How to Convert 55 Gallon Aquarium into Sump – Easy DIY Guide for Fish Tank Enthusiasts

If you’re looking to upgrade your aquarium’s filtration system, converting a 55-gallon tank into a sump might be the perfect solution. Sumps provide additional filtration, increase water volume, and help to maintain a pristine aquarium environment. Plus, they offer an excellent opportunity to customize your setup and incorporate different components into its design.

In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the process of converting your 55-gallon aquarium into a sump. From selecting the right materials to setting up the plumbing, we’ve got you covered. So let’s dive in and get started!


If you’re looking to step up your aquarium game, converting a 55 gallon aquarium into a sump can drastically improve your filtration system. A sump is essentially an additional tank used to filter and clean water before it returns to the main tank. Converting your existing aquarium to a sump can be a cost-effective way to achieve superior filtration and create a healthier environment for your aquatic pets.

The process involves drilling holes in the tank for plumbing and creating a system of dividers and chambers to trap debris and promote bacterial growth. With a little bit of DIY know-how and the right equipment, you can easily transform your 55 gallon aquarium into a highly efficient sump that will keep your tank clean and healthy for years to come. So, why wait? Let’s dive in and learn how to convert your 55 gallon aquarium into a sump!

What is a Sump?

A sump is an important tool used in a variety of industries, including automotive, industrial, and marine. It’s a reservoir that collects liquids or gases, often located at the lowest point of a system, such as an engine or a ship’s hull. A sump is essential in removing any unwanted fluids or substances from a system to prevent damage or contamination.

Think of it as a bottom chamber that catches debris, dirt, oil, and other liquids in order to keep them separated from the main systems. The sump also has a pump that constantly circulates the liquid to keep it clean and improve its performance. Overall, the sump is crucial to maintaining the proper function and longevity of many machines and equipment.

how to convert 55 gallon aquarium into sump

Why Convert an Aquarium to a Sump?

If you’re a fishkeeping enthusiast looking for new and exciting ways to upgrade your setup, converting your aquarium to a sump is an excellent option. A sump is essentially a secondary tank that you can use to improve the overall filtration and maintenance of your aquarium. When you convert your tank to a sump, you can create additional space for equipment like heaters, protein skimmers, and pumps.

A sump can also help you increase the overall volume of water in your setup, which can increase water stability and dilute toxins and waste. Additionally, converting your aquarium to a sump can be an excellent way to improve the look of your setup, as sumps are often hidden from view and allow for a sleek and minimalist appearance. Overall, converting your aquarium to a sump is an excellent way to optimize your setup, and we highly recommend it to any fishkeeping hobbyist looking for an upgrade.

Materials Needed

If you’re wondering how to convert a 55-gallon aquarium into a sump, you’ll need a few materials. First and foremost, you’ll need a 55-gallon aquarium, which will serve as your sump. You’ll also need a couple of overflow boxes to create a continuous flow of water into your sump.

Additionally, you’ll need PVC pipes, bulkheads, and a return pump to regulate the water level and flow. You may also want to add a protein skimmer, which helps remove organic waste from the water, and a refugium, which provides a haven for beneficial bacteria and microorganisms. Some other optional materials include filter socks, live rock, and a heater to maintain water temperature.

With all these materials in hand, you can easily convert your 55-gallon aquarium into a sump that will help keep your main tank clean and healthy.

Aquarium and Stand

If you’re planning to set up an aquarium, then you must also think about getting a sturdy stand to support it. When it comes to getting a stand, there are many materials that you can choose from, including metal, wood, and plastic. If you’re looking for a durable stand that can last for years, then going for a metal or wooden option might be ideal.

Wood stands come in a variety of types of wood such as oak or pine, and you can even stain it to match your room decor. Metal stands, however, are most commonly made of wrought iron, which is both sturdy and rust-resistant. Whichever material you choose, make sure it is strong enough to hold the weight of your aquarium.

Additionally, consider the size of the stand, which should correspond with the size and weight of your aquarium. With the proper materials and a sturdy stand, you’ll have a beautiful and long-lasting aquarium that will bring tranquility to your home.

Overflow Box

An overflow box is an essential piece of equipment for any aquarium. To create one, the first thing you will need is a drill and a diamond hole saw bit. This will allow you to drill a hole in your aquarium’s glass or acrylic.

You will also need PVC pipes, silicone sealant, and a flat surface to work on. Start by drilling a hole in the glass or acrylic where you want the overflow box to be located. Then, measure and cut your PVC pipes to fit inside the box and extend to the outside.

Use silicone sealant to attach the PVC pipes to the hole you drilled and to seal the joints together. Make sure to let the sealant cure completely before using the overflow box. By creating an overflow box, you can ensure a constant water level in your aquarium, which is crucial for the health of your aquatic pets.

Bulkhead and Plumbing

When it comes to installing bulkhead and plumbing in your home, it’s important to have the right materials. First and foremost, you’ll need a bulkhead fitting that matches the size of your plumbing pipes. These fittings are typically made of PVC or stainless steel and serve to connect two pipes together, while also providing an access point for maintenance and repairs.

You’ll also need a drill, hole saw, and silicone sealant to secure the fitting into place. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have plumbing tape on hand to ensure a tight seal between pipes. When selecting pipes and fittings for your plumbing system, it’s important to choose materials that are durable and resistant to corrosion.

High-quality pipes made of PVC or copper are ideal, as they are both long-lasting and affordable. By selecting the right materials for your bulkhead and plumbing installation, you can ensure a reliable and efficient plumbing system that will last for years to come. So why not invest in the best for your home?

Return Pump

If you’re setting up an aquarium, getting a return pump is important to keep the water in the tank clean and aerated. To start off, you’ll need a pump that can handle the volume of your aquarium. It’s also essential to pick a pump that uses less electricity to keep operating costs low.

Another important aspect is the head pressure, which is the resistance the water has to overcome to reach the output nozzle. The higher the head pressure, the more powerful the pump needs to be. It’s essential to ensure that the pump’s flow rate is adequate for the aquarium’s size and the filtration system you plan to use.

Lastly, it’s crucial to choose a durable and reliable pump that’s easy to clean and maintain. With all these factors considered, you can be sure to pick the right return pump for your aquarium and keep your fish happy and healthy.

Filter Media

Filter media plays a critical role in keeping your aquarium water clean and clear. To ensure optimal filtration, you’ll need a few materials to get started. One of the most crucial components is filter media itself, which can come in a variety of forms such as sponges, ceramic rings, activated carbon, and more.

These materials work together to remove impurities, such as excess food and waste, from your aquarium water. You’ll also need a filter to hold the filter media in place and facilitate water flow through the media. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a pre-filter or strainer to catch large particles before they reach the main filter.

By using high-quality filter media and the appropriate equipment, you can ensure that your fish and other aquatic creatures have a healthy, clean environment to live in.

Step-by-Step Guide

Converting a 55-gallon aquarium into a sump can be a little intimidating, but if you follow some simple steps, you can create an effective filtration system for your aquarium. The first step is to drill holes at the bottom of your aquarium, where you want the water to flow into the sump. You will need to purchase a drill bit that is suitable for drilling glass.

Once you have drilled the holes, you will need to install bulkheads in the holes and attach pipes to the bulkheads. The next step is to place baffles in the sump, which will direct the flow of water and ensure that it passes through the filtration media. You can use any material that will not decay or dissolve in water for the baffles, such as clear acrylic or glass.

Finally, you will need to install the filtration media. You can use mechanical, biological, or chemical filtration or a combination of all three. With these simple steps, you can convert your aquarium into a sump and enjoy clean and clear water in your aquarium.

Prepare the Aquarium

When it comes to setting up your aquarium, preparation is key. You want to make sure you have everything you need before you start, and that you have a plan for where everything will go. To get started, make sure you have the right size tank for your fish.

Too small of a tank can stress out your fish, while too large of a tank can make it hard to maintain a consistent temperature and clean properly. Once you have the right tank, clean it thoroughly with water and soap-free scrubbers to remove any dirt or debris. Add a layer of substrate, such as gravel or sand, to the bottom of the tank for your fish to swim in.

Next, add any decorations or plants you want, making sure they are appropriate for your fish species. Finally, fill the tank with dechlorinated water and add a water conditioner to help balance the pH levels. And voila! You’re ready to introduce your fish to their new home.

Remember to monitor the water levels regularly and perform routine maintenance to keep your aquarium healthy and thriving.

Install the Overflow Box

Installing an overflow box may seem like a daunting task, but with this step-by-step guide, it can be a breeze. Firstly, ensure that your overflow box is the correct size and type for your aquarium. Once confirmed, clean the inside of the box to remove any debris that could eventually make its way into your tank.

Place the box in the desired location and secure it to the tank using the provided suction cups or brackets. The next step is to attach the bulkhead fittings to the pipes leading from the overflow box. Tighten them securely using a wrench to avoid any leaks.

Finally, connect the pipes to your sump or filtration system, and you’re all set! Remember to double-check all fittings and connections to avoid any accidents. Installing an overflow box may take some time, but the benefits of having one, such as improved water circulation and oxygenation, are well worth it.

Install the Bulkhead and Plumbing

Installing a bulkhead and plumbing may seem daunting, but with a little know-how and the right tools, it can be a relatively straightforward process. First, ensure that the bulkhead fits snugly into the drilled hole in your aquarium wall. Create a watertight seal using silicone, ensuring that there are no gaps for water to leak through.

Once the bulkhead is securely in place, you can begin installing your plumbing. Connect the bulkhead to a series of pipes and valves that will carry water to and from your aquarium. It’s important to select the right-sized pipes and valves to ensure that water flows smoothly and efficiently.

Make sure to use strong adhesive or clamps to secure the pipes and prevent any leaks. Remember to test the system for leaks before finalizing the installation process. With patience and attention to detail, you can successfully install a bulkhead and plumbing system that will keep your aquarium thriving.

Install the Return Pump

Before you can begin enjoying your new aquarium, you must first install the return pump. A return pump helps circulate water in your tank by pushing water out of the tank and into your filtration system. To install your return pump, begin by placing it in the sump below your tank.

Make sure that it is securely fastened to the bottom of the sump so that it doesn’t move around. Next, route the return hose from the pump back up to the tank. Once the hose is secure, test the pump to make sure that it is working correctly.

You want to make sure that the water is being pushed at a good flow rate and that nothing is blocking the pump. Once you confirm that everything is working correctly, you’re ready to sit back and relax while the pump works its magic!

Install the Filter Media

Installing the filter media is an essential step in setting up an aquarium. The filter media is responsible for removing harmful substances and maintaining the water quality in the aquarium. Before installing the filter media, it is crucial to rinse it thoroughly with tap water to remove any dust, debris, or other impurities.

Once rinsed, the filter media can be placed into the filter chamber or basket as directed by the manufacturer. It’s essential to follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging the filter or other equipment. The most commonly used filter media includes mechanical filters, biological filters, and chemical filters.

The type of filter media will depend on the size of the aquarium, the type of fish inhabiting it, and the desired water quality. For optimal filtration, it’s recommended to replace the filter media periodically according to the manufacturer’s instructions. With the correct installation of the filter media, you can keep your aquarium clean, healthy, and thriving.


In conclusion, transforming a 55-gallon aquarium into a sump is a fun and practical DIY project for any aquarium enthusiast. With some creativity and elbow grease, you can create a sump system that enhances the health and beauty of your aquatic pets. Whether you’re seeking superior filtration, added water volume, or just want to show off your DIY skills, the possibilities are endless.

So roll up your sleeves, unleash your inner aquarist, and dive into the wonderful world of sump setups!”

Benefits of a Sump

If you use a sump in your aquarium, you’ll immediately see its benefits. Firstly, it ensures that your aquarium stays clean and healthy for your aquatic pets. Secondly, a sump can significantly increase your aquarium’s water volume, meaning you can keep more fish and aquatic plants.

To help you achieve these benefits, let me guide you through the simple steps of setting up a sump. Firstly, you’ll need to acquire and install a sump tank beneath your aquarium. Secondly, you’ll need to install a pump to move water from your aquarium to your sump.

Thirdly, you’ll need a filter, either a hang-on-back or canister filter, to clean the water before it is returned to the main tank. Lastly, make sure to keep your sump clean and maintained by regularly cleaning the filter system. Once you’ve set up your sump, you’ll just need to sit back and enjoy the benefits of a cleaner and larger aquarium.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, following a step-by-step guide is an excellent way to achieve your desired outcome. Whether you’re trying a new recipe, assembling a piece of furniture, or learning a new skill, having a clear set of instructions can make all the difference. When it comes to more complex tasks, like starting a business or preparing for a major life event, a guide can be especially helpful.

By breaking things down into manageable steps, you can reduce feelings of overwhelm and increase your chances of success. Remember to take your time and be patient with yourself. As you work through the steps, you’ll likely encounter unexpected challenges or setbacks.

But with persistence and a positive attitude, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. So, start by identifying your goal, gather the necessary resources, and follow the guide one step at a time. In no time, you’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ve made! Keyword: Step-by-Step Guide


What are the benefits of converting a 55 gallon aquarium into a sump?
Converting a 55 gallon aquarium into a sump can provide additional space for equipment, increase water volume, improve water flow, and enhance filtration efficiency.

What equipment do I need to convert a 55 gallon aquarium into a sump?
To convert a 55 gallon aquarium into a sump, you will need an overflow box, a return pump, PVC pipes, a bulkhead fitting, mechanical filter media, biological filter media, and a protein skimmer (optional).

How do I install an overflow box in a 55 gallon aquarium?
To install an overflow box in a 55 gallon aquarium, you will need to drill a hole near the top of the aquarium to accommodate the bulkhead fitting. Then, you can attach the overflow box to the bulkhead fitting and adjust the water level in the aquarium and the overflow box to ensure proper flow.

Can I use a hang-on-back filter instead of a sump in a 55 gallon aquarium?
While a hang-on-back filter can provide some filtration in a 55 gallon aquarium, it may not be sufficient for larger or heavily stocked tanks. Converting the aquarium into a sump can provide more space and flexibility for filtration equipment.

How do I set up the plumbing for a 55 gallon aquarium sump?
To set up the plumbing for a 55 gallon aquarium sump, you will need to connect the overflow box to a PVC pipe that leads down to the sump. From there, you can connect a return pump to another PVC pipe that leads back up to the aquarium. It is important to ensure the plumbing is leak-proof and properly sized for flow.

How much water should I add to a 55 gallon aquarium sump?
The amount of water to add to a 55 gallon aquarium sump will depend on the size and configuration of the equipment and the volume of water in the aquarium. Generally, the sump should hold a minimum of 10-20% of the total aquarium volume.

Can I add a protein skimmer to a 55 gallon aquarium sump?
Yes, a protein skimmer can be added to a 55 gallon aquarium sump to remove organic waste and improve water quality. However, it is important to select a skimmer that is appropriately sized for the tank and to position it in the sump to maximize efficiency.