Articles

The Side Sump

Sump in a side cabinet

A sump was requested for a corner tank. Because there was no room to work in that stand, this sump & refugium was designed to be installed in an adjacent cabinet, providing easy access and more volume to the system. By the way, this is probably my favorite sump because of its uniqueness.

Taking pictures of acrylic sounds easy at first, but for the reader online it can be difficult to see things clearly. So, here is a sketch to help you visualize the unit.

Fragging Tools

Fragging corals is a big part of the hobby. Being able to acquire frags from others has benefits. Corals are shared rather than the constant harvesting of wild colonies in the ocean, and they are already accustomed to dwelling in a closed ecosystem. The giver prunes the colonies in their reef, allowing for better flow. They are able to 'bank' a coral with you in case theirs perishes for whatever reason. The receiver enjoys watching the little piece grow into something beautiful over time, and then will one day be a giver as well.

Over the years, commercial sales have shifted from colony-sized corals to frag-size. Getting bigger colonies is nearly unheard of. Just about anything can be fragged, which is to cut a fragment off the bigger colony.  I have a general rule: I won't frag a frag. I'm more of a hoarder, preferring to grow them into big colonies but from time to time I have to cave in and snip a few piece here and there.

How to mix & change saltwater correctly

Water changes are a task we rarely relish. Some swear by them, and others do them sporadically throughout the year. While water changing philosophies vary from hobbyist to hobbyist, the bottom line is that water changes can benefit your livestock. They are the easiest way to improve water quality and also are one of the most inexpensive solutions when trying to solve a chemistry problem in the system. Before I continue, I do have to admit that, years ago, I was one of those guys who swore that water changes were unnecessary because water parameters were testing perfectly on a weekly basis. What changed my opinion were two things: 1) there are things you can't test for, and 2) the livestock's positive response to an influx of fresh saltwater.

Cooling with fans

I'm based in Texas and have been in the hobby since 1998.  In all that time, I've never used a chiller for my tanks.  I prefer to keep the room temperature comfortable for me around the clock, and thus my aquariums have never gotten overheated.  However, in the summer months it always helps to use cooling fans.  They are economical, relatively silent and take up little space.

Acrylic work: Routing Acrylic Projects

Working with acrylic isn't very hard, but you do have to be meticulous. Straight cuts are important, and the smoother the edges you achieve, the better your joints will bond. Many people wonder how sumps are assembled and don't realize that the bonding agent literally welds the two pieces into one piece with a chemical reaction that melts and merges the material. You need a triple cut (ATB) blade with 80 or more teeth for a clean edge.

I use Weld-On #3 for my joints, and #16 for gaps as well as in seams that I feel need a little more reinforcement. Looking for extended tips at the local hobby shop, I was able to force a long nozzle on the #16 to better control the amount of glue coming out because it had a smaller diameter tip.

Acrylic work: Routing Top Flange

There are a few ways to accomplish the top flange (the rim or one-piece euro-brace) of a sump. Originally, I would build the sump, squeeze in pieces of wood inside the upper edge of the sump, and use a router with a ball bearing guide to trace the lumber. This was tedious, and cutting wood for each sump would end up costing too much.

Later I bought an Edge-Guide that mounts to the router. Once the sump was built, I could use the edge guide to follow the outer periphery of the sump while the bit cut out the opening. This is fine, but it is possible to make an error, or even damage the sump if the center piece drops inwards too hard. Plus the sump would fill up with shavings that had to be removed afterwards. Some images of this procedure are included on this page when you scroll down quite a bit.

Wiring outlets safely

Having electrical outlets over open water is risky, and if you can do anything to reduce that risk, I think it's worth it. Water can make contact a variety of ways: A pump squirting upward, a big splash when you drop something or when livestock decides to jump, or even during something mundane like a waterchange and the hose accidentally floods our outlets as you move it from point A to point B. On top of that, salty air occurs around the clock due to evaporation, and when the climate calls for it, condensation can occur on and in those outlets. Has any of this struck a chord with you? Think about how your electrical is currenlty set up, and if you know something needs doing, don't delay. Saltwater and electricity often equals fire, and that means loss of life and property.

Older videos

Over the years I uploaded videos to my website for sharing, because I never thought YouTube would catch on.  Wink 

Here are the links since they are locally hosted on Melev's Reef.  If you can't play them directly, Right Click and Save As. Most of these are quite short, and some have fun music that would never be accepted if I reuploaded them to other sharing sites. The music was a refreshing throwback to what was popular a few years ago, and I was surprised to find I had about sixty videos amassed in this directory.

Videos are organized by catagory.  Enjoy.

D-D AquaScape Putty

When it comes to securing corals in our tanks, we need to use putty when super glue gel won't suffice. The 2-part epoxy putty offered by D-D The Aquarium Solution is the brand I recommend most. It is reef-safe, comes in a coralline-pink color, and lasts a long time. I often refer to it as "Deltec putty" so if you are having trouble finding some, try that name instead.

Acrylic work: Routing teeth

How would you like to route some teeth for a baffle of your sump? Here is one of the methods I've used.

You could create a "jig" that is re-useable, such as the thumbnail to the right.  It provides me with a series of grooves for the router bit's shaft to trace, but over time it melts the material of the jig and has to be replaced.  This is a good choice for a few uses, at most.