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Water Pumps


December 13, 2018 | By Tom Sarac

by Tom Sarac

Larger marine aquariums of approximately 50 gallons and up often have overflows and assorted plumbing, which leads back and forth from a bottom mounted sump.

Given the popularity of reef systems these days and the great success many reefers are enjoying in propagating coral, the environment for a sump pump is only getting more demanding. Supplementing calcium and alkalinity levels with sump-mounted reactors keep these levels high to fuel hard coral growth. This is tough on submerged pumps of any kind, and when you consider power and higher head height performance from a good sump pump, you are placing load on it. The presence of minerals that will precipitate around the impeller chamber, due to the heat, represents further torture for this hardworking hardware.

Some marine aquarists have also opted to maintain a refugium in their sump. This adds to the possibility of bits of macro algae or substrate material entering the pump, making this undoubtedly tough on impellers.

So what does this mean when selecting a marine sump pump?

You should look for some clear indication on the packaging that the pump has been recommended for use in marine aquariums and reefs because many pumps are not. Fluval SEA SP-Series sump pumps have been certified for use in saltwater environments. Sump pumps ensure water is exposed to your skimmer and other equipment. It’s very important to use a quality sump pump for a function that is so critical to the life of your fish and coral.


So how do you help protect your sump pump from this harsh environment? Here are a few important points to help you do that:

  1. Make sure you remove your sump pump for a thorough cleaning 3-4 times a year, about every 3 months if you use a calcium and/or alkalinity reactor. Simply submerge the pump in a 4:1 vinegar to fresh water solution and run it for an hour. Then, open the volute (front of impeller housing) and thoroughly clean the impeller, impeller well and the entire inside of this housing. Re-assemble the pump and rinse under fresh running water. It is now ready to be re-installed.
  2. Include a 90-degree elbow on the intake of the pump, positioned to face the bottom of the sump. This will prevent air from entering the pump and will prolong its life span.
  3. Make sure you employ an effective bubble trap in your sump to prevent air and any debris from entering the pump.
  4. When hard plumbing (or exterior to sump installation) your sump pump, make sure you utilize true union ball valves before and after the pump to facilitate installation and removal.


Making the right choice depends on your needs. Evaluate the size of your aquarium and what you will be keeping. Do you want the sump pump to contribute to significant water movement within the aquarium? What is the head height the pump will have to contend with?

A performance graph is included on the Fluval SEA SP-Series sump pump packaging as well as online. If you can answer the questions and consideration above, this graph will help you select the right pump for your installation.

Finally, remember that bigger is not always better when it comes to a pump. Higher wattage means more heat imparted to the water, so if you are not going to use the power, there is no need to purchase the larger-sized pump. That said, if you do plan on adding equipment that could impact pump performance, then be sure to add an allowance for additional pump power when making your decision.


Tom Sarac reviews the key features and benefits of the SP saltwater aquarium Sump Pumps from Fluval SEA.


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