Aquaponics Solids Lifting Siphon Overflow Box AKA Johnny Jump Box

It all started with a chat on the homepage of aquaponicscommunity.com with Johnny and Paul. Johnny  said he was trying to figure out how to make a solids lifting siphon overflow box. Now, at first I didn’t think it could be done – having built a weir siphon overflow box in the past. But than I got to thinking… Which lead to a drawing…

drawing of a Solids Lifting Siphon Overflow Box
Drawing of a Solids Lifting Siphon Overflow Box

Which lead to a construction project… using only stuff I had laying around.

You see, I had been wanting to add a sump – a smaller tank under a big fish tank that holds water – to my 75 gallon aquaponics system so that the water level in the main tank stays the same level (and to push the water over 100 gallons and the bragging rights that go with it). But to do that, I would need to build an overflow box. This would tank a fair amount of time and work, and more silicone that I have on hand to finish, using the methods I had already tried...

But not my Fountain Soda Solids Lifting Siphon Overflow Box.

Fountain Soda Solids Lifting Siphon Overflow Box
Fountain Soda Solids Lifting Siphon Overflow Box

A solids lifting siphon overflow box will pull water from the bottom of the tank, where all the fish poo settles. This is a big deal for large aquaponics systems. Not so much a big deal for me right now, as there is only 2 fish in this particular aquarium.

The Jack Dempsey
The Jack Dempsey

But, I digress… what happens in a Siphon Overflow Box is that the water level rises in an aquarium to a certain height where the water flows out of the overflow box into the sump.

Plastic tote as a sump
Plastic tote as a sump

What makes mine unique, is that I made it out of a leftover fountain soda cup. It’s what I had for a water holding container. I would have made a plexi box, but I was lazy and don’t have enough silicone on hand to make it. So I drilled a hole in the bottom of a cup that is just a smidgeon too small for the tubing and pushed hard. This gave me nearly a water tight seal, so a dab of silicone finished the job.

Near watertight joint without silicone
Near watertight joint without silicone

The tube that goes through the bottom of the cup (overflow box) is the stand pipe, which sets the height of the water in the aquarium.

The top tube is the stand pipe, the bottom tube the siphon from the aquarium.
The top tube is the stand pipe, the bottom tube the siphon from the aquarium.

Just trim the tube to the right hight, and you can control the water level in the aquarium. I’ve got it set so it’s just above the bottom of the plastic trim on the top of the tank. The water level rises a bit as the grow bed drains into the aquarium, so I wanted it to be as low as I could and still have the aquarium look full.

These nippers made reaching down and trimming the top of the tube easy.
These nippers made reaching down and trimming the top of the tube easy.

So, with the addition of my super-fancy soda cup aquarium siphon, I now have 1 more thing in my Aquaponics system to go wrong and leak water all over the place. Being an expert in making leaks. I have held up the pickup tube for the water pump so it won’t pump all 30 gallons of water onto my basement floor. It should only be about 10 gallons!

Holding the pickup tube up high to minimize flooding when the siphon fails.
Holding the pickup tube up high to minimize flooding when the siphon fails.

I put the siphon out where I can futz with it and it looks tacky as all get out. When I get the bugs all sorted out, it’s going against the wall side of the tank so it’s less visible.

The Aquaponics corner in the laBOREtory
The Aquaponics corner in the laBOREtory

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6 Replies to “Aquaponics Solids Lifting Siphon Overflow Box AKA Johnny Jump Box”

  1. Very clever! Thank you for sharing. How do you keep the tank system topped off? I lose alot of water to evaporation in my tank, even with a top.

  2. Jason, the sump ‘soaks’ up the varations in water level due to evaporation. The 30 (now 60) gallon sump is good for well over a month for me.

    I do top off maybe once a week or two. I have a large carbon filter that I hook up to my tap that removes chlorine from water. But what I did before I got that was use a 2nd bucket or tote that I would put water in and let it sit there until the next time I needed to top water off. That way the water had enough time to offgas the chlorine.

    1. mike the only issue that I see and I think you raised is that this siphon can potentially drain your entire aquarium if there is no inflow
      I wonder if you drill a hole in the solid lifter pipe around 2 inches below desired water level perhaps with a debris / fish guard. It will suck some water out granted but more importantly when the water level falls to that hieght it will suck air and break the siphon

      franklin

      1. The stand pipe in the overflow box sets the water level when there is no inflow. See photo 6.

        With the growbed above the tank above being an ebb and flow, the last thing I want is to break my siphon. When my pump plugs up it can take a day for the bed to cycle. If I lost siphon during this time, when it does dump, it would overflow the tank – I know, I had a snail plug the stand pipe once and there is more water in the grow bed than I have room available at the top of the tank at my current stand pipe height.

        Worse comes to worse, there is a ‘low’ siphon setting outside the tank inside the overflow box. The siphon tube is an inverted ‘J’ so the short end would break the siphon when the water got down about 10 inches low. This would put me at over half a tank of water, so if caught in a day or two would not result in too much distress to the fish.

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