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As a continuation of our best overflow box review post, let’s dive into the best aquarium sump & refugiums available on the market. Sump and refugiums have incredible value in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums, though they are mostly implemented in saltwater tanks. The advantages that sumps provide are overwhelming. They provide you a large amount of surface space to hide your equipment, allow you to customize your filtration of choice, and allow you to build out flex space that can be used as a safety space for plants (for freshwater tanks) or for fauna and macro algae in saltwater tanks.
One of the most important decisions you can make is choosing your sump system and selecting the best aquarium sump and refugium for you as well as connecting it with the best aquarium sump pump that you can buy.
Let’s talk today about what is an aquarium sump, what is a refugium, and then let’s go over the best aquarium sumps available to purchase readily.
What Is An Aquarium Sump?
An aquarium sump is a separate aquarium that is plumbed into your main aquarium. They are frequently used in saltwater aquariums and considered the best aquarium filter option. This is because most of the best equipment available is meant to be placed in a sump. The sump is normally placed inside the tank cabinet and other times they are pump to a separate fish room or basement. A separate fish room or basement offers the most accessibility, but mostly common on larger or commercial builds.
Most of us who will setup a sump are usually going to place the sump inside the cabinet and use a submersible return pump to move water back to the display tank. You can see how a sump is used in a professional environment like Tidal Gardens below:
Most sumps will be designed with 3 sections:
- The drain section
- The flex space section
- The return section
The drain section will usually have mechanical filtration either through filter rocks or filter cups that will have sponges or floss with chemical media. In most saltwater setups, this is where you would install the best protein skimmer that works for your setup..
The flex space section is a section where the a refugium (or fuge for short) would be spaced. Sometimes live or dry rock is placed here along with macroalgae to support microfauna and to remove excessive nitrates and phosphates from the aquarium. In a freshwater setup, this section can be used as a safe place to put freshwater plants like Anubias, Java Fern, Duck Weed, Guppy Grass, Java Moss, and Luffy Marimo Moss Balls are all excellent candidates for a freshwater refugium.
In reef tanks, there is a new method called the Triton Method that switches the order of the refugium and protein skimmer. The refugium is placed first and the skimmer follows it.
The also section is the return section, which is where your return pump goes and where your auto top off is placed. This return section is the part of the sump that will have a variable water level so as your water evaporates the water in this section will drop. This will also be the first area of your sump that will fill up if your return pump is shut off.
What Is A Refugium?
A refugium is a section in your sump that is reserved as a safe space for micro fauna and macro algae in your aquarium in saltwater tanks and a safe spot for live plants in a freshwater tank. The advantages of a refugium are several:
- In a saltwater aquarium, this allows you to cultivate beneficial pods that your fish and corals will in turn eat. The pods also act as a clean up crew that eats detritus in the aquarium.
- Macro algae and live/dry rock can be used in a refugium to house pods and filter out excessive nitrates and phosphates in the aquarium. A large enough refugium in combination with a quality protein skimmer can potentially eliminate water changes.
- For freshwater tanks, plants can be housed here to act as a filtration device to filter out chemicals and excessive phosphates and nitrates. while not as effective as in saltwater aquariums, they are still useful when a large enough refugium is used.
How To Select An Aquarium Sump and Refugium (Buying Guide)
There are A LOT of sumps and refugium designs to chose from. It is pretty overwhelming to figure out what will work best for you. Here are a few factors to consider to help you out:
- Size – You are limited to the size of your cabinet. The bigger the sump the better if you can fit and manage it.
- Versatility – Sump designs with multiple chambers and adjustable baffles allow you to work around the design to fit a variety of equipment.
- Durability – You want your sump to last the life of the tank. It is a pain to replace a size. Consider the following:
- Acrylic vs. Glass – Acrylic is light and less prone to cracking. Scratching is not as big of a deal with sumps as they are in your display
- Acrylic vs. PVC – PVC is an even more durable sump design, but very expensive. You can consider a PVC Hybrid that combines both PVC and Acrylic at a lower cost or chose to go all PVC. Either way, the build will likely be a custom aquarium sump
- Accessories – Features like probe holders and euro bracing make for a cleaner and easier to work with design
- Ease of Installation – If there are videos or instructions available that makes things a whole lot better. A sump with bulkheads included is also extra nice
- Aesthetics – You want your sump to look cool right ? ?
- Low Noise – A bean animal design will have the lowest noise possible.
The Aquarium Sump Candidates
With all that said, let’s dive in and look at the best aquarium sumps and refugiums available for purchase today.
In a hurry? I recommend the Trigger Systems Triton Sumps!
|Trigger Systems Triton Sumps|
|Click For Best Price|
|Trigger Systems Crystal Sumps|
|Click For Best Price|
|Fiji Cube Refugium Sump Baffle Kit|
|Buy On Amazon|
|IceCap Reef Sumps|
|Click For Best PriceBuy On Amazon|
|Trigger Systems Ruby Sumps|
|Click For Best PriceBuy On Amazon|
|EShopps Advanced Series Sumps|
|Buy On Amazon|
|Fiji Cube Pro Sump|
|Buy On Amazon|
|Bubblefin Aquarium Sump|
|Buy On Amazon|
|EShopps RS-Reef Sumps|
|Buy On Amazon|
The 10 Best Aquarium Sump and Refugium Reviews (2022 Update)
Now that you have seen the list, let us dive in and see what these sumps are all about!
1. Trigger Systems Triton Sumps
The Trigger Systems Triton Sumps are a new concept in sump systems. Sumps first started with Berlin sumps, which was just a sump that had a chamber for a protein skimmer. Then you had the creation of refugium sumps with the skimmer in the first chamber than a small refugium chamber. These were primarily designed for a reef tank to house beneficial organisms. The Triton method is a new reefing method that relies on a larger refugium chamber where the primary filtration method is from the natural filtration of your refugium.
The Triton sump by Trigger systems delivers on the method. It is feature loaded with probe holders, three drains, and adjustable baffles. The refugium section is oversized to accommodate the needs of the triton method. Trigger is well known for making quality sumps in the reefing screen. This is Trigger systems high end reef sump offering.
- Brand name
- Quality construction
- Modern filtration method for today’s reefs
- Only one color
2. Trigger Systems Crystal Sumps
The Trigger Systems Crystal Sumps is a reasonably priced 3 stage sump that everything you need to build out an elite level setup. It comes with two drains to connect your plumbing and comes with a bubble trap to ensure your return pump doesn’t pull our microbubbles. The bubble trap area can actually house media with their included media platforms. This is an added plus as it puts the chemical filtration in the back versus the front.
The filter sock holder is a locking style that keeps filter socks secure and accepts standard 4″ 100 micro socks. Each drain comes with a bulk head at allows you to insert PVC plumbing into it.
It is a very lean design with a eurobrace to ensure it stays study. This series comes in various sizes, so you can find one that fits in your aquarium stand. It doesn’t have adjustable baffles or probe holders like the Triton to keep costs down. It doesn’t have probe holders, but then can be added easily with accessories in the future
- Reasonable price
- Has everything you need to get started
- Brand name
- Still expensive for some
- No probe holders
3. Fiji Cube Sump Kit – A Great Do It Yourself Sump Kit
I am a big fan of building your own sump, especially if you want to incorporate a sump and refugium in your sump as many sump makers do not have chambers for both. This DIY sump and refugium kit by Fiji Cube really answers the call with a high quality sump kit.
The dollar per gallon sales from PetSmart and Petco offer a great way to get a cheap sump and Fiji Cube’s kits are meant for either a 20 gallon or 40 gallon aquarium. This 40 gallon gallon kit will handle all medium sized aquariums and is easily adjustable to either be setup as a traditional sump + fuge setup or as a triton setup.
I really love the three filter sock design, I just wish they would do 55 gallon and 75 gallon sump kits. Fortunately, there is a nice 55 gallon triton sump kit available from Jax.Racks for those of you with 6 foot long tanks.
- DIY Kit allows you to build the best sump setup for your tank
- Can be setup for either standard Skimmer + Fuge or Triton method
- Kit + dollar per gallon tank = cheap and great value!
- No drain bulkheads do you need to DIY the drain area to fit
- Only 20 and 40 gallon aquarium kits available
- You need to assemble the kit yourself
4. IceCap Sumps – Sumps with Auto Top Off Reservoirs Built-In
The IceCap sumps are a well designed sump that include a fresh water reservoir so you do not have to maintain a separate reservoir for top off. This sump has dual drains allowing for a bean animal overflow to be connected to it and the covers most for a very clean and professional looking sump. The sump comes with probe holders and the ability to adjust the water level from 5-9 inches.
This is a great reef sump if you are working with a tight space, or just want a sump with the reservoir built in. The measurement lines on the reservoir is extra helping in determining how much water you have left in the reservoir.
My only critique on this design is the reservoir sacrifices the ability to hold a refugium. I would have preferred a refugium section over the reservoir myself. Fortunately, their larger IceCap XL Sump models actually do have a refugium section AND a reservoir, making the models a comprehensive package.
- Dual drains so bean animal overflow can be connected to it
- Has a freshwater reservoir so you do not have to have a separate one
- Clean and professional looking
- Non XL models do not have a refugium section
- Refugium is still a little small on the XL models
5. Trigger Systems Ruby Sumps – The Brand Name In Sumps
Trigger Systems really started the cool looking sump craze and has been recognized in the industry for their high quality craftsmanship. This Trigger Systems Ruby Sump offers a true 3 chamber sump. Both the protein skimmer and refugium sections are adequately sized to house both comfortably. It has dual drains like most of the premium sumps we have reviewed here.
The filter sock holders lock into place so you don’t have to worry about them accidentally falling into your sump. Three probe holders are included in the first chamber and a media chamber is included so you can place carbon before the return section. The design is finished off by a clean red colored euro-braced design. It really is a competent and well rounded design.
- Recognized name brand in the industry
- Great all around design
- Nice aesthetics
- Fuge still could be larger, but Trigger does sell Triton sumps
- Can be on the more expensive side compared to others listed here
6. EShopps Advanced Series Sumps – Sumps for the Serious Hobbyist
The Eshopps Advanced Series Sumps is the 3rd generation advanced series sump from Eshopps. It is a well built sump that incorporates a skimmer and refugium section. What I love about this sump is that it has a two channel design so as one drain goes to the sump while the other goes to the skimmer. This allows for you to have separate drain flows to your skimmer and fuge section. It comes complete with probe holders and a float valve holder. It is a great all round design.
Because it has two drains on it, it is designed for bean animal overflows. It has a very generous protein skimmer section, which will allow you to add an oversized skimmer. The fuge section is smaller than I would like, but is adequate for this design as it a primarily skimmer run sump so you are definitely going to want to add the best protein skimmer you can afford on this build.
- Two drains so you can use a bean animal overflow
- Very generous protein skimmer section
- Is built to use a protein skimmer and refugium
- Models only go up to 36″ in length
- Refugium section is not that large
7. Fiji Cube Pro Sumps – A Pro Level Reef Sump
When I first saw Fiji Cube’s Sumps, I immediately feel in love. This is such a clean looking sump and expertly designed. The blue and white design will look great in your cabinet or fish room and they make longer sumps that the other manufacturers do not make.
Let’s talk about why this sump is so awesome. First is the computer laser cut design. Next is verstalie first chamber than can either hold filter socks or be converted to hold media. The skimmer section is just right, and features a tighter fit so there is less wasted space in the sump. The sump comes with probe holders and all baffles can be adjusted. The water level is adjustable to 12″ – which is the highest level available for sumps on this list and all chambers can be adjusted. I love the extra fit features like the removable lids on every section. It keeps things clean of salt creep and enclosed for less water evaporation and humidity in your cabinet.
It is a pricy sump given it’s features. If you are looking for that “cool” sump for your setup, this is one of the best ones to purchase.
- Lots of sizes – up to 46″ long
- All baffles are adjustable
8. Bubblefin DIY Sump – A Cheap Sump Option
The Bubblefin DIY Kit is how to get a DIY done on the cheap. It comes with the acryclic baffles to get your started. You can build your sump configuration however you want with this kit. All you need is silicon and a steady hand when placing the baffles. It’s a completely bare bones kit with just baffles, but a lot of DIYers like this option because they can build whatever they want.
The price of this kit is so affordable, you would have a hard time coming up with something comparable in time and money going to the hardware store and purchasing glass or acrylic baffles.
The only complaint I have from this kit is it is missing a pipe hold or bulkhead. You can purchase those separate from other vendors online though. It doesn’t have the same features as the Fiji Cube kit, but the price is very hard to beat
- Very cheap!
- Configure your sump like you want
- Missing filter sock holders and bulkheads
9. Eshopps RS Series Sumps – A Great Entry Level Sump
This is the budget offering from Eshopps. The Eshopps RS Series Sumps is most common aquarium sump you will see at local fish stores.
It is a very basic, no frills sump that gets the job done for those who are starting out or just want a very basic sump. They are best meant for protein skimmer powered Berlin style saltwater aquarium and reef tank setups.
- Easy to Setup
- Single drain means you cannot setup a bean animal overflow
- Can only accommodate a protein skimmer
- Not pretty to look at
Our Suggested Picks For Best Aquarium Sumps
There are a lot of options presented in this post so you may be wondering what we would recommend. If you are longer for a sump that has everything, I would strongly recommend the Trigger Systems Triton Sumps. The triton is the go to method for premium reefs today and they offer massive value for those in that price range.
For the budget conscious aquarist, I would recommend the DIY sump and refugium kit by Fiji Cube and pair it with a match dollar per gallon tank at Petco or Pet Smart. You can built a great sump and save quite a bit of money over purchasing a manufactured sump. Sometimes the best aquarium sump is the one you design.
The Trigger Systems Crystal is a great all around package and has a great name behind it.
Sumps purchasing will drive a lot of buyer anxiety to you. It’s the central operating hub of your reef tank. I hope I helped alleviate your anxiety in your purchasing decision. If you felt I left something out, please let a comment below. Thanks for reading!