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Homemade Filter

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Posted by Lynn_DeVries on January 11, 2003 at 02:30:35:

I have a tried and true filter system that I thought some of you may find interesting, it goes like this...
Start with your main tank ie. plastic stock tank 100 gal. on up. put a 1.5 inch bulkhead fitting (tank fitting, available at most farm stores like FLEET FARM) on the side near the bottom. connect that to another 1.5 inch bulkhead fitting that is in the side of a 55gal plastic barrel near the bottom. Have the tank and the barrel both sitting on the floor. Connect the 2 together using 1.5 inch PVC pipe. The pipe should be level between the 2 containers. Now fill the tank to the desired level (don't fill it to full). since water seeks its own level the barrel will fill to the same depth. Got it so far?
Then on the BARREL install another 1.5 inch bulkhead fitting at the same height as your water line and connect that to a drain or run it on the ground if the set-up is outside.
In the barrel set a plastic pail or tub that will sit about 4inches below the waters surface. In that pail put a SUBMERSIBLE POND pump not a sump pump or a water pump from the hardware store but a SUBMERSIBLE POND pump (also available at FLEET FARM). These pumps are made to SUCK water through a filter, many pumps are made to PUSH water and if you Starve them or make them work to hard to get the water they burn out. I burned out several before I figured it out.
Then fill the pail, not the barrel just the pail with very course aquarium gravel or sifted pea rock. sift it to get the little rocks out, they will clog things up. Then put the hose from the pump up and over into the tank. I fasten the hose above the waters surface so the water hits the surface of the tank water, this keeps the surface clear and prevents a layer of protiens from forming, we usually call that scum.
Now this part is very important and will keep this thing going. You must install a strainer on the inside of the tank, they screw right into the bulkhead fitting. A snappers foot or a Crocs tail acts as a flap and will suck right over the bulkhead fitting if you don't use a strainer and the result is...your pump will pump the barrel empty and burn out the pump. I only did that once :-)
You will be tempted to use fine gravel, DON'T it is not needed and will just get clogged.
How this works:
The pump sucks water through the gravel and pumps it into the tank thereby causing water to pass through the 1.5 inch pipe from the tank to the barrel, and so it goes round and round.
1-The power can go out and when it comes back on the system starts again without having to do ANYTHING like start a siphon. It's automatic.
2- It can't overflow! If you do it right.
I know your thinking..."But Lynn, you still have to do partial water changes every week, Right?" Actually, no, not if you run a hose connected to a faucett to the barrel and fasten it in place then put a sprinkler timer on it. set the sprinkler timer to turn on for 15 minutes in the middle of the night or when no one is home (that way you dont find yourself in the shower when the timer turns on). This will keep the water fresh and you don't have to do weekly water changes. When the gravel gets dirty just unplug the pump and pull out the pail of gravel, pump and all. stick the pump in another pail and fill that pail with clean gravel and set the whole works back in the barrel. Then flush out the dirty gravel and reuse it for the next time.
1-This system is meant for turtles and Crocs, not fish. when the fresh water turns on it will intoduce Chlorine into the system that will kill fish. I have never had a problem with it harming turtles or Crocs.
2-experiment with the length of time you have the fresh water turn on. If you let it run to long it will lower the overall water temp of your tank and drastically fluctuating your water temp daily is not some thing the turtles or Crocs will care for.
3- Never put your hand in water that contains any operating electrical device. UNPLUG EVERYTHING,EVERYTIME. I only did that once too!
4-I am not rsponsible for overflows or accidents of any kind. Be carefull and remember water is 8lbs per gallon. so don't set up the 800 gal stock tank upstairs or it might be downstairs in the morning.
5- Don't use to big of a pump. If you get a big pump then you must increase the size of the bulkheads and the pipe. I use a 200 gallon per hour pump.
A few FAQ:
1-How often do you have to clean the gravel?
Answer: depends on the number of animals in the tank and how often they are being fed. I have several of these systems set-up and for example. One system is maintaining 10 4-5 foot alligators and caimen and I swap the gravel pail once every 2 weeks. you can hook up a backflush hose to the pump and run water backwards through the gravel thereby eliminating the need to change the gravel at all...but that is another chapter.
2- Can you put a heater in the barrel, thereby eliminating Snapper and heater contact?
Answer: Yes, But don't melt the barrel.
3- What kinds of animals are you using this system for?
Answer: Alligators, Spec Caimen, Smooth front Caimen, Dwarf Caimen, Nile Crocodiles, Common Snappers, Alligator Snappers, African Mud Turtles, Leaf Turtles,Red Eared Sliders.
4- How long have you been using this system?
Answer: 6 years
5- What kind of filtration does this system provide? Mechanical,Chemical or Biological?
Answer: Mechanical only. It keeps the water crystal clear. The fresh water turning on every day for 15 minutes keeps it fresh, you can add a bag of carbon for Chemical filtration if you wish, but I don't. There is some Biological filtration as the bacteria grow on the gravels surface but I don't rely on it.
6- Can you hook up multiple tanks to one barrel?
Answer: Yes, but remember that turtles from different countries should not be housed together and if they are sharing a filter barrel then they are sharing pathogens and UV Sterilization of the water may become something you need to do, and UV sterilizers can be expensive.
If I missed anything I will add it on another post. Hope this helps, Lynn

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