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fountain pump info

updated sun 31 mar 96


Donald P. Chitwood/Jane Peterson on fri 15 mar 96

To all those who wrote re: my posting to Ellen on fountains, here is what I
have learned in making small table top fountains.

1. Where to get fountain pumps?

As some corespondents noted, aquarium stores are a good source for small
submersible fountain pumps, especially if you are not buying a large
quantity and can earn a lot for each fountain you sell to cover the cost of
the pump. I use the Mini-Jet MN404, manufactured by Aquarium Systems. It
is small, under three inches, and adjustable, pumping between 13 to 108
gallon per hour. Purchased from the aquarium shop, these pumps cost $25
ea. If you want to order a case of these directly from the manufacturer
for your own use (not for resale), they will cost $10 ea if purchased in
case quantities (24 pumps). Email me directly if you want info about this,
I prefer not to post it.

Aftosa, a wholesale supplier of ceramic and craft supplies, also has a
small pump, called a Circula, that looks similar to the Mini-Jet. One pump
will cost you $19.50 (plus shipping). I have not tried this pump so cannot
vouch for it.. Aftosa advertises in Ceramics Monthly. (800) 231-0397 will
get you a free catalog with lots of great goodies at wholesale prices.

2. What makes fountains slurp, splat or hum instead of gurgle?

Ideally, the only sound a fountain will make is the splash of falling water
hitting ceramic. I've made about a half dozen small fountains. My first
one sounded like a half-drowned snorkeler sucking in water and air. And,
that was exactly the problem. These small pumps are quiet, except when (a)
they are pulling in air as well as water, or (b) the water is slurping
around inside the fountain instead of coming out the top and splashing

Both of those were happening with my fountain. The tube from the pump fed
into a tall ceramic tube so that the water could splash down into a catch
bowl. To get the water to go where I wanted, and gurgle in a well-behaved
manner, I used a closed-cell foam ring to seal the tube from the pump into
the base of the ceramic tube. All the water then went up the tube, out
into the catch bowl where it could drain back into the pump.

Then there is the hummm. The Mini-Jet pump has small suction cups on its
feet which damp out any hum from the pump. A cork or neoprene pad on the
fountain base will also damp out hum.

3. Splish, splash. There's water on the table. . .

The other thing I've learned is water tends to flow out of the 1/2"
diameter tubing from the pump in any and all directions. So, when you
design your fountain, make the catch bowl big enough to catch the errant
drops of water that bounce off the ceramic parts on their way back to the
pump. Limiting the height the water has to fall to make it to the catch
basin will also help reduce splashing.

Also be aware that a bowl covered inside with matte glazes, crazed glazes,
etc. can "sweat" if left full of water for a long time. Even glazing the
bottom won't necessarily cure the problem. I am going to try some
Easy-Seal (Aftosa) or Thompson's water seal on the bottom of my fountains.

A final note, water will evaporate out of these small fountains fairly
quickly. Be sure to tell your customers to water their fountain
periodically, perhaps when they water their house plants. . .

Hope this is useful.

Laughing Bones Art Studio
4220 SW Freeman St.
Portland, OR 97219