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Thread: The Sump

  1. #1
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    Nov 2003

    The Sump

    I post this information in response to those who want more detailed information about the various parts of a well equipped reef aquarium. I will post on other topics related to setup in the future.
    THE SUMP (including a brief history)
    The “sump” part of your setup is a separate container of water that gets its water supply from the display aquarium by way of an overflow system within that display aquarium (See THE OVERFLOW )
    Sump setups were first put into use when the “wet / dry” filter system was conceived. It was used for the most part by marine aquarium hobbyist who kept fish and live rock. The idea was conceived to solve the problem of supplying nitrifying bacteria in the system with lots of oxygen. To make this system work, display aquarium water was mechanically filtered and intermittently sprayed over bacteria supporting filter media. This was done with rotating spray bars. The types of media used in these sump filters also evolved and that is a full story unto itself that I will not address in this post.
    The filter media in these systems would go through alternating wet / dry cycles over and over again. The nitrifying bacteria thrived in this environment where they could make good use of available oxygen during the dry part of the cycle. Dry in this case by the way was not “dry”… it was simply not being sprayed with water during the dry part of the cycle. The cycle between wet and dry was very short. Picture in your mind if you will a spinning horizontal spay bar that re-wet the filter media with every rotation. The media the bacteria lived on was never actually allowed to “dry” out. If it did the nitrifying bacteria would die off and crash the display aquarium.
    The problem with these setups was that when not properly maintained the filter media functioned like a mechanical filter. The media trapped too much raw waste. It was not meant to do this. This trapped raw waste would be quickly broken down by the nitrifying bacteria and lead to very high nitrate levels in the system. This was because the nitrifying bacteria in the media continued to do a very efficient job while denitrifying bacterial could not live in this environment. nitrifying bacteria are required to remove nitrates. These filter systems failed to address this part of the biological equation even if it was actually the result of user error. The error being to allow non-mechanically filtered water to enter the filter media.
    These wet / dry filter sumps soon evolved to also contain heaters, skimmers, bagged carbon, etc, etc. Pretty much anything we did not want to see in the display tanks. It became a convenient place to HIDE equipment.
    The current sump is very different from the original sump filter. There is no longer much of a filter part and for sure no wet / dry filter part in the current sumps we see in use today. It is no longer dedicated to the growth and well being of nitrifying bacteria. It dose however remain very popular because it still address’s some very important issues.
    1) The sump itself increases the total water volume of the whole setup.
    2) By the way the sump is supplied its water, it removes surface scum from the display aquarium.
    3) It provides a place to hide equipment.
    4) It provides a place to remove skimmer bubbles if a skimmer is used.
    To set up a sump you will need a second salt water safe water tight container or a second aquarium, a return pump that can move between 5 to 10 times the display aquariums water volume per hour, some hoses, unions and valves.
    The sump in almost all cases is set up below the display aquarium and gets its water supply from the display aquarium by gravity feed from an overflow setup that is within the display Aquarium (see THE OVERFLOW ).
    The sumps water capacity should be a minimum of about 1/6th the total water volume of the display Aquarium. So if your display aquarium is 100 gallons the sump should be between 16 and 20 gallons.
    The sump is always divided into at least 2 chambers that are separated by a series of baffles. One chamber will house your heater, skimmer and any other equipment that at one time used to be in the display aquarium. This is the chamber that receives the water from the display aquariums overflow setup. This chamber is setup so that it can never go dry. The second chamber is where the return pump draws its water from for return to the display aquarium. This is where you add FRESH water to the system to correct for water evaporation. The two chambers are separated by a series of baffles. These baffles allow air from the skimmer to escape from the moving water before being returned to the display aquarium. That’s your basic sump. See the pic for clarification.

  2. #2
    Senior Member pwall's Avatar
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    Nov 2004
    Awesome post OSD!
    I've bookmarked this one in my Favorites.
    Ottawa (Orleans), Ontario
    Yahoo IM: pwallnfld

  3. #3
    Senior Member hippo!'s Avatar
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    Dec 2004
    Bring em on!

  4. #4
    Senior Member tang_man_montreal's Avatar
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    Jun 2003
    I've been adding hyperlinks to the other posts within these posts to make easier for everyone.
    I am Homer of BORG... Prepare to be..OOOO!! DONUT!!!!!!

  5. #5
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    Nov 2003
    Thanks Vince ... thats a good idea and very helpful for all who read this stuff.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Carolpol's Avatar
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    Oct 2004
    I've got a question!

    How far (or close I should say) can the baffles for the bubble traps be? And the bottom gap at @ 1 1/2 inch should be ok ...right?

    Great info in these threads!!
    Can we fit one more tank? :P
    Dont mind my spelling mistakes I've got an excuse...I'M FRENCH!

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Nov 2003
    Most recommend 1 inch between baffles and 1 inch under the baffles that are raised. If the space is too small the water will have to speed up as it travels through the baffles and air will not have time to escape.

  8. #8
    Moderator cres's Avatar
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    Jul 2004
    How many GPH are you pushing in there?

    The general rule is 1", but, I suspect you will be moving a substantial amount of water (given that you are selling two 2400 GPH pumps).

    You might need to open that a bit, to 1.5 or 2".

    You may also need to experiment a bit. It will depend on the width too.
    Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Niche's Avatar
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    Aug 2005

    Shouldn't the second baffle (thrid red line) be a little shorter than the 1st red line in order to help water flow along? If not why? It's been a long day and my noodle isn't working

  10. #10
    Moderator cres's Avatar
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    Jul 2004
    Not really. As those baffles are set up, it is the height of the "third red line" that will determine the height of water in the equipment chamber. It will be a little higher than the water flowing over the third baffle. You could reduce the first one, it is only there to start to channel the water down and encourage the surface water to leave.

    The higher the first one is to the third one, the farther the water will fall over the first one. If you make the third one much shorter than the first one, you will start causing bubbles, not just reducing them.
    Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

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