Is Canister easier than sump? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 01:54 PM Thread Starter
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Is Canister easier than sump?

I have a 29 gallon planted tank that I've had for probably 8-10 years. I decided early on to use a sump because I liked the options it provided and that it added a larger water volume and stability. This was before I was fully decided on the "planted" concept. Even after I moved in the direction of trying to successfully grow plants, I saw that Tom Barr and others were using sumps with trickle filters and I so it seemed like a good decision. My tank has two holes drilled in the upper left corner and a little overflow box which I plumbed to drain into a 10 gallon tank inside the stand. I made a diy trickle filter out of a plastic drawer type organizer from walmart. It has been a decent system, but it always bothered me that the cherry shrimp in my tank can get into the trickle filter. In order to prevent the shrimp from getting in there, I have to have a fine mesh filter on the lines that go from the overflow box to the sump. The filters get gunked up quickly and so every couple days I have to pull them off and clean them. About every week or two I have had enough water evaporate from the system that I have to either add water or do a water change. That may not sound like much, but after all these years I value ease of maintenance above all. I only keep one fish and it's an algae eating twig cat fish. The only food that goes into that tank is algae wafers and those get eaten by the shrimp. The fish stays attached to the glass all the time and never goes for the wafers. In other words, I'm looking to do as little maintenance as possible and so I'm only keeping very low maintenance clean animals.

I've been considering buying a new tank and getting a canister filter to do away with the sump/overflow. I've always wanted a rimless tank and I like sleek minimalistic design. Do you guys think there's any real difference between the amount of maintenance I would need to do with a canister vs the sump? I assume keeping the shrimp out of the canister intake will be the same as keeping them out of my trickle filter/sump, but at least there won't be an overflow box for them to get into. Would there be less evaporation with a canister?
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Here are some pics of my setup
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 03:52 PM
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I can't answer your question. I just came to say your tank looks great! That fish is really cool.

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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 04:00 PM
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They have their pros and cons for sure. A sump will have far better gas exchange but tend to have much more evaporation than a canister. Canisters on the other hand, are generally a pain for the user to get into. As your cherry shrimp go, you're going to have to rig *something* up on either to keep them out of the filter intake. Welcome to the forums!
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 05:14 PM
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I've run both sump and canister filters. The sump was on a saltwater tank so I can't necessarily compare it to one on a planted tank.

That being said I think overall they both are about the same as far as "difficulty" in doing maintenance. If I really had to give one a "plus" over the other for maintenance, it would be to the canister depending on the model. All my canisters that are "in use" have the quick release/valves, so when it's time to clean it out I can unplug it and take it outside. Not all canister filters are set up like this. I have an old Eheim that does not have any valves built into it. This one you have to go through some more hoops that can get very wet if you don't jump through them the right way.

However, the sump will give you way more ease in adding options for accessories like the heater, co2 equipment and/or extra filtration.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 05:33 PM
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I have 2 canisters and a sump on my tank. The main reason I have a sump is it's easy to hide equipment, easy to access the filter pads, easy to set up a means of auto topping off the water and it keeps the oily scum later out of the main tank by the use of the overflow. I do find the sump easier to replace the filter pads as opposed to the canister. Take a look at @Hendy8888 's tank journal, he has a rimless with a sump and he's done an excellent job of having a sleek design.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 05:54 PM Thread Starter
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One thing I forgot to mention is that whenever shut off my pump to do a water change there is a process of restarting the siphon. My overflow box into the sump is designed after the "Herbie" method with two drains. One drain is primary and needs to be a siphon and the other drain is a backup. For the siphon to restart, all the air has to work it's way out of that line. I have a gate valve in that drain that allows me to make small adjustments to how much water can go through and that has to be pretty closely matched with how much water my pump is pumping. It's a finicky system and several issues can throw it out of whack, both on the pump side and on the drain side. However, I can fix any problems with it and get it running, I just have may have to do it over the course of an hour or two until I can be sure it's running right. If I do a water change, restart the tank, and don't look at it again for a day or two, it may either be sucking air down the primary drain or overflowing into the backup drain that whole time. I've grown pretty weary of that process and wonder if a stopping and starting the canister will be easier. Also, as to having a place for the heater, I was thinking of going with a filter like this:
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 06:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by i61164 View Post
One thing I forgot to mention is that whenever shut off my pump to do a water change there is a process of restarting the siphon. My overflow box into the sump is designed after the "Herbie" method with two drains. One drain is primary and needs to be a siphon and the other drain is a backup. For the siphon to restart, all the air has to work it's way out of that line. I have a gate valve in that drain that allows me to make small adjustments to how much water can go through and that has to be pretty closely matched with how much water my pump is pumping. It's a finicky system and several issues can throw it out of whack, both on the pump side and on the drain side. However, I can fix any problems with it and get it running, I just have may have to do it over the course of an hour or two until I can be sure it's running right. If I do a water change, restart the tank, and don't look at it again for a day or two, it may either be sucking air down the primary drain or overflowing into the backup drain that whole time. I've grown pretty weary of that process and wonder if a stopping and starting the canister will be easier. Also, as to having a place for the heater, I was thinking of going with a filter like this:
You find the Herbie finicky? I have always been able to get one set up, and it will return back to equilibrium quite quickly after turning my pump back on.

Here's a video of a system similar to what I ran last time.

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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 07:42 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Bunsen Honeydew View Post
You find the Herbie finicky? I have always been able to get one set up, and it will return back to equilibrium quite quickly after turning my pump back on.

Here's a video of a system similar to what I ran last time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYhAp6GFNz8
I don't know if it matters, but my tank is drilled on the back instead of the bottom and then I have flex pvc going down to the sump which empties into the top of my trickle filter. When I first set this system up I could only rarely get the primary drain to form a siphon. Eventually I found that when the end of that drain that's down in the sump is submerged, it forms a siphon much easier. So the problem was that the drain emptied into the top of my diy trickle filter and so it wasn't submerged. I fixed that by adding an extra compartment in the back of the top drawer of the trickle tower which fills with water so the end of the drain can now remain submerged. From there the water can flow over a weir and down into the rest of the tower. With that modification, I got my siphon going much easier, but it's not exactly "set and forget." I assume that a true reef setup that is drilled on the bottom with rigid pvc, no trickle filter, and the end of the drain submerged under several inches of water works somewhat better than my system. But even the relatively nice reef sump system in that video did not cure me of my acquired dislike of sumps. He simulates a "clog" but shutting those valves and then has to "re-tune" the system and while he makes it look easy, my own experience is that it has been a hassle. Now, if it only had to be done once in a while maybe it would not bother me too much. But with my efforts to stop the shrimp from getting sucked into the drain, it clogs every couple of days. I don't know if it will be much better with a canister filter, but I'm hoping the issue of tuning the system to get the proper siphon to form would be eliminated. Is that correct or is there adjustments that have to be made when you turn on the canister? Also, to whoever said they take it outside to clean, why is that?
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 07:48 PM
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I think that part of your problem is that the siphon and emergency levels are too close vertically. You are trying to hit a pretty narrow window.

I ran my 280 gallon setup with bulkheads through the back to a wet dry as well, FWIW.
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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I think that part of your problem is that the siphon and emergency levels are too close vertically. You are trying to hit a pretty narrow window.

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You could be right, they are only a couple inches apart. But there's no good way around it because the overflow box is very small. If the canister filter is not going to make my life easier, I'm at a loss as to which direction to go in. I've lost a lot of enthusiasm for the hobby over the years trying to get these drains to work right and trying to figure out why my plants wouldn't grow. I have a CO2 regulator that I built from scratch sitting in my closet. I put so much time and effort into figuring out how to build that and acquiring the parts only to see no benefits at all to my plants from injecting CO2. It turned out my problem was inadequate light and buying a twinstar led light made a huge difference. But breakthroughs like that are few and far between and I go long periods with no motivation to even work on the tank. Frustration gets the better of me, so I guess I'm just hoping I can find an easier way.
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 09:55 PM
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I think the distance Bunsen is referring to is not how close the drains are to each other, but how close in height they are relative to the water level, i.e. up and down. If one was shorter and/or the other taller, it would increase the distance required for the water to rise before it drains out of the taller drain. Hopefully he'll swing back in soon and clarify that for you.
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2020, 10:48 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bandit1200 View Post
I think the distance Bunsen is referring to is not how close the drains are to each other, but how close in height they are relative to the water level, i.e. up and down. If one was shorter and/or the other taller, it would increase the distance required for the water to rise before it drains out of the taller drain. Hopefully he'll swing back in soon and clarify that for you.
Yeah, I got that. A 90 degree elbow sticking out of the bulkhead and pointing down in the overflow box is about 1/2 inch from the floor of the overflow box. In other words, the whole box is probably about 5 inches deep. If I was really motivated, I could try to cut out this box (which is made of 3 pieces of glass siliconed into the corner of the tank). I could then either install a larger overflow box or plug those holes and run a hang on back type. Either way, I think I’d rather just get a new tank and start over in which case I’m back to the original question of whether to switch to a canister setup. Anybody want to weigh in on more details of canister maintenance? Does it get “tuned”? Do you really need to take it outside to clean?
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2020, 12:10 AM
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In my experience, you don't really need to tune a canister, you just have to fight making a mess when you take them out for maintenance. My experience is based on a magnum 350 probably close to 15 years ago though. Since going to a sump, I'm not sure I'd have a permanent setup using anything else.

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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2020, 01:25 AM
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I use and have used HOB's , canister , and a sump . I do some maintenance on the HOB's weekly with the water change . The canister I would rinse the pre filter sponge weekly and the whole can about every 3-4 months . The sump I rinse the pre filter sponge weekly and rinse the filter material pad in the sump bi-weekly and the sump maybe every 6 months . Now you can see why I prefer the sump although I do run 2 HOB's on my 75 with the sump but that is more for fine filtering and water movement . Anyway I vote sump , but you have to get it right to prevent floods .
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