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"LAFishguys" on YouTube - interesting stuff

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Eric, Jun 2, 2009.

  1. Eric Experienced Reefkeeper

    West Des Moines, IA
    +33 / 0 / -0
  2. bobsfish

    bobsfish Experienced Reefkeeper

    +3 / 0 / -0
    thanks for posting that...the 150 setup is pretty sweet
  3. Bela

    Bela Inactive User

    +0 / 0 / -0
    I have been watching these vids for a while. Great information and very informative. Jim is a little annoying as he likes to stress every word he SAYS but hey, none of us are perfect. An awesome learning tool to learn a little about the professional aquarium trade, if nothing else.
  4. AJ

    AJ Inactive User

    +0 / 0 / -0
    Several interesting things with the first vid...I have never heard of that type of surge maker (granted I've not done much reading on them at all), but what I thought was more interesting was the way that it had been mounted in-wall in an area that would have normally been an attic area. Lots of insulation rafters, etc so working on it was probably quite the trick since the space had restrictions, but seems to be quite effective considering that even with the restrictions of the support beams and stuff, they still have a lot of area to work in. That doorway access panel is slick!

    The guy doing the vids is kind of annoying like you mentioned. Seems like he's talking down to you the whole time and makes weird facial expressions where he scrunches (yeah, technical term) his face all up and shows his teeth.

    All things considered, I'll probably watch these and other vids from him just because the learning opportunities outweigh the annoyances. Thanks for posting Eric!

  5. REEFer Madness

    REEFer Madness Inactive User

    +0 / 0 / -0
    Corals by Eric Borneman has a really good surge device design in it. It uses a toilet flange just like how this guy showed, but I wish we could have seen the inner workings.
  6. xroads Veteran Reefkeeper Vendor

    La Porte City, IA
    +1,014 / 6 / -0
    Man that is really awesome!! Thanks for sharing.

    I didnt think he was annoying, made it easier to listen to rather then a college teacher in a monotone voice. You can tell that he is a true hobbiest excited about what they are doing.

    Now I have something to do this week at work, watch all the episodes.
  7. xroads Veteran Reefkeeper Vendor

    La Porte City, IA
    +1,014 / 6 / -0
    Wow they have some amazing tanks out there. One that was built into a shower, one that was a reception desk. A jellyfish tank, & I am only up to episode 5
  8. bobsfish

    bobsfish Experienced Reefkeeper

    +3 / 0 / -0
    Posted By xroads on 06/03/2009 02:33 PM
    Wow they have some amazing tanks out there. One that was built into a shower, one that was a reception desk. A jellyfish tank, & I am only up to episode 5
    yeah...I guess when you have too much money, you put tanks in your shower ....I'm not there!!
  9. adampottebaum

    adampottebaum Experienced Reefkeeper GIRS Member

    +18 / 0 / -0
    Yea I have the toilet valves and all the tubings ready to make that toilet type surging device in my tank, I just moved so it will be a little while before it's up and running. The siphon style causes a bunch of small bubbles that last for a while and the toilet style has a couple big bubbles that come out right away, which is why I chose the toilet style...
  10. Eric Experienced Reefkeeper

    West Des Moines, IA
    +33 / 0 / -0
    Posted By REEFer Madness on 06/03/2009 09:57 AM
    Corals by Eric Borneman has a really good surge device design in it. It uses a toilet flange just like how this guy showed, but I wish we could have seen the inner workings.

    Borneman Surge Device

    I tried building a simplified Carlson Surge Device and was frustrated because it would not start siphoning reliably or would continue to suck air and water even though the container was drained. I then read about another design in Eric Borneman's Aquarium Corals. This is a simple design like the Carlson device, but makes use of a flush device and float and even after a small amount of experimenting it proved to be more reliable and more flexible in terms of the size of the piping.

    The heart of the device is a Fluidmaster 507 Flush Valve with Bullseye Flapper. This can be ordered from most plumbing suppliers. There are multiple ways the Surge Device can be assembled and the way I built mine is just one example. The pipe size can be varied - the larger the diameter the faster the device will drain. A larger container can be used, which results in more water flow. A faster fill pump can be used and this will decrease the time between surges. The higher the device is above the tank water level, the faster the dump rate will be, however, there will be more head on the pump and the fill rate will be lower.

    The following is how I built my surge device. This should be used to get an idea how to build one and can be varied to suit the tank and inhabitants. I recommend reading the section in Borneman (2000) on water movement as this will help with the decision as to how much flow is required.

    Parts required:

    • 5L Plastic Cereal Container ($7.96 @ Big-W Penrith)
      Fluidmaster 507 Flush Valve with Bullseye Flapper ($16.50 @ Tradelink Castle Hill)
      Plastic Float ($3.50 @ Hardwarehouse Penrith)
      50 mm PVC Socket Faucet ($6.78 @ Tradelink Castle Hill)
      50 mm to 40 mm PVC Reducing Bush ($1.99 @ Tradelink Castle Hill)
      40 mm to 32 mm PVC Reducing Bush ($3.57 @ Tradelink Castle Hill)
      32 mm to 25 mm PVC Reducing Bush ($3.57 @ Tradelink Castle Hill)
      1m 25 mm PVC piping ($2.70 @ Hardwarehouse Penrith)
      3 x 25 mm 90 degree elbows ($2.76 @ Hardwarehouse Penrith)
      1m 20 mm PVC piping
      2 x 20 mm 90 degree elbows
      PVC Cement
      Teflon Tape
      Cable Tie

    • Maxi-Jet MJ1000 Powerhead
      Eheim 13/16 mm tubing
      Eheim 13 mm 'J' tube

    Tools required:

    • Drill bit capable of drilling a 60 mm hole in plastic.


    Drill a 60 mm hole in the bottom of the cereal container. Remove the flapper and then fit the flush valve through the hole and screw on retaining nut. Mark the top of the stand pipe on the flush valve about 1 cm below the top of the container. The stand pipe will need to be cut to ensure that if the flapper doesn't open, excess water will flow down the stand pipe. Remove the flush valve from the container and cut the stand pipe. Refit the flush valve into the container and screw on retaining nut.

    Using the plastic chain that comes with the flush valve and a cable tie around the float, connect the float to the flapper. You will need to experiment with this to get the right length for the string. The flapper can be easily detached and attached from the flush valve for experimentation and adjustment.

    Fit all the parts together first and adjust as required. Once satisfactory operation is achieved, the parts can be glued.

    Insert the bushes into to the base of the socket faucet. Wrap Teflon tape around thread of flush valve and screw socket faucet on. Insert the piping into the smallest bush. For the flapper to function appropriately you need to have an 'S' bend. That is, the water should flow down through the flush valve, then up and then down into the tank. This creates enough back pressure to allow the flapper to work correctly.

    You should do all your experimentation with the surge device in the laundry, garden or other suitable "wet" area. Only when you are happy with the functioning of the device should you use it on a tank with inhabitants.

    The constructed device. Note the "float riser". This was necessary as the float would sometimes get caught on the flapper. I changed this in the final device to a vertical pipe which keeps the float off the wall of the container. I also removed the end 20 x 15 mm reducing bush and 15 mm pipe, to increase the rate of dumping.

    Once you are happy with the function of the device, glue all the PVC piping together. The joins can also be made dry with Teflon tape, but it is advisable that the all joins up to the first two elbows are glued as these are under the most pressure.

    The device should be mounted in the hood or on the wall next to the tank such that the bottom of the device is about the water level of the tank. Mine sits on the centre brace of the tank and is filled by a Maxi-Jet MJ1000 powerhead in the tank.


    My device empties in around 21 seconds and fills in 14 seconds. From "empty" to "full" is around 3.8 L. This means it is dumping around 9.5 L on each dump - the 3.8 L in the container plus another 5.7 L from the powerhead as the device empties. The overall flow rate is around 980 L/hr (the rate of the powerhead with a small head and friction) but the dumping is equivalent to more than 1600 L/hr. The exit flow rate is around 260 cm.s-1.

    The device is reasonably quiet. Both starting and stooping the dump makes a small amount of noise. There are some bubbles entering the tank during the early parts of the dump, but these are not distracting.


    Borneman E.H. 2001. Aquarium Corals: Selection, Husbandry, and Natural History. Microcosm Ltd, Charlotte, VT. 464pp.
    Last updated: 1 October 2001
  11. Eric Experienced Reefkeeper

    West Des Moines, IA
    +33 / 0 / -0
    Posted By apjohnson on 06/03/2009 09:52 AM
    ...I have never heard of that type of surge maker...

    How to Build a Powerful Surge Device

    By Dr. Bruce Carlson, Director of the Waikiki Aquarium

    The following is reproduced with the permission of Tom Frakes of Aquarum Systems and SeaScope, Vol 13, Summer 1996.

    When we began keeping acroporid corals in 1985, we believed it would be necessary to provide significant turbulence in the water to simulate the corals' natural environment. Recent research has indicated that turbulent water is indeed vital to the health of these corals as it greatly facilitates the diffusion of nutrients and waste in and out of the corals. The problem for us was how to develop a device that provided a strong but periodic surge that was inexpensive, and most of all would be maintenance free.

    Dump buckets are notoriously troublesome, requiring constant adjustment and repairs. Powerheads are generally too small for big aquariums and generally unsuitable for use outdoors. Larger pumps provided the output, but a continuous flow of water is not good for the corals, and did not simulate the natural conditions of periodic surge.

    The best design to meet our criteria was an automatic siphon device which has proven to be reliable and effective and is easy build and to operate. Delbeek and Sprung (1994) published a diagram of the surge device that I have received many requests for more details, hence the publication of this report.

    Before proceeding, I must acknowledge the advice of David Powell at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When we first considered building one of these devices in 1985, Dave gave me a verbal description of a similar system that he installed at the Steinhart Aquarium. Many public aquariums use Surge tanks for a variety of applications but we were probably the first to employ one with living corals.

    How It Works The accompanying diagram illustrates a 150 gallon aquarium (#4). A Little Giant 3MD pump (#6) draws water from the aquarium through a 3/4" PVC pipe (#5) and delivers it to a 35 gallon barrel which is the surge tank (#1). When the surge tank is full, the 2" diameter PVC siphon pipe (#2) is also completely filled with water and automatically begins to siphon at a rate faster than the pump is filling the tank. When the surge tank is empty, the siphon sucks air and stops. The pump continues delivering water into the surge tank and the cycle repeats itself.

    Much smaller devices can be constructed on the same basic plan. Although the pump and pipe sizes have to be scaled up or down as the dimensions change, particularly the vertical dimensions. At this time all I can suggest is trial and error for sizing, although some details for larger systems are presented below.

    Trouble-shooting Sometimes when the surge tank is full the siphon never really gets going. Instead, the water flows out the siphon pipe as fast as the pump is pumping the water in. To remedy this, we have placed the discharge end of the siphon pipe so that it is underwater at all times ( position #9 ). This creates a bit of back pressure in the pipe, allowing in the upper surge tank to rise a bit higher and thus start the siphon. Also a smooth bend at the top of the siphon, rather than a right-angle bends as shown in the diagram, will facilitate siphon start-up. At other times the siphon wont start no matter how high the water level is in the upper reservoir. We reason that this is due to air trapped in the discharge siphon which has nowhere to go because the lower end of the pipe is always under water. To overcome this problem, we installed a 1” PVC air-vent pipe (#3) at the point on the siphon pipe just above the highest water level in the aquarium ( at position #10 ). But this air vent may also prevent the siphon from starting and therefore a mechanism is requires to close it at the crucial moment when the siphon is to start. To avoid using a valve, which increases maintenance, we simply ran the air vent pipe back up into the reservoir tank with the opening of the air vent set just at the upper water level in the tank ( #8 ). The rising water acts like a valve to close off the opening of the pipe thus allowing the siphon to begin - presto, no moving parts !

    Note: an air vent pipe smaller than 1” in diameter may work, but we find they clog too easily with salt and therefore require more maintenance. Unfortunately, once the siphon starts the air vent quickly reopens and sucks in air like a venturi. The discharge into the tank may be disturbing to aquarists who don’t want bubbles in their aquariums. This can be resolved by installing a simple flapper valve, or check valve on the air vent, but there will always be some air discharged into the aquarium.

    Sometimes the siphon wont stop. A 45 degree angle cut at the intake end of the siphon pipe, as shown in the diagram, can help resolve this by allowing more air to be sucked in when the siphon reaches the bottom of the surge tank.

    Drawbacks Depending on the size of the surge tank, the fluctuation in water level in the aquarium can be several inches ( 3” inches in our set-up ). We have not figured out a simple way to resolve this problem to monitor evaporation in a closed system. One possible solution would be to install a float switch in the aquarium or a separate reservoir and set it for the lowest “normal” water level. When the water level drops below that mark because of evaporation, the float switch will activate the flow of new replacement water. Of course, this will be periodically interrupted when the surge device dumps water back into the aquarium but none the less should work.

    Besides space requirements, the other annoying part of these surge devices is noise. The gurgling sound when the siphon starts and sucking sound when it stops can be very disturbing - definitely not recommended for the bedroom if you want a good night’s sleep.

    Applications We have a 200 gallon surge tank fitted with a 6” diameter PVC constantly filled by a 1.5 hp pump that delivers a powerful surge of water to our outdoor 7,000 gallon “Edge of the Reef” exhibit. This device has been in continuous operation since 1986 and has required virtually no maintenance except for pump repairs.


    All of our outdoor coral culture tanks are fitted with 35 gallon surge tanks, while our indoor 390 gallon exhibit tank is operated by a ½ hp pump which lifts water over 6’ to a 55 gallon surge tank that delivers a powerful jet of water every 3 minutes via a 3” PVC siphon pipe. Wilfred Fong of the San Francisco Aquarium Society recently built one of these devices for his home aquarium after visiting the Waikiki Aquarium. His surge tank is much smaller ( about 10 gallons ) but still produces a good surge of water to his reef aquarium.

    Our newest exhibit will have two surge tanks, both operated from a single pump and each delivering surge to different points in the aquarium. One surge tank will be 55 gallons and the other 35 gallons so that the periodicity of the output of the two tanks will vary. Occasionally they will both discharge simultaneously creating different churning of the water in the exhibit. To handle the combined output of the two tanks we will add a 150 gallon sump at the same level as the exhibit aquarium connected by a 19” long, by 2” high overflow slot to allow excess water to flow from the exhibit tank to an adjacent sump where it will be pumped to the surge tanks ( similar to Delbeek and Sprung, page 170 ).

    Once you build one of these tanks and learn its idiosyncrasies you will find it a very useful devise for a variety of situations requiring a strong but periodic surge of water. Best of all, once you get it started it will run forever.

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