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Looking to add a sump, need advice


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I am looking to add a sump to my 20L to add some additional water volume, and I could use some advice on what approach to take. The tank is the one in my sig, which is very heavily stocked. Nitrates in the system typically hover around 20ppm, and sticks there whether I change the water every week, or every three weeks. Since it was first cycled and stocked it has stayed in equilibrium there. You can decide how fast you want the calurpa to grow by how often you feed the fish.


Here's what I need help with. I don't know if I should add a refugium, or just put a giant protien skimmer in. It wouldn't cost much to setup a berlin type sump, and chuck a Coralife skimmer in there. If you take all the space for that, and nice bubble traps it would be a pretty painless option. The other approach is to add a deep sand bed, mud, cheato or some combo thereof. It means a more costly and complex install, and less real estate for skimmer. But which way is a better approach for reducing nitrate levels?


Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

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For a tank like yours, I'd say the skimmer at the least would be the best approach. A good skimmer (i.e. not the Coralife) is going to pull out a lot of the undissolved organics before they turn into nitrates. Running a fuge will help with nitrate and phosphate control too. Both should be simple enough to implement.

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Thanks for the reply.


This tank has never had an issue with phosphates, even when the Fu was still eating 100% live. The existing macro and the xenia seem to keep those in check. My reasoning with the coralife is that I've used it before, and it can be severely oversized on a very reasonable budget. Efficient or not, a 125 can handle 20 gallons even if a 65 somehow couldn't. It's just a space hog, so it would fill up most of the sump.


I guess my hesitation is this. When looking at fuge designs, it seems like the percent increase I get in rock and macro volume in the system is incremental at best. I've never used a DSB, or mud so I don't know first hand how effective they are.

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you can look into bio pellets + skimmer option. it produces nitrate consuming bacteria which is then removed by the skimmer.

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Lee Van Reef

From what I understand, the fuge would give you a marginal reduction in nitrates, especially since you already have a some macro in the display.

A good skimmer would cut the nitrates before they even occur, so it will help you reduce them. I think this would probably be your best bet.

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Get an SWC. And a fuge. Just get a bigger sump.


The stand limits me on the sump. The available space is only 11.5" wide, so that eliminates the15G aga as a base. I don't have the time/skill to build acrylic from scratch, so afaik my options are DIY in a standard 10G, or an off the shelf model. Anything for a 55G stand (most "model 1" types) will fit here too.


I think I'm leaning toward the Coralife sump. It's nice, works no matter what I decide, and I can get that brand at wholesale (the reason I liked their skimmer too, lol) It has a neat little fuge chanber, though it means putting the skimmer in the return section when used that way iirc. Is that going to be a big issue as far as consistent skimmate production? Any brands of skimmer that would be less sensitive to changing water level?

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Any skimmer is going to be sensitive to changes in water level. Personally, I would throw a 10 gallon tank under the stand, throw an ATO and skimmer in there (I have an SWC120 I got for $200 and am very happy with it). I would then ad a biopellet reactor after my bank account recovered. I would leave out baffles and fuge and eliminate all the design issues. When you add the ATO, it keeps the level the same in the entire sump, very useful. I had one sump with baffles, all the rest were without and I prefer without, but that's just my two cents.

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You know, I think I like just using a tank and forgetting the baffles. I've been reading more on bio-pellets and now I'm really against putting a fuge under the tank. A reactor is just a much neater solution.


So this may be a better question for a thread in the biology section, but I did have a question about the bacteria produced by the pellets. A few places mention that the bacteria can serve as food for filter feeders. Is that entirely true? Do things like clams consume bacterial matter or do they have to wait until zooplankton eat the bacteria and then eat those?

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