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Marine

In most respects, decisions pertaining to Aquarium design will be the same for both Salt and Freshwater fish tanks. There are however a few important differences.

One often overlooked factor in fish tank design is surface area to volume ratio. This is an important issue for both salt and freshwater hobbyists. In any natural body of water, most especially in the seas and oceans of the world the ratio of its surface area to the volume of water beneath is much larger than it can ever be in an Aquarium for obvious practical reasons. Consequently, gaseous exchange, the process by which the by-products of the breakdown of Aquarium waste are released into the air and fresh oxygen returned to the water is inhibited. In short, the greater the surface area to volume ratio the better and we should always attempt to design tanks which are at least half as wide as they are long.

The height of your fish tank is another important consideration. Over recent years, we have noticed a trend toward higher tanks and feel people should be made aware of the problems implicit in this kind of design. Increasing the height of an aquarium without a proportional increase in its other dimensions will decrease the surface area to volume ration and make it more difficult for toxic gasses to leave the aquarium water; consequently a greater amount of aeration/circulation will be required. A second and perhaps more obvious point is that once the height of a fish tank exceeds two feet, (61cm) it becomes difficult to reach the bottom in which case normal aquarium maintenance can become problematic. It is always a good idea to think about the kind of tasks you are likely to be performing regularly and keep these in mind when designing the Aquarium system.

Of course increasing the height of an aquarium and therefore the volume of water it will hold, places more stress on the panes and joints. Whoever ultimately builds your fish tank, make sure they are aware of the increased pressure a high aquarium will need to deal with and that they select materials and manufacturing techniques appropriately.

Finally, a taller than average aquarium requires a commensurately greater amount of light to effectively reach the lower levels of the tank. This fact is equally applicable to both freshwater and marine aquarists but is of vital importance to those planning to house live coral and photosynthetic invertebrates. Live coral derives much of its energy from light and therefore requires both a greater amount of light as well as having more exacting requirements in relation to the spectrum of light. When designing an aquarium, consider the lighting requirements of its intended inhabitants. If you plan on placing photosynthesizing sessile, (immobile) invertebrates on or near the base of the aquarium and the Aquarium is very deep, you are going to need a very powerful light source in order for enough light to penetrate to the required depth.

Probably the most important difference between fresh and salt water fish tank design is that a marine tank is likely to employ some kind of sump beneath it to house external filtration equipment. The employment of a sump will in most cases necessitate drilling at least one hole in the main aquarium in order for water to drain into the sump where it is treated, prior to being returned to the tank. It is not always necessary to drill a hole in the tank. It is possible to employ an overflow box in order to feed water from the display tank into the sump. While these devices do work, in our opinion, drilling the tank still represents the best option in terms of price, aesthetics, (siphon boxes are not particularly attractive and hang on the side of the tank) and above all safety. A plumbed-in tank/sump design is far less likely to fail where the failure of the overflow box system can result in the sump being pumped dry and the pumps and other equipment burning out.

When designing a tank and sump setup, ensure that the aquarium sump has sufficient capacity to hold the water which will drain out of the main display tank when the pump is switched off. With the pump off, water in the main tank will drain down to the level of the overflow inlet and the water level in the sump will rise considerably; make sure your sump can handle it. Aquarium and sump design are limited only by sound engineering principles and your imagination but remember it can be a good idea to keep things simple. Excessively complicated PVC plumbing arrangements can lead to problems and reduction in flow rates if the PVC pipes feature too many sharp bends. Consider which side of the fish tank is the least visible and place the overflow hole there. Also think about the shape and design of the weir wall, the glass panels which surround the overflow baffle and pipes. Weir walls can consist of a single pane of glass running diagonally from the rear of the tank to the side or a three panelled box arrangement or indeed any other design. Sometimes the weir is enclosed at the top, sometimes it is left open; the design is up to you. The overflow pipe within the weir wall is subject to variation and may consist of a simple pipe or a more complex arrangement designed to reduce noise. Some aquarists drill a second hole in the main aquarium for the return pipe or even multiple drains and returns; once again, the design is up to you.

Having an aquarium sump bestows a number of significant advantages. Apart from the ability to conceal external filtration equipment, the sump actually increases the volume of the fish tank allowing a greater amount of livestock to be housed. The sump also permits the addition of equipment which would otherwise be too large or unwieldy to deploy directly in the display tank. Temperature control can be a real issue for the marine aquarist. Multiple pumps and high intensity lighting tend to raise the ambient temperature of the aquarium water and force the hobbyist to take steps to counter this rise. Once an optional accessory, the aquarium chiller is virtually essential for the Australian marine aquarist nowadays, especially during summer. Along with the temperature issue is a concurrent problem with evaporation. Employing a sump allows the saltwater aquarist to add a top up tank which can be controlled by a float switch and thereby alleviates the necessity of constantly adding water to the aquarium. The top up tank should be filled with reverse osmosis filtered water and is refilled less frequently, allowing for the automatic addition of fresh water to the system.

The range of aquarium equipment available to the marine aquarist is staggering. There are far too many options pertaining to aquarium lighting and filtration to go into here. We hope this brief introduction will get you thinking about salt water fish tank and sump design. Should you have any questions pertaining to any aspect of marine or reef aquarium keeping don’t hesitate to CONTACT US.

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