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FAQs on Freshwater Aquarium Filtration 2

Related Articles: Freshwater Filtration, Know Your Filter Media, A Concise Guide to Your Options by Neale Monks, Power Filter Impressions, A review of some popular mechanical filtration systems by Steven Pro, Canister Filters By Steven Pro, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for Beginners,

Related FAQs: FW Filtration 1, Biological Filtration, Establishing Cycling, FW Sponge Filters, FW Canister Filters, FW Hang-on Filters, Ultraviolet Sterilizers, Chemical Filtrants, Diatom Filtration,

Good filtration is one determinant of health livestock success.

Best filtration for floating plants in Amazon blackwater      9/24/19
Hi there,
<Hey Christine!>
My tank is approx. 100 litre tall bow front. I have just broken it down for a year of travel, but already I want to set it up again, correcting some of my mistakes. For the last couple of years I had a pretty healthy tank with only 3 sterbai Corydoras and a beautiful healthy wild-caught angel. I felt so bad that the angel was alone so I took all four fish back to my LFS. I am lucky to have soft slightly acidic water straight from the tap (Vancouver, Canada). When I set the tank up again next year, I want a low maintenance tank with no plants other than floating.
My plan is:
a fine sand substrate with only bogwood and a few rounded river stones, OptiBright 24"" LED 15VDC, 0.5A max. lighting possibly some cosmetic water colouring rather than trying to maintain a true biotope
<I'd use some "real" colouring... as in tannins, flavins from either adding extract (e.g. Black Tonic Water) or leaves for same... in the tank itself... or in the filter>
6-7 cardinal tetras
6-7 sterbai Corydoras
6-7 Otocinclus (possibly)
Frogbit and (possibly) water lettuce
I’d like to leave a couple of inches of air at the top of the water column
<Yes; especially needed if you're going to try Water Lettuce... DO use a less bright LED fixture... or one that the intensity can be dialed down>
So my questions are:
Do you recommend ditching the idea of the Otos? I’m worried about not being able to provide the huge schools they form in nature, and about keeping them fed.
<If you can secure some "full bodied" (i.e. not skinny) specimens, I would try three at first... After this system has been up, running for a month or more>
What filtration would work best for this set-up?
<In my opinion, canister filtration would suit all best here. Am a huge fan of Eheim personally... quiet, dependable... and you don't want splash, spray on the floating plants. I'd have the discharge along one side of the tank, right below water level.>
I don’t like the noise of the waterfall from the HOB filters and I wonder if it was part of my bad luck with Frogbit. I’d like to go with the old-fashioned undergravel filter, but would it matter if (because of the bow front) it would not cover the entire bottom of the tank?
<Not a problem that all the bottom isn't involved; no>
Also, would it provide the high quality water the cardinals need?
<The canister would be much better... you could run both>
What about a sponge filter? Is a canister filter overkill?
<Ahh, it is not>
I’ve found keeping the bioload low helps enormously in keeping the fish healthy.
<Umm, yes!>
Thanks so much in advance.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Re: Best filtration for floating plants in Amazon blackwater      9/24/19

Thank you, Bob! Just the answers I needed.
<Oh! Welcome. And I'm asking Neale Monks here to respond to you as well. BobF>
Re: Best filtration for floating plants in Amazon blackwater     Neale's further input/      9/24/19

<<To add to Bob's comments. Firstly, Otocinclus prefer cool, fast-moving water (rather like Corydoras, say) so make poor choices for a sluggish blackwater stream with floating plants! There are other alternative catfish you could investigate, Tatia perugiae for example, but essentially choose species that (a) don't need fresh green algae, since that won't grow in a dimly lit blackwater tank; and (b) aren't dependent on high oxygen levels.
So far as the floating plants go, most, likely all, such plants inhabit habitats with little/no water movement. While that isn't really practical in an aquarium, air-powered box and other such filters do provide good
levels of filtration without generating strong currents. Plain vanilla under gravels are good too, if connected to air-stones. Air is ideal because while it moves the water up quite well, it doesn't create much current going sideways, so you end up with the sluggish sort of water movement you're aiming for. The downside to air is that slower water flow means water pressure through the media is reduced, so you have to ensure generous amounts of media to compensate. Undergravels handle this effectively using fine gravel by providing a vast surface area, but can't be used with sand, which would be the ideal substrate for most Amazon-style set-ups. Box filters and sponges are less good, particularly with regard to mechanical filtration, but they're okay with small fish under moderate stocking levels. With that said, canister filters of any sort can be used, just ensure the outgoing flow of water is spread out using a spray bar to ensure turbulence is minimised. More than likely the plants will still end up shoved into one end of the tank, but they won't at least be constantly splashed with water, which tends to cause their leaves to rot. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>>
Re: Best filtration for floating plants in Amazon blackwater       9/25/19

Oh man, even trying to go as simple as possible is complicated!
<Ah, but what we do is complex! Zoos stick one species into one enclosure.
Aquarists try (and often succeed) at keeping in a single tank a range of species from entirely different parts of the world.>
I have never seen Tatia perugiae sold in any shop in Vancouver; in fact it appears most shipments come from Asia, whether because of cost or more direct shipment, I have no idea.
<Nor I.>
This is why I chose the Corydoras sterbai, the "warm water Cory" (plus it's really cute); it is readily available here.
<An excellent choice for life with Angels.>
They did well with my angel, so if I can't find Tatia perugiae, I will probably go with them again. I'm very lucky that my local fish seller is one of the best and most ethical in the city. He tells me not to buy if he knows the stock is not good.
As for filtration, I guess under gravel is out if I want a sandy bottom for my cats, so canister with spray bar seems to be the way to go.
<Likely so.>
I must say, there seems to be considerable contradiction in the home aquarium literature.
<Often times, yes, does seem so. There are some excellent websites though.
This one, obviously! But my personal favourites are SeriouslyFish and PlanetCatfish, both of which are rigorous in their attention to detail.
Some other websites tend to either regurgitate stuff from older books, or else rely on personal experiences that may or may not be misleading.>
Thanks for your time, Neale; you are a gem of information!
<And thanks for the kind words. Neale.>
Re: Best filtration for floating plants in Amazon blackwater /Red Alder Cone use       9/25/19
Hi guys,
I just have one more question, as I've been doing some online research on blackwater tanks. I see that red alder cones are beneficial both for the tannins and for anti-fungal, anti-bacterial functions. Where I live red alder is very common and I could easily access them in forests well away from pesticides and pollutants. Would you recommend this for my tank? I know you are a bit skeptical about adding locally found driftwood and I don't think I will try that again; I'll buy it, but since I have a good local source of collecting alder cones, I just wondered what your feelings are.
Thanks again!
<Alder has been used in aquaria, and the cones in particular are traded as such. However, I'd suggest using them sparingly at first to see how the fish react. If all seems well after a couple weeks, then maybe try some more. But initially, try out just a few twigs or cones, and look very carefully at your fish to see they're still happy. Decaying organic material will also reduce the pH quite quickly if the water has low levels of carbonate hardness, so again, another reason to start carefully, monitor pH every few days, and if needed (very likely so if KH is less than 5 degrees) use a commercial pH buffer of the sort sold for Discus tanks to steady the pH at 6.5 or 7. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Best filtration for floating plants in Amazon blackwater        10/10/19

Hi again,
My tank is just about ready for cycling; just need to install and start the Eheim Classic 250. I've searched high and low on WWM, but can't find the answer to my question; ok two questions. Just a reminder, my tank is a bow front approx.100 litres and it will house schools of cardinal tetras and Corydoras sterbai with Amazon Frogbit only. Local water is soft and slightly acidic. Water column is 16" deep, though I'd like to keep 2-3" clear at the top.
<Sounds good, and I agree, reducing the depth would be a good idea, if only in places (such as a deeper bed of sand at one end, shallower at the other). Corydoras naturally come from very shallow streams, often barely covering their backs, and may struggle to swim to the surface if the water is very deep.>
1. Is it better for the cardinals to expand the size of the shoal than to mix half cardinals and half rummy nose tetras? I love them both and I've read on WWM that they will school together.
<They do cohabit extremely well. Not necessarily school, but certainly largish groups of each will ignore one another while requiring similar conditions and tankmates. Cardinals, like Neons, tend to hang around
towards the bottom, whereas Rummynoses are more active in the midwater, even relatively open areas. As an aside, a third species that gets on well are Silver Hatchetfish, which school at the top but are just as mellow.
I've seen Discus set-ups with these three species, plus Corydoras sterbai, that were spectacular.>
2. To keep the water circulation mellow and minimize pushing the roots of the Frogbit around, how low should I set the spraybar, and would there be any advantage to positioning the spraybar vertically?
<Tough one to answer. Positioning the spray bar vertically would not create an equal "vertical" stream of water because water pressure lower down would slow down the rate at which water emerges from the holes lower down the spray bar. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with floating plants moving, so long as their roots don't get tangled up and torn, but conversely, this tends to happen anyway in the confines of an aquarium, and best remedied by "cropping back" excess plants so you leave just the best specimens in place. Amazon Frogbit multiplies dramatically under favourable conditions, and once the leaves get wedged into corners and damp, those surplus plants will tend to rot. In this sense floating plants are quite high maintenance, but remember, you're physically removing nitrate and phosphate in the process, which keeps the water quality good. Sometimes the better approach is to reduce the flow of water by turning the taps on the filter hoses, but realistically, the trade-off isn't necessarily worth it if water quality and/or oxygenation suffer. In any case, replacing the spray bar with a simple return pipe, such as the Eheim Classic 250 2213 Outlet Pipe, reduces the turbulence without compromising on filter turnover rate. Directing the outflow at a vertical rock or bogwood root can further diffuse current, reducing water movement.>
Guess I snuck in a third question there.
Thank you!
<Welcome, Neale.>

First pre-owned tank - what to do with filter media - tank drained 2 days ago /Neale        2/5/19
Hi WWM Crew,
We have decided to upgrade our tank again so that we can have lots more fishes :)
Hubby suggested we swap the TV and tank so we get a 7' wall to play with. After reading conflicting reports about the rounded corner larger Boyu aquariums (liable to crack, hood filter is underpowered and hard to clean) we decided to go with a 72"x24"x30" custom-built tank, starting cost of £1000 + 200 mile delivery costs + heater, filter, lights as extras.
<Yikes! Quite an investment.>
Yesterday just before purchasing one of these I stumbled across a private advert posted yesterday, for the same tank dimensions complete with filter, heater and lights, only 2 miles away. We responded, went to see it, and it seems in good condition (although unknown age - seller is not first owner). It stands on a metal frame rather than a cabinet (easily solved with IKEA doors?) but at only £300 for everything it seemed a steal.
Current owners are moving house next month and have moved the inhabitants (a shoal of red-tailed catfish) into a pond in the office. The tank was drained 2 days ago, but the substrate and 2 external filters were left covered with tank water (probably thought this would keep bacteria alive).
<Might; but probably not in a working, active state. Assume the media will mature relatively quickly, thanks to the encysted bacteria, but probably not "live" as such.>
After not being able to muster enough hands to move the tank today we cannot move the tank until next at least next weekend, maybe 2 weeks, but have brought all the accessories home (some of the water was emptied from the filters at this point to help lift into car).
So I am assuming the bacteria in the filters are already dead as they were starved of oxygen 2 days ago.
<Bacteria don't necessarily die under these conditions, but go dormant. They will come back to life, somewhat, in a few days. As I say above, it'll likely cycle faster than it would from scratch, but won't be instant, so do allow some time to gently build up the bacteria population.>
The media ( 2 sponges, ceramic rings, and plastic spheres in each) look in good condition so I don't really want to throw them.
<Indeed not.>
My main question is - is my best option to take everything out of the water, rinse until clear in tap water and then dry until ready to be used again, or should I soak them in a light bleach solution to get rid of any nasty anaerobic bacteria/mould spores/pathogens that may have been in the previous setup before rinsing with tap water?
<Thorough rinsing under the tap would remove any organic muck. No need for sterilising though.>
Before starting the pre-owned tank I would want to put the pre-owned filter material in my Juwel to encourage some bacteria to grow on it, but don't want to risk the health of my fish and bacteria colony.
<Very unlikely pathogens will survive being neglected this long and without fish hosts to live upon.>
I would put as much of the pre-owned media as possible inside my internal filter, and place the rest inside a mesh bag in the tank.
<A good option.>
Of course at the time of a pwc I could let the pre-owned filter material sit in the dechlorinating water to ensure it is free of chlorine residue before putting it into my Juwel.
When we get the tank my plans are to clean the tank and the accessories thoroughly with dilute bleach, rinse, dry off, then wipe away any residue when completely dry. Next day setup the substrate ready for planting, add the new tank accessories, add some water then plant the new plants, add the old plants from current tank (after a short leaf-dipping in bleach solution (+rinse) to try and kill some of the algae), then fill with water from the garden hose to keep the plants alive and allow whatever to leach out of the substrate. I would get the heaters on asap (ground water currently close to freezing), maybe add a few kettles of hot to help along, and the dechlorinator.
<I think using bleach at all is overkill; would dump irredeemable plants, prune back ones with the odd bad leaf; install plenty of new fast-growing plants (floating Indian Fern ideal, but Hygrophila, Vallisneria, etc do the job well) to minimise algae growth while the specimen plants get established.>
When the tank is up to temperature I would set up one of the filters using the media that has been in the Juwel tank's filter, and maybe a large sponge from the Juwel, then refill the Juwel's filter with more of the pre-owned media that was in the mesh bag. Every couple of days I would take the move the pre-owned filter media out of the Juwel and add it to the external filter and refill the Juwel internal filter with the stuff in the mesh bag, until the new external filter is full, then I will put my sponges back in the Juwel.
<All sounds fine.>
In the new tank I would let the water settle and become less cloudy and would then move the substrate from my original tank across to the new tank. The current top layer would get put in some water with algae killer for an hour or so, then get rinsed with dechlorinated-water before being added to the new tank. I would start testing the water in the new tank for ammonia being leached from the new substrate. If levels are low I would 'feed' the new tank with the left-over food I was given to help with cycling and keeping the bacteria alive.
<A good approach. In honesty, a tank this side would handle a school of small fish, like Danios or Limia, without any real problems even from scratch. The sheer volume of water will dilute ammonia, and alongside regular water changes, such hardy species should sail through.>
I know I should drain the old tank to help with fishing out my babies, but I am thinking it would be less of a bioload shock to move them a few at a time over a couple of days.
<Agree 100%, but remember truly schooling species, such as Neons or Corydoras, won't be happy moved across in ones and twos, so move them as groups.>
So, I perhaps start with the peaceful platies, maybe the babies, then a few days later a few more, then move onto the guppies, then the Danios...?
The remaining decorations in the Juwel could stay until I drain the tank to give the fish hiding spots. I would move the Juwel filter and media into the new tank, then drain the water, catch the remaining fish, then add algae killer into the tank to clean the remaining decorations before moving them across to the new tank (again after rinsing in dechlorinated water).
<All sounds good too.>
This is my first pre-owned tank. I'm thinking slow and steady wins the race as 1. I don't know the history of the tank I am purchasing, so want to be careful to ensure it is clean; 2. my Juwel is plagued with hair algae - I am not sure if it comes from the water supply, or came in with a plant or bogwood years ago.
<If at all possible, test the tank for leaks immediately after you get it home. Ideally, outdoors or in the garage, so that if it does leak, you don't ruin the carpet. Glass tanks are pretty robust, but twisting is the big killer, pulling the silicone away from the glass, and it's that which'll cause a sneaky leak, rather than obvious cracks or bumps, which most folk manage to avoid.>
I now know better, hence why I want to bleach-dip the plants before moving across, and kill the algae on all the décor.
<If you want to. Hot water and a good scrub probably just as good, since the algae can/will return if conditions suit: their spores are in the air and water, and they get into the tank no matter what.>
This is also why I don't want to move the tank water across. If it comes back I'll know it's in the water supply and there's nothing I can do to eradicate it, only control it. Sorry this is so long. Do you think all of the above is sensible - is there anything that is unnecessary or something important I have missed?
Thanks for your help, you guys are awesome!
<Good luck, and hope this helps! Neale.>
Re: First pre-owned tank - what to do with filter media - tank        2/5/19

drained 2 days ago Thanks for all the suggestions Neale, much appreciated!
<Most welcome.>
Don't know why I've never thought of using fast growing plants to out compete algae, maybe this is why we didn't have problems with the Fluval Edge 23 l... The elodea went rampant and other plants were happy, but most other plants died off when put into the Juwel 180 l.
<Quite so; the badness of the algae is usually proportional to the unhappiness of the plants. When plants grow fast, algae generally doesn't.
There are some biology reasons for that we don't need to worry about here.>
Do you think that planting the back 6" wall with elodea will be helpful in combating the hair algae? I don't care about the short algae it's a snack for the platys but they don't touch the hair algae and it traps fish.
<Indeed. Hair Algae tends to be a pest in tanks with sluggish plant growth and indifferent lighting levels. Rather than writing out my thoughts, I'm going to direct you to an earlier scribbling on the topic:
Should cover the basics!>
On another note... Any idea why female fish get aggressive in their old age? Currently my 6 year old female Danio choprai is a menace.
<My Danio choprae were as well, to the degree I ended up with just a single male from a group of six. My feeling here is that Danios (or schooling fish generally) become aggressive as the size of the group declines, rather than it being an age thing. So if you have just a few Danios left, aggression will become more noticeable than when you had lots of them. Remember, schooling fish *are* aggressive, and within the group there's background level of bullying that maintains the social hierarchy. In a big group, no
one fish deals out, or receives, too much aggro, so the fish are all, broadly, happy. But as the fish age, and some of them die, you end up concentrating this bad behaviour on smaller numbers of fish, and the result can be unpleasant. Some schooling fish become frustrated, too. These will attack dissimilar fish for want of anything else.>
The 6 year old male is fine. Until a few months ago both Danios were peaceful, swam around the base of objects and occasionally spawned. She now seems to set up large territories at the surface and charges at anything that swims into it (seeing fin damage on the light coloured platys who she seems to chase off more than the dark colours). Last time i saw this was 6 years ago when an elderly female Variatus play started beating up the other 3 platys (maculatus). I got her more tank mates (more platys and mixed school of Danio) and she calmed down until her death. Likewise I got more Danio choprae a few months ago. The male schools with them often, she only occasionally joins in, but they've all been schooling a lot all weekend (along with one guppy). Yesterday she allowed a small male to court her....
Then tonight she has claimed half the surface (cleaned the tank Saturday and removed a lot of algae at the surface).
<More than likely adding substantially more Danio choprae should fix the problem. Cheers, Neale.>

Constant floating debris; FW filtr.       6/27/17
Hello Crew!
<Hey Lisa!>
I'm delighted to stumble across WWM! I have no idea what took me so long to find you. Until now I have been at the mercy of well meaning teenagers at my local pet store.
<Heeee! Remember, we were them at one time>
My issue is constant floating debris in my 10 year(established) 46 gallon pie/bow front tank(short and deep). I have two large Blood parrots(both 4 years old) and a large Pleco(11 years).
<Ooh, messy fishes!>

I use an Eheim 2215 filter . The cascade of events began when my husband took a sudden interest in the fish and, unbeknownst to me, was(over) feeding them!!! Rotting peas and pellets every where. Sadly I did not
notice until my female parrot began to stress from the polluted water. I did a massive water change, went to clean the filter, it slipped from my wet hands and shattered on the floor. (ugh!) I immediately ordered a new
Eheim 2215(thank you Amazon)and set an air pump in tank to give my poor fish some support. New pump arrived, set it all up, great water pressure from out-put. My problem is that I have constant debris/poop/pea skins
floating about. It will float right past the filter intake. My water is really clear with the exception of the debris. I never experienced this before...but never had an air pump going either. I wrote Eheim and they suggested using a "clumping agent".
<This is one approach>
When I put my hand over intake there is suction but not powerful. Does this sound normal,
<Is normal. Am a HUGE fan of Eheim canister filters, but they don't provide much in the way of circulation or mechanical filtration for large/r particles>
or does it sound like my new filter not functioning correctly? Should I just expect to clean up the junk with weekly water changes?
<This is the best time; yes... swirling a net around, gravel vacuuming...
But, I would add more filtration here (redundancy pays); a large hang on the back power filter with the screen off the intake would be my choice; AND I'd switch to a known, good brand of pelleted food. Hikari and Spectrum are fave lines. MUCH less messy>
Thank you in advance for your advise!!
Lisa W.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

query.. Concern re sufficient DO, FW      6/24/17
Hi guys happened to go through your website and found it to be very informative and dependable ....I have this question related to better procedure of oxygenating water and I am really getting paranoid looking for a correct answer.....
<No need>
Of late I have realized that although I have been very regular in tank maintenance including water change , correct filtration , best food etc I still felt that my fish is just striving but not thriving in comparison to the fish I see with my friends who are very laid back on maintenance. I felt that their fish are more colorful and active then mine....Looking out for an answer I came across on many articles on water oxygenation and its importance. The studies showed that gas exchange happens on the surface of water.
<Mostly; yes>
Hence more the water agitation better...
<To an extent>
so my first question is this ....How much should it be ? For in my case I have a diy top filter like u see in these Chinese aquariums but instead of water coming out from one end , I have made holes so it comes out from the
entire filter like a spray bar ...
but the flip side is that it doesn't agitate the water a lot. I won't say that surface is stagnant but it doesn't agitate it like a power filter with nozzle pointing upward should do ...so do u think its still sufficient for oxygenation ?
<Likely so... are your fishes breathing rapidly, labored? >
My second question is that I came across many articles which claimed that surface aeration like the one I have is least effective method of oxygenation and bottom up method is the best like using air pump or power head.... Kindly pls help me what should I do and which method is best
Thanking you Raj
<Well, redundancy in circulation, aeration, filtration is desirable... Always good to have back up... And ask about at your local fish stores to see if they have dissolved oxygen testing gear (to ease your mind); perhaps they'll lend it to you or you can buy a colorimetric assay kit. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater Stingray / Arowana & big tank filtration related question.     3/15/16
Dear WWM crew,
there might be a bit of text, but bear with me.
<Sure; take your time. Best to be thorough>
I live in Czech Republic and I'm not new to the hobby, but not veteran either, though I do my fish stuff with passion.
I'm moving out this year and I had to sell my 120G tank, wood fishes & everything. (Still got 3 small tanks left, which will move with me, red cherry shrimps galaxy Rasbora etc)
Here is my 120G when it was active.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hWCI6nQoZ8 ) 
Initially I wanted to go for Oscars, some silver dollars and bottom dwellers (like angel catfish), but after some weeks of thinking I will go for single silver Aro, school of silver dollars(Metynnis maculatus variant at least 8)
and motoro ray or leopoldi ray (single) on the bottom (depends on the market).
<The Arowana and either Potamotrygonid will grow... to be too large for a 120 gallon tank>
I was thinking to go for smaller variant of FW ray, like reticulatus or hystrix, but after reading I learned, that they are not as hardy(not trying to say any FW ray is hardy here, all are very delicate) as motoro and that the tail gets very long + they are almost impossible to get in my country.
<I see>
I've studied the fish extensively and I'm aware of the diet, sand bottom and the size the fish will grow into. The diseases and issues that these fishes  have (like Drop-eye issue with silver Arowanas) and all the possible information .. dangers of the sting from the ray, treatment and possible long lasting effects. In the end this setup is what I came to.. the tank will be 330 gal/ 1215 liters ish including the filter which will be part of the AQ.
<Oh! Yes>
In ideal situation I would build bigger AQ and put 300liter sump filter below it. But I'm limited by the total weight of the aquarium & all the accessories.
I decided on the fish setup (numbers) in regard to the bioload, surely some people would put more fish in it considering it's a big tank, but from what I studied this tank is a border-line minimum for an adult fish of the
species and I would like it to have as much space there as possible for the fish, without having an empty tank.
<Good; you and I's philosophy is concurrent here>
Since I'm limited by weight (new house, but not meant for x tons of weight concentrated on one spot) .. I decided to put the filter inside (no piping outside the tank, no drilling) here's a diagram. Not here to discuss that, it's going to be inside. No canister filters either.
<All right>
On the diagram you can see that the swimming space for the fish is 200x90x60 which should be enough for these fish considering there will only be 1 Aro, 1 ray and school of smaller fish (15cm max silver dollars).
I will have the water & drainage near the tank so water changes will not be an issue.
Pumps will be either Jebao or something similar (intended flow from both pumps choked at 1000L/H each, because any more L/H and the overflow filter would not work properly and would not do the needed bio filtration correctly) adding bunch of Tunze Turbelle to create good flow in the tank.
This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized %1%2.
I pretty much have a very good idea how the filter could look, here is another diagram, please comment on it.
<Looks very work-able>
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the first chamber is the intake from AQ and there will be a net so the fish wont get in.. now why is it so big you say, well because I want to add some sort of mechanical filtration in there. That's the only thing I'm unsure of how to do properly.. I thought of using the Aquael turbo 2000 internal chamber filter to do that another diagram:
<Open cell foams meant for aquarium use would be my first choice here... I'd have at least two sets; one for in-place use, the other for processing... bleaching possibly, freshwater rinse, air-drying...>
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What do you guys think, or do you have a better solution for this first chamber ? I want to lessen the particles & waste that gets to the sponges area, I do know about the socks that marine aquarists use for their sump
filters, but they clog way too fast and require change every few days according to the marine aquarists.
<Agreed; these bags are better for marine applications>
as for parts of the actual filter: starting from chamber to the left: blue is a sponge which will lessen the sounds that the overflow makes, below it is plastic that will hold it and allow good flow to the pumps (there will be 2 pumps hence 2 pipes inside of the chamber), pumps sit on sponge as to lessen noise.
next mini chamber is 3 cm and is dedicated to create good flow, the 20 cm chamber is purely out of ceramic bio filtration media that will be in a netted bag, so I can easily take it out when needed. We get another small
chamber for flow and then we have the sponges, I am not sure if it should be 20 ppi to 10 ppi left to right (coarse first) or just both of them 20 ppi, because there will be less waste coming.
The big question is how to do the first chamber properly. In ideal solution I would only clean the filter in first chamber i.e. - take out clean, put it back.. once in a few weeks.
<The "blue" sponge material of pore size... I'd switch out weekly, when doing gravel vacuuming, water changes>
And the actual bio media would not get cleaned in months.. all depends on how well the mechanical ones work.. Also what would you put inside of it?
<More foam cut to size... smaller pore size>
Picture related, the chambers are stackable.. up to the height of the tank basically.. I think 3 & 3 would be enough. No sponge there, just that plastic intake.
Sorry for so much text, but it's easier to understand if I write this much
<This is fine; am wanting to understand completely, and be understood in turn>
Thank you for your time
<And you; Bob Fenner>

re: Freshwater Stingray / Arowana & big tank filtration related question.     3/16/16
Dear Mr. Fenner,
<Mr. Tuktarov>
thank you for your swift reply. I'm glad that you agree on the philosophy and that from your point of view the tank is sufficient for this fish setup.
I had thought of keeping Jardinei instead of Silver Arowana, but from experience of many keepers of this fish, it is quite evident, that it is a gamble to try to keep it with anything like an expensive FW ray, so I scratched that idea.
<This is best; they're not easily kept in "other fishes" set ups>
"<Open cell foams meant for aquarium use would be my first choice here... >
I'd have at least two sets; one for in-place use, the other for processing... bleaching possibly, freshwater rinse, air-drying...>"
I see, what PPI would you suggest to use for these?
<Not so important the porosity... as long as it is fit to the flow characteristics of the chambers, pump flow>
I've re-made the filter
design (8th now :D )
The initial filtration chamber what PPI would you use there?
<The larger.... let me see if I can find on the Net: http://www.swisstropicals.com/filtration-shop/poret-foam-shop/ The Poret 30 PPI is a good choice>
It's meant for mechanical filtration, I chose 15 cm instead of 10, so it would not clog so  fast, after this first chamber stops most of the dirt particles I put wool in second chamber right below the overflow, so the finer particles get caught there, wool would not be washed... just tossed when dirty. after that the second chamber could have a bit finer PPI (your suggestion?)
<The 45>
third chamber could use the same as the 2nd, fourth chamber would be sera Siporax or other quality ceramic rings for bio filtration, fifth chamber starts with foam, because the fifth chamber will have the least of water (pumps working) and there will be noise made upon water descending, that's why the foam is right below it. But the water has to flow fast here, so there will be 2 cm of free space so it can go over if needed. The green stuff is plastic tray meant to help with flow.
Net is all over the "open" areas that connect to the aquarium, in the water and out of it, in case a fish decides to jump it wont get into the filter, net would be hard (non-corroding metal) and it would be "glued" with
aquarium silicone.
<A good plan>
Since I've never built an actual overflow filter, I have to ask, will this work as intended ?
<Should; yes>
The pumps will be adjustable. Each can go from 600 to 2000 L/H and can be controlled by a remote .. so I can figure out the exact best flow.
I expect to clean the first chamber once the flow stops going as fast as normally.. wool will be thrown out when needed. I think that at first (small fish) it wont need much cleaning.. but when they Aro/Ray grow to substantial size, it will require cleaning more often.
Goal is to make the chamber 1 and wool, the only things that need cleaning.
Other chambers should remain clean for months ideally.
Anything you would change here? Are the partitions in the filter correct?
<Appear to be okay for starting>
All of this is a theory by my I must say average understanding of water flow...
<You're learning; and quickly. All will become much more clear w/ install and operation. Bob Fenner>

re: Freshwater Stingray / Arowana & big tank filtration related question.     3/16/16
Dear Mr. Fenner,
<Mr. T.>
thank you for your time! Can't wait to build this.
<Oh; please do send along progress reports, images of your work>
Kind regards,
<And you; BobF>
re: Freshwater Stingray / Arowana & big tank filtration related question.     3/16/16

Will do, expect them by the end of summer, my house should be finished by then.
<Ahh! B>

Freshwater Filtration Review       6/15/15
Hello and a preemptive thank you for your timely and knowledgeable response. My current system is a 60 gallon freshwater setup. The inhabitants are a beloved electric blue jack Dempsey, African clawed frog, and five diamond tetras.
<Yikes! Surprised the Xenopus hasn't inhaled the Tetras>
It is fully cycled and has been up and running for two years. The ammonia and nitrites are zero, hardness around 7, and nitrates are the primary concern running high, around 30ppm. I feed sparingly and gravel vacuum and do regular water changes, weekly about fifteen to twenty gallons, as well as filter maintenance.
<Perhaps a bit of nitrate absorbing chemical filtrant... a deeper sand bed... the growth of some simple plants (a fave, Water Sprite, Ceratopteris sp.)>
The tank runs hot at about 81 degrees Fahrenheit, this is one of my questions. Currently I have four filters running on the tank. I have the AquaClear HOB, rated for up to 50 gallons, a MarineLand 200 BioWheel HOB, and two internal submersible filters. I use Purigen, and Chemi pure
<Oh! Good>
in the HOB filters and biomedia only in the submersible filter units.
Could these submersible filters contribute to the higher temperature of the
<Yes; a degree F. or three>
It does have a regular heater to maintain the heat should the temperature fall at night but it almost never has to turn on. Might I be able to decrease the temperature and reduce the nitrates further by eliminating one or both of the submersible filters?
<Yes; and/or leaving the lights off during the "non visiting" hours of the days>
Would eliminating some of the filtration cause a secondary cycling of the tank and how might I avoid this?
<Mmm; might actually improve. Best to experiment; turn one or both off, remove and see>
Is there a better or more suitable alternative to the current filtration setup?
<The zillion dollar question... Yes; adding a sump/refugium would be better... more volume, remoting more substrate, being able to run alternating light/dark cycles (one off while t'other is on); and a bunch more... growing rooted plants...>
What filtration method is least contributory to nitrate production?
<Ones that don't inspire nitrification really... i.e., less aerobic>
My fish thank you for your time and patience.
<And we for your sharing. Bob Fenner>

Filtration.    10/8/14
I'm sorry this is the second email I've sent today - I completely forgot about the above when making my previous contact.
<No worries>
Quick question : are the internal filters which claim to be as good as external ones worth considering?
<Some are... for certain applications. Am a much bigger fan of remoting (having outside the tank) for a few reasons: space used up, vibration bugging the livestock, possibility of electrical leaks (where used); looks; trouble of handling/manipulating when cleaning...>

While my old Fluval 4 plus is more than adequate for flow rate, I'm not sure that the lack of compartments inside it will support anything other than light stocking (currently seven fish in a 55 gallon - all is good at
the moment).
<Could always add another hang on or canister...>
Someone recommended the Eheim Biopower 240.
<Good units in my estimation>
What would you suggest / recommend please?
<Likely a hang on power filter... being a bit of a cheapskate... and running the Fluval 4 along w/ for redundancy>
Many thanks & another token donation made. Sorry it's not much.
<Any/All is/are appreciated. I thank you>
Kind Regards,
<And you, Bob Fenner>

Is my tank filtration alright/okay. And more randomness re heater      2/11/14
In my 50+ gallon. ( 36L, 20H 18W.) I have two large sponge filters They each are for tanks up to 80 gal.. To help keep the nitrites down I plan on adding a hang on power filter. Maybe using advanced carbon.
<Good... I would do both; now>

Livestock is
1 angelfish
A pair of Bolivian rams
A L204 or flash Pleco
2 surviving Corys I plan on giving back to my local fish store.
 all fish are doing good and there have been no deaths sense the Corys were added- only Corys died.
Also my heater seems to be sending out a substance into the tank,

 while setting up the tank back in September I dropped it and though it didn't appear broke I wonder., its almost always on
<Take it to a dealer; now; to have them check: for adequate wattage, breakage>
 and though the fish seem okay do I need to get a new heater. The temp reads about 76-77F and its set for that, should i set it higher.
<Look up the temp. range for the species you have... Rams want it higher; but others... Bob Fenner>
Re: Is my tank filtration alright/okay.      2/12/14

i have to wait until payday (Friday) to get the filter, while I'm there to see which power filters they have. The angel has gone on a hunger strike- why I'm testing the water-  but otherwise looks good, i responded by feeding less and adding beneficial bacteria. The rams are eating well though and so are the catfish. ( corys/ Pleco)  If it reads bad I plan on doing a water change extra early tomorrow or tonight.
On weekends I'm doing a volunteer job at my local Tropaquatics.
<Good... You can chat there. B>

Filters, heaters/ and some things you should know.   7/1/13
First off Thank you for your help. I really enjoy your site and learning about fish. However some of your pages/articles on catfish and cichlids on the wet web media site (under freshwater livestock) are all crumbled together and its hard to look through them- do revisit and correct/fix it if possible. Its probably not so bad in the cichlids but in the catfish its awful.
<I will pass this on to Bob; FWIW though, if you learn to separate the articles from the FAQs, the site makes a lot more sense. Articles tend to be pretty much what you'd see in magazines -- indeed, many of them were -- while FAQs tend to be aggregations of short responses to specific questions. So the FAQs don't have a beginning, middle and end because they're add to all the time. Using the search engine of your choice can help a lot here, because you're quite likely to find comments or replies relevant to your situation.>
<<Where specifically do you find "all run together"? URLs please. RMF>>
Filtration /heating questions for 55 and 90 gallon. If I use sponge filters only will I be okay I rather like the sponges. Easy to clean, and don't hurt baby fish should i ever have fry in my community of the future.
<A fine approach; indeed, standard practise among cichlid breeders. You do need big-ass sponges, but so long as you get the big sponge filters, this can/does work extremely well.>
Should I go power filters too or just sponge, canisters are hard for me to fix and maintain. (I have vision impairment and my staff know next to nothing about filter maintenance ).
<Sponges can work just fine on their own.>
Also Would 2 heaters be okay in a 55 or 90 gallon . What strength should they be/ brand you recommend .
<Will depend on the brand, but something like a 200 W heater is typical for a 55-gallon tank, and you'd probably need two for a 90-gallon one. Look on the back of the packaging -- there's usually a chart that lists heater size, aquarium size, and the temperature of the room where the aquarium is located. Cheers, Neale.>

Simple Advise/Ideas, FW sys./filtration 100 gal. commercial retrofit to hobbyist    11/8/12
Dear Crew
Recently my local FLS store is retiring/shutting down after 30 years. I purchased a 125 gallon Tidepool off of them for what some would call stealing it. My problem is not much of a problem verses a dilemma. I currently have a 40 gallon tropical freshwater tank set perfect with healthy Angles, Dwarfs, Swords, Tetras, Bristle Nose, Java Moss and etc on live plants. A 20 Gallon with 3 Cory's which I use to put fry and also treat the sick. Now that I have this gigantic tank I'm not sure what to do.
The pumps were extremely loud turned out to just be the vibration which a two lbs weight on the top fixed and I'm not sure if that's ok. I have many questions on this set up and what to do with it or sell it before I just throw fish in aquascape it or get rid of it because I don't know what to do. Also the price of maintaining a tank of this stature. So the main question is could you direct me to a thread or anything to further my knowledge before I do anything.
Thanks as Always
<Great question, Jesse. The short answer is that stocking a big (100+ gallon) aquarium with small tropical fish is easy, easier than you imagine.
You won't need a lot of filtration, so could easily get rid of the noisy filters and switch to something suitable for your budget. A decent-sized external canister (of canisters) could well be adequate. For things like Tetras and Angels, a turnover rate of 4x the volume of the tank should be ample, so something around the 500 gallon/hour turnover rate will do.
Indeed, undergravel filters with a couple of big powerheads could work well too. So long as you don't overstock, then the sheer size of the tank will go a long way towards buffering against any water quality problems -- cycling big tanks with small fish is surprisingly easy and painless. Just add the fish in small batches, say, a half-dozen tetras at a time, and you shouldn't have any major problems, especially if you "seed" the tank with filter media or gravel from your existing aquarium. Have a think about filtration first, and once you have, feel free to write back to talk about your other, more specific questions. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Simple Advise/Ideas; quieting FW filtration noise  11/10/12

Sorry I fat fingered my last email from my cell and didn't mean to send just "ok". I've decided to keep the tank and will probably keep the filtration system since I've been able to silence it. I have a spare Magnum 350 I used for my 40gal that I was able to fix (after I bought a new one on a Sunday filtration emergency) in case a main pump goes out on the Tidepool 2. Another factor is the bulk heads for the tank and filter, why get rid of a good system.
<For sure. The flip side to using marine filtration on freshwater tanks is that it drives off CO2, which will be a real minus if you want to grow live plants, as some are very picky about dissolved CO2. Plus, the overshoot system where water flows over the top of the tank down a chute into the trickle filter or sump tank is that you end up with escape routes for "wriggly" fish like eels and loaches that like slithering over/down such things. Not sure whether that applies here.>
I'd like to build a tank of a life time for tropical fish so my next question before I start planting is... What do you think about sand instead of gravel,
<It's what I use. Almost never gravel.>
which I've never used and what type store bought or from a lake etc.?
<Pool filter sand is the cheap and safe option in the US. Basically, anything lime-free and non-abrasive; smooth silica sand is the default.
Cheers, Neale.> 

Considering new tank, filter system unfamiliar... For what type of sys?
Filtration Question, All-In-One Aquarium Systems - 10/20/2012

Hi folks
<Hiya, Gord.  Sabrina with you this fine afternoon!>
Sorry to take up your time.
<I wouldn't give it if I didn't want to; don't apologize.>
I'm not totally clued up on filtration since I've no experience with anything other than internal cartridge and sponge filters. I've tried to look through the FAQs on filtration but I'm still clueless.
<No better time to learn.>
I'm thinking of buying this:
<I want to give some words of caution about "all in one" tanks, systems....  and shall, I think, after browsing the rest of this query.>
The description of the filter system/options is thus, to save you having to read through the rest:
"The supplied Hood of each Aquarium Tank comes complete with built-in T5 Lighting and a Top Tray Filtration System, and is designed to sit flush on the Tank rim. Each removable hood is designed with a front flap for access to the water (feeding, maintenance etc) and a rear flap for access to the filter trays. Being removable, each hood is easily upgradeable with pipe work access built-in. This enables you to purchase an additional External Filter if required (See External Filter Range in Store) 
The Filtration System comes complete with Four (4) Trays that can be individually filled with the Filter Media of your choice (Filter Media Supplied - see below) 
The Filtration System is powered by ONE (1) Powerhead capable of pumping 900 litres of water per hour to a Spray Bar located above the Filter Trays.
Each tank is supplied with a spare Spray Bar, enabling you to purchase another Powerhead if required."
There is a photo of the in-hood filtration system in the link I supplied.
Is this a wet-dry system? That's the best fit I could think of but, as I say, I don't really know.
I realise 900lph is inadequate
<Depending upon your intentions for this system, quite possibly.>
and a second powerhead would need to be bought, either that or an external filter. Do you have any recommendations here? I don't want to waste my cash on an extra powerhead only to have to get an external when the in-hood system goes awry, nor do I want to go to the expense of an external if the hood filtration system is any good. So you can see my dilemma.
<Well, without knowing what you intend for this aquarium, it's all very hard to say.  Would this serve for a reef system?  No, in my opinion. 
Inadequate lighting, flow....  Much modification would have to happen, to what I'd call unreasonable expense, for this to be converted into something suitable for the needs of any light-demanding, flow-loving critters.  The wet/dry filtration would be (in some opinions) detrimental to a heavily planted freshwater system, and the lighting inadequate for very light hungry plants.  On the other hand, this would be a neat system for low- to moderate-light plants with not huge CO2 demands, and could be a very attractive display as such.  The lighting might be adequate for attractive soft corals and Corallimorphs; there might even be some LPS that would appreciate it.  But the real "problem" (if you consider it one - I do, some don't) is the lack of ability to customize, change, upgrade most anything in this sort of system, without great difficulty.  I'm quite a DIY sort of person, and love modifying and changing things to suit myself, and while there are some pretty drastic things you can do to these all-in-one type systems, I would much prefer a system that I can change at will....  Not enough filtration?  Fine, add more, or upgrade.  Not enough flow?  No problem.  Want better lighting?  Switch it out.  Want terrestrial plants? 
Turn it into a paludarium.  You can't do this easily with these all-in-one rigs.  They do make for attractive displays, but their use is, in my opinion, cripplingly limited.  So, ultimately, if the lighting, filtration, etc., is quite ideal for your specific intent, and you are confident that you won't want to change things, then this might be the tank for you.  But if you expect you might want something to be a bit different down the road, well, better to plan your own system rather than be limited by a pre-made one.  Also worth considering is the possibility that one component in the all-in-one hood might fail.  What then?  Attempt repair yourself?  Gut the thing and build something in?  New hood?  To what expense?  Just food for thought.>
Once again, thanks for your help.
<Glad to give it.>
<Best wishes,  -Sabrina>
Filtration Question, All-In-One Aquarium Systems - II - 10/21/2012

Hi Sabrina,
<Hi again, Gord!>
Thanks for your reply.
<Glad to be of service.>
I did seem to leave out the ever-so-slightly important intention of what is planned for the tank!
<Heh....  that might be pertinent, huh?>
We are looking at two options. The first is a Congo biotope with Ctenopoma acutirostre as the focus.
<Neat!  I should mention, Ctenopoma and Microctenopoma are some of my favorite fishes....  Beautiful, interesting animals that make spectacular aquarium residents.>
The other option is getting the 250 litre version and going for an Oscar.
<This would be a great size for a start, perhaps even for a couple of years, but ultimately, I personally would prefer to see an adult Oscar in something like twice this volume.  250 litres might suffice, with appropriate large frequent water changes, but....  Bigger is better.>
I wouldn't be using plants other than Water Sprite with an Oscar, so no issue on lighting there.
<Any particular reason why not?  I mean, sure, they like to redecorate their tanks to their tastes, but that can be gotten around.>
With a Congo biotope I'd be going for mainly Anubias, so I don't THINK lighting will be an issue here. Please correct me if I'm wrong, though.
<You're not.  Consider how you'll finagle CO2 injection (not completely necessary with Anubias, but very beneficial) with the hood, and how that will work out.  Consider that the wet/dry filter will work against you some in regards to CO2.>
I still haven't decided what floating plants I'd use yet.
<I guess that depends on how closely you want to mirror a Congo biotope, and if you're willing to fudge it a bit.>
My main problem here is budget. Having done a check about on the net it doesn't look like I could put anything of the same volume together myself for less than the price of this.
<Always be aware, you get what you pay for, in almost everything in life.>
I realize it may lead to further expense in the future but I think that if the money goes into the bank to get added to, it will probably never happen.
<You could always accumulate the items of the system piecemeal.  Tank now, stand later, etc. - and don't be shy about looking at classified ads, used systems, and such.>
A tank in the living room is worth two in the shop, so to speak!
<That is a very fair statement!>
It seemed to be lighting units that killed my costings every time. While I CAN put a fluorescent tube lighting system together, I'm a bit wary of mixing DIY, aquariums and electricity.
<You and me both!  Is lighting something you could get later?  Or used?  Or?>
Having now considered my options, thanks to your identification of the filter type, I think I'd prefer an external canister. I'm going to contact the manufacturer and see if I can get a discount on an external filter if I can leave them with the in-hood filtration system.
<This looks much like the tanks manufactured by Jebo....  I don't know if they offer customization options.  Worth looking into.  Adding a canister to the existing wet/dry isn't out of the question, and would be a good move where the Oscar would be concerned, at the least, if you go that route.>
It might be worth a try and it would leave a cavity in the hood for me to retrofit some moonlight lighting if I went for Ctenopoma.
<I'd go the route of the Ctenopoma either way, but that's just me.  They're really neat fish.  On the other hand, Oscars are awfully puppy-like.  Or you could consider smaller cichlids, as well.  Many have that lovable puppy personality.>
The filter was my main worry, since it seemed quite novel to me and that rang alarm-bells but thank you for bringing up the lighting. It was something that I hadn't considered.
<All components of this system are worth considering, since none can be changed easily.  Whether you decide you want different filtration, or the lighting fails, or whatever, you're pretty much "stuck" with what you've got.>
Thanks again for your help, it is most appreciated.
<I'll just leave you with this:  They're very attractive systems that make for very attractive displays.  As long as you are completely satisfied with the "guts" of the system and know for certain that they will not be limiting to your plans, then it might well be a good route to go.  I'm the sort that's never satisfied with something I can't change, or maybe I just like having control, I don't know.  I do acknowledge that these kinds of systems can be very attractive in a streamlined sort of way, and for some people, maybe yourself included, can be great solutions.  Consider all your options, all your intentions and needs, your limitations, wants, desires, and all, and make informed decisions.  And, always, keep learning, growing, and enjoying life, aquatic and otherwise!>
<Best wishes to you always.  -Sabrina>
Filtration Question, All-In-One Aquarium Systems - III - 10/22/2012

Hi Sabrina
Thanks for your help. If 250 litres isn't big enough for an Oscar, it isn't big enough. I think the Oscar is going to be one for the long term, putting the kit together piecemeal, as you suggest. A system that size is a pipe-dream at the moment. There's no guarantee we could afford to upgrade when the time came and there's no point in making a rod for our own backs when it comes to increased water changes for want of dilution.  
<A safe move.  "Getting by" on a smaller tank than ideal, while possible, doesn't always yield the greatest experience - to the fish or the fishkeeper.>
Most of what I've read about Oscars said they generally make a mess of live, rooted pants, so I thought floating plants might be safer!
<You would still be safe considering Anubias, Bolbitis, Microsorium, or other plants that can or prefer to be grown on rock or wood.>
I think we'll go for the Ctenopoma set-up. Both of us love the little guys.
Also, given this will hopefully be in place for the next 15 years, I'm quite happy with the all-in-one setup. At the end of the day, if I want to do something, I WILL cannibalize it! The jury is still out on canister or wet/dry since I've read some of Neale's comments regarding oxygenation and canister filters.
<You could employ both, you know.  Or see how well you like the built-in wet/dry, and leave the canister purchase until a more favorable time if it becomes necessary.>
So far, I've never gone down the CO2 supplement route and seem to be relatively wet-green-fingered, growing Limnophila Sessiliflora, Corkscrew Val, an unidentified Val, and Amazon Swords.
<Very good.  You'll do fine with Anubias.>
Still, I must be the only person in the whole of the hobby that Java Moss has failed on, though! 
<I swear, I've dried the stuff out for years, attached to a favorite piece of driftwood, and it STILL came back!>
Sorry, I'm digressing. I might bug you a bit on tankmates for Ctenopoma acutirostre, since I've been looking all evening, my head is swimming and so far I've only come up with Congo Tetras.
<I do have opinions/suggestions.  If you're doing a 250L tank, you have so many options available to you....  My favorites include Pantodon buchholzi - though these will certainly want floating plants and a "still" area at the surface where they can hunt insects you might drop in for them.  A male and female pair (easy to tell when you see them in person) would be a ton of fun, as you'd get to observe courtship behaviours, maybe even spawning....  And they are just really gorgeous, exciting fish....  They're like a miniature Arowana crossed with a pile of leaves.  Another candidate in that 250L tank could be a few Xenomystus nigri.  Of the Knifefishes regularly available in the aquarium hobby in the US, these are one of the smallest, and actually a bit gregarious.  They're nocturnal, so won't be out and about all the time, but are a very neat fish anyway.  Maybe Erpetoichthys calabaricus could be another candidate.  Oh, and what about shrimp?  Atya gabonensis or A. camarunensis perhaps?  Granted, not every one of the animals I've listed would be 100% compatible with all of the others (not sure on the large shrimp with the Erpetoichthys, for example.... but might work), but worth looking into those that might interest you.  There are so many very, very cool African fishes out there....!!>
I'll send a separate email, though, to keep it out of the setup part of the site. 
<Oops!  Guess I could've waited....  but as you might have realized, fish from that region are some of my favorites.>
Always learning and growing, and much of it is thanks to you guys.
<I'm very glad to be a part of that, Gord.>
<Wishing you well in your aquatic endeavours,  -Sabrina>
Considering new tank, filter system unfamiliar - Revisited - 11/28/2012

Hi Sabrina
<Gord!  Wow, hi!>
I just have a thank you.
<Well, you're welcome.  Wait, why?>
If you hadn't made me stop and think about getting the 200 litre/250 litre all-in-one and my long suffering wife hadn't scoured the Facebook second hand pages then the following plan would never have come to light.
<Uh oh!>
Tomorrow we're picking up a 5' x 18" x 18" c. 320 litre tank.
The advert looked bad.
<Hooray for used things!  The ads always look bad.  It's just hidden treasure, that's all.>
The picture looked awful.
<Hidden treasure that needs some polishing.>
But it was mostly because of the seller's half finished custom made stand. My better half negotiated tank, lights, undergravel filter
<Trash that part.  Or make some sort of art-deco basket out of it or something.  But don't put it back in the tank.>
and Fluval U4 for £100.
<Your wife is brilliant and amazing.  You know that, right?  Not only is she tolerant - perhaps encouraging - of your fishy addiction, she's HELPING you.  And handling the negotiations!!  I hope you've made her a nice candlelit dinner for two, with champagne and a nice dessert.>
The real beauty is our, wedge-shaped, bay window is 5' at the narrowest so, with some cabinet building at either side, it's going to look amazing underneath it.
<Neat!  Just be sure, if there's actually a window involved, that the tank is well insulated from the window, to protect against sharp changes in temperature.>
The plan is to build a wooden tank hood to suit the window frame and matching side cabinets to box it in. Happily the ledge below the window is 27" from the floor meaning it will be enormously easy to set the whole thing up on 2" x 8" timber.
<Spectacular.  If the tank is acrylic, be sure the entire tank is solidly supported underneath by a solid sheet of plywood or something similar, not just framed out.>
She-who-must-be-obeyed has long desired a bay window tank but we always thought about getting the glass to entirely fit the space, instead of boxing a tank in.
<Aquatic gods are smiling on you for your choice in spouse.  Every fish geek dreams of an encouraging partner to geek about with.  You, sir, have won in life.>
The rig we're getting is a third of the price of the retail one I first asked you about. Don't know about the lighting but if it grows Anubias I'm happy. Our hood will be custom built by my father in law and I (very handy having a joiner in the family), so we can do what we want.
<You can, indeed!  Start looking at retrofits, hit up the plant geek forums for DIY ideas, and daydream!>
I certainly need space for moonlight lighting with the livestock we're intending to keep.
Undergravel will be binned
<Ah, good.>
and replaced with a 1000 lph external.
<Very good.>
So, really, thank you.
<Really, you're welcome *smile*>
If you hadn't put the thought in my head I'd never have pulled the measuring tape out and had that light bulb moment. Plus (and Bob F is just going to have to excuse stream of consciousness here) I'm so flaming excited I've never had a tank this big WOW! Phew! A couple of 60 litres are our biggest at the moment. Happy, happy, happy!
<Happy, indeed!  You're going to have tons of fun with this.>
Back in the real world, thanks again for the timely advice. I promise to inflict a pic or two on you when it's up and running.
<I'll be looking for it.  And while I'm thinking about it, I know you're keen on west African critters, yeah?  Think about adding Atya gabonensis as well - too big to be eaten by the fishes we've discussed, yet harmless to even tiny baby fish....  I think you'd like 'em.>
<Best wishes to you.  Can't wait to see those pics!  -Sabrina>

Air Stone + filter - enough?   10/14/12
Hi, I hope you are well. I have looked through previous posts and have tried to string some answers together - but perhaps you can help me a little further?
<I do hope so>
I have just upgraded my tank from a 35L to an 85L - My pump from the old tank was way over-spec for the old tank and so is more than capable for the new tank. The pump in an internal one. My tank currently has 3 aquatic frogs and 11 fish.
I have just realised my old airstone and pump are only supposed to be run for an up to 37 litre tank. I saw on the other posts that it is the movement not the air that aerates the water.
<Mostly, yes; though the movement does greatly add to aeration/gas exchange>
Given that my pump is set for 100L and the air stone is right at the bottom of the tank (disguised by some bogwood) Will my fish have enough?
<Very likely so... or they wouldn't be presently about. I take it you do have other... filtration here>
Thank you for all your help. Ali
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

question regarding filters behind 3D <internal> background    6/17/12
Hi, First of all thanks for this great website. I'm a frequent reader of the dailies, and there's always some interesting stuff in it, no matter whether it be something for use now or in the future, or just some information to satisfy my general curiosity for anything which has to do with fishkeeping. Not the first time I write, unfortunately I move around for work which often results in selling set-ups, moving and being without a fish tank for a while, but if it looks like I'm to stay where I am for a couple of years, then I never can resist to get a new tank. I'm planning a set up for a single species colony of Tropheus (most likely Tropheus moorii Mpulungu). Tank will be 6ft*2ft*2ft, about 170 gallons. I plan to install a 3D background, and there will be a powerhead inside the tank to provide some water circulation. Regarding filtration, a sump with wet/dry is not really an option I consider at this point, so I basically have to choose one or more of following filtration systems: external canister (Eheim 2260), an overtop trickle filter (they are available here with stackable drip boxes, to be stacked as high as needed (basically a wet/dry on top of the tank), or a DIY filter behind the 3D background.
<I'd go w/ two of the Eheims>
 As to the canister filter and the trickle filter, I believe I understand the drawbacks and advantages of each system. My question is regarding the efficiency of a filter installed behind a 3D background. On the internet there are several (great looking) well-stocked cichlid tanks posted which claim to be solely filtered by a (mainly biological) filter behind a 3D background. They report good water parameters with a standard water change regimen, and very low maintenance on the built-in filter, usually mainly operating with filter sponges cut into small cubes, an intake on one side of the background and an output on the other side, with a single pump drawing water through the filter. I don't really doubt this kind of filter can break down ammonia and nitrites quite well, I just wonder, in this kind of set-up, with the sponges behind the background being almost never cleaned (maybe with exception of one coarse sponge placed first), would such filter, in theory, not cause a significant build up of nitrates due to decaying material in the filter sponges?
<I'd rig up the intake/s in front of the background myself... the discharges to run horizontally from the top side to circulate the water in a gyre/loop across the top to the other side, down and back up the other>
 If such low-maintenance/low-cost filtration system would function that well, wouldn't it be applied more frequently?
<Mmm, other moda more popular to some...>
So basically my question is whether such kind of filter is viable long term for a cichlid tank, whether it is really as low maintenance as is claimed, and if so, how nitrate build up is avoided.
<More regular gravel vacuuming... 25% weekly or more frequent...>
 Many thanks. Henk 
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

700 Gallon Aquarium Filtration 1/30/12
I have plans to build a 700 gallon aquarium in my finished basement that I will keep some sort of freshwater fish. Possibly a large Cichlid or a Stingray tank. I want to put the filtration on the other end of the basement in my laundry room where cleaning is easiest and I can just open a valve and dump water into my sump pump at water change time. Where is my best resource for DIY filtration for this size of tank?
<Mmm, well, you're "in the middle" volume wise, of possibly buying pre-made commercial components and like you say, piecing materials together... do you mind larger electric bills? IF not, I'd likely look into a small "pool" "sand filter", though I'd use other than sand... see WWM re... and enjoy the convenience of simply manipulating a valve to backwash it... IF you'd like to save real money in the long term by having a smaller, lower pressure pump, a refugium/sump type with simple gravity fed mechanical (bag) filtration would be the route I'd go. Read here re:
the second tray>
When I say DIY I am not looking to be done cheaply. I want this done right.
Thank you for any guidance.
<A good deal to read, comprehend ahead of actual building. You're going about it the right way by investigating your options.
Bob Fenner>

Should I add anything else? Filters, 55 gal., FW 12/3/11
Hello Esteemed WWM Crew!
<Steamed at times maybe!>
I just got a 55 gallon tank to house my growing catfish and rainbow shark.
I plan to set this up next month, let it cycle through well and then add my little fish into it. Currently, I have 4 rather young Synodontis eupterus catfish (all just under 2" that were given to me due to some strange circumstances) and a 3" Rainbow Shark to go into this tank. I have a few questions.
<Do provide lots of spaces for the Mochokid cats to hide... they tend to quarrel...>
1) This is a new breed for me so I'm learning as I go, but I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for fish I could add to the tank.
<Best for you to peruse WWM, read the Compatibility FAQs files for each species you have>
I would probably be looking at fish that like to remain near the top of the tank as the catfish and the shark stay rather low. I most certainly do not want to over crowd, so if these 5 max out the tank, that's fine too.
<Mmm, I'd stock something/s that were more out in the open here. Larger Barbs, Rasboras, Characoids perhaps>
2) I'm currently working out how I want to filter this tank, I definitely want a power filter, but am thinking it would be good to have an under gravel filter as well. Any ideas?
<Could run both, but I'd go w/ redundancy in having just two outside power filters myself>
3) My research shows that these fish all come from river systems, so I'm looking at some form of design like my attached concept picture.
<Good, complete water movement is requisite, can be provided by way of the outside filters>
Thank you!
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Ozone for Freshwater? (RMF, second opinion?) 11/18/11
Hi Guys,
I have an established 75g freshwater system with an undergravel filter/powerheads & a Magnum 350 canister with UV. I also have an unused ozonizer left over from a marine set up. I couldn't find anything on the site regarding the use of ozone in a freshwater aquarium. What's your take on using it? Pros & cons?
<Ozone is neither a cure-all nor 100% foolproof in terms of safety. Marine fish wholesalers certainly find ozone worth using, the risks being offset by the benefits for them through reduced transmission of disease. But marine hobbyists will likely find other methods safer and just as effective, e.g., UV, and freshwater aquarists will be even less likely to find any value to ozone. For a start, large-scale water changes are easier to do with freshwater tanks, and the fish themselves are generally easier to treat and/or less likely to be stressed by captivity. If you must have some sort of "disinfectant" system, use UV instead. Cheers, Neale.><<Agreed as not as useful/desirable for FW and SW, but still of use. UV's produce 03... RMF>>

92 gal corner tank filter question. 8/27/11
WetWebMedia is a terrific resource!
I have a planted 92 gal corner tank with a school of Devarios and Rosy barbs.
<Nice, subtropical to low-end tropical species. Be sure not to overheat them!>
Currently I am filtering the tank with a Eheim 2028 canister filter rated at 277 gph. This gives only a 3x's/hour turnover rate. I also have a powerhead to increase circulation. After reading your site I understand that the turnover rate should be 4-6x's/hour. If I replace my filter with a large canister (like the Fluval FX5) which is rated at 606 gph with media, then the turnover rate would be about 6.5x's per hour. Would this be too much?
Would I be better off going with a second canister which would be rated at ~300gph?
<Either suits. There's arguments both ways. One big-ass filter means less pipe work, so it's easier to hide. Two smaller filters means you have a backup in case one fails, or at least, you can change the media in one filter knowing that bacteria from the other with colonise it quickly.>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 92 gal corner tank filter question. 8/27/11

My tank was inspired by articles you have written on keeping subtropical tanks. Thank you Neale!
<Glad to help.>
I love the activity and schooling behavior of the Devarios and Barbs, and my wife thinks the tank looks great can't get better than that. The tank is kept at room temperature and is unheated. It usually stays between 72-76 degrees Fahrenheit. Common species like Devarios and Barbs are just as interesting, and certainly as much fun to keep, as the more exotic ones.
<Yes indeed. And often these fish have a seasonality to them as well, so in spring and summer their colours and behaviour really becoming vivacious.>
I'm sure once the additional filtration is in place they will be much happier. Thank you for the filtration advice. It's good to know that I can go a bit above a 6x's/hour turnover rate. I'm sure once the media and head height is accounted for the filters produce much less that their advertised flow rates anyway.
<If the fish are buffeted about, either use the taps to slow down the flow, or else use a spray bar to spread out the water flow.>
Thanks for all your terrific advice.
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>

Central Filtration System - Need Help Please! 7/31/11
Hello. I am new to your site but have been reading it over and over again looking for answers to my questions. I cannot find them,
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/cntfiltbiz.htm
and the linked files above>
so I am writing to you to see if you can be of any help. I am building a central filtration system sump for my fish tanks (livebearers). I want to have all my tanks filtered through a shared sump.
<Can be of benefit...>
The sump will be set up where the incoming water will first flow through a UV sterilizer and then flow through a tub filled with live rock and then there will be a sponge filter on the return before the water is pumped back out. I will also have a heater in the sump to heat all the tanks water - not sure how big it needs to be.
<The bigger the better... do use submersible heaters... perhaps an added controller for safety.>
I will have approximately 12
- 20 Gallon tanks and 14 - 10 Gallon tanks on 2 - 2-tier shelves. I plan to drill a hole at the bottom of each tank and stand a pvc pipe up through the hole of the bulkhead. I plan to drill holes at the top part of that pipe and put a sponge filter over the top to keep the fry from being sucked through. My question/worry is that I cannot figure out what size bulkheads to use and what size pump to use.
<This is all covered on WWM... do you see the search tool listed on every page?>
I'm worried because I do not know how fast the water will drain from the 26 tanks and I do not know how fast the pump will pump the water back into the tanks.
<... oversize the overflows...>
I purchased a Rio 20 HF pump that states it has a flow rate @ 1 foot head pressure 1290 GPH and flow rate @ 6 feet head pressure 870 GPH and the inlet is 1" pipe or 1-5/16" hose and the outlet is 3/4" NPT or 1" hose. I plan to have the water returned to the tanks with pvc pipes running along top the tanks with a pipe running down into the tank coming close to the bottom to help swirl the water around to help drain out some of the bottom water also.
I've also heard of using drip valves but didn't think they will provide enough flow to the system. So my main questions (I guess) are what size bulkheads should I use for draining?
<At least 1" ID>
What size tubes/pvc pipes should be used for the intake and the return of the water from the pump?
<The size/diameter of the fittings on the volute...>
What size pump should be used - did I get the right one?
<Can work>
I was thinking 1 1/2 inch bulkheads for the drains and 1 inch tubing for the return. Am I way off? Am I missing something?
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/BulkheadFloRateArt.htm
and the linked files above of interest, pertinence>
Any kind of help would be great. I know how I want this set up (I can picture it in my head) but I just don't know how to do it. Thanks so much!!
<Do put all your plans in writing, including the stand design... and do write us back w/ your specific further questions, concerns, after you've read the above areas cited. Bob Fenner>
Re: Central Filtration System - Need Help Please! 7/31/11

Thank you so much for your help. I've read the articles sited - sorry I didn't find them before.
<No worries>
I'm starting to understand a little better now but after reading further, this question comes to mind - I apologize if this sounds like stupid question - let's say for instance the 2" bulkhead will flow to sump 1350 gph, but I have 26 tanks with the 2" bulkhead, does that mean each tank is going to flow 1350 gph into the sump, meaning I'll have (1350 x 26) 35,100 gph flowing to the sump.
<Mmm, no... with the total flow you state... divide each tank into it...
1/1,350th per hour... a one inch ID through put/bulkhead will do>
I know that just doesn't sound right but I'm wondering about it.
<...? Each tank will have a (ball) valve...>
What I've read so far is that using a bigger bulkhead is better. But do I have to use smaller bulkheads because I'll have 26 tanks all flowing to the sump at once? I guess that is what is confusing me - the multiple tanks all flowing into the sump together.
Although I've also learned now that when I add the sponge filter to the end of the pipe, it will drastically change the amount drained.
Thanks again for the help!!
<Welcome. BobF>

new tank filter advice, FW, and stkg. notes 4/19/11
Greetings crew!
I'm planning on building a new FW tank this summer. I currently have a 29 gallon and will be upgrading to a 55 gallon. The new tank will be a (hopefully) peaceful soft water set-up with a ph 6.8-7.2. I plan on housing mostly neon tetra,
<Which need cool water, 22-25 C.>
chocolate or samurai Gourami,
<Which need warmer water, 28-30 C; and not suitable for community settings anyway.>
a pair of pearl Gourami,
<Cannot coexist with Chocolate Gouramis.>
pygmaeus and adolfoi Corydoras,
<Need coolish water, like the Neons.>
gardneri killifish,
<Middling temperature; potentially viable with Pearl Gouramis in a big tank.>
and either Apistogramma borelli
<Like Neons and most Corydoras, needs coolish water.>
or cacatuoides (or both if you feel they can coexist together).
<Fairly adaptable, and the better choice for use with the Pearl Gouramis given both Pearls and A. cacatuoides do well between 24-28 C.>
The question I have is about filtration.
<Suspect I've prompted a few *other* questions here!>
Currently I have a penguin 200 with BioWheel in my 29 gallon. I've read that 5x the gallons in GPH is a good ratio to go by.
<Depends on the fish. Yes, ideal for Corydoras, the larger Gouramis and the Killifish. But too much for Chocolate Gouramis that really don't do well with anything other than air-powered sponge filters. Apistogramma can do well with either sort of filter, but air-powered has advantages if you intend on breeding them.>
My penguin is well over this but I notice that there is still quite a bit of debris and detritus during my weekly vacuums. I find it odd since its over the recommended GPH for a tank my size and the tank has good circulation. I can see the fish swim against the current and the current flows over there fins. While it's not extremely strong I feel it's good for the fish I keep, anything more would probably toss my gentile chocolate around too much.
Now I plan on using the same penguin filter for my 55 gallon. It is just slightly under the recommended GPH by itself, which will give my 55 a good start on it's beneficial bacteria. Now here's what I would really like advice on. I'm planning on adding a UGF as well. OK wait! before you cringe and head slap let me go into more detail.
<Nothing wrong with undergravel filtration. But do understand their limitations, especially in terms of plants. If you're keeping Chocolate Gouramis, you will want plants -- these fish are incredibly shy. So by all means use an undergravel filter with them, but choose floating and epiphytic plants instead of rooted ones.>
I've read numerous threads and pages on there drawbacks and how everyone swears by them or favors power filters. One things I've noticed is it's always pretty one sided. But I can't seem to find hardly any feedback on using both, as is my goal.
<You can mix both types of filter with success.>
The only things I've found is that a UGF will rob power and compete with the power filter and will actually be less effective.
<Rubbish. If you think about it logically, the ammonia will be portioned out depending on which filter has the more volume of water flowing through it. If the undergravel filter has a throughput four times that of the external canister filter, then it'll get four times the ammonia. But none of this has any practical significance. So long as there's *enough* filtration, you can divide it up between 2, 3 or a dozen filters if you want.>
I can understand this as it makes sense, but it will not apply in my situation. I plan on using the UGF reverse flow to work with the power filter and I can't find ANY information on such a set-up. I'm sure im not the only one to think of this.
<Reverse-flow undergravel filters using external canister filters were very common in the 80s and you can still find the gear required to build them from the better filter manufacturers, e.g., Eheim.>
I think this will help keep the crude from settling on the bottom as the reverse flow UGF will push it up and allow the power filter to fully do it's job, or will it not work this way?!
<Yes, the output from the external canister pushes clean water through the filter, propelling any dirt on the top of the gravel into the water column.
From there, it's sucked into the external canister filter. So long as you keep the mechanical media (what some people call the "pre-filter") on the external canister clean, the water that gets pushed into the undergravel filter should be clean too.>
I'm not even really concerned with actually using it as a biological filter just to help keep the bottom clean. The set-up im planning on using will be overkill for housing beneficial bacteria anyway.
<Will become colonised with bacteria anyway.>
My tank will be built with a 3D background Siliconed securely in place.
The UGF will be sealed off underneath the foam background and the 3-4" behind the background to create a tank like divider. This will only allow UGF reverse flow to the visible area of the tank. The power filter inlet will be in front of the background which will filter out the debris brought up from the bottom by the reverse flow UGF. The power filter will then dump filtered water behind the background into a cavity with an overflow that has a sponge divider from top to bottom about 1-2" in width. There will be another such sponge divider right before the actual UGF reverse flow power head. The Area between these sponge dividers, which will be most the length of the tank, will be filled with cut up sponge strung on fishing line to act as tons of bioballs. This is why I stated earlier I will have beneficial bacteria housing overkill. Hopefully you can get a mental picture of what I'm trying to achieve. When I last did a tear down and ran the filter with no gravel and stirred up the water until completely cloudy I noticed my power filter does an excellent job filtering the water, it was clear in about 20 minutes.
<Yes, but as ever, once the mechanical media gets clogged, your filter turnover rate will drop dramatically. Standard practise is to use the external canister as mechanical media entirely, i.e., you can aggressively clean the sponges and ceramic noodles every few weeks. Then you leave the undergravel filter as the main biological filter, which it does very well.
Obviously this assumes the gravel bed is deep (8-10 cm) and uniformly flat.
Rocks and slops will diminish performance because water will tend to flow along the line of least resistance.>
But once stuff started settling on the bottom it failed to lift it off and filter it out. What I'm hoping for is that the reverse UGF will keep crude from settling on the bottom and keep it suspended until the power filter can trap it into its filter cartridge, which I can easily rinse off daily to keep my water super clean. Do you think such a filtration system will work the way I anticipate? If so, how effective do you think it will be biologically and mechanically?
<Can work extremely well.>
Lastly the reverse flow power head I plan on using is a Penguin 660R. It's listed as 175 GPH. Now would you consider this on top of the GPH of my Penguin 200 for a total of 375 GPH? Or would it be figured differently since it's kind of a double filtration? Is this too much filtration for a 55 gallon, just right, or not enough?
<Depends on the fish being kept. Chocolate Gouramis expect/need turnover rates that are very low, maybe 2x per hour. Corydoras enjoy brisk currents, so anything around 6-8x is fine for them. Neons maybe 4x, Pearl Gouramis and Apistogramma about the same. The Killifish would be more comparable to the Chocolate Gouramis, but do note that the two species would not be compatible.>
I will await your response to start buying everything in case it's incompatible. Sorry for the long E-mail.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Planted tank filtration/co2 equilibrium? 4/14/2011
Hello WWM crew!
Hope you guys/gals are doing great and all is going well. As for myself, I'm in search of a new adventure, in aquaria of course, which brings me back to writing to you for a few quick answers if you could.
I am planning on setting up a 55 gal. moderately planted tank with no co2. I have tried a couple plants here and there with my fish tanks over the years and they never seems to work out, even the so stated low light, low maintenance, hardy plants. This time, after viewing through many Amano tanks, got my blood pumping once again
<Oh noes!>
The setup will consist of: 55 gal. tank, T5HO 216 watts light (three 6500k bulbs and one 650nM bulb), approximately 3 inch layer of eco-complete, a Marineland Emperor 400 HOB filter, and a small in-tank powerhead with an attached sponge/ceramic noodle canister. So far so good?
<Sure. But do of course remember that the more splashing, the more CO2 is driven off. That's why HOB filters aren't a good choice for these sorts of tanks, though they have been used successfully, I have no doubt.>
My question is, from research, it seems that as though the HOB filter is a bad idea, due to surface agitation driving off the limited supply of co2 in the water.
Now reading at various info sources, this is true in the case of a co2 injected tank, but with a non injected tank, surface agitation is desirable?
<Don't see the logic here. The agitation at the surface increases the surface area of the water, and therefore CO2 will diffuse from the site of high concentration (the water) to low concentration (the air). Whenever you add CO2 to the tank, what you're doing is trying to exceed that diffusion rate by some carefully controlled amount, so an optimal CO2 concentration is maintained in the water. In almost all cases, plain vanilla aquaria have less CO2 in the water than is optimal, so plant growth can be limited by that -- assuming other factors, particularly light, are optimal. Nonetheless, light is FAR more often the limiting factor holding back plant growth in aquaria, not CO2, which is why most people find improving light increases their success with plants, whereas adding CO2 is the "icing on the cake" once you've already optimised lighting.>
Reason being is that the limited supply of co2 in the tank will be consumed rather quickly by the plants, and just like oxygen, co2 from the atmosphere will be infused into the water, though at low amounts, until an equilibrium is reached?
<There certainly is diffusion of CO2 between air and water, though the direction will depend upon which contains the most. But diffusion will have hardly any impact at all below the top millimetre, if that. Below that depth, it's circulation of water around the tank by your pumps that keeps CO2 moving around. Yes, if your plants are photosynthesising fast they will pull the concentration of CO2 in the water down towards zero, and yes, that'll cause diffusion of CO2 from the air into the water. But the rate that happens is slow, and in practical terms, plant growth will usually be held back through lack of CO2 because the supply of CO2 from the air via diffusion just isn't fast enough. Hence adding CO2 to aquaria where very fast plant growth rates are desired.>
Is this true and should it be followed? Basically circulation and surface agitation desirable in a non co2 injected planted tank?
<Agitation is, broadly, undesirable, at least if you want to minimise the cost of adding CO2. Of course if you can supply CO2 faster than agitation allows it to diffuse out into the air, then that isn't a problem.>
Or should I be looking for an external canister filter where I can put the return underneath the water line?
<This is the standard approach.>
I doubt it will turn into an Amano creation, but we'll see where it leads me... Tank will be mostly plants with very little live stock, but I refuse to have a tank without a Pleco of some sort.. Love those catfishes and was thinking of an Ancistrus of some sort for this tank.
<Can work in planted tanks. But do look at things like Parotocinclus jumbo and Hypancistrus sp. L260 as potential alternatives. Obviously the more carnivorous genera, such as Hypancistrus, are better bets than the more dedicated herbivores, such as Panaque.>
Thanks greatly for your time and effort. Hope everybody has a great year!
<And today is, in fact, Khmer New Year, I'm told.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Help with 150gal Freshwater semi Planted tank filter 4/9/11
Hello Everyone,
I have set up a 150 gallon acrylic tank previously used for saltwater, 24" tall, 48" wide and 30" deep. When I bought this used, I cleaned it up nice and converted it to freshwater since this is all I have ever done. This was the first time I had passed a 55 gallon tank and wanted to switch to canister filters for the first time as well. Not knowing ANYTHING, I read up on filters and decided on what my pocketbook could hold. Two Marineland Canister filters with 530gph each. Since my tank is a community tank, I wanted to add plants to this tank to reduce nitrates and eventually do less maintenance on it. I am trying to put together a Fish tank with plants, not a planted tank with fish, so my fish are the priority with having plants as a bonus. I do not want to work with CO2, or do I want to add fertilizers, so the plants that grow would need to be hearty and low maintenance. I have chosen a light fixture for plants to help with photosynthesis but my problem now is my filters.
<Although you can minimise the use of fertilisers, you will have to use some. Iron, in particular, is used up quite quickly by plants, and needs to be topped up periodically. If you're going to use a plain gravel substrate, then fertiliser pellets pushed into the roots every month or so should do the trick.>
I found out that with plants you don't want lots of water movement, but just minimum. With these two filters, there is no spray bar that they make for this filter to reduce water flow and I found out that there is not a way to reduce water flow from the filter, so its full force from both filters. I can angle the nozzle of the output but it really gives the water a good push. On the flip side, I don't know how much I can reduce water movement without making my fish miserable. Is there anything you can recommend I can or should do, or do I need to get a whole new type of filter that has these adjustments on them and the ability to attach a spray bar? I was thinking of removing one filter completely, so I am using one 530gph to see how that may work but then I wasn't sure if that would be enough filtration for my size tank. I thought 5x my tank size so that would be 750gph, not 530.
<For a tank 150 gallons in size stocked with ordinary community fish, you're after 4 to 6 times the size of the tank in turnover per hour, i.e., 600 to 900 gallons/hour.>
Second, I have a pile of driftwood that my fish hide in and was told that with planted tanks, you should only need to syphon the surface only of the soil.
<Shouldn't really need to do much siphoning of the substrate at all. In a standard planted tank the fish species kept are all very small: Neons for example. The solid wastes produced by these fish -- faeces, uneaten food -- are so small that they break down quickly and are absorbed into the substrate. Up to a point, this "mulm" contributes nutrients the plants can use, particularly CO2, as the bacteria break down the organic molecules.
But bigger fish, really anything larger than a Platy or Corydoras, is going to produce solid wastes that won't be dissipated this easily. Solid wastes end up gathering around the stems and roots of the plants. This won't do any harm, but it is unsightly, and plants with delicate, feathery leaves end up looking a bit grubby. That's why you'll see Amano-style tanks contain few fish, and what fish they do contain will be very small species.>
Well, after setting up my tank seven months ago, I decided to move my deco around just a little bit and found lots of poop debris under the pile of driftwood. I couldn't syphon just the top so I had to dig into the soil a bit since there were no roots to disturb. Someone I know has a planted tank and he says he doesn't have any issues with anything building up. So I don't know what I am doing wrong there since I am not really supposed to move and disturb everything in a planted or semi planted tank.
<Virtually all problems with establishing plants come down to these three things: [a] choosing inappropriate species; [b] not providing enough light; and [c] keeping fish species that damage or eat plants. The type of substrate and the use (or otherwise) of fertilisers are important, if secondary, issues.>
Third, since my tank has been running for seven months now and plants have taken root and some have started to grow, my nitrates are still at 40ppm.
<Inevitable given the species of fish you're keeping.>
I do water changes every couple of weeks but I can't seem to get the nitrates down, even with the plants. I thought that they would reduce the nitrates so either they are reducing nitrates and they would be higher or something isn't quite working. 0 ammonia, 0, nitrites, 7.6 ph, nitrates 40ppm.
I had some large plants that were growing great a couple of moths ago. I trimmed them down for the first time and they just haven't grown back. I just have no idea what I need to look for in order for me to fix it. Any help or ideas would be GREATLY appreciated.
Fish include:
2 6" Pleco's (for the massive algae attack I had when setting up the tank)
<These are completely incompatible with planted aquaria. Even Java ferns and Anubias, the two toughest plants species, are likely to be damaged or uprooted by them. Other plants will simply be uprooted, and new shoots or roots on them may be eaten. Replace with small algae eating species if you think you need them, i.e., Nerite snails or Ancistrus spp. catfish.>
7 Neons
6 5" angels
<Angels do of course eat Neons.>
3 6" gold gouramis
1 dwarf Gourami
2 Kuhli loaches
7 blackskirts
2 red tetras (can't remember their name)
3 4" rainbows
6 2" rainbows
3 albino Corys
Thanks for the help,
<Various issues for you to resolve. Plecs need to be rehomed. Lighting may need fixing, at least 2 watts per gallon is important. As for plant species, the easiest ones to work with are Java fern and Anubias as specimen plants (both epiphytes, so attach to bogwood). Hardy Crypts will make nice choices for bushy plants in the mid-ground, e.g., Cryptocoryne wendtii and Cryptocoryne beckettii. For algae control you will need some fast-growing plant species. I'd recommend Vallisneria spiralis and Vallisneria americana as good all-around tall plants, and hybrid Aponogeton are excellent too, if treated for what they are, more or less disposable plants that last a year or so but produce daughter plants on the ends of runners. Floating plants are a major plus, with Amazon Frogbit and floating Indian Fern my two favourites because they do well under hoods (most floating plants don't, and need cool air above them). They're also excellent nitrate-control, growing rapidly when happy. Hope this helps, Neale.>

300 gal. FW filtr. 3/13/11
I am currently helping a family member build his house He was given a 300 gallon tank with filter system that hangs on back of the tank
<Wow! A big hang-on... I'd use a sump... underneath...>
This tank will support freshwater only, Now we have built the tank into the wall between the living room and Master Bedroom, and would like to know how to construct the filter system so as we can locate it into a totally different Room (Distance of approx say a total of 25 to 35 feet by the time it leaves the tank,),I am sure that guidelines on these things exist, volume of pump to use, diameters of water pipes, placement of booster pumps if needed, types of filter's etc. We have started on plumbing and currently are in the process of running water and Drainage but are lost at the moment on just what to do Any recommendation's on this subject in the way of suggestion's, Web sites, etc. would be greatly appreciated,
Thank You very much for your time
Ricky J Richard
<Though it's listed as "for saltwater", review the files (articles and FAQs) here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm and esp. here: http://wetwebmedia.com/lgsysfiltrs.htm
and the linked files above. Do feel free to write back w/ specific questions. Bob Fenner>

DASys... cleaning used tank, glass... 1/14/11
I have just inherited an older Dutch aquarium system. (Photo's attached).
<Nope, nothing attached. Before you re-send, remember, send images no bigger than about 500 KB! Your camera will almost certainly be bigger than that, 1 MB or more, and you will annoy us greatly if you send big attachments! Use a program such as iPhoto to resize your images before sending them.>
The guy who passed it on to me advised me to rigorously rinse out the wool cartridge, encased in wired mesh, in vinegar and cycle the tank for about a week.
<Not sure the vinegar will do much, but won't do any harm. As for cycling, you need to cycle with a source of ammonia -- most easily provided by pinches of flake food every 1-2 days, about as much flake as you'd use for the first few fish you plan to add. Do this for 3 weeks at least, ideally 4-5 weeks, with 20% water changes every weekend. After that, you should be good to go. Cycling takes 4-6 weeks.>
Then the wool cartridge should be good to go.
<Hmm not really.>
The cartridge seems to be in good condition. I don't know if the cartridge has carbon infused in it. Overall the cartridge is white with a few speckles of black.
<The black is likely carbon, but also very likely long expired. There's no real need for carbon outside of very specific situations, so for now, forget about it.>
I wanted to buy a new cartridge but cannot find this particular one, anywhere.
<This is a common problem with hang-on-the-back filters, and a major reason I don't recommend them. Like shaving razors, each model "locks" you into buying new product from the manufacturer every time you need to replace something. It's much easier to use filters that will work with whatever media you want -- as is the case with box filters, undergravel filters and most external canister filters.>
Are you aware of any substitute I can use?
<You'll need to ask your retailer on this. I don't know what hang-on-the-back filter you have, and since I don't use them anyway, even if it was sitting in front of me I couldn't help you! Take the filter to your retailer, or at least write down it's brand and model number, and start from there. Or better yet, get a new filter.>
I see you are familiar with the Dutch aquarium system. Do you know if the cartridge has carbon infused in it. If it does not is it possible to add the carbon in some other way?
<Why? Do you understand what carbon is for? Carbon is very specifically for removing organic chemicals from the water. Because it also removes medicines, and because it needs replacing with new carbon every 2 weeks, I don't see any point to it. 20-25% water changes every weekend will do a much better job at keeping your tank clean. Just say no to carbon!>
In addition, the filter in my new tank seems very strong. My 3 goldfish are struggling against the current. Is this dangerous?
<Can be. Fancy Goldfish are happiest with turnover rates of 4 times the volume of the tank per hour, so for a 50 gallon tank, the filter can be rated up to 200 gallons/hour. Standard Goldfish such as Comets will handle and in fact do better given stronger water currents, up to 8 times the volume of the tank per hour.>
How can I reduce the power of the filter?
<Some filters have taps on the outflow or the pump itself. You can also angle the outflow towards a tall rock. Otherwise, use a filter better suited to your tank and your fish.>
That's all for now.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re Mmm, DAS filter/s... 1/15/11

Sorry, I have now attached the reduced pictures.
<Yes indeed. Thank you!>
A good thing you warned me before hand.
<The fact we need relatively small images is stated on the "contact the crew" page, here:
Anyway as you can see the filter hose hangs over the box and the actual filter sits below in the box.
<Yes. It appears this is actually a box filter. If I'm viewing your images right, the filter is INSIDE the aquarium, with the waterline inside the filter at the same level as the waterline in the aquarium. A pump pushes water out of the filter into the tank, and to compensate for that, water sluices into the box filter from the aquarium. These are very good, low technology filters. Am I correct in saying that the inside of the filter is basically a rectangular box? Perhaps with a few slots for the filter pump, but otherwise a simple box? That being the case, you can stuff the box with whatever you want. I'd recommend filling it with media bags (or the "feet" of old pantyhose/tights) filled with ceramic noodles. These work great as biological filters. Rinsed every couple of months to remove dirt, they should last for years, decades even.>
And the wool cartridge sits in the adjoining box compartment.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Sulfur Reactor in FW (Bob, bit out of my zone here -- anything to add?)<<>> 10/6/10
Hi There,
I have a 190 Litre cichlid tank which is about 12 months old. This is completely plant less and has had high levels of nitrate and has always had algae problems.
<I bet.>
Until recently I used a sump as an algae trap which helped a lot but decided I would give a sulfur reactor a go.
I emptied the sump, filled it with crushed coral and bought a sulfur reactor and dosing pump. The pump takes water from the front of the sump, runs through and then comes out onto the coral.
My tank has been 0ppm amm, 0ppm NO2, 40-60ppm NO3 since matured and is still currently sat at these readings.
I have had the dosing pump putting water through as 1200ml per hour as this is the lowest I can get it to go, its a 12v motor running at 3v to slow it down.
The readings from the effluent are 0.5ppm NO2 and 20ppm NO3, it has been up and running for a week now with those readings since day 1.
<<RMF would let the system cycle before turning on the reactor>>
pH seems to be fine and has been at 8.2 since adding the coral and running the reactor. I am wondering if I need to try and either slow down the flow further or if I should put a long piece of tubing in front of the reactor to try and create a coil and remove the O2 before it gets to the reactor?
<You might, but I don't honestly believe this is going to be the solution.>
If maybe I need to just leave it a bit longer to mature more before doing anything?
I have been looking over the internet to try and find help on existing topics but couldn't find anything conclusive. Thanks in advance for you help.
<Nitrate is notoriously difficult to control in cichlid tanks. It's not like a marine aquarium where you have light stocking, live rock, and minimal food input. In a cichlid aquarium the tendency is towards heavy stocking and generous feeding. To be honest, any nitrate-removal system in a cichlid tank will be overwhelmed. Put simply, nitrate removal systems work at levels of single milligrams per day, while your cichlids are cranking out nitrate at the tens of milligrams per day. Plants tend to work better than denitrification systems because their growth rate can be spectacularly high, especially in the case of floating plants. A sump filled with Indian Fern under intense lighting would work very well, and in many ways comparable to the use of Chaetomorpha in marine aquaria. Plus, Indian Fern is edible, and many cichlids enjoy it, so surplus can be used to feed Tropheus, Severums, Mbuna or whatever cichlids it is you're keeping. Anyway, with fast-growing plants of some sort you do tend to find nitrate stays manageable more easily than any other, and algae problems decrease the happier your plants are. Cheers, Neale.>
<<Mmm, such reactors can work in FW systems, but I do agree w/ Neale re other means... Again, DO turn off this reactor till the system is fully cycled... and read the article by J, the joker Charlie Delbeek here:

Hawkeye 201 aerator... bubbling in a tiny death-trap 4/13/10
Hi there,
<Hello. Melinda here tonight.>
We are caring for 3 goldfish in a 1 gallon tank for neighbors while they are away. The tank has a Hawkeye 201 filter with an upright air tube. The tube opening at the top where the bubbles come out is currently above the water level and no bubbles are actually going in the water. Should the water line be above the top of the tube? Our neighbors said the installation instructions said something about being 1" below - I think the instructions meant the water level should be 1" below the top of the aquarium and totally covering the top of the filtration tube. I cannot find any definitive instructions online as to where the water level should be. Please help.
<These fish need more help than you are going to give them with a bubble wand. To answer your question, yes, the water level needs to be above the top of the tube so that bubbles are produced. How far the water level is from the top of the tank doesn't really matter, as long as there's space between the tank lid (if there is one) and the water line. Now, back to what I was saying about how these goldfish need help: Please forward this e-mail to your neighbors when you have time. I'll include some links within this e-mail on goldfish care, and when your neighbors click on these links, they'll find dozens of linked pages above the titles of the pages with even more information on goldfish care, all from our site. These fish won't live long in this environment, and if your neighbors care enough to have you fish-sit for them, I'm hoping they'll care enough to upgrade environment to see these goldfish live the long, healthy lives they're capable of. Here are those links:
Thank you.
<You're welcome. You happen to have stumbled onto a site full of volunteers who spend their time doing so because they truly care about fish. As a result, I feel the need to not only answer your query, but also to attempt to ward off the pending disaster which is goldfish in tiny systems like this! Again, if you'd be so kind as to forward this e-mail, and please do let your neighbors know that we're here to answer any questions they may have during or after reading.>
<--Melinda><<Well-done Mel. B>>

Sharing information, FW veg. filter input, poss. art.! 4/10/10
You've helped me many times by providing good answers very quickly so I thought I would share a couple things I've done with my aquariums.
I published the pictures I have on Picasa web to save space (your welcome to use them if you like).
<I've put the link at the end of this e-mail.>
The pictures of the plants are lucky Bamboo in a little plastic tub on the back of the tank. I cut a hole in the tub and made a drain using PVC, potted the plants in aquarium rocks and found a cheap little 20gph pump ($15) that pumps water to the tub through plastic airline. I clean it about every six months by pulling out the plants and cleaning all the algae out of the rocks and after two years these plants are still doing quite well. I've read that Lucky Bamboo, which isn't really Bamboo, likes nitrates but even if it that's not true it still looks pretty cool. Lucky
Bamboo, at least in my area, is usually expensive but I found a web site and got everything you see delivered to my door for $20.
<Essentially what you've created is a vegetable filter, quite widely used to clean ponds. Fast-growing plants do indeed absorb nitrate as well as ammonia, so they can do a good job keeping water clean.>
The other pictures are of a common whole house filter ($20) mounted on a 2x6 with a couple bicycle hooks, PVC pipe and an adapter so I can attach and remove a 500gph pond pump ($40). I hang this over the tank, put a 20
micron pleated filter ($1) in it and stir up the tank and let it filter out the particles. If I have an algae bloom, rather than using chemicals I perform a 20-30% water change and put a carbon filter in the canister ($5) and it clears out the tank in about an hour.
<A cheap alternative to a diatom filter, by the sounds of it.>
<Do consider putting together a more step-by-step article on these two ideas for 'Conscientious Aquarist'. Take a look at these examples, here:
Instructions and what we pay are here:
Cheers, Neale>

Re: Sharing information 4/11/10
I will probably give it a shot.
One of the articles was about fresh water sand beds and I'm curious you guys think this is a good idea?
<It can work, certainly.>
I'm trying to come up with a way to lower nitrates without water changes and before this sand bed idea I was thinking of creating my own canister filter using a low flow rate and Seachem Matrix.
<Can't see this working. Water flow wouldn't be slow enough, in my opinion.
The point of deep sand beds is that water movement is extremely slow, essentially marginally above diffusion rates.>
I'd love to your thoughts on these and any other ideas for removing nitrates.
<In freshwater tanks fast-growing plants, especially floating plants, are the easiest approach. In some cases a DSB may be relevant. But in most cases simply doing more water changes is the most cost effective approach.
Unlike the case with saltwater tanks, making water for freshwater tanks isn't expensive, and exposure to small water chemistry changes aren't as big of a deal, so water changes are cheap, safe and easy.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Sharing information, FW filtr. art. poss. 4/12/10
Now I'm wondering if a DIY coil denitrator is a good way to go. The main problem is the amount of different information about them.
<Do read here:
While this is about saltwater applications, the basics are the same for a freshwater version.>
They seem pretty simple to make but I don't know if they need to be feed at all and is there a danger of it going bad and poisoning the tank.
<Not if built, operated, and maintained correctly.>
I know I can keep doing water changes but it's fun trying to see if I can make a system that will complete the whole nitrogen cycle itself.
<Not really practical so wouldn't think this way. Water changes *are* the way to control nitrate in freshwater systems. Fast-growing plants can also make dramatic reductions in nitrate level by direct absorption. Asking for
ideas "outside" of water changes and plants is rather like saying other
than eating less and doing more exercise, how can I lose weight?>
So outside of recommending water changes which (if any) system for removing nitrates do you think would be the best and the safest, deep sand bed, Denitrator or something else.
<DSBs and porous rocks -- what are called live rock in marine tanks -- have been proven again and again to be the easiest and most cost-effective ways to close the nitrogen cycle in marine tanks. But even there, water changes
are essential. Plus, don't forget that nitrate removal is only part of water changes are about. Water changes also restore carbonate hardness, dilute organic acids, remove tannins, reduce phosphate, and supply trace minerals. If you want to spend your money on something, then consider reducing the nitrate content of the water going into the tank.
This can be an RO system for example, or a rainwater butts under the gutters to collect mineral-free water at zero cost. Either way, mixing nitrate-free water 50/50 with hard tap water is a great way to create water ideal for a wide variety of fish species. I use rainwater mixed with tap water in precisely this way.>
If you happen to recommend something and know of a good DIY link that would help a lot.
Thanks again for being out there to help us amateurs
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sharing information 4/12/10
Thank you. I still expect to do water changes but a little less often.
<With freshwater tanks, you're likely to find the cost/benefit ratio makes little sense.>
I live outside the city water supply and am lucky to have a well with 0 nitrates and no other chemicals added. I think I will work on a coil denitrator and more plants.
<Fast-growing plants, or better still algae, can work extremely well for "closed" systems. Do see for example 'Dynamic Aquaria' for discussion of algae scrubbers. In theory and to some extent in practise, you can create
lightly stocked aquaria where the only thing you do is add water to compensate for evaporation. In general though, such tanks are so expensive to set up, and contain so few fish, that they're worthless to hobbyists.
With that said, the benefits to be gained from a clump of Indian Fern growing rapidly under bright lights is substantial, and a sump that turned into an algae scrubber would be even better. Do see the marine literature on the use on these items, for example here:
Thank you again,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Filtration and substrate upgrade 11/29/09
Hi, Neale
I have 55 gallon tank on metal stand with 2 parrots hybrid (mated pair- 6 inch male and 3.5 inch female), 2 male (I think) Severums (7 inch each) and gibbiceps Pleco (11 inch). All fish live and grow together for almost 3 years.
My filtration is 2 hang on the back Aquaclear 50.
<Sounds fun.>
Soon, when my fish grow, I realize that my fish tank is very heavily stocked and my Aquaclear filters are doing nothing for mechanical filtration.
<Indeed; with "messy" fish, by far the best approach is to use a reverse-flow undergravel filter. This automatically lifts the gunk out of the gravel, into the water column, where the canister filter can get it.
Every other type of filter -- to some degree -- leaves the gunk in the gravel, and ultimately, this makes the water cloudy.>
I do ridiculously big water changes (60-70% weekly), but my water is becoming slightly cloudy next day after water change.
<Classic sign of insufficient mechanical filtration.>
My nitrite is always 0 and my nitrate, surprisingly, is never above 20 ppm (or at least I've never seen it is higher). But, sometimes, I can detect ammonia (0.25 ppm). This, probably, the reason for mild fin rot cases for my Severums (parrots and Pleco never were affected), which healed in few weeks, after I did big water changes and stopped feeding.
<It's very likely your overall mix of filtration isn't adequate. Get rid of stuff you don't need -- carbon and Zeolite for example -- and beef up the mechanical and biological media.>
I decided to add third!!! filter (Eheim 2215) to improve mechanical filtration.
Do you think, adding Eheim canister filter, will improve my water quality and clarity? Will I still see bunch of fish waste floating around the tank?
<If you make the slightly more complicated stage of adding an undergravel filter, yes, it should help significantly. On its own, a canister will help, but proportional to its "suck" -- the more circulation, the more gunk it'll remove from the water. This is a less efficient approach to a reverse-flow undergravel, but it can work.>
In order to install this filter, I need to replace aquarium stand: instead of metal, I'll put wooden stand to have place to put Eheim filter. So I need to reset my aquarium completely.
<I see.>
This means, I have a good opportunity to change a substrate from gravel to sand.
<If that's what you want.>
I know, Neale, you are a big fan of the sand as a substrate, but do you really think it is worth to try for this kind of big and messy fish?
<In this instance, wouldn't be instinctive choice. A reverse-flow undergravel with an inch or so plain gravel will be much cleaner. Sand is excellent, and keeps itself fairly clean in the sense gunk can't sink into it, but at the same time it doesn't make it any easier for the canister (or hang-on-the-back) filter to keep the water clean.>
Why you are using mixture of sand and gravel in your tank?
<I use a mix of sand and gravel simply for its look. It's a nice combo.>
Overall, in your opinion, is it possible to keep these fishes healthy in 55 gallon for life?
<It's borderline, to be honest. 55 US gallons is 210 litres, slightly more than my 180 litre "big" tank here next to me. That tank contains a variety of fish in the 5-10 cm (2-4 inch) size range but including one 15 cm (6 inch) Panaque Suckermouth catfish. It's clean and usually algae free, but that's with an Eheim 2217 and a Fluval 104, a total of about 1500 litres/hour, or a turnover 8 times the volume per hour. For me, this is the sort of aquarium size and filtration rate needed for a mix of predatory and messy fish. Now, I may be going for overkill here, but I'm simply making the point that a big, well-filtered tank is the one most likely to be algae-free and with clear, clean water. The more you step away from the ideal, the bigger the management problems become. There's a difference between a safe tank -- one with zero ammonia and nitrite -- and an easy tank -- one that gets by fine with occasional water changes and stays clean in between. So, 55 gallons may well be viable, but it wouldn't be my recommendation. If you get a good offer on a 75 or 100 gallon tank, jump at it!>
Thank you for your time.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Filtration and substrate upgrade 11/29/09
Thank you very much for quick response.
I actually never used UGF before, and I did quick search and found that it is not recommended to use UGF with extensive diggers. I believe, parrots are a good example of the fish that like to dig. Is it safe to use UGF with
<Indeed, I didn't comment on that. A plain vanilla undergravel will indeed be short-circuited by fish that dig. Parrots aren't especially bad, compared with, say, Oscars, but they do dig. The solution is simply. You lay an inch or so of the substrate on top of the undergravel plate, then lay something called a gravel tidy, and then scatter a thin layer of gravel on top. The fish can dig as much as they want without getting through the gravel tidy. You can buy ready made gravel tidies, but I'm cheap, so I use pond-safe plastic mesh from a garden centre. Costs very little. Cut to size with scissors, and off you go. Choose a mesh small enough to stop gravel falling through, and strong enough to hold its shape, but not so fine it'll slow down the flow of water. Something about the grade of a colander like
you'd have in the kitchen should be fine. Note we're talking about reverse-flow undergravels here, not standard undergravels, which *such* gunk into themselves. Reverse-flow UGs do the opposite, so are essentially self-cleaning, almost like Jacuzzi in keeping the water circulating upwards.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Question on Freshwater Filter 10/12/09
I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank with 2 medium discus, 1 medium angel, 1 German blue ram, 5 sterbai Corys, 10 neon tetras, 5 large blue tetras, 5 rummy nose tetras, and 5 Bloodfin tetras.
<All sounds very nice, though I should mention Neons prefer cooler water to all the others, and will become Angelfish food eventually (if your Angels reach full size, that is; farmed fish often don't.>
The tank is very heavily planted (the water sprite needs lots of taming), the water is soft, the ph is usually about 6.7 and I keep the tank at 80 degrees.
<As I say, on the warm side for Neons.>
I have been using 1 Penguin 200 and one Emperor 400 filter with the tank for a long while and doing 25-30% water changes every 5 days. I replaced the penguin two years ago when the previous one's motor burned out after a power outage, but have never had problems with the emperor for the past 3-4 years. Yesterday, after doing my water changes, I cleaned the Emperor's intake, impeller, etc, like I regularly do, and found that it didn't start back up properly. I've tinkered with it for awhile now and have resigned
myself to the fact that I just need to go replace it.
<Penguin and Emperor filters are popular but they are "built to a price rather than a standard". Eheim filters tend to be the ones that last for much longer, often 10-20 years, and they're also easier to buy replacement
parts for, so even when something does go, like a rubber seal or a plastic tap, you can almost always replace it. Anything with "Made in China" stamped on it isn't likely to be quality engineering, but "Made in Germany" does tend to inspire a certain degree of confidence. It's a shame Eheim filters are so expensive in the US; here in Europe they're moderately more expensive than the mid-range brands like Fluval, but not excessively so.>
My question is, should I replace it with another Emperor 400 or something else?
<Depends what you're after. If it was me, and I'd bought two filters of one particular type, and both had died within 5 years, I'd be done with that brand. I'd be looking at something else from another manufacturer. A good filter should last a long time, and by definition needs to be something you can rely on.>
I've only ever used the whisper/ penguin/ emperor filters, so I don't know much about canisters even after reading through your FAQs.
<Canister filters come in two sorts: internal and external. Internal filters are very convenient and super-easy to maintain, but they're comparatively poor value in terms of turnover and the amount of filter media. So they're mostly for small tanks, up to about 30 gallons, though there are some big, beefy models that can be used in bigger tanks. Internal canister filters tend to be overwhelmed by messy fish, so they're mostly for small community fish, though again, there are a few models designed for heavy duty applications. The great thing with internal canister is maintenance couldn't be easier. You switch them off, pull them out, open the compartments, rinse off the media, connect the compartments to the powerhead again, and then stick it back in the tank. No taps, no hoses, no mess. On the other hand, because they're inside the tank, you can't easily hide them, though tall plants like Amazon Swords and Vallisneria generally help (just watch the leaves don't block the filter inlet slots). External canisters are more difficult to maintain, but they trump virtually all
other filters in efficiency and value. They are literally buckets into which you can stick a variety of media in generous quantities. They work as well for big, messy fish as small community species. Ideally, you rinse the
media off every 4-6 weeks, but I have to confess I leave mine running for 3-4 months at a time, which probably isn't a good idea but does tell you something about how durable these filters are. Anyway, because the filter is outside the tank, it's easy to hide. The inlet and outlets are far apart, so you have much more thorough water circulation that with either internal canisters or hang-on-the-back filters, which have their inlets and outlets next to each other. You can add spray bars to reduce turbulence without losing turnover, or add a venturi jet return to maximise aeration and water current, should you be keeping species that need such conditions.
In short, they're flexible and powerful filters. They do have some shortcomings though. They tend to be somewhat more expensive than other filters, and because the filter media only get oxygen from the flow of
water, should the water flow stop, the bacteria will die back to some extent (supposedly, within an hour or so). What about hang-on-the-back filters? The advantages to these filters are that the filter media are
close to the air, so the bacteria have lots of oxygen, and that maintenance is very simple. Their shortcomings are that water circulation can be rather poor because the inlet and outlet are close together, and that the volume of media in the filter can be limited, especially on designs with plastic media "inserts" that force you to use particular brands and combinations of media. I don't like filters that force me to use a carbon module for example, since most freshwater tanks don't need carbon. Likewise, some fish need conditions where calcareous media or peat granulate would be useful, and installing these in hang-on-the-back filters can be impossible.>
Most of your advice says that filter choice is specific to the tank size, type, fish, etc. So, would cartridge filters be more appropriate, or should I keep doing what I've been doing?
<Buying a third filter in a series that has let you down twice would be daft, so obviously you should be looking at a different brand. Eheim is *by far* the best in terms of longevity and value for money as a function of time. As for whether another hang-on-the-back filter is what you need, or an internal canister, or an external canister, well, that's a difficult one to answer, but I hope the comments above give you some idea of the pros and cons of all three types.>
I know this is a kinda silly question, but I have the forced opportunity to fix anything I'm doing wrong with filtration, so I thought I'd seek your advice. Thanks
- Mike
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Too much filtration 8/8/09
Adding Big Filter to Clean Tank

I have a 180 gallon, planted, fresh water aquarium. The tank contains 17 full size Discus, some Plecos.
Otos and Cory cats. Equipment includes CO2 injection system, ProClear 300 wet/dry filter with prefilter, ocean clear 300 filter. Water temp 85/86 Ph 6.0 TDS 100.
I have a Fluval XL that I want to add to this configuration. My reason is to help improve my water clarity. There always seems to be some very fine suspended matter which prevents the tank from being crystal clear.
The xl would be filled with Eheim Substrat pro. This filter would pull water from the bottom and hopefully remove more suspended matter. Now here is my main concern. Is there such a condition as to much filtration and what would be the impact of the various biological colonies. If I eliminate all the waste what would these colonies feed on.
Any thoughts you might have to permanently improve the water clarity would be greatly appreciated. Henry Dylewsk Sparta NJ
PS Great site!!!!!!!!!!
< Thank you for your kind words. Sounds like your tank may be heavily planted. Plants will remove all nitrogenous wastes at any level, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. This means that these wastes are not available for the biological bacteria to utilize. If you did a water quality check you may see that they don't exist or are at very low levels. Adding the FX will probably not affect the biological filtration because much of it is being
handled by the plants anyway.-Chuck>

US Aquariums set up FW 5 gallon tank. (Over)Stocking\Filtration\Reading 6/2/2009
I have an aquarium that a friend gave me, I've had something of a bad experience with it. It's a US Aquariums 5 gallon acrylic tank, it has a trickle filter in the back. I have a couple questions regarding it. After looking at your website, since I'm not going to be operating a marine tank at first, I've opted to switch the filter media. Will ceramic filter media work in the trickle filter? Do you think that's a good idea it has bio-balls in it now.
<Either will work for a FW setup.>
The other question is because I can't find any information from the manufacturer about this aquarium.
<Neither could I>
The way the air system operates is it pumps air into a tube that is submerged in the pre-filter area, the thing is that none of the air bubbles actually go outside of that tube, my guess is that they were thinking the oxygenated water would be siphoned out of the tube as the water flows underneath it but I'm not convinced the water even circulates underneath the submerged tube I think it stays on top and then runs into the trickle filter never actually going under the tube of oxygenated water to pull any oxygen into the tank.
<Sounds more like an airlift system - similar to those used by under-gravel filters it creates a negative pressure under the tube, forcing the water outside of the tube to be drawn down, presumably through some sort of filter media.>
Does anyone know anything about a US Aquariums tank and how this oxygen system should be set up?
<Do not know anything about the tank, but that is not an oxygen system.>
I'm just trying to figure out because I have checked all of the water chemistry and it's been stabilizing with plants growing in it for about a month, but 11 of the 12 tetras I put into the tank have died.
<12 fish in a five gallon tank, and you wonder why 11 of them died?.
One fish seems to be doing fine which leads me to think that its something the water is missing, not something otherwise wrong with its chemistry.
<Wrong, the water was likely loaded with ammonia and nitrite. Read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm and here:
I guess if needed I can provide a picture of the oxygen system but that will take me awhile to get. So I'm guessing that one of you will be familiar with this kind of tank, how do I make sure it's getting enough air?
<The airlift tube is the least of your worries. Please read the linked articles above.>

Internal power filter question 4/21/09
Hello - thanks for you site - I'm new to this hobby and have learned a great deal from reading through posts.
<Glad we could help.>
I'm just starting up a 12 gallon Eclipse Marineland tank, which I plan to stock with fish and plants once it's cycled.
<Do be sure and read our advice on stocking small tanks, here:
I went to Pacific Aquarium and Pet today (according the internets, the best LFS in NYC). The employee recommended an Aleas internal power filter (IPF 228) as a second filter. I haven't been able to find anything out about this filter online; have you heard of it, and would you recommend it?
<This is a "no name" filter made in China and sold under different labels by different companies. It's a low cost unit usually bundled with inexpensive "starter" aquarium kits. It's rated at 350 litres/hour, and
your tank is about 45 litres, so you'll be getting a turnover rate of a little under 8 times per hour. That's pretty good, but you may find weak swimming fish (such as Fancy Guppies) would be stressed by this, in which case turning down the flow rate or attaching a spray bar will help. On the other hand, fish that like strong currents, such as Danios and Corydoras, will be very happy. Is it worth buying? Depends on the price, really. Cheap filters don't last for as long as quality ones, and you should always remember a filter is running 24/7, so needs to be 100% reliable. So whether this one is good value depends upon how much a better quality filter (such as an Eheim Aquaball) would cost you. If the price difference isn't that great, then a quality filter makes sense. Eheim filters generally last for a very long time, well over 10 years, and unlike the cheaper filters, tend to be silent and less prone to air bubble blockages. But if this filter is so dirt cheap you wouldn't object to buying a new one after a few years, and don't mind if the thing gurgles or rattles now and again, then by all means go for it. Do double check the warranty though, and keep the receipt:
if a filter isn't working properly, it should be obvious quite soon, and you'll want to replace it.>
Many thanks,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Malfunctioning filter system 03/29/09
Hi! I am in desperate need of some help!
I just went to clean out my filter (rinse) of my 10 gallon tank and it is one that is sitting on the back of the tank, because I cannot afford to replace the filter cartridge thing at present and it just stopped working!
That is right! I do not know what to do?
<What stopped working? The pump part of the filter? First check the fuse on the plug. Next up, take a look at the impeller (the bit that spins around) and see if it's dislodged or tangled up with gunk. If neither of these helps, then the pump may well have blown. Although rare, it does happen. Aquarium pumps obviously run 24/7, and this inevitably means a certain amount of wear and tear. You get what you pay for here, and as a wise man once said, "a poor man can only afford the very best". While there's some debate over the relative merits of the mid-range filters, the Eheim brand from Germany is universally considered the most reliable, with most units running for well over 10 years without a hitch.>
I have had two gouramis that have lived now for three months and I have been so happy that they are doing well and now this?! I have rinsed it all out and cleaned it and don't know what else to do... and do I unplug it when it is not working so that it does not harm my three fish?
<After an hour or so, the bacteria in the filter star dying if they don't have access to oxygen. The best way to save the bacteria is to put them in a bucket or bowl, and just-cover them in aquarium water.>
I have two gouramis; one dwarf flame and one yellow/orange double the dwarf's size of course. I also have a sucker fish to aid in cleaning off the ornamentation.
<What's the "sucker fish"? If either Gyrinocheilus or Pterygoplichthys, this is a totally unsuitable fish for your aquarium.>
Now they are left without a filter for a few days! Will they survive or can I get this working again on my own asap?
<Survive, yes, for a few days, especially if you change 25% of the water each day. But you WILL need a new filter quickly. For small tanks, it's hard to beat a good internal canister filter, such as the Eheim Aquaball 2208 would be appropriate for this tank. Air pumps and corner box filters are a great combination too, the box part being idiot-proof in terms of
maintenance, and the air pump generally very long lived except for the replacement of the rubber diaphragm every few years. Cheers, Neale.>
Thanks ever so much! TRICIA

Re: Malfunctioning filter system 03/29/09
Oh my goodness! Thanks so much!
<Most welcome.>
I forgot that there was another part, the one you call the impeller to clean and since I have done it the filter is working yet it is very touchy it seems now for the set up. It has to be placed just so for it to continue to "propel".
<Not uncommon, but still, remember to keep it clean.>
But this will work until I can afford a new one! Thanks again! As for the "sucker", I am not sure of the real name of it since it was long and I just know it is one that sucks off the algae off the decorations and I think it started with the letter P. Pleb... I think.
<"Plecostomus" by any chance?>
Anyways, I hope that this is the fish that is ok in my tank.
<The true Plecostomus catfish, Hypostomus plecostomus, is as good as absent from the trade, despite the fact many retailers continue to use this name. Almost all such catfish are Pterygoplichthys catfish (do a Google search on the name for images). It needs a tank upwards of 55 gallons, preferably bigger. Typical size in captivity is around 40 cm (16 inches), with most specimens reaching that size well within 2 years.>
Thanks again! CHEERS!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater Aquarium Filter Hoses 3/15/09
I have searched and searched and can't seem to find an answer to this question. My intake and output filter hoses have a white/gray growth on the inside of them. When I turn off my wet/dry filter pump and turn it
back on, hundreds of white filaments come out into my aquarium. I have a 54 gallon with a wet/dry filter, a UV sterilizer, a Magnum Micro Filter, and a Diatom Vortex Filter ( I know over-kill). Even with all that, this
stuff does not stop growing on the inside of all the hoses, except the Diatom hoses seem clean, for now. Any idea what this stuff is? It would be so difficult for me to take all these hoses off and clean them out, and
the heater, and the UV, plus the stuff might just grow back. I have placed stockings over the outlets so the stuff does not flow into the aquarium, but the stockings clog up instantly and stop the output flow of
water. Any help on this would be so greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Luanne
<Hello Luanne. The white filaments are a combination of silt and bacteria.
They're harmless, but since they reduce the flow of water through the hoses, over time they will reduce the effectiveness of your filter. Under normal circumstances these filaments don't grow all that rapidly, and on my filters at least it seems to be several years before they become seriously clogged. In any case, the only sure-fire way to clean them is manually. To that end, you can buy hose cleaner kits, which are essentially bottle brushes designed to be pulled through the hose, for example the Hagen Fluval Flexible Coil Brush and the Hagen Fluval Brush Kit. Just for one, these are inexpensive bits of kit: under $5. Fluval, Eheim, and all the major filter manufacturers use hoses of the same diameter, so a cleaning kit sold by one manufacturer should work on another manufacturer's filter just fine. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Freshwater Aquarium Filter Hoses 3/15/09
Thank you so much. I am relieved that it is not harmful, that was my biggest concern. I thought it might have been an over abundance of the Saprolegnia fungus, which I have read is a friend and foe, and that it is
always in the water and can not be gotten rid of, however, can attach to injured or weak fish. That is why I was so adamant about keeping it out of the main tank, as well as being messy. Be well. Happy fish, happy me.
<Glad to help. It isn't Saprolegnia, which as you state is a fungus and is indeed a normal part of the aquarium ecosystem. Indeed, both Saprolegnia and other decay-causing fungi and bacteria such as Aeromonas are important, providing the key step between organic waste (e.g., uneaten fish food) and
the inorganic compounds (e.g., ammonia) that the filter bacteria can process. Without them, water quality management would be much more difficult. They only cause trouble when fish are sick, because otherwise
the fish's immune system can neutralise them on sight. In fact one time I used some fresh wood in an aquarium it got covered with mould, and the Suckermouth catfish simply ate the stuff! So don't be paranoid about Saprolegnia or the other saprotrophic organisms, but rather pay attention to aquarium conditions and fish health so that they don't take advantage of any problems. Cheers, Neale.>

Particle Removal 3/14/09
Hello Crew, hope all is going well with you there. I have a question, please. I currently am using 2 emperor 400 power filters in my 75 gallon freshwater tank. I am using the Pura pad which is supposed to also act as a mechanical filter.
<Let me stop you right there. Any given filter medium can only do one thing properly. If a chemical medium traps silt, it gets covered with that silt, and the chemicals can no longer react with the water. If a biological medium traps silt, its surface area is reduced, and biological filtration diminishes. If a mechanical medium is left unwashed long enough for bacteria to populate its surface area, it will be too clogged with silt particles to carry out mechanical filtration. And so on. You get the picture, I hope!>
My water so far is clear, however; I have very tiny particles floating around in the water. Do you know where these come from (dust in the air?)
<Inorganic silts (fine clay particles for example) usually come into the tank via the substrate, particularly gravel and sand. Solid organic wastes come from the fish faeces, uneaten food, and decaying plant matter. Rinsing new substrates, and promptly removing organic waste (e.g., with a turkey baster) can help. Usually the silt problem from gravel or sand solves itself in time, as the particles settle down to the bottom of the tank. But the organic wastes will be an ongoing problem.>
and could you recommend a filter that could remove very tiny particles to polish the water and remove these floating specs?
<In my opinion, nothing much beats a good wad of fresh filter wool.
Furthermore, if your aquarium has a constant silt problem, meaning that the water is never completely clear, you probably have insufficient filtration.
Specifically, insufficient mechanical filter media and/or insufficient turnover. Hang-on-the-back filters tend not to have much mechanical filtration potential because of their limited internal space and the low pressure of the water sluicing through them.>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Filter advice Filter Recommendations, FW 02/14/09 Hi again, While cleaning one of my Eheim 2250's I ended up with both of them leaking from the bottom hose barb fittings. Can you guys give me some recommendations for filters for a 200 gallon tank. Right now there is a single Fluval FX5 and a smaller Eheim on it. I am sure you all can imagine the frustration the large intake hoses leaking would cause a person especially when multiplied by 2. Thanks for all the advice. Ed < I feel your pain. Go to Cichlid-Forum.com and look under product reviews for filters. Readers have rated filters of all types. Soon you will see that no filter is perfect. Some get rave reviews while others have their problems. Monster Fish .com also has discussions on filtration since this group specializes in very large tanks to keep very large fish. I personally like the Marineland tidepool system with the overflow box. Very easy to maintain but a little pricey. I unfortunately think they are discontinuing this product and replacing it with the Marineland Acrylic Sump. I like the design but the product is too new to get any feedback on. If you have room behind your tank I would look at the outside power filters like and Emperor 400. Unfortunately they are not very quiet and may be a problem where noise is an issue.-Chuck>

Internal Power Filters 2/11/09 Im considering an internal power filter for each of my 30 gallon tanks (one is a hexagon). My hex has 2 Kribs in it and the filter is a Penguin 200. The 30 long has 20 assorted platys, swords and mollies and its filtered by a Penguin 350. Id like the internal filters for secondary filters. Any suggestions? Audra <Likely any will do. Eheim is the best (i.e., most reliable, easiest to get spares for) brand, but the second-tier brands such as Fluval aren't bad at all. So choose whatever looks good to you. The one thing I'll mention is turnover. For small fish like Neons, the recommendation is 4 times the volume of the tank per hour, for bigger fish, like Mollies, you can step that up to at least 6 times the volume of the tank per hour. Swordtails are fast-water fish, so the more water current, the better. Likewise cichlids generally enjoy reasonably strong currents, especially riverine species like Kribs. So I'd be looking for models offering 6-8 times the turnover of the tank per hour. For a 30 gallon tank, that's 180 to 240 gallons per hour. Avoid models that lock you into their own "filter modules" as these are typically overpriced for what they. Look for models with simple compartments into which you can stuff whatever media you want. Depending on what filter you've already got installed, likely something like the Eheim Aquaball 2210 or 2212 would fit the bill nicely. They're powerful, easy to clean, and can be filled with whatever media you like. Cheers, Neale.> Re: Internal Power Filters Thank you Neale. Since I'm new to using internal filters, I really do appreciate the breakdown of your information. Audra <Pleasure's all mine. Cheers, Neale.>

Filtration issues 2/10/09 Hiya gang , first comment is as a newbie to fish keeping , 'what a fantastic website for info and helpful bumpf' . My question is, I have just started to keep fish again after 20 years with dogs and cats , I have a 22 gall FW tank , PH 7.6 . Nitrate nil, Nitrite nil, changing about 15% every 3-4 days . The tank came as a set with filter, heater/stat. and inbuilt light 18w . After reading about filter output , I think I calculated mine, for a medium stocked tank as . Filter output = 8.3 litre per min. = about 2.2 gall per min?. using 6 to 8 times the volume of the tank. Have I worked mine out to be about 132 gall per hour. Am I right in saying I am a little short on flow rate for this size tank with the mechanical foam filled filter, that came with the system . I live in Spain and not being a fluent speaker/reader of Spanish it can all get a bit confusing at my LFS.. regards Mitch ..xpat .. <Mitch, let's simplify things by sticking with the numbers on the aquarium you have, and on the products available in your local stores. Yes, here in Europe we tend to use the metric system (though I admit in England we mix them both up, and then use a few of our own, like "stones" for body weight, just to throw off the Americans as well as the French). Anyway, let's assume this tank is around 80 litres, a pretty typical size for a small aquarium in Europe. That would be about 22 US gallons, or about 17.5 Imperial gallons. For small, non-messy aquarium fish such as Neons and Guppies, you'd want 4x the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, so the filter you have should be rated at 4 x 80 = 320 litres per hour (abbreviated to 'l/h' or similar). That would be a very small internal canister filter. Look on the head of the filter and see what number is printed there. If it is 320 l/h or more, you're fine, so long as you stick with small fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Filtration for 90 gallon freshwater 2/7/09 Hi! How many gallons per hour in filtration do I need on a 90 gallon freshwater aquarium? I am currently using one Bio-wheel 350 and a strong air pump. Is this enough? I currently have 25 rainbow fish in the tank. Will the one bio=wheel be enough biological filtration or do I need to add another bio=wheel? I thought that two 350's might be too much water movement. Tanks a lot. Barbara <Barbara, the calculation for turnover is pretty simple. For a lightly stocked tank with small fish (like Neons) you need at least 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. For busier tanks or tanks with medium sized species (such as Rainbowfish) anything from 6-8 times the volume of the tank is appropriate. Since Rainbowfish are active swimmers, going towards the higher end of the range would be sensible. So let's say 8 x 90 gallons, which equals 720 gallons per hour. In other words, adding another 350 gallon per hour filter would be appropriate. There won't be too much water current, so don't worry about that. A flowing river is much stronger than anything you're likely to create in the aquarium! Because hang-on-the-back filters don't do a good job of circulating water up from the lower level of the tank, I would seriously consider using an external or internal canister filter instead of another identical filter to the one you have. That way you can ensure proper circulation and healthier fish. Also, don't take the recommended aquarium size statements on the packaging too seriously: manufacturers usually overestimate just how good their filters are, by considering the best-case scenario, rather than reality. 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>

FW filter options 10/23/08 Hello again Neale, Hope your day is going well. <So far... but it's only 09:30, so who knows...?> I know you told me that you had personally used the Marineland canister filter cseries and that it was a good product. <Nope; not used either. I tend to use Fluval and Eheim products, two European brands.> Please tell me if you have had any experience with the Rena Filstar XP canister. After doing a lot of research and looking at reviews I have narrowed my choice down between these two. If you are familiar with the Rena please tell me which of the two are the best overall (effectiveness, easy to clean, durability). <Rena products are generally reasonably good. They're mid price manufacturers (like Fluval and Sera) with well designed products only a notch or two below Eheim in terms of reliability and longevity. About the only thing worth saying when buying canister filters generally is keep the receipt and buy from somewhere you can easily get help if something goes wrong. Very occasionally people get a "lemon", a filter that leaks or has a noisy pump or whatever. In that case your warranty will cover replacement, but it's a whole lot easier if that means you can get to the pet store and swap the thing within the hour. If you've bought the thing mail order then the whole process is much more of a hassle.> Thank you for all of your help and patience. James <Happy to help, Neale.> thank you. <No problem. Cheers, Neale.>

FW Filtration in A Planted Tank 9/18/09
Hi, What a fantastic web based source of information on fish keeping.
Some really helpful people on here. I have read a fair bit but this is the first question.
On to my question I am planning a 800 litre heavily planted tank in the very near future. I would like to have a 55 gallon sump for all of my filtration and to put heaters and probes in.
<Good idea. But do consider the effect extra turbulence will have on the rate at which CO2 is lost from the water. Not all plants are bothered by CO2 concentration, but some certainly do much better when it's provided and properly dosed.>
I have 2x 2028 running on my 400 litre which would be enough just I would think to filter the new one but I don't want any pipes running up the back, hence the sump idea
I am concerned that I may have a problem with my CO 2 injection, IE gassing the CO 2 off by using the sump as my filtration.
Is there a way to avoid this by building the sump differently, maybe sealing it some how?
<Sealing will make no odds: once the CO2 has left the water, it's not going to go back in at any appreciable level. Moreover, a sealed sump is essentially a canister filter, and being cut off from atmospheric oxygen will only work at a rate dictated by the dissolved oxygen in the water, defeating the object of the exercise. Instead, concentrate on minimising the amount of splashing, perhaps by using baffles to sluice the water into the sump rather than pour it in there. Alternatively, either use an electronic CO2 device that will automatically compensate for drops in CO2 concentration, or else forget about it altogether and go with plant species that don't care either way. Many plants get the carbon from dissolved bicarbonate in the water, so aren't fussed provided the water is reasonably hard. Look up the topic "biogenic decalcification" online or in books.>
I am planning to have the tank drilled with 2 x 2" overflows in each corner and 1 x 2" return in the centre, I also intend to run a closed loop type system to provide more water movement around the tank, by having two 1"- 1 1/4 holes drilled one to feed a separate pump to the sump return pump and the other to feed a manifold that will be under the substrate and exit above the sand in certain places to provide some low level movement, does this sound OK for around 2000 GPH?
<Sounds a nice tank. I do suspect that if you want CO2 fertilisation, switching from a sump to one or more external thermofilters (e.g., EHEIM Professionel II thermofilter) could more easily satisfy your needs. You can (relatively inexpensively) convert any canister filter into a thermofilter by placing an external heater into the pipe carrying the water back from the filter (e.g., the Hydor ETH In-Line Heaters). Either of these approaches will mean that all that's left in the tank will be the inlet and outlet pipes. A spray bar placed along the top of the tank just under the waterline is practically invisible, especially if the tank has a wood or plastic trim around the top. The inlet pipe can be easily hidden using rocks, bogwood, or tall plants such as Vallisneria.>
Thanks Guys , keep up the good work.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater planted tank lighting and filtration 8/6/08 Hi there :) <Ave,> I recently set up a new freshwater tank which is 33"x18"(H)x15". I bought a complete set-up with the lighting and filter integrated into the hood intending to just have a community tank with a few plants. However, now I'd like to focus more on the plants and see how well they can do. The system I bought seems to be a little odd so I wanted your advice on what I need to change and what I can get away with leaving in place. I live in the Philippines and equipment is very difficult to find here - I'll most likely have to buy whatever I need next time I'm in the UK or USA and bring it back... <Plants are generally easier to keep with "non specialist" equipment than, say, corals. All they really care about is a decent substrate (aquatic/pond soil mixed with silica sand and topped with gravel will do) and 2-4 W per gallon lighting around the 5500-6500 K level.> Lighting - the tank has 3 15,000k tubes that came with the tank. No problem I thought, I'll just buy lower Kelvin tubes and replace them, which I did (Arcadia Freshwater tubes, which I found by a miracle). Only to discover to my horror when I got the new tubes home that the light fittings are non-standard sizes! Instead of 2 30" tubes and a 24" tube which I thought the tank had, I now find it has a 2 x 29 1/2" tubes and 1 x 23 1/4"! Have you heard of this before? <Nope. Just goes to show... read the manual, check the specifications, and _then_ buy replacement fittings. In any case, hoods designed for marine aquaria may well be built for a selection of T5, T8 and Actinic tubes rather than the generic T8 tubes usually used on freshwater tanks.> It's a few years since I was in the hobby but after asking people here in the Philippines, no-one seems to have heard of new sizes. Very weird... So my choices seem to be either to stick with the 15,000k tubes or replace the entire fittings and tubes. What do you think? <To be honest, I'd stick with what you have, but use lots of floating plants to shade the aquatic plants (especially things like Cryptocoryne and Anubias that don't like strong, direct light). Floating plants will also help deal with algae until such time as the fast-growing rooted plats (Rotala, Hygrophila, Cabomba, Bacopa, etc.) get established. Once those plants are growing rapidly, they'll prevent algae from becoming a problem via allelopathy.> I've been getting good growth on Crypts, Amazon Swords and a few others but stem plants become very leggy quickly. <Invariably occurs where stem plants aren't getting enough light. They become etiolated -- i.e., very tall, so the leaves can get close to the light. In strong lighting this won't happen, especially if you prune these fast-growing plants rigorously. So review the strength of the lighting, bearing in mind these fast-growing stem species typically want 3 W or more per gallon.> Bacopa seems to only grow slightly but at least it's not losing leaves. How about algae? Do you think it will be encouraged by my tubes at the expense of the plants? <Algae will be a problem for the first few weeks while the plants acclimatise. Inevitably plants become "shocked" when planted in a new tank because their roots get damaged in transit and when you place them in the substrate. It also takes plants a while to adjust to different levels of lighting. Floating plants will help, even Duckweed! Once the plants are spreading (you'll see shoots and daughter plants) then the plants will largely control the algae for you.> There's a bit of brown algae kicking off in a few parts of the tank... <Diatoms are normal in new tanks, and usually go away eventually. Hair/brush algae (red algae) tends to sprout from the edges of leaves, especially plants like Cryptocoryne and Anubias that grow slowly and aren't adapted to direct light. Some fish and invertebrates will help; I'd recommend algae-eating shrimps (e.g., Cherry Shrimps) and Nerite snails. Florida Flagfish and Siamese Algae Eaters are also excellent for algae control.> Filter - the tank came with a wet-dry trickle filter. I understand that in planted tanks it's better to avoid much surface disturbance so I've modified the water level in the filter so that the spray bar now delivers the water directly under water, but the return to the tank is still via a jet which sucks in quite a bit of air. Do you think this is likely to be a problem? <Not really. CO2 makes good systems better; it isn't the deciding factor that makes a failing system fail.> If I add a CO2 system will it be a waste of money or is it still worth investing in? <By all means buy a CO2 system. Will do no harm. But will it turn around a tank where the plants are "leggy" or don't grow at all... no.> Many thanks in advance for all your help! Dylan <Cheers, Neale.>

Can you have too big of a filter? 06/26/08 Hello, My question is in regards to the size of a filter vs. the size of the aquarium. I currently have a 55 gallon tank which is home to 3 silver tip sharks, 1 Bala shark, a red fin Pacu, and also a plecostomus, which are all getting to big for my little tank. I will be in the market for a new tank in the near future, but I was just wondering if I do purchase a bigger filter now can I run it on my 55 gallon tank with now problems. <You will run out of cabinet space under your tank long before your fish object to the filter current. Realistically, your fish want at least 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, and even ten times the volume of the tank would be well within their tolerances. So if you have a 55 gallon tank now, anything up to 550 gallons per hour turnover would be acceptable. Indeed, standard issue in marine tanks! Your Plecs are adapted to fast-flowing rivers (that's what their Suckermouth is all about) and the big cyprinids will relish the strong water current. Cheers, Neale.>

Filtration for Deep Tank 5/24/08 Hi , thank you for your enjoyable and informative website . <Thank you, happy you find the site of use!> I am setting a large and deep tank (800litres) with an height of 90 cm sitting on a metre high stand. I intend to keep a few American cichlids but will probably under stock the tank. <Sounds great!> The tank was previously set up for salt water with predrilled inlet and outlet holes on the bottom of the tank. I was planning to filter it with a large canister filter and an internal power head for extra water movement and my question is : can I plug the inlet piping of the canister filter straight into the outlet (20mm pipe) at the bottom of the tank (thereby being able to collect middle to lower level water for filtering (since most filter inlet pipes come up a bit short), or would the water pressure be likely to blow the seal of the canister filter? <A good question, most would not even consider this. It is not really an issue/concern. Any well made (read, wont leak anyway) canister filter will be fine in this situation.> Many thanks, Laurent Australia <Welcome, Scott V., California, USA.>

Deep sand beds 5/5/08 Hell Crew, I have utilized DSB's for my marine aquariums and I was curious to know if the same principles would apply to freshwater aquariums. <In theory, yes, but of course you won't have the small invertebrates (meiofauna) burrowing through the sand. Melanoides snails might work though, but I can't think of other freshwater meiofaunal organisms widely traded that would help.> I want to set up a breeder tank for African Cichlids and if a deep sand bed would work for denitrification the breeding cycle would not be interrupted by overly frequent water changes. <With freshwater aquaria, it is usually more cost effective just to do regular water changes, hence denitrification isn't usually an issue. Fast-growing plants can also work extremely well; Vallisneria for example is native to Lake Tanganyika and rapidly absorbs nitrate from the water.> I am using an old 55 gallon tank that was previously used as a refugium on a reef tank. There are two compartments, one for adults with larger limestone and crushed coral substrate and the other compartment with a 5 inch sand bed for the fry. The filtration is a wet-dry filter with bio balls and a return pump alternating between the two compartments. If all goes well there is a 75 gallon tank next to the 55 gallon for the juveniles to put on some size. Please advise of any adjustments or critique you may have. <Sounds fine to me.> All the research on DSB's was tapered to the marine aquariums. Thanks for your input. Wade <Good luck, Neale.> <<Well-stated, done. RMF>>

Emperor 400 03/26/2008 Hello, I have an Eheim 2028 and an emperor 400 on 90 gallon cichlid setup. How can I maximize mechanical filtration from the emperor and biological from the Eheim?. I would rather not use the disposable filter, media-seems like a waste and don't need all of that charcoal. I did purchase bio forever super cartridge. Any suggestions how to run this efficiently? Thank you and I hope this question is not too confusing. Thanks. Phil. <Not familiar with the precise filter system here, but some basic thoughts. I agree, carbon is redundant in this sort of system. Depending on the cichlids, things like crushed coral (for pH control) may be more valuable. Hooking up the outflow from the external canister filter will provide optimal water quality in terms of clarity as well as ammonia/nitrite removal. For cichlids other than dwarf species, aim for a combination of filters providing not less than 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Cheers, Neale.>

Large Freshwater Filtration 03/10/08 Hello again everyone....... Ok, I have finally made some decisions for the either 100-125 gal fancy goldfish tank I'll be setting up very soon. I know that I want something longer and not as deep (hence the size I've chosen) and thinking "long term", I plan on having about 5 fish and maybe 2 apple snails. The tank will be? in a new? living room with lots of natural light (but no direct hard light coming into the tank). Sand will be the substrate (looking into the best price for the Estes Marine Sand now) with a variety of silk plants. Not sure if I'll even have lights.....though a member on another forum suggested underwater lights for night-time viewing which sounds pretty cool. My biggest concern with having a fully lighted system is having the temps get too warm for the goldfish. Anyway......on to filtration. Although I seriously considered a wet/dry? and/or sump for this tank.....I had to think about the few "spills" we had with the 125 gal FOWLR tank in the? clubroom.? Sooooooo, with know-How flooring we recently installed in the new living room, I think we'll forget about that idea. So, I have decided to use 2 Eheim canister filters as I've read so many darn great things about them. The tank will have a custom stand and I'll have our friend make 2 cabinets on either side to house the filters. My question/problem is.......which ones to I buy?? For someone who is fairly "new" at this, boy is it hard to determine what size(s) is needed to filter the heck out of a larger goldfish tank. Now I'm going to call myself a liar because I also saw the Eheim makes a wet/dry filter that looks pretty water tight but again....I'm used to a more "natural filtration on my marine system (40gal sump/refugium w/DSB, LR, Chaeto...and a nice protein skimmer). PLEASE HELP as I have read and read and read and can't find a suitable answer to fit my tank and I want to do this the right way from the beginning, rather than have to add on later. Thank? you again everyone for such a wonderful site and for all your hard work. Wish we could pay you for all your time....even if it was in fishy wafers!?? lol Lisa <Hi Lisa. For Goldfish, aim for filters that alone or added together provide not less than 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. I'd recommend at least two filters, so you can position the outlets around the tank to ensure optimal water flow. Because Goldfish produce a lot of faeces, you need the strong water current to ensure these get cleaned up quickly. Otherwise the tank will look kind of crummy, with dirt all over the place. Eheim filters are indeed excellent, and are widely considered to be reliable and perhaps optimal value over the long term. I have a great respect for reverse-flow undergravel filters when combined with Goldfish -- the up flow of water through the gravel pushes the faeces into the water column where they can be sucked up quickly. Cheers, Neale.>

Opinion on Chemical Media in Planted Aquarium 2/4/08 Hi - I wanted to get the expert's opinion on chemical media containing carbon with ion exchange media (such as Chemi-Pure and BioChemZorb) and the planted tank. My fear would be scavenging too many trace elements and hurting the growth of my plants. I've used Purigen with great success, but have heard various rave reviews of the Chemi-Pure, and - to a less extent - BioChemZorb. Thanks in advance for your feedback. Your site is, by far, the definitive online guide for fishkeeping. Very truly yours, Stu <Greetings. I'm not a big fan of carbon in freshwater tanks. It does nothing that regular water changes don't do better. Carbon was most valued in the Stone Age of the hobby, where people deliberately avoiding changing the water. 10% a month was normal. The idea was "old water" was better than "new water". The big problem with old water is that organic decay in the tank produces organic acids that lower pH and turn the water yellow. Carbon adsorbs organic compounds, and by using carbon in a filter, the aquarist could keep the pH stable and the water clear. Nowadays we routinely change 25-50% of the water per week, so the dissolved organic compounds in the aquarium never reach a concentration where they are sufficient to cause harm. In terms of value, biological and mechanical filter media deliver more tangible results per cubic centimetre of filter space, and chemical media for buffering water chemistry can also be useful under certain circumstances. Finally, the active life of carbon (regardless of how it is packaged or what brand it is sold under) is literally a matter of days. One manufacturer of fish medications makes the point that carbon over 5 days old won't have any impact on their medication because it won't absorb sufficient quantity of that medication to affect the efficacy of the drug involved. That pretty much sets it out for you in terms of how often carbon needs to be replaced if it is to do any good. Carbon doesn't removed many inorganic substances, iodine is the only one of note, if I recall correctly. So carbon won't really do anything to the CO2, iron, magnesium, etc. that you need to keep plants healthy. The minerals at least need to be in their reduced rather than oxidised state, so won't be in the (oxygen-rich) water anyway but in the (oxygen-poor) substrate. The carbon obviously doesn't do anything to the substrate. So bottom line, in my opinion, is buy whichever you want since they're all a waste of money and don't make any difference in the big picture. Cheers, Neale.>

Platy companions, filter maintenance 1/18/08 hi there, I've written to you before and got good advice, <Good oh.> what I am wondering is, when I'm changing the filter sponges, which ones can I just rinse through and which ones do I have to replace completely? <Ideally rinse them ALL in buckets of aquarium water, and never replace more than 50% of the filter media in any one go. Typically the mechanical media (the coarse sponges in your system) will need to be cleaned more thoroughly, and perhaps replaced more frequently, than the biological media (the finer sponges). Juwel filters also have little white cotton pads you stick at the very top of the system to trap big bits of waste, like dead leaves. These can be replaced as often as you want. I find it cheaper to rinse them off every week or two rather than replace them every month or so. But it doesn't matter much.> I have a Juwel Rekord 70. also which fish would be good tank companions with platy? I was going for Neons next, my tank is up and running about 7 weeks. <Platies are hard water fish, and for that reason your best bet is to mix them with other hard water fish. That way you can tweak water chemistry, or use salt as a therapy, without worrying. Other livebearers are ideal, but so are Rainbowfish and halfbeaks. If your water quality is good, then certain dwarf Tanganyikan shell-dwelling cichlids can work well at the bottom of the tank. They work surprisingly well with livebearers.> thanks again!! David. Davy-D- <David, please please please use the Shift key next time to put capital letters where they belong! The idea behind this site is that the questions we answer are available for others to read, not just you, and letters without capital letters are difficult to read. This is especially true for those who don't read English as their native language. Thanks! Neale.>

Filtration help... FW set up Qs, learning to read/use WWM 12/18/07 Hi there, first I just want to say how much I appreciate the staff there who run this site and answer questions so fast. you guys are great and have helped me so much with my learning process, keep it up! Now, I have an established 10 gallon tank and am wanting to setup my 30 gallon and 5 gallon tanks (haha Multiple tank syndrome!). The 10 g has a small AquaClear filter on it currently. Yesterday I added the large AquaClear filter and a small sponge filter to the 10g to try to get the media colonized with bacteria. My questions are: How long do I have to leave the new filters on the established tank for it to be colonized so that its good to go on the new tanks? <Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above> I would like to get this on my new tank as fast as possible so I can put Bolivian rams in it...(long story I know they should be put in last, but where I live they never usually come here and they have been sitting in the store for 3 weeks and I wanted to get them before someone else snags them). <Can be "goosed"...> Also there is much happening in my 10g right now, with all the bubbles and movement, 1 of my baby panda cories got sucked into the uptake tube last night (I was sooooooo sad/mad...I'm getting so attached to them!) and it died. I feel terrible that it must have died a slow and painful death. The other fish (3 baby pandas, 4 tetras, 2 harlequins) don't look too happy right now, I had to change around the decor a lot..I just put nylon to cover the large filters uptake tube but will this interfere with the colonization process? <No> Is it possible to have TOO much oxygen or movement in a tank? <Not practically> Also the sponge filtration unit is meant to eventually go on a 5 gallon with a Betta, it seems quite noisy and bubbly.. will the Betta be ok with it? <Likely so> What I did was I tied 2 knots into the tubing to slow the rate of air coming out of the pump, will this wreck the pump due to backflow? <Back pressure? Perhaps shorten its effective "life"> Finally my last set of questions...I bought a bunch of driftwood to put into each tank.. about 1-2 pieces each.. I bought them to soften the water a bit since water is very hard here. I don't want to boil them because I want them to leach tannins, is this ok, can I just soak them? <Can> How long should I soak the pieces for? <Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm and the linked...> Is there such thing as too much driftwood? <Yes> I don't know my water hardness but I know its very hard. How long will it take for the tannin levels to be established...what I mean is do I have to constantly monitor pH, or say after 1 month that pH that its at it will stay there? <See WWM re FW pH...> Sorry I hope it makes sense. I take out the carbon to have the tannins in the water, is this correct or do I leave the carbon in? thank you so much! <Read on... RMF>

FW Fluidized bed filter question, Loricariid sel. - 12/13/07 Considering a fluidized bed filter as alternative to bio balls from sump on 120g planted freshwater tank (rainbows and Plecos). 2 questions - Is there any value to sizing up on filter...it is only $10 more to go from 300g to 600g to 900g. Ignoring size limitations on height, is there any reason to not get a bigger one - unnecessary overkill? <No real functional advantage... perhaps some disadvantage in electrical costs to push water through a larger unit> second, re: Plecos, I plan on having the following...any Compatibility problems (I searched PlanetCatfish and can't really find the info): gold nugget, queen arabesque, royal, blue phantom, maybe a zebra. I also have a striped Raphael. Only one of each. Any issues? thanks <Mmm... well... not compatibility... but the smaller Loricariids are more social... I'd likely get more than one of these. Bob Fenner> Paul

Two questions... platy repro., filtration maint. 10/16/07 I have a 10 gallon freshwater tank at school with 2 platys (male and female) and one fry that is about 1 cm long now. I found the fry during a water change about 2 weeks ago and have him in one of those breeder nets in the tank. It has been so much fun seeing him grow from just a speck to where he is now. When should I put him in the main tank with the other two platys? <When its big enough not to be eaten! At a couple of months should be fine.> Also, how do you know when to change the filter? <Ideally, never. You clean the filter, yes, but that's nothing more than rinsing filter media in a bucket of aquarium water (not under the tap, as the chlorine can kill the bacteria). When you've washed out the worst of the sponges (or whatever), put them back in the filter. Only if the filter media is completely blocked up should they be replaced, and even then, no more than 50% of the media per three months.> My filter is one that hangs on the side. I've had the tank running for about two months now. Should I put a new filter in some old tank water so that the good bacteria can start getting on it? <The water carries virtually no filter bacteria, so what you suggest is a complete waste of time. Instead, avoiding changing too much filter media at once, and let the mature media colonise the new stuff.> Thanks! Carolyn <Good luck, Neale>

Using a brand new filter on a seasoned tank 10/3/07 HI, <Hello,> I have a 75 gallon tank. I had a Eheim Filter that just decided to not run correctly no matter what we do new parts etc.... <Too bad.> I went and got a new Fluval filter last night. The place I bought the filter told me to keep both filters running for about two weeks to get the bacteria into the new filter before I stop running the old filter. <Not the way I'd solve this problem. Much easier to simply take all the mature media from the old Eheim and put them into the new Fluval. Problem solved.> The problem is the old filter is blowing air, lots of air. It will run ok for 1/2 hour or so and then a big burst of air comes out in to the tank and needles to say a lot of micro bubbles with it. <Ah, seen this happen. It usually isn't the filter per se, but how the filter is set up. Air (obviously) can't magically get into a watertight filter. But if you configure the inlet (the "sucking" pipe) somewhere that gets air bubbles, those air bubbles get sucked into the filter. Certain canister filter designs don't handle this problem well, and the air bubbles collect at the top of the canister, often around the impeller (the spinning blades). Eventually the top of the filter gets so full of bubbles that some bubbles break away and go into the outlet stream of water. There's usually a lot of rattling noise as well. Anyway, the solution is to re-jig the position of the filter inlet. You also need to take great care you are reassembling the filter properly, such that you aren't trapping air inside the canister to begin with.> It is stressing the fish out, they run for their lives (so to speak) when this happens. Last night I had both filters running but the fish started to stress out swimming fast and changing color etc..... <Hmm. Can't really imagine it's doing them much harm. Compared with, say, heavy rain or ocean waves, a filter blowing bubbles is pretty trivial.> My question is, is it ok to just run the new filter alone, is there anything I should do to the filter, what is the correct thing to do. <As above, take the media from the old filter and install in the new.> I have both filters off right now, <No! Never, ever switch off a filter. Anything more than, say 20 minutes, can kill the bacteria.> also could the fish have stressed out do to the two filters running could this be to much filtration for a 75 gallon tank at one time. <Not a problem. Aquarium fish will tolerate as much as 10 times the volume of the water in turnover per hour. It is very difficult to have too much filtration. Compared with the flow of a river, filters are insipid trickles.> The fish were so stressed that I have both filters off right now and this calmed them down. <They get used to it. My freshwater tank has ~10 the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. It took the fish an hour or so to get used to the extra water movement when I installed the third filter, but they're fine now.> I will wait for your response until I do anything with the filter. Thanks in advance for your help. Deb <Hope this helps, Neale>

Filters and pH questions 9/26/07 Our tap water here in Oregon is very very soft (dH 2-3), but they use sodium hydroxide to raise the pH to 7.7 so as not to rust pipes. <What a horrible set of water conditions... very soft, but slightly alkaline. Nothing much really likes these conditions.> It quickly drops to 7.2 or so in the tank. <Well that's lucky.> Is this OK for cardinal tetras, Apistogramma, Loricariids? Soft water Amazon fish seem to be doing well. <I'd be tempted to add a certain amount of a pH-down product to reduce the pH to exactly 7, while increasing its buffering capacity. On its own, very soft water tends to fluctuate in pH quite a lot. This is not good. Standard pH-down products (usually sold as bottles, and you add a bit to each bucket of water just like dechlorinator) stabilizes the pH at some value. In hard water they're a bit of a waste of time and money, but in very soft water such buffering solutions (as they're called) can be very helpful.> Also, I have a Rena Filstar filter. Has the standard 2 layers of foam, a bag of carbon (bio chem Zorb) and a layer of micro fleece pads. Was thinking of replacing either one of the layers of foam or the carbon with either some ceramic biomedia or keta peat nuggets. <Bin the carbon. Total waste of space. In very soft water, the filter bacteria tend to be less happy than in hard water (they like hard, alkaline water best of all, and stop working completely below pH 6). So concentrate on adding as much biological media as possible to get the best water quality. Choose whatever according to your budget and preferences. The main thing is that the filter should have not less than 4x the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. In other words, for a 100 litre tank, the filter must have a turnover of 400 litres per hour.> That's a lot of foam sponge, and maybe the carbon is not so necessary. The peat would lower that NaOH induced pH. <Don't use peat. Peat is wonderful stuff in aquaria if you know precisely and absolutely what you're doing. But peat can rapidly change the pH and its results are completely unpredictable. In very soft water with practically zero buffering capacity, you could easily drop the pH from 7.2 to 6.0 overnight if you added too much, and this would kill your fish. Instead, use the buffering solution mentioned above, following the instructions on the bottle, and performing pH tests every day or two at first until you get a sense of how pH varies in the tank. What you're after is 7.0 day in, day out.> What do you think? <Messing with pH is something a lot of aquarists get into trouble over. There's a very good argument for not thinking about pH at all, and focusing instead on general and carbonate hardness. Both of these have a much bigger impact on the fish. With your very soft water, the KH value is likely to be very low, and as a result water chemistry stability practically non-existent. So your job is to stabilise water chemistry. Adding buffering solutions to the water will do this. This becomes more important the more fish you add, because the loading of the tank is positively correlated to water chemistry stability as well. In other words, heavily stocked tanks experience a drop in pH more quickly than the same tank would if lightly stocked (a process called acidification). So, move slowly, research the water chemistry topics here at WWM, and measure pH regularly to check that acidification isn't getting serious. Cheers, Neale>

Supplemental Filter - Freshwater 9/11/07 Hi there Neale, <Hello Lisa,> I've switched three of my tanks over to black sand substrate - I love it and it no longer poses a problem for the catfishes' barbels. However since the fishes' solid waste doesn't sink through the gravel anymore, it is in plain site and the canister filter's intake won't pull the waste into the filter. <This happens. Of course, all that gunk went into the gravel before, too, so the problem is only that you *see* the stuff rather than it wasn't there before. My tip is to [a] adjust the water flow and the slope of the sand to push the gunk towards one corer; and [b] simply use a siphon to remove the stuff when it gets too unsightly.> I'd very much like to install some in-tank supplemental filtering and simultaneously add some additional bio media and water flow to remove any dead spots. I've been looking at sponge filters however I've noted that these are used for tanks with no substrate (and especially for fry). There are also some small corner filters - both small enclosed plastic boxes run by an air pump (that I used when I was a kid!) and exposed cushion type that affixes to the tank glass. <Both these are EXCELLENT for biological filtration, but less so for mechanical filtration. You might actually find a powerhead or an airstone would do a better job of creating water current, and so help the gunk get pushed around. It's only when it's the water column, as opposed to sitting on the sand, that the canister filter gets a chance to slurp it up.> What would you recommend in this case please? I have one tank set up with a powerhead and quick filter however was looking for something a bit less obvious for the other (smaller) tanks if possible... <I suspect that even if I recommended stuff, in a small tank, it would be either cost prohibitive or else just disappointing. In a small, not too heavily stocked tank, you would probably find a plain old turkey baster a better investment. (Second time I've recommended these tonight. Odd.) Adjust the sand as mentioned before so one corner (at the front) is lower than the three others. Adjust the filter so it pushes water about such that the gunk collects in one corner. There's some trial and error involved here, obviously. Once it works, you'll find all the waste sitting in this corner. Whenever it becomes too unsightly, you whip out the turkey baster, suck out the gunk, and throw the waste into a pot plant where it can do some good (excellent organic fertiliser!). No fuss, no muss. Since you're going to be doing water changes every week or two, the turkey baster tends to work perfectly well as a spot cleaner the rest of the time. Given a turkey baster only costs a couple of bucks, it's a cheap solution, too. There's also great for moving fry, dishing out live food, feeding invertebrates, separating dwarf mouthbrooding cichlids from the their fry... so many things!> Thank you very much!! Lisa <Hope this helps, Neale>

Auxiliary filtration, FW 06/27/07 Hi Crew! <<Good afternoon. Tom with you.>> I am upgrading from my 55 gallon FW tank to a 90 gallon. <<Congratulations!>> I plan to use my Eheim 2026 (rated up to 92 gallons). Would an Emperor 400 be a good choice for supplemental filtration in the larger tank? <<Im running an Emperor 280 along with a Fluval canister filter on one of my tanks (50-gallon) and like the filter just fine. Id heard reports from some folks that they found the filter to be noisy particularly when evaporation drops the water level somewhat. I've not found this to be the case but, then, I dont let my water level drop excessively, either. The Emperor units, as you're no doubt aware, come with two filter cartridges (four on the 400 model) along with the bio-wheel(s). The lead cartridge has a polyfiber pad attached to the plastic container which is filled somewhat with Black Diamond activated carbon. This is the use and toss cartridge. The second is of like-construction but can be opened and filled with whatever your media of choice might be. I like the polyfiber pad on the first cartridge for a little extra polishing of the water but the carbon is unnecessary, for the most part. The recommended change interval on this cartridge is 2-4 weeks. Replacements are cheap enough so it kind of comes down to your own call, the pros and cons of using carbon media in FW filters notwithstanding. Bottom line? Id do it if it were me.>> I plan to make it a planted discus tank. <<Another good reason to go with the Emperor. I've found that the design of the filter is such that there isnt a lot of current/disruption created by the output. Something that your Discus if they could would thank you for.>> Thanks in advance for your reply. <<If you haven't done this already, check out the articles on our site written by Alesia Benedict for Conscientious Aquarist. These deal, very specifically, with planted Discus tanks and are a joy to read as well as being very informative. Best of luck in your venture. Tom>>

Under ground filtration with a canister filter - 06/27/07 Hey! <I really, REALLY don't like "hey" as a greeting. Is this a common salutation in America? In England, it would be considered very rude -- as in "hey you, grotty little poor person who's name I can't be bothered to remember"...> I must say that I have found your website very helpful! <Cool.> I have a 125gal set up with an under gravel filter at the moment. It worked fine as long as my fish population was small, but I now want to increase my filtration. <Typically, undergravel filters work fine until a tank is overstocked, at least where small community-type fishes like barbs and tetras are concerned. Just like any other filter, if you dramatically increase the number of fish, it takes some weeks for the undergravel filter to "scale up" in response. So during this phase, keep an eye on nitrite and/or ammonia levels.> I want to go to a canister filter (Eheim pro 2 or 3). Should I draw the suction through my under gravel filter or should I remove the under gravel filter and just pull from the tank? <The best of both worlds is a reverse flow system. Here, water is sucked into the canister filter, and then pushed outwards into the undergravel filter so the water emerges back into the tank upwards through the gravel. Why this works well is that it uses the canister filter to mechanically treat the water, removing solid wastes, and only clear water gets pushed into the gravel where bacteria remove the ammonia and nitrite. Because water is rising through the gravel, it pushes out solid waste, stopping the gravel from getting clogged, improving its performance and also making it much easier to maintain.> Is one situation better than the other? Why? <Explained the best system above.> I also have a few (two or three) plantings in the tank and I have been told that the under gravel filter is detrimental to their growth. What is your opinion on this? <It depends on the plants. Plants without roots, like Anubias and Java fern, couldn't care less. But plants that rely on their roots to extract minerals from the substrate do indeed grow better without undergravel filters. This isn't to say you can't grow plants in tanks with undergravel filters, you can, it's just they don't do very well. You're also limited to the hardier species, and will need to take extra care to put fertiliser tablets close to their roots periodically. In a tank with an undergravel filter it is simply easier and more reliable to skip plants or go with species that don't have roots. Anubias, Java fern, Java moss, floating plants, and things like Elodea that have midwater roots are the way to go.> They are mainly for snacking in between meals by the veggie eating fish, but I would like to grow a bit more if possible. <Growing plants in tanks with vegetarian fish is a bit of waste of time unless you choose inedible species such as Java fern and Java moss. Anubias sometimes does well, but herbivorous Plecs rasp it away to nothing.> Thanks for all your help. Ed <Cheers, Neale>

Used SeaClear Aquarium-poor choice? For FW... 6/5/07 Hi, I have researched these questions on your site and can't find the answers, so am writing to you. I am new to your website; just discovered it yesterday, 2 days after buying a used (10-11 years) SeaClear Eclipse 2, Clarity Plus 75 g. tank. I had set my heart on a Tenecor; it looked like the best quality, but then I saw this ad and it sounded really good, with a beautiful hand-made large cabinet and hood all for $400. <Both companies make good products in my estimation. If the used one has been not abused, it is likely fine> I researched it for 3 or 4 days, but now after poring over your website for 2 days, it looks like it might have been a poor choice. <Well... the "Eclipse" line I am definitely not a fan of... but the "built-in" filtration back can be supplemented, or best even ignored...> Anyway, it's been set up for 2 days now and things are going well; the fish are very happy, since they outgrew their old tank (35g.) I have only 6 fish in it; 3 Pink Kissers (6-7 in.) <Nice!> , a Pleco (14") <Yowzah!> and 2 Clown Loaches, (3"). I've had aquariums for 40 years, but nothing over 35 gallons. The tank is beautiful, but now I find out the truth, that filters for a 48 x 18 x 24" tank are ridiculously pricey: $50 to $60! <Heeee! And there's electricity to run them... and replacement media!> Where can I get cheaper prefilters, or can I make them? <Mmm... if you're handy... there are DIY varieties... but really... Unless you have plenty of spare time, the commercially made ones are superior> I live in a rural area with no LFS, but I have catalogs from That Fish Place and Drs. Foster & Smith, <Both mighty fine companies as well> so is there something I can order from them to substitute? <For? Do try a search on WWM, using the cached-view version here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/question_page.htm with the terms "SeaClear", and "Eclipse"... read the modifications proposed...> The rest of the filter is the bioballs and the pump, in other words, the original system. <Is ridiculously inefficient by itself... and a pain in the keester to try to work on> The previous owner was very happy with it for 10 years. <Right... that's why they sold it for so little...> What can I add to the filtration to make this a better tank? <As stated... seek per above... I myself would drill the back, make the filtration in a tied-in sump below likely... pump the water back from there to the main tank...> It looks great right now. Also, after it is established, I would like to add another Kisser, 2 more clown loaches and maybe a small school of tetras or rasboras. Will this work? <Maybe... take care with the new Kissers... they're going to look/be tiny compared to your present ones... may be chased mercilessly... and DO quarantine all new/incoming livestock... Likely about the last thing you want is to introduce a pathogen here...> I feel like a novice after looking at the expertise on your site. Thanks, Carol M. ;<) <Heeee! Keep looking... you'll be one of us soon! Cheers, Bob Fenner>

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. Its 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.>

Too much Filtration? FW 5/11/07 Dear Crew Members, <Hello Anna> Is there such a thing as too much filtration? <Yes and no. Yes, you can have too much water movement, and if there is too much turbulence and the water becomes super-saturated with oxygen, tiny gas bubbles can cause serious problems. But no, you can never make the water too clean, because by any practical standard the conditions in an aquarium will usually be poorer than most "wild" environments in terms of water quality and density of livestock.> I have a 55 gallon freshwater community tank. It has a wet/dry filter roughly 20 gallons I think and double BioWheel ( two BioWheel filters on either side of the intake). <Do you mean the filter is rated for a 20 gallon tank? Obviously inadequate for a 55 gallon tank, assuming you have an average level of stocking.> I also have a large protein skimmer. <Which probably won't work in a freshwater tank.> The tank is planted and will be home to mollies and other tropical fish under 4 inches of adult length. <Do bear in mind mollies don't like the same water conditions as most tropical fish. At the very least they need hard (20-30 dH) alkaline (pH 7.5-8) water with practically zero nitrate (difficult to get in densely stocked aquaria). If you can't maintain those conditions, switching to brackish water (around 10-25% seawater salinity) helps keep mollies healthy, but the range of salt-tolerant freshwater fish is relatively small.> I don't have any fish right now. Is there anything that is redundant or unnecessary? <Personally, if you have your heart set on mollies, I'd go for a brackish water set-up and keep brackish water or salt-tolerant fishes such as gobies, glassfish, certain cichlids, certain catfish, sleepers, livebearers, etc. If you want a planted tank, skip the mollies in favour of platies or swordtails, both of which do much better under "normal" conditions than mollies.> Thank you, Anna <Cheers, Neale>

Freshwater Tank Filter 3/21/07 Hello, <Hello!> I just found your site today and am AMAZED at all the wonderful information. And I need some advice please. I just purchased a used 70 gal freshwater with an Ecosystem sump? Filter but also came with a Lifeguard filter set (4). When I get the aquarium up and running (needs A LOT of cleaning!), it will be planted and not sure just yet on what fish. <Used aquaria can be good value, but be sure and check for leaks. Have the thing filled with water and sitting somewhere 'waterproof' for a few hours or overnight. Simply moving an aquarium can damage the seals between the panes of glass.> But it will be awhile for them anyway. It came with a cherry barb, a clown Pleco, 2 other Pleco's, a rather large catfish, 2 Horseface loaches and a few other odds and ends. <By and large, Plecs don't get along with one another, especially when mature, so assuming the "other Plecos" are one of the common grey/brown giant species, consider trying to find another home for one of them.> Right now they are in a QT tank. <Very good.> Not sure what I will do with them yet. Anyway, back to the filter system. Which one should I use? Are there pro's / con's to each type? <Yes there are pros/cons to each. Be sure and read the Freshwater Filtration article here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltration.htm and the various FAQ attached. In a nutshell, filters are a compromise between price, efficiency, and ease of use. Internal canister filters for example are easy to clean but are expensive in terms of how much water they clean per hour (the "turnover", which will be quoted on the packaging). External canister filters are bulky and a pain to service, but in terms of cost per unit of turnover, they are good value. Undergravels are cost effective but a pain to clean. And so on for all the different types of filter on sale. With Plecs and other large, messy fish you really want to be looking at some filter system that will turnover the water around 5-6 times per hour. So buy a filter with a turnover of no less than 350 gallons per hour and sufficient capacity to hold media for your 70 gallon tank (actually, with Plecs I'd step that up to a 100 gallon tank). An external canister filter is probably the way to go if you want this performance at a decent price.> I can't seem to find much information anywhere else. I'm new at this. Thanks, Teresa <No problem. Neale>

Re: Freshwater Tank Filter 3/23/07 Thanks Neale. However, I wasn't planning on purchasing another filter. <Right, I see. Sorry.> I would like to know which of the 2 that came with the aquarium would be best to use, the EcoSystem or the LifeGuard. <The Ecosystem is a "hang on the back filter" I believe, and for that reason inadequate for keeping large, dirty catfish. Lack of water flow (suction of all the poop). Best for small species like neons and guppies. The only Lifeguard filter is a fluidized sand filter. Again, best for small fish because it becomes easily clogged (and thus less effective) in tanks with big, messy fishes. > Unless of course, the canister that you mentioned would be better. <Yes, a big canister will be better. For one thing, you can arrange the water outlet to push water about better and keep the solid waste these big fish make moving towards the filter inlet. Also, big canisters have lots of space for mechanical filtration, which is what you want, so that the solid waste is removed from the water before the bacteria get to work on the ammonia. Choose a filter with 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, so around 400 gallons per hour turnover. It is usually recommended you go for 4x the turnover in freshwater tanks, but for big fish you should scale that up. Also, quotes on packaging ignore head pressure (the work the filter does if sited *underneath* the aquarium as opposed to next to it and the effect of clogged up filter media. So always be generous with filtration.> And thank you for the advice on filling it up in a "waterproof" area overnight. It was still up and running when we went to pick it up but we did bring in home on a 4 hour ride. So will definitely do that before setting it up! <Cool. Enjoy your new aquarium! Neale> Teresa

Enhancing FW filtration, Adding larger wet/dry or canister filter ?? 3/6/07 I have a 155gal bow front with the manufactures corner overflows (2). Underneath I have the wet/wry that came with the Tank (around 1999), there are three pumps, one for a 48" UV, and two larger pumps for each return with ball valves to adjust Return flow rates. <I'd just have one good pump...> I have an ocean clear Filter on one return and a nu-clear on the other return (I prefer the Nu-clear) both with paper cartridges with the smallest holes (25 micron I think). <A pain in the keester to keep clean?> This is a freshwater tank and has been running for 6 years now. My question is related to how to improve the system for a larger bio load. I have several dozen small tetras, barbs and several large Bala's That I often find at local stores. They are ones people turned in and need a bigger tank, Balas sure are jumpy. <Ah yes> The wet/dry takes up A lot of room but the actual area for the bio balls is less than 12 inches sq. The water does not drip evenly around that area so it Seems I Am only using 60% of the bio balls. I do run a white filter pad that is about 10" x 11" on top, the return lines to the top of the wet/dry <Also, like the cartridges in the Nu-Clear filters, this needs to be cleaned at least weekly> Enter two close to each other in my option, they are 2-4 inches apart. What is the best approach to add more bio filtration ? <A living sump... a refugium... yes, for FW> Do I get a wet/dry with more bio balls or can I add a large canister filter <You could> Filled mostly with ceramic rings to the current system? <See WWM re...> The large the wet/dry seems to also add to the open sump area and I have plenty of room for that. If I add a canisters filled with bio media, do I draw from the wet/dry sump area or from the tank <The tank> directly and bypass the corner overflow (not what I want to do of course). I hope you have some thoughts on this, I have asked many questions locally with no real answer. Regards, Bob. <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm The linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Switching from Under Gravel Filters To Other Filtration Methods - 02/11/2007 Hi WWM Crew, <<Hello, Glenn. Tom here.>> I hope you all are doing well today. <<And you as well.>> A few years back y'all helped me plan for changing my saltwater tank from UGF filtration to LR/DSB and sump/refugium. I made the change in 2004 and Nitrates have been undetectable since then. <<Cant argue with success, Glenn. Good job.>> I have a small 30L Malawi Cichlid tank that has been running for 7 years. I've always used UGF and the same gravel. After reading about some of the problems that a poorly maintained ( i.e. lack of regular water changes and substrate vacuuming) UGF system may develop, I've decided to switch to a power filter. <<Nothing wrong with making the switch, Glenn. Id say that a tank running a UGF filter for seven years isnt at all bad but, I wouldn't disagree with the decision you've made.>> My plan is to run the UGF and new Power filter together for a period of time, then remove the gravel, UGF plates and vacuum out the bottom of the tank. Rinse the grave in tank water and add several inches back into the tank. Of course the fish will be moved to a 30G Rubbermaid tub while I remove the filter. <<A suggestion? If possible, pull the plates without pulling out the gravel. Easier said than done, I know. Will very likely stir up a lot of gunk from the bottom but Id rather not see so much of the beneficial bacteria potentially compromised. When all has settled out, a few deep (all the way to the bottom) gravel cleanings will put your substrate back in good order. This will become the order of the day, anyhow. As I say, just a suggestion.>> My first question is how long should I run the Power and UGF filter together before removing the UGF? <<This one somewhat goes back to my last point. A couple of weeks should be more than sufficient provided the whole bacterial farm hasn't been badly disrupted or disturbed. The media will seed with beneficial bacteria quickly in a cycled tank such as yours so I see no reason to run both together longer than this.>> The second is, how deep can I make the substrate? I know in marine systems, a SSB should be <= 1". Does this apply to fresh water as well? <<This one depends on the type/size of the substrate being used, Glenn. The finer the substrate, the shallower the depth should be. Im running about 1 of fine, natural gravel in one of my tanks and about 2.5-3 of coarser gravel in another. The key is to prevent pockets of build-up from forming away from the oxygenated region of the tank. No hard and fast rules here other than good common sense, really.>> Thanks, Glenn <<No problem at all, Glenn. Good luck with the change-over. Tom>>

SW setup to FW setup, free goodies, filtration misunderstandings - 1/20/07 Bob <JustinN with you today, Riki.> I hope this e-mail is still active (I found it doing a search on the net). I won't take up much of your time (but I was hoping you could offer a few lines of feedback. Thanks if you can accommodate. <Oh, yes... This email address is still quite active *grin* but please do not worry about taking up our time -- this is why we provide the service we do.> I am modestly experienced with freshwater tanks & will stick with this. I scored on having someone GIVE me a boat-load of free industrial aquarium gear (formally used for a salt water set up). <Score! Free swag is always fun!> Since I am not setting up as higher-maintenance SALT water aquarium, I'd like to ask your opinion as if all the stuff I acquired should be used (or if some of it would actually be redundant). <I'll give it a go, my friend> My FRESH WATER set up will be only for 4 Oscars & 8 Crawdads (no live plants). I do not want to cut corners with the set up but also do not want to invest unneeded in "maintenance & media". <Crayfish and fishes are not really compatible here, Riki. Crayfish are very opportunistic feeders, and too likely to snip away at fins and scales.> ACQUIRED GEAR 1 100 GALLON FISH TANK 1 KENT MARINE MAXIMA RO/DI 60GPD HI-S 2 RAINBOW FLUIDIZED BED FILTER FB300 1 LITTLE GIANT 3-MD-MT-HC WATER PUMP 1 IWAKI MD20RLT WATER PUMP 2 BECKETT M200 200GPH FOUNTAIN PUMP 2 MAXI-JET 1200 POWERHEAD <Very nice, Riki! That's QUITE a steal you've got there -- a very much complete marine configuration!> In your opinion, will it be overkill to set up BOTH a Kent Marine Maxima Ro/Di 60gpd Hi-S & Rainbow Fluidized Bed Filter Fb300? Also, is there a way to test if the media for both still has life left? <Mmm, I do believe you are a bit misunderstood on the purpose of a RO/DI unit. This is not an in-tank filtration device, this is a water purification device. By attaching it to a spigot in your house, and providing the unit with unfiltered tap water from your source, it will output purified water. See here for more information on these wonderful units: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i4/RO_systems/reverse_osmosis.htm As far as the fluidized bed filters go, they will be an excellent filtration addition to your configuration. I would remove the media from them and give them a very thorough rinsing in freshwater, several times over to ensure their cleanliness. You might also consider simply replacing the media, as it is fairly inexpensive, and piece of mind is definitely worth something.> Via the internet, you seem like a major player in the industry. <Bob certainly is that> I know you are a busy man & I will not milk you for too much time. However, any comment you can offer would be great. Thanks bud! Riki <Milk away, my friend. We provide this service to be squeezed for the knowledge we contain collectively. Congratulations on your aquatic score of a lifetime, do enjoy! -JustinN>

FW Skimmers, Re: Schuran Freshwater Skimmers 1/9/07 Pufferpunk, <At your service!> I do weekly water changes, vacuum half the gravel each week and feed our fish once a day. I have a lot invested in these fish because they help my wife take her mind off her disabilities. <I'm really glad to hear that, what a wonderful distraction!> Wherever possible, I like to eliminate or reduce pollution before our fish have to deal with it. <<You are wise here>> We all do that with ammonia and nitrite. Did you get a chance to review the Schuran Freshwater Skimmer on their website? From what I've read on other forums they make great Saltwater Skimmers. So what about their claim of having a new design allowing for effective freshwater skimming? <I will forward this to someone more qualified than myself, to analyze their skimmer along with the link you gave me: http://www.schuran.com/freshwater/index_e.html but I really think water changes are good enough. I keep discus (among many other creatures) which require pristine water conditions & never had a problem keeping them with using just 90% weekly water changes. If you're really concerned, get a diatom filter.> By the way I also have a plumbing question. I'm looking for an inexpensive three way valve that allows me to divert the flow in two directions such that I can adjust how much goes one way or another, e.g. 25% one way 75% the other way. I realize I can always use a Y and two simple valves. <On my reef tank, I have water coming from my tank & 3/4 of is diverted to my sump & 1/4 to my refugium. I only have a valve on the pipe going to the fuge & back it off till only 1/4 of the water is diverted to it--the rest goes into my sump. ~PP> Frank <<Freshwater skimming is a difficult proposition due to physical characteristics of interacting parties (phobic molecules mostly) and partial pressure... it's hard to get proteins lined up, attached long enough to bubbles to extract... I would do as you suggest and just keep up with your excellent maintenance protocol here. Bob Fenner>>
Re: Schuran Freshwater Skimmers
1/10/07 Bob, <Frank> I appreciate your quick response. It's precisely because freshwater skimming is so inefficient that I want to explore Schuran's claim. Did you review the freshwater skimmers on their website? Would these be effective? <Have/had read this over: http://www.schuran.com/freshwater/index_e.html and seen these units at Interzoo... and no, I would not employ them... though I have considerable experience in such designs (we manufactured foam fractionators for koi ponds years back), and have seen real working units (the best were made by Sanders... incorporating a partial vacuum to decrease the partial pressure in the collector/skimmate area... I would stick with other technology. Bob Fenner> Frank

From Marine to Fresh Water 1/5/07 Hello. <Hi> I have a 55 Gallon FOWLR tank that has nothing in it but live rock. I have tried for many months to maintain a marine tank but it is just to time consuming and far to expensive for me. <Sorry to hear you did not find success.> I want to convert it back to a fresh water tank but I have 50lbs of live rock and a 200.00 skimmer that I dont want to get rid of. Can the skimmer be used for fresh water or is this pointless and the rock I really like but I am assuming that I will kill it if I put it in fresh water so will my best bet be to just sell it for what I can and take the lost? Thanks for any help Brian <Unfortunately skimmers are not very effective in fresh water, and you are correct in assuming the freshwater will kill off the LR. Best bet is to try to sell them off and cut your losses.> <Chris>

Question about an odd shaped tank, powerheads, filtration 1/3/07 Good morning, Crew, <Good evening, by the time I got to this!> Just a casual question. Someone has asked me a question about the best way to filter an octagonal tank of about 10 or 15 gallons. They are currently using an AquaTech power filter rated at 100 gph and an undergravel filter with an Aqua Tech powerhead. The undergravel filter seems unlikely to be functioning effectively, since for an undergravel filter to serve its intended purpose, doesn't it need to cover the entire surface area of the bottom of the tank? Are they making octagonal undergravel filter plates these days? :) <In all honesty, I'm not up on UGF advances; personally, I don't like or use that type of filtration. I can't see a reason why you cannot filter an "odd" shaped tank with normal mechanical filtration that you would use on any "standard" rectangular tank...> The reason I asked for Jorie is because I know she has a Hex tank that she's a bit unhappy with, and I wondered how she filtered, it since it does pose some unique challenges. <You are right - I'm not thrilled with my hex. tank, but it is because of the depth and the freshwater plant problems caused by lighting (or lack thereof). Filtration-wise, I've never had a problem with the tank. I have two powerheads (400 GPH) to increase water circulation, along with an Emperor 280 power filter.> This gentleman is having trouble with the powerhead overly buffeting his planted decorations, and possibly the fish. <Most powerheads have a deflector-piece that can re-direct the water. Also, some allow flow rates to be adjusted. He should be able to move the powerhead, if necessary, to a less obtrusive spot. Process of trial and error, I'm afraid. Alternatively, perhaps he needs a lower-rated powerhead, if the plants and fish continue to be disturbed.> I am thinking I will tell him to ditch the powerhead, use airstones instead (perhaps in the center of the tank?) and use a stronger filter, maybe an AquaClear 30. What do you think? <Unless the fish are really sensitive, I wouldn't recommend getting rid of the powerhead altogether; an airstone doesn't provide nearly as much circulation as a powerhead. He should be able to move the powerhead to a better spot, no? Worst case scenario, your solution would be OK, but I would save it for a last resort. Water circulation is a good thing...> Thank you for any assistance. Happy new year to you all. Nicole <Nicole, I don't feel like I was very helpful, but honestly, all I can say is to deflect the water output, if possible, or move the powerhead so that it isn't pointing directly at any plants. If this all fails, then yes, airstones and an upgraded power filter may work, but I'd try to salvage the powerheads if possible. Perhaps the gentleman in question can put one powerhead directly opposite another (e.g., on opposite sides of the tank)? That might work... Jorie>
Re: Question about an odd shaped tank, powerheads, filtration PART 2
1/4/07 Thanks, Jorie! Those sound like good solutions to me. He hasn't even stocked his tank yet, so I told him to try some fish that appreciate a current and continue to use the powerhead. I also told him to double up on the filtration for some redundancy. I know the AquaTech filter he's talking about, it only runs in the low tens. He could stock one with bio media and the other with chemical/mechanical filtration. I also told him to place the heater near an area of high water flow to aid in distribution. Thank you again for your help! Nicole <Sounds like you've got it covered on your end with a very thorough solution - want a job?! Best regards, Jorie>

Fresh Water filtration, HLLE questions 1/2/07 Hi Folks. <<Hello, Jim, and Happy New Year. Tom here.>> I have two large Blood Red Parrot Fish in a 55 gallon tank and am wondering what I can do to remove dissolved waste from the water like my Berlin airlift skimmer does for my 55 saltwater tank. The other day I noticed algae growth in the fresh water tank and cleaned out the tank. Currently I am using two large filters on this tank. One is a Bio wheel filter (penguin <<Penguin>> I think) and the other is an Aqua Clear 500. My question is what can I do to lower the algae growth and improve the over all water conditions and prevent hole in the head worms from ever showing up? <<As with any problem, Jim, eliminating the root cause is key to success. In your case, as you most likely realize, excess nitrates and phosphates feed the algae but lighting is, of course, another major consideration. In a great many cases, simply reducing light levels or the duration of lighting exposure can greatly reduce algae build-up in the tank. Ensuring that the aquarium isnt exposed to natural sunlight should go without saying. As for overall water conditions, vacuuming the substrate deeply in conjunction with regular water changes is an absolute must. (When I suggest deeply vacuuming the substrate, I mean to the bottom of the tank.) Now, by way of explanation, Hole-in-the-Head disease (HITH) is the degeneration of the sensory organs in the head and/or lateral lines of the fish (you'll also see reference to HLLE which is Head-and-Lateral-Line-Erosion). Even though the disease has been arguably tied to high nitrates (>40 ppm)/poor water conditions, there aren't any worms involved. In reality, improper diet and lack of appropriate vitamins/minerals are the commonly-held culprits of this illness. In a nutshell, regular water changes and substrate cleaning to keep your fish stress-free along with a varied, high-quality diet will all but guarantee that your Cichlids will never suffer from HITH/HLLE.>> Would a UV light help? <<Not worth the money, in my opinion, Jim. You have little to no-cost options available to you might even save some money if you reduce lighting that make a UV sterilizer unnecessary. If, on the other hand, you have money burning a hole in your wallet and you find a unit suited exactly to your tank, water conditions, etc., it can help in reducing the suspended algae and microorganisms in the water. Worthless for anything that doesn't make it to the contact chamber, however.>> What about a canister filter with a built in UV? <<A better option but you've plenty of filtration now and, again, there are more cost-effective options to exercise here.>> Would adding sand and live plants help? <<Now were on to something. The sand, in itself, isnt really necessary but the plants would be an excellent consideration if your Parrotfish will leave them be. Certainly a natural and inexpensive way to go if you're looking for something to out-compete the algae for nutrients. I wouldn't go crazy with this without a little experimentation to see if your fish will keep from tearing them up, though.>> Jim <<Well, now you've got my two-cents-worth, Jim. Hopefully, I've given you something to work with. Good luck with your tank. Tom>>

Filter for 55g FW Tank 10/28/06 <Hi Anthony, Pufferpunk here> Can you tell me what the best filter to get? I know this is a general question, but I have a 55 gallon tank. I bought a Lifeguard Fluidized Bed filter and it sucks. I want to buy a filter that will keep my tank water CLEAR, so what is the best filter I should get? I read that you said some eat up electricity, so one that does not. <I'm not sure if you are very young or not but I really had to clear up a lot of spelling & punctuation in your letter. We post these queries on our FAQs & it is necessary to correct this before posting. Please try to correct/proofread that yourself the next time you post to us. Now that that's out of the way--on a 55g tank, I like to use a HOB (hang on back) filter, like the Aquaclear 500 (I believe it's called a 110 now) & a canister filter, like the Eheim 2213. The AquaClears are great, because I can stack the filter materials the way I like: sponge on bottom (for mechanical filtration, rinsed during weekly water changes), 1" filter floss in the middle (to "polish the water crystal clear, changed monthly [can be found cheap at sewing machine stores--used as pillow stuffing]) & BioMax on top (for biological filtration, rinsed every 3 months or so). The cheapest place I've found these filters is at www.bigalsonline.com. The Eheims can be found used, on EBay. The filter you have purchased sounds like a very efficient biological filter that could be used instead of the Eheim. You still need some sort of mechanical filtration though, that can be rinsed out weekly. Another important way to keep your water "clear" is weekly water changes. I do 50% every week & use a Python (also found at Big Al's) to drain & fill on a tank that size. ~PP> Thanks, Anthony

Filter Recommendations For A 55 Gallon FW Tank-Chuck's Take - 10/25/06 Thank you. I bought an Eheim 2217 to make sure I will have crystal water and that way when I buy a larger tank I can change the filter. And I will use it with the lifeguard. But it has given me nothing but problems. If it worked, it works great by keeping the problems at 0. It is a very bad design, and the check valve does not work. Filter for 55g FW Tank 10/28/06 Can you tell me what the best filter to get? I know this is a general question, but I have a 55 gallon tank. I bought a Lifeguard Fluidized Bed filter and it sucks. I want to buy a filter that will keep my tank water CLEAR, so what is the best filter I should get? I read that you said some eat up electricity, so one that does not. Now that that's out of the way--on a 55g tank, I like to use a HOB (hang on back) filter, like the Aquaclear 500 (I believe it's called a 110 now) & a canister filter, like the Eheim 2213. The AquaClears are great, because I can stack the filter materials the way I like: sponge on bottom (for mechanical filtration, rinsed during weekly water changes), 1" filter floss in the middle (to "polish the water crystal clear, changed monthly [can be found cheap at sewing machine stores--used as pillow stuffing]) & BioMax on top (for biological filtration, rinsed every 3 months or so). The cheapest place I've found these filters is at www.bigalsonline.com. The Eheims can be found used, on EBay. The filter you have purchased sounds like a very efficient biological filter that could be used instead of the Eheim. You still need some sort of mechanical filtration though, that can be rinsed out weekly. Another important way to keep your water "clear" is weekly water changes. I do 50% every week & use a Python (also found at Big Al's) to drain & fill on a tank that size. Thanks, Anthony < The best filter is the one that you will find the easiest to service. Canister filters are a pain to clean but are a sometimes the only option. I like the hang on power filters the best. Easy to service and easy to tell when they need cleaning. I prefer the Bio-Wheel design of the Marineland products. The filter medias last a long time, even after they are routinely cleaned with a blast from the garden hose. I would recommend an Emp. 400 for your tank. Lots of water flow and easy to clean.-Chuck>

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>>

Some Freshwater questions... tank mis-over-too-soon stocking... 8/21/06 Hello, and thank you for your website, and help. I recently purchased a 55 gallon tank kit. I wanted to purchase everything separately, but my girlfriend insisted on some tank kit. <Don't hold yourself in bad faith... make up your own mind, or agree that you coalesced> It's a 55 gallon freshwater, with an Aqua-tech 30-60, and has been a major headache for me. <Take it back> Unfortunately, the tank is not at my house, so I cant keep an eye on it as much as I can with my 3 20 gallon tanks. Okay, now, for what we have in it. We have: 3 dwarf gouramis (the largest being maybe an inch and a half long), 2 silver dollars (each about two inches), 2 Bala sharks (maybe three inches), 6-7 painted tetras (the biggest is an inch), a Pleco (maybe 2.5 inches), and two striped blue Raphael catfish (the biggest being about 2.5 inches.) I know this is a lot of information, <Mmm, nope> but I just was wondering: Is this too much for the tank at the moment? <If it's not cycled, for sure> My girlfriend went out while I was at work one day and came home with the tetras and the catfish, so I wasn't even planning on getting them. I understand and know how big all of these fish can get, and will be buying a bigger tank in the future to accommodate those. Is my tank overstocked? <Will be> Secondly, the water in this tank tends to be cloudy, <A bad sign... isn't "completely" cycled...> and if I look closely, I can see tiny particles floating in the water. I was wondering what the cause of this could be? <Likely bacterial population explosion...> Could I need better mechanical filtration? Should I invest in a better filter? <... please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oqualfaqs1.htm and the linked files above> I was looking into buying a Penguin 350 or an Emperor 400, since I've heard good things about both. Should I invest in one? <Can> And if so, which? <The bigger the better> If I got the 400, I'd have to cut more of my hood out to accommodate it, since the hole I have now is only fifteen inches, which from what I understand, will fit a 350 well, but not the Emperor. Is the difference that much to make it worth the cutting? I'd really like crystal-clear watering it, which I haven't had yet. Lastly, lately, I've had algae appear in the tank. I don't think this is related to the cloudiness, since the water has been cloudy for months, while the algae is just recently. It's a dark brown algae growing on the glass and decor. My girlfriend swears that it's not because of excess sunlight, because she doesn't let sunlight hit it. Is it possible there's another reason? Or is she just trying to cover it up? Also, are there any recommendations for anything I might want to add to help the filter or cloudiness? And any recommendations on whether I can add live plants or not. Thank you for your time and effort, I really appreciate it. I've never had this much trouble with any of my tanks, and it's driving me insane. -Brian <Have just skipped down... Learn to use/read WWM. Bob Fenner>

Can a new aquarium filter be defective?? 8/21/06 <Yes> All of my fish died within 24 hours of replacing a filter. <Frightening...> I emptied the tank, cleaned (with no soap, etc.) with aquarium sponge. Rinsed all decorations, etc. When I started the tank using only the under gravel filter the water looked fine. Then when I added the bio filter, the water appears to have tons of little white particles in the water. <Likely bits of packing material, or plastic bits from manufacture?> I have never had this before. After circulating for 24 hours, it still looks the same. Could it be from the filter (it came from the same pack that was used prior to the fish dying)?? <Yes... though I've rarely seen, heard of this. Do you have a means of magnification? Perhaps the store where you bought this unit does... I would take a water sample into them for testing, a look-see. Measures of nitrogenous wastes at this point could easily be from the stress, death of your livestock> Deborah Marsh <I would thoroughly clean (dump, rinse, re-fill) this system, and leave running w/o livestock for a few weeks before trying some hardy animal to do a bio-assay. Bob Fenner>

Filter for small aquarium 7/23/06 Hello there, <<Greetings, Steve. Tom>> I have recently started keeping fish again after more than 20 years absence from the hobby and found that there are so many more filtration systems around these days than there were before. <<First of all, welcome back! Second, you are so right about the quantity of filtering systems available nowadays.>> I have recently purchased a small 20 litre tank with aim of keeping a Betta in it. <<Based on some of the containers we see Bettas kept in, your 20L isn't at all bad! A 40L would be about as optimum as it gets for these fish but you've made a good choice.>> The tank came with a small power head and an area for placing the filter medium in which the water flows into and out of. I'm sure you guys would be familiar with this kind of set up. KISS. Keep it simple stupid for beginners again like me. <<Nothing wrong with simple as long as it does the job.>> I have a bio-sponge pad to place in the filtering area and some ceramic noodles also. Is this sufficient filtering of the water, if not what would be required? <<Should be plenty, Steve. You could consider using floss in place of the ceramic media for additional "polishing" of the water but this is largely a matter of personal choice.>> Are the ceramic noodles useful and how much do I use in a 23x7.5cm area? <<The noodles are effective in providing additional space for the bio-colonies to establish to control ammonia and nitrites. There would be "some" mechanical filtering, as well, but the primary purpose is to house the beneficial bacteria. I confess that I can't be exact on the amount of this media to use but would suggest that whatever amount you can place in the space will work provided your powerhead will maintain adequate flow over both the sponge and ceramic media.>> Any other useful information would be more than gratefully appreciated as I really enjoyed the hobby in my younger days and am looking forward to getting back into it again with gusto. <<You're aware that your new tank will need to go through a "cycling" period before adding your new pet. As a "refresher", please check out our site for more information. We advocate "fishless cycling" by substituting alternate sources of ammonia for the so-called disposable fish that were invariably used for this in the past. Along with this, your Betta will need a heater as it does best in water temperatures that are high even by "tropical" standards. The addition of aquarium salt to the tank is highly recommended, also. Finally, you'll want to look into the diet your Betta will thrive on. Their systems are geared for "meat eating" so you'll want to provide them foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms and the like. (My personal recommendation here would be to avoid Tubifex worms. This food source has been linked to too many problems in my experience to run the risk of introducing troubles that are unnecessary.) Once again, welcome back to the hobby, Steve, and enjoy!>> Regards Steve <<Tom>>
Re: filter for small aquarium 7/25/06
Hello Tom, <<Hello, Steve.>> Thanks for the prompt advice you passed on and I have taken all "on board" so to speak. My wife has picked out the Betta she wants and has named him Kevin, who is now in temporary quarantine before joining in his new home which has started cycling as suggested. <<A fine name for a Betta, Steve, and I'm pleased to hear you've got him quarantined. Like riding a bike, isn't it? :)>> Once again many thanks and keep up the wise words of advice. I will continue to look out for many other useful tips from you guys. <<My/our pleasure to help whenever possible, Steve. Lots of help available here so, please, do come back with any questions you might have. Don't be reluctant to share any tidbits that you might have, either. Everything gets relayed to our readers through the FAQ's so we, collectively, gain insight.>> Regards Steve <<My best, Steve. Tom>>

FW Wet-Dry, Af. Cichlid Sys.... 7/8/06 Hi <<Hello, Rene. Tom>> I'm getting a 125 gal. tank with a wet dry filter system. <<New or "pre-owned", Rene? Information sheets contained with a new system will have the manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning/maintenance of their particular filter.>> Currently I have African cichlids. My question is what is the best maintenance? How often do I have to clean it? <<I state the obvious here but the "best" maintenance is that which keeps the mechanical filtration media clean and free of built up solids along with maintaining a healthy supply of beneficial bacteria in the bio-media. Some wet-dry filters come with built-in protein skimmers, which will fairly ineffective for a FW system. As far as how often to clean it goes, this will be largely experimental on your part but I would recommend cleaning the "pre-filter" media on a monthly basis to start. Wash this out in used aquarium water (optimal) or in tap water that you've prepared with a dechlorinator (less optimal). The frequency will, of course, depend on the load your fish place on the filter based on number of fish, sizes, feeding habits, etc.>> Do I remove all of the filter media and replace it? <<No. The pre-filter will ultimately need to be replaced as this will probably break down over time but the bio-media need never be replaced short of a calamity in the tank. Depending on the type of filter you're getting, this bio-media may be plastic, ceramic or some other sort of material and will house your beneficial bacteria. Replacing it would throw your tank into a "tailspin" toxin-wise, which is why you should rinse it - again, in used tank water - and put it right back into service. Provided you keep your pre-filter in good order, cleaning the bio-media of built-up solids shouldn't have to be done very often. As I've mentioned, hopefully you'll have access to the manufacturer's recommendations. Eheim, for example, makes a wet-dry filter system wherein the foam pre-filter should be discarded after about a couple of months. The mechanical and biological filtration is left to the other media contained in the canister after this time.>> Any suggestions will be much appreciated. Rene <<Hope I've given you enough to go on, Rene. Enjoy your new set-up! Tom>>

FW Tank filtration 6/26/06 Hello, I would like your advice on the filtration that I have for my tank. < I will do my best to help! > I have a 75 gallon tank which houses a 10 inch Tiger Oscar, 6 inch Jack Dempsey, 6 inch Jaguar Cichlid, 5 inch pictus catfish, and two Plecos about four to five inches. < That sounds like quite a crew! > For filtration I have two 70 aqua clears hang on back filters. I also have an under gravel filter which is connected to a 802 Hagen power head. Is this enough filtration for the tank load. < It may be, if you are not overfeeding. > I do a 30% water change every two weeks and clean the filters once a month on a week that I am not changing the water. < It might not be a bad idea to change out about 25% weekly, with one filter cleaned at the same time. > My levels are normal except occasionally my ammonia hits 0.25. < This may point to the possible need for more serious biological filtration. Consider a trickle or wet/dry filter. They are extremely efficient in breaking down ammonia and nitrites, as well as keeping the oxygen content high in the tank. > However I constantly have to bout brown algae in the tank which is a pain in the butt. < It is possible your light tubes are too old. After about six months, the original spectrum the lights produce shifts to too much red. This encourages unwanted algae/bacterial growth. A good indicator is the end of the tubes. If they have black dust rings, they are in need of changing. Look for tubes that have a lot of blue spectrum, with very little in the red. The weekly water changes will also curtail the unwanted growth. > I am very conservative with the feeding, I feed them once a day and not to much. < Check the ingredient list on your foods. If they have fish meal in the first five ingredients, that can contribute to excess phosphates, (from the ground up scales and bones), and can be exacerbating the situation at hand. > Any advice you could lend me would be greatly appreciated, thank you. < I hope I was of some help, and you are welcome! > JK < RichardB >

Water changes and DE filters - 06/22/2006 Hi crew, <<Hi, Michael. Tom with you today.>> I just purchased a Vortex Diatom Filter and it came with a gravel cleaner that hooks up to the intake of the filter. <<Ahhh, you're "serious"! :)>> Could I use this as a substitute for some of the water changes? <<If you're looking to keep your water polished to a "Fare Thee Well", you just purchased a great tool. There's a string attached, though...>> I usually do a partial change every 2 weeks while siphoning the gravel. I am sure there is no complete substitute for water changes but I was thinking that if I still remove any of the debris out of the substrate this may cut back on the water changes. <<Water changes aren't all about keeping the water "clean". You've just gotten yourself a fine product to do that. Water changes replace elements in the water that our pets need. Water, in short, goes stale, no matter how clean it is. We advise, for example, against using "distilled" water for water changes because it doesn't have all of the "goodies". You hear about "trace" elements but rarely hear about "major" and "minor" elements that our tap water provides.>> I am curious to hear your thoughts on this. <<You might cut back on the siphoning of the gravel (a little less time spent, perhaps) but I'd be reluctant to stop the water changes. Still very good for the fish.>> Thank you in advance. <<You're most welcome.>> Michael <<Tom>>
Re: Water change
6/23/06 Hi Tom, <<Hi, Michael>> Thanks for the quick response. <<You're more than welcome.>> What I was doing was a water change every two weeks (about 25%) on my 90 gallon. I just set up 2 150 gallon and 1 300 gallon Rubbermaid containers in the basement that are cycling as we speak. The 90 has misc. cichlids with an Eheim pro 2 and a Tidepool. Should it be okay to siphon the gravel on the 90 once a month with the diatom filter attachment and then only do a water change once a month as well? I know I could just try it and test the water as I go, but I would rather error on the side of caution. <<In the name of "caution", why don't you try a three-week interval first with appropriate testing? If all is well, particularly with pH levels, extend it to four weeks. pH changes, especially significant ones, would be my primary concern here.>> The 300 and 100 gallon I have home made wet/dry filters made out of 5 gallon buckets. I was hoping to cut down on water changes on these as well and using the diatom filter once a month and water change once a month as well. Any thoughts? <<Other than the reservations I have regarding a potential "roller coaster" ride for your fish where pH and "hardness" issues are involved, Michael, I don't see why you shouldn't give your plan a try. If you don't already do so, please, keep a detailed log of everything that you do. Might seem mundane but small details that can reveal a world of information can be forgotten over a period of weeks/months. I'd also appreciate it if you'd get back to us with a report on your efforts. What you're able to share with us will be shared with all of our readers, as well. Best of luck to you. Tom>>

Bulkhead and pump size? 6/22/06 Hello WWM Crew, <Robert in TX> I am new to this hobby and I am in the process of building my first tank. I really appreciate the vast knowledge you have placed on your web site! Your information has been extremely valuable.( Perfect 10!) <Shades of Bo Derek!> My question is on pump and overflow size. Here is some info on my tank to give you an idea of what's going on! The tank is 150 gallons and will be a freshwater home to 4 small Arowana, <Will fight as they grow... even just at less than a foot...> 2 small clown knifes, and a 14" Pleco. I have already built a few custom acrylic pieces for tank. Please tell me if my current plumbing setup seems OK? I have 2 x 1" bulkheads <Too small, too few...> in the rear corners with self-made skimmer boxes (they look like a siphon overflow box but drain through an elbow on a standard bulkhead and use a Durso style tee and vent on outside of tank). Following me so far? Both overflows drain 8" down the back of tank through ball valve unions (control / stop flow and disconnect for maintenance) to a self-made 30" x 6" x 16" tall box with filter screen and bio balls. This back of tank filter box then drains through two more 1" bulkheads and flex PVC to a custom sump tank below. The sump is 36 x 18 x 18 tall housing two inlet areas/center refugium/and a center return pump section. I just ordered a Mag 9.5 pump to return back up through 3/4 flex PVC, a union for removal, and a 3/4 return bulkhead centered above the water on the back wall with a tee spray bar. (sorry a lot of info) Also I figure there is approx. 6ft of head. Does this sound OK so far? Any suggestions? <Increase the size of the bulkheads to at least 1 1/2" inside diameter, and possibly increase their number to four> Will this pump be to much flow for the bulkheads? <As it is presently, yes> Also will this be to much flow for the fish? <This speculation is dependent on other factors... as you will find> Any input would be very much appreciated! Thank You, Robert in Texas <BobF in CA>

Sorry to sound foolish ,but what exactly is biomedia? 6/12/06 <Not at all a foolish question - important to understand. Read here: http://www.aquariumpros.com/articles/biofiltration.shtml http://www.aquariumpros.com/articles/biofiltertypes.shtml http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm Understanding the nitrogen cycle in an aquarium is essential to your future success. Good luck. Jorie>

Bubbles From Filter - 05/06/2006 I have a big problem, and yes my water is good every thing is where it should be. My problem is I have very small bubbles at the top of my tank. When I say top of my tank I mean on the surface of the water. Ok hears the problem my Filter shoots those bubbles every were in my tank and its making my fish act funny like jolting around and scratching against my gravel. My question is how do you make the bubbles disappear?, and no my fish don't have a parasite because its been going on for a while and they would be dead by know. I'm just worried my fish are going to stress and give of a disease, so can someone please help me. < Usually these bubbles remain for awhile because of oils and fats that remain on the surface. Your filter should have an adapter to eliminate the air being sucked in to the filter. If you vacuum the gravel, change 50% of the water and change food with less oil in it , then it should help.-Chuck> Thanks but what do you mean adapter? <With powerheads or some underwater pumps there is a tube that sticks out of the water. This tube will suck air as it pumps water causing bubbles to be projected from the pump into the aquarium .-Chuck>

Freshwater Refugium - 2/28/2006 Hello WWM Crew, I was curious to see if you could guide me in the right direction as far as setting up a freshwater refugium. I have an AES catalogue with a section containing a number of freshwater invertebrates such as copepods, daphnia, blackworms, etc. Would these critters have the same potential for reproduction and feed benefits as the organisms in my salt refugiums? <Yes> Would these critters also help to maintain a soft substrate within the refugium and if so would this substrate provide NNR as does a DSB in a salt refugium? <To a large extent, yes> Thank you in advance for your advice. Myk. <I would substitute embryophytes/vascular plants for algae/thallophytic life used in marine refugiums, but otherwise mimic the technology utilized in saltwater settings. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm see a few lines down, the linked files having to do with refugiums? This and a Google search on WWM re "freshwater refugiums" (looked at the cached version), will show what we have on the subject. Please write back re your experiences/adventure. Bob Fenner>

Biological Filtration - 2/21/2006 Please confirm I am correct here, for biological filtration I only need a piece of seasoned sponge ?. < No, a seasoned sponge filter like Hydrosponge.> Can this float on top, or do I need some weight to have it on the bottom of the tank? < The Hydrosponge filter is hooked up to an airstone and is already weighted in the bottom. Just hook it up to an airline and you are ready to go. Place it in an already established tank for a month and pull it out and place it in the QT tank when adding new fish.> This would suggest there is nothing else in the tank, except some PVC pipe and a sponge. < A sponge filter and a heater.> The reason I thought the internal filter was suitable is because it provides mechanical, biological filtration, and also good water movement for airflow. < By definition, any filter placed in an aquarium is an internal filter. It can be as simple as a sponge filter or as complicated an internal powerfilter. For QT tanks I think the simpler the better.> What is the difference between a outside power filter, please can you quote me a manufacturer and model #, and a canister filter? <An outside power filter would be like an Emperor that hangs on the back of the tank by Marineland. A canister would be like a Magnum 350 by Marineland. It goes under the tank and is connected to the aquarium through a couple of hoses.-Chuck> Regards Alan Dalgarno

Need Filter Instructions 2/3/06 We inherited a 100 gallon aquarium with a red-ear slider turtle that is 8 years old. We do not know how to install the Cascade 500 filter system. Any directions / instructions? Nicole Eppl < Go to customerservice@pennplax.com with your request for instructions.-Chuck>

Help me clear my water... FW cycling, filtration 1/31/06 I have an established 30 gal freshwater tank for 4 years. On Dec. 28th bought a 125gal tank with a Fluval 404.(Sales lady said is was large enough.) I have aquarium sand as a substrate, just enough to cover the bottom. I put a dirty filter (emperor) inside my 404 to help seed it. <Good move> A week later I added four 2 and a half inch Balas. My ammonia never spiked. Water turned slightly cloudy. Nitrates begin to rise. A week later, I added three 3 inch iridescent sharks from my other tank. <At this size, these fish are starting to become "saltier"...> The water became cloudier and brown algae began to grow. Ammonia 0 and nitrates 20. I did a 25% water change and my ammonia spiked to .50. <Yes... the change likely "bumped off" useful microbes> I added Zeolite to my filter. Ammonia returned to 0 in 2 days, but the water got very cloudy again. A week later I added my Pleco from the other tank to eat the algae in the tank. I replaced 30% of the water a few days later. Ammonia spiked again to .50. I added some water from my established tank, about 3 Gal. <Good> Two days later, back to 0. Now my water is slightly green and very cloudy. I have a bubble wall along the back of my tank although you can't see the bubbles. ammonia is 0 nitrite is 0 KH is 106 pH 7.0 used Proper pH But my GH is off the chart. I can't even measure it. I filled the test tube up with GH solution and it still did not turn green! <Need to dilute this with some water that is more "just water"> I obviously have a bacterial bloom in my water to support my fish population. <Yes... and inadequate (canister) filtration...> That's why ammonia spikes when I remove/replace water. Is time the only thing that will encourage the bacteria in my water to colonize in my filter, on my decoration etc? <Mmm, no. I would add a purposeful bacteria here (the product BioSpira), more of your established systems water, old filter media... of course, hold off on adding any more livestock... and most importantly, add more biological filtration, aeration and circulation> If my fish are safe and I have to live with an ugly tank for a while. I'll do that, but if I can clear my water up some, that would be great! Thanks. Marisa Wortman <Not possible to state whether they will be safe or no... I would have done pretty much what you did... If you can't add to the mechanicals in a short time frame, I would (drain if necessary) remove the present fish life, back to whence it came... allow the system to settle for a month or so. Bob Fenner>
Re: Help me clear my water 2/2/06
Thanks Bob. Two days ago, I bought another 404. Added peat to 1/2 of a chamber. I'm watching my pH. 6.9 for the last 2 days. Will continue to monitor. Can't find BioSpira. My local pet store is out. She said to call back in a week. I bought a tap water filter. I takes forever to make 10 g. I reseeded the old filter. I'm going to place an ornament from the established tank into the new tank today. <Good moves> I have an eight inch tinfoil barb, for whom I bought the tank for the first place, in my 29 gal tank. <Yowzah! No room to zoom> After the tank clears, how long should I wait to add him/her? <A few days after no ammonia or nitrite> What should I do with the iridescents? I didn't know they prefer saltier water. It's my understanding that Balas don't like it...whoopsie...conflict! <Give/trade them to someone with brackish to marine system/room> I read online they make good tankmates. You all are wonderful. I appreciate and respect your advice! Marisa Wortman <Glad to share. Bob Fenner>

What does a sump mean for a beginner's freshwater system? 1/31/06 Hi, <Hello there> I'm fairly new to the hobby, and I have a 12-gallon freshwater tank (eclipse). In my short time involved in the world of freshwater fish, I've read a decent array of books, online sources and TFH regularly! I'm well-versed on water parameters, nitrogen cycle, etc. I cycled my tank, then slowly stocked it with 4 white clouds, 3 Corys and a Betta. They live happily with 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and always <10 ppm nitrates. I do 50% water changes weekly (I know that sounds like a lot, but that was recommended in the first book I read--by a self-admitted "water change fanatic"--and this has worked nicely for me thus far, about 6 months), and am quite dedicated to my fishies. <"If it works..." though for most folks, areas/water quality, limiting these changes to about a quarter the systems volume is a good "rule of thumb"> So that's my story. <And mine> Here's my question: at my very reliable and helpful LFS, they have a used 70-gallon glass tank with oak cabinet & hood, plus a sump, for $400--the cabinet is of high quality workmanship, too (the previous owner moved). I am considering purchasing this set. I'm not at all daunted by going from a 10-gallon to a 70, quite excited at the prospect, but the idea of a sump/pump/hoses is what's causing my hesitation--I'm totally unfamiliar with sumps (I just have my happy little eclipse where everything comes in one purchase and resides in the hood!). In my Googling around your site, I kept pulling up reef tanks in my "sump" search. Why didn't I see many topics about sumps and freshwater--are they less commonly used for freshwater? <Not nearly as commonly... though are of utility, and are used occasionally> If not, what problems are likely encountered with a sump that I don't currently experience? <Mmm, issues of transit volume (spills), and design differences...> I ask because much of what I read dealt with the subject of high nitrates--is this associated specifically with using a sump? <Mmm, no. Quite the contrary. Many folks utilize technology (e.g. DSBs) remoted in sumps to alleviate nitrification accumulation> Also noise level--is this something I should be asking about? <Oh yes. Definitely. Plumbing, pumping need to be investigated, arranged to reduce noise trouble> Is it the sump or the pump that would be noisy? <Either, both> I ask because the set doesn't come with a pump, and if that's the noisy part, then I could spend more $ and get one that's not noisy, yes? <Yes> If the sump is the offending culprit in noisiness, then I need to re-consider, because that comes as part of the set, so I don't have the option of shopping around. I do not want a noisy system for where I'd place this tank. <Mmm, you may not even want to run, use the sump if you intend to keep this set-up as a freshwater system...> I do understand the process that the sump performs: the filter pad for the "big stuff", and the plastic balls that get colonized with nitrifying bacteria, water gets pumped/forced through, etc. I guess the bottom line question that should also be asked: is using a sump biting off more than a beginner should chew? <No, not necessarily... though you are "new" to the hobby, you obviously have a "good mind" (curious, discerning...)... and taking this novel experience (the sump) a bit at a time in consideration... the plumbing, water flow, design, operation... you will do fine> Thanks, and sorry so long! I want to be able to act on this if I decide to go ahead with it. Katie <I understand, and agree with your cautious approach. Bob Fenner>

Plumbing suggestions 1/31/06 I have scoured you site and others for what is likely an easy suggestion on setting up a 125 Gallon Bio-Reef tank plumbing. I plan on using it for FW and I know the filtering is overkill but I need to know the how, what and whys on this set up (jpeg attached). My primary concern is flooding, and I have even looked into 2 way solenoid valves that would shut in the event on power loss. <... not necessary or advised...> I guess what I need is a "how to" on the plumbing specifics. I have never had drilled tanks and have only used canisters and HOB filters so this is all new to me. Any suggestions on what to install/buy would be very appreciated since the tank is sitting dry at the moment. Thank you, Dave Edmonds <No easy, fast way around educating yourself here Dave... Your answers are posted (though not in a straight-forward, A, B, C, fashion that suits all...) on WWM. Mainly on the Marine/Root web... though the info. applies to all such captive aquatic systems. Do please take the time to read over, even if you decide to go with "outside help" in devising your plumbing scheme... as there are a few approaches, variations... and you should avail yourself of such knowledge before making decisions (as in "nothing is decided till it's done)... as I strongly suspect (intuition) that you will be successful here, go on to marine keeping... Bob Fenner>

Filtration Recommendations For a 150 FW Community Tank 1/30/06 Hello, and thanks for your time. Here is my question....I recently sold off a completely loaded 400 Gallon Reef System. To no avail, I painfully and costly realized that Reef Keeping is not in my attention span....LOL... I am going to set up a large (150 Gallon) freshwater system. I am mainly going to make it a mixed tank, but NO specialized fish such as Cichlids, etc. Just mainly hardy fish...Oscar, <This is a cichlid> Catfish, the usual assortment of basic freshwater fish. A system that would be flexible in terms of freshwater fishkeeping. My question to you is, if money was not really an issue, what type of filtration, circulation, lighting would you go with ? Drilled tank and sump or canister filters? Please give me your opinion or a few of your opinions on your dream set up, for a 150 Gallon Freshwater Mixed Tank...72 X 18 X 28 Thank You for your time.....It is greatly appreciated. <Go with a wet dry system that is easy to maintain and can filter at least 500 gph. I have a personal like for the Tidepool by Marineland. The big bio wheel takes care of all the biological filtration you will ever need, and the trays are exceptionally easy to clean. I also went with the SOS system to pull the water over the edge. I threw a submersible pond pump in the sump to pump the water back up to the top. Keep the end of the hose at the water level of the tank. If the power goes out it will act as a siphon and siphon water from the tank down to the sump. If the end of the hose is deep then it will overflow your system onto the floor.-Chuck>

Filtration Setup Wet-Dry 1/13/06 Hello, <Hi there> I'm sure some where among all the links on the fresh water page lays my answer, but I am not able to find it, or may it's there and I do not understand. <... easy to use the Google search tool (if you're familiar with terms to search) and view the cached version...> Anyhow I was given a fish tank any where between 150 to 200 gallons... I have never done anything above 55 gallons before. The filtering system seems complex (bio-balls) and a sump tray. I would really like to get this tank up but the size and new system to me is very overwhelming. <Mmm, take your time... just consider a part at a time...> What I need help with is what kind of air pump do I need? <Possibly none> Since there already is a filtration system, the bio balls, is there anything else I need to get? I recall reading from the site, I'll need a filtration pad of some sort to filter out the debris before the water goes through the wet/dry system (bio balls), where does this pad go in the tank? <The pad is placed above the bio-ball area... is used (and cleaned at least weekly) to remove much of the solids...> It seems like I'm probably over analyzing the whole situation. But if some one can give me a check of list of things I may need to check or get for my tank, it'll definitely help me out, and maybe I can get a grip on this new tank system. Your help is much appreciated. Thanks, Leeann <Might be worth your while to have another aquarist come on by (a fish store employee, service company, neighbor)... Bob Fenner>

Filter question 1/10/06 Hi crew, Rach here all the way down in New Zealand! <Hey Rach! Am down in FLA, about to cross over the continental U.S. back to California> I have a 57 litre tank equipped with hood containing light, heater on one end wall and Shark ADV400 filter at the other end. I am always confused as to which setting I should have the filter on for optimum filtration. <Mmm... about as high as your livestock can stand the water motion> I set up the tank using water from the original tank, which I also took my male Betta, 3 (or perhaps now 2 just checking) swordtail fry which are only about 3 weeks old, and 2 platy/swordtail cross which are a few months old. The instructions on the filter leave a lot to be desired and aren't very clear at all, the air flow settings are simply, normal aeration, water flow without aeration, 75% water flow, 50% water flow and 24% water flow. Apparently as water flow decreases, air flow increases. I have no other filtration system in this tank, i.e. undergravel filter; nor do i have an air pump connected as i thought the filter adds air given there are bubbles coming out of it at a furious rate! I have adjusted the suction grill to very small spaces so the fry don't get sucked into the filter, so far the Betta hasn't eaten the fry, and the other platys are too small to eat them either. <All sounds/reads good> I would really like some clarification as to which setting I should have the filter on, at the moment I have it on 25% water flow, as I wasn't too sure if the fry would get sucked into the filter if it was set too high. Can you please advise which is the best air flow setting for me to be using. And additionally the water temperature is sitting around 28 degrees C, is that temperature ok for the combination of fish i have? <Yes> I am aware that Betta likes to be warm, but I don't want it to be too warm for the swordtails or platys, nor to breed bad bacteria. Cheers <And to you. Again, I think what you have done is fine... I take it your water is clear and all else checks out okay... I would not change anything here. Bob Fenner>

Filter Recommendations - 1/6/06 Greetings to the WWM crew, Thanks for doing an outstanding job for all of us no matter what our skill level! < We try.> I have spent days reading all the subject matter on your site, but I still have a question or two -I currently have a 45 gallon pentagon tank housing 4 discus, 2 Bristlenose Ancistrus, and 6 penguin tetras. The tank also has some Amazon swords in it and other plants. All is fine and has been for some years. My questions concern the tank I am moving up to, a 110 gallon tank which may or may not be drilled. I want a planted tank, so I am going to use laterite covered with a layer of gravel for the planted areas, can I use sand for the non-planted areas and if so to what depth? < You can use any material that is inert and looks good to whatever depth you choose.> If I go with a drilled tank, I have the choice of a Tidepool bio-wheel filter or some kind of wet-dry (any suggestions). If I don't get a drilled tank then I am going to have to use a power filter (or filters, as I am currently) or a canister filter, which I don't get on with very well (too messy and I tend to forget to clean them as regularly as I should). I am rather confused with all the talk of bio-balls being nitrate factories etc, Is there a better media for a wet-dry filter? Is this the best choice or maybe a fluidized bed filter, or the Tidepool? Help! Thanks, John from Jackson. < For fish you can't beat a Tidepool filter. Very easy to clean and service. I have found that plants don't do too well in a wet/dry filtered tank, especially stem plants. The wet/ dry filter gives off excessive CO2 but will pick up some from the air. I have found that canisters work best in planted tanks, especially with CO2 injection, but I share your opinion on how difficult they are to service. Fluidized beds might be a happy compromise. I know they work great with lots of fish, but the bacteria quickly die off when the power goes out.-Chuck>

Freshwater bio filter/sump setup 12/21/05 Hi Folks. <John> Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, or Happy Holidays. You choose. <To you and yours as well> I've been reading your site for biological filtration on freshwater systems. Although there is a lot of mention about freshwater wet/dry - sump set ups, I can't find some specifics. . . Here is where I am coming from/going to. I currently have a 60 gallon SW reef set up, back drilled, that flows thru a home-made sump, with a bio-ball chamber and a MAG 7 pushing water back. I can control the flow with a gate-valve on the return line. Over here in the North East, I can not seem to get good SW livestock anymore. I am raising the white flag on Salt water, and considering going back to a FW setup. Once I get all the LR and Sand out of the tank, and thoroughly clean it, I want to start up a FW system. I have always used Hang-On style filters in the past on my FW tanks, but this time, I would like to re-use my current setup (minus the skimmer, and the in-tank powerhead for current). My goal is to have a HEAVILY planted tank, (I love real plants) and almost exclusively Gourami's. Aside from perhaps adding a pre-filter sponge, is there any big difference between a SW sump and a FW Sump? <Mmm, not really... though these can be specialized> Is carbon required? <Not required, but a good idea to run occasionally (enclosed in a Dacron filter bag, in your filter flow path)... a handful every few weeks...> Am I missing a major component? <Nope... don't need the skimmer...> I am a newbie to the freshwater bio wet/dry/sump concept. Thanks a bunch!! John M <Enjoy the plant/Gourami system! Bob Fenner>

Diatomaceous Earth - 12/20/2005 I love your site. Very informative. <Thanks for these kind words!> I have read many FAQ's but have yet come across my specific issue. I have a 65 gallon tank, just cycling it now. About 2 weeks into it. I have Eheim filtration and a Diatom filter for clarity. My question is what is the differences between DE. <Err? DE? Oh. Diatomaceous Earth. Gotcha.> I understand that some DE from Pool supply places may be treated with chemicals and may not be the best for my freshwater tank. <Agreed.> I have a friend who works for an aquarium and can supply me with as much DE as I need. However, They only use DE filtration on their marine tanks not there Freshwater. <Bizarre that they use these little silica-based skeletons in saltwater situations - as Crewmember Lorenzo points out to me, silica in a saltwater aquarium can contribute to algal blooms.> Do you think the DE they use will be safe for my freshwater setup? <Almost certainly.> I have tried to read as much about DE as possible but can't seem to find the answer I am looking for. Thanks for your help. <I'll also point out here that filtering with diatomaceous earth is unnecessary (though not detrimental) in most aquaria.> Heath <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Better FW filtration 11/22/05 Can you recommend a better filtration system/method than the one I have described? (Instinct told me that whatever came in the box was only going to be adequate at best, but I wanted more experience...) Many thanks for your good advice. I will chill out and read. :) <... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltration.htm and the linked files above... Bob Fenner>

Freshwater Sump - 11/03/2005 I would like to design and have built a freshwater wet/dry sump to fit under a 48 inch discus fish show tank, can you direct me to site (with drawings) that would help (you can't buy these things in England). Many thanks, Roy Runcorn. Manchester England. <Try here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sumprffiltfaqs.htm and all the other Sump FAQs links, in blue, at the top of that page; these are for marine aquaria, but the principle is generally the same. Also can try here: http://www.thekrib.com/Filters/ , especially under the Do-It-Yourself section, there is a bit on building your own wet/dry filter. Wishing you well, -Sabrina> <<I know a fellow who did this with his discus and some other freshies, they did outstandingly from all reports. MH>>

Tank Too Small, Filtration Too Heavy - 10/17/2005 Hey there, this is kind of crazy but I'll ask any way. I have a 29 top fin tank with two Bala sharks and two Pictus catfish and one black ghost knife. <This is too small for Balas and ghost knifefish.> I am currently running one hot magnum 250 and one penguin 330, is this to much filtration? <In a 29? This is way too much current in my opinion.> PS I am upgrading the tank size to a 75 should I buy the Eheim pro two thermo 2128 model <I have and adore my Eheim Professionel II 2128. It has my hearty recommendation for replacing that magnum if you choose to do so.> or do I have enough already. <Can possibly get by. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

55 Gallon Filtration 10/6/05 Hello Girls/Guys, <Howdy Mike> I set up my first, 55 gallon, tank approximately three months ago. Your website has proved to be an invaluable source of reliable information along the way - most retail stores around me give varying advice depending on the time of day. So, thank you. Anyway, the tank seems to be fully cycled (nitrates present at a comfortable level, nitrites and ammonia very low, <Should be zip, nada> and pH is stagnant). My current stock consists of 2 blue Gouramis, 2 dwarf Gouramis, 2 pictus cats, 2 common Plecos, and 4 tiger barbs (seems to be the right amount to keep them preoccupied with each other rather than the Gouramis' fins). <Yes... adding one more, odd numbers works out even better> I have a question and a concern. My concern is that the water is still cloudy. I do partial water changes weekly and vacuum alternating halves of the gravel biweekly. I scrub off the algae biweekly as well. I've changed the filter media according to the directions. What could be causing the cloudiness and how can I get rid of it? <Inadequate filtration, circulation, aeration, the types, amounts of foods fed... water quality in general...> My question is about the filtration system and heaters. I've read through countless pages of FAQs and haven't found an answer that pertains to my setup, but I apologize if this is redundant. I currently have a Whisper 60 power filter and an "All Glass Aquarium" heater. I recently ordered a Marineland Visi-Therm 200 watt heater and the Marineland Emperor 400 (notice the definite article). Would I be best off to run both filters and both heaters at the same time if I have the power? <Yes to running all... the filters will do well together... and don't use much power, and the heaters will not use any more power... as they only "turn on" when temperature is low> Will this create too strong a current for the fish I have? <Nope> I've received conflicting advice from local retailers. I'm hoping you can clear it up for me. *no pun intended <Heee!> Thank you for your time, Mike <Welcome. Do just clean one outside filter per that water-change, gravel-vacuuming interval... leaving the other with its filter media to re-inoculate the newly cleaned ones. Bob Fenner>

Is high ORP achievable with very green water? 9/30/05 Hi WWM crew! <Rich> I am trying to improve water quality and control algae in my 150g Malawi Mbuna setup. To that end I recently started injecting ozone through a protein skimmer, mindful of your guidelines/precautions in your ozone and ORP FAQs. In the past few days, however, RedOx potential appears to have skyrocketed from ~270mV to well past the safe range. RedOx potential as of this morning is ~440mV <Mmm, I would be careful here... and keep this ORP reading below 350> but green water remains in my tank. This is the problem. <?> I gather from this that 1) it is possible that high RedOx potential and green water are not mutually exclusive, or 2) my brand-new, cleaned and calibrated ORP probe is reading a voltage that is higher than actual. <Possibly... both can occur> I would very much appreciate your opinion as to whether I can continue to inject ozone at low dosage despite my not-so-sure ORP of 440mV until the algae is defeated. <Takes time... a few days to weeks...> Thanks in advance, crew. You do a great service to aquariumhobbyistkind. Regards, Rich Choy San Francisco, CA <Patience my friend... and do turn down that RedOx dial. Bob Fenner>

Big Tank, Big Fish, Big Filtration - 09/03/2005 I just purchased a used 135 gallon tank. Here is what is in the tank: 1- Oscar appx 8" 1- Bala Shark Appx 5" 3- Clown Loaches 2 1/2" each 1- Pleco 1 1/2" 1- Pleco appx 6" I plan on getting another Oscar. My tank came with a Aqua Clear 500, 3-402 Power heads and a UGF. I'm certain this is not enough filtration and have considered a Refugium set up. <Ahh, a VERY good consideration, indeed. You might additionally plant the main tank with tough plants like Anubias, java moss, and java fern, which can be attached to wood. Hardy rooted plants like Crinium thaianum and Vallisneria should also tolerate the abuse the Plecs and Oscars will dish out. Of course, your refugium can house whatever fast-growing, nitrate-consuming goodies you can get your hands on. Something with space for floating plants like water lettuce, hyacinth, and Ceratopteris would be awesome. These can also go in your main tank (especially the Ceratopteris).> The tank is stocked with the fish I plan on keeping and no live plants. <Can't convince you to plant?> Hopefully this isn't a loaded question, what would you suggest for a optimum filtration system that is under $400.00? <Can I give you a loaded answer? No? Well, you've got lots of options. I like Eheims (especially the Professionel II series - holy WOW, what awesome filters! But a wet/dry, homemade or otherwise, would perhaps be best, and could house your 'fuge, as well.> I'm very handy with building and large projects, could I build this myself <Sure.> or would you recommend I just buy an already engineered setup? <Up to you. Got room for a 55 under the stand? Can build your own wet-dry/sump/fuge, as large or small as you like. The bigger the sump, the more space for your 'fuge, and the more water volume added to your system of insanely poopy fish. (Seriously. I bet your Plecs make poop strings a foot long some days.)> I've read that water should be cycled 10 times per hour is this true? In my case with a 135 gallon tank -5 to 10 gallons due to gravel, decorations, and misc. tank inhabitants, I'm probably at 120 gallons of actual water, so my rate of circulation would be 1200-1250 per hour? <This would be nice. Somewhat less will be fine as well, with the 'fuge included, as the plants will handle a GREAT deal of filtration.> With the addition of a refugium water filter will this help bring down my nitrate levels? <Uh, yeah, absolutely. You'll be amazed.> Thank you, Richard <Wishing you and your new system well, -Sabrina>

Question about rinsing bio filter media with tap water 8/29/05 I have a question. I set up my 29 gal tank almost 4 weeks ago. I have 3 albino Corydoras and 3 blood fin tetras. All of them seem to be doing fine so far (have had them for about 2 and 3 weeks respectively). I did not know at the time, but I had what seemed as an excess of calcium, so besides doing a water change, I rinsed my bio filter under tap water (slightly) because it was all covered with this white stuff (that was all over the water, ornaments, etc). I read later not to do that because it kills the good bacteria. <Mmm, yes... at least not to do "so thoroughly", particularly in a newly set-up system> I asked somebody at Petco and they told me this bacteria should build back on. I want to know if this is true and how long it should take more or less. <Is so, a few weeks> I also have a carbon filter of course. I have had ammonia levels of 1.0 ppm pretty much since I set it up. <Dangerous> My nitrates were pretty low, almost zero since set up, as well as nitrites. I tested today (had not tested for about 5-6 days) and my ammonia is the same still, but my nitrites went up as well as nitrates, although nitrates are in the safe level still. I want to hear your insight about this, about the cycling of my FW tank, and so on. <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above> I feed my fish very little twice a day, but I am going to start feeding them just once do to the spike in nitrites as well now. Please let me know, I am not sure where and when to look for my answer. I had written an email a few weeks ago but can't seem to find the answer for it anywhere in the website. It was about RO water among other things. Thank you for your time. - Zeke - <Read on my young friend. Your good, discerning mind will see you through. Bob Fenner>

Oceanic 72 Bowfronts, FW filtration options 8/29/05 25 years ago I was big in freshwater. Had lots of tanks but not much money. <Mmm, a quarter century ago I was the same, still don't have much cash...> Now, I'd like to get back into fish keeping and would like to start with 2 72 Oceanic Bowfronts. Now, here is my ignorance. The tanks have an overflow tower with holes in the bottom. I'm guessing that I'm to run filter lines there. Also, a sump comes with the tanks. What set up is this tank designed for and will that make me happier than hang on filters. Both tanks will be South American community tanks. One mostly tetras and the other live bearers. thanks, Rob Eddy <Ah, the openings are for filtration hook-ups... can be made into a bunch of types, with sub-types beyond... wet-dry, sump/s, refugium/s, even pressurized filtration... The basic question is: How do you intend to filter, aerate, circulate water in these tanks? The holes can be plugged, ignored... Please read on both the root (marine) and freshwater subweb on WWM re your filtration options... you will find "things have changed". Bob Fenner>

Refugiums/freshwater? 8/25/05 Hello, I have been reading a lot about refugiums for salt water tanks. I like the idea and want to add one to my tank, the thing is I have freshwater. Can a freshwater refugium be made and be beneficial? <Yes> If so what kind of plants or algae would be grown? thanks.. Jason <Rooted or not plants of many types would work here... better on a "reverse photoperiod" (lighted opposite the main tank schedule)... species of plants dependent on the type of system, livestock, water quality... Please see our Planted Aquariums subweb re selection. Bob Fenner>

Wet/Dry Filtration on Freshwater 7.21.05 Great info on this site! You gave me great advice about washing my substrate when I upgraded my tank. Here is my new question. I have read a lot of info about wet/dry filters in the marine environment being nitrate factories. Is this true for freshwater? <yup>Will live plants such as Java Fern use the nitrates? <yes, but i would no rely on them, still need to do water changes.> I guess my real question is about my current set up. 3 weeks ago I upgraded from a 55g to a 125g. I put everything (substrate, water, plants, rocks) from the old tank into the new to avoid cycling. I set up the 125g with a wet/dry bio-ball system. I am running the wet/dry plus 2 Penguin 330 w bio wheels from the old tank. <good plan> All water parameters are good. My fish load consists of 4 clown loaches 4-5 inches, 3 Boesemanni Rainbows 3-4 inches, 7 Corys, and a 6 in Royal Pleco. <Nice> Could I remove the Penguins after the wet/dry is seasoned? <Most likely. If the return pump moves enough water around the tank, sure.> Or would I be better off keeping the Penguins? <If they do not bother you they are only helping.> The tank is moderately planted with large Java Ferns (only plant I could get to grow in the 55g). I would like to put some different plants in but, I am only running 110w of compact fluorescent light. I also added 50lbs of Fluorite to the old substrate in hopes of growing some different plants. <Try to stick with low light plants, I like Anubias, water sprite grows like crazy and floats at the surface so that might be something to try. Java moss also does ok in lower light tanks. The only problem with plant takes and wet/dry filters is if you are injecting co2, the disruption of the wet/dry aerates the water and blows off all the co2 you just added, but other than that I really like wet/dries. Make sure it does not overflow if there is a power outage. I like to get everything setup and running then yank the power strip to see what happens with no power, then plug it back in to make sure everything starts up on its own. -Gage> Thanks, CW

Wet/Dry and Nitrates in Freshwater - 08/19/2005 Hello, <Hi.> Thanks again for the great wealth of information. I have been doing a lot of research on wet/dry filters. There seems to be a lot of info on using live rock instead of bio-balls in reef applications for the reduction of nitrates. Are there any options for freshwater systems that use wet/dry filters? <As in, similar to live rock and opposed to bio-balls?> What about the use of sintered glass in the bottom of the sump under the bio-balls? <I would fear you'd actually end up with more trapped organics than worthwhile.... if you can ensure a flow through the sintered glass, this may be a good idea.> I am looking for a way to control nitrates without ditching my wet/dry. <Can you plant this tank? Vascular plants will soak up that nitrate.... Look to floating plants like water lettuce, water hyacinth, and even <yuck> duckweed if you can do so, otherwise a great deal of fast-growing stem plants (Anacharis/elodea/Egeria, for example) will help....> My nitrates were well over 100ppm a couple of week ago, but after a lot of water changes, it is down to an acceptable level of 20-40 ppm. <Wow, still high!> Any thoughts? <How much bioload is in this system? It is rare for a properly stocked freshwater tank to build up nitrates that high, wet-dry or no.... If the tank is properly stocked, is there perhaps an undergravel filter plate in place (still in use or old)? Is the substrate/gravel very deep and not well/often cleaned? Perhaps a canister filter on this system that has not been cleaned in a long, long time? Look for the causes of this problem (not likely the wet-dry alone) before trying to solve....> Thanks, CW <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Re: Freshwater Wet/Dry and Nitrates 8/19/05 Hello, <Hi there> Thanks again for the great wealth of information. I have been doing a lot of research on wet/dry filters. There seems to be a lot of info on using live rock instead of bio-balls in reef applications for the reduction of nitrates. Are there any options for freshwater systems that use wet/dry filters? <Sure> What about the use of sintered glass in the bottom of the sump under the bio-balls? <Yes> I am looking for a way to control nitrates without ditching my wet/dry. My nitrates were well over 100ppm a couple of week ago, but after a lot of water changes, it is down to an acceptable level of 20-40 ppm. Any thoughts? Thanks, CW <How about a DSB? Live plants? Bob Fenner>

Wet/Dry and Nitrates in Freshwater - III - 08/19/2005 Thanks for the reply. My aquarium is a 125 gal that has been running for about 6 weeks. This is an upgrade from a 29 and 55 that I combined into the 125. When I did the upgrade, I moved everything from the old tanks into the new. I suspect a lot of the nitrates are coming from the substrate. When I did the upgrade, I moved all the gravel from the old 55 into the new tank and added 50 lbs of Fluorite and another 50 lbs of new gravel. The old gravel was pretty dirty, but I wanted to preserve the bacteria, so I did not rinse it. <This could be the issue. I would try doing a pretty deep gravel vacuuming....> My fish load is pretty light. 3 4-5in clown loaches, 3 4in boesemanni rainbows, 1 6in royal Pleco, 1 5in Chinese algae eater, 1 4in Raphael cat, and a couple of Corys. <Yeah, that's not the issue, then.> My wet/dry is moving 980gph. I am also running 2 seasoned penguin 330 bio-wheel power filters from the old tanks. All my water parameters are good--except for the nitrates! My plant load consists mainly of Java Ferns that are doing great. I recently added some floating Watersprite that is growing well. <Ahh, these will suck up nitrates so well, they won't know what hit 'em! More of these, and other such plants will do a great job.> My light is 2 55w compact fluorescents in a 4 foot fixture. The light is centered over the tanks, so I have some subdued lighting on either end. My loaches and Corys seem to appreciate that! I've tried some stem plants, but my Royal Pleco eats them. <Try Anacharis/elodea/Egeria, either loosely anchored, or floating.... Though he'll nibble it, it should be able to grow quickly enough to compensate. Vallisneria may also be of use, here, and the large Crinum thaianum.> I have been making steady progress in the reductions of nitrates with water changes. When I first tested the nitrates they were off the chart--deep red on the test kit. Now, 5 weeks later, I am around 20-40 ppm, according to my tests. <A significant change, indeed.> Thanks, CW <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Freshwater Filtration - 07/16/2005 Hi Bob, <Actually, crewmember Sabrina with ya tonight....> Love the site and all the great info the team provides! <Thanks very much for the kind words; we love hearing this stuff!> My question(s) deal with a 240 gallon tank I'm currently setting up. The tank is an upgrade for a silver Arowana (and three Plecos) which has outgrown its current 55 gallon tank. It may house an additional Arowana in the future as well, btw. But anyway, I've always had problems with nitrate management in the 55. <Certainly.... huge bioload in a relatively small tank....> I currently feed once a day small portions, only what the fish will finish w/in about 8-10 minutes and immediately remove uneaten food. I also do water changes every week, approximately 25% twice a week, or 50% once, depending on how busy I am. The filtration currently consists of a penguin 330 (BioWheels only) and a Rena FilStar xp3 canister filter sponges replaced with clean ones, and biomedia lightly rinsed of detritus in aquarium water, every other week). There is no substrate in the tank, nor has my tap water tested for any appreciable amount of nitrates. With this setup/regimen my nitrates still end up around 20-30 ppm by the end of the week, around water change time. <Seems like you're doing everything right - just too much fish load for the volume of water.> I want to avoid this problem in the big tank by incorporating a 6" DSB in the sump. <Risky at best - little to no research is available for trying a DSB in freshwater aquaria. It's something I very much want to toy with - load a moderately sized tank with sugar-fine substrate, then pile in jillions of freshwater amphipods/scuds, rotifers, small worms, etc.... Maybe even a scoop or two of muck from a clean stream for more microorganisms.... But, again, quite possibly this would end in disaster.> Now in taking the 'natural' route to nitrate reduction, how much of the bioload could the DSB handle? <Completely, entirely, 100% unknown. At least to me.> Would I need to add additional bio-media? Would adding a wet-dry somehow overload the DSB's denitrifying ability? Any advice on what I should do, and additional comments about my soon-to-be setup would be greatly appreciated. <Quite honestly, I would scrap the DSB plan for now - maybe try it in your fishless 55 after you set up the new tank, and play with the idea some. I'm going to try with an outdoor 55 some time soon.... as soon as the rest of the tadpoles move onward and upward.... silly frogs.... Anyhow, back on topic, I would just run a regular wet/dry or a couple of heavy duty canisters (Eheims, if you can).... You'll be amazed what the increased water volume alone will do for you.> Thanks for your time, Phil <Please do update me/us if you choose to try a freshwater DSB, and let me/us know precisely what and how you do! Wishing you and your fishes well, -Sabrina>

New Filter for New Tank Hey gang. I recently inherited a 10 gallon setup, and I'd like start a small community tank. I'm planning to keep a couple of Corys, and a small school (7 or so) of Zebra Danios or perhaps White Clouds. My question regards the filter that came with this tank. It's an Aqua Clear 150, which I know is meant for somewhat larger tanks than this 10 gallon. I know it will not provide too much filtration per se, but I'm worried that even at the lowest flow setting, this filter will create too much current for my little fish. Should I invest in a smaller filter? < The white clouds and Danios should have no trouble with the filter flow. I would go with the 150 and add some extra long plastic plants to absorb some of the force from the filter.-Chuck> JM

Protein Skimming Fresh Water Hi, I looked through your FAQs and didn't find anything related to the use of protein skimmers with freshwater systems. Please forgive if this is discussed on your site. After having a marine tank and will be moving in two years, I wanted to know if my protein skimmer will 1) work in a freshwater tank, and 2) will that coupled with gravel be sufficient at maintaining water quality for discus? Thanks. Geoff R. < This topic comes up from time to time with other aquarists in the same situation as yourself. Basically proteins are more soluble in fresh water then in salt water so the don't accumulate on the surface of bubbles like they do in salt water. Also in salt water the bubbles can be made smaller to get more surface area on the bubble. So for the most part they are not as effective in fresh water but I have recently heard from some aquarists that their FW tanks have benefited from very efficient protein skimmers on their fresh water tanks. They report that their tank seemed to have much less algae and lower nitrate problems.-Chuck>

Freshwater Filter Selection, 5/27/05 I have two small red-eared sliders (3 - 3 1/2 in long) in a 10 gallon tank. I will be moving them to a 30 gallon long sometime in the next few days. Currently I have a Whisper in-tank filter, and I was thinking I could just get a bigger version of the same filter for the new tank, but apparently (from what I've read) in-tank filters don't really cut it in aquariums that big. My tank doesn't have any holes in it, either to let a filter hang down lower on the edge, or to come up through the floor of the tank. What are my options without having to find a way to cut a hole in the tank? <Hi Rebekah, Ryan with you today. There are plenty of filter options that will work for you here- Your best non-drilling option is a sump wet/dry filter with what's called an OVERFLOW. This uses suction to take water from the aquarium over the edge, rather than through a drilled hole. Hang on filters are capable of filtering a 30 gallon tank, however. I'd go with a large hang-on style power filter if all this seems a little overboard. Good luck, Ryan>

Freshwater Fluidized Bed Question Hi WWM Crew. I just have a quick question on filtration for a 180 gallon cichlid tank that will have an Oscar, 2 Severums, and a few other cichlids/dithers. I plan on using my filtration from my current 75 and 40 gallon setups: 2 Fluval 404's, 1 AC 300, 2 powerheads with filter attachments (170 and80 gph). Is a fluidized bed filter a worthwhile investment to use with the above filtration? Would the quick collapse from a power failure be offset by not using the fluidizer alone? <I would go with an external power filter instead.> Thank you for your help. Corey <Corey, I think you would be better served to get an external power filter if you are looking for more filtration. With the type of fish you are keeping a fluidized sand filter will constantly clog and be more maintenance that it is worth. Good Luck MikeB.>

Freshwater too! Bob: <Barry> You responded recently to my request regarding "salt reef" system labeled "bio-diversity". God am I amazed at your swift response! We had a discussion there regarding my "coming soon" 220 gal.( including R-UGF etc. ) with 70 gal.( DSB or plenum ) "refugium-secondary-show-tank". I have a long way to go with that design, and will contact you again sometime soon regarding that design. <Okay> In the mean time, I currently have a 55 gal. "fresh-tank" with African cichlids and will be adding an existing ( but currently unused ) 150 gal. tank to the freshwater "group". I also have a 10 gal. that will most likely function primarily as "quarantine". I also have room in the "under design and construction" home built "display center" for a 30 to 50 gal. "supplementary tank" should the need arise, as it almost certainly will. ( adequate "hidden" support areas are also included ) I realize that there is a lot of "scope" in this presentation and the series of questions that I am asking here, and I have spent a lot of the time investigating the "best current information" on the web in general, and on your beautiful site specifically, in preparation.( I don't think "that" information gathering will ever be complete ) Again, I am looking at being able to display ( and enjoy ) a fairly wide range of specimens in this closed system, with priority being given to the fish and the creatures that can be supported, and allowing for some live plants that are beneficial to the fish and the system, but are easy to keep and do not especially complicate the system requirements. To wit, it seems that the 55 gal. is going to remain the "hard water" system with attention to keeping the "smaller of the species" ( mostly cichlids ) and with the addition of any compatible "creatures" and "easy-plants". Now comes the 150 gal. tank; Here, I think that the water conditions will be "neutral to soft" to accommodate the apparently "wider range" of fish and creatures that can be kept in a single "closed system". Am I on target here, or suffering from some lack of pertinent information? <Sounds fine thus far> Regarding the 150 gal. setup, I would like to supply brighter lighting at one end of the tank for the specimens that prefer it, and subdued at the other end for the same reason. Heavily built cave structures at one end with lots of planting at the other, with a sparser area maintained in the middle for "display and swimming". I have put a particularly large amount of research ( investigation ) into substrates and filtration systems, but I must admit that as I learn more, the "confusion level" is not abating! <It will> My current tendency is toward reverse UGF for it's high nitrification capability along with "low" maintenance requirements ( high quality intake filtration and high flow required to reduce "particulate" and to direct detritus "up" and into the "primary mechanical filtration systems" ) I do not want the UGF to be a mechanical filter. It is really only intended to reduce maintenance by way of "upsweep away from the substrate, with this one possible exception. I have very recently read about reverse flow undergravel "turf scrubbers"( lit from underneath ) and I am at least intrigued. Do you have any experience, attitude, or information resources relative to this supposedly "nitrate consuming scheme"? <Can be made to work... but like other types of "turf scrubbing" technology is time consuming, water yellowing... not all it's cracked up to be> Well Bob, that is quite a bit of "scope". Do you think that there is a better way to accomplish the objectives in the 150 gallon tank? Gosh, is the "diverse soft-water environment" that I have described even reasonable to pursue? Will I ever run out of questions? Of course I won't, but any suggestions that you may have for the filtration to begin with, and the flora and fauna in the "big" tank would be dearly appreciated. <What you have in mind will work> I am "eyeball deep" in the design and "eminent" construction of the "freshwater-display-center" and any comments that you may have regarding the "filtration system" ( again ) and "pitfalls to avoid" would certainly help me to "get on" with it. The education will never end, but isn't that the "whole" idea? <Part of it> Thanks in the extreme Bob, Barry H. Carpenter <Bob Fenner>

Diatom filter I converted a 1000 gallon outside fiberglass spa (at level, sunk into the cement patio) to a gold fish bowl in which I presently have one Koi, 6-8 feeder gold fish and about 5 algae eaters "Pleco"?, little black ugly guys that stick on the side of the tank. I've been doing tank changes once a week with Amquel because the water becomes green and murky in just a few days. I run a filter 24/7, have two large pond pumps running, one through a waterfall with four water streams running through three levels of polished river rock and then free falling about one foot into the pond. Live in Southwest Florida. The pond is about 3-4 months old. Fish all appear very happy and growing. But I can't stand the murk! A friend told me to buy a diatom filter to polish the water. Do you agree and what size? Thank you for your help. Pam Comstock < Check the nitrates. Your fish are messy eaters and produce a lot of waste. The waste is not gone it is contained in the filters and in the bottom of all the water ways. Their it will continue to breakdown and create lots of algae. The trick is to clean your filter often and vacuum the bottom of the spa and water falls when you do your water changes. The other problem is probably no biological filtration. Many filters for fish tanks have media for bacteria to grow on and break down the fish waste. I think you only have mechanical filtration, which removes solids and nothing else. A diatom filter would quickly clog up under the conditions described above. Try feeding you fish only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes once each day.-Chuck>
Re: diatom filter
Chuck, Thank you so much for responding. I think you must be right. I will obtain a gravel vac today. The filter is cleaned at least once a week. I will start cleaning it twice a week, falls as well. You are right. I do not have a "biological filtration system" but will do some research and hopefully be able to incorporate one into the pond. Any recommendations would be much appreciated. You have been most helpful. Pam < Go to Marineland.com and look at the Dr. Tim's Library for lots of good info on filtration basics. Once you understand what is going on then you can best decide what filter you need .-Chuck>

Filtration with Little to no Money? >Hey guys, >>Good morning. You've got yourself Marina today. >My 13yo nephew has just moved in with us, (mum's having a rough trot)... >>Tah, happens, it's good to be able to help. >...& he's got an 80 litre FW Tank with 7 Fantail Goldfish. >>VERY small tank for all these fish, my friend. VERY small, I'd cut the number down to two myself, or sort something bigger perhaps? >The tank has a 600l/h Powerhead pump and nothing more (a ceramic Castle & gravel of some sort). >>Hee! Google our site for "Albert the Goldfish" and see what troubles may come with fish castles! In any event, as I think you've surmised, the pump can't do too much (though changing water every few days sure can). >I imagine he would need a filter of some sort, but cash is VERY scarce right now (just bought our first home). >>Familiar with that myself. >How can my nephew & I set up a filtration system with little or preferably NO cash outlay? >>MM.. well, fortunately you've already got a "driver", something to move the water around with. I am already familiar with different filtration types, I'd probably set up a plastic trash bin or similar container with small gravel and push the water through (pushing generally better/easier for pumps than pulling), or go with an inexpensive undergravel filter. If you look at how these are constructed, and you're handy, you ought to be able to recreate filter plates and lift tubes (PVC for the lift tubes, egg crate - used for fluorescent light fixtures, and plastic window screen), all driven by this little pump. You could also go with a simple sponge filter. >We're both pretty handy & we both get called MacGyver from the rest of the family so we're not scared of DIY. (I have a garage full of PVC pipes and bits & pieces, my friends say I'm the hoarder from hell.) >>HA! Well then, there you go, hey. I'd say it's probably MUCH easier to create an undergravel filter with the PVC, etc., rather than try to recreate a power filter, but know that it can be done. Link, DIY trickle filter can show basic premise of using gravity to pull, pump to push - be aware of "head", pump's ability to push to a particular height. http://www.thekrib.com/Filters/trickle-blackford.html I think the following might also be helpful http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/upflowfiltpds.htm as well as searching our site via our Google search. >Hope you can point us in the right direction. >>I hope what I've provided can help, unfortunately I cannot draw you a diagram which would be much more helpful. >ALSO, one of his Goldfish looks like it has swallowed a golf ball. He said it has been like that since he bought it 4 months ago, it wasn't that big but it was swollen since day 1. It has some "bald" patches and a seemingly constant stream of light brown faeces coming from it's anus. >>Since it's been that way almost from the get-go, and the feces are NOT white and stringy, I believe the fish may be slightly constipated. All goldfish can use plenty of vegetable matter in their diets. I like things like frozen green peas (squeezed out of their skins), and terrestrial veggies either parboiled for a few seconds or nuked in the microwave - the intent here is to break down the cellulose found in terrestrial plants as the fish cannot readily digest this. >It almost looks like the poor fish is splitting at the rear. >>This sounds extreme, am curious about other symptoms. For instance, does it look like a pine cone, with the scales sticking out? >I have spent hours on the net to try & find what's wrong with this fish but all sites hint at "Dropsy", yet they also say that the fish would be dead already. >>Not at all true. Dropsy is more a symptom description than an actual single disease. It is a symptom of internal bacterial infection, and while this is certainly possible (and IS the diagnosis if the fish looks like a pine cone - search our site as we have some piccies), it is not necessarily a death sentence. A quick, inexpensive means of helping to alleviate certain problems is to use about 1 teaspoon non-iodized salt (Kosher, sea salt, aquarium salt) per gallon of water as a prophylactic measure. This helps reduce how hard the fish's body works to keep osmotic differences in balance (fish's body is saltier than the water, reverse with saltwater fishes). >I'm SOOOOO confused!! Any help would be MUCH appreciated. Thanks heaps, Frustrated Uncle Ant. - Sydney, Australia >>Uncle, I would first talk to your nephew about how these fish are best housed. Right now they may be small and don't appear cramped, but this WILL change very quickly. One of the ways to tell is continuing problems usually associated with poor environmental conditions (we have a great deal written on this on site, also see our goldfish sections). I think the number fish really must be reduced by at least half (I'd go for three vs. three and a half fish, as the other half won't be much fun). The remaining fish will fare better for a little while in this tank, but WILL need a much larger tank, as even the 80 liter (about 21 gallons U.S.) is small for just one. Marina>

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