Super simple. Gather:
- a chopstick
- some zip-ties
- a length of 1/8" airline tubing (mine is 3 feet long)
- a small weight (I am using the base of a fake aquarium plant)*
*Note: fake aquarium plants are typically a no-no in salt tanks. this base of a fake plant I've used has not corroded over the past few years--- but that doesn't matter, because it doesn't go in the tank. The weight will sit in the waste bucket to keep from pulling the tubing out of the bucket.
This is a standard wooden chopstick. Fun fact: a bag of chopsticks was my Christmas "bonus" given to me by an old boss after he came back from a vacation to China. Funner fact: this was better than my previous year's christmas bonus of a $25 gift card to Outback.
Take a moment to soak your chopsticks. You don't want to put anything in your tank that might leech toxins. I have two soaking here in a cup of RO/DI with 10 drops of prime, a and pinch of marine buffer. I soaked it for a few hours, rotating to be sure to soak the colored end as well. I don't think the marine buffer is necessary, I just added it because I was thinking of the purigen regeneration process. I do think that the prime isn't a bad idea, just in case these were ever bleached poorly.
Note: I have found chopsticks to be extremely versatile. I have one attached to my "nano wand" and I use another one for non-suction related purposes. It's good on the glass, gentle on the rock, doesn't stratch anything.... you get the picture.
1/8" airine tubing. Get it at a hardware store, not at your LFS. My LFS sells it for an outrageous amount of money.
Counterweight. This is the base from a fake aquarium plant. It will be used as a counterweight to keep the tubing from pulling out of your waste bucket.
Align your tubing with the end of the chopstick. Ensure that the chopstick is about 1/4" ahead of the tube. You'll want the chopstick out just ahead of the tubing so that the tubing will be well-positioned to suck up most of what the chopstick stirs up.
Attach the tube to the chopstick using the zip-ties. I use zip-ties on a lot of my DIY because I feel comfortable with them being in contact with the salt water. I've had some zip-ties exposed to salt creep for a couple years now and they're as good as ever.
**Important note: Don't lash the tubing too tightly with the zip-ties. You want to make sure that you are not impeding the suction flow. Make it tight enough to stay, but not too tight so that it would block flow.
Attach zip-ties in a few spots for stability. I use three zip-ties to hold the tubing firmly to the chopstick. I do not lash the tubing all the way up- I leave a handle to give me the ability to maneuver the chopstick/tubing as need be.
Attach the counterweight to the other end of the tube with a zip-tie. This weight will keep the tubing in your waste bucket as you use it. I had a hard time at first with the tubing pulling out of my bucket while I was siphoning, because the 1/8" tubing is very light. Again, when lashing to the weight, be sure not to constrict the flow by tying the zip-ties to tight.
That's it - you're done! It's really that simple. Lash some tubing to a chopstick, add a counter weight, and experience the gentle but targeted siphoning in your tiny, tiny tanks. To start suction I use a syringe. I stick it in the weight end and then place the wand end into the water. I pull on the syringe plunger and it draws water into the tube. I pop off the syringe and a siphon is created. Voila!
This is an EXTREMELY easy DIY, but this little tool is incredibly handy. Using a siphon in a nano tank sucks (pun acknowledged), and can be too powerful or destructive. Fumbling around with your hands in there (i have an 8gal) can be catastrophic. The first advantage is clearly the ability to direct the siphon exactly where you need it. I use this for a variety of other purposes: from gently scraping algae out of hard to reach areas, having it in position while I trim off hair algae/caulerpa to suck up the clippings, getting at cyano growing underneath the substrate up against the glass. It's for targeted, non-destructive cleaning of your nano/pico tanks.