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FAQs about Canister, Cartridge Filters For Marine Systems, Maintenance 

Related Articles: Physical FiltrationReview of the ViaAqua Canister Filter

Related FAQs: Canister Filters 1, Canister Filters 2, Canister Filters 3, Outside Power Filters& FAQs on: Rationale/Use, Placement, Media, Plumbing, Troubleshooting/Repair, By Manufacturer: Eheim, Fluval, Other Brands,

Maintenance free? No way... all closed filters require periodic opening, rinsing at the very least. Motors sometimes need lubing, the tubing and fittings checked and cleaned... Cartridges, at least weekly. Sponges...

silicone grease and the reef tank   6/30/10
Hello crew,
<Hello Eric.>
I'm going to Grand Cayman in August and want to try out my new underwater camera beforehand. I'm recovering from a back injury and don't want to push my luck; therefore, no diving until the vacation. It's necessary to use
silicone grease on the camera housing's "o-ring" to get a water tight seal.
<It is important to keep the o-rings from binding, twisting or pinching. I will pass on a little note that Bob has bestowed upon me. Do use the specific recommended lubricant your housing manufacturer recommends, it can
make a difference and using the wrong lubricant can lead to o-ring failure.>
Would this cause any problems if I held the camera in my reef tank and took some pictures?
<Nothing long term. I do use these types of lubricants all the time with overflow installs on the bulkhead gaskets (it allows you to turn the bulkhead without binding up the gasket). All you will likely notice is your skimmer will not work optimally for a few hours afterwards from the residues on the housing and the grease. But it will not hurt anything.>
Thanks for your time,
<Welcome, want to take me along on the trip? I am willing to take that bullet for you! Have a great time, Scott V.>

Re: help with anemone and clam death... canister filtration media/maint.  7/12/09
Hi Mr Fenner,
Thank you so much for your answer;
<Certainly welcome Claire>
I have two XP2 Rena canisters with bio-foam, bio-balls and carbon, but I did not change the carbon or cleaned the filters from the beginning of the aquarium's setup, i.e beginning of February 2009, as I was told not to clean the filters for 1 year from the beginning of the cycle (for not killing beneficial bacteria).
<Mmm, this is too long an interval to wait... I would take one of these filters apart every two months or so, and rinse the re-useable (mechanical) filter media, and replace the carbon... Change/clean out the other filter in the next two months...>
Sincerely yours,
<And you, RobareF>

Proquatics 1600 canister filter lid removal 1/15/09 Hi, and thank you for this service. I've tried every other source for help...none available w/o expensive house visit costs. I recently rescued a 30 gal tank of fish from an abandonment situation. Can you say filth? The setup includes the above-mentioned Proquatics 1600 Canister Filter, which I need to clean. I cannot get the top/lid off. <If all else fails, read the instruction manual. If you don't have the manual, then find the web site of the manufacturer, and see if they have them online. A lot of manufacturers do this now, thankfully.> Not sure whether it turns clockwise, counter-clockwise, or WHAT! <Not familiar with this filter. Isn't sold in the UK. But generally, canister filters are opened in three stages. First you disconnect the hoses, which will require turning some taps first to stop all the water flowing out the tank. This part of the operation breaks the seal, and if you don't do this, air pressure will stop the filter opening easily. Secondly, you click open whatever catches are present around the seal between the motor unit and the canister underneath. Looking at a photo of the Proquatics 1600 Canister, there appear to be four blue plastic catches. Open ALL the catches. Finally, you pull the motor unit up. Usually you don't twist the motor, but pull it up. While the details may vary from model to model, all the canisters I've ever seen work in this basic way.> I don't want to break the thing by using the wrong method. PetSmart, from whence it came, no longer sells them, and I couldn't find anyone there whom I trusted to give me their version of how to proceed. I have no vehicle, otherwise I'd merely run from shop to shop until I found the answer to my dilemma. Can you help me? Thanks a BUNCH!! Doris <Cheers, Neale.>

Eheim 2026 Priming 11/15/08 Hello gang. I know you are big proponents of Eheim canisters. I cannot get my Eheim 2026 to prime. Do you have any suggestions. <If the priming feature is not working, you can disconnect one of the hoses near the top of the tank. Then use a funnel and pour water down into the unit. Reconnect the hose and you will be good to go.> Thanks for your help. <Welcome, Scott V.>

R2: Nitrate Levels And DSB -- 12/02/07 Emptied my canister filter and left it empty. <<Okay>> Do I still need to clean it bi-weekly?? <<Even without media (remove the baskets too, if possible) it will still accumulate detritus, though likely not as readily. I would check it after about 4-6 weeks and see how it looks. You can use your own judgment to determine how often it needs to be cleaned based on how quickly detritus accumulates>> The thing is, once I open the canister filter to clean I struggle for so long to get it running again, hence my reluctance to put carbon in. <<Mmm, I see'¦perhaps you should consider a 'self-priming' model then>> Thanks again for all your help. Kind regards, Jana <<Happy to share. EricR>>

Re: Looking for a quiet external pump   7/15/07 Dear Neale, Thank you for the reply. I did not mean an air pump but I was asking more the type of external pump to be attached to the Ocean Clear Canister that is quiet. A friend said that Gen-X pump is quiet and it would be a good external pump for the Ocean Clear canister and would that be a good choice or do you have any suggestions? Do you like Ocean Clear canister or Nu Clear canister? I have two brand new 170 gallon tanks and I intend to keep African cichlids in one of them and goldfish and koi in the other. Your help is most appreciated and thank you for the information on the air pump. I thought bubbles produce oxygen but I was wrong. Cheers and thank you so much. <Greetings. I'm not familiar with either of those filters so can't comment from experience. Possibly Bob or one of the other American aquarists here will have comments they might pass on. What I can say is I've often had tanks in the bedroom and never noticed canister filters being a problem. Properly maintained they should be more or less silent. Cheers, Neale.> <<This make/brand of filter are larger, pressurized canisters... that require a good deal of pressure, coupled with moderate flow (and even then frequent maintenance)... These are well made units at any length, and do have a good deal of surface area... I encourage you to purchase two sets of the canister elements from the get go... to have one in use, the other for light-bleach washing, air-drying in-between service intervals for switch out (will save much time/clogging, and replacement of the units)... The pump line mentioned is fine... Other good choices are gone over here: http://wetwebmedia.com/pumpselmar.htm and the linked files in the Related FAQs above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Looking for a quiet external pump   7/16/07 http://wetwebmedia.com/pumpselmar.htm Dear Bob and Neale, <Howdy!> Thank you so much for your advise. I really like your web site and spend hours reading through and it surely helps me. I have also read your books and your information is very valuable. Thank you for so much of your time. <Welcome> I understand that you said the ocean clear canister are larger pressurized with a great deal of surface area and also I need to have two of those for better in-between service for my 170 gallon tank of freshwater. <Actually "two of those" cartridge elements... just one filter... Understand? Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/clncarta.htm> Now I would like to ask you another question, what if I just use two Eheim Canister and would they produce the same crystal clear water for such a large tank. I am thinking of using two Eheim Professional 3 (2028) with an output of 450gph. <Very nice units> Would that be a good way and which is the best choice in your opinion? Two Ocean Clear canister or two Eheim Professional 3 (2028)? <I vastly prefer the Eheims... much easier to service, much longer service intervals, and MUCH less energy cost to operate> Also please advise on the Eheim Pro II 2028 versus Eheim Professional 3 (2028). Which is your favourite for a 170 gallon tank? Your advise is very much appreciated and thanks again. <Well, the latter is better... larger, more flow... but retails for about another hundred dollars... I'd rather have two units, one at either end... so, whichever you can afford. Bob Fenner>

Changing Canister Filters...How Long To Establish Bio-Filtration? -- 05/29/07 Hello, <<Howdy>> I bought a new, larger canister filter for my well-established tank (5 years running minus two moves). I have both canisters running to get the new one started. <<I see...is used for biological filtration then>> How long do you think I should run the new one before safely removing the old one? <<Seven days should be sufficient>> Thanks...I tried to search for this but it's a difficult one to word in a search engine. Lance <<No worries mate, happy to assist. EricR>>

Living things in the filter? Oh yes  - 05/01/07 G'day Crew <Kerryn> I was cleaning (marine) canister filter and Crikey its surfaces in side had jelly like sacks all over it with what looked like inside was tiny shrimp, when I pressed on them they sprayed water out like the sack had been pricked with a pin, there was also living shrimp looking things inside the filter as well around 15 mill long, has been 8 months since I cleaned  filter last ('bad girl')! <Mmm, maybe not> Have looked around the wet web site cant find anything close to what I got...? Not got a Scooby what they are, can you help with these tricky little things. Kerryn. <Sponges and more! If all this were in a more "desirable" setting, like a sump say... I'd have encouraged you to not disturb it much... These sorts of cryptic environments, biota, are actually very desirable... useful filters, producers of foods... Bob Fenner> Canister Filter Pads in Marine Aquaria - 3/27/07 Hello, <Hey Mike, JustinN with you today.> I have a 55 gallon  saltwater aquarium, with a Fluval 304 canister filter hooked up to it I've been reading on the internet that you should take out the filter pad that is in the filter I just wanted to know if this is true or should I leave it in, If I take it out what would I use to filter the bigger particles out of the water. Thanks for your time. Mike Stevens <Quite the run-on sentence there, bud! In the future, do try to avoid this... As far as the canister filter goes, the choice on leaving the filter pad in is entirely up to you, but regardless of if you do or not, that canister filter will need to be cleaned fairly religiously to not create an accumulation of nitrates and wastes. Rinse out the media in a bucket of water change water (that which you pull out of the tank, not what you are putting back in, of course!) Hope this helps! -JustinN>

Filter help... canister... filter media... maint...   3/3/07 I need a little filter help. I have 2 canister filters now. You state they should be cleaned every week. I know I should change the white filter pad weekly. The blue course filter rinse with tank water? Rinse the Chemi-pure weekly with tank or tap water weekly and replace in about 3 months? <yes> The ceramic media has a lot of brown stuff over it, rinse with tank water and remove all stuff or leave stuff on it? <Rinse the media with tank water> Now I want to set up a wet/dry I just got from a friend. Should I use the bio-balls or leave them out? <Leaving the bio balls in the wet/dry will almost certainly start a nitrate reactor.  I would take them out. and just use the wet dry as a sump.> I have some live rock, not a ton. I should place a Chemi-pure bag in the bottom tray, and replace every 3 months? In the sump area I can place my skimmer and live rock? Is there any other maintenance on the wet/dry? When? I am new to this and want to get this right. I hope you can help! <You can use the Chemi-pure in the sump.  I would not place the live rock in the sump.  It will do better in the main display.  A general rule of thumb is one pound per gallon.  I have my skimmer in a sump and would encourage anyone to do the same thing.  Easier access without disturbing your fish.  Also if you have to add things to the tank, a sump is a good thing to have.  I use mine to add makeup water for water changes.  If there are no pads, or bio balls then you will have no maintenance on the wet/dry. Other than making sure that it does not overflow.>   Thank you. <You're welcome.  Brandon F.>

Alkalinity Test kits, Canister filter inserts and Nitrate 5/24/05--Part3 - (And No Shills Necessary!) Thank you for the quick response to my questions below (and the free "keeping spouse happy with tank" advice)! <Glad to! As for the spouse... I am glad that others can benefit from my failures! Ha! Actually, my wife is very tolerant.> Per your advice, the lava rock is removed, and I'm planning on adding the remaining live rock in one batch (after confirming it is cured by keeping it in tub in garage). I'll also buy a better alkalinity test. I've been using Jungle Quick Dip strips, but they have always been "off the chart" in the "ideal" range. I've been questioning their accuracy. Any recommendations on best test? <Always choose an alkalinity test that is a titration type. Titration tests require you to add drops of reagent until a change from one color to another is observed. The value is calculated from the amount or number of drops of reagent that are added. Test kits for alkalinity that use dip strips or compare to a color chart are very unreliable. I am fond of Salifert and Tropic Marin alkalinity kits, but many good ones are available.> I'm going to go with selling the Fluval, but keeping the Eheim for the great water movement it gives me. I had heard--LFS--that filling the Eheim completely with the Eheim filters would "polish" the water without creating nitrates. Do you agree? Or would I be better just having the Eheim completely empty? (I'm the guy who knows there is no way I will be doing weekly maintenance on the canister--most likely just every month or two.) Thanks again for your help and great site. Greg  <I disagree with your LFS, but there is no harm in trying. If you observe nitrates after a couple of months, I would either step up the maintenance or remove all media from the canister filter.> P.S. I'm going to shill for you. I made an Amazon Honors Payment to you guys and was surprised that more people don't do the same. I'm always buying stuff from the LFS when I go in and pick their brains because I feel their time is worth something and they're in business to make money. More so for you guys who are doing this site free of charge to the fish-keeping world. Not everyone is made of money--although this isn't the least expensive hobby I can think of--but I'm still surprised people don't throw a bit more change/bills in your electronic glass jar. <Thanks for the contribution! It is refreshing and uplifting to cross paths with someone who is willing to voluntarily support something they find value in. Best Regards. AdamC.>

Canister filter inserts and Nitrate 5/16/05 Greetings WWM Denizens! Thank you for all the advice, info and time spent accumulating it! You have gotten me from freshwater to saltwater, which may explain my configuration and question/problem. (I've searched the forums and can't find my particular query.) My problem is nitrates (surprise, surprise), and I wanted to know if my solution would work . <Thanks for the kind words! Glad you have benefited from the info here.> Tank is converted from freshwater, about 9 months old with salt as follows: 100 gallons, Aqua C Remora Pro, with the larger skimmer, about 50 pounds of live rock--adding more slowly; 40 pounds of lava rock, which I am hoping will slowly become live rock (it has only been in saltwater tank); 3 powerheads knocking water around; my good old Fluval 403 from the previous century; an Eheim 2217; I also have about an inch of crushed coral for cushioning and prettiness.  <Sounds reasonable, although adding live rock slowly is often a problem since each new piece has to cycle. I strongly suggest setting up a small tank (even a plastic tub) to cycle new rock in before adding to the tank. Also, lava rock can be unpredictable in composition and is a risk for introducing contaminants (especially metals). I would personally lean toward removing this in favor of live rock.> The problem is nitrates. No matter how careful I am with feeding and how much goop my skimmer picks up, the nitrates will not drop below 15-20. (Ammonia always 0, pH 7.8 to 8.0, treating with 1 Tsp washing soda each 25 gallon water change.) I use RO water from a nearby ice and water store (about $60/year at 25 gallon change every four weeks), which I test for nitrates every now and then, so that's not the source.  Forgot livestock--one perc, two yellow medium sized tangs, one dwarf coral beauty--that's all!  <Your stocking is reasonable, but your pH is a bit low. I would urge you to check alkalinity (especially if you are adding washing soda). You nitrates are likely a result of two things... since your ammonia and nitrate are being processed in the highly aerobic canister filters, nitrate is being produced away from the live rock.  When the nitrate is produced on/in the live rock, it can be further reduced to nitrogen gas in the anaerobic zones in the rock. You probably have enough rock now to completely take over biological filtration. In any case, such a small amount of nitrate is probably not a problem.> The long term plan/solution is to add a sump/refugium, but until I can figure out how to explain that to my wife, I'm stuck with the canisters.  <The sump/refugium will have many benefits, but in the mean time, keep those canisters squeaky clean! A good rinsing of the media in a small amount of tank water weekly will help a lot. Also, I have found that many expenditures can be (mostly truthfully ;^)) be rationalized to your spouse by explaining that it will save money in lost livestock.> From reading the posts, I think I understand you all agree that weekly--yikes!--changes/cleaning of the foam/pads would help with reducing nitrates. Although I spend time every day with my beloved tank, opening those things once a week (or every other week) isn't going to happen. (See previous comment about wife and add "traipsing water across the living room" and you'll understand why.)  <If you aren't going to maintain them, I would get rid of them or gut the media from them and use them only for water movement. Even when perfectly maintained, they aren't providing you with much benefit and you could sell them for money for more live rock.> So here's my thought: How about just using no foam, poly filters, or pads in the canisters and only leaving the Eheim pre-packaged materials, plastic pot scrubbers, and other "hard" porous materials that I have in there other than foam? Would that reduce the nitrates without losing all the benefits of the filters? (If so, I would like to do half plastic pot scrubbers on top and half the rock-type stuff that is in there now, if that would work.) Then, would 2-3 month cleanings of the rock-stuff/pot scrubbers be adequate? I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Other than the nitrates, everything in the tank seems to be quite happy (including some very full Xenia and a couple of mushrooms). Thank you again for your assistance. Greg  <The nitrates are a result of both the accumulated organic matter and the highly aerobic nature of these filters. The media supplied with these (and plastic "pot scrubbers" make great high surface area, aerobic media. I would maintain them properly or gut them completely of all media.> PS I would like to chime in that Sally Lightfoot crabs, in my opinion, ARE killers. I lost a bunch of damsels and a cardinalfish to one before figuring out what was going on.  PPS Since this is my first question posted, I have to say again, you guys are great!  <I couldn't agree more! In my opinion there are no completely safe crabs (including hermits). Best Regards. AdamC.>

Ammonia problem, stopped canister filters  02-05-06 Hello to all.  Well  have one big problem and I am in need of some advice on what to do.  Might have happened to you guys before but this is the first time it has happened to me.  I have a 29g TruVu with 40lbs of LR and 3in sandbed of LS.  I currently have pair of true perculas, had citron clown goby, and LPS live coral.   This mourning when i woke up and turned my tank lights on I noticed that my clown goby was nowhere to be found.  I looked and looked for him but he disappeared.  I then thought to myself that he must have died because of lack of oxygen because yesterday my xp1 Rena had got clogged with some macro algae that was in my tank but got sucked up in my filter.  Yesterday the clown goby was breathing very rapidly so that why I had checked the filter.  I thought by cleaning it and unclogging that would fix the problem but it didn't because this morning the goby was nowhere to be found. <Uhh, unclogging the canister filter... you did rinse it out thoroughly before returning it to service I hope/trust> So then I began to look for him.  I couldn't find him so my next step was removing the LR piece by piece...And that got me pissed because once I moved all the rock I still didn't find him.  Has this ever happened to anyone?  If so what did you do?   <...?> I tested for ammonia and it had gone up to .25mg/l.  Now I for sure know he is dead but can't find it.  I do have bristleworms in the tank and also spaghetti worms.  Could they have already ate him up?   <Yes> Could they have buried his body in the sand to eat?  Please help me.  I did a water change and it did seem to help but I still have a feeling the ammonia will continue to go up again?  Any advice in what I can do to fix this problem? <Time going by at this point> ...I have had my tank for over a year now so I know I am past the cycling stage.  Never have had this problem with ammonia ever.  I moved my clown fish to my QT but am scared to lose my corals!  Help me please.  Any advice is better than nothing. <The ammonia anomaly was almost certainly caused by the plugged then unplugged canister filter... causing the demise of the goby... perhaps the worms eating it. Bob Fenner> Options for replacing Ocean Clear 325    8/13/06 Dear WWM, First of all thanks for everything and I mean everything. <<You're very welcome!>> The Ocean Clear filter is currently installed inline in a FOWLR 300 Gal system and seems to do an ok job.  The worry that I have is the more I read about canister filters the more concerned I get about this unit. <<No need to be "concerned".  The filters can be quite effective/utilitarian...with proper/regular maintenance>> I do not want this to turn into a Nitrate incubator.. <<Then service/clean weekly...>> The filter in question is fed by 2 bottom drilled intakes and is attached to an Iwaki WMD040RTL.  So my question is what are my options for replacement? <<Mmm, don't know that it is necessary>> Can I just take the filter media out and use it for circulation, or what do you think? <<If you're not now, I would use this unit for chemical filtration.  Poly-Filters work great here...can be cleaned/reinstalled weekly until exhausted.  You could even add a small amount of carbon in conjunction with the Poly-Filter to rinsed or changed out weekly.  You can leave the micron filter in place if you wish...but definitely rinse it off on a weekly basis>> Thanks in advance for all your help and I look forward to your recommendations. <<Happy to share>> Rick <<Regards, EricR>>

Canister filter 'paste'   11/19/06 Hello Crew, <Mark> I have a 3 year-old set up consisting of a 75 gl FOWLR, (~45 lbs live  rock), 1/2" aragonite substrate, Remora Pro skimmer, two power heads pumping a total of 3880 LPH and an Eheim 2217 canister filter.   Critters include 1 - Firefish, 1 - Hepatus Tang 1- Maroon Clown 1 - Lawnmower Blenny 3 - Green Chromis 6 - Hermit crabs 1 - nuisance pistol shrimp I cannot seem to get rid of ... (what is their life expectancy anyway?). <Can be years...> Every couple months or so I check the canister filter and find almost no trace of typical brown gunk as I was used to with my freshwater tank  filter.   However, there is always a cream-colored paste accumulated on  the filter pad.   Do you know what this stuff is? <Likely a "bio-film"... conglomeration of microbes of various sorts, and near-tissue life (sponges)...> Do you think I have enough  rock to eliminate the filter? <Mmm, worth trying... but if you have no discernible metabolite anomaly, I would leave this canister in place... the "gunk" is actually highly likely beneficial> Also, I perform a 15 gallon water change (all RO water) every 2  weeks.  The substrate always accumulates several 'blobs' held together with  a brownish, mucus-like material. <Good descriptions> I have been vacuuming this out each time  I make changes because it is unsightly but eventually I will need to replace  some substrate. Do you know what this is? If so, do you have any advice on  eliminating it? <Likely an algal component... along with protozoans of various orders... Maybe a QX3,4 scope under your Xmas tree this year...> Thanks in advance for your help Mark <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Filter Question, SW, Can.    12/28/06 <Hey Ricky, JustinN with you today> You guys have an awesome website and I have been reading articles from your site for the past two years.  Today is my first time asking questions.   <Thank you for the kind words, is a collaborative effort.> 1) I have a 125 gallon saltwater tank fish only with live rocks.  Now I have a Naso and a Juvenile Queen Angel, four cleaner shrimps, and some blue-leg helmet crab.  I also have a protein skimmer, UV, an Eheim 2229 wet/dry filter, a magnum 350 canister filter.  Now I want to replace the 350 canister filter to a FLUVAL FX 5 canister filter because the FX5 can clean up to 400 gallon tank.  Do you think this is a good idea?  Do you think this would lower the nitrate level? <Honestly, I think it would be an unnecessary step. How often are you cleaning out all the media in these filtration devices? Without proper and thorough maintenance, both wet/dry filters and canister filters can become 'nitrate farms', built up with so much tank gunk that the tank can't handle the load. Thoroughly cleaning the canister filter every water change, and cleaning out half the bioballs at the same time should help some. If I may ask, how much rock do you have in this tank? If you have less than 80-100 pounds of rock currently, you would see positive results from increasing this amount. Hope this helps! -JustinN> Thank you and I really appreciate if you could get back to me. Ricky

Re: Filter Question   12/28/06 Thank you for your answers.  Your answer helped me save my money.  I know the FX5 is not cheap.  I do water change every two weeks (20 gallon) using purified water.  I clean my filter every month.  The live rocks are less than 80 pounds (70 LBS).  But if I add more rocks to the tank, there won't be enough room for my fish to swim around.  I have 3 power heads.  One of them is maxi-jet 1200.  The other two are SEIO super-flow 1500.  My nitrate right now is about 50(SALIFERT test kit). Can I add any more fish in there?  I lost 2 ACHILLES tang in two weeks. One died in the quarantine tank. What kind fish will be the better choice? THANK YOU SO MUCH!! <Well, Ricky, I think you'll be ok if you clean the filters a bit more diligently, and do so at every water change. You should also consider doing weekly water changes until you get the nitrates under control. Once your nitrates are under control, I think you'll be ok to add a few more small fish. Hope this helps! -JustinN> Worth the money (marine aquarium filtration) I have a 70gal saltwater tank fish only with live rock <Okay>.  The filters are red sea protein skimmer, wet dry trickle system and a UV sterilizer. My water is pretty clear, but I always think there is room for improvement, so do you think that the Ocean Clear Canister Filters (model 325) is really worth the money and would you really get a get improvement in your tank? <If memory serves me correct, Ocean clear filters do not have an automatic siphon. Jeez...these things are a real pain to maintenance...and very messy! If I were going for an inexpensive filter, I would get the Fluval 404 or spend the real bucks for an Eheim. If your water tests are almost perfect every time you test (never even a trace of ammonia or nitrite), your fish are living for years (not months or weeks), and you're not having any identifiable water quality problems including cloudy or discolored water, you may not need a new filter. But redundancy in equipment is sometimes a good thing to have...>                              MIKE WHITE <David D.>

Going Sleeveless? Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today> Thanks for all of your help, I have through trial and error and research got quite a nice looking (in the beginning stages) reef tank going. <Awesome!> First info.  55 gallon reef tank.  Approximately 90 lbs live rock, 3 1/2 inch live sand bed, 4 x 65 watt pc light. CPR BakPak skimmer, 2 Rio 1400, one Rio 800 for circulation and one Fluval 404 with blue filter media and carbon. (all media changed/or cleaned weekly) <That's what I'm talkin' about, baby! Good idea!> Currently have one yellow tang, mandarin goby, coral banded shrimp, and three small corals. Like I said-beginning stages. Change 15 gallons every two weeks, add Str, iodine and calcium (400) Everything seems good water is fine nitrates 10 or less tank has been up for over two years, converted to reef about 1 yr ago. My question is this, I like the idea of having a Fluval for removal of detritus, water movement, as well as just having 2 or so more gallons of water stability, gives me a weekly water change too. When I clean the pads they are always brown to some extent. <Yep- exactly why you should keep changing those pads weekly or more often, folks! Those pads do a great job at trapping detritus and organic matter...But if it stays in the tank, it can begin to degrade water quality and increase nitrate levels, etc> Is it worth keeping for just those reasons or would you just add a CPR refugium with PolyFilter/carbon and get rid of it completely. Money isn't that tight, but I am gonna get refugium anyway so one less outlet and one more free power outlet would be nice. <I can relate to that! I like natural systems, and like the idea of using the refugium or sump as a "settling area" for detritus and processing of organic nutrients. Once again, I see no harm in mechanical filtration as long as the media is serviced regularly. The only real hang up I have about mechanical filtration is that most of us tend to neglect the service aspect...> But I do see detritus in filter weekly, if I keep changing it weekly, will that keep nitrates from growing there? <It will help...You may want to experiment without the mechanical filtration and see what your live rock and (deep) sand bed do with nitrate levels. Also- consider more frequent (2 times a week) 5% tank volume water changes...that will help dilute nitrates before they can even build up> There are many schools of thought on canister filters yeah or nay, but I am all for getting rid of another piece of machinery/chore if not worth using.  How about just running it empty for extra water stability, current. <Yes...but if you're looking for current, better served by using that outlet for an external top-mount pump, like a Gemini or a Tunze...those pumps rock!> I know I am splitting hairs here, but I believe in optimizing my resources. If getting another skimmer would do the same thing I am all for it. <Two skimmers is good, but one well-tuned, properly maintained skimmer should do it> One more thing, I have seen those small Fluval filters that go inside the tank. Could I just run one of those a week a month for my carbon? If so how much carbon do you recommend using, so I know which one to buy? <I run carbon continuously on a passive basis in my sump (in mesh bags), about 4-6 oz.s, and rotate them out every other week, along with Poly Filter...I'd rather do that than have an ugly internal filter in the tank (at least that's my thinking). I like Seachem Matrix carbon, but there are lots of good brands out there. Just look for a phosphate free brand with good quality reputation.> Thanks for your help in any way. <Any time. Have fun with your system! Regards, Scott F>

What Is That Gunk? Hi, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> Week ago, I installed a new canister filter (Eheim Pro II 2026) in my 55gal tank. Two days ago, after cleaning the filter (had some feeder shrimp sucked into the filter through the Eheim surface extractor) and a 20% water change, I noticed some white patches/spots on the filter tubing (only on the flexible tubes - ate least that's where it is prominently visible). Not sure if it was there before I cleaned the filter though, but I noticed it only afterwards. Wondering if anyone has experienced anything like this before and if it is harmful to my fish and the plants. Any info/advice on how to remove this would also be most welcome. <Well, hard to say from here- but it could be anything from a "biofilm" of Cyanobacteria (yes- they can be whitish, too) to a sponge, or even some kind of sponge...Probably harmless, if water parameters are acceptable otherwise> Oh.. yeah... while the filter is operational if you tap the tubes, it will come off and float around in the aquarium (looks like a whitish film). <Ahh...sounds like some kind of Cyano to me...just keep o top of basic husbandry, and things should be okay> Thks n Rgds, KC. <No problem, K.C.- hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

- New Canister on the Block - I purchased a Proquatics canister filter for my 55 gal tank 2 weeks ago (it says it is for 55 to 125 gal tanks). I adjusted the red rubber flow indicator as instructed when installed. The flow indicator reached the red mark today so, per manufacturers instructions I cleaned the filter completely and replace the carbon media with a combination carbon and ammonia fighting crystals manufactured by Marineland (I have ceramic media also which I did not change). It should be noted that nothing was that dirty (or did not visually appear to be. When I reinstalled the system the system primed itself but the water level on the flow indicator only dropped about 1 inch from the previous level set just prior to cleaning. Is this normal? <Not certain... am not experienced with this model canister... might want to pose this question to the manufacturer.><<Is normal... this cartridge is just "showing age"... All need at least two sets of cartridges... one for use, the other for cleaning, drying... to keep sanity, extend life of them... RMF>> When I readjusted the red rubber flow indicator (really just a type of o-ring) I only have about 1 inch to go before it (the flow indicator) indicates it is time to clean my filter again. I called PetSmart (where I purchased the filter) and they were virtually clueless about my question. <Hmmm... this is perhaps their in-house brand. You might want to consider returning it... this filter may be unnecessary if you also have an Ecosystem filter running on this tank.> The water is still clear and the pump seems to be functioning properly. Originally I was told I should not have to clean the system for about 4 weeks the first time, but I figured being a new tank some maybe it would require a faster cleaning the first time since the ecosystem was adjusted. Should I be concerned about this flow indicator or not? <I would think only a little... it does seem its readings are perhaps a bit erroneous.> I searched your site and could find nothing relating to my particular question previously asked or answered. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.  Tony <Cheers, J -- > <<See WWM re cleaning cartridges... RMF>>

Question about filter Hi, Just wanted to say that your site has been very helpful to me as I am rather new to the marine hobby. <We are all glad to be of assistance.>  I was wondering what I should be doing to my Fluval 304 to keep it running how it should. What should I change, is basically what I need to know. I have changed the carbon once but, not sure how often to change it or filters, etc. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks, Brian <Brian, I would change the carbon once a month and the filter sponges should be changed when they start to fall apart. The filter should be cleaned once a month and the hoses should be cleaned every 2 months. good Luck. MikeB.>

Nitrates and Canister Filters Hello,  <Hello David> I have a 55 gallon tank with 75 lbs of live rock, and approximately 3 inches of live sand (no plenum). I am using an Aqua-c remora with a Maxi-jet 1200 for protein skimming, and have another Maxi-jet 1200 for circulation. In addition, I have been running a FilStar Canister filter (300gph). The canister filter, however, only contains foam filter pads.  Marine life in the tank consists of two Clarkii clowns, a yellow tang, bi-color blenny, six line wrasse, and some assorted snails and crabs for house-cleaning. Nitrates in the tank tend to hover around 20-30, despite 20% water changes every two weeks. I am also very conscious about not over-feeding. Is it possible that the canister filter is contributing to higher than normal nitrate levels? Would a larger protein skimmer bring the levels down, or is this just the reality of keeping a relatively small reef-tank? Much of the reading I have done suggest that under-tank refugiums can be very beneficial in reducing nitrates. However, I want to make sure there is not something in my current set-up causing abnormally high nitrates, before investing all that additional money. Any thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated.  <The use of canister filters requires religious cleaning of the foam pads weekly. The detritus it traps leads to higher nitrates levels if these pads are not cleaned weekly. The waste is still in the water, just in a different place. I would suggest the use of Chemi-Pure in the filter for improved water quality. I've been using this in a canister filter for quite sometime, and changing pads weekly. My nitrates are barely detectable and I don't have as efficient of a skimmer as you. Give it a try. James (Salty Dog)>

Filtration Problem Dear Bob, The latest problem with my tank (40gal SW w/40lbs LR, anemones, plate coral and fish/snails/crabs) is one that was completely out of my control and extremely frustrating. A recent storm temporarily knocked out my power and upon coming back all my tank equipment returned to normal except my Fluval canister filter (worst filter ever). After hours of trying to prime it, along with taking it apart and partially cleaning it, I have given up. I do have my skimmer running and several power heads with one of them breaking the water surface. I ordered a new Tidepool Wet/but it won't arrive for a week. <Try this priming technique... with the filter cleaned and re-assembled and a fish bucket for water near, place the intake line in the tank, and gently suck on the discharge line to start water flowing into the canister (you can put your hand between the discharge and your mouth if this seems gross)... after the lines, filter canister are full (water flowing into your fish bucket), put your thumb over the discharge end and place it in your tank... then fire the filter over.> My question is will the powerheads and skimmer (along with 40lbs live rock) provide enough filtration to keep my tank stabilized for a week and if not do you have any suggestions. <Maybe, but I'd use the Fluval as well> Thanks for your time and advice. Chris <Believe me, have spent many an hour behind, beside, under tanks trying to prime filters, pumps, lines... try this technique and look into the union valves made by Eheim going forward (will work on Fluval, other flexible tubing). Expensive, but one time purchase... and you won't have this priming problem again... Bob Fenner> 

Questions about Cleaning Canister Filter Media JasonC, <<Greetings.>> Hey it looks like the maintenance section of fresh/salt water filter cleaning go to the same page. <<interesting>> What's interesting is I understood it you're never supposed to clean your bio-load balls or ceramic cylinders. It doesn't mention to clean them but I just wanted to confirm. <<you could RINSE them every so often [every six months or so] in clean salt water, just to remove silt/mulm but you wouldn't want to scrub or bleach them or rinse in fresh water.>> In my canister filter I have a small white pre-filter followed by my copper bag. <<copper bag? You mean carbon I hope...>> then a separator and my ceramic cylinders for bio load and then a thick black filter. Is it true all of these items can be cleaned except for the ceramic as bacteria is growing on them necessary to break down ammonia/nitrites? <<and filter pads should be cleaned, bleached, scrubbed, etc.>> Do you suggest not cleaning them all at the same time as some bacteria is growing on these items and this would not have a huge drop in bacteria population? <<you should always clean [or replace if necessary] filter pads, and if you are on a regular cycle with this [say every week] then the bacteria will never really have a chance to populate the filter pads.>> thanks for the help! <<You are quite welcome - Cheers, J -- >>

Eheim Maintenance Hi, Regarding the Eheim Pro II filter model 2028. Many of the marine equipment vendor sites claim that you only have to clean this filter every 3 to 4 months. <Mmm, this can be so... I have two of these units on freshwater systems... and rarely open them> I was under the impression reading your site and others that the filter pads for mechanical filtration should be cleaned much more frequently (perhaps weekly). Is the Eheim really an exception to this advice?? <Not really an exception. Depending on the "job" you intend, have these canister filters set up to do... your particular needs/arrangements of feeding, foods, other filtration... they may only need to be cleaned very intermittently. The best practical advice is to try them and open them up, see if matter is accumulating on the media (on mine it does not much at all)> Would you recommend 2 Eheims, one for mechanical filtration and one for biological filtration( perhaps a wet/ dry model) in a 100 gallon discus tank? <I do recommend two... but would set them up the same (per the excellent media provided and) their packing instructions> My thinking is that the mechanical filter can be cleaned more frequently, and the filter used for bio filtration can be cleaned less frequently as per your sites suggestions. <As stated, I believe you will find as I have that these are so well designed and made that there is very little accumulation of matter on the mechanical media. I would work into a schedule in concert with your regular water changes, of opening one every other week for a while (to access how "dirty" the first media is) and the following interval the other one. Bob Fenner, who really likes these units> Thanks, Bill

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