Sump designs

The Side Sump

Sump in a side cabinet

A sump was requested for a corner tank. Because there was no room to work in that stand, this sump & refugium was designed to be installed in an adjacent cabinet, providing easy access and more volume to the system. By the way, this is probably my favorite sump because of its uniqueness.

Taking pictures of acrylic sounds easy at first, but for the reader online it can be difficult to see things clearly. So, here is a sketch to help you visualize the unit.

What is a sump?

A sump gives you greater control over your reef or fish-only display tank. The benefits far exceed the risks, and thus most successful aquariums you'll see utilize a sump. Some even incorporate a refugium as well. Here are the numerous benefits derived from incorporating a sump into your current setup:

Ordering a Sump

You must make a series of decisions for your next sump order to meet your specific needs.  The following Q&A should help cover most points, but feel free to ask me for additional help via email if you wish.

How large should the sump be?

The bigger, the better. The larger your sump, the more water volume you’ll be adding to the total system, plus it will be able to hold excess water during a power (or pump) failure. No floods equals no wet flooring!

How do I decide the size?

Custom Nano tank with False Wall

After several years of building sumps, a potential customer asked me to build him a custom tank. My concern is always about the livestock and until then I'd never considered building a display system. He urged me to do it, not taking no for an answer. This was my first attempt.

He wanted the tank to have a black panel the full width of the tank to hide the plumbing leading to the sump and I wanted it to have an overall clean look.

Frag Tank & Sump

Keith, a DFWMAS club member and customer of mine, ordered a frag tank and matching sump.  He designed the steel stand and listed his desires, and I got busy building his dream setup.

The frag tank is 47.75" x 30" x 14" and holds 75g of water.  The custom overflow has three Durso drains and two Locline returns, with room for pumps on either side of the overflow.

90g Propagation Tank

I was asked to build a 4' x 3' propagation tank for DFWMAS, and after a little thinking and a little more time building, this is what they got.  This is a durable tank that will last for years, made with 3/8" cast acrylic.  The corner overflow has a 1.5" drain and 1" return, which is plenty for this volume of water.

Model "J" Sump

This sump is made with 3/8" acrylic and is a rimless sump.  Rimless provides greater access to the various areas, but it doesn't help keep saltcreep in the sump and off the woodwork of the stand.  

Dimensions: 40" x 14" x 16" (holds 34 gallons to the top)

Model "G" External

The Model "G" External (formerly the Model G-modified) is a sump that allows for an external pump.  If the sump isn't drilled, an internal pump can be used of course.  The skimmer section houses the protien skimmer and bubble tower, and the large refugium allows the hobbyist to see inside easily.  Water from both zones pours into the center area, and then flows behind the refugium zone to the external pump.

The benefit of this design is the increased linear travel time that avoids issues with microbubbles.

Model "F" Sump

The Model F design is built as seen below. Water enters from both ends simultaneously and flows into the center. A submersible internal pump in the center section will pump water back up to the tank.

This has become the most popular of the sumps I build and is copied by many that want to make their own.  I've seen stores with this similar layout under their display tanks because it provides beneficial filtration and incorporates a nice refugium zone.

Model "A" Sump

The first sump I designed was basically a refugium and a return zone.  It incorporated a bubble tower to avoid microbubbles, and kept the sump quiet.  It fit under a 29-gallon reef, and held 16-gallons to the top rim.

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