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How To Quiet A Noisy Aquarium
An aquarium represents a small, contained section of a large ocean, a raging river, or a tidal pool teeming with life. It’s like taking a cube of the underwater environment, and containing it so that we can infinitely enjoy all its complexities, while still being able to breathe!
And given that the underwater environment is silent (actually it’s very noisy, but we perceive it as silent), the last thing we want in our display is a noisy aquarium. or aquariums. I will say that we currently have 4 active aquariums in our apartment.
We are surrounded by life. Fish, plants, and a big, crazy, peaches and cream tabby cat. And after twenty years of tanks, big and small and everywhere in between, I finally answered the problem that had puzzled me from the beginning – “Why is my tank shaking so much?!”
What is the cause of the noise?
We’ll get to the big answer in a moment. First, here’s a bullet list of things that could possibly be your voice problem.
Noise equals wind: Air stones and air tubes all add beautiful effects to your underwater environment. They add strength to jewelry that requires pressure from bubbles to function. A small treasure chest with a hinged lid requires a certain amount of air to function properly. But overload it, and all the extra bubbles popping to the surface will create a constant, loud noise.
current equivalent noise: Second to air circulation, we like water circulation (simulating natural currents) in our tanks. Fish need it for its growth and enjoyment. We have a guppy tank where you can paint the treadwheel in grease pencil on the side of the tank. Fish swim against the current, dive and rise together. They love the present. But add powerheads, and overpower the size of the tank, and you’ll have noise problems.
Equipment noise equivalent: Pumps, filters, sumps, even plumbing can all make noise. Sometimes very noisy. Most pumps are built in sound deadening. But if you overcome this while optimizing your system, the vibrational hum will soon become noticeable. And not in a good way. Just as important, the surface you store items on, or just sitting on, can easily be the culprit.
Furniture equals noise: I made all my aquarium stands and structural built ins. As soon as I skinned the top of the plywood, I noticed a horrible buzz. The air pump’s rubber feet were transferring vibration through the plywood skin, and the exposed underside of the built-in was becoming an echo chamber. Placing the air pump in a more substantial space in the cabinet solved the problem.
Design equals noise: And finally, your design can also be a big, noisy culprit. As air moves over rocks, currents and eddies around fixtures and decorations, the placement of your pump’s intake and output also goes into the formula for reducing noise in the aquarium.
what can i do
Tone it down: A simple bowl of water will be a calm aquarium. No wind movement, no current. Just a pot of water sitting quietly.
If you are using multiple air pumps, especially small ones with a single outlet, opt for a larger pump with multiple outlets. Rule of thumb – the pump should supply all your air needs for that one aquarium. Not only do you have a noise maker, larger pumps have better sound deadening.
And if your pump is more than a few years old, trash it. If it is still working. Old parts, especially rubbers, are probably your main source of noise. Now the hard rubber feet, do nothing to make the sound dead. They may even be adding to it.
And use gang valves to specify the air volume going into your accessories. That little air stone with a single line coming from the pump is a major noise issue. And it will look just as good with half the air volume going through it. Maybe even better.
Hear the effect: Most of the power accessories you buy to add to your tank have some adjustment feature. Put your ear down next to the current the powerhead is creating, and listen as it quiets down as you adjust the outlet. This could be a volume issue, or just a direction issue. It can also vibrate against a tank, or a rock. Adjust it as necessary.
Adjust your gang valves on your air lines. Place your ear on the surface of the water, and listen as the flow adjusts. When you find the appropriate level of calm, see the effect on your appearance. Then make small adjustments to reach a pleasant medium of noise versus presence.
Designed with noise in mind: Setting up a quiet tank is easy, then try to get it. Remember the bowl of water, sitting still? Keep that in mind when you add accessories or plan the placement of your essential equipment. Which brings us to the big problem I solved after 20 years of aquariums.
Not everything works together
I love bubble wands behind my tank. They are virtually invisible, but put out large amounts of bubbles. I like the oxygen tank, so I like a lot of air. This circulates the food in the tank, and helps with flow to keep the fish happy.
But due to space and budget limitations, I’ve always relied on saddle tank filters, not the canister type. There are only so many places you can put a saddle filter, and thus, only so many places the inlets can sit in the tank.
The sound of my filter always drove me crazy. They are the noisiest filters of all my friends. And recently, my other tanks. That’s when I realized the problem.
My wife set up three other tanks, and isn’t as much of a fan of bubble wands as I am. Her filters were silent, their flow as powerful as mine.
Yet my filter felt like the impeller was coming apart. I pulled the entire system, checked all the parts, and made sure everything went back together smoothly. As has always happened in the past, my filter is gone.
That’s when I found out. I pulled the airline on the bubble wands and the noise stopped. Air flow was going past the rods, and into my filter inlet tube. The filter was trying to fill with water. It couldn’t because the rods were filling it with air.
And so, the filter will forever sound like the filter when it first starts, and self primes. Problem found! Now, to the solution. I don’t want to get rid of my bubble wands.
I took a drinking straw (clean and new) and cut it in half. Then I cut the pieces lengthwise, to create an opening. I wrapped the straw in a bubble wand, under the filter inlet. This left a slight opening that allowed air to escape, so I placed a second straw on top of the first, with a 180 degree slit opposite the first. Problem solved, wind stopped in that area.
And the filter does not get bubbles at the inlet. I also noticed a slight increase in water flow through the filter, which means better filtration.
Less might be better
In this case I found that just because things give me the look I want in my ‘natural’ environment, some things don’t work with others. You can modify them. But the lesson is that not all items in your tank are best for the tank and your fish. And especially, your ears.
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