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Water Feature Basics and Tips

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Quote Originally Posted by deranged chipmunk View Post
This thread will be about something i get many questions on, water features. now, this isn't really a complicated thing to do, and there is not a single way to do it, but there are some things that need to be considered when designing and building one. and those are the things i will go over in this section.

a water feature can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose to make it, but every water features have the same common parts. a water reservoir, a pump and some tubing. that is it, there's not much more to it. the water reservoir only has one main criteria, it has to be deep enough for the intake of whatever pump you are using to draw water from. the reservoir can be made from a false bottom, or a leca layer, it doesn't really matter, as long as the intake of the pump can draw water, it's good.

the tubing just needs to run to wherever you want the water to exit and start flowing. where it goes from there, whether it be a drip wall, waterfall, stream, whatever is limited only by your imagination and creativity, so that won't be discussed here.

the main piece of the puzzle is the pump. there are many options for this. you can use a canister filter, which requires a bit more creativity and ingenuity, very easily. just make sure you purchase one that has some sort of flow control so you can adjust how fast the water flows. most people, however, choose to use and internal, submersible pump, which is perfectly fine, but there are things to consider. most people look for the gph rating, or gallons per hour. this should be your second consideration. the first thing you need to think about is the head height of the pump. this specification refers to the maximum height (vertically) that the pump can push water. a lot of people buy pumps with a high gph rating, but a low head height, and then cannot figure out why the pump isn't flowing in their 24" water feature. i always recommend going 1.5 times the height of your planned feature. so if you are planning a water feature that will exit at 12" above the bottom of the TANK (not substrate), then you should look for a pump with a head height of at least 18". this will ensure you pump can easily push the water the height that you need. easy enough huh?

the last few tidbits of advice i will offer about water features:

do NOT think you will be controlling the water down your water feature. water will go where it wants to and you will have no say about it whatsoever, unless you build a feature similar to a rain spout. otherwise, it WILL go where it wants to.

test your water feature BEFORE you finish building your tank. and test it a LOT!!! i constantly preach test, test, test!! building tanks is not a race. as long as your animal, whether a frog, a lizard, whatever is in a stable environment while you are building your tank, DO NOT RUSH!! better to have it right BEFORE you introduce the animal rather than after the animal is living in there.

keep in mind the erosion factor. moving water, not matter the volume or flow, WILL cause erosion. plan for it!! coverings like silicone and cocofiber will NOT hold up under running water. titebond and cocofiber will NOT hold up either. it will last longer than silicone, but only a little while longer. silicone will seal wherever you have water flowing, but will be a dull hazy look, not very natural. waterproof paints like drylok are outstanding for this application, as are 2 part epoxies, such as the products that gorilla glue and permatex offer.they dry rock hard, shiny clear (wet look, perfect!) and will not leech chemicals into the tank. marine epoxies are also excellent, but a bit pricey to use for a small application.

lastly, if you already built your tank and now see that your water feature is out of your control, instead of tearing the tank apart, consider working with the water. aquatic mosses, like java or christmas mosses will love the water flowing over the sides. aquatic/marginal plant will enjoy the boggy areas of your substrate created by your overflowing or errant water.

as you can see, water features aren't really that difficult, as long as you plan ahead. and don't forget to TEST, TEST, TEST!! and when you are done testing, test again!! test before you build the background. test after you build the background. test after you add hardscape. then, when you are satisfied with what you built, test it again!!!
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