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Shipping a sump

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People ask if I'll build and ship a sump to their location, and I always forewarn them that is is very expensive. Here's why.

You've got this large acrylic vessel that has to get from Point A (Ft. Worth, Texas) to Point B (somewhere else in the U.S.)...


I have shipped quite a few sumps over the years, and even with very careful packaging, UPS and FedEx have both cracked them during transit. Any sump I ship is insured against damage, and if it occurs, a claim has to be filed. It can take up to 30 days to get resolution. Once the funds are available, I can send that to you or build a new sump.

I want to take a moment out to explain that Fedex has worked with me each time damage has occurred. What I want is 100% success so that no claim ever needs to be filed. Their shipping department recommended that I build a sump, box it up, and ship it to their package testing department to let them do their worst, and if it survives, they will honor every claim quickly with no questions asked. The only problem with that is: 1) I have to pay for the sump (materials), the packaging and the shipping, plus all my time involved, which would run about $300 to $400 out of pocket. 2) If I was FedEx, I would make sure that it was in fact destroyed so I would never have to honor a claim. LOL So, I've not taken them up on that offer. I had an alternative idea: make a plywood coffin lined with foam that I ship each sump in, and the receiver would send it back empty. Unfortunately, FedEx would charge me the full shipping cost each way, making that option implausible. If they would return the crate for a minimal amount, it would be worth it to never have to file a claim ever again.

Regardless, I pack them the best way I can. I order custom-made boxes that are made of double-corrugated cardboard. These boxes run about $25 to $35 each, and are made at a box store about 20 minutes away. I pick them up when ready.


The sheet of pink foam taped to the top of the sump is included for the receiver to install under the sump in the aquarium stand. This comes from Home Depot, and is $13 a sheet.

The sump is carefully centered within the box so that all six sides have 4" of padded protection, using foam ribs to keep it from shifting.



Packing peanuts are added now to fill in the void. A large bag costs $17, which is a bargain.



This long 4" wide rib is inserted on both sides to keep it centered in the box.



More peanuts.




The top ribs are 3.25" wide, put on top of the 3/4" foam panel to make 4" of padding.


Peanuts are added, then the box is shaken to make sure all the voids are filled. If more are needed, they are added.


The box is carefully closed, and taped shut.


It takes about an hour to pack a sump like this. Then I take it to FedEx / Kinkos where it is measured, weighed, and labeled. In the past, I've done all of this extra work for free, but I simply can't do that any longer. Please understand that my time is just as valuable as yours.

Shipping via FedEx Ground with insurance* $155 to $194.
Custom made box & tape $25 to $35 each
Pink foam for under sump and to keep sump centered $13
Packing Peanuts $17
Time to pack, run to FedEx $40

* Part of this costs includes: a $45 surcharge for any box that is over 130" total (length + girth), and $2.50 if it goes to a residential address.

The reason I created this page is to clarify what is involved. Shipping will cost $220 to $300 or more for larger sumps. Sumps shipped in crates on pallets are significantly more.

Smaller sump will cost less to ship, but they would have to be very small. I recently shipped a sump that was 36" long and it cost $136 for FedEx to get it to Connecticut. The way FedEx computes shipping rates, they take a measurement of weight and total inches. Invariably, most sumps shipped are considered "over-sized" , between 131" and 165" limit and not exceeding 70 lbs. To figure out the total inches, add up (in inches) the length of box plus the girth. The one that cost $136 to ship was 148" & 46 lbs.

So how small is small? It would have to be less than 130" total. Take the box size, minus 4" of padding on all six sides, and the sump would have to be 30 x 14 x 15 basically. That would only cost $45, plus packing costs and my time. So shipping for a small sump wouild cost $130 total.

Can I just pick it up and save the money? YES! I'd much rather you pick it up and save me the effort of packing your sump. I'm located in Fort Worth, Texas.

Can I use my own shipping company? Most definitely. If you can find an alternative that gets it there safely, that would be great. In that case, you would just pay me for my time to box it up and the packing materials used ($100).

Do you do anything different since this article was written? October 2014: Yes, now the sump is placed in a snug double corrugated box first, and that is then placed in a larger box with packing peanuts.  This has eliminated almost all damage, other than one cracked order in 2013. See below for pictures.  Peanuts fill the void between the inner box and the outer box, and this has made them pretty much bulletproof. :)




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