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Selecting a water pump for the task


There are many different water pumps around, which are designed to do specific jobs, and a wide variety of prices being asked. Water pumps are an essential part of our lives in many different ways, from the central heating system to the drinking water. If you look around they are everywhere!

So, how does this influence our aquarium choices? It may be possible to save a lot of money with a little thought and ingenuity!

What do we need pumps for? Here are some of the common reasons we look for pumps:

  • We are setting up a rack of tanks with a sump filter;
  • We are linking several tanks together to increase the total capacity;
  • We want to add a water feature to an aquarium/pond;
  • The type of fish we have demand strong currents;
  • We want to improve the existing filtration;

Let’s look at what you want to do and why you are looking for a pump. Most aquariums have powered filters which use a small impeller to force the water through the filter. This is a simple, quiet and cheap form of pump and quite sufficient for its requirements in filtering and creating a current inside your aquarium, but there are times when you need more current or more power and this type of pump is limited in the ways it can be adapted.

The design doesn’t lend to lifting water any height for example, as most of these units are designed to be either on the same level as the water, or just below. You can’t use a filter type pump to lift water from a lower tank to a higher one effectively because it isn’t designed to do so. If you wanted to connect two tanks together with one large filter, it creates a series of complex challenges, especially if they are at different heights. Look at this example:

I have two 40 gallon tanks, one large canister filter and very little money. I wanted to connect the two onto the filter, since it was large enough to cope with the bio-load, but, I only had enough room for one tank above the other. The filter couldn’t lift the water from it’s shelf under the bottom tank to the top tank, the pump wasn’t strong enough.

What I needed here was a second pump to lift the water up to the top tank. An in-line pump was ideal here, connected into the outlet from the filter to push the water up to the top. These can be purchased if you are lucky enough to find a supplier, but I found a cheaper method which was just as effective. With some minor adaptation, an old washing machine supplied the pump I needed, and at a fraction of the cost! I simply coupled the drain pump into the outlet piping and this provided the extra lift I needed. The total cost was just £1.50 for a couple of clips! The water was returned from the top to the bottom through an overflow so the job was done. I now had an 80 gallon system of two tanks with a shared canister filter.

In this example I was able to bring a second tank into use at minimal cost and have more stable water conditions because of the increase in total volume of water.

The above is just an example of how we can save money and create effective displays without incurring huge costs. If you have basic DIY skills, saving money is simple!

Now, let’s get back to the subject. There are many different types of pump, each one designed with a purpose. Most contain fish-safe plastic components which makes them ideal for our needs. From a small submersed fountain pump to the larger dirty water lift pumps, they are able to perform the job required of them.

When looking for a pump, you need to have in mind what you need it to do, how much water it has to move and how high it will have to lift. These are crucial to getting the right pump.

My fish house has three sump filters and nearly 200 tanks. The water is pumped from the sumps to the tanks via three dirty water pumps, submerged in the sump. They are able to take 1 1/2” (40mm) plastic waste pipe, which makes the fitting and operation of them very easy and cheap. Each one has a capacity of up to 100L per minute and can lift the water up to 10M vertically. These pumps cost around £50.00 each, although you can pay much more for them, depending on where you buy them. These are ideal for the purpose I intended, and will run continuously without any problems.

You can control the flow rate on the outlet side of any water pump safely, so long as the inlet is left unrestricted. This means that any taps or control valves need to be on the outlet side, so I could use those large pumps quite safely to supply one tank or 50, as long as the water has free access to the inlet.

One point to mention: If the pump is going to be submerged, make sure that it is designed to do so, and if there is a risk of the fish coming into contact with the intake make sure it is pre-filtered to avoid sucking the little fellows in!

You can waste a lot of money by buying the wrong tools for the job in hand, so take your time to find the right one to start with. Always buy bigger than you need if you can. As shown above, there are pumps all around us already, and many can be utilized in the aquarists’ hobby with a little inguinuity. If you see the need for a pump, look around you first and see if there isn’t one laying around that will serve your purpose!

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