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Thread: Electric Siphon Starter or What Kind Of Pump Do I Need?

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    DIYFK member MysterioMask's Avatar


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    Electric Siphon Starter or What Kind Of Pump Do I Need?

    Firsty, this is not a troll post. I have asked this question a couple times in other forums and people either call me crazy or a troll.

    For the past month or 2 I have embarked on a project of putting an aquarium into my false fireplace in my house. I am planning to do a Fish with live rock tank, and was hoping to keep it generally free of clutter so I set up a sump tank in the basement with trickle filter and pump to send the water back up to the tank. Anyway because of the way everything is set up it will be difficult to have a hang on the back siphon system to bring the water down to the basement. Also I would very much prefer to not have to drill a hole in the tank, since I would prefer not to void the warrenty and I don't want to break the tank or create a weak point or place where it can leak and once again when its filled with water the fish tank will be hard to fix any problems that may occur in the back given I can barely get my hand all the way back there in even if I take the light off the top of the fireplace.

    My question would be how do I how do I keep a siphon going or start back up whenever I have a power outage. I usually don't have power outages but this last week I had 3 of them 1 which lasted about 12 hours.

    I have thought of 4 solutions but I don't know if they exist or what they might be called. Any help is appreciated.

    1: Have a pump that pulls the water back down and into the sump from the basement. The issue here is having a pump in the basement that will pull the water to the basement and making sure that both pumps are bringing water up and down at the same speed.

    2: Some sort of electronic siphon starting system, which either continuously siphons somehow or starts the siphon up whenever a power outage happens.

    3: A pump in the main tank which pushes water down to the sump and then allows gravity to just pull the water through the pump and down the tube into the sump. I would prefer to be able to have it so the pump shuts itself off after a short time if this happens and just allows gravity to take over to save electricity and avoid extra noise for me and the fish. So I would need either a pump with an auto shut off if they make those, or an electrical device sort of like a timer for turning lights on and off but which only comes on for a few minutes after power is restored to start the siphon going. *I'm not even sure if they make something like that or what its called*

    4: Using a battery back up system to keep my pump in the basement running so if there is a power outage it should never stop pumping even if there is a power outage. *My experiences with battery back ups though isn't so great. Most I have had used at work usually only gives me a couple minutes to shut down a computer if power goes out before the battery back ups shut down so I don't really think a aback ups will keep a pump running for 12 hours.* Also I would prefer to not have to spend more than $100+ or so for a back ups that would last long enough when I can do something else for cheaper.

    I would appreciate any other suggestions or options anyone can think of or telling me what I might need to do to get one of mine to work.


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  2. #2
    DIYFK member Meep's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by MysterioMask Click here to enlarge
    1: Have a pump that pulls the water back down and into the sump from the basement. The issue here is having a pump in the basement that will pull the water to the basement and making sure that both pumps are bringing water up and down at the same speed.
    You will never get them to sync up properly without being driven and controlled by a computer that is constantly monitoring water depth in both the tank and the sump... Any attempt to sync them with say valves, will only be for a short time as they will drift apart in short, a simple drop or rise in barometric pressure will make them drift apart, as will a slew of 1001 other thinks like 'slime' build up in the lines...

    2: Some sort of electronic siphon starting system, which either continuously siphons somehow or starts the siphon up whenever a power outage happens.
    Generally as a good rule of thumb, it's not a good idea to depend on a second electrical device as a backup to an electrical failure... Sure something like a battery backup system the does whatever is great in concept, but not always in reality and you then run into the problem of failure of that backup, batteries fail or drain over time...

    3: A pump in the main tank which pushes water down to the sump and then allows gravity to just pull the water through the pump and down the tube into the sump. I would prefer to be able to have it so the pump shuts itself off after a short time if this happens and just allows gravity to take over to save electricity and avoid extra noise for me and the fish. So I would need either a pump with an auto shut off if they make those, or an electrical device sort of like a timer for turning lights on and off but which only comes on for a few minutes after power is restored to start the siphon going. *I'm not even sure if they make something like that or what its called*
    This is essentially an auto-priming siphon, but as described the flow rate through the pump mechanism would be drastically restricted... Plus you would need the single shot circuit to run it...

    4: Using a battery back up system to keep my pump in the basement running so if there is a power outage it should never stop pumping even if there is a power outage. *My experiences with battery back ups though isn't so great. Most I have had used at work usually only gives me a couple minutes to shut down a computer if power goes out before the battery back ups shut down so I don't really think a aback ups will keep a pump running for 12 hours.* Also I would prefer to not have to spend more than $100+ or so for a back ups that would last long enough when I can do something else for cheaper.
    As you discovered with any decent electrical draw, you would have to invest a significant amount of money into a battery bank to run the pump for any length of time, at that point it's almost worth considering a whole house (or even just select) natural gas or propane auto switching generator...

    I would appreciate any other suggestions or options anyone can think of or telling me what I might need to do to get one of mine to work.
    Honestly drilling the tank and installing the proper overflows is IMO the best option, yeah it will void the warranty of the tank, but realistically for the piece of mind IMO it's worth it... Also a properly drilled tank loses very little integrity, it's only when you drill too close to the edge that you really weaken the tank... Beyond that you are really depending on something else failing, you could rig it up with float switches in the tank so that if the water level gets too high it shuts off the return pump, but that doesn't 'restart' a siphon it just avoids a flood in your fireplace... Although that assumes the float switch works and doesn't fail...

  3. #3
    DIYFK member PaulPerger's Avatar


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    Google "Toms Aqua Lifter". It is an "electric Siphon Regenerator" that is small enough to fit in the tight space. That said, though, you are going to have a heck of a time building an overflow that will work in that tight space. Have you identified what kind of overflow you are planning to build?

    I agree with MEEP, drilling the tank is your best bet...

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    DIYFK member MysterioMask's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by PaulPerger Click here to enlarge
    Google "Toms Aqua Lifter". It is an "electric Siphon Regenerator" that is small enough to fit in the tight space. That said, though, you are going to have a heck of a time building an overflow that will work in that tight space. Have you identified what kind of overflow you are planning to build?

    I agree with MEEP, drilling the tank is your best bet...
    I am not sure I fully understand. Are you asking what kind of hang on overflow will I make? I was just planning to have a overflow for the tube that keeps animals from getting into it inside the tank and the tube would take the water down. Which would work till the power goes out and then comes back on again. Then id just have a flood.

    How would the Aqua Lifter work exactly to accomplish what I need it to do? Is it something that I could put in the basement and have it start the siphon from down there?

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    DIYFK member MysterioMask's Avatar


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    Meep, I am not the most versed in electrical stuff. What is a single shot circuit? Also is there an electric self priming siphon device? Or even a battery one that will work for what I need it to do?

    Also without using hang on back siphon systems or drilling the tank which I understand would be best. What other methods or ideas would work for what I need it to do? If I need to draw out a diagram I can.

    Finally how can I tell whether my tank is tempered glass or not. The last thing id want to do is start to drill into tempered glass.

  6. #6
    DIYFK member PaulPerger's Avatar


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    You are not describing an overflow, you are describing a suction tube... Two VERY different ways of removing water from a tank. However, you want an Overflow, not a suction tube. Suction works with a canister or a HOB filter. With a sump, you want an overflow. BTW... I just realized you are building your sump in the basement. You are going to need quite a powerful pump to pump water from the basement up to the main floor...

    Watch this video... In it Joey explains how an overflow works, and how to build one...


  7. #7
    DIYFK member MysterioMask's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by PaulPerger Click here to enlarge
    You are not describing an overflow, you are describing a suction tube... Two VERY different ways of removing water from a tank. However, you want an Overflow, not a suction tube. Suction works with a canister or a HOB filter. With a sump, you want an overflow. BTW... I just realized you are building your sump in the basement. You are going to need quite a powerful pump to pump water from the basement up to the main floor...

    Watch this video... In it Joey explains how an overflow works, and how to build one...
    I already have a strong enough pump that will bring it from the basement to the tank.


    I was looking at something like *since I cant link yet search on youtube Self-starting siphon with dyed water* but the small test thing I tried out didn't work and I don't trust it working large scale if I cant get it to go on small scale I'm not going to try it on a larger one.

    If I go with the type of overflow you suggested do you think there is enough space above the tank for the taller pipe? also how safe are these. once its in its pretty much going to have to stay?

    Alternatively do they happen to make some sort of circuit device that will shut off when it no longer has power. Someone suggested that I just have something that the pump is plugged into that will pop off once it doesn't have power and wont start back up again till I am actually able to get to it.

  8. #8
    DIYFK member cornclose's Avatar


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    It is possible to do something like this without tank drilling and without an overflow, but by using a syphon. I do it on my tank, there's a small DC pump that starts the syphon, which runs for around 5 seconds and then stops, allowing the syphon to continue.

    On my setup I am using a syphon from the main tank down to a low level sump. However, I added two 24VDC solenoid valves in series within the syphon tube. These valves are powered to open, so if I lose power, they both close. I put two in series simply to avoid a potential situation where if one doesn't seat properly and jams slightly open, it might overflow my sump. Given the MTTF figures for the valves and multiplying those up for two devices in series, I get an astronomically low likelihood of both failing open at the same time and thus ever having my sump overflow upon a power failure. I also have a manual isolation valve in series with the two solenoid valves.

    In addition I have level switches in my sump which control not only the syphon solenoid valves (allowing water into the sump) but also my return pump feeding back to the main tank. The level switches are also wired in a fail safe configuration (if one doesn't operate or sticks on or off, the other is still used for control. Again the likelihood of both failing in the same mode at the same time is astronomically small).

    It's all controlled in tried and tested software via a PLC and once I set the return flow rate to match the syphone rate, we're all done and we have a fail safe system with litle or no pump/valve cyling. It's been in operation for about 4 years now, none stop, and I've never had a flood situation. I have had a failed level switch though, and the system carried on operating safely as designed. Since I have alarms on the system which montor the state changes of the level switches though this was flagged up within minutes of the failure and the switch was replaced within hours of the failure.

    It can be done. It's not common but it does require some effort and some egnineering skills.

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