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DIY Trickle Filter | Overhead Aquarium Sump Filter

edited July 2020 in Advice Tutorials

DIY Trickle Filter | Overhead Tank Sump Filter:

In a traditional trickle filter, water is removed from an aquarium using an overflow. However, in this diy trickle filter, water is pushed out of fish tank using a powerhead and it flows back in to the tank by gravity. Dirty water from the tank trickles down the top chamber containing mechanical filter foam. Once the water is cleaned from debris and fish poop, it flows down another chamber containing biological filter media. Beneficial bacteria in this chamber breaks down all the harmful ammonia and convert it into a less harmful form for the fish. 

Building an aquarium filter at home from plastic containers is quick, cheap and easy. No special equipment is required and any aquarium safe silicone can be used to glue all the components together. It requires less energy to run this type of aquarium filter and it is more resilient to variable wastewater conditions. Water falls by gravity from top container to bottom container and back to the tank. It is extremely simple to operate and very easy to maintain. Ever moving and trickling water provides an excellent gas exchange area and it replenish the oxygen level in the system which is used by nitrifying bacteria living in bio chamber and also the fish living in the aquarium. No need of aquarium air pump as oxygenation and gas exchange happens in the top aquarium filter.

Watch video below which shows how to setup trickle filter as an overhead tank sump filter:

Build a DIY Trickle Filter:

Food containers

I have built this overhead overhead aquarium sump filter from the supplies i have had available at home. Two unused round food storage containers are the two chambers used for filtering dirty aquarium water. Only select food containers that are BPA and phthalates free, they are usually microwave and dishwasher safe. Size of the containers would depend on the size of the fish tank, as larger aquarium would need larger filters.

Assembling Filter Components:

Assembling Filter Components

Getting the flow right is very easy, i have used the top container for mechanical filtration and bottom container for biological filtration. Both containers are connected using a hose, any hose would do, even a small piece of garden hose. However, the only important thing to note is to make sure water flows through bio media and not just over the bio media. It can be easily achieved by adjusting the length of the hose, use the youtube video for further referencing. This is something i did wrong in the past and I have learnt from my mistake. The efficiency of the filter will be greatly reduced if continuous clean water doesn't flow through the media. I am sure you will pick it up after reading this article and watching the video, if you are not already aware of it.

Setting Up Filter Media:

Setting Up Filter Media

Since it is a mini filter for a mini tank, i have only used fine foam for mechanical filtration and chucked a bag of ceramic media for biological filtration. For a larger filter i would highly recommend using coarse, medium and fine foam to clean the aquarium water. Bio media can be of your choice, lava rocks, sponges, ceramic rings; anything that has a surface area would be a good home for beneficial bacteria.

Why build a Trickle Filter:

Why build a Trickle Filter

Apart from the benefits of DIY trickle filter that i have discussed above, there are few other reasons why i choose to build a trickle filter. It is easy to modify and expand based on future needs such as capacity of the filter can be increased by adding a 3rd chamber. Same like a canister filter, all the media can be separated by trays which would be diy in this case. Filter can be easily converted in to aquaponics by adding some plants that doesn't mind flowing water such as Pothos. These aquarium filters are becoming a popular choice these days and are getting used a lot especially in larger aquariums. 

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and learnt something new from it. I have built quite a lot of different filters and written articles on them. If this filter is not for you then i would suggest reading my other articles and have a look at different designs of my diy aquarium filter. If you learn more from watching then reading, then please visit my youtube channel as you will find quite lot of videos on diy aquarium filter and setting up filter in aquarium.

Thank you
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