Ever wanted a pet tornado? Well, it turns out that you can make a vortex fountain, to call your own, with a few components from your local hardware store.
OK, so it’s not strictly a tornado—but it’s still really cool. Wikipedia describes that:
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that rotates while in contact with both the surface of the Earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud.
In contrast, a vortex is described ‘as a region in a fluid in which the flow is rotating around an axis line, which may be straight or curved.’
Flow Science Art, a California-based water feature company, has designed a professionally crafted vortex fountain. It looks awesome (see the video below). But, after factoring in shipping to the UK, it’s not the most cost-effective solution!
The basic principle is fairly simple, though. Water is pumped into the cylinder, from the catchment area at the bottom, at a tangent—swirling the water into a vortex. The key point is that the water is pumped in faster than it eddies out—creating a stable vortex. Interestingly, if you disturb the vortex (as seen in the above video), water drains out faster, and the pump needs to catch up before the vortex is reestablished.
So, by using these mechanics, you can build your own pet vortex with cheaper materials and a small water pump. That’s exactly what meteorologist, Marshall McPeek, has done—posting the results on his Facebook page (video below).
YouTuber, altech6983, has done the same—using an acrylic jar, from Walmart, and a fountain pump, from Amazon.
We’ve adapted their instructions for anyone looking for a little DIY adventure.
How to make a vortex water fountain
- Acrylic cylinder (Recommended: 8″ diameter)
- Water pump (Recommended: 400 GPH / 1500 L/h submersible pump)
- Pipe/hose (Recommended: 1/2″ clear hose)
- Watertight base (Recommended: 16″ resin planter)
- Plant saucer (Recommended: 16″ plant saucer)
- Power drill, with drill bits
- Sealant gun, with silicone sealant
- Wet sand the outside of the cylinder (this helps the water ‘glide’ down the side).
- Drill a hole in the centre of the cylinder’s base (see next section on design pointers for sizing).
- Drill a hole on the side of the cylinder’s base (match the size with the tubing that connects to the pump). The hole needs to be drilled at a tangent to the side so that the water will pump in and hit the wall to create a circular motion.
- Place the cylinder in the middle of the plant saucer and mark the position of the two holes.
- Drill the two holes that you just marked on the plant saucer.
- Drill a few smaller holes around the edge of the plant saucer (to let water drain through into the base catchment area).
- Use a sealant gun to attach the hose to the cylinder (at the drill point specified in step 3).
- Run the other end of the hose through the plant saucer and attach it to the pump.
- Place the pump in the base and fill this with water.
- Place the plant saucer and cylinder on top of the base (use a plant stand or something similar for extra support if needed).
- Place decorative pebbles around exposed parts of the plant saucer.
- Turn on the pump
- The diameter, height, drain hole size, and input hole size all affect the flow rate, which determines how much water you need. altech6983 recommends starting with a small drain hole and gradually making it larger until you hit the sweet-spot.
- The bottom container has to have enough water in it to fully submerge the pump when the fountain is running.
- The bottom container must be big enough to hold the water that is in the acrylic jar.
- The water dropping back into the catchment area is pretty loud. altech6983 suggests using some window mesh under the plant saucer to help silence it.
- The fountain must be perfectly level (or as close to level as possible).
- Anything that reduces the surface tension of water is a great addition. altech6983 uses a drop of dishwashing liquid.
If you decide to have a go at creating your own pet vortex, we’d love to see the results in the comments below.