Aquarium sumps and refugiums are great additions to any aquarium, especially when you have a larger one. However, what is a sump? What is a refugium? What are their purposes and what is the difference between them? What is the best aquarium sump and what is the best refugium? Is there a combination of both? All of these are questions that we are going to help you answer right now.
|Aqueon 34502 ProFlex Sump||Easy To Install||9.7/10|
|Eshopps AEO15005 Refugium||Upto 225 Gallon Tanks||9.7/10|
|Trigger Systems Emerald Sump||Ideal for medium-large tanks||9.5/10|
|AquaFuge2 Hang-On Refugium||Hang on back solution||9.3/10|
What’s The Difference Between A Sump And Refugium?
What Is A Sump?
A sump is an extra tank which you can get where you can add filters, pumps, protein skimmers, and other cleaning devices without actually having them in the aquarium.
It’s like an extra tank that you can get to put all of the essentials in order to save space in the actual aquarium.
What Is A Refugium?
On the other hand, a refugium is an aquarium accessory used to house smaller and more sensitive fish, to house plants, sand, and rocks, and the purpose of it is to develop healthy bacteria which will help clean your water.
To be clear, a sump can have a space for a little refugium inside of it, but a refugium does not have space for a sump. It's also important to get the right kind of macroalgae.
How Does An Aquarium Sump Work?
A sump works by taking in water from the main aquarium and sending it through a series of compartments, each of which have their own purpose.
A sump can come with micron filter bags to remove debris from the water, it can accommodate a protein skimmer to clean the water of waste, it can house a micro sponge to stop micro bubbles in their tracks, it can be compatible with various filter media, and much more.
In essence, a sump is like a big multi-stage filter that sits outside of your main aquarium. After it has passed through the sump the water flows back into the aquarium.
Important Things To Consider When Buying An Aquarium Sump OR Refugium
Sumps and refugiums can both be pretty expensive, so you don’t want to buy the first one you see. Here are some of the main things to keep in mind before you purchase a sump or refugium.
Perhaps one of the most important things to consider before you buy a sump is how durable it is. Glass or strong acrylic is a really good way to go.
Read some customer reviews before you buy one to make sure that it has well sealed seams and does not leak. A leaky sump will lead to a swampy floor, something you definitely do not want.
The refugium or sump needs to be big enough to accommodate the size of your aquarium and the amount of water it has.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that a sump should be at least ¼ or 1/3 the size of the actual aquarium.
Moreover, you need to make sure that it is big enough to fit all of the components which you plant on putting in it.
Another thing to consider before you buy a sump is what accessories it comes with and what accessories you actually need.
Some of the things a sump can come with, or at least fit inside of it, include a protein skimmer, micro socks, micro sponges, and filter media. (more on the best filter media here).
If you want a big sump tank to act as a filter, but you also want a space for a refugium, consider getting a sump with multiple large compartments, where one of those compartments can be used for a refugium.
What We Think Is The Best Aquarium Sump
Here is our top pick that we consider to be one of the best aquarium sumps.
Aqueon 34502 ProFlex Sump Model
This makes for a great sump because it can be easily places alongside your original aquarium. It is very easy to install as long as you have the extra space for it.
You can have the Aqueon on the outside or inside of your aquarium as long as you have the proper water pumping accessories, making it quite a versatile sump.
This thing has a great bubble diffuser chamber where bubbles are expelled, thus reducing the noise made by the ProFlex. After the water passes through the diffuser it goes through 2 separate 200 Micron filter socks to get rid of any floating debris.
We like this model because it has a large chamber where you can put a high grade protein skimmer, plus it helps to maintain constant water levels as well.
If you so choose, you can get a BioMedia pack that allows you to use the sump as an extra biological filter and turn it into a wet/dry trickle filter.
Moreover, you can use certain parts of this sump as a special little refugium to grow beneficial bacteria, and you can insert rocks or live plants to help control water parameters too. This thing works really well for both salt water and fresh water tanks.
- Very quiet.
- Debris filter.
- Air diffuser.
- Room for a refugium.
- Use as a wet/dry trickle filter.
- Aesthetically pleasing.
- Easy to install.
- Seams and seals are not always waterproof.
What We Think Is The Best Aquarium Refugium
In case you are looking for a plain old refugium instead of a whole sump, a good option to consider is this one.
Eshopps AEO15005 Refugium
This is a great refugium that can be placed directly into your fish tank. It has a small micron bag that filters out waste and solid debris to help clean the water.
Moreover, it also has a compartment for a protein skimmer, something that is necessary when you have a coral or reef aquarium.
Next, the Eshopps Refugium also has a separate compartment where you can house sensitive fish, plants, and use as a place to develop beneficial bacteria. This refugium can handle aquariums of up to 225 gallons in size with ease and process all of the water in under one hour.
This is a great little enclosed ecosystem that can be used as a shelter for sensitive fish or a place to grow good bacteria which will then flow into your aquarium.
- Micron bag for particle filtering.
- Has a space for a protein skimmer.
- Compartment for fish, plants, and/or bacteria growth.
- Good size to place next to your aquarium.
- Can handle tanks up to 225 gallons in size.
- Getting to the return pump if installed under your aquarium is difficult.
What We Think Is The Best Aquarium Sump Pump
This particular option is technically designed for saltwater tanks, although it can also be used for freshwater tanks just as easily.
Fluval Hagen Sea Sump Pump
The Fluval Hagen Sump Pump is pretty impressive in terms of the flow rate, as even the smallest model can move up to 950 gallons of water per hour.
There is also a much larger option available which can process nearly 3,500 gallons of water per hour, for those really large tanks.
What is also beneficial about this particular option is that it does not produce much heat, which is important for many aquariums, plus it does not use much energy either.
It’s a very durable sump pump, one that should last for years to come, with one of the only drawbacks being that it is quite large and is going to take up a good deal of space.
However, when it comes to reef tank sumps and pump, it’s one of the best accessories you can get.
- Very easy to use and setup.
- Easy to maintain.
- Superior durability.
- High flow rate.
- 3 size choices.
- Energy efficient.
- Low heat transfer .
- Takes up lots of space.
7 Other Refugium & Sump’s To Consider
In case you aren’t a very big fan of our number one choice of refugium or sump, here we have a few more good options which you may want to consider.
1. Eshopps AEO14005 Reef Sumps
We really like this sump because it has a clean in line design that helps your aquarium to maintain its aesthetic appeal. This model is ideal for aquariums up to 100 gallons in size, and will work well for anything smaller too.
Something that we like is that it includes a micron bag to filter out floating debris, plus it has an air diffusion capability that helps to greatly reduce the noise that this thing makes.
This thing does have space for a protein skimmer on the inside, plus it can also be used as a wet/dry filtration system too, not to mention that it will fit your pump inside without question.
However it’s best use is definitely as a refugium because it has more than enough space to put some plants, grow bacteria, and to keep your tank water clean and free of unwanted contaminants.
This thing even has a sponge to help further reduce micro bubbles and to also allow for the growth of healthy bacteria.
- Can be set up as a refugium or wet/dry filter.
- Micron bag to collect debris.
- Sponge to diffuse bubbles and allow for bacteria growth.
- Adequate room for a skimmer.
- Very quiet.
- Can be used to house bacteria growth and plants.
- Ideal for aquariums up to 100 gallons.
- Hook ups are hard to get to once installed.
- Included hoses are very long.
2. Aqueon 34500 ProFlex Sump Model
Yet another good sump option to consider is the Aqeuon Model 1 Sump. This thing comes with everything you need to keep your water clean and clear, plus to house some extra stuff too.
It comes with two separate 200 Micron filter bags that help to capture debris. This particular sump also comes with a bubble diffusing chamber to reduce bubbles and to make it much quieter than ever before.
Just like the other Aqueon model, you can choose to get a BioMedia pack to turn it into a wet/dry organic trickle filter that removes various compounds from the water. Even better is that this thing has more than enough room for a pump and protein skimmer.
It also comes with space so you can house plants or fish, or even to cultivate beneficial bacteria for your aquarium too. This thing is a pretty durable sump that can be used as a refugium or a wet/dry trickle filter.
You can also make easy modifications to suit your needs. The sump itself is 55 gallons in size and can easily process the water from a 200 gallon tank.
- Can be used as a refugium.
- Can be used as a wet/dry trickle filter.
- Compartment for a protein skimmer and pump.
- Micro bubble diffusion for quiet operation.
- Micron bags to remove particulates.
- Great for large aquariums.
- Not the most durable of items.
3. 50 gal Refugium-Sump
This is quite the high end sump and refugium combination. This thing is a massive 50 gallon sump that can accommodate the largest of aquariums with ease. To explain how it works, it has a first chamber where the water flows in, where is usually where you would add in your protein skimmer.
Second, the water then flows into the second chamber which serves as a full time refugium where you can add sand, rocks, plants, and a light in order to fuel beneficial bacteria growth.
The water then passes into a third chamber which acts as a diffuser to stop micro bubbles in their tracks. This third chamber can also hold various types of grates and filter medias to help clean the water.
The water then flows into the fourth chamber, after which it gets pumped back into your aquarium. This item also comes with 2 micron socks and sock holders to get rid of floating debris as well.
This is a really big refugium and sump combination that is durable, helps filter your water, diffuses bubbles, and lets you spur on the growth of bacteria as well. All in all this is truly a fantastic item to get.
- Can fit your pump, protein skimmer, and filter media.
- Bubble diffusion capabilities.
- Ideal for very large tanks.
- Has a special refugium chamber.
- Works as a natural filter.
- Comes with micron socks for filtering.
- Requires a lot of space.
- Takes some time to set up.
4. Trigger Systems 4431 Emerald Sump
Yet another good sump option is the Trigger Systems 4431 Emerald Sump and it is for a few different reasons. First of all, it comes with a micron filter sock to get rid of any floating debris.
Next, it comes with various chambers, one of which can fit your pump and protein skimmer, there is another chamber for filter media, and it has a third chamber which allows you to use it as a refugium to house plants and grow bacteria.
Moreover, this sump also comes with a sponge to reduce micro bubbles and to absorb more contaminants than ever. This is a very durable sump with a variety of chambers for different purposes, it is very quiet, and it looks pretty nice too.
We also don’t want to forget to mention the fact that it was built in the U.S.A, so quality is definitely not an issue.
- Micron socks for filtering.
- Sponge to reduce micro bubbles and help filter.
- Chamber for your skimmer and pump.
- Compatible with filter media.
- Chamber to be used as a refugium.
- Ideal for medium and large tanks.
- Requires a whole lot of space.
5. Eshopps RS-75 Reef Sump
This is good fairly inexpensive sump option to go with. It is not quite as big or advanced as some of the other sumps on this list, but it will definitely do the trick for any aquarium under 150 gallons in size.
The Eshopps RS-75 Reef Sump is specially designed for coral reef tanks and salt water tanks.
It comes with a micron filter bag to get rid of particulate matter and solid debris, plus it also comes with a sponge that acts as a bubble diffuser. This helps to remove solids from the water and keeps this sump quiet at the same time.
It has 2 main chambers, one of which you can use to add filter media or a protein skimmer, and the other chamber which can be used as a small refugium to grow beneficial bacteria for your aquarium.
This is not the biggest or fanciest model on the market, but it will definitely help keep your water clean and reduce the need to have a filter on the inside of your aquarium.
- Comes with a micron filter sock.
- Has a sponge for bubble diffusion.
- Room for a protein skimmer.
- Can fit filter media, a thermostat, and other small items.
- Can be used as a small refugium.
- Ideal for medium sized tanks.
- Small and compact – can hold around 7 gallons.
- Return side is slightly small.
6. Windridercreations Sump Kit
This is another good sump kit to go with because it has everything you need to build your own sump.
Before we get too far, yes, this is a sump that you need to assemble yourself, so be prepared to spend some time putting the pieces together. What is good about this sump is that it is ideal for aquariums up to 150 gallons in size.
It has the capability to fit a protein skimmer, pumps, filter materials, micron socks, and bubble diffusing sponges, but it does not actually come with any of those things.
Moreover, you can also use a section of this sump as a refugium to develop good bacteria cultures and house some plants.
- Ideal for fairly large tanks.
- Compatible with most sump equipment.
- Can be used as a refugium.
- Requires assembly.
- Only comes with pieces to make the sump – no extras.
7. CPR AquaFuge2 Hang-On Refugium
Something that we really like about this refugium is that it can hang right off of the back of your aquarium with ease.
You need to install it any special way and you don’t need any extra shelf space either.
The normal size of this model can fit close to 4 gallons of water and inhabitants. It can be used to house smaller fish, plants, gravel, sand, rocks, and to develop healthy bacteria for your aquarium.
It features an in and out valve to let the water flow between the refugium and the aquarium, and it also has a neat little place where you can add a light fixture.
- Small refugium good for small aquariums.
- Lets you house small critters.
- Good for developing bacterial cultures.
- Hangs on the back of the aquarium.
- Not ideal for large aquariums.
- Does not come with a light – the inhabitants will need lighting.
Commonly Asked Questions
What goes in a refugium sump?
The whole point of refugium sumps is to provide your tank, usually a marine or reef tank, with added filtration and cleaning abilities, while keeping it separate from the actual tank, and keeping it out of sight too.
Generally speaking, the best sump design with refugiums will include protein skimmers, calcium reactors, and heater, various filter types (more biological filtration than anything else), UV filters, and anything else you might think of that can help maintain your aquarium.
What is the best reef sump?
As far as we are concerned, one the best reef sumps would have to be the Aqueon 34502 ProFlex Sump Model. It’s a very easy to install sump, one that you can place right next to your aquarium.
Moreover, it has an abundance of room for filters, lights, protein skimmers, and other such things. It come complete with a bubble diffuser, a debris filter, and some other neat accessories too.
Simply put, it’s durable, easy to use, and already comes complete with a number of super useful items.
What kind of light do I need for a refugium?
The best light you can get for your refugium is a simple LED aquarium light, just something plain.
Keep in mind that you want a pretty good light for this, something that is really going to help plants and bacteria grow. Remember, it has to be a good light, but nothing overly special or fancy.
Something else people tend to put in their sumps or refugiums is a UV light sterilizer, which helps control algae.
How long should I run my refugium lights?
You never want to run a refugium light all day long. Running your refugium lights for between 8 to 12 hours per day is usually way more than enough.
You really do not want to run them any longer than that.
What is a Triton sump?
Triton is actually a brand name of aquarium products. Simply put, a Triton sump is simply a sump from the Triton brand name.
How do you set up a refugium?
Setting up a refugium is not overly hard, but there are some tips and rules you should follow for the best results.
- The best place to set up a refugium is inside of an aquarium sump.
- The second section of the sump is usually where the refugium will go. The last section of filtration is the best place for the refugium to go.
- Choose either rock or sand as the substrate for the refugium. Sand is usually best, and normal rock works, but don’t use live rock due to pests, disease, and bacteria.
- Next, set up your refugium light or UV light, or both if you find it to be totally necessary.
- You then add your crustaceans and other small critters, plus some people even add beneficial micro-algae to the mix as well.
Should I just get a cheap aquarium sump?
Folks, you get what you pay for. Larger and more durable sumps with more space and included features are going to cost more.
So, it really all depends on what your needs are and how long you expect the sump to last for. If you cheap out and go with the least expensive option, chances are that you simply won’t be happy with it.
What Size Refugium For 75 Gallon Tanks?
Generally speaking, the larger your refugium is, the more filter material and microscopic life you can fit inside of it. Now, for a 75 gallon tank, many people would use a 20 gallon refugium at most. However, we realized that many people don’t fill their refugiums up all of the way, so a 20 gallon refugium might only have 15 gallons of water in it.
We are bigger fans of using something like a 30 gallon refugium and only having 22 or 25 gallons of water in it. The reason for this is because you won’t flood the thing and spill water everywhere in case something goes wrong.
There is also the fact that you can fit more bio-wheels, sponges, and other filtration mechanisms inside of it. The bottom line is that refugiums are great places to grow beneficial bacteria for your aquarium, so having a larger one means having more beneficial bacteria.
Do remember that you need to keep your spatial requirements in mind though. Depending on how much room you have, you may only have space for a 20 or 15 gallon refugium, both of which will work too.
Both aquarium sumps and refugiums have some really great purposes, and for many people that have large aquariums, they may even be necessary. Just keep in mind the most important things to look out for when buying one of these things, and of course we would recommend looking at the above options before you look at any other choices. Any questions or concerns you have are always more than welcome.