Plumbing my New Tank

Discussion in 'DIY' started by magnetar68, Sep 27, 2012.

  1. magnetar68

    magnetar68 Guest

    I have a 120G tank coming next Tuesday: 48"x24"x24." It is made of 3/4" acrylic with an external coast-to-coast overflow and a Eurobrace and cross-brace. There are two return holes drilled at the upper right and upper left part of the tank (so the overflow is not quite coast-to-coast). These accommodate a standard 3/4" bulkhead. The external overflow has three 1" bulkheads in the bottom of the overflow for a BeanAnimal drain system.

    I am actually replacing an almost identical tank, so I will need to replumb the tank. In doing so, I am moving the sump from underneath the tank to the fish room on the other side of the wall behind the tank. The move will make the sump more easily accessable and will make it easier to plumb in two more ~25G (200gph) tanks for my cuttlefish rearing system.

    The first time I plumbed this tank, I used all 1.5" Schedule 80 with a gate value on the siphon drain and a ball valve on the open channel drain. It was very expensive and complete overkill. I barely had the gate value open on the siphon drain and barely any water went down the open channel drain.

    Since I want to go behind the wall, my plan is to try to plumb this much simpler and cheaper this time around. I am going to use 1" ultra flex PVC from Marine Depot.

    The drain (3x1") and return (2x3/4") bulkheads are all threaded so things are "undoable," so I need to go from the threaded bulkheads down into the stand then out the back wall then across the fish room to the sump. I want to reduce the number of connections and things, since my experience is that each one is an opportunity for leakage and salt creep.

    OK, now the two main questions:

    (1) In the first setup, I used 1" clear tubing for the returns but then used a special barb elbow that went from 1" bard to 3/4" FNPT that then went onto the threaded 3/4" bulkhead. The idea was the the 1" tubing from the return pump has less friction, so I ran the 1" tubing from the return to a 1" Y and then 1" up to the two return bulkheads with the reducing barb hose elbows. This turned out to be very hard to get the threaded elbow onto the bulkhead. I did it, but it was not trivial. Is there a better way to do this? I wold think this is a common thing to do (ie, run bigger tubing to the bulkhead and then drop down the diameter at the return bulkhead).

    (2) From the 1" threaded drain bulkheads, I was going to use a Female Adapter Fitting - 1 inch FPT x 1 inch Slip and then PVC glue the ulta-flex tube to the slip and run the line all the way into the fish room. If I ever need to remove this, I can always undo the bulkhead. The values (Gate for the siphon, ball for the open channel) will be in the fish room. This should keep the noise inside tubes down on the living room side. Again, any downsides to this approach?

    Once I get into the fish room it is a little more complicated. Instead of having all three tanks drain into the sump separately, I was going to have the two smaller 200gph tanks join the open channel line from the 120G tank by going from 1" to 1.5" with reducing Ts. There are two filter socks in the sump that can hold up to 1.5" PVC. This means my 1" open channel drain line will use an adapter to step up to 1.5" ulta spaflex and the two smaller tanks' drains will T into this with the 1" to 1.5" Ts. I think that is all OK since this line should have plenty of capacity.
  2. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    I tried the 1" flex-PVC on my previous tank, and did not like it.
    There was always a permanent bend in it, from the roll in cam in.
    And it was not all that flexible.
    You can form it with hot water, heat gun, etc. But even then it seems to go back.
    It worked, but there was always force on the fittings, and one did crack.

    My suggestion : Standard PVC schedule 40, over-sized, and glued.
    My preference is actually cutting PVC and re-gluing versus using threaded, except
    for expensive ball valves and U-joints. Sched-40 is cheap and just fine.
    Then for places that must flex, barbed to 1" eheim or similar tubing, with good stainless hose clamps.

    If you go through a wall, it is critical to isolate pump vibration from the pipe and the wall.
    The drywall to make even the best pump sound really loud.
    So make sure you have foam or something around the pipe through the wall, and perhaps
    some flex tube off of the return pump.
  3. magnetar68

    magnetar68 Guest

    What you have described is an accurate description of spa-flex or flex-PVC, but I am talking about the ultra-flex tubing carried by Marine Depot. It is incredibly flexible in comparison.
  4. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    The stuff I used was from Marine Depot and looks the same as the picture.
    But it was about 5 years ago, and I do not believe it was called "ultra-flex" then.
    So quite possibly it has greatly improved.
  5. magnetar68

    magnetar68 Guest

    I was back on their site today and it was clear they have two types of flex pvc. The ultra flex is 40% more flexible than the standard flex pvc. The difference is quite noticeable. A guy I know who used to have a reef shop and who now has a high-end maintenance service swears by the stuff. Regardless, this will be my first time trying, so I will let you know how it goes.
  6. Kensington Reefer

    Kensington Reefer Supporting Member

    I have used black flexible pond tubing. It becomes brittle. +1 on what Mark said about the sc40 PVC.
  7. gimmito

    gimmito Guest


    Is the Ultra Flex similar to PEX ?
  8. magnetar68

    magnetar68 Guest

    Sorry, I am not familiar with PEX, so I cannot compare. What I like about the ultra-flex is that I can run down from my overflow under the tank out the back wall, through to the other wall then curve around to the back of the closet, behind my tank rack, and then over to the sump with one very flexible piece of pipe that does not lose it's diameter with all of the bending. Without this, it's a fair amount of cutting and glueing. I also need to do this for the siphon drain, the open drain, the emergency drain, and the return, so multiple all that work times 4.
  9. magnetar68

    magnetar68 Guest

    I called Marine Depot and they said ultra flex is made in the USA by RedFlag Products in SoCal. From the companies website, it is clear they do a lot of aquarium and aquaculture business, so it appears everything is animal safe, although the certification level is NSF 50, not 61 or pw. They do claim some type of FDA non-toxic formulation for this ultra flex pipe (perhaps above and beyond the NSF 50 certification, but I am not sure how that works). I sent them an email to get a better sense for what that means. I will post here if I hear back.
  10. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Yes, please post if it works well. A better Flex pipe would certainly be handy.

    NSF 50 is for swimming pools and hot tubs, not potable water.
    If it was NSF 61, it is for drinking water.

    The brittle issue is still a bit of a concern.
  11. denzil

    denzil Webmaster

    Interesting stuff. I may consider using this stuff since this would help minimize resistance for flow. However, ultimately, I think the resistance may be negligible... I'm just wondering the opportunity costs here.
  12. magnetar68

    magnetar68 Guest

    Mystery solved. My first order of "ultra" flex tube as ultra flexible. My second order was not nearly as flexible. Not sure why.
  13. aqua-nut

    aqua-nut Supporting Member

    Ray and anyone else that might know...

    Do you know of a local supplier? East Bay or north bay would be best. I (along with .5 million of my closest friends) will be at Ikea tomorrow. If I survive that, a plumbing supply/spa supply would be a wonderful respite!
  14. gimmito

    gimmito Guest

    I have quite a bit of black spa flex ranging from 1/2"-1 1/2" if anyone needs some.
  15. aqua-nut

    aqua-nut Supporting Member


    I'm looking for 1".

    10-15 feet would be more than enough. Is yours the 'ultra-flex'?
  16. gimmito

    gimmito Guest

    It's spa flex. I bought it at Ewing Irrigation. I can check if I have 10"-15" of 1".
  17. magnetar68

    magnetar68 Guest

    I called RedFlagProducts. The person on the phone said they did not know of any traditional brick-and-mortar retailers who carry the ultra-flex. They said the best bet was to buy online. If you end up ordering from Marine Depot, please be careful. It turns out they often ship out the wrong one. The guy who pointed this to me originally said he had had to send back the wrong kind on occasion and I am sure that is how I ended up with two different types of hose.
  18. zeroinverse

    zeroinverse Guest

    Jim, I have some spa-flex/flexiblePVC I bought from Lowes and decided not to use it for my tank drains. I could bring up to WCR
  19. aqua-nut

    aqua-nut Supporting Member


    I think you directed your comment to Jim, aka Gimmito. I was the one looking for ultra-FLEX. I ended up getting it thru Marine Depot. I bought a lot more than I'll need! It's cool stuff and quite flexible!
  20. Vincerama2

    Vincerama2 Evil Overlord

    My current (58g) tank uses vinyl hose for the return and parts of the drain plumbing. My take on it;

    - Clear vinyl hose quickly becomes coated with a layer of corraline if the sump is lit.
    - Ditto with some algae
    - I "fixed" this in the most ghetto way possible ... I wrapped it in black electrical tape. Ugly but it works
    - It's easier to work with if you fill it with boiling water first and work with it while still warm
    - The clear stuff (wrapped in electrical tape) is not brittle. It seems the same as it was when I installed it. I can't say whether it's hardened or anything, but It's not brittle or yellowed as if it were sitting in the sun or anything.
    - Use hose clamps if you use this stuff, just in case

    My comments on the spa-flex idea

    - More mini-earthquake proof? It might be nice to have a flexible part of the plumbing JUST IN CASE. If your bulkhead holes crack ... Good Lord! So it might be good to have some flex in the plumbing

    - Use unions, they are relatively cheap and you can then try spa-flex and if it isn't to your requirements, then replumbing might be as easy as just setting up PVC pipe with unions and swapping out the union-enabled spa flex.
    Also, if a snail or some detritus jam up the drain you can more easily handle it if you use unions. Plus they are only about $3-$5.

    Most likely, my new tank plumbing will use some vinyl hose to connect the return pump to the plumbing and part of the drain as well.

    Thanks for pointing out the inflexibility and "memory of the roll" of the spa flex, I was thinking of using some but now ... maybe not. Ditto for the black hose, I was going to use it instead of clear vinyl, but if it gets brittle, forget it!

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