How to Build a DIY Overhead SUMP Filter for Aquarium:

For a healthy fish tank, you need a quality filter which will clean dirt, fish waste, leftover food and other debris from your aquarium water and will allow clean water to flow back to your aquarium. There are 3 different types of filter media that are used to achieve three types of filtration: mechanical, biological & chemical.

Good bacteria growing on the bio media breaks down toxic ammonia into nitrites and further into nitrates. Nitrates are less toxic than nitrites and nitrites are less toxic than ammonia. For the growth of good bacteria, you will need a place which contains an abundance of oxygen, along with a large surface where good bacteria can colonize for example a rock. Biological filtration should follow mechanical filtration because dirt and other debris can clog the bio media and reduce its efficiency.

Chemical filtration is not necessary. It removes harmful chemicals from the water including medications, heavy metals etc. For chemical filtration you can use activated carbon.

Mechanical filter media uses sponges and foams for trapping solid particles from the aquarium water. Together with biological filtration, your aquarium will thrive with healthy fish. Mechanical filter media will trap solid waste particles before it decays into toxic chemicals. Your mechanical filter media needs maintenance such as regular cleaning and replacement after long use.

For better filtration, your fish tank filter should run all of the aquarium water at least 4 times each hour.


Build an Overhead Aquarium SUMP Filter at Home:

A container used for holding water for increasing its volume is known as SUMP. If you want to take water out of the tank and let it flow back to the fish tank then you will need hoses. A SUMP is not actually a filter but it is used for holding filter media.

I have used a spare parts tray as a container for building an overhead SUMP filter. I have used multiple dividers for adjusting the height of compartments holding filter media. The advantage of dividers is that it allows water to flow through the bio media. Ordinary SUMP filters, allow water to flow over the bio media hence water containing toxic chemicals flow back to the aquarium. My aquarium SUMP filter lets water flow through the bio media by adjusting the height of dividers. A washer is used on the tap and tube connector which seals connections and avoids the use of silicone glue. I have tested my aquarium top filter for water flow and leak before using it for my betta fish tank. A pump is used for pumping water to the aquarium top SUMP filter.

Size of the filter inflow tube is 16 mm, and the outflow tap is 20 mm, so it stops water from overflowing through the SUMP. It is a mini-SUMP filter but using the same steps you can build a bigger one too. Choose a larger container, bigger hoses and powerful pump if you want to build a large overhead SUMP filter.

In video below, I will show you how to build a DIY Overhead SUMP filter at home using homemade stuff:

Build Top SUMP Filter for Aquarium

Filter Media:

I am using coarse & fine foams as mechanical filter media.

Bio bakki balls and zeolites are used as bio media.

Mechanical Media:

Mechanical filter media will trap all solid waste particles from the aquarium water.

Coarse Foam:

Coarse foam will trap all large particles. It can be replaced with a sponge because both of them have large pores.

Foam Foam:

Small particles might flow through the large pores of coarse foam but will be trapped by fine foam due to its small pores.

Biological Media:

Biological filtration is crucial of all types of filtration. If your aquarium has a lack of bio media, then it is very dangerous for the life of fish.

For making a top SUMP filter, I am using 2 bio medias: Bio bakki balls & Zeolite.


Bio Bakki Balls:

Bio bakki balls are used for breaking down byproducts of fish waste into less toxic compounds. It can be used for restoring water quality and keeps water healthy.



Zeolite is very important because it allows large colonies of useful bacteria to spread on its large surface. It provides ion exchange capacity and stabilizes water.


Steps: How to Build a DIY Top SUMP Filter at Home:

If you want to make a waterproof DIY top SUMP filter then follow this tutorial.


Step 1:

I am using a spare parts tray as a container for the SUMP. Container is divided into compartments for holding filtration media. In an ordinary SUMP filter, water usually flows on top of the bio media so water containing toxic chemicals flows back to the aquarium. This problem has been fixed with adjusting the height of dividers which ensure that water is not flowing over the bio media but flows through it.


Step 2:

A couple of attachments are used for attaching the hose to the pump. Attach a tube to the outflow of the pump. Attach a tube joiner to the tube. Attach a blue hose to the tube joiner. Insert the blue inflow hose in the center of the coarse foam. Wrap a fine foam around the coarse foam.


Step 3:

Drill a 20 mm hole in the overhead SUMP container for outflow. Drill a 16 mm hole in the container for inflow. Smoothen the rough edges using sandpaper. Attach the inflow to the pump using a hose.


Step 4:

Use coarse and fine foams as mechanical filter media. Wrap fine foam around coarse foam & put them inside the netted pot. Insert the inflow blue hose in the middle of coarse foam. Water tap is used for the outflow which lets water flow back to the fish tank. Use a 20 mm fine threaded water tap for this project.


Step 5:

Use garden hose connectors for sealing the water tap. Use the washer for a tight seal. Check out the container for any leaks. If water is leaking through the container, then use silicone glue. I am glad that my overhead SUMP filter has no leak.


Step 6:

Pump will push water to the filter. Water will pass through coarse foam which will trap all large particles. Small particles might escape the coarse foam but they will be collected by fine foam. Water free of fish waste, dirt or other debris will enter bio media.


Step 7:

Adjusting the position of dividers will ensure that water flows through the bio media. I have cut the divider so that it can be adjusted to ensure that water does not flow over the biological media. Water should flow through the bio media & flow back to the aquarium using a water tap.


Step 8:

Zeolites & bio bakki balls are used as bio media. Wash bio media before using it for filters. Use aquarium water for rinsing the media & avoid using tap water because it is toxic to the good bacteria.


Step 9:

DIY mini SUMP filter is completed
DIY mini SUMP filter is completed

Attach the inflow hose to the pump. Fill the pump fully with water before turning on the water tap. My DIY aquarium top filter works fine. It cleans water efficiently and it is able to store a large amount of bio media.


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