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Aquarium Canister Filters - by Carl Strohmeyer

Popular filters for larger aquariums in particular, Canister filters are known for their large capacity (most canister filters with the exception of Magnums are the ‘Kings’ of capacity), which sometimes can be their problem. Many aquarists will not clean canister filters often enough as they are “still running well”, but in reality are have a large build up of organic sludge turning them into ‘nitrate factories”. I do recommend them if they are serviced regularly, as their ability to hold large amounts of different filter media and their excellent mechanical filtration set canister filters above most other filters. Canister filters are still one of the best choices for a filter for fresh water aquariums over 100 gallons, especially when well maintained with regular rinses in de-chlorinated water (including foam and ceramic media).

For MORE about filter media, please see this article:
AQUARIUM FILTER MEDIA

Most Canister filters have a water flow that flow from the bottom (not the Magnum); in these filters I would start with coarse filter media at the bottom of the canister. I would use products such as Nirox Bio Care ceramic media for coarse filtration and bio filtration (rinse this with used tank water- never tap water!), then I would use a medium fiber or Ehfi-Fix, then I would use filter fiber or poly filter pads and place any chemical filter media between the fiber or even in a nylon bag. For soft water (Amazon River Aquaria), I recommend Nirox Bio Lif which softens water like peat, but also helps trap pathogenic bacteria such as aeromonas.

For quality and value I prefer the
Via Aqua (one of the most reliable I have ever used!) or Rena (API) Filstar (although a bit more money), the Eheim is excellent but way over priced for the questionably better quality (They sell more on hype in my opinion, this is not to say that they are not good filters, as they are). In fact their Wet/ Dry Model (2229 W/D) is not a true Wet/ Dry rather it purges water in and out of the canister, this produces a poor flow rate for larger aquariums in particular and tends to probe to problems.

The Magnum has unique convertible features (the ability to switch between standard canister filtration and micron), but their capacity is poor compared to the rest. Before one dismisses Magnums for their capacity, they have about the best head pressure as compared to comparable Canister filters which is especially useful for running UV Sterilizer, Fluidized filter, ECT.

Although popular, I am far less than impressed with the Fluval. They have weak motors, poorly designed impellers, and poor head pressure. I have had dozens of Fluvals on my maintenance route over the years, and their longevity is less than most others, even in the newer ’04 models (the ’05 models are too new to comment on as to longevity, however their design does not seem much improved to me). The Fluvals low head pressure, poor impeller, proprietary hoses, and more lead me to question why these vastly over rated filters are so popular, and I base this statement on years of use of these and other canister filters in REAL world applications.

Potential Canister Filter problems:

Make sure to clean the impeller regularly, also clean the area the impeller “nests” to prevent debris from stopping the impeller. If the impeller stops, check for carbon caught in this area and make sure impeller itself is not broken. The impeller should be to turn 359 degrees before locking, if the impeller spins freely or not at all, it is broken.
Also use a small foxtail brush to clean the intake and exhaust tubes, otherwise these may get clogged.

For more troubelshooting, diagrams and my full aquarium filtration article, please visit this article: http://www.americanaquariumproducts.com/Aquarium_Filtration.html




Professional aquarium maintenance experience since 1978 as the owner of one of the larger aquarium maintenance companies in LA, CA.

I have been in the hobby since 1969.

http://www.americanaquariumproducts.com/Aquarium_Information.html

 



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