How to build a DIY aquaponics filter for goldfish aquarium:

Every aquarium requires a quality filter for removing solid particles such as fish poop, remaining food, & other debris to offer a stunning environment for the fish. It is very important to choose a filter that offers both mechanical & biological filtration efficiently. A DIY top SUMP filter is located outside water in the aquarium canopy & in this tutorial I have added some live plants in the filter. It is an upgraded version of my overhead SUMP filter & now live plants are added for absorbing nitrates so that water free of every impurity can flow back to the aquarium.


Pothos plants in an overhead SUMP filter:

A SUMP itself is not a filter but it is a container that provides space for holding filtration media. A submersible pump is used for pumping water into an overhead SUMP filter which traps solid waste particles in the mechanical filtration chamber & only allow water to flow into the biological chamber. I have also added live pothos plants in the filter so that every type of impurity is wiped out & only clean water flows back to the fish tank. My DIY aquaponics filter is installed in the planter box.

I am using a planter box instead of a canopy & the upper part of the planter box is open. I am using cycled biological media for this project which already have heaps of good bacteria growing on its surface. I have built this aquaponics filter for my goldfish aquarium. I have been using this filter for over 6 months & my aquarium water remains clean & plants in the overhead SUMP filter are healthy too.

Build DIY top SUMP aquaponics filter for goldfish
Build DIY top SUMP aquaponics filter for goldfish

Build DIY aquaponics filter for goldfish:

Live pothos plants do not need any additional supplements because they get all the nutrients from fish waste. Plants receive carbon dioxide directly from the air. There is no need for extra lights because I have setup my aquarium in my room & room lights are enough for the plants.

If you are using tap water then don’t forget to add chlorine neutralizer to remove chlorine which is harmful for the fish. Chlorine wipes out useful bacteria growing in your aquarium filter.

Have a look at how to build a DIY aquaponics aquarium filter for goldfish which contain mechanical and biological media as well as pothos plants.


Steps: How to build DIY SUMP with aquaponics filter for goldfish aquarium:

How to make a DIY top SUMP filter with aquaponics

Check out the above video which shows how to make a DIY aquaponics SUMP filter that cleans goldfish aquarium. This filter can efficiently clean fish waste & there is no need to worry about live plants if you are planning to keep this filter in goldfish aquarium. Goldfish have the problem of uprooting live plants & eating them. Live plants are now located in the planter box outside of the water so goldfish can’t mess with them.


Step 1:

Select a container that holds enough water & it is possible to install it on your aquarium top. Your container length & width should be less than the length & width of your aquarium so that it can easily fit in the planter box at the top of the aquarium.

For this project I am using a grate with a one-meter drain channel. It holds all mechanical & biological media as well as pothos plants.


Step 2:

End caps are used for closing both terminals of the drain channel. Drill a hole in both ends of the end caps to allow water to enter & leave the SUMP filter. Connect one end of the hose to the inlet valve of the drain channel & another end to the pump. Connect an elbow connector to the other end of the SUMP that will be the outlet of the overhead SUMP filter.


Step 3:

Use silicone glue for attaching the end caps to the drain channel. Silicone takes lots of time in sealing. Silicone glues are aquarium safe.

Make sure you apply enough silicone to seal all connections. Silicone will stop water from leaking through the SUMP.


Step 4:

Male and female adaptors are best for aquarium top filters because bulkhead fittings are very expensive. Use silicone on both male and female adaptors for perfect fitting.


Step 5:

Use silicone on another end cap and attach it to the other side of the SUMP. An outtake hose should be connected to this end cap. Water will flow back to the fish tank using gravity.


Step 6:

Attach a PVC pipe to the outtake of the drain channel & connect a 90-degree elbow to let clean water flow back using gravity. Make sure your SUMP holds enough water and water should flow through the biological media. Addition of pothos plants in the bio media chamber will purify water even more. Cut a small piece of PVC pipe for attaching the adapter to the elbow. Another piece of pipe should be connected to the other end of the elbow so that water can flow back to the fish tank.


Step 7:

Netted pots are used for holding lava rocks and live plants. 4 pothos plants have been added to the aquaponics filter. It is very important to wash the plants and lava rocks to rinse the dirt. Another name of the pothos plant is money plant. Lava rocks are very porous and allow lots of useful bacteria to grow on its large surface.


Step 8:

Bio media is packed in the bags. Wash biological media with water from the fish tank before using it in the filter. Use bio media in bags to prevent pots from moving. I am using cycled media but you can also use new bio media. Use aquapro booster balls which contain heaps of good bacteria to quickly allow beneficial bacteria to cling to the surface of bio media.


Step 9:

I have built a DIY wooden planter box instead of a canopy. It will let pothos plant grow its leaves & branches outside of the fish tank. I am using an aquarium light on the side of the planter box for my goldfish.


Step 10:

For mechanical filtration I am using two types of foams: coarse and fine. Coarse foam is used in the center of the netted pot and I have wrapped a fine foam around the coarse foam. Coarse foam will stop all big particles while fine foam will remove all little particles that are not trapped in the coarse foam. 


Step 11:

For intake I am using a sponge filter that prevents the pump from sucking fish fries and invertebrates. An airline is used for generating air bubbles. These bubbles will oxygenate water.


Step 12:

I have inserted a little piece of pipe in the filter inlet. The opposite end of this pipe is threaded. I have inserted another piece of pipe and both pipes are fixed via a nut.


Step 13:

I am using a sponge filter as the filter inlet. One terminal of the connector is connected to the sponge filter while another terminal which is larger in diameter is attached to the filter inlet. Now the powerhead is ready.


Step 14:

Fish tank inlet pipe is used for absorbing water from the fish tank via a powerhead. A sponge filter is used at the inlet that stops small fish from entering the inlet. One end of a hose is connected to the pump outlet and another end goes in the middle of the coarse foam.

Powerhead will pump aquarium water to the SUMP using an inlet hose. Water will pass through mechanical, biological and aquaponic filtration (pothos plants) before flowing back to the aquarium using an outlet pipe.

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