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FAQs about Wavemakers and Marine Systems 

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All aquatic life appreciates strong water movement.

Saltwater questions; reef circulation     3/23/17
<Hi there>
I had a 110 gal saltwater a few years ago but moved so sold it. I have a couple of 125 gal freshwater tanks now but the saltwater pulled on me until I got a small one. It is a 25 gal Innovative Marine. It is 7 weeks old. I
recently bought a wave maker wanting to make the tank realistic to the ocean. I just don't know for sure if it was the best for the tank or not and wanted someone else's opinion that I respect. Here is a video of it (Link: Video wave maker). I have it on the lowest setting there is. Thanks so much!
<Your animals look healthy; not too tossed about by current. I WOULD move the Goniopora and mushroom further apart though... to avoid them fighting/allelopathy. Bob Fenner>

Hi Ultramarine,
I was wondering what your opinion was on wave generators? I would quite like to buy a Tunze wavebox but they are expensive so I didn't want to spend all that money if the benefits are not noticeable. Or if there were any other alternatives that you think might be better I would love to hear them.
 My tank is 120 Gallons and I currently use 4 2400lph power-heads for water movement.
Kind Regards
Mark Jackson 

'Gosh, I remember decades back in my youth when we had to move water with our hands and soda straws!' Well, things weren't quite that dismal, but circulation in our marine systems really has come a long way; and wave generators of various makes and models can be very useful indeed. If one accepts the premise that there is periodicity in the flow of water on natural reefs, and that this situation should be replicated in our captive systems'¦ what better way then with the use of such tools?
            Now, I do want to say that I am indeed an old timer'¦ as an aquarist, as well as a content provider (writer, photographer) in this field, as well as dive/adventure travel'¦ and that I've had thousands of occasions, dives on reefs about the world'¦ where there was tremendous to piddling water movement'¦ and further, that the currents from tides and wave motion were not always multidirectional, and never consistent. This being stated, the usual statements concerning water movement DO apply: That there should definitely be a good deal of circulation, that it should be 'complete' (disallowing stagnant areas), that it should NOT be laminar'¦ that is blasting at one level, such that it might tear off any life in its path'¦ Water movement should be vigorous if nothing else'¦ so where do wave generators come into play here? Are they always of benefit? Not in my opinion.
            Consider that an argument could be made that by switching water on off by way of electronic wave/pump controllers that one is actually going to be moving less total water per given time'¦ and at more cost'¦ electrically, and in terms of pump mechanism wear'¦ Are there situations where it's better to simply arrange ones pump and filter returns, powerheads, submersible pumps'¦ as fixed or rotating entities and leave them turned on? I do think so'¦ and have a chance to chat this over with an upcoming guru in the field, particularly on marine circulation matters, Jake Adams (of Colorado in the States).
            All else being equal, which is rarely the case, it is better, particularly in systems of size to set ones circulation up without controllers (e.g. wave generators) and leave them be. It's nice to have all the gear and technology available, but IMO it is far better to invest ones time in an ozone generator, a desiccator for same, books and magazines, and just ones time in enjoying their system, than getting involved with this gadgetry. Much of it is reliable and I'll add, really neat'¦ but it isn't necessary or even useful in the vast majority of settings.
My opinion, Bob Fenner

Hi Bob,
What is your opinion on wavemakers? 
I have three standard circulation pumps, which I don't think are providing natural flow for the aquarium. There seems to be products that will simultaneously turn pumps on and off but I am not sure what kind of difference that will make. There is a unit for sale in this country called the Tunze Wavebox, I have had a look on youtube and it actually creates the push and pull effect of a natural tide. Do you think they are of any benefit to system inhabitants? The unit is quite expensive but I just love the way it looks! 

Greetings Paul, and I am glad to state that my opinion has changed over the years that wavemakers of various designs have been about. These devices used to be awful'¦ actually counter-productive; with cycling pumps off/on, causing more loss of useful circulation AND early demise of pumps, powerheads from their cycling. Skip ahead to current times (2010 onward) and these products have been immensely improved. My overall general opinion is that if one has a large volume (a hundred plus gallons let's say), using a wavemaker can yield considerable advantages in overall circulation.
            I am very familiar with the Tunze brand and their Wavebox, and consider the company and this product to be excellent. This being stated, there are other 'non-box' type units that you might also consider (EcoTech's VorTech line, Hydor's Koralia are some faves), that also move a great deal of water and are more flexible in possible arrangement of direction and flow. There are even Do It Yourself designs to consider here'¦ dump 'buckets' of a few sturdy designs, even the possibility of pumping water through your main display between two sumps or such, one overflowing into the other.      
            I do want to make a comment re the degree of water movement and the issue of multi- versus one-directional circulation. For the most part, no aquarium mimics the high, mostly periodic rate of flow one encounters in most outer reef environments (lagoons and some other settings can be excepted), and quite often one finds that a good deal of this high flow is constant for hours'¦ in one direction. QED, no matter what you utilize for water circulation, make it brisk.

A Fork In The Circulation Road/Closed Looped Systems/Wavemakers 2/2/10
<Hello Matt>
I have a question for you. I've read you're webpage for years and have learned much, however, I have searched and was unable to find an answer to a dilemma I am currently facing.
I see a significant detritus build up in my tank, and I have a friend that is a huge proponent of a closed loop system for circulation, and I must say that I am strongly considering it.
<Cerith and Nassarius snails are good choices for eating detritus.>
I currently have a non-drilled 5-foot 110 gallon Oceanic aquarium. I am using an overflow box to drain water to my sump for skimming, media and refugium, and two Koralia 4's and two Koralia 3's for circulation. My water
parameters are within normal ranges, with the exception of slightly elevated nitrates, which I suspect is due to the detritus build-up.
<Very likely. Do you vacuum the sand bed during water changes?>
My question is this: If you could do either, would you go with a (Tunze) wavebox or a closed-loop circulation system? What would you consider the pros and cons of the two systems. I like the wavebox because of its ease
of installation, but am willing to make the effort for the closed-loop if it is truly the better option. I would like this move to be a long-term solution, as I am growing weary of throwing Koralias into the tank.
<Geez, I would think 4100gph of water flow out of the Koralias would be plenty for this system.
But to answer your question, I'd go for the Tunze Wavebox if budget wasn't an issue.
You may want to read more detailed info from Tunze in the following link.
You may be able to use the Nano Wavebox which is rated for tanks up to 158 gallons.
Watch the video also, very interesting.
Thank you for your time.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)

Re: DSB question and more... now, wave makers, vis a vis circ., SW  6/16/08 Hi.. <Hello again.> I was wondering.. if I get a MaxiJet 1200 mod and have a Tunze stream 6060 would it be helpful if I invest in a wave timer for the MaxiJet? <Hmmm, no.> How beneficial are wave timers? <In principle they are great. The reality is startup is the hardest phase on an electrical motor. A wave timer drastically shortens the life of these powerheads, particularly with the MJ mod.> Furthermore on the algae.. I get an accumulation of mostly brown algae on my sand but both green and brown on my glass.. no blue algae at all. I use standard tap water with a single cartridge filter for top off.. Is this a problem? <Maybe, maybe not. Tap water is different all over the world. You will have to test yours to see. If it is high in nitrite, nitrate or phosphate, this could very well be the source of the algae.> Would investing in a RODI system reduce this problem? <If your tap levels are high.> If so.. which RODI system do you recommend? <None in particular. Most use the same interchangeable membranes and 10' filters. I use an Aqua FX myself.> Thanks, Mohamed <Welcome, Scott V.>

Setting up flow for a square LPS tank   3/21/07 Hi Crew - <James> Great website, I spend entirely too much time researching in your archives. I apologize in advance for this long email. <No worries. Communicating effectively often takes time> I am setting up a new tank (well, it's been up and running in some capacity for a few months) that will house LPS corals almost exclusively (will also include one Monti. cap., a few mushroom corals and some xenia, for example), and I was hoping for some opinions on a closed loop system. The tank inner dimensions are almost square, at ~31.5"x27"x20" LxWxH, with an internal overflow on one of the 27" sides. Approximately 65-70 gallons in the display tank. I am using a 20 gallon sump with a very small (~5 gallon) refugium. All flow right now is from the return pump - a mag7 if my memory is right (possibly a mag5). So obviously it is very light circulation in the tank. I have attached a very rough sketch of the tank layout, the live rock layout is pretty close to this though. <I see it. Think the arrows on the overflow need to be reversed> The few corals in the tank right now are a frogspawn (new branches showing), pulsing xenia, hairy mushroom (Rhodactis indosinensis?), Montipora capricornis. Future corals are... unknown. We haven't developed a full livestock list yet, although my fiancé is very much drawn to LPS that "wave" in the current. Any suggestions? <Mmm, all posted on WWM. I'd be reading re the "Systems" and "Compatibility" for all listed, considered> Back to the original question -- I would like to set up a closed loop in the system. My goal in this design was to try to replicate the back-and-forth wave motion in the ocean - the kind that "gently" moves you 3 feet back and forth as you snorkel - and also vary the strength of flow across the display to accommodate varied coral species and their preferences. <Okay> My thought was to try to create flow in the tank in a circular pattern, regularly switching the direction of the flow to create some turbulence. This was in part inspired by the January 2007 article by Jake Adams in the Advanced Aquarists Online Magazine. To accomplish this I considered using a device similar to an Oceans Motion (OM) valve, piped to the four corners of the tank in two circuits. If you reference the attached sketch, I show the four outlets. I haven't worked out any details with Paul @ OM yet, but I see two options with his current devices -- 30 seconds of flow in circuit one (counterclockwise), switching rapidly to 30 seconds of flow through circuit two (clockwise). Or, if I pipe two of the four OM ports back to the pump inlet, I could create 15 seconds of flow in circuit one, 15 seconds of rest, 15 seconds of flow through circuit two, 15 seconds of rest, etc. <Yes> What are your thoughts? Is there a more effective way for me to create appropriate flow conditions in the tank? Am I way off base here? Thanks!! Jim <I do think your proposal has merit, and am a fan of such closed loop designs... but don't think there is "that much" to be gained by stopping, reversing flow patterns in such small volumes as this... That the loss of flow during switching isn't worth the benefits of leaving the water going in the one direction. Having spent years on reefs on this planet, I assure you that many of the stocks folks keep in such "garden arrangements" live in "one way flow" settings... I myself would set up the plumbing arrangement as you illustrate and pretty much leave the water discharges fixed in their orientation, "blowing" basically a angles to each other, two more toward mid-depth, the opposing two more at the surface. Bob Fenner>

Making Waves -- 03/17/07 Hello Crew! :) <<Hi Lisa!>> I have a 90 gallon Oceanic Bowfront reef tank; it's been established for almost a year. <<Great!>> I have a sump with refugium; the protein skimmer is in the sump.  I have four power heads (2 Seio, 2 MaxiJets) in the tank. <<Ok>> This creates good flow but I'd really like to do better; and I'm pretty sure the power heads are a big part of my electric bill and water heating woes. <<Mmm, maybe'¦though more the latter than the former I think>> I've been trying to read about different setups. <<Excellent>> Tunze Wavemaker, <<Too big/intrusive for this size tank, in my opinion>> Wavysea wavemaker, <<A possibility, though will require purchasing/plumbing a good high-flow external pump'¦and dealing with the possible associated running expenses and heating issues>> Streams... <<A great alternative in my opinion.  Though larger than the typical power head, these units are misers when it comes to power consumption, and are relatively cool running (especially when you consider the flow rates involved).  All are good, but I'm especially fond of the controllable/variable electronic units>> I'm very confused.  So I'm here to ask you very knowledgeable folks what you would do if you were me? <<An easy question'¦would be the Tunze Stream pumps (is what I use in my own reef display)>> I have about an inch clearance (maybe a little more) from water level in tank to top of tank. I don't know that I could handle much higher of a wave. <<Would likely be plenty'¦if you choose to go the route of the Tunze Wave Box>> I should also mention that I only have about 3 1/2" clearance in the back of the tank and use an overflow box.  The tank is not drilled. <<Mmm, not preferable'¦but shouldn't make a difference here>> I've also seen people just using controllers for their power heads. <<Indeed'¦and seems to work best/most reliably with the Maxi-jet units>> So I ask you all, what's the best set-up for a reef tank with fish? <<Lots of possibilities, but for my money, a couple Tunze Stream pumps; either 6060s or 6000s w/controller>> Are there any parameters you need to know (like livestock, etc.?) <<System details are always helpful>> I appreciate your advice and help. <<Happy to share>> Thanks, Lisa <<Quite welcome, EricR>>

SQWD wavemaker Hey Gang, Top of the day to ya!  Anthony, In response to the question about the SQWD wave maker question in the "New reef set up questions" letter, I've recently hooked a SQWD unit up to my 70 gallon & other than the loss of  flow rates (due to the 3/4" outputs), the wave maker works great, they're quiet as well! I think that by splitting the 1 1/2" ID return, (from the Mag 9.5 pump), into two 3/4"  lines, another SQWD unit  in line would get the flow rates to increase. As for the product, I would recommend the SQWD wave maker. I can't wait until they market the 1" model, that'll be sweet.   Best wishes to you & the crew!  Stormbringer <Thanks for sharing/update my friend. Kindly, Anthony

- Overflow Noise and More... - Hi All, Finally, found a great site that will help me develop a great saltwater aquarium.  Thanks for taking time to answer my questions.  First I have a 125 gallon tank with 2 overflows.  The main pump that I am using is a Quiet One 4000, at 4 feet of head the GPH is 750.  The sound of water, like a waterfall sound, is loud and very disturbing in my dining room.  Any suggestions of how to eliminate this waterfall sound. <Consider a standpipe... this will raise the water level in the overflow so that the water pouring in doesn't have to fall as far. Check out this link: http://www.rl180reef.com/pages/standpipe/standpipe_frame.htm > Last question. Recently I just purchased the Red Sea Wavemaker Pro.  I know how you feel about not needing to use Wavemakers, but I would like to try this thing out.  The issue is that I purchased 2 CAP 1800's and 2 CAP 800 Powerheads.  They are quiet, but they are not designed for the on/off function of a wavemaker.  I am going to exchange those for powerheads more designed to work with a wavemaker.  I know that the MaxiJet1200 works well with Wavemakers.  But with a GPH of 295, will 4 of these pumps be enough for a 125 gallon tank? <No.>  If not, can you suggest which kind and how many powerheads I should use with the wavemaker (I am looking for quiet and something that will work with a wavemaker)? <I would look into the Tunze Stream Pumps, although you'll have to can the Red Sea wave maker and use the Tunze model made specifically for their electronic pumps.> I have coral, a few tangs and 125 pounds of live rock. Thanks again for your help!!!! Regards, Roger <Cheers, J -- >

Waves And Weeds... (Water Movement/Caulerpa Control) Hi again,  a few other things to add, I've seen this advertised SCWD Wave machine. Tee shaped device that oscillates flow from left to right without electricity.. $39.99 Can you tell me more about it? <Well...It is a unique device that essentially "oscillates flow from left to right without electricity..!" Honestly, it's a great little device. I'd use it externally 'cause it's butt-ugly, and you don't want it in the tank, but the thing rocks!> I've seen the plans before about a device which was home made.  Using a clock motor to turn a bar with a hole drilled in it inside a housing.  As the bar turned water was directed to either one or the other outlet to provide a sinusoidal wave like out-put.  Does this device sold on the web have the same idea? <Not sure, to be honest. I've never personally used one or taken one apart (I'm a Sea Swirl man, myself) How good is it actually?  Can you tell me more?   <A really innovative idea. A number of my fish-geek friends use them, and really like the results> Also, I have some macro algae I believe to be green grape Caulerpa but no grazing fish.  As this sporulates and pieces die will this be a big problem by adding more phosphate to my system? <Well, I suppose that absorbed nutrients will be released, but it's usually the sexual products and cellular material that lead to degraded water quality following one of these events> Do you suggest I remove it?  I'd like to get a Tang to eat it, but I have some very very pretty red macro algae that grows on my rocks and I'm worried a Tang may eat all of my lovely algae while pruning the grape algae.  What do you think? <Well- you won't have much control over what the tang eats. Manual extraction may be the way to go...Not easy, but it may work> Another thing is about the lights.  I can't seem to find any glass shop here that knows about UV blocking glass.  If I home made a lamp how can I UV protect it.  I'm quite concerned and don't want to risk damaging my eyes.  Thanks again. Greg <Well, Greg- I'd consult the manufacturer of the light bulbs to see what to use here, if it is necessary at all...Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

SCWD Leaking <hello> I'm running a quiet one 4400 (about 700 gph) to a SCWD.  Actually, I have 2 pumps and 2 SCWD.  My problem is they (both) keep leaking on the inlet side.  I have tried wrapping some Teflon tape around the "wannabe" barb fitting and using a hose clamp...but no matter how tight I make the clamp, I keep getting a little leaking.....any ideas, suggestions! <Sounds like the tubing you used is a little to big. There are 2 models 1/2 & 3/4". Make sure that the tubing you used says either 1/2 or 3/4 ID NOT OD. The tubing should be hard to get on, if it slips right on it's to big (heat a cup of water and place the tubing in for a minute or two .It will soften the tubing and go on easier. I am using one of these and have had no leaking problems. MikeH> Dave

SCWD and pump combination part 2 9/8/05 The fitting on the pump is 1" so I used 1" pipe to the SCWD. Then from the SCWD to the tank its 3/4". The amount of elbows from the pump to SCWD is 3. Then from the SCWD to the tank through 3/4" is 4. Coming into the pump is 3 elbows as well. Would this restrict a lot of water? Should I redo it with tubing? Should I buy a bigger pump? Right now its 1000 gph. Thanks Joe  <It sounds like you are using big enough pipe/tubing, but you are using a lot of elbows!  All of those elbows are probably costing you at least 30% of your flow.  You could increase the flow by any of the methods you ask about.  You could find ways to eliminate elbows or increase the size of the pump.  In the long run, eliminating elbows will save you the cost of a larger pump, added electricity and added heat.  I would suggest running 1" flexible line from the pump to the SCWD, with the SCWD mounted at about the level of the top of the tank.  You can then run 3/4" flexible tubing along the rim of the tank right into the water wherever you want.  This will eliminate all of the elbows.  Hope this helps.  AdamC.>  

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