Simple Sump for Nano - Would It Work?
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Old 04-04-2012, 05:20 AM   #1
morninglight
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Simple Sump for Nano - Would It Work?


I've been researching the idea of a simple sump for a nano freshwater aquarium, allowing heat and filtration without ugliness or bulk. (It would also allow help stabilize water parameters too, in such a tiny aquarium.)

Here's my idea (See below for my homemade illustration):

Basically, there are two holes in your nano tank/container, one down low and one up where you want the water line to be. You silicone two long tubes in the holes a regular airline tube with a check valve in the bottom hole and a wider drain tube in the one up at the waterline, to allow it to freely drain whenever the water rises (and hopefully not allow the system to flood your room).

The wider drain tube just goes down through the lid of the sump and allows everything above your planned waterline to drain away. The smaller airline tubing with the check valve attaches to a submersible pond pump down in the sump container.

The pump has a tube attached to its intake with filter material that won't impede the water flow, to provide filtration.

As the pump drives the water level up in the nano, the excess drains into the outflow tube and goes back into the sump container. Thanks to the check valve, the whole thing can't drain out the bottom if there's a power failure.

Simple, right?

What's your opinion? Do you think this would work?

My primary concern is the holes in the nano. I was originally imagining making the nano from a large glass vase (or similar container), but adding in holes would possibly affect the stability of the glass. Would it be at risk of eventually shattering if the glass was too thin? Is this impractical for glass in general? Could it work with acrylic if not glass? How thick/sturdy would the material have to be? Is there a concern with putting a hole that close to the top of the container?

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Old 04-04-2012, 05:33 AM   #2
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I'll start by saying I love the idea. You could even run more than one nano off a big sump. The only problem I foresee is that you need tempered glass to drill. You could have custom cubes built with tempered glass on the bottom and back. OR.... you could only have tempered put on the back panel and have inlet low and outlet high.
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:07 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iRun View Post
The only problem I foresee is that you need tempered glass to drill.
Why tempered? Everything I've looked at seems to say that you should steer clear of tempered glass when you're looking to put holes in it. Admittedly, the sites I've found on drilling glass are as often about craft projects as aquariums.

In this entry on drilling aquariums, here's what one guy had to say:

"As a note, most commercial aquariums are built from tempered glass. You can't drill it. I mean, except that sometimes you can. It drills poorly and cracks easily. When I've done it, I used a deep guide, ~1/2-inch wood with a hole to guide the grinding bit and just took an extraordinary amount of time. And sometimes I ended up replacing one face of the tank because it broke."

If I was using "non-standard," creative sorts of materials, like a (very?) thick, sturdy glass vase, it should drill OK. But I just don't know if I could trust it afterwards, especially with the drain hole so close to the top of the glass.

It's still an academic question at this point. I'm not ready to actually put this into practice yet.
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:20 AM   #4
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Thank you, I totally had it backwards. Tempered = no drill.

Now I'm all hung up on your idea, thanks alot man.
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:35 AM   #5
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One possibility would be to take inspiration from fountains, and have the water literally overflow the top into another container rather than draining it out a drain tube directly. That would take some planning to work out right, but it could be an unusual and artistic choice for a mini aquarium.

One way to work it would be to use a pretty glass container for the actual tank and a pottery bowl and nice river rocks for the fountain base. Just drill the drain hole to the sump tank around the back of the pottery bowl, and you're in business. You would still need to drill a hole in the glass container for the inflow, but you could do that in the bottom, since it's going to be on top of a base of your own devising.

Not sure I'd want to do this "decorative fountain" style, but it's one way to tackle the issue!
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iRun View Post
Now I'm all hung up on your idea, thanks alot man.
Uh, oh. I'm spreading my MTS around!

The idea was that this was supposed to be an office tank, but we don't have an office yet. So I'm thinking, can this fit on my night stand? (Bad imagination! Go do something else; stop devising new ways to add fish tanks to my life!)

One offline opinion I've gotten is in favor of a small container being less of a worry for water pressure than a bigger tank. So, a super-nano 1 gallon-ish vase might be able to stand the pressure better than a larger plate glass one.

I'm thinking one of those rectangular vases for a betta. Or maybe a circular one. Or maybe I should call two tanks in one room enough.
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:50 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morninglight View Post
One possibility would be to take inspiration from fountains, and have the water literally overflow the top into another container rather than draining it out a drain tube directly. That would take some planning to work out right, but it could be an unusual and artistic choice for a mini aquarium.

One way to work it would be to use a pretty glass container for the actual tank and a pottery bowl and nice river rocks for the fountain base. Just drill the drain hole to the sump tank around the back of the pottery bowl, and you're in business. You would still need to drill a hole in the glass container for the inflow, but you could do that in the bottom, since it's going to be on top of a base of your own devising.

Not sure I'd want to do this "decorative fountain" style, but it's one way to tackle the issue!
a sump for a nano is a cool idea, seems like overkill to me, but i'm sure it would be fun if you have the time/money/resources-
as for the "fountain" idea, wouldn't water flow out of all sides of the nano unless it were tilted? you'd have to have it positioned right in the middle of the sump for it to overflow without making a mess on the floor, i'm just wondering how you'd suggest doing that? it's a neat idea, but i see it as very hazardous o_o
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Old 04-04-2012, 08:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CatB View Post
a sump for a nano is a cool idea, seems like overkill to me, but i'm sure it would be fun if you have the time/money/resources
Actually, it wouldn't be that expensive.

The sump itself: 5 gallon bucket and lid, rubbermaid storage container, or clear plastic file holder (all on the cheap side -- especially the bucket)
Motor: aquarium water pump or fountain pump (less than $15)
Tubing System: airline tubing (cheap), check valve (also cheap), wider diameter tubing (probably a bit more expensive), silicone for sealing
Filtration: some PVC tube, creativity, and filter medium (cheap)
Heating: 25 watt regular heater (can be cheap)
Nano container: Nano aquarium, nice vase, pickle jar, whatever you can think of that sounds cool

You would also need to get (or borrow) an electric drill and find appropriate drill bit(s).

Some of those items you would have to get anyway for a regular nano, depending on how small it is. The other sump-specific things can't be much more than about 30 bucks total, if you are careful.

So, for not too much time and money, you can get all the visual effect of a nano without the water quality, heating, and filtration problems. Plus, I think the time and pain of super-demanding water changes on a tiny container would make this worth it alone.

If you like diy projects, this one is pretty simple and wouldn't be that hard or time intensive, aside from drilling the holes in the nano container of your choice, which is a bit nerve wracking.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CatB View Post
as for the "fountain" idea, wouldn't water flow out of all sides of the nano unless it were tilted? you'd have to have it positioned right in the middle of the sump for it to overflow without making a mess on the floor, i'm just wondering how you'd suggest doing that? it's a neat idea, but i see it as very hazardous o_o
Yes! The cascading water would be the point.

Unlike the original diagram, the "fountain" setup would have 3 pieces, not 2.

Piece 1: the Tank (Almost certainly a vase, pitcher, or regular bowl of some sort. It would have to be see-through so that the betta or whatever could be viewed.)
Piece 2: the Overflow Base (Something decorative, and bigger than the tank, so it would catch the overflow. It wouldn't have to be glass or see-through. It could be a nice shallow ceramic bowl or whatever you like.)
Piece 3: The sump tank, safely out of sight.

The Overflow base would have water in it and would need a drainage hole at an appropriate place. With a base that doesn't have to be see-though for fish viewing or hold water almost to the top, like a tank does, that gives you more flexibility to place the drainage hole where you want it.

You're right there's no escaping the drainage hole, unfortunately! Not with this way of doing a sump.

Here's an "artistic rendering" of what the fountain would look like:

OOOOOO
OOOOOO <--- glass nano container (in the center of the overflow base)
OOOOOO
OOO|000 < --- airline coming up through hole in nano container
-------------------
------------------- <--- decorative overflow base
// ------------
||
||
|| <--- the two tubes coming out of holes drilled in decorative base
||
||
||
-----------------------------
|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| <---- Sump container, safely out of sight
|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
-----------------------------

You might need to finesse some kind of partial cover or lid (mesh?) for the viewing tank, depending on what you put into it, so nothing living escapes into the "catch" basin.
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Old 04-04-2012, 01:19 PM   #9
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The sump solves alot of problems for a nano. Increaese water volume, greatly improves mechanical and biological filtration, stabilizes water parameters with less danger of massive upset, and perhaps most importantly let's you hide ugly stuff like heaters. Love this idea.
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Old 04-04-2012, 02:57 PM   #10
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I did this, except i used a speciman container as an overflow box, and connected my 2.5 to my 38gal tank.

I do want to drill bulkheads though. that might be next. Esp if I can get an acrylic nano.

I would probably only drill one hole though. The additional hole is risky, especially for a return line. Sealing it might be a risk too for such a small size. And if that check valve fails, you have a near empty tank.

I would stick with the top bulkhead, and a simple return line.

Also what pump would you use?

You can check the shrimp tank in my sig to see what I did.
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:17 PM   #11
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Tons of people drill small/nano/pico tanks for reef applications.

May want to check the various reef/marine forums for ideas and tried and true methods. Nano-Reef.com is a good place to start.
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:34 PM   #12
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I'm not sure that the check valve on a return going way below the water line is a safe approach. If that valve fails for some reason, you will get an overflow and an empty tank.

Now, if the sump has enough room to contain the overflow, the only think you need to worry about is the empty tank.

Also, you aren't going to be able to push much water through airline tubing (5/16" ID?).
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Old 04-04-2012, 07:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wicket_lfe View Post
I did this, except i used a speciman container as an overflow box, and connected my 2.5 to my 38gal tank.

I do want to drill bulkheads though. that might be next. Esp if I can get an acrylic nano.
Cool tank!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wicket_lfe View Post
I would probably only drill one hole though. The additional hole is risky, especially for a return line. Sealing it might be a risk too for such a small size. And if that check valve fails, you have a near empty tank.

I would stick with the top bulkhead, and a simple return line.
Good point about the second hole. I probably should just stick with the top overflow and run the pumped line over the top.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wicket_lfe View Post
Also what pump would you use?
It wouldn't take much of a pump, since this is a super nano application. I think a submersible fountain pump would be fine. After all, it's only running what would fit in airline tubing. In a tiny container, I would think that's all you need for flow rate, but I'm hardly and expert.
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Old 04-04-2012, 07:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhatshocked View Post
Tons of people drill small/nano/pico tanks for reef applications.

May want to check the various reef/marine forums for ideas and tried and true methods. Nano-Reef.com is a good place to start.
Good suggestion!

The main thing I came up with was that this might be a little noisy, since it is gravity fed and the flow into the sump is not intended to completely fill the tube. So it will require some experimenting to eliminate splashing and burbling sounds as it returns to the sump.
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Old 04-04-2012, 08:12 PM   #15
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as long as you can find an adequate water pump, I'm all for it.

I had a tough enough time finding mine, and I've already throttled it down. I also got picky about it being external, hehe.
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