My Latest Project – part two.


The finished product. I still want to re-work the 4 inch outlet pipe.

Following my discovery of the ongoing leaks in the rebuilt 100 gallon Skippy Filter, I opted to replace this set up with a completely new one albeit basically the same system. This way, I could re-use some of the parts I had purchased to rebuild the original one.

My first item on the agenda was a trip to Dripping Springs and Tractor Supply to purchase a new 100 gallon Rubbermaid tank. Amazingly enough, the price had not gone up from the last one I bought which had to be at least 5 years ago. I brought it home and prepared to start work on the new project.

First thing was to unload all of the lava rock which I had bagged up and then shovel out the small amount of loose stuff from the original rebuilt filter. I removed the grate and the plumbing bringing me back to just the tank and the outlet pipe. My original intent was to remove the 4 inch outlet pipe from this tank and reuse it on the new one but when I tried to unbolt it, the bolts were so corroded they would not budge. This got me looking at the new tank and I discovered that the manufacturers had changed their design and there was not a single flat area I could use to install the 4 inch outlet pipe. The only alternative was to install two 2 inch outlet pipes and either run them into a 4 inch pipe or have two separate 2 inch outlet pipes.

I opted for the first idea and made a trip to Lowes to purchase the necessary plumbing materials. I laid everything out prior to starting work on the new tank to  make sure that my ideas would work but something about the project really bothered me. I was concerned that the new tank did not have the really flat areas to install the outlet pipes and that it would lead to more leaks without a flat surface. I was also bothered by the fact that I was getting ready to spend and maybe waste, around $200 on a new tank and plumbing materials just for the sake of a very small leak in the original setup. The last thought really made up my mind so I loaded up the car with the new tank and the recently purchased plumbing materials and returned both to their respective stores.

Feeling better about myself and the project as a whole, I decided that I would once again try to patch the leaky tank. I also reasoned that if I rebuilt the base on which the original tank was sitting, the tank would have a much better chance with the patches as it would not be subject to the additional stresses caused by the settlement of the original four concrete blocks which probably not only caused the cracks but also created a situation where bye they were forced open by the stress. Not being able to remove the 4 inch outlet without a lot of work, I opted to cut the pipe to just a small piece extending from the tank. This way, I was able to move the tank completely out of the way while I went about the task of rebuilding the base. First though, it required another trip to Lowes to get the concrete blocks for the rebuild. I use a lot of blocks as support for the pond plants and they also make good safety tunnels for the fish to hide out in case of a Heron attack. The only drawback with the blocks is as I grow older, they are getting much heavier…Hard to believe that at one time in my life, I laid bricks and blocks for a living as I was trained as a Bricklayer in my youth. They weren’t that heavy back then.

I built the base by digging out the dirt and placing the blocks next to each other so that it was level all the way around. I made it just a little bigger than the bottom of the tank and ended up with a solid block slab. Then I turned my attention to the tank and spent some time in making another repair using the same rubber adhesive and liner patch as before. Satisfied with that part of the project, I moved the tank back onto the new concrete base and positioned it where I needed it which was in a different position and on a different angle than before.

The next part of the project was really straightforward as I had already bagged up the Lava Rock and cut the grate to size and it only took a few minutes to reinstall the materials back into the tank. Because of the new location, I had to do some work on the inlet but that was straightforward plumbing. I temporarily hooked up the 4 inch outlet as I have plans to change that just a little but I wanted to turn it on and test it out. It performs perfectly and as far as I can see, there are no leaks. Now all that is left is to re-work the 4 inch outlet pipe and add a few rocks to make it less obtrusive.

It was a good decision on my part to re-work and repair the old tank and save myself $200. For once in my long life, I used my brain instead of just tearing ahead as I have so many times in the past. Must be getting smarter (and definitely weaker) in my old age…



My Latest Project.


The Skippy Filter on the Goldfish Pond.

I have three large “Skippy” filters on three different ponds and a couple of smaller ones on the goldfish ponds. They are simple to construct and do a very good job of helping to clean the water. Basically, water is pumped into the tank through a system that feeds through the bottom allowing the water to rise up through the filter material and flows out through a 4 inch pipe back into the pond either directly or through a waterfall.. I use 1 1/2 inch pipe to  pump the water in and in my case, a 1200 gph pump located in the skimmer box.

Basically, mine are built using a 100 gallon Rubbermaid tank that I buy from the Tractor Supply store, one of my most favorite places to visit. I have mentioned before that in real life, I missed out and should have been something related to the land like a Farmer or Wildlife Warden hence my liking for Tractor Supply. I guess I am compensating in a different way. Anyway, Tractor Supply carries these Rubbermaid tanks in different sizes and I have found that the 100 gallon size is just right for my purposes. I also have three of the 80 gallon size that I use to keep pond plants in as I am getting them ready to put into the ponds or to over winter them.

The tank on the 5000 gallon pond developed a leak very close to the drain plug that is built into the tank. It was only the very faintest of cracks but enough that it was constantly dripping. Over time, this would amount to a lot of wasted water (and money) so I decided that I would do a repair job on it.

I shut it down and drained the water back into the pond  and disconnected the plumbing. I then emptied the filter material which in this case was Lava Rock loosely stacked inside of the tank.I was surprised how clean the rock was as I expected it to be pretty muddy considering that the system had been in place for at least 10 years. Turns out that most of the mud was in the bottom water chamber built into the system. I finished cleaning out the muck and put it on the garden as it is basically fish poop and full of good garden nutrients. After washing out the tank, I turned my attention to finding the leak from the inside as I already knew where it was generally located from the dripping water on the outside.

I found what I thought was the crack. It was about 3 inches long and in a difficult place to repair. Being a Rubbermaid tank and with the basic material rubber, I opted for a tire repair kit to see if it would seal the leak. I have a small electric hand sander which I used to prepare the area, cleaning and roughing up the rubber tank material and after cutting a patch from a small piece of pond liner (another rubber material), I carefully applied the adhesive and after waiting the appropriate time for the glue to dry, applied the patch over the crack.

The repair was as good as I could get it and I went about the task of putting the filter back together. I like to build a chamber where the inlet pipes are located to give the water a chance to flow freely before it rises up into the filter material. The old material that I had used for this chamber (a wire shelf cut to size) was not in very good shape after many years under water so I decided that I would replace it with better and stronger stuff. This meant a trip to Cedar park, around 30 miles one way, to visit one of the Pond Society sponsors, Hill Country Water Gardens, to purchase the proper material. I needed a 2 by 4 piece of plastic grating and a 4 by 4 piece of plastic mesh to put on top of the grating to stop smaller pieces of the lava rock from filling the chamber below. Even though it is a long way to go, I really like visiting this place as it has so much cool stuff. I should mention that prior to making the trip, I put enough water into the tank to cover the repair to test the leak and it seemed to be holding up.

The next day, I carefully cut the grate to size followed by a piece of mesh also cut to size and after replacing the fill pipe from the original setup, installed the grate and mesh into the tank on strategically placed bricks for support after making sure that the tank was level and well supported although I had not moved if from its original place. I opted to buy some mesh Laundry bags from a couple of the local stores and to load them with the lava material as it it had been a real bitch to dig out this time around. As I filled the bags, I placed them onto the grating inside the tank until I had enough for my purpose. I used loose lava rock to fill in any holes between the bags. After reconnecting the original plumbing, I turned the pump back on to see if everything was working  as it should and that it was not leaking . It appeared to be OK so I left it running overnight.

The next day, to my dismay, I discovered that there was a second leak that had not been visible the first time around. I figured that probably loading the tank with the lava rock and with its additional weight, had distorted the tank enough for the second leak to show up. I left it for a couple of days but it was only getting worse and was really bothering me to waste that water, even small drops at a time. I decided that I would do the job over this time with a new tank but that is a different story. You could say, part two…

It’s Hot out there…while building a Skippy Filter

The finished unit

The finished unit

I got up early today with the view of getting outside and working a bit while it was cooler. That is, if you call 80 degrees cool as it quickly warms up here in my part of Texas. The overnight low was 74 and the forecast was for it to be at least a 100 degrees and could go as high as 104.

I had a couple of small projects that I wanted to get done. After the success of changing out the filter material in the big ponds and the small ponds filter systems to Lava Rock, I really wanted to do the same thing for the rest of the filters that I have located on the various ponds.

So, this morning I started out by building a new Skippy filter using a 20 gallon tub. I needed to do some work to it first like drill a hole and install the 2 inch drain system. I found a 2 inch fitting that reduced to 1 1/2 inch threaded fitting that had a flat area wide enough to take a rubber washer. I cut the washers (2) out of an old piece of liner material and placed both of them over the threaded end. I followed up with a thin layer of Plumbers Putty and then placed it through the hole with the threaded area inside the tub. On the threaded area, I didn’t have a washer large enough to fit over the 1 1/2 inch screw fitting so I had to make do with a piece of hard plastic from a storage box that I had also cut out a 1 1/2 inch hole. I secured the whole thing with a threaded ring washer used on electrical conduit. It worked perfectly and after tightening the whole thing up I finished it by placing 2 inch Tee fitting set parallel to the pond level so that water could flow out both sides.

Showing the 2 inch Tee

Showing the 2 inch Tee

In the bottom, I needed to make a water chamber so that the water would have a free flow as it came out before rising up through the lava rock to the drain. For this, I use 2 layers of plastic fluorescent light grid cut to shape and set up on 2 bricks, one either side of the pipe. The pipe itself is 2 inch and is set like an inverted Tee. On the ends of the Tee were 90 degree opposing elbows to create a flow of water. The center upright stands just above the rim of the tube and is eventually connected to the pipe from the pump. The theory is that the water comes in the top and then circulates from the bottom so that it comes through the Lava Rock and out the drain and back into the pond. The Lava Rock traps the dirt pretty efficiently. The 100 gallon one that I have installed on the big pond has really cleaned up that water. Incidentally, it works well to not glue the elbow situated on the top of the inverted Tee. This allows for easy removal of the grid when it is time to clean the unit. Otherwise, the center hole has to be pretty big to slide the grid over the elbow.

Lava Rock

Lava Rock

After completing the construction, with the final hook ups done in place, I filled it with 2 bags of the Lava Rock and then turned on the water to check that it worked properly. Satisfied with my work, I turned my attention to the old existing Skippy filter. I wanted to move it to a different location so that I could feed it with the main pump which is why I opted to build a new unit giving me more time to move the existing filter which is powered by a separate pump and contains the old filter material which I am replacing with the Lava Rock.

Showing the outlet

Showing the outlet

Moving it from its current location turned out to be easier than I had anticipated. Using mostly brute force and the judicious placing of a short 2 x 6, I moved it out onto the path and maneuvered it onto my dolly to be wheeled to the pond nursery area where I start all of the new pond plants. I will remove the Iris currently growing in it, clean it out and make any repairs that are needed and re-use it on one of the other ponds. With it gone, I was able to spend time on tightening up the electric fencing around that pond. I have fencing powered by a doggie shocker around all of my ponds to keep the Herons and Raccoons away from the very large Koi. You can see the fences in the pictures although they barely register with me as I am so used to them.

Now that I have a “spare” 20 gallon filter unit, I can take my time in preparing it to replace one or the other of the 2 existing ones that I have left, both of which have pretty extensive growths of Iris and Orange Canna. I may wait until the winter when the growth had died down before working on these two. As I pointed out above, the current “spare” unit also has a large growth of Iris in it which I need to dig out and re-plant somewhere or I might just give the Iris away. By the way, I do NOT plan on planting anything in the new filters. I would prefer they do not get enmeshed with roots even though the roots also act as a filter.

It took me all day to complete the project, I had to take a break and go to Home Depot for the fluorescent light grid as I was out of it but this only took about 30 minutes. Needless to say, my car would not drive past the Starbucks in Bee Cave so I had to humor it and buy a small latte. This tied me over until around 4:00 pm when I stopped for a tea break, but other than that, I was at it all the time. Funnily enough, even though it was a 100+ degrees, I never felt at any time that it was too hot to finish the project. I made sure I had plenty of water and I had liberally applied sun block and I was working in the shade for most of the time.

Must be getting used to the heat…..again.

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