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Old 06-09-2012, 11:22 PM   #1
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I need more filtration, but I'm on a tight budget. I have a 55 gallon Malawi Cichlid tank, so I should provide twice as much filtration as mfg recommended, so the right store-bought filter for me would be an AquaClear 110/500. However, I've been considering a DIY sump/wet-dry filter with overflow. I'm going to do a cost analysis to see which makes sense and document in this thread. I will likely be editing these post(s) to keep the number of posts at a minimum.

First, a quick explanation of the AC110/500. It's an HOB rated at 500 GPH max output (166 GPH full flow control), and rated for 60-110 gallon tanks. It features a multi-stage filtration system, and includes AquaClear foam bio material (mechanical filtration), activated carbon (chemical filtration), and BioMax (inert ceramic rings for biological filtration). It sells online for about $70.00, and in store for about $90.00.

The sump/filter that I would consider would have similar or more capabilities. I'm using this post on a DIY-Sump/Overflow as my starting point Good inexpensive second filter. Oh yeah... it can't look ugly. It's got to be as easily overlooked at the AC110. I've seen a number of very clever and hefty filtration systems that although I'm sure work effectively, they are an eyesore. It also has to be as quiet as possible. Not silent, but not overly splashy. If I can manage to make it airtight, I would love to hide it underneath the aquarium stand; but I don't want condensation to weaken the integrity of the particleboard that the stand is made of.

Here are the materials that I would need for my DIY filter and estimated costs, so far:
- Container for the sump. Searching local stores...
- A ~500 GHP water pump. Still researching...
- PVC for the overflow. Est 3"x10" : $8.83 at Home Depot
- PVC for the return. Est 1"x10" : $1.73 at Home Depot
- Tubing and coupler to connect the pump to the return. Est $5
- The "jet" head at the end of the return. Not sure what to call this or where to buy it. Still researching...
- Mechanical and biological filtration. Not too concerned about activated carbon.

My 55 gallon aquarium is 48.25"L x 12.75"W x 21"H (<47 gallons). The hight in particular is what I will need to calculate how much PVC I would need for my overflow.
I would need much larger diameter on for the overflow PVC than for the return to ensure that water can flow freely to the sump.

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Old 06-12-2012, 02:01 PM   #2
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Well, it looks like this will be a quick cost-analysis. The cost of a water pump that can circulate the 500 GPH that the AC110 can do is almost as much as the AC110 itself. I found an Aqua Euro USA submersible pump for about $60 from a reputable online source, and about $70 in store. So, comparing the overflow/sump components to an AC110 is really about the same cost, so there is no clear cost savings in going either way.

That being said, I can see pros and cons to each.

The AC110 is a neat and clean HOB that requires no shop-work to assemble. As well, custom-fit media is readily available in stores. It is the most recommended filter of this type and for my size of aquarium.

An overflow/sump, however, has it's own advantages. An overflow acts as a protein skimmer. It has much more capacity for filtration media. It looks to me like it would be more effective at aerobic filtration. It's scalable, in that I would be able to upgrade to a more powerful pump. I could separate the intake and the return to increase overall tank flow without having to add a separate powerhead. Plus there is the sheer thrill of DIY projects, especially when they actually work out as planned. However, I would have some real challenges to make it look neat and clean: really as close to not-visible (invisible did not sound right) as possible. If I put it under the wood stand I would worry about condensation.

I'm undecided so far. If I could find a better price on a water pump for the sump, that would help to tip the balance.

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Old 06-19-2012, 01:32 PM   #3
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Well, it was decided for me. I was gifted an AquaClear 70 for Father's day. They had great intentions, and took no offense at all to my requesting to upgrade it to an AC110. Man, what a savings to buy online! It is only $60.51 from Amazon.
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Old 06-19-2012, 03:08 PM   #4
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IME the cost of buying/operating (electricity) a DIY wet/dry is more than a AC110 filter. If you ever consider a wet/dry again, I'd suggest upgrading the pump since gravity will decrease the rated pump gph.
Kind Regards,
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