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Old 01-22-2014, 03:54 PM   #1
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DIY sump confusion

So I'm making the jump from freshwater to saltwater aquaria and I've been doing a lot of research on sumps. There just seems to be a lot of different ways and types to go about it. I was watching a tutorial video on building a sump involving three chambers, one including live rock, one with a protein skimmer and one return. I saw another that had sponges and bio balls and another that grew algae in a chamber. I would like an explanation about the various application of these different types of sumps and the difference between a wet/dry sump and a refugium because the vast quantity of information on the topic is a bit intimidating just starting out. Thank you for reading.

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Old 01-24-2014, 09:43 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by FishStarter89 View Post
So I'm making the jump from freshwater to saltwater aquaria and I've been doing a lot of research on sumps. There just seems to be a lot of different ways and types to go about it. I was watching a tutorial video on building a sump involving three chambers, one including live rock, one with a protein skimmer and one return.

This is one of the most basic types of sumps, and is often referred to as Berlin style. The live rock is supposed to be good to provide additional surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow. The reason for 3 chambers is to separate your skimmer from the return with bubble traps so that you can eliminate microbubbles that some skimmers will produce.


I saw another that had sponges and bio balls and another that grew algae in a chamber.

Bio balls would do the same thing as the live rock, as explained above.

Growing algae is a great way for nutrient export. You can use something like Chaeto to suck up nitrates and phosphates, and you can then export those nutrients by trimming the algae and tossing it in the trash. This is the type of sump I use. Keep in mind you will have to light your sump to get the algae to grow if you go this route.

I would like an explanation about the various application of these different
types of sumps and the difference between a wet/dry sump and a refugium

Wet/dry is a somewhat dated method in my opinion. It also utilizes something like bio balls to provide surface area, and has a trickle area for water to have a lot of contact with oxygen/air. The problem with packing a section of your sump with bioballs is the same problem with why we rarely if ever recommend using a canister filter on a reef... it becomes a nitrate trap as waste etc build up and gets trapped in the bioball chamber.

Strictly speaking, if you have a section dedicated to growing algae or other live critters away from your display tank it is technically a refugium. It is simply a place for beneficial critters and plants to grow away from predation in your display tank. However, it can get a lot more complicated as there is a lot out there on really having minimal flow through a refugium to provide the highest benefit. So you see a lot of split drains where only a trickle flows in and out of the refugium section.


because the vast quantity of information on the topic is a bit intimidating just starting out. Thank you for reading.

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Let us know if you have any other questions or want to explore any of these styles further.
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Old 01-24-2014, 09:52 PM   #3
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That's an excellent answer. Thank you. So would you include a refugiun chamber for algae in a sump or would it be more practical to make a separate unit for it independent of the filtration?

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Old 01-24-2014, 10:30 PM   #4
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I use a 30 gallon tank as a Refugium it also can be a hospital and in a pinch. It's a complete system on it's own tied together with a pump and overflow. Unplug the pump and it's a separate system. For a couple years it was a Dragonet tank. Next it may be a Seahorse tank. I have Chaeto and another algae growing in there. A filter sock, live rock and a skimmer is my filter as bio-balls and canister filters are nitrate factory's. Good luck!
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Old 01-25-2014, 01:49 AM   #5
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DIY sump confusion

I think the research suggests maintaining minimal flow through a fuge is beneficial but I have high flow through mine (I have a 3 section sump... Skimmer, fuge, return with only a single drain, flow through to a return. The last section has a bubble trap. It also houses Ato switches, two heaters, a two part dosing system, a pH meter, a carbon/GFO reactor, and a couple other pieces of equipment. It maintains 0 nitrates and phosphates.
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