Plumbing

The first and most annoying part of this project is: planning. Impatience seems to be the aquarist’s curse. However, a good plan makes the task easier in the end. I chose a 20 High aquarium as the sump. I wanted a larger tank, but a taller aquarium would not allow easy equipment access and longer models would not fit while allowing much storage underneath. The Oceanic® stand is taller than most, so a 20 high worked. I had ordered some connections from a discount pet supply catalog, but they were about 50% more expensive than buying the same materials from Lowe’s. I opted to measure and cut pieces individually instead of doing all measuring up-front. The reason is that subtle differences in fit for which I could not account would not affect the outcome; therefore, I didn’t have to recut due to incorrect measurements. Plus, I had plenty of exercise running up and down two flights of stairs for every cut! :)


Sump in place below display tank


Pump: inlet QD was later removed from the plan

The next step was to go to Lowe’s (my Home Improvement favorite) to purchase PVC, elbows, valves, et cetera. I had a list, but I bought many extra pieces. Guess what? I still had to make several more trips for odds and ends. The “careful” plan kept evolving. Here you can see I’ve started fitting pieces. My wonderful Oceanic® aquarium was predrilled and included threaded fittings, so I only needed to worry about plumbing below. I chose not to drill my sump because I’m paranoid about leaks. Therefore, the pump inlet goes up and into the aquarium. This photo also shows the quick-disconnect (QD) pieces and the ball valve. The PVC is 3/4″, so the cool flowmeter I found with 1/2″ plumbing wouldn’t work. I could have used reducing elbows, but I didn’t want to restrict the flow that much.

This picture shows the outlet plumbing. I later realized I was adding an extra length of PVC, so one elbow was removed. I would have like to use 45º elbows, but I used 90º instead because there wasn’t quite enough room for the severe angle into the tall sump. I did not cement the end pieces that direct flow inside the sump; if I had, I would not be able to remove them for servicing. A QD and ball valve are located at the top of the pipe. This PVC is 1″ diameter to allow for easier flow.

This picture shows my cementing supplies: PVC cleaner, purple primer, and PVC cement. The three-part kit is commonly available. Also pictured is cPVC cement to show what NOT to buy. It is used for special PVC for hot/cold water plumbing. Also shown are some pieces that have been cleaned and primed.
After dry-fitting all pieces, it’s important to have a way to be sure each piece is put back together in the proper spot and at the right angle. To do this, I used double hash marks and sequential numbering on each piece while it was still dry-fitted. This allowed for easy alignment while cementing, a crucial aid because there are only a few seconds to align before the pieces are bonded.

Figure 1

Figure 1 shows the completed sump. As previously stated, I did not bond the submersed pieces to allow for easy removal and adjustment. I experimented with several adjustments before deciding on this configuration. The outlet goes straight up so that micro-bubbles are minimized, as it causes flow to be much less directional. Figure 2 shows the ball valves and QDs. The QDs should be installed directly after ball valves so that minimal water escapes if the QD is disconnected. Figure 3 shows the outlet assembly. Micro bubbles are further contained by locating the skimmer in the middle of the sump with splash minimizer container blocking the direct flow to the pump inlet. Also shown is a gravity-fed supplement container (hung from vertical crossbeam; has orange lid and orange dripline).

Figure 2
Figure 3


Supplies for inlet:
3/4″ PVC (16′)
1 QD fitting
3 MPT to solvent
adapters
1 solvent ball valve
1 solvent check valve
4 solvent elbows
Teflon tape

For wavemaker:
3/4 to 1/2″ adapter
1 MPT to solvent
adapter
1/2″ grey conduit
PVC (4′)
wavemaker
Teflon tape

Supplies for outlet:
1″ PVC (8′)
1 MPT to solvent
adapter
1 solvent ball valve
4 solvent elbows
Teflon tape