Very close to decision time: in-sump protein skimmer or HOB skimmer?


Reefing newb
I know I have been taking my "sweet" time here, but I am trying to look at various things here. This is my delemma. I have a 55 gallon show tank and initially was thinking HOB Deltec MCE600 skimmer. I talked with Deltec and it was suggested that I go instead with a MC500 in-sump skimmer (30 gallon sump). I should get a pre-filter overflow box (from Life Reef) for the show tank and a pondmaster 5.0 mag pump for the sump. It was suggested that I put some sort of "T-valve" (don't know the appropriate name here - sorry) on the return line from mag pump to the main tank to regulate flow from sump to main tank and also put a "check valve" on this line to promote for one-way flow from sump back to main tank.

As you know my school has been gracious to "foot the bill". I like all the benefits of the sump idea. My set-up will be in my lab on the second floor just above the first floor auditorium. I must and I mean must have absolute assurance (in reality as much assurance as possible) that I will not have either a sump overflow or a main tank overflow flooding my lab and the below (first floor auditorium) if and when there is a power outage or some other problem promoting for a flood; power outage occurred yesterday for about 1-minute - I shuttered.

So, please help me decide whether to go sump or HOB? I want to go sump. Can the sump be designed to get me that non-flood assurance I want?

Thanks much.
Yes, it definitely can. If you put a one way valve and drill anti siphon holes in your return line, and if you leave enough empty space in the sump, the sump won't overflow. If you build a "T" into the return line so you can redirect flow back into the sump if the pump is too strong, the main tank won't overflow.
good choice on going with a deltec... i have the mce 600. it works great. well..... worked great. i used some chemiclean that wacked it out and havent been able to get it to work right since but i think one more water change should do the trick.

anyways i had a coralife super skimmer and will never have one again. got the deltec and its a much better skimmer
Hello All - I was just thinking. I have a 45 gallon aquarium (36" x 13" x 24") not in use. If I wanted to make a simple sump out of it, would it be "ok" to put the MC500 sump protein skimmer along with the tubing of my overflow box from my show tank at one end and have the mag pump (5.1) in the sump with tubing to the show tank at the other end? My show tank is 55 gallons.

As you know I am very, very new to this and I just want to keep it as simple as I can.

I will have a one-way valve in the tubing from the mag pump to the main tank and some sort of "T-value" in the tubing to be able to regulate water flow from the sump mag pump to the main tank. Do I have this correct?

Also, should I put any type of substrate in the sump (like live sand)? Or do I just have the sump for water flow?

And my main tank came with a Bio-Wheel Filter. Do I use it in the main tank along with my sump protein skimmer?

God, I feel nieve.

What you are describing would work just fine.

Putting a T in your return line is a great idea -- it allows you to control how much water goes to your display tank without putting too much back pressure on the return pump.

If you only have equipment in the sump, then don't put any substrate in it. If you use a plexiglass baffle to section off part of the sump, you can use that section as a refugium and can put sand in it.

I would not use the biowheel filter -- they tend to lead to nitrate problems. Skimmer and live rock will do your filtration for you.
The only problem I see with using your 45 as a sump,is its not going to fit under your 55.But it dont hurt anything to sit it in the floor beside the showtank either.Actually makes it easier to get into for cleaning.
Yote -
You are exactly right in that it won't fit under the show tank. My stand is about 48"(L) x 10"(W) x 23"(H). I really wanted the sump to go under the show tank, but I just don't know of any already made tanks that will fit (say about 30"(L) x 9"(W) x 16"(H)). These demensions will give me a sump size of about 18 gallons. From trying to learn as much as I can from forum readings, I get the impression that I should go bigger than say a 18 gallon sump considering the sump will be about 1/2 full. This being my first time at it, I am "ok" with it sitting just behind the show tank and this will allow me a much bigger sump; the 45 gallon tank; perhaps 1/2 full.

I don't think I want to get a custom sump to fit below the show tank which would be smaller; I think it might be too expensive to do so. What do you'all think? I have seen that Life Reef makes custom sumps. But, the 45 gallon tank is already available and is free to me; so I think this is the sensible way to go money wise.

So a question here - do sumps get unsightly? And yes since it will be exposed, it will be easier to clean.

Does anybody know if the in-sump Deltec MC500 protein skimmer is particularly noisy?

When I converted my 30gal into a sump,I had to set it beside my tank.I wasnt about to break down 75 gallons of reef just to get a sump under or behind it.But its a lot easier to clean,get to my skimmers,and it gives my fuge 24 hours of light.The fuge section gets natural sunlight coming through the window.So I think your right on track with how your building yours.
The way I see it,the more money we can save in certian areas,gives more money for corals.
Biff -

"If you use a plexiglass baffle to section off part of the sump, you can use that section as a refugium and can put sand in it."

About this plexiglass baffle - any suggestion as to how tall it should be? Is it a solid piece of plexiglass? Or, does it have holes drilled in it? If so, where do I drill the holes? How large of holes? How many holes? I have seen so many scenarios on the web?

If I don't build a refugium (via plexiglass) so that I have just a sump filled with water and equipment, does that mean kept any live rock out of it too?

If you want a refugium, you will need to have 2 pieces of plexiglass cut so that you can divide your sump into 3 sections. Like this: I I I I (just pretend there's a line across the top and across the bottom connecting the 4 I's). The baffles should be several inches shorter than the height of the tank, since the water will flow over them to get to the next section and you don't want your sump to overflow. Generally, 4 inches shorter than the tank is a good rule of thumb. Then you use 100% silicone to glue in the baffles. In the first section, you put your equipment (heater, skimmer, etc), in the second section you put your refugium (live sand, live rock rubble, macroalgae), and in the third section you put your return pump. The third section is the smallest section, and all evaporation will manifest itself in this section.

There are many many different designs, but this 3-section one in the equipment-refugium-return order is the simplest. If you want to do something more complicated, check out the DIY threads on this site for a lot of ideas.

I used to have my 20 gallon sump next to my 55 gallon tank because it too didn't fit under the stand. Much easier to clean, but takes up more space. If you are okay with that trade-off, go for it.