Time to Get Sumped!
In a previous article we addressed the benefits of having sump filtration running on saltwater aquaria. Many nano saltwater tanks can get away with frequent water changes and still maintain a successful system; however, we decided to add a sump to our 12 gallon (45 L) reef tank. Currently, our nano tank sits on an elevated counter space adjacent to our kitchen sink. Call us crazy or committed (perhaps crazy enough to be committed), but we opted to drill through the sink in order to house the sump beneath the kitchen sink. This setup will allow us to hide the sump from view but still provide easy access for filter maintenance.
So what convinced us that an impromptu mini kitchen renovation was worth upgrading our nano tank?
We didn't conduct any form of testing; however, we had some suspicions as to what was causing the detectable levels of phosphate and nitrate. While the canister filter performed well (we would highly recommend this product on a nano freshwater tank) it did present issues for a saltwater set-up. The primary purpose of the filter was to house our chemical media. However in order for our carbon and GFO to fit, the granules became clumped together reducing surface area for the product to come in contact with the water. Additionally, particulates of food and waste would accumulate inside the canister. Slowly these organic molecules would break down, releasing nitrates and phosphate back into the water column. We also had limited live rock within our tank due to the aesthetic look we were hoping to achieve. It was our hope that the addition of more live rock and a better means of suspending chemical media could help our water chemistry. The inclusion of a filter sock and protein skimmer in the sump section would also; undoubtedly, improve the nitrate conditions for the tank.
In order to utilize as much volume as the tank had to offer, we opted to remove the black plastic divider generating a filtration section for the Spec V. Removal simply required a razor blade to cut along the silicone securing the divider in place. The lighting system for the tank was also removed from the top of the aquarium.
CPR CS50 Overflow Box
The CPR Overflow Box provides a means to siphon water from the main tank down towards the sump. The CS50 model is rated for aquariums up to 60 gallons (227 L) and has a flow rate of 300 GPH (1136 Liters Per Hour). The unit quietly skims the surface of the water removing all film. The overflow box can be adjusted so the water level within your aquarium is set to a desired height. The bulkhead outflow is ¾”.
3/4" Black PVC Pipe (58 inches)
The black PVC plumbing descending from the overflow box was purchased from Bulk Reef Supply. While PVC pipe can be purchased from any general hardware store, Bulk Reef Supply (BRS) offers an array of solid colors beyond the standard white and does not include text printed on the side of the pipe. I would highly recommend this option for those looking for a striking appearance in their plumbing. White 90° degree ¾” elbows were added to the piping to permit navigation around our preexisting sink plumbing.
Once you have selected a suitable size filter sock for your sump, we recommend keeping several socks on hand. This will enable you to periodically exchange socks (every 3 days or less), giving you time to clean the them. Remember to keep up with your sock laundry! Filter socks provide little benefit if the materials they siphon out of the water are permitted to degrade and return organic matter back to the water column.
A majority of the open space within our sump is devoted to a refugium. At this time our refugium consists of live rock. We cultivated our live rock from dry rock. If you are interested in discovering how to convert dry rock to live rock and its benefits, check out our article for Curing Dry Rock. In the future we might decide to add a little Chaeto algae; however, we are waiting and observing nitrate and phosphate levels before making any additions.
Update (5/1/16): We no longer have live rock in the this region of the sump, instead we have switched over to using MarinePure Ceramic Biomedia Blocks. To learn more about what encouraged us to make this switch, check our our nano reef tank blog.
Sicce Syncra Silent 1.5 Multifunction Aquarium Pump (357 GPH)
The Sicce Syncra Aquarium Pump is responsible for returning water to the main tank from the sump. When selecting a return pump, keep in mind that it must be powerful enough to have water overcome gravity the distance from your pump to the return jet. The Sicce Syncra pump is versatile in that it can be incorporated as an in-line or in sump pump. We are operating the pump in sump option and it is extremely quiet.
A check valve on the return tubing is imperative! When the return pump is turned off (for feeding or due to power outages) water will begin to siphon from the tank through the return jet and pumping. This can cause water to backflow into your sump and potentially cause your sump to overflow! Since we are installing the check valve within a vinyl tubing line, we also needed to install a ½” Pipe Adapter Spigot x Barb. We installed one pipe adapter on each end of the check valve in order to install inline with the vinyl tubing.
Within less than a week of having the sump installed on our tank, we noticed the levels of nitrate and phosphate drop. According to API testing kits, nitrate levels read less than 5 ppm (potentially undetectable) and phosphate levels have been completely undetectable. We can’t wait to observe the long term benefits having a sump provides for our coral. The addition of a sump brings us one step closer towards achieving the aspirations we have for our mixed reef nano tank!
Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions, we would love to hear from you!