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Sump design

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Hi All,

I would appreciate any help with the design of a new sump I am making for a 7x2.5x2.5 Tanganyikan display tank.

The sump will be a 4x2x50cm (mixing units sorry) as seen below.

The tabs that stick out of the vertical pieces in my drawing will hold perforated trickle plates. Some who support media and some who aid dispersion.

I wanted to use filter socks and have an underwater entry to reduce noise but also want wet/dry section for biological filtration.

I then redirect the water through a bubble trap/slow down into a section with sponge and carbon through another bubble trap and into return section.

The bubble traps are large enough to fit my hand down.

There is loads of spare volume in the sump to take the overflow from the tank if return pump stops.


What have I missed?



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Thanks, Technology is not my strong point.

Link to photobucket below



I should add that I have done a lot of searching on this forum and others to get to this point.

I just want to see if any more experienced people can help me find what I have missed

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I am probably over thinking this too much.

Reviewing my own design I think the wet dry section has to go as it is too hard to get enough bioballs above the waterline

I know there are other biological medias that don't need to be wet/dry.

I want to run the filtersocks and have a section where the weir overflow can enter the sump with out splashing (ie pipes underwater) other than that im open.

Of the various types of filtration what is the best order: Mechanical ->Biological -> Chemical ??

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the sump looks incorrect in design and needs 2 separating plates between sections.

this will direct flow which is usually under/over direction so it flows through the media

from the top and exits the section from the bottom with a 6-10 mm gap between the plates


did you want to use a bulkhead into the side of the sump under water for the entry and

use the first section as a settling tank like a votex design and force it up into the next section

could be a problem if the sock blocks up


you also need to work out the back flush amount for if power goes off this is the lowest

part of the water column that drains out the tank ( will this be drilled and have a weir ?)

to the top of the water level use this to calculate the volume of return into the sump

then set the top of your plates low enough from the top of the sump to accommodate the

return water this stops flooding when the power fails


yes mech - sock into sponge and Jap matting > bio - matrix , clay balls, marine pure, k1

(needs to be in motion) > chemical - micropure, chemi pure etc

any reason you want to run carbon ??  it is an absorbent agent used to remove impurities

like tannin, medication, metals and will leach back when it's unable to absorb any more


use egg crate grid from elect wholesaler or hardware as the media platform and just silicone

glass strips to the section plates for it to sit on like you show

there have been some really good posts on sump design so a search might add more info

hope this helps rather than create more chaos in your head


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I did a small video of my sump. I always believe in keeping things simple and mines about as simple as it gets. Its still a very effective sump though.

I could also put in something like the K media if  I wanted o put in air etc into the sump.

the actual design is simple though.




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Nice simple sump there Chuck. Very similar to my sump, except I have tumbling K media rather than the noodles/clay etc.

My Baffles or 'bulkheads' as you call them are also arranged slightly differently. 

But all in all very similar design and format. Good video.

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Thanks heaps Chuck. I appreciate the video

I agree simple is best.

I think I will alter my design to be more like yours.

The reason I had 90mm between my bulkheads / baffles was so I can fit my hand between them

It looks like most people don't worry about that

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For me your first bulkhead should not run just over the top. If your mechanical filtration block's up then it will just run over the top. I think you are missing the waterfall effect where your bulkheads run lower in each zone.

If you were to run your intake as is. Then your first bulkhead should run under and the top would dictate a flow over if it gets clogged.

In your second chamber the water should run over the top. So that bulkhead should go to the bottom of the tank and the top should be lower than the first bulkhead.

The last chamber should come from the bottom up and also should be lower than the second chamber. All this gives you some redundancy if there is a blockage. Everything will overflow into the next chamber if there is some blockage and the pump will still pump water as it would.

The way I see your pic is that water will bypass your first chamber as water takes the path of least resistance. Its just going to go to your second chamber and miss the first.

The first bulkhead just needs to be one piece of glass. It has to be an inch or 2, set from the top. This sets your water height from an emergency. It then needs to be an inch or inch and a half off the bottom. this is where the water will flow under.

let me make a video again... and explain..excuse the 2am Jd slur :p back in a tick.. If you don't understand then hopefully someone can chime in and sort out the English... :)



I would have your first chamber where your water runs into fairly small after all it doesn't do anything but receive the water. Your second chamber can be a combination of filtration but it should be your second biggest chamber. Your last chamber which is the most important is your biological...and then your return.

Its only based off my sump though and alot of people have different setups. I chose the simplest for myself.

Unfortunately I can youtube but cant draw diagrams !!

Also, dont worry about socks imo for fresh water. they are not needed and too much work and worry for fresh water....especially with a well built decent sized sump....unless you like changing socks !!

Please also adjust bulkhead heights to suit. I've got a large sump (6x2) so dimensions may not suit.

Edited by Chuckmeister

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I'd also like to add to this, that there are many types of sump filtration and would encourage other people to post up their own. Mine is basic stuff and I know people have more technical stuff than I do..

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