AIO or sump?

Reef Chasers Aquaculture

TexanCanuck

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My first reef tank was a traditional 55gal + sump, and years later I "upgraded" to a 60 gal AIO thinking it would simplify my life and reduce number of things that could go wrong.

While it did make the stand much tidier and the tank looked "cleaner", it didn't really make my life easier. I still had the same number of pieces of equipment to deal with (heater, skimmer, carbon reactor, return pump), but now my weekly maintenance took longer since it was all packed into a tighter space and there was less room to work. I also found it less convenient to access since it was at the same level as my DT and I have to work OVER the tank.

I also found my options greatly reduced when I considered adding new toys (bio media, algae scrubber, refugium, etc) - a lot of these meant that I needed to add new HOB hardware or simply not do it all together.

When I then (years later) "upgraded" again - this time to a 130gal DT - I went back to a separate sump. This time, I put the sump in a closet behind the DT so now I have free and open access to everything ... and personally, this approach works better for me.

So at the end of the day I think it's just personal preference - unless you are a really advanced hobbyist who feels comfortable running a tank without a skimmer, reactor, etc (clearly, I don't fall into that camp!)
 

PugsAndFish

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I went from a sump to AIO. Got a Red Sea 170 for my first real tank (had a 10 gallon HOB filter for 2 months before that). Sump is great and all but I actually prefer the AIO. Depends on lifestyle IMO. I lived in a small apartment and rent so I move every few years. Having a simple AIO helps with the move and maintenance. I also don't think one is harder or easier. Only thing with the AIO is the lack of a good skkimmer that fits but also depends on what coral you keep.
 

BeachWater2

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I would think about practicality, rather than simplicity. I've never had a sump, but I did have a 75 gal with a canister filter and HOB skimmer. I now have an AIO - a 16 gal Red Sea Biocube. In both cases I wished I had a sump. An AIO is simple in the sense that you don't have to plum and so on, but it's hard to take care of because you can't get to things and space is limited. I avoid working on it because it's always "complicated". You only plumb once, but you have to mess with the filter and stuff all the time. I would look at how easy it is to reach all the way down into the back to change media and clean. If anything seems "tight" it will probably be a pain. Also think twice about making modifications or turning it into a refugium, unless it's designed especially well for what you want. They're sort of like Apple products, they're attractive and designed to be used in a certain way, but not always flexible.
 
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