Hi Hunter! I'm glad to hear all is going well with your 55g. Let me know when you post your journal. I'd love to see it!
The plumbing is kind of custom. I used the Lifegard Customflo Kit
for the main plumbing, but modified it to the way I wanted it. For example, the kit uses plastic tubing to connect the spray bars, but I really don't like how that looks so I cut one of the pieces and glue it onto another one so the spray bars can connect directly onto the down pipe. Then on this side, I've added a surface skimmer
. Again, I modified the connection. So instead of using the corrugated tubing that comes with the skimmer, I have it connected directly to the intake pipe. What you can't see that I have another intake connected just below the skimmer so that side does double duty of being a regular intake plus a surface skimmer. On the other side, I have two intakes that goes to my second canister.
There's also another spray bar that you can't see in the picture. It also goes along the entire back wall of the tank, but is much closer to the bottom of the tank. The lower spray bar injects the CO2 while the upper spray bar is just a normal return (has my uv sterilizer inline on it).
So I have two canisters running. One canister handles my CO2. It has two intakes and a long spray bar very close to the bottom of the tank. The second canister handles my uv sterilizer, has one intake and the surface skimmer, and is about midway up the back wall.
I don't have any problems with the returns being so low. In fact, I prefer them low. Having the CO2 injected so low in the tank helps to ensure that the CO2 is distributed throughout the tank (not just the upper portion of the tank). The second spray bar helps to keep the CO2 well mixed throughout.
When the tank isn't very heavily planted, the plants placed just in front of the spray bars can get pushed over a little, but it's not a big problem as they grow taller. The lower portions of the stems are usually strong enough to withstand the pressure. When I had the spray bars up higher, the top spray bar would push the tops of the plants, and that caused more problems. In fact, my 90g has the top spray bar up higher, and I'm not as happy with that arrangement. The tops of the plants are more sensitive to the water pressure blowing on them.
The more heavily planted the tank is and the more grown in the plants become, the less of a problem the water pressure becomes because the plants help to brace each other from getting pushed too much. They also serve to block the water flow which is one reason why I have the outflow water distributed the way I do. Instead of relying on one small area to feed the entire tank, the whole back wall basically feeds the tank with the outflowing water. Because the water is distributed throughout the long spray bars, the total pressure from any one spot is reduced so I don't have a single are with a super-high outflow. Instead, I have a large area of moderately high outflow.
I use this setup for 90g, 75g, and both 29g tanks. I've used it for several years and very much like the way it circulates the water throughout the tanks.