How To Set Up A Sump For An Aquarium [9 Easy Steps]

If you really love having an aquarium and want to make it even better, you might have come across something called “aquarium sumps.” 

These are smart systems that make your aquarium work better and help your underwater pets stay healthy. 

In this article, I’ll guide you through the simple steps to set up a sump for an aquarium. So, let’s begin by understanding what exactly an aquarium sump is.

What is An Aquarium Sump?

An aquarium sump is kind of like a secret helper for your fish tank. It’s like having an extra tank that does important jobs to keep your fishy friends healthy. 

This special tank works together with your main fish tank to make the water really clean, full of oxygen, and just right for your fish to live in. 

It’s like the control center that makes sure everything in your fishy world works just the way it should.

What are the Different Parts of An Aquarium Sump?

1. Overflow System

First, there’s the overflow system. This is like a special pathway that lets water move from your main fish tank into the sump. 

It’s like a safety valve that stops your main tank from getting too full and keeps the water level just right. This way, you don’t have to worry about your main tank overflowing.

2. Mechanical Filtration

This is like the secret behind the scenes where all the cleaning happens. Mechanical filtration grabs onto all the messy stuff in the water. 

It catches things like tiny pieces of food that your fish didn’t eat and any other bits that shouldn’t be there. 

This process makes sure the water stays super clear and clean, just like when you use a filter to strain out particles from your drink.

3. Biological Filtration

In an aquarium sump, there are different important sections that play specific roles in keeping the water clean and safe for the fish and other aquatic life.

One of these sections is all about using helpful bacteria. These bacteria grow on different surfaces and do an important job. 

They change bad stuff in the water into stuff that’s not so bad. This helps to keep the water healthy for the fish and other things in the aquarium.

4. Protein Skimmer 

A protein skimmer is a sort of cleaner for the water in the aquarium. It takes out things like yucky stuff and proteins that can make the water look cloudy and smell not so nice. 

This way, the water stays clear and fresh for the fish and other creatures in the tank.

5. Return Pump

The return pump is like a helper that moves the clean and treated water from the sump back into the main tank. It’s like a loop that keeps going. 

This way, the water in the tank keeps moving and getting cleaned, which is really important for the health of the fish and everything else inside.

Choosing the Right Sump

Picking the right sump for your aquarium is really important. The sump is like a helper tank that goes with your main aquarium. It’s important that the sump fits well with how big your aquarium is and what you need it to do.

Now, you might see sumps that are already made and ready to buy. They might seem like a good idea, but making your own sump or getting one specially made can actually be better.

This is because you can make it exactly the way you want it to be for your aquarium. This helps everything work just right and do its job perfectly.

Why Should a Manufactured Sump Not Be Used?

A sump is like a hidden area where water goes before it comes back into the tank. Now, some stores sell pre-made sumps that you can just buy and put in your tank. Sounds easy, right?

But here’s the thing: those ready-made sumps are made to fit lots of different tanks, not just yours. Your tank is special and has its own needs. 

So, if you decide to make your own sump instead of buying one, you can make it exactly how you want.

When you make your own sump, you get to choose all the parts, like filters and pumps, and make them the right size for your tank. 

You also get to arrange everything in the sump in a way that works best for your fish and plants.

So, even though buying a sump from the store might be simple, making your own lets you make sure everything is just right for your underwater world!

Steps to Set Up a Sump for An Aquarium

setting up a sump
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Step 1: Gather Your Supplies 

Before you start, gather all the things you’ll need. This includes the sump tank itself, pipes for water flow, a pump to bring water back to the aquarium, a system to manage extra water, and any extra parts you want to use.

Step 2: Plan How It Will Look 

Think of this like planning how furniture fits in your room. Plan where each part of the sump will go so that everything fits nicely. You don’t want things to be too crowded or hard to reach.

That’s it for now! These are the first steps to getting your sump ready. Don’t worry if it seems a bit tricky at first – take it one step at a time.

Step 3: Set Up the Overflow System 

Think of the overflow system as a way to control how much water goes in and out of your main tank. Carefully place this system in your main tank. It helps make sure the water flows smoothly without overflowing.

Step 4: Position the Sump 

Tank Put the sump tank in a good spot under your main tank. Then, attach it to the overflow system. This way, water can move between the main tank and the sump tank smoothly.

Step 4: Arrange the Sump Tank 

Find a good spot under your main tank for the sump tank. Connect it to the overflow system so that water can flow between the two tanks. This helps keep everything in balance.

Step 5: Connect the Parts 

Now, use special pipes and connectors (plumbing materials) to join the overflow system, return pump, and other parts together, just like you planned. This makes sure everything works together smoothly.

Step 6: Put in the Filter Stuff 

Now, add the filter stuff you picked out – the things that help keep the water clean – into the right sections of the tank. This is like putting in special cleaning tools to make the water healthy for the fish.

Step 7: Set Up the Protein Skimmer 

Time to put in the protein skimmer! Follow the instructions that come with it to install it correctly. Also, make adjustments as the manufacturer suggests. This helps keep the water super clear for the fish.

Step 8: Switch It On 

Now, press the button to start the return pump. This makes the whole system begin working. Keep an eye on things to make sure everything is going smoothly. If you notice anything not quite right, you can make little changes to fix it.

Step 9: Keep an Eye and Take Care 

Now that everything’s running, don’t forget to check on the sump regularly. Look inside to see if things are going well. 

Sometimes you might need to clean or change the filter stuff to keep it working great. You can also do tests on the water to make sure it’s just right for your fishy friends. This helps them stay happy and healthy.

By simply following these steps and getting why each part is important, you can easily create an aquarium sump that really helps keep your underwater world healthy and happy.


To sum things up, having an aquarium sump is a really great idea for your aquarium. It helps make the water cleaner and better for your fish. 

When you understand the basic ideas and make the sump your own, you’re making sure your fish stay healthy and your underwater world looks amazing for a long time. 

So, get ready to work on it, enjoy the journey, and see your aquarium become more beautiful than ever before. Thanks for reading!


How high should the aquarium sump be? 

You’ll want the aquarium sump to be a bit below your main fish tank. This way, water can flow from the main tank into the sump without any problems.

Is a sump good for an aquarium? 

Yes, a sump is actually really good for your aquarium! It helps keep the water clean, gives extra space for equipment, and makes a comfy home for helpful bacteria.

Do fish tanks need a sump?

Fish tanks don’t absolutely need a sump, but having one can make things much better for your fish. It’s like a bonus home that makes their living environment nicer.

Is it okay to pour water into the sump pump? 

No, you shouldn’t pour water into the sump pump itself. The sump pump is meant to pump water out, not take it in. Pour water into the sump tank instead.

What should be at the bottom of a sump pit? 

At the bottom of the sump pit, you should have something called a “sump liner” or a solid base. This helps collect water and protects the pit from damage.

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