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FAQs about Bubble Troubles: Causes, Sources... Diagnosing

Related Articles: Plumbing Marine Systems, Plumbing Return Manifolds, Refugiums

Related FAQs: Bubble Troubles 1, Bubble Troubles 2, Bubble Troubles 3, Bubble Troubles 4, & FAQs on Causes/Fixes: Intake/Overflow Issues, Plumbing Issues, Pump/ing Issues, Discharge Issues, Biological Issues, & Solved Cases, & Marine Plumbing 1, Marine Plumbing 2, Marine Plumbing 3Marine Plumbing 4, Marine Plumbing 5, Marine Plumbing 6, Plumbing 7, Plumbing 8, Plumbing 9, Plumbing 10, Plumbing 11, Plumbing 12, Plumbing 13, Plumbing 14, Plumbing 15, Plumbing 16, Plumbing 17, Plumbing 18, Holes & Drilling, Durso Standpipes, Overflow Boxes, Plumbing Noise, Make Up Water Systems, Pumps, Plumbing, Circulation, Sumps, RefugiumsMarine Circulation 2, Gear Selection for Circulation, Pump Problems Fish-Only Marine Set-ups, Fish-Only Marine Systems 2, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Reef Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large SystemsWater Changes Surge Devices

Mmm, leak/s in the plumbing, about the volute or fittings on the pump/s, entrainment through overflows, from other sources of bubbles/bubbling that is getting taken in or re-transported; biological sources...

Can't solve tiny bubbles     3/18/13
Hi crew,
I've read your site extensively to help find the source of my constant tiny bubbles being pushed into my tank. I tightly clamped down all hoses and silicone greased all hard elbow joints. I put an acrylic wall in between where my water flowed into my 10 gallon sump and where my Mag 5 pump is.
You can see in my aerial photo of my sump that I have a Mag 5 pump attached to my EV 120 skimmer and another Mag 5. Sucking water in from the sump and returning water and tiny bubbles up into my 55 gallon tank.
<I see these>
The sump has no more bubbles due to my baffle and I've clamped everything  off so I'm frustrated now as to the bubble source.
<I understand>
I've cleaned the Mag 5 in question and the impeller is working fine. There is no vortex near the pump intake 
And the water level in the sump is about 2 inches above the intake if the Mag 5.
Any thoughts? I'm so frustrated!
<I would "elbow down" the intakes to these pumps... that is, attach an elbow on the horizontal parts of the volutes, directed downward (to discourage air entraining)... Next, if you can, switch out most all the flexible tubing for rigid... If not practical, double clamp or zip-tie/panduit all barbed to flexible connectors>
<As you state, I take it you've read through others experiences on WWM... this bubble trouble is not insurmountable. You will solve it. Bob Fenner>

Re: Can't solve tiny bubbles     3/18/13
Thanks Mr. Fenner for your time. I will give your suggestions a try!
<Oh, and am thinking I'd like to see a "side pic" of your sump, pumps... the threaded to barbed couplers... these parts are all underwater? BobF>

Micro bubble issue/plumbing, check valve, Vaseline use     8/31/12
Hey how's it going;
    I seem to be having a micro bubble issue with my tank. Here is what I have, 125 gallon (drilled myself) two 2in drains (glass-holes overflow),two 1in returns (1in Ista vortex accelerators), reef octopus 6000sss protein skimmer, BRH100 bio pellet reactor, 40 gallon breeder custom sump (7in constant level, 6in return level), Taam titanium grounding probe,  Tunze Osmolator auto top off, ViaAqua 300w titanium heater, PanWorld 150ps external pump.
<Mmm, wouldn't use the accelerators or the Taam probe>
    Here is what I'm working with as for the plumbing under the sump. The pump is fed by 1.5in PVC with a 1.5in slip to 1in thread adapter at the pump.
 Exiting the pump the same way through 1.5in PVC to a double union ball valve into a T. The return to the tank continues through a dual true union swing check valve
<Why are you using this? Of no real use in such systems... restricts flow, and will usually not "hold" even if good quality of spring, swing, et al. design. The long and short of it is I wouldn't employ these in hobby aquariums>

 then to another T also turned to the side the same as the one before the check valve. From this T the return line goes too 1in which switches to Spa Flex PVC until it reaches the 90deg elbows to go into the bulkheads. Off the T below the check valve the PVC is reduced to 3/4in into a dual true union ball valve then to a barb fitting to use clear vinyl tubing to feed the bio pellet reactor.
<I see this in your excellent pix>
The only small "leak" if you even want to call it that was on the top of the check valve
 where the union of the check valve screws into the PVC. The leak sealed itself and no longer leaks or even creates salt creep.  There are no other leaks in the system all the seals of the unions have been rubbed down with Vaseline.
<Stop! This material is a solvent... not a lubricant alone; will ruin/deform your o-rings in time. I would remove it ASAP, replace w/ an all Silicone product>

I have also went around all the outside of the of the connections with Vaseline to see if it would seal any VERY small leaks. If I have the ball valve fully open for the pump you can hear air in the pump. If you close it part way as it is in the picture the noise goes away, but the bubbles still come out of the returns. There are ZERO bubbles coming through the sump into the return area. The skimmer has a filter sock over the output and the water goes through the bubble trap which has two 2in thick foam blocks in it one on the downward side and one when the water passes into the return area. The return area also has no turbulence in it so no air is being pulled through the intake. I'm positive the air would not be coming in through the "leak" because when holding a light next to the check valve you can see the bubbles coming through the check valve.
<I'd remove it>
 I was told that having a 90deg right before the pump can cause it to have a cavitation for some reason?
<Can, but rare... unless the plumbing on the intake side is down-sized (diameter wise) too much. However, one does NOT want to have restriction/s on the intake side of centrifugal pumps>
I work at a saltwater aquarium store and we have plenty of pumps set up with 90deg bends before the pump and don't have these issues. Could it just be the pump itself?
Everything is brand new but has been up for several weeks.
Thanks for any help.
<The most likely issue here is a small leak... air entraining... through the pump MIP/FIP (the schedule forty/white PVC I'd replace w/ a cut off Sch 80 nipple or such, WITH Silastic/Silicone (as in Aquarium Sealant for glass tanks), as gone over and over on WWM. AND clean up and re-lube the o-rings in the unions... This should "do it". Bob Fenner>

At my wits end...cloudy, microbubbled water. Weird colors/foam.  8/27/10
Bob Scott V Eric
Good afternoon Bob, Scott, Crew, whomever might be reading this! Hope all is well with everyone as a big THANK YOU goes to everyone who pitches in on the hobby! I however want to scream, while thrashing a $2500 box of water!!! I'll try to be brief, ha. After a barrage of emails to Mr. Scott and ye olde[r] Dogfish, I've come pretty far, my pet water is coming along nice...ugh!
Here's my pertinent set-up info... I have a 75 gallon DT with a 55 gallon sump [app. 42gal operational], 2 1.5" flex drains, with one wyed to distribute slower flow to the refugium section of sump, Eheim 1262 return pump with 3/4 flex [no ball valve for throttling back] going almost to top of DT.
<Just not "over" in the event of a power outage or pump failure... I'd definitely be testing for maximum running volume and marking this on the front of the sump... Turn the pump off and wait...>
Then it wyes to 2 returns consisting of 2 3/4 90's [upside down square U hanging on tank trim] with swiveled Locline attached on the end submersed. Siphon holes stay underwater. Sections of sump and approximate measurements from left to right are, refugium 16.5"h x 15"l, return area 15"h x 17"l, skimmer section 15" x 15", all sections have a width of 12".
One overflow line drains completely into skimmer section [app. 4ft run, straight below overflow],
<"Put a sock on it"... See/search re on WWM... Emperor Aquatics my fave brand... get two sets... one for use, the other for intermittent cleaning, drying>
the other wyed overflow probably 75% drains to skimmer section [4ft straight below], the other 25% going all the way to the left [app. 1ft down, slightly curved 4ft horizontal run] to the fuge. Both sections spill over to return chamber.
<Perhaps a bit of removable sponge (polyurethane, open-cell) here>
Baffles are in place dividing each section. Heater in baffles after skimmer section, water temp between 76.7 and 78ish [during lighting peak].
I'm sure I forgot something you need/want, hard to concentrate while still fighting the urge to grab the Louisville Slugger!
<Don't do it!>
Ok, here's my problemo[s]... I filled up everything with just freshwater {yes R.O.] with the plan of documenting lighting schedule, water temp relating to heater and lighting. Had fierce bubbles, but everything ran smooth 1-2 days. Bubbles decreased slightly, water starting to warm up from the 60's. Days 3-4 noticing the water starting to cloud, bubbles
still insane! By day 5, the water was definitely cloudy. Also noticed a reddish pink foam/y [thoughts? ideas?]
<Bio. likely>
something on top of the water in the return section where the water sat stagnant with no flow. Meanwhile, earlier correspondence with Scott had me ordering filter socks for the microbubbles.
<Oh! Good idea>
Ok, due to the past dirty plumbing problem when I filled the tank, I thought this cloudiness might be leftover residual, or the r.o. water did sit for 2-3 wks not aerated, the microbubbles, maybe a bacterial bloom, I had no clue! 6 in one, half dozen in another feeling. Well still bubbly, cloudy, day 7 or 8 the filter socks [200micron] came. I siphoned 80% of DT
and sump, filled with fresh water, installed filter socks on drains, turned everything on and went to bed! Next morning the microbubbles were gone [was amazed][thank you Scotter] with the exception of a straggler here and there and the water was still clear. So after a couple days, I thought it wouldn't be a waste of salt, I added what I thought would bring the tank to 1.024.
<Best by far to pre-mix, add at a higher concentration>
WOW, everything went hazy, bubbly, crazy as you might expect, the next day I had to manually stir the rest of the salt to make it dissolve, the salinity wasn't high enough but geez the bubbles were there with a vengeance. After a couple days of leaving it alone, the microbubbles are back better than ever, water cloudy, but I think due to the bubbles. I've also noticed that the filter socks are turning orangish, pinkish red [why this color, iron maybe?] .
Which makes me remember the pinkish foam. What could that have been?
<Preferred microorganismal life of some sort. Do you have a 'scope?>
Also a couple months back after a few batches of r.o. water, one of the sediment filters on my unit established a nickel size rust spot. I couldn't completely remove it or it would of damaged.
<Just rinse next cycle>
After 10 or so batches of about 150 gallons a piece I still get a 5 reading on the tds meter, 3 was the reading brand new. Still both good I think?!
<Likely "close enough">
I want, feel I need to take care of the bubbles and figure out this dis/coloration before I order and place my live rock.
<Likely unnecessary... these/this too shall pass>
A big what do I do comes to mind? More filter socks, ball valve for the strong flow from return pump, baffle sponges, etc? What about the strange coloration? I would expect brownish or greenish, but with it just being water, and until a few days ago with no salt, I'm at a loss! Should I worry about that?
<Less than you are currently>
Maybe just sell everything and find a new hobby to sink a small fortune in? I really am at a frustrating point with all this and your help and guidance is greatly appreciated! I seriously can't thank everyone enough!
Thanks in advance.
<I'd place the rock. Dang the torpedees! Bob Fenner>

Definitive Cause of Microbubbles....? 3/12/09
Hello to the WWM crew,
<Hello Steve>
We have been designing and installing large aquariums throughout the Northern California Bay Area for a number of years (even with the current economy we are managing to stay busy.... fingers always crossed!), As we serve largely upscale clients, one of the most common requests is that the system be QUIET (and I mean QUIET!). We have adopted Red Dragon pumps as they are extremely energy-efficient, move a LOT of water, and are almost 100% silent. Amazing beasts these; A problem that comes up seemingly randomly are microbubbles. I have done a TON of research on your site (and just about everywhere else) and find a whole slew of testimonials about fixes but no definitive information about what REALLY causes them.
As they are not buoyant, any baffle system is useless (I have observed this personally over many painful hours). I have heard about the possibility of a pinhole leak but in my experience, when one observes a very fine, barely visible stream of whitish "stuff" coming from all the returns, a pinhole leak seems very unlikely. I have used filter socks (which help) and leads me to believe they are formed somehow and somewhere between the overflow into the sump. It also seems that if they are coming into the sump, any mechanical attempt to get rid of them is futile. It seems it would be far smarter to stop them before they form but I cannot understand how this happens. I have a friend who is a civil engineer and very experienced with water flow and is convinced the problem is due to "super-critical" flow, where the water, as it flows vertically via gravity, mixes with air and the chaos of vertical flow (as opposed to a "sloped" flow) creates the problem.
We have used Durso's, Gurgle-busters, and it's really quiet but still microbubbles.......AIIIYYYYEEEE!!!! If I had any hair left, I would pull it out!
<You are balding:)>
Any input?
<My thoughts would be...are the Red Dragon pumps submerged in your systems?
If not, you may want to remove the end cap and apply silicone lube to the entire "O" ring and also ensure
no debris is present on the inner side of the end cap which could cause a  pin hole leak in the intake. If they are installed submerged, then this possible fix could be eliminated. I have had a problem such as yours with a new Little Giant pump and lubing the "O" ring cured the problem.
More than likely, the problem is coming from the intake somewhere. If a protein skimmer's outlet is near the pump's intake, the pump may be drawing bubbles exiting from the skimmer's return.
Are the tank's returns to the sump a good distance away from the pump's intake?
Low water level in the sump can create a vortex near the pump's intake causing micro bubble problems, but I'm sure you are well aware of this. Other than what you have read on our site, I can't offer any more
suggestions. Hopefully this may be of some help to you. James (Salty Dog)>
Steve Bicker, Designer & Owner
Nemo Marine Systems, LLC: "Exquisite Aquarium Design"

Strange Microbubbles...11/20/08
Hello, a friend of mine is having a problem with his tank producing micro bubbles. It only happens during the daylight hours...
<Likely only noticed during daylight hours.>
The tank is located in a dark room with NO natural light. The problem began when he moved his supply pipe from behind the tank to over the tank "under the lights", he is running about 1100-1200 watts MH and T5... First I am a plumber I checked all of the fittings and they are good.
<Great, big concern solved!>
He said that the pipe is lined with sponge, so my thought is that during the night hours the sponge picks up the "normal" every day micro bubbles and collects them, they get stuck in pockets and what not.
<I have never seen nor heard of piping lined with sponge. A prefilter?>
Then when the lights come on and heat up the pipes it causes them to release the bubbles.
<Would be released at night too with buildup in the pipe, if this were the case.>
That is all I can think of, it is none of the normal problems, we are very experienced keepers, so if you can think of anything off the wall that might be causing this please explain.
<Do inspect the sump very closely, with a flashlight. There is a good possibility the bubbles are not dissipated completely as the water travels through. The baffles/sponges may need a bit of tweaking to prevent this. Otherwise, do make sure there is no restriction on the pump intake, can be a factor.>
Thank you very much, Luke Hines "FishworksAK"
<Welcome, good luck, Scott V.>

Bubbles and Silicone Grease 9/15/08
Thanks for taking your time to answer my questions.
<Not a problem.>
I read through the questions regarding micro bubbles in the aquarium and got a bit confused regarding the use of Silicone Grease and Aquarium O-Ring sealant (are they the same thing?).
<Yes, there are other specialized silicone greases/lubricants out there, but the types used for plumbing, diving, cameras, o rings in general are fine to use.>
In my case the bubbles are not a constant stream, they pump out a very short , light burst every 10 seconds or so. The pump is a Mag 7. I am so paranoid about using any type of chemical around my here goes. To start, there are no bubbles in the return area of the sump. So, I want to try and see if the bubbles are coming from air getting in around the unions and/or the pump face, so would it be OK to use the silicon grease on the O-Ring in each, or is there a specific type of product I should use?
<Any silicone o ring grease will work for this, the variety found in the plumbing sections in hardware stores is generally the cheapest.>
Also, I plan on putting some of the grease around each joint in my return system to see if one of them may be the problem. Is there anything else you might suggest I try?
<Hmmm, I would use plumber’s putty, clay, or even just regular old silicone for this. Using the grease to diagnose a leaky joint is going to get messy and the stuff is virtually impossible to clean off.>
Again, thank you for all of the information you provide. You are a great help.
<Welcome Cheri, thank you. Scott V.>

Vortex XL Diatom Filter, op., bubbles  – 1/28/08
I have a Vortex XL diatom filter which I use weekly to polish the water in my 75 gallon freshwater tank. Sometimes the filter pumps out masses of very fine bubbles into the tank. The bubbles don't appear to interfere with the quality of the filtering operation. At times the bubbles are intermittent, and at other times are produced steadily. Is this normal? If not, any recommendation on how to eliminate the production of the bubbles?
Mike C.
<Yes... there is some place where air is being entrained here... Likely at either of the too-simple attachment points for the tubing going to/from the pump unit (the black nipples)... Either get/use new bands here, replace the tubing, and/or "lube up" a bit with some Silicone based material to prevent air from being pulled in. Bob Fenner>

I have a micro-bubble problem that just won't quit and wonder if you can help. – 07/03/07
Hi Crew!
I have a 125 gallon AGA tank with dual overflows that is piped to a 100 gallon sump/refugium behind the wall its sitting in front of.
I am using two GenX pcx70 pumps.
One pump line goes directly; back to the tank.
One has a tee to feed the refugium.
The strange thing here is only one side has the bubble problem.
<A plumbing leak...>
My right side return looks great, the left side looks awful.
So I think this rules out the problem being in the sump.
I checked all the connections to the Left side and can't find any leaks.
<There is at least one there somewhere>
I pulled out the return pipe and cleaned all the loc-line fittings.
I noticed at one point when fooling with the loc-line that the bubbles stopped temporarily.
Do you have any ideas?
I was wondering if maybe the loc-line pieces could suck in air and maybe they need to be replaced?
<Yes... or at least switched with the other side to confirm the source of the leak...>
Thank you for any help you can give me.
Great site, I use it all the time.
David Matza
<Try switching out the Loc fittings... replacing the hard plumbing in turn if this doesn't disclose the source of entrained air. Bob Fenner>

Belching Return Pump, Possible Air Leak   2/11/07
Hi Crew,
<Hi Jason, Mich with you tonight.>
I'm having a problem with my Quiet One 6000 return pump. Once every few minutes, it will spew a stream of bubbles into the display tank. This is preceded by a "Shhhh" noise from the pump, like the sound of opening a soda.
<Sounds like an air leak.>
The pump is external, connected to the sump by about 14" of PVC plumbing as follows: (all 1") bulkhead -> threaded connector -> ball valve -> connector -> union -> pump. All slip connections are PVC bonded, and all of the threaded connections have silicone except the union->pump connector. The bulkhead intake is 12" below the water level of the sump, and it is not drawing air from the surface. On the return end, I have pump -> union -> connector -> ball valve ->
nipple -> vinyl tubing -> nipple -> elbow -> bulkhead.
<First place I'd check would be the vinyl tubing.>
Any thoughts on what is happening?
<Sounds like you're drawing air somewhere.>
My particular confusion comes from the intermittent nature of the problem... there's some sort of buildup followed by release of these bubbles from the pump. Would a simple loose connection or small air leak cause this?
<That would be my thought.  Have you tried checking for water leaks while the pump isn't running?  It may require the water to rest in the plumbing for a while before revealing itself.  The pumps may need to be turned off for more than a few minutes, maybe a hour or so.  Obviously make sure all the exposed plumbing is dry initially.>  
Thanks for any advice!
<Hope that helps!  -Mich>

Small Bubbles from Sump Return Pipe – 11/01/06
Hi Eric,
<<Hey Ken>>
I have an annoying dilemma.
Would you have an opinion as to what is causing small bubbles coming out of my return pipe into my tank?
<<Sure...I have opinions on most anything <grin>.  It is likely you either have a very small plumbing leak that is “sucking” air...or the return pump is pulling bubbles from somewhere in the sump>>
It has been like this since the first day.
<<A very common issue>>
I was told last week by someone that it was probably because it was new sea water in the tank.
<<...!?  I don’t think so>>
However it is still occurring.  As you know my tank is a 90-gallon AGA mega-flow tank which has the internal skimmer box.
I put saltwater in it 8 days ago.  6 days ago I added about 120 lbs of live rock.  I have a 48” MTC Beckett style skimmer coming off the other side of my sump which has two baffles.
<<Have you checked to ensure the baffles are keeping bubbles away from the return pump?>>
When I look closely at the return to tank side of the sump, I really don’t see any bubbles to speak of so I do not think that this is the reason.
Also when I shut the pump off and turn it back on, a lot of large bubbles come out of the pipe going into the tank.
<<When the pump is off the return line drains, yes?  The “large bubbles” would be the air that is pushed back out the pipe when the pump is turned back on>>
Is there air in the system?
<<Possibly from a small (pinhole) leak at a connection/union>>
The water flow from my sump to my tank is as follows:
¾” pvc flex tubing into ¾” union >>> Blueline 40 pump >>> 3/4” flex tubing  >>> bushing to increase to 1”>>> 1” ball valve >>> 1” union >>>1” ball valve >>> Bushing to decrease to ¾” >>> ¾” PVC >>> two 90 degree ell’s into my chiller >>> two 90 degree ell’s from my chiller >>> ¾” flex PVC into the bottom of the tank for the return.
<<Lots of need to check each one of these (that is “out of water”) to determine if one is “leaking” air in to the system.  You can smear Vaseline around each joint, though this must be “cleaned carefully” to keep the petroleum component from deteriorating the plastic (Bob does not recommend this method), or you can get a silicone grease for doing this.  Seal each joint one at a time, waiting a few minutes each time to see if the bubbles stop>>
The other problem (and maybe related) is that when I put my hand in front of the return line into the tank, I hardly feel any flow.   The Blueline pump is rated at 790 gph @ 5’ head.  I used a head loss calculator and I should have at least 560 gph.
<<Did you also take in to account the turns/valves in the plumbing?  Each 90-degree ell adds a foot to the head height, and I would also add a foot for each ball valve in the line...the unions and the chiller will be adding some additional resistance to flow as well  All in all, you will likely find the pump is less adequate than you thought for this installation>>
I am not sure what that feels like against my hand, but it has to be more than what it seems.
<<Only way to know for sure is to direct the output in to a container of known capacity and time how long it takes to fill>>
I appreciate at any idea someone may have.
<<Hope I’ve given you a few>>
<<Regards, EricR>>

Re: Small Bubbles from Sump Return Pipe – 11/01/06
Hi Eric,
<<Hello Ken>>
Thanks for the quick reply.
When I get home tonight I am going to shut-off the skimmer and see if that is the culprit or not.
With regards to your other idea (pin hole leaks etc), I need to re-do some of the plumbing as I exchanged my chiller and I will have the new skimmer on Friday.  I think I will just re-do all the piping instead of playing detective.
Is there any problem with gluing PVC and then running the system with the live rock?  Any toxicity issues?
<<Give the solvent an hour to cure and you’ll be fine>>
I used a head-loss calculator when I came up with my numbers.
<<So you mentioned...>>
It asks how many feet vertical/horizontal.  Number of valves, unions, 90's, 45's, etc.  It also lists all of the pumps that are used.  Pretty neat calculator.
<<Sounds like it...if it is accurate <grin> >>
I guess I have to get out my 3 gallon bucket, and see how long it takes to fill, and then multiply by 20.
<<Mmm, not sure I follow...  I would time how long it takes to fill the bucket, divide that number in to 60 (minutes in an hour), and multiply that number by 3 (capacity of the bucket).  The result should be the GPH of the pump with the current plumbing configuration>>
By the way, I ended up with an H&S A150 - 2001.  I heard H&S is supposed to be good.
<<As have I.  I have seen this make of skimmer in action and it was also looked to be well made/engineered>>
It is similar to the Deltec AP-600 but rated a little larger than the Deltec.  In your opinion do you think this should be more than enough for a 90 reef?
<<Should be more than adequate>>
<<Cheers, EricR>>

Bubble/Cyano Issues - 08/22/06
Greetings from Grayslake, IL
<<Back at you from Columbia, SC>>
I've read a lot (I won't say all) of the FAQs regarding bubbles but I am still running across an issue.
Here is my set up:
- 29 gallon reef tank up and running for about 8 months now
- CPR Bak Pak
- Magnum 350 Canister Filter
- 2x96 Watt 10k PC (On for 7 hours)
- 2 actinic bulbs PC (On for 10 hours)
- 40(+-) lb live rock
- 2-inch live sand
- RO/DI 4-stage system
Here is my problem.  I still get bursts of air bubbles from the canister filter.
<<Hmm, air intrusion from somewhere...builds up to the point where the bubble is large enough to "escape" to the outflow/impeller chamber of the filter pump...thus the "bursts" of bubbles>>
I have broken down the system and have replaced the o-rings and have added metal clamps on the all of the hoses to try to tighten it all down.  Can't really find any leaks in the system.
<<Have you tried "sealing" all the joints one-at-a-time with Vaseline?
<Mmm, would not use a Petroleum-based material... too likely to act as a solvent... soften the tubing in the long/er run. Perhaps a Silicone-based lube. RMF>
  Have you checked to see if bubbles are being generated/pulled in to the filter through the intake from the intake water chamber (sump?)?>>
In addition to the bursts of air bubbles, when the lights are on I get a small amount of bubbles constantly.
<<Check the placement of the filter intake/the possibility of bubbles in the surrounding water being pulled in to the filter>>
Suggestions?  Replace it?
<<Might be worth a try>>
What would you guys/gals recommend for a replacement?
<<I've always had good luck with the Fluval line of canister filters...and if you have the bucks, Eheim is a good choice>>
I am also getting some muck on the top of the sand when the lights are on but it is gone when the lights are off?
Some of my live rock has turned red on the tips, don't think that it is coralline algae.  Some form of algae was wondering if I need to be concerned here or not.
<<Hard to say...likely not.  But do have a look through our FAQs/articles re "Cyanobacteria" and "blue-green algae">>
Thank you for your time.
<<A pleasure to assist>>
Like everybody else...Love the site!  Very very informative.
<<Always good to hear...thank you>>
Richard Hunt
<<Regards, Eric Russell>>

Re: Bubble/Cyano Issues   8/22/06
Thanks for the reply.
I am not running a sump, just the CPR Bak-Pak and the Magnum Filter.  Regarding the is that done?  Do I pull out the connections and add it to the connection or to the hose?
<<No need to pull apart the connections...just smear some around the "above water" connections to seal them temporarily.  Do this one at a time watching each for a bit to see if the bubbles stop>>
The intake is behind a piece of live rock, so I don't really have any air coming from there I don't believe.
<<The steady stream of air bubbles while the lights are on could be nitrogen bubbles from your rock/substrate being sucked in to the filter intake>>
Again, Thank you
Richard Hunt
<<Regards, Eric Russell>>

Re: Bubble/Cyano Issues - 08/22/06
Now that’s interesting.  I do have tiny bubbles all over the red stuff on the rocks that I spoke about in my original post.  Could that be what is getting into the filter?
<<Ah, most assuredly Cyanobacteria then...and yes, the filter intake could be pulling-in these bubbles>>
If do I get rid of the bubbles from the live rock?
<<Increased water movement often helps when battling this blue-green algae.  Do have a read here and among the links in blue for much more information: >>
<<Quite welcome, EricR>>

Still bubbles... 7/8/06
Hello guys...
<And some gals...>
I have been searching through your wonderful website on how to get rid of microscopic bubbles that are being fed into my tank by the two mag pumps in the sump.
<Mmm... where is the air coming from eh?>
I followed some of the tips on how to find air leaks and bubbles that pass through the sump, but the bubbles are still there. Here is a breakdown of my tank.
120 gallon with oversized sump
Euro-reef skimmer
7.0 and 9.5 mag pumps with filter sponges attached to inlet micron bag for the inlet to the refugium micron filter pad for the water in the skimmer portion of the sump
PH 8.4
Salinity 1.024
No Nitrites
No ammonia
Very little Nitrates
So I have checked all of the lines from the pumps going up to the overflows for leaks and there are none. The return tube from the overflow is not next to the intake for the skimmer. I do not see any bubbles passing through the micron bag for the inlet into the refugium. I have put the sponges over the intake valves for the mag pumps and I am still getting air. If I turn off the skimmer, the bubbles are still there. Is there any chance that the pumps could be bad even though they are two months old?
<Mmm... "bad?"... as in had leaks in their volutes? Not likely>
This tank is only about two months old and I am reluctant to stocking it until I get the bubbles figured out. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks Justin
<I agree with you re finding, fixing this bubble trouble... how are these pumps, plumbing arranged? Are the pumps "pulling" against each other? Do you end up with bubbles whether one or the other is on? Have you tried turning the volume down, even capping the discharge/s to see if water "squirts" out of a fitting? There is/are a source or sources of air intake, entraining here... and you should find and fix it/them. Perhaps having another "reefer" come on by and look... they might see/hear something you've overlooked. Bob Fenner>

Bubble Trouble?...Maybe Not II - 06/25/06
Thank you for your time to respond.
<<You're welcome>>
I would like to make a few points clear.
As a test I installed my UV sterilizer to drain into my buckets which act as a baffling system.  With only 150 gph I see Microbubbles emerging from the bottom of the holes in the bucket. Keep in mind that the water travels through 2 Rubbermaid containers and then flows into 2 buckets before entering the sump. I think if I am getting tiny microbubbles from the bottom of the bucket at only 150gph I am in deep trouble.
<<Mmm, or maybe making more of this than need be...  I'm not making light of your concern, but unless the amount of bubbles is extreme, a few bubbles in your system are not going to be harmful, and is unavoidable for the most part due to water turbulence.
I figured out my pH problem I think.  I use a powerhead in freshly made RO water for only a hour before I use it in the tank.  Could that be causing the low PH?
<<Indeed it could...I would buffer and aerate the water over-night as a minimum, longer if possible>>
And if you could give me more of your thoughts on the microbubbles I would appreciate it.
<<Without seeing your system it's hard for me to ascertain the true problem here, if indeed there is one.  But placing some fine polyester filter material in the bottom of the last bucket and submerging this a bit so the water doesn't "fall" to the sump should go a long way towards eliminating any bubbles from the water entering the sump.  If after this you still have bubbles entering the tank, then I would look to making sure you don't have a pin-hole leak somewhere in your plumbing allowing air intrusion on the return side of your pump>>
Thanks again,
Laura Z
<<You're quite welcome.  Regards, EricR>>

Equipment/Filters...Bursts of bubbles from a Magnum 350   5/25/06
Bob,  <James today, Bob exploring the mysteries of the deep in HI> <<Heeee! RMF>>
  I noticed the question from Donna regarding air-bursts from her HOT Magnum. I have been using three 350's and two HOT's for several years and the only time I observed air building up in the canister (and causing bursts of bubbles) was when I had an airstone near the intake and it would suck in the occasional bubble until a larger bubble was built up inside the canister. and then it would periodically spew a mist of air droplets in the exhaust several times a minute. This sounds like it would have been obvious to the most casual observer, but it took me several days of messing with everything I could think of on the Magnum until finally I was glaring at the snorkels in frustration and saw a bubble spiral around into the intake side. (D'oh!!) Using 5 Magnums for the last three years and that's the only way I've seen air get entrained - through the intake. <Thank you for this, Mark, will post.  James (Salty Dog)>
  Mark Hein

Bubble Trouble 11/25/05
Hi There,
<<Hello David. Ted Here>>
I am in the final stage of setting up a 55g reef tank that began over six months ago.  I am also as close as I can get to giving up, converting it to a vivarium and buying a snake.
My problem is, are, bubbles.  I have read and read the FAQs but cannot resolve the problem. Most FAQs suggest that the problem stems from the return from the sump.  However I have removed the return pipe manifold and set up a direct hose from the sump pump to the tank so there is no joint exposed to air, the pump is submerged so no air exposed joint there and still the bubbles go on.
<<Ok. So you've confirmed these are bubbles and that they are coming from the water in the sump?>>
Initially the drain to the sump was generating a boiling cauldron, but that has been tweaked so that there are no obvious bubbles at that point.  The in sump Tunze DOC skimmer generates a level of fine bubbles but as this is designed as a hang in tank skimmer I assumed that this is either a: normal or b: temporary. I have tried creating  bubble traps additional to the existing baffles, I have tried running the water over and through filter sponges in the sump in the hope of coalescing any tiny bubbles into larger ones that will rise and burst.
I cannot think of anything else to do apart from scrap and redesign the sump which would be expensive, basically confined to the same footprint as the current one and no guarantee of success.
The bubbles in the tank are far, far less than at the start.  Basically there is a degree of fine bubbles that require serious squinting to define as bubbles and not fine particulates, and not a seething white mass as previously.
So what do I do?  Should I just go ahead?  I have postponed getting my rock twice now, or resign myself to redesigning?  Is a level of "bubbular activity" acceptable or do I need crystal clear bubble free water as I used to have in my freshwater tanks? Looking forward to your suggestions.
<<Sorry that this is so vexing. Solving these types of problems is best done through steps where you eliminate possible sources of the problem. You seem convinced it is bubbles and not sediment. Ok. Hook up the return pump to return water directly to the tank and bypass the plumbing (as you have previously done and described above) and wait a few hours. If you still have micro bubbles then look at the overflow return as the source of the bubbles. Place the pump as far from the overflow return as possible, add rock or anything else to cause turbulence at the return point in the sump and slow the progress of the bubbles towards the pump. You want to give the bubbles a chance to escape. If the micro bubbles are gone, then hook up the return pump to use the normal plumbing and try again. If the micro bubbles are still gone, then the problem is the skimmer (or some other equipment) otherwise you've confirmed that the main pump plumbing is involved in the problem. Your goal is by process of elimination, isolate the source and then correct the problem. If the main plumbing is the problem, rework the plumbing. If the skimmer is the problem, consult the skimmer instructions and see if you can eliminate the bubbles returning to the tank from the sump.>>
<<Good luck - Ted>>

Hi there.  Yes I have read and read about microbubbles....I still can¹t figure it out.  Please help me.    10/21/05
90 gallon reef.
As of yesterday, Phosphorus 0
Ca 300
KH 10
PH 8.2
Nitrite 0 nitrate less than 5ppm
Ammonia 0
Salt 1.025
Various fish and corals.  Everybody is doing great!  Except for some pitting on the blue tang in front of his eyes that I can¹t beat no matter what I feed him!  Maybe he has intestinal parasites and they steal his nutrients!
Though my purple tang is fine.....sorry to ramble, that¹s not my question.
I use the tidepool 2 ( I like it-ease of maintenance) with a Mag drive 18 pump (sits in sump and all flex tubing with barbed fittings).  Have the Turboflotor skimmer, ozonizer.  In the media trays I have pads and a bag of charcoal.  I recently cleaned the pump and it now buzzes, vibrates loud.... I just don¹t know..... I¹ve taken it apart and put it back together again with no luck.
<Likely a bit of air stuck, around the impeller... perhaps turning off/on a few times will clear this>
I have tightened all connections.   I have turned off the skimmer and still bubbles so it¹s not the skimmer.  These bubbles are like dust particles.  I am distracted when I sit down to watch my tank.  It bothers me.  Especially when the halides come on.  (They only run 12-6...power compacts alone the rest of the time)  MH  exaggerates them.  It looks like I just blew dirt off the rock with a powerhead, or a fish stirred up detritus.
I have had experienced water so clear you wonder if water is in there.....I just can¹t put my finger on when these started......was it after I cleaned that pump?
I have noticed that at the end of the day tiny bubbles are sticking to my rocks and then in the morning they are gone!  
<May be formed via photosynthesis...>
But they are always present in the water.  That never clears.  I¹ve tried taking the carbon bag away, no luck.  What else can I do?  
<... replace, re-seal all plumbing, fittings... start from the beginning intake...>
I¹ve thought of a pre-filter sponge for the pump itself but they don¹t make them for this size.  
<Can make/fashion your own>
They do for the Mag drive 5, or is it 7?  I wouldn¹t mind cleaning it everyday.  O well.  How I long for that water that looks so clear again!  Can you help me?  
<Not with the information provided... You might ask about... the local marine club/s, fish stores, service companies if someone/a pet-fish guru will come by, look at, give you input in person. Bob Fenner>

Tunze Stream microbubbles and water circulation around Euphyllids. 7/22/05
Hi Anthony (or else...:),
<Hi Dominique, Ali here (please don't kill me)>
I bought two 6000 Streams and a 7095 controller for my system.
<Great pumps, great choice, great investment>
I have a 90 gal reef tank (48"x24"18") with sugar fine DSB. I have only Euphyllids (torch and hammer corals) and pulsing xenia. Will add some Montipora digitata at some point. I reduced the power to 30% on the streams. On the multicontroller I use the interval no 1 mode with around 30 seconds of interval and the flow is also pulsing from 30% to 100% on each of the two streams each 6 seconds. This means going from 167 gal (2X per hour) to 555 gal per hour (6X per hour) on each pump alternatively. The two streams are symmetrically positioned to have their flow hitting the middle of the back panel. I placed them quite near to the surface. Also there is a 3X per hour from the return pump from the fuge.
-Now there is some particles in suspension: dust or air bubbles I do not know (?). There is good agitation at the surface so could be air bubbles.
<Microbubbles are generally caused from your return pump or possibly your refugium output, turn them off and just run your stream pumps. If the microbubbles continue, then you'll know 100% that they are coming directly from the streams. Additionally, if you have the streams too close to the water surface, they will create a 'vortex' causing water and air to be sucked down, thus producing an occasional jet of bubbles. Here is a direct quote from Roger 'Tunze' Vitko himself regarding the microbubbles issue: "Just my experience here- if your pump is making bubbles and it is not from vortexing you really should double check the hole in the magnet rotor for obstructions, your KH and your light intensity/duration. If the bubbles get worse as the day light hours progress it is definitely a gas saturation issue and removing excess algae, cutting back on lighting and lowering KH are the remedies. If the pump has any obstructions to the cooling system, the internal vacuum increases and more degassing occurs.">
-Could this be too much current for the Euphyllids? Is it ok when the polyps are bending from time to time (not just curling but really bending at a 90 degrees angle...). The polyps are still well extended tough.
<Don't sweat it. They're happy. Unless you see total tissue retraction and/or tissue literally being blown-off of the skeletons this is not something you should worry about>
I am only a beginner and I worry about those corals now...
< :D 90 degree bends, you don't have to worry about, it's those dreaded 45 degree angles that you should keep an eye out for,...only kidding of course.>
-Same for my new anemone (green Heteractis crispa with purple tips): some tentacles are sometimes completely twisted because of the current (giving the tentacle an hour-glass shape...). Can this cause problems?
-Do you have any advice for the settings of the multicontroller and placement/direction of the streams that would be good for my set up?
<For further advice on how to get the most out of your pumps/controller set-up feel free to browse Roger's Tunze forum, here's the link: >  
Thanks a lot!
<No problem friend, enjoy your reef.>

Tiny bubbles
Howdy! Good Morning!
<Good morning Cathy! Steven here this morning feeling a bit of a longing for the Texas food.>
Ok, we checked all the pipes - found one that hadn't been glued properly. Yes, Scott did the cleaner, primer, and glue thing, but missed one, but we STILL have bubbles. They must be from the brand new Aqua C EV 180.
<Quite easy to check, unplug the skimmer for a while and see if the bubbles cease. Then you will know for sure.>
The manual says that this is normal?!?! Won't it kill my livestock before it settles?
<It is really best to eliminate them from making their way into the display.>
My Red Sea Xenia has already lost it's "feathers" and has stark fingers. The rest of things aren't looking too good. I've scanned and scanned for articles on how to fix the bubbles, but the Google search leads me to a page, then leaves me there :-)
<You can start here and follow on through the FAQ files. The bubble problems are scattered throughout the plumbing FAQ's.>
How do I fix those bubbles?
<The only thing I can tell you is to systematically go through until you find the source, then eliminate it.>
We've tried to fiddle with the water spout, and the air, to no avail. Yes, I leave time between adjustments to see what each one does; about an hour. Still bubbles. Aye yi yi! Thanking you once again - and where's that call? <blush>
<That would be Anthony.>
Getting pushy in my old age. -Cathy
<Have a nice day! -Steven Pro>

Tiny bubbles (2nd time)
Hello Steven!
Thanks for the link - we had printed that page before we started; going to see "the list" of things to check - my goodness! Something to think about - make a list on the site for things to check, as reading all that mail kinda makes one Google.
<I have a big list of ideas and half started articles to point people to cut down on emails. One for trouble shooting bubbles, another on trouble shooting protein skimmers not working, one on refugium styles, etc. With work, the wife, the baby, the new book, the other things get done, but slowly.>
Ya know, like:
1. It may be the brand new skimmer - turn it off awhile to see.
2. It may be a hole in the piping - check each joint.
3. It may be your return pump is too powerful (?)
4. You may need filter media on the overflow piping to break up the bubbles.
Any more that you can add?
<That about covers it, I think.>
Thanks again for all the advice, I'll be reading -Cathy <><
<I just got it, "<><" is a fish. I need to start with coffee in the morning before emails. -Steven Pro>

Dangerous Bubbles in a Marine Circulation System
I just began running a 135 gallon fish only saltwater tank and it has been running for 2 weeks. The water that is being pumped back into the tank from the sump tank is cloudy as a result of millions of tiny bubbles. When I turn it off it is crystal clear. What is the problem and how can I fix it?
The pump is a Sedra 12000 and it is outside the sump tank. Thanks.
<There are a few ways to reduce to eliminate the "bubbliness" of your set-up... The most important aspect is actual function... it's dangerous to have air and water getting mixed together in your pump... gas embolism problems can result. Please read through the following parts of our site: and the FAQs
and the Marine Plumbing FAQs:
You want to eliminate the possibility that you have a plumbing leak on the intake side of your pump, then next the possibility that bubbles are getting into the intake via the sump... then lastly the issue of coalescing, collecting the bubbles that are just being produced at the discharge side (into the main tank) via a piece of filter media, a catch sump there... Important to understand this and cure it now. Bob Fenner>

Tiny bubbles
Hi WWM crew! This is me from Guatemala, the land of eternal spring!
<cheers! Carlos>
This is my question. Often the main pump in the sump capture little bubbles originated in the sump due the internal turbulence... when the pump capture this bubbles, the pump brake it in myriads of tiny bubbles that you can see in the main tank... those bubbles can affect in some way the life in my tank?
<yes... called "microbubbles" the aspirated air is whisked through the impeller and can cause some problems with animals in the system. Stuck to invertebrates they can be irritating and in rare cases they cause supersaturation of oxygen and a condition like Nitrogen "bends" in divers for the fishes. Prevent the bubbles by installing a baffle of glass before the pump intake or keeping a large coarse foam block on the pump intake (and clean weekly)>
Thank you! Carlos Díaz
<best regards, Anthony>

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere!?!?!
Dear Bob,
<Steven Pro here this evening.>
Love your book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist", couldn't get by with out it!
<I agree. It is an excellent reference. Have you by chance seen our new work at It will be out this March. We are taking preorders now.>
I am having some troubles with my tank and don't know where to turn. I have a 75 gallon (Corner Over-flow) fish only system. Equipment: SeaLife Systems Wet-Dry 60, LifeGuard Quite One 700 gph external main pump, a Supreme Mag-Drive 9.5 in sump pump powering an ETSS Revolution 500 protein skimmer, a Coralife turbo twist 3X UV, 2 Ebo-Jager 125 watt heaters, and 2 power sweep 228 powerheads for in tank circulation. Everything other than the circulating power heads is jammed into my sump. All this is crammed under my tank stand for a 55 gallon tank, the extra 4 inches in depth for the 75 gallon tank I built into a wall for the "see through" effect (Pictures included for reference.)
<Looks pretty good>
I can't seem to get the bubbles out of my tank and its driving me crazy! I just purchased the skimmer which was a big upgrade from my SeaClone. I plan on converting to a reef tank at some point, so I know this was an essential piece of equipment to have. I know the bubbles could lead to Popeye, not to mention how unsightly it is. (Bubbles sticking to my faux corals and on algae build up....yuck!) I think my problem is the skimmer, although I do get a small amount of bubbles with the skimmer off as well.
<This is an important clue.>
Checked and resecured all connections and fittings three times: no leaks. I think the high flow pump draining water down into the sump is creating bubbles as they hit the sump water. That maybe bad, but when I turn the skimmer on it becomes ten times worse.
<In the tank or in the sump, the problem becomes worse?>
I mounted the Skimmer up high and have it dumping into the Bio Tower to help break up the bubbles, additionally I have a 300 Micron Filter Media Bag over the skimmer inlet to help further. They do make better bags i.e.: 800 micron but were not in stock, could this be the cure?
I have filter pads both above and below the bio tower as well as Carbon and Ammonia pad in the drip tray. There is a foam filter pad placed in the baffle area in between the sump section under the bio tower and the open sump area.
<I see in the picture.>
With the system running I notice a barrage of bubbles in the sump directly below the bio tower.
<I have no problem with this.>
I have played with the flow rates of both the main pump and skimmer pump ball valves over and over to no end.
<I would leave the main pump on full throttle and adjust the skimmer pump to maximize skimmate, not to correct this bubble problem.>
Additionally, I don't like inhibiting the overall flow rate of the main pump. Like to keep it at approximately 600-650 gph for a 75 gallon tank.
<Agreed, even a bit more circulation would be fine with me.>
The micron bag, bio balls and foam pad in the baffle area doesn't seem to be working very well, because they must be getting through to the main pump and into the tank.
<Not necessarily>
I have played with the baffle as well. I cut a new baffle out of 1/4 inch Plexi-glass mimicking the original but drilled 2 holes for the heaters and placed grommets around the heaters to prevent bubbles from passing through. In addition I cut different height baffles attempting to raise and lower the baffles, but that doesn't seen to help either. All I seem to do is inhibit flow and raise the water level in the bio tower and half the balls are submerged, not good.
<I am guessing that the crashing of water forming bubbles under the bio tower is not where your problem is originating.>
My first thought is that my sump may be to small, but I don't want to shell out $150-$250 to find out I am wrong.
<Agreed, there are other things to rule out first.>
Is there anyway to eliminate these micro-bubbles with out having more water in the sump to work with?
<I will give you a few things to check once I finish reading your email.>
Is there an formula to determine sump size?
<I like about one third to half the main display tank volume for a sump. My 55 has a 20 gallon sump, my new 120 has a 50.>
If my sump is the problem how do I determine what type to purchase (i.e.: manufacturer, size??)
<I think we are jumping ahead just a bit.>
Have considered building my own, but don't know if the aggravation is worth the effort?
<I strongly prefer to use a glass aquarium and silicone in additional glass panels to create chambers and baffles.>
Although it may be worth looking into if I don't have to build the "Bio Tower Area". I have read where the effectiveness of a high end skimmer eliminates the need for a bio-chamber all together,
<In addition to live rock and live sand>
but I believe this is in a reef system rather than a fish only system.
<No, it will work beautifully for a fish tank.>
Do you agree?
ETSS has a "Berlin" style sump on their web site with no bio tower. I may consider mimicking that model if it will work.
<I took a look at the pictures. Not much I can see/tell from the angle, though I was surprised to see does not have a link to A.E.Tech's webpage, We will have to add it to the manufacturer's links.>
Having read through some of your FAQs as well as on the site where some people place egg crate containers in their sumps to help with the bubble issue. Does this help or will it restrict flow as with my "baffle experiment".
<Most times the eggcrate stuff is to hold sponges or carbon bags for a forced flow through.>
This is a concern to me because they don't just come in "blue" or "red", there must be some dye used, especially for the labeling which I don't want to introduce that to my tank. Do you agree?
<I have only ever see plain white or the stuff with the silver coating.>
I would really like to progress into a reef tank at some point, but unfortunately until I cure this problem I don't even want to go there.
Also I'm afraid of introducing more expensive and delicate angels and butterflies until I solve this issue for fear of health concerns.
<I agree.>
One other quick question. My Mag-Drive 9.5 had stainless screws holding the impeller housing to the main body. I thought only plastic screws would come with it for fear of corrosion. The sales person told me there was nothing to worry about. Do you agree?
<The newer models come with a inert screws. Having said that, I have a Mag-Drive 5 operating submerged in my 55 for the past few years. It has stainless steel screws and impellor shaft and has yet to rust.>
Any help you can suggest with my "champagne" tank would greatly be appreciated.
<There are three possibilities for your bubbles forming; the return pump is drawing in air from the sump, the return pump plumbing has a pin hole leak in it acting as a venturi, or photosynthetic is causing bubbles to form on the surfaces in your tank. If you can see the bubbles emerging from the return pump discharge, you can rule out the third possibility. I see from your pictures that your return line is vinyl tubing, barb fittings, and hose clamps. My best guess is this is your problem. My first step would be to replumb in PVC pipe. If that does not correct the problem, try minimizing bubbles from the bio tower migrating to the return pump. I would use the sponge block you have to force the bubbles to the surface of the sump. I would also raise the water level a bit. I would establish the maximum fill line for your sump/system. Shut the system off and allow the water to back siphon completely. Once all the water levels are stable, top off the sump. Now turn everything back on and mark the water level in the sump. That is your maximum fill line. If you ever change the plumbing again, you have to retest. I would try to keep the sump level filled to near that mark.>
Any web sites or books you recommend that has in depth diagramming of sumps known to work?
<Anthony's "Book of Coral Propagation" has some interesting illustrations.>
This is becoming extremely frustrating. I fear you are my last hope.
<Have faith!>
Thank you for your time, John from Cape Cod
<Good luck to you! -Steven Pro>


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