Friday, September 11, 2015

Add a Sump to Your Reef Tank with an Overflow Box




Being new to the aquarium hobby is an exciting time!

Learning about proper aquarium husbandry and exposing yourself to a variety of animals you probably didn't even know existed is fascinating. During all this excitement, it is easy to purchase a pre-fabricated all-in-one style aquarium or quickly throw together a simple tank with a canister filter and heater.

Although getting going in this fashion is fast and easy, these type of tanks can pose some frustrating problems in terms of aquarium filtration and maintenance.

This brings us to the topic today. We are going to talk all about overflow boxes and sump systems. So get ready to toss out your old canister filter and open up your tool box because we are going to show you just how easy and beneficial installing a sump and overflow can be!


A sump is simply another aquarium or container that can house your equipment and provide extra filtration for your tank. A sump is typically located below your display tank inside your aquarium stand.

An overflow box is basically a box with a drain. It is required to draw water from your aquarium into the sump. Overflow boxes are available from a number of manufacturers and you will see a wide range of different shapes and styles.



A hang-on overflow box is the easiest way to get water out of your tank and into a sump. These type of overflow boxes simply hang on the side or back of your aquarium and siphon water from your aquarium, over the edge and down into your sump.

The CPR CS Overflow Boxes are our absolute favorite because they take up very little space inside the aquarium and have a built-in feature to restart the overflow box in the event of a siphon break. The most common reason for breaking an overflow siphon is a power outage, but these intelligent CS overflow boxes have a clever remedy.

The small air nipple at the top of the overflow box can be attached to the venturi of a powerhead or an Aqua-Lifter pump. The powerhead (or Aqua-Lifter pump) will continually pull out any air trapped at the top of the overflow box to ensure smooth operation and will automatically restart the siphon after a power outage.



Some aquariums, usually called "reef ready" aquariums, are pre-drilled by the manufacturer and already have an internal overflow box installed. Water simply flows into the overflow box and drains down into your sump. A return pump then returns water from your sump back into your aquarium.

For the do-it-yourself (DIY) crowd, we carry CPR RSS Overflow Box Retrofits which are basically pre-fabricated acrylic boxes that allow you to permanently install an internal overflow in your tank without the risk of losing a siphon.



The CPR RSS Retrofit Overflow Boxes will require you to drill a hole in your aquarium. The box is then mounted inside the aquarium. You can then attach some additional plumbing parts and a drain tube down to your sump. Water will flow from the surface, into the box, then down into your sump. This option requires more work, but it results in a very clean installation with flawless operation.

Once you have decided on the overflow box and drain, it is time to choose a sump. You basically have two options, build one yourself or purchase a pre-fabricated sump. Building a sump yourself will save you money and allows you to customize the sump to your liking. It will require some solid planning, but fortunately you can find a number of DIY sump plans online to help get you started.



At Marine Depot, we carry a few different pre-fabricated sumps. Trigger Systems sumps are one of the best—their top-of-the-line Emerald Series Sumps come with all the bells and whistles built in. And look pretty darn cool, too.

Trigger Systems put a lot of thought into the design of their sumps. One of the coolest features is the filter socks holder which has an interchangeable plate that allows you to run both a coarse filter sponge and filter socks together or individually, whichever you prefer. When using filter socks, the handy water dispersion plate evenly distributes water into all of the filter socks to avoid pre-mature clogging and helps to drastically reduce the drain noise making for quieter operation.



The Emerald sumps also feature an adjustable water height to accommodate different protein skimmer requirements. A self-adjusting foam block platform helps to eliminate air bubbles, a dedicated section for filter media and a refugium, probe holders, and pre-drilled holes for your dosing tubes are among the other highlights.

Instead of having all your equipment hanging on your tank or sitting inside your display, an overflow box and sump allows you to have everything neatly hidden in your sump. Centralizing all the equipment makes maintenance and water changes much easier. The added water volume and filtration capacity will also improve your water parameters and make a more stable environment for your aquarium animals.



Now you know why so many hobbyists are using sumps! So if you are still stuck cleaning canister filters or constantly cleaning up after leaky hang-on equipment, give us a call so we can help you get everything you need to add a sump to your aquarium.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our knowledge with you. If you found this information helpful, please like and share it to help us spread the word! Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on all our latest video tutorials.

Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.



4Learn more about Trigger Systems Sumps in this article/video.

4Learn more about Aquarium Sumps in this article/video.

4Find out if it's time to graduate to a sump in this article.

4Shop for Overflow Boxes or Sumps on our website.