DIY-ing and Sump

Hornet

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Hello all,

For a few years I've had terrariums, paludariums and aquariums but never before have I had a reef or salt water tank. I still own a small planted aquarium. The reef tanks I see on the internet or at public aquariums have always amazed and intrigued me. So, after some thinking and reading I've decided to just try and start.

I still have a lot of reading to do, but for now I have a small setup for which I will not buy fish for (now and probably ever, since I think fish need a bit more space), I would like to have at least some corals though. I have a small 14 gallon tank, I have bought reel reef rock and have a small skimmer and a pump. I actually want a sump under it though. I have read a lot on sumps for fresh and salt water, and they seem to be a tad bit different. I also would like to DIY my own sump. So here's some questions.

  • For fresh there's always a ton of mechanical filtering, I do not see that get used much in salt water sumps, but I can't really seem to find a lot of reasons why, except people saying that it is not needed because of bacteria. Is this true? Fresh water tanks also have bacteria which helps keeping unwanted chemicals down, but they still use a lot of mechanical, also because this gives the bacteria a place to grow.
  • A refugium is something I see in most sumps, I understand they are to keep nitrates down and grow macro algae which you can in turn give to fish that eat it, or grow small live foods. Is a refuge also a smart idea for a fish-less tank? And a sump as a whole, is it neccessary?
  • Is it really important to keep nitrates as low as possible? I see some conflicting opinions on this, some people say corals etc also need nitrates, so why keep it at a minimum? (I do understand it should never be too high, but what exactly is too high).
  • I see a lot of sumps with baffles that have water going over it instead of under. For fresh I see a lot of under - over - under instead of just over. I do understand that the last baffles should be under - over - under for bubbles, but why not the others?
  • And do you guys have any tips for top ups if there's no sump or ATO, since the water won't mix immediately? I think it would not be good for much of the fresh water to touch corals before it mixes?

My excuses if I made any spelling or other mistakes in my language, since English is not my native language.
Thank you for your time reading my questions. I hope you guys can help me a bit further in starting and understanding this new hobby.
 
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Retro Reefer

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welcome to R2R!
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Typically people will use socks or filter floss for mechanical filtration, every tank is different but the need for mechanical filtration will mostly depend on your system, bio load and feeding habits.. in a marine tank you don’t rely on mechanical filters to house beneficial bacteria because of frequent cleaning such as socks or complete replacement in the case of floss.

IMO sumps are the best approach but not 100% necessary for a successful tank, same with a refugium as they can potentially be beneficial depending on your system but again not necessary.

you will see a multitude of opinions on nitrates, keeping it detectable but on the low side is typically what people shoot for.

whether water flows over or under baffles is purely a result of sump design and has no bearing on performance except typically the final baffles are over/under to serve as a bubble trap.

you can have your ATO replenish into tank or sump as the amount of fresh water going into system is so small it will have no negative effects on corals.
 

BeejReef

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Those are fantastic questions.

Many people run (usually smaller) tanks with a simple hang on back filter. It's probably not as great as a huge sump with lots of equipment, but it seems to work.

I'm not sure how much filtration you'll need if you run without any fish? Not nearly as much for sure. There are marine fish that would be ok in a tank that size... rock-dwellers.

As far as baffles and sumps, a lot of the manufacturers design them with the over, over, under method as a safeguard against the sump fully draining.

In mine, if the water level gets too low (didn't top it off or the overflow drains get clogged) only the compartment with the return pump will run fully dry. You'll burn up your return pump, but you won't dry out and melt your heaters or your skimmer. Also unlikely that you would overflow your display tank.
 

jlts21

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Well first!
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And to address your questions. Like has already been said, a sump is not necessary. However, IME you should plan for a larger sump because 9 times out of 10 you will want to upgrade from the 14g to a 40b or even bigger (I initially started with a 40 then upgraded to a 75 before I even set it up and now I'm at a 120g while planning to go 200+g) To add to that, get equipment sized accordingly so that when you do upgrade you don't have to buy more equipment.

Mechanical filtration is not used to grow bacteria (live rock, fuge, BP reactors are for that)

Fuge is not mandatory as there are systems that have them and systems that don't that are all successful

In a reef tank you want nitrates low, in a FO tank nitrates can be a little higher, but still want them to be under control

Baffle placement and design are just design preferences (I made a sump out of a 75g and there are things that I would've done differently, but my planning for the 200+ will account for those things)

ATO works great with a sump, but can also be done without directly into the tank (it will not be adding gallons at a time).
 
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Hornet

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Thank you for the warm welcome and for your reply Retro Reefer!

The multitude of opinions can be quite confusing when starting out (or at least, it is for me!), but I guess everybody tries to figure out what works best for their own setup in the end, and the amount of variations makes everything a bit more complex I guess. Lots of things to learn!

I have seen a lot of aquariums without the sumps, but it just seems easier in maintenance to me, also less stress in the display with less clutter and maintenance in the tank I think.

And I think I'll stick to the under over under then.
 
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Hornet

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Thank you BeejReef!

I am not a big fan of Hang on the back filters, also not for fresh. I've seen those go wrong quite a bit and prefer other methods. For my freshwater I simply use an eheim filter, but salt water is a whole other thing it seems :D.
I guess that is the method I'm gonna stick to then, I thought, baffles that only run over keeps more space available (since my space is quite limited), but some extra security for no drainage is somewhat more important to me.

That sounds like a good solution :) and you will also hear something is wrong because the pump starts to sputter I guess! But it is one of those things you hope will never happen right :p.
 
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Hornet

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Thank you jlts21! And thank you for the useful answers.

I am trying to keep in mind that one time I might want to upgrade, mostly with the equipment. I simply do not have the space to upgrade right now, so maybe after moving (one day!). Most of the space is taken by freshwater tanks :p. Equipment is quite expensive though it seems, so finding something good and still useable in the future when I do upgrade, that is not to hard on my budget, is quite the task.

I guess there's always things that you would have done differently after a while, I guess you just need expierence before finally finding the right solutions, even if you try to read every bit of information out there.
 
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Hornet

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More questions! :p

I have glass available and want to drill the hole in the aquarium myself. I've seen those weir towers for the overflow which I quite like. Sadly I am not in the US or any other place that has a lot of reefing options available, but I do like the look of those, I only have glass available as an option though, is there a way to still use glass and make the pipes of the overflow less visible?

And BeejReef you said rock dwellers would be ok for this size tank. Do you have some examples which you would think would be ok? For freshwater a lot of fish (and for terrariums a lot of reptiles as well) get kept at too small a space I notice, even the advice for most fish is already on the small size, so I would like to give them more space than advised, but I think that would be hard in a tank this size :p.
 

BeejReef

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More questions! :p

I have glass available and want to drill the hole in the aquarium myself. I've seen those weir towers for the overflow which I quite like. Sadly I am not in the US or any other place that has a lot of reefing options available, but I do like the look of those, I only have glass available as an option though, is there a way to still use glass and make the pipes of the overflow less visible?

And BeejReef you said rock dwellers would be ok for this size tank. Do you have some examples which you would think would be ok? For freshwater a lot of fish (and for terrariums a lot of reptiles as well) get kept at too small a space I notice, even the advice for most fish is already on the small size, so I would like to give them more space than advised, but I think that would be hard in a tank this size :p.
Hey Hornet,

Ty for the thoughtful replies to everyone's suggestions. I think people appreciate knowing that their thoughts were read and considered as much as people looking for tips appreciate receiving them. Not running a nano myself, and with less than a year in, I'm gonna pass on recommending certain fish for you. There are "stocking" posts on here. Also, liveaquaria has a nice chart with minimum recommended tank sizes. I'd just be regurgitating the internet to u if I tried.
 

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