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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Tearing down a 75 gallon tank to clean up water

My Overflow box strikes again! This thing is the bane of my carpeting! This time, it caused a flood in a different way. The drain tubes fell out of the tank. They stayed put for over a month, then fell out twice within 6 hours. I don’t get it.

Trying to dry out under the tank. This didn’t work very well. I was told ‘the house stank’ so the tank has to move so the leak can be cleaned up properly.



This is the area where the tubes went. The hoses just slipped into the tank here between the filter and the side of the light hood. The tubes where long enough, it just seemed to work well.

My solution is to simple – put a long deck screw in so I can affix the tubes to the screw so they won’t fall out anymore.

The water left in the tank got put into 2 large totes and a 5 gallon bucket. The Oscars are in one of the tubs. Brother is checking out the fish here.



The tank is sitting on some saw horses so it’s out of the way. I moved the base aside just to get it out of the way. The tank can set on the saw horses just fine while the carpet dries.

The room gets a little bare with the tank missing.

The tank hopefully get all put back together tonight..

The trouble with water

The trouble with water is that it likes the lowest point it can find. In my case, it’s the carpeted floor.

I am struggling with the overflow box.

I found a small pin hole in the top part of the siphon. This only showed when the hole was dry. I guess when it was wet, water couldn’t be pulled through, but dry, air can get through. Some silicone fixed that easy enough.

With that, I got the water flowing again through the siphon.

About 10-15 minutes later, the tank overflows. It looks like with my new, longer tubing routed the way it is along the back of the big tank, air bubbles form and block water flow.

This caused the tank to overflow. Again.

I will try routing the tubes to go into the tank more directly. With no horizontal tubing, the air bubbles should not form.

If THAT doesn’t work, i will find bigger tubing and outlet ports. It’s drilled for a size larger tubing with a reduced outlet port.

If that doesn’t work, I will drill the ports directly into the side of the tank. I will probably take the glass end-cap off and put in acrylic so I can drill it more easily..

Black light in the living room tank.

I added a black light to the living room 75 gallon aquarium tonight. I had the top of the tank cleared off so I could route longer drain tubing and zip-tie it into the tank so I suffer no more floods.
Here I am adding water twcie at the max rate just to test the flow capacity of the Weir Siphon Overflow Box. It can handle the flow. It wants to ‘flush’, which is kinda funny. Fills up the overflow box, quits sucking air, then nice full flow to drain. The two exhuasts took turns on flushing. It looked like a cow getting milked, first one tube, then the other would have lots of water just POOR out.
Half of the missing water has been put back into the tank. Takes a while to fill it up 3 gallons at a time. I could break out the Python and do it that way, but I don’t have the stick on thermometers to match the sink temp to the tank temp. I just do a 3 gallon bucket a day. Let it warm up to room temp and then poor it in.
Black light fish tanks don’t photo to well. you can see the ziptie holding the 2 exhaust tubes from the overflow box for the 4″x4″x4′ tank sitting on top of the big tank. It’s just setting there, full, for the night. No water being pumped in. Trying to leak-test it for a few days before I trust it enough to try again.

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Aqurium Disaster

We woke up Saterday morning to this. Yep, a half empty 75 gallon fish tank.
The culprit is somehow my new Overflow Box. It didn’t seem to leak. The only thing I can think of is that one of the the drain tubes (looped back on itself here to test for leaks) was in a bad spot and caused water to drain out of the tank as opposed to into the tank.
Here I have looped the drain tube onto itself to test for leaks. I filled the overflow box up. Note the water in the box vs the green tank.
Here you can see that the water drained out of the overlow into the tank. So there IS a leak, but it’s on the tank side. Not a big deal, really. There is a joint on the tank side I can’t seem to be able to seal up.

I just can’t figure any better then the tubes weren’t long enough and moved in the middle of the night so water drained out the side of the tank.
I am going to cut longer drain tubes and zip-tie them into the inside of the tank.

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