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5 DIY Sump Filter You Can Create Today (With Pictures)

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

aquarium tank with sponge filter

A sump filter for aquariums is great at holding more filter media and providing better flow and filtration abilities. Building your very own DIY sump filter is a fun project that has different and creative ways to be constructed. Although some sump filters may appear unattractive, that is not the case for homemade sump filters. It is in your hands how you want the overall design to appear.

You can tailor the sump filter to match your aquarium and environment. Adding a sump filter to your aquarium is more professional and effective. Sump filters come with a wet or dry flow option, which is a bonus that submersible filters do not provide. By building a sump filter for your aquarium, you get to enjoy high filtration efficiency without hurting the wallet. It is no wonder why sump filters are rapidly gaining popularity!

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What is a Sump Filter?

A sump filter houses the method of filtration you are planning to use. It is a built contraption that allows you to add a variety of effective filtration methods so you can in return have a balanced and healthy aquarium. The sump filter consists of a circulation pump and is both purchasable and able to be DIYed. You can use a plumbing system run through a cabinet to hide the sump filter or you can place it at the top, side, or bottom of the aquarium in full view.

The Benefits of a Sump Filter
  • Flexible with the filter media
  • Customizable
  • Inexpensive
  • More reliable than standard filters
  • Efficient
  • Limitless design and stocking ideas
  • Safe for all aquarium sizes and inhabitants
  • Keeps the water cleaner for a longer period
  • Lasts longer than standard filters

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The 5 DIY Sump Filters

1. Planted Tank Sump Design

DIY sump filter
Image Credit: Plantedtank

The planted tank sump design filter is both attractive and inexpensive. The sump can be constructed using bits and pieces of old equipment most aquarists own. This sump filter consists of a 5-to-10-gallon tank built into the back of a storage unit using PVC pipes. The planted tank sump design is easily hidden from view and is suitable for those who do not like the visual aspect a sump filter provides.

Three thick household cleaning sponges are used to act as barriers between the different compartments. These sponges are inexpensive in stores and you can get a bundle for a cheap price. Smaller dish scrub sponges are placed between two sponges and host a valuable number of beneficial bacteria that keep the water clean and filtered.

A large aquarium plant is used to provide plant filtration, which is effective in naturally removing ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. A grow light can be used for plants that require moderate to high lighting. A dechlorinate must be added to every sump filter tank’s water supply; this preserves the beneficial bacteria.

2. DIY Sump Aquarium Filter

diy sump filter for aquariums
Image Credit: Instructables

This simple homemade sump filter plan from Instructables is designed for use with both marine and freshwater aquariums, ideal for handling high bioloads when you have a lot of fish. You’ll need a plastic tub, cutting tools, foam board, bio balls, sponges, and hoses to fashion into an outlet tube to drain excess water.

3. Affordable DIY Sump

diy sumps
Image Credit: Aquarium Science

Aimed at making DIY sumps more accessible, this informational DIY plan uses widely available vessels like trash cans or plastic bins to help filter and recycle water from your aquarium. It’s not the most fashionable sump filter out there, and your biggest cost will be a high-quality pump to power the whole contraption. There are additional add-ons you can tack on to make the sump more effective, such as an overflow and air pump.

4. Custom Aquarium Sump

For a custom-fit sump that reuses a spare aquarium you may have lying around, this DIY aquarium sump might be just the thing for you. It’s a complex system with three main chambers: an ATO reservoir, a return pump chamber, and lastly, a protein skimmer chamber. Together, these optimize the quality of water in your aquarium while minimizing the need to change its water. Use the guidance offered in this plan to customize your sump based on the volume of your aquarium, with consideration to electricity usage as well.

5. Reef Tank Sump

diy reef tank sump
Image Credit: Reef Stable

This ridiculously comprehensive DIY contains everything you need to know about cobbling together your very own saltwater reef tank sump system. It outlines why you should use filter socks and filter pads over filter floss, for instance, as well as other in-depth topics like activated carbon filtration and, of course, protein skimmers to keep your tank fresh for longer.

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There is a sump filter to meet every aquarist’s needs. Choosing a design that is appealing and doable for you is the best option. Purchasing different filter media and setting them up is the fun part! Although sump filters may be too bulky for some aquarist’s liking, the size is completely customizable. Although using a larger sump filter provides more room for filter media, leading to more efficient filtration, a smaller sump filter can work just as well when created right.

We hope this article has helped you choose a sump filter that will work for you!

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Featured Image Credit to: SritanaN, Shutterstock

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