What it’s essential to find out about Sumps and Overflows | Reef Builders


For any of you which can be coming from the world of freshwater tanks and have solely had expertise with a “customary” tank, that’s one with the entire gear both within the tank or hanging on the again, establishing a saltwater tank is totally different. I’m not attempting to be Captain Apparent, however apart from the plain variations, a saltwater tank is totally different in delicate methods. One among these methods is that most saltwater tanks set up today, use an overflow and sump. For these of you not acquainted with these, a sump is solely one other tank that sits below or away from the principle tank and holds a lot of the gear used to run the principle show tank. It’s often smaller than the principle show, however including its quantity to the principle show tank’s quantity helps add to the soundness of the full system. The overflow, because the identify implies, is the means by which water is taken from the principle show and will get into the sump, often by having it overflow not directly to get to the sump. 

An exterior overflow field.

This may occasionally sound easy since when it’s achieved proper water in the principle show reaches a sure stage after which it’s drawn off in some method goes over the overflow and into the sump, the place it’s handled in some style after which it’s pumped again as much as the principle tank. Sadly, like most issues on this passion, it isn’t fairly that easy. First, there are quite a few methods to do that which we’ll talk about, each by way of overflows and sumps. All of those items of kit and set-ups have their professionals and cons and these must be thought of. And second, and this shouldn’t be missed, when these items of kit fail, they usually result in water being out of the tank and on the ground. Sadly, even with the best-laid plans, this occurs at one time or one other to everybody. 

Sumps home filtration gear and sit within the cupboard beneath the tank. Picture credit score Keystone Reefscapes.

To try to make this so simple as potential we’ll work backward and begin with a dialogue of sumps and what they do. A sump is solely a container of kinds, it may be a tank, used or new, a plastic or fiberglass field, or a specifically designed acrylic field that sits under or subsequent to, or away from the principle show tank. Its operate is to carry all or a lot of the gear essential to run a reef tank and be out of the tank in order to not distract from the sweetness within the tank. For many new and smaller setups, it rests under the principle show tank within the stand and often fills up the entire house beneath the principle show. It often holds gear reminiscent of mechanical filters, protein skimmers, heaters, media reactors, top-off methods, and return pumps. A few of these items of kit could be outdoors of the sump, however this requires extra plumbing experience.

Since all of this gear is often thought of important for a profitable tank, the sump must be effectively designed to carry all of it and accomplish that, in order that the circulate by it optimizes the gear. That’s, the water coming by the overflow from the tank mustn’t circulate by the media reactor then the skimmer, after which the mechanical filter.  As an alternative, the circulate by the sump must be optimized in order that filtration happens in an optimum method, so the sump must be giant sufficient to permit for this and nonetheless maintain the entire gear. The sump also needs to be designed in order that entry to the gear must be straightforward in order that it will possibly simply be maintained. 

Mechanical filtration is stage one in sump filtration.

A used tank will do

A sump doesn’t must be costly, I often use used tanks that I decide up inexpensively at my native fish store. It simply must be deliberate out in order that the gear suits, the circulate is perfect and every part could be accessed for straightforward upkeep and cleansing. For smaller tanks, I typically suggest that or not it’s 1/3 to ¼ the scale of the show tank. So for say a forty-gallon tank, the sump must be at the least ten gallons in dimension. However as with every part reef-related larger is often higher. There is no such thing as a customary sump, so I strongly recommend you have a look at the sumps on profitable tanks to get an concept of what a sensible sump appears to be like like. Most people who find themselves profitable should not have sumps which can be unworkable. 

Commonplace aquariums can be utilized as sumps.

Simply as a sump could sound easy, so too does an overflow. In its easiest kind, water from the show tank flows over one thing in order that it strikes outdoors the tank and right down to the sump. The explanation water is eliminated by way of an overflow from the highest of the tank fairly than simply from the underside or center is that waste merchandise and different pollution are typically lighter than water and therefore float. By utilizing an overflow these undesirable gadgets usually tend to be eliminated by the filtration. Sadly, the full overflow system isn’t fairly that easy. The explanation it isn’t that easy is that issues, fish, snails, detritus, air bubbles, and so forth., are likely to get caught in numerous components of the machine interrupting the circulate and sending water out of the tank. Within the early days of the passion, an overflow often consisted of two plastic containers, one contained in the tank and one out, with siphon tubes flowing between them, and the one outdoors the tank linked to the sump. So water would circulate from contained in the tank over the overflow into the primary field, by the siphon tubes into the second field, after which from there into the sump the place it could undergo filtration after which be pumped again into the principle tank. This technique labored satisfactorily more often than not, but it surely was susceptible to having the siphon break or getting knocked off, or progressively received full of detritus or different materials, so extra elaborate overflow gadgets and strategies have been developed. 

An acrylic hang-on-the-back overflow field.

These better-designed overflows embrace plastic or acrylic containers with solely a small overflow within the tank, with a big cross-section constructed into the field permitting for a considerable amount of water to circulate by the overflow with out it taking over a considerable amount of actual property within the tank. These gadgets additionally typically have a valve constructed into them in order that any air which accumulates in them could be drawn off by way of both a step pump or a powerhead. That is crucial as a result of I’ve by no means discovered an exterior overflow that didn’t accumulate air in it with out using the sort of system. And that is necessary as a result of if air accumulates, even when it’s a gradual accumulation, the siphon will break resulting in a moist mess. 

A drilled tank with a rear inside weir.

Drilled tanks

Along with these new overflow gadgets, many hobbyists have gone to having their tanks drilled in order that the overflow is in-built and thus there isn’t any siphon to be damaged. In the commonest kind, holes are drilled within the again corners of the tank and containers are constructed round these drilled holes. The holes are full of bulkheads and in these pipes are positioned in order that the water flowing over the overflows doesn’t have to drop an extended distance to maintain it from being noisy. More recently, the sides of some tanks have been drilled instead of the bottoms and the bulkheads are placed in these holes with a narrow overflow covering these holes within the tank. All of those strategies are superior to an exterior overflow as they haven’t any siphon to interrupt, however they do require to be deliberate for earlier than the tank is about up. 

A rear view of an exterior weir field with “Bean Animal” pipework configuration.

The perfect overflow methods take up little house inside the tank, haven’t any danger of the siphon being damaged, and permit for giant volumes of water to go by them. Most producers of exterior overflow present an approximate concept of how a lot quantity they will deal with. In my expertise, I usually go for overflows that may deal with barely greater volumes of water than what’s listed as I don’t wish to take the prospect that one thing small will plug the overflow lowering its consumption quantity and resulting in an overflow in my home. Even the best-designed overflows require upkeep as algae, particularly of the bubble sort and different pests like tube worms and vermetid snails will generally make their houses within the overflow and over time clog the system. For that reason, I extremely suggest that every one overflows be cleaned each six months. Nook overflows must be cleaned much more typically as these kind of overflows typically act as detritus sinks with giant quantities of detritus settling within the corners out of sight and consequently releasing lots of vitamins again into the tank over time. 

A nook weir, constructed into the again of a glass tank.

A correctly designed overflow and sump are integral parts of most trendy reef tanks. They are often as easy or elaborate because the proprietor needs and may afford, however as with most elements of this passion, you get what you pay for. Whereas you do not want to spend an extreme quantity on both of those, they need to be straightforward to keep up and easy in design, and when achieved proper they may nearly be forgotten about, which is an effective factor as there are lots of higher issues to consider when having fun with this passion. 

Luxurious aquariums can have some luxurious sump options built-in.

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