Tuning a Bean Animal overflow for perfect flow

Tuning a bean animal overflow is easy … once you see how it’s done.

While there is a ton of info online about setting up a bean animal overflow. And a lot of written info about how to get it dialed in.

But it’s MUCH easier to understand what is meant by ‘properly dialed in’ when you can actually see one running.

The problem is a lack of videos showing what properly, and improperly, tuned bean animal looks like.

Watch the following videos and you’ll see just how easy tuning a bean animal overflow can be.

Given the incredible volume of information that’s already available online about assembling a bean animal overflow, I won’t go into any detail on it in this post.

If you do need info on setting one up, I recommend starting with this Bean Animal Overflow thread on ReefCentral.com. It’s a VERY long read, but it’s packed full of information.

Now, let’s get ready to tune that overflow.

There Are Three Methods of Tuning a Bean Animal Overflow

The first way to tune the flow of a bean animal is by using the valve on your siphon line.

Gate valves are more expensive than ball valves but they are also MUCH easier to make fine adjustment to. That’s why experienced bean animal users HIGHLY recommend spend the extra money on a gate valve. Ball valves will work but take a VERY gentle and patient hand to adjust. (Turning the handle 1/16″ on a ball valve increases flow much more than on it does on a gate valve.)

The second is by adjusting the flow control on your DC return pump … if you have one.

The third is by adjusting the valve on you siphon line until you get the flow close to ‘perfect’, then using the flow control on your DC return pump to ‘fine tune’ it.

A DC return pump is NOT required for using or tuning a bean animal overflow.

All that is needed is that valve on your siphon line.

Time to start tuning!

Close your valve all the way, then open it up 1/4 of the way.

Turn on your return pump and watch flow in your overflow box.

Your Bean Animal is ‘Under’ Tuned If It Looks Like This:

An under-tuned bean animal. The valve needs to be opened more.

In this situation it is flowing too slow.

Open the valve a little bit at a time until the siphon pipe is flowing without any gurgling or bubbles coming out of it … AND just small trickle of water is running down your open channel pipe. It should be almost silent.

Your Bean Animal is ‘Over’ Tuned If It Looks Like This:

An over-tuned bean animal. The valve needs to be closed more.

In this case it is flowing too fast.

Close the valve a little bit at a time, until the siphon pipe is flowing without any gurgling or bubbles coming out of it … AND just small trickle of water is almost silently running down your open channel pipe.

You’ve Tuned Your Bean Animal Just Right If It Looks Like This:

A well-tuned bean animal. Just one or two ‘gurgle cycles’ at start-up. Then, within a few minutes, it stabilizes and maintains a consistent water level in the overflow box.

Notice how, after just 2-3 minutes, the water level remains even about 1/4 of the way up horizontal section of the middle pipe — which is the open channel pipe on this setup.

Once you’ve got it dialed it in, it’s time to test it…

Shut off your return pump. Wait a few minutes until no more water is draining down your sump. Then turn you return pump back on.

After one or two major gurgling cycles, you BA overflow should stabilize and run steady just like in the video.

If it did, congratulations! You’re done tuning your bean animal overflow and have it dialed in right where it should be.

If not, don’t worry, you’re very, very close…

Fine Tune It

If it takes too long to stabilize, just fine tune it very gently a bit more … using the tiniest of turns to your valve … the same as described above. The slightest tap to the valve handle is all it may take. Be gentle and patient with each adjustment — we’re talking a 1/16″ of an inch or less in some instances.

And if you do have a DC return pump, this is where it can come in handy. Making fine adjustments on the pump controller may be easier than making them with the siphon valve.

Once it’s running with a fine trickle down the ‘trickle’ pipe, test it once more just to make sure it starts up, stabilizes quickly, and flows just the way you want it.

When it comes to overflows, nothing beats a bean animal set-up for safety, reliability, capacity, or silence.

You’ve made a great choice in using one. And now that you can tune it, it’ll be one of the most worry-free parts of your set up.

Building a Plywood Aquarium Stand

A plywood aquarium stand is a great option for setting up a new aquarium.

Plywood is an affordable material. It’s readily available. It’s incredibly strong. And you can use it to build a stand without bulky 2×4 framing–giving you much more room for equipment in your stand.

Pre-made stands, like those that come with Red Sea or Waterbox aquariums, will give you an idea of the type structural support a tank you size will need.

They typically make their stands out of MDF. Plywood gives you just as much support if not more.

Here’s how I made a stand out of plywood for the new 65 gallon aquarium I’m setting up…

I made it in my garage with a few handheld power tools: a miter saw, circular saw, jigsaw, router, drill and palm-sander.

The body of the stand is made from 3/4 inch plywood.

1/2″ thick plywood would have been more than adequate for a 65g tank.

However, red oak grain will match other furniture in the same room. And neither Home Depot or Lowe’s had full 4′ x 8′ sheets in 1/2″ red oak.

Home Depot had 3/4″ red oak plywood so that’s what I used.

I rabbeted the the front and back panels along the edges that would mate with the side panels. This was done to ensure a rock-solid joint was formed when they were glued and screwed together.

cutting plywood panels
Cutting the panels for my plywood aquarium stand.

1″ x 2″ sub-framing pieces were then glued and screwed along the top and bottom of the front, back, and both side panels.

attaching the sub-framing
Attaching the 1″ x 2″ sub-framing to the inside of the front panel. Notice the rabbets that were cut in the edges for the side panels to mate into.

The sub-framing will support the bottom panel of the cabinet.

It also provided material to screw into when I joined the front and back panels to the side panels, and the top to the cabinet body.

In this picture you can see the plywood ‘box’ assembled. It also gives you a good look at the 1″x2″ sub-framing. Note that the long 1″x2″ running the length of the stand beneath the two plywood cross-beams is actually a trim piece along the back of a shelf that’s hidden by the front panel in this picture.

stand with framing
Plywood stand showing the 1″ x 2″ sub-framing as well as two plywood cross-beams to help support the top when it’s attached. And Penny, the job supervisor.

That by the way is Penny, the job supervisor. She’s a real stickler for garage/shop safety.

Similar framing supports the bottom panel.Next, decorative trim pieces were made with various widths of 1/4″ and 1/2″ thick red oak boards from Home Depot.

The doors were attached using euro-style Blum 95 degree blind-corner hinges.

The top was made from three 10″ x 1″ red oak planks that I cut to width and length, glued together, and then sanded smooth.

The top is smooth but NOT perfectly flat because I do not have a planar. So the aquarium will sit on a 1/2″ thick piece of rigid insulation foam. This will ensure the slightly uneven surface of the top does not create stress points on the bottom of the tank when it’s filled.

The cabinet was stained and finished with three coats of water-based polyurethane.

cabinet doors
Staining the cabinet doors.
Cabinet front before the doors were mounted.
Cabinet front before the doors were mounted.
Inside of the cabinet.
View of the inside.
Back of the cabinet.
The back of the cabinet.
Finished stand with copper pipe light rack.
The finished stand along with a DIY light rack made from copper pipe.
Finished stand, doors open.
A peak at the inside. The Blum hinges I used are ‘clip ons’. Simply press a tab on the hinges and doors pop off for easier access to the inside. Then just snap ’em right back on.

This write up on the stand I made for my 24 gallon aquarium. gives you an even more detailed look at how to build a plywood aquarium stand.

Filter Floss: When to Replace It for Optimal Aquarium Health

A common question among new aquarium owners is, “How often should I replace my filter floss?”

And one of the most common answers you’ll see on popular reef keeping forums is “every 2 to 3 days”.

There are two slight problems with this rote piece of advice though:

  1. It could cost you extra money. And,
  2. It could starve your tank.

Every tank is unique, including yours. Just because changing the filter floss every 3 days works best on another person’s tank doesn’t mean it will work best for yours.

How often you change your filter floss will depend on your bio-load and the maturity of your tank.

filter floss cut into strips
Filter floss cut into 1 inch strips for placement between sump baffles.

Consider a new tank that is less than three months old…

Changing the filter floss too often could deprive the bacteria and other microscopic critters of the food they need to develop. This may result in your tank taking longer to mature than usual.

Likewise, changing filter floss too often in a established, mature tank could strip the water of too many nutrients causing the coral to starve.

So where does the common ‘2 to 3 days’ come into play?

As a starting point.

Filter floss isn’t needed until you reach your desired nutrient levels. Phosphate of 0.03 ppm and nitrate of 1 to 5 ppm are most typical.

Once your tank is at your desired nutrient levels begin using filter floss.

For the next 4 to 6 weeks replace it every three days.

Be sure to test your phosphates and nitrates at least twice a week during this period.


Let Your Tank ‘Tell’ You When to Change the Filter Floss

If your nutrients continue to rise during the test period switch to replacing it every 2 days – and consider adding additional filtration such as a skimmer and/or granular activated carbon if you don’t already use them.

If your nutrients hold steady or drop closer to zero during the test period, try replacing the filter floss every five days.

Keep testing for 4 to 6 weeks.

If the nutrients continue to hold stable or drop, bump the replacement schedule out to once a week.

Keep testing. And keep bumping the schedule out.

When your nutrients start to rise a little, stop and switch back to the previous schedule. Congratulations! You’ve found your filter floss replacement ‘sweet spot’.

For example, if they were stable when you replaced the floss every 7 days (once a week) but started to rise when you replaced it every 9 days, stop. 7 days is your replacement ‘sweet spot’.

Changing it more often than 7 days would just be wasting money. And waiting longer than 7 days will cause your nutrient levels to rise.

What if your able to go for several weeks without replacing the floss and still see no rise in your nutrient levels?

Well then you may not need to use filter floss at all. It would indicate the other biological and/or mechanical filtration in your system is more than enough to keep your nutrient levels in check.