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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, I am rather new to the hobby and new to the site and very excited to learn everything I can to get my tank running perfectly.
My setup includes:
-150 gal drilled tank
-30+ gal sump (3 section w baffle and 2 - 7in socks)
-EuroReef Skimmer
-NextReef SMR1 Reactor (with sponges added for PhosBan)
-200+ lbs live rock
-100lbs sand

I have been cycling for just around a month and am having trouble with GHA and decided to setup a phosban reactor. I did it at the same time as my bi-weekly 10% water change. I turned my return pump and skimmer off to do the change/install. This was 3 days ago and since I have been getting tons of microbubbles from both my returns into the tank. I want to solve it before it adversely affects the fish. I had this problem when I first installed my skimmer a few weeks ago and found the overflow from the skimmer was too close to my return and was sucking up the bubbles before they could dissipate in the sump. I fixed that by moving the overflow farther away and was bubble free for a week or so. They returned for me only to discover my sump level got too low and was creating a venturi and siphoning air. Topping off the water solved that. But now I cannot seem to figure out what the cause of the bubbles is.
The sump seems virtually bubble free and it seems the two return lines have micro bubbles in their water. What could cause this? I did not mess with any of the return plumbing when putting in my reactor. Could it be the Phosban reactor somehow? Or the fact that I cleaned my skimmer cup? Or the fact that I tried some different Red Sea water? All my parameters seem to be in check and the water looks super clear other than the tons of microbubbles. Please help, your expertise is much appreciated! Thank you
 

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Gota love the micro bubbles, you will pull your hair out from time to time with them,

Best thing i have found is to work backwards , you know you water level is correct in the tank and sump. checking piping to make sure nothing is loose.
I t is possible if a large air bubble was trapped it might be giving you this, but sounds like something is pulling in air, to me this would be a connection issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hello Tim, thank you for your quick reply. I am in the process of checking all plumbing however it is just odd I did not change anything with the pluming and did not have this issue prior to my water change with the different Red Sea water or installing my Phosban Reactor. So neither of those factors could be contributing to the micro bubbles? I did move my Protein skimmer to the other side of the sump but it is in the same position and the same distance away from my return. I am getting a lot of micro bubbles that I see from the overflow of the skimmer now, the sponge does not seem to be breaking them up at all, should I rinse my sponge off and see if that helps? Also, what is the proper height for the sponge on the skimmer overflow to be in relation to the sump water height? Should it be partially in the water? Thanks again for your help!
 

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Can you post a pic of the return area in the sump and of the main display?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Here is the main display, though you cannot really see bubbles. I will take a picture of the return/sump tonight and see if I can get a better picture of the micro bubbles from the return into the tank. For now I dialed down the return pump valve and both return line valves a bit to reduce some bubbles, but my flow is not as strong as I would like and still have some bubbles.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Here is the sump and the return section. I noticed salt creep on the from the seal of the sump fitting to the return, cleaned it and saw a tiny drip. I was hoping that was the cause of the air but I got it tightened and leak free and still have tons of micro bubbles. I dialed down all three return valves and they still persist. Could there somehow be a large air bubble stuck in the return line creating the micros? If so how could I purge it? I turned my reactor and skimmer off all night and still the same amount of bubbles in the morning. Should I use silicone around all the pvc joints in the return section?

Also, is there a way these could be caused by me using different water for my 15gal water change on Sunday? It was some special Red Sea salt and I watched him mix it right before he gave it to me so it didn't sit for a while. I have done multiple changes before with normal salt water and this was the only time when I poured water into the sump it got super foamy in the sump, the lid blew off my skimmer and I had to turn it off there was so much foam, unlike Ive seen before. It literally happened instantly after I poured a bucket slowly into the sump.

THank you for your input! I hope to solve this soon!
 

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wow, so isolating each thing shows it is not the reactor and skimmer.
keep working slowly backwards, this has me scratching my head too. the water change should not have had that much f a air problem unless you added it all at once in the sump causing a lot of air to be mixed in.
i take it the mixed saltwater was clear when you added it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Cavitation?

Yes it is strange, it is neither the reactor nor the skimmer. The water was perfectly clear and I poured it in slowly just as I have done in the past into the sump. This time it just foamed like crazy, which I why I was considering this pricier water suspect. I am just trying to weed out variables and isolate the culprit. I did not mess with the plumbing before the bubbles started either which is why I find it odd they have been so persistent. I examined my sump water and flow for extended periods of time last night with a flashlight. Adjusting the ball valves to see if there was any change, none. Though the skimmer does have some bubbles making it through the overflow sponge, they are virtually all dissipated by the time the water gets to the return.

The only other thing I can think of is could the return pump be cavitating somehow and creating these micro bubbles? If so what would cause this and what can I do to fix it? How do I go about cleaning the external return pump? Thanks again!
 

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So... there are some micro bubbles in the sump, but are mostly gone before the water makes it to the return pump. Do you have another return pump to rule that out? By your setup I can see it would be a pain in the wrasse to swap out a pump, but might be worth the shot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Unfortunately I do not have another return pump to rule out that it could be creating the micro bubbles via cavitation. I will have to determine if I should buy another one. It was just odd I did not have this issue prior to my 15gal water change. The pump seems to be working just fine, obviously when I turn it off the bubbles stop. Debating if I should re-plumb all the pvc and ball valve sections or not? What do you think? Thanks again
 

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Just pondering.... if you simulate a power outage and turn off the return pump for a minute or two, and turn it back-on, do the micro bubbles come back? Maybe a broken or cracked impeller in the return pump?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hmm, good question Oahu. I will test that when I get home and see what exactly happens.
Could an imperfection in the impeller cause cavitation? Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
No luck with the simulated power outage. Turned whole system off for a while and topped off my sump. Then turned back on and micro bubbles were even more prevalent?! I do not understand why and it is driving me nuts!
 

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Ok.... so no micro bubbles are entering the line that feeds the return pump. Micro bubbles are present after the water exits the return pump. Something inside the pump possibly is ever so slightly leaking air into the system. I am still thinking of the impeller area inside the pump. Only way to find out it to disassemble the pump and inspect the shaft and impeller. What kind of return pump is it?
Also, maybe shut off one of the return lines and see if it is isolated to just one return line. You have the same return lines that I have, except that yours are probably 1" and not 3/4". It looks like a little salt creep on the outside of the return area of the sump where the return line connects into.
Worst case scenario would be to shut off the pump, drain the return side of the sump, disassemble the fittings, check and re-connect and turn it back-on.
Also, check the intake of the pump itself. If it is dirty or clogged, the pump can cavitate and cause bubbles. Check the inlet side of the lines and make sure there are no hairline cracks or loose joints. A bad glue joint can cause a vacuum leak and bubbles in the return line.
 

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Where I have placed all of the arrows, I would check the connections.
IMG_7412a.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks a lot for all the help and info Oahu, I really appreciate it. I took the sump picture prior to finding a small leak on the fitting attached to the sump and have since tightened it and no more salt creep, I was hoping that was the issue but it wasn't. I have already tried turning the outlet valves off one at a time and the bubbles still persisted, so I can only assume the issue is before the two outlet ball valves. The pump is a Little Giant Pump model #582506/4-MDQ-SC, and is a few years old but isn't making any weird noises or anything. I am going to take your advice using your handy diagram and turn the system off and shut all the ball valves; Unplug and disconnect the pump from the inlet and outlets, inspect inside and check for clogging. Also I will take the front of the pump off and see if the impeller or shaft has any issues. Is there any maintenance like oiling the motor that needs to be done at this time? Also, can I use normal PVC glue and teflon for the fittings if I find something is loose? I like to try and test one thing at a time, then another, so I can try to isolate the problem to hopefully only one variable. I will update once I get all that completed. Thanks again!
 

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On all of the screw-on fittings, I would use Teflon tape only. Keep all of the other glue fittings intact, just use an aquarium-safe silicone around the fitting joints. If there are any seals / gaskets, check those as well for cracks or pinching.
The pump manufacturer says that the pump is thermally protected so no oiling should need to be done. The shaft that carries the impeller should be magnetic, which usually requires the least amount of maintenance. Hopefully you will find the solution soon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hey Oahu, problem seems to be solved, finally! I had the chance this weekend to finally breakdown the plumbing and checked the areas you recommended. The two threaded joints I marked with arrows seem to have been the culprits. I pulled all old Teflon off (was barely there), wrapped new thickly on the joints and wrenched them in super tight. While I am getting very small occasional bursts from the left side, the micro bubbles are virtually all gone and my water is super clear. Corals are open more and fish seem more active.
I may eventually want to change the fitting that attaches the plumbing to the sump, as the seals seem a bit old. Do you know what that fitting is called?
Also, side question, I see you have a Coral Beauty Angel, how does it behave with your coral and other fish? Now that my water is not full of bubbles I want to add either a Coral Beauty, Potters, or Flame Angel and have read mixed things about being coral safe. Thanks again for all your help!
 

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You are very welcome. Glad I could help. My Coral Beauty behaves very well with the corals. No nipping or bothering any of them. Lucky as they are hit and miss with corals.
 
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