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Necessity…part 3


Where was I? Oh, yes. I’d been deserted. Yes, deserted.

Oh, I don’t hold it against Sharon, not at all. There really wasn’t anything she could do, from her perspective. As she says, she thought it was just new pump time and nothing to be done until morning when we could get to the fish store. Besides she was gawd-awful tired (her work schedule is unbelievable) and had a lot to do before leaving for World Con on Sunday (this was Friday night) and I was in such a state of shock, I couldn’t even say “But wait! I could use a second pair of hands.”

overwhelmed(I see from her comment, I’ve created the situation myself. Oopsie! Gotta learn to yell HELP! I guess.)

You see…the one thing I knew was…it couldn’t wait til morning, because by then the pump would be dead, and it wasn’t a pump you just buy off the shelf. AND the tank wouldn’t survive a night without the water moving, if I just turned the pump off and dealt with it in the AM. The pump circulates the water and that’s what aerates the water so the fishies can breathe.

sumpbeforeAnyway…I figured the only thing to do was remove and totally clean the pump. Likely its “arteries” (the tube that runs upstairs to the tank) had clogged again, with our off-beat chemistry and when the system was shut down for a lengthy time for the water change, “gunk” had broken loose and drifted down into the pump. The problem was, removing that pump. Last time Carolyn and I did it, when it stopped altogether, we’d barely managed with two people. How was I to manage with just me?

cuteAh, well. It’s that mother again. The inventive one, this time. First, I had to drain the sump…after turning off the pump! this is easier with two people and a pump, but managing all those buckets alone…nuh-uh. So…I bailed. And bailed.  Using an old plastic pitcher.

And bailed. 30 gallons or so. Mind you, this was after I’d spent all afternoon bailing 20 gallons of bad stuff out and twenty gallons of good stuff in.

Of course, first I had to  dismantle the Rube-Goldberg setup of skimmer and phosban and lights  and plastic lighting grid that was atop and in the sump, hoping I could get it back together correctly before Carolyn came home. (The above is the only pic I can find of the “before” schematic.) I knew it wasn’t really necessary for all that stuff to work for the tank to survive until Carolyn got home, but I really hadn’t planned on giving her a homecoming gift like “Hi, CJ! See what a mess I made of your tank while you were gone? Have fun fixing it!”

Nope. That wouldn’t work at all. So, I took it all apart and bailed. So…now we’re to the fun part. Remember…I’m TIRED. Been up since 5am and done lots of physical stuff all day, not to mention stuffed with pizza and C&L, and it’s now about 11pm. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I unscrewed the pump…from inside the tank.

Minolta DSC

This involved a great deal of gymnastics because you’ve got to get both hands and two alligator-sized wrenches into a space about eight inches wide and unscrew an extremely tight fitting. Thought nothing of it until I suddenly remember why it took both Carolyn and me to get it off before.

You’re supposed to leave the connecting bit tight and unscrew the pump by twisting the pump, not the connecting flange thingy. One of us had to lift the tank an hold it while the other turned the pump.


So…taking a deep breath, trying not to panic, I slowly straightened and climbed down off the stool and stood staring at my Extreme Error. I told myself that anything screwed on once could be screwed on again. Yes…I could fix the connector, but how in heck was I going to get the pump back on after I’d cleaned it?

The staMinolta DSCnd, you see, has a recessed top into which the tank and the pump were tucked. (These pix were taken after the fact.) The pump’s stand rested right down on the same “flooring” as the tank. It won’t turn without lifting that end. My only hope was to get something under the tank and prop up that end while I screwed it on and hope I could settle it again without cracking the tank.

Hah. Superman, I’m not. And the last I looked I really do have only two hands. No way.

Ah, well…Whatever I did, it was going to take a board, and all my spare wood was out in the garage…a bit buried. So…almost midnight, I trek out to the garage and hunt through the possibilities, all of which were left over bits from past projects. (Ask me if I’m ever going to listen to all those people who tells me to throw away scraps…of anything!)

I found two possibilities: the return from an old computer armoire and the end of one of the bridge’s 2×12 base boards. Both were stout and fairly long. I took the 2×12 chunk down first because that return was composite with a veneer. Not really the best for the job, what with ambient moisture and salt and such. I thought a first to prop the tank with it, but that put a twist in the tank (this is the part that would make Carolyn blanch) was not optimal to say the least. Then my head did a little mental calculation, comparing that recess with the width of the board…and with a little prayer, I wiggled and pushed and worked that board all the way under the tank…and viola! it was perfect! The width of the board just matched the height of the edge, so when it came time to replace the pump, all I had to do was scoot the tank down the board to the end of the unit, screw the pump on and push the lot back into place!


Now, I went up and began cleaning that expletive deleted pump. Fortunately, as I mentioned, I’d taken it apart once before so I knew that what looked like a solid piece actually split in two. I got it apart and there was a little loose chunk of hard gunk that was probably the source of the squeal, but the magnet was seriously encrusted, not to mention the internal chamber in which it spins. So, I dig out a couple of gallons of vinegar and put it in to soak. This, if left to its own devices, will, in fact, loosen this crust…in about a thousand years. So…I begin scraping. With plastic, cuz you don’t want to damage anything or use metal in fish-related stuff. I tried everything. The most effective? the little plastic Nad’s applicators that don’t work worth a damn for applying Nad’s gel. But don’t throw them away, folks, because someday, you’ll need to clean an Iwaki pump! They flexed just the right degree to get a good angle on the surface of the magnet and I actually made pretty good headway.

Still took a good hour and a half to get it clean and put back together and test it.

Then, it was take it down, screw it on, scoot the tank back into place…and begin bailing back in. I came up short, because I hadn’t had enough “safe” buckets for the entire sump, but I’d been running more RODI water this entire time, so I knew I could fix the level in the morning. rugI plugged the heater back in, turned off the lights…and headed for bed, convinced that I was pretty well done, that I could bring Hiro home tomorrow and Carolyn would have a nice surprise when she came home on Sunday.

Boy…was I wrong…

Ja ne!

Ja ne!

7 comments to Necessity…part 3

  • dali

    Oh, geez! You and your cliff hangers! I’m getting exhausted just reading about it, and I’ve been sitting down the whole time! Although I already know the final outcome, I STILL can’t wait to get the rest of the story! 🙂

  • CJ

    O-M-G. Unscrewed the bulkhead. The oh, so fragile bulkhead connector, overtightening which can crack the sump wall. (Quiet apoplexy).

    Re-O-M-G…twist in the tank. I’m going to faint now.

    I’m hearing this for the first time too. :shocked:

    And if you don’t have enough fresh, pure water for an operation, you’re hosed. And if you don’t have enough salt (thank goodness we had a barrel) you’re hosed. And if you stir the sandbed, loosing a chemistry roughly equivalent to the atmosphere of Titan…you’re hosed.

    You have to understand this is equivalent of walking a tightrope in a high wind while carrying the baby in your arms. The number of things that could have happened… :pinch: :shocked: :cwy: is huge.

    Fortunately Jane has kept a salt tank. But systems have radically changed in the last 10 years, with many more parts than before, and poor Jane had only had a 30 minute runthrough on the chemistry tests, not how to make the skimmer work. And she had helped me with the Iwaki before, but not done it solo.


    • Jane

      Tee hee…you see why I didn’t post while you were gone. :kissing: I forgot to mention about the sand bed. That means you can’t actually drain the entire tank, making it that much heavier and clumsier to move around. I at least had that much sense left. :blush: And I was very careful re-tightening the bulkhead. I promise!

      And let’s be honest, we’ve talked about the tank a lot, so I wasn’t totally ignorant. And I’ve helped you stuff like water changes, and I knew about the sand bed from when I clean the tank proper. Mostly, it was an engineering challenge! :unsure:

  • Monty had almost talked me into believing that I wanted a normal swimming pool. Nope, no way, captive bodies of water are just TOO MUCH WORK. Thanks for the reminder.

    Norman, Oklahoma

    • Jane

      Hey! The Brilliant Lawyer is heard from! Hi, lady!

      Say, folks, this is the person you can thank for the blogs. She pushed Lynn into a proactive assault on the marketing problem, including the blogs, which resulted in Closed Circle. She also had a couple more ideas which, once we’ve got CC truly functional, all my covers for past books are done and the ebooks are available, I’m going to look into.

      No, BL, I haven’t forgotten!

      And you’re right. Large bodies of water are a lot of work. A hot tub back there, a gazebo…and a “dry” water feature like we’re planning for the front…hmmmm…..

  • kokipy

    Good grief. This is way too much excitement for my aging nerves……

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