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DIY 30g sump/refugium using an existing aquarium

DIY 30g sump/refugium using an existing aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:32 pm

I have decided to try to make a sump/refugium using an existing 30g aquarium to sit under my 75g display. Sump aquarium measures 30L x 12.5W x 17 Tall. I like looking at refugiums as much as the display so I wanted to maximize that area but according to melev's site the return section should be large enough to allow for system evaporation. I do plan to use an ATO so I am unsure how much that may influence the size of the return section.

I have been researching this topic for years now but some decisions I just cannot seem to get clear in my head. I have visited marc's site so many times my teeth hurt.

The decision of where to locate the refugium does not seem to have an overwhelming difference between the center or the opposite end from the skimmer section assuming the skimmer section is first of course. Center position seems to give "cleaner" water for the return but does not lend itself to independent flow regulation. The opposite end from skimmer location does give flow control (via dual feed) but allows "dirtier" water (not skimmed) to return to the display.

Still unsure which is "best".

Skimmer will be a DAS EX-1 outside the sump aquarium. I will try to plumb from the drain line for supply. Also I will have to make a stand for it to get the skimmer output over that 17" tall side of the aquarium sump.
Return pump will be an Eheim 1260. Already ordered.

I will attempt to make the bubble trap out of glass and the refuium divider out of acrylic. I know I could stick eggcrate on top of a glass divider but am unsure how that would look.
Last edited by Tinyfish on Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Marc on Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:03 pm

Sorry about your teeth. :D

The 'dirty' water you talked about is feeding your refugium's pods, and the skimmer will be working all of the water in the system multiple times a day.

Make sure your baffles are 1/4" thick, and that they are a 1/4" less wide than the width of your glass tank.

The return section doesn't have to be huge since you have an ATO, but I wouldn't make it so small that it sucks the water out quickly before that zone can refill with water draining down. What size zones do you have in mind currently? I'd keep the return zone at 7" wide. If you have that area at 8" deep, you'll have about 3g of water in that compartment. Do you have room for the skimmer in a 10" wide zone? If so, the refugium can be 9.5" wide. If not, take a little from the refugium to allow for that skimmer to fit.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Sat Nov 14, 2009 10:58 am

My skimmer has a footprint of 7 1/4" x 15" so I just don't think I can get it in there. I could try putting it in another container in case it leaks.

Is the 1/4" thick glass requirement because it is strong enough to cut and place without breaking? Just wondered if 3/16" would be OK or not.

I don't know what the 1/4" width requirement is for. The inside dimension is 12"w. I cut both a piece of plywood and a piece of acrylic at 12"w and they fit but that is without sealant. Am I supposed to put the baffle in place and then use the sealer since they are glass?

I just got the Eheim 1260 pump. I did not realize it was going to be that size. I will definitely keep the return section not less than 7".

If skimmer is in then sections would be 15" Skimmer, 3" bubble trap, 7" Return, 4" Refugium
If skimmer is out then sections would be 4" input, 3" bubble trap, 8" Return, 14.5" Refugium

Or
I could scrap this plan and get a 36" long aquarium.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Sat Nov 14, 2009 4:30 pm

I took back the 30" and got a 36" aquarium. By turning the skimmer at an angle it will fit in a 12" section. I can have the return in a 7" section and the refugium in a 12" section. The drain can be routed to a corner in the skimmer section so I can make one of those things to hold rocks to break up the stream coming in.

One thing about my current stand is that the flat places are all made of MDF. If you have ever seen MDF get wet you may wonder as I do why anyone would use MDF on an aquarium stand. Cheap?
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Marc on Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:53 am

It is cheap, smooth, and easy to paint or seal. You should seal the inside of your stand as well, to prevent it from swelling & rotting.

The baffles should not be snug, because that pressure on the walls of the aquarium will cause the tank to crack. The reason you cut them 1/4" less wide than the tank's internal width is to leave 1/8" gap on each end for the silicone to fill.

1/4" thick glass is best. 3/16" may work, but you may see it crack. 1/8" is out of the question. Getting the edges polished so they aren't sharp is a very good plan to avoid getting cut when you reach in the sump to do things in the the future.

Glad you got a bigger sump. That will make quite a difference compared to the 30" one you had before.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Reefmike on Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:05 am

I used a 36" 30g tank for the sump under my 75g. Skimmer sits outside sump.

>1st section is 4-1/2" and holds the pumps for the skimmer and phosban reactor. Then I have 3 acrylic baffles set up as a bubble trap that takes up 3-1/2".

Image

>The fuge section is 16-1/2".

Image

>Return section is 10-1/2 ".

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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Sun Nov 15, 2009 10:00 am

Marc,
Thanks for the clarification.

Reefmike,
Thank you for the pictures. I really like the baffle separator that you put in.

More questions:
How far from the top should I make the baffle height? And the middle baffle on the bubble trap is 1 " above the bottom?

I take it that a skimmer inside a sump is safer than one outside? Or is it a space issue? Or just preference?
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Reefmike on Sun Nov 15, 2009 10:11 am

All of my baffle pieces are 12" tall. The center one for the bubble trap is almost 1-1/2" off the bottom. The notches on top of the last baffle are 3/8"w x 1"d.
I designed mine from the beginning to have the skimmer outside. I wanted as much fuge as possible. Having it in the sump is safer in case the skimmer goes crazy and overflows. Mine has a cup drain that goes into a seperate container.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Mon Nov 16, 2009 12:55 pm

Taped mockup
Image

Under stand - Drain lines are from something else and just for questions
Image

Mockup under stand
Image

Questions:
Should I locate the unit to one side to allow for a clear space on one end for the future?
Should the drain valves be horizontal or vertical?
Should end of drain lines be above or below water surface?
Return line should have a valve, a flexible tube portion or removable coupling, use 1/2 or 3/4" line?
Should I locate electrical under the stand or someplace else? (I don't know where else I could put it unless I make something.)

I had no idea I would have so many questions.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Marc on Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:29 pm

The drain line into the skimmer section should be 1/2" to 1" under water. No more.

The drain line going to the refugium should be 1/2 above water / 1/2 submerged. This allows air to breathe out of the line, and water to pour out gently.

Electrical: I prefer to have it secured to the stand up high to the side, where it is safe from getting wet. Obviously a pump shooting water right at it would be bad news, but water pouring down the side of the tank shouldn't be able to enter the electrical. Drip loops are important, which avoid water following the cord right into the outlet itself.

You don't need a ball valve on the return line. I installed one on my first sump, and after the first day found out I didn't need it and it was left open 100% from that day forward. Don't reduce the plumbing down, as that is just a restriction.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:50 pm

It always shocks me at how much I spend on aquarium stuff.

I bought all the plumbing parts plus some electrical power strips, timers, cost $94.00.

I also picked up the glass for the baffles, 3 pieces for $22.00.

I got the silicone and installed the bubble trap. I thought I had done everything right but somehow I had mismarked the locations and had to change the spacing after all three plates were in. That created a mess.

I installed the new power strips under the stand opposite the drain, and I installed a bracket to give the refugium light something to clamp onto.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:26 am

Please look at the skimmer feed from the drain. Is this OK?

Baffles in place
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Plumbing in progress
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Marc on Sun Nov 22, 2009 12:29 pm

Are you referring to that small elbow fitting going into the skimmer? It is a little restrictive. However, more importantly, the water needs to pour into the skimmer consistently, rather than gulping it down with lots of air in the line. Alex has a Deltec that he plumbed from the drainline, and he had to putting a gate (not ball) valve in the line leading to it so he could control the feed. Using clear tubing, he could see that it was water only going into the skimmer, and the rest diverted to a bubble tower in the corner of his skimmer section.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:49 pm

The small elbow fitting is the skimmer input. The elbow measures 5/8" but all the fittings on the skimmer are 1/2". That includes the fittings for the recirculating pump. The skimmer came with a 1/2" ball valve. I can relocate the skimmer input to be the straight down fitting from the drain. That should allow all the air to go somewhere else.

Why is there a preference of gate over ball valves?
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Marc on Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:14 am

Your post asked if the "Skimmer feed" was set up correctly, but I'm thinking you may have meant the drain line into the skimmer section based up on the above post.

A gate valve is for fine tuning how much water passes through it, while a ball valve is far less cooperative. It tends to be on or off, or somewhere not-quite-right where you want it to be.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:38 pm

I apologize for any confusion. I was referring to the skimmer feed from the drain line which is a 5/8" fitting.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby bmw_artillery on Tue Dec 08, 2009 3:44 pm

How much would it cost to have a L 35" W 16" H16" sump with 3 sections return pump---skimmer section----fuge built?
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Marc on Tue Dec 08, 2009 11:02 pm

Built by whom? Someone that makes sumps professionally, or someone that is a club member that can build it for you? This is the DIY forum, emphasis on Yourself. :P
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby bmw_artillery on Wed Dec 09, 2009 2:49 pm

:D Yeah I know. I was thinking about tackling it, but paying someone else who has the experiance will save me the frustration.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Marc on Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:30 pm

Do you want a glass tank modified into a sump, or do you want it made out of acrylic to custom dimensions? Since I'm in this thread already, I'll just state that I've made a few sumps in my time (click the banner below). :wink:
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Sat May 15, 2010 7:27 pm

Nothing like a hi-jacked thread. [smilie=wink.gif]

I am going to try to build this again. The first picture shows the skimmer outside the sump. The display drain T's off supplying the skimmer input. Do I need a gate valve in here? Then another T to be able to control flow to the refugium section which is shown in bottom picture. Return will be in the middle section.

I am not sure where I may need valves to control flow. Please advise.

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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby fiftyfiveG on Sun May 16, 2010 5:57 pm

Hello TinyFish... I have ball valve on the intake, return, and refugium as you can see on the picture. Intake ball valve open about 75% and 25% open for the refugium. My pump is mag 9.5 and I have it open about 30-40%, without a ball valve it just too much flow to display. I don't have any bubbles make to the return area or display. IMO you should install a ball valve on the intake and refugium.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:44 pm

Today I finally got the sump tank installed with plumbing.

Instead of feeding the skimmer from the drain I chose to run a Maxi Jet for supply.

The skimmer now sits outside the sump. This allows an 18" long refugium section. I am very pleased with this size.

I will take pictures when the cloudiness from the refugium sand abates.
20g Radion LED, CPR skimmer + Aquatic Life 115
29g Chinese LED, CPR skimmer
58g Tank 1, 6 x 39w T5HO, Zoanthids
58g Tank 2,Chinese LED fixture, SPS
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an exiting aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:47 am

Poop.

My refugium divider did not hold. Now I have to drain the sump and take out all the sand. I knew things were going too well.

PS While emptying the water I noticed a pool on the floor. I think it is coming from the threaded male into the bottom of the bulkhead. Maybe I didn't use a tool to tighten?
It will require that I cut that piece off and replace with a removable coupler.

Oh, and I found out that I have more than one divider leaking.
20g Radion LED, CPR skimmer + Aquatic Life 115
29g Chinese LED, CPR skimmer
58g Tank 1, 6 x 39w T5HO, Zoanthids
58g Tank 2,Chinese LED fixture, SPS
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an existing aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:24 am

Here is the empty sump.

Image

Here is the final plumbing of the skimmer and drain.

Image

Here is the final plumbing of the whole thing.

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20g Radion LED, CPR skimmer + Aquatic Life 115
29g Chinese LED, CPR skimmer
58g Tank 1, 6 x 39w T5HO, Zoanthids
58g Tank 2,Chinese LED fixture, SPS
Parallel Sump for 1 & 2, Reef Octo skimmer, Phos Reactor
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an existing aquarium

Postby Marc on Sat Jun 19, 2010 12:37 am

I have one suggestion for you still. Get something (acrylic is fine) and put it between the bubble trap baffle and the refugium baffle. You want it to span the area of the return section as a reinforcement so the refugium baffle doesn't pull away and fall into the return section. You have a very large body of water behind a 1/4" piece of acrylic that is held in place with silicone. The cross bracing will help keep it where you sealed it.

Another option would be to cut some eggcrate to fit. Just a reinforcement to help it last a long time.
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Re: DIY 30g sump/refugium using an existing aquarium

Postby Tinyfish on Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:13 pm

I always wonder where to post follow-up text. I am picking here because anyone reading this thread might wonder how well my plan worked out.

I had micro-bubbles from day 1 which is documented in another thread. After many suggestions and many tries I decided the problem must be in the initial design. I have now removed the sump from under the tank.

New Design:
The change in design will be to make the refugium area smaller, make the return area larger, and put in bubble trap between the two. Now if I could just find my silicone.
20g Radion LED, CPR skimmer + Aquatic Life 115
29g Chinese LED, CPR skimmer
58g Tank 1, 6 x 39w T5HO, Zoanthids
58g Tank 2,Chinese LED fixture, SPS
Parallel Sump for 1 & 2, Reef Octo skimmer, Phos Reactor
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