How to Fill an Aquarium with a Sump – A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Are you looking to improve the quality and cleanliness of your aquarium? If so, you may want to consider incorporating a sump into your setup! Filling your aquarium with a sump can provide a variety of benefits, including increased water filtration, improved water flow, and additional space for equipment. A sump is essentially an additional tank that is placed underneath your main aquarium. Water flows from the main tank into the sump, where it is filtered, and then pumped back up into the main tank.

By using a sump, you can increase the volume of water in your aquarium, which can lead to a more stable environment for your fish and plants. Plus, the added filtration can help remove impurities and debris that would otherwise accumulate in your main tank. But how exactly do you go about filling your aquarium with a sump? First, you’ll need to select an appropriate sump that is compatible with your existing setup.

Then, you’ll need to plumb the sump into your system, which may involve cutting and drilling holes in your aquarium if it wasn’t designed for a sump. Finally, you’ll need to set up the equipment in your sump, such as a protein skimmer, heater, and return pump. Overall, incorporating a sump into your aquarium setup can be a great way to improve water quality, increase filtration, and provide more space for equipment.

While the process of filling your aquarium with a sump may seem daunting at first, with the right knowledge and tools, it can be a straightforward and rewarding project.

Overview of Sumps for Aquariums

If you’re looking to set up a sump for your aquarium, you may be wondering how to fill it properly. First, you’ll want to make sure your sump is clean and free of debris. Once your sump is clean, you can begin filling it with the right amount of water.

Typically, your sump should be filled with about 10% of your total tank volume. You’ll also want to ensure that your return pump is properly installed and working to circulate water through your sump and back into the main tank. Additionally, it’s important to regularly monitor the water levels in your sump and adjust as needed to maintain a healthy and stable aquatic environment.

With proper setup and maintenance, a sump can provide numerous benefits for your aquarium, including improved filtration and water quality.

The Benefits of Using a Sump

Sumps are incredibly useful tools for maintaining a healthy and thriving aquarium. They work by providing an additional filtration system that removes waste, organic matter, and toxins from the water before they have a chance to harm your fish and other aquatic life. The benefits of using a sump are numerous, including better water flow, increased oxygenation, and improved water quality.

By incorporating a sump into your aquarium, you can maintain a stable and healthy ecosystem for your fish and plants. Sumps come in various sizes, and you can customize them to fit your specific needs and aquarium setup. Overall, investing in a sump can be a game-changer for aquarium enthusiasts looking to provide the best possible care for their aquatic pets.

how to fill an aquarium with a sump

Types of Sumps for Aquariums

Sumps are essential components in aquarium systems, providing an extra filtration space to maintain a healthy aquatic environment by removing excess debris and maintaining water quality. There are three major types of sumps for aquariums: trickle, berlin, and refugium sumps. Trickle sumps use a series of bio-media to create a biological filter through which water trickles down into the sump.

The bio-media houses beneficial bacteria that break down organic waste. Berlin sumps, on the other hand, have a protein skimmer and a deep sand bed to offer excellent biological filtration, improving water quality and clarity. Refugium sumps are unique in that they offer a space for live plants to grow, such as macroalgae, which can consume nutrients and excess nitrates, thereby preventing algae blooms and reducing nitrate levels.

So, depending on your needs and preferences, you can choose a sump that best suits your aquarium system.

Preparing Your Aquarium for a Sump

If you’re looking to set up your aquarium with a sump, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before filling it up. First, make sure you have all the necessary equipment, including a sump pump, piping, and any filtration media you plan to use. Next, ensure that your aquarium is level and stable, with adequate space for the sump to fit below it.

Once you’ve confirmed everything is in place, you can start filling the aquarium with water and adding any needed treatments, such as dechlorinator. As the aquarium fills, make sure to monitor the water level and adjust the pump flow rate as needed to prevent overflowing. Once the tank is full, you can begin plumbing in the sump and hooking up any additional equipment, such as protein skimmers or heaters.

With a little patience and care, you can have your aquarium set up with a sump in no time – providing cleaner, healthier water for your fish and plants.

Choosing the Right Size Sump

When it comes to preparing your aquarium for a sump, choosing the right size is crucial to ensure effective filtration. The size of your sump depends on the size of your aquarium and the amount of water it contains. As a general rule, your sump should be approximately 10% of the total water volume of your aquarium.

For example, if you have a 100-gallon aquarium, your sump should be roughly 10 gallons. However, this is just a guideline, and you should consider factors such as the type and number of fish you have when determining the size of your sump. It’s also important to consider the space you have available for your sump and ensure it fits comfortably within your setup.

Adequate space allows for easy access and maintenance of your sump, making it easier to keep your aquarium clean and healthy. By choosing the right size sump, you can maximize its effectiveness and ensure your aquarium stays pristine.

Installing the Sump

Installing the sump in your aquarium is a crucial step in ensuring a healthy and thriving aquatic environment. Before starting, it’s important to prepare your aquarium for the addition of a sump. Begin by selecting the appropriate size and type of sump for your tank, considering factors such as the volume of water, the types of fish and plants, and the amount of filtration needed.

Additionally, make sure to carefully measure and plan where the sump will be placed, taking into account any existing equipment and piping. Finally, prior to installation, clean and thoroughly dry the area where the sump will be located. With these steps in mind, you’ll be well on your way to setting up a sump that will provide optimal filtration and enhance the overall health of your aquarium.

Creating Your Plumbing System

Preparing Your Aquarium for a Sump: Creating Your Plumbing System Before installing a sump in your aquarium, it’s important to prepare your plumbing system. Your plumbing system should be airtight, leak-free, and properly configured to ensure that the sump functions effectively. To begin, determine the location for your sump and ensure that it is close enough to the aquarium for the plumbing to easily reach.

Then, choose a reliable pump that can handle the volume of water in your aquarium and the return height required by your plumbing layout. The next step is to install the overflow box, which is responsible for transferring water from the aquarium to the sump. It’s important to ensure that the overflow box is properly installed and adjusted to prevent flooding and maintain water levels in the aquarium.

Once the overflow box is in place, all plumbing should be connected using PVC pipes, fittings, and valves. It’s important to use high-quality materials and ensure that all connections are tight and leak-free. After the plumbing is installed, test the system by filling the aquarium with water and checking for any leaks or issues.

With a properly prepared plumbing system, your aquarium sump can provide a multitude of benefits, including improved water quality and easier maintenance.

Filling the Sump and Aquarium

Filling an aquarium with a sump can appear confusing at first, but it’s not as complicated as it may seem. Begin by filling the sump with adequate water to make sure that at least two-thirds of the overflow box is submerged. After that, turn on the sump pump to start filling up the aquarium.

Let the water level in the aquarium to rise only about halfway. Then, pause the pump and assess if the water levels in the sump and aquarium are matching. Continue to add water to the aquarium in small increments, switching the sump pump on and off, and ensure that the water levels in the sump and aquarium are approximately even.

Remember not to fill the aquarium past where the water touches the sump inlet. Once you’ve established that the water levels in both the sump and the aquarium are even, you may fill the aquarium to the top. Finally, turn on the powerheads and other equipment in the aquarium, allowing them to circulate the water.

Following these measures will assist in ensuring a safe, effective fill for your aquarium with a sump.

Filling the Sump with Water

Filling the sump and aquarium is a crucial step in setting up your aquatic ecosystem. Before you start, make sure that your sump is in the right place and connected to the aquarium. The water pouring process should be done slowly and carefully to avoid mistakes or spills.

The water used should be top-quality and free from chemicals, pollutants, and debris. One way to ensure this is by using a reverse osmosis system to filter out impurities. An excellent tip to prevent the aquariums from clouding is to fill the sump with water first and then let it overflow and fill, the aquarium afterward.

This approach ensures that water gradually enters the aquarium without dislodging the sand, rocks, and other decorations. Always keep aquarium equipment like pumps and heaters switched off until the water level reaches the recommended range and you are sure of the perfect water level. By filling the sump with water first, you can guarantee that the aquarium’s water level is accurate and stable, providing a safe and healthy environment for your aquatic inhabitants.

Checking for Leaks and Adjusting Water Flow

When it comes to setting up a new aquarium, it’s important to take your time and do it right. One of the first things you’ll need to do is fill the sump with water. But before you do that, it’s a good idea to check for any leaks in the system.

This can save you a lot of trouble down the road if you catch a leak early and fix it before it becomes a bigger problem. Once you’re sure there are no leaks, you can start to fill the sump with water. Be sure to adjust the flow rate to the appropriate level for your aquarium.

You don’t want to overwhelm your tank with too much flow, but you also don’t want stagnant water that can lead to algae growth and other issues. It’s best to aim for a gentle, steady flow that will keep the water moving without creating too much turbulence. By taking the time to check for leaks and adjust the water flow, you’ll be well on your way to creating a healthy and thriving aquarium environment.

Filling the Aquarium with Water

When it comes to filling the sump and aquarium, it’s important to take your time and do it right. First, make sure the sump is in place and properly connected to the aquarium. Fill it with enough water to cover the pump intake, but not so much that it overflows when the return pump is turned on.

Next, slowly add water to the aquarium, being careful not to disturb the substrate or decorations too much. Using a large container and pouring the water in slowly can help prevent this. Keep an eye on the water level in the sump and adjust as needed to maintain the proper water level in the aquarium.

It’s also a good idea to add a dechlorinator to remove any harmful chemicals from tap water. By taking the time to fill the sump and aquarium properly, you’ll help ensure a healthy and thriving aquatic environment for your fish and other aquatic inhabitants.

Maintaining Your Sump and Aquarium

If you have a sump setup for your aquarium, you may be wondering how to fill it properly. Firstly, it’s important to ensure that your sump is clean and free of any debris or leftover residue before filling it with water. Once cleaned, turn off any pumps or filters and add water slowly, ensuring there is no splashing or disturbance to the substrate.

The water level in the sump should be slightly higher than the intake pipe leading to the aquarium, to allow for proper water flow. Once the sump is filled, you can turn on your pumps and filters and monitor the water flow to ensure that everything is working smoothly. Remember to regularly maintain your sump by cleaning it at least once a month to avoid any potential issues and keep your aquarium healthy.

By following these steps, you can maintain a properly functioning sump and aquarium for your fish and other aquatic inhabitants.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular maintenance is crucial for the health and well-being of both your sump and aquarium. Neglecting these tasks can lead to algae overgrowth, debris buildup, and even put your fish at risk of illness. When it comes to your sump, it’s important to check on it regularly and remove any excess debris.

This could be anything from dead leaves to uneaten food that has made its way down there. Additionally, you’ll want to regularly clean and replace your filter media to prevent any buildup that could inhibit proper filtration. As for your aquarium, it’s important to do regular water changes to maintain proper chemical levels.

This not only helps keep your fish healthy but can also prevent unwanted algae growth. Taking these simple steps can help ensure a happy and healthy aquarium environment for your aquatic friends.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Maintaining Your Sump and Aquarium One common issue aquarium owners face is maintaining their sump and aquarium. Keeping your sump and aquarium clean is essential to ensuring the well-being of your aquatic animals and plants. To maintain your sump, start by regularly checking and cleaning the filter media.

Replace any clogged media with new ones promptly and ensure that the equipment is functioning correctly. It is also advisable to routinely check the sump for any debris, such as uneaten food or algae. Removing debris will prevent it from breaking down and polluting the water in your aquarium.

Similarly, it is crucial to perform regular water changes to maintain optimal water quality in your tank and avoid the accumulation of harmful nitrates. Engaging in consistent maintenance will promote a healthy and thriving aquatic environment for your pets. Remember, maintaining your sump and aquarium may seem intimidating, but with regular effort and attention, it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience!


In conclusion, filling an aquarium with a sump is like conducting a symphony. Each component, from the filter media to the water flow, must work in harmony to create a beautiful, thriving ecosystem for your fish and plants to thrive in. With patience, precision, and a little bit of creativity, you can orchestrate a masterpiece of aquatic life.

So dive in and let your creativity flow – your underwater masterpiece is waiting to be created!


What is a sump and why is it used in aquariums?
A sump is an additional tank that is connected to the main aquarium, typically located beneath it. It is used to help with filtration, increase water volume, and provide extra space for equipment.

What equipment is needed to set up an aquarium with a sump?
To set up an aquarium with a sump, you will need the main aquarium, a sump tank, a return pump, plumbing and tubing, filtration media, and any other necessary equipment such as heaters and protein skimmers.

How do I properly size a sump for my aquarium?
The size of your sump will depend on various factors including the size of your main aquarium, your desired water volume, and the equipment you plan to use. A general rule of thumb is to have a sump that is at least 10% of the total volume of your main tank.

What is the proper order of equipment placement in an aquarium with a sump?
The proper order of equipment placement in an aquarium with a sump is: water intake from the main tank, protein skimmer, mechanical filtration (such as filter socks), biological filtration (such as live rock or a bio media reactor), and then the return pump back to the main tank.

How often do I need to maintain a sump in my aquarium?
The maintenance schedule for a sump will depend on the individual setup, but it is typically recommended to perform a water change and clean any filtration media every 4-6 weeks. Regular monitoring of equipment and water parameters is also important.

Can I add more than one sump to my aquarium setup?
Yes, it is possible to add multiple sumps to an aquarium setup, but it is important to properly design and size the system to ensure proper flow and filtration.

What are the advantages of using a sump in my aquarium setup?
Using a sump in your aquarium setup can provide various advantages including: increased water volume, improved filtration capabilities, additional space for equipment, and easier maintenance and monitoring of equipment.