Building a Sump - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 26 Old 05-27-2008, 10:50 AM Thread Starter
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Building a Sump

What would be the first step to building a sump? I know nothing about building one or plumbing one. We are actually going out today to find a stand for the tank today. (it has been sitting on the floor for now) Now I want to put it up on a stand and add a sump for extra filtration.

The sump will be a 10g since I already have one sitting around the house. What kind of piping will I need and what needs to be done with the main tank? Will I need a skimmer? Powerheads? Additional filters? Other materials?
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post #2 of 26 Old 05-27-2008, 11:38 AM
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First and foremost, a 10 gallon sump is not going to work. I don't even know the size of your display tank, but it does not matter. A 10 gallon sump is not big enough to hold the desired equipment. Also, keep in mind, a sump has to be big enough to hold the back flow of water from your display tank if the power goes out.

I suggest using a plastic storage tote as your sump. Use the biggest size that can fit in the space you have available. The basic of the sump is to have a place to house your activated carbon, particulate filters, protein skimmer, dosage systems, calcium reactor, UV sterilizer, heaters, etc. And possibly extra live rock if you so desire.

You will have an overflow from your aquarium, skimming organics from the water surface. The water should first flow thru a particle filter to remove large water born particulates. Many hobbyists place a bag of activated carbon next in the sump. From this point all water should be forced into the protein skimmer before entering the return pump of your aquarium. (If your system does not contain live rock, then your water will exit the skimmer and then enter the biological filter.)

It is of extreme importance that all water first goes into the skimmer before entering any biological filter source, such as bioballs. It is also important that you do not use biological filtration of any type in an aquarium with live rock. Do not make the mistake of throwing bioballs into the sump "because you have room."

You may also want to incorporate an automatic evaporation replacement system by using a float valve to trigger the prepared replacement water container to release water into the sump. This is a very nice feature that i highly recommend to anyone with space.
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post #3 of 26 Old 05-27-2008, 11:42 AM
Pasfur, I have seen a lot of tanks with 10G sumps, whether it be a 2.5 G display, 5G display, 10G display, or even 20G display, that are running great. I, personally dont see why it wouldn't work. Everything else you mentioned is gold though (good job!).

And, I belive Twitch's Tank is 20G. Wouldn't a 10G be able to hold that? I will try to find some links for the 10G sumps to explain better.
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post #4 of 26 Old 05-27-2008, 11:55 AM
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You can make a sump out of ANY size vessel that can hold water. The only factor involved is whether it's scaled correctly to the display tank (e.g. a 10g would not efficiently process water for a 120g), and whether it can house the equipment you want to employ. A 10g should be more than enough room for a nano skimmer, a heater, any other filtration etc... Remember, as strictly a water processing tank, these don't need to be aesthetically placed around the tank, they can be fit side by side if need be, as long as they are doing their job.

If his tank is 20g, and his sump is 10g, then that's effectively a 30g system, with 10g of that being dedicated strictly to water processing/cleansing. I'd say that it will be a pretty healthy system if it's set up properly.

I think you should begin designing an automatic top-off unit if you haven't already. Don't go out and purchase the expensive units, you can really create your own using nothing but some containers, airline tubing and gravity. The only thing you need to figure out is the drip rate.

Good luck, post pics when you can (I know you can, you did in your other thread ;) )

Tanks: 40 gal FW setup, 10 gal Reef tank.

Old BC8 setup:
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post #5 of 26 Old 05-27-2008, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
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I know nothing about plumbing any of this. Are there any step by step threads on this at all? I'll look into skimmers and the other equipment. So the water goes into the sump, goes through a particle filter and then through activated carbon. I'm guessing this is in the first chamber. Can the particle filter and activated carbon be a filter bag from a regular filter like I have? Then from what I've seen from pictures of sumps, it then goes into the refugium which can have a deep sand bed and LR rubble, correct? I've also heard this can be a place to add some clean up crew if desired. After that second chamber, it goes through the protein skimmer and then back into the tank, correct? Am I getting this right?

So how do you get the water to go down into the sump? Gravity? Pump?
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post #6 of 26 Old 05-27-2008, 09:39 PM
You dont want to drill this (obviously) since you have it running.

You will want an overflow box, with PVC tubing plumbing down into your first chamber. Coming back up, I would use PVC as well, but eventually split it into two return sections. Get two 90 degree elbows for the top that go over the rim of the tank into the tank. It actually isnt as complicated as it seems, but most people have very complicated designs that confuse people (I used to know nothing about this).

I will try to have a picture up tommorow for you if you would like.
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post #7 of 26 Old 05-28-2008, 05:22 PM Thread Starter
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Pictures would be great. I'm a visual learner. I have a hard time learning anything by just talking about it. So the 90 degree elbows would sit on the rim of the tank. How does the water go up into them? And the 90 degree elbows would put water into the overflow? And then from the overflow, they go down into the sump? So how does the water return without gravity?
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post #8 of 26 Old 05-28-2008, 06:43 PM
I hope this helps in a way. Pretty bad pictures from MS paint, but I hope you get the idea. Ask anything if it is confusing.

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post #9 of 26 Old 05-28-2008, 06:53 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the picture. It kind of makes sense. I just don't understand how the water flows to the sump? How does it get into the overflow by way of 90 degree pvc pipe? does it sit down in the tank with the end facing forward or down?

So the water flows up into the pvc pipe, into the overflow. Then does the overflow box have a pipe going straight down into the sump? As I understand the diagram, the water exits the overflow box and down into the first chamber where it passes through some particle filters and activated carbon. Can this be filter bags like from a regular filter? I know that my filter bags have activated carbon in them. Then they go down past that first wall, under the second and over the third. I'm guessing gravity pushes the water through these? And then it enters the refugium that has deep live sand and live rock rubble. This serves as a biological filter, correct? then it passes through a protein skimmer which I guess pumps the water back up into the tank.

Sorry that I keep asking so many questions. I just don't want to mess this up. I want to know everything I can before building this thing. I guess the one concept I don't understand is how the water flows through all these without the aid of a water pump. I guess gravity does it?
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post #10 of 26 Old 05-28-2008, 08:11 PM
The water flows by itself through the sump. The baffles (glass walls in tank) are where the water will fall over it into the next section, which basically creates its own current. As long as the water flows over, you are good. An overflow is basically an area for water to flow down to a sump.

The overflow just goes down. The PVC is for going back up. I am just suggesting the elbows because you cant drill it. Look at this tank: . Go through the pictures. See how the PVC elbows go over the rim of the tank? That is from the return pump. They dont have an overflow though. That is a good thread to look at.

To answer you question; yes, gravity does have a big role here. The water level will be different in every section because of the baffles. The tube/pvc from the overflow will power a good enoigh flow.

The first section is for the tubing from the tank.
The second section is a refugium, where you will have your heater, live rock, live sand, macro algea, etc.
The third chamber is for the return pump, and a possible protein skimmer.
You can put floss in between the last set of baffles, and carbon in the first section if you want. That is not needed, however. It is also wise to place eggcrate above the baffles to contain contents in the fuge.
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