Aquarium Sump & Refugiums: Five Higly Recommended Low-Noise Brands

If you’re planning on setting up a reef aquarium or making an upgrade, you’ve heard of filter sumps and refugiums. But do you know what these terms mean?

A filter sump can be a refugium but a refugium isn’t really a filter sump.

Well, there are a lot of ways to do each but let’s start off with a brief history of filter sumps and refugiums. The original filter sumps were designed to be primarily for biological filtration.

They were referred to as wet-dry and trickle filters. Here’s why.

best sump refugium for reef tank

Wet-dry and Trickle Filters

The Berlin Method

Aquarium Automation

Protein Skimmers and Filter Sumps

DC Return Pumps

What is a Refugium?

Filter Sump meets Refugium

Best Reef Sump & Refugium Reviews

You no longer have to piece together a home-made sump rig and hope it works. Manufacturers have taken all the best features and combined them into perfectly designed units.

But which model is right for you? We’ll take a look at a range of filter sumps with refugium capabilities to help you choose the best for your tank’s needs.


1. Eshopps Reef Sump

If you’re looking for a basic acrylic filter sump, Eshopps RS-series has you covered.

All RS sumps have 300-micron filter bags and a foam pad to trap protein skimmer microbubbles. All RS sumps use a three-chamber design.

The first chamber contains the filter bag(s). The center chamber is for a protein skimmer. The last chamber is for the return pump. There are four RS filter sumps: RS-57, 100, 200 and 300.

If you’d like to have a filter sump and refugium, Eshopps makes those too. The R-series refugiums combine the filter bag feature with a larger second chamber designed especially for refugium use. The water flow pattern is altered so it washes gently across the rock and algae.

  • RS-75: Rated for 10-75 gallons - Dimensions: 18"x10"x16"
  • RS-100: Rated for 75-125 gallons - Dimensions: 24"x12"x16"
  • RS-200: Rated for 125-225 gallons - Dimensions: 30"x12"x16"
  • RS-300: Rated for 225-300 gallons - Dimensions: 36"x14"x16"


  • Well-built acrylic construction.
  • Quiet operation.
  • Wide range of sizes.
  • Refugium option.


  • Return side of the RS-75 is a little tight for many water pumps.

2. Trigger Systems

Trigger Systems is a US-based manufacturer of filter sumps, dosing systems and automatic top-offs (ATOs).

The acrylic sumps are hand assembled using top-grade acrylic and precision welding methods.

Trigger Systems sumps have rounded corners reported to increase seam strength. The beautiful color options (Ruby, Sapphire, Crystal, Emerald and Amethyst) look great underneath the reef aquarium.

The sump has adjustable baffles, making it easy for the sump to double as a refugium. The water height in the skimmer section can be adjusted. You can use filter socks or filter foam blocks for particulate removal.

Trigger Systems sumps come pre-drilled for adding an automatic top-off system.

These sumps are available in a wide range of sizes, ranging from the small 18” cube to the monster Triton 44” sump.


  • Outstanding craftsmanship.
  • Plenty of size and color options.
  • Modular design makes customization easy.
  • Quiet operation.


  • None.

3. CPR AquaFuge2 Hang-On Refugium

If you’re looking for a simple HOB refugium or can’t fit one under your tank, the AquaFuge 2 deserves a close look.

The AquaFuge 2 provides a secluded safe zone for live foods like copepods and amphipods, to feed SPS and LPS corals along with fish in the reef tank.

The optional LED light will allow you to grow macroalgae inside the hang-on fuge. The internal baffle system prevents sand and live foods from being washed out of the chamber.

The refugium comes with a Rio submersible pump, making it a plug and play set-up. The AquaFuge 2 is available in three sizes.

  • Small: 13" x 4.5"x 12"
  • Medium: 19"x 4.5" x 12"
  • Large: 25"x 4.5"x 12"


  • Simple HOB design.
  • Includes water pump.
  • Multiple units can be used on large aquariums.


  • LED light not included.

4. Pro Clear Aquatic Systems

Located in Florida, Pro Clear Aquatic Systems is a large custom aquarium, filter and aquatic display company.

All Freedom series sumps have electric equipment wire holders and a probe holder.

The Freedom 4-in-1 offers has four filtration possibilities for reef aquariums; mechanical filtration with a 200-micron bag, protein skimmer chamber, chemical filtration when using the optional Chemical Media Cartridge, and biological filtration in refugium compartment. This sump is designed for quiet operation and uses a patented silencer design.

Four sizes are available.

  • Freedom 100: Rated for up to 100 gallons - Dimensions: 16"x 16"x16"
  • Freedom 200: Rated for up to 225 gallons - Dimensions: 32"x 12"x16"
  • Freedom 300: Rated for 300 gallons - Dimensions: 37"x 14.5"x16"
  • Freedom 400: Rated for 400 gallons - Dimensions: 45"x 14.5"x16"


  • Well-built with quality fit and finish.
  • Unique electric wire guide.
  • Includes a probe holder.
  • Quiet operation.


  • None.

5. Aqueon ProFlex Sump

The Aqueon ProFlex series of three-chambered sumps are modular, meaning you can customize the set-up in several different ways.

The basic sump design uses two 200-micron filter socks in the first chamber of the sump.

Incoming water passes through the socks, for particulate removal. The modular design allows you to install an optional wet-dry biological rack that holds plastic biomedia. You’ll have to purchase the rack as an extra component and supply your own biomedia. Reef aquarists normally don’t use a wet-dry, but if you want one, it’s available.

For a Berlin-style filter, drop an internal protein skimmer into the second sump chamber and return pump in the third. It’s easy to add a refugium to the third chamber. Just add rock rubble and macroalgae along with a small LED light fixture. The ProFlex sump comes in four sizes.

  • ProFlex 1: rated for 44-55 gallons - Size: 21” x 18” x 11”
  • ProFlex 2: Rated for 55-75 gallons - Size: 30.9" X 11" X 19"
  • ProFlex 3: Rated for 65-110 gallons - Size: 26.3” x 17.4” x 14.8"
  • ProFlex 4: Rated for 120-210 gallons - Size: 36.9” x 19” x 14.8"


  • Quiet operation when used as a berlin or refugium.
  • Filter socks provide good particulate filtration.
  • Works well as a refugium when a light is added.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.


  • Poor packaging has resulted in damaged panels and higher return rates.

6. Windridercreations Sump Kit

Windrider Creations is a custom aquarium and stand company. They also design and manufacture acrylic filter sumps and refugiums. The hand-crafted sumps are made from ¼” thick acrylic.

The sumps are available as a complete, ready to run unit or in DIY kit form. The 50-gallon sump (45”x15”x15”) comes fully assembled and includes two filter socks. Two bulkhead fittings are included for connection to your overflow.

The large 20-inch water input chamber is designed to hold the socks and a large protein skimmer. The second chamber has plenty of room for a refugium filled with rock and algae. The return chamber has room for most return water pumps.

This filter sump-refugium is rated for aquariums under 200 gallons. If you want to build it yourself, The Filter Kit comes with pre-cut panels. Glue the pieces together to form a 30”x12”x15” sump and refugium. The DIY kit doesn’t include filter socks or inlet hardware. But if you’re confident about assembling your own filter sump, you’ll be able to add your own custom water inlets and filter socks.

The DIY kit includes detailed instructions, product support and even a how-to video on YouTube.


  • Hand-cut and fitted.
  • Reliable build-quality.
  • Custom sizes available.
  • DIY option.


  • Limited in-stock sizes.

Final Recommendations

Most aquarists want to purchase a proven sump design that works without making any modifications. Fortunately, all these sump-refugium products meet these criteria.

The Eshopps filter sumps are basic designs with no fancy extras.

Trigger Systems offer luxury sump-refugium units that are beautiful and functional. They’re popular with reef aquarists who build their aquariums to include automatic top offs and other automation sensors.

If you just need a refugium, the CPR AquaFuge 2 is a proven performer. Simple and effective are the trademarks of this HOB refugium.

The best advice for selecting a sump or refugium is study the specifications to make sure it will fit into the aquarium stand. Then check the chamber dimensions to see if your return pump and protein skimmer will sit comfortably inside.

Some manufacturers off a wide variety of add-on designed to drop into their sumps. Then compare what features are available for the sump models that fit. Some designs are bare bones while other have many optional add-ons that make reef-keeping easier.

If you have any questions or comments on sumps and refugiums, please post them below!