DIY Siphon Surge

Credit: Luis Mercado

Water movement in the Reef aquaria is an extremely important aspect of setting up an tank properly. Often hobbyists spend big money on complicated gadgets for their aquaria but fail to provide adequate water movement in the tank. Multiple pumps, or power heads on switching devices are often utilized to provide a back and forth type of movement which is usually sufficient for most inhabitants. Since the new popularity of Small Polyp Schleractinia or SPS for short, more attention has been paid to critical parameters of setting up aquaria.

SPS corals usually come from areas of the reef where they are pounded by heavy wave action for most of the day. Although they will survive in most tanks if good water flow is provided, they do best if provided with some sort of powerful surge action on a regular basis. Notice i said on a regular basis. This does not mean continually. In nature everything is random in my opinion. Tides change due to many factors one being the cycle of the moon and its effects on the Earth’s tides. To best maximize the use of the particular device we will describe here it is best to utilize it on a few hours on, few hours off type of thing. This gives the corals a few hours of strong water motion but also a period of rest in between.

Surge buckets have been described in the aquarium literature before but I guess due to their rather large size and tendency to cause salt splash and salt creep have never really become popular . recently due to the efforts of such noted aquarists as Dr. Bruce Carlson and Dana Riddle a slightly better design for such a device was conceived. These two gentleman deserve all the credit for this device and I gladly extend it to them here.

This surge device works like a device called a bell and siphon. Basically a bucket is filled with water until it is about to overflow. When it reaches a predetermined level a siphon is created that immediately dumps the contents of the bucket back into the tank. In my opinion it works better than a tilting type of surge bucket because there are no moving parts to seize. remember the rotating spray bars of the wet-dry filters!) The parts to build this surge bucket can be made from easily obtained materials. You need a container, which can be any size you deem necessary for your particular tank and room available, 3 bulkhead fittings and some PVC pipe and fittings. You must experiment with flow rates into the bucket as too high a flow rate will either deplete your sump of water and damage your main pump or overflow your tank onto your floor. I like the idea of using a small power head to pump water directly from the tank to the bucket which sits above the tank and let it flow back in. You must provide a high enough level of water in your sump to deal with the momentary loss of at least two or more gallons of water. Additionally your sump should be able to hold more water than necessary to avoid a problem should water back siphon to it in the event of power loss to the system.

Height of the bucket above the tank also gives the water more velocity as it travels down causing a smaller volume of water to hit with good force upon entering the tank. This will depend on your particular installation as not everybody has room to put a device like this 4 feet above the water. I know my wife would not like the idea of a water fall tumbling from the ceiling and into the tank although it would make me feel like I was at the shore! This device will produce many bubbles in the water and some may not like this effect. By drilling a hole in the downward tube you can direct the majority of the bubbles straight to the surface but you will still get some lower in the water column.

An example of what a handy aquarist can accomplished is pictured above. Joaquim Farres of Mataro (Barcelona), Spain submitted this picture of a surge bucket he constructed out of an old outside filter box. He has adjusted it to provide good current in his aquarium a few times a day. Note that these devices do not have to run all day. A quite time of low water movement in the morning and evening is a good place to start in reproducing the natural wave action in nature. Many thanks to Joaquim for constructing the surge device and submitting his picture. He is currently working on a larger version out of glass or acrylic with greater water capacity. I will keep everyone posted on his developments with this design.

Study the diagram as it should be self explanatory. If you should need further clarification , I refer you to Marine Fish Monthly’s August 1996 issue in an article by Dana Ridddle. If you wish, you may Email me for further information. Remember being a reefkeeper means taking on the responsibility for the well being of our water pets. Anything that helps maintain them in a healthy state is always a welcome addition….

Blane Perun

Diver - Photographer - Traveler

Whale in Ocean