DIY $60 Sump


Fish Wrangler
Have a small tank? No room for an Overflow? Limited cabinet space?

The $60 sump could fix your problems. With the downgrade to my current setup, I found myself having little room on the new BF to fit my protein skimmer heater and powerheads without everything looking cluttered. So I decided for a cheaper either temporary or permanent sump and came up with this idea. THIS WILL NOT BE PERMANENT.

What youll need:

- Sump tank (For this particular setup I would use nothing bigger than a 20g)
- 1/2" ID Vinyl Tubing( Youll need approx 10ft at 36c a foot its relatively cheap)
- 2x Hydor Pico Evolution circulation pump 100's

Want a quick bubble trap? Maybe a place for a sock or other media?

For the bubble trap you can use 1 large sheet of cut to fit filter media around the output of your sump essentially walling it off from the return pump.

For the media or filter sock I found using a clip on frag rack to work.

Now constructing this might seem daunting or setting the pumps equal might worry you have, but no fear! The pico's are easily adjustable to correct flow and by doing two simple things you can ensure that both pump outputs are equal that at the end of the day the difference will be less than the water that evaps from your tank.

To construct simply fit in your skimmer and heater (I even have a spot in my 10g for macros) then fill to the desired level with water - mark this spot with a dry erase pen or something else. Then install the first pump 2 inches under the water on the far side of what will be your return line side to the aquarium. Now install the filter media around the skimmers output and ensure that no areas are open enough to allow bubbles through. Done.

To ensure the pumps are working together at the same rate be sure to cut the tubing into equal lengths and ensure that the pumps are both equally below the water line (lets say two inches).

For this setup the sump cannot sit under the tank, the max head on these pumps is 28in (might be 24in). To modify this to fit for an under tank install you will need the pico 2 or pico 3 circulation pumps and some time to properly plumb.


My tank and sump are level to each other, which allowed for easy pump adjustment with no head to worry about.

I have mine setup in a "safe" way that should one pump push to much or turn off the system will stop working all together. BUILD IN YOUR OWN SAFEGUARD or hmu about what I did.

This should not be intended for use longer than 6 months imo, However, I had an immediate need for a sump and the funding and available materials allowed me to construct this. I know others have sudden "needs" when problems arise and figured I would give my latest frankenstein to those who might benefit.

Edit: Pics shortly for anyone interested.
Doesnt have to be temporary I suppose with good maintenance etc. I suppose it could be used on smaller tanks ( i probably wont break mine down for my 30g) but it does have more room for failure with 2 pumps and not a siphon, i put that as a caution so new people wont build it and end up with tank water on their floor.
Pics for anyone interested. The filter media isnt cut, so it looks rough, but the function is there. I plan on revamping this initial idea when i set up the new tank in my new apartment. Maybe then Ill work out some more feasible long term solution (i know aquarium silicone and some baffles), but for now I enjoy creating and tweaking things.

EDIT: Notice the waterlines are equal, if a snail passes over the intake of one the sump fills up but does NOT overflow since the pump in the sump can only lose about 1 1/2 in of water line before the pump pulls air in. This is actually a nice auto correcting occurrence, regardless of which pump loses water flow, since neither tank can lose more than 1 1/2 in of water before the opposite pump is pushing more water than the restricted pump.


  • 20130509_214242.jpg
    96.7 KB · Views: 414
  • 20130509_214250.jpg
    112 KB · Views: 350
  • 20130509_214316.jpg
    152 KB · Views: 391
  • 20130509_214330.jpg
    149.3 KB · Views: 466
Last edited:
Just keep the pumps level and ensure that you have a bubble trap on the return pump to the dt aka a frag rack that you can cut down that has some filter media enough to disperse the flow of water that the bubbles either collect or immediately surface.
yep, i planned on some similar modifications to essentially lay it all out how i wanted it. Looks good though.

EDIT: Also, sectioning off with baffles will help the overall function of the unit as well.
Last edited:
Even without baffles, I think the center one would double the usability for me, at least. A baffle before the return is a big obvious must, though. Maybe a little glass with egg crate on top if you had sand right before like I probably will, but idk yet. I'll get some pics after I build it.