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FAQs about Water Make Up/Top-Off Systems

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Related FAQs: Marine Plumbing, Pumps, Plumbing, Holes & Drilling, Circulation, Refugiums

Consistency in specific gravity can be important... another source of stress.

Copper Related Cleanup Help? & ATO set-up      4/16/13
Hello awesome crew member of infinite sexy wisdom!
I feel sort of bad writing this, because I know you already have a huge number of answers to copper related questions. In fact, "rookie mistake; brass- copper incident    1/3/12" Is very similar to my situation. However, reading through all of the questions and responses is part of the reason I'm writing now, because some of the answers seemed to conflict for reasons I don't understand, and I was hoping you could point me in the right direction for my problem.
My tank is 30 gallons with a 10 gallon sump. Sump contains bio balls, filter floss, and a simple white envelope sort of carbon filter.  The tank holds about 20-25lbs of live rock. It has been running as is for 3 1/2 months now.
Three days ago my pump had some kind of a fit and flooded the house (happens) and as I was sick of the house flooding I went out to try to find a float valve that would fit the larger of my two hoses I use to outflow from the tank into the sump (1/2").
<No no no...doesn't just happen haha. You should fix this. Usually the fix for these kinds of things are simple. Not always. But hopefully its something that you can prevent happening again. Although you might have no issue with the clean up and refilling your tank. I guarantee you that your tank inhabitants don't appreciate it.>
<Bit confused here. Your overflow from your display to your sump requires a float valve?>
The smaller hose (1/8") already had a float valve and usually that's enough to keep equilibrium, but the occasions where that fails were becoming increasingly upsetting considering I'm going to have to leave home suddenly in the near future for probably more than a night (I'm 8 months pregnant, whee...) and I don't want to have to tell my house sitter to sit and watch my tank for 2+ hours twice a day to make sure it isn't going to flood somewhere.
<Congrats!! Boy or Girl? That is 1/8" inner diameter i take it? Is the float valve mounted to the side of the sump? Or does that RO line come up and over the top of the sump for your ato? Do you have any pictures of the location of your float valve in the sump? For this to be considered recurring with such a young tank is something to be concerned about.>
 I couldn't find a float valve of the size I needed from the brand I use now online, so before seeking other options I decided to see if there was anything at the hardware store to get a faster solution to my problem.
<What model of float valve are you using from online?>
Apparently to hardware store employees "NO METAL" means "metal is totally fine provided it isn't visible without taking apart the whole thing," because apparently the float valve I ended up with had some bronze tubing within a deceptively safe plastic skin.
The day after installing it (yesterday) my GSP rock looked somewhat sad,
and my urchins had lost their "hats" as I call the stuff they carry around, but otherwise things seemed okay. I tested my levels, and my PH was (and often is) a little low at 8, and my Nitrate was a little high at 20, but nothing else was out of line. This morning, my smaller urchin was dead, the big urchin was barely moving, the GSPs never came out of their rock, the 2 damsels (my only fish) are fine, my brittle star was lethargic, one camelback shrimp was dead while the other was moving around as normal, and my two small emerald crabs are so far seeming okay, if lethargic. PH is still 8, Nitrate went up to 30 from the dead guys, and when I tested Ammonia it turned a bright neon yellow instead of the normal greens yellow of 0 or any reading that indicate ammonia.
<I could be mistaken, but i think nitrates at 20ppm is plenty high to stress out inverts to a high degree. That on top of what leached out into the water...It may have even been too soon to see negative effects of the bronze addition. Likely the deaths were from being stressed from changes in the tank from flooding here and there, plus high nitrates, plus copper...bad news>
I don't have a copper tester, (will get one tomorrow) but going through everything I found the float valve issue, and immediately took it off and did a 50% water change (it's all I could do at the time) and added Chemi-Pure to my filtration system in such a way all my water is forced through it.
<Good. When doing a water change that large make sure the temp is the same
as well. Keep going with the Chemi pure> 
Now in the case I referenced you said that the asker's live rock and sand would probably be okay and the tank would be reef safe again after a few months of filtration. In another post though you told someone to get rid of all their sand and try to cycle their rocks to clean them in another tank. I don't want any super complicated reef plants, but I do intend to keep sea horses and some simpler polyps and such. A such, my main questions are:
Will filtering as I am be enough to restore my tank to a safe enough condition that I can keep seahorses and some things like sun corals eventually? I'm very patient, months would be fine, I'm in no hurry. If so, is there a time frame I should look for or just consistent copper levels at 0?
<Should be fine. You didn't have the float valve in there very long at all.>
Is my GSP rock going to die?
<Sorry but there is no way to tell from here>
What else should I be doing to help clear my tank? If possible I really don't want to lose anyone else (especially my tuxedo urchin) to this, is doing more water changes a good idea? Is there any other medium I can use besides the Chemi-Pure to work on getting the copper out of the water faster?
I'm really sorry if I rambled in my explanation, I'm admittedly having a bit of a meltdown and it's probably making me a lot less concise than I would be were I clear headed. Thank you very much for reading all this and being willing to be a resource, I'm glad that I found this site after all the chaos that is the Internet telling me completely different useless things all over.
<Hey no worries. Thank you for all the details. You could put a bag of carbon in there as well. Cant hurt. I have a tuxedo urchin in my tank as well. Great little critter. A few things that would alarm me if that was my own 30 gallon reef. The first is that water on the floor is NEVER ok...the effects of water on the floor with smaller tank is really bad news. A little bit of water on the floor can translate to severe fluctuations in salinity and temp. And when this happens over and over again it doesn't leave much room for your livestock to thrive. The nitrates are certainly a concern as well. I don't want to point my finger at the bioballs at this point. But they could be a great source for nitrates. That or your filter floss. Filter floss really needs to be changed like every 48 hrs otherwise it will be a nitrate factory of sorts.>
You're awesome.
<Are you running a protein skimmer? Gluck and Congrats again!-NateG>
Re to NateG: Copper Related Cleanup Help? 4/17/13

<No no no...doesn't just happen haha. You should fix this. Usually the fix for these kinds of things are simple. Not always. But hopefully its something that you can prevent happening again. Although you might have no issue with the clean up and refilling your tank. I guarantee you that your tank inhabitants don't appreciate it.>
*That has been the main thrust of my aquarium efforts recently. And don't worry, this isn't a daily or even weekly occurrence, and when it floods only the top 2-4 inches of the actual tank drain, most of the chaos is from the sump. It's a tall tank, about 30". I also have water pre-treated, heated, and PH balanced for changes/refills at all times, so I've been able to keep my salinity and everything consistent.*
<Very good>
<Bit confused here. Your overflow from your display to your sump requires a float valve?>
*Yes, we can't get the pump (A Rio) to keep flow consistent enough to maintain equilibrium. We had a pond pump previous to this one with the same issue, which at the time we assumed was due to it not being made for salt.
A float valve has helped keep the water balance in line between the two when these fluctuations happen.*
<Ook, sounds like something is being over complicated here. What size Rio pump do you have as a return? Do you have the return line drilled into the back of the tank? Or does the return come up and over the top of the tank?
Do you have an overflow box? It sounds like, you are using a continuous siphon from your display into the float valve sitting within your sump?>
The line comes out of the top of my tank which is sitting on top of my sump and then into an attachment holding the float valve onto the side of the sump. I would provide a picture of the normal setup, but right now everything is kind of ghetto-rigged since I went crazy speed removing the valve with bronze in it and getting the Chemi-Pure in there.*
<What model of float valve are you using from online?>
<I could be mistaken, but i think nitrates at 20ppm is plenty high to stress out inverts to a high degree. That on top of what leached out into the water...It may have even been too soon to see negative effects of the bronze addition. Likely the deaths were from being stressed from changes in the tank from flooding here and there, plus high nitrates, plus
copper...bad news>
*That would have been my concern had the change not literally been overnight. Normally my GSPs have been a solid indicator based on color as to levels being high enough to upset them, and as I had some no-show snails and a magical vanishing damsel I figured the slightly higher nitrates might be from that. Though to be fair I've had trouble getting them down since early on, and have never had a super populated tank.*
<Keep in mind that your very young tank had a fair bit of livestock in it and the system was experiencing unnatural fluctuations in parameters>
<Should be fine. You didn't have the float valve in there very long at all.>
*Good to hear, I don't really have the time nor resources right now to do a huge clean up expedition. Darn random appearing baby interfering with my aquarium hobbies and all that. Also, I like my rocks. ;)*
Is my GSP rock going to die?
<Sorry but there is no way to tell from here>
*Sad face. :(*
*I'm aware... I'm not happy with water on the floor for the sake of my floor either honestly. But like I said I do everything I can to make sure that the tank is effected as little as possible when there is flooding, and a major flood wasn't something that had happened recently at any rate. The tank WAS at a no-filter standstill for maybe 3 hours while I found and  changed to the float valve of death, but after that everything was still moving.
<Do you have a powerhead in the tank? If so 3 hours without turnover but having water circulation would be alright>
I added the bag of carbon as you suggested. In regards to the nitrate, I try to clean my filter floss at least once a week, but I can do that more frequently. Do you suggest washing them off too or forgoing the bio balls all together? That seems odd to me but do I not need them since I have so much live rock? I currently (or rather until this chaos fest) dose with Instant Ocean Natural Nitrate Reducer following its instructions, do you have any ideas as far as getting them down consistently?*
<Cool. Carbon es bueno. As far as bioballs...that is a subject that has been debated for a long time. General consensus is that they do not belong in the sump of a reef tank. Not needed. Does more harm than good. Your sand bed and liverock do wonders. You could certainly utilize that space where your bioballs were. Have you considered a clump of Chaeto or razor Caulerpa? Both will help (to a degree) in controlling your nitrated (and phosphates).>
<Are you running a protein skimmer? Gluck and Congrats again!-NateG>
*I am running a protein skimmer. It's an AquaticLife Mini Skimmer 115, so I don't have a lot of play room since it's just equipped to handle the size of my tank, but my sump doesn't have a lot of room. Regardless, it produces consistent good skimmate and I clean it out twice a day when I feed my fish.
<Twice a day sounds like an awful lot. You can actually over skim your system. A dark tea color is about as thin as you want to skim. Although after a water change or blowing off my rocks or something I may skim thin for several hours to get all the junk out. But you should never skim super thin for long periods of time. So my very first reef tank was a 29 gallon right. There are a few keys to success in the nano world. Stable temperature and salinity are right at the top. Then solid protein skimming.
I had a hang on the back refugium of mine. About 3.5 gallons of refugium space. If you could put in a glass baffle or two in your 10 gallon sump, and have the refugium section be at least 10% of your display volume, you will find your system in much better health i think. Another massive benefit imo of the refugium on the nano tanks. Is running its lights in reverse night/day cycle. Drops in pH in a small tank can be very large at night. Keeping photosynthesis in your system 24/7 helps prevent the production of carbonic acid. Lastly, try and explain better how the water goes to and from your sump. Having a float valve associated to this mechanism scares me.>>
Thank you again for being so patient and awesome.*
<Happy to help. Nate>
Re to NateG: Copper Related Cleanup Help?     4/17/13

The pump is a Rio+ 2500, but it is of course not turned up very high. The return line to the tank goes up and over the top of the tank, and as such has to travel a little over 4 feet up from the sump. I do not have an overflow box. Yes, I am using a continuous gravity fed siphon from the display into the float valve, which also goes over the top of the tank.
<Alright I see what is going on now. Clever idea with the siphon to the float valve. However you don't want to be doing this with your reef tank.>
I do have a powerhead in that tank, however it was also down for an indeterminable amount of time as I was not the one who shut it down during the initial mini-crisis and the person who did just flipped the switch to everything in the tank.
I'll consider that, and actually have only passively heard of Chaeto in the past and I can't even remember hearing about razor Caulerpa. Do you happen to have a link to where I can read more about them?
<Right here on WWM>
I should have clarified better. I don't clean it twice a day because that's how often it needs to be cleaned, it's just part of my routine. My skimmate is usually at worst a darkish tea color, but often lighter. Yesterday for some reason it was bright yellow, which probably should have been an alert too.  I admit that the finer details of how to tune my skimmer are something I haven't mastered yet, so I could probably be more effective than I am with it.
I hope my description above was more useful in explaining how the inflow to my sump works. Do you have a better suggestion for how to maintain levels than a float valve? I really can't see any other way of doing it.
<HOB Overflow Box>
<Alright Kat we will get this right. Do you have baffles in your sump? Your skimmer needs to be sitting in a chamber that has a constant level of water. This will maintain the amount of back pressure on the pump and therefore maintain the ratio of air and water going into the skimmer pump.
Even changes in salinity will change the weight of the water within the skimmer that is above the water line. Skimmers are ever so sensitive.
Optimizing your sump is of low priority imo when compared to the integrity of your system. There are several different hang on the back overflow boxes that i would highly recommend you look into purchasing. Essentially, lets say after head pressure your Rio pump is putting 500 gph through your 30 gallon reef tank, the overflow box may be rated to handle 700 gallons per hour and will therefore not overflow. There is a siphon in the overflow box itself. But it is contained within itself. I can say more about your float valve method but...don't do it haha. Just don't. So many things that's can go very wrong with that method. Which is why manufacturers sell overflow boxes for this purpose instead. Your return pump is massive for this system. 250 gph would be about the most i would turn your system over.>
<Lastly, what are you using for a return nozzle in your tank? When the power turns off, does your sump overflow? Will the sump overflow when you turn your return pump off? -NateG>

Elevating ORP in RO Water -- 07/16/10
Hi all!
<<Hey there Tina!>>
I'm sure you have answered this but after searching for 2 days I can't find it.
<<Mmm, okay'¦does happen>>
What can I do to raise the ORP in my RO top-off water for my reef tank?
<<I don't know why you would need to, really (I don't recall ever hearing of anyone worrying about or 'bothering with' raising the ORP of their make-up or top-off water). But'¦there would be a few ways to do this I think. Either through increased aeration before use (also useful for blowing off excess CO2) or adding a bit of Hydrogen Peroxide to the water (do research this latter method before attempting)>>
I aerate it for 24 hrs then buffer it & aerate for another 24 hours.
<<Excellent'¦and should be sufficient here>>
I have to add about 4 quarts of water every day.
<<Okay, but really tells me nothing without the specifics of your system'¦which you have not included with this exchange>>
I am adding it slowly over the day in a small stream in an area of high flow.
<<Very good>>
When I start in the morning, the ORP is between 350 & 355. The ORP drops over the day to about 275
<<Hmm, interesting'¦and may be 'telling' about your RO water which may contain 'organics' and thus dropping the ORP. Perhaps it is time to replace the membrane'¦or maybe add a DI cartridge to the unit. But'¦ORP is a very complex dynamic that is not easily understood. A 'drop' in ORP is not necessarily an indication something 'bad' is going in to the tank. I do very much suggest you do some studying-up'¦ Here's a good place to start: http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-12/rhf/feature/index.php (This article has three parts'¦do read them all)>>
and after the water is all in the ORP will slowly start to come up. I have tried adding the water at night but then the next morning the ORP has only come up to about 330. Is there something I should be adding to the water besides the buffer, or is this just one of those things you have when using RO water.
<<Not so much an issue with the RO as simply a dynamic of adding 'anything' to the tank>>
My ORP will drop to about 330 during the day if I don't add any water.
<<This 'drop' in ORP is likely a result of the pH 'rising' during the daylight hours>>
I would add the water all at once but was concerned that 4 quarts of water would change the salinity too quickly for my sps corals.
<<Slow changes are generally better than quick ones. To be honest, I wouldn't worry here. ORP is always 'in flux' in our 'closed' aquatic systems. But if you want more control re'¦I suggest the addition of an ozone generator employed with a reactor (my preference to using ozone in conjunction with your skimmer)'¦when employed correctly, O3 can be very beneficial to a captive system, aside from (or as part of) elevating the ORP>>
<<Happy to share, Tina'¦ Eric Russell>>

Auto Top Off: ATO 10/27/09
Good afternoon crew.
<Hi Jessy here with you>
Here is a question for you. I want to get the pre-skimmer box for my AquaC Remora skimmer with Maxi-Jet 1200 because I have a lot of surface scum that drives me crazy. Because I want to get this, this means that I run the risk of my water level dropping to a point that my pump on the skimmer will run dry due to evaporation.
<Likely will happen as I had this same set up with the Remora Pro and a Mag3>
Because of this, I feel that I will need an Auto Top Off unit as well. I see that some of these are fairly reasonably priced at around $100. My question is about this ATO. The make-up water for my tank is in a room next door to my tank. I was wondering if I can run the tubing from the make up water (appx 20-30 ft away) up around the doorways near the ceiling and have it end up at the tank? If not, how could I accomplish using an ATO for my setup? I suppose I could have a separate 20 gal tank under my tank in the stand that holds make up water as well but I would rather not do that. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
<I had a similar setup with the water storage behind my tank in a closet. I used an Aqualifter Pump by Tom Aquatics, but that is only good for lifting water 30" from the bottom of the reserve to the tank. The only solution that I can envision for your current set up is a small pump on a timer that will push only what you're evaporating per day into the tank once a day. If you do end up putting a small reserve under your tank with something like the Aqualifter, I advise you to also put that on a timer that will allow it to run only a certain number of hours a day. You can NEVER be too safe when protecting your tank.>
<Regards, Jessy>

Re: Pre-Skimmer Box and ATO 10/30/08
Thanks for your quick reply. I have a question about the 30" lift though.
Is the 30" applicable to the water being drawn into the pump from the make-up water, or is the 30" applicable to the lift from the pump to the display tank? If it is the latter, then I could put the pump on a shelf
that is level with the tank and run the 20-30 feet so I would not have the 30" lift. Or, am I still missing the point here? Thanks for all the questions again, I just don't want to screw up my floors!!!
<The 30" is both from reserve - pump and pump - tank. So you could be dealing with only 15" on each side. Its not the most powerful thing out there but it works and it is safe enough on a timer that its not going to flood your tank with 10 gallons of RO/DI water. Also I don't think it will work laterally across 20-30 feet either. You may want to ask the manufacturer on that tid bit. Good luck!>

Make up water for my aquarium
Automated Water Changes 6/30/09

I have a 300gal tank and a 75gal wet dry I want to have a auto make up water for my system could you tell me how.
<This can be done, but is a fairly complex DIY project to make safe and reliable. You first of course will need a tank or vessel to hold the makeup water. Then you will need a couple of pumps, plumbing between the tank and this holding tank, plumbing coming out of the tank to wherever you want your wastewater to go, and a few timers. The first timer will need to shut off your sump return pump. The second will start up at this time and pump the water out of the sump. How much water should be determined by where the pump inlet is at, not how long the timer runs the pump for. Now the timer running the pump in your holding tank can come on to start pumping in the new water. Ideally this amount of water too should be regulated by the pump inlet in relation to the amount of water in the tank.
Another route or failsafe that you can add in here are electronic float valves to shut these pumps off at the appropriate levels. Now, between the two tanks you will need a siphon break so one tank does not siphon back into the other at some point. As for automating mixing the salt, I just wouldn't. The easiest is to get a salinity meter and just add a little salt at a time with a powerhead circulating the holding tank. I believe in
and use a refractometer myself. It is a bit more work, but I do feel it is much more reliably accurate. With all of this being said, I have had such systems on my tanks in the past. Now I just opt for all of the above
manually run with ball valves by me, there is still no hauling water. I just don't trust timers and float switches to never fail! Scott V.>
Oh, one more thing to add. If you have an ATO system it will of course need to be shut off during the whole process. Scott V.

Kent Marine Float Valve Installation  4/28/09
Hello all,
<Hello Larry>
I have a quick question on my float valve.? I moved an existing float valve and now I can't get it to work without leaking.? On the outside of the tank, the float valve is held in place with the supplied mounting nut.? The Jaco14SF connector is screwed on to the valve with Teflon tape per the instructions.? The tubing slides into the Jaco14SF and the other Jaco part (I don't have the part number at present) screws into the 14SF.? There is a two piece collar of some sort that slips onto the tubing at this between the Jacos.? It is between these two parts that I get a leak.? The leak only occurs when the tank is full and the water should be shut down.? I suspect that I need to replace the collar, but I'm not sure what it is called, where to get a replacement, nor if I re-installed it correctly.
< It is possible you reinstalled the two piece collar backwards Larry, try flipping that around and see if that helps. The gasket seal sounds fine based on where the leak is. If there is something wrong with one of the
parts that you can't identify than the bright side is, the valve is an inexpensive part to replace for the piece of mind of not coming home to a floor full of water.>
Thanks for your help!
<Your welcome

Water Flow Rate, evaporation 1/4/08 Hi, <Mike.> I am currently setting up a 29G reef tank with a 20G fuge/sump. I am using a 600 GPH LifeReef Overflow and a Mag 5 for the return pump with approx. 3.5 ft. of head. I presently have no livestock, and just put in 30#'s of live rock with a 6 inch deep sand bed in the fuge (oolite sand). My problem is that after running the tank for about 24 hours, the water level in the sump is about 1.5 inches lower. I don't think it is due to evaporation because the salinity is largely unchanged. I believe the mag 5 is slightly stronger than the Lifereef overflow. Is there anyway to "balance" the return rate or overflow rate without the use of a gate or ball valve on the Mag 5? <These overflows do require a certain water height above the intake of the unit before they start flowing. This is normal, you may have had a slightly higher volume in your sump before you turned the pump on. Overpowering the box is not the issue, the box will outflow the 1" bulkhead that it drains into. If you wish to lessen the flow you will need a valve on the pump output or a smaller pump. If you are talking a volume drop from day to day with the pump running, evaporation is the likely cause (the other possibility being a leak in the plumbing somewhere). This amount of evaporation is not unreasonable.> The overflow has one 1" hose draining from the tank and the Mag 5 has a T fitting 1/2" ftp to 2- 3/4" hose barbs connecting to 3/4" flexible tubing. The overflow drains into the first chamber in the sump which also contains the skimmer, flows over into the fuge section, which finally flows into the return section. The return section appears to be the only chamber that loses any water depth. <As it should, this is where evaporation will show. This is also where you would want to place any automatic top off sensors should you go that route in the future.> Any ideas are appreciated... Thanks, Mike <Welcome, Scott V.>

Top off system from Spectrapure ATO from Spectrapure 8/31/08 Hi.. Quick question. Do you have any experience with or know about the Spectrapure Ultra-Precise Liquid Level Controller? Do you know how good this product is? <I have experience with this, a good product though pricey.> By the way - My tank specification/setup : 90 gallon All glass aquarium. AquaC EV180 skimmer GEO 618 Calcium reactor Milwaukee SMS122 controller 20 gallon sump Tunze 6060 4.5 inch medium grain sand bed 2x 150W metal halides Ushio brand 14k 2x Aquamedic 54w actinic T5s and 2x Aquamedic 54 w 10000k T5s Ocean Runner Or1200 return pump [is this too little turn over for my tank?] ** Was using a Aquamedic SP3000 dosing pump. The pump died 2 months back. Lasted 2 years but had problems with the tubing in the pump. <I think you will like this product, but do also look at what Tunze has to offer for the price.> Thanks Mohamed. <Welcome, Scott V.>

Auto Top Off Pump Selection 7/3/08 Hello, <Jeff> I am back again for more advice from the pro's. I need to set up an auto top off system to replace evaporated water. I am going to go with the JBJ ATO for now and I am trying to figure out what pump to get. I see the JBJ says any pump up to 2 amps. Of course the pump descriptions do not give the amp only volts and watts. <Amps X Volts = Watts.> I looked up a calculator online but I see there is a single phase and three phase calculator and I do not know what one to use. http://www.jobsite-generators.com/power_calculators.html <Going to be single phase.> I am thinking of using either the Taam Rio+ 1000 Powerhead/pump UL or the Taam Rio+ 1100 Powerhead/pump UL. I would like to get the biggest pump possible with out going over the 2 amp limit for the ATO. <Big is not really what you want here. Should something go wrong, such as forgetting to shut off your ATO when doing a water change (this happens), a large pump will flow a lot of freshwater into your system before you are able to unplug it compared to a smaller pump. All you are doing is topping off, hopefully in fairly small increments.> Which of these to pumps would you recommend to run the JBJ ATO? <Either could work.> Is there a pump you would recommend over these two pumps for this purpose in the same price range? <Yes, the MaxiJet, Hagen or Eheim lines will likely serve you better/more reliably.> I loose about 1 gallon a day form my 72 bowfront with 20 long sump. <Not bad.> The top off will be a 5 gallon or so container next to the stand going into the sump so there should only be maybe 4 foot head max. <Do be sure the output of the line is not submerged, this will lead to siphoning out of the tank when the pump shuts off. Otherwise, consider running the line into the sump (if you have one).> As always thanks for you suggestions and sharing the wealth of knowledge. I will be out of town and done want my reef to die. The last time I had a fish sitter I came home and a day later my wolf eel died ( I was so sad he was just about to move into his new home) so I would rather have everything automated. <Automation is great, with vigilance!> Thanks to the crew for your help in all you do for the hobby and for the well being of the creatures we keep. <Thank you for the kind words.> Jeff <Scott V.>

Top off Water 1/28/08 Hi guys I have a question about wet and dry filters ,I'm adding water ever day to sump area ,is this normal. <Yes, for evaporation top off.> I have no leaks ,this cannot be normal do you have any idea why I'm loosing so much water? And how many times a week should water be added ? <In some cases daily.> Do I really need a w/d filter when I have live rock and live sand, I've been reading about the Berlin system? <With a sufficient amount of live rock you do not need the biomedia in the wet/dry. Read up on the following links and related FAQ's, good luck, Scott V.> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_4/V4I2/Water_Makeup/makeup_water.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm

Automatic Water Changes  1/16/08 Have you ever heard of someone designing a semi-affordable automatic water change system for smaller tanks (55Gal)? <Oh yes> If you have an RO system and a holding tank with aeration and heating seems like it would be fairly easy to design a system to add the proper amount of salt and buffers then pump water in/out once a week or so. <... have seen such> Are there digital systems for checking PH/PS? <... what is PS? There are digital meters of many kinds for pH... These issues are gone over on WWM BTW... Bob Fenner>

Tunze Osmolator ATO 11/27/07 I thought my question about how to lower my hanging light would be the dumbest one asked (thanks, by the way, raising/lowering it to control heat worked like a charm), but I'm rather certain this one takes the cake. <Great to hear, but no cakes to take here.> I bought myself a Tunze Osmolator to do ATO. I love Tunze stuff but this one is mystifying me. <Great company, awesome product.> I've got the thing all set up on my sump ready to go and the pump they give is in the bucket ready to pump, but I've tried and tried and tried to get that little tiny black rubber hose over top of the nozzle to the stop like they say. I've even put a pair of needle nosed pliers in there while running it under hot water and spread it trying to get it to open wide enough to work. It's just too small, and I'm wondering if I'm the only one who's had this problem. If so, I'll find a way to force the tube INTO rather than over the nozzle. If not, can someone please tell me a good way to stretch that little black tube over the nozzle so I can stop doing manual top offs? Thanks guys! You're the best. Frank <The tube does indeed go inside the output of the pump, not outside. Even inside it is a tight fit, so lubricate it with some water. I would like to point out the one downside to this particular system is siphoning. When the pump comes on it will continue to siphon water out of the top off bucket when it shuts off if your output line is lower than the water level in the bucket. This can easily be fixed by keeping your output line above the level of the bucket and then bring the water to your sump via a larger line the output line can sit inside loosely, allowing air to enter. A piece of ?" pvc works well. This will eliminate the siphon and allow the system to add only what is needed to top off. Good reliable top off system that you will soon grow to appreciate. Thank you for the kind words Frank, happy reefing, Scott V.>

Re: Tunze Osmolator ATO 11/27/07 Genius. I had given up on the black rubber tube and instead used a larger piece of flexible pvc only to have the thing start screaming at me when the water level rose past due to siphoning. Will try the PVC, but space underneath the tank is VERY limited. <It sure gets that way fast, doesn't it.> I've done some unique arrangements to get everything under there. Anything else you can recommend if that doesn't work/fit? <Anything that introduces air into the line to act as a siphon break. > Tragically, I have the sump in a 10 gallon tank and the top off water in a 5 gallon bucket, so though it's counter intuitive, the water level will almost always be higher in the top off tank than the sump. <I had that exact setup when I bought my first Osmolator. I just put the line high up under my stand and had it point down into pvc that went directly down into my sump. You could always replace the bucket with a shorter, wider Rubbermaid bin if you do not have the height above your sump to solve the siphon problem. Have fun with it, the work will be worth it, Scott V.>

Re: Tunze Osmolator ATO 11/28/07 I've got an overflow box for the sump and in the pvc that brings the water back up to the tank, there's a hole punched in the bottom to act as a siphon break in order to prevent backflow siphoning from flooding the house. Would that work here too? A small hole in the tube? Not mechanically or engineering inclined here, so the concept of siphoning, while making sense on paper, is still mystifying in reality. Frank <It is the same principal, you just need to introduce some air into the line when the pump shuts off. A hole in the line could work, but the water will want to go through that hole with the pump on. Anther option would be to run the line up to your main display (perhaps have it drain into your overflow box). Have the hose just slightly out of the water, the bucket will be lower than your tank and no siphoning will occur. Good luck, Scott V.>

Idea For DIY Auto Top-Off…Too Simple To Work? - 09/29/07 Thank you for asking yet another question, it's very much appreciated! <<We're glad to help>> I need an auto top-off for my 65g reef tank. I can't afford a Tunze, and the cheaper ones all seem to fail sooner or later. <<Mmm, pity about the Tunze Osmolator…this is a primo bit of gear…well worth saving up for>> I got an idea from my dog's water bowl. <<Okay>> My Beagle's water dish has a 2-liter bottle that suspends upside down over the dish, with a tube that runs from the bottle cap to about 2-inches into the bowl, and automatically refills the bowl as the water level drops. <<Ah yes…am familiar with…>> My Christmas Tree stand has the same feature, they have worked well. I'd like to take a 5g rigid airtight container (have one already) with a tight fitting cap, drill a hole in the cap, insert and silicone a ?-inch tube. I'd fill the container with water and place it on it's side over my sump. I'd cut the tube to the length (slightly longer than) I'd need to maintain my desired water level in the sump. Air pressure would keep the water in the container until the water level dropped low enough for the tube to take up air, therefore exchanging water for air inside the container. Once the tube end was covered with water, no more air could enter the tube, therefore stopping the exchange. (I'm sure I did not need to explain how air pressure works to you, but others reading might gleam new information from my explanation). <<Indeed so…and thank you for this>> This idea seems almost too simple, because wouldn't it have already been done if it is possible? <<Hmm, I seem to recall some past commercial adventures re…wasn't "The Nurse" such a device? I've also seen such devices outlined as DIY projects on the NET. But yes, as you say, it does seem "simple enough"… And perhaps that is the problem…considering how we hobbyists do like our "complex" gadgetry [grin]>> What am I overlooking? <<Maybe nothing… Perhaps water turbulence (as opposed to a "static" dog dish) causes the reservoir to empty itself…or maybe the tubing has to be inserted too deeply causing too much of a Salinity change before replenishment…or maybe the device will work like a charm! But you won't know until you give this device a try. It is a "simple" and cheap enough experiment, afterall>> Thank you in advance, Dakota <<Happy to share. Eric Russell>>

Top-off water   8/12/07 I am using a two-part additive to maintain calcium and alkalinity, every other day, since tank start-up (about 50 days ago). I am also using RO/DI water for my freshwater top-off. <I would introduce these products here...> After reading much about buffering and aerating top-off additions, I've begun doing so but have noticed that my KH has steady climbed from a KH of 8 to a KH of 11.5 and calcium has declined (assumably in proportion). My pH has been rather stable at 8.4 throughout the alkalinity shift (120gal display, 60gal sump/refugium with Chaeto on reverse daylight illumination, several small SPS specimens and developing coralline algae, 15% water change every two weeks). Should I simply top-off with aerated or non-aerated RO/DI so as not to skew the two-part additive calcium/alkalinity balance ? <Well... I would use less of the product that will not boost your KH, and/or more of the other part (not at the same time)... and aerate this mixed in with the new water for top-offs> I eventually plan to incorporate a calcium reactor or Kalkwasser use and I am basically using the two-part system as a less involved means of supplementation while I get use to the maintenance and system-needs of my current set-up. <Can be done... efficaciously... More easily/safely with larger volumes... You have read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/index.htm the sections on such issues? Thank you for your time. <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Automatic Top-Off?…Tunze Every Time! - 07/28/07 Crew, <<Andrew>> Does anyone have any experience/thoughts on the JBJ auto top off product? <<I have no personal experience with the JBJ unit, but for my money nothing beats the Tunze Osmolator for "top-off" duty. I've been using one for 3 ? years now and but for having to change out the small 12v pump every year (less than $20) the system works flawlessly. The Osmolator uses an Infra Red sensor to detect the water level (no faulty float switches) and "tops-up" when as little as 1mm of drop in the water level is detected (a big help in maintaining a stable salinity)>> I am going on vacation for 9 days and need to employ a person or machine to perform top offs. Thanks! <<I can't imagine running my system without this (and much more) automation. The JBJ unit may "do the job"…but the Tunze unit will "make you a believer"… EricR>>

Re: Automatic Top-Off?...Tunze Every Time! - 07/28/07 Eric, <<Hello Andy>> Thanks for a very insightful response. <<My pleasure>> If memory serves, the Tunze is quite expensive isn't it? <<It is…about $180>> Much more than the JBJ. <<Indeed…what is your peace of mind worth? Eric Russell>>>> Andy Bulgin

R2: RE: Automatic Top-Off?...Tunze Every Time! - 07/29/07 You WWM people are always talking sense to me. <<Hee-hee! High praise indeed! EricR>>

Auto Top off gear choices    - 06/19/07 Is the Tunze system still your "pick to click" for an auto top off? http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewItem.asp?idproduct=TZ4111  Looks nice but just wanted to verify before sending them $175.  Got to get it ready and properly tested before heading out to Hawaii. Thanks, Chris <Mmm, don't know... Would call them (MD) and am cc'ing EricR... as if anyone amongst us would know... or know where to ask next. Cheers, B> <<If you mean the Tunze Osmolator, yes, it is a premier piece of gear...outshines float-switches by far. The infra-red technology is solid...and provides adjustment/senses changes as small as 1cm in water height. Well worth the dosh in my opinion. Eric>>

Re: Auto Top off  7/13/07 Thanks for this recommendation Eric. I just set it up and it is truly a great design, what a bit of clever engineering. Chris <You're quite welcome Chris. You are gonna LOVE this bit of gear...and should you ever have any questions/problems with it, Roger at Tunze USA provides "super" advice and customer service. In fact it's not a bad idea to visit the Tunze forum on RC from time to time just to see what people are saying about the equipment/specific instances and any resolutions for same. Nothing is perfect, but I do believe the Osmolator is "the best" top-off design/setup around...and I'll wager you will soon come to agree... Eric Water Filtration, Top offs, and Storing Saltwater 4/26/07 Jason here from Manila.  Hope you're doing well too :) <Greetings, Jason! GrahamT with you this fine, rainy morning in Maine, USA.> My water company delivers filtered water to my doorstep.   <Cool!> However, I am not sure about the quality of the water, and if they use copper for its distillation process.   <Can be tested for...> I also believe it is RO water.   <Is likely. Commonly used form of purification.> What kind of tests should I do on the water to determine if it is safe for my reef tank? <I would test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, calcium, phosphate and copper. If you are curious, you could add total dissolved solids (which should be at or near zero if it IS RO) and iron. These can be useful kits for any aquarist, but they *ARE* seldom-used and the kits do expire so... it's your call.> If I'm going to do my own filtration on my tap water, is it ok to just do RO, and not DI? <That depends on what you want to accomplish. For most cases, RO will suffice. I would venture that if your tap water is safe to drink, then you can buy a simple RO (read: two or three-stage) with acceptable results. However, the more you invest initially in your RO unit, the more it pays of in the end. Multiple stages of pre-filtration before the RO-membrane extend the life of the membrane and soften the blow to your wallet. If you do go with a many-stage unit, then the addition of DI is warranted, IMO. The level of stuff that would make it to the DI in that case would be minimal, and thus the DI cartridge would last quite a while. All these different choices will be prompted by the tests you carry out on your tapwater.> I plan to make a DIY top off system.  Does the water need to be constantly aerated with an airstone & pump to keep oxygenated? <Not *constantly*, but if you plan to keep it for long periods (like weeks) in the same container, you need to provide movement and aeration to avoid stagnant water.> As part of my routine of making saltwater and storing, can I keep it in containers where it is not circulated and not air pumped for weeks at a time, and then when I need to use it, I can airstone it and circulate it for x hours - would this be ok?   <If you are driven to store the water for a long time, then I would store just the purified fresh water, since there is less chance of it growing bacteria and algae whilst sitting. Then you can mix it up in due time for its use.> If so, how long should I aerate/circulate it prior to use?  Is there anything I should watch out for here? <Aerate and circulate for at least two days after you mix the salt, and then feel safe using it.> Doing water changes - when I water change, I aerate and use a water pump for circulation prior to use. However, this makes the water much warmer than my tank.  Is it ok to let it sit without aeration/circulation for 2 hours (while it cools down) prior to use? <The aeration alone shouldn't heat the water, but in either case, letting it sit for a matter of a couple hours is detrimental in any way. By all means, let the water cool. Good luck! -GrahamT>

Substrate for Dragon Eel/Freshwater Top Off mix-up - 3/22/07   Thank you all in the process of getting my aquarium off and running.  I have learned so much since I stumbled across this web site 1 month ago. <No problem friend, that's why we're here. Glad to be of assistance.>   I will be starting a 240g (96x24x24).  The Hawaiian dragon eel will be my center piece.   <Wonderful choice, and an excellent configuration for such.> It will be a FOWLR system with a 90g sump, 250 lbs live rock and a  2-3" live sand bed or crushed coral.  Could you please offer me your expert opinion on which type of substrate would be best suited for this system?   <A sugar-fine oolitic sand always wins out in my books -- not only is it easier to maintain, I think it just looks better!> would you also recommend a refugium for this setup? <Absolutely, though no reason to add more to the tank -- a section of your sump will happily suffice.>   Further more, I was reading the section on specific gravity.  Mr. Fenner advises (if I understand the article correct) that one should not refill evaporated salt water with freshwater.   <Mmm, no, I do believe this is a misunderstanding on your part. You should always top off evaporate with freshwater.> He advises that one should do a water change when the water level noticeable evaporates.   <Which article are you referring to? This seems to counter everything I've ever read from Bob...> So my question would be, is a freshwater top off system necessary?   <Depends on your diligence and laziness levels! If you would like the majority of your tank to be blindly run to you, then an auto top off is a worthwhile investment.> When I notice the water level decrease a little should I do a water change?   <You should perform a water change regularly on a schedule of maintenance (a good 'rule of thumb' is once a week.)> How much can I expect my tank water to lose over the course of a week? I live in Calgary, Canada and it is very dry.   <This all depends on several factors, such as your ambient home temperature, the tank temperature, the lighting scheme used, the type of cover you employ, etc. I would say a safe estimate would be a half a gallon a day, give or take. Again, don't trust this as a set in stone factor, this is entirely determined by your configuration.> My original plan was to buy a auto top off system and use RODI water and do weekly 5% water change.  What would you recommend?  RODI auto top off and a 5% weekly  water change or when the water evaporates a little just do a water change? <Weekly 5-10% water changes, with whatever water top off scheme you choose will be sufficient.>   Thank you for your time,   Brent <Anytime, Brent. Glad to help. -JustinN>

Best Auto Top-Off System? - 01/27/07 Hello Crew, <<Nemo 1>> What would be the best Auto Top Off system that money can buy? <<For my money that would be the TUNZE OSMOLATOR UNIVERSAL 3155 - auto top-off system.  I've used one for more than three years now.  The Osmolator utilized infrared technology to sense the water level...more reliable than mechanical float sensors and capable of detecting a 1mm drop...very useful for maintaining stability>> And where can I get it? <<Here: http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewItem.asp?idproduct=TZ4111 >> I have been reading through your site and I think all of them have its own ups and downs? <<Any automated system is susceptible to failure, but I consider this auto top-off system to be the best>> I'm going on vacation for 2 weeks this spring and I got nobody to baby-sit my tank. <<Risky...too bad...hopefully your lighting is automated as well>> I'm planning of setting an auto-feeder and stock it with pellets and flakes (I know this is not a good nutrition food but I have no choice. (I'm open for any suggestion). <<I would forego the flakes as they have a tendency to absorb moisture too readily "gumming up" the works.  A quality pelleted food such as New Life Spectrum will do fine on its own...as long as all your fish will eat pelleted foods of course>> I just bought the Eheim brand and it's pricey ($75.00).  I don't know if I got ripped off but that's the only FS that carries that brand. <<The price does seem a tad bit high to me, but Eheim is a good product (Bob uses these feeders himself)>> As for calcium, I'm thinking of SeaLab 28 the big block, again, I have no choice, still saving up for a calcium reactor... unless you guys have a better alternative? <<Unless your tank is extremely heavily stocked with calcifying organisms I would merely perform a water change prior to departure and check/adjust alkaline and bio-mineral content and not risk the mineral block...too much chance of something getting grossly out of balance with you not around to catch it>> Pls enlighten me...I'm really very very concerned of what is going to happen to my tank when I get back. <<This is about all you can do.  Considering your investment/peace of mind why not look in to a pet-sitting service to come by once or twice to check on things?>> 72g reef, running for about a year and half, 20g sump with AquaC Urchin-Pro and a Eheim 2026 gutted out, only 2 units of Chemi-Pure and Poly-Filter inside running 24/7. <<Sounds good>> As for fishies, pair of true Perculas, 6-line wrasse, Kole tang, 2 green chromis, neon goby, Midas blenny, blue damsel.  Also 2 cleaner shrimp, 5 Nassarius snails.  For corals...1 torch, 1 frogspawn, 1 open brain, 2 cup coral, mushrooms, variety of zoanthids. <<Mmm, as I thought...the water change should handle any earth-element needs until your return>> Am I over stocking? <<Your fine for now>> I'm here at work right now so I would really appreciate it if you could pls get back to me today so I can start shopping for Auto Top-Off system this weekend. <<Oops...sorry>> Thanks in advance. Nemo 1 <<Regards, EricR>> Water Changes VS Water Top off; Apples VS Oranges?    11/27/06 <Hey Clinton, JustinN here today.. No formal greetings? *grin*> I have a 125 gallon tank with 120 pounds of sand and 100 pounds of live rock that is about four months old. The system is mainly all reef about fourteen corals, which are mostly LPSs and a couple sps.   There is also a few fish. yellow tang, royal Gramma, two yellow tail gobies, two small clown fish, Scotts fairy wrasse, and three chromis.   The chemical water environment  is steady throughout the week with water changes. I was just wondering since the water evaporates at almost five gallons a week if it would  be ok just to do water top offs instead of complete water changes. <I do think you have a little bit of a misunderstanding of water evaporation and water changes. They are not interchangeable. Water top off is to maintain salt density at a proper level, based on the evaporation. Water changes, on the other hand, are used to remove waste from the water (whether they're detectible by tests or not, they are still there) as well as replenishing trace elements and natural balance to the water. Please don't reduce your husbandry skills for this reasoning, if you're that concerned with the maintenance involved with both topping off water, and water changes, set yourself up an auto top off system. There are many commercially available, and DIY projects abound to achieve this end. Hope this helps you! -JustinN> Thanks a lot for the helpful information.? What about the formal greetings? <Simply that all correspondence through our site is posted, archived for all to see, and we tend to like a more formal, proper form. It tends to make things easier to identify and follow. The comment, however, was meant in jest and not intended as anything more. -JustinN>

Tunze Osmolator  - 11/20/06 Bob, there was a query where the querier asked if the Tunze Osmolator was just another float switch with a fancy name. Is not.  The water level is measured by a non-wearing optical sensor and a transistor switch with no moving parts. The sensor is also insensitive to soiling, light, or magnetic fields.  This sensor has a separate power supply with relay control to ensure overflow protection.   The querier also asked how far the Osmolator would pump. The range is: From 35" a flow of 13.7 gph From 78" a flow of 7.1 gph The maximum head is 86.6 inches I believe the querier was interested in a distance of 12 feet. Just thought I'd save some research time for whomever answers, as I am fairly knowledgeable on the Tunze products.   Regards, James <Thanks for this. Will share with EricR, Ken, accumulate. B>

Re:  Tunze Osmolator 11/23/06 James, <Ken,> Gee, you guys are good. Thanks. <You are welcome.> I decided on the final place for the RO water reservoir, but am still not sure if this will work or not. Let me give you the details before I buy the unit. I made a small hole at the bottom of the wall and have the RO water in a closet on the other side of the wall. So the water will have to be pumped up the container and then the water line will have to go back down the outside of the container, through the wall and along the ground until it reaches the tank stand. So this means that it will have to go up the container, down the container, then 9 feet horizontal, and then up 4.5 feet to the top of the tank (I was advised that the water needs to go into the tank and not the sump). Can this pump do this? <The Osmolator pump has a maximum head of 87 inches, just a little over seven feet.  Sorry.> Thanks again, <You're welcome, again.  James (Salty Dog)> Ken

Lighting Issues,  Tunze Osmolator - 11/20/06 Hey Eric, <<Hey Ken>> Regarding the light what I had meant was, would two 150 watt HQI with four 54 watt T5s be a better choice for softies, LPS, and an anemone?  The wattage in total is about the same as what I have now (600 versus 608), except I have the 250's.  The tank is 24" deep. <<Mmm, you sure you want to put an anemone in with the other planned mix of corals?  These creatures are so much better of in specimen or specie specific systems.  But as for your question, yes, the 150w system would be entirely adequate and save you some coin in power consumption/bulb replacement to boot>> I have a friend that we could do a swap as he has the other fixture.  I would obviously do it if it is good for me. <<Up to you as either lighting system will "work">> He has the Outer Orbit I believe.  I'm not sure if the reflectors in that using are same quality or better than my Maristar unit. <<The Maristar is a better quality unit in my opinion>> By the way, getting algae or not getting algae won't be affected by either of these fixtures? <<Not in my experience...you would likely be surprised just how "little" light the alga need to survive, even thrive>> I would assume that if the conditions are right in the water, you will get the algae. <<Bingo>> Both fixtures put out a lot of light. <<Agreed>> What is your honest opinion on the two fixtures? <<Honestly...  I would not trade away the Maristar fixture for the Current Outer Orbit fixture unless you are truly unhappy with the 250w lighting>> With regards to the CO2 in my home, is that an uncommon problem? <<It has become more prevalent with the advent of "tighter" homes.  A tightly sealed and insulated home will retain a higher percentage of respired CO2.  There are some commercial options (usually not cheap) such as installing a whole-house air exchanger to more simple solutions like cracking open a window in the vicinity of the tank.  Which you choose (if any) will likely depend on the severity of your climate>> Can I get this looked into? <<Sure...you could start by contacting your heating contractor/service company or local EPA office and ask them about measuring levels and options to reduce the amount of CO2 in your home>> With regards to the tank, I had that you could take the tubing from the air input on the skimmer and run it outside to introduce fresh air.  Will this work? <It might provide some reduction...is worth a try>> The new corals that I mentioned seem to be adapting fine, do I need to add anything to the water for them, or is the light enough? <<Frequent partial water changes will provide for now.  Do research the individual species for information on their particular care/husbandry requirements>> Lastly, the Tunze Osmolator, how far does the pump draw and deliver water? <<Hmm if memory serves, the pump can push water up about 8 feet or so>> If I wanted to have a reservoir of top off water in a closet about 10-12 feet away, will this do it? <<If the "rise" is not too much I think it would.  But, go here ( http://reefcentral.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=92) and post your question with the specifics of the installation.  Roger from Tunze USA (very nice guy, very good customer support) will be able to give you a good answer re>> Thanks and regards, Ken <<Be chatting, Eric Russell>>

Auto top off... both fresh and salt both  - 11/13/06 Hello, Many thanks to you at WWM for answering all kinds of questions from viewers on all topics. It has personally helped me greatly in setting up my store. <Welcome> Now that I am set up and actually selling fish (yay!), I have a dilemma I can't seem to locate an answer in a format I can comprehend. It deals with an auto top off system. This is for a retail saltwater fish system that loses freshwater water daily (due to evaporation), and we sell fish (and therefore saltwater) from the same system too. <Okay> Every day I lose about 20 gallons of freshwater due to evaporation (500 gallon system, 30 tanks, central plumbing), in addition to using about 1/2 gallon of system (salt) water for every fish sold. <! This is a lot of bagged water for sure> Of course one day we might sell 2 fish (=1 gallon of saltwater) and one day we might sell 20 fish (=10 gallons of saltwater) Here's the dilemma... I can't seem to figure out how to set up (or what to purchase) to keep the system topped off to the correct specific gravity automatically. I currently use an ATO for my freshwater fish system, but that's limited to freshwater only so no problems there. <A few possibilities> For the saltwater system, it's not the same. If I sell no fish and just evaporate, I fill with freshwater only to correct the SG. If I sell fish, I'm fooling like crazy at the end of a couple days adding some freshwater (for the evaporation part) and some saltwater ( for the fish sold part), and guessing at getting the specific gravity balanced trying to estimate how much water we "sold" that day, to keep the SG balanced. (for reference, the sump is 150 gallons, so daily top off isn't mandatory, but after 2 days I definitely have to refill it) For reference, I have a 150g saltwater container ready at all times in a separate container, as well as a container of RO freshwater. Any help would be so greatly appreciated. I can't imagine I'm the only one with this situation, but I am completely stumped here in figuring this out. Sincerely, Rich <Mmm... you need two such reservoirs... one for "just" freshwater, the other as you already have installed... and some meters For the change in specific gravity/salinity: (conductivity likely, but there are TDS, salinity... that will work) that will deliver (through their linking to/with an electro-magnetic switch (solenoid) drive/valve to add freshwater when this value changes appreciably... For the new seawater level, a more simple float valve will do... Such gear can be purchased directly from companies or wholesalers/etailers in the trade... like Quality Marine, All Seas (not a dot com) MarineDepot, CustomAquatic (.coms). Bob Fenner> Safety overflows  11/10/06 I have a 90-gallon reef tank with a 29-gallon sump/refugium mounted in the stand below.  The tank has a utility room behind it where I house the lighting ballasts, Tunze electronics, and RODI auto-top-off system. <Nice> The top-off system consists of 20-gallon Rubbermaid Brute that is filled by a wall mounted Spectra-Pure RODI filter.  The RODI filter is hard-plumbed, and controlled by a float valve in the reservoir.  Then, I have a JBJ ATO monitor with a small powerhead in the reservoir that pumps RODI water into the sump when the water level in the sump drops. <Sounds good thus far> In case the float valve on the RODI reservoir fails, I've installed an emergency overflow tube (mounted to a floor drain) 1" below the top rim of the RODI reservoir.  I'd like to do the same with the sump/refugium, in case the ATO monitor ever fails.  I want to drill a hole about 1" below the top rim of the sump/refugium, but this is a glass tank, and I would probably have to empty it to do so. <Yes... though could mount/Silicone in a electro-magnetic switch sensor to the area above the water line with water present likely>   I'm looking for alternative methods to install a safety overflow here.  Any suggestions?  Or is there a way to drill a glass sump without emptying it? <The latter? Not practically... But as stated, a mounting bracket for such a switching mechanism could be adhered... Bob Fenner> Thank you, Steve Supplementing top-off water   11/5/06 Hi WetWebCrew,   Thanks for taking my e-mail today.  I have come to the realization that I should be buffering the water I use to top off the evaporation from my reef tank.  I also want to start dosing with Kalkwasser to raise the calcium concentration in my tank.  I just want to make sure I am getting everything right.        I am kind of confused as to how much buffer I should add to my top off water.   <Mmmm...>   Should buffer be dosed to compensate for the daily loss in alkalinity (like Kalkwasser would be dosed) or should you use a certain amount of buffer for how much water you top off (i.e. 10 gallons will have 10 times the amount of buffer as 1 gallon; such as how you add salt to mix new seawater)?    <Kind of both... the new water should be bolstered to make up for the total lack of whatever you're trying to replace/maintain... up to the capacity of that volume of new/change water to "hold" such>      I understand that high alkalinity and high calcium concentrations are mutually exclusive. <Yes... by and large... up to a degree> Currently my calcium concentration is a little over 350ppm and my alkalinity was around 7 or 8 the last time I tested it. <These are not "bad" values>   I am working on getting a new alkalinity test kit so I can add the buffer correctly and maintain this parameter.  If I try to raise my calcium concentration to 400ppm or a little more and my alkalinity to about 10, will I be in a good range to avoid a precipitation reaction? <Mmm, all else being semi-equal... likely so> Do both calcium and alkalinity have to be in the high range for this to occur (i.e. 450ppm and 12dkH)?      <Most of the time/circumstances, yes. The/this topic is more involved>      I want the change back to more healthy conditions to be gradual. <Good. This is wise> I have about 80 gallons total liquid volume from my display and refugium.  I also have SPS corals so I don't want to shock them. How much could I raise my calcium concentration and alkalinity daily?    <Mmm... a few ppm, tenths of meq/l...>   Finally, as far as the dosing of Kalkwasser.  Should I add buffer to the water I am dosing with Kalkwasser? <I would not... too likely to experience "negative chemical/physical interactions" here>   I also read on a product label that there is a minimum amount of Kalkwasser you should use per gallon, is this true?    <Minimum? Yes... in so much that only so much Kalk will "go into" and stay in solution... per water quality issues, CO2 exposure... time going by>   Thanks again for taking my e-mail.  You guys are the reason I am able to grow SPS Corals!      Tim <Yeeikes! Bob Fenner>

Top-off water trtmt.    10/6/06 I have a 24 gallon nano cube. It loses approximately 2 cups of water per day. I've been using RO/DI water as the top-off which has a PH of 7.82 and dKH of about 0. The top-off water is aerated for days before use. I've read through the FAQ but cannot find the answer to my question which is this: I will be installing an ATO from JBJ. Should I buffer the top-off water for PH, alk, and calcium to equal the desired tank parameters? <I would do this, yes... and test for a while, to ascertain whether you are significantly over-boosting these qualities> Say buffer the top-off water to a PH of 8.4, Alk of 10dHK, and calcium of 380 mg/L or so? Or just buffer it for ph/Alk+pH only.alk only? <And try this...> What's the best strategy? Please advise. <Let's think about this... only water (of course) is leaving through evaporation... but how much else is going on in this small volume as time goes by? How else will reductive processes, biomineralization... depletion be made up for? By your water changes? Perhaps... What of an answer that can be offered is a further delving of "what do you keep?", "what are your goals?", "what do you feed?", "what re your lighting?"... and a few more "what's"... The only way to render a useful answer here is to suggest that you try these adjuncts and see (through consequent testing) what the effects are on resident water quality. BobF> Reef Disaster...Gamble Didn't Pay Off - 07/29/06 I'm kind of hoping Anthony Calfo can reply to this, but I'll take any help you guys can offer.   <<I'm afraid our friend Anthony no longer fields queries on this site...has moved on to other endeavors.  Let's hope I can be of some service>> I've officially got a disaster on my hands.  I need to make some tough decisions.  Here's what happened.  My reef tank is four years old.  For the most part it has done extremely well over the last three years.  Amazing amounts of coral growth in this tank over the last 3 years.   I could go into details about the tank, but honestly it really doesn't matter at this point. <<...?>> I went on vacation for a week and as I always do I left my tank with a very slow drip feeding it RO water. <<As in, nothing to "meter" the water?...dangerous…>> It evaporates about 2 gallons a day so a slow drip doesn't keep it completely topped off, but it does replace most of the evaporated water. <<Understood...but still risky.  As with topping-up with a Kalkwasser drip, it is best to feed the water from a container of limited volume to lessen damage from an "accidental" over-fill, this usually means a container of no more than a few gallons.  Obviously this doesn't work in your situation where you're absent for an extended period...which is where a well designed, reliable top-off device excels>> It has always been close enough. <<I'm getting a feeling this time it wasn't...>> I've done this many times on vacation and it has always worked out all right. <<Russian Roulette>> This time it didn't!  I'm not sure what happened, but it was obviously feeding water a lot faster than I thought this time.  Long story short...I came home to a freshwater tank and a very wet floor. <<Yikes!>> It smelled pretty bad!  It smelled bad enough in the house that my kids started crying.  My wife wasn't real happy either! <<I can imagine...>> Amazingly she's letting me keep the tank! <<Yay!>> So obviously most everything in the tank died. <<Yes...sorry to hear>> All my mushrooms, polyps, xenia, and SPS corals are dead.  Surprisingly the fish survived... as well as several snails and crabs. <<Can be amazingly resilient to "gradual" change>> My dilemma is whether I should trash everything in the tank and start all over with new live rock and substrate or should I actually try to salvage the existing rock and substrate. <<Can be salvaged with a good scrub/curing...but will never be as before.  Best to treat as introduced dead/dry rock, in my opinion>> I already totally disassembled the tank.   Scrubbed all the live rock in clean salt water to get all the dead mushrooms, polyps, etc. off the rock...no use in leaving them there to rot! <<Much in agreement>> I cleaned the substrate in fresh saltwater and then set the whole tank back up with fresh saltwater.  The protein skimmer has been filling all the way up every day. <<Much dead biota "deep in the rock" that could not be scrubbed away.  The rock is curing, though it will be devoid of much of the living biota that cured fresh rock would retain>> It seems to be doing its job better than ever before. <<Much more for it to process at the moment>> The smell is gone! <<What of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate?>> Surprisingly I already have pink and purple coralline algae growing on the rocks again, so I am assuming that if the coralline algae survived then a lot of other life survived in that rock as well. <<Don't think I would make that assumption..."some" life may have survived, but I would consider this rock as "severely damaged">> It has only been 7 days since the disaster. <<I would cure this rock another three weeks, testing the water as you go, before trying to re-introduce any macro-organisms>> Not surprisingly, I've got some green and brown algae growth too, but it actually appears to be going away slowly. <<Normal algae succession...the tank is cycling>> Should I try to make this work or is this a battle not worth fighting? <<Up to you mate.  The rock can be cured, the tank re-cycled, but much if not all emergent life from the rock will be gone>> Here is what I am thinking.   Keep doing water changes and let that protein skimmer do its job for several weeks and then add some GARF grunge to add all the little critters back to the tank.   Wait till the rocks start looking pink and purple and then try growing some coral again.   Is this just wishful thinking?  Will this work? <<Is plausible, yes.  But rather than the GARF product, I suggest changing out about half the rock for "new" rock.  Preferably sooner than later to let it cure with the rest>> I just don't want to waste my time if this is a doomed tank now. <<Not "doomed" at all my friend...just not as "diverse" as it was/could be without the addition of new live rock>> Am I better off trashing everything and ordering some new live rock and substrate? <<Would be "better", yes...but not an absolute necessity>> Jeff Hutcherson     <<Regards, Eric Russell>>

Maintenance/Auto Top Off Systems   7/24/06 Hello Crew, <Hello Gary> Thank you all so much for the wealth of knowledge you're willing to share with us readers.  I have a question about a top off system while I'm on vacation for 8 days.  I have a 50-gallon marine tank that loses almost a gallon of water per day during the summer.  The tank does not have a sump.  I would appreciate specific recommendations for an automatic top off system.  I don't know anything about how they work.  I've see one called JBJ A.T.O. advertised in Marine Depot's catalog.  However, I don't understand how it works. <Work by level sensors which in turn control a valve.> Any recommendations regarding the specific equipment I need would be appreciated. <Gary, most of these systems require a sump with a holding tank next to it.  Here is a link describing one with a photo.   http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=13959&Ntt=auto%20top%20off&Ntk=All&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Np=1&pc=1&N=0&Nty=1 Thank you in advance, <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Gary    

Storage of RO Water  - 04/19/06 Hi Crew, <Chris> Hopefully I wont be banned for asking 2 questions in the same week :-) <No one has been... yet> Just a quick one about storing RO water for top-ups. Can RO water be stored in a sealed container with no aeration for a week without affecting the quality of the water ? <Mmm, yes... though should be aerated, checked for quality ahead of actual use...> I have an auto top-up system that tops up the main system from a 25litre container of RO water and I use 2x 25litres containers on a rolling basis, so one is always sealed and stored for about 6 days before it is used. Do I need to find a way to aerate the water while in storage ? <Mmm, in this/your case, not likely... as the amount delivered, though itself has little to no dissolved oxygen, will not affect overall DO> What about the active container that the auto top-up system is connected to ? <Again, no worries. Bob Fenner> I have to say I spent 90 minutes searching for the answers, but couldn't find anything that would give me absolute clarity :-) Thanks Chris LiterMeter waterchanges and top-off   1/4/06 Hi guys, I have set up a new 125 reef tank and have been up and running with rock, sand, and cleaning crew for a month. I can get a little lazy with waterchanges etc. so I am trying to streamline the process. I purchased the LiterMeter III with the water Xchange module. I also purchased 2 55 gallon plastic drums. My plan is to fill one barrel with RO/DI and run one pump for my top-off at about 1.5 gallons per day. So I could go about a month without any maintenance at all on the top off. Do you see any problems with this system? Would water sitting in a barrel, in the dark, be alright for several weeks? <See no problems, cover the barrel.> As far as my waterchanges plan I want to fill barrel 2 with saltwater, and do a daily water change of 1.5 to 2 gallons. This would be the equivalent of a 20% waterchanges every 2 weeks. I would set one pump on the LiterMeter to remove the 2 gallons everyday and the second pump would add the same amount from my barrel. My thinking is that a slow, steady, constant replenishment of fresh water is better for my system than large changes  that may effect temp, salinity, etc. Does this sound like a good plan? <Yes> If I mixed 40 to 50 gallons of saltwater would it be ok to sit in the barrel for 3 weeks or so? <Yes again, covered> Any feedback on my plan would be appreciated. Also could I add a calcium additive to either the saltwater barrel or the RO/DI barrel? <I'd add to the saltwater barrel.> Thanks.  <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Plastic tub needs to be food grade  12/13/05 Hi! <Hello Dominique> For stocking new saltwater and as a freshwater reservoir for topping-off, is it necessary to use food-grade plastic. Most plastic tubs/containers/garbage cans are not made of food-grade plastic. Inverts being so sensitive to chemicals, one wouldn't want to use a RO-DI just to have his container release chemicals again in water. If it is an issue it's going to be trouble to find the right material...<I've been using Rubber Maid products for years with no problems.  Just rinse good before using.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks! Dominique Osmolator and Kalkwasser question  11/19/05 Hi! My first question would be directed at Anthony Calfo (or anybody that is able to answer it if he's not available...). <Have sent to Antoine, and am responding here> On p.185 of "Book of Coral Propagation", it is said: "To maximize phosphate fallout and calcium uptake, it has been observed that Kalkwasser additions are more effective if they can safely dosed into the main display rather than the sump". Does it really make a significant difference and why is that? <Can... in that a good deal of the phosphate one might be trying to precipitate out is located in the main system water... and much of the Kalk is used up very quickly... in the sump if administered there> I am trying to make a 52" high DIY Kalk-reactor at the moment following plans found on the internet but the idea of having it drip into the display makes me a bit nervous. But maybe there is no risk if I have it dripped where the output of the return pump is. It's not a very high flow tough (270 gal per hour, my tank is 90 gal). <A good place/exit point to do this, yes> My second question regards safety back up when using an auto top-off system. I am thinking of using the Tunze osmolator connected to a small RO-DI water reservoir. The water reservoir will be connected to the RO-DI and self-filling (with a float). From my understanding, it is impossible (or close to impossible) that the Tunze Osmolator gets stuck on (there are two sensors plus a 10 min. time out). But it still can get stuck off.  Do you think it could be a good idea to install a second osmolator set (pressure sensor + solenoid + float) 1" below the normal water level so if the Tunze osmolator/pump fails, the other osmolator prevents the water level from dropping more than an inch? <I have yet to see a situation where this failure occurred> Some will argue that it would just duplicate the possibility of equipment failure. The way I see it, with a "fails closed" solenoid and a float, the second set cannot really stuck open and just gives a second chance to avoid a salinity increase when the Tunze osmolator fails (especially if I left on a summer trip...). What is your opinion? <I would not be concerned. These units have invariably "failed closed". Cheers, Bob Fenner> Many Thanks! Regards, Dominique 

RO water for Kalkwasser auto-top-off - 10/17/05 Hi There, <<Hello>> I have perused the FAQs but have not seen a direct yes or no as to whether RO water can be used to automatically refill a kalkstirrer without pre-aerating or buffering. I am sure I have seen schematics on manufacturers websites showing an RO plumbed directly to a kalkstirrer. <<It sure can be added straight in.>> Thanks for your help David <<TravisM>> 

Auto top-off - 10/11/05 Are there any auto top-off devices that can be attached to the output of a reverse osmosis filter? <<A float valve would work well for you. I believe Kent makes one. Almost all online dry good vendors stock them.>> D'Wayne <<TravisM>> 

Top-off system Hello Crew.  <Hello Franz>  I am trying to simplify my current make up system (I currently have none) and am thinking of the following: I have a 20gal sump for a 120gal reef. I am placing a 12gal container next to the sump, with a float valve for RO/DI water and an overflow to the drain in case the float fails.  <Good idea> The container will also contain a continuously running powerhead and airstone. From this container I have a powerhead with a hose to the sump that I will manually turn on when I feel I have a need for top-off in my sump. This is a huge step form what I am doing now. I plan to automate this part as well with one of those electronic systems that measure the level of the sump and then activate a metering pump from the fresh water reservoir. The Tunze Osmolator looks sweet but expensive. However, I have read in other FAQs that top-off water must not only be aerated for 24-48 hours, but must also be buffered so as not to deplete the alkalinity of the tank. I have a calcium reactor so I do not use Kalkwasser. Would you suggest buffering my top-of with Kalk or just with an Alkalinity buffer like Coral Builder, etc? Should I also add calcium to the top-of water?  <Franz, I would buffer the water and since you are using a Kalk reactor there really is no need adding calcium to the top off water. James (Salty Dog> Thanks for all your help and knowledge. Cheers, Franz 

- Kalkwasser Top-off - Hey how's it going. <It's going.> Well I'll make this short & sweet since I know you guys are busy. I'm looking to add Kalkwasser to my make up water. I have a five gallon bucket with a powerhead attached to a hose that feeds my sump water when the float switch sinks below water level. I want to add Kalkwasser to the make up water but the water that is added ranges from roughly 2-9 oz. at a shot. My tank is a 37 gallon cube with a 8 gallon sump. If I do this would I be adding Kalkwasser too fast. Any ideas, if not, I'm probably going to go with a calcium reactor. <I'm not a fan of combined auto top-off/Kalkwasser systems. Think, especially with tank of this size that you'd be better off adding your Kalkwasser manually and leaving your top-off system as it is.> Thanks    Oscar. <Cheers, J -- >

- Kalkwasser and Auto Top-off, Follow-up - Thanks for the reply, but isn't that the same as using a Kalk reactor, you are still dosing Kalk in your auto top-off? <Uhh... that was not my suggestion at all. I proposed that you add all your Kalkwasser by hand.> Don't they use dosing pumps as well? <I believe that Kalkwasser reactors "can" use a dosing pump, and are suggested to run as part of a top-off system, yes.> The float I was referring to would be in the top off reservoir not the sump. <Understood. Cheers, J -- > 

Auto top-off Hello, hope everyone is well. I have been doing some more thinking about a auto top-off system for my 180 reef, I appreciate the earlier feedback and have abandoned that approach (adding another stage to the RO/DI unit). I purchased a Nautilus dosing pump from Innovative Aquatics and will use that to dose from a fresh water reservoir to my sump. The reservoir will have a float switch that will be fed water from the RO/DI unit. My question concerns adding Kalkwasser, I wish to top off all evaporated water with Kalk but am not sure how much/often to add to reservoir? The reservoir holds 12 gal and I planned to add 12 Tsp of Kalk. As the fresh water is replenished by the RO/DI the solution will obviously weaken, is there a way to know how much Kalk to add? I do not want to overdose, any suggestions? <I'm not really a fan of combined auto top-off/Kalkwasser systems. It's my opinion that one should not "dose" anything on autopilot, especially things that can throw off your pH or cause toxic effects - what if your float switch broke? I think you should dose the Kalkwasser manually and let your top-off system operate on its own.> Thanks again for such a great website. <Cheers, J -- > Maintaining Water Level Question Hello WetWebMedia Crew, Is it possible for you to look at my attachment and tell me what you think of my idea for an automatic water top-off? <Yes, took a look at the file. As long as it is a clearly labeled non-executable file, I will open it.> If not please let me know and I will explain as best as I can. :) <I have seen many similar designs/variations using Polar water bottles, Pepsi bottles, etc. Should work fine as long as the air vent part on the water vessel is closed air tight.> Thank you! James <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Float Switches I am trying to set up a float switch for my tank, so the evaporated water can be replaced at the proper level. Do you know of a company that has a product that I could use with saltwater?  <many places sell these nifty devices... Premium Aquatics, Custom Aquatic and Champion Light and Supply just to name a few> Also the tank that I am pumping from with fresh saltwater is 3 ft. below the main tank. Is there a pump that would be able to handle 3 ft. of head pressure? <many will.. even some powerheads. Just look over the mfg specs and find one that provides the desired flow rate at that head for you.> Thanks, Again <always welcome, Anthony>

Re: Introducing fish Bob, I have a question about water level. What I was planning to do is mix saltwater in a large size bucket with heater, air stone and sump pump and set it by my tank. So when I do water changes I don't have to be mixing and waiting for 48 hrs. <Mmm, good idea... I'd wait longer... Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm> Here is my dilemma. I have a skimbox that I use with my Eco Sys. it works great. However because of evaporation, my water level affects the performance of my Eco System. Is there a mechanism or water level indicator that I could use to automatically replenish the water I have lost. <All sorts... everything from inverted plastic bottles with make-up water in them, to automated electronic float switches and pumps...> I would have to hook it up to my sump pump. I am thinking of connecting it to my premixed saltwater set up. I believe it is approx. 1/2 to 1 gallon of water the tank will loose. The salinity would go up a little but not enough to be concern about since I perform 10% water changes every 7 to 10 days. <Check out Knops products, FAMA magazine, the various DIY sites (like Oz' Reef), bulletin board/chatrooms on the Net... many designs available. Bob Fenner>

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