AIO vs SUMP

jkcoral

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I'm not quite sure what route to take on my next adventure, an all-in-one (AIO) or a sump? having been in the hobby for about 7+ years I have a good understanding of what I want. Currently, I'm leaning towards a 35-gallon AIO softie tank. I am aware of the downsides, such as less water volume and limited space for filtration, but I’d love to hear from anyone with long-term experience with AIO aquariums. What are your thoughts? Additionally, if anyone can share the pros and cons of both setups, that might sway my decision. I'm all ears.

I’ve been reefing a long time and have had tanks big and small. I currently have 3 tanks, and all of them are AIOs.

Sumps give you more space, a little more water volume, real estate for equipment and all that. I just like AIOs, especially the smaller ones, because some filter floss or poret foam, media, and carbon in a media caddy is just so simple. And as someone who no longer cares about a lot of gadgets and gear, all I need is a protein skimmer that fits and I’m good to go. For my smaller ones, the small icecap fits great and works well, and there’s some other nano skimmers out there.
 

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I have a Fluval Evo and a Red Sea Reefer nano. Both are small and easy to manage, so a water change fixes most things. The costs are obviously different (AIO is much cheaper to setup and run) but to me the biggest downside of an AIO is you are limited in the fish/coral you can keep due to the tank size. i got dinos in both my tanks from 0 nitrate and phosphate so I could probably feed more or add more fish. I love both my tanks though!
 

john92708

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I would go AIO for under 60g. I love my 30l AIO from IM, mostly softies with some red macroalgae and BTA. run quiet with minimal maintenance. I would do a sump only if I want a full size refugium underneath or an extra tank to temporary isolate aggressive fish.
 

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AIO with minimal filtration! Use the back as a cryptic refugium and the front as a softie + macroalgae space. One filter floss and maybe some carbon, and you'll be cruising :) No tangs to worry about in a 35, so bioload should be low.
 

BillFish Coral Lover

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I'm not quite sure what route to take on my next adventure, an all-in-one (AIO) or a sump? having been in the hobby for about 7+ years I have a good understanding of what I want. Currently, I'm leaning towards a 35-gallon AIO softie tank. I am aware of the downsides, such as less water volume and limited space for filtration, but I’d love to hear from anyone with long-term experience with AIO aquariums. What are your thoughts? Additionally, if anyone can share the pros and cons of both setups, that might sway my decision. I'm all ears.
Sump all day long every day. Unless you don’t have the space.

Added stability. Great deal of added stability, simply by expanding the water volume, but especially with a refugium or at least live rock or biomedia in the sump.
 

TheWB

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What if you could combine the best of both worlds? I just started up a 70 gallon AIO that has a sump sized AIO section. The footprint of the tank is 48x30x17. The width of the coast to coast sump area is 8 inches. It’s AIO but with room for full sized equipment and a nice refugium if I want to run one. I wanted the simplicity and lack of external plumbing in a bigger footprint than the IM Lagoon 50 AIO I was running before so I just designed what I really wanted and had it made. It’s a little bigger footprint than an IM SR80 but with a much better filtration area.
IMG_4368.jpeg



IMG_4369.jpeg


IMG_4372.jpeg
 

JoJosReef

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What if you could combine the best of both worlds? I just started up a 70 gallon AIO that has a sump sized AIO section. The footprint of the tank is 48x30x17. The width of the coast to coast sump area is 8 inches. It’s AIO but with room for full sized equipment and a nice refugium if I want to run one. I wanted the simplicity and lack of external plumbing in a bigger footprint than the IM Lagoon 50 AIO I was running before so I just designed what I really wanted and had it made. It’s a little bigger footprint than an IM SR80 but with a much better filtration area.
IMG_4368.jpeg



IMG_4369.jpeg


IMG_4372.jpeg
Love that tank. Just looks amazing.
 

JoJosReef

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Thank you. It’s early but I’m really liking it so far. There’s things I would do differently if I could get a do over but overall it’s been great.
My dream tank is something like that. 8 inch AIO sump, 30 in deep, 16-20 in height. Acrylic. Not sure about the length yet, but it would be at least 6', possibly 7 or 8. Thinking of making a partition for a display refigium in the DT, maybe 18 in length. Macros, sponges and clams + any corals that need saving from the main DT fish (an angel or two and a butterfly). Ah, now you got me rambling!
 

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My dream tank is something like that. 8 inch AIO sump, 30 in deep, 16-20 in height. Acrylic. Not sure about the length yet, but it would be at least 6', possibly 7 or 8. Thinking of making a partition for a display refigium in the DT, maybe 18 in length. Macros, sponges and clams + any corals that need saving from the main DT fish (an angel or two and a butterfly). Ah, now you got me rambling!
I love it. Totally doable. The display refugium would be awesome. I would have done this tank as a 6’ length but I didn’t have the room and was a little worried about that much weight on the 2nd floor of my house. Tenecor makes a similar tank to mine in a 6ft length and I’m sure they could customize to include the display refugium. My builder would do a great job as well but it might take him a year to get it to you. PM me if you want details.
 

JoJosReef

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I love it. Totally doable. The display refugium would be awesome. I would have done this tank as a 6’ length but I didn’t have the room and was a little worried about that much weight on the 2nd floor of my house. Tenecor makes a similar tank to mine in a 6ft length and I’m sure they could customize to include the display refugium. My builder would do a great job as well but it might take him a year to get it to you. PM me if you want details.
Thanks, but dream build is a few years out. For now have to concentrate on the basics with the current tank and non-reefing duties :)
 

BillFish Coral Lover

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What if you could combine the best of both worlds? I just started up a 70 gallon AIO that has a sump sized AIO section. The footprint of the tank is 48x30x17. The width of the coast to coast sump area is 8 inches. It’s AIO but with room for full sized equipment and a nice refugium if I want to run one. I wanted the simplicity and lack of external plumbing in a bigger footprint than the IM Lagoon 50 AIO I was running before so I just designed what I really wanted and had it made. It’s a little bigger footprint than an IM SR80 but with a much better filtration area.
IMG_4368.jpeg



IMG_4369.jpeg


IMG_4372.jpeg
Coast to Coast - it’s the most!
 

BillFish Coral Lover

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I done know about all these people with the AIO, but my hands are too wide for the little chambers in the small AIOs. I know - I have an IM 25 lagoon. I can’t even dream of getting my hands in the far side pockets - I need my daughter for that. I only have the AIO because I’m using the cabinet beneath it for the dry parts of my soon to be 75G with sump.

Whatever you do, do you, and enjoy!
 

KenBabich

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I began my mixed reefing career/hobby/financial enslavement with a UNS 20 gallon AIO. It worked fine with an Eshopp protein skimmer connected to CO2 scrubber, dosing pump, ATO, AI Nero 3 pump, and HOB UV sterizer (sicce pump in opposite chamber). Two small fans attached to the tank ridge controlled by InkBird (duel - heating and cooling). A year later, the fish kept coming to the front glass telling me they needed more room to swim, and so I was forced to upgrade. Waterbox 50 gallon AIO. I need to do a build page, but the nuts and bolts of set up are Tunze DC skimmer, CO2 scrubber, ATO, dosing pump, Nero 3 pump + Maxspect gyre 330 attached to IceCap battery backup, HOB UV sterilizer, same Inkbird and fans, and converted the filter socks for InTank media baskets (that have bio balls, foam, charcoal/puragen and InTank filter floss on the shelves). Also have 2.5 gallon HOB refugium (Aquamax) with a fabricated lid on top to block the pink light overspill. This tank has been up and running with fish and coral for year and a half. Haven't had noticeable water parameter problems. Refugium is the hit and miss; chaeto died out and other algae grew wild in the refugium - thus, goal still met. Cleaned it out and put in a larger amount/size of chateo and a $10 pump off Amazon that is silent and adds extra circulation in the refugium (Tunze Eco chic light is in the refugium). Chateo has been growing good for past 6 months. I suppose if you do not want to bother with a HOB refugium, the HOB itself adds 5% water volume to my tank (there are larger sizes available). I have poor man's controller by using WiFi smart power strips (Kasa) and two SmartLife water detection sensors - one in my protein skimmer container to alert me when time to empty, one on the floor for peace of mind. Hope this helps.
 
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I began my mixed reefing career/hobby/financial enslavement with a UNS 20 gallon AIO. It worked fine with an Eshopp protein skimmer connected to CO2 scrubber, dosing pump, ATO, AI Nero 3 pump, and HOB UV sterizer (sicce pump in opposite chamber). Two small fans attached to the tank ridge controlled by InkBird (duel - heating and cooling). A year later, the fish kept coming to the front glass telling me they needed more room to swim, and so I was forced to upgrade. Waterbox 50 gallon AIO. I need to do a build page, but the nuts and bolts of set up are Tunze DC skimmer, CO2 scrubber, ATO, dosing pump, Nero 3 pump + Maxspect gyre 330 attached to IceCap battery backup, HOB UV sterilizer, same Inkbird and fans, and converted the filter socks for InTank media baskets (that have bio balls, foam, charcoal/puragen and InTank filter floss on the shelves). Also have 2.5 gallon HOB refugium (Aquamax) with a fabricated lid on top to block the pink light overspill. This tank has been up and running with fish and coral for year and a half. Haven't had noticeable water parameter problems. Refugium is the hit and miss; chaeto died out and other algae grew wild in the refugium - thus, goal still met. Cleaned it out and put in a larger amount/size of chateo and a $10 pump off Amazon that is silent and adds extra circulation in the refugium (Tunze Eco chic light is in the refugium). Chateo has been growing good for past 6 months. I suppose if you do not want to bother with a HOB refugium, the HOB itself adds 5% water volume to my tank (there are larger sizes available). I have poor man's controller by using WiFi smart power strips (Kasa) and two SmartLife water detection sensors - one in my protein skimmer container to alert me when time to empty, one on the floor for peace of mind. Hope this helps.
That's a nice build, I only want to keep my two clownfish, so I was thinking what would be a good size for them that's not too small yet not too big.
 

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I have only had AIO's. I did not like my Red Sea Nano (20 g) since I could not fit my hand comfortably in the sump area and felt that the same could have used a bit more space (lots crammed in there). I have an Innovative Marine Fusion Pro 2 40g long - LOVE IT! Way more space in the sump and nice real estate in the display.
 

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I've had both. Right now I have a innovative marine AIO and I love it but if you can dial the overflow noise down, the sump is better, it just gives a lot more room to play with everything. I miss doing water changes without disturbing the aquarium, having the room to let the epoxy on coral frags settle out of reach from the CUC, having some space for trouble makers.

The AIO is great, and looks overall better IMO, also having that plug and play aspect to it. But given the time to thinker around, the sump is nicer to have.
 

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I think it's a case of the 'grass is greener on the other side' kind of thing. I have a Waterbox 20, AIO which honestly fits everything I need / want, but naturally and I think every reefer is the same, at some point I'd like to upgrade to something bigger. When you have something bigger, you put more stuff in it, you keep more difficult corals and you start looking at how you can automate certain mundane tasks. In that regard, a sump is nice as it allows for way more equipment than an AIO.

That said, budgets and the size the tank takes up aren't the same. :)
 
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I think it's a case of the 'grass is greener on the other side' kind of thing. I have a Waterbox 20, AIO which honestly fits everything I need / want, but naturally and I think every reefer is the same, at some point I'd like to upgrade to something bigger. When you have something bigger, you put more stuff in it, you keep more difficult corals and you start looking at how you can automate certain mundane tasks. In that regard, a sump is nice as it allows for way more equipment than an AIO.

That said, budgets and the size the tank takes up aren't the same. :)
Yeah, the whole reason I started this thread was to see if I've forgotten something that would make me reconsider downgrading my aquarium. I've always wanted a bigger aquarium, but when I finally got one, I wished I hadn't. There are so many reasons why: the maintenance becomes a much bigger hassle, the upkeep costs more, takes a lot more coral to fill in. Personally, I don't have a lot of fish, only five fish in a 6-foot tank, so I don't have the bioload for such a huge aquarium anyway, and I don't want any more fish.

My favorite aquarium was a 120 litre. It had a sump, but I was new to the hobby then and had a noisy, poor-quality Aqua One skimmer. My current setup is in the living room with pretty high-end equipment and it's still too noisy. which is another reason I want to downgrade.

rant time I'm so sick and tired of spending money on things I've heard good things about, only to find out they're noisy, like the AI Nero 7, Red sea skimmer, ect... My cheapo wavemakers do the same thing yet are silent. It's just so frustrating to think about. I feel like smaller equipment can be less noisy too.

The best argument I can find against an AIO (All-In-One) setup is that larger systems offer better stability and more room for different equipment. Honestly, I don't know how much of a difference it makes and what the stability curve looks like in terms of water volume. But for what I specifically want—two clownfish and soft corals—a 35-gallon tank would be no different from a 100-gallon tank in terms of stablilty. In fact, with such a small bioload, I believe a larger volume of water might cause more harm with N and P bottoming out causing issues like cyano and dinos. As for equipment, I'm a simple guy. All I need is an ATO, light, skimmer, filter floss, wavemaker, and heater. I'm pretty sure that will fit just fine in an AIO aquarium unless I'm forgetting something. I'm not trying to dismiss anybody's arguments or points of view, by the way. I appreciate all your opinions.
 

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