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FAQs About Sump/Filters 4

Related FAQs: Sumps/Filters 1, Sumps 2, Sumps 3, Sumps 5, Sumps 6, Sumps 7, Sumps 8, Sumps 9, Sumps 10, Rationale, Design, Construction, Sump Components, Pumps/Circulation, Maintenance, Refugiums, Plenums in Reef Filtration, Marine System Plumbing Holes & Drilling 1, Durso Standpipes, Overflow Boxes, Bubble Trouble, Plumbing NoiseMake Up Water Systems, Marine Aquarium Set-Up, Live RockLive Sand, Algal Filtration in General, Mud Filtration 1

Related Articles: P Pressure Locking Sump Baffles; Welcome to the World of Versatility! By Joshua McMillen, Refugiums, Marine Filtration, Reef FiltrationMechanical, Physical, Marine System Plumbing Fish-Only Marine Set-up, FOWLR/Fish and Invertebrate Systems, Reef Systems, Coldwater Systems, Small Systems, Large Systems, Refugiums

Stocked upstream refugium image by Skip Attix

- Installing a Sump - Hello, oh helpful ones: <Greetings, JasonC here...> I currently have a 55gal FOWLR setup with hang-on filter, hang-on skimmer, in-tank powerhead and in-tank heater.  I want to get/do a sump to get all the stuff out of my tank and to reap the other benefits.  My problem/challenge is that the only space I have for the sump is inside the stand.  This space is only 10" wide, which leaves me with very little sump capacity for any pre-made.  Even for a custom made sump, I have calculated approximately 15-20gal in order to have any wiggle room.  My questions:  1) isn't it true that you can only have the sump half filled with water? <To an extent. The sump needs to be able to accommodate some quantity of the system water in the plumbing and overflow if the power failed. If the sump were more than 60% full at any given time and the power failed, you might end up with a portion of the tank water on the floor instead. This will vary with design, planning.> 2) isn't that way too small? <I think you will find the biggest challenge - how exactly do you get the sump into the stand without taking the tank out.> 3) should I bother, given my limited space? <How industrious are you?> 4) is ANY size sump an advantage over none? <I think so... you increase the total water volume in the system which is always helpful.> 5) am I inviting more problems than I am solving? <Only if you throw it together. Take your time in the design/planning phase.> Thank you very much in helping me, again!  Rich <Cheers, J -- >

Micro-Bubble and Sump Setup Hi everyone, <Hello> I have a 65 gal fish-reef aquarium with over 100 lbs of live rock and 6" of Southdown DSB.  My problem is with the HOB PM Hot-1 skimmer, it introduces quite bit amount of micro-bubble back into the main display. The pump Rio 800)for the skimmer is currently set in a DIY surface skim box.  I am thinking to setup a 10 gal sump with baffles underneath the main display so that the skimmer returns can be redirected to the sump then pump back to the main display and hope to eliminate the bubble problem. <A 10 gallon sump or do you mean a 10 gallon skimmer box? Skimmer box yes...10 gallon sump standing alone will be way too small. Almost impossible not to flood a 10 gallon. A 20 would do just fine> I know this kind setup can cause a flood during a power outage if the water level in the sump is not set correctly at beginning. <Right!> Do you see any other potential problems with this proposal such as the water level in the main display will keep constant or not? (like an overflow design) <Yes. The evaporation will occur in your sump. Another reason why you need more than 10 gallons> As always appreciate your expertise.  Thanks. <Hope I've helped. David Dowless> Wayne

Re: sump filtration Hi Again! <Hi!> After further research, here are my plans. I am ordering the 92 gallon bowfront corner tank with a built in overflow box..  This is going to be only a freshwater tank. For filtration, I am going to plumb through a wall to a storage room where I will house my sump and filter. For the filter I plan to make my own using two Rubbermaid containers which are 12 inches tall, 12 inches long and 8 inches wide.  When I stack these there is a 5X12X8 inch area in the second container.  I am going to drill holes in the bottom of each creating a two stage filter.  In the first layer will be mechanical filter.  And in the second one with the area described above will be carbon held in reusable bags. The water will flow through these two filters and into a 40 gallon container used as a sump.  I would also like to have rock and live plants in one area of the sump. My questions are as follows: Do I need bio balls ? <No, but some form of bio-filtration would be a good idea.> What is a good brand of pump for approx 500-600 gph? <There are many of these available retail. Please shop our WetWebMedia.com sponsors. Most are inexpensive and reliable.> What is a good heater for this size tank? <For 92 gallons and a sump I would probably use two heaters sized to the total volume and local weather. I like to slightly oversize my heaters as I'm in a northern tier state.  Brrrrr.> Any ideas and /or criticisms are appreciated. Thank-you again, Jesse <Do consider some of the commercially available filtration systems, you may save less than you think doing it yourself.  Craig>

Silicon and moving 125G tank Hi Gang, I hope you all had a great holiday season and Happy New Year!  If this is Anthony, it's been awhile and my tanks are great no problems!  I will be moving both my 125G and My 90 gallon into the basement with my new home office.  I will have more space, and both tanks in the same area.  Here is the question.  With my 125 move I want to adjust the sump slightly.  This will involve some new partitions that will be siliconed in place.  If I remove the sump first, put in the new partitions, than say 7 hrs later when the move is complete, add back in the livestock, will this be enough time for the silicon to not be an irritant to my corals and fish?  I am not worried about strength, it's the curing time and irritation I am worried about.  Thanks  Larry <I would not submerge the silicon for a good 24 hour period, to allow it to cure completely. Bob Fenner>

Silicon and moving 125G tank Hi Bob, thanks for the quick reply, I don't think I can wait the 24 hours before filling and turning my sump back on.  Do you see any problems with using a 5 minute or 30 minute epoxy to secure the new partitions?  Thanks, Larry <Mmm, no. If these junctions don't need to be flexible, this is a better/only route... unless, perhaps securing some "races" (just two strips of material) into the sump walls will allow you to slide the panels in/out at your leisure. Bob Fenner>

Sumps & 'fuges Thanks for the suggestions. They bring up a couple of additional questions. If I were to use a sump, how would I best get the water to it? <always drilled overflow holes (back wall, not floor- preferably). Avoid siphon overflows at all costs... they can break siphon easily/eventually> The 80G tank is already set up and is not drilled. <I would personally rather go without a sump than deal with a siphon overflow. On the other hand... a sump is a tremendous help... well worth draining and drilling your tank> I think that the biggest sump or refugium I could fit under my stand would be only about 10 (maybe 15) gallons. <rather small... don't bother with the 10 gall. Or perhaps have a custom sump build to maximize volume> How would you recommend setting up an upstream 10G tank and what are the reasons for this being a wonderful idea for me? <simply a 10 gallon on a shelf above the main display (can have a cool mangrove seedling coming out of it with a spotlight to make it even sexier <G>>. This refugium can be fed by a small mag drive pump or a bleed off from a sump return pump. The benefits are numerous and well defined in our archives... do browse the refugium FAQs please. One outstanding benefit though if you have the discipline to keep it fishless is that plankton will gravity overflow every night without having to travel through a pump like plankters from a downstream 'fuge would> Thank you so much for all of the great advice you are constantly providing through your wonderful website! Steve Allen <Thank you, my friend... Merry Christmas. Anthony>

Large Tank Equipment Setting up a used 250 gallon tank, with overflow, has two down leads to a sump that was for a reef tank. I want to use the tank for only fish, triggers. The sump has two returns to the tank powered by two Mak 4 pumps. The sump also has one Mak 4 on the intake side which goes to an ETS protein skimmer. No bio balls are in the sump and the sump is 34x12x18, I guess they had live rock/sand in the sump. My question is do I use the sump or buy another wet/dry system like a CPR or Skylab or the new Kent Biorocker? I do not want a reef tank, but just fish only, what are your thoughts on this? <Since you wish to house messy fish, you may need the nitrifying potential of a Wet/Dry filter and have to deal with nitrate accumulation with water changes. I would keep the pumps and skimmer, though. -Steven Pro>

In Sump vs. External Euro-Reef Response Steven Pro, There is a big benefit to using a external model of a Euro-Reef skimmer. A Euro-Reef in the sump can raise the water temperature 4 degrees in a 180 gallon reef tank. RGibson <Thanks for the information. -Steven Pro>

Overflow & Sump, Part 1 I have been reading over the FAQ's which have answered many questions but many more were created. I am setting up a 20x20x10x24 All Glass aquarium. <Hmm... We have ventured into the fourth dimension.> I want to drill a 1.5" hole near the top to fit a 1" bulkhead that will go to a 10 gallon aquarium for a sump. The sump will house my heater, Prizm skimmer, <The Skimmer needs to be kept in a special chamber so it receives surface overflow water and a constant water level.> carbon, floss, and return pump. 1. Can I purchase a diamond bit at Home Depot and drill the hole myself? <I don't know if Home Depot sells these, but you have to use a lubricant with the drill bit and keep the drill perfectly perpendicular to the glass surface. I have always use drills made for this purpose that come with a tripod for stability.> I have read it can be done. If so is 1.5" a good size? <I believe a 1" bulkhead needs a 1 3/4" hole.> How far from the top should the hole be drilled? <About 4" from the top to the center of the hole.> I am going to build a internal overflow box with notches at the top. What should the dimensions of the box be? <Whatever is comfortable for you to work with.> I am thinking of 3"x6"x3". Is this a good design? <That seems fine.> I have seen many. 2. What kind of flow rate am I going to get with a 1" bulkhead from the overflow? <300-400 gph> What rate should the pump be going back to the tank? <Same> If I put a valve on the line going back to the tank to regulate the flow to the tank will this help stop the bubbles that so many people have problems with? <No> This is all I will ask for now. Thanks for your help and website. Shaun Nelson <Good luck! -Steven Pro>

Sump Configuration Question II Anthony, <Steven Pro here with the follow up. Anthony is getting a bit behind.> This has gotten me thinking that I need to reconfigure my sump. So, I have a few more questions if you don't mind.  :-)) Currently have a AquaFlow protein skimmer, Marineland commercial BioWheel, and a Custom Sealife UV sterilizer. You've already indicated that the skimmer should be before the BioWheel. What about the sterilizer? <This likely makes no difference.> I was thinking putting the sterilizer before the skimmer so that the skimmer would catch all the dead material. Should all water in the overflow go through the skimmer? <This is unlikely to occur every pass. Total tank circulation is usually around ten to twenty times the tank volume per hour, while skimmers operate to process the tank's volume three to five times per hour. But with brisk water movement most all debris will remain in solution and not settle out and eventually the skimmer will get it.> The current flow in the overflow is about 800 gph, and the skimmer is running about 500 gph (manufacturer's recommendation). Is it OK to allow some water to bypass the skimmer? <Yes> I greatly appreciate all the assistance. Thanks, Craig <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Sump Configuration Question III Steven, Sorry, but I have another question. I have attached a BMP of the new sump that I'll be setting up this weekend. The flow through the sump is ~750 gph (Little Giant pump), the protein skimmer does ~500 gph and will empty into the BioWheel. Will I be hurting the BioWheel/system balance by having the extra 250 GPH bypass the BioWheel? <No you should be fine.> Wishing you and your crew the very best this holiday season! <Thank you! Are you done shopping? I am. :)> Sincerely, Craig
<Best wishes! -Steven Pro>

Sump Configuration Question... making skimmers work better Hey guys, Was reading your Daily FAQs (as always  :-)) and had a question. In regards to a statement that was made by Anthony, "noisy and/or have mechanical prefilters that all but ruin protein skimmer performance (never pre-filter water before a skimmer)" (Overflow designs for sumps), can you tell me if I have my sump configured in the manner that you recommend? <Okey Dokey...> The current water flow "path" is as follows: overflow > filter media >(standard blue media) > BioWheel > sump. The protein skimmer sits in the >sump, pulling water from the sump (after the BioWheel) and returning it to >the sump. <you essentially couldn't have the skimmer in a worse position. Guess what... you don't get a full cup of daily dark skimmate either (not a question <G>). This is a very common problem my friend. The goal of your skimmer is to process organic matter BEFORE it degrades into nitrogenous by-products. The rule is... "Always feed raw unfiltered water to a skimmer". It IS your prefilter. Else, you are just fueling pollution in the tank by letting any prefilter or filter proper handle waste first (stays in the system rather than exported to the skimmer cup)> I have included a simple diagram of the configuration. In the diagram, the filter media is in the overflow so it doesn't muck up the BioWheel with debris. <understood... but still a common design flaw. If the tank is running fine... no nitrates, no nuisance algae... and weekly water changes to delay the accumulation of dissolved organics. I say no worries... enjoy as is. Else, make a skimmer box (small just big enough to hold skimmer) to catch raw overflowing water (remove overflow prefilter here) before flowing on to the bio-wheel and sump> There is a 2nd plumbing (closed system) that services the tank with the Ocean Clear canister filter and chiller. <wow... you have a lot of mechanical filtration. Its nice... but is it necessary? Do you have a heavy load or very large fishes? Else... less man-made filters and more live rock/skimming and you will enjoy a healthier aquarium in the long run> I hope this all makes sense. Sincerely, Craig <clearly my friend. Anthony>

Re: Sump Configuration and Skimmer basin Anthony, Thank you for the response. You are correct, I get maybe 1/2 cup of semi-clear liquid in the skimmer a week. I've always thought that was low. <indeed my friend... some other reasons here too: fluctuating sump level (even 1/2 daily is too much... a skimmer box inline will stabilize this)... and perhaps skimmer design> By changing to the configuration you mentioned, would the system be healthier / more stable? <tremendous long term benefits... many aesthetic ones too (very little maintenance of nuisance algae, water clarity)> Don't have any LR to use (too expensive right now), but the tank is well established (over 2 years). I do have a loaded tank w/messy fishes (2 triggers, panther, eel, large clown, hamlet, hawk, wrasse). Thanks, Craig <understood and agreed... do keep the heavy mechanical filtration as well. Just tweak the skimmer and be amazed by its performance. Assuming its an efficient model (much written in the archives here about feedback on brand performances). Lets start with installation issues first (we'll worry later if you have a Red Sea or Kent skimmer <G>). The simplest modification here is to take a small aquarium or acrylic box (say 5-10 gallons) and place it under the stand set just slightly higher than the sump with a drilled overflow to catch the water from above and let it carry on down to the sump. Take heed that the hole(s) for this skimmer basin are drilled to allow a height consistent with the skimmer manufacturers recommendations for optimum running level of sump water. This basin will catch raw water and overflow it at a dead level consistency... this alone will improve skimmer performance. Best regards! Anthony>

Overflow designs for sumps Dear WWM crew, I have an existing 300 gal (96x30x24) reef.  The tank is a room divider and visible from three sides.  The overflow box is located in the center with a 2"drain leading to two 50 gallon sumps.  I have read a number of recent FAQ's where there has been a recommendation to install new tanks without standing overflows, but sidewall drains instead.   <hmmm... actually, bud. There is no inherent problem with standing overflows. The common problem covered here and at large that you may be referring to is some popular manufacturers (like Oceanic and All Glass) that market "reef ready" tanks with what some people believe are poorly designed standing overflows. Undersized (cannot even handle the flow from a small return pump let alone a properly sized pump for a full reef display), noisy and/or have mechanical prefilters that all but ruin protein skimmer performance (never pre-filter water before a skimmer). If your overflow does not fit these categories... no worries at all> Can an overflow be safely removed in an existing glass tank? <depends on how it was installed. Some are sealed in place at the time the walls are formed and as such the box is tied into the founding seams (cannot disturb). Others are added after the tank is built and cured (can usually be removed)> Removing the existing "box" around the drain would free up a great deal of swimming room in my tank. <agreed. I never liked these overflows but cannot fault a functioning one otherwise> Can you make any recommendations in this regard?   <yep... lets get a 500 gallon tank with side drilled overflow holes! What the heck> I could replace the overflow with a 2" stand-pipe and screen, or run 2" pipe under my DSB to the far end of the tank so as to be opposite of my returns from the circulation pump.   <we'd have to compare the flow rate of the pump with the needs of the system and the ability of that diameter pipe. A single 2" overflow can be noisy> The drain pipes could be hidden by existing live rock.  I have included a diagram to hopefully clarify my situation. <ahhh, very good. Yes... it looks like your overflow dam can be removed, but the extension under the DSB is too long of a run to safely drain well and quietly. More importantly, you will be skimming thicker water from the top of the tank (surface area of a 2" pipe instead of the many inches along the lip of the overflow box. This will cripple the quality of water making it to your skimmer. This is avoided (while space is still saved) with side drilled holes and a horizontal overflow box (thin skimmed water across the width of the tank)> Thanks as always for the wealth of information and advice you provide. Bob McCook <our great pleasure! Anthony>

Sump and Refugium Above Tank Hi Guys, My questions concern both sumps and refugiums. Am I correct in saying that a sump is merely a way of stowing one's filtration, etc. out of sight and also increasing water volume overall? <Yes> A more convenient way to dose? <I guess that would be correct, also.> My thoughts on combining an upstream sump/refugium have met with "good to go" and "they should be separate". It seems to me that dividing a sufficiently large tank into an area that acts as a sump in so far as it contains the equipment and allocates the rest of the space to normal refugium functions there shouldn't be a problem. <Correct, that is how most sump/refugium combinations are laid out.> Maybe the problem lies in that most people think of a sump as being below the tank (rightfully so) and I think in terms of its function. I plan to put a 30 gallon tank upstream of my 75 gallon reef tank. The 30 gallon will be divided so that the first part (pumped directly from display) will be for heater, skimmer, carbon, etc. It will overflow into the remainder of the dedicated to macroalgae and pod production. Then to be overflowed into the display. Do you see problems with this arrangement? <The only "problem" (and it is not that big of a deal) is that your display tank will act like your sump. One of the other things that occurs in a sump is that the water level fluctuates due to evaporation and that the operating water level is left a little low to compensate for power outages when the display back siphons down. In your case, the water level will fluctuate in your display as water evaporates. You can take care of this with daily top offs, but you will still need to keep the tank's water a little low. Even with a great plumbing job, if the power goes off, your pumps will go off, but water will continue to overflow out of the refugium and back into the tank. There is also all the water in the plumbing that will drain back down in the display.> Best regards, Mike <Good luck with your plans! -Steven Pro>

Sump for Euro-Reef This is for a 180 or 225 gallon reef tank with the sump in the basement. I'm sold on the Euroreef protein skimmer.  Should I get the CS 8-3? <Depending on which tank you settle on, the 180 or 225, the CS8-2 or CS8-3 would be appropriate.> What would be the right sump to use with this skimmer and where can I get it from? <Any sump that maintains a constant water level will work fine. I use mostly other aquariums to which I silicone in some glass baffles. -Steven Pro>

Bubbles in Sump Hi Crew, I have read a number of FAQ's on microbubbles in sump but not able to solve the problem. I have a 200 gallon tank with the sump (72 gallons) in basement. There is about a 8 foot drop for my 2 inch PVC pipes (2 of them) to run from the overflow to the sump so when the water reaches the sump it crashes and generates significant bubbles (almost looks like a foam). I have ordered an Aqua-C EV240 but not set up yet so I know the problem is not the skimmer nor any pinhole leaks in my return plumbing (that has all been checked). I have put a sponge and tried to put up a couple of baffles but my Iwaki 100 RLT pulls the water through the sump quickly and the bubbles continue to get pulled through. What type of materials will actually trap these bubbles or is there a way to modify my sump so as to capture them in an area and have them pop before getting back into the return. <The easiest fix is going to be to add two micron filter bags to the drain lines. These should stop the microbubbles, but they will require cleaning almost every single day. If that gets too tiresome, I would modify your sump with baffles, forcing the water to go under and then over two planes. This should force most of the bubbles to the surface to burst before the return pump.> Thanks in advance, Joe <Best of luck to you. -Steven Pro>

Detritus Settling in Sump There is some junk at the bottom of my sump and I would like to get it out. What is the best way to do that? <It is probably detritus and you should be able to siphon it out with the next water change.> It sits under the tank and is too low to use a gravity feed siphon. <Unlikely. Water will always flow downhill. Your sump bottom is in your stand and raised a few inches from the floor. The water level in the sump is anywhere from 6-12" deep. You should be able to draw a siphon. The easiest way will be to shut off your sump return pump. Allow the sump to fill, if it does not fill to the top, siphon water from the tank to the sump until it is filled. This will create a bigger difference and aid in siphoning. -Steven Pro>

Rubbermaid got nitrate Looking to set up a Rubbermaid 150 gal sump out of one of there stock tanks. Question is, do you know if Rubbermaid has nitrate in the plastic? Have heard that this might be a problem for a reef tank.  Thanks. <Mmm, made of Polyethylene... carbon, hydrogen, oxygen... no nitrogen... no nitrate. No problem. Bob Fenner>

Live rock in the sump? Anthony, I had some live rock left over after putting south down sand in the 180gal reef tank so I just put in the 40gal long sump. It makes a good break water from the supply to the pumps but it may not be a good idea if food gets around it ? Ralph Gibson <indeed, my friend. Live rock in the sump can be interesting and helpful. A benefit to water quality, useful as you have noticed to baffle water, and develops different fauna in the low light environment... but (!) can just as easily be a liability if the water flow around it is not very strong. Simply keep an eye on it to see that it isn't allowing detritus to accumulate (or that you keep up with it by siphoning regularly. Best regards, Anthony>

Reef Tank Questions/Baffled/Sump Design 1) Please explain how to make the baffle and where to locate. I don't understand. The first chamber, where the water enters, has bioballs from the manufacturer. The second chamber is the mud, the third chamber is more bioballs and the fourth chamber is an empty sump where the water exits the filter. <A baffle can be nothing more than a piece of acrylic, cut to the height of the top of the chamber, that can arrest some potential bubbles on their way through the sump> The manufacture suggested adding PVC piping down into chamber 1 followed by two 90's and running a PVC pipe up to the top of the water level. This appears to have helped, but there is still some fine bubbles in the tank. Could this still be a plumbing problem? How can I locate the problem? <Yes- could be some air getting in somewhere, as you originally thought. Do check all seals for leaks, make sure all connections are airtight> 4) The star fish was dead this morning. Also 3 fish have ick. Is this from the bubbles? Should I try to treat the fish in a separate tank? <Really impossible to say. Could be the bubbles, but more likely some environmental condition, toxin, or disease. In the absence of obvious symptoms, it's really anyone's guess. Do observe all remaining animals for any disease signs, and be prepared for action, if needed.> Thanks again, Steve <You're quite welcome, Steve. Sorry I couldn't be more precise in pinpointing the problem. Just keep observing! BTW- note our new address-crew@wetwebmedia.com Regards, Scott F.>

Advice on sump design Good day Bob, This is Frank here, the attached file is my sump that I designed and plan to implement. Do you think the water flow in each chamber is in proper way, let me know as I need your advise. The water surely have phosphate as I'm not using R/O or distilled water. So I place a phosphate remover and silicate remover (Coralife) to remove it. Note: each "square block" represent 1" <Good drawing, graphic. All looks okay... but would change two items: Turn the chemical media "slots" vertical (standing up) instead of horizontal, in series as illustrated... this will greatly ease the likelihood of clogging and get you "enough" exposure. Secondly, I would greatly reduce the last/water return area and use the space to make more room for the center/refugium area. Bob Fenner> thank you for upcoming advise.
thank you, Frank

Sumps, refugiums, mud filtration, oh my! Hello again, Thanks for all the wonderful info that you provide. It helps to bring order to what sometimes seems a  very difficult hobby. Here goes...... I have a 215 gallon mixed fish and invert and I am in the process of setting up refugium. I currently am using the Berlin method (350 lbs of live rock with lots of skimming). What is an ideal size refugium for me? <Generally, the bigger the better. Anything under 20 gallons is not worth doing.> Should the water in the refugium go all the way to the top? <Like a standard aquarium, overflow and plumbing considerations need to be factored in of course.> How large of a space should the plenum be? <I am going to refer you to the published works of Dr. Jean Jaubert.> It is my understanding that the plenum is simply an empty space underneath the substrate. <Correct> What are the physiological effects of the plenum/why is it necessary? Should the substrate be layered with different grain sizes (why) and separated by additional eggcrate? How should the layering be done? <Again, with the above questions, go to the source of this methodology. Almost all problems with plenum systems have to do with improper installation.> Is a mud type substrate recommended or a larger grain or some combination? <A mud substrate is a completely different methodology by Leng Sy of Ecosystem Aquariums.> What should the grain size be? Where can I find step by step plans/blueprints for the construction? <You should be able to find out all your questions using a simple search engine on the internet.> Should it be lit 24/7 or alternated with the main display tank lighting? <This depends on which methodology you employ.> Does the refugium need to be compartmentalized? <This helps with controlling flow and surface skimming.> Will the pump kill all the critters before they get to the main tank since the refugium will empty into my sump first? <No, not all.> What is a good seeding package to start with? <Livesand and detritivore kits from several sources to increase diversity.> What are the essential macro-algae plants that should be in the refugium? <Again, this depends on your intentions, nutrient export, larger plankton production, nanoplankton, etc.> My space will allow for a refugium that is 48" x 9" x 20". <About 35 gallons.> Will this size be enough to do the job? <You should be some added benefits.> Also, I have heard all the pros and cons of UV's and have decided to use one. It has been running now for 6 months. My display tank has four drains and I plan on using one of the drains for the refugium. The other three returns will drain into the sump where I have a Euro-Reef skimmer and my mechanical filtration. The pump return is Teed off and 1 return flows to chiller and the other though the UV. Both returns go directly into display tank after that. If I have the refugium return directly into the display tank, can I continue to run my UV? <You can but it will negatively effect plankton production.> Any input would be much appreciated. <Please search both our site and the internet at large for refugium ideas.> Thanks, Steve <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Sump Design Good day Bob, <Steven Pro in this morning.> This is Frank here. The attached file is my sump that I designed and plan to implement. Do you think the water flow in each chamber is in the proper way. Let me know as I need your advise. <This drawing/design looks excellent. I am sure it will help others from our posting and filing in the appropriate FAQ files.> The water will surely have phosphate as I'm not using R/O or distilled water. So I place a phosphate remover and silicate remover (Corallife) to remove it. <I understand, but please consider the money you spend on resins will very quickly overshadow any saving on not purchasing a RO or DI unit. They are the most cost effective alternative.> Note: each "square block" represent 1". Thank you for any upcoming advise. Frank <This looks good. Proceed at your leisure. -Steven Pro>

Sumps/Prefilters Hi Bob <Craig here for Bob while he travels to St. Thomas...) I have your book and I'm finishing my 150g here in Rhodes Island Greece, do I need to say anything more there ? No LFS for 45 minutes by plane !!! ( talking about impact ) <Egad, someone who has to go through more than I do!!!  Wow!) All my equipment are the best I could get ( all from States ), but problem is I made the tank before I knew about built-in overflow's. <Common...> My problem is now (after reading ) that I'm afraid if something happens to the siphon effect.. Although is from Lifereef which is probably the best sumps and prefilters out there. I read about this modification of making a hole on the top of the siphon tubes (mine is a double prefilter box) and add a rigid airline to the venturi inlet of the closest powerhead. That will always pump water/air out of the siphon tube. Good idea? <Absolutely. If the power fails, so does the powerhead. It comes on, the powerhead does too, and restarts your siphon.> Also I added one float switch for an Auto Top Off system, but what happens if it gets stuck?  So I added another one which operates an extra  pump if the water in the sump raises too much  then it pumps the water out to the waste line (used for water changes.) I'm also thinking of adding another one on the main tank ( float switch with pump), so If accident happens with overflow then pump will drain to a point the main tank, preventing overflow. Depended too much on pumps though (but keep in mind they will only operate on emergency.) How does all this  set-up sound? Take care, Kostas <If you just install an overflow (passive water change line instead of pumped) into your sump and limit the amount that is in the top off container, all is well. Five gallons in the top off is adequate, and then all you can overflow is five gallons...into a container next to the sump of course. If you want the same thing in the main, use the float switch to shut off the return pump (to open contacts if overflow fails and water level is too high).  Fewer pumps and float switches, same result. All in all you have the right idea. Use gravity as much as possible, pumps and power are unreliable!  Craig>

Old employees just never go away (Sumps, old times) Hi Bob, Ron in Minnesota again. You sure do get a ton of mail every day, I was reading through your refugium e-mails, have some minor questions. Do you still have the Wet Pets stores? <No longer... last one closed in 1991> Do you promote any particular type of Refugium?  <No... am a fan of DIY> Finally what would you say a "good" sump-refugium should retail for?  <Complete with pump... a couple, three hundred dollars or so...> We have started to manufacture them in my shop. If your interested I will ship you one for your seal of approval at no charge. Thanks, Ron <Appreciate the offer, but only have a couple of freshwater systems currently. Bob Fenner>

Dust In The Wind (And In The Sump) As a cheap way of regulating my water temperature I installed a muffin fan (used in computers) above the sump. Evaporation keeps the water temperature regulated at 79 to 80 degrees F. I have to add between 1/2 and 1 gal of fresh water per day to keep water levels normal. I do 15 gallon water changes every other week on this 55 gallon marine aquarium. Lately, I have notice small white fuzzy balls forming in the skimmer, the sump and even inside the protein skimmer. Is this the fan blowing air born dust into the water or something else? Water chemistry is checking out OK and the fish are happy campers... any ideas?  Ken. p.s. I finally have a healthy blue tang. <Well, Ken- hard to say from here, but I'd bet that you're right about the dust. You may want to try manually removing the stuff to verify if it is indeed dust. Let's face, unless you live in a plastic bubble, there is always the possibility of dust being drawn in! You may want to try to really vacuum or dust the areas surrounding the sump to see if this makes a difference. You can periodically clean the fan itself with a small brush (like a paintbrush or small auto detailer's brush). Hope that this helps! BTW- Blue Tangs are awesome when they're healthy, huh? Scott F.>

Converting an Oceanic 75 Trickle Filter to a reef-type sump Mr. Fenner, Can you please advise me on any method to convert my existing Trickle filter to a Mini-reef safe sump. <I'll try> I understand a trickle filter, while good for a fish-only set-up, might produce excessive nitrates for a reef tank. <There are countervailing strategies for preventing, reducing this accumulation... your present filter could be converted easily... by the removal of the wet-dry media, replacement with live rock, possibly macro-algae, and/or vascular plants, perhaps a DSB or other media for encouraging anaerobe denitrification...> I am having a tough time trying to reduce my nitrate problem (above 80ppm!). I know my trickle filter is not the only problem, but an article I'd seen somewhere on-line had a DIY project, converting an Oceanic 75 Trickle filter (just like mine) to a reef-type sump. After reading your responses and articles on WWM, I know your the best person to ask. Thank you for your time. Lou Agostino <Likely you will need to do both... figure how to not add more NO3 and encourage its removal... this will probably involve adding another sump/refugium, in addition to the above mentioned conversion of your WD filter... the latter may well not have enough space... Please re-read through the Nitrate, Wet-Dry, and Algal Filtration sections on WWM... I would start with the Indices or use the Google Search feature on them or the Homepage. Bob Fenner>

To Sump or Not To Sump Hello sir,  <Just Scott will do- Scott F. here tonight> I am in the planning stages of my first marine aquarium. It is not an endeavor I have undertaken lightly. I have been researching for the last couple of months-first the livestock I hope to provide a healthy home for, and then the tank size that would require. I am working my way through the filtration requirements. Here are my thoughts, any advice on filtration and if this is an appropriate stocking level would be immeasurably helpful. The one maddening part about this process is the number of ways to accomplish the same goal-without any of my own experience to draw on. I am hoping to set up a fish only with live-rock tank for large/aggressive species. The fish I hope to keep are as follows: 1 Volitans Lion-this is my one must have fish 1 Harlequin Tusk 1 Hippo Tang 1 angel, Majestic or Imperator 1 Naso Tang 1 Trigger-Blue Jaw or Clown-I know the clown could cause some aggression problems And possibly either a purple tang or sunset wrasse I have decided to go with a 72x24x24 180 gal and wanted to know if the above stocking list would be too much? <I'm afraid that it is too much for a 180 gal. You have a mix of some fish that are very large, very aggressive, and very messy feeders! The Volitans lion is your "must have" fish, so plan his tank mates around him. That means that everyone else needs to be compatible with this fish (BTW- the lion can reach 18"). Lions are fish that need large volumes of water and lots of oxygen, not to mention impeccable husbandry. I'm afraid the Clown Trigger is a "no-go"- too big, too mean; a bad companion for the Lion. The Blue Jaw is a better choice, but is also a pretty large fish. The Naso Tang is also a very large fish, requiring lots of room. The Hippo would be a better choice, IMO. As far as the Angel is concerned- the majestic is the smaller of the two, but can be a bit shy, albeit beautiful. The Emperor (my favorite fish!) also needs a very large tank, and can reach over 15" in length. Really needs a very large tank to live out a normal life span. Here is my thought: You HAVE put a lot of research into your inhabitants, which is good, but the fish that you are interested simply require enormous amounts of space, particularly when housed together. What about getting "smaller versions" of the fish you like, such as a dwarf lion fish , the hippo tang (which does get big, but usually is a manageable size), maybe a dwarf angelfish of some sort, a Coris wrasse (one of the smaller species), and maybe, just maybe- the Harlequin Tuskfish.?> I plan to use a shallow 2" aragonite sand bed for my substrate and appropriate amount of live rock. My filtration plans outside of the live rock were for a protein skimmer, canister filter for large debris and occasional chemical filtration, and a UV sterilizer. I was under the impression that I could plumb the skimmer, filter, and sterilizer in-line under the cabinet. People are now telling me I need a sump-do I for a tank this size, and why or why not given my intentions and planned filtration? <A sump is a convenient place to house the skimmer and other accessories. You could (and should still use mechanical filtration as well with the types of fish you are considering. A very good, well tuned skimmer is absolutely imperative. get the best one you can afford.> For lighting since I don't intend to keep corals I am considering 1 daylight and 1 actinic blue though I'm pretty much in the dark on this matter if you'll pardon the pun. <You may want a little more light-maybe PC's> Thanks for your generosity, sharing your vast experience with those of us looking to get our feet wet. Keith Mullins <Keith- Thank YOU for your passion and interest. Please don't think that I am trying to throw a wrench into your plan- it's just that, even though your tank is large, the specimens that you desire each have special requirements for very large volumes of water to do well. I really think the "downsized" version of your stocking plan will be better for your fishes (and your happiness as a hobbyist) in the long run. Your passion and desire to learn are awesome. Keep reading and learning- use the resources on wetwebmedia.com- you'll be fine!>

Re: To Sump or Not To Sump Scott, Thanks for your reply, my thought process in choosing the larger tang and angel species in addition to their beauty was in the interest of them being large enough to live with the lion-though I want to keep fish happy throughout their life span barring aggression issues forcing removal-rather than buying them thinking I'll just exchange it when it gets too big.  <And that's a very good line of thinking! Just take into account the eventual size of the fish...That's my "pet peeve, can't you tell? :) > I was most worried about the clown trigger nipping the lions fins-and saw some frighteningly aggressive ones at a LFS today so the clown is out.  <A wise move!> I don't like the dwarf lions but have considered the radiata to help with the potential size issue.  (The radiata is a great fish. Better choice, IMO!> The hippo and the tusk are probably the only other two fish I'd love to have, could I get away with a purple tang as well? I could go as large as 240 on the tank but from there size would be prohibitive. Any other species advice that could avoid becoming lion food would be great. <In the 240, you could probably mix a Zebrasoma tang and the hippo without too much problem. Just make sure that they are introduced at the same time> Maybe I'm not clear on exactly how a sump is set up or what it accomplishes-I will research it further tonight. Could I conceivably plumb the skimmer, canister filter, and UV sterilizer inline as I mentioned? <Certainly, but you'll find that a sump setup gives you good flexibility, and also adds to the overall water volume of the tank (never a bad thing, IMO! Do check the resources on set ups at wetwebmedia.com. There is a huge amount of information here on all sorts of setups. Keep contacting us with questions!> Thanks again for your input-Keith <Any time!>

Trying to build a small sump..... Hey WWM Crew! <<Hey Phil, how goes it?>> I'm have red slime algae like crazy in my 12 gallon Eclipse tank. It's now nearly 10 months old, it contains 1 small Royal Gramma, one Mithrax Crab, a branch of Torch Coral and some mushrooms. I'm having a hard time keeping it under control.  <<What kind of circulation are you using? Should be at least 120 gallons per hour to keep things moving. A combo of powerheads totaling 120 gallons per hour is what you want, especially aiming at the problem areas.  I "can't" put a protein skimmer in because of the "Eclipse" style hood. At this point I think I'm going 2 have 2 remove the hood and put on a different type of hood. In doing this I will use my old 3 gallon Eclipse tank as the sump. The skimmer and heaters will go in there. I don't know how I'm going to get the water into the sump, I could use an overflow, but how on this type of tank? The lighting is a 65 watt retrofit kit. I could just screw it in to a piece of painted wood or plastic and "hang" it over the tank. Sound like a plan? One last thing, since it's only 12 gallons would a small skimmer like Lee's brand work? Or should I use Aqua-C, Remora Pro etc... Thanks 4 your time once again!! <<Honestly? Best plan is lose the hood altogether, use "egg crate" light grates from Home Depot for a cover and a nice power compact light over that. (Try AH lighting supply) You could use a Lee's, although you may be able to hang a CPR if the tank is tall enough OR has space behind it to hang below the bottom of the tank (A CPR will need 13" from top of tank rim to stand). I like the skimmer/bubble box that you can order with it as they work pretty good for glass tanks. To use an overflow on an undrilled tank is asking for trouble. If you want the sump idea, maybe buy a drilled acrylic tank and use the 12 as a sump w/ the CPR in it. There are some options but the eclipse hoods have their limitations. DO change filter carbon often and do regular water changes as nuisance algae is from nutrient load. Best wishes, Craig>> Phil

Lighting & Sump Ok, guys, (Anthony & Steven) <Hi Cathy! How's it going?> We "fixed" the lighting. One of the DFWMAS folks sold us some lights (Thanking him very much, saved us a bundle). Here is what we have: 2 VHO blue lights - which causes a very weird effect of making the daisies, mushrooms, and polyps "glow" green for the "dawn" - and two MH, Hamilton 175 watt 10,000K each. <Sounds perfect!> The VHO also stay on a little longer at night for "dusk". My kids find the glowing part to be pretty cool :-). <Me too!> The tank looks more green than blue (when the MH are on), though, and I'm not sure I appreciate the difference in lighting. <Perhaps you would find different MH lamps more pleasing. There are a ton of lamps marketed as 10,000K, but there are differences between them. I prefer Aqualine-Buschke myself.> The same guy who sold me the lights also gave my some frags - a "Devil's Hand", some frogspawn, and two green mushrooms. I've since lost one of the mushrooms, it moved and I can't find it! Wah! <I bet it is still alive somewhere. There are very tough and adaptable.> The Hand went in the upper third of the tank, and the frogspawn is smack in the middle. But if I do a water change, the Hand will be out of the water, so should I move it, or will it be ok? <You can wave the polyps down while performing the water change and it will be ok. Or you could move it down some, but only once.> Also, I noticed that on the dailies today, Anthony recommended that a sump should be one third to one half the size of the main tank. <I think that was me.> Ummm, y'all told us 20 - 30 gallon, but we have a 140 tall? And we only purchased a 20 gallon. Should we find a bigger tank? <It is workable as is. I would have preferred the 30, though.> We were wondering, as the 20 seemed too small for sump, refugium, and mangroves to all be in there at once. <Agreed> Maybe I can find a 3' long tank that someone wants to unload. <If cheap enough, I would consider making the change.> Boy, wish I had found this site BEFORE I started all of this! Would have saved me time / trouble, and spared an awful lot of fishies! Please let me know your opinions on the lighting, my Devil's Hand, and the sump - thank you kindly! -Cathy in Texas <Talk to you later! -Steven Pro>

Sump <plenum> Hi there, my first question is what is a plenum when referring to a sump? I hear the word but don't know what it is. Next I'm planning a 120g f/o tank and my sump is a 65g tank I have laying around. I was going to make 3 separate compartments, first for skimmer second was for live sand and live rock and third for return pump and heater. Now the question is if I want to keep macro alga in sump can I just buy some and put in the compartment with live rock or do I need another section for it? Last question, will a 65wt power compact be sufficient for sump or should I go higher.<depends on how close the bulb is to the sump.> Ok, one more do you favor 24hr sump lighting or 12hr after main tank is out? Thanks again, love your site. Josh <A plenum is a dead space below your substrate used for nitrate reduction. Many a man/woman have failed due to improper set up of their plenum. If you want to go with the plenum I would search out some instructions from Dr. Jaubert. I would go with a Deep sand bed instead of the plenum. You could put the sand rock and algae all in the same compartment. If the flow rate is too fast the algae may not be effective and it would be a better idea to put the algae in a separate compartment with less flow. Both 24hr and 12hr lighting have their benefits depending upon what types of life you are keeping. Check out our info on Algal filtration. -Gage http://wetwebmedia.com/algfiltf.htm>

Anthony to LA for Pitch and sushi Anthony, Thanks for all your input! We can talk more on this over the weekend I am sure, but my reasoning is as follows... I like the idea of an outside sump for several reasons. More space, less noise inside, and free lighting primarily. My main concern is heating/cooling and I am curious if a large outside sump, perhaps with a strong fan blasting over the water surface, will be enough to eliminate the need for a chiller. I definitely plan on dividing the sump up into sections and I should have 100 gallons or so for a large refugium/mangrove/seagrass area. I've got a 75 gallon mangrove/Caulerpa refugium on my current system and I like it a lot. I'll probably avoid Caulerpa this time around and try something new. Your thoughts on lighting are interesting - over the last several years I have been slowly upgrading to higher and higher wattage lamps/more lighting overall with excellent results where SPS corals are concerned. I've noticed that that their colors seem to be more intense. I've run systems, in the past, with 175 or 250 watt halides and although the SPS did very well and I had good growth rates, never the really brilliant colors. Has it been your experience that the difference between 250 and 400 watters has little if any appreciable effect on coloration? I might very well try running the lower output lamps, at least for several months... I like the look that the VHO's add to the tank, but your point is well taken on those and I can probably get away with fewer or lower rated bulbs and still achieve what I am after. Thanks for the input Anthony! Jason Kim

Refugium Design Anthony, If possible I'd like to give you the chance to promote your book, "The Book of Coral Propagation".  <that's easy... thanks <G>> I went through about 3 inches of information downloaded from WWM over the weekend from calcium, Kalkwasser, general maintenance, refugiums, ph, alk, testing, live rock... etc?. I noticed in a few of your reply's you mentioned that general husbandry, calcium (I understand now that a calcium reactor is the preferred method) and alike are also covered in your book, along with coral propagation. Flashback?.  <heehee...> Last week you replied to me about the proper way to care for feather duster worms. In short you recommended a larger tank and refugium. Before purchasing a larger tank I've started the process of researching on how to go about constructing and setting up a refugium.  <a great start> (my lack of knowledge has probable led me to shy away from it)  <happens to us all at times> And was curious if this was covered in your book.  <the fundamentals and differences between types of refugia are covered there. More details coming in the next book with Fenner/Pro> Some have referenced "Natural Reef Aquarium" by Tullock, and I'm assuming this would be covered in chapter three " the living filter". Is there one book over the other, which covers this particular filtration better than the other?  <actually... refugiums have not been covered in detail in any modern reference as they are currently best applied. My coverage in BOCP1 on this topic is generalized and other works are now dated (Dynamic Aquaria by Adey for example... great book)> Or possible another book?  <yes... actually our upcoming Reef Invertebrates book covers the topic in great detail. See here: http://wetwebfotos.com/store/nma-ri.html > (I read and reread the "the conscientious marine aquarist" (great book!! and as usually find more information each time I read it) but the I'm looking for a bit more information on refugium's, how to set one up? Pumps? Lighting? preferred substrate? Tank? Drilling holes? Etc?. I understand that I can benefit from both books, but wondering which one to buy first. The crew's "Reef Invertebrate" is also on my list of reading and hope to order it shortly. I'm slowing converting over from a fish only/live rock system, and want to do it properly. Thanks again, Dave

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