A rare situation

2013’s first project: a saltwater mixing barrel

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As I post this our home has three different fishtanks in it comprising nearly a hundred gallons of water volume – a 75 gallon tank, a 14 gallon tank, and an 8 gallon tank – and we’ve plans to add more. You’d probably imagine that doing regular water changes would be a royal pain but for the most part it’s not that bad. The 75g and 8g are freshwater tanks which means that water changes involve slightly treated tap water. The 14g, however, is a saltwater tank. Doing a water change on that tank involves five gallons of RODI-filtered water mixed with an artificial salt blend which is supposed to replicate the minerals found in the ocean. RODI stands for “Reverse Osmosis De-Ionized” which is a filtration process which takes for-friggin’-ever but totally purifies the water. I recently purchased an RODI filter unit so I can make new water at home. Unfortunately the filter only outputs about 60 gallons a day. A water change bucket takes two hours to fill. After that the bucket has to be heated to match the tank temperature, the salt has to be added and dissolved, and preferably the whole mess gets transfered to another bucket so that I’m not mixing in the same bucket into which I’m sticking my non-filtered hands during the actual change. This part of aquarium ownership is indeed a royal pain.

Not anymore! Courtney and I have made a mixing barrel which we’ll use to store thirty gallons of saltwater at a time. Now when I need to do a water change I’ll just pump five gallons into a handy clean bucket. Presto! What was once a half-day of waiting for water disappears and a water change becomes just a few minutes of doing the actual work.

Almost all the pieces for this project. Not pictured: actual barrel.

We used 3/4″ clear PVC to create a water level viewer so we can tell at a glance how much water is available without opening the barrel.

The actual barrel: a 32 gallon Rubbermaid Brute from Home Depot. We’ve used a 1-1/4″ diameter hole saw to make the holes for the water level viewer.

The black circles are Uniseals. These things are awesome. They provide a watertight seal for non-flat surfaces like the curved edge of a barrel.

Quality control status: passed!

The water level viewer is attached by pushing it through the Uniseals.

A view from the inside.

The pump is installed and mostly plumbed. None of this is cemented together so we can take it apart if necessary.

The tap and a five-gallon bucket underneath it.

Finishing off the plumbing to let the water continuously circulate.

Water in the barrel! The hard-to-see line on the level viewer is the minimum water level – any lower and the pump would start sucking in air.

The barrel in its new home in the fish utility room.

Written by Chris

January 14th, 2013 at 4:35 pm

One Response to '2013’s first project: a saltwater mixing barrel'

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  1. I am building a similar setup. If you put a downturned 90 on your mag drive pumps intake to where it is about 1/4″ off of the bottom of the brute can you will be able to pump it almost all of the way out. Nice job though!


    25 Jan 14 at 10:29 am

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