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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys, this is my first time posting so please go easy on me. :nuts:

I am a complete beginner to the hobby, but have been reading as much as I can over the last 2 weeks (including Geoff's long but amazing introductory threads) because this is such a fascinating hobby and I'm trying to do things right the first time round. I have a 60 gallon glass tank, with an in-tank overflow box and a under-tank sump (around 10 gallons). At the advice of my LFS, I use a Durso stand pipe for my drain pipe, which leads to an under-tank sump containing a filter sock, Eshopps PSK-100 Protein Skimmer, one buffer with a sponge, and a second sump chamber with a Rio 2100 return pump.

Enough with the introductions, though, here are my questions:

1) My protein skimmer has been overflowing for the last week, which has led to micro-bubbles flowing over my buffer, into my pump chamber, and back into my tank. I have read that, on top of the break-in period for the skimmer, the micro-bubbles might be due to too much flow going through the skimmer. I've also noticed that the water is flowing into the sump pretty rapidly, and not consistently (it comes in waves about 1-2 seconds apart). Would you guys recommend me installing a gate valve at the bottom of the Durso standpipe to both restrict and control the water flow so that it is at least consistent? Will a gate valve actually make the water flow consistent?

2) I am thinking about installing a check valve in my return pipe to prevent backflow in the event of a power outage. Can you guys recommend any check valves that work with 1/2'' vinyl tubing? Or would you recommend installing the check valve on the bottom of the PVC tube instead?

3) What can I do about my protein skimmer? It might be due to some epoxy that my wife and I used to glue some live rocks together, but that was about a week ago. We got the live rocks from our LFS, which has large vats of LRs in the basement, and I believe they are fully cured (although that can open up a whole different can of worms).

Thanks in advance for your input everyone!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I've attached a picture of my sump setup. It's not that clear, but basically the water comes from the back to the front of the picture. As you can see in the top right of the picture, the water is coming down through the drain pipe pretty quickly and is creating a lot of foam when the water is flowing the fastest (as I said above, the water flow is not consistent). I don't think the foam is the cause of the micro-bubbles though, since the bubbles disappear from my return pipe when I turn the protein skimmer off.
 

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Never restrict the overflow with gate valves or anything else. It is the return pump that determines both the overflow and return flows, they will balance themselves according to what the pump is returning to the tank.
You should always place a ball or gate valve in the discharge side of the return pump to adjust flows to match your sump and overflow, it in no way hurts the pump and usually makes it more efficient and draw less power and create less heat.

Does the Durso have an air intake on top to blend air and water for a smooth flow to the sump? You would be surprised what drilling a hole in the cap on top just large enough for a short piece of vinyl airline to be inserted and raised or lowered into the water column does for both flow and to quiet the overflow. It will eliminate the flushing effect you are seeing now and the level will stay constant.

Check valves are a flase sense of security and will fail, not if but when. Keep the return close to the surface, maybe 3/4" below, and only that very easily calculated amount of water can possibly flow back to the sump before the return is exposed to atmosphere and the siphon breaks. We all know water cannot jump uphill so it is the best, maintenance free, foolproof method of backflow prevention known to man. In my 100G reef with the returns 3/4" below the surface I only backsiphon 3.5 gallons so in your system it would be a gallon or so tops.

In the photo it appears your return pump is just barely submerged in the water, is it sucking down and breaking suction causing some of your problems? The return pump section needs to contain enough water to account for evaporation depending on how often you can top it off, the more often the better to keep the water parameters stable.

Did you possibly use tap water treated with Prime or a dechlorination chemical when you filled the system? Chemicals like that make skimmers go crazy sometimes and we all know tap water is a big no no. You should be able to raise your skimmer cup or in some way adjust the skimmer so it skims dryer until it seasons or breaks in after a couple weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the response AZ.

Does the Durso have an air intake on top to blend air and water for a smooth flow to the sump?
The Durso does have an air intake on top, and there is minimal noise to the overflow. The air intake hole is pretty small though (maybe 1/18'', pic attached, although the pic is from before I added LR). I was observing the overflow box and the problem seems to be that the water rises and falls (kind of like a tide) as it is drained, instead of going down the Durso evenly. Do you have any suggestions for a gate valve for my return pump that would fit in vinyl tubing?

Keep the return close to the surface, maybe 3/4" below, and only that very easily calculated amount of water can possibly flow back to the sump before the return is exposed to atmosphere and the siphon breaks.
Great idea, I will do that :)

In the photo it appears your return pump is just barely submerged in the water, is it sucking down and breaking suction causing some of your problems? The return pump section needs to contain enough water to account for evaporation depending on how often you can top it off, the more often the better to keep the water parameters stable.
No, the return pump is never exposed to the air, as I've had that problem once where it creates a lot of bubbles, but those bubbles are much bigger than the micro-bubbles which I believe are from the skimmer. Maybe the angle from which the picture was taken is a bit misleading, but the return pump is always submerged.

Did you possibly use tap water treated with Prime or a dechlorination chemical when you filled the system?
Yes, and yes. What else can I do for water if I do not want to shell out a couple hundreds for a RO/DI?

Thanks!
 

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You can buy bottled distilled at WalMart or most LFS sell RO/DI reasonably priced. Tap water is one of the worst thing you can do for a reef system due to its instability, just because it is suitable to drink does not mean it does not have things such as copper, phosphates or silicates that can raise heck with a reef.
You get rid of the Prime or whatever and the skimmer will settle down quickly, they go nuts when you add that stuff.

A good reef quality RO/Di is only $130 complete at www.spectrapure.com and well worth the money. I wouldn't even think of starting a reef again without using RO/DI and having ultimate control over the wate rquality is number one to me. In the early days I fought every thing you can imagine and it got so much better once I started using RO then eventually RO/DI. My present reef is over 9 years old and has never had a drop of anything but 0 TDS RO/DI since day one, rock curing, cycling and all.

Drill the hole in the cap out just large enough a piece of airline tubing fits snugly. Cut a piece a foot or so long and slowly lower it down the hole in the cap until you hear the noise reduce and I guarantee you will see the overflow level stabilize too. Play with how far the tube sticks down and you can really fine tune the overflow.

Get a threaded PVC ball valve at Home Depot or Lowes and in the plumbing section where they have all the little RO plastic and threaded brass fittings too you will find some 1/2" male iron pipe thread x barbed nipples, probably in plastic or nylon. Screw one in either side of the ball valve, cut your 1/2" tube and insert the valve close to the pump so it can be throttled or adjusted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks again AZ. I will take your suggestion regarding drilling a wider hole in the Durso and the threaded PVC valve and inserting it near the discharge of the pump. Just wondering though, would a gate valve work the same? I was under the impression that a ball is for on-off functions while a gate is adjustable, but obviously that's simplifying.


Not resisting, but does all of the above regarding tap water apply if I am not having a reef tank? Just FOWLR and maybe an anemone some time down the line? I know some people have strong reactions against beginners having anemones...
 

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Especially if you are considering an anemone.
Really, think about it for a minute; Fish are higher life forms than corals or rock and deserve the same if not better quality environment. Many hobbyists start out simplle and within weeks or months a coral frag catches their eye or someone buys you something for your birthday thinking they are doing the right thing, and you catch the fever and are doomed! I know from experience, it started out as saltwater fish 35 years ago with my son and I and it has been exclusively reefs for almost 30 years ever since.

Yes, water quality is that important. And don't even think about an anemone for a minimum of 6 months abd better if its about a year, using RO/DI, so the tank is very stable and mature. Anemones are very sensitive but well worth the time in my opinion, I have a 23 year old Sebae anemone in my 16G bowfront Nano reef and several RBTA's in my 100G that split all the time and get passed around to all my friends.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Got it, thanks everyone. What's your occupation btw, AZ? I sit in an office most the day so it's really hard for me not to waste a lot of time reading about this stuff...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Got a couple more questions, if you don't mind. I tried adjusting the Eschopps skimmer but no matter how I turn the adjustment tube the foam level does not drop below the top of the cup. As a result I've been taking the cap off because having the cap on makes the water overflow and back into the sump. Is taking the cap off the skimmer bad? No water leaks back into the sump with the cap off. Any way I can get around the micro-bubbles while I wait for the skimmer to break in and/or break down the water conditioner? I tried lifting the skimmer to see if raising it would help but there was no noticeable difference.
 

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I am a Senior Operations Specialist for a major nationwide environmental engineering firm. Prior to that I operated, maintained, supervised and managed municipal water systems and plants for about 30 years. Water is all I have ever done.

You can take the lid off the skimmer. It probably will not settle down until all the Prime or whatever you used is gone, the chemicals change the surface tension of the water. Have you noticed when you stick your hands in the water the foaming goes down? The oils on your skin again change the water, oily foods like frozen mysis will do the same.
I would discontinue use of tap wate ras soon as possible as the skimmer should settle down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for the introduction, AZ. I went ahead and bought a RO/DI today, but it won't arrive for a few days. I also bought a gallon of distilled water at the grocery store, which should be good for top-off for the time being right? I bought a couple dozen snails and tiny hermit crabs and two clownfish today. Hope they survive as I gradually switch the tap water out with RO/DI water over time!
 
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