In this second installment of the wild adventures in setting up an aquarium, I’ll go through what I did to install a 30 gallon sump into the stand of my 125 gallon aquarium.

I won’t go into the details of what a sump is and how it works because there are lots of places that explain it better than I could. I decided to go with a sump because it is incredibly cost-effective, simple to maintain, and very flexible in its implementation compared to a canister filter.

The tank I’d bought was not plumbed for a sump, which meant that I had to install my own overflows and returns. Keep in mind that a 125 gallon tank has 1/2″ thick glass through which I had to drill four holes. Several hours of YouTube videos later, I felt ready to have a go at it. Here’s the videos I made of the process:

The overflow kit I used came from and it has performed well for years now.

Here’s a shot of the zoo that surrounded me as I cut the holes in the tank. The towel is there to catch any shards and to prevent the cut-out-chunk from smacking the other side of the tank. My girlfriend was quite upset when she learned that I used (and ruined) one of our good towels for this purpose, so I recommend against this. Or at least use a crappier towel than I did.

Here’s the installed overflow. It’s way larger than this size tank needs, but I overdid everything else on this tank, I might as well overdo this too.

Here’s a shot of the exit lines from the overflow. The lines are 1 1/2″ each. Again, this is huge overkill for this tank. With the good pumps I use in the sump, this tank has enormous water-flow at full blast.

A similar procedure was followed for the two return lines, which I also ordered from

I then installed baffles into the 30 gallon sump tank. I followed a design I saw on the Monster Fish Keepers forums. The guy I copied did this in a 75 gallon sump, but it works just as well on a smaller scale.

I made a screen to sit at the bottom of the sump so that the biological filtration would be raised above the bottom and so that I could clean under there if I needed to. This is made out of drop-ceiling screen and pvc. You can make anything with those.

This is what the water flow looks like. In this shot, I’ve got a small amount of bio-balls floating in the middle section, which is where all the biological filtration is kept. The finished sump uses two, much larger pumps than shown here. This also doesn’t show any of the other myriad filtration systems I fit into here.

The sump intake lines from the aquarium are configured to flow into filter socks. I needed a way to hold them in the sump, so I created this piece. It looks like Hell, but it works great.

Here’s the sump inside the stand, totally unfinished. In this shot, the tank itself has some giant Danios in it to help cycle it. I’ll go into the tank in the next part of this series.

This shot shows the final implementation of the sump. The water comes in on the left and flows through some filter socks. It then flows into the middle chamber. The biological filtration consists of bio-balls and pot scrubbies. There is a sheet of plexiglass above them into which I drilled hundreds of small holes which creates a rain shower effect over the area. That is what makes this sump a wet-dry filter. That sheet also has a filter pad and a fine filter mesh on it. After the water flows over the biological filtration, it goes into the pump chamber where it is pumped back to the tank. In this shot, there’s some bags of charcoal in that chamber, but I have since removed them because they weren’t necessary.

In this shot, the tank is a couple of months old and is running the final implementation of the sump.

The maintenance of the sump is incredibly easy. I simply pull out the filter socks and filter pads and throw them in the washer with some bleach for 20 minutes. I have a second set of socks that I swap in and I reinstall the pads when they’re done in the washer. That is literally all the maintenance it requires. Every so often, I replace the pads with new ones and the socks get replaced every year or two. I’ve been doing that for years now without issues.

That concludes the filtration section of this series. Check out the next section for even more information about this aquarium.

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