View Full Version : Artificial tides and wave makers

06/04/2016, 09:50 PM
Hello everyone! I am currently designing a 1250 gallon system with the goal of incorporating as many niche habitats and biodiversity as possible while also enabling the reef to go through natural cycles and perhaps even get the corals to sexually reproduce.

I work at an affluent private school in Taiwan and currently need to write up a list of things for a budget for next year. I plan on having a class and a club based around marine biology and the upkeep of this aquarium and husbandry of some of the animals. Money is not a major problem.

My major question is about creating artificial tides and waves. I plan on using a tide pool as one of two overflows and switching between them based on a number of factors. I am hoping to incorporate a number of advanced techniques in the design and execution of the system. Before I get into more detail about the plumbing and such it would be good to have a look at what I have so far:


Ideally the system will feed and filter itself to a large extent. I still plan on having a sump (perhaps on the other side where the "sediment collector" is shown here?) and a skimmer. I need a place to have about 350 gallons of water drain for the artificial tide. I plan on skimming that and having a couple drums that I can quickly interchange for water changes.

I have a feeling the mangrove forest, seagrass bed, and the area in front of the seagrass bed (which I plan on hosting a lot of beautiful macro algae) will service the reef area when it comes to nutrient balance. I want to have a conch and seahorses and a plethora of other organisms there. The wave action can cause a bit of a break on the higher part of the mangrove forest and with the currents of the whole system return quite a bit of little shrimp and pods to the main reef area. I plan on having some live rock in there to create a few niche environments and natural barriers for a variety of organisms to thrive.

The tide pool area is designed so that the excess water trapped back there during low tide will flow down through the crypt. Between all the organisms that collect detritus in the tide pool and the "sediment collector" (inspired by the 55g drums set up by the dude that came up with the duplex system, which did not collect detritus, but rather hosted lots of filtering creatures) I plan on being able to host a large bio load in the main reef while feeding all the rest of the tank (and I think that a large bio load will be needed to keep from needing to supplement the rest of the tank!).

The crypt is going to be filled with live rock and then return water to the reef. This wont be the only thing doing so; I plan to have an overflow on the main reef as well, that flows to an area for processing before going to the sump (which is also kind of the job of the tide pool as well). When next summer comes I hope to collect a lot of new polyps.

I want the lights set up to mimic nature and include a moon phase that goes with the tides. I don't know of any tanks that do this already (so any links to stuff would be great).

Even if I don't reach all of the goals of this system, as long as there are lots of cute fish for the students to enjoy and all of the different ecosystems here working together to use as a teaching tool everything will be good. I want to try and avoid using completely separate tanks and keep everything as natural as possible. I still expect heavy maintenance and pruning and water changes and all that, but I want to make a system that will be stocked with the right organisms to minimize the necessity as much as possible.

I am not sure how I will do the plumbing and account for the tide and waves (which I assume will also vary in intensity depending on tides and other factors I would want to include). Any ideas would be greatly appreciated along with any constructive criticism of the ideas presented here.


Ron Reefman
06/07/2016, 08:28 AM
I think this is a very cool idea, and I also see it as being extremely complicated. But that sure doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, in fact, I think it would be great fun to work on. I'm retired and if you were doing this in my town, I'd volunteer to help out.

Given the degree of complicated chambers you have to deal with on this system, I'd suggest one more. A swimming pool style sand filter. I recently saw the idea here:
and now I'm seriously considering building one.

How old are the students at your school?
Will any of them be doing any of the maintenance or feeding on this system?
How about very young ones who might put something into the tank that is bad for it?
Is the 'crawl space' meant for a person to get into the middle of the system to do work on it?

06/11/2016, 07:18 AM
The kids are all very well behaved when it comes to this kind of stuff. They are all 7th to 12th grade and its a smallish private school. The crawl space is for people to go and do maintenance... the tank will be in an area surrounded by glass and a wall, so that will be the only access point for the entire front half of the display tank.

I have since changed designs a little bit. I added a thing for the tide to work similar to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBJm8uiotiA
However instead of being in the larger tank theres a siphon in the overflow leading to the water inlet/outlet. I figure I can get a mechanism working where a solenoid will close off the air outlet to initiate high tide, and then open up and let the siphon do its thing.

I was trying to think of a way to get this to also act as a skimmer (using the air stone and all), but havent come up with any good setup ideas yet.

I am currently designing the sump, surge bucket, and wave maker (I want to do a flap or piston)

I decided the crawl space is too small, and changed the design so there was more space to get to around back. Now its L shaped.

I was thinking of letting the bottom of part of the tide pool zone be a sand filter, and every tide it would kind of reverse the flow a little bit (but not as much going back out). I plan on having a ridiculous amount of detritivores and algae growing in the tide pool. Between that, the mangroves, grass bed, crypt, and a skimmer there shouldn't be a problem with water quality.

I recently went snorkeling in Longdong and found a lot of interesting sea life in the reefs out there. Learned a lot and saw some really awesome corals, anemones, crabs, skippers, macro algae, etc... Taiwan is something else! It hasnt been affected by climate change as much as the rest of the world over the past few decades, and the life here really thrives.

After that I went to the famous aquarium street in Taipei. Got a lot of great pictures and saw some really cool stuff. Gonna have to post those up some time :D I was amazed at the prices! There were only about 2 shops selling corals at the prices I have seen online or in the states. Everything else is dirt cheap!

I think I might change the cryptic zone and sediment collector to just having some drainage going to some 200 liter drums. One full of live rock to catch anything coming through the system before it hits the sump, and another full of nothing (to see what starts growing) before it gets pumped in through the cave. I really want to be able to access any live rock easily. I am even thinking of maybe figuring out how to 3d print some kind of reef buffering mixture that can cure to a porous stone to throw in there for a while and then have custom shaped LR.

06/22/2016, 02:37 PM
Man, that design looks so cool! I'm curious to see how you mimic the tides for the tide pool. Will the fish and other animals have free access to go from the reef section to the forest and tide pool?
I gotta subscribe to this thread!
Good luck!

06/23/2016, 07:43 AM
If you're trying to time it naturally with tides (moon's influence and earths friction) which adjusts daily and dynamically you may want to look into a controller like the Neptune Apex. I use the Seasonal chart in the Apex to control practically everything on my system. It will adjust the light schedule and intensity each day, lunar light schedule and intensity each day, temp swings each day, and based on the lunar cycle I adjust my flow in the tank 4 times a day like a tide and ramping up and down the intensity of the flow. I do get corals spawning and believe the seasonal chart timings help.

How that can work with the tide pool wave system you're trying to set up I'm not sure but it's something too look into leveraging as it's all there.

Posts#1422, 1425, 1426 has what I've done for the timing with the lunar cycle with the Apex

08/04/2016, 03:18 AM
Luiz some will have access at high tide. I am still debating whether or not to have more closed off sections for some species. Jason, thanks for the tip! I will check it out :D

08/29/2016, 09:45 AM
Any updates for this interesting build? Defined tagging along. I am located in Taipei!

09/04/2016, 07:56 PM
I'm tagging along because this is such a neat design. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid and absolutely loved tide pools. Something like this probably would have encouraged me even further. I support you in this endeavor and hope you are successful!

09/21/2016, 07:09 AM
How are things progressing? I'm really excited for this build.

10/02/2016, 09:03 PM
following along! I am in Taichung frequently for work and would love to check it out someday!

10/09/2016, 01:35 PM
I LOVE this idea!! following for sure!!! this can be an amazing build!

06/17/2017, 05:26 AM
looks cool. Please provide updates if available.

Ron Reefman
06/18/2017, 04:05 AM
GMSR hasn't been active on RC since December of 2016. Don't expect any feedback soon! LOL!

04/30/2018, 08:31 AM
Hey everyone! So I haven't updated everyone in ages because things turned south at the school after realizing that orders for regular class materials was already enough of a headache (we didn't have books for an AP Chemistry class for the first month of school, and materials I had ordered for a research in science class were reportedly never sent through for purchas. It turns out some we're, but we're not ordered correctly and it all became a huge mess, so I wound up just getting supplies myself). It became too frustrating to put up with constantly adapting to situations that I would be notified of only a day or hours prior to, and not being able to reconcile issues with the admin. So I dropped the idea of the project. I was thinking of working for a school in Tainan, but decided to move back to the States to be with family and focus on a startup idea.

The contents of the small tank I had at the school were transferred to a university, and some of the stuff is still in boxes in Taichung!

I still want to do this build, especially now that I work out at Cape Canaveral (which is all surrounded by a huge wildlife refuge).

I don't think it will start any time soon (my funds are all going into tools to prototype things for a startup), but I have friends in Central Florida that are reefers and some that even work at some LFS. I'm right down the street from a really fantastic coral shop as well (rivals anything I've seen in Taipei even!!!!) So who knows, maybe I can get the community here around a project.

I have been thinking more about how these different biomes will all play together to sustain each other. I was just reading about how some of the deeper corals of the area just out of the intertidal zone rely on gastropod and bivalve larva and was just revisiting the flow of the design here (and the pumps used) to make it possible to feed everything as naturally as possible.

If you are in the greater Orlando area or Central Florida I would love to meet up.

05/05/2018, 08:27 AM
thats awesome!