You will need some drain and fill plumbing, hard poly pipe works well and a U shaped return for the float switch return is simple to add on.
    So a Tee off the canister filter, goes to a solenoid, say 1/4" or 3/8", this drains for 1-2 hours etc. As the tank drains, the float switch is activated and refills the tank.
    Solenoids can be had for 10-30$ or so for liquids off ebay. Hard plumbing the switch tot the float valve return can be done either with warmed water, or cold, since the refill rate is slow, the temp does not matter.
    You do need a connection to the refill water and the drain for this system, but otherwise, as long as you can hide that(small hard plastic pipes, 1/4' etc to the drains/refill water supply), you can easily do this method.

    If you use a controller with web control functions, you can call up the controller and do a water change via the phone even.
    So using a controller can replace the manual timer.

    You can also do a water change for 6 hours to really do a larger % water change and flush things out.
    Always do the water changes about 1 hour after the lights come on.

    Eshopps are fine for prefilters.
    To get around the overflow issues, most use a Tom's dosing pump, cost about 10-14$ on line, CPR overflows are what I use, they suggest these and I've had no issues to date.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  4. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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    If you go this route you should be able to customize your flow with the proper size tubing. Plus it's pretty cheap for a couple feet of each diameter tubing to play with.

    -
    S[/QUOTE]

    Thanks for the reply Shoggoth.
    Although it is easy to get small amounts of tubing of different sizes I hope that the failure of that size of tubing will not cause a huge flood. I see what you are saying though and it makes a lot of sense.
    I am having the overflow delivered on Tuesday and I will report back to you about how this experiment went.

    I am wondering if velocity is the determining factor than I can throw a dozen or so airline tubing into the aquarium with a siphon to outside, so that way even if half of them get blocked by duck weed there is still enough flow to outside to keep the aquarium from overflowing but dialing in the right number and size of tubing will take some doing. I would after all like to keep the water at a certain level at most times and at the same time not want to do large volume water turn over daily.

    I read your detailed explanation in your thread as well.
    Thanks.
     
  5. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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    Thanks for reply Tom.
    I am hoping to keep this as simple as possible. I would love to avoid solonoid/float valve/water changes via phone or web.
    The problem is I am a simple man from a simple country now taking in the complexities of this country and have never been exposed to this much technology- EVER. So much of my reluctance is my lack of understanding.

    That said if I don't try I will never learn- even at the expense of a flood every now and then (I hope my landlord is not on this forum).

    I did check out Toms dosing pump and it has the right GPH water rate but I wonder if this is an approximation and is it used in conjunction with CPR overflow or on its own? If on its own the rate of flow has to be right for this to work. If used with overflow the elegance of simplicity is lost and I guess I can say to hell with elegance but it would involve a steep learning curve.

    The canister Tee off is a good idea but will I be able to control the rate of output and if so how. The turn over of canister is about 500 gph and even if I split that in 2 or 3 it will still be too quick and too much for me.
    If I use a ball valve and try to titrate the amount of water coming out that would put a strain on the tee and can threaten to open the joint. I would need to make sure that the pipe coming off the Tee is very well connected, the ball valve is well connected, the opening on the ball valve is just the right amount-- I guess it can be done but I have will need some guidance.

    The web controller is a cool idea- never heard of something like that for freshwater application. I have heard of some reefers using it. Could you point me towards the controllers you are talking about?

    I am worried about solenoids and float valves failing. I have also considered drip emitters but am trying to keep it simple.

    Thanks
    Yashaswi
     
  6. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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    Exactly.
    Allow me to add something to that- Small diameter tube in planted aquarium= clogged tube by debris=flood.
    So I need tube large enough to not get clogged but small enough for siphon not to break.
     
  7. shoggoth43

    shoggoth43 Lifetime Charter Member
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    You could also run with several of the smaller tubes that are "almost" enough so that you don't have to worry about it. Say you need 2 of them, and you have three then it should be good. If you're running an overflow box you can also just stuff some foam in there to prefilter the water and be set as well.

    -
    S
     
  8. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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    I have some nano reef overflows from Lifereef coming soon. I will post my progress. Apparently these are fail proof systems.
     
  9. Biollante

    Biollante Lifetime Charter Member
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    Failure Proof?

    Hi,

    Obviously they have not met me! :eek:

    Biollante
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    If simple is the goal, then a semi automated device for water changes would be even better.

    I use those myself.

    Automation comes with a price.

    I use a valve to quickly drain the tank, turn another to refill it.
    Nothing more is required, it's semi manual, but extremely easy for anyone to drain and refill.

    No risk of overflows when equipment fails or you are not around.

    If you worry about solenoids failing, use 2 in row, redundancy/back up system.

    That means even if 1 fails, you have another just in case, the same dual system can be used for the float valves for refill.
    Planes are set up like this so if one fails, you always have a backup.

    Same applies to many systems.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  11. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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    That is a good one!!!!!
    But then again they have not come up against my incompetence/exquisite talent either. I guess I am about to make history by making one of these fail.
     
  12. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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  13. shoggoth43

    shoggoth43 Lifetime Charter Member
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    Around work we use "should" and "shouldn't" quite a bit when it comes to things that break.

    I am often reminded of the line "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it does." from Princess Bride.

    -
    S
     
  14. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I "hard plumb" the system. there's no reason you also could not soft plumb it either, using flex hose etc.

    So like adding a hot/cold washing machine outlet into the wall, and a drain for the laundry room, you do the same where the aquarium is placed.

    Paying someone to do this, eg a plumber, or if you are handy, you can do some/all of the labor.
    Once done, and yes, it might cost a bit and take some time if you DIY, then the work is not a chore ever again.

    It's easy.

    So while it cost some $ up front and seems a bit crazy, the long term reduction in hassle and labor is excellent.

    Soft plumbing involves using flexible pipe to snake the water in/out of the tank and is good where you cannot use hard plumbing or where you do not own the home/apartment.
    If the aquarium can be placed near a drain and tap water, then you can do this pretty easily.

    I do this myself.
    The soft plumbing is stored under the aquarium and pulled out to the bathroom via hoses. I simply turn a valve to start the siphon which drains about 70% of the tank. Once drained, I turn on the refill.

    Python water changers are like this to some extent, but I pre set things using this method.

    No, I do not want to do a water change every day, even with that, the hard plumbing is easier though, sicne you do not even need to pull the hoses out and place them near a drain/tap water refill. Those you simply turn a valve and nothing more.
    A toilet flapper have a drain that stops ata certain level and slowly refills the tank, just like a toilet.
    The float valve shuts the water off once it refills.

    Nice thing is that it's just one thing and the refill is slow(so does not deplete the hot water and if cold comes out, it's slowly warmed up) and automatic.

    There's several way you can go here.
    Automating and making the water change easier should be a goal for most folks who plan on having aquariums for a few years that are larger than 50-70 gallons.
    The labor and motivation saved is huge.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  15. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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    You are right. I am sure I would have said "that should not happen" everytime something I don't like happens and unfortunately I would have assured someone it would not happen.
     
  16. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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    Thanks for the reply Tom.

    I probably should get a plumber and stop being such a cheap guy.
     
  17. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    No!
    Still be a cheap guy!
    But take it out on the plumber:)

    You are being cheap by doing something that will save you a lot of time, labor and motivation over the long run.
    Now use that cheapness to work a good deal on what you want specifically from the plumber for the aquarium.

    It' is a bit like first getting people to use CO2. Once you do, you'd never want to go back, but the first leap of faith is often harder to do.
    Still, afterwards, you wonder how others could suffer.

    It certainly makes the hobby far more enjoyable.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  18. yashaswibs

    yashaswibs Prolific Poster

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    All right guys, the Lifereef overflow arrived and I connected it and fired up the entire system.

    Here are my thoughts--- The Life reef overflow system is fail proof. It is not idiot proof but close. It works at almost all flow rates.

    The whole system worked fine when I had it connected to a tap inside my house but when I switched to the garden hose outlet outside the flow inwards slowly decreased and now it is just a few drops of water an hour. Perhaps the weather is so cold that water is freezing up ( it is after all Maine). Perhaps I need to route water through the walls and drip it into the aquarium. There is a chance this whole thing will work. I am planning on getting some wild caught discus so this system will be a boon then. If I fail I will not go towards wild caught.

    Inputs much appreciated. I have solved the problem of getting the water out of aquarium but this is a new problem of getting water in without it being unsightly.
     
  19. Biollante

    Biollante Lifetime Charter Member
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    Fail Proof Not Idiot Proof? Well Almost!

    Hi,

    I am as cheap as they come, but one of this is one of those times when hiring a plumber, re-modeler sort of person.

    I redid mine a while back and it is worth it to get insights as to what is possible and keep it looking nice.

    Nice to have tanks and things in one place, sumps, pumps, CO2 and gear elsewhere. :)

    The wild Discus are worth the effort, in my always humble potted plant opinion. :cool:

    Biollante
     
  20. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    ??
    Try using the sump area for that refill/drain aspect.

    Open the cabinet up and install the drain/refill there.

    Unsightly refill water hoses etc should be easily concealed with a sump.
    You can do slow water changes also, leave the drain and refill both on.
    Use a float switch to add the replacement water back as the the other drains(the drain should be upstream from the refill, this avoids mixing and gives you a higher % replacement water fraction.)


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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