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FAQs about Wet-Dry, Trickle Filter Set-Up

Related Articles: Trickle Filters, pt. 1 By Bob Goemans, Physical Filtration, Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Nitrates and Marine Systems

Related FAQs: Wet Dries 1, Wet Dries 2, Wet-Dries 3, Wet Dries 4, Selection, Pumps, Plumbing Issues, Bio-Balls FAQs, Bio-Ball, Wet-Dry Media 2, Other Filter/Media/Elements (other than bio-balls), Modification/Conversion, Operation/Maintenance/Repair... Biological Filtration, Biofiltration 2, Fluidized Beds, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, PhosphatesDenitrification/Denitrifiers,

Wet/Dry Setup   7/27/10
Hi! I recently inherited a 72 gallon bowfront tank. I am so excited, but it has a trickle filter and drilled holes in it which I am unfamiliar with. I have done research, but I just can't figure out how to put it all back together and get it up and running. It came with bio balls but I don't know if they should be replaced with new ones or if they are still good.
<You could use them... but I wouldn't>
There is a Rio 2500 pump- does that go in the box that also holds the bio balls?
<Mmm, no... in the open, bottom area below and to the side of them>
I also received a Fluval 303 canister with this set up. Can I run both systems?
I also have no idea what to hook into the two drilled holes in the tank.
Any help will be greatly appreciated! Oh, and is there any fear of the fish falling over that trickle filter?
<Some... there should be some sort of screen...>
Looking forward to my new aquarium,
<I'd have someone from a local fish store over to help you one on one...
But do read here:
and the linked files at the bottom. Bob Fenner> 


Re: livestock deaths -- 04/22/10
Mr. Fenner,
<Just Bob please Chris>
To update you - the purple tang's been in QT for 13 days and has completed the quinine treatment. All observable signs of illness are completely gone, and it's active/eating well. It will remain in QT, unmedicated, until main tank has completed the 45 day fallow period. Unfortunately, I lost the longnose hawkfish, likely due to my error. I placed it in the QT 3 days into the quinine treatment (as a "precautionary" measure after observing the tang was surviving the meds).
I didn't consider that by the 3rd day, the quinine levels might be elevated too high for the hawk to handle. Lesson learned, unfortunately at the cost of the fish.
In the meantime, I'd like to ask an unrelated question regarding a comment you made in your original response to my initial e-mail. You'd recommended I remove the bio-balls from the wet-dry. I've done so, and have been perusing through your "sump" FAQs to see what to do in lieu of the bio-balls, if anything. My initial thought was to simply add live rock in that vacant chamber. But, I've got concerns with the configuration of the wet-dry. Some of the recommendations in your "sump" FAQ includes having the skimmer located ahead of the live rock and any chemical filtrant.
<This is the generally proscribed arrangement... but it is only nominally better than placing the skimmer elsewhere>
My wet-dry is a "Pro Clear" brand filter (stock photo attached),
<I see this>
which has the main tank's dual outflow water passing into a closed/covered portion of the filter where the bio-balls used to be (the "first" chamber), and then into an open chamber that houses the skimmer, before being sent via external pump back into the main tank. My concerns are:
1. The only place to put the live rock (the former bio-ball chamber) is ahead of the skimmer. I can't reverse the configuration because the skimmer cannot fit into the closed portion. Despite it being located in the wrong position (ahead of the skimmer), do you still suggest live rock in that empty chamber?
<I do>
2. Also, I'd previously kept a bag of carbon on the filter pad tray that sits atop the bio-balls. Since this is putting the chemical media before the skimmer, where would you recommend it be placed instead?
Chris S.
<Anywhere in your water circulation/flow path is fine really. BobF>

Wet Dry Filter Question   1/14/08 Hello, <Hello Kurt.> wanted to ask you guys/girls your expert opinions on this particular filtration set up I just purchased for my 125g salt water tank I'm setting up. The filter system is a 'Rapids Pro PS3' ,rated at 700 gph. I purchased two of these units to use, as opposed to just 1, = 1400gph with 2 overflow boxes <I would plan on less than half this flow in real world applications with this size drain line.> and 2 protein simmers( want good filtration for my marine friends). I also upgraded 1 of the units to include the optional "auto fill system" , to replace water evaporation from the tank automatically up to 4 gallons worth .Got a pretty good deal ( I hope) , and was wondering if you have heard any feedback on these units. <A little, these do require a good bit of maintenance. You will need to frequently clean the mechanical filtration in the unit to prevent detritus buildup, as well as clean/replace the airstones in the skimmers for the best performance.> The link is here from Doctors Foster and Smith, where I ordered it on sale. Also ,will concrete construction blocks be strong enough to use as stand supports on each end of the tank, with added doubled up 2x4 (vertically) in the center, or is this just too much pressure for these blocks to support (will probably be about 1,400-1,500 pounds)? <The blocks can take the weight, I have had stands like this myself. These can however be somewhat unstable just stacking on one another. I would construct a wood frame to support your tank, really shouldn't cost anymore than the blocks. Either way you will need to have the entire frame of the tank supported with the wood, not down the middle (if I understand you correctly). For a six foot tank without any center support I would opt for 2X6' vertically for the frame.> The stand at the store was over $400,and I'm trying to get my set up going on a reasonable budget, so the $400 stand is a no no right now. Tank dimensions are 72 x 22 x 18.. Thanks for your help, and here's the link to the filter set up I have coming, hope I didn't order junk ? <In all honesty it would not be my first choice, but it will work. Just be diligent in maintaining these units.> Appreciate your opinions/advice. Kurt Schultz http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=16747 <Very welcome, good luck, Scott V.>

Initial setup of Pro Clear 300 wet/dry system 10/14/07 I do not have an extensive vocabulary for the type of system I inherited.? So my apologies in advance, if I have spoken as a layman.?? <No worries> I acquired a very large fish tank, was told its 200 gallons, freshwater etc.?? its roughly 6 foot long by 3 foot high , by 2 foot wide...give or take some inches.? The stand is in beautiful shape as well.? The Filter system under the tank was running (though the tank was half full of water, and? the filter was basically sucking air) ?when I arrived to the original owners home to help disassemble and move.? On a side note, the two back pockets of the tank, that hold tubing, and as well seems to be separately sealed to hold water on their own, against the back of the tank. <Okay> Looking at the plumbing and stuff, It seemed easy enough to take apart and reassemble in my home.? I now have everything set up, I filled the tank with water, put some water in the filter system (300 Pro Clear wet/dry filterless I think the label said)?.? Plugged in the pump, water being sucked from the filter cavity into the tank via the two back pockets and into the main tank.? Now these pockets also hold water, not sure how much I should have in there of course, up to the water level of the tank?? <Yes... there needs to be enough water in the tank to overflow the weirs (the "pockets") and water in the sump/filter underneath> In any case I am not getting the water to be sucked from the tank into the filter system, for continuous processing, meaning once the pump has sucked all the water into the tank, the filer box is now empty in moments, and no water is returning into the filter box.? There are valves on return tubes into the filter box, I have them both open, still nothing.? <Need to add more water...> Once I turn off power, I get return flow opposite now through the pump, and its rushed back into the filter box.? <Oh!> I have currently unplugged the pump and have attempted a few more tries at getting complete circulation within the tank/filter box...with no luck...Am I missing something here?? <Likely the plumbing is not connected properly... the discharge/s need to either have check valves in them to prevent back-siphoning, or they are not connected to the actual discharge/s currently> Does the filter box / tank/ the two back holding wells have to be full of water for this process to start correctly?? <Not the holding wells, but the filter sump and tank, yes> Do I need to have one of the return into the filter box valves open and one closed maybe when starting this process?? ?I again apologize for these layman types of questions/references.? <The valves should not matter here...> Any advice would be much appreciated.?? ~Joseph <I strongly encourage you to call/contact a local fish store, see if they have someone, or if there is a "fish club" nearby that has a member that will come over and help you where the tank is set-up. Otherwise, you can send some pix and we can try to work this out via the Net. Bob Fenner> Re: Initial setup of Pro Clear 300 wet/dry system 10/14/07 ****I have currently unplugged the pump and have attempted a few more tries at getting complete circulation within the tank/filter box...with no luck...Am I missing something here??**** <Likely the plumbing is not connected properly... the discharge/s need to either have check valves in them to prevent back-siphoning, or they are not connected to the actual discharge/s currently> ----It became obvious to me that the filter hose (could use a check valve, though, one was never installed in the first place) from the pump, which runs into a tee and branches into the two separate weirs (to shoot water into the tank) Once I spliced in a valve, I could now control the flow to and from the tank to keep everything running smoothly. <Good> ****Now these pockets also hold water, not sure how much I should have in there of course, up to the water level of the tank??**** <Yes... there needs to be enough water in the tank to overflow the weirs (the "pockets") and water in the sump/filter underneath> ----And yes the tank overflow now runs into the 'weirs' too... :) <Very good> Thanks again for your time! ~Joseph <Welcome Joseph! BobF> Wet Dry Filter Set Up   2/24/07 Good afternoon... I have a 72 Bow front tank with corner overflow, The Wet Dry dimensions are (24" L X 9"3/4  W X 17" H) with a Rio1700 pump,  I have a Berlin 90 in sump protein skimmer, I have also attached a Fluval 304 canister filter to the tank, and dropped a small Fluval 4 into the sump tank as well for a little water surface movement. I converted a small semi reef tank 35 gallons ( up & running for about 2 years ). I took its entire contents, about 40lbs live rock, 35 lbs live sand and the tanks water, into the 72 bow front, added the difference in water volume, then added another 35lbs of live rock and another 20lbs of live sand. <Good> I have read so many articles on bio balls and nitrates... my mind is numb! <How'd you like to write them?> My questions are: should I leave it there till the tank matures a bit? <Not a bad idea... and if I owned them already, I would> It is currently only a month old as it stands. What other wet dry media can I use???? Ceramic pieces? add another 20-30 lbs of live rock in my sump to replace the bio balls? or should I use both types of media? <Either, could... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaq2.htm and possibly the next linked FAQs file in order> I figure, and please correct me if I am wrong, that I see it as one big water change... since I basically took my 35 gallon semi reef and planted its entire contents in my slightly larger tank. <Mmm, okay> Oh... by the way, I did of course transfer the inhabitants of the smaller tank and added a Yellow Tang and a Mandarin. So, the residents of the bow front tank are: Yellow Tang Mandarin Fire Shrimp Cleaner Shrimp Coral Banded Shrimp <Do keep your eye on this Stenopid> 2 Black Percula Clowns ( 1.5" each in length ) 1 Atlantic Bubble Anemone 2 Mexican Snails Small Blue Damsel Small Sargent Major Damsel Stripped Damsel Sally Lightfoot Crab Small Green Crab Thank you for your time and hopeful assistance Regards! Marcello <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

New 220 Gal. And Filtration Options - 01/13/2006 Hello to all my fish friends. I love your site. <Hi there Lora, glad you've enjoyed it!> Ok I just got a 220 gallon tank from my husband yesterday, that I have been wanting for a long time. <Sweet!> Anyway, I'm not sure what type of filtration system I should put in it. I have a 55 gal. with power filters on it, but I'm not sure if I can use them on such a large tank of this size. <Depends on how many gal. they are rated for.> My fear of using a wet/dry or a sump is that in a power outage which happens occasionally during bad weather is that I will come home to a flooded living room, by the power going out or a mechanical problems from the pumps. <Many safety precautions can be taken when setting these up to avoid this. Is this tank drilled already? If so, I would definitely go the sump/wet-dry route.> I'm someone who would worry all day while I'm not home that my tank has let all the water out. Can you help me with this problem. <You would really need to consult our FAQ's on this. Too much info to cover in e-mail. The two things that will give you trouble are overfilling your system, and a syphon being created by your returns. Both are easily avoided. Allow your tank to fill the sump to a desired level with the return pump off. Start the pump (the water level will drop) and mark the new level. This is your max fill line when performing changes and top-offs. Returns should be allowed to take in air when ever the tank stops running (as main tank level starts to drain). This breaks the syphon so they don't continue to empty your tank. Many little "tricks" you can use.> I just need clarification on what would be the best for my tank and the safest for my house. <With a little research and careful planning, you would be perfectly fine using an under the tank filter.> The local pet store is telling my husband that I need a wet/dry system with a sump. But you know how most of them are only want to line their pockets. <Too often the case.> I respect your advise and will be waiting on a reply before I buy anything else for this system. <The versatility and convenience of the sump/wet-dry would be my choice. All the info seems confusing at first, but keep reading and re-reading. When you get that "eureka" moment, all the rest will fall into place.> Have a great day Lora Frakes Coordination of Benefits <Hope this helps put you on the right path. - Josh>

- Setting Up a Wet/Dry - Hi, I hope that you can help. I just purchased a new aquarium with the holes drilled in the bottom and it came with an Aqua Clear Aquatics Wet Dry pro 200 filter. The directions are horrible. I have no clue how to set it up. Can you point me somewhere to help with the setup headache? <Hmm... trouble. Aquanetics is no longer in business...  and they're probably the folks who wrote those instructions. Other than how the filter unit itself if assembled, the plumbing should be fairly simple - the overflow in the tank should have a bulkhead fitting, and to this you will attach PVC pipe of appropriate size and plumb this from the tank to the input side of the wet/dry. From the wet/dry you'll need to, with the aid of a pump get the water back up to the tank. Again, some PVC plumbing work and you should be done. Hard to say more specifically as I'm not familiar with this unit. Do inquire at the store where you bought this stuff... they should be able to provide some help.> Thanks!  Van <Cheers, J -- >

- Setting Up a Wet/Dry, Follow-up - Hi J <Hi.> Thanks for your reply! <My pleasure.> I really appreciate it. <I'm glad I can help.> The store wasn't much help, but I got it figured out. The skimmer is what I was having trouble with setting up... it's built into the filter. I do have another question that you might be able to answer... I rinsed everything really well before putting it in the tank and I got some cloudiness, which I somewhat expected. I added the salt on Tuesday night and it's still a little cloudy. I did I do something wrong? <Hard to say.> I thought that the filter would have cleared it up by now. Is there something I can do to correct the problem? <Perhaps this is either air coming into the system somehow or dust from your gravel/sand if that's been put in the tank already. Give it some time - it should clear up.> Thanks for all your help!  Van <Cheers, J -- >

- Tide Pool Filter - Hi' my name is Ryan I just bought a tide pool bio-wheel used and I need instructions on hooking it up right. Can't seem to get a suction on the back hanger, without having air bubble in the tube running to both things. <I'm not sure I follow exactly... "the tube running to both things" - what does that mean? It seems to me that you might not have the correct means for getting water out of your tank and into this filter. You should be using an overflow box if you aren't already - trying to run with filter with a direct siphon will be a source of great trouble.> Please help if able to do so.              Thanks Ryan <Cheers, J -- > Changing to a wet/dry filter I am switching from a hang on filter with a bio wheel to a wet/dry filter. How long should I leave the old filter in place until the new filter develops the bacteria needed to sustain the tank?  <Chris, just put the bio-wheel itself in your sump for a couple weeks. James (Salty Dog)><<I'd overlap the filters for a few weeks. RMF>>

WET/DRY Hello everyone! <Ughh...noon is too early to be awake> I want to make this simple but enough info that you can help my particular inquiry. I have a 90 gallon...with 100lbs. Of live rock. Crushed coral substrate. 10 fish- royal Gramma, 2 ocellaris clowns, 1 flame hawk, sailfin blenny, ruby-headed fairy wrasse, coral beauty, Red Sea purple tang, hippo tang, mandarin. All doing very well. Beginning to stock with very easy, hardy corals. That's all I have a desire to keep. Starburst polyps doing great. <I'm assuming Tubastrea spp.? They need daily feeding if so> Also have 10 gallon refugium. Indo-Pacific Sea Farms has been a great help in stocking this with algae and critters. It has a deep sand bed. First very fine then fine. About 4 inches. Algae are Halimeda, Ulva, Gracilaria, Red kelp. My equipment consists of a Turboflotor skimmer, UV, and a Tidepool wet dry. Which leads me to my question...  I bought Mr. Fenner¹s book (The Conscientious Marine Aquarist) and was reading about filters. I am wondering about the feasibility of SLOWLY taking out the bio balls and bio-wheel to avoid future build up of nitrates. (I think this is why Mr. Fenner does not think too highly of wet dry filtration for reefs). <You're correct. The wet\dry in an aquarium likes yours is redundant, and can contribute to high nitrates in the future, though with your DSB it may not be a problem. If you plan on adding corals and no more fish, I would remove it, but if you are going to have a heavily stocked mostly-FO tank, you may consider leaving it> I would leave the pre-filter trays in place of course and still use the sump, etc. My pump does 500 gallons per hour and I have two rotating powerheads each doing another 270 gallons per hour. My nitrate is zero....yes the tank is young....6 months. <I would seriously up the water flow in your aquarium...possibly build a manifold\closed loop...Anthony has written tons of good info about manifolds on his forum @ Reef Central> I cycled my tank with live rock and initially that nitrate just hung out at 30. But after much patience it dropped after a couple of months to zero. I do regular cleanings once a week of the substrate and 10% water change and clean most all pre-filters. I am purchasing from IPSF the Surfzone Live Sand Activator Plus. Would adding this each time I took out say, four cell-pore media balls compensate enough that may tank would not go through a mini-cycle? I certainly don¹t want to crash the aquarium, but do want to try to get rid of these if possible. Surely not all my bacteria are in that cell pore material and bio-wheel, right? <With 100lbs of live rock, you should be able to remove 1\4th of your media per week. You're right, not all, and probably not even most, of the nitrifying bacteria\organisms are living in your wet dry - most are going to inhabit your live rock\sand. Monitor your water quality after the removal, but I am betting you won't see any adverse effects> Oh, and when I get that sand from IPSF, how long should I shut off that UV while I wait for the good bacteria to find a home? <I wouldn't run a UV sterilizer in a reef tank at all - but they're fine in FOWLR> Thank you for your time put into this question.  <You're welcome> Sincerely, Renee' <M. Maddox> 

Oceanic trickle filter 150 I just purchased a 150 gallon aquarium. It has 2 overflow boxes one on each side. In the bottom of each overflow box, there are two pre drilled holes. Each one is a different size. The tank come with an Oceanic trickle filter 150. I have no idea how to hook up this filter. Could you please draw me a diagram and help me out? I am totally clueless. <Mmm, you need more help than this... I encourage you to either have a/the shop come by, hire a service company, or join a hobbyist club, have someone who knows what they're doing locally come by and check out what you have, help you with your options... The small hole in these tower/overflows are for return lines, the larger ones for directing water into sumps, pressurized filters... elsewhere> I have tried all of the aquarium shops where I live and no one has seen a filter like this before. I found your website while looking for instructions on this filter and thought maybe you could help, because I haven't found anyone else who can. <You might try Oceanic, the manufacturer... but as stated, this will only get you "part of the answer/s"... How to say this to a new friend...? You may be aware of steps A, B, perhaps some of the C's... but know that there is much more of the alphabet to consider... If no other source of help is available, read until you understand what you're up to... After "doing this" for many years I assure you the only way to be successful, satisfied is to understand what your choices are, the rationale behind them... not to "cook book" one set of ideas. Bob Fenner> 

Wet/dry cycle Hi Bob <<Hi Robert!>> I just got my wet/dry filter up and running and I must say, getting the water levels right was a hoot. My question is, how long will it need to cycle to get the bacteria bed growing before I turn off my cartridge filter? Thanks Robert <<I would give it a few weeks to become "seeded" and functioning. Unless your cartridge is the wet/dry type it likely doesn't do as much as you think compare to the W/D, but do be safe! Wouldn't hurt to test water w/cartridge and after it's off in case you need to change some water. W/D will tend to produce nitrates, so watch for this. Just proceed slowly, let caution be your guide. It can't hurt to have them both running until all is set. Enjoy! Craig>>

Re: Wet/Dry Setup Dear Sir, Thanks for the response. I have attached a picture for you to look at. I should have done that the first time. Sorry. Mike B <No worries, Mike. I would probably try to tuck the heater into the first compartment, where the skimmer and drain lines come into, and place any chemical media beside the sponge filter under the W/D section. -Steven Pro>

Re: more help please dear bob thank you very much for your help u r an inspiration to us all, I hope as I get older (I'm only 18) my knowledge will be the same as yours. <You will become yourself my friend> as always I am very grateful cheers Alex ps would you definitely get rid of at least one tang and the porkfish is there any more or will they be fine <S/b fine. Bob Fenner> ____________________ dear bob how long would it take for the filter to reset itself (trickle filter) when I move it. <If the media kept moist, almost no time... not detectable> would it help if I put a Fluval 404 onto the tank which is from another marine tank which has been setup for over a year, <Yes> should I put the fish in or ask my LFS to store them (at my own risk). I will move the fish in a carry box and put an airstone in it when I arrive home, and I will follow the instructions in your faq, if you could please answer the question on the filters I would be very grateful, sorry to bother you again but no one around here knows the answers, so I am turning to you in the hope you do, anyway thanks for your help no matter what. thank you again, Alex <You will soon know the answers and share them with others. Bob Fenner>

New Wet/ Dry Filter Sorry this is my second email today but I forgot to ask - Is there any danger(s) in changing a wet/dry filter to a brand new unit with a tank that has been running with livestock over the last four months?  <hmmm... can you move the mature media over? if so... little trouble then> It's a 75 gal with 90 lbs of Live rock, 4 fish and 15 soft corals. I am currently running an Amiracle Proline with a hang on Skimmer. I have come to the realization that this product wasn't cutting it ( not enough production on the protein skimmer -1/2 cup every three weeks) <indeed... if the skimmer did not yield a full cup of skimmate almost daily then it was under performing> even though it designed for an aquarium twice its size.  <size rating has little to do with actual performance> I am upgrading to Kent's BioRocker with their Nautilus TE in sump protein skimmer. Will this change harm any of my livestock?? Sorry to bother you again- Ronald <truthfully, the tank will fare as well or better with a good skimmer and love rock than a wet dry trickle filter (nitrate production). Best regards, Anthony>

Wet/Dry Conversion Gentlemen: I am somewhat new to the saltwater aquarium hobby and could use some help. I currently have an 80 gallon, salt water, fish only tank. It has no live sand, just crushed coral, and maybe 20 lbs of cured live rock in it. I am running a Fluval 404 with everything that comes with it for media, an Aquaclear 500 power filter with Nitrasorb and Chemipure in it and a CPR protein skimmer. The tank is cycled and running fine. Now, I want to convert over to a wet/dry filter and just purchased an Aqua Clear Aquatics Pro 200 Wet/Dry filtration system. And this is where all the questions begin. Are there definite advantages to converting over to a wet/dry system? <There can be, primarily for large fish-only systems with heavy bioloads (big, messy eaters) or for commercial applications.> I am growing tired of having to disconnect all the hoses for the canister filter to clean and maintain it and am told that the wet/dry system is more efficient, easier to clean, and is healthier for the aquarium and it's occupants in general. <I would agree somewhat. I do want to mention for many instances I prefer to use live rock for biological filtration.> How do I phase in the wet/dry system while leaving the existing system intact and not cause the tank to re-cycle? <Merely add the W/D and continue to use everything for one to two months and then you could remove the canister with little worry.> And I guess, most importantly, how do I set the blessed thing up? <According to manufacturer's directions, preferably with drilled holes and bulkhead fittings vs. a siphon overflow system. Do look over the www.WetWebMedia.com site for additional information and tips.> Thank you so much for your help! T. Michael Basciano <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

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