How to build DIY overhead SUMP aquarium filter:

Aquarium filter is your best friend when it comes down to processing waste which is generated inside the fish tank. Aquarium filters can either be powered by an air pump or it can be powered by a water pump. In this article we will discuss how to build a DIY Aquarium overhead sump filter which is operated by submersible water pump.


The material used to build DIY overhead SUMP filter is listed below:
  1. Container or a planter
  2. Aquarium pump
  3. Selley's silicone
  4. Biological & Mechanical Filtration
  5. Clear Vinyl hose


The equipment required to build an aquarium overhead filter is listed below:
  1. Electric Drill with paddle bit
  2. Silicone Gun

DIY SUMP filter:

Watch video tutorial about DIY SUMP filter:


Check out step by step tutorial about how to build aquarium filter:

Step 1: Find a container for the SUMP

Choose a container which fits perfectly on top of the aquarium, & which could hold enough bio media to process fish waste in the tank. The container can be used as an overhead SUMP if it has enough height for holding water, & contains plenty of bio media to produce sufficient bacteria colonies needed for your aquarium.

Use an electric drill with paddle bit & drill 2 holes for the outlet which would be exactly the size of the outlet hose. One outlet hose would be sufficient in most cases but in this project 2 outlets are used. 1 hose from outlet will distribute water on the surface level of aquarium & 2nd outlet will push water to the bottom of aquarium to make sure clean water is evenly distributed inside the aquarium.

Select a paddle bit that matches the size of the inlet hose & drill a hose on one end of the container. The height of the hole will determine how much water the SUMP will hold.

This container is actually a tool box with several compartments separated by dividers. I have removed all the dividers & there are only 2 compartments left. Compartment 1 is used for mechanical filtration while compartment 2 holds the bio-media. Water from the inlet hose hits the mechanical filter media first then it enters the compartment 2 & finally it flows back to the aquarium using 2 outlet hose. 

Step 2: Assemble the pump & attach it to the aquarium

Assemble pump & connect it to your aquarium
Assemble pump & connect it to your aquarium

The aquarium head pump can run efficiently in small, medium & big home tanks. A pump can run efficiently & can meet the requirements of any filtration your tank requires. It is advisable to use aquarium head pump because it will not disturb your daily activities & will provide the best filtration system your fish needs.

Connect the pump to the holder with suction cups which is used to attach pump to the aquarium glass. Connect the pipe to the pump so water is sucked from the bottom level of the tank. It is always good to attach an end piece which has small holes so that pressure of the pump doesn't hurt the fish. Attach a flexi hose to the top end of the pump. Water will flow through the pump & will enter the filter through the flexi hose.

Powerhead pumps can generate substantial power with quiet operation. It is durable & can perform reliably in aquariums. Powerhead pumps are sold in multiple sizes to serve smaller & bigger aquariums.

Aquarium pumps run by generating pressure differences b/w intake & outgoing valves.

I am using a submersible pump in this tutorial. Submersible pumps work efficiently inside water & have smaller sizes. The drawbacks of using submersible pump is that they produce heat & they could end up overheating your tank. Also it is recommended to take care of the wiring to avoid shocks because this pump is set inside water.

Step 3: Connect inlet & outlet hose

Silicone is clear & it looks like a gel. Temperature has no effect on silicone & it is not sensitive to chemicals, moisture & weathering. It is advisable to use silicone in aquarium related DIY project.

Installing the silicone tube into the silicone gun is easy. All you need to do is to press the release at the back of silicone gun using your thumb which releases the plunger at the rear of the silicone gun. Pull the plunger all the way back & install the silicone tube into the silicone gun, the nozzle of the silicone tube should be facing the front. Push the plunger tightly into the rear of the silicone tube, & remove your thumb. Tube is installed & ready to be used now. Cut the silicone tube cartridge & it is advisable to make a cut which matches the size of the hole b/w the surfaces that you want to seal. The inner seal can be punctured by pushing a pin & silicone gel is allowed to come out from the cartridge.

Selley's silicone can be used & it takes 48 hours to cure & become aquarium safe.

Insert the flexi hose into the inlet hose & seal it to the SUMP using silicone. Apply the silicone on the gap b/w flexi hose & container outside, & it is advisable to use some silicone on the inside too so that there are no leaks in the SUMP. Excess silicone can be removed.

Also seal the outlet hose which has 2 hose, 1 flexi hose & 1 clear vinyl hose. Again put some silicone on the space b/w outlet hose, & container on the outside & inside as well. Wait for 48 hours & test for any leaks. If there are leaks in your SUMP, then apply more silicone.

Step 4: Filtration

The 3 types of filtration used in aquarium are mechanical, chemical & biological. Mechanical filtration is the simplest of all 3 types, & it is very important for fish health & maintenance of tank.

Mechanical Filtration:

It is advisable to use Coarse foam in the top layer which will catch all the large debris followed by a medium foam & then a fine foam to catch all the small waste particles. Using mechanical filter media in this order will provide efficient mechanical filtration to the overall overhead sump with an assurance that none of the micro pores in the biological media will get clogged by the debris. Altering the order of mechanical filter will affect overall performance of the filter & over time the efficiency will be reduced.

Biological Filtration:

Biological tank filtration is very important of all types of filtration. The lack of effective biological filtration could be the reason behind the death of more fish than any other reason.

I have used ceramic rings & bio baki balls as bio-media.

Ceramic rings & any other form of ceramic media offers a perfect home to beneficial bacteria which is essential for the aquarium & wellbeing of the fish. Ceramic media increases the surface layer through tiny pores inside the media & provide more space for the bacteria to cling on & grow. The main advantage of using ceramic ring over any other media is that ceramic media can hold both nitrifying & de-nitrifying bacteria.

Bio baki ball is a breathing bio ball fired by high temperature. It is the best material for generating nitrifying bacteria.

It can restore the natural quality of water, & offer the best living environment for your aquatic pets.

Step 5: Setup an overhead SUMP filter

Setup an aquarium overhead filter
Setup an aquarium overhead filter

Place the overhead sump filter to the aquarium, ideally placed on top of the glass & evenly distribute the weight of the filter over the glass. Connect one end of the inlet hose to the powerhead aquarium pump which sucks water containing waste particles from the aquarium & pushes it up to the filter. The water hits mechanical filter media which removes all the waste particles & then enters biological filtration zone. Push both outlets hose down the fish tank which allows the clean water to flow back to the aquarium. Turn on the power & let the water run through the filter. 

It is strongly recommended to cycle the bio media first in a newly setup aquarium & allow the filter to run for a few days so that sufficient good bacteria grows inside the filter before adding fish to the aquarium. It is always good to add live bacteria to the new filter & it is advisable to add some cycle media to the existing bio media which will speed up the formation of the bacteria colonies.

It is recommended to use new hose for inlet & outlet, & do not wash filter using detergents because it is toxic to fish. Also wash filter media gently because good bacteria grows in this area & you can lose them. Also use a SUMP with height so that it can hold sufficient water & enough bio-media which is very beneficial for the fish health.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post