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.

Acrylic work: Routing Acrylic Projects

Working with acrylic isn't very hard, but you do have to be meticulous. Straight cuts are important, and the smoother the edges you achieve, the better your joints will bond. Many people wonder how sumps are assembled and don't realize that the bonding agent literally welds the two pieces into one piece with a chemical reaction that melts and merges the material. You need a triple cut (ATB) blade with 80 or more teeth for a clean edge.

I use Weld-On #3 for my joints, and #16 for gaps as well as in seams that I feel need a little more reinforcement. Looking for extended tips at the local hobby shop, I was able to force a long nozzle on the #16 to better control the amount of glue coming out because it had a smaller diameter tip.

Acrylic work: Routing Top Flange

There are a few ways to accomplish the top flange (the rim or one-piece euro-brace) of a sump. Originally, I would build the sump, squeeze in pieces of wood inside the upper edge of the sump, and use a router with a ball bearing guide to trace the lumber. This was tedious, and cutting wood for each sump would end up costing too much.

Later I bought an Edge-Guide that mounts to the router. Once the sump was built, I could use the edge guide to follow the outer periphery of the sump while the bit cut out the opening. This is fine, but it is possible to make an error, or even damage the sump if the center piece drops inwards too hard. Plus the sump would fill up with shavings that had to be removed afterwards. Some images of this procedure are included on this page when you scroll down quite a bit.

Acrylic work: Routing teeth

How would you like to route some teeth for a baffle of your sump? Here is one of the methods I've used.

You could create a "jig" that is re-useable, such as the thumbnail to the right.  It provides me with a series of grooves for the router bit's shaft to trace, but over time it melts the material of the jig and has to be replaced.  This is a good choice for a few uses, at most.

Acrylic work: Tools I use...

Due to the abundance of emails, it was time to put some pictures on the site. Here are a number of items I use to build the sumps and other acrylic wares I fabricate. While not everything is absolutely necessary, I find that if you have the right tools on hand, your end result will be better. Keeping track of all these items can be a task, since they scatter during the construction phase...

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.

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