Cyclic Tasks: Sump Cleaning

Table of Contents

This article is part of the “Cyclic tasks” series, intended for beginner aquarists who are looking for the basics of running a saltwater aquarium, or for those who are considering setting up a tank and want to understand the amount of work involved.

In the article What work on the aquarium should be done periodically you’ll find a complete list of tasks, along with links to articles that expand on individual topics.

Happy reading!

Why clean the sump at all?

All impurities from the aquarium flow into the sump. A significant part of the dirt is captured by mechanical filtration and by the skimmer. However, there are a lot of nooks in the sump where dirt can settle. Impurities in the sump affect the deterioration of parameters in water. In addition, filter media and equipment in the sump may also need regular cleaning.

Sump cleaning can be combined with other work in the aquarium, such as water replacement or cleaning the pump of the skimmer and the return pump

Cleaning the sump

In the first step we turn off the water circulation. All equipment should be switched off from the electricity and removed from the sump. We remove the return pump and the skimmer from the sump – we will clean the whole thing, not only the pump but also the body. We remove the heater last so that it’s cooled down. If we have additional filtration media, we also take them out the sump and put them in a bucket of saltwater, where we’ll rinse them later.

After removing all equipment from the sump, we clean the whole thing with its compartments. Then we start cleaning the equipment, so that in the meantime all the dirt from cleaning the sump settles on its bottom. In the next step, when the dirt has already settled, we suck it out with a pump. The principle is the same as in the article link about vacuuming dirt from the aquarium, only in this case we don’t suck out by gravity, but with a pump.

After getting rid of the dirt from the sump, we reassemble the equipment, start the circulation and turn the rest of the devices on.


Cleaning the sump is a regular job. Here, too, we can assume that these works may have different cyclical nature. If someone has a clean aquarium and the sump doesn’t get dirty as often, then this task can be done less often. Using devices for mechanical water filtration, such as the Smart roller, will reduce the amount of dirt in the sump.

About the author

Picture of Marek Protasewicz

Marek Protasewicz

Reefkeeping has been my passion for over 10 years now. I love learning. The hobby has taught me many valuable lessons, patience being the best example. Combining work and passion is my path. I run Crazy Coral, a marine aquarium shop, for a number of years. Building this business from the scratch I learnt from my own mistakes at a heavy cost.
Later I managed a project aimed at development of methods for quick growth of Corals in non-natural conditions. The project was carried out by Get Sales, Poland. Presently, I am responsible for distribution strategy at Reef Factory, of which I am a co-founder. The company produces smart devices for marine aquaristics. The last projects I have been involved in are Social Reef and ReefPedia.

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