New to Hobby. Please help with plans and madness


New member
Hello everyone. I am a long time lurker and am finally putting together my tanks.

A bit of background. A few years ago, I bought a 90g tank and 120g tank off craigslist with rocks, sump, skimmer, canister filters, T5 lights, and other equipment. At the time, I bleached and acid bath the rocks and cleaned up the 120g tank. I set up the 120g tank to check for leaks and it was fine.

Fast forward to today. I have been planning to setup the 120g tank for a while and now with the SAH orders, it is the perfect distraction.

However, I keep getting wrapped up in the plumbing and the skimmer.


The 120g tank is a glass tank with 4 holes drilled for the overflow.
The 90g tank is a glass tank with no predrilled holes.
Both have custom DIY stands.

Acrylic sump 2ft x 14" approximately.
I also have a 10g tank ready as a quarantine tank.


Issue 1:
The protein skimmer I received is an old AES ETSS protein skimmer. It looks like an 800, but is square instead of round. I didn't receive a pump with the skimmer and looking at the price of the pump, I am not sure if I should try to use this skimmer or just upgrade to a newer skimmer. Also, the sump is not pre-drilled for the skimmer. I have read the excellent ETSS skimmer thread here, but still can't decided if I want to spend the money on an external pump only to find out I should have gone with a newer in-sump pump. I don't want to spend a fortune on the skimmer at the moment.

The acrylic sump is not the largest, it is about 2ft long and 14 inches wide. It is basically one big chamber, two baffles, and the return chamber. I am going to add a piece of acrylic to make a refugium before the return.

I also plan to convert one of the container filters into a denitrator.

I also recently purchased an RO/DO unit and plan to make a mixing station and have an ATO.


I plan to use either the Herbie or BeanAnimal method. The sump has two filter socks in the first chamber, which I plan to continue to use. Then I would have either an in-sump protein skimmer or use the ETSS skimmer either in sump or externally without drilling into the sump. I am not sure if the denitrator should come before or after the refugium. Off the return, I plan to have a manifold for any further additions. I forgot to mention, I am planning on hard plumbing everything.

I am rather surprised at the cost of valves and this forum has been great to find alternatives to some of the more expensive valves. I am trying to plan and draw out the plans before buying the valves online, so I know the type and number of valves and unions I need.

The tanks are in a former bathroom in the basement. There is a spout on the other side of the room from the tanks. There is a in-ground drain, but I think it is rusted out and only the emergency trap drains. There are also two drain pipe from other bathrooms accessible in the room. So my plan is to have waste lines plumbed into these drains. RO/DI unit is easy. I have seen some plans for skimmer to connect to a drain and would like to have possible overflow go straight to the drain. Every once in a while my power goes out for a minute or so, so I want to avoid any flooding as much as possible. I plan to have shutoffs and some type of float valves in RO/DI and sump where needed. I also have an APC unit I can use as power backup.

With all this said, I am terrible at drawing out plans and knowing what really should go where. I have been watching youtube videos on plumbing, BRS videos, and researching, but would greatly appreciate any help.

As to the 90g tank, I haven't decided what to do since it is not pre-drilled. At first, I wanted to connect both tanks to the same system. Now, I am leaning towards making that a freshwater tank for the kiddo since I have another canister filter to use.



Well-known member
Hello and welcome! The plans sound great. I'd go for a brand new skimmer; it seems your instinct is leading that way. Nothing like a warranty for a little assurance.

Any chance you can use the 90g as a sump/refugium? Perhaps more footprint for a larger skimmer?

The only caveat I have about basement tanks and plumbing is to be aware of what saltwater and salt condensation can do by way of rust damage to vulnerable nearby materials- I'm sure you've already thought of that.

Good luck!

Vinny Kreyling

Premium Member
You don't say how high the sump is. Remember a sump runs around 1/2 full to allow for drainage on a shut down. In my estimation @ 16" high its about 23 gallons leaving you with about 12 gallons running. I would use the 90 as a sump. Get glass 1/8" narrower than the inside width & silicone them in for baffles, not hard to do. 4 holes in the 120 sounds like a 2 overflow system. The best way for this is a Herbie drain & returns over the back. You will need gate valves on the full siphon pipes with the larger of the 2 being the emergency.

Michael Hoaster

Registered Seaweedist
Premium Member
Welcome to RC, nappyloxs! Good job on your research. Planning ahead is key.

Your sump is too small. The whole point of sumps is to have room to add stuff without cluttering the display. Sumps can be anything that holds water. They don't have to look cool, since they are hidden. You may already have something in your home you can use.

I love the idea of setting up the 90 for the kid! A little friendly competition will help you both keep up with maintenance, etcetera. Plus the educational benefits, with the similarities and differences of the two setups, should be great.

No rush on the skimmer. You won't need it when cycling the tank. So you can put that off a bit.

Filter socks = slavery.