Sumps for Newbies

Discussion about cichlid tank filtration

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Gurn Blanston
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Sumps for Newbies

Post by Gurn Blanston » Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:14 am

OK, well I'm not really a newbie, just been away for a long time and discovering how things have changed since I was last in the hobby.

One of the things that intrigues me most is the sump filter. I had four 70', a 125 and six 55's back in the 1970's and early '80's, and filtration then was either a big Eheim canister or else a Supreme with 4-6 lift tubes that my mbuna loved to knock around until they lost their siphon.

I have been reading as much as I can find about sumps because it is easy to see that they are comparatively superior and seem to be easy to build and maintain. However, one big problem for me is that every article I've found so far, and even the Q&A here, presupposes a rather large amount of the basics. I'm NOT talking about filter media here, some things never change, and I know that issue inside out. What I'm talking about are the physical principles involved. Questions that occur are like these:

Must the sump be lower than the tank?
What about a power outage? Is my tank water going to totally end up on the floor?
If I am using glass tanks and am loathe to drill, how best to set up the tank outlet/sump inlet?

Other things of this nature, if you see the road I'm going down here. As I say, everything I've read assumes that you already know all about these things, and I freely admit, I don't. I am, however, a fairly smart fellow, and if you give me just a solid hint I can go a long way with it. :)

Thanks in advance for your effort,

8)
Regards,
Gurn

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Lisachromis
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Re: Sumps for Newbies

Post by Lisachromis » Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:05 am

I'm surprised no one here has answered this yet. Since I have never tried a sump system, I cannot answer you as to placement or the other questions. I'm sure someone will be along who can answer this for you. The answers would be something most people who want to use a sump should need to know.

Gurn Blanston
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Re: Sumps for Newbies

Post by Gurn Blanston » Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:49 am

Lisachromis wrote:I'm surprised no one here has answered this yet. Since I have never tried a sump system, I cannot answer you as to placement or the other questions. I'm sure someone will be along who can answer this for you. The answers would be something most people who want to use a sump should need to know.
Yes, Lisa, that's what I was thinking. The tons of info that I've found all seem to relate to the filtration materials. The basics of physics of the thing seem to be taken as widely known. It hurts when they aren't... :)

8)
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Gurn

Dan Woodland
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Re: Sumps for Newbies

Post by Dan Woodland » Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:40 am

Gurn,

Welcome back to the fray.

1. It is assumed your sump filter is level with the bottom of the tank or lower, as hidden inside a stand.
2. The skimmer inside the tank would be set so if you do have a power outage it will not overflow. This also means the sump has to be appropriately sized for your tank.
3. You do not need to drill the sump to make it work; you can simply use one of the many pumps or power heads available as a return pump.

My question would be why a sump based filter? I had them for years and found them to be more money and trouble than they are worth. First you can feed food that floats unless you turn off the pump first. Otherwise the food will be sucked into the overflow. Second, it has to be in near perfect balance otherwise you may loose your siphon, and then there's evaporation. If you don't keep the water level in your tank at the right level the filter can stop or "run dry".

Hope that helps, good luck.

PS. Personally, I use hang-on-the-back technology filters. The intake tube is very easy to hide, especially if your background is black or diverse and it's very easy to see when the filter has clogged needing maintenance.

Gurn Blanston
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Re: Sumps for Newbies

Post by Gurn Blanston » Thu Aug 12, 2010 12:36 pm

Dan Woodland wrote:Gurn,

Welcome back to the fray.
Thanks, Dan. It IS a bit of a fray, isn't it? Always felt like the hours spent watching my fish made the whole hassle worth the effort. :)
1. It is assumed your sump filter is level with the bottom of the tank or lower, as hidden inside a stand.
The lower the better to promote better flow through the siphon? That makes sense anyway. What I had originally conceived when I first heard about these was having a tank like a 20g long on a pedestal so that the top was even with the top of the tank. Then it would function like the filter box on the old Supreme filters only comparatively huge for media. Apparently that's no good though, since I haven't seen it mentioned yet anywhere.
2. The skimmer inside the tank would be set so if you do have a power outage it will not overflow. This also means the sump has to be appropriately sized for your tank.
Exactly where I ran into the conceptual issue. If you are pumping up (for the return), and have a power outage, it would be hard to avoid a mass overflow down below. :? I can see a check valve working above the pump to stop backflow, but that wouldn't help at all at the tank outlet/ sump inlet end. If your siphon didn't run dry, your fish would soon be flopping on the sand. Is there an easily implemented solution that I've overlooked?
3. You do not need to drill the sump to make it work; you can simply use one of the many pumps or power heads available as a return pump.
OK, makes sense.
My question would be why a sump based filter? I had them for years and found them to be more money and trouble than they are worth. First you can feed food that floats unless you turn off the pump first. Otherwise the food will be sucked into the overflow. Second, it has to be in near perfect balance otherwise you may loose your siphon, and then there's evaporation. If you don't keep the water level in your tank at the right level the filter can stop or "run dry".

Hope that helps, good luck.

PS. Personally, I use hang-on-the-back technology filters. The intake tube is very easy to hide, especially if your background is black or diverse and it's very easy to see when the filter has clogged needing maintenance.
Actually, I am exploring various possibilities. I've looked at several forums and that's all everyone seems to talk about, so I needed to find out enough about it to make a decision. My old Supreme outside filter used to do a splendid job in my 125, although I had to replace media 2-3 times a week. And I changed 30 gals of water 3 times a week so getting the siphon tubes all back running properly was a hassle.

I'm looking to set up a 135 now, and the only relic of the old days is a 55 that has been stored in a safe place. I thought it would make a good sump under the 135 if I decide to go that way. But I need to learn more; I'm one of those people who won't commit until I am pretty sure what I'm getting into! :)
Regards,
Gurn

Dan Woodland
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Re: Sumps for Newbies

Post by Dan Woodland » Thu Aug 12, 2010 1:00 pm

WOW, you changed media two or three times a week, what did you have in the tank? It sounds like the filter was undersized for the tank or the bio load.

Something to consider in your deliberations is, what is your ultimate goal? I have twelve large tanks, it would be costly for me to buy 12 wet/dry filters (that's what they are really called) and I would have to make room for them in my fish room design which I can’t since my room is now a bit tight on space. On the other hand if you have one or two tanks and you don’t want to see the filter intake in the tank then maybe the wet/dry filter is for you. It can be hidden in the cabinet stand and makes virtually no noise.

Gurn Blanston
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Re: Sumps for Newbies

Post by Gurn Blanston » Thu Aug 12, 2010 1:43 pm

WOW, you changed media two or three times a week, what did you have in the tank? It sounds like the filter was undersized for the tank or the bio load.
:D I had in the 125 <>30 adult mbuna. In 1975 when I set that tank up, crowding was the only way we knew of to minimize aggression. But gravel was 100% transported at least twice a day, and rocks had better be firmly anchored as a result! I can't remember the dimensions of that filter box, but only ran in it floss pads and an occasional bag of carbon. I removed water with a siphon hose that had a bell shaped end for vacuuming. Changing out 5 or 6 buckets of water was really no big deal. :)
Something to consider in your deliberations is, what is your ultimate goal? I have twelve large tanks, it would be costly for me to buy 12 wet/dry filters (that's what they are really called) and I would have to make room for them in my fish room design which I can’t since my room is now a bit tight on space. On the other hand if you have one or two tanks and you don’t want to see the filter intake in the tank then maybe the wet/dry filter is for you. It can be hidden in the cabinet stand and makes virtually no noise.
One thing I was thinking about was having a centralized wet/dry filter that filtered all the tanks. On the one hand, it would mean maintaining only one big filter. On the other, a failure would be catastrophic indeed... :( But my long-range plans include a 135 show tank in the living room area, so that might be the one that gets the invisible maxi-filter. :)

8)
Regards,
Gurn

Ken Grimmett
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Re: Sumps for Newbies

Post by Ken Grimmett » Sun Feb 13, 2011 10:23 am

Dan Woodland wrote " If you don't keep the water level in your tank at the right level the filter can stop or "run dry"."

I have two wet dry's that I am currently not using. My trouble with them was the evaporation problem. My job causes me to be out of town a few days every week. The day's I am in town can be filled with work and Kids. The weekends are my only real time to enjoy and work on my hobby.
If you can monitor the water level daily or have a auto fill (one of our OCA club menbers has one on his system) then this will work fine. If you can't then you will find your filter "stopped" from time to time. The water trapped will be toxic and need to be removed and then your filter will have also lost some of its bacteria. I use hanging filters currently and have no problems (also auto feeders). Operational cost is higher (media and batteries) but it works for me.

When I can get the water level problem "fixed" then I will re-use these as I like them for raising difficult fish and for breeding fish that I want to run many small tanks from one large filter system,
The future is what you plan for, life is what you get, enjoy it.

cichlid-fish
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Re: Sumps for Newbies

Post by cichlid-fish » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:06 pm

Okay, normally the sump will go below the aquarium, but depending if there is enough room it may need to go besides it or in another room close by. No matter what thought, your sump must be below the aquarium in order for it to work properly. I have a sump directly next to my aquarium which is only about 3-4 feet away. I built a box for it to go inside (basically looks like a chest or some kind of furniture).

In order for the water to get to the sump you will need an overflow box. The overflow box is run off of a syphon. You will need to run plumbing directly into the sump from the overflow box.

Depending on your preference, the way you build the actually sump with baffles will vary.

You will also need a pump in order to pump the water back into the display tank. You will also need to do plumbing for this too. I don't suggest using hose; hard piping works much better and allows for better flow.

Normally you need to buy a pump that is rated at a less GPH than the overflow box in order for the pump to keep up with the overflow box. You don't want the pump to be pumping out more than the overflow box is capable of syphoning.

About the overflowing questions..

The overflow box contains teeth on the box that is inside the tank, when the power goes out the pump will shut off while the overflow box continues to syphon. The overflow box will only syphon until the water level inside the display tank reaches below the teeth, then the syphon stops. This is where you need to make sure that your sump has enough room in it for this excess water to drain.

I have a 110 gallon display tank with a 40 gallon breeder tank as a sump. I have my sump filled up a little more than half way (25 gallons). This is more than enough room. When the power goes out my sump fills up to about 3" inches from the top.

I suggest that you use a sump that is about 1/3 the size of your display tank. When it comes to sumps, bigger is usually better.

I love using sumps for my aquariums, I will never use anything else. I love that I can hide my heaters along with other equipment in my sump.


I hope that this write-up was able to help you.. If you have anymore questions just ask
Everything you need to know about cichlids @ http://cichlid-fish.com

Darizz
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Re: Sumps for Newbies

Post by Darizz » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:21 am

Long time lurker, first time poster. But i just had to respond to this thread.

First of all: Siphon "overflow"... I would not use that unless my tank was placed in my bathroom, and over a floor drain... but maybe thats just me...
Gurn Blanston wrote:Must the sump be lower than the tank?
Nope, and before someone rages just think about it, there are two tanks, one above and one below.... does it really matter who's who? sure if you put the sump above you'll have to do things a bit different but its just as easy. You could have a sump the same seize as your aquarium and standing next to it still rocking a surface skimmer and wet/dry trickle filter, practical/cost effective? not really, doable? of course.

Main benefit with a sump? In a display tank imo. I want to show of my underwater wonderland, not my heaters/filters/coords/and whatnot so i put all that crap in my sump. And the maintenance, change out the prefilter pads/socks every week, time required 10sec or so, don't have to turn off the filter or anything.
Doing a big water change or something that will take a long time you'll have to turn off the filter, thats generally a bad thing, so just make sure you have valves to turn off the return to your main tank and open another for that smart plumbing you did to let the sump loop on itself while you mix with your main tank...
Gurn Blanston wrote:What about a power outage? Is my tank water going to totally end up on the floor?
Whats going to happen is that your pump will stop (doh!) As for the overflow, since the pump doesn't feed it anymore the drainage will be minimal. Depending how you placed your return outlet it will siphon backwards into your sump until the water level in your tank reaches the level on your return nozzle ant it starts sucking air instead.
You could prevent that check valves/drilling holes in the return and so on but as long as your sump has enough free space to swallow that amount of water that drains when you shut off the pump, your pretty safe...
Gurn Blanston wrote:If I am using glass tanks and am loathe to drill, how best to set up the tank outlet/sump inlet?
As I understand it you're doing a small tank now and plan a big displaytank later on... well now is the time to experiment, drill that thing like it's no tomorrow...
Still don't like to drill, call up some local glass dealers and ask around if they cant drill it for you... otherwise you'll be sitting there in 6months with fish and rocks in your tank and a bunch of more knowledge from researching overflows on the marine forums, looking at your siphon "overflow box" and thinking "why didnt I just drill the tank in the first place..."

If (when) you drill theres pretty much 2 ways of doing it, in the side/back or in the bottom.

Side/back. Pros, takes up virtually no footprint in your tank. Cons, more clutter outside tank with plumbing and stuff that can prevent your tank standing flush agains the wall and so on.
http://reefercentral.com/install.html

Bottom. Pros, no plumbing outside tank giving it a clean professional look. Cons, takes up more of that precious footprint inside your tank.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sH5mq3P3 ... Q&index=33

Im sorry for any incorrect grammar and so on since english isn't my first language.

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