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Understanding what a septic tank system is used for in South Africa.

A septic tank is a crucial component of a wastewater treatment system that’s commonly used in areas where there’s no centralized sewer system available. Its main purpose is to treat and manage household wastewater, including toilets, sinks, showers, and laundry, in a decentralized manner.

Here's how a Septic Tank Works:

  1. Wastewater Collection: All the household wastewater flows into the septic tank through pipes from various sources in the house.
  2. Separation and Settling: Once inside the tank, the wastewater is allowed to sit for a while. During this time, solid particles settle to the bottom, forming a layer of sludge. Lighter substances like oils and fats float to the top, creating a layer of scum. The remaining liquid in the middle is relatively clearer.
  3. Biological Treatment: The middle liquid layer, also known as the effluent, contains some suspended organic matter and bacteria. Anaerobic bacteria present in the septic tank start to break down this organic matter, partially treating the wastewater. However, the treatment is not complete at this stage.
  4. Outlet and Drain Field: Once the effluent reaches a certain level within the septic tank, it is pushed out into a drain field, also called a leach field or absorption field. The drain field consists of perforated pipes buried in gravel-filled trenches. The effluent slowly seeps through the pipes and into the surrounding soil.
  5. Final Treatment: As the effluent percolates through the soil, further treatment occurs. Aerobic bacteria in the soil continue to break down the remaining organic matter and pathogens. The soil acts as a natural filter, removing many contaminants and purifying the water before it reaches groundwater.

RotoTank™ septic tank systems are well-designed and if properly maintained can effectively treat wastewater and prevent contamination of the environment. However, it’s essential to ensure regular maintenance, such as periodic pumping of the accumulated sludge and scum from the tank. Failing to maintain a septic tank system can lead to clogs, backups, and groundwater pollution.

Overall, the purpose of a septic tank is to treat household wastewater in areas without access to a centralized sewage system, protecting public health and the environment by effectively managing and treating wastewater on-site.

RotoTank™ has designed and manufacture the widest range of sizes to suit any residential of industrial situation.

What size RotoTank™ septic tank would I require for my home or business; is the question we get asked the most. To simply answer that question, follow the guidelines below:

1 – 2 people =300l

1 – 3 people = 600l

1 – 4 people = 1000l

1 – 7 people = 1750l

1 – 10 people = 2500l

1 – 25 people = 6000l

1 – 35 people = 8000l

1 – 55 people =12500l


Are there Septic Tank Manufacturers in South Africa?

RotoTank™ provides excellent quality septic tanks, with a long-standing record for quality and are readily available with direct sales to the public.

Why do you need septic tanks?

Septic tanks are commonly used in South Africa, especially in rural and peri-urban areas where there might not be access to centralized sewer systems. In these areas, septic tanks provide a decentralized solution for wastewater treatment. They are used to manage household wastewater in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

The use of septic tanks in South Africa is influenced by factors such as the availability of infrastructure, population density, and geographic location. In more densely populated urban areas with access to centralized sewage systems, septic tanks might be less common. However, in rural and less developed areas, septic tanks are often relied upon as a practical means of treating and managing wastewater.

As with any country, the effectiveness of septic tank systems in South Africa depends on proper design, installation, and maintenance. It’s important to adhere to guidelines and regulations to ensure that these systems function effectively and don’t pose a risk to public health or the environment. To this end, RotoTank™ has spent years testing and designing the perfect solution that is not only cost effective but strong and durable, with as little risk to the environment as possible.

What is the Difference between a Septic Tank and a Sewage Tank?

The terms “septic tank” and “sewage tank” are often used interchangeably, but they can refer to slightly different systems based on context and regional terminology. However, in many cases, they refer to the same basic concept: a container designed to collect and partially treat wastewater before further processing or disposal.

Here’s a general breakdown of the terms:

  1. Septic Tank:
    • A septic tank is a component of a septic system that’s commonly used for wastewater treatment in areas without access to centralized sewer systems.
    • It is a watertight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or plastic, buried underground near a home or building.
    • The primary purpose of a septic tank is to separate and partially treat solid waste and liquids in household wastewater.
    • The liquid portion of the wastewater (effluent) is then discharged into a drain field for further treatment in the surrounding soil.
  2. Sewage Tank:
    • The term “sewage tank” is sometimes used more broadly to refer to any type of tank or container used to collect and store sewage or wastewater.
    • In some cases, it could refer to a tank that’s part of a larger sewage treatment facility, such as a municipal wastewater treatment plant.
    • It’s also possible that “sewage tank” is used in some regions to describe the same concept as a septic tank, particularly when the focus is on on-site wastewater treatment.

In summary, while there might be slight variations in terminology, both “septic tank” and “sewage tank” generally refer to containers designed to hold and treat wastewater, with the effluent eventually undergoing further treatment or disposal. To assist with this matter RotoTank™ has designed and manufacture Underground Conservancy tanks for the collection and storage of grey water, these thanks do differ from a septic tank system as they are generally installed with a submersible pump to irrigate the grey water out over gardens etc. The underground tanks would not be linked to the sewage system only the tap -bath-shower outlets.

What is important to remember when setting up a septic tank in South Africa?
Preventive Maintenance: Regular maintenance is crucial for the proper functioning of a septic tank system. Periodic pumping of accumulated sludge and scum from the tank is necessary to prevent clogs and backups. Neglecting maintenance can lead to system failure and environmental contamination.

RotoTank™ supplies all the required elements to not only set up a Septic Tank system but also to maintain the system. With inspection chambers, starter tablets and maintenance treatments it has never been so easy to look after your system. 

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of a septic tank system depends on factors such as design, installation, maintenance, soil conditions, and the volume of wastewater produced.

South Africa, like many other countries, has regulations and guidelines in place to ensure the proper installation and maintenance of septic tank systems to protect public health and the environment.

RotoTank™ supplies all natural starter tablets to kick off your septic tank systems, the tablets themselves are easy and convenient to use just by flushing down your toilet.

When the tablets are added to the septic tank, they dissolve and release the bacteria and enzymes into the system. These microorganisms then begin to break down the solid waste and convert it into a liquid form, which can be more easily processed by the septic system.

Bacteria in the tablets are typically chosen for their ability to break down several types of waste, such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Enzymes help to speed up the breakdown process by breaking down larger molecules into smaller pieces that can be more easily digested by the bacteria.

What happens when your RotoTank™ septic tank is full?

When a septic tank becomes full or reaches its capacity, several potential issues can arise, leading to system malfunction and potential environmental and health risks. Here’s what can happen when a septic tank is full.

    1. Reduced Treatment Efficiency: A septic tank works by allowing solid particles to settle at the bottom and lighter materials to float to the top, while the partially treated effluent flows out to the drain field. When the tank is full, the available space for these processes is significantly reduced, leading to decreased treatment efficiency. This can result in higher levels of solid accumulation in the tank and less effective breakdown of organic matter.
    2. Increased Risk of Clogs and Backups: With less space available in the tank, the likelihood of solid materials clogging pipes and the outlet becomes higher. This can lead to backups in the plumbing system within your home, causing toilets, sinks, and drains to overflow or become slow to drain.
    3. Contamination of Drain Field: If the septic tank is too full, the effluent that flows into the drain field might still contain too much suspended solid material and organic matter. This can overload the drain field’s capacity to absorb and treat the effluent, leading to clogs, reduced drainage capacity, and the failure of the drain field.
    4. Odors and Surface Ponding: A full septic tank can lead to increased Odors around the tank area, as well as the formation of surface ponding or standing water over the drain field. These issues can negatively impact the aesthetics of your property and can be indicators of a system in distress.
    5. Environmental Contamination: If the septic tank becomes overwhelmed and fails to treat wastewater properly, untreated, or poorly treated effluent can flow into the environment. This can contaminate soil, groundwater, and nearby surface water bodies, posing a risk to public health and the environment.

To avoid these problems, regular maintenance is essential. Septic tanks need to be pumped periodically to remove accumulated sludge and scum. The frequency of pumping depends on factors such as the tank’s size, the number of occupants in the household, and the volume of wastewater generated. Following a recommended pumping schedule and being mindful of what goes down your drains can help keep your septic system functioning effectively and prevent costly issues. If you suspect that your septic tank is full or are experiencing problems, it’s recommended to contact a professional septic system service provider to assess and address the situation.

RotoTank™ septic tank system also allows you via an inspection chamber to periodically inspect the condition of your system, the tank is placed after the septic tank but before the soak away tank/ French drain. The fluid that flows into the inspection chamber tank should be clear and indicate the good health of your septic tank system, with little or no odor.

How long does a RotoTank™ Septic Tank last?

The lifespan of a septic tank can vary widely based on factors such as its material, design, installation quality, maintenance, and the volume of wastewater it handles. On average, a RotoTank™ septic tank system, with its unique design and extremely durable shape, manufactured from the highest quality plastics, and if kept properly maintained can last anywhere from 20 to 40 years or even longer. However, there are several key factors that can influence the longevity of a septic tank:

    1. Material: The material from which the septic tank is constructed can affect its lifespan. Plastic septic tanks tend to be durable and can last several decades if properly cared for. Concrete and fiberglass tanks might have a shorter lifespan, typically around 10 to 15 years.
    2. Installation Quality: A professionally installed septic tank with proper soil compaction, appropriate drainage, and correct sizing is more likely to last longer. Poor installation practices can lead to structural issues and reduced performance.
    3. Maintenance: Regular maintenance, including periodic pumping to remove accumulated sludge and scum, is crucial for extending the life of a septic tank. Neglecting maintenance can lead to premature system failure.
    4. Volume of Wastewater: The amount of wastewater the septic tank handles plays a role in its lifespan. If the tank consistently handles a higher volume of wastewater than it’s designed for, it can lead to faster deterioration and reduced treatment efficiency.
    5. Soil Conditions: The type of soil and its drainage characteristics in the drain field area can impact the overall system’s performance. Soil that drains poorly or becomes compacted over time can affect the drain field’s ability to absorb effluent.
    6. Chemical Usage: Harsh chemicals, excessive use of antibacterial products, and certain non-biodegradable substances can negatively impact the microbial balance within the septic tank, reducing its treatment efficiency and potentially shortening its lifespan.
    7. Groundwater and Flooding: If the septic tank is subjected to high groundwater levels or flooding, it can lead to increased pressure on the tank, potential structural damage, and compromised functionality.

Regular inspections and maintenance by qualified professionals are essential for ensuring that a septic tank system remains in good condition and operates effectively throughout its lifespan. If you’re unsure about the status of your septic tank or its maintenance schedule, it’s recommended to consult with a local septic system service provider who can provide guidance and perform necessary inspections and maintenance tasks.

How far can a septic tank be from a house in South Africa?

In South Africa, as well as in many other places, the distance between a septic tank and a house is regulated to ensure proper sanitation, safety, and environmental protection. However, the specific regulations and guidelines can vary depending on the local authority, building codes, and health regulations of the area in question.

At RotoTank we recommend that a septic tank should be installed no closer than 2.5 – 3 meters from your home’s foundation. We would advise you to mark the area in some way or on a plan, so if you in the future decide to extend or make a deck, for example, the septic tank system will not be disturbed. 

In general, RotoTank™ septic tanks should be located a safe distance away from a house to prevent issues such as odors, contamination, and potential structural problems. Here are some general considerations for septic tank placement distance from a house:

    1. Health and Safety: A reasonable distance between a septic tank and a house is typically mandated to prevent odors from reaching living areas and to minimize the risk of contamination. The exact distance may vary, but a common guideline is to place the septic tank at least 3 to 6 meters from the house.
    2. Local Regulations: Different municipalities and provinces within South Africa may have specific regulations regarding septic tank placement and setbacks. These regulations might include minimum distance requirements as well as guidelines for issues like groundwater protection and soil conditions.
    3. Soil Conditions: The type of soil on your property can also impact the recommended distance between the septic tank and the house. Soil with good drainage properties may allow for a smaller setback, while poor-draining soil might necessitate a greater distance to prevent groundwater contamination.
    4. Accessibility: While maintaining a safe distance, it’s also important to consider accessibility for maintenance and inspection. The septic tank should be easily accessible for pumping, repairs, and routine maintenance.
    5. Topography: The slope and topography of your property can affect the placement of the septic tank. It’s important to avoid areas prone to flooding or areas where surface water can flow into the septic system.
distance of septic tank, rototank

To determine the specific regulations and guidelines for septic tank placement in your area of South Africa, it’s recommended to consult with local authorities, municipal offices, or environmental health departments. They can provide you with accurate and up-to-date information based on your specific location and circumstances.

Your local plumbers can assist and will know many of the regulations, but it is always advisable to check with municipalities.

septic tank system fittings, rototank

How to clean a RotoTank™ septic tank?

Cleaning a septic tank involves the process of removing accumulated sludge and scum that builds up over time. This maintenance task is crucial for keeping the septic system functioning properly and avoiding issues like backups and system failure. However, it’s important to note that cleaning a septic tank is not a DIY job due to the potential health and environmental risks involved. It’s recommended to hire professional septic tank cleaning services to perform this task safely and effectively.

  1. Hire a Professional: Contact a licensed and reputable septic tank cleaning company. They have the expertise, equipment, and training to handle the task safely and in compliance with regulations.
  2. Inspection: Before cleaning, the professionals will often inspect the septic tank to assess its condition and determine the amount of sludge and scum present. This helps them plan the cleaning process.
  3. Pumping: The main part of septic tank cleaning is pumping out the accumulated sludge and scum. Specialized vacuum trucks are used for this purpose. The vacuum truck’s powerful pump removes the waste material from the tank.
  4. Disposal: The collected waste is transported by the service provider to an approved facility for proper disposal and treatment. This is usually a wastewater treatment plant or a designated disposal site.
  5. Rinsing and Cleaning: After the pumping is complete, some cleaning companies might rinse the septic tank with water to remove remaining debris and residue. This step helps ensure a thorough cleaning process.
  6. Inspection and Maintenance: Once the cleaning is done, the professionals might provide recommendations for any necessary repairs or maintenance. Regular inspections and maintenance are essential for the continued health of the septic system.
  7. Schedule Future Cleanings: Depending on the size of the tank and the volume of wastewater your household produces; the professionals will recommend a schedule for future cleanings. This is usually every 1 to 3 years, but it can vary.

It’s important to avoid attempting to clean a septic tank on your own. The gases and materials within a septic tank can be hazardous to your health, and improper handling can lead to spills, environmental contamination, and other serious problems. Hiring a professional service ensures that the cleaning process is done safely, efficiently, and in compliance with local regulations.

Can you run too much water into septic tank?

Yes, running too much water into a septic tank can have negative consequences for the overall functioning of the system. Septic systems are designed to handle a certain volume of wastewater at a time and exceeding that capacity can lead to various issues. Here’s why running too much water into a septic tank can be problematic:

range of septic tank system, rototank

    1. Reduced Treatment Efficiency: Septic tanks rely on the natural process of settling and separation to treat wastewater. When too much water enters the tank rapidly, the solids and scum might not have enough time to settle properly. This can lead to inadequate treatment and increased solid accumulation in the tank, which can eventually lead to clogs and backups.
    2. Overloading the Drain Field: The septic tank’s primary function is to separate solids from the liquid effluent before it enters the drain field. If too much water enters the tank too quickly, it can overwhelm the tank’s capacity to effectively separate solids. This can result in more solids and organic matter reaching the drain field, potentially clogging the drain field pipes, and reducing its capacity to absorb and treat effluent.
    3. Shortened Tank Retention Time: The retention time is the period during which wastewater remains in the septic tank for settling and partial treatment. Excessive water inflow can reduce this retention time, reducing the effectiveness of the treatment process.
    4. Risk of System Failure: Overloading the septic system with excessive water can lead to system overload and potential failure. Clogs, backups, and other malfunctions are more likely to occur when the system is not given enough time to properly treat the incoming wastewater.

To avoid these issues, it’s important to practice water conservation and mindful water usage in households connected to septic systems.

Here are some tips:
• Fix leaks promptly to prevent excess water from entering the system.
• Use water-efficient appliances and fixtures.
• Avoid doing multiple loads of laundry or running the dishwasher in a brief period.
• Space out water usage activities to give the septic system time to treat the water.
• Be cautious during heavy rainfall, as excess rainwater entering the system can also lead to overloading.

Ultimately, maintaining a balanced approach to water usage and being mindful of how much water enters the septic system can help ensure its proper function and longevity.

What are the best types of septic tanks made from in South Africa?

    1. RotoTank™ Plastic (Polyethylene): Rotational Molded septic tanks, made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), are lightweight and easy to install. They don’t corrode or rust and have smooth interiors that discourage the buildup of sludge. Plastic tanks are resistant to cracking in freezing conditions and are an excellent choice for areas with fluctuating water tables. They can last for several decades if properly maintained.
    2. Concrete: Concrete septic tanks are widely used and are known for their durability and strength. Concrete tanks are resistant to buoyancy, making them suitable for areas with high groundwater. However, they can be heavy and require specialized equipment for installation.
    3. Fiberglass: Fiberglass septic tanks are lightweight and can be easier to install than concrete tanks. They are resistant to corrosion and rust, which can extend their lifespan. Fiberglass tanks are also less likely to crack in freezing temperatures. However, they may not be as strong as concrete and might require additional reinforcement. Steel: Steel septic tanks are not as common as other materials due to the potential for corrosion. However, some tanks are made from galvanized or epoxy-coated steel to mitigate corrosion. While steel tanks can be strong and durable, proper coating and maintenance are essential to prevent rust.
    4. Concrete-Encased Steel: Some septic tanks combine the strength of steel with the durability of concrete. These tanks have a steel core that is encased in concrete. This design provides the structural benefits of steel and protection against corrosion from concrete.

What to think about when choosing a septic tank material?

 RotoTank™ will always advise you to consider the local climate, soil conditions, regulations, maintenance requirements, and your budget.


Proper installation, regular maintenance, and adherence to local guidelines are key to maximizing the lifespan and effectiveness of your chosen septic tank system.

If you are still unsure what the next step is, please feel free to contact RotoTank™, we have trained friendly staff that are always ready and willing to answer all your questions.

With years of experience, we understand it can be a daunting undertaking to install a new septic tank system.

At RotoTank™ we have created Combo deals specially designed to make your decisions easier and adaptable to your budgets.

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