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Help to make a sump without drilling my tank

Discussion in 'Lighting, Equipment & DIY' started by flower, Jun 17, 2010.

  1. flower

    flower Well-Known Member


    Okay, I got on another computer; I hope SWF fixes the site soon, because doing a new thread this way sux.
    I need a step by step guide to create a sump without drilling my tank. I Googled for information, and I now know it is doable…..I started this thread so I can talk to someone as I go. Is anyone willing to become my sump guru?
    I have 90g reef tank, established 6 years….My stand has limited room under it…can a 20g tank work for a sump on a tank my size? If the answer to this question is a yes, then it is still doable for me. I also would like to put my stupid micro bubble creating coralife skimmer in this thing.
    What do I need to do to set up the 20g tank as a sump? I see different chambers; can I make separate chambers with Plexiglas, (or do I need to have some glass panels cut) and hold it with clear silicone sealant? If so please explain in detail how much space per chamber, and what each chamber is for and what goes in each one.
    I know I need a pump..What size, what type..Any idea how much it will cost?
    I found an overflow box on SWF for around $90.00 will that one work for what I am trying to do, on my size tank?
    Please keep it in very simple to understand speech, I know NOTHING
    at all about sumps, for 30+ years I have used canister filters. This is not a build as I go thing YET
    …I am a get the information first kind of person, I won’t even try it until I feel I can actually do it.
    Thanks for any help on this!
  2. acrylic51

    acrylic51 Active Member

    Yes can be done... I think you'll find the 29 gallon alittle restrictive as far as space. Plexi can be used for baffling. Leave 1/8" gap on each side of baffle when siliconing them into place.
    Pump I would recommend Eheim over Magdrive for a couple reasons. Efficiency, less heat transfer and reliabilty. What kind of skimmer are you running? Planning on moving the skimmer to the sump?
  3. flower

    flower Well-Known Member

    Originally Posted by acrylic51

    Yes can be done... I think you'll find the 29 gallon alittle restrictive as far as space. Plexi can be used for baffling. Leave 1/8" gap on each side of baffle when siliconing them into place.
    Pump I would recommend Eheim over Magdrive for a couple reasons. Efficiency, less heat transfer and reliabilty. What kind of skimmer are you running? Planning on moving the skimmer to the sump?

    Is a 20g to small? I really don’t think I can get anything bigger under the stand.
    What is a baffle?
    I was planning on putting the coralife skimmer in the sump if at all possible...or I will have to buy another skimmer. Sigh, which will make number 5. I hate skimmers, they just don't work right. They either hardly skim, or make micro bubbles..The wonderful coralife now does not skim and makes micro bubbles. I run it at night so I don't have to look at it.
    What size pump to push water from the floor to a 90g on a stand...about 5 feet????
  4. beaslbob

    beaslbob Active Member

    Back view of pvc overflow test:
    Attachment 243589
    more detailed:
    Attachment 243590
    I thought with 6 years and a 90g you would know everything now.
    To prevent having to drill the tank use a pvc overflow. Several threads here have designs.
    Just a suggestion(s) above
    my .02

  5. beaslbob

    beaslbob Active Member

    Attachment 243592
    I suggest you setup and test in your driveway.
    Once you start scrounging around hd or lowes it makes more sense.
    And the light really comes on when you do the test.
    Some ideas/suggenstions
    1) bulkheads can be made from reducing bushing and adapters.
    2) the refuge does not have to be right and left but can be fore and aft so the back end is directly below the overflow drain.
    3) 30g plastic storage containers are like $12 or so and a smaller one can be used for the sump on the other side of the stand.
    give it a try and ask questions.
    my .02
  6. beaslbob

    beaslbob Active Member

    Oh yea
    and be sure to design in for maintenance. I now use couplings and valves so I can remove the pumps for cleaning. On my original setup I have to remove water below the intake. Live and learn.
    .02 at most
  7. slice

    slice New Member

    Originally Posted by Flower


    Okay, I got on another computer; I hope SWF fixes the site soon, because doing a new thread this way sux.
    I can't contribute to the sump question, I am still wrestling with HOB fuge/skimmer -vs- overflow/sump (I have an allergic reaction to plumbing in my living room).
    What I am hung up on is your browser settings that will not allow you to post new threads. Your account works fine from another computer, so the problem is not on the SWF.com end. I am guessing you use ie as the browser on your main computer and that you need to delete your ancient cookies.
  8. saxman

    saxman Guest

    hi Flower,
    since this is your first sump, i recommend going with a HOB O/F box. those DIY PVC O/F's are GAWDAWFUL UGLY, esp. if you have a clear tank back (i dunno if you do or not), but they do work. i guess it depends on how handy you are with PVC and your tolerance for looking at the stuff. if your tank back is opaque, you COULD paint the parts that sit in your tank with purple PVC primer, and it will at least be the same color as coralline, more or less.
    as far as HOB O/F's go, i prefer the std U-tube type (which i believe you're looking at) over the CPR-style, as they're more reliable and don't require an aqualifter pump to maintain their siphon.
    a "baffle" is simply a wall in the sump that the water flows under or over. you don't REALLY need them, but i like to use at least one baffle about 1" above the bottom of the sump (water flows under this baffle) to reduce air bubbles in the pump bay.
    HTH
  9. meowzer

    meowzer Moderator Staff Member

    Agree totally with Sax about the overflow...I have a dual over flow that works off siphon....when I clean the tubes, to get the siphon back...I fill the tube with tank water...cover each end with a small piece of saran wrap...and turn it over in the over flow box....LOL....it is soooo simple and I can do it myself LOL I use to have my husband do it till I figured out this works
    ANd with the overflow box, all you have to do is attach the hoses to the underside of the outer box, and run them into your sump ALSO make sure whatever you are going to use for your sump is big enough for your skimmer to fit in...With all the stuff I am going thru right now, I'd make sure you have a little extra room too
    IDK about what pump size you would need to get the water back up though....sorry....
  10. jstdv8

    jstdv8 Guest

    Flower,
    The HOB will be super easy, just hang it on the back, start the siphon and you are ready to go.
    yes a 20g will be just fine for a sump. Are you planning to have a small refugium in there as well?
    The baffles help keep the microbubbles from making back to the return pump section of your sump/fuge and getting back into the DT.
    one sits about an inch off the bottom and then the next one over is higher than that so that the water is foced to flow between the two panes of glass/acrylic to get to the next chamber which is usaully the fuge.
    Yes, you can certainly use acrylic to make the baffles, easy to cut and just glue the heck out of it with silicone.
    I have heard of people having issues with thier baffles falling out after a long while if they are glueing acrylic to glass, but Ive also heard of poeple having them like that for years and years.
    Check to see how many GPH's the HOB overflow is rated for and then get a return pump that is the same GPH or slightly less.
    keep in mind that you will lose a little of that GPH rating on the return pump to get it back up to the tank. So if you get a pump that is rated for 600GPH and your overflow is rated the same your pump won't really be able to get 600 GPH back to the tank becuase of head pressure loss. Getting that water up a tube 4' to your DT is hard work :)
  11. 2quills

    2quills Active Member

    I would try to go with the biggest sump that you could fit under your stand. Try taking some measurements inside of your stand to find out how much room you are actually going to be able to work with. Then figure out what skimmer you want to use or possibly ugrade to in the future. That way you can design your sump with enough room to grow.
    If you keep your refugium inside of your tank like you've been doing then that will probably help alot by not taking up space in the sump under the stand. That way all you really need to make is a sump for a skimmer that can also provide some form of mechanical filtration also. But you may be looking to move your fuge?...I'm not sure. I guess we should ask what are hoping to accomplish by building a sump? Is it just to move the skimmer, or do you want to move the fuge aslo?
  12. jstdv8

    jstdv8 Guest

    my superskimmer didnt work all that great in my DT, but one I put my sump up it works like a champ. I beleive its due entirely to the fact that the first chamber in the sump is always the same water height. The super skimmers seem to act up in a hurry with any little evaporation in the DT but the sump will always be the same height in the first and second chamber.
    So when you add your baffles the skimmer is going to decide for you how high the baffles get placed becuase that is how you will custom fit your water level in that first chamber to your skimmer.
    So whatever height water your skimmer wants to be in.... that's what height the TOP of the very first baffle in the tank is going to be. when that chamber fills up with overflow water it will spill over the top of that first baffle. Then it passes between and under the next baffle which is usually about 1" away from the first one and higher than the first.
    I'll post a pic of mine when I get home. Mine is very simple.
  13. flower

    flower Well-Known Member


    I get home from work this morning, put a thread out, take my nap and return to so much information…I want to thank each of you for trying to help. I will do my best to answer…
    LOL…let’s see 6 years and a 90g, I know about SOME soft corals, how to get rid of cyano information, thanks to Beaslbob a little about macroalgae and lots of info on the critters I have had over the years, because I read up on each one. I have always had canister filters, in fresh and saltwater. So I am no expert on anything by any stretch of the imagination. I hover around the new hobby area to help those with just a little bit, and I mean a little, less experience. I have kept a tank since I was a girl, 30+ years but freshwater fish are very hardy and easy to keep, I only needed those dip sticks to keep all things alive and happy…gone are those days, LOL… I love saltwater critters so much more.
    Beaslbob:…I was ready to just trash the idea after I saw and read what you posted. It looked so complicated, I was ready to cry. You guys are so smart and so handy and I am neither. Then add the concern of testing it first…I know I warned you to really dummy it down for me, pretend I’m 6 years old…LOL..if you can explain it to a 6 year old, maybe I can get it.
    Saxman, Meowzer and Jstdv8:..Big sigh, heart rate is now returning to normal. I will stick with the U tube idea for sure…LOL
    What I need to know now is details on where my tubes will be entering the 20g tank..left or right side, in the center??? Then where to attach the “baffles” which one should be higher than the other according to where those tubes run.
    Choose a side for those tubes left or right so I can follow where the Baffles go easier. Then please explain what will go in the chambers and where I should put my skimmer. Oh and yes if I can do a refugium in a sump.... I didn’t know that could be done.
    Also one more question but not related…I always thought bigger is better, so I always get more than I need.. I was reading through some of the posts and it says a skimmer too big will not skim correctly…is that true? I got a skimmer for up to 250gs and I am running it on a 90g. could that be why I have nothing but grief with my skimmers not skimming and now micro bubbles?
    Thank you for all your help and if I missed anyone it was not intentional..I appreciate every one of my helpers, I don’t know what I would do without you.
    Oh and on the posting a new thread thing…SWF changed the format so now my browser for the internet is not compatible with them, at least that’s what I was told. I don’t want to change my browser. I have 3 computers in the house so it really isn’t that big a deal except I like the one in my bedroom best, and that’s the one that won’t work with SWF threads. I have done the clean the cookies thing 3Xs now..it didn't help. I’m spoiled I know, most folks have a TV in each room.
  14. flower

    flower Well-Known Member

    Originally Posted by Jstdv8

    my superskimmer didnt work all that great in my DT, but one I put my sump up it works like a champ. I beleive its due entirely to the fact that the first chamber in the sump is always the same water height. The super skimmers seem to act up in a hurry with any little evaporation in the DT but the sump will always be the same height in the first and second chamber.
    So when you add your baffles the skimmer is going to decide for you how high the baffles get placed becuase that is how you will custom fit your water level in that first chamber to your skimmer.
    So whatever height water your skimmer wants to be in.... that's what height the TOP of the very first baffle in the tank is going to be. when that chamber fills up with overflow water it will spill over the top of that first baffle. Then it passes between and under the next baffle which is usually about 1" away from the first one and higher than the first.
    I'll post a pic of mine when I get home. Mine is very simple.

    My skimmer is a monster big thing ...I'm not sure a 20g will even be high enough now...maybe I need to get a smaller skimmer??? Please advise.
  15. meowzer

    meowzer Moderator Staff Member

    Originally Posted by Flower


    My skimmer is a monster big thing ...I'm not sure a 20g will even be high enough now...maybe I need to get a smaller skimmer??? Please advise.
    NO NO NO.....when skimmers are concerned smaller is not good.....your skimmer doesn't have to be under water.....only the pump...
    LOL...I have been doing SOOOOO much research on skimmers...in sump....out oif sump...my head is spinning
  16. beaslbob

    beaslbob Active Member

    Sumps and refugiums can be in the same container but best seperated. that way the refugium can be constantly full with a high water level and the sump is where the water level varies.
    I actually have a combined refug/sump on my 55g and I have to keep the water level low to properly adjust the unit.
    Of course you can baffel a single container so the refugium is full and the sump has a much lower level.
    with the plastic container approach you can also use the smaller container in the large container approach. the inner smaller container can be the sump with the pump and performs the functions of the baffels.
    my .02
  17. flower

    flower Well-Known Member

    Originally Posted by meowzer

    NO NO NO.....when skimmers are concerned smaller is not good.....your skimmer doesn't have to be under water.....only the pump...
    LOL...I have been doing SOOOOO much research on skimmers...in sump....out oif sump...my head is spinning

    I have to make some dinner...so I will be brief, and come back later...LOL..I have to chew on what Beasbob is talking about.
    My skimmer has an over flow cup, to (joking cause it didn't help) help keep micro bubbles from forming, it has a square mesh block inside the cup and the tube from the skimmer goes into that. Do I remove that over flow cup and make the tube longer to go down into the sump? Covering the pump is no problem, it is only about 6 inches tall.
    Thanks for your help
  18. acrylic51

    acrylic51 Active Member

    Never downsize your skimmer to fit your needs......will lead to other issues....I agree with fitting your system with the biggest sump possible in your case.
  19. flower

    flower Well-Known Member

    Originally Posted by acrylic51

    Never downsize your skimmer to fit your needs......will lead to other issues....I agree with fitting your system with the biggest sump possible in your case.

    Okay I measured stuff..which I should have done first..
    Skimmer: 16 inches tall from base to cup, and it is 15 inches around. Cup is 1 inch bigger around. Complete height of the skimmer is 24 inches, I have 1 inch clearance on the inside of the cabinet so the skimmer just fits.
    I also have a tube that runs from that cup to a gallon holding container, it is easier to empty that way and I only have remove the cup to wash it out once a month.
    Cabinet opening = 21 ½ H x 16W..inside is a little roomier and the skimmer will stand upright, but anything bigger than a 20g tank is not going to fit and give me room to maneuver.
    The size of a 20g when I Googled it = 12W X 24L X 17H
    Okay…How many chambers does the tank have to have, and I need the size of each chamber?
    What goes in each chamber?
    Thanks for your help.
    P.S.
    The rest of the space under the sand is for the 10g ATO freshwater holding tank. I measured and both will fit.
  20. meowzer

    meowzer Moderator Staff Member

    How is a 15" skimmer gonna fit in a 12" wide tank????

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