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FAQs on Freshwater Aquarium Hang-on Power Filtration

Related Articles: Freshwater Filtration, Power Filter Impressions, A review of some popular mechanical filtration systems by Steven Pro, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for Beginners,

Related FAQs: Internal Power Filters, Freshwater Filtration, Know Your Filter Media, A Concise Guide to Your Options by Neale Monks, Biological Filtration, Establishing Cycling, FW Sponge Filters, FW Canister Filters, Chemical Filtrants,

Predatory livestock need bigger filtration. Butis butis... an Eleotrid of interest.

HOB Filter Modifications     1/16/20
Dear WWM Crew,
<Hi Mark>
I currently have a 20gal high that is in the middle of a fishless cycle. I don’t plan on making any huge adjustments to the filtration until I have the cycle done. Before I began cycling I modified the Tetra Whisper Power Filter (PF20) that came with the tank. I added a sponge to the intake, removed the activated carbon pad as well as the small sponge that came with the filter to make room for 1 AquaClear foam insert (which was cut down) and 1 AquaClear biomax insert. Over the last few weeks of having this filtration setup I’m beginning to have a few concerns.
- Some of the are not fully submerged.
<Filter media does not work if it is not fully submerged, (wet dry bio balls excepted).>
- The water is not force to go through the sponge and only has to go through the BioMax balls.
<If this is the case, Biomax will just work as a mechanical filter until it gets clogged>
- The added filtration in the chamber stalls some enough of the water so that some water is running back into the tank from where the pump enter the filter.
<I‘d take out at least half of the Biomax balls to relieve the filter and get a decent/constant water flow>
I’m worried that with how the filter is set up that the foam and BioMax balls are not able to build up bacteria. Part of this concern is that I can see build up of something on the intake sponge and not of the bio filters inside the filter (I have a feeling that the intake sponge is just picking up the small particles in the tank and that is all it is). I know these are probably small concerns and should not be worried about; however I’m curious to hear someone else’s opinion. I have attached some pictures if need be. I look forward to hearing a response!
<Just correct the above and you'll be fine. BTW, I resized your pix to a lower resolution, next time please see the uploading guidelines.><<Excellent Wil. B>>
Mark Aikema
<You're most welcome. Wil.>

Re: Restarting an Emperor 400        9/29/16
<Well first things first, starting with what may be the obvious but it sounds like you have air trapped in the intake, breaking the siphon.>
Ok, yeah, but how do I reengage the siphon. Priming the filter has always worked before. And I have checked the seal to see if there is anything wrong (cracks, holes, etc.) with the connection and can't find anything. Is there some trick I am not aware of to get it going? One the intake is attached to the impeller, the siphon should engage, assuming everything
else is correct.
Jon Mathews
<When I've had this problem, I fill the filter up with a cup as full as I can, then submerge the whole intake tube/pipe separately (in the tank). Then cap the top end with your fingertip, making sure to leave the intake/bottom end below the tank waterline. Set the top end without letting air inside into the filled filter below the water line inside the filter, then fit it into the slot over the impeller. Pretty much exactly like using a siphon hose to get water from a bucket or whatnot into something else lower down. In short, the pump in the filter may not have the muscle to pull the water up with enough force to push out any air trapped inside so you need to set up the siphon manually. I am possibly making this sound
more convoluted than it is...the key thing is just to submerge the whole pipe and tap out the air bubbles, and never let either end out of the water without capping the upper end with your finger until you can submerge that end into the filter body and take your finger off. Getting that totally airtight may be slightly tricky, but no biggie. Make sure you have good
I drain a tank from a water line about 5' down to a bucket on the floor for water changes and let me tell ya, if there is the tiniest but of air in the hose, Grrrr. If this doesn't work then we can troubleshoot further.>
Re: Restarting an Emperor 400        9/30/16

Hi Earl,
Thank you for the detailed explanation. I was able to get some time to try it tonight and unfortunately it didn't work. I filled the intake tube with water, capped the bottom, and inserted the top end into the filter. I also had the filter filled as high as I could with water. I double-checked that the intake was firmly in its tube and had my wife hit the switch.
Unfortunately, the same thing happened. The water that was in there pumped out and there was no new water coming in. My hand under the intake in the tank felt little to no suction. Might I need a new impeller? This is weird because my 280 on the same tank is working fine, so it's something specific with the 400.
Jon Mathews
<Hmmm sorry I couldn't help more. What is the condition of the filter? Perhaps take the impeller out of there and soak it vinegar and clean off any deposits.>
Re: Restarting an Emperor 400       10/21/16

Hi Earl,
I wanted to follow up on this. I reached out to Marineland for some help and they sent me a new impeller. This worked a bit better but what ultimately resolved my issue was a second prime after the filters were on.
It took another pitcher to finally create the seal that allowed the impeller to work. Thank you for your help on this one. I am feeling a bit derpy because I should have tried more water sooner. But in the end, it's working.
Jon Mathews
<Glad to hear there was a good resolution!>

HOB filters in 55 gallon tank off since July 13th      8/5/16
I figured this might be a less conventional question.
My AquaClear 70 HOB, Cascade 150 HOB, Odyssea 130 Hang on the back Canister
Filter, and CAP-1200 Internal Filter have been off since July 13th, leaving only my other Internal Filter as the only filter running (since the HOBs were damaged in an electrical fire while the CAP-1200 got clogged up). Do you think this could cause any potential problems in regard to bacteria infections and other diseases?
<Mmm; other factors may well be important... stock/ing, foods/feeding, water changes and other maint. procedures....>
It seems now my 9 or 10 inch Tilapia has hole in the head (Hexamita) as of 7-10 days ago. Will the bacteria in the
HOB filters die off while the filters are not running.
<In time yes; die back population wise, out entirely w/o water>
How quickly will they die off?
<A pretty standard pop. curve for Monerans... quickly at first... ninety some percent w/in a day....>
The media in my AquaClear 70 in particular may have gotten a little dry (since I had to take out the motor unit a few times to take photos of it to send to the manufacturer) so some of the bacteria in there probably died.
<Will repopulate about as quickly. I'd add, fire up at least one, some redundant filtration/filter here. Increase maintenance otherwise. Bob Fenner>

Filter Making Grinding and Buzzing Noise 1/19/12
I have a fairly new (less than 2 week old) 3.5 gallon aquarium. A couple days ago the filter, an Aquarius brand "Mini Might Power Filter" (it came with the tank)
<A cheapy Koller-Craft/Tom unit...>
, started making a grinding and buzzing noise. It would buzz for about 2 seconds, then make a grinding noise. The bubbles coming out of the filter were extremely small, making the water appear cloudy. So I unplugged it and took a closer look to find that the holes that the water comes out of were partially plugged with small floating plants that I have (I don't know what they are called, sorry!). I wiped the plants off, put it back in the water, and it was working properly.
Today, I did a ~25% water change, and when I plugged the filter back in when I was done it was making the noise again. I tried unplugging it, checking it for plants or other debris but I didn't see any. Just to be safe I rinsed it out with a bit of tank water, but that didn't work either.
<Some air is stuck around the impeller likely>
The water level is at the "optimum fill line". When I pour water directly into the filter (where the filter cartridge is) the noise stops (and the normal "waterfall" noise starts), but starts again as soon as the water is filtered through.
I am assuming it is oxygenating the tank enough for now because there are still bubbles from the filter and my fish are acting normally. However, the noise is annoying and I know it isn't normal. What can I do to fix this filter, or should I just buy a new one?
<I'd try "shaking" the unit, after the tank is refilled and the unit itself filled w/ water... to try to shake out the air>
It is on warranty but that would require me sending in the filter, and thus not having a filter for my fish for an extended period of time.
Thank you,
<That/this or a better unit. Look to the Tetra, Whisper, Hagen, Marineland/Aqueon lines. Bob Fenner>
Re: Filter Making Grinding and Buzzing Noise 1/19/12

I also forgot to note that if I pull the filter cartridge up slightly (maybe a quarter to half an inch) the noise stops.
<A good clue... Perhaps some bit of the filter media the cartridge is made of is in the way... or the cartridge itself is creating too much intake vacuum, making the impeller unstable. BobF>
Re: Filter Making Grinding and Buzzing Noise 1/20/12

<Hey there>
Thank you for your reply.
Shaking the filter didn't work, so I am led to believe, as you suggested, that it is a problem with the filter cartridge. What would I do to fix this? Would getting a new filter cartridge possibly fix this?
<Mmm, maybe. Worth trying>
<Welcome. BobF>

snail in HOB power filter 1/19/12
Hello everybody at WWM,
Thank you for the fantastic job you guys (and gals) are doing. I will have to think hard to name things I enjoy more on the web than exploring your wonderful site!
I do not have a question per se, but I feel like sharing this with you.
<Please do>
I have a moderate-to-heavily planted 24 g community tank. I use a Dolphin H 500 HOB power filter which obviously runs round the clock. The tank has some snails, I won't say an infestation, but surely in numbers I want reduced. I have tried methods recommended by you and they are yielding good results :)
Most are Malaysian Trumpet Snails *(Melanoides tuberculata)*, very few really tiny Ramshorn ones (I am not sure of the species, but not the Apple Snail lookalikes) and of course some Pond Snails *(Physella gyrina)*.
Over the last few days I have heard the otherwise whisper silent HOB give spurts of jarring 'krrrrcckk' type noise, which only lasted a few seconds at the most so I attributed them to probable fluctuations in the supply voltage. I was wrong.
Last night I woke up and did not hear the background hum which is very faintly audible if there's no other noise. A tiny MTS had slipped into the space between the impeller and its housing, jamming it. The filtration had stopped, the current kept flowing through the armature and warmed the filter mechanism. The stagnant water collected inside was really hot!
I dismantled it, threw away the hot water, allowed it to cool somewhat and it was back working. I shudder to think what might have happened if it was in an empty room and went unnoticed through the night! I was simply lucky.
<And thankfully observant>
So all with HOBs and tiny snails, please take note and be careful Thank you again. You are just too good!
Devakalpa. India
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Re: snail in HOB power filter 1/20/12

Hello Bob,
Thank you for your reply.
<Thank you for your sharing. BobF>

Marina HOB filter 1/11/12
Hi Neale
Have you had any experience with these?
<None at all.>
I have an S15 running in a 60L with fairly heavy planting.
<This isn't a "long" 60 gallon tank is it? But 60 litres, in which case the "L" should be lower case, "l". American aquarists often put the "L" after a tank size to state whether it's a "long" tank as opposed to a "tall" tank which is taller but shorter for the same volume. It's all very confusing!>
It was set up in June and is stocked as follows: 6 x black phantom tetra, 4 x Danio, 4 x harlequin Rasbora, 2 x gold ram, 6 x cherry shrimp, 4 x Amano shrimp and a small number of "hitchhiker" snails from plants. I followed the usual rules of thumb for stocking density and don't believe I'm over the score for a tank that size but the problem is I'm still getting ammonia showing in test results about at 0.25ppm, as tested on an API test kit. I'm getting about 20ppm of nitrate produced in a week, pH is 7.5 and nitrite shows zero. I'm aware that the conditions aren't ideal for the rams and their new home is cycling as we speak.
<If the tank is 60 litres/15 gallons and has been running since June, and assuming basically sound maintenance, ammonia and nitrite should be zero -- assuming adequate filtration and sensible stocking. And that's the tricky part. For 60 litres, your aquarium is quite busy. Not wildly overstocked, but busy. Danios aren't a good choice for tanks less than 60 cm/2 ft in length, which is normally anything smaller than 20 gallons/75 litres.
Harlequins are also quite chunky. Both species can be busy and the Danios especially dash about. The Rams are certainly big fish for the aquarium. A single pair might be okay, but add the other fish, and things start looking much worse. Now, the Marina S15 filters rated for tanks up to 15 gallons/60 litres. When manufacturers say a filter is adequate for an aquarium up to size X, they normally mean "assuming the tank is lightly stocked and the fish modestly fed". In other words, a best case scenario. You're not in that situation, but instead have a heavily stocked, perhaps overstocked, aquarium. The filter is overwhelmed. You'll need to act accordingly. A bigger tank together with a second filter (for example, an internal canister filter) would make sense. For your sort of tank, aim for a turnover rate around 6-8 times the volume of the tank per hour; i.e., for a 60 litre tank, filter or filters rated at or above 6 x 60=360 litres/hour.
The Marina S15 is rated at about 70 US gallons/hour, or about 260 litres/hour, so you can clearly see it's only offering about 70% the filtration you need. A second filter offering around 100-150 litres/hour would be just the ticket. Be sure to concentrate on biological media; if possible, replace Zeolite and carbon with additional biological media.>
Is the problem that the filter is not up to the job? If so, would there be anything wrong with just taking some filter foam and pushing it in the back, behind the existing pads or even just filling the entire HOB portion with bioballs? My guess would be that this would work but I wanted to run it past someone more experienced.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Marina HOB filter 1/11/12

Hi Neale
Thanks for the advice. An additional filter it is then. A larger tank is just not possible financially just now.
<I see.>
You know, it's odd but it's quite common in my old industry for chemists to use "L" instead of "l" for litres, because "l" can quite often be confused with a one! Weird world!
<Indeed! Didn't know that. At least in England, we use "l" for litre, and teach kids to do it that way. Perhaps it was different in the past?>
I'll write out "litre" next time I write and save any confusion.
<As you prefer.>
<Likewise, Neale.>

Filtration advice? FW... 1/10/12
Hello crew, i have a novice's classic question in spite of my experience...
My filter is a hush 55. Not the greatest but it works. I don't use the carbon, just sponge filters that i replace monthly. I cleaned out the filter body itself very thoroughly because it had slowed down to a trickle.
Then i put my old filter media back in. Ran well enough but i still notice that it is not very powerful anymore. I need it to pick up more of the waste because my little fantail and angel make a lot of waste in spite of my proper feedings. All of the waste gets caught in my gravel. My gravel is actually bigger than most others but it should not be catching so much. So should i get a new and stronger filter? The filter is already over sized slightly. And I'm actually not sure what a header is. Though a header is said to create a current that could push it all to my filter. I would not know how to set up an under gravel filter either. Any advice? Thanks, Matt
<So long as ammonia and nitrite are zero, and the water is silt-free, then your filter is adequate. Sponges clog up with time, and need replacing, even if cleaned regularly. You can change up to 50% of the media in a filter every two months without problems. So try changing out one of the sponges for a new one, and then see what happens. It may well be that over the next few months you'll need to gradually swap out the original sponges for new ones. In any event, hang-on-the-back filters aren't the best for messy and/or large fish such as Goldfish. You will find canister filters, especially external canister filters, much more effective. Look for one that provides 6-8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. In other words, if the tank is a 30-gallon one, then choose a filter providing at least 6 x 30 = 180 gallons/hour turnover. Higher turnover rates are better, but above 8 x the volume of the tank, i.e., 240 gallons/hour, some fish, e.g., fancy Goldfish, can find it difficult to swim about. By all means buy the slightly bigger filter, but use the taps on the hoses and/or a spray bar to reduce water turbulence. Cheers, Neale.>
Filtration advice? 1/11/12

Thanks Neal, i will look into that!
<Most welcome! Cheers, Neale.>

Filtration 1/5/12
Hello, I have two twenty gallon tanks, each with a hang on back whisper filter sized for 30-40 gallon tanks, I also have an old , old, BioWheel filter sized for 125 gph, don't know the tank size for this, they don't make them anymore, now they make 100, for 20 gallon tanks, and 150 for 30 gallon tanks, I wanted to know what your opinion on getting the smaller New BioWheel, made for 20 gallon tanks, or go with the one larger for 30 gallon tanks,
<I'd go w/ the larger for messy fishes like goldfish; or two of the smaller on each tank>
I attached a photo of each I was wanting to get a new one as this old one on each tank is about 10 years or so old, and it is getting noisy,
<Mmm, sometimes these can be (easily) repaired. Do take it to your local fish store for them to check out>
the wheel is very old looking .
<And these can be either bleach-washed (see WWM re cleaning, decor...) or replaced by themselves, w/o tossing the whole unit>
Cathy Hart
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

In regard to the last message sent about filtration and getting new BioWheel filter, I have larger sized Goldfish in these 20 gallon tanks
Thanks again
Cathy Hart
<Yes; had "read ahead". Cheers, BobF>
Re: Filtration

Ok Thanks for advice, So it is ok to add on each twenty gallon tank, the larger BioWheel rated for 30 gallon tanks, as I already have the hang on back whisper filters rated for 30- 40?? I don't want to over filtrate!!
<Ahh, not to worry. Practically speaking this is not possible. Better to have more than less by far>
Thanks again
Cathy Hart
<Cheers, B>

Which hang on filter to use? 12/23/11
<Hello Kent>
I have been out of the hobby for quite a few years. I decided to buy a 36 gallon bow setup. I will be raising guppies and a few general community fish. I purchased a foam filter and Tetra Whisper 40 to hang on the back.
The Whisper was anything but quiet and I returned it. I have this tank in my study and need something that is nice and quiet. I've looked at tank filters. Some people love them... others hate them. It seems they have issues with the rubber o ring leaking over time and other issues with hose connections. The guy at my local fish store quit carrying them because of the leaking issues.
I then went back to my hang on back filters and did some more searches. I see mixed reviews on lots of them. There are so many to choose from.
Hagen Fluval C2, Aqueon, PennPlax, Tetra has a new one redesigned, and Hagen Aquaclear.
We sometimes go on vacation for a few days and I don't want to worry about water leaks or power outages and having the pump not prime and restart. I would appreciate any help you can give.
<Personally, I like the Marineland Magnum HOT Filter. I've had mine for many years and it never fails me when I want to use it. It's also quiet, easy to clean, and versatile.>
Thanks in advance.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Kent Williby
Re Which hang on filter to use? Canister sel., FW 12/26/11

I sure didn't expect a reply on the Christmas weekend but thanks!
<You're welcome. It's hard to turn down triple time. :-)))>
The leaking is my major concern. I saw lots of reviews on the Fluval where folks had the o ring leak and caused a big mess. Maybe the HOT is made better. I'll try to decide what to do. I think a local pet store stocks both the Magnum HOT and Aquaclear that got a good review on your website.
<You should be happy with the Magnum, I am.>
Merry Christmas!
<And to you.>
Thanks again.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Kent Williby
Re Which hang on filter to use? 12/28/11

<Hello Kent>
It looks like I have my aquarium too close to the wall for the Magnum HOT.
I hate to drain it down to move it. Looks like I'm back to a regular hang on back filter or a canister. I'm just afraid of the canisters. I have the aquarium in a nice carpeted room and if it leaks my wife will kill me!
<I can't prevent your wife from shooting you but I believe you have a phobia here. Did you ever consider a tank seam leaking during the night and the end result.....death by hanging. :-)) A quality canister filter such as an Eheim or the Magnum 250 or 350 should not leak if properly
assembled. I've been in this hobby for 30+ years and I have yet to have a canister filter leak.
So either a Aquaclear, Tetra etc.
Or maybe nothing at all. I'm using a sponge filter for mechanical and bio flirtation. Could I just get an in tank device for charcoal for the chemical portion?
Thanks again. Hope you had a nice weekend!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Kent Williby

Hob of filtration I already have 12/18/11
Hey guys,
Thank you in advance for your time spent on my question. I have searched all over the place and can't find a simple answer. I am trying to determine what the gph of my current system is.
<Add together the turnover rates of each water pump. Air pumps aren't comparable, and turnover rates of undergravel filters driven by air pumps is very difficult to estimate.>

I understand how to get this information for each type of equipment I am using but how do I add all the components together for the gph as a whole?
For example, I have one hob filter at 350 gph, one undergravel filter with air pump at 70 gph with two up flow tubes, and a secondary hob filter at 120 gph.
<For the two hang-on-the-back filters, that's 350 + 120 = 470 gallons/hour.
Ignore the undergravel for because the 70 gallons/hour rate refers to the movement of air, and even if 70 gallons/hour air are pushed through the air-tubes -- and it won't be anything like that much in reality -- then that 70 gallons/hour won't be lifting even a fraction of that amount of water per hour.>
I would like to know how to add all that together so I may determine all the ratings on my different tanks.
<Undergravel filters are difficult to compare with other types of filters, so these sorts of calculations don't really work. For a light to moderately stocked tank, you can generally rely on a pair of air bubble uplifts to provide adequate water flow, but that's about it. Of course, if you use electric pumps, i.e., powerheads, then you have a gallons/hour amount comparable to that of the hang-on-the-back filters.>
Again, thank you. As always, you guys are one of the best sites for great information.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Bio-wheel from a Penguin 150 filter and persistent yellow water in 55G FW 1/3/11
Hello WWM Crew and Happy New Year,
I have a question I would like to submit to you:
How can I preserve a mature bio-wheel from a Penguin 150 filter?
<Not hard.>
I used to have a 20-gallon FW aquarium with the
Penguin, but I upgraded to a 55G with a Cascade 700. I am temporarily keeping the bio-wheel in a container with some aquarium water. I do not have the capacity of keeping both tanks up, but I would love to keep the bio-wheel alive as back up for 'hospital or QT' situations. Should I put the bio-wheel in the 55 g aquarium as 'decoration'?
<Yes, this will work. Anywhere that keeps the media wet, oxygenated, and exposed to an ammonia source -- e.g., fish -- will work just fine and dandy.>
Also, my aquarium water is always yellow.
<Quite normal. Comes from bogwood mostly, and to a much smaller degree to organic decay of plant material, faeces, etc. Activated carbon will remove yellowing, as will regular substantial water changes -- 25% weekly is the standard recommendation. Do remember that carbon needs to be replaced at least every 2 weeks, and the space it takes up in the filter isn't doing biological filtration. Under most situations, carbon is useless, so it's best to leave the filter to biological media, and control yellowing via water changes and/or removal of some or all of the bogwood.>
I have Flo-Max and natural color gravel as substrate for the following plants; Anacharis bunches, Amazon swords, Anubias, a Cabomba; 15 platys, 6 Pristella, 7 Neon Tetras, and 2 Yoyo Botia Loaches. I also found 5 platy fries. I have several natural rocks, light brown in color, some are petrified wood and coming from the 20 G tank (established in November). I do a 10% water change weekly, and scrub the walls gently; I try not to be aggressive in my cleanings. When I test the water with Quick Dip strips these are the levels -- (approximate values as they are on a color chart):
Nitrates within 20,
Nitrites between .5 and 1
<Not good; will eventually stress, kill your fish. Must be zero! The tank is overstocked, under-filtered (perhaps a poor balance of biological media vs. chemical media), and/or the fish are over-fed. Review and act accordingly.>
Ammonia is 0
Chlorine is 0
PH is between 7.8 and 8.4,
GH is 300
KH is 300 also.
I plan on using these strips up and buy the big kit from API, I am not sure I can trust the accuracy of these strips, but the local PetSmart assistant said the were reliable.
<They're good enough. Not as accurate as liquid kits, but easier to use, and if sliced vertically to make two strips from one, very economical. When it comes to nitrite and ammonia, anything above zero is bad, so the precise value doesn't matter too much.>
Any advise?
Many thanks in advance for your input. I really appreciate your time and input.
Sincerely Francesca B
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Bio-wheel from a Penguin 150 filter and persistent yellow water in 55G FW 1/5/11

Hi Neale, Thank you for your prompt reply.
<No problem!>
I suspect I tend to over-feed.
<Naughty, naughty'¦>
I will correct that and do 25% water changes instead of 10%.I also want to compliment you and everyone at WWM for the excellent website, the wealth of information, and the time and patience you "guys" have for "us" newbies!
<We're happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Last Chance for the Tetra Whisper EX70, HOB 11/8/10
Hey there, I have a freshwater 55 gallon tank that came with a Tetra Whisper EX70 pump. It works great, expect for one thing. Twice now the tube/pump part that goes into the tank has fallen off. I don't know how this has happened as both times, it occurred sometime during the night. Last time this happened, I lost 3 small fish only to discover their remains inside the pump. I was horrified. You'd think a pump would have a safe guard to turn off if a large object (fish) gets sucks up into it. That happened two months ago. This morning, the tube has fallen off again. I haven't checked inside of it yet, but 1 one my barbs is more than likely inside as only 2 of the 3 barbs came up for food when I fed them. Do you guys know why the
tube would fall off? And/or something I could do so this won't happen again? I'd rather not replace the pump as I've only had it since July of this year. But if it comes down to it, as in unfortunately has, I'd much
rather replace the pump than the fish.
Thanks a bunch, Selena
<If the thing is out of warranty, Selena, the easiest approach would be glue the wobbly bits into place using aquarium-grade silicone sealant (don't use generic silicone sealant because that contains a toxic anti-fungal chemical). With this said, do check you're assembling the thing properly! Good quality aquarium hardware shouldn't fall apart from normal use. Tetra-branded stuff is solid, mid-range stuff so I'd expect reasonably good reliability and value for money. Personally, I'm not wild about hang-on-the-back filters for many reasons, including the ease with which fish can get into them. But many people use these filters successfully, so they can't be too bad! Cheers, Neale.>

Filter stopped, HOB, FW 6/18/10
Hello, I was switching air stones last night and tonight I noticed I must have unplugged the filter plugs, one whisper 40 and one BioWheel, both were off until tonight when I noticed it before trying to go to bed,
I started them up again with same filters in them and wonder if this will cause any problems,
<Potentially, but these hang-on-the-back filters are fairly tolerant of power outages because the biological media is relatively close to the air. So long as the media didn't actually dry out, you should be okay. Don't feed the fish for a day or two if the water looks cloudy or the fish are gasping. Even if they're fine, feed very lightly, perhaps just plants today not flake. Goldfish need lots of greens to do well, and if they have a clump of Elodea in the tank, let them eat that for a few days, not flake.
Since plants contain less protein than flake, the risk of ammonia and nitrite problems is lower.>
this is not a new tank, has been up for years, goldfish in tank, One sort of large one. Please let me know will I have problems, I have never done this before, have a lot of plugs going on on this one strip and must have gotten
confused, thanks
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Filter stopped
Thank you, I was reading all night to try to find out about the filter drying out and one area said if you use the dried out filter once the filter stopped that it can release toxins back into water???
I did use the same filter since I hurried and plugged filter back in once I realized It was off!
<And you should be fine. Indeed, you'll surely know by now. If the fish are okay, and there's no detectable ammonia or nitrite in the water, then all is well. Cheers, Neale.>

Tetra Whisper Micro Filter, not whispering 4/3/10
Dear Crew,
<Hello 2.0.>
I would first like to say... you have the greatest helping site for fish keeping!! Thank you!
<Thank you!>
Yesterday I bought a new three gallon aquarium. It came with a *Tetra Whisper Micro Filter. *It is a bit loud because it is rattling on the top of the aquarium. Though, after I took the top off, the filter was still a bit loud. I looked to see what to do on the instructions. The instructions told me to take the impeller out and rinse it in the fact it was noisy.
So I ask to you Crew... should I take the impeller out? I'm afraid I possibly will damage it if I take it out and I of course do not want that to happen!
<Just be sure to lift it straight out. The impeller will ride on some sort of rod. Sometimes
they are ceramic which can crack easily if bent to one side or another. I would remove it,
your noise may very well be created by something that wound up down there around the magnet
of the impeller.>
Thank you again,
The Fish Keeper 2.0
<Welcome, Scott V.>

My Filter Story: Was Re: Sudden tank deaths, one possibly sick fish (plus - How do you say the word "Betta"?) 3/4/10
I was going to write this up later but saw a post that I'd like to comment on. If you think better for BB let me know.
I don't expect a play by play response by any means because a lot of this is editorial but there are a couple questions at the end I'd like opinions on.
FYI, when you (NEALE!) say :
<<It's "Betta", to rhyme with "better". It doesn't rhyme with "beater".>>
In the US (proper English) "Betta" is closer to beta and nowhere near "beater". I sat in with a class at Microsoft Reading (after I was stymied by the fact that the elevator had a "0" floor. I had no idea what button to press) and heard "rooter" for "router" for the first time. Where ours is more like "pouter" or "doubter". I think this is what was behind the war of 1812.
<Ah, this has nothing at all with the differences between British and American English. At this point, let me remind readers I'm not a Euro-snob.
I'm a snob in lots of other ways, but not this. I lived in the US for 3 years, and a good part of my family are Americans as well, even though I'm British. In fact my British friends and relatives sometimes comment on my occasional use of Americanisms and American pronunciations! Anyway, the better/beater pronunciation of Betta comes down to the fact this is neither an American English nor a British English word, but a Latin name based on a Thai (I think) word that is transliterated (i.e., spelled out phonetically) as "Bettah". This is one of the local names for the fish. When spoken in any sort of English, the correct pronunciation is "better" rather than "beater". By all means look this up in your dictionary, but here's one American English dictionary, Merriam Webster, that even has an audio file pronouncing the word as I've described:
So, the better/beater thing is simply about right versus wrong. It's nothing to do with local versions of the English language. A couple of analogies would be these: in England, it is quite common for people to pronounce Michigan as "Mitchigan" and Illinois as "Illinoiz". These aren't British English versions of the words, they're just plain wrong. I hope that clears this all up once and for all.>
I don't regret getting into the hobby though it is quite like a drug in the sense that the dealer gets you hooked on something cheap and you have to keep going back for more stuff.
<Yes, can be like a drug, in two ways. Firstly, there's the stage when people want to keep everything, without realising (or being told via books or retailers) that they can't. Secondly, there's the stage when expert fishkeepers try to keep difficult fish, and end up spending huge amounts of money providing the right conditions for that fish.>
No retailer here is going to recommend a fishless cycle and my tank was cleared by the big chain because it didn't have ammonia, nitrite or nitrate after four days.
<Indeed not. One might argue retailers have a vested interest in selling fish along with the tank, since any fatalities will involve additional purchases within a couple of weeks.>
Of course it didn't! It didn't have anything organic to get these processes going.
But even my big fancy LFS is cool with fish stocking as long as you don't more than double your stock every week or two. Hadn't heard that rule before.
<Nor had I.>
What I'm saying is there is frustration like the fact I have different species recommended by the LFS after the infamous tetra incident. They didn't make more money on me by selling me the fish they did.
<I think Bob and others here would agree with your observation. Retailers who provide bad advice ultimately lose more customers (and profits) than they create. Most every retailer in every hobby is against this problem, the one of short-term profits against long-term customers. People starting out in hobbies tend to be [a] cheap and [b] ignorant, so selling them less expensive gear and instant gratification often works well in the short term. But in every hobby you'll hear stories about people who started off in that hobby, hitting a couple of failures, and then giving up. I think this is one reason online retailers do well, because they don't care, as their catchment area is national. Brick and mortar retailers on the other hand really do need to cultivate their local catchment area of customers.
And this surely means a bit more "hand holding". Telling people to get the 15 or 20 gallon tank, not the 5 or 10 gallon tank. Telling people to come buy some fish in 3 weeks time, not today. Telling people what the local water chemistry is, and pointing them towards species that will do well in that. And so on.>
On the contrary, I was very impressed that they would give me recommendations by e-mail when I could have gone somewhere else with the info. I respected that and I still respect them but mostly on a relative scale since no one mentioned the importance of matching water hardness until everyone was home and comfy (comfy accept the Pearl). So I'm determined to make it work.
The tank came part of a kit for only $130 with heater, HOT filter, light hood and sample potions and food. Usually the rule is whatever comes as part of a package deal probably isn't the best around and I was not impressed with the turn the dial "set and forget" heater.
<Sometimes, these kits are pretty darn good. It really does depend.>
But here's the part that kills me. Or almost kills the fish. Or really doesn't but bear with me.
The filter that came with it was the Aqueon Aquarium Power Filters 55 which doesn't have a great review rating at the big sites (average probably about 3.5 stars). It is floss with carbon and a comb thingy that does some mechanical filtration and captures bacteria so you don't re-cycle when changing the filter cartridge. Cons with this are it has an electrical hum to it that almost sounds like you forgot to ground a turntable (whatever those are). The water fall is quite loud and I remembered after it was too late why I didn't like those water fountain decoration things. Frankly, they make me want to produce my own ammonia if you know what I mean.
<I hear you! As someone who's idea of a good night is a night where he only gets up once for a bathroom visit, I like aquaria to be silent. One reason I'm a big fan of canister filters rather than air-powered or hang-on-the-back filters.>
After I discovered this site I began reading the daily FW FAQ every day and occasionally general which I did today. That's when I saw the post about sudden tank deaths and it appears that the poster is probably using an Aqua Clear Power Filters by Hagen which unfortunately has the somewhat proprietary system that you advise against from a cost standpoint though it's still pretty cheap versus a fish and chip order (but not in front of the tank and what the heck putting fries on a pizza?).
<Yeah, I'm not wild about filters that force you to buy proprietary filter modules. It's sort of like razor blades: the thing's cheap initially, but in the long term, you're paying an awful lot for plastic fixtures and other mark-ups. There are some hang-on-the-back filters that, like canisters, simply accept whatever stuff you want to ram into them.>
After doing the requisite reading here (you really should have a counter that ranks newbies by how many articles they read) I decided since my tank was cycled (it wasn't) that I would switch from the Aqueon to Aqua Clear because I liked the idea of changing the media in stages, the ceramic thingies were geeky enough, AND most important no carbon in case of sickness.
<I tend not to use carbon in freshwater tanks, though it does have its uses.>
I would take the comb thingy from the Aqueon to seed the Aqua Clear since the tank was cycled (it wasn't).
Now, what I found out was that if not perfectly balanced the lid would vibrate insanely and priming this thing can be a real headache. It won't re-prime itself after a water change or a power outage and that concerns me. But things really went bad the other night after doing a 25% water change I was having trouble getting it primed and pushed down in the wrong place. The gunk that apparently could not be shifted into the sponge came rushing out the top in a lovely brown liquid with huge fish scales (Gourami?) and even a dead fly.
<The brown liquid is good, actually, and means the filter is doing its job.
That's basically fish faeces and other organic particles broken down into slurry. As for the dead fly... However, if this stuff gets spat into the aquarium, it generally means the mechanical filter media either isn't sufficient, or else needs to be rinsed more often. In itself the slurry isn't toxic, and to be honest, I end up with a bit in my aquaria after cleaning out the canisters because some collects inside the hoses and whatnot. But it's more unsightly than dangerous, and quickly gets cleared up by the canisters once they're running.>
The tank was awful. This was after waiting for the little floating stuff to get picked up by the filter which hadn't finished even after water changes after a week. Things weren't cloudy just not pristine. When the overflow happened it got cloudy and ironically it was the first time the water tested positive for nitrite which I had tested before the water change.
It's like all the bacteria got stuck underneath the fish scales and crud and couldn't make it out to the tank.
<I see.>
So after an emergency water change I decided to stick the "old" filter back in but in my panic I forgot to prime the carbon. I set the Aqua Clear on low and moved it to the other side of the tank. What amazed me was that within two hours the water was nearly crystal clear and the nitrites were gone. Though this was a sign of the cycle being broken it appears to be back tonight.
One of the things that I may not have taken into account was that the Aqueon is a model "55" for a 36 gallon which I think is the same size as the other poster. This model moves 325 GPH versus 200 for the Aqua Clear.
<Ah, yes, the importance of turnover. The recommended tank sizes on filters are more marketing than science, like miles/gallon on motor cars, or number of servings on cereal boxes. They bear little connection with reality.>
I wanted the Aqua Clear to work. It just made more sense. And I assume that the floss and water travel of the Aqueon is what is working better versus the carbon which both of them have when configured properly.
<Carbon only removes dissolved organic material, the stuff that tints water yellow. You can have water that is perfectly silt-free (i.e., clear) but tinted yellow, even brown. Filter floss traps silt, and you need enough of it, and enough turnover, to remove cloudiness.>
I plan on leaving the Aqua Clear in there through the cycle or at least for a bit because I think I should have a Gourami prison tank (I mean quarantine tank) considering the amount of bullying I've seen with two different species and the fact that there are four different kinds in there now with 17 fish total. It seems it's just a matter of time before needing one for sickness and I have many redundant parts now.
<Wise approach.>
My questions probably are best summed up with floss versus sponge and does what I describe above make sense or did I perhaps get a dud on the Aqua Clear?
<Floss tends to be better for trapping silt particles than sponges, but floss does need to be rinsed, perhaps replaced, much more often. That's logical: the more stuff it catches, the quickly the filter media needs replacing.>
I'm sorry this is so long but I wanted you to know there are some new hobbyists that are trying to follow your good advice but there is so much conflicting data and backfires out there. After all, we all seem to trust a company that sells great food or equipment or test kits but then also find out that the magic potions for speeding up cycles etc are just snake oil (eel oil?).
<Actually, there are some products that can help with water clarity.
They're called flocculants, and they really do work. But if you have a chronic problem rather than, say, silty water caused by adding new gravel, then it's best to find a filtration system that works for you.>
I'm sticking with it and no fish have died without my permission. Looks like the cycle is settling in finally and I'm sorry that 17 fish have to bear it.
If cars were like this I think they'd keep going when you hit the breaks.
-Frustrated yet grateful in Charlotte.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: My Filter Story (plus - How do you say the word "Betta"?) (RMF, re: retail in the US?) 3/4/10
Oh I think we now have three pronunciations of Betta. Your correction wasn't the version I was expecting.
<Oh! What's the 3rd pronunciation?>
Thanks for that. I don't think the big chains here make money on fish replacement or at least right away. The LFS actually makes you prove good water before giving you a free replacement but the chains don't care.
<The water testing restriction is a very good idea. Gets people to connect the water and the health of their livestock.>
If it dies in two weeks they replace it. So in that sense they are selling the fish cheaper and guarantee it will work. At least eventually.
<Bit harsh on the fish that died though!>
I will give them credit too that they do hand out some guides written by the chain on how to get started just not the best.
Honest, they have a couple full time fish people on staff tending the area all the time and there's no way their salary is being covered by the fish.
<Maybe the case. Often the animals are "loss leaders", and the profit comes from the other things people buy over the years.>
Well maybe higher end chain stores with salt water species where you can get a "Nemo".
<Perhaps. There are some good chain stores out there. In fact the one nearest me has some excellent staff, including one chap who breeds seahorses. One thing I know Bob does rile against is the opinion of some expert aquarists that retailers are basically nothing but trouble. I think Bob's right on this, and I know some very good shops and some very bad shops. The tricky part is explaining how to tell them apart. By the time you can do that, I suspect most folks will be expert enough to ignore bad advice.>
The water overflow into the tank was my fault. I just didn't understand what the reaction would be until it was too late. Still, it was almost embarrassing that after two weeks the Aqua Clear couldn't clear the tank as fast as the "inferior" Aqueon which did it in two hours.
<Proof is in the pudding, eh?>
I almost added "just tell me what to do Neale" at the end of the message but didn't want to sound bitter. I'm not. It just seems to do this right you need secret codes, passwords, handshakes, and friends in high places. The easiest way might just be to be ignorant and blame mother nature when killing your own fish with ammonia.
<Often you see people doing precisely this. The infamous "internal parasites" is my favourite rationalisation.>
Two more things about the retail stores. If you did come in with high ammonia or nitrites I am convinced they would tell you to do a water change. It's in the documents they hand out. That would give them the chance to sell what you need for the change and indeed they sold me that stuff upfront.
<Water changes *are* a good idea when you have non-zero ammonia and nitrite levels, but they fix the symptom, not the problem. So *as well as* changing the water, you want to think about why you have non-zero ammonia and nitrite, and make the required changes (e.g., feed the fish less).>
What I think they are up against more than profit motive is the adage that the customer is always right. Let's face it Neale, if you worked at Pet* here in the US and told people they were guilty of killing their fish like you do here, I don't think you'd sell that many fish.
<Likely so.>
It's easier and appears to be better customer service to apologize for defective fish that weren't defective, replace them and try to sell a water changer kit at the same time.
<Certainly true.>
Most people come in with pre-conceived notion of what they want and in retail if someone asks for a red sports car without the skills to drive one, you still sell them a red sports car.
And even if they were evil, which I don't think they are, they do introduce a lot of folks to the hobby that are coming by for cat food. I know this for a fact :') I would have adopted a kitten that night if it wasn't for the paperwork. Now me and the cat have our own chairs that we sit and watch the fish together. She's a teenager now and you know how hard it is to get quality family time and since the tank is widescreen maybe she thinks it's just HDTV with really good reception.
I hope someone benefits from this discussion about filters. My main point is the banging of the head on my desk with all these forks in the road.
I'll look into canister at some point. That's on my list but as a primary system it sure isn't cheap for the same GPH.
<This must be an American thing. Here in England something like an Eheim 2217 can be picked up for a street price of around £80, or $120. That's a 264 gallon/hour filter, which is enough for a 66 gallon tank at a turnover of 4 times per hour. Given how long an Eheim 2217 lasts -- at least 10 years -- and the ease with which spares for Eheim filters can be obtained, such filters are very good value. But for reasons I can't fathom, every time I visit a store in the US, Eheim filters seem to be selling for twice as much money as here in Europe. Makes a nice change for me: always seems us Europeans end up paying twice as much for everything compared to our American cousins!>
Besides I have 1000 articles to read here on the subject.
<Quite so.>
Thanks again. Heading to BB soon with irreverent fish observation stories!
<Have fun over there. Some nice folks. Cheers, Neale.>

Sad news... ongoing... FW... filtr., outside power, hang-on sel. 2/26/10
<Hi, Jordan.>
Something bad happened..... Last night the filter made a horrible sound of the spinner spinning dry so I poured some aquarium water into it then it worked fine. Then this morning the filter motionless I checked the power cord and it was in, there was water in it, I pushes the tube in a little to see if it wasn't in. But everything was fine...
<Is the filter running, but not drawing in water? I'd check the filter's impeller and make sure there's nothing stuck in it.>
My question is, should I get a new filter, and is the filter a bigger priority than tests should I get a new one!
<Well, you've got to have filtration... so, the filter is a bigger priority. As I said before, you can ask the fish store employees to test it for you, but you've just got to make sure they're giving you objective data (numbers), not subjective conclusions. Before I bought another filter, I'd check the impeller. Talk to you soon.>
Thank you Melinda
your a great person for helping people like me!
<You're welcome!
My filter broke 2/26/10
Yeah my filter broke.... I took everything apart and looked into everything and still won't work. So I am going to get a filter but I had a band concert with me school today and I'm pretty tired. But I'll do it for my fish! What kind of filter should I get? I was thinking about getting a Marineland penguin for my 20gallon. What size should I get? Thank you !
<This is turning into a dire situation, Jordan. First, I suspected the tank wasn't cycled properly, and now, you've still been unable to test and see what, exactly, your fish are dealing with. Now, you've got no filtration, which means the water's oxygen level is probably very depleted, especially near the bottom, and that very little biological filtering is
taking place in the tank. I think you mentioned that you have a bubble wand or something... I'd hook it up. It will be better than nothing, but these fish are headed for trouble if you can't get this fixed soon. When you purchase a new filter, please take into mind what I discussed with you re: filters and biological media a while back. What ever filter you choose, buy one whose gallons-per-hour is at least six times the tank's volume. This would be one with a flow rate of 120 gallons per hour, and more wouldn't be a bad thing. I like Aqua Clear hang-on-back filters, because they provide a lot of room for all three types of media. They may be more expensive, but you'll never, ever have to buy a refill cartridge, because the filters come with biological and mechanical media in the box, as well as a bag of carbon. The only thing you would need to replace is the carbon, and we already discussed how it's overused, really, in the hobby, and so this isn't even a big issue.
Penguin 150 or 200
I have chosen 2 different styles of penguin marine land power filter 150 or 200g/h which one for a 20 g
<The general formula is this: For communities of small fish, or species like gouramis that don't like strong water currents, a turnover around 4 times the volume of the tank per hour is optimal. For tanks with larger, messier fish, like cichlids, then a turnover 6 times the volume of the tank per hour is recommended. For fish that are very messy (like large, predatory catfish) or need strong water currents (like loaches and Black Ghost knifefish) then a turnover 8 times the volume of the tank per hour is required. So for your 20 gallon tank, you would want a filter rated at
either 80 gallons/hour (for small fish), 120 gallons/hour (for bigger fish), or 160 gallons/hour (for fast-water fish). Cheers, Neale.>

Test results... from ongoing rambling re Filtration, was... 2/28/10
Hi again!
PetSmart didn't have any filters for some reason so I am going to do daily water changes :) until the one I ordered gets here 3-4 business days. And I got the test kit instead so here are the test results Melinda!
pH 6.6
Ammonia 0ppm
Nitrite 0ppm
Nitrate 0ppm
Is there anything bad with these results? Have a wonderful night!
<Well, these results are sort of strange. First of all, there's no ammonia, which would mean that the Stability and "live" sand are actually working. However, there's no Nitrate either, and no Nitrate in a freshwater aquarium usually means the tank isn't cycled. Pretty much everyone (every tank, I mean) has some Nitrate. So, these make me wonder if the tests are being done correctly. If the tank is cycled, as the presence of no Ammonia/Nitrite would suggest, then it would have some Nitrate. If the tank isn't cycled, as the lack of Nitrate suggests, then it would have Ammonia or Nitrite. I've approached zero Nitrate in my Betta tank before, but I really can't imagine that in a tank with five catfish, there is no Nitrate! In any case, water changes are a good idea until the filter arrives. You might want to run the tests again and see if you come up with different results.

Dear Neale and Crew,
How may I possibly slow down the current of my Aqueon power filter without damaging it? 12/31/09
<I don't know this filter beyond the fact it's a hang-on-the-back unit. For fish that need/prefer slow water currents, like Gouramis, a water turnover rate of 4 x the volume of the tank per hour is sufficient. So for a 25 gallon tank, a 100 gallon per hour is fine. You can further break up the water current by adding floating plants with long roots (e.g., Indian Fern) and adding some tall bogwood roots or stones to the bottom of the tank.
Obviously anything you do to slow down the water current will not be popular with fish that need strong water currents, like minnows, Danios, swordtails and loaches. Cheers, Neale.>

Filter Set-up... Hang on, FW... 9/14/09
Hi WWM Crew,
I have two 350 Penguin BioWheel filters on my 55 gallon aquarium, which has 4 cichlids, 3 tetras and a Bushynose Pleco. Each filter has two compartments and a total of 4 cartridge slots.
Filter A - Front slots have a poly filter pad attached to a cartridge frame only (no carbon or pad). The pad faces away from the BioWheel. The back slots have filter baskets filled with crushed coral to maintain my PH, which is 7.2, the other water parameters are Nitrite=0, Nitrate=0, Ammo=0.
Filter B - Front slots have a poly filter pad set-up and the back slots are stuffed with filter floss.
My question is, should I have a poly pad blocking the water flowing through my crushed coral set-up?
<Makes no difference. Despite the hype (and the premium price) Poly Filter pads are mostly carbon and Zeolite, and that's why they remove organic compounds and ammonia. There's some stuff in there that removes chlorine and copper, too. But really, there's nothing in them of any great value, and off the top of my head I can't think of any compelling reason to buy them.>
Could this interfere with the buffering?
<No. Poly Filter pads will have zero impact on the dissolution of carbonate and bicarbonate salts into the water.>
I use poly pads because I love how crystal clear my tanks are. I have had to replace the crushed coral every other month because I notice the PH drops a little. Since I do (2) 20% water changes a week, monthly gravel siphoning and water testing, I am not sure what is causing the PH drop.
<pH drops for multiple reasons, ranging from organic decay through to the accumulation of nitrate and phosphate in the water.
pH will tend to be stable in tanks with high carbonate hardness. Small pH changes are of no great significance, so assuming your fish were happy, I'd not worry overmuch. Water changes should reset the pH drop.>
Your thoughts?
<Cheers, Neale.>

how many fish, stkg. FW
I have a 55 gallon tank & here's the fish I have so far
2 leleupi
2 black skirt tetra
2 swordtails
2 platys
2 pepper Corys
1 Oranda (or looks like one)
12 neon tetras
<Quite the collection! The Leleupi will eat the Neons when they get big enough, even putting aside their rather difference water chemistry requirements.>
is that enough or can i add more that will be compatible with the others?
And I need a site that carries bio filters because the tank didn't have that with it.
<What do you mean a "site that carries bio filters"? You want to buy one?
Most anything should be a biological filter at some level, from plain vanilla air-powered sponge filters through to external canister filters. I happen to rate the Eheim "classic" canister filters as being (by far) the
most reliable, long-term investments, and something like the Eheim 2217 would do a good job here. But a properly maintained undergravel filter can be superb biological filter even though it can't be used alongside plants that have roots. Many options. If you'd like to suggest a budget and what sort of features you're looking for, we can discuss further.>
it had the charcoal filter but not the other.
<Activated carbon is hardly essential, so wouldn't use the presence/absence of carbon in a filter to sway my opinion between two filter models.>
Any help would be great
Angels on your pillows, Judy
<Cheers, Neale.>

re: how many fish... Chatting 09/14/09
okay they are the plastics that hang on the back---I have a dual air pump with long bubbler & a small round one in the corner .
<A very popular filter design in the US; much less so in Europe.>
I'm sending pics of my tank & maybe this would help you.
<Yes, does.>
I like the undergravel filter but didn't know ,again was told I didn't need to use that.
<The filter you have should be adequate, assuming sufficient size/turnover.
While you are talking about the carbon in this filter, there is almost certainly a biological filter in this unit too. Look for things like spinning wheels, sponges, and/or modules containing ceramic noodles. I'm not aware of any filter of this type that contains just carbon and has no option for any other. One other thing. Carbon only works as carbon for the first couple of weeks. After that, it becomes essentially biological media.
In practise, you need to replace carbon every two weeks. (Yet another reason why it is largely redundant.) It's possible that one or more of the filter medium compartments of your filter have been filled with carbon,
even though other types of media, like a sponge or ceramic noodles, would be more appropriate. If you can find a manufacturers name and model number on this filter, we can discuss more. A photo of the filter from above, so I can see its "innards" would also be helpful.>
I know you cant see the fish but what i think is an Oranda is because it looks like one it maybe just a regular gold fish the only one in the tank.
<Sure it's a nice fish either way.>
Cant wait till I can get to the pet store & check out all that you have sent me. A thank you is not enough for all your help
Hugs & Smiles
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: how many fish... FW maint. f' 09/15/09
Here's the pic of the pump the other is just like it the blue is what has the carbon in it.
<So the blue things are like cushions, with blue on the outside, and the carbon inside?>
I know there's suppose to be a plastic thing with a sponge or something else that goes with it.
<Not familiar with this filter, but there should be one or more plain sponges that slot in there somewhere. Yes, if you need one, and there's one for this filter, then buy one. At a pinch, stuffing some filter floss into the empty space (if that's what it is) behind the two blue things would work. Don't stuff so much in water flow drops significantly. You can buy generic bags of the stuff for very little money, and if you rinse it in buckets of aquarium water every couple of weeks, it shouldn't need to be replaced too often. Once it's too dirty to clean, replace no more than 50% at any one time, and allow not less than 6 weeks before you replace any more.>
But if I don't need the carbon could I just find bio material to put inside the pumps?
<Wouldn't worry too much right now. The carbon is actually a pretty good medium for bacteria, and once you've added the sponge (or floss) for the compartment behind the two blue things, the bacteria will spread from the blue things into the new filter media. Unless you really want carbon to be adsorbing organic material from the water, feel free to let it become 100% biological filter media. No harm done at all. Just remove as/when you use medications that need carbon to be removed, just in case.>
The picture maybe be big forgot to resize it.
Want you be glad when I leave you alone???
<I'm happy to help.>
Angels on your pillows, Judy
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Tape in the Aquarium, power filter repair 6/17/09
Hello Crew, hope all is going well for you. I have a question, please. I wanted to know if there was any kinds of tape that would be OK to use for items inside an aquarium. I have 2 intake openings on my power filter intake tubes. The top ones had a little "door" that opened and closed to that one could use the filter with 2 intakes or one, depending on if the little door was open or closed. Both of these little doors have broken (they were made cheap) and I want to be able to close up the top opening again because I feel it more beneficial to have one strong suction using the bottom intake only rather than 2 that are not as strong. I want to cover the top openings again and was thinking about some type of tape.
Please let me know what you think. Thanks, James
<Mmm, the fibered "strapping tape" might work here... I have seen it employed underwater. Otherwise, you might have success with "globbing" on a bit of Silastic (Silicone Rubber), 100%, suitable for aquarium use (no mildewcide)... Bob Fenner>
Re: Tape in the Aquarium 6/18/2009

thank you. Do you think electrical tape would work or not stick under water? Thanks again,
<Nope... has some materials you don't want in your water. B>

Filter paint 2/18/09 Hello Crew, Hope all is going well for you today. I would like to know if you are aware of a type of paint or tape that might be used safely inside a fw aquarium. The emperor 400 filter intake tubes on my filters have been redesigned and not have a white sliding piece that can be opened or closed, depending if you want the filter to take in detritus from both the bottom and the middle. I cannot disguise this white piece no matter what I do and it stands out, especially against my black background. If you know of any way I could disguise this please let me know. Thank you, James <James, I'm not familiar with the US market for these types of products, but I'd expect any enamel sold for use on cookware to be safe in an aquarium. Failing that, just let algae cover the darn thing. That won't take long! Cheers, Neale.>

Advice on power filter size, FW 1/31/09 Good evening, I looked around the site and there seems to be many different thoughts on filter size and the number of turn over for a 20 gallon tank. I am starting a FW tank for my daughter (almost 2). It is a 20 gallon tall tank. It will probably be set up as a community tank. I will be using a gravel bottom with silk plants. I have narrowed it down to 3 filters but I am wondering if 2 of them could be overkill. The filters are Marineland Penguin 150 or 200 ( I like the idea of having the 2nd filter slot on the 200). I am also thinking about the Marineland Emperor 280. The 280 has the ability to add additional filter material, 2 level intake and the spray bar. My concern is that the 200 or the 280 might be too much for a 20 gallon tank. Thank you for the advice. I am really looking forward to get the tank up and running. I will cycle it properly first. Brad <Hi Brad. The basic rule of thumbs are these: First, ignore what's on the box. A filter that says it is suitable for a 20 gallon tank is only suitable for such a tank under the best circumstances. It's a marketing ploy akin to telling you your motor car will do 45 miles to the gallon, or a box of cereal contains 25 servings. Yes, if the car is rolling downhill somewhere without traffic or lights, and yes, if each cereal serving is two tablespoons in size. Likewise filters are "rated" by their manufacturers assuming the filter media is clean, the fish are few, and most importantly, the filter is put in the optimal position, at the level of the aquarium. Things like canister filters are usually put under the tank to hide them away, and this isn't the optimal position for them. Having to work against gravity, the filter moves water more slowly. Now, here's some more thoughts. "Tall" tanks are bad value. The critical thing with aquaria is the surface area to volume ratio. Tall tanks score poorly here, and a 20 gallon "tall" tank will hold fewer fish safely than a 20 gallon "long" tank. There is absolutely no advantage to keeping a 20-gallon tall tank unless you're into landscaping, when the tall tank lends itself to fancy arrangements of plants and rocks. Otherwise, avoid. Secondly, if you're not using live plants, then consider an undergravel filter. These are good value, easy to set up, easy to maintain, and extremely effective. Thirdly, the thing to consider with filters is turnover. For small fish (Neons and guppies for example) the baseline value is 4 times the volume of the tank, in your case the filter should have not less than 4 x 20 = 80 gallons per hour. For bigger fish (gouramis and angels) you would up this to 6 times the volume of the tank, i.e., 6 x 20 = 120 gallons per hour. Beyond that, it doesn't much matter what filter you use. I will make the observation that hang-on-the-back filters have serious shortcomings, not least of all the fact they lock you into buying specific media inserts that are wildly overpriced for what they are (think of the way razor blade manufacturers make money by each having their own type of razor blades). Personally, I dislike hang-on-the-back filters enormously and can't see why people buy them, though for some reason they are very popular in the US. You rarely see them here in the UK. Canister filters have their pros and cons. Internal canister filters are very easy to maintain and flexible in terms of media, but in small tanks are difficult to hide behind rocks or plants. External canister filters are by far the best value, provide strong water currents, and contain lots and lots of space for media, but they can be a hassle to maintain. Still, they're the filters of choice for most experienced hobbyists. Finally, do think carefully about stocking, and bear in mind you're setting up this aquarium for you, not your daughter. A two-year old will enjoy fish, yes, but she's not going to maintain the thing for another eight years! Take care to buy fish that appeal to you, but also ones that realistically fit into this tank, especially with regard to sharing similar requirements in terms of temperature and water chemistry. Do take a look at some of the articles presented in the top "box" here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwlvstkind1.htm Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Advice on power filter size 1/31/09
Neale, <Brad,> Thank you for the response. A long story made short, the tank and hood/light ( A Eclipse Light) were a gift. Given the space and area for the tank going to a bigger tank would be hard to fit. <Nothing wrong with your 20-gallon tank. It's a good starting point!> That being said, I would like to keep things as simple as can be. I appreciate your summary of flow in filters and it has allowed me to make my decision. I did some further reading today and hope to have the tank up and cycling over the next few days. <How? Do remember a tank devoid of animal life or a source of ammonia isn't cycling. It's just a glorified bucket of water. I'd recommend adding ammonia, either by putting a pinch of food each day (it rots, making ammonia) or else using a few drops of ammonia solution per gallon added to get a level of 4-5 mg/l (or ppm) in the water (determine with a test kit first time around, then repeat that amount daily). Once you detect zero ammonia and zero nitrite for 5 days, you're cycled!> Then in a few weeks onto a few fish. I am sure I will have many questions over the next months. Thank you again for the information. Brad P.S. I understand that the tank really is for me but I will enjoy the care and time that it will take to set up and maintain a proper tank as well as the smile and "Fish" that my daughter will be pointing and signing. <All sounds good. Children and animals are a good combination, but does need forethought. Good luck to you both, Neale.>

Filter media placement in HOB filter, FW 1/26/09 Hello WWM crew, <Hello Audra.> My 30 hexagon is a new tank that is about 80% cycled (no fish in it). It was used as a quarantine tank for 2 weeks before I moved the fish in it to their permanent home. My question is, in what order should I place the media in my AquaClear 70 filter? Instead of using the foam that comes with it, I'd like to use a flat filter pad. I understand these save space and work well to remove toxins and debris from the water. <Not all do, Polyfilters and some of the recent copies do.> I have to add crushed coral, carbon (when needed) and biological media. Is crushed coral considered a chemical media? <No, biological, maybe a mechanical in the right setting. You plan to put the crushed coral in the filter? If in the tank do consider a smaller grain media, the larger crushed coral ends up serving as a detritus collector, a nitrate factory.> I'm concerned about it being in the same filter with my bio media. There's not much surface space in the tank, so I hope my filter is an option. <Hmmm, any plans for a protein skimmer? This will help you out both with the aeration and filtration of this system.> Audra <Scott V.>
Re: Filter media placement in HOB filter...Scott V. actually getting it this time 1/27/09
Hi Scott V., thanks for the quick response. <Welcome....I guess.> The filter pad I'm using is a Polyfilter. My 30 gallon hexagon set-up consists of a bubble disk, small airstone, some plastic plants, the AquaClear 70 filter, and a sponge filter. Both filters are sufficient for 60+ gallon tanks. Aren't protein skimmers used in marine or saltwater tanks? I have freshwater. <Skimmers are for marine tanks, I do apologize. It does change things a bit. After answering so many marine queries you start to think everything has salt in it!> My PH is very hard but low alkaline, so the crushed coral is to buffer the water. <I see.> I've used it in the natural gravel before, but I didn't like the results. Can I place the media in my filter as follows: Polyfilter, crushed coral bag, carbon and then bio media? <Certainly.> I probably could put the bio media bag in the Penguin filter instead. Your thoughts? <Either could work, I would go whichever route forces more water through the media itself, not around it. Sorry again for the mix up, Scott V.>

Power Filter Placement 1/6/09 Hello Crew, I have tried to research this but can't find anything about it.. I have 2 aqua clear 100 filters and a 75 gallon tank 48" long. I wanted to know if you have ever know of anyone to place the filters on the sides of the tank instead of the back. Thank you for all you do. James <With any filter, the idea is to optimise circulation throughout the tank. In particular, you want water from the bottom being pulled up to the top. By default, if you have two filters, put one at each end. Whether on the sides or spaced out along the back pane of glass shouldn't make much difference. Test circulation by adding a pinch of flake at the bottom of the tank, and seeing how quickly, and how far, it gets pushed about. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Power Filter Placement 1/6/09
Thank you again Neale. And one more question please. I just finished setting up my aquarium (finally) and have a sand bottom. When it comes time for maintenance I planned on using a turkey baster to blow off the rocks and plants and also the top of the sand itself to get the detritus into the water column. Rather than letting the detritus go into my power filter do you know of a good small filter that would take care of cleaning it up. I had thought about the Magnum HOT hang on filter but wanted your opinion please. Have a great day. James <James, a turkey baster is a great way to spot clean the tank. Otherwise, your standard filtration should be keeping the sediment basically clean: if it isn't, that means it isn't adequate for the job. Think about it - any still water on the bottom of the tank isn't being carried up to the surface of the aquarium. That means there's no oxygen getting down there, putting your bottom dwelling fish at risk. Realistically what tends to happen in a properly filtered tank is that there's much water movement, but the silt collects in one particular corner thanks to the pattern of water flow. In this case, your turkey baster (or a water change, weekly) will remove the silt. External canister filters are ideal for this because you can have the inlet positioned quite close to the sediment. You can also, if required, locate the outlet well below the surface of the water. So if you have more than one external canister filter, you can create lots of different water currents. Otherwise, just making sure you have at least 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover should ensure adequate circulation. Personally, I prefer to go with 6-10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, but that does assume fish from riverine rather than still water conditions. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Power Filter Placement 1/7/08
Thank you AGAIN Neale for all of your patience with me. <No problem.> I have never used sand as a substrate before and last night when trying to get everything running I realized that I have no way to keep sand out of the power filters. <Much less of an issue than you'd think. Some big fish (like Plecs) can swish the stuff into the inlet if the inlet is near where they dig, but otherwise the sand pretty much stays put.> The intake tube does have an area to stop fish from getting sucked up but not sand. <Mostly not an issue.> I had planned on buying a pre-filter made of foam which is coarse enough to keep the sand out but then the larger detritus will not have a chance to get into the filter and be absorbed by the mechanical filtration pads and foam. And I know that even though the pre-filter may absorb some stuff when the filters are cut off or turned to a lower speed everything accumulated will fall to the bottom. <A decent prefilter will of course help, but in my experience what little sand gets sucked in collects at the bottom of the filter. Provided you are cleaning the filter reasonably regularly, it's easy enough to rinse out.> I was so happy to be setting up a new tank after having cancer and having to quite before, but now I am about to just quit and give up. <I'm not a medic, but I generally believe that challenges that focus the mind are a good way to keep body and soul together. If the worst that happens is a bit of sand gets into the filter... is that really so bad? Seriously, all my aquaria use sand, and it is never a problem. Just keep the inlet a couple inches above the sand, and you'll be fine.> I am glad I at least did think about the sand being sucked in before I started running the filters. Please tell me what I can do. I know I have been a real pain and bother to you so I ask you please accept my apologies. Thank you, James <Enjoy your fishkeeping! That's my advice! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Power Filter Placement 1/7/08
Dear Neale, I have spent all day today trying to get my Aquaclear filters to prime and have had no results. I called the company and tried everything they mentioned. I am really frustrated and have decided that I should do what I considered the first time, get a canister filter. Could you please recommend one that is reliable, easy to set up and clean and not as expensive as an Eheim? Thanks again. <Hello James. I'm not very familiar with Aquaclear units, but would make the usual statement that it's often a good idea to disassemble the whole thing and then carefully put it back together again. It's easy to overlook some critical step first time around. Do review Hagen's web site; they have manuals for these filters online, as well as some ideas for troubleshooting: http://www.hagen.com/uk/aquatic/manuals/aquaclear01.cfm In any case, external canister filters aren't notably easier to maintain than hang-on-the-back filters. Indeed, the fact they're fiddly to install and prime is one reason people often go for other types of filtration. External canisters are by far the best value in terms of filtration (i.e., gallon per hour per dollar spent) but on the downside they require carefully putting together or they either won't work or leak water all over the floor. In other words, I'm saying that an external canister might not be the magic bullet you're hoping for. Probably the easiest filters to care for are the internal canisters, because they're submerged in the water so don't need priming at all. They are the most expensive filters to buy in terms of value, but because they're easy, lots of people like them (including me, for small tanks at least). When shopping around, Eheim are generally the best, and if you can get a deal on them, there's no question about them literally running for 10+ years without complaint. Mid range brands include Sera and Fluval, both of which offer nice products. For internal filters, there's no real risk: either the filter works, or it stops. For external filters, the issue is that a flaw can result in a massive leak, so shop carefully. The Eheim "Classic" range is particularly good value; on Amazon for example the Eheim 2217 (264 gallons/hour) is under $140, while the Fluval 405 (340 gallons/hour) is going for $145. While the Fluval offers more filtration on paper, there's no question about which would be the better purchase. OK, the Eheim is old school and more fiddly to install and prime (practise with it connected to a bucket!) but both would be ample in size for a tank up to around 50-75 US gallons, assuming moderate stocking levels. On the other hand, I routinely use Fluval filters, and have invariably found them to be well designed and reliable. So if a Fluval filter fits your needs and your budget, I'd have no problems recommending it. Keep the receipt though! If a filter is a "dud", it should be so right away. Over time, the things that wear out are things like rubber seals and taps, and these are usually cheap and easy to replace. Hope this helps, Neale.> re: Power Filter Placement Thank you so very much. <No problem. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Power Filter Placement, now canister filter sel. 1/7/08
Hello Neale, Hope all is well there for you. After you sent me this e-mail I am seriously considering a canister filter. I have been reading reviews on the Fluval 405 and also the Rena XP3. I would love an Eheim but cannot afford one. I am not sure what I will get, but please tell me how to set up the outflow coming from the filter. I know some have spray bars. I want to be able to position the outgoing so as to clear the debris from the bottom in the most effective way. Thank you again for all you do and all your expert advice. James <Hello James. The filtration rates of both these filters are similar, and in terms of quality they're both reasonably well regarded. In terms of setting them up, the optimal configuration for any canister filter used on its own (as opposed to with an undergravel filter) is put the inlet at one end of the tank and the spray bar along the side at the other end of the tank. The idea is water is sucked in one end, and pushed out the other. I find adjusting the spray bar so that it is at the waterline and rippling the surface of the water rather works well, though some people position the bar above the water line and have the water splashing onto the water, the idea being this dissipates CO2 better. Either way works well. Canister filters can't magically clean the substrate: if you find the substrate stays dirty, then it's likely the canister filter is too small for the job. This is why I stress the importance of turnover. Canister filters are rated under optimal conditions -- with no media and with the canister filter next to the tank, not below it. So the turnover you read (say, 350 gallons per hour) is not what you'll get once the filter is put under the tank (where it has to work against gravity) and filled with media. The impact on clogged media cannot be overstated either: you'll quickly notice that a new canister filter pushes the water around wildly, but after a few weeks the water can seem to be barely moving, and certainly the current isn't as strong as it was when the filter was new. In other words, when filter manufacturers say a filter is suitable for a tank of X gallons, I suggest taking that with a pinch of salt. In real world situations, overestimate your requirements. Choose a filter with 4 times the volume of your tank in turnover per hour as an absolute minimum, and ideally 6 times. My own tanks are usually set at 6-8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, which is getting close to marine levels of water movement. The flip side to the argument is that if you regularly clean a canister filter, the media won't get too clogged, improving performance. But personally, I'm one of those guys who only cleans his canister filters maybe once every 2-3 months, if that! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Power Filter Placement 01/09/09
Thanks Neale, When you mention getting a filter with an output of at least 4 times the aquarium volume how do you figure that since you know what the box says but you don't know how much flow reduction you get due to media and fighting gravity to work? <You don't know. That's why I use these generous estimates. Realistically, when I look at the filters I have, placed under the tank and then allowed to clog up normally across a month or so, the water turnover easily drops to 50% what it was initially.> Also, by placing the spraybar as you mentioned with a filter large enough to handle the tank load will this move debris off the bottom? <If the filter is big enough, it will move the water at all levels of the tank. Overestimate filtration where possible. In practise, no filter will keep the substrate spotlessly clean, especially in tanks with messy Plecs or things like plants that shed leaves periodically.> And lastly, does a canister filter have to be placed under the tank or can it set beside it? <Either works, with water flow being greatest when the filter is beside rather than underneath the tank.> Thanks again, James <Cheers, Neale.>

Water Flow Too Powerful 12/18/08 Hello, I have a 30 long tank with just 3 mollies and about a dozen fry. My penguin 350 is too powerful for my fry to handle. However, it is ideal for the load of fish I plan to fill this tank with in the next 3 months. The fry will eventually be moved to a 30 hexagon to grow up in but I haven't started the set-up for this tank yet. In the meantime, is there a way to slow down the output water flow without compromising the efficiency of the filter? This is how I'd like to stock the 30 long: 2 Black Mollies (already in tank) 2 Silver Mollies 2 Cremecicle Mollies (1 already in tank) 2 High Fin Swordtails 2 Red Wag Platies 2 Rams 3 Corys Can my filter handle this bioload, without the fry? Audra <Try directing the outflow from the filter towards the glass instead of into the tank; the current will disperse, and the fish will be less "pushed about". Some of your fish enjoy strong water currents though, in particular the Swordtails and Corydoras, so they won't care. As your research should hopefully reveal, Mollies usually do best in tanks where salt is added, and while the Platies and Swords won't mind, the Corydoras and the Rams may well do. On the other hand, Rams need very warm (28-30 degree C) conditions, and that's much too hot for Swordtails, Platies and Corydoras. Keep the Rams too cold and they'll get sick and die. (Actually, most commercially bred Rams die within weeks anyway, and they're a fish I simply don't recommend unless you're able to buy locally bred or wild caught stock.) So over time you'll likely want to spread out your stock into tanks best suited to the needs of these various fish -- while they might be fine now, by imposing on the preferences of each species, you increase the odds of disease and poor health. For now, I'd SERIOUSLY consider keeping JUST livebearers in this one tank, maintained at about 25 C (77 F) and with a little salt added (say, 3-6 grammes of marine salt mix -- not tonic salt -- per litre of water). This will suit Mollies, Guppies, Platies and Swordtails. There are various salt-tolerant fish you could add, about which we can discuss another time. But since you're still stocking the tank, I'd heartily recommend choosing carefully now, rather than trying to fix problems later. By the way, all Mollies cross-breed, so if you want a single "sort" of Molly fry that you can share or sell back to pet stores, keep JUST ONE variety in the tank. Pet stores don't really want "mutt" Mollies that aren't any one variety, and after a while you'll be fed up with housing hundreds of fish you can't sell. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Water Flow Too Powerful 12/18/08
Thank you, Neale, for your feedback. I'll take everything you said into consideration. <Audra, I'm happy to help. When planning an aquarium, it's wise to be prudent, and take into account the needs of all your fish. Doing so is the path to easy, low-maintenance, healthy fishkeeping! Just because Rams won't work with Mollies, doesn't mean you can't keep *any* dwarf cichlids. Consider Etroplus maculatus for example, or one of the Pelvicachromis species such as P. taeniatus. Get back in touch if you want some more ideas. Cheers, Neale.>

Nano Powerheads and discus filters! 12/3/08 Hey crew! I have a couple of questions for you today regarding two of my tanks! First for my discus tank: I have a 55 gallon planted discus tank with 4 discus, 2 Cory Cats, 10 or so Neons, 5 SAEs, 4 Bolivian Rams and 3 Otos that has been running smoothly for 6 months now. I am using a Marineland T5 48" Deluxe canopy with one of the actinics replaced with another 10000k bulb. I have an Emperor 400 Bio Wheel filter, along with two Top Fin filters (a 20 and a 40). These were mainly used to boost the bacteria when the tank was cycling (I used them on my old tank), but I haven't removed it. I would like to phase out these filters and place another Bio Wheel 400. What do you guys think about this? <I'm not a huge fan of hang-on-the-back filters because of their limited flexibility and the fact the inlet and outlet are so close together. For some reason they're popular in the US though; you hardly ever see them in Europe. Anyway, if you have two, and position one at each end, should work out okay. But I'd sooner spend the money on a standard external canister filter that allows you more flexibility in terms of mechanical and biological media options. Whatever you do, so long as the combined filtration offers at least 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, you should be fine. I'd personally veto the Otocinclus though: Otocinclus need cool, fast flowing water -- the total opposite of what Discus require. Moreover, Otocinclus are known "skin suckers" that remove mucous from slow moving fish. I've seen this myself, when keeping them with Awaous gobies. This would be a risky combination with Symphysodon spp. I'd also make the point Otocinclus are gregarious algae eaters, so you'd [a] need more than 3; and [b] would have them competing for food with the Crossocheilus siamensis. So I'd strongly suggest some sort of small Loricariid instead, perhaps Ancistrus or Rineloricaria spp. Cheers, Neale>

Filtering a 55 Gallon Hex, FW 11/17/2008 Hi, I inherited a 55-gallon hexagon fish tank about 6 months ago, and although I've learned way more about keeping fish than I thought possible, now I have some new questions. Most of them concern the filter. I currently have a H.O.T. Magnum filter that hangs on the back of my tank, which was recommended by a friend when I realized that the under gravel filter that the tank came with wasn't doing the best job. While reading up on keeping fish, I ran across something that said you should clean the filter with tap water. What is the best way to clean it? < I take out the filters sleeves and rinse it out under a strong flow from a garden hose.> Usually once I month I take the filter off the tank, empty it out, replace the carbon, and wash off all the components inside (the impeller, etc.). Is there a different way I should be doing it? < Sounds good to me.> Also, I never installed the Bio-Wheel that it came with. I've read that they're great. Can I still put it on with the filter? < A hex makes the logistics somewhat challenging for installing the Bio-wheel attachment. It is worth the effort to attach the bio-wheel if you don't mind the noise it may create.> Will the tank be adversely affected or have to cycle through again? < The bacteria needed for biological filtration will eventually grow on the Bio-Wheel. If your tank is fine now then adding the Bio-Wheel will only increase the biological stability of your set up.> The H.O.T. Magnum filter can be a little tricky for me to get back together correctly every time, and I'm thinking of getting a new filter that's easier. Is there one you would recommend? < I agree that all types of canister filters can be a pain to service. Look at the Marineland brand of hang on types of power filters. They have the Bio-Wheel built in but can be somewhat noisy.. Make sure that it will fit on the lip of your tank.> And if I do get a new filter, will I destroy all the beneficial bacteria in the tank? < Every time you clean your filter you essentially remove most of the bacteria. The bacteria are probably established in the gravel.> I don't want to kill any fish by doing something dumb. < Do a water change when you change the filters and watch for ammonia spikes. Don't vacuum the gravel for awhile because that will remove the bacteria you need until the filter gets set up.> Finally, I always add the Stress Coat at the end of the water change. I add the tap water and then add the Stress Coat to the tank. Is that an ok way of doing it? < Ideally the new water is in a separate container and the water conditioner is added to the container and allowed a few minutes to neutralize the toxins in the water. If your water is pretty good and you do small water changes your method would probably be OK.> I don't have a large enough container to add the Stress Coat to the water before putting it in the tank. So when I add the Stress Coat, I add enough for the entire tank (5 ML per 10 gallons of aquarium water, so I add a little less than 30 ML). < Overdosing the Stress Coat probably doesn't do much good. A good plastic 5 gallon bucket can be obtained at almost any hardware store.> Thanks so much for all your help! This has been a little more complicated than I thought! Melissa < Thanks for the questions.-Chuck>

Filter Question, Hang-on, FW designs 9/1/08
Dear WWM Crew,
I am interested in purchasing two new filters. I already have two Whisper Power Filters. One is for a 10 gallon tank and the other is for a 6.6 gallon tank. The 10 gallon tank holds four Danios and two Albino Catfish.
<In my opinion, too small for both Danio rerio and Corydoras paleatus; you're not going to see either species at its best without more space... so would invest in a 20 gallon tank before spending money on new filters. Definitely more worthwhile. Danios should be kept in groups of six or more specimens; in smaller groups they won't school properly and you have a serious risk of individual fish "going rogue" and becoming nippy. Corydoras paleatus (which is what the Albino Catfish is almost certainly) is another gregarious species that is shy unless kept in largish groups. Neither species will be truly happy in groups of 2-4 specimens.>
The 6.6 gallon tank will be holding one Betta Fish and possibly one or two Albino Catfish. Is a Bio Wheel Filter better than a regular power filter? And is a Bio Wheel Filter worth purchasing even if I already own two Whisper Power Filters? Also, is there any advantage in using a Bio Wheel Filter versus a power filter? Thanks for your help - Jean
<No great advantage to either design. I'm not a big fan of "hang on the back" filters for various reasons (poor mechanical filtration, gaps in hood allow jumpy fish to escape, many designs are based around filter "modules" that waste space and limit options). By default, external canister filters or decent quality internal filters are my choices. I always go for designs that let me choose what media I can use, and never ones with "modules" that can only be assembled in one particular configuration. For example a filter that insists on having a carbon or ammonia-remover insert is a poor choice because neither media type is essential or even useful in the average freshwater tank. Mostly these filters are poor value for money and aimed at newbie fishkeepers. I'd sooner have a plain vanilla air-powered box filter I can stuff with ceramic noodles and filter floss than a more expensive, but likely less effective, Whisper Power Filter of greater cost rated for the same size tank. Finally, do concentrate on turnover rather than other fancy features: for your small community fish, you want a turnover of not less than 4 times the volume of the tank. In other words, a 20 gallon tank would need a filter rated at 80 gallons per hour (GPH). Everything else, bio-wheels, spray bars, and other such things are, at best, gimmicks. The only things that truly matter are how much media (of your choice) the filter holds; and how often the water moves through that media. The rest is marketing! Cheers, Neale.>

Aquarium filtration is about to change. Advert./info. announcement from Tetra - 7/2/08 Innovation Changes Everything You're invited to an exclusive preview of the next revolution in aquarium filtration. The soon- to-be-released Whisper[R] EX Filtration Systems from Tetra combine eight new patent-pending technologies, new materials and a complete redesign. The result? A new standard in aquarium filtration technology. * Sleeker, quieter and more efficient. * New patented carbon filter carrier makes filter changes fast, clean and easy. * Exclusive Timestrip[R] technology takes the guesswork out of when to change your filter. * Easier to use. Whisper[R] EX is ready to go right out of the box. To experience the next generation in aquarium filtration now, click here. http://www.tetra-fish.com/sites/TetraFish/aquarium/AquariumContentTwoColumn.aspx?id=2416 <Nice graphic, ideas... Wish I were receiving monies for the cartridge replacements. Bob Fenner>

Emperor 400 Microbubbles 4/12/08 Hello crew. I am hoping for your help. I am getting micro-bubbles from emperor 400. Makes the tank look cloudy. Any recommendations on how to fix this problem? Thank you. Phil <Generally keeping your water level at or near the level of the filter return will eliminate or at the very least greatly reduce the bubble issue. You may need to top off the water daily'¦price we pay for keeping aquariums! Welcome, hope this helps, Scott V.>

How to Fix a Whisper Filter 4/7/08 Hey Crew, <Hello.> I haven't seen this information on the Web so I just wanted to pass it along to you. Recently, my Whisper HOB filter stopped working. The motor was still spinning, but it was not drawing water up the tube. I was feeling adventurous and decided to repair it with %100 success. Here's what I did: This will repair most any non-functioning Whisper Filter The problem is most likely that your Impeller has become detached from the magnet cylinder that spins it...The impeller still spins, but not like it should....The following is a (poorly made) ASCII Drawing of an impeller: D <--End Cap l I I I I I I <--Impeller Head WW <--White Plastic Shaft -------- <--Top White Round Cap MMM MMM MMM <--Magnet MMM MMM -------- <--Bottom White Round Cap l l <--Metal Pin (it actually goes all the way through the whole impeller) D <--End Cap Basically, you need to silicone the "Top White Round Cap Back" onto the Magnet. Use a proper silicone, %100, no mildew-icide...Put something like an elastic or loose fitting vise-grips onto the newly siliconed joint, and let sit for 24 hours. Cheers <Thank you for sharing this tip, it will be passed along for the benefit of others. Nice diagram, Scott V.>

New Tank question, stkg. Melanotaeniids, Colisa lalia 3/12/08 Hello. I am new to aquariums and have purchased several books and read tons on your site (which has been VERY helpful) in an attempt to be the best fish owner possible. I have some questions that I can't seem to find specific answers to, even though I have done several searches on your site. Some background info: I purchased my fish from a local fish store that has the best reputation in the area. These are the fish (all locally raised) I purchased based on their advice: 3 angels (started with 4, one just died after a bout with an eye infection fish store thinks was due to injury - I removed sharp fake rocks) <Bad choice for your first aquarium, and for what it's worth, the eye infection is more likely aggression between the Angels followed by a secondary infection. Fish just don't normally scratch themselves.> 3 turquoise Gourami (again started with 4 but one died almost instantly, fish store said sometimes that "just happens"!??) <Fish Store somewhat correct. These are Colisa lalia, a fish that is plagued with an incurable viral disease. Inbred forms like the turquoise variety are even more flimsy than otherwise. Colisa lalia is a complete waste of money.> 2 blue rainbow <Should be kept in groups of at least six specimens: Melanotaenia spp. are schooling fish, so what you're doing is cruel. Depending on precisely what species you have, these may be too large for your tank. Many Melanotaenia reach 12-15 cm.> 2 Hoplo catfish (acquired about 3 months after the others) <Far too large for your aquarium; Hoplosternum littorale gets to over 15 cm in length and is extremely boisterous in temperament. A superb choice for a 55 gallon tank; an appalling one for anything smaller.> I have a 29 gallon tank that I set up and let run for 2 weeks before purchasing any fish. <Just "running" isn't enough -- how did you mature the filter? What source of ammonia did you add? Ammonia from a bottle? Bits of rotting shellfish? If you did nothing, and just let it sit there, then it is no more cycled after two weeks than it was when you started.> All the fish did fine in their new home (excepting the one Gourami). I test my water regularly and do a 20-30% water change every week. I have had the tank set up for almost 6 months so now I am in the process of adding live plants. (I put in 2 live plants a couple of weeks ago and they did well so I just added some more). So now on to the question(s): What is the best temperature for this grouping of fish? The fish store said 72F but everything I read says it should be warmer. Should I listen to local advise or let majority rule? <Neither. Science isn't democratic or based on local wisdom. Each fish has its own preferences dependent on its point of origin. Buy and read a decent aquarium book so you don't have to depend on what the guy in the shop says. Aiming for 25 C/77F would be about right for your fish.> I have been having a heck of a time keeping the water quality stable. It seems I am always fighting against high ammonia or high nitrites/nitrates. Since I monitor this regularly, I am able to take corrective action before I get any further than the "mildly stressful" levels according to the test kits - but I would REALLY like to get everything stable and not always be worrying about what is going wrong!! <Poor water quality depends on three factors: stocking, food, and filtration. If you are getting poor water quality even six months after setting the tank up, then you are either overstocked, overfeeding, and/or under-filtering. Pick and choose from these. Do also check you aren't doing anything stupid like killing the filter bacteria every time you open the filter, for example by changing all the media or running the media under a hot tap.> I have hard water with a pH of 6.8 and currently my ammonia and nitrite readings are 0. <Fine.> I think maybe I am feeding too much? I read that as long as all the food is eaten in a couple of minutes, then it is the correct amount. <Depends on the fish and the food. A juvenile Angelfish for example needs 3-4 "flakes" per day. Consider each flake about the same a medium-sized steak would be to a human. Alternately, a single wet-frozen cube of bloodworms would be adequate for all your fish for one day. Fish need very small amounts of food.> My fish do eat all the food in that time period and come to the top afterward acting like they are starving, so could it be I am still feeding too much? <Maybe.> How do you know exactly how much to feed? This question has been driving me crazy for six months! I alternate between flake food and frozen brine shrimp, and I just started giving seaweed 1-2 times a week. I don't want to overfeed but I also don't want my fish to be hungry! <Well-fed fish should have a gently rounded abdomen. If the abdomen looks chunky or swollen, you're overfeeding; if the ventral surface is concave or "knife-edge" in appearance, you're underfeeding.> Then I just got a new filter. The one I had was an used AquaClear 70 that worked OK but made a horrible racket and I just couldn't take the noise any more! So I purchased a Marineland Emperor 400 (for up to 80 gallon tank) as I liked the idea of the bio-wheels and not risking the biological filtration every time I cleaned the filter. I know this is big for my tank but I went with the assumption that it would keep the water cleaner (and maybe therefore help stabilize everything) and also I hope to get a bigger tank in the future and this way I won't have to buy another new filter. I added the filter material from the old filter to start with (planning to remove it in a couple of weeks) in an attempt to keep the biological filtration going - I have no idea if this worked. <Should do, but don't remove the old filter media for at least 6 weeks.> But this filter makes the water much more active and I don't know if my fish like it! My Gouramis are turning darker since the change, even though they are eating and swimming normally. Is this grouping of fish OK with active water or should I change back to a smaller filter that won't move the water so much? They are all swimming around fine, not seeming to be buffeted or anything, but I notice it especially when feeding as the flakes now move rapidly around the tank and the fish get pretty hyper chasing the food. Is this stressful? My rainbows are chasing each other at feeding time and they never used to do that. <What matters is water turnover. Look at your filter: it will have a turnover rating in gallons (or litres) per hour. Compare this to your tank. You are after 4-6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour.> I raised the water temperature to 77F when I was dealing with the hurt angel (per fish store) and I haven't lowered it yet. Could that be the reason for the hyper behavior and color changes? <No idea, but leave the temperature there anyway.> Overall my fish seem happy with each other and the new plants (nibbling on them and hiding in them), but the angels are starting to get really big and I know the rainbows and Hoplo can get big too so I am worried about whether they will continue to get along. Or if maybe the angels are harassing the Gouramis and that is the reason for them getting darker colored? <Possible, and the Hoplosternum are also a bit more robust that one would normally want with Gouramis.> I also notice a white area on 2 of the Gouramis (it is not raised or cottony or anything, looks more like a small layer of scales is gone) which makes me wonder if there is some fighting going on of which I am not aware. <Or the start of Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus.> I want to be a good fish owner and I love my fish, but so far I have spent much more time worrying than enjoying! How do I create a happy, stable aquarium environment? <Primarily by reading first. Knowledge is power.> I apologize for the long message. Thanks so much for your help and all the invaluable information on your website! Cathy <Good luck, Neale.>

Re: New Tank question... Outside power filter 3/14/08 Thank you for your response to my questions. Your response has raised two more questions. I did search your site before writing to you again, and I spent almost 3 hours reading without finding the answers to my questions, so I hope it's OK to write to you again. <It's fine! Ask away!> The first is concerning the fish I was advised to purchase. I am stuck with these fish now and want to make the best of the situation. <Agreed.> I feel really bad about the rainbows and plan to get a larger tank and more rainbows as soon as it is possible. So that leads to my question - I have already had these fish for 6 months and am not sure how long it will take me to gather the money for the larger tank set-up - at that point, I can only assume that the rainbow fish I have are going to be a good bit larger than the new fish. Is this going to be a problem in terms of them getting along and schooling, etc.? <Shouldn't be a problem. Rainbowfish usually school with one another happily regardless of size. Mature males might chase one another, but normally no harm is done.> I'm also very aggravated that they told me to get the Hoplos as I told them I wanted two small catfish... and they were small when I got them :-) but have grown an enormous amount already and are very, very active - running into/over all the other fish if they happen to be in their way <Indeed, Hoplosternum littorale is far from a "small" catfish.> The 2nd question regards my new filter... it turns over 400 gallons per hours. I have a 29 gallon tank so this is obviously more than 4 to 6 times the volume of the tank. Does that mean I am now over-filtering? <Seriously? 400 gallons per hour is a HUGE filter. This would be a top-of-the-line filter costing several hundred dollars and would be churning a 29 gallon tank into something like Niagara Falls! I'm pretty sure you're misreading something, and what you have is a 400 litres per hour filter, which is pretty standard for an entry-level filter. 400 litres is about 100 US gallons, or in other words a turnover about 3 and a bit times the volume of your tank per hour. Under-filtering rather than over-filtering.> Do I need to get rid of this filter and get something smaller? I am reluctant to do that (since I am planning to get a bigger tank), but I will if it is what is best for the fish. <Save up for the aquarium. At this point your problem is you have a bunch of fish that need a bit more space than you have. I'd recommend at least 55 US gallons. To keep costs down, save up for that tank and then install an undergravel filter. Coupled with the filter you already have, these two different filters will combine to provide excellent water quality. Undergravel filters aren't compatible with plants that have roots, but they're fine with floating plants and plants stuck to rocks (like Anubias and Java fern). Old school technology perhaps, but cheap and effective.> Thanks again for your help! Cathy <Cheers, Neale.>
Re: New Tank question... filter
According to the box, my filter does run 400 gallons per hour (see specs below)! It is a huge filter - taking up most of the back of the tank. I paid around $80.00 for it. The water is active but not churning... should I get something smaller? Or maybe just figure out how to adjust the flow pump (that wasn't in the directions)? Thanks! Cathy Marineland - Emperor 400 Power Filters *Model Number **400* *Flow Rate (L/H) * 1500 *Aquarium Size (L) *<300 *Flow Rate (GPH) * 400 *Aquarium Size (G) * <80 <Hi Cathy. Okely dokely; my mistake. But seriously, a 400 gallon per hour filter on a 29 gallon tank will have a turnover of more than 13 times per hour. That's more than the average marine aquarium! I can't imagine angelfish and other community fish of that sort being happy. The normal turnover for community tanks with freshwater fish is between 4-6 times per hour. In other words, just as the ratings suggest, this filter would be ideal for an 80 gallon tank (5 x 80 = 400). So yes, I'd be looking for a smaller filter, and would save this one for as/when you get a large tank. Cheers, Neale.>

An addendum: Regarding Emperor 400 filter On 3/14/08 Neale answered a question from Cathy (Re: New Tank question) 3/15/08 Hi there, Crew! I just had a note to add. Regarding Emperor 400 filter On 3/14/08 Neale answered a question from Cathy (Re: New Tank question) regarding her Emperor 400 filter on her 29 gallon tank. Neale suspected that this filter couldn't possibly be so vigorous as 400 gph, but this is actually what it is rated at! In fact, I've seen two of these filters powering a 250 gallon tank with a single Koi, at my fave Pan Asian restaurant. It seems to suffice. This web page explains some basic modifications you can make to maximize efficiency: http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/power_filter_tricks_v.php Emperor filters are workhorses, and they do deliver ample flow. Unfortunately, these filters are the "cartridge type" with some blue floss and crumbles of carbon in a grid...I *highly* recommend to anyone who uses them, that they swap out the disposable cartridges for the largest AquaClear media they can find. Specifically the foam sponges and the Biomax bags. All of my tanks have hang-on back filters (some also employ canister filtration) and I use AquaClear media on all of the hang-on back filters, even though some of them are not AquaClears. The AquaClear media comes in an array of sizes, so will fit most any HOB filter. Rinseable, reusable media is the way to go! Incidentally, that filter must be roiling the water on that 29 gallon tank a whole lot. Since as I recall, Cathy has three dwarf Gouramis in there, maybe she should try to diffuse that flow a bit. One suggestion would be to secure floating plastic plants just under the filter's flow path. Some black binder clips holding up the plants on either side of the filter ought to do the trick, although a more elegant and lasting solution could probably be effected eventually. Just food for thought! As always, thank you for all your efforts. Nicole <Thanks much for this Nicole. Will send along to NealeM and accumulate. Bob Fenner> <As Bob said, thanks for this. Without the filter being named in the original e-mail, I simply had a hard time imagining anyone would put such a big filter on such a small tank. But I was wrong! I agree with you, the water current is perhaps overkill for Gouramis, but then again, I imagine the "gallons per hour" of the average Southeast Asian river is pretty substantial, too! Cheers, Neale.>

Filter Recommendations - 02/06/07 I forwarded my last email to you, below is what I sent. Just to elaborate on that, I was looking into penguin, Emperor and whisper hang-on power filters. So pretty much it was between those unless you have a better one to recommend. Currently my Rena does 350gph, how many more gph would I need for an overstocked 75g African tank? Thanks again Bob I appreciate it. <The Penguin and Emperor filter lines are both made by the same company, Marineland. Go with an Emperor 400. Has Bio-wheels and overflow when it needs serviced. Nice filter. When you get tired or cleaning on the Rena you will really appreciate the Emperor. The best filter is the one you will clean the most often.-Chuck>

Airstones inside H.O.T. filters? 1/15/08 Hello, Brando here. <Hello.> I have a 90 gal. Malawi cichlid tank- 1 acei, 3 red peacock, 1 albino ice blue, 2 yellow labs, 2 red zebra, 1 jewel, 1 CAE, 1 African lace cat. <Quite an interesting collection!> Filtration is 2 TopFin 60 H.O.T. filters. <OK.> I have always used carbon as the filter media, however I am considering switching out the carbon for a different media. <A no-brainer: do it. Carbon doesn't have any significant benefit in freshwater tanks. All carbon does is remove dissolved organics, which 25-50% water changes per week will be taking care of anyway. On the downside, carbon is wasting space that could be used for better biological media that would actually help water quality, or mechanical media that would improve water clarity. In a Malawi cichlid tank, even the use of a calcareous substrate, like crushed coral, would be more useful for its pH-buffering, KH-raising effects.> The TopFin 60 is a dual-well filter and I have two of them on the tank. Should I replace the media all at once, or should I do just one side of each filter to avoid any sudden changes? <All at once. Then take the carbon out to the garden, and ceremonially burn it, to signify your rejection of Stone Age fishkeeping in favour of the Modern Era.> What media would you recommend? <Anything would be better. Depends on what you're after. As noted above, a calcareous substrate would be useful. But if you're going for better water quality, then a decent ceramic media like Siporax wouldn't be a bad choice.> Also, would it be wise to place airstones into the bottoms of these filters (so that bubbles rise up through and around the cotton pouches which hold the media) to supply more oxygen to the media? <Worth a shot. Certainly can't hurt. But if those filters already are open to the air and have water sluicing across the media, then the bacteria may well have all the oxygen they need. In which case placing the airstones in the tank to improve water circulation might be a better use of resources.> Thank you so much, Brand <Cheers, Neale.>

Canister vs. Hang-on, FW 01/13/2008 I have been looking at your site, and have seen filtration questions answered differently. My tank is a 30 gallon with a H.O.T.. Magnum and a double bio-wheel by Marineland. Not many fish as to an ammonia spike. I have a Fluval 304 and a Fluval 404 that I could use. My question is-Canister vs. Hang-On. Would I be better off using one of the canisters? Someone told me the Bio-Wheel is not a good choice, and others say it is. Could you please give me your opinion on this. Thank you for your time. <Greetings. There's no short answer to this: it's a case of "horses for courses". All things being equal, a tropical aquarium needs about 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour when small things like Neons and Guppies are kept; that goes up to about 6 times for larger fish such as Goldfish, and as much as 10 times for sensitive or mess creatures, such as big catfish, marines, Oscars, and so on. So a 100 litre aquarium with small fish needs filtration that equals at least 400 litres of turnover per hour. So far, so good. But not all filters excel at the same things. Canister filters are very good at mechanical filtration. Water is sucked in under pressure, forced through sponges or whatever, and then back into the tank. But because the canister is closed to the atmosphere the only oxygen it gets is through the water, and the bacteria can easily used up this supply as the water goes through the filter media. End result is that canister filters are less effective at biological filtration than filters that are open to the aquarium or open to the air, such as trickle filters or wet-and-dry filters. On the flip side, low-pressure trickle and wet-and-dry filters aren't so good at trapping solid waste. They don't generate much pressure, and the water doesn't pass through much mechanical filter media. Your hang-on-the-back filter is some sort of low-pressure filter, with a pump pulling water quite gently into the box where it sluices through chambers open to the air. That's great for biological filtration, but less good for mechanical filtration. The "ideal" is ultimately about choosing what your fish need most. If you're keeping Goldfish, then mechanical filtration is paramount, since these fish produce a lot of silt, partly as faeces, but also because they root about the bottom of the tank all the time. But if you were keeping marines, where tanks are lightly stocked but the livestock very sensitive to ammonia, then biological filtration is the prime issue. Realistically, provided you adhere to the 4x, 6x, or 10x rules outlined above, it shouldn't matter too much, but one idea to use two types of filter, so that you get the best of both worlds. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Filter intake problems, HOB 11/30/07 Hello WWM folks, <Hello Melissa,> I have a 15 gallon freshwater tank that completed its cycle two days ago. It was set up on the 15th of November. I cycled with fish - five blackskirt tetras - and seeded with sponge media from another tank. Yesterday, I did a 50% water change and added three peppered Corys. <Hmm... a bit small for these species. Your tetras, Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, get to around 5 cm long and are hyperactive little fish. The Corydoras paleatus can get even bigger: I have specimens around the 7 cm mark. So while things might be fine now, I have to confess that I think your tank will be very cramped once these fish grow up. Do also remember that Gymnocorymbus ternetzi is a semi-parasitic fish. It eats the fins and scales from slow-moving fish. It cannot be kept with anything slow-moving, and your Corydoras are likely to get nipped periodically as well. When kept with things with long fins, like Guppies, Angelfish and Gouramis, Gymnocorymbus ternetzi simply shred their fins, resulting in fungal infections and the like. In short, not a community species, despite its wide sale as such.> However, when I was planting the tank (Vallisneria, water sprite, Anubias and some moss, if it matters), a lot of bits of roots and leaves fell off the plants. <This happens when plants are moved. They don't like being moved.> I left these bits in the tank to decompose and help the cycle along. <Not a very good idea!> Now that the cycle is over, I've removed the small bits of leaves and roots, but there still remains quite a lot of detritus that I'm pretty sure resulted from the rotting plants. For some reason, my filter doesn't seem to be doing its job in getting rid of this detritus. I don't mean actual pieces of plant, I mean tiny specks of detritus, like dust or dirt. <Simply means inadequate mechanical filtration. Hang-on filters are especially bad for this, being optimized for biological filtration but providing little to no mechanical filtration.> I have a HOB filter that filters 450 L/h (my tank is 57 L). I have no dead spots in there as far as I can tell. The detritus circulates around the tank due to the current produced by the filter's waterfall, settles on the leaves of my plants or on my sand substrate, but never actually gets sucked up. <A common problem with this sort of filter. Your filter is theoretically adequate for biological filtration, but if you're seeing silt in the tank, that's empirical proof that mechanical filtration (removal of solid particles) is inadequate. Two solutions: add more filtration, or do more water changes. Your move.> I removed the bottom part of the intake tube which seems to have improved the suction. With the entire intake tube intact, I could feel absolutely no suction when I placed my finger at the end of it, but when I removed the bottom part I could feel some very slight suction, but nothing strong enough to take a fish. However, it doesn't seem to be making all that much difference. <Sounds as if the filter is clogged. Assuming the pump itself is working, take a look at the filter media. As the media gets clogged up, water flow through the filter drops. Solution: clean the media. Biological media can be cleaned a bucket of aquarium water by squeezing it a few times. Mechanical media can be aggressively washed under a running tap. Carbon can be taken out and buried in the garden. You have no need for it in your sort of aquarium. Replace that part of the filter with something like filter wool.> Obviously this subtracts terribly from the aesthetic value of my tank, but I'm also very worried for my nitrate levels. I fear that with this huge amount of detritus around, my nitrates are going to spike and then I will be faced with a whole host of new problems. <No... plant detritus is mostly cellulose with little to no protein content (review your biology classes at school, and why carnivores only need to have small meals, but herbivores must graze for hours and hours at a time). So the effect on nitrate is minimal. One flake of flake food probably has more protein than a whole Amazon swordplant! But what silt and plant material will do is block the filter, and once water flow gets too low, the removal of ammonia and nitrite by the bacteria becomes inadequate.> Any help is deeply appreciated. Thanks. -Melissa <Hope that this helps, Neale.>
Re: Filter intake problems 11/30/07
Hi Neale, Regarding the maximum size of the fish - I have never heard this before. <A common problem. This is why investing in an aquarium book is such a good idea. The public library will have many, I'm sure. Always look up the maximum size of fish *before* purchase.> I was told that I could have up to six Corys in my tank. Thanks for the heads up. <Ah, depends on the Corydoras. Peppered Corydoras are very tolerant any may be fine enough. My specimens will happily spawn in an 8 gallon tank! But personally, I'd consider a 15 gallon tank a little on the small size for Peppered Corys. Small species, perhaps, but Peppers get to a fair old size when kept properly. Certainly upwards of 5 cm, and potentially around 7 cm.> What kind of additional filtration do you think I need? <To start with, I'd just try manual cleaning. Siphon out 50% of the water at a time (what I recommend you do once a week regardless). Put your finger over the spout to 'shoo' away any fish that get too close. Use the siphon like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up detritus as best you can. Assuming the plants are actually thriving and not slowly dying, you should be able to remove all the dead material by doing this. If you want, repeat every day until the tank is spick-and-span.> I wouldn't have thought my tank needed a canister filter. I washed the filter media, but to no avail. <Your filter probably just doesn't have much mechanical filtration capacity. Many don't. For small fish in unplanted or lightly planted tanks it really isn't a big deal. Mechanical filtration becomes more critical with filthy fish like Goldfish and big Cichlids, and in planted tanks with a lot of decaying vegetation. But as I say, for now, hold off buying another filter. It may well be that 'vacuuming' the tank a few times will do the trick.> I don't use carbon in my filter. <Good.> Thanks, -Melissa <Cheers, Neale.>

Filter Intake, FW 9/26/07 I have a 2.5 gallon tank that I have a Crown Tail Betta in. I just added 2 zebra Danios today. I noticed one had gone missing a few hours after I put them in the tank. <Eaten?> I looked around, he was gone. No little body floating, nothing. I have a Whisper filter with the top of the water almost level so I looked into my filter and found my fish! At first I thought he might have swam into the filter, so I took out a little water, but he was on the back side of the filter. I'm thinking that he either swam up the intake part of the filter, or he was sucked in. Is there any sort of cover that I can place to keep him from swimming/getting sucked into it again? (If he does it again, I may not find him until its too late!) Or do I need to get a different type of filter? This is the filter that came with the tank set up. Thanks. <Mmm... most outside powerfilters have such screens... on their intakes... Are the Danios so small they can fit in anyway? I would cut, fix a piece of plastic screen door material over the existing intake if so... likely with a zip-tie/Panduit. Bob Fenner> I might want to clarify what kind of whisper filter I have: it is an In-take filter. Right now I put some of my gravel closer to the intake, so maybe they wont wander under there! <Maybe...>

Filtration and oxygen, FW 7/17/07 Hi, guys. <<Tom here.>> Quick question. <<Okay. (I'll have one for you when I close. ;) >> I have installed a second filter on my 55 gallon discus tank, in order to allow it to mature before my new and larger tank comes. <<I like your thinking. Excellent move!>> My primary filter is an Eheim 2026 (rated up to 92 gallons) and the new one is an Emperor 400. <<The Emperor won't take long to establish and nice choice.>> I plan to run them both together for a month before placing them both on the new 90 gallon aquarium. <<Again, good planning!>> Here is my question: I have a bubble bar in the aquarium. Should I remove it since the HOB filter should provide some oxygenation of the water? <<Nope. The more, the better. Oxygen in the tank is at a 'premium'. Unless utility costs are an issue, I'd keep it going.>> I do not intend to allow the water level in the aquarium to fall enough for the water coming off of the Emperor to make much splash/noise. <<Got one myself. The 'noise factor', in my opinion, is vastly over-stated (if you read the reviews). Switched it out from a large Aqua-Clear model (a very good filter), which made a heck of a lot more 'water' noise. Just me, perhaps, but I don't think you'll be disappointed'¦in the least!>> Thank you for your reply! <<You're welcome. (Now, two things. I like to know who I'm talking to, first of all. Second, there's a SHIFT key on your keyboard that's used to capitalize letters that are meant to be capitalized. 'Old school', perhaps, but we have to proofread AND answer questions before submitting them. Your question, and our responses, go on the Web for everyone in the world (including those who might not have English as their 'first' language) to read. 'Nuff said. ;) ) Tom>>

How often should filter cartridges be cleaned/replaced -- 05/21/07 Dear Crew, <Nicole.> I have what is likely a silly question about filtration, but I've been puzzling on it for a while and I can't seem to figure it out. I have a 10 gal tank with a Tetra Whisper Power filter, and my question is this: the manufacturer's instructions suggest changing the cartridges once per month, but if I throw out the cartridge, won't I be throwing out the beneficial bacteria that are growing on it? <You are right.> How long will it take the bacteria to re-establish themselves in the new cartridge <A few days, many will be left in the substrate and on the decorations.>, and will this be harmful to the stability of my tank? <It could, if you'd also clean decorations and substrate.> Should I just be rinsing the cartridges out <Yes, just rinse the cartridges as soon as you recognize water flow to become significantly weaker or when water just overflows the tube like chamber. Those cotton or foam like materials can last for several years, only wool in other models needs to be replaced more often.> and replacing the carbon instead of changing them every month? <You do not need to use carbon at all. New activated carbon will only be good for one or two weeks. It's only useful in specific cases e.g. to help removing some chemicals such as remedies or certain toxins. It needs to be introduced fresh to your filter in such cases.> Thanks in advance for your help, my tank is going along so well and I just don't want to mess it up! Nicole. <You are welcome. Have fun with your tank. Marco.>

Quiet Skilter 250? Skilter Problems 4/12/07 I got a used Skilter 250 (came without box or instructions) in a batch of equipment. I set it up on a 10 Gal. freshwater tank currently only occupied by 1 P. bridgesii snail, castles, & some live plants (there are fish coming, though). <Generally skimmers do not work in freshwater for various reasons unless the water is very very dirty. They require the increased surface tension of salt water to maintain the bubbles long enough to work properly, which does not happen in freshwater.> It runs quietly (quiet waterfall noise is quite pleasant, so I'm bidding on another for a similar tank for just a few fish). <Can you cancel your bid?> But in 2 weeks+, nothing in the cup! <Expected.> I thought, well, the water IS pretty clean... After reading the posts concerning the Skilter 250, I have to wonder--is there something I have to do, to turn the Protein Skimmer part on? You are probably ROTFL right now, but I didn't notice a separate switch... Please advise. Linda Willis <Your problem is that skimmers just don't work in freshwater, and the Skilter in particular have a reputation of not working in salt water either.> <Chris>

Impossible <Marineland> Filter Cartridge -- 3/26/07 Hello. <Hi.> I am a new tank owner and I need to change my filter. Stupid me didn't buy replacement cartridges when I bought the filter. That was two hours away from my home. Now, I can't find the cartridges even on line. I bought a Deluxe AQUA-Tech power filter and it says to use EZ-Change #1 Filter Cartridges. I can't find them anywhere. <I'm not seeing much out there either. Perhaps not a current model. Hmmm.> I know AQUA-Tech is made by Marineland and I still can't figure out which filters will work. Can you please help me? <Marineland changed their size designations recently to Rite-Size, complete with color-coding. So some of the older sizes might have new and improved designations. I would measure the old filter cartridge and go to a more convenient pet store and try to match the size in the new designations. Or call Marineland customer service. Their info is listed on their website www.marineland.com.> Thank you for your time. Jennifer <Welcome. Alex>

Siporax in power filter question, FW ap. 2/23/07 Crew- <Michael> I hope all is well. I'm writing today with a few questions regarding the placement of Siporax beads. Specifically, I'm setting up a 15-gallon freshwater dwarf puffer tank. I'm using an Aquaclear Mini (100 gph) for filtration. Inside the Aqua clear's media chamber, I'd like to place a Dacron bag filled with Siporax beads for their nitrification and denitrification benefits. <An excellent idea, proposition> I plan to cut the sponge in half to increase the volume of Siporax that I can place into the filter. I also plan on using Aqua clear's carbon insert in the media chamber (in between the sponge and the Siporax). My actual question regards exposing the Siporax bag to air when cleaning the filter. Will I be drastically harming the anaerobic population if I transfer the Dacron bag from the filter (through the air) to a small bowl filled with aquarium water (and then back when finished cleaning)? <Mmm, no... the majority of said anaerobes are located deep within the fractured areas of these sintered glass beads> I realize that the anaerobic colony resides in the anoxic "innards" of the beads (devoid of oxygen), but I have no idea if air will penetrate these regions during such a transfer. Any help is always greatly appreciated. Also, if you feel that my placement of media should be rearranged in any way (in terms of order), I value your advice. Thanks, Mike <Likely little issue here... I would avoid much in the way of rinsing such media... Bob Fenner>

Filter Recommendations - 02/11/2007 Hey Chuck, we were speaking about power filters yesterday. I just went and purchased the penguin (bio-wheel) HOB power filter. The Emperor was a bit out of my price range but I was wondering how you feel about BioWheels? < I love them. I think they are a great asset to any aquarium filter. If they had them for air driven filters I would have them on them too.> I am using this on an overstocked 75g African Cichlid tank as an addition to my Rena Filstar Xp3. The Aquaclear is within my price range compared to the Emperor so now I am considering buying one of those for my 55g. I never realized until just now that the media in the Aquaclear is much like a wet dry filter. Is the Aquaclear filtration setup more effective than the bio wheel setup, or are they similar? Also, which is the most quiet between the Penguin and the Aquaclear? Thanks a lot. Jason McCorry < The limiting factor to biological filtration is oxygen. That is why the Bio-wheels are out of the water. They are probably the most efficient media for bacteria to grow on.-Chuck>

Filter Choices, FW power 2/12/07 Hey Chuck, just a follow up. After reading your email regarding the Penguin filter I went and returned it. Still, the Emperor is way out of my price range (strictly because it's only an add-on filter for an already powerful canister). So I went and bought the Hagen Aquaclear 110 (pumps 500gph), do you think this is a better choice than the Penguin? < It does not have a Bio-Wheel so I think you will be missing out on some of the biological filtration it would have provided. The Hagen is fine. Lots of water movement with very good mechanical filtration.> I've read a lot of reviews on this filter, but what's your opinion on it? Where does it stand in ranking amongst the Emperor etc.? Thanks Chuck < I am still a big fan of the Marineland filters with the Bio-wheel attachments. I have had them run for many many years without any problems. The Hagen filters are good I just do not have any recent hands on experience with them.-Chuck>

Tetra GC30 Hydroclean tank siphon, r/etail is best? 1/29/07 Hi, I've decided to buy a Tetra GC30 Hydroclean tank siphon. The only problem is that I can't seem to find a dealer in the U.S. I tried to order one from a UK store and they wanted 45 bucks, just to deliver it! <Wow!> I live in South Carolina, and was wondering if you guys know of a closer online dealer. I have found U.S. sites that sell Tetra products but not the GC30 I'm looking for. Thanks for your time, Greg <Mmm... I'd try a good-sized local store or two... see if they'll allow you to special order this for you... or try the "usual suspects" etailers here... Custom Aquatic, Marine Depot... and dang the torpedoes. BobF>

Note about AquaClear filter 1/10/07 Hi! <Hello there> Just a quick note about the AquaClear filters. It is my understanding that the AquaClear Mini is now called AquaClear 20. <Mmm, something like this: http://www.hagen.com/usa/aquatic/basic/4-1.cfm> Just thought it might help people trying to buy this piece of equipment! (I own the old version myself). Audrey <Thank you for this. Hopefully Hagen (the manufacturer) will provide cross-indexing for their media, et al. Bob Fenner>
Re: Note about AquaClear filter 1/11/07
Hi again Bob! <Audrey> > Just a quick note about the AquaClear filters. It is my understanding that the AquaClear Mini is now called AquaClear 20. > <Mmm, something like this: http://www.hagen.com/usa/aquatic/basic/4-1.cfm> Like this one: http://www.hagen.com/usa/aquatic/product.cfm?CAT=1&SUBCAT=107&PROD_ID=01005950020101 > <Thank you for this. Hopefully Hagen (the manufacturer) will provide cross-indexing for their media, et al. Bob Fenner> They do, but the writing on the box is *tiny*! Audrey <Perhaps a note to Rolf and Dieter in Canada re...? Manufacturers do appreciate such input. RMF>

Re: Tom: Snail update and hang-on filter trick - 12/04/06 Hello Tom, <<Hello again, Rachel.>> I wanted to update you on the cuttlefish bone addition for my mystery snail. <<Updates are always welcome, Rachel.>> The bone seems to be very slowly dissolving into the water, and his shell has stopped deteriorating. The tank's pH has not changed. Once in a while I notice the snail munching while on the bone, but I couldn't say whether he's munching the bone or a bit of algae off the surface. I don't see any tell-tale teeth marks. Worth noting, though, is the fact that he did chew with gusto on one of those terrible plaster "vacation feeders." The pet store had run out of automatic feeders... thankfully I got my family to bring me an automatic feeder just in time for break, and I pulled the awful plaster thing out of my tank! But anyway, the bone seems to have served its purpose. <<I've never used a vacation feeder but, since plaster is largely composed of calcium sulfate, perhaps yours wasn't so 'terrible' after all or, at the least, your snail knows something we don't. :) >> I also wanted to pass on a trick I discovered for my Whisper Micro in-tank filter. My tank is a MiniBow kit and I've written in before about a few modifications that can be made to these kits to make them quieter and healthier. One more! I had some leftover filter sponge from covering the intake of the filter, so I slipped a piece behind the filter body. It helps keep the filter from resting on the tank wall (which it's not supposed to do anyway; the suction cup is supposed to prop it up but it's too flat) so the vibrations and noise are greatly reduced. I also padded the hook that hangs the filter from the tank's lip with a bit of sponge. Sounds much better! And it feels better too now that the tank isn't vibrating, for me since this tank sits on my desk, and hopefully for Terrence the Betta inside too. <<I like your thinking, Rachel. Thanks for passing this along to us and the rest of our readers.>> Thanks for your help, Tom! Rachel <<Happy to have been of assistance, Rachel, and thanks for the nice update and tip. My best to you. Tom>>

Using established tank to put bacteria on new bio-wheel 11/4/06 Hello WWM crew, <Helen> I was wondering if it would be possible to put beneficial bacteria on a new bio-wheel, for a new filter system, for a new tank, by putting it as a decoration in a tank that has already cycled (not making it a part of the cycled tanks filter system). This would be for say a few weeks and then set up the new aquarium. <Yes, can work... better to inoculate the "wheel" by hooking the whole filter up, and running it though> Okay a bit of history. The cycled tank is a 3 gallon one, it had two fish in it, a Synodontis and a Keyhole Cichlid, <Yikes... too small...> up until a few weeks ago when I was forced to relocate a guppy into the tank, due to a fin-nipping fish. All of these fish are small. The biggest is the Syno. and he is only about 1 1/2" long. So, there is no hurry to relocate these fish yet. Toxin levels are as follows:* Ammonia - <0mg/L Nitrites - 0mg/L Nitrates - 10ppm *this is with the guppy in there for a week. *These numbers may actually be lower as I recently did a water change. The new tank will be a ten gallon tank because it's the biggest I could get for the space I have. It will be using a Penguin filter. I can't remember if it's a 100 or 150, but it's the smallest one I could find (space issue). I plan to move as much as I can from the cycled tank to the new one, but do you think it would be a good idea, or would it at least help the new tank cycle a little faster if I did as I proposed. <Is a very good idea/practice> Much appreciate any help you could provide. halexander9 <You have read: can't seem to open here in Cambodia... but WWM FW really biol. filtration... Articles and FAQs files. Bob Fenner>

Power Filter Choice 9/4/06 Hello there, <<Hello, Steve. Tom>> I currently have a 55 gallon planted discus tank. I have four 3-4 inch discus and one 5 inch Pleco. I am currently running a Jebo canister filter along with a Penguin 125 power filter. I realize the Jebo was a terrible choice. Guess I had to learn for myself that it is worth it to pay extra to get something decent. I would like to replace the filters and was considering either an Emperor 400 or an Aquaclear. Due to the brace on the middle of the tank, an Emperor would have to be off centered and I worry about not getting a good circulation of water in the tank. I like the simplicity of the AquaClear filters. I thought that maybe it would be a good idea to use two smaller Aquaclear filters in order to create better circulation. (Maybe two Aquaclear 50's) I realize that opinions vary, but what would you do in this situation? <<Steve, both the Emperor and AquaClear models are good choices for this style of filter. My preference for the AquaClear filters is only due to my own experience with them as I've never had a bit of trouble with any that I've owned (I currently have two running, a 50 and a 70). Were it me, I'd probably opt to go with two AquaClear 70's - as opposed to 50's - just to get the extra filtering capacity on a tank the size of yours.>> Thanks for taking the time to help. Hope you are having a great Labor Day Weekend. Steve <<Happy to help, Steve, and I hope you're enjoying your holiday weekend as well. Tom>>

Extra Media Slots (Penguin 200 and 350) For an additional Rite-Size Filter Cartridge or Penguin Refillable Media Cartridge for enhanced chemical filtration. 6/13/06 I just bought a Penguin Power filter 200 model. Can you tell me the purpose and proper settings for the mid level filter, My tank is 29 Gal fresh water. Thank you Tom <Per the above spiel, these hang-on outside power filters have an extra gap to place either stock cartridge or a refillable media cartridge... Bob Fenner>
Re: Extra Media Slots (Penguin 200 and 350) For an additional Rite-Size Filter 6/14/06
Thank you for the response. I was looking for the proper setting of the midlevel filter level that is half way down the extension that goes in the water. It says it is for water filtration at a different point. Thank you <Ahh! Yes... some water to be "taken in" at an upper level. Bob Fenner>

BioWheel Question 5/31/06 Greetings! <Hi> Any information in response to my question would be greatly appreciated! I have a 40 gallon glass tank with 3 goldfish: 2 calico fantails and 1 goldfish fantail. I figured this set up would be perfect for the little guys to grow healthy in with a penguin 350b power filter. In regards to the bio-wheel, once the nitrifying bacteria colony grows on it, what color should it be? Reason being, my two bio-wheels are brown, as if mostly algae? <Normal color.> As a result, I believe that this is the cause of my water with small bubbles on the surface. <Unlikely related, some bubbles are normal.> I've done 20% water changes everyday for the past 2 weeks, yet there are still small bubbles (that will eventually burst), but I know there is a water quality problem here. I've tested the water with the following results: ammonia =~ 0.1 (obviously still bad) <Yep> ph =~ 7.2 nitrites =~ 0.50 (needs to be 0, which is why I've done daily water changes) <Good> nitrates =~ 10 ppm The water changes have not changed much. I've conditioned the new tap water with ammo-lock, added aquarium salt after the water changes, and even rinsed the filters in the original aquarium water, but still no luck. Which leads me to the bio-wheel and it's brownish coloration. Could this be the cause? Any ideas would be great. Thank you. Ty <Most BioWheels look brown after a while, so the color is normal. Do you have ammonia/nitrites coming from the tap water? Ammo-lock can cause false positives on the ammonia test. If this tank is only a couple of weeks old then I would suspect than the cycle is not yet completed. Can take up to a month at times.> <Chris> Hang-on-back filter hang-up 5/26/06 Dear WetWeb: <Martha> I recently obtained a standard 55-gallon freshwater tank second-hand. To my surprise, the AquaClear 70 filter that I have been using on my 45-gallon tank won't quite fit over the rim of this new tank! <Happens> Instead, it perches about 1/2" above the tank edge, failing to clear the inner lip of the tank by perhaps 1/8". <Yep> Do I leave well-enough alone, and leave the perching filter in its elevated position? <Mmm, no... not made to function a kilter, and too likely to "fall off"!> The water-flow comes closer to the glass canopy than I find truly comfortable; too easy to get stray water-droplets on top of the glass, under the light strip. Do I take a knife, or a saw, or a blowtorch (!) to the plastic rim of the tank, trying to create a space for the filter to slip into more firmly? <One approach...> I don't think the filter itself can be modified. <Mmm, can... and this is what/where I'd make the modification as the rim of the tank itself is structural to a degree. The lip of the filter box can be (very carefully) cut... with a fine jig saw blade for instance... taping over both sides, going slowly, and an "extension" solvented onto/over the cut to extend its reach> Or are some HOB filters more capacious than others? <Yes> I am very happy with AquaClears in most of my tanks, but would consider using another brand if it would fit this thank. Thank you for your time. <Am a big fan of these fine Hagen products as well... but would look into Supreme et alia. lines to fit this 55 here. Bob Fenner>

Poor Filter Intake Depth - 05/22/2006 Hi Crew. Could you please answer a question that I can not find a specific answer to? < We will try.> I recently set up a 75 gal. freshwater aquarium and can't find any info on where to place the filter intake tube as far as depth in tank. For best results should it be close to the substrate or in middle levels. Filter is Emperor 400. There is no reference the placement with manual or on their website. Also...I am going to stock this tank with blue gourami's and albino Cory cats only. How many do you recommend as maximum number of each for this size tank? Thanks for all of your help through the many fin articles and FAQ'S all of you provide for this fascinating addictive hobby. Thanks again...DR < In the center of the tank would be perfect. The Cory's would occupy the lower areas while the Gouramis occupy the upper levels. The intake would not interfere with either in the middle.-Chuck>

Significance of artificial filter sponges in freshwater aquarium changing color 4/6/06 Dear Sirs and Madams: <Tamara> Hello! After much searching on the net and other links, I have been stumped as to why the artificial filter sponges in my planted, established freshwater aquarium are turning pinkish-red. My ammonium levels are minimal, my pH is a relatively constant 7.2 and the water itself rather hard (but it has been about the same since I started my tank, about six years ago). I have never had an epidemic in my tank with regards to my flora or fauna, with the exception of a couple of algae blooms in the spring, but nothing too extreme. I have a balanced number of fish, and do not overfeed them. Is this cause for alarm? <No> It started happening around November of 2005. Thank you for your input! Sincerely, Tammy <Likely is biological... algal growth... though could be other life (need a microscope to discern) or simply a chemical/physical staining... but not to worry in all cases. Bob Fenner>

Treating A Tank With A Bio-Wheel - 2/28/2006 Hello, Have been combing the archives and I can't seem to spot this question/answer. I have a 12gal Eclipse with a bio wheel, when you're medicating a tank (ick)-after you're done, what do you do with the bio wheel? I've gotten rid of the carbon in the filter and have a new one ready to put in after the treatment, but am not sure what to do with the wheel-if anything or how to proceed. Thanks, Judy < Before treatment, take the Bio-wheel out of the system and place it in a little dish/bowl with some aquarium water and place it in a cool dark spot like under the aquarium. Keep it moist but not submerged. Treat the tank for ich for at least three days as per the recommendations on the bottle. After the treatment is complete you add carbon to remove any medication. When the tank is clear you can simply reinstall the bio-wheel. Without a fish to host the parasite it will die off in a few days depending on the water temp. This is one of the great things about the Bio-Wheel. This is especially useful when treating with antibiotics.-Chuck.>

Re: Medicated Tank with Bio-Wheel - 3/1/2006 Thank you Chuck for the quick response! I of course acted first and asked second! :-( What would I need to do (I pulled the bio wheel after I started treatment) in this instance? Should I get a new wheel and treat the water with a Bio Spira product after the treatment and about a 50% water change? I was so anxious to treat the white spots that I remembered the carbon but wasn't sure about the wheel. Thanks Again, Judy < When the fish are cured add carbon to remove the excess medication. Start feeding after adding the carbon. Be very careful not to overfeed and remove any excess food after a couple of minutes. Check the ammonia and nitrites. If they start to get up there then I would add Bio-Spira.-Chuck>

New Fish And Quieter Filter - 02/20/06 Hi Crew! I have a 10 gallon tank which is really empty (well, seemingly to me). It contains 2 Cory catfish -1 peppered and 1 bronze- and a Bolivian ram (so said at the pet shop). I was wondering what other fish could be compatible for these fish without overloading the tank. < Almost any community fish would work well in your tank. Small tetras, livebearers small barbs etc...> Also, over the past year my filter has been growing louder and louder, and I was wondering why this is (the noise is driving me mad since the tank is located in my bedroom near my bed...)? I clean the filter regularly, and can't seem to find the problem... Thanks for all of your help, love the website! Christine < Disassemble the filter and wash everything well with a garden hose with a aggressive spray attachment, especially around the impeller. Sometime small grains off sand or carbon get between the impeller and the sides of the filter causing the grinding sound.-Chuck>

Bio-Wheel Replacement 1/11/06 Great info here. I have a quick question. I am converting my saltwater tank to freshwater. I wanted to see if I could reuse the BioWheels from my Magnum 350 after rinsing/soaking them in freshwater, or if they will need to be replaced. Thanks for your help. < Rinse them out and add Bio-Spira from Marineland to the tank and you will be ready to go.-Chuck>

Bouncing Bio Wheel Here I am resending this email. Oh and by the by, all my ammonia issues have finally resolved themselves! <Great. Probably the number one killer of fish. Bio filtration is very important> Greetings, and my deepest thanks for ANYTHING you can help me out with. Ok, so here's my issue, but first, I'm sure you will want to know all about my tanks, and such, (although that isn't terribly pertinent to my question). I have two ten gallons (I'm 16 and I baby-sit, so my income is hilarious, otherwise I'd have 55 gallon tanks or something) one of the tens is filtered with a penguin bio wheel mini, and the other, has two of these absolutely dirt cheap box filter thingy deals. And up until recently the cheapo filters had run for a year, with no fish killing problems. One of the tens, houses about 10 or 15 Dalmatian lyre tail molly fry, which are almost a month old. And to be brutally honest, I have no idea why they are still alive, and apparently thriving. Crazy ammonia levels have forced me to perform water changes just about every other day, which I fear is only sending the ammonia/nitrate/nitrite cycle dealy even more out of whack. <Your work at water changes are why the fry are alive. Water changes will slow, but not stop, the establishment of the bacteria needed to cycle. I would suggest a simple change here. Replace the boxes with sponge filters. Since there is no floss to replace, bacteria will continue to thrive in the filter rather them be thrown away when you service the box. There is no real need for particle (floss) or chemical (charcoal) filtration if you do partial water changes as needed.> You'd think that would be my problem, but it isn't. Moving along to the OTHER tank, all of ITS issues started, when I started switching the filter's around in the different tanks. I moved the bio-wheel from the now-molly fry tank, to what I christened the Death Tank, so that the babies wouldn't all get sucked up into it. This of course, left the fry tank filter-less, so I put the two box filters in there. Well, unfortunately, in the past week or so, I've switched them around again, because the fry are big enough to NOT get sucked up and I want them to have the nicer filter because they are oh-so endearing. Gosh, I'm really sorry to whoever is reading this, I realize it's long and confusing but please bear with me. So, here's where the question comes in: Because my death tank seems to have un-cycled itself (and by that I mean, the ammonia which had previously been flawless, is high, and who the heck knows what the nitrate and nitrite are even doing?!)... <You should be testing for nitrite and nitrate, not just ammonia. Very important> ...fish have been succumbing to these stresses and developing illnesses. A week ago, one of my cherry barbs (which I've had for a year-ish) decided to get dropsy. He looked hilarious, but it ended sadly, when after treating with some Jungle Fungus stuff in conjunction with Jungle Parasite stuff. (I'd read it could be either, although I'm not sure my diagnosis was correct.) He died. Yesterday, I started treating my death tank for Ick. <Most bloating is caused by an internal bacterial infection. Fungus and parasite meds would be of little use. A medicated anti bacterial flake food may have been a better choice. Even a good wide spectrum antibiotic in the water may have been better. And why are you treating for Ich? First, you make no mention of white spots on the fish. Second, you already treated for parasites. Do not treat unless you need to> Here's the part that I simply don't understand: For all of these medicine's I've been using to treat my cursed tank, they say to discontinue carbon filtration, which with my set-up, is all the mechanical filtration I've got. So what I've been doing, is putting the box filters into the fry tank, which has remained untreated, putting the bio-wheel filter into the death tank, which I first take the filter pad out of, because of course, it contains carbon. No wonder my tank is so screwed up! Can the bio-wheel alone handle the filtration of 1 female Betta, two adult mollies, and two barbs? I sort of doubt it. <There are three types of filtration. Particle filtration simply removes any junk floating in the water. Any waste or old food that hits the bottom will usually stay there until removed with a gravel vac during water changes. This is less important than most people think. A good water change schedule removes far more junk than even the best filters. The second type of filtration is chemical. Usually done by adding charcoal. You only need chemical filtration if you are trying to remove a chemical, such as at the end of a med treatment. You can simply cut the black plastic cage on the filter insert and shake out most of the charcoal. The third, and by far the most important, is bio filtration. This is establishing a bacterial colony to convert the ammonia produced by the fish into nitrite, then finally nitrate. Most of the bacteria in your system lives on that bio wheel. It must be considered as if, and treated like, it was alive. In fact it is, with millions of lives working to keep your fish alive. When you start moving bio wheels around you may stress or kill the colony. Also, antibacterial meds will nuke the colony. That's what causes the ammonia to spike. Please read here on establishing FW cycling. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm> Could you possibly tell me how in the world I'm supposed to keep the tank clean, while medicating it? Any light you can shed on this would be greatly appreciated. <Stop all treatments and work towards re establishing your bio filtration. If you do treat you must do water changes to correct ammonia or nitrite spikes, replacing the med with each> Thank you so much again, I'm sorry this is so long. Liz <No problem. Don>

Sand + AquaClear = uh oh... Thank you for your previous quick and helpful responses. I thought I'd bounce this off you guys. So here's the scenario. I have just set up a tank. About six months ago I had a freshwater tank. I decided to add marine sand. I neglected to turn off the Aquaclear. Some sand got into the filter. I heard what can best be described as the filter trying to clear it's throat. And choke - choke -nothing. No sound. No motion. Dead in five. So it hasn't been junked yet and is just sitting there. Does it go? <Mmm, hopefully not> Or should I try a new impellor thing-a-ma-jiggy? <Maybe> It would be great if I could somehow salvage it but alas I fear it has become permanently non-perfunctory. <Heee!> If I could get it to work I'd have added flow, could but some foam in there for bacteria; it would be quite a boon. What do you suggest? - Ishan <Take the unit apart completely and rinse any/all bits of sand out of it... and see if it will start again... if it makes a bit of sound like it's trying to start, give the filter box a slight bump with your hand... If it still won't go, take it to your dealers for a look-see... if still no go, write the folks at Hagen (the manufacturer and ask for help. Bob Fenner>
Re: Sand + AquaClear = uh oh...
I rinsed the motor when it happened. I tried just plugging it up with little water to see if it would go. And it did - sort of. It is still a bit shoddy though. It makes a lot of noise now. Perhaps a few more cleanings and the little guy will finally smooth out. Thank you once again for your speedy responses - WWM - is the best! - Ishan <I would do what you're doing... likely just a bit of a bit of gunk... that will clear itself or wear down... Bob Fenner>

Was a stinky FW system, wish Chuck would supply titles Thanks Chuck for getting back to me so fast!!! You were a wonderful help! My tank is now clear and not smelling so bad. The ammonia is still high but we are doing water changes every other day. My LFS doesn't carry Amquel, but we are traveling 65 miles to a really great fish store to get some. Hopefully it and the water changes will work. Oh, we also bought a Magnum 350 Pro Series canister filter and it seems to be helping also. Anyways, I just wanted to say a big thank you for helping me out!! < When the bacteria grow on the BioWheels you should almost never have an ammonia problem again. Next time you need to medicate you can simply store the wheels for a few days during treatment and then replace them after the medication is removed and you won't miss a beat.-Chuck> Dayna

Whisper Filter Won't Prime Hi All!! If anyone can help me... you can. I have a Whisper 20 hang-on-tank filter that has a hard time priming. The impeller spins, and it moves water, but will not pull water up the standard tube. It will prime after a while... if I force feed it to get it going... but on its own its mostly won't pull. Once it gets primed it works GREAT!! But it takes FOREVER to get going. Any suggestions other than getting a new one?? That is in the plans.. but probably after the first of the year. Paul <I would suggest you check their website for this answer. Maybe contact their customer service department. Sorry, but I use Marineland filters. They prime great. Don>

Re: increase hob overflow box flow rate? Thank You for the response Chuck. I understand what you are saying. But, my siphon tubes are extended about 2" below the water level in the intake box, the intake box bottom is about 2 1/2" below water level and the slots in the intake box extend about 1" below water level. In the back box the siphon tubes are 1" longer than they are in the intake box. There is a weir in the back box between the siphon tubes and the 1 1/2" Durso stand pipe drain, the top of this weir is positioned 1/2" below the slots and a 1/2" above the siphon tube bottoms in the intake box to maintain a siphon during a power loss. While the system in running the water level in the back box behind the weir at the standpipe is about 2" below the normal tank level, but only about an 1" below the weir. Could my weir be causing back pressure on the siphon tubes and if it is how would I maintain a siphon during a power loss without it? < Measure the actual pump volume at the current aquarium level. If it is at least 300 gallons per hour then it is OK. A rate of 400 to 500 gallons per hour would be better. Increase the pumping rate slowly until it looks like the system cannot handle any more and measure the pump rate again. This will be the maximum capacity of the system. As the water level in the aquarium increases then the flow rate of the siphon between the two water levels should also increase. To increase the flow rate between the two boxes I would make sure that the friction in the siphon tubes was kept to a minimum by making sure that they were clean. If you decide to lower the weir then I would make sure I had a longer siphon tube as it exits into the outer box.-Chuck> Thank You Much Rich Ducham
Re: increase hob overflow box flow rate?
Thanks for the advice again Chuck. A few days ago I raised the water level in the main tank (as you explained the first time, my bad) as the sump level began to rise I slowly opened the valve on the return line from the pump. By having a little patience, I now have the valve almost full open. I seem to have to add about a 1/2 gallon of water each morning due to evaporation to keep the sump level where needed this keeps the proper flow through my weir system to turn my bio wheels. I had set it up originally that on a power outage the sump would fill to within about 6 gallons of being full to avoid overflows. After raising the main tank level to increase the flow I did another power outage test, it fills the sump to within about 3 gallons of full (close but no overflows!!!!). I put a small rotometer from work on the drain and measured ~1175 gph. Amazing how a little higher level in the main tank can affect the drain flow so drastically. So to reward myself I added a male and a female Demasoni to the tank crew today, 20 little Mbuna baddies!!!! Now my wife said I can start a saltwater tank, so I may have more questions down the road:-) Thanks for the time to answer back it made a world of difference. I knew those chemies weren't all their cracked up to be!!!! LOL < If the water backs up into the sump through the hose running from the pump into the tank then you need to get a one way check valve that will prevent this from happening during power outages. Go to Drsfostersmith.com and check out the valves.-Chuck> Thanks, Rich D.
Re: increase hob overflow box flow rate?
Thanks again Chuck. I tested the system again. When I cut the power to the return pump the water in the overflow box drains to the sump until the main tank level reaches the bottom of the intake box slots. The return line also then drains back to the sump (the lowest point of the return manifold piping in the tank is even with the bottom of the intake box slots). After water flow has stopped draining back to the sump from the drain line and return line the water stops rising at about 2" from the top of the sump. Does that sound OK or am I still missing something and may have a flood? < If this is the most water you have in your sump then you should be OK . The Marineland SOS system does not continue to siphon after the power is turned off. You may want to take a look at that system to look at the way they prevent any further siphoning. Usually the water siphons back to the sump through he pump hose from the aquarium. That is why I recommended the check valve. If the water still siphons through the main drain line then a check valve would be useless.-Chuck>

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