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 Converting a 20L to a Sump

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Join date : 2011-01-15
Posts : 2530

PostSubject: Converting a 20L to a Sump   Sun Jun 05, 2011 11:38 am

Converting a 20L to a Sump

This is my latest DIY project. I spent last weekend converting a standard 20 gallon long AGA aquarium into a sump. So far, I've been very pleased with the results. The sump consists of 3 Compartments: Compartment #1 = Skimmer Compartment, Compartment #2 = Refugium, and Compartment #3 = Return Compartment. surfing


1. 20L aquarium (or whatever size glass aquarium you'd like to make a sump out of; however, the baffle dimensions will change if you use a different size aquarium)
2. PVC
3. 3 glass baffles (.25" thick) with the dimensions of 11.75" x 9"
4. 1 glass baffle (.25" thick) with the dimensions of 11.75" x 10" (I got all of my glass cut at Borter Glass for $16. Great price, and great service! I was really impressed!!)

5. Aquarium-safe silicone
6. Super glue
7. Measuring tape
8. CD cases and/or other props to hold up baffles while drying
9. Eggcrate (cut to the dimensions of 11.75" x 2ish")
10. PVC cutters
11. Electrical tape
12. Scissors
12. Whatever you're putting in your sump (i.e. Skimmer, LR, LS, Macroalgae, Heater, Return Pump, etc.)

Blueprint Designs:


1. Make sure the 20L is completely clean and dry.

2. Start with the first baffle. Use the measuring tape to position it in place, and then use a little super glue to glue it where you want it. Use cd cases or whatever props you've chosen to help hold up the baffle.

3. When the super glue is dry, silicone the baffle into place. Make sure that you do a thorough job. You don't want it to leak later...

4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for the other baffles.

*Side note: For the middle baffle of the bubble trap, 2-3 cd cases under the baffle work great to raise the baffle to approximately 1" off of the aquarium bottom. After you super glue and silicone the baffle into place and it dries, you can just slip the cd cases out.

*Another side note: Go SLOW! The key is patience. I tried to rush the project and was impatient waiting for the baffles to dry. It just costed me more time and aggravation in the end...

5. After all of the silicone has dried, super glue the eggcrate to the top of Baffle #3 and Baffle #4. (The eggcrate will help keep macroalgae and snails in the refugium compartment)

6. Run a leak test. Fill the sump with freshwater (less messy) starting with Compartment #1. Watch to see if the water leaks into Compartment #2. Repeat this process for all of the compartments.

7. Siphon out the freshwater.

8. If there was no leak, you're good to go. If there was a leak, let the sump dry (COMPLETELY!), and then re-silicone where the leak(s) occurred.

9. Next, plumb the PVC how you want it (single overflow, dual overflow, etc.).

10. Use electrical tape to seal the PVC joints. Some people use PVC glue, but IMO, you don't need to glue them. If you insert the PVC properly, it shouldn't leak. The electrical tape is just to strengthen the connections and as a precaution in case a little leak does occur.

11. Design your compartments how you'd like (i.e. Add your skimmer, your LR, LS, and macroalgae to your fuge, your return pump, ATO, etc.).

12. Add saltwater, and you're done! thumbs up

The Finished Product:

~Samantha snorkel

Founder and Former President of the Aquarist Club at USF

100 Gallon Mixed Reef Aquarium

47 Gallon Macroalgae DT
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Join date : 2011-07-14
Posts : 241

PostSubject: Re: Converting a 20L to a Sump   Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:02 pm

Im looking at putting a sump on my 40g but Im not sold on Refugiums yet. What tank did you put this on? Do you still use it? Did you like how it turned out? Is there anything you would modify or adjust?
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Join date : 2011-01-15
Posts : 2530

PostSubject: Re: Converting a 20L to a Sump   Mon Jul 23, 2012 10:14 am

This sump is for my 50 gallon reef. I still use it and love it. I really like the refugium and would recommend it. The chaeto keeps my nitrates and phosphates at zero and keeps the 50 gallon algae-free.

Things that I wish were different:

- I wish the three bubble-trap baffles were further apart from each other because it's difficult to clean in between them (it was also really hard to silicone in place originally). However, with such a small sump, this isn't an option...

- I should have glued the pvc plumping. It ended up leaking, and I finally glued it anyway.

- Finally, not specifically sump-related, but my overflow is pretty loud. It gurgles and makes huge bubble noises when the water travels down to the sump. Not sure how to fix that though without drilling my 50 gallon (which isn't going to happen!).

Those are the only complaints that I can think of. I really love my sump, and if I ever upgrade to a bigger aquarium (as I dream about Smile) I would probably fashion a sump following this as a blueprint.

~Samantha snorkel

Founder and Former President of the Aquarist Club at USF

100 Gallon Mixed Reef Aquarium

47 Gallon Macroalgae DT
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