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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey y'all,

I'm building a sump for a 185 gallon planted tank, and I'd love to get your feedback. This will be built in a 40 breeder, and I'd like to have it include a refugium -- to have plants growing in the evening to offset pH changes, use for acclimation, and possibly store a bully fish from time to time until he can be re-homed.

Let me know what you think:
 

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First chamber would serve more of a purpose if you used filter socks. Otherwise, I don't see why you couldn't combine the first two chambers (ie just dump intake water onto the filter pads). That might leave you more space for biological filtration as well.

edit - there also isn't chemical filtration space if you found you needed to intermittently use it
 

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I like it in theory, but see a couple of things that might disappoint down the road. Mind you, I've only used sumps on saltwater and fish-only fresh, but I've used and built at least 20 of them. I agree with every reply post made thus far. I would lose the dish scrubbers, lower the level on the first wall, and lose any biomedia entirely. You are going to get so much biological filtration from the mechanical filter that that additional colonization space simply isn't needed, plus it's a planted tank and in theory NH4 is going to be uptaken in the aquarium. I would also tinker with the dividers. If it were mine, I would lower divider 1 to just above the media level, and divider 3 would be 1-2"off of the bottom to let water flow underneath so there is some flow in that chamber. Not sure what you were planning to use but mechanical filters needn't be too fine. They have a tendency to clog with sediment. You don't need to be concerned with pH changes from day to night, that's part of nature and fauna is unphased by these swings. Heck, they're unphased by even full 1 point pH swings from CO2 that happen in a few minutes. And your sump isn't a place you want to spend a lot of time cleaning, and with a light on, there will be more than you would otherwise have to do. I think what you have mapped out would work, just pointing out what I think might irritate me down the road in a planted aquarium.
 

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Hey y'all,

I'm building a sump for a 185 gallon planted tank, and I'd love to get your feedback. This will be built in a 40 breeder, and I'd like to have it include a refugium -- to have plants growing in the evening to offset pH changes, use for acclimation, and possibly store a bully fish from time to time until he can be re-homed.

Let me know what you think:
All the posts are good but I want to throw my 2 cents in as well.

What size tank is this sump? It should be about a 60 gallon tank but its 36" long. Are you planning for this to be a 40 breeder? If the size of the walls are to scale it looks like 2/3rds or more of your tank is going to be underwater. Leaving only about 10 gallons of empty space.... This could be a REAL problem. If your 185 gallon is a pretty standard 25" tall then every inch of water height in your main tank is about 7.5 gallons of water. So depending on how far below the surface your intake and return are, you could be in a flooding situation when you turn off your pump, or something clogs... A safer bet might be to plan to have only half your sump underwater at any one time leaving 20 gallons of empty space if this is a 40 breeder.

I also don't see a good spot to stick a heater. With all those walls up you the biggest horizontal space is only 11 inches.. most big heaters are longer then that. I am assuming of course that you want to put the heater in the sump to keep equipment out of sight.

I would instead try to have as few dividers in the sump as possible. Anything more then 3 is just window dressing anyway. If you are planning to do a wet dry thing anyway then definitely use socks. If not then just have the water come in to the first chamber, go under the first wall into your mechanical media, and then over the second wall. Done. This leaves you a big chamber for equipment, bags of chemical if you need it, return pump, whatever.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Thanks for all of the quick feedback everyone! Here are the adjustments based on the feedback:

  • Dropped the scrubbies in favor of filter socks -- I wanted something to catch most of large detrius before going over the filter pads
  • Dropped the bio-media and made the filter segment and the refugium larger
  • Added a note about putting heaters in the refugium (and dropped the plants)
  • Added some measurements on the side. It's a 40 gallon breeder so 17.5" tall internally. The baffles would be 12" tall for the main water level, leaving 5.5" of expansion. That leaves 12-15gals of extra capacity. Think that's enough? The main tank only dropped an inch or so when killing the pumps when it ran saltwater.
  • With the removal of the biomedia chamber, I now push water through the refugium from bottom to top.
  • No worries about chemical filtration needing to fit -- I have some reactors plumbed into the supply line for carbon / etc.

Here's a diagram of the updates. Thoughts?


Do you still think I should lower that first baffle? The water level will effectively rise up to baffle #3 anyway right?
 

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When I researched this, several people mentioned how quickly the filter socks clog, which would be an issue for me when I'm on vacation. Since then I've seen others talk about installing a coarse prefilter (knitting mesh?) to catch the worst of it, either above the filter socks or above the first filter block after removing the socks for the duration of the absence.
 

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Thanks for all of the quick feedback everyone! Here are the adjustments based on the feedback:

  • Dropped the scrubbies in favor of filter socks -- I wanted something to catch most of large detrius before going over the filter pads
  • Dropped the bio-media and made the filter segment and the refugium larger
  • Added a note about putting heaters in the refugium (and dropped the plants)
  • Added some measurements on the side. It's a 40 gallon breeder so 17.5" tall internally. The baffles would be 12" tall for the main water level, leaving 5.5" of expansion. That leaves 12-15gals of extra capacity. Think that's enough? The main tank only dropped an inch or so when killing the pumps when it ran saltwater.
  • With the removal of the biomedia chamber, I now push water through the refugium from bottom to top.
  • No worries about chemical filtration needing to fit -- I have some reactors plumbed into the supply line for carbon / etc.

Here's a diagram of the updates. Thoughts?


Do you still think I should lower that first baffle? The water level will effectively rise up to baffle #3 anyway right?

I would still try to plan for a lower water level, you don't need the extra 10 gallons in your sump, and it won't make a big difference to capacity. I am assuming you either have an overflow or an emergency drain of some kind in your main tank? What happens if your tank is filled to a point where your emergency activates and then the pump stops? How many inches of water do you lose in your main tank? 1.5 inch drop is enough to overflow a 15 gallon empty capacity in this setup.

I would also change how you have your mechanical media. Currently you have it being stacked ontop of each other vertically. Change it so they are stacked horizontally. This means you can pull one for cleaning without disturbing the others. You may find that your fine clogs quicker then the other 2 for instance and rather then pulling all 3 you could just pull the fine one as needed.

And then... why do you have a refugium? It makes sense in saltwater tanks but we don't really use them. For instance, you REALLY do not want a light on in this cabinet all the time. Unless you just love cleaning algae off of glass. Instead it should be dark down there unless you are servicing the sump. If you need a storage area or grow out location for plants a separate tank is a much better option, it doesn't even need to be a tank, a plastic sterlite container works fine. And if for whatever reason you really really really want another compartment down there, your return pump doesn't need to be 11 inches wide, something like 7 inches is more then enough. And definitely look into the size of heater you need for this tank.. cause 13" is probably still too small.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks again for all of the responses, this feedback is AWESOME!

I would still try to plan for a lower water level, you don't need the extra 10 gallons in your sump, and it won't make a big difference to capacity. I am assuming you either have an overflow or an emergency drain of some kind in your main tank? What happens if your tank is filled to a point where your emergency activates and then the pump stops? How many inches of water do you lose in your main tank? 1.5 inch drop is enough to overflow a 15 gallon empty capacity in this setup.
- The main tank has dual overflows (one on each end), so if one clogs there is a backup. There is also the protection factor that the pump supply segment will run empty if I stop getting overflow -- meaning I can only pump an extra 5-10 gallons in there. I get your point that you probably don't need the extra capacity down there. Let me drop it another inch or two.

I would also change how you have your mechanical media. Currently you have it being stacked on top of each other vertically. Change it so they are stacked horizontally. This means you can pull one for cleaning without disturbing the others. You may find that your fine clogs quicker then the other 2 for instance and rather then pulling all 3 you could just pull the fine one as needed.
- If you turn them sideways, wouldn't they have to go the full width of the tank and height of the waterflow? I think that could work if I removed those baffles and just used a big egg crate section to have sideways flow. Is that more or less what you would do for freshwater? Could potentially be interesting. I was just thinking that if I'm rinsing / replacing filter pads I'd cover the whole stack.

And then... why do you have a refugium? It makes sense in saltwater tanks but we don't really use them. For instance, you REALLY do not want a light on in this cabinet all the time. Unless you just love cleaning algae off of glass. Instead it should be dark down there unless you are servicing the sump. If you need a storage area or grow out location for plants a separate tank is a much better option, it doesn't even need to be a tank, a plastic sterlite container works fine. And if for whatever reason you really really really want another compartment down there, your return pump doesn't need to be 11 inches wide, something like 7 inches is more then enough. And definitely look into the size of heater you need for this tank.. cause 13" is probably still too small.
Agreed, it's not necessary for freshwater since you don't have things like skimmers or ATS in there. Since I had the space, I like the idea of having it for acclimation or to isolate a bully fish (agreed, you could do that in a separate tank). What would you reclaim that space for? Side note, a 40 breeder is 17" wide, so there's plenty of room for heaters long ways in there.


Do you have any plans / photos of sumps you've done for freshwater? I'd love to see the arrangements.
 

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I have always liked the mattenfilter sump approach.
 

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Thanks again for all of the responses, this feedback is AWESOME!


- The main tank has dual overflows (one on each end), so if one clogs there is a backup. There is also the protection factor that the pump supply segment will run empty if I stop getting overflow -- meaning I can only pump an extra 5-10 gallons in there. I get your point that you probably don't need the extra capacity down there. Let me drop it another inch or two.



- If you turn them sideways, wouldn't they have to go the full width of the tank and height of the waterflow? I think that could work if I removed those baffles and just used a big egg crate section to have sideways flow. Is that more or less what you would do for freshwater? Could potentially be interesting. I was just thinking that if I'm rinsing / replacing filter pads I'd cover the whole stack.


Agreed, it's not necessary for freshwater since you don't have things like skimmers or ATS in there. Since I had the space, I like the idea of having it for acclimation or to isolate a bully fish (agreed, you could do that in a separate tank). What would you reclaim that space for? Side note, a 40 breeder is 17" wide, so there's plenty of room for heaters long ways in there.


Do you have any plans / photos of sumps you've done for freshwater? I'd love to see the arrangements.
For mechanical filters you could use material similar to matten filters. Your baffles would just be there to support it. Or if you can't source such large pieces you could always create half walls to block of sections, but it shouldn't be hard to find what you need for this.

I did forget about the width, your quite right.

As for what to use the space for, basically anything you want or need. Maybe you decide at some point you want to toss a couple of bags of purigen in, and a bag or 7 of ceramic rings, and a submersible UV lamp (which you should throw in anyway), and a backup heater. All of this can be done if you have the space, but if you put up a wall just for giggles then not only have you made it harder to clean but you have taken up space that could be used for ... anything... at at worst additional water volume/empty space. I wouldn't worry about reactors for carbon.. that's the great thing about freshwater and sumps. Just toss it in and your good to go.

As for designs, well I don't have any. I've spent the last 1.5 years researching sumps for my own build but haven't built one. My sump when I build it will be... different. So I hesitate to recommend it. Mine will have 2 baffles splitting it into 3 chambers. The first is for incoming water which will flow under the first baffle. The next space will have a static bed of K1 Micro thats floating. This is mechanical and biological in one. At the top of this chamber will be 2 durso pipes that lead down the second baffle into the main chamber which is the rest of the tank. When I need to clean it I redirect the return pump into the chamber with the static bed turning it into a moving bed. This releases all debris. Then I drain the sump and refill a few times and my media is cleaned without getting my hands wet. Or such is the theory. Never done it. Never seen it done except for in ponds (which is where the idea comes from). So maybe it works... maybe it doesn't.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
For mechanical filters you could use material similar to matten filters. Your baffles would just be there to support it. Or if you can't source such large pieces you could always create half walls to block of sections, but it shouldn't be hard to find what you need for this.
I feel like y'all are talking me out of all but that last baffle in my design. I can find bigger foam panels I think, and I could make a single "baffle" from eggcrate just past the intake -- and one glass baffle 11-12" high close to the pump return. I like keeping that there so the water level in the whole sump doesn't drop with to evaporation (leveraging less filter area). If I put that first eggcrate baffle far enough back, I do still get some open space for heaters, purigen, or some of the acclimation options I had before. Definitely makes this thing cheaper and easier!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Quick question: If you remove the over / under baffles in the sump, do you have to worry about micro-bubbles making it through the sump, or will the sideways pads / Matten Filter be able to clear those out?
 

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I feel like y'all are talking me out of all but that last baffle in my design.
Oh no, definitely don't think that.

I would totally have you take that out as well. Completely unneeded. Especially the extra fine filter pad if you are not sticking anything in the middle space like random fish or plants etc. Right after the mechanical filtration should just be an open space. You really don't need baffles for anything except directing water through the mechanical filtration. If you want you can even dump the socks and just use the matten type filters. If your overflow system in the main tank is quiet you can have the sump input water supply be below the surface. Then you can get rid of the idea of water flowing overwalls and instead just flowing directly through the matten style filters. This way your sump will be essentially silent.

I've seen this design a few times. The biggest one was on George Farmer's channel for a 7500 gallon tank he helped scape. George Farmer has a video that is the behind the scenes where they have the filter etc. Its basically just a grown up version of what I am describing plus a water polisher. The part I am talking about is at around the 17 minute mark.

 

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I hadn't heard of the matten filter sump design, so thanks for posting that. Are they a new development or only for freshwater? Any drawbacks for us?
I've seen some cichlid guys that run sumps that are just a big piece of foam stuff in the middle of a tote. I like matte filters, but don't want them in the tank. I once had a 80 frag tank that I used as a sump. It had an overflow box in one corner, allowing me to use foam to make a small pump compartment that made all the water travel though the foam.

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I hadn't heard of the matten filter sump design, so thanks for posting that. Are they a new development or only for freshwater? Any drawbacks for us?
I'm honestly not sure how new of a development they are. I know lots of folks that have been using matten filters for years, can't say if its been decades or not. There are no drawbacks, its just a bunch of dense sponge, should last for years and years. The "hard" part is making sure you have the right porosity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks for all of the awesome feedback y'all! You've totally changed my idea for the design for a much simpler design. This has been a great conversation for sure, and I very much appreciate it.

I feel like I need at least one baffle @minorhero -- I want to make sure that the water level in the sump stays consistent enough that my heaters don't leave the water. I have an ATO, but it still makes me nervous that my fill bucket goes dry and the water level drops too much.

Anyway, here's what I'm thinking now for the sump, any final thoughts y'all?

 
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