If you’re new to owning an aquarium, you may have recently realized that aquariums require a lot more equipment than one might think. Particularly if you’ve gone with a larger tank, you’ll need to invest in some stuff that goes outside your aquarium—a sump and refugium, for example. Though you don’t require both, depending on your needs, you might want a separate sump and refugium or a sump that contains a refugium.
But if you’re new in these parts, you’re probably wondering how to find a sump or refugium that best meets your needs. The easiest way to figure out what you might want is to check out reviews of products. That way, you can get a quick overview and accounts from other aquarium owners. With the reviews below, you will get just that and hopefully be on your way to finding your perfect sump or refugium in no time!
A Glance at Our Winners in 2023
|Best Overall||Fiji Cube Refugium Sump Baffle Kit||
|Best Value||Aquarium Sump Refugium DIY Kit||
|Premium Choice||Eshopps Refugiums||
|CPR Aquatic AquaFuge Hang-on Refugium||
|Pro Clear Aquatic Systems Reef Sump||
The 8 Best Sumps & Refugiums for Aquariums
1. Fiji Cube Refugium Sump Baffle – Best Overall
|Tank size:||10-gal (other sizes: 20-gal long, 29-gal, 40-gal|
|Dimensions:||11.42”L x 11.38”W x 3.7”H|
If you’re looking for the best overall sump and refugium, this kit by Fiji Cube fits the bill. This kit is designed specifically for customization—with it, you can customize how much space is allowed for the refugium portion, protein skimmer, and more. You can also adjust the level of the water to meet the height requirement of your protein skimmer. Best of all, this kit comes with noise reduction in the form of filter sock silencers (and the sock holders can hold 4-inch filter bags).
The Fiji Cube Refugium Sump Baffle Kit fits the following tanks: Marineland, Top Fin, Sepora, Tetra, and Aqueon.
2. Aquarium Sump Refugium Kit for Protein Skimmer Sump – Best Value
|Dimensions:||10.94”L x 9.25”W x 1.57”H|
This DIY kit is the way to go when you want the best sump refugium for the money. Designed for 10-gallon tanks, this simple DIY kit should fit the height of any common protein skimmer. Also on the plus side, people who used the product commented on how strong the parts of this kit were. Assembly simply requires a bit of gluing with aquarium-safe super glue, and most aquarium owners said it took an hour or less to put together.
This DIY kit also comes with a foam pad placed between the last two dividers to be used as a pre-filter.
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3. Eshopps Refugiums – Premium Choice
|Tank size:||50–100 gal|
|Dimensions:||30”L x 14”W x 16”H|
When you’re on the hunt for a premium product, you’ll want to take a look at this refugium by Eshopps. Essentially a “plug and go” product, this refugium comes equipped with a float valve to adjust the water level, installed baffles, and sock filter holders. Made of acrylic, the Eshopps is strong enough to stand up to everyday wear and tear, and seams are watertight, so you don’t have to be concerned about leaking. It holds up to 29 gallons and is designed to make little to no noise. Plus, there’s plenty of room to grow good bacteria, plants, and more.
4. CPR Aquatic AquaFuge Hang-on Refugium
|Tank size:||29–75 gal|
|Dimensions:||25”L x 4.5”W x 11.8”H|
If you’re limited in space, this hang-on refugium is the way to go. Holding 4.7 gallons, it’s simple to slip onto the back of your tank, even when space is tight. Just hang and connect the pipes to your aquarium, and you’re good to go! Black acrylic blocks light from getting to the main aquarium, while the power-head and baffle system allows organisms to thrive in safety while still maintaining a good water flow.
One thing to note with this product is that it does not come with a light, so you’ll need to purchase that separately.
5. Pro Clear Aquatic Systems Freedom Reef Sump
|Dimensions:||32”L x 12”W x 16”H|
Designed specifically for saltwater tanks, the Pro Clear Aquatic Systems Freedom Reef Sump is simple to set up and maintain and makes for an excellent option for those looking for something a bit more affordable. This sump utilizes the 4-inch 200-micron bag and features bubble diffuser tubs that make for a quieter experience while still providing better water flow. There’s also a flow gate that you can adjust to meet your needs.
The Pro Clear Aquatic Systems Freedom Reef Sump comes with a 4-inch micron bag, bulkhead fittings, foam block sponge, and flexible hoses.
6. IceCap Reef Sump
|Tank size:||Up to 160 gal|
|Dimensions:||30”L x 16”W x 16”H|
Made from a solid acrylic that’s built to be durable and long-lasting, the IceCap 30 Reef Sump features an open design that allows for plenty of room to hold everything you need. It has a chamber specifically for your protein skimmer, a chamber made explicitly for your return pump, and an intake chamber with a lid meant to diffuse bubbles for a quiet sump. The Ice Cap also comes with baffles that have built-in probe holders adjustable to meet your filtration needs, whatever they may be. Plus, it contains a freshwater reservoir.
This sump can be used for tanks up to 160 gallons, but it’s optimal for tanks 125 gallons and under.
7. Esh Sump Reef System
|Tank size:||10–75 gal|
|Dimensions:||8”L x 9”W x 12”H|
Designed for the modern reef tank, this sump system provides enough space for both your protein skimmer and return pump. It also has enough room to hold your other aquarium equipment while still being compact enough not to take up a ton of space. Pre-filter sponges will reduce the amount of dirt and debris, improving the overall filtration. Plus, the open layout makes this sump a breeze to maintain.
This sump is made of quality materials built to withstand wear and tear. It also comes with a filter sock!
8. Eshopps Reef Sump
|Tank size:||Up to 75 gal|
|Dimensions:||18”L x 10”W x 16”H|
Have a tank that’s not huge? Then the Eshopps RS-75 Reef Sump might be a good fit. Though it’s on the smaller side, it still provides plenty of room for pumps, skimmers, and other aquarium equipment. And with an open top, this sump is easy to clean, maintain, and rearrange as needed. It also offers easy removal of the micron bag. The Eshopps sump comes with a pre-filter sponge that will keep dirt and debris out for better filtration and reduce the amount of bubbles for a sump that runs more quietly.
Aquarium owners especially liked the durable materials this sump was made from.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Select the Best Sumps & Refugiums for Aquariums
The differences between a sump and a refugium can be a bit confusing since a sump can also be a refugium, but a refugium isn’t a sump. Here are the differences between the two.
What Is a Sump?
A sump is a tank that is separate from but plumbed into your real aquarium. It works as a drain and reservoir and is usually the lowest part of the circulating system. A sump can also add to the water volume in your aquarium, which helps keep water clean and lessens nitrate buildup. Sumps generally come with three sections: drain, flex space, and return.
Sumps are typically placed underneath the real aquarium inside the tank cabinet and are used to hold equipment such as protein skimmers, heaters, and filters.
What Is a Refugium?
A refugium, or “place of refuge,” can either be a part of your sump, a separate box in your tank cabinet, or a unit that hangs on the back of the aquarium. They can be used for saltwater, tropical, brackish, cold water, and freshwater tanks. A refugium shares a water supply with your main aquarium and is used as a refuge for live plants, macroalgae, and microfauna.
Using a refugium has several advantages:
Here’s What to Look for In a Sump and a Refugium
Before deciding on a sump or refugium, there are a few factors at which you should look.
How big a sump or refugium you get will be limited to the size of your tank cabinet since that’s where they’ll live. For sumps, a good rule of thumb is to go with the 1:3 or 1:4 ratio. So, if your main aquarium is 50-gallons, your sump would be 15-gallons at a minimum. Refugium sizes will depend on whether they will be a part of the sump or a separate entity in your cabinet, as well as what you’ll be growing in them.
Ease Of Set-Up
Sumps and refugiums can get a bit confusing when it comes time to set them up, so having clear instructions or video help could be essential. You also have the option of DIY’ing it or purchasing one that is already put together. Depending on how handy you are will be a deciding factor in which one you choose. Pre-assembled will make for easier set-up, of course, but DIY is usually cheaper.
Whether it’s a sump or a refugium, you want to ensure you’re getting a product that will be long-lasting. Consider the materials the items you’re looking at are made from. Particularly when it comes to sumps, you’ll find acrylic to be less prone to getting cracks, while PVC is a more durable material but is ultimately more expensive. A hybrid acrylic-PVC sump might be your best option.
You don’t want to spend a ton of time cleaning up sumps and refugiums so look for products that are easy to clean out and don’t require disassembling the entire thing to do so.
Sumps and refugiums can get costly, so you’ll have to shop around to ensure you get the best price. You’ll also want to look and see if an item is worth the price (i.e., is it made from good materials? Does it have good reviews?).
And speaking of reviews, who better to tell you just how good a sump or refugium is than other aquarium owners. Reading reviews of products will give you a better overview of how the product works and if it’s the right one for you.
When you want the best, we recommend you go with the Fiji Cube Refugium Sump Baffle Kit, as it is a sump with a refugium that is customizable and runs quietly. For the best value, you’ll want to look at the Aquarium Sump Refugium DIY Kit for Protein Skimmer Sump, as it’s incredibly affordable and easy to put together. If it’s a premium product you’ve been looking for, look at the Eshopps AEO15005 Refugiums, as it comes with almost everything you need and is essentially a “plug and go” product.
Featured Image Credit: Daniel Corneschi, Unsplash