Goldfish in freshwater aquarium_luckypic_shutterstock

If you keep an aquarium with sensitive inhabitants or plants, you may struggle with finding the perfect setup that provides adequate water flow to the tank without damaging the more delicate life in the tank. If you’ve experienced this struggle, then a sump and refugium setup may work well for you.

A sump is a tank that sits below the level of the main tank and can be used to hide unsightly equipment, like skimmers. A refugium is a space within the sump tank that is protected, making it a refuge for delicate lifeforms. Refugiums can also be used for raising feeder creatures, like copepods and feeder fish. Using a sump also can increase water flow to your main tank, helping to stabilize water parameters. Sump and refugium setups are especially useful for reef tanks.

We’ve put together these reviews of our picks for the best aquarium sump and refugium kits to help you pick a solid product that will protect your tank and make tank maintenance easier for you. When it comes to picking the right sump and refugium for your tank, knowledge is power!divider1- goldfish

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Fiji Cube Refugium Sump Fiji Cube Refugium Sump
  • Made to fit 5 brands of tanks
  • Complete DIY kit
  • High-quality acrylic
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Bubblefin Aquarium Sump Refugium Bubblefin Aquarium Sump Refugium
  • Cost-effective
  • Will fit multiple brands of tanks
  • Includes prefilter sponge
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Eshopps AEO15005 Refugiums Eshopps AEO15005 Refugiums
  • Pre-assembled
  • Includes float valve
  • High-quality acrylic
  • The 3 Best Aquarium Sump & Refugium – Reviews 2021

    1. Fiji Cube Refugium Sump – Best Overall

    Fiji Cube Refugium Sump Baffle

    Our pick for the best overall sump and refugium is the Fiji Cube Refugium Sump. This kit is available for four sizes of tanks from 10 gallons to 40 gallons. It is made to fit Marineland, Tetra, Top Fin, Aqueon, and Seapora tanks.

    This sump kit is a complete DIY sump and refugium kit, making it perfectly customizable to meet your tank’s needs. The kit contains three filter sock holders with silencers to hold filter bags and decrease noise from water flow through the filter socks. It also has three baffle slots that have fully customizable sizing to accommodate your equipment, including your protein skimmer, media reactor, or refugium. It has two separate media trays for you to customize with your preferred filter media, like bio sponges and bio balls. Two bio sponges are included in the kit.

    The water level in this sump can be set between 8-14 inches, depending on the depth needed by your protein skimmer. This sump is made of high-quality acrylic and replacement acrylic parts are available through the manufacturer if needed. Every part of this kit is made with solid workmanship, making for a precise, functional piece.

    Pros
    • Four sizes available
    • Made to fit 5 brands of tanks
    • Complete DIY kit
    • Sock holders include silencers
    • Customizable baffle slots and media trays
    • Adjustable water level
    • High-quality acrylic
    • Replacement parts available if needed
    Cons
    • Will not fit other brands or sizes of tanks
    • Does not include thorough instructions

    2. Bubblefin Aquarium Sump Refugium – Best Value

    Bubblefin Aquarium Sump Refugium

    The best aquarium sump and refugium for the money that we reviewed is the Bubblefin Aquarium Sump Refugium. It is available in two sizes for 10 and 20-gallon setups and both sizes are very cost-effective.

    This kit includes three acrylic dividers to fit most brands of tanks but measuring your tank ahead of ordering and comparing it to the measurements of the product may save you some time when the product arrives. The height of the baffles is appropriate to fit most protein skimmers. Each divider allows for different amounts of water to flow through them, making this a nice option for customization. The kit comes with a prefilter sponge but does not include a sponge to go below the third piece. There are a variety of objects that are an appropriate height to hold the piece in place while the silicone cures, though.

    Pros
    • Cost-effective
    • Will fit multiple brands of tanks
    • Height is appropriate for most skimmers
    • Includes prefilter sponge
    • Three acrylic dividers
    Cons
    • May be too wide for some tanks
    • Does not include sponge for the third section
    • Only available in two sizes

    3. Eshopps AEO15005 Refugiums – Premium Choice

    Eshopps AEO15005 Refugiums for Aquarium

    The Eshopps AEO15005 Refugium is our premium choice for the best sump and refugiums. This kit is a complete kit that is assembled and includes a float valve. It is made from high-quality acrylic and includes a micron bag, skimmer compartment, and space for customization of bio sponges. It holds close to 30 gallons of water.

    This kit design allows for a large amount of gentle water flow and has a large amount of refugium space, making it a nice choice for protecting plants and corals and raising feeders. It also allows for water to flow via two “tracks”, allowing for adequate filtration and oxygenation and preventing stagnation.

    It can be difficult to access the refugium to check water levels and flow, but a mirror can be used to help with quick checks. This system is very quiet and has a great flow. There may be some buildup of detritus and waste if not well-maintained and cleaned regularly, but the flow stays efficient while the water passes through multiple chambers, even if some buildup is present.

    Pros
    • Pre-assembled
    • Includes float valve
    • Plenty of space for skimmer and refugium
    • High-quality acrylic
    • Holds close to 30 gallons of water
    • Very quiet
    • Efficient water flow
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • May be a build-up of detritus and waste
    • Difficult to access some parts
    • Pre-assembly may make replacing some parts difficult

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    Buyer’s Guide

    What to Consider When Choosing the Right Aquarium Sump and Refugium for Your Needs
    • Budget: This is the best place to start when it comes to choosing a sump and refugium setup. A $50 budget can give you a quality product, but you will likely have to put everything together. A $500 budget can give you a quality product that is ready to go, and maybe can even get you a custom pre-assembled product.
    • Space: How much space do you have for a sump setup? A sump and refugium is a second tank that sits below your main tank and shares water flow. You will need the space for a full second tank that is 10 gallons or larger.
    • Knowledge: How comfortable are you setting up a sump and refugium? To get this kind of setup, you will need at least some knowledge of plumbing and how sumps and refugiums function. This may include creating holes for plumbing in your current tank.
    • Preference: Do you want to do it yourself or not? Some people enjoy the challenge that it takes to set up an effective sump and refugium, but other people just want the functionality without a time-consuming project.
    • Available equipment: Do you already have some of the pieces you will need to set up a sump and refugium? If you already have a tank, you will want to make sure to pick a kit that will fit what you have. If you have a specific vision in mind for your setup, you will need to find parts or a kit that fits what you’re wanting.
    Where to Get Sump and Refugium Setup Info Once You’ve Chosen a Product
    • YouTube: YouTube is a great resource for learning how to set up your sump and refugium, whether you choose a DIY kit or a pre-assembled product. You will be able to find clear instructions through videos of every kind of sump you can dream of!
    • Bookstore/Library: Sometimes, it’s best to go old school when it comes to learning. Bookstores and libraries are a wealth of information and some people will more easily follow directions with a book right in front of them. Bookstores and libraries have the added benefit of electronic books as well.
    • Forums: When it comes to building something, forums are a helpful resource because they allow you to see what other people have done for their setups and ask questions. Forums provide access to people across the world, giving you lots of guidance and ideas.
    • Manufacturer’s websites: Not all manufacturer’s websites are created equal, but they are a good resource for determining how to use a specific product. Even if a manufacturer’s website doesn’t have much information on it, you’ll definitely be able to find a contact email or phone number for the company.
    When Do You Need a Sump and Refugium? When Can You Skip a Sump and Refugium?
    Intentional macroalgae/microalgae growing If macroalgae/microalgae are not needed for feeding
    If you’re having trouble controlling nitrites and phosphates If nitrites and phosphates are well controlled
    If needed as a hospital tank for sick/injured animal If you have a cycled, detached hospital tank
    Live food production (copepods, amphipods, small feeder fish) If you are not growing feeder organisms
    When growing delicate corals, fish, or plants If you’re keeping semi-hardy to hardy fish, corals, and/or plants
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    Conclusion

    The Fiji Cube Refugium Sump is our best overall choice for its high-quality craftsmanship and customizability. The Bubblefin Sump Refugium is our best value pick because of its flexibility to be used for a variety of tanks for a steal of a price. Eshopps AEO15005 Refugium is our premium pick because it’s a premium-priced but high-quality, preassembled product that is ready to go right out of the box.

    The three products in these reviews are all great because they provide a broad range of options for setting up the best sump and refugium for your tank. The Fiji Cube and Bubblefin products are good choices for DIYers while the Eshopps Refugium is ideal for someone who wants to hook things up and go. With all three products, you’ll end up with an effective sump and refugium setup to protect your fragile aquatic life. We’ve worked hard to make it easier for you to find the right sump and refugium for your own tank.


    Featured image credit: luckypic, Shutterstock