Let’s Mix it Up! Designing and Using a Water Mixing Station

homer1475

Figuring out the hobby one coral at a time
View Badges
Joined
Apr 24, 2018
Messages
3,630
Reaction score
5,302
Location
Way upstate NY
With them ontop of each other and being closed off, I'm not sure.

perhaps put another T with a ball valve, below B and above C. Slowly add water butt you add salt so it washes into the container? Not sure how this would work in practice, but sounds good in theory.
 

|Tom the Bomb|

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Apr 6, 2020
Messages
113
Reaction score
97
Location
Toronto, ON, Canada

Let’s Mix it Up!

There is one undeniable fact in this hobby – WE ALL NEED WATER! In fact, two types of water. Clean fresh water (FW) run through a quality RODI system and the obvious saltwater (SW). Secondly, we all know what a water change is. This is not an article on whether or not water changes are required or necessary, nor is it an article to discuss frequency. Your research and ultimate reefing philosophy will determine those answers for you.

Water changes can be done using something as simple as a 5 gallon bucket. If that is how you currently do it, and you’re okay with that, you can stop reading and move on. But if you’re looking for something a little more formal, and might I add potentially easier, you may want to continue reading. I’ll try not to bore your too much!

My personal goal was to never lift another bucket again…simple as that. So I started searching the internet for ideas. Between Google, forums, Yourtube and Mytube, I quickly realized I didn’t need to recreate the wheel. There is a plethora of designs out there to choose from…pick one. Remember, imitation is the highest form a flattery!

The most critical component of making water is obviously the RODI unit. All I will say is, if you don’t have one yet, get one! I am of the opinion that having control of your water is vital. Making your own (nothing against LFS’s, I love mine) is about the only way to insure you know the exact quality of your water.

The Equipment

Subject to the design you choose, here’s a simple breakdown of what you will and/or may need:

  • RODI unit you already have or will be buying (hint-hint)
  • A shut-off valve and float switch – no flooding necessary!
  • Water storage containers with lids – two of them preferably
    • One for FW, and one for new SW
    • These should be food-grade quality containers, preferably they will be NSF Approved
    • Size determined by your needs/system capacity
    • The grey Brute trash cans are very common and often used
    • Although more costly, the water storage containers found online and in farm supply stores work nicely as well
  • Plumbing
    • I like to use good old PVC (we usually have some laying around anyway right)
    • Ball valves, T’s, Elbows and Unions
  • Connections – Plumbing in to container walls and/or tops
    • Bulkheads for flat surfaces
    • Uniseals for curved surfaces
  • Pump for mixing
    • If designed properly, you can use one pump for mixing and distribution
  • Powerhead and Heater – resides in the SW container
  • A switched Power strip for easy control (optional)
  • Hose long enough to reach your display/sump/top-off reservoir
    • Or if you have the ability to hard plumb to your display, even better.
The Location

Obviously this will be unique to your environment. My biggest suggestion is in a controlled environment, meaning it’s heated and/or cooled depending on your climate. If you’re lucky enough to have a fish room, then it’s pretty obvious! If not, then maybe it’s a spare closet, the laundry room, the garage or basement may work if temperatures are at least somewhat stable. Note: Garages and basements, particularly non-insulated ones, can cause issues with RODI unit production during extreme temperatures, so choose your space wisely.

You may have to get creative. In my case, my wife wanted me to redo the foyer. Through intense negotiations (which I rarely win) I was able to commandeer the coat closet that had become the dumping grounds for all things junk. I took that space, which happened to back to our laundry room. So she got a new foyer and I got the perfect spot for a mixing station. Use your creativity and you’ll be surprised what you can come up with.

One thing you do have to keep in mind is access to water supply and drainage. That RODI unit you already had or will be getting soon (hint-hint) doesn’t come with its own water! That’s why a laundry room works great. You’ll have both the supply and drain for the washing machine right there at your disposal.

The Assembly

By now, you should have already flattered someone by using their design, but here is a breakdown of the basics. To try to make this easier, the image below is a picture of mine just after setting it up. I’ve labeled things and will refer to this image moving forward.

3.jpg

You can see my RODI unit mounted above. The lettered items are “equipment” and the numbered items are “valves”. This is merely for reference and by no means the only (or best for that matter) way of putting together a mixing station.
The main idea of doing all this is to mix and move water, so at a minimum, your new mixing station should be able to:
  • Transfer water between containers
  • Pump/circulate water within the SW mixing container for well, mixing!
  • Pump both FW and SW to the display and/or top-off reservoir.
  • You will want to be able to empty the containers in case of prolonged power outage or a visit from Mr. Murphy - the inevitable pump failure.
In both containers, you’ll need a connection towards the bottom. In the SW container, you’ll also want one towards the top of the container. This will allow circulation within the container for mixing. Your containers will determine how this accomplished – uniseal or bulkhead.

The Operations – (Using the picture above for reference)

Your RODI system will produce FW and be stored in the first container A. You will use this FW for top-offs, as well as supply your second container B with water that will become your new SW after mixing. With this design, and the turning of a few valves, pump C does all the work. Said differently, no more buckets!!! So let’s move some water:

For discussion purposes, assume all valves are closed (like pictured) at the beginning of each task – represented by numbered items below. I would recommend closing all valves at the end of any task to lessen the chances of cross-contaminating the FW and SW. You will also need a hose with a ball valve on the output end. Again, if you can hard plumb to your display/sump/ATO reservoir, all the better.

  1. Move FW to top-off reservoir in the stand under display (in my case)
    • Attach hose to the outlet of valve 2 (there is a hose bib converter on the end of that valve)
    • Open valves 2 and 4, turn on pump C to fill reservoir via hose
  2. Move FW to the SW container Bfor mixing
    1. o Open valve 1 and valve 4, turn on pump C to pump over to container B.
  3. Mixing new SW
    • o Put salt into container B
    • o Open valve 1 and valve 3, turn on pump C and begin mixing salt via circulation
    • Editor Note: In my case, I built a shelf over my mixing station, so I purchased the hopper D to add salt. Totally unnecessary if you have access to the top of your container.
  4. Move SW to Display for Water Change
    • Open valves 2 and valve 3, turn on pump C to pump SW to display via hose
  5. Empty Containers without pump due to power outage or visit from Mr. Murphy
    • Attached hose to end of either valve 5 or 6, and open the valve. Gravity will do its thing
Heating:

I have a heater inside container B. I only heat just prior to using the SW. Some will argue this is not necessary dependent on the quantity of your water change, which may very well be true. But since I have the heater already, I just try to match the display.

Water Storage and Continued Mixing:

This is another area of debate among hobbyists. We’ve all seen the threads asking “How long can I keep mixed saltwater?” And “Should I keep it mixed”. There are far too many choices/options to discuss here. Me personally, I mix up about 50 gallons at a time. I mix and heat just prior to performing a water change.

When it comes to storing your RODI water, the important factor is to keep it sealed as tightly as possible. Very simply put, RODI water has been stripped of all things bad, and if allowed, it will try to grab those bad things back! So an air tight lid is best and no stirring necessary.

Over time your containers interior may build up some nasty’s and need to be cleaned. An annual cleaning (or more often if necessary) is recommended – let vinegar be your friend.

Extras

You may have noticed on my station a couple things under the RODI unit. In addition to a powerhead and heater, I also have a salinity monitor and thermometer inside the SW container. I didn’t want to drill a hole in the lid, so I came up with this.
4.jpg
Are there fancier ways of doing this, sure? Did I have this stuff already lying amongst my fish stuff, heck yes! It works great and is essentially air tight once the uniseal is capped with the PVC. Lastly, although I do not have a picture, all the interior items in my SW container are zipped tied to a long piece of PVC that rests inside the container. So if need be, I can pull that one piece of PVC out and bring all the equipment with it. That is the one thing I thought of myself!!!

Let your imagination run wild with one goal in mind…what you can do to make things easier on yourself. This hobby can be difficult enough on its own. Something as simple as a well-designed mixing station can make your weekly/bi-weekly/monthly/whenever water changes a little easier.

I hope this has helped at least give you an idea of the what’s and how’s of a mixing station. Don’t be afraid to put yours together. Having control of the water quality will be something you will never regret. Never lifting another bucket isn’t bad either.

Happy Reefing!
Please help me out, whered u get those containers and which pump did you use
 
OP
dbl

dbl

It Takes Less Energy to be Nice
View Badges
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Messages
15,807
Reaction score
87,190
Location
SW Florida
I am starting my "first" (very short failed attempt years ago) reef tank and will use this thread as guide for a scaled down smaller version that suits my apartment. Reefer 170 tank going up so 43 Gal system, 1.2 Gal top off resevoir. So I figure 5 gal weekly water changes and 2-4 gal weekly top off tank demands. This means I only need 5 gallons of SW and 5 gallons of FW on hand every week. I have a BRS 5 stage RO/DI unit I will install under my kitchen sink to cold inlet and drain waste. Conveniently, I have a somewhat dead/wasted space right outside the kitchen sink cabinet I plan on installing this.. which I have yet to find use for given the landlord installed these strange cheap counter tops due to an old radiator on the wall that prevents you from really installing any cabinets down there. This is the perfect place for a small water station!

water_station_measurements.jpg


I plan on using two 5 gallon food grade water containers (15" high x 12" long x 10" wide) stored in this space on a two layer shelf that I will build to fit this space. I bought 4 pack... two for this storage/mixing station and 2 for storage/transport to my tank.


81xuQ6mRmIL._AC_SL1500_.jpg


I'll store one container above the other fresh on top, salt on bottom, laid on their side so that the plumbing can feed the FW container straight down to the SW container using gravity. I'll add valves and an outlet inline before the SW container that fill a bucket or another container with FW as needed. Then have another set of valves and outlet after the SW container to fill buckets with SW as needed. Finally will drill a hole and plumb a line from the side of the SW container out to a pump and back in to the front inlet of SW container with valves to turn access on and off as needed. This will be used to mix the SW as needed.

water_station_flow_diagram.jpg


Excuse the crude diagram.. did it in a rush just to get a plan in my head.

Question I have is how/where to add an access port or opening to add salt to the second container for mixing without it spilling everywhere?
You could use something like a flexible funnel. Pour the salt in and a little RODI water to rinse it in to the container.

 

swiss1939

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
May 6, 2020
Messages
111
Reaction score
150
Location
NYC
With them ontop of each other and being closed off, I'm not sure.

perhaps put another T with a ball valve, below B and above C. Slowly add water butt you add salt so it washes into the container? Not sure how this would work in practice, but sounds good in theory.

Ahh thanks for tip. I was stumped trying to figure out a way to tap into the container itself. Your thought got me to a solution I think would work, similarly to what you suggested. Add an angled T coupler on the down pipe before all the joins into the lower container and higher than the SW container full level.

white-nibco-pvc-fittings-c4810hd332-64_1000.jpg


With the angle pointing upwards I can dump salt into the down pipe without worrying about water flowing out that opening when water is being transferred from top to bottom (as long as the valves are open for the inlet to container below it so that it doesn't back up the down pipe). Then in this way... when preparing to mix salt, I could remove the cap off that angled t coupler, dump raw salt down the transfer pipe, and open the passage to feed fresh into salt container and flush the raw salt in the pipe into the container. Then close all the valves above the second container and open the pump loop to start mixing the salt.
 
OP
dbl

dbl

It Takes Less Energy to be Nice
View Badges
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Messages
15,807
Reaction score
87,190
Location
SW Florida
Please help me out, whered u get those containers and which pump did you use
I ordered mine from www.tankdepot.com. There are other sites as well and even some farm/tractor stores carry them if you have one near you. Shipping can be the killer so you really have to shop them.

I originally had a Little Giant pump that I already had that I used until it eventually died from old age. I now have a Reeflo Snapper that I picked up super cheap. Total overkill but again, it was cheap...lol.
 

FLReef32043

Member
View Badges
Joined
Sep 27, 2018
Messages
54
Reaction score
25
Got my station setup, plumbed and water flowing yesterday. nothing new or innovative but this thread helped immensely.



The top rear valve is for a SW fill line that will run under my house to the tank. It will be joined in the future with an RODI fill to keep the ATO reservoir full -- and me stop carrying buckets. Last 'completion step' will be to move the drain under the house to a french drain in the yard to carry the waste water away. Still debating the utility of keeping that water for some outside function.

20200524 Mixing Station.jpeg
 
OP
dbl

dbl

It Takes Less Energy to be Nice
View Badges
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Messages
15,807
Reaction score
87,190
Location
SW Florida
Best way to get pump and heater wires inside the cap or the top?
20200524_225415.jpg
Screenshot_20200524-183649_Chrome Beta.jpg
Take a look at the first post. I drilled a hole in the tank itself, not the lid, and installed a uniseal. Ran the cords through that and used a short piece of capped PVC as a plug if you will. The PVC was a size smaller than the uniseal to allow room for the cables. Works great and doesn't compromise the lid itself.
 

MrsBugmaster

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Dec 3, 2013
Messages
989
Reaction score
3,067
Location
Indiana
I am building a water mixing station not an auto water change station. No way to run it to my 34 gallon tank. With only a 34 gallon tank I don't need a big container so I ordered these 2 -10 gallon tanks and they will be gravity feed into a brute on wheels to do water changes.
1593352937137.png


My question is can I use these anti-drip couplings and screw them right into the bulk heads of the containers? Or should I put a ball valve on first then these quick connect couplings? I am not sure if these anti-drip couplings will be leak proof long term. I don't want a hose hanging off the front of these all the time as it will be in my laundry room

1593353467822.png
 

lakai

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Sep 22, 2018
Messages
507
Reaction score
504
I am building a water mixing station not an auto water change station. No way to run it to my 34 gallon tank. With only a 34 gallon tank I don't need a big container so I ordered these 2 -10 gallon tanks and they will be gravity feed into a brute on wheels to do water changes.
1593352937137.png


My question is can I use these anti-drip couplings and screw them right into the bulk heads of the containers? Or should I put a ball valve on first then these quick connect couplings? I am not sure if these anti-drip couplings will be leak proof long term. I don't want a hose hanging off the front of these all the time as it will be in my laundry room

1593353467822.png
The flow is horrible with those things and they get clogged up super easy.
 

don_chuwish

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Mar 21, 2012
Messages
2,441
Reaction score
2,532
Location
Southern Oregon
I am building a water mixing station not an auto water change station. No way to run it to my 34 gallon tank. With only a 34 gallon tank I don't need a big container so I ordered these 2 -10 gallon tanks and they will be gravity feed into a brute on wheels to do water changes.
1593352937137.png


My question is can I use these anti-drip couplings and screw them right into the bulk heads of the containers? Or should I put a ball valve on first then these quick connect couplings? I am not sure if these anti-drip couplings will be leak proof long term. I don't want a hose hanging off the front of these all the time as it will be in my laundry room

1593353467822.png
Yes you would want a ball valve first. And yes they do restrict flow - but I find the convenience worth it.
 

Do you use NON-AQUARIUM items on your aquarium?

  • Yes a lot

    Votes: 21 40.4%
  • Yes but very little

    Votes: 20 38.5%
  • No

    Votes: 11 21.2%

Online statistics

Members online
2,149
Guests online
4,227
Total visitors
6,376
Top