I have mentioned that I can do a water change without every getting my hands wet. Not only that, but I never empty my protein skimmer collection area. How do I do this (or not do this, as the case may be)? I planned a drainage system when I built my house, so that I could conveniently dispose of waste liquids. If you are not designing or building your own house, you can still do the same thing by plumbing into your sanitary drain or by simply venting "gray water" into the ground or woods outside your home.
My drain goes out through the concrete floor of my basement and joins into the drainage system around the foundation of my house which ultimately empties about thirty meters away in the woods. Infrequent water changes put salt and calcium into this drainage system, but drainage water from every significant rain dilutes this to the point that it would be considered fresh by the time it goes into the woods. One salting of a city street in the winter results in a poisoned environment... my water changes of about two hundred gallons per year, when diluted by a year's worth of foundation runoff, result in salinities that are below the amount that I can measure.
My drain configuration is shown in the above figure. The mechanical filter that allows detritus to settle and be sucked off the bottom, doubles as my water change drain. The mechanical filter holds about six gallons of water. When the ball valve is opened (and the pumps are off, so as not to replenish the mechanical filter with additional water from the show tank above) six gallons of water fall through the PVC pipes into the drain. A subfloor trap isolates the output pipe from my "aquarium command center" piping.
Of greater significance is the fact that I have the output of my skimmer plumbed into this system as well. This means that there are never any messy skimmer cups to empty (or forget to empty). The output flows continually down the drain driven by a reinforcing air current from my home made (but better) ETS-like down draft skimmer.
Because air is forced through the system by the force of the falling water in the skimmer, all manner of foul odors would soon perfume my basement were it not for the air tight lid that covers the access bowl.
The access bowl is quite convenient for pouring any excess water that I might have, out into the drain. I'm not really sure what these small bowls are used for in the real world of plumbing, but your local plumbing supply store sells them in the PVC pipe section in several sizes. Mine is about eight inches in diameter and comes with a perforated PVC cover. I in turn cover the perforated cover with a circular rubber sheet to keep it air tight. When ready to use as a waste basin, I simply lift the cover off and pour excess water down the drain.
Keeping a marine aquarium should be a joy, not a hassle. So anything simple that you can do to ease maintenance should be considered. The drain system that I have implemented makes the chore of periodic water changes almost as easy as turning valves and flipping switches, while the necessity of emptying skimmer waste is done away with altogether.
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