The big problem with a lot of aquariums is their lack of built-in overflow boxes to feed the sump and refugium setups that sit below the aquarium. Aquarium keepers in this situation rely on overflow boxes with siphoning U-tubes, but there are a ton of inherit risks involved in using these types of overflow boxes. For starters, if the power ever shuts off to the aquarium, it will likely flood when the power kicks back on. Additionally, snails and algae have been known to clog up these overflows over time, also causing floods. Fortunately, Reef Octopus has come out with an overflow box that seems to solve all of these problems. The Auto Start overflow box looks like an overly complicated overflow, but when we analyze the video, we see that it actually appears to work rather well.
When the power to the aquarium is turned off, the overflow box loses its siphon as all other external models do. However, when the pump kicks back on, the overflow starts back up shortly after as well. This appears to be accomplished with the help of a little suction created by the blue tubing going from the top of the overflow box to the outlet nozzle of the return pump at top of the tank. As water is pushed past the opening on the outlet, it causes a pressure differential that draws water into the overflow, effectively restarting the siphon.
You might also notice a few other gadgets on this Swiss Army knife of an overflow box. An air silencer is sitting on top of the sealed overflow to try and keep things quiet while at the same time allowing air into the box, even though we can still hear a little sound. A thick piece of foam sits on the intake side of the overflow, skimming the waters surface yet still keeping large items like snails out. Rounding out the hardware, the box and return plumbing all have various thumbscrews to really keep everything in place on the aquarium. The box can be raised or lowered slightly, and the screws at different spots keep the entire setup from moving too far.
All that being said, I still have little faith in the external overflow box, regardless of how many bells and whistles it has. At some point, the unique auto start capabilities may fail and the tank will flood. Good preventative maintenance will keep these accidents from happening for the most part, but the maintenance must be done on a device like this.
Pricing and availability are a huge mystery at this point, and it appears that this product is in the testing phases or perhaps just finishing up. We’ll keep an eye out for this external overflow box, but until it’s released we’ll have to settle for a video.