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I have had a female green terror and male Jack Dempsey since March 2020 and now have a new 5ft x 2ft x 2ft tank and 4ft x 40cm x 40cm sump. I have never plumbed a tank/sump so complete newbie to this.

My questions relate to pipework.

My tank has internal weir/overflow on the left with holes at bottom for primary & secondary drain 32mm pipework and return bulkhead in top right hand corner (25mm pipework)

My questions are :-

1) I was provided two 32mm ball valves do I need to install one on the primary drain and other on backup drain? or are two overkill or not required at all?

2) I have a T piece PVC to sit on primary drain would it be beneficial or required to drill a hole in the top/centre of this T piece to break siphon?

3) I understand primary drain should be lower in the weir/overflow box but how far should it be down/away from the weir comb teeth eg the higher the better?

4) Is a ball valve required on the return and if so does it matter how close this to the return pump? I assume yes for pump maintenance?

5) Where should PVC weld/solvent be used?

Advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

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I would contact the seller with these questions. A newbie myself to sumps, I purchased both of my setups with sumps and was rather lost at first when I looked at all the pvc pipes and pieces. After spending some time going over the layout in my head, and a call the seller, I got through just fine.
 

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I must say I understand the feeling you have right now. The whole sump/overflow/plumbing thing seems REALLY overwhelming when one first starts researching. I'll do my best to answer your specific questions and also give you some ideas to look at.

Overall comment - I think I know what you're talking about and how it would all look, but pictures are always super helpful. Specifically the weir as well as the overflow box in the main tank. Then I would love to see a picture of the sump to see where the pipes will terminate in there. This all matters a bunch if noise is a concern to you. Basically, the answers to many of your questions depend on the level of noise you are willing to live with. Questions for you: The measurements you give, what are they? Are they the measurements of the holes or the plumbing that would attach to the bulkheads that go in the holes? I'm going to guess that you're giving us the measurements of the holes because a 1 inch return line is HUGE. I tried to order my tank fit for 1 inch return lines and they sent it fit for 3/4 inch return lines. The hole for this was about 25mm to get a 3/4 inch return to work in it. Turns out they're smarter than I am because all the accessories like lok-line to direct your flow come in sizes only up to 3/4...

2 drain holes means that you're more or less locked into the "Herbie" style of overflow, which you should be able to flow a lot of water through and it will be pretty silent. I run a Bean Animal which is just like a Herbie, but it has a second emergency drain.

Answering your specific questions:

1. You don't NEED ball valves on anything. I put them everywhere. You should have some kind of stand pipe in your overflow weir that will set the level of your weir. This means that if you shut the return pumps off, the tank will drain down to the lowest open drain, then stop. My main tank drains to the weir, then the overflow tower drains to the level at the top of the primary siphon drain. So, if the tank will stop draining, why ball valves? I put them in because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I HAVE used them - here's an example. The stand pipes are NOT glued into the bulkheads inside of the aquarium, so they can be pulled out from the bulkhead if needed. I had mbuna fry go over the weir and had to be fished (LOL) out of the overflow tower. This required pulling the pipes to get a net in there and get them out. When you pull the pipes, they drain the tower, so valves are always nice to be able to shut everything off. I have ball valves on the return lines, but I'm not sure I've ever used them.
1.A: Because you'll probably run a Herbie, you will only need a ball valve on the emergency drain. The main drain on a Herbie should be full siphon all the time and actually have a gate valve on it to limit the water going through it if necessary to "tune" it. This will give you the ability to make minor adjustments to match water going out to water coming in from your pump. Check your drain lines against readily available flow charts online to match them to the flow the return pump is putting back in. I like adjustable DC return pumps because then you can tune the return and the drain. This main siphon drain will be the one you want all the water going through to run it "Pure" Herbie style.

2. Because you want the main drain to be handling all the water at a full siphon all the time, you do NOT want to break this siphon. You can install the t piece on it, but don't drill any holes. In fact, this piece will be nice to keep it from creating a vortex whirlpool at the drain and sucking air. Air slows down the flow and it noisy. The point of the Herbie is that there is never any air going down the pipes, so it can flow a LOT more water than a Durso stand pipe and it makes no noise. This is contingent on the fact that you've tuned the out to match the in.

3. Super interesting question and this is the reason that the Herbie is harder than the Bean Animal and also why most people do NOT run a "Pure Herbie" as I was mentioning above. In the pure sense, ALL the water goes down the primary drain and nothing goes down the other unless there's an emergency. The problem with this is that you are using the main drain to set the water level in the overflow box, so it's a very delicate operation to get the amount of water flowing just right to keep it high enough that there is no air also being sucked in, but that you are not overflowing and activating the main drain. This is why most people actually use the second drain the way a durso is used on the bean animal. The primary flows most of the water and is set way below the water line (mine is about 1/4 of the way down, fully submerged) then you turn the pump up or the gate valve on the primary drain down until just a tiny bit of water is flowing down the second drain. This second drain now sets your level and you can do whatever you want with the first one.

4. A ball valve is not required on the return pump, but it's always a good idea at this point. Just an aside, while you're building this now and you have the opportunity, put as many unions and ball valves in as makes sense. You'll be happy you can remove stuff later. What absolutely IS required is a siphon hole. Just below the water line on the return, drill a hole so that the water does not siphon back out of your tank and overfill your sump if the pump gets shut off. Each evening, when I feed the tank, I hit the feed buttons on the pumps and that stops them for 10 minutes. The water immediately drains out of the tank to the siphon holes creating a loud sucking sound. I call it the dinner bell and it gets the fishes excited, but it also functions as an alarm to me. If the water ever stops flowing, the "dinner bell" goes off, and nothing in the overflow is tuned right, so the whole thing becomes VERY noisy. Like an alarm saying it's not all OK...

I put a ball valve on these lines, but I honestly don't use it. I simply plan for the return lines to drain if they ever get shut off.

5. First point I'll make: Bulkheads are almost always made of ABS, and other plumbing parts are usually PVC. Technically, you'll need special cement to glue ABS to PVC - I did not use it. These are all super low pressure drains. If I was building a house, I would have done the right thing, this is your choice. I just used normal pvc cement and solvent. Do yourself a favor and get the clear solvent. Blue is pretty, but it's really not...

I glued stuff into the bulkheads outside of the tank. So the drain pipes coming from the bottom of the tank are glued into the bulkheads in the tank, but not glued into the top of the sump. I did not glue the pipes into the overflow box as mentioned above. Essentially, anything that could leak OUTSIDE the tank gets glued.

For other advice: Check out BRSTV on Youtube. Bulk Reef Supply has some really great instructional videos on overflows. I watched their video on plumbing mistakes and overflows lots of times. Many of the things they talk about are salt-specific, but they are full of really great info and ideas. I found that while I was researching large tanks and overflows, I was on reef forums more than here. Aquariumscience.org has some good resources for simple sump designs, overflow designs, media reviews, and references for flow rates through different diameter pipes.

Here's something that people mention around here a lot, primarily for African Cichlids which is what I keep: Shoot for a flow rate of 8-10 times tank volume. I calculated your tank as a 150 gallon (US) so you would want to push 1200-1500 gallons per hour back into your tank. You will almost certainly want to run some water through your second drain if you're going to try to achieve these actuals. I THINK that your 32mm bulkhead hole corresponds to about US 1.25 inch plumbing. This will flow about 1000 GPH, so you're not draining enough out of the tank, even wide open, to keep up with a pump pushing 1200 GPH. Experiment and verify here with caution.

https://aquariumscience.org/index.php/8-6-sump-filters/
This has a TON of really good info on sumps. Make sure the click the extra links to the in-depth articles. There is one for pipes and plumbing that will answer a bunch of your questions also. Good luck and let us know how it's going!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
SenorStrum said:
I must say I understand the feeling you have right now. The whole sump/overflow/plumbing thing seems REALLY overwhelming when one first starts researching. I'll do my best to answer your specific questions and also give you some ideas to look at.

Overall comment - I think I know what you're talking about and how it would all look, but pictures are always super helpful. Specifically the weir as well as the overflow box in the main tank. Then I would love to see a picture of the sump to see where the pipes will terminate in there. This all matters a bunch if noise is a concern to you. Basically, the answers to many of your questions depend on the level of noise you are willing to live with. Questions for you: The measurements you give, what are they? Are they the measurements of the holes or the plumbing that would attach to the bulkheads that go in the holes? I'm going to guess that you're giving us the measurements of the holes because a 1 inch return line is HUGE. I tried to order my tank fit for 1 inch return lines and they sent it fit for 3/4 inch return lines. The hole for this was about 25mm to get a 3/4 inch return to work in it. Turns out they're smarter than I am because all the accessories like lok-line to direct your flow come in sizes only up to 3/4...

2 drain holes means that you're more or less locked into the "Herbie" style of overflow, which you should be able to flow a lot of water through and it will be pretty silent. I run a Bean Animal which is just like a Herbie, but it has a second emergency drain.

Answering your specific questions:

1. You don't NEED ball valves on anything. I put them everywhere. You should have some kind of stand pipe in your overflow weir that will set the level of your weir. This means that if you shut the return pumps off, the tank will drain down to the lowest open drain, then stop. My main tank drains to the weir, then the overflow tower drains to the level at the top of the primary siphon drain. So, if the tank will stop draining, why ball valves? I put them in because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I HAVE used them - here's an example. The stand pipes are NOT glued into the bulkheads inside of the aquarium, so they can be pulled out from the bulkhead if needed. I had mbuna fry go over the weir and had to be fished (LOL) out of the overflow tower. This required pulling the pipes to get a net in there and get them out. When you pull the pipes, they drain the tower, so valves are always nice to be able to shut everything off. I have ball valves on the return lines, but I'm not sure I've ever used them.
1.A: Because you'll probably run a Herbie, you will only need a ball valve on the emergency drain. The main drain on a Herbie should be full siphon all the time and actually have a gate valve on it to limit the water going through it if necessary to "tune" it. This will give you the ability to make minor adjustments to match water going out to water coming in from your pump. Check your drain lines against readily available flow charts online to match them to the flow the return pump is putting back in. I like adjustable DC return pumps because then you can tune the return and the drain. This main siphon drain will be the one you want all the water going through to run it "Pure" Herbie style.

2. Because you want the main drain to be handling all the water at a full siphon all the time, you do NOT want to break this siphon. You can install the t piece on it, but don't drill any holes. In fact, this piece will be nice to keep it from creating a vortex whirlpool at the drain and sucking air. Air slows down the flow and it noisy. The point of the Herbie is that there is never any air going down the pipes, so it can flow a LOT more water than a Durso stand pipe and it makes no noise. This is contingent on the fact that you've tuned the out to match the in.

3. Super interesting question and this is the reason that the Herbie is harder than the Bean Animal and also why most people do NOT run a "Pure Herbie" as I was mentioning above. In the pure sense, ALL the water goes down the primary drain and nothing goes down the other unless there's an emergency. The problem with this is that you are using the main drain to set the water level in the overflow box, so it's a very delicate operation to get the amount of water flowing just right to keep it high enough that there is no air also being sucked in, but that you are not overflowing and activating the main drain. This is why most people actually use the second drain the way a durso is used on the bean animal. The primary flows most of the water and is set way below the water line (mine is about 1/4 of the way down, fully submerged) then you turn the pump up or the gate valve on the primary drain down until just a tiny bit of water is flowing down the second drain. This second drain now sets your level and you can do whatever you want with the first one.

4. A ball valve is not required on the return pump, but it's always a good idea at this point. Just an aside, while you're building this now and you have the opportunity, put as many unions and ball valves in as makes sense. You'll be happy you can remove stuff later. What absolutely IS required is a siphon hole. Just below the water line on the return, drill a hole so that the water does not siphon back out of your tank and overfill your sump if the pump gets shut off. Each evening, when I feed the tank, I hit the feed buttons on the pumps and that stops them for 10 minutes. The water immediately drains out of the tank to the siphon holes creating a loud sucking sound. I call it the dinner bell and it gets the fishes excited, but it also functions as an alarm to me. If the water ever stops flowing, the "dinner bell" goes off, and nothing in the overflow is tuned right, so the whole thing becomes VERY noisy. Like an alarm saying it's not all OK...

I put a ball valve on these lines, but I honestly don't use it. I simply plan for the return lines to drain if they ever get shut off.

5. First point I'll make: Bulkheads are almost always made of ABS, and other plumbing parts are usually PVC. Technically, you'll need special cement to glue ABS to PVC - I did not use it. These are all super low pressure drains. If I was building a house, I would have done the right thing, this is your choice. I just used normal pvc cement and solvent. Do yourself a favor and get the clear solvent. Blue is pretty, but it's really not...

I glued stuff into the bulkheads outside of the tank. So the drain pipes coming from the bottom of the tank are glued into the bulkheads in the tank, but not glued into the top of the sump. I did not glue the pipes into the overflow box as mentioned above. Essentially, anything that could leak OUTSIDE the tank gets glued.

For other advice: Check out BRSTV on Youtube. Bulk Reef Supply has some really great instructional videos on overflows. I watched their video on plumbing mistakes and overflows lots of times. Many of the things they talk about are salt-specific, but they are full of really great info and ideas. I found that while I was researching large tanks and overflows, I was on reef forums more than here. Aquariumscience.org has some good resources for simple sump designs, overflow designs, media reviews, and references for flow rates through different diameter pipes.

Here's something that people mention around here a lot, primarily for African Cichlids which is what I keep: Shoot for a flow rate of 8-10 times tank volume. I calculated your tank as a 150 gallon (US) so you would want to push 1200-1500 gallons per hour back into your tank. You will almost certainly want to run some water through your second drain if you're going to try to achieve these actuals. I THINK that your 32mm bulkhead hole corresponds to about US 1.25 inch plumbing. This will flow about 1000 GPH, so you're not draining enough out of the tank, even wide open, to keep up with a pump pushing 1200 GPH. Experiment and verify here with caution.

https://aquariumscience.org/index.php/8-6-sump-filters/
This has a TON of really good info on sumps. Make sure the click the extra links to the in-depth articles. There is one for pipes and plumbing that will answer a bunch of your questions also. Good luck and let us know how it's going!
Thank you very much for your reply. My return pump is rated 4000lph (minimum 2800lph via controller) and will be connected to tank via 25mm pipework with head height to return bulkhead of 4ft.

I believe my primary drain (32mm metric pipe) via gravity will drain 1500gph as internal diameter is over 3cm so must be 1.25" and this 1500gph is higher than the maximum 881gph of my Jebao DCS 4000 return pump.

My question now is do I need to have a more powerful return pump? and if so what gph? and lastly what is the maximum gph I can pump through my 25mm (metric) return pipework?

I'm wasn't aiming for 10x tank volume for my central/south America cichlids.

I hope you can clarify on these last questions.
 

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How much water can you put through a 25mm return pipe? A really really lot. This pipe is under pressure, so a quick search indicates that a 25mm (internal diameter) pipe will handle 2200 gallons per hour or so. Because of the pressure, the return pipe is not your limit, the drain is. However, it sounds like the drain is much larger size then the return at 1500GPH vs. 831, so I think you're fine on the sizing.

Your question of a more powerful pump is a loaded one for me. I don't believe that flow rate is nearly as important for fish health as is an excessive amount of biological filtration media which has not been cleaned regularly. I am in the minority on this forum for holding this opinion. The standard wisdom says to aim for 8-10x. I say that you should have 100 sq. feet of useable surface area for biological filtration per pound of fish.

I don't keep the fish you mention, so I won't hold forth as an expert here to answer that. If it were me, I'd fill that sump with Poret foam and keep the pump you have. It sounds about the right size to me.
 

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+1 to El' Hefe' and all of his technical recommendations in setting up this sump filtration system.
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And yes, for these New World Cichlid species I believe he is dead accurate in recommending a sort of 'Quality' filtration approach over sheer 'Quantity'. Something a calmer tank with your two larger-growing Cichlids will definitely appreciate. (African Mbuna are different - they really do thrive with some serious levels of current and water movement).
One additional filtration recommendation I can provide, is to install some sort of mechanical filtration to catch things before they get sucked down into your main filtration media. A Rocio octofaciatus, (Jack Dempsey) and an Aequidens rivulatus, (Green Terror) aren't on the same size level as an Amphilophus labiatuus, (Red Devil) or an Astronatus occelatus, (Oscar)! But, pellets esp. will get macerated in those gill rakers, and little uneaten particles of food just seem to go flying everywhere with those big Cichlids, I'm afraid.
They're very messy eaters!
Filtration socks, or foam pre-filters help a lot to catch stuff like that. You just need to remember to clean them out once or twice per week.....
Oh, and definitely keep an eye on compatibility for those two in there. Your Central American Jack Dempsey is in a completely different league in pugnacity and aggression than the Green Terror. If the 'Aggro Switch' randomly trips off one day, and your male Jack Dempsey ultimately decides to claim the ENTIRE AQUARIUM as his personal territory? Things will go very badly - very fast - for your Green Terror. :(
 
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