pvc heater/reactor manifold
My Goal: Remove ALL equipment from inside the tank by drilling the glass and installing bulkheads, then design and build a manifold to facilitate ALL equipment.
Tank: All Glass 37 Gallon 30x12x22
Stand and Canopy: Custom made and finished in Black
Filtration: Fluval 304 with foam pre filters, one tray of bio balls, one tray of ceramic media, and one tray of Seachem Renew.
Heating: Hydor ETH 201
Day Lighting: Icecap 2 bulb retrofit kit w/430 ballast and 2-24” URI Aquasun 75 watt bulbs controlled by an Intermatic heavy duty 15 amp digital timer
Night Lighting: 2 CurrentUSA Lunar Lights – Nocturnal Blue controlled by an Intermatic digital timer
Substrate: Eco Complete
CO2 system: 5 lb Aluminum cylinder, Milwaukee MA957 regulator with JBJ bubble counter, Milwaukee SMS122 PH Monitor/Controller, DC model 2 reactor
Fauna: White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Rummy Nose Tetras, Corydoras paleatus, Ancistrus sp. Bristlenose Plecostomus, Red Ramshorn Snails, Amano Shrimp, Red Cherry Shrimp
Flora: Blyxa Japonica, Hottonia Palustris, Alternanthera Reineckii, Myriophyllum Matogrossensse, Limnophila Aromatica, Dwarf Llobelias, Polygonum K, Eichhornia Diversifolia, Cabomba Caroliniana, Red Tiger Lotus, Eichhornia Azurea, Echinodorus Latifolius, Java Fern
Step 1: Bulkheads with intake/return fittings.
I decided on ¾ inch schedule 40 double threaded bulkheads. Since I would be using a Fluval 304 as the primary filter, I chose ¾ inch bulkheads to match the 5/8 inch tubing of the Fluval as close as possible. Hopeful that using ¾ inch would minimize the flow effects of stepping up and stepping down the plumbing, I gambled. Since the difference in diameter is only 1/8 inch, I hypothesized the flow effects would be negligible and it is so.
I really like the flexibility of Loc-Line components and wanted to use them for the return which would require a threaded fitting for the Loc-Line 3/4 inch Ball Socket x MPT Connector Loc-Line 3/4 inch Ball Socket x MPT Connector - Marine Depot - Marine and Reef Aquarium Super Store. I decided to have commonality with the bulkheads and used double threaded for the intake and return Double Threaded Bulkhead Fitting - 3/4in - Marine Depot - Marine and Reef Aquarium Super Store. The back side of the bulkhead is also threaded to facilitate the use of threaded hose barb fittings Insert Elbow Fitting - 3/4 inch MPT x 3/4 inch Insert - Marine Depot - Marine and Reef Aquarium Super Store. Threaded hose barb fittings would give me a secure connection (and feeling) while giving me the ability to remove them if needed unlike glued slip fittings. I initially bought several types of return nozzles to test the flow characteristics so I could pick the one that matched my needs. Jumping ahead a bit, after testing, the ½ inch x 2.5 inch flared nozzle Loc-Line 1/2in X 2.5in Flare Nozzle - Marine Depot - Marine and Reef Aquarium Super Store worked perfectly; this required a 3/4 inch x 1/2 inch Ball Socket Adapter Loc-Line 3/4 inch x 1/2 inch Ball Socket Adapter - Marine Depot - Marine and Reef Aquarium Super Store to connect to the ¾ inch ball socket connector. I used a ¾ inch MPT Overflow Strainer Overflow Strainer - 3/4 inch MPT - Marine Depot - Marine and Reef Aquarium Super Store for the return. All bulkheads and intake/return fittings were purchased at Marine Depot.
Below are some pictures of the bulkheads and intake/return fittings:
Return Bulkhead Parts
Return Bulkhead Assembled
Intake Bulkhead Parts
Intake Bulkhead Assembled
If you have not put loc-line together before, the pliers they sell are very useful. Loc-line is not difficult to disassemble but is a bear to put together without the pliers. Yes, they are expensive to buy if only needed once. Try to borrow a set if you can. I have 4 tanks with ½” and ¾” loc-line so the pliers are a necessity for me.
¾” pliers on the left and ½” pliers on the right
Setting up to connect a ¾” to ½” adapter to a ½ inch x 2.5 inch flared nozzle using ½” pliers
Video connecting a ¾” to ½” adapter to a ½ inch x 2.5 inch flared nozzle using ½” pliers
Click on picture to play video
Step 2: Drill tank.
Drilling a tank is a scary proposition, one mistake and the tank is ruined. It needs to be said that drilling a tank with tempered glass is a bad idea. A lot of tanks are being made today with all sides tempered, in the past the bottom may have been, but nowadays it needs to be checked thoroughly. We will be drilling the back glass and it is not tempered. Luckily, my good friend RMC offered to help me in this area. Before drilling an “in-use” tank planning and organization is required. A “holding tank” was needed to house the fish and plants. Since my first drilled tank project took almost two weeks to complete, I would need to plan on “holding” my plants and fish for a couple of weeks, possibly longer since I would be designing/building an untested manifold system. I setup a 50 gallon Rubbermaid container and used the tank equipment while the tank was under construction. A trick RMC taught me: When draining a tank, shove all the substrate in one corner, get a 1 inch tube and start a siphon, shove the tube into the substrate, the substrate will siphon out of the tank quite quickly. This is a really neat trick that saves a lot of time removing the substrate and gunk.
As previously stated, RMC helped me drill the tank; he has a thread on how to do this here: (Fellowship of the Fish :: View topic - 006 - Drilling Tanks & Central Filtration [ Guest ]. We placed the holes in the center of the tank, offsetting them about 1 inch from each other to allow the tubing to run side by side. Placing the return hole 1/3 of the way down from the top and the intake hole 1/3 of the way up from the bottom worked well on the 55 drilled previously, so we located these holes the same way.
If you have never installed bulkheads before, gasket on the inside, tighten the nut by hand. Using a wrench and applying too much torque to the bulkhead nut will break the glass, strip the nut, or cause it to leak. Placing the threaded barb fitting into the bulkhead before tightening the bulkhead helps locate the threaded barb fitting into the proper position (down). Make sure you use Teflon tape on the threads of the bulkhead and threaded barb fitting. Do not apply too much torque on the threaded barb fitting or the bulkhead will split.
I attached standard ¾ inch tubing to the threaded barb fitting and used a hose clamp for extra security. Since we offset the holes earlier, the tubing rests next to each other.
For the transition into the stand I used 3/4 inch Slip x 3/4 inch Insert elbow barb fittings (Inser Elbow Fitting - 3/4 inch Slip x 3/4 inch Insert - Marine Depot - Marine and Reef Aquarium Super Store) . These are the same as the threaded barb fittings but are slip fit instead of threaded. Again, I used hose clamps for added security.
So now we have the intake and return coming out of the tank, taking a 90 degree and entering the stand with another 90 degree. This is where the manifold will begin.
Below are some pictures to help illustrate Step 2.
Here is a look from the top of the tank.
Step 3: Design the Manifold
My first attempt at drilling a tank and removing all equipment was a 55 gallon. Some pictures are located here: (Fellowship of the Fish :: View topic - 001 - 55 gallon reworked [ Guest ]. On the 55 gallon, I used 2 filters so connecting the equipment was relatively easy, one filter gets the CO2 reactor and one filter gets the Hydor heater. On this tank, I am using one filter so the equipment needed to be linked together. Every bend in the filter tubing slows the flow and generates heat. It became my priority to minimize the bends in this setup. Studying the properties of the drilled 55 gallon and using the experience gained, I decided on making a “looped” manifold out of PVC.
Step 4: Gather Parts.
When purchasing PVC fittings, always buy extra. They can be returned if not used but, it is very frustrating to stop a project for lack of a 90 degree fitting. I put the whole manifold together before gluing to ensure I did not leave something out. Look at the entire project and ask yourself, how will I get this apart for cleaning, disassembly, etc? Another important consideration, how and where will this fit into the stand and be secured? It may help to make a drawing for reference while purchasing parts. I used 2 sizes of PVC for this project ¾” and 1.5”. Basically the reactor side is 1.5” and the heater side is ¾”. The feed PVC is 1.5”. I incorporated as many threaded fittings as possible into the manifold in case I needed to take something apart unforeseen and since this is a first generation manifold, I may want/need to make modifications later on. BTW, all the PVC fittings I used were found at Home Depot, Lowes, or Menards.
Here are some pictures of PVC parts to reference and help illustrate:
Threaded Union (typical)
Threaded Ball Valve (typical)
Slip x Slip 90 degree (typical)
Slip x FPT 90 degree (typical)
Hose Barb Fitting
Threaded x Threaded Bushing
Slip x Slip Bushing
Slip x FPT Bushing
Step 5: Piece the Manifold Together
Before starting to piece the manifold together, I need to inform you of the tools required. Besides common hand tools you will need a strap wrench and PVC cutters (these cutters work on PVC up to 1” in diameter, I use a miter saw to cut PVC larger that 1”). The PVC Cutter and Strap Wrench can be found at Home Depot or Lowes. Here are some pictures of these tools:
I started with my 2nd generation External Inline CO2 Reactor; I call it the DC model 2. Here is a link to my 1st generation External Inline CO2 Reactor, the DC model 1. Fellowship of the Fish :: View topic - 005 - DIY External Inline CO2 Reactor [ Guest ] I no longer use this model but do make it for other hobbyist.
The main difference between the DC model 1 and the DC model 2 is the model 2 has provisions for an inline PH probe mounted on the reactor. Here is a link to the inauguration of the DC model 2 and my first drilled tank. Fellowship of the Fish :: View topic - 001 - 55 gallon reworked [ Guest ] Since I had the length already established by using the DC model 2, it was pretty easy adapting the heater and turning these parts into a looped manifold. As you can see in this picture, I transitioned from 1.5 inch PVC to ¾” PVC using a male adapter on the output of the reactor.
Transition from 1.5” PVC to ¾” PVC illustrated
I used unions on both sides of the heater. The reason for this is if you glued the fittings together and had a leak or needed to swap out the heater, the heater may get turned in a bad position tightening up the fittings. With unions installed the heater stays positioned and the needed movement is done within the unions. Here is a picture of the unions installed on either side of the heater. I know it is hard to understand, even harder to explain; just one of those things you need to see to understand.
Unions installed on both sides of the heater illustrated
On either side of the unions is a Bushing ¾” slip x ½” fpt bushing. The ½” fpt screws onto the heater barb. Care must be taken getting the correct size, take the heater to the store with you. The bushing must screw down onto the fitting which means it must let the barb pass into the bushing. I tried several bushings before I found one that was perfect. Be extremely careful putting these bushings onto the fittings. It is very easy to snap the fitting on the heater if you over tighten the bushing. Make sure you use Teflon tape on the threads of the heater fitting. It is difficult to visualize the bushing connection in this picture due to the fastener that is installed around the bushing. The bushing is threaded onto the heater barb fitting and is glued into the union end.
Bushing installation illustrated
I installed a threaded ball valve so the manifold could be isolated for removal from the stand. Here is a picture illustrating the location of the threaded ball valve.
Threaded ball valve location illustrated
The other side of the manifold is isolated using the shutoff on the Fluval fitting. Here is a picture of the Fluval fitting connected to the inlet of the CO2 reactor.
CO2 reactor inlet shut off illustrated
The manifold is disconnected from the stand at 2 unions, one for the inlet and one for the return. Here is a picture of the unions. The union on the left is connected to the heater hard plumbing and the union on the right is connected to the Fluval tubing.
Stand union disconnects illustrated.
Here is a picture of the stand top with the manifold removed
Stand with manifold disconnected
The PH probe is located upstream from the CO2 injector. It works great and one more piece of equipment out of the tank.
CO2 intake and PH probe illustrated
Here is a picture of the completed manifold.
Completed manifold illustrated
The manifold is held in the stand with 4 screws.
Stand with manifold installed
LH side of stand looking through door
RH side of stand looking through door
Only thing visible in the tank is the return nozzle
That is...simply...AMAZING!! Perhaps you should market the complete design and make a business :thumbsup:
It is indeed very neat and tidy. Great documentation.
As always DC, you're a wizard! Fantastic documentation and an awesome design! I know I'll be looking up your threads whenever I start my next DIY project.
... haha, maybe one of these days I'll actually get to meet you in person too! ;)
Looks great! Whoo hoo!! Nice to see my red ramshorns thriving in your tanks!
looks very nice, and clean as well.
my only question is the following; regarding the location of the pH probe, aren't you concerned that you will be getting readings that are higher than the pH levels you would see in the tank?
considering the probe is in a small quantity of water compared to the quantity of water the probe would measure the pH in the tank?
does that make sense?
Yet another marvel! :)
I am almost finished my RO water storage, primarily based on your other thread. Isnt brain surgery but it made things much easier seeing what someone else had done. ;) As always thanks for sharing! AND great job!
I have one question...is your pH probe upstream or downstream of the co2 input? Wont this give different readings being so close to source of co2?
I have modified my water storage a little, just at the 55 gallon drum. I moved the pump outlet to the back so I could store the water changer in the front hole. This allows me to recirculate the water so it does not become stagnant during storage. Here is what it looks like now, compare it with the other pics in my DIY link below.....DC
Wow! That's just another example of truly beautiful plumbing work DC! I am humbled. And I love your use of unions. It makes a world of sense, and will definately be incorporated into my next plumbing job!
Thanks for the very well presented information, and of course, the inspiration!
You give us all a high mark to shoot for.:thumbsup:
Awesome howto and project. Thank you.
Wow, you guys are setting a new standard for plumbing. It looks tidy, earthquake proof and marvelous documentation. But I will never have the balls to drill into a new 120 gallon tank or larger. I'll have to order that and follow your plan to the T on the bulkheads and plumbing the underside. :thumbsup: :thumbsup: Thanks for sharing!
One query... And maybe I missed this in the thread, but how did you arrive at the size of the PVC for the manifold? And have you lost much flow or thrust compared to the straight Fluval 304? TIA
That is incredible. Nice work. How much does it effect the flow in your fluval? I am asking because I have a 304 as well that is acting strictly as a surface skimmer and was considering making a reactor for it. I dont however, want to restrict the flow too much..
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