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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am in the process of setting up a 48”, 90 gallon high tech planted tank. I have the opportunity to get the tank in a drilled version to set up a sump system. I have never owned a sump so I thought I’d reach out to the community for your thoughts. Here are some of the thing I am wondering:

1- How easy is to maintain sumps? I find cleaning canister filters and the associated hoses a major chore and so they often get extremely dirty. My LFS said that sumps are much easier to clean. No need to clean the plumbing and everything In the sump is easy to access. Is that your experience? This is the main reason I am considering a sump.

2- What about CO2? Is there any issue with CO2 - beyond the fact that I’d expect to have to dose more due to larger surface area, which is not a problem for me.

3 - I have lots oh nano fish - tetras, raspboras etc. - and shrimp. Will the overflow be an issue with them getting sucked into the sump. If it is a problem are there any solutions without reducing the flow from the drain. One person suggested using plastic or stainless steel mesh on the weir which sounded like a good idea. Any other suggestions?

4- Anything else?

Thanks everyone for your input.
 

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One thing you do need to do is use an auto top off system. As a sump requires a constant water level to work properly.
I have used them for 30 years on reef systems. You have to clean the mechanical filter regularly. As it can cause three water level in the sump to change.
As with all things there are trade offs.
 

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Regarding nano fish and shrimp, they certainly can take a trip to the sump! I have a filter sock which will catch any joy-riders. Some fish take a ride or two then seem to figure it out and aren't caught anymore. Otos in my case fall into that category. Amano shrimp seem to be constantly getting into the sump. I try to look in the filter sock every two or three days but I have lost shrimp to this. Some folks fashion a pre-filter out of mesh but this can reduce your flow and it will need to be maintained.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
One thing you do need to do is use an auto top off system. As a sump requires a constant water level to work properly.
I have used them for 30 years on reef systems. You have to clean the mechanical filter regularly. As it can cause three water level in the sump to change.
As with all things there are trade offs.
Thanks. Yes you are right about the top off. I already have a 20 gallon rodi container - I use mineralized rodi water - so I should be able to set that up from the Container. When you say mechanical filter, do you mean the filter socks? If so, I see what you mean. I was hoping to use floss in the sock and replace the floss every couple of days, which I hope is manageable given how easy it is to access - but it may be a case of "the grass is greener".

Bump:
Regarding nano fish and shrimp, they certainly can take a trip to the sump! I have a filter sock which will catch any joy-riders. Some fish take a ride or two then seem to figure it out and aren't caught anymore. Otos in my case fall into that category. Amano shrimp seem to be constantly getting into the sump. I try to look in the filter sock every two or three days but I have lost shrimp to this. Some folks fashion a pre-filter out of mesh but this can reduce your flow and it will need to be maintained.
Thanks. These are indeed the two I have had problems with even with the canister filter. I use a skimmer type intake on my canister, and I had to put a mesh on the skimmer since I kept of digging out dead ottos and amano from the canister at the time of cleaning. Who knows how many had disintegrated between cleanings.
 

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I am a fan of sumps when possible. Regarding the ATO for planted tanks, it depends on the design of the sump. Evaporation on FW is far less relevant that SW. SW changes salinity with evaporation. FW just increases the concentration of nutrients, normally by a nominal level. The most important thing is making sure your pump doesn't run dry. If your return section is a few gallons, this may be days or a week for it to run dry. For my sump on my 180, I have a 75 gallon sump. The pump is sectioned off with mattenfilter, so it has access to 50 gallons or so. It would take over a month to run dry. The downside would be if the overflow clogs, the display can overfill and flood. With a beananimal style overflow, this is not a concern.

There are some pictures in my build thread if you are interested in some DIY ideas.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/12-tank-journals/1312137-wills-tanks-journey-pic-heavy.html

Regarding the OG questions
1- Sumps can be as easy or simple to maintain as you want. It is mainly dependent on the design and how much crap you put down there. In FW, this is less of an issue as you wont have a protein skimmer taking space. Most people also do not run many or any reactors or algae scrubbers or....excess equipment. Additionally, stand design will effect ease of maintenance. If you have a sump under the tank and the stand it short, it may be difficult to access the filter. This will be the same issue with a canister, but just something to consider.

2- This is again dependent on the design. For instance, if your drains are above the sump waterline or are not tuned properly (gate valves are the way to go), this will create a ton of surface agitation gassing off co2. Drain lines should sit around 1 inch under the water surface

3-Nanofish will make it into the sump. Depending on design, this may or may not be an issue. If there is a lower flow section, they will make it there and be fine. One major benefit of this is if you have fry, they will make it down there and it is a sanctuary where they will not be eaten. Until I added foam to my canister intake, I would commonly find shrimp in there and occasionally a nano fish fry. They are less likely to live in a canister than a sump.
 

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As someone who setup their first sump system recently I enjoyed it very much. There is definitely a learning curve, it's not plug-and-play like a canister. But I found it very interesting and am enjoying the learning and experimentation. I like the additional water volume and customization/configuration options. I also like how open and accessible everything is. Need to rinse the coarse mechanical sponge? No problem. Where with my canister I'm like ehh do I really feel like disconnecting it and opening it up. It's not a huge difference, but I do feel like the sump is slightly better here.

I haven't had any issues with evaporation screwing up the water level. I've found it to be pretty tolerant in that regard actually. I did have one instance of level going low in the sump, but that was due to feed into sump getting backed up.

Overall if you want something that's going to be plug and play probably go with the canister. But if you are looking for a learning experience, and ability to customize and optimize the sump is the way to go.
 

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In my opinion a sump is neither harder nor easier to maintain than a canister filter... it all depends on the design of the sump! When I design a sump I look at each piece of it from a maintenance point of view. I specifically design a sump so that I can maintain it easily. So for me my sumps are MUCH easier to maintain than the wide variety of canister filters I have owned. On the flip side I have seen sumps with such complex designs that maintenance would be a nightmare!

Mechanical media needs to be removed, rinsed and replaced on a regular basis. Design your sump so this is an easy quick task and I think you will find that you are likely to do this more often which should make for healthier and happier fish!

In one of my tanks I have guppies with the associated numerous guppy fry. I use a very coarse sponge filter in front of the overflow to keep the fry from going down the overflow. This sponge is the most maintained piece of my tank as it cakes up with debris pretty quick. It is VERY easy to pull the sponge, rinse it and replace it. I also have a second layer of the same sponge INSIDE the overflow. When I pull the outside piece of sponge I don't have to worry about the fry going into the overflow because of the second piece of sponge. I usually pull the outside sponge, clean it, replace it, then do the same for the inside sponge. I usually do this once a week because the tank level rises when the coarse sponge starts to clog. If both the outside and inside sponge clog the tank water rises over the top of both of them and goes down the overflow before the tank level gets too high and causes a flood.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
I am a fan of sumps when possible. Regarding the ATO for planted tanks, it depends on the design of the sump. Evaporation on FW is far less relevant that SW. SW changes salinity with evaporation. FW just increases the concentration of nutrients, normally by a nominal level. The most important thing is making sure your pump doesn't run dry. If your return section is a few gallons, this may be days or a week for it to run dry. For my sump on my 180, I have a 75 gallon sump. The pump is sectioned off with mattenfilter, so it has access to 50 gallons or so. It would take over a month to run dry. The downside would be if the overflow clogs, the display can overfill and flood. With a beananimal style overflow, this is not a concern.

There are some pictures in my build thread if you are interested in some DIY ideas.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/12-tank-journals/1312137-wills-tanks-journey-pic-heavy.html

Regarding the OG questions
1- Sumps can be as easy or simple to maintain as you want. It is mainly dependent on the design and how much crap you put down there. In FW, this is less of an issue as you wont have a protein skimmer taking space. Most people also do not run many or any reactors or algae scrubbers or....excess equipment. Additionally, stand design will effect ease of maintenance. If you have a sump under the tank and the stand it short, it may be difficult to access the filter. This will be the same issue with a canister, but just something to consider.

2- This is again dependent on the design. For instance, if your drains are above the sump waterline or are not tuned properly (gate valves are the way to go), this will create a ton of surface agitation gassing off co2. Drain lines should sit around 1 inch under the water surface

3-Nanofish will make it into the sump. Depending on design, this may or may not be an issue. If there is a lower flow section, they will make it there and be fine. One major benefit of this is if you have fry, they will make it down there and it is a sanctuary where they will not be eaten. Until I added foam to my canister intake, I would commonly find shrimp in there and occasionally a nano fish fry. They are less likely to live in a canister than a sump.
Thanks. This is very helpful. I’ll make sure my drain does not cause a lot of turbulence to minimize CO2 loss. Also appreciate the Bean Animal overflow suggestion for dealing with a clogged drain. Does Herbie style overflow have the same advantage?

I look forward to checking out your build thread tonight, after work.

Bump:
In my opinion a sump is neither harder nor easier to maintain than a canister filter... it all depends on the design of the sump! When I design a sump I look at each piece of it from a maintenance point of view. I specifically design a sump so that I can maintain it easily. So for me my sumps are MUCH easier to maintain than the wide variety of canister filters I have owned. On the flip side I have seen sumps with such complex designs that maintenance would be a nightmare!

Mechanical media needs to be removed, rinsed and replaced on a regular basis. Design your sump so this is an easy quick task and I think you will find that you are likely to do this more often which should make for healthier and happier fish!
Thanks for your reply. I am new to sumps. Any design tips for prioritizing ease of maintenance would be welcome. Do you have a post about your sump?

Bump:
As someone who setup their first sump system recently I enjoyed it very much. There is definitely a learning curve, it's not plug-and-play like a canister. But I found it very interesting and am enjoying the learning and experimentation. I like the additional water volume and customization/configuration options. I also like how open and accessible everything is. Need to rinse the coarse mechanical sponge? No problem. Where with my canister I'm like ehh do I really feel like disconnecting it and opening it up. It's not a huge difference, but I do feel like the sump is slightly better here.

I haven't had any issues with evaporation screwing up the water level. I've found it to be pretty tolerant in that regard actually. I did have one instance of level going low in the sump, but that was due to feed into sump getting backed up.

Overall if you want something that's going to be plug and play probably go with the canister. But if you are looking for a learning experience, and ability to customize and optimize the sump is the way to go.
Thanks. I feel exactly the same way about opening up my canister - plus I also worry as to how much effort it’ll be to get the siphon going - every now and then it is a bear.

I do like tinkering though, so I hope it’d be fun for me as well.
 

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My overflow. A piece of 2" PVC pipe. It has been running for 5 years without any issues.

My very dirty overflow in need of a cleaning:
Terrestrial plant Plant Grass Terrestrial animal Twig


Pull the outside sponge and rinse:
Plant Leaf Botany Terrestrial plant Grass


Food Finger Wood Ingredient Cuisine



Replace the outside sponge and pull the inside sponge then rinse:
Green Botany Plant Natural material Terrestrial plant


Insect Arthropod Terrestrial plant Pest Invertebrate


This is what my overflow looks like with both sponges removed and the return pump turned off:
Plant Natural material Vegetation Terrestrial plant Grass


This is the sump. About $60 off ebay and perfect for my 35g tank. I lift the lid, pull the filter matt, wash it then replace it all without turning off the pump:
Hood Automotive lighting Yellow Bumper Automotive exterior



Maintenance time is about 3 minutes.

About every month or two I will pull the fine sponge filter under the bio balls and wash it. Due to the design of this commercial sump this is MUCH more of a hassle than it should be!

For those wondering this tank is in my living room and this very simple overflow on my 35g tank is perfectly quiet. The fans on the lights are louder than the overflow.




Here is the sump I am building for my new 180g planted tank:
Wood Flooring Gas Hardwood Machine


Wood Audio equipment Hardwood Flooring Room
 

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On a large tank, the draw for me to a sump would be the ability to run the Co2 reactor on a dedicated pump to get optimal diffusion, without cluttering up the tank with equipment or slowing down the filter outflow.
Another draw is the filter media capacity versus a canister filter, being able to run through a prefilter into a range of sponge mesh sizes along with a good amount of biological filter media and chemical media if needed is really appealing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
My overflow. A piece of 2" PVC pipe. It has been running for 5 years without any issues.

My very dirty overflow in need of a cleaning:
View attachment 903497

Pull the outside sponge and rinse:
View attachment 903499

View attachment 903513


Replace the outside sponge and pull the inside sponge then rinse:
View attachment 903501

View attachment 903503

This is what my overflow looks like with both sponges removed and the return pump turned off:
View attachment 903505

This is the sump. About $60 off ebay and perfect for my 35g tank. I lift the lid, pull the filter matt, wash it then replace it all without turning off the pump:
View attachment 903507


Maintenance time is about 3 minutes.

About every month or two I will pull the fine sponge filter under the bio balls and wash it. Due to the design of this commercial sump this is MUCH more of a hassle than it should be!

For those wondering this tank is in my living room and this very simple overflow on my 35g tank is perfectly quiet. The fans on the lights are louder than the overflow.




Here is the sump I am building for my new 180g planted tank:
View attachment 903509

View attachment 903511
Thanks for sharing. Great re the overflow. It makes sense. Your new sump for 180G looks interesting. What is the canister doing? It looks like it is connected to the sump.

Bump:
On a large tank, the draw for me to a sump would be the ability to run the Co2 reactor on a dedicated pump to get optimal diffusion, without cluttering up the tank with equipment or slowing down the filter outflow.
Another draw is the filter media capacity versus a canister filter, being able to run through a prefilter into a range of sponge mesh sizes along with a good amount of biological filter media and chemical media if needed is really appealing.
Thanks for posting this. Good information. I had never thought of a CO2 reactor. I’ll look into that.
 

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Thanks for sharing. Great re the overflow. It makes sense. Your new sump for 180G looks interesting. What is the canister doing? It looks like it is connected to the sump.
The canister is a Hayward EC40 Diatomatious Earth pool filter. It is like the old Diatom XL filters supersized and I will be running it full time. DE filters can trap particles so small they can even filter out disease causing bacteria and viruses. All of the return water from the sump will go through the DE filter for a final polishing before returning to the tank.

Here is a link to a thread that better explains it if you are intersested: https://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/threads/monster-diatomaceous-earth-de-filter.434493/



The sump for the 180g is plumbed into the house plumbing and will do auto water changes. Water in the right compartment of the sump will be pumped down the drain which will cause the water level in the left compartment to lower opening the float valve refilling the left compartment with fresh water. I am using a temperature compensating valve in front of the float valve so the incoming water will be tank temperature. Since I am on well water I am lucky to not have to worry about chlorine.

Easy maintenance and laziness are my goal: https://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/...insula-dirt-bottom-planted-tank-build.714316/
 

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The canister is a Hayward EC40 Diatomatious Earth pool filter. It is like the old Diatom XL filters supersized and I will be running it full time. DE filters can trap particles so small they can even filter out disease causing bacteria and viruses. All of the return water from the sump will go through the DE filter for a final polishing before returning to the tank.

Here is a link to a thread that better explains it if you are intersested: https://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/threads/monster-diatomaceous-earth-de-filter.434493/



The sump for the 180g is plumbed into the house plumbing and will do auto water changes. Water in the right compartment of the sump will be pumped down the drain which will cause the water level in the left compartment to lower opening the float valve refilling the left compartment with fresh water. I am using a temperature compensating valve in front of the float valve so the incoming water will be tank temperature. Since I am on well water I am lucky to not have to worry about chlorine.

Easy maintenance and laziness are my goal: https://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/...insula-dirt-bottom-planted-tank-build.714316/
The DE filter is actually a really cool idea, it's definitely going on the list if I ever find myself in a situation where I implement a sump.
For the charging process how will you do it with what seems like hardline fittings, and in your past experience what happens when the power goes out and pressure drops?
 

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An example of a sump with a skimmer overflow and no ato. Note the only area baffled off is where the pipes flow into the sump. Thus the return pump has access to 50ish gallons of water and would take over a month to run dry.








A sump with a skimmer overflow that does require an ATO. Note the small return pump chamber. Due to the final baffle, the return pump only has access to 3ish gallons and would take days to run dry.

 

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The DE filter is actually a really cool idea, it's definitely going on the list if I ever find myself in a situation where I implement a sump.
For the charging process how will you do it with what seems like hardline fittings, and in your past experience what happens when the power goes out and pressure drops?
The Diatomatious Earth actually clumps together and sticks to the screens (actually tubes of screen in the Hayward EC40) really well so it doesn't fall off during a power outage. The handle on the EC40 is there to move the screens up and down to knock the majority of the DE off the screens while the pump is off so it can recoat them with new DE shells facing the dirty water when the pump is turned back on. I always turn my pump off while feeding and I do not get DE plumes in the water. Once the DE has been initially loaded onto the screens the amount of DE that gets through the screens is very small. It is only on the very initial charging that there is a LOT of DE exiting the filter.

My next step on my 180 build is to finish plumping in the DE filter. There will be [STRIKE]a couple of valves[/STRIKE] (I just ordered a 1.5" 3 way valve off Amazon for only $18) to allow me to easily redirect water circulation coming out of the DE filter through the tank or directly back into the second compartment of the sump. I will only actually be using this for initially charging the DE. When I "regenerate" the DE by working the handle and knocking the DE off the screens so it will recoat them when the pump is turned back on I might use the bypass valve. But in the past I have just let the water run through the tank after regeneration and the minor amounts of DE that get into the tank has never bothered the fish and gets filtered out of the water column quite quickly. Any DE that settles out of the tank water just becomes part of my dirt substrate.

The majority of the longer pieces of pipe that I am using is a flexible PVC pipe. It is MUCH more rigid than PVC tubing but has a fair bit more "give" than regular PVC pipe. It has a surface resistance that is quite low, very close to if not equal to standard PVC pipe. I have had problems using the flexible PVC pipe in the past with it not making good solid welds. This time I am sanding EVERY mating surface with 80 grit to take the sheen off the hard and flexible PVC which I am confident will make for a much more solid weld.

 

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I love your simple efficient sump design Sarlindescent! The sponges are really easy to get to and clean. How do you keep the sponges in place while the sump is running?



I like and dislike the sponges. They are 3" thick and slightly oversized in width, 1/2" or so. The friction allows them to stay in place. It is a very effective baffle system and not having to top off is convenient. The major downside, which only happens once a year or so, is cleaning them. Its a giant 18"x18"x3" block of fish $#@!. They are heavy and I have to load them into a rubbermaid and spray them a ton. It's very messy.
 
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