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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
When we purchased our used 180g tank it came with 5 holes already drilled in the bottom. Instead of just plugging the holes I decided to use them as bottom returns. First I enlarged all of the holes to take heavy duty 1" bulkheads. It took me a while to figure out how to cap the returns with water diffusers that would blend with the rest of the aquascape.

1026046


Two of the bottom returns. One showing just the bulkhead and the second showing the bulkhead with a 1" PVC riser installed.
1026038


I drilled a 1 3/4" hole in a piece of basalt from my yard:
1026039


I drilled 4 additional holes in the side of the basalt rock to diffuse the returning water:
1026040


I shoved some course filter media in the big drilled hole:
1026041


1026042


Then I simply placed the 1 3/4" holes in the rocks over the 1" pvc risers:
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1026044


Then I filled in around the rocks with dirt, gravel and sand. The returns are on the left of the tank in this picture. Right next to the Amazon swords:
1026045


If you look close you can probably spot the other 3 rock capped bottom returns. In the far left of this picture you can see the PVC above water level loop which is drilled with a breather for a siphon break. When I am finished the siphon break will be enclosed by a wood box that will extend up from the stand. The hood will cover the entire tank plus the box that encloses the riser and overflow so it looks like one continuous unit.

I looked all over the internet for examples of nice looking bottom returns in planted tanks but couldn't find any. I figured I would post my approach in case someone else decides to go this route.
 

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Excellent idea! I had a floor drilled tank once that I used for bottom drains, but I left it bare bottomed with potted plants for fancy goldfish.
How long have you been running the tank with this configuration? I just wonder how much trouble it will be to clean up if the area under the rocks gets clogged and reduces flow.
 

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oh, crap - this is awesome!

as i was reading and marveling at how cool an idea this is, i thought, 'uhhh, with returns on the bottom, how do you keep the whole tank from emptying into the sump when you turn the pump off?'. that's where the PVC above water level loop that you pointed out comes in i guess. which, now that i think about it, is the same way a toilet keeps water in the bowl, and...

...fish tanks are... fish toilets!



really cool stuff, OP
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Thank you for the kind comments!

I think I need to explain myself a bit better. The bottom of the tank plumbing is the return water to the main tank... not the water that goes down to the sump. The coarse filter media is there to keep snails and small fish out of the returns. I tried to think of a way to make the water from the tank go through the holes in the bottom down into the sump... but I could not come up with a solution that I could make work in my head. So the black box in the upper left of the last picture of the first post is the weir for the overflow that goes down to the sump. Water returns to the main tank via the holes in the bottom of the tank, through the rocks with holes in them. I am not worried about the coarse media getting plugged because the return water is very clear so there should be no build up.

How do you keep water from squirting out of the breather hole during normal operation?
Full disclosure: I do not have the siphon break drilled in the PVC loop YET! There aren't actually fish in the tank yet. The tank is just cycled and starting to come to a balance after having water in it for about 5 weeks now and is just getting to the point where I feel comfortable with adding fish.

Water WILL spit out of the siphon break hole! There will be a valve on the siphon break hole that limits the amount of water that spits out of the siphon break hole. There will be a piece of tubing that directs the spit out water into the main tank. The spit tube will be mounted ABOVE the water line so there will be a constant trickle of water going into the tank through the spit tube/valve. When the water stops trickeling through the spit tube into the tank... I know I have a problem with the siphon break being plugged!

This is the cleanable check valve in the return plumping that is handling the back siphon duties currently:
1026099

It works in conjunction with the siphon break PVC loop to ensure the tank does not back siphon into the sump. If one fails from getting plugged the other should prevent the back flow.

This Y pipe is plumbed directly to the waste water (sewer) plumbing of my house:
1026100

(The two mesh stainless steel hoses on the left are plumbed into the hot and cold water lines in my house)

This is what the SUMP oveflow looks like:
1026101

If the water level in the sump gets too high the excess water goes directly down the drain preventing a flood.

The clear tubing going into the sump overflow is connected to a pump on a timer. When the pump is on it directly pumps water from the first chamber of the sump down the drain lowering the water level in the sump. When the water level in the sump goes below a set level this float valve opens:
1026102


Did someone say "fish toilet" LOL!

Gas Glass Science Engineering Machine


1026104

The float valve fills the second chamber of the sump. The partition in the sump keeps fresh water from from the second chamber migrating back into the first chamber; keeping the fresh water from being pumped down the drain. So only dirty water is pumped down the drain. I have the "pump down the drain" pump setup to run for 15 minutes every morning which pumps about 30 gallons down the drain. The float valve automatically opens up filling the second sump compartment with fresh water that then gets pumped back up into the main tank via the bottom returns described in the first post. I.e. Every morning the tank automatically changes about 30 gallons of water. I can adjust the amount of the daily water change by changing how long the pump stays on.

The float valve is supplied from my house water supply (on well water) through this temperature balancing valve:
1026106

So the temperature of the fresh water entering second compartment of the sump is roughly tank temperature minimizing fluctuations in the main tank temperature during the automatic water changes.

(Note the union valves that allow me to adjust how much water goes through each tank bottom return. This picture shows the bottom returns BEFORE the plumbing was completed)
 

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Thank you for the kind comments!

I think I need to explain myself a bit better. The bottom of the tank plumbing is the return water to the main tank... not the water that goes down to the sump. The coarse filter media is there to keep snails and small fish out of the returns. I tried to think of a way to make the water from the tank go through the holes in the bottom down into the sump... but I could not come up with a solution that I could make work in my head. So the black box in the upper left of the last picture of the first post is the weir for the overflow that goes down to the sump. Water returns to the main tank via the holes in the bottom of the tank, through the rocks with holes in them. I am not worried about the coarse media getting plugged because the return water is very clear so there should be no build up.



Full disclosure: I do not have the siphon break drilled in the PVC loop YET! There aren't actually fish in the tank yet. The tank is just cycled and starting to come to a balance after having water in it for about 5 weeks now and is just getting to the point where I feel comfortable with adding fish.

Water WILL spit out of the siphon break hole! There will be a valve on the siphon break hole that limits the amount of water that spits out of the siphon break hole. There will be a piece of tubing that directs the spit out water into the main tank. The spit tube will be mounted ABOVE the water line so there will be a constant trickle of water going into the tank through the spit tube/valve. When the water stops trickeling through the spit tube into the tank... I know I have a problem with the siphon break being plugged!

This is the cleanable check valve in the return plumping that is handling the back siphon duties currently:
View attachment 1026099
It works in conjunction with the siphon break PVC loop to ensure the tank does not back siphon into the sump. If one fails from getting plugged the other should prevent the back flow.

This Y pipe is plumbed directly to the waste water (sewer) plumbing of my house:
View attachment 1026100
(The two mesh stainless steel hoses on the left are plumbed into the hot and cold water lines in my house)

This is what the SUMP oveflow looks like:
View attachment 1026101
If the water level in the sump gets too high the excess water goes directly down the drain preventing a flood.

The clear tubing going into the sump overflow is connected to a pump on a timer. When the pump is on it directly pumps water from the first chamber of the sump down the drain lowering the water level in the sump. When the water level in the sump goes below a set level this float valve opens:
View attachment 1026102

Did someone say "fish toilet" LOL!

View attachment 1026107


View attachment 1026104
The float valve fills the second chamber of the sump. The partition in the sump keeps fresh water from from the second chamber migrating back into the first chamber; keeping the fresh water from being pumped down the drain. So only dirty water is pumped down the drain. I have the "pump down the drain" pump setup to run for 15 minutes every morning which pumps about 30 gallons down the drain. The float valve automatically opens up filling the second sump compartment with fresh water that then gets pumped back up into the main tank via the bottom returns described in the first post. I.e. Every morning the tank automatically changes about 30 gallons of water. I can adjust the amount of the daily water change by changing how long the pump stays on.

The float valve is supplied from my house water supply (on well water) through this temperature balancing valve:
View attachment 1026106
So the temperature of the fresh water entering second compartment of the sump is roughly tank temperature minimizing fluctuations in the main tank temperature during the automatic water changes.

(Note the union valves that allow me to adjust how much water goes through each tank bottom return. This picture shows the bottom returns BEFORE the plumbing was completed)
Well thought out and executed closed loop system you've made for yourself. You are fortunate to be on a well with good parameters for your tank(s). I had a similar configuration on a reef tank a number of years ago. However, I ran a line from my RO/DI to the sump as an ATO.

I know there are some people who run a continous drip system thereby eliminating the need for water changes. Same basic principle as your system on a lesser daily amount of water changed out. I presume you do not plan on adding any tougher to keep species of plants that require macros and micros. Otherwise, the math, testing and cost of macros and micros would get really crazy. Am I right in this presumption?

Have to started a tank journal? I do not see a link to one in your "signature". I ask because I'd like to see your set up after the cabinetry is complete and also follow along as your system changes and grows.
 

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Nice job. I only skimmed it, but I'll be back to read in depth.

Ok, I read it again.

I love the timer based water change system, that's epic, especially with the toilet float! But... isn't the big check valve the only thing that keeps the main tank from draining? Maybe you could have put some 4-5 inch vertical PVC in there with a taller rock. That way you would at least have 4-5 inches of water if that valve failed.
 

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In order for the tank to drain, both the siphon break and check valve would have to fail at the same time. It is possible but highly unlikely especially with a simple routine check to the siphon and regular cleaning of the check valve.
I'm still not understanding. Let's completely remove the PVC siphon tube from the system. So water will never drain out of the tank, right? We just have the pump in the sump pushing water up into the tank through the drilled rocks.

Now the power goes out so the pump isn't working but the check valve prevents the water from draining the tank.

Now the check valve gets blocked open. Doesn't the tank drain now? This scenario doesn't require the siphon tube to fail.
 

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I'm still not understanding. Let's completely remove the PVC siphon tube from the system. So water will never drain out of the tank, right? We just have the pump in the sump pushing water up into the tank through the drilled rocks.

Now the power goes out so the pump isn't working but the check valve prevents the water from draining the tank.

Now the check valve gets blocked open. Doesn't the tank drain now? This scenario doesn't require the siphon tube to fail.
In your scenario with removing the siphon break, then, yes, the system will drain if the check valve fails.

Do you understand how the siphon break works though?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
In order for the tank to drain, both the siphon break and check valve would have to fail at the same time. It is possible but highly unlikely especially with a simple routine check to the siphon and regular cleaning of the check valve.
Correct. I specifically put the siphon break spit tube ABOVE water level in the main tank. A quick glance confirms that water is coming out of the siphon break spit tube letting my know that the siphon break is not plugged. If the siphon break does get plugged the absents of the sound of water trickling from the spit tube into the main tank is a give away that there is a problem.

NotThePainter: The PVC siphon break loop extends above the water level in the main tank. If there was no hole (the siphon break hole) in the siphon break loop you are correct in that a failure of the check valve would drain the tank. The siphon break hole lets air into the siphon break loop which keeps the water from being sucked above the water level of the tank then down into the sump.

Well thought out and executed closed loop system you've made for yourself. You are fortunate to be on a well with good parameters for your tank(s). I had a similar configuration on a reef tank a number of years ago. However, I ran a line from my RO/DI to the sump as an ATO.

I know there are some people who run a continous drip system thereby eliminating the need for water changes. Same basic principle as your system on a lesser daily amount of water changed out. I presume you do not plan on adding any tougher to keep species of plants that require macros and micros. Otherwise, the math, testing and cost of macros and micros would get really crazy. Am I right in this presumption?

Have to started a tank journal? I do not see a link to one in your "signature". I ask because I'd like to see your set up after the cabinetry is complete and also follow along as your system changes and grows.
Thank you for your kind remarks ReeferRusso!

The following plants came from my dirt bottom 35g tank which ran for 5 years without any dosing:
Ludwigia Repens
Amazon Sword
Guppy grass
Hornwort
Moneywort
Dwarf anubias

New plants I have introduced into the 180 g.
Dwarf hair grass
S Repens

So, nothing very demanding. So far the DHG and S Repens are growing well. The DHG is spreading and starting to form a carpet. If I end up needing to dose I think the DHG will be the reason.

I am trying out a fairly elaborate soil recipe. The substrate contains (in approx. this order of layers):
Sprinkling of lime
Sprinkling of potash
Sparagum peat moss
Aragonite sand
Finley crushed red lava rock (from driveway)
A fine layer of recycled dirt from the 35g to introduce soil bacteria cultures
A good layer of horticultural charcoal for buffering
Miracle grow organic potting soil
Loamy volcanic soil (from back yard)
Red clay
Azomite for trace elements
5mm river gravel
Amazonia sprinkled heavily on top of the gravel and allowed to settle into the gravel
Amazonia powder sprinkled heavily on top of the Amazonia and allowed to settle into the gravel
Black sand heavily sprinkled on top of the Amazonia powder and allowed to intersperse with the lower layers for a pleasing random color pattern.

Which I hope will eliminate the need for dosing. My 5 yo 35g planted tank had nothing but Miracle Grow Organic Potting Soil with a gravel top. When the 35g was about 3 months old I stopped all dosing and the plants listed above did very well.

If needed I will dose fertilizers, macro and micro as well as CO2.

A funny thing I have noticed; when the daily auto water change finishes the plants start pearling like crazy and do so for several hours. I tested my well water (with API test kit) and found no nitrates registered. I am not sure what in the water change makes the plants go so crazy with the pearling? I did do a search and found others that have reported the same phenomena but no real explanation. If pearling = plant growth I think I should be in good shape without dosing. If not I am comfortable setting up an automatic dosing system. I already have a Jebao dosing pump that I never ended up using in my 35 g planted tank.

My initial plan was to do the classic continuous water change system. After doing some research I found that continuous water change systems are not as economical as changing an equal portion of water to a drip system all at once. With continuous water change a higher concentration of fresh water gets flushed out with the dirty water through out the day than if an equal amount of water is change all at once. The implementation of the timed water change was quite easy so I decided to give it a try. The side effect of the timed water change is the heavy pearling I described above.

Here is a build thread that I started some time ago. I need to update it! 180g (attempted low/easy maintenance) peninsula dirt bottom planted tank build
 

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Correct. I specifically put the siphon break spit tube ABOVE water level in the main tank. A quick glance confirms that water is coming out of the siphon break spit tube letting my know that the siphon break is not plugged. If the siphon break does get plugged the absents of the sound of water trickling from the spit tube into the main tank is a give away that there is a problem.

NotThePainter: The PVC siphon break loop extends above the water level in the main tank. If there was no hole (the siphon break hole) in the siphon break loop you are correct in that a failure of the check valve would drain the tank. The siphon break hole lets air into the siphon break loop which keeps the water from being sucked above the water level of the tank then down into the sump.
I clearly need educating. I had thought a siphon break was a hole you drilled into a tube that would break the siphon. So I was thinking of this diagram.



But clearly that isn't it. Googling shows that there are powered ones, but I'm not sure how that would work here. I need some education here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
That is not correct. You have the siphon break hole on a loop going into the sump, supplying the sump with water. The siphon break hole goes in a return line, not in the line that supplies the sump with water. The line that supplies the sump with water should be on an overflow to keep a constant water level in the main tank. In your drawing the siphon will break when the hole is exposed... BUT a siphon will never be established again so water will stop going into the sump. BUT water will keep being pumped from the sump into the main tank and the water level in the main tank will rise until the water "overflows" the sides of the tank.

Here is a VERY basic above water siphon break hole on a water return line:
1026234


This is on my old 35g tank. 1.5" pipe in the center with the coarse black filter media covering it is the overflow. Any water higher than the rim of the overflow goes down the overflow pipe into the sump. The White elbow with the grey pipe coming out the bottom of it is the return pipe. The hole drilled in the white elbow is the siphon break hole. When water is going through the return pipe returning to the tank some of it spits out the siphon break hole, the majority goes out the bottom return. When the pump is turned off the white elbow sucks in air preventing the water from siphoning up through the grey pipe and backwards down into the sump.

Does that help?
 

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Nope, I'm still not getting it. I can see how a siphon break works but I'm not seeing a siphon break in your system. The return lines come up into the rocks. Can you draw a block diagram? That would really help. Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
1026264


On the left is how I usually do a bottom return. Basically just extend the return pipe to the bottom of the tank.

On the right is how I did the bottom returns on my 180g. If the check valve gets stuck open the siphon break hole lets air into the top of the PVC loop which keeps water from siphoning back into the sump.
 

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So... What if you put a check valve, like for air line tubing, on the squirt hole.. Set it up so air can only flow into the return pipe. Should only open when the back pressure from the pump stops. Then it wont squirt, until the check valve fails. Hopefully since it's always closed, it shouldn't have a problem, i speculate.
 
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