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Hey everyone. I am putting the final touches on a sump design for my 350 (8') tank. Tank will be moderate to heavily planted. I want to keep the sump design flexible so that I can make adjustments as I go. For instance, use chemical filtration as needed however my plans, for now, will be a combination of ceramic and other "bioball" type media. I also want to have a place that I can use for a grow-out tank as needed. I attached my thoughts in the diagram below. Please don't beat me up too badly on the drawing. It is not to scale.

I'm planning to stack two 55 gallon tanks and plumb them together. I've used a similar design in the past, but the two tanks were in a "side by side" configuration instead of stacked as you can see in the picture.

1) Water will enter the top section of the sump from the display tank and overflow onto filter floss. This will provide easy to change mechanical filtration. Currently, this will be a 12" by 12" section. I believe this will be enough, but I might make it 16" by 12". The divider will have a gap at the top to allow for overflow in case of clogged-up filter floss.
2) Next section will be a grow-out tank/refrugium/flexible section for additional media if I decide I need it.
3) Water will then overflow down into the second tank with a similar filter floss set up to capture any debris coming from the grow-out tank. I will also stack sponges under the filter floss section as additional mechanical and biofiltration.
3) Next will be 3 8" sections for ceramic/biomedia. I'm thinking the forced flow through the 8" sections will provide better results, but I may just do one 24" section here. I would welcome input here...
4) Last section will be were the return pump is connected. This will also be where I put the heaters.

Other items of note, I will also be doing semi-auto water changes by adding an additional overflow that is not pictured here...This will also provide a failsafe for the sumps overflowing.

I'm looking for any input you have or suggestions. The last sump I had that was close to this size contained a large fluidized bed section. I will be doing without that here and replacing with ceramic. The fluidized bed worked fantastically but it isn't as quiet as I would like.
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I'm going to be using dual 40B for a 450 and for the design I have in mind it will be very simple. will use a series of swisstropical sponges starting with 40ppi and going down to 20ppi; also i will have input to both 40B (parallel) and flow out at the end of both 40B - this is very different than your design in that the two 40s will be independent - you have the water flowing through one then the other. Also instead of a grow out refugium I will just use pothos lining the two 40's as well as Peace Lily.
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I never really understood why people bother with ceramic media and bio media when they can just use sponges. Of course the sponges do have to be clean every 4 to 8 months. Like you my tank will be a heavily planted tank with slight co2 injection - the fishes will be loaches and angels.
 

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Hey everyone. I am putting the final touches on a sump design for my 350 (8') tank. Tank will be moderate to heavily planted. I want to keep the sump design flexible so that I can make adjustments as I go. For instance, use chemical filtration as needed however my plans, for now, will be a combination of ceramic and other "bioball" type media. I also want to have a place that I can use for a grow-out tank as needed. I attached my thoughts in the diagram below. Please don't beat me up too badly on the drawing. It is not to scale.

I'm planning to stack two 55 gallon tanks and plumb them together. I've used a similar design in the past, but the two tanks were in a "side by side" configuration instead of stacked as you can see in the picture.

1) Water will enter the top section of the sump from the display tank and overflow onto filter floss. This will provide easy to change mechanical filtration. Currently, this will be a 12" by 12" section. I believe this will be enough, but I might make it 16" by 12". The divider will have a gap at the top to allow for overflow in case of clogged-up filter floss.
2) Next section will be a grow-out tank/refrugium/flexible section for additional media if I decide I need it.
3) Water will then overflow down into the second tank with a similar filter floss set up to capture any debris coming from the grow-out tank. I will also stack sponges under the filter floss section as additional mechanical and biofiltration.
3) Next will be 3 8" sections for ceramic/biomedia. I'm thinking the forced flow through the 8" sections will provide better results, but I may just do one 24" section here. I would welcome input here...
4) Last section will be were the return pump is connected. This will also be where I put the heaters.

Other items of note, I will also be doing semi-auto water changes by adding an additional overflow that is not pictured here...This will also provide a failsafe for the sumps overflowing.

I'm looking for any input you have or suggestions. The last sump I had that was close to this size contained a large fluidized bed section. I will be doing without that here and replacing with ceramic. The fluidized bed worked fantastically but it isn't as quiet as I would like.
View attachment 1035670
The only concern I have is how you will stack the two tanks so you can have easy access to both while also having easy access to your display tank. It sounds like your display tank will be at least 5 feet off the ground. You will need a ladder just to feed the fish.

Beyond that I will say that your plan will work 100% guaranteed. I feel comfortable saying that because filtering a freshwater planted tank is incredibly easy. The plan you have is super overkill. Like squashing a bug with the detonation of a thermonuclear warhead.

A lot of people think more biological media is better. But the reality is that once your ammonia and nitrite hits zero. More is not better. AND your ammonia and nitrite will hit zero with just the surface area inside your display tank. Every bit of ceramic media in your sump after that is completely unnecessary and worse, something you need to occasionally clean as well.

Instead the only thing needed in your sump is a means of mechanical filtration, a return pump, and any equipment you want, such as heaters, bubblers, or CO2 reactors, etc.

Another thing to consider. If you thought the moving bed was loud, well all of those waterfalls are not going to be quiet. The good thing is they are also not needed. Those waterfalls/overflows are mostly for saltwater tanks where sumps are much more common. We don't need them in freshwater.

Instead consider the entire filtering ability of your sump be limited to foam that all water passes through. Basically a matten filter. Your sump water level can remain at the same level and you can remove the filter foam sheets one at a time to clean. This leaves plenty of space for anything else you want, will be absolutely silent, is easy to clean, and very cost effective. There are a few like this on the forum and last I heard the people running them are pretty happy.
 

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A couple notes on your design as drawn.

You're first layer of filer floss is below the height of the divider to the right and will therefore always be underwater, which I doubt is your goal. Also with the return entering a different compartment than the first filter, you're likely going to end up with debris settling out and building up on the bottom of the first compartment and no good way to get it cleaned out.

Secondly if you're truly looking for a refugium then you have a couple options you might want to consider, either put it on it's own seperate look from the tank so it can pick up detritus and what not to foster the growth of smaller critters pods/shrimp/etc and then plumb it in above the display tank with a gravity return so that those critters can end up in the main tank without getting stuck in filtration or chopped to bits in your return pump. If it's more for grow out/isolation then all you need is something (foam/divider/etc) to keep what ever is in that compartment from getting sucked down the overflow into the next tank (also might want space for more than just an overflow standpipe as well since it'll likely be loud.

NEXT LEVEL LOWER

Same issue with the filter floss as with the layer above, however it is the last (furthest to the left) divider that will keep the water level high enough to submerge the floss. (also it's reundant to have it in 2 different locations in the sumps).

The amount of filter material (bio/ceramic/sponge) looks to be like a HUGE amount of overkill for the volume of water you are looking at and the stocking levels you are likely to be able to maintain (especially with plants helping in the filtering) though I will leave that up to you to decide

The last part is a very important oversight... The final compartment with the return pump is the only spot in the ENTIRE system where you will notice a water level drop due to eveaporation. This is definitely the wrong place to have heaters (they will be constantly in and out of the water). The amount of evaporation you're going to have vs the size of that compartment means you are likely going to have to top off the tank DAILY if not sooner or else you will run your pump dry. Also if you want to do a water change and not effect the water level in the tank, or have to turn off the sump, this is the only compartment you can remove water from. This is going to set you up for a lot of extra work and fiddling around.

If it were me, Firstly I would evaluate the reasons I'm doing a sump... constant water height in display, hide equipment, etc and design with that in mind. Your design feels overly complicated without a clearly thought out plan besides "i want to have a sump"

See attached for how I w
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ould do it
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
A couple notes on your design as drawn.

You're first layer of filer floss is below the height of the divider to the right and will therefore always be underwater, which I doubt is your goal. Also with the return entering a different compartment than the first filter, you're likely going to end up with debris settling out and building up on the bottom of the first compartment and no good way to get it cleaned out.

Secondly if you're truly looking for a refugium then you have a couple options you might want to consider, either put it on it's own seperate look from the tank so it can pick up detritus and what not to foster the growth of smaller critters pods/shrimp/etc and then plumb it in above the display tank with a gravity return so that those critters can end up in the main tank without getting stuck in filtration or chopped to bits in your return pump. If it's more for grow out/isolation then all you need is something (foam/divider/etc) to keep what ever is in that compartment from getting sucked down the overflow into the next tank (also might want space for more than just an overflow standpipe as well since it'll likely be loud.

NEXT LEVEL LOWER

Same issue with the filter floss as with the layer above, however it is the last (furthest to the left) divider that will keep the water level high enough to submerge the floss. (also it's reundant to have it in 2 different locations in the sumps).

The amount of filter material (bio/ceramic/sponge) looks to be like a HUGE amount of overkill for the volume of water you are looking at and the stocking levels you are likely to be able to maintain (especially with plants helping in the filtering) though I will leave that up to you to decide

The last part is a very important oversight... The final compartment with the return pump is the only spot in the ENTIRE system where you will notice a water level drop due to eveaporation. This is definitely the wrong place to have heaters (they will be constantly in and out of the water). The amount of evaporation you're going to have vs the size of that compartment means you are likely going to have to top off the tank DAILY if not sooner or else you will run your pump dry. Also if you want to do a water change and not effect the water level in the tank, or have to turn off the sump, this is the only compartment you can remove water from. This is going to set you up for a lot of extra work and fiddling around.

If it were me, Firstly I would evaluate the reasons I'm doing a sump... constant water height in display, hide equipment, etc and design with that in mind. Your design feels overly complicated without a clearly thought out plan besides "i want to have a sump"

See attached for how I w View attachment 1035702
ould do it
Thank you for the detailed post. I am certainly tracking the water levels and will keep the filter floss above the water line. I should have done a better job on the diagram in order to properly relay that i understand that piece very clearly. I've built an operated many sump systems with fantastic success. Your note about the heaters is a great one. I thought about this but never really updated my drawings. I will for sure be putting these in different locations and love your idea about putting them into the first chamber.

To answer your question about the two sections for filter floss. I didn't want the detritus from the grow tank to flow into the section section of the filter.

I also really like your idea about putting the grow out above the display and overflow into it. Only thing about that method is I would need to add a second pump. Or are you suggesting I pump directly up to the growout tank then overflow back to the tank?

The only concern I have is how you will stack the two tanks so you can have easy access to both while also having easy access to your display tank. It sounds like your display tank will be at least 5 feet off the ground. You will need a ladder just to feed the fish.

Beyond that I will say that your plan will work 100% guaranteed. I feel comfortable saying that because filtering a freshwater planted tank is incredibly easy. The plan you have is super overkill. Like squashing a bug with the detonation of a thermonuclear warhead.

A lot of people think more biological media is better. But the reality is that once your ammonia and nitrite hits zero. More is not better. AND your ammonia and nitrite will hit zero with just the surface area inside your display tank. Every bit of ceramic media in your sump after that is completely unnecessary and worse, something you need to occasionally clean as well.

Instead the only thing needed in your sump is a means of mechanical filtration, a return pump, and any equipment you want, such as heaters, bubblers, or CO2 reactors, etc.

Another thing to consider. If you thought the moving bed was loud, well all of those waterfalls are not going to be quiet. The good thing is they are also not needed. Those waterfalls/overflows are mostly for saltwater tanks where sumps are much more common. We don't need them in freshwater.

Instead consider the entire filtering ability of your sump be limited to foam that all water passes through. Basically a matten filter. Your sump water level can remain at the same level and you can remove the filter foam sheets one at a time to clean. This leaves plenty of space for anything else you want, will be absolutely silent, is easy to clean, and very cost effective. There are a few like this on the forum and last I heard the people running them are pretty happy.
I do like the idea of using more foam and very well may do that. I haven't completely decided on all the media I will be using, but I've used ceramic media in the past and really like it. I know I am over filtering and probably don't need it, but would prefer to have more than not enough. My biggest issue is I don't know how to properly size it for what I am trying to do. I may just use the one 55 as a sump and use the second has a grow out only when I need it and tap it into the system using a second pump.
 

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I do like the idea of using more foam and very well may do that. I haven't completely decided on all the media I will be using, but I've used ceramic media in the past and really like it. I know I am over filtering and probably don't need it, but would prefer to have more than not enough. My biggest issue is I don't know how to properly size it for what I am trying to do. I may just use the one 55 as a sump and use the second has a grow out only when I need it and tap it into the system using a second pump.
If you didn't have enough media you would see constant ammonia and nitrite in your tank. This can happen if you have a completely bare bottom tank with little to no hardscape of any kind and no filter media either. As soon as you start adding substrate, plants, wood/rock, you have a LOT of surface area already in the tank itself which will host bacteria just fine. If I were you, I'd skip the ceramic media. If you decide you want some more biological filter capacity, you can throw a bag into the bottom of sump. No need to make anything complicated. That's the joy of using a sump.

You should have enough empty space in your sump so when you shut off the power and water drains down your overflow (and possibly your return lines if your check valves ever fail), your sump does not cause a flood. Beyond that a single 55 gallon tank should have more then enough space for any filtering you might need to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
If you didn't have enough media you would see constant ammonia and nitrite in your tank. This can happen if you have a completely bare bottom tank with little to no hardscape of any kind and no filter media either. As soon as you start adding substrate, plants, wood/rock, you have a LOT of surface area already in the tank itself which will host bacteria just fine. If I were you, I'd skip the ceramic media. If you decide you want some more biological filter capacity, you can throw a bag into the bottom of sump. No need to make anything complicated. That's the joy of using a sump.

You should have enough empty space in your sump so when you shut off the power and water drains down your overflow (and possibly your return lines if your check valves ever fail), your sump does not cause a flood. Beyond that a single 55 gallon tank should have more then enough space for any filtering you might need to do.
Sounds good. One thing that has me wanting to over do it is the current state of my 120 gallon planted. I have two large canister filters on it running a mixture of ceramic and sponge media. After about a week, I start seeing signs of ammonia which, as you stated, has me thinking there isn't enough surface area for the bacteria to properly break everything down. Many of the sumps I've run in the past have been for my more bare "monster fish" style tanks. All my planted tanks have run canisters and I just don't seem to get the results that I can get with the sumps vs the canisters.
 

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Sounds good. One thing that has me wanting to over do it is the current state of my 120 gallon planted. I have two large canister filters on it running a mixture of ceramic and sponge media. After about a week, I start seeing signs of ammonia which, as you stated, has me thinking there isn't enough surface area for the bacteria to properly break everything down. Many of the sumps I've run in the past have been for my more bare "monster fish" style tanks. All my planted tanks have run canisters and I just don't seem to get the results that I can get with the sumps vs the canisters.
If your tank is only a week old, you definitely have not completed cycle yet. The biggest problem canisters have on bigger tanks is providing enough flow. Media quantities is not an issue. Not sure which filters you have running but be aware that actual flow coming out of a canister filter is half what the advertised gallons per hour are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If your tank is only a week old, you definitely have not completed cycle yet. The biggest problem canisters have on bigger tanks is providing enough flow. Media quantities is not an issue. Not sure which filters you have running but be aware that actual flow coming out of a canister filter is half what the advertised gallons per hour are.
This particular tank has been running for 6 years. I'm saying that a week after a 30-40% water change is when I start seeing signs of ammonia. I'm running a sunsun 404b and a fluval 407.
 

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I also really like your idea about putting the grow out above the display and overflow into it. Only thing about that method is I would need to add a second pump. Or are you suggesting I pump directly up to the growout tank then overflow back to the tank?
I'm absolutely suggesting you have the grow out overflow into the display tank and then overflow into the sump. Since you'll likely want more water turn over than you would like flowing through the 55 "overhead sump" you can put a "T" on the return line and send some of the water to the overhead sump and some to the display tank. Just make sure you size the overflow in the display tank to handle the total flow and you'll be fine. 1 pump (or 2 if you want redundancy) as long as the returns from both tanks are overflows and gravity only (not pump assisted) you don't need to worry about the tanks overflowing as they will balance themselves out.

On the note of overflowing, you're probably going to want to run the lowest sump with a low water level in in to be able to accommodate a large amount of water draining down for the display tank in the even of a power failure. Not sure on the specific volume, given your tank size, but I would expect at least 10-20 gallons
 

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This particular tank has been running for 6 years. I'm saying that a week after a 30-40% water change is when I start seeing signs of ammonia. I'm running a sunsun 404b and a fluval 407.
Your combined expected total from these filters is only about 460 gallons an hour. Or less then 4 times turnover per hour. So technically less then the recommended 4 to 8 times turn over per hour. That's assuming you are running them close to stock. If you filled them full of ceramic media (which is more flow restricting than foam), then it will be worse. Anyway if it's working for you then it's fine but usually in this situation you would either want a bigger canister or a power head to generate more flow in tank.

If you are detecting ammonia only after a water change then you are almost certainly just detecting what was in your tap water that your dechlorinator neutralized but even ammonia made 'safe' with dechlorinator will still register on a test.

You may also need some deep gravel vac for a multi year running tank. Just some thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Your combined expected total from these filters is only about 460 gallons an hour. Or less then 4 times turnover per hour. So technically less then the recommended 4 to 8 times turn over per hour. That's assuming you are running them close to stock. If you filled them full of ceramic media (which is more flow restricting than foam), then it will be worse. Anyway if it's working for you then it's fine but usually in this situation you would either want a bigger canister or a power head to generate more flow in tank.

If you are detecting ammonia only after a water change then you are almost certainly just detecting what was in your tap water that your dechlorinator neutralized but even ammonia made 'safe' with dechlorinator will still register on a test.

You may also need some deep gravel vac for a multi year running tank. Just some thoughts.
Thanks. Just a note, the ammonia is prior to the water change. Im using RO water to refill.
 

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I built my first wet/dry filter for a 125 gallon reef tank in 1987. Since then I have worked with a variety of designs. Some as simple as 2 rectangular plastic buckets set on supports inside ~35 gal plastic storage container. My focus here has been on what I've built for wild Discus but the fundamentals remain the same.

I have constructed many designs of overflow filtration systems over the years. One of my last designs was for a 72", 125 gallons, planted, wild blue discus habitat. I first successfully bred wild caught discus in July 1970!
In this design, I based it on a 29H aquarium. The incoming water flow was split to fall across a 20 X 12 in pad of "blue bond polyester" mechanical filtration media. This water falls through the supporting piece of "egg crate" light diffusion material.I used the same eggcrate material to support 20 X 12 X 12 inches of Bio-Fill(https://pentairaes.com/bio-fill-media.html).I am personally partial to Bio-Fill because it has very good surface area to volume ratio. Plastic scrubs are probably good enough if costs are a factor although for filling larger compartments such as these, it may cost more to buy enough scrub pads.

I prefer to reduce compartmentalization for many reasons. The first is to make the system as simple as possible.
In the sump proper, its best to leave the entire bottom undivided. The reason is to make the system less sensitive to varying water levels caused by normal evaporative water losses. You don't want your pump sucking air.
In planted aquariums using overflow filtration I skip using any ceramic bio-media except for some in a canister filter suitable for the size of the aquarium. I prefer having the redundancy that 2 filters provide.

I used a MagDrive 9.5 rated for 950 GPH for the wet/dry filter. Between this pump's return flow, the canister filter and a 350 GPH powerhead, I have a strong flow for a 125 gallon tank. Wild Discus actually prefer more current than most of their keepers think. See Oliver Lucanus' YouTube video,
.

Here is a photo of this particular wet/dry filter during construction. The phone is to provide a reference of size. Note I had to build a drilled glass and silicon lid to control splashes and evaporation. Note the "Tee" in the pump return line. This allows some water to be diverted through a chemical media reactor like a Two Little Fishies PhosBan Reactor 150. I sometimes used one filled with Purigen.
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can you show a picture of how the water flows to the pump out ? Also why do you find it necessary to use chemical filtration ?
 

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can you show a picture of how the water flows to the pump out ? Also why do you find it necessary to use chemical filtration ?
I left the entire bottom of the sump undivided to minimize the sump's water level. Evaporation will gradually cause the sump water depth to lower. If the water return pump is in a smaller partitioned area, then the smallest losses due to evaporation will result in the return water pump to be more likely to suck air. Resulting low water level in a small separated return water pump area can destroy the water pump. Of course, if you have an automated water refill system this wouldn't be an issue but few freshwater planted tanks have automated refills. Sorry, but I don't have a photo showing this undivided sump area design well enough to just show you what I mean. It is just a fact that an undivided sump area is less sensitive to varying water levels than one that is.

Re: Chemical filtration
I was experimenting with the use of Seachem's Purigen to remove organics. Purigen can be recharged by soaking it in bleach. I used it in a set up for 10 adult Heckel Discus I raised from 3-1/2" wild fish. It was the last time I attempted to breed Heckel Discus and I was trying everything I could think of. I've had pairs which would get close but never actually breed.
 
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