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FAQs about Hang-On, Outside Power Filters For Marine Systems

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New CPR Hang On system with skimmer at WWPSA 02

Pump options... Pressurized filters/SW, and the use of under-rock supports     12/15/14
Dear Crew,
I have been reading up on an idea but am not getting the clear-cut answer I need before I move forward. You have always been so helpful; I thought I’d throw it your way J I have a 265 gallon tank I am setting back up after a move. The pump I had before was about 650gal/hour and serviced two refugiums as well. It worked, but obviously there is lots of room for improvement here. I have an above ground pool pump/filter that was used on my salt water pool.
It hasn’t been used in over a year. Its specifications are 1,200 gph (110-120V).
<Mmm; well; just the flow rate doesn't give the whole picture... need (head) pressure at operating and maximum (back flush)... different pump (motor, impeller...) configurations give a mix of both of these>
What do you think about using this?
<The simple statement: "Can work", but with provisos, warnings... that such pressurized filters, even when filled with appropriate media (a rarity) take a bunch of electrical energy/cost to run... and they have downsides; real (like the cost of water to back flush/rinse) and potential (channeling, "going anaerobic"). Another way to put my response: "I am a much larger fan/promoter of non-pressurized" means; like your refugiums, DSBs, the use of filter "socks"....">
I thought I could hook up some restrictions to control the flow and maybe connect my home-made protein skimmer.
Also, I was thinking about placing some egg crate under my rock structures to distribute the weight and protect the glass.
<This is a very good idea IMO/E>
My issue here is that my inhabitants tend to move the sand causing it to show.
<No big deal... can just re-cover when doing regular (weekly) gravel vacuuming/water changes... Make it a bit of a game>
If I placed a sheet of acrylic on top of the eggcrate, sprayed the whole thing black (I have black sand), do you see any problems from this?
<Only a bit (not really significant) of anaerobiosis>
Thank you so much for all your advice.
Sincerely, Alyssa
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Hello wet web crew!
Is there any reason why I can't use charcoal and GFO's in my HOB filter?    11/8/12

<Mmm, no; as good a place as any. However, both media do have their potential downsides. I'd have you search, read on WWM re>
I'm running a 75 gallon reef tank with skimmer, fuge and HOB filter.
No sump (yet!)
<Ah; I would add>
Thanks guys.
<Welcome. BobF>

Aquaclear filter     8/5/12
I have a Aquaclear 70 filter on a 46 bowfront. Today I took the filter off and cleaned it. I set it back up and left the house without pouring water in the top, so the filter was running dry for nearly three hours. I filled it up and it is running great. I am thinking now that those nearly three hours may have really cut short the life of the motor and I will be getting a new filter down the road way sooner. Just wondering if I am probably right on this one. Thank You
<Electric filters use aquarium water to cool down the motor. So, if the motor runs dry, it overheats. If the motor is still running now, it may well be okay, and no harm done. Or it may be irreparably damaged. Hard do say, really! I'd leave it for now, see what happens. Cheers, Neale.>

Weight of hang-on items on tank   8/15/11
Good morning,
Searched this and couldn't find a definitive answer so here goes! I have a standard 6', 125 gallon AGA. My fears are probably unfounded, but I was wondering is a HOB 4 gallon refugium and 2 Aqua C Remora Pros too much weight, evenly spaced, across the back of the tank?
<Will be fine. Seems a bunch of weight I realize, but have hung MUCH more than this... even, Oof! climbed on the edges of such aquariums>
Thanks in advance for your answers and time, I truly treasure this website and look forward to reading it's contents daily.
Sincere thanks,
<Thank you, Bob Fenner>

Can a 2.5 gallon Aqueon Mini Bow filter be Submerged in Saltwater?   3/25/11
Dear Crew,
Can the 2.5 gallon Aqueon Mini Bow filter be in saltwater?
<Mmm, don't know... the manufacturer does not list marine applications...
But assuredly the electrical components must be secured against all types of water contact. Do you have the unit in front of you? Is the motor completely encased? Are there no exposed metal on the impeller (i.e., the magnet completely sealed? BobF>
Thank you,
Dante G.

Can you use Miracle Mud in an external Filter?  3/9/11
Hi everyone!
<Hello Michelle>
Hope this hasn't been already asked, apologies if it has. I'll start at the beginning. My Regal Tang sadly has HLLE. I'm pretty sure its down to diet as she only accepts Kings flake, frozen brine and frozen mysis.
<Are you soaking these foods in a vitamin prep? A Paracanthurus should take pellets no problem, mix them with the other foods for a while and wean the fish over gradually and it will accept all>
I did even try cutting seaweed up into the flake but it always just sat on the top of the water untouched. I have since read that using garlic can help? If so I will give it ago. She did once happily devour a rather large handful of different macro algae over a period of a week. I was happy that she ate it but to be honest I thought I would be able to grow it in the tank without her eating the whole lot as my LFSs never have any. Anyway I have tracked down a specialist marine shop who does sell it and whilst talking to him he suggested this Miracle Mud. When I told him I didn't have a sump he told me to get a pair of tights to use as a bag and put the Miracle Mud inside and then I would be able to put it in my Fluval 205 external filter. Can I ask what your thoughts are on this?
<Baloney. Worthy though the ecosystem method is, the mud itself is not a cure for HLLE. Perhaps by changing to the overall methodology in some circumstances will bring about an improvement to the environment which may, does improve the condition. This would require you installing a sump. The cures for HLLE are gone over here at WWM and elsewhere. Improve the water quality/ space/ environment for the fish. Ahh, I have just seen you have a three foot tank - too small for this species.. read here on WWM re: Paracanthurus.><<Oops... where's the link?>>
And while I have your time can I also quickly ask about the macro algae - is there any hope of me growing it in my 3' tank or will she always devour it before it has chance?
<For this you really need a refugium of some kind. Have you looked into the hang-on-back ones?>
If not I have a breeding container which I was using to hold up some rock work but it might serve a better purpose if I put the algae in this and hook it in the top of my tank?
<Yes! This is the way forward - see this article for some more ideas http://www.wetwebmedia.com/hagenrefugart.htm>
Thanks for any help you may be able to give!
<No problem Shell>
Shell (a big fan of the website and books)

Filter/Setup Questions 02/05/2008 Hello Bob & Crew, <<Hello, Andrew today>> I sent a couple of e-mails a couple of days ago but fear they may have gotten lost in the great beyond. If this is a duplicate of a message that is already in your queue to be answered I apologize. <<No apology needed>> I have a filtration question about a 125 gallon aquarium I am purchasing. I am going to add 100 lbs of live sand (brand new, I am not using the crushed coral in my current 56 gal tank), my existing 20-25 lbs of live rock from my current 56gal, along with another 25 lbs (for starters) of live rock I am purchasing when I buy the tank. I also have a Coralife 125gal skimmer that works fantastically in my 56 (knock on wood). <<Sounds good>> My LFS suggested (strongly) going with a wet/dry filter with the standard blue bio-balls. <<Strongly eh???>> I am not so sure. So I wanted your opinion on if I were to run two Aquaclear 110's and my current Aquaclear 70, along with the protein skimmer, the 100lbs of LS, and 50 or so lbs (for now) of LR, would that be sufficient to have a healthy setup? I really don't want to go with the wet/dry and especially the bio balls (after reading here on WWM) unless its an outright necessity for the health of the tank. Would this setup give me adequate mechanical filtration, bio filtration, and water movement for this tank? <<The amount of filtration mentioned should be fine, as you are already half way there with the live rock. I would stick to just the 2 Aquaclear 110's, leave off the Aquaclear 70..The 110's are rated at 110g's each, so, that's ok. Flow wise, I would not rely on these to provide the right amount of flow. I would be adding some powerheads to create the flow for you>> Also a quick question, if I may, on cycling the new tank. My LFS also said I "Have" to add bio-Spira to the new tank when I set it up in order to have the tank cycle in a short time frame. I can't support the two tanks (from a space perspective) for more than 2 weeks or so. With adding all of the LS, along with the LR and I also plan to add Hagen cycle which I already have a supply of, do I really "need" the bio-Spira to cycle in such a short time? <<A common question really. How to get a fast cycle. Unfortunately, a cycle should not be rushed, its natures way of laying the building blocks of the aquarium. My advise if you want a "quicker" route to cycling, if it cant be left alone, is to use fully cured live rock, and use pure ammonia as the ammonia source to kick start the cycle. Hopefully, the levels of bacteria already present on the Fully cured live rock will give the cycle a quicker turn around>> Thank you again for such a great site and such helpful information. It is very much appreciated. Mike P. <<Thanks for the questions, hope it helps. A Nixon>>

Cleaning a Penguin bio-wheel 200 - 08/11/07 Hello, After reading the FAQs on filtration I am unsure what to do. I have a 29g FOWLR tank. Inhabitants include 10lbs of live rock, 1 Maroon clown, 1 green wolf eel, <Either of these will be too much for this small volume> 1 cholate chip star, 4 snails, and 5 tiny hermit crabs. I use a Penguin bio wheel 200 and Prizm deluxe skimmer for filtration and I have a bubble wand and maxi-jet 600 powerhead for aeration and circulation. The maroon clown likes to do what I call "burnouts" in the sand which sends it all over the tank. I think it is getting stuck in the slot where the magnet goes at the bottom of the impeller (sp?) on the penguin filter. It has started to make an extremely loud and awful sound. I called Marineland and they said to soak the impeller in vinegar. I did this, and now the sound is worse. My question (finally) is: Can I clean the whole filter box minus the bio-wheel, or is there helpful bacteria living in there? <There are such microbes... but these are likely not limited in number in this system... and will regenerate quickly enough> If I can clean it, is vinegar (straight or diluted?) safe or would you recommend something else? <I would recommend you read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clncarta.htm and the linked files above> And, how long would I soak it for? Can the bio-wheel just sit there while I soak the filter box or should I sit it in the tank? I apologize if these answers are obvious, but I cannot find anyone to help me solve this problem. I wish I could send you a sound clip because I cannot describe this sound, but I can't imagine the filter will continue to work properly unless I do something. Thank you so much, for any advice you can give me!! *~*April*~* <Do rinse all thoroughly... hopefully if a bit of sand is the issue it will be dislodged, removed. Bob Fenner>

Re: cleaning a Penguin bio-wheel 200 - 08/11/07 Thank you very much! I did not come across that page while searching!*~*April*~* <Welcome my friend. I do hope the cleaning "cleans up" the noise... If this unit is less than a year old... I'd return it if not. BobF>

Replacing Emperor 400 with Large AquaFuge Hang On  10/20/05 Hi Crew,     I know this is going to sound like a no brainer when I ask this but I always like to get a second opinion from the experts. I have an Emperor 400 and an AquaC Remora Skimmer on my 55g tank. I was considering replacing the Emperor with a Large AquaFuge HOB. I know of the great benefits of having a refugium. I am doing this because the Cyano is driving me to my wits end. The strange thing is despite the recent purchase of an RO unit and carefully monitoring of feeding as well as 5 gal weekly water changes. It has only been slowed slightly. <Takes time... the Cyano insidiously/cleverly modifies its environment to favor itself...> The only thing I can think of is a more aggressive method of nutrient reduction. All parameters test fine: Amm. 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0, pH 8.3 and SG 1.24. I do not have a phosphate test kit but just from what I am doing I figure they are fairly low as well. An just on last thing, anyone with experience with this unit please tell me how long the input and return pipes are so that I can be sure it will fit my aquarium, <See CPR-USA's site re...> because I have a wooden frame around it. Oh yeah, are there any opinions on the AquaFuge as far as performance and any reported problems.                                                Thanks,                                                     Mike <See WWM, the various BB's for input here. Bob Fenner> Removing a power filter... 10/17/05 Well, I purchased a PRIZM Protein Skimmer. Now here's the issue. It's a tad longer than the knockout boards in the hood, so can I remove my power filter now that I have the skimmer, if so, what's the method of doing so? Thanks! Jon <... can just be supplanted, if this is still going to get you enough filtration, circulation, aeration... BobF> 

Bio wheel filter 10-13-05 <<Hello>> I have a BioWheel filter on one of my aquariums and the BioWheel has stopped moving. I know when it gets covered with bacteria it wheel slow down and sometimes stop. I put it in a container with aquarium water and swished it around and then put it back in the filter. It still wouldn't move. Later I did a very thorough cleaning of the filter and the BioWheel still didn't move.  Later I put the BioWheel in a container again with aquarium water a gently cleaned it with my fingers so as not to rip it, but it still doesn't want to spin. I know new BioWheels aren't that expensive, but I was always told you aren't really supposed to replace it unless it has a rip in it , which it doesn't. Is there anything else I can do as far as cleaning?  <<Sounds like the axel is gunked up. Try freeing it. If you can't get it to turn by hand even after cleaning, just buy a new one. If it will turn by hand, but not in the water, make sure the pump is pushing its regular amount of flow and that the fins on the BioWheel are evenly spaced. It is best to use the established wheel, but if your tank is well established it will handle a wheel change out. >> Thank you so much for all your help. <<TravisM>>

Increasing Skimmer Performance and Removing Wet/Dry Filter  9/2/05 Hi, <Hello Paull> I just got a new Queen venturi skimmer (a Chinese knock off of a good brand I think) which sucks in air via a normal sized air hose - do you think it would increase performance if I got an air pump to force feed the skimmer? <I wouldn't> Also, my tank has been set up for about two years now and the main filtration is a penguin BioWheel. It's a 40g tank and I'm not sure exactly how much live rock I have but there is enough so that I wouldn't want to add any more for lack of space, so I am reasonably confident that there is over 40 pounds in there, and its all been in there for over a year. I'm thinking about removing the BioWheel for the same reason that you guys suggest removing bioballs, except I'm unsure how to do this since I can't take a small amount of the wheel at a time. I also want to make sure its worth it - is it feasible to remove the BioWheel for a day or so and then test the water to see if there is any appreciable increase in ammonia, nitrite etc (I would keep the BioWheel wet somewhere else so it doesn't die off). Have you any suggestions? <If your tank is not heavily stocked, I'd just remove the bio wheel.  The live rock is doing most of the bio filtering anyway since it is exposed to the water constantly rather than being pumped across it as is in the bio wheel.> Thanks for your help  <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

BioWheel removal... nitrates 9/1/05 Thank you so much for all your help. One of your comments spurred a new question. You said "Sounds okay for this particular system. Removing the "bio-wheel" will help with nitrate issues a bit"  Do you mean removing the Bio-wheel system or just the rotating paper wheels?  How will that help with the nitrates?   <Hi again Judson! Remove the bio-wheel, do a search on the nitrification process. The bio-wheel/wet-dry has no way of 'eating-up' nitrates. It converts ammonia/nitrites to nitrates which will continue to build up. Focus on using your liverock, sand, skimmer and water circulation as your main source of keeping your water clean. - Ali> Ditch The Bio-Wheel - 08/17/05 Thanks so much for the reply.  I removed the tang yesterday and the tank already seems to have calmed down quite a bit. <<Excellent to hear my friend.  You/your tank will fare much better in the long term...not to mention the developmental retardation you would have been subjecting on the tang in this small(ish) system.>> Just to make sure I understand your answer to my filtration question, do you think it's a good idea to go ahead and ditch the bio-wheel? <<If it is not your only means of filtration (e.g.- live rock, chemical media, a good skimmer), then yes by all means, pull it off the tank.>> Thanks again !!!!! <<Always a pleasure, EricR>> Emperor filter overflowing 8/13/05 Hi Guys! <Howdy> SETUP 35 g. glass LIGHT:   [5.5 total watts/gal., 3.7 total daylight, plus actinic] CPR BakPak 2 Protein Skimmer Emperor filter (BioWheel removed) one heater LIVESTOCK True Percula clown -- Amphiprion percula Frogspawn coral (Euphyllia ?) http://www.wetwebmedia.com/caryophyllids.htm Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) Hermit Crabs (2) Diamond Goby Convict Fish Yellow Tang 4-Stripe B&W Damsel Orange Linckia Star Turbo Snails (2) Nassarius Snails - Nassarius vibex (4) 55 lbs. Live rock Fiji Pink live sand All readings except nitrate (40-50 ppm) <Yikes...> are within "healthy limits" water is crystal clear and my Yellow Tang did indeed improve after I removed my dying Zooanthids, switched foods to Spectrum and made a few other water quality efforts--AS YOU RECOMMENDED.  =) <Ah, good> Thanks for everything.   <Welcome> Here's my new trouble:  I have an Emperor 280, and about every 2 days, the carbon cartridge gets "gummed up" and requires rinsing or the water will overflow over it, backing up over the cartridge and spilling debris-laden water into the tank.  Even with rinsing, I need to change the cartridge evert few days.  Bummer. <Yes> This didn't used to happen.  Used to be I changed the cartridge once a month and it was fine otherwise.  LFS said it was because I was using AZ-NO3 to beat a nitrate spike, and that it was "gathering" the nitrates and coating the cartridge. but I stopped using it and started a brand new cartridge, but it is still happening--only a bit more slowly.  Is this just the "tail end" of the AZ-NO3?  Anyway, what gives? <Mmm, don't know... either a chemical or biological aggregation... I would try using the carbon elsewhere (maybe a unit ob Boyd's Chemi-pure in the Bak-Pak) for a few months... take a look at the Marineland pad under a microscope if you have access to one.> Thanks for providing such a valuable service, DS <Bob Fenner> - Power Filter vs. Refugium - I have a 20 gallon tank (24 inches in width), so space on the back is at a premium, obviously. <Sure.> Presently I have an Aqua C Remora on the back, plus an Emperor 280 power filter.  I have about 40 pounds of live rock.  Sand bed varies from 2 inches in the middle to 3.5 inches on either side.  I have a Sunpaq Orbit (one 65 watt daylight, one 65 watt actinic).  Inhabitants - 2 small percula clowns (each 2 inches or less), and one small pygmy angel (1-1.5 inches). <I hope you plan to upgrade the tank size in the near future... 20 gallons isn't really suitable for the pygmy angel.> Also, several small hermit crabs, one torch coral and one small rock of green star polyps.  I may add a few other items such as polyps and mushrooms later, and perhaps a shrimp or two.     Question - Would I be better off sticking with the power filter or ditching it for a hang-on-the-back refugium (e.g. a small one by CPR)?  I'm just curious how you folks might come down on that choice. <Given the size of the tank, the amount of rock you have... I think it's probably best to stick with the particle filtration offered by the hang on filter. If I could convince you that your money would be better spent on at least doubling the size of your tank - with 40 pounds of live rock, you have much less than 20 gallons of water... you're going to need all the filtration you can get.> Certainly there are advantages to each.  The power filter is a better way to run carbon and RowaPhos and the like (in my estimation), to take out gross particular  matter both daily and during cleaning (in addition to what comes out via siphon which alone isn't enough), more surface agitation and water movement, etc.  The primary refugium benefit in my estimation (or the one that I'd hope for primarily) would be to serve as a growing ground for algae to keep it out of the tank.  I don't see a refugium as matching most of the other power filter benefits. <In your case, neither do I.> I see the power filter in this setup as probably offering the most overall benefit, though maybe I'm wrong.   As O'Reilly would say - "What say you?" <I say consider a larger tank - then do both.> Thanks for your time. <Cheers, J -- >

BioWheels Hi, Thanks for an awesome site. I've had many questions answered by all the information it contains. I currently have a 55 g with 1 yellow tang, 4 small Chromis, a few snails and hermit crabs, a couple of shrimp, and a brittle star. I've been battling with my nitrate. I currently have a Penguin 350 power filter with 2 bio wheels and a Berlin Air Lift 60 skimmer (not a great one and am hoping to upgrade to a Remora soon). <This will really help> I recently added a 5 inch sand bed to the tank. I use treated tap water for my 10% weekly water changes. It tests at 5 ppm for nitrates. My question is, will removing the bio wheels help to reduce the nitrate?  <Mmm, not much here... the new sand-bed and upcoming skimmer will accomplish this> It is currently at 20 ppm. I only have about 15 lbs of live rock currently and will probably add it slowly for budget concerns. My big concern would be with the lack of biological filtration by removing the bio wheels. <Not likely an issue given the history of this system, its components... You could try/see what will happen with its removal (very likely nothing). Bob Fenner>

Bio Wheel Hi I am curious 'how does one know when to change a Filters bio wheel?. Is there a color change to look for? Or is it due to the speed of which it turns or other?.  <It tells you in the manual that only rinsing in salt water (if saltwater aquarium) is necessary. James (Salty Dog)> 

Bio-Wheel Nitrate Factory? Naw >Hi, crew and whoever is answering today. I'm Bernd from Honduras. >>Buenos dias, Berndt, Marina today. Your message was dropped in my box, nice to hear from you. I hope all is well in Honduras. >I have a 110 gal FOWLR tank that I'm converting into a reef tank slowly. Equipment: Protein Skimmer 4 powerheads for water movement 1 Magnum 350 canister filter with Bio Wheels. That's all for filtration. No sump or anything. I have about 180 lbs live rock and 9 fish. >>Have you considered setting up a refugium? You could eventually ditch the canister (and even the skimmer!) altogether if you use a large enough refugium. >Several soft and stony corals. My problem is the Nitrate. >>As ever, ubiquitous. >It always is above 20-30 NO3-N, and I read in one of Your columns that maybe the Bio Wheels might cause the problem, apart from maybe feeding too much. Should I remove the Bio Wheels? >>This is, in my opinion, due to a complete misunderstanding of the nitrification process, which is a digestion and, ultimately, oxidation process. The Bio-Wheel is doing its job perfectly, but what's going to convert the nitrate that's the final product? That's where a refugium comes in, others have also used (with varying degrees of success, depending on how well set up) a deep sand bed, plenum, denitrator coils/reactors, etc. Going from the KISS principle, and knowing that nature has done much of our work for us, we can harness things like macroalgae and the anaerobic regions within live rock to that end. >My tank is 3 years old and all the other parameters are within recommended range. I'm adding Mark Weiss Reef Vital DNA twice a week and also Combo Vital. Are those products recommended? >>No. To quickly reduce your nitrate level, I would suggest a 50%-75% water change. You haven't mentioned your husbandry, nor the actual specimens (I'm sorry, Berndt, it's been a long time and I don't remember what you have in the tank!). The canister filter may require servicing every week to two weeks, a single 350 on a large tank isn't quite enough if it's the route you choose.  >I seem to have problems growing coralline algae. When I add a new rock nicely covered with coralline algae, it disappears after a few days. I read Your advise about coralline algae and add Kalkwasser and will buy Seachem Reef Calcium to try it out. Anthony was recommending it. I have 1x250 W MH, 10 K, and 300W PC fluorescents. Thanks for Your always invaluable advise. Bernd >>Berndt, without knowing a few parameters (alkalinity, calcium) I cannot confidently recommend you use any of these products, though I have a very high regard for SeaChem's lines/products. Test your water for these levels, as they are indeed important for the growth of the coralline - you'd like the alkalinity (measured as dKH) to be around 12dKH or higher. For further reading (though I believe you've already been here, more for the benefit of our other readers) try starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/corlalgfaqs.htm and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/corallinealg.htm.  Marina - Saving to purchase her copy of Rosetta Stone software so she can FINALLY learn to speak Spanish fluently, sheesh! 

Spray bars on Emperor 400 not working? I have replaced the Impeller and the intake tube, cleaned the whole assembly and absolutely no water. It was torn down for about 6 months (35 gallon). Please help me any way you can. <Hello Heather. Did you actually take the spray bar off the filter and clean with a small bottle brush. Usually the holes get clogged up with algae. That is one of the draw backs of the emperors, the spray bar generally requires a weekly cleaning. Other than that I don't know what to tell you. James (Salty Dog)> 

BioWheels on a reef tank? Hello, << Hello. >> I converted a 30G freshwater to Marine about 3-4 months ago. I have read mixed reviews about BioWheels WRT nitrate levels. I have no room for a refuge/sump with my stand, and as this is my first attempt with a marine tank I thought I would try to "keep the costs down" - or at least this is what I tell the wife. Currently the tank has an Emperor 800 BioWheel HOT filter, stuff full of "nitrate sponge, PhosGuard", 2 oz of activated carbon, floss, and of course the BioWheel. Of other things to note are the Prizm HOT protein skimmer, two older 450GPH power heads, 45lbs of live rock, roughly 20lbs of lava base rock, and 3-4" of a sand bed. Also have roughly 300W of CFL Actinic and 10000K VHO lighting. The tank is stocked with 1 flame hawkfish, 1 small decorator crab, 1 "chocolate chip" star, 1 maroon clown, 4-5 purple tip anemone and a few small hermits/snails. As far as the water quality is concerned, everything's looking pretty good with the exception of small nitrite/nitrate levels. I just yanked the BioWheel out of the emperor after reading reported Nitrate problems - just wanting to know if I should yank the entire power filter and just rely on protein skimmer/live rock? << I'd leave it in.  I have one on my 29 gal tank.  You can also easily convert these filters into hang on refugiums by simply putting a light over them. >> This is just hard for me to give up after using heavy filtration of my freshwater tanks, and continuing to rely on huge volumes of canister filtration on my larger freshwater tanks. << Keep it. >> Your guidance is much appreciated. Best Regards, Tom. <<  Blundell  >>

Filtration for a 29 gal Hopefully my email about lighting has been received. Another question as I plan for a 29 gallon reef. Should I remove the BioWheel from the wet/dry Eclipse 3 filter? << I like to leave them in.  I think they help. >> I want few fish and plenty of coral. I also have the same Eclipse 3 hood with no filtration system, lighting only. Maybe a better idea to use the Eclipse lighting and modify the hood for a HOT filter and protein skimmer instead of using the whole Eclipse 3 shebang? << Yes, a good idea.  I took my filter off to add a hang on refugium, so there are other options that will all work. >> Thanks! -LH <<  Blundell  >> Emperor filter not working I bought the Emperor 280 Biowheel filter system. It was working great until I cleaned it...now it doesn't work! What did I do???  The situation...The intake tube is not sucking up water.  What's strange is if I POUR water directly into the flow manifold everything appears to work fine...the water is sucked down, water squirts out of the spray bars, but once I hook up the intake tube no water is sucked up to keep the system going.  Yes, I've filled the filter box 1/2 full of water before I plug it in. What am I doing wrong????  Everything looks fine except no water is being sucked up the intake tube...that is (yes) properly seated. <Okay sounds like the motor isn't running to pull the water up. You need to check and see what's going on with it.  Also it does run when full because of gravity.  I know I hated the emperors cause I always had problems with getting it started. In my case I never had the Biowheels in properly. They weren't exactly as they should have been in the slots.> HELP!  Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. <Try taking it totally apart and putting it back together again. Good luck, MacL> Aron

Aquaclear filter media Something I need to get straight on, I have two HOT Aquaclear filters for my 35 gallon FOWLR marine tank. I am wondering what is the correct filter media to use. Sponge on the bottom followed by the activated carbon, but do I need or rather should I stay away from the Amrid media? cheers Mike <Hey Mike, If you are using live rock in this tank (which I recommend) you really don't need to run anything but maybe some carbon in the Aquaclear filters. If you are not using live rock, then use the sponge followed by the carbon. As far as other media goes, there is a myriad of choices, but little reason not to stick with the sponge. Just make sure you keep it clean by rinsing it out WITH TANK WATER every two weeks or so. Cheers Jim>

Re: Sponge in AquaClear Filters Jim, you told mike to use carbon in his AquaCear filters.  Did you mean to take out the filter sponge and use only carbon?  I have two 46 gallon bow front reef tanks  with a ViaAqua multi skimmer and 3 Maxijets and 1 AquaClear 300 outside filter on each tank.  I use the sponge and the carbon.  I just need clarity.  Should I remove the sponge?  I have tons of live rock in each tank and one tank is 1 year old and the other is 3 years old. Thanks for you time. Susan ***Susan, The live rock on your tank makes the sponge in your filters superfluous. It makes the power filters themselves superfluous actually, especially since you run power heads for water circulation. Unless you have a tank with extremely messy fishes, and a very large bioload, the live rock can and should be the primary source of filtration in your tank. That, and live sand if you run a sand bed. The sponge has no denitrification abilities, unlike the live rock. So, the only thing the power filter really has to offer you is the ability to hold carbon bags. Having said this, the sponges don't hurt, so continue running them, along the carbon bags if you wish. Jim*** Can I use freshwater filters for my saltwater tank? Is it safe to use used filter cartridges? << Well I say yes, if you wash them well. >> I just bought a used TetraTec 500 hundred filter which was on a freshwater tank. Can I used the filter cartridges on my saltwater tank or do I have to get new ones? << I think if you wash them well you will be fine, but I wouldn't recommend it.  Here is why; I would recommend buying new filters, simply because they are cheap (when compared to the rest of the hobby).  So why risk your expensive marine tank, over a couple cheap filter pads?  Better safe than sorry. Blundell  >> Is my BioWheel creating more nitrates?     I have a 46 gallon tank that has been up about 3 months.  I have a Emperor 400 and a Bak Pak 2r.  I also have about 50 pounds of live rock and two weeks ago I increased my sand bed to 4". Last night I noticed my nitrates had gone up to 20 ppm and this is after doing a 5 gal. change the day before (and every week since the tank cycled). I don't think I am over stocked with two Percula clowns (1") and a bi-color blenny (1-2") for fish and a cleaner shrimp 6 Nassarius snails and 2 Turbo's. I also have a colt coral, green star polyps, some button polyps (5 came on live rock have since increased to 13) and a red open brain (in the substrate). do you think the bio wheels in the Emperor should be removed or should I leave them. << I would leave them.  I like BioWheels. >> could this be part of the nitrate jump or is it the sand working itself in. << I would suggest more live rock, and more sand.  Also if you do water changes, don't disturb your sand bed.  Give it time to settle and create the bacteria areas you need.  Try feeding less to your fish, like feed them once per week. >> thanks Jeremy <<  Blundell  >>

Live rock Hi Michael, <Hi again :]> I will be using the live rock rubble in the power filter box for biological filtration. Is this a good idea or should I go with bio balls or some thing similar. <I would use bio balls and save the rubble for a refugium. Live rock rubble in a power filter will likely trap too much detritus> This is for a fish only tank and I want to keep the nitrates as low as possible. It's my understanding that using live rock as bio media will create less nitrate, is this correct or is the live  rock just not as efficient? <It is correct because live rock is not as efficient> Doesn't live rock utilize different bacteria then the bacteria that colonize other types of bio media? <No, they use the same strains. M. Maddox>

Skilter 400 on a new tank - 3/2/04 Hi, I need help. <That is what we are here for> I have a 55 gal. tank, Emperor 400, live sand, live rock, and started on 2/4/04. <Very new tank. Just because Ammonia and Nitrite check out OK doesn't mean the cycle is finished but I digress> Every thing has been fine. <Good> I was told to get a protein skimmer so about 2 weeks ago I added a Skilter 400. <Not really a skimmer in the worst sense of the word. I know it is marketed as such but this is as much of a skimmer as I am talking mule, wait.....> My tank is stocked with 3 cleaner shrimp, 3 peppermint shrimp, 1 turbo snail, 3 Mexican Turbos, 3 pajama cardinals, 4 hermits, 1 scarlet crab, and 1 true percula and 1 false percula. <This is a recipe for possible disaster in such a newly setup tank. There is a lot of bioload in a short amount of time. Watch the water chemistry carefully> My questions: 1) When I added the Skilter my tank filled with a lot of little bubble and it was unsightly. <One reason the Skilter is not considered a very good product. There are some sites out there that have some DIY modifications for them. Do a search in your favorite search engine.> I took the Skilter off and cleaned it and reinstalled it and the same thing happened. <Well......looks like dog doo.....smells like dog doo....maybe it is dog doo> If the Skilter is off the tank clears up. What do I do? <Well, I would look to a quality skimmer. Check out the recommendations on our site> 2) I tested my water for ammonia and it was a little high <Whuh???? I thought you said everything has been fine? This is not good> so I changed out 5 gal of water (over a 30 min. period). After I did than my clowns started acting funny (breathing hard and not swimming erratically but just different) <Maybe something wrong with the makeup water> then I noticed one of my pepper mint shrimp dead. <Not good, mate> (was moving than just quiet). I made sure the temp was about the same <Make it the same> in the bucket as in the tank and the salinity was the same. <Be sure to aerate your water for a good 24 hours. Did you use R/O water? Was it out of the tap? Could have had ammonia and chlorine it if it was out of the tap> What did I do wrong? <See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/watrqualmar.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm Or was it time for my tank to have a water change? <Should be doing weekly water changes> Please can you help. Monica <This is to start you off. Keep reading through our site as there is much info to help your decisions and pocketbook. Let us know if we can be of any more assistance. Thanks for being part of it all ~Paul>

- Tuning The BakPak - Hi Crew, The water level inside my Backpack skimmer is starting to get so high that I can't put the cup high enough to go over the bubbles. The bottom of the cup is still under the water, even with the rubber band/o-ring is at the bottom of the cup. The skimmate is going to be very wet & thin if this continues. The skimmer did not do this before. Am I doing something wrong?  Do I need to clean it out? <Might want to check the exit port for blockage.> I have BioBlox in there, but like I said, this just started happening & I've had this skimmer for around 5 months. <Have the BioBlox been in there for five months. I know from experience that if there is any chance for back pressure in the settling chamber of this skimmer to get blocked up, it will perform exactly as you describe. I'd try rearranging the BioBlox to try and promote the free movement of water through that second chamber on the skimmer.> Thanks, Pufferpunk <Cheers, J -- >

Ditch my Bio-Bale? 1/15/03 Greetings WWM Crew!  Your site has been a great source of information - thanks for all the hard work.  I've done my best to read everything on here about bio-media vs. live rock and sand, and I'm looking for a little more affirmation here before I try. <Glad you find WWM helpful!  Adam here today.> I have a 37-ish tall tank, with a CPR BakPak2 (Bio-bale still in it) and a Maxi-Jet 600 for extra circulation.  Lighting is an old eclipse hood that was modified to use the BakPak, bulbs of indeterminate age.  I have about 3 inches of a course substrate and 9 pieces of rock (some started life as live, some dry - all nicely covered in micro algae) that take up maybe 1/5 of the tank's volume - substrate and rock have been in the tank for about 4 years.  Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20. Inhabitants include: 1 Striped Puffer (4 inch) 1 Longhorn Cowfish (2.5 inch) 2 small clowns 1 small blue damsel 1 large yellow damsel Assorted hermit crabs, 2 small emerald crabs, 1 scallop, 1 Chocolate Chip starfish The puffer and the cowfish are going to my 150 when it's done cycling in a few weeks. <Whew!  Glad to hear they are moving to bigger quarters!  It sounds like things are pretty "Cozy" in your current tank!> I'd like to try taking the bio-bale out to reduce the nitrates, and wanted to make sure my setup was a good candidate.  Eventually the 37 will be my invertebrate tank - the 150 is FO.  Any advice would be appreciated!  Regards, Dave <I would try removing the bio-bale.  From what I have seen of them, I doubt they do much anyway.  It may take over a week to see nitrates dropping.  If they don't come down after about two weeks, write back and we will figure out why.  It may just be that with such a high bioload, they will run high.  HTH  Adam>

Beating Bubbles I have a 55 gallon tank with 2 percula clowns and a potters angel. All my water parameters are on track. I am currently using a CPR Bak Pak 2. There in lies the question. I have 25 + different species of softies in my tank. The only thing that bothers me about the Bak Pak is it never seems to stop emitting small bubbles into the tank. What I was wanting to know is if the Remora c would be a better option than the Bak pak because I have no room for a sump to really upgrade, or if you have another hot skimmer that you would recommend. Any help would be appreciated. Regards, Aron <Well, Aron- both of the skimmers that you mention are well-made, and have good reputations for quality and efficiency, with the edge by a slight margin to the Remora. I believe that CPR makes a "bubble trap" for the Bak Pak, so you may want to contact them or visit their website to see if this is still available. From what I've heard, people that have used the bubble trap have had the problem vanish...Worth a shot! Regards, Scott F>

- AquaClear Refugium - Hi, I've heard some talk about people turning HOB power filters like an AC500 into refugiums. Have you heard of this, do you think it would work, and do you have any DIY plans? <Yes, I've heard of it. I think any refugium is better than none, but certainly less and less practical if the percentage of water in the refugium is tiny compared to the system volume. Larger is always better with refugiums. And sorry, I don't have any DIY plans for build one. Imagine is would be pretty straight forward.> Thanks, Zack <Cheers, J -- >

- Power Filters - I have a 46 gallon bow-front, 45 lbs. live rock, Aqua C Remora skimmer, 4 damsels, and a Foxface.  Currently, I am using the Emperor 400 for mechanical filtration and activated carbon, but it is getting old, and has started to make a lot of noise. <Why don't you disassemble it and give it a clean - likely there is something putting the impeller out of balance.> I am now looking to replace it with something better.  I do not want to spend the money on a canister filter because after I learn more, I will be using a sump.  I have read through all the FAQs on wetwebmedia, but I have found mixed feelings on the best brand of power filter. <I like the AquaClear filters, simple and reliable.> Also, some have said that with a good skimmer, there is little need for a mechanical filter at all. <I've heard that too, but to each their own... there's nothing wrong with mechanical filtration. Protein skimming is chemical filtration so technically each will filter slightly different things.> I'd appreciate your opinion on this and what brand of power filter. Thank you, Brian <Cheers, J -- >

Fresh water aquarium, Eclipse system three, bio wheel  I've ordered a bio wheel because mine broke. Now when I put the bio wheel in its place where it goes and put the filter system to work, it makes bubbles. Not any ordinary bubbles, but excessive, large, bunched up bubbles. My water purity is good and it doesn't smell. Why does it make these bubbles? <maybe you did not put it in correctly, I would just try to reposition it. Also check your water level because this also could make a difference, IanB> 

MICRO BUBBLES! Hi Guys, Thanks for the help in advance. I have a 55 with a Emperor Bio wheel and a Aqua C Remora Pro (Mag).  I have 3 fish in the tank for about 4 months now, The tank has been up for about 7 months. I have  A clown, Yellow Tang and a Cleaner Wrasse .  All seem to be doing fine.  I added a Pink Tipped anemone about a month ago and He wasn't doing so good so I did some upgrading. I upgraded my lights to Power compact 130 watts and then I wanted to add some water movement and I added an AquaClear 802 with the filter.  For some reason I always had those damn Micro bubbles in my tank and now that I added the AquaClear that seams to be spitting out even more.   What is the deal?  Most tanks I see don't have this.  <you could try putting a filter of some sort in front so that the bubbles cannot make it up in to your main system. also you might try adjusting the water level> With the Emperor if I adjust the flow I have to almost set it to nothing to get no bubble and with the remora pro I had to put a sponge on the water output to reduce to bubble out put.<yes this is what I used to do> My first try with a power head was a Power sweep 226 but that was not enough GPH and I was getting crazy amounts of bubbles.  (I also read were you said It was a waste of money!)<yeah it is>  I went out and bought the Aquaclear 802.  Seams to be giving me good water moment but its putting out those damn micro bubble.  Every once and a while it will spit out a glob of them.   Any suggestions?  <you could try the filter idea. That's pretty much all I can think of off the top of my head.> Also, I enclosed a picture of my tank.  What to you think of the placement?  Should I attach that hose to the top of the Pump with the water filter?  <I have seen many people do it the way you have been doing it with little problem or not problem> Thanks Again and I look forward to hearing from you.<good luck, IanB> Michael Ristagno

The Filter Ian B. Thanks for the help. I guess there is no escaping the rear of the tank clutter - It seems that I must either have an overflow/pre-filter with the wet/dry sump and skimmer under the tank, or use a hang on filter with a skimmer such as the Bak Pak or Amiracle.<agreed> If I opt for either the Bak Pak2 or the Amiracle SL-5 Hang On, and use live substrate (25 lbs) and perhaps 10 pounds of live rock would this be sufficient filtration?<I suppose. with weekly water changes>  Also, does live rock require lighting?<to a certain extent yes> To recall I have a 37 gallon show aquarium, (24 x 18 20h) which I intend to use as a FO aquarium.<good to hear>  I hope to keep a snowflake eel and dwarf lion fish.<both are nice specimens> Many thanks.<good luck, IanB>

Biowheel in a reef? <Morning Patrick- Ryan helping today> I am setting up a 29g reef, planning for seahorses down the road with a 5g refugium (space restrictions).  I will have a skimmer and planning for no other filtration at this time.  will have plenty of live sand/live rock. <Good.  What kind of skimmer will you be selecting?> I would like to add some additional filter on the refugium possibly. Is there any advantage or disadvantage to using a BioWheel (such as the model-30) over usage of bioballs?  I am thinking to run a biowheel-30 on the "inflow" to the refugium, or maybe on the "backflow" to the tank, to gain the "advantage" (if any) of a wet/dry without actually having one. <Although it does an excellent job converting ammonia and nitrite, it cannot help prevent the slow accumulation of nitrate.  But, if you're using a refugium, you may be able to establish an equilibrium.  Have you checked out Bob and Anthony's new book?  The chapters on refugiums and macroalgae should be a great help in your new project.>   I am open to other filtration suggestions if you feel the BioWheel is unneeded or not recommended in this setup. <It's really serving the same function as the live rock, barring the removal of nitrate.  If you keep your bio-load where a true reef should be, it's pointless.  The all-natural approach is simpler, easier and less work.  Good luck! Ryan> Patrick Glenn Technical Support

Re: Gravel, Change or Not? Thanks for the response.  A follow-up question, if you will: since the Eclipse system is supposed to be superior because it houses beneficial bacteria on the Bio-Wheel, wouldn't that make it less likely the tank would be disturbed by replacing the gravel with sand? <Good Evening, All biological filters have Bio-Media where bacteria is grown to breakdown ammonia, nitrites. Your gravel has carries a good portion of your aquariums beneficial bacteria population. About 3 years ago I had a 45gal tank with parrotfish changed the gravel and I had to large bio-wheel filters and my fish died because I had nitrites and ammonia in my aquarium water due to the removal of some of the bio-media (which was the gravel). Gravel can be changed but I would make it a gradual one (maybe take 1/4 of the old out and put 1/4 of the new in) just make sure if you decide to change the gravel feed the fish very sparingly and get the water tested often, I don't want you to loose fish like I did three years ago. IanB>

Use for bio wheels I never heard back from you guys... not sure if it got lost in the shuffle.    just trying to get info re the use of my BioWheels - thanks! <Thanks for being persistent> My 55 gallon tank has cycled and I am in the process of trying to get my Qtank to cycle. The starter kit I bought came with an Emperor 400 with 2 bio wheels. <OK> Am I correct in assuming that I do not need the bio wheels in the main tank? My LR should cover the bio filtration and I can use the Emperor for added circulation, mechanical and chemical filtration right? <Yes, as long as you follow a rigid water change schedule.> By removing the bio-wheels I am removing a potential source for nitrates? <Depends on how religiously you clean them. When they get dirty, they can form nitrates.> OK, assuming all that is true, can I take those bio wheels and submerge them in my Qtank to boost the bio filtration there? Do they need to be exposed to air intermittently? <Should be OK as you describe, although unnecessary if the sponge filter is properly sized and you do regular water changes. Depends on bioload as well.> I figure it will take about 5 months before my main tank is sully stocked (five stocking stages at one month QT each) - will I have to junk them after using them in QT (or can I put them bank on the Emperor 400 - assuming no treatments are needed - creating a ready source of bio-filtration for the QT as needed)? <Personally, I buy new sponge material for my QT and cycle it before buying the fish. With that, I would not reuse them. But then, that's me <G> Hope this helps, Don> Thanks!

Refugium? (in a hang-on power filter) I guess this is more of an observation than a question. I have a 55 gallon reef tank, DSB and LR. On it I have a Penguin BioWheel 330 filter (with one wheel removed, actually I could probably remove the other one too). I had noticed that I had not needed to change the filter cartridges in over 2 months. Normally I would expect overflow at the center of the unit long before then, indicating clogged cartridges. I decided to change them anyway. Upon removal, I found that they looked practically unused! I then noticed, on top of and through the pads, about a gazillion bugs! Talk about a "biological" filter! Of course, I couldn't throw them out. I guess I will keep these pads as long as the material stays intact, using the auxiliary media containers to hold my fresh carbon instead. Is this common?   <Not common enough, and very fortuitous. Bob Fenner>

BioWheels removed - did I do the right thing? I have read so much on your web site I am getting to the point of forgetting more than I learned!  I started my 55 gallon saltwater tank as fish only and used a MAGNUM 350 PRO DELUXE Canister Filter with 2 Bio-Wheels.  I have since added 53 pounds of Live Rock (and I reduce the Crushed Coral base from 2 inches to 1 inch - based on your web site mentioning poor water flow through the substrate would be bad).  I think I read on your FAQs that the Bio-Wheels are nitrate factories and not needed if you have Live Rock (but I can't find the specific FAQs that led me to understand this) - so, 2 weeks ago I removed 1 Bio-Wheel and with everything still ok, I removed the second Bio-Wheel this past weekend - I am now Bio-Wheel-less.  I am still running the Canister Filter with floss sleeve over a carbon container.  I was just looking for assurance that I did the right thing (the BioWheel box is still in place - I just removed the wheels from them - so I can put them back if you say so). <I believe you made the right move. Do you have test kits for nitrite/nitrate? Would be good to know what these values are (looking for 0)> Specific setup = 55 gallon with 53 pounds of live rock, Prizm Protein Skimmer, Magnum 350 Filter, 2 Maxi-Jet 1200 and 1 PowerSweep 228, temp at 79 deg.  Fish inhabitants are 2 Clowns, 1 Damsel, 1 Purple Firefish, 1 Mandarin Goby and 1 Yellow Tang. Inverts are a dozen various type snails, a  few crabs (1 emerald, 2 blue leg and 2 scarlet), 1 serpent star, 1 blood shrimp and 2 feather duster.  I will be adding my first Coral in a few weeks. <Hope things continue to go well, Don>

Re: Can Not Find the Leak Just thought I'd share with you something related to this persons query. I have had impeller problems with an older Aquaclear 500... the impeller seized and must have damaged the seal around the motor (or something like that)... when I woke up in the morning about 10% or more of my 230 gallon fresh-water tank had siphoned into the filter, then out of the filter, then onto my floor.  I was worried that it was a leak also (having just bought this tank used) but it really was an impeller problem. Hope this is useful, Jeremy <It has for me. Thank you. Will post. Bob Fenner>

Bio Wheels for a reef tank <Ananda here today...> In a reef tank should I use an emperor 400 as I am doing along with the LR/LS and wet dry? I am going to take out bio balls from wet dry as you suggest, should I lose the emperor 400? Still use it? Or use it and lose the bio wheels? Thanks <This is a topic of much debate. I have read that some people have had increased nitrates with the bio wheels, while others have not. I would keep them running for now, and once you have the bio balls out of the system, let the tank stabilize and run nitrate tests. If you still have high levels of nitrates, pull the bio-wheels out and keep them in a separate container for a while. If your nitrates then drop, don't replace the bio-wheels, but do keep them submerged in a small bucket so you can use them for bio-filtration on a quarantine or hospital tank. Just periodically dump out the water from that bucket and add water from your tank (like when you do a water change). You can use the filter to hold activated carbon or other chemical media if you like. Do check the marine articles and FAQs for more info.... --Ananda>

Should He Bail On The Biobale? Scott, thanks for the response.  I had hoped not to add more visible apparatus to the interior of the tank but perhaps by removing the BioBale I can add a bubble eliminator inside the BakPak bio chamber. <I hear ya! I think that CPR makes an internal and an external bubble trap- do shoot them an email for more information, though> About removing the Biobale media.  I have no LR or DSB (LR is in future plans).  The CPR and EHEIM are upgrades from a Penguin Power Filter with a bio-wheel (planned to run in parallel for two weeks).  The EHEIM has no ceramic media but rather each basket is loaded with nylon filtration pads. If I remove the Biobale media where will beneficial biological filtration continue to occur?  Inside the EHEIM filter pads? <Oh- Did not realize that you didn't have the live rock or sand yet. I'd keep the BioBale at this point. Once you get some live rock and a good amount of live sand in the tank, you can remove it. Do change the filter pads in the Eheim regularly to prevent accumulation of organics and excessive detritus. Do keep in touch! Regards, Scott F.>

Upgrading a 29 Gal Tank (Pt. 2) Scott, Thank you for the response.... <You're welcome!> Will I increase the bacteria accumulation in the bio section of the CPR BakPak if I drain the old filter media into the BakPak? <It certainly wouldn't hurt!> If so, which side would be more effective a) the skimmer side or b) the bio side? Thanks again. <If you're going to go that route, I'd inoculate the "bio side" of the unit. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

DIY Penguin Filter Cartridges and Carbon Use Sorry to bother you again but I forgot something. I use a Penguin Biowheel filter for my 10 gallon with a custom (sounds better than homemade) filter pad. I removed the carbon and replaced it with ceramic tiles. There is also a coarse foam behind the tiles. Should I stick with the carbon or will it kill off too many vital nutrients? <I would use the standard filter cartridges. Activated carbon in proper amounts can be very helpful. -Steven Pro>

LR/BioWheels, and Substrate Hello: <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> I have a 55gal FOWLR, soon to have hearty invertebrates, 40lbs. crushed coral, BakPak2R Skimmer and Emperor 400 HOT filter with dual BioWheels.  Should I remove the BioWheels, or can I keep them running?  Is it redundant with LR?  Is my filter too small to worry about them? <If I were using this type of setup- I'd keep 'em> Also, my crushed coral is a little deep in some spots (up to 4").  I am reading this can be bad.  True?  Should I remove some?  While I am at it, can I have one side of the tank crushed coral and one side LS  (for purposes of different inhabitants?)  Thanks a bunch! <All good questions. First, crushed coral can sometimes be problematic if it's too deep. Because of its larger grain size, it tends to function as a detritus trap and pack down hard over time. As far as the 50%/50% plan is concerned, I'd just go with one substrate. If it were me- I'd go with a 4" plus live sand bed. Do read about the benefits of live sand in the FAQs on wetwebmedia.com  Enjoy!>

Flow rate (not really hang-on... but  same concept) <Hi Craig, Craig here...> What is the recommended flow rate over a Marineland commercial Biowheel? I currently have a Little Giant powering the overflow onto the Biowheel in the sump tank and it is currently generating ~800GPH. Is this too fast? Should I slow it down? Does it really matter? This is a 180G FO tank with no LR. Sincerely, Craig <Marineland says the Tidepool Bio-wheel is designed for 300-600 gph. Better slow it down a bit. If you need the total turnover divert some of the flow to the media below. Good luck! Craig>

Flow rate Craig, Would it be detrimental to the system if I were to T the flow to the sump from the overflow, say half going into the Biowheel and the other draining directly into the sump? This would slow the flow rate of the Biowheel to ~300-400GPH, but I'm concerned with the water that isn't going to the Biowheel. Will this affect my bio load? Thanks for the help, Craig <No it would be fine. It doesn't affect your bio-load because the bio-load is based (should be based) on the capacity of the filter that was designed for 300-600 gph. That 200 gph gets treated next time. To be sure, test your water. Craig>

Power filter change question Hello, how are you? <I am doing very well today. How about you?> I want to change my Emperor power filter with an Eheim Liberty. The Emperor has a Biowheel in it. The Liberty that I want to add in its place comes with a bio pad in addition to a carbon cartridge. I have a 29 gallon tank with 25 lbs of live rock and 3" deep live sand. Do I run the risk of getting an ammonia spike if I just take the Emperor out and put the Eheim in? <It is likely you need neither for additional biological filtration. A 29 gallon tank with 25 pounds of liverock, that is stocked appropriately, can probably rely on the rock to do the job of biological filtration.> Should I leave the Biowheel in the tank somewhere for a while until the biopad on the Eheim gets established? <The Biowheel, just laying somewhere, is not going to do much good.> Or should I put the biopad from the Eheim in the tank for a while, then make the switch? <That sounds much better.> Or does any of this really matter? <Probably not> Thanks, Kevin <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Marine aquarium filter intake level Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2002 12:08:08 -0400 Hello: <<Hi Rich>> My filter is an Emperor 400 hang-on type. How far down should the intake reach? Right now it reaches almost halfway down. They give you an extension for the intake, but since it is too long I figured I could trim it so the intake is lower. <<Yep, check out the owner's manual, they tell you how to set it up. The intake tube is rectangular, can be cut with a saw or razor knife, and the intake screen sits just above the substrate.>>  Thanks Rich <<You're welcome!>> <<Craig>>

Power Filter Options Bob, <Steven Pro in this morning.> First off I would like to thank Steven Pro for his answers to my last e-mail. <No problem. That is what we are here for.> I did finally remove the mystery crab. He made it easy for me by camping out on top of one of my power heads (lights were off). I never did ID the little guy though. <A tough job with most of these.> As a brief tank synopsis, I have a 46g-bowfront with 35# Fiji, 40# live sand (and 40# play sand underneath), two Rio 1200s oscillated by a WaveMaster, and a Red Sea Prizm skimmer. The current residents include, a lawnmower blenny, a banded goby, a canary wrasse (the banded's new swimming buddy), a scissortail goby, 2 green Chromis, 4 turbo snails (and I believe some offspring), 2 blue and 2 Mexican red legged hermits. I am currently in the process of finding a power head or other filter, for which I can place various filter media bags, such as copper or phosphate remover, and of course carbon occasionally. I do not need to use these media all the time, preferring to let my tank do the work for me. I do want to keep the filter running, even without the media, just for added water motion and O2 exchange. The major problem I have had is with bubbles in the water upon return to the tank. I have tried both the Penguin 330 and the smaller mini, and both create large bubbles in the tank after falling off the spillway. I tried raising the water level in the tank, this did make my skimmer work better, but did not do a thing for the power filters. I even tried arranging a deflector but had problems with my homemade design. I have recently been looking at the following: Filstar XP1 (Rena) H.O.T. Magnum Hang-on (Marineland) Proquatics 120 power filter By literature, the Proquatics as a cheap alternative has a spillway that looks like it might reach to (if not below) the water line and has a water flow adjustment which the Penguins do not have. But, the Filstar and the H.O.T. would allow me to have the returns just below the water line in order to stir up the water surface (in addition to the power heads of course), and therefore should have no chance of creating those nasty bubbles. I know, I could just break down and put in a sump, then I could put both the power filter and my skimmer on the sump and the bubbles would not be a problem anymore, but I am trying to keep a low budget (as per the wife's instructions) and not have to worry about major water leaks. Any recommendations you could offer would be greatly appreciated. <I would opt for the greater flexibility of a canister filter.> Sincerely, Mark <Have a nice day! -Steven Pro>

Bio-wheel Kind Sirs, Thanks so much with all prior help. I have a 30 gallon tank, undergravel filter, about 15 to 20 lbs live rock (I still plan on adding more) and a skimmer (it's the Visi-jet, finally did get it skimming, not as much liquid but it's darker). <Dark is good, now aim to extract daily.> I have 4 fish, two clowns, a yellow damsel, and a hawkfish. My question concerns adding a bio-wheel to the tank. I read in Bob's book, that he recommends the use of a mechanical filter, <As do I if cleaned daily, at the very least 3-4 times weekly, else it becomes biological.> and by adding activated carbon you can reduce yellowing. <Yes, I like to use activated carbon, too.> I noticed my water has always been slightly yellow during water changes, but never thought much of it. For the past 3 years I have only used biological filtration (prior to the skimmer I had a sand filter along with the under gravel). On the shelf, I have a penguin 160 bio-wheel filter, from when I first started the tank 3 years ago (only used it about 3 month's). After reading the section on mechanical filters, I was on wondering if it would be a good idea to add the bio-wheel to the tank? <The Biowheel is biological filtration. The blue pads that Marineland sells for these units is mechanical and also chemical filtration.> It would be a temporary solution (I plan on purchasing a canister when I upgrade my tank to a 55). I read in some FAQ's the concern for nitrate's with the Biowheel. Is that with the bio-wheel itself? <Yes> or lack of maintenance and cleaning with the hang on filter? As for the activated carbon, I believe since carbon has not been used with the system it should added in small portions (4 to 6 tablespoons per 10 gallons) to acclimate the rock and fish. Any particular type of carbon to look for? <The filter pads for the Penguin already have small amounts of carbon in them.> Manufacturer? or just Nitrate and phosphate free? Thank you very much! Dave <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

TetraTec Power Filters Hello Mr. Fenner, <<Actually, it's JasonC today, how are you?>> I am planning on setting up a 75 gallon marine aquarium (Huma trigger, niger trigger, yellow tang, and lunare wrasse), it will have a Red Sea Prizm skimmer, and about 70lbs of live rock. <<Any chance I can convince you to consider a different skimmer - perhaps an AquaC remora?>> I am debating on which brand of hang on the back power filter to use. I've been looking at the Tetratec PF500 which the company rates for aquariums up to 100 gallons. I would appreciate your opinion on whether this product would be a good choice. <<As hang-on trickle filters go, this one will do just fine.>> Thank you. Bill <<Cheers, J -- >>

Re: TetraTec Power Filters Hello Jason, Thanks very much for your timely advice. Bill <<Always a pleasure. Glad I was able to help. Cheers, J -- >>

Bak-Pak II Modification Hello. I was wondering if I could use the bio media in the Bak Pak II and live rock filtration for a 20 gallon reef tank. <Yes> Thank You, Jeremy Udkoff <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: Bak-Pak II Modification I was wondering if I could put bio balls in the reaction chamber of a Bak-Pak II and if so would it be more effective than the bio-bale? <Yes and maybe, respectively.> Also could I use it and the bio bale at the same time. <I would probably pick one or the other.> Thank you very much. Jeremy Udkoff <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Eheim filter for 29gal reef? Hello, I was wondering if an Eheim Ecco filter would be sufficient for my 29gall tall reef tank? <A good start for mechanical filtration (and space for occasional chemical)... I encourage you to add a skimmer, and investigate other possibilities (like using a live algae sump...)> or should I spring for a Eheim 2026 filter? Also I need a recommendation on a Reliable powerheads as I am having trouble with my Rios... I heard MaxiJet 1200's were ok, how about Eheim hobby pumps? <These are detailed on WetWebMedia.com as is a discussion and files of FAQs on marine filters/filtration.> thanks for the info, Ben Garbi <Please take a long look through the materials on WWM. There is a search feature on the Homepage and Indices. Bob Fenner>

Skilter modification? Good Morning To All- I was reading about Tom Walsh's 20 gal tanks and I was wondering about the modification that he made with his Skilter. The article says he uses a wooden airstone in the contact chamber, powered by a Whisper air pump. I was wondering...what size airstone (any size that fits in the 'tube')?, what size air pump (to power only 1 Skilter) and finally, do you still use the 'air flow adjuster' on the Skilter itself or just the wooden airstone? <I was there, wrote the piece. It was a "regular" small wooden (Ash?) airstone (need to be air-dried, switched out quite regularly... maybe weekly... Best tested with "bio-assay" of your trying to blow through line instead of air pump... if you can't do easily, than time to switch)... and a "II" equivalent diaphragm type air pump (Tetra's/ESU's Luft Pump is ideal here)... and the regular aspiration line was still employed on the Skilter> Any insight would be greatly appreciated! In case you were wondering...I have a 20 gal tank myself (running for almost 4 years now) and I've always just used the Skimmer part of the Skilter on an "as needed basis" (usually 2-3 nights per week, I don't usually run it during the day because I really hate all the bubbles it generates and sends into the tank...it just looks bad, in my opinion)...will the airstone modification help to reduce the number of bubbles that get into the tank?  <Yes, should> It seems to me like it might...??? Thanks for your help (again)! Ann <Bob Fenner>

Old Magnum Hello Robert, how are you? I have an old (@ 10 years) Magnum 330. I haven't used it for about 6 years and decided to fire it up the other day only to see it squirt water through it's faulty O ring. I replaced the ring and it runs, but it's noisy. I know it was never this noisy before. Any clues on what else I can replace to make use of it? Oh, the noise is like a soft 'rattling' sound. Maybe the impeller? Thanks!! Pamela <The impellor on these units also has two rubber ends that could dry rot just as your O-ring did. I would replace all of the rubber parts. -Steven Pro>

Outside Power Filters I am setting up a 55 gallon tank and on the hood there is room for two filters. do I need one filter equipped for this size like a Whisper 3 or can I use two equipped for smaller filters like two Whisper 2s? <The two smaller units would/will be better than the one larger> also can I mix and match filters if I should use two? like one AquaClear and one Whisper? <Yes, they can be mixed> thanks, great site by the way. Pete <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Tank Equipment problem Bob, I have two questions. First, I have a ten gallon Regent tank that came as a full set. Filter, light, hood, etc all there. But Regent has this thing called a BIO-Wheel and it is part of the filtration system. <Yes, this is a re-labeled product... aka the MARS (Marineland) unit> My tank got a terrible worm infestation last year, I had to kill everything, and replace all the filtering stuff but since then I have not been able to replace the wheel. I was wondering if you knew how I could find Regent to get a new wheel.  <Ask your fish store, or check with any of the big e-tailers (e.g. PetWarehouse.com) that deal in Marineland's products... these parts are sold separately. See WetWebMedia.com's links pages if you need URLs> I've looked all over lots of stores with no luck. Second, about those nasty worms. They were white in color, lived on the glass mostly at the water line, but they did venture lower, and didn't seem to have any affect on the fish or their health I know, they bred like crazy). They were super thin and looked segmented (kind of like shrunk tape worms). And I don't think that any ever got more than an inch in length. But there were lots of them. I tried several different parasite treatments, water changes, and even bleaching the tank and gravel. Nothing seemed to kill the buggers. Finally, I just tore the tank down and let it collect dust. I was just wondering if you knew anything about these, where they came from I'm guessing a store tank), what they were or how to kill them should they show up again. Thanks for your time and any info you may have to share! Fellow fish lover, Bridgett <Likely one of a few types of "white worms" that belong to the phylum Annelida (segmented worms)... and not generally deleterious... but pesky. Can be best dealt with by improved cleanliness (regular gravel-vacuuming with water changes), careful feeding, introduction of predators (some types of fishes mostly), patience. Bob Fenner>

To ECLIPSE or not to ECLIPSE... Mr. Fenner, Let me begin by giving you the much deserved, "Thank you". <Okay> I found your website approximately ten months ago while researching the dynamics of a freshwater wet/dry filter. Shortly thereafter, I became hooked and am now nine months into my first marine aquarium. I have read as much as I can on your site and have had much success so far. No deaths and a new outlook on life! <Ah, congratulations> My main tank is a 37 gal. (tall), ten gal. sump (wet/dry) with live rock, protein skimmer, approximately 35 lbs. of live rock and 20 lbs. of live sand. The aquarium has been up and running for nine months. I have a 2" yellow tang, a 1" yellow tailed blue damsel, one Astrea snail and 5-10 small hermits. I utilize an ECLIPSE 3 hood that came with the aquarium, but have upgraded the lighting to P.C.. I use a piece of fiber-filter over the factory filter for the Eclipse and have been happy with the amount of detritus I collect. I am concerned that the Eclipse filter and subsequent "Bio-Wheel", may be acting much like the media in my wet/dry that I am in the process of removing. The activated carbon in the filter pad also concerns me as it is not changed as often as that in my sump. <this is likely so... you can remove the "wheel" of no fortune> My water conditions are close to within the parameters that you suggest on your site. No ammonia, no nitrites, Ph @ 8.2, nitrates 0-.5 ppm., no phosphates, calcium @ 400+ and alkalinity @ 14 dKH. Aside from my hard water, I have had few problems to complain about. 1.) Should I shut down the Eclipse filter and "Bio-Wheel"? I would like to move to corals in a year or so, but am concerned that I cannot completely eliminate my nitrates. <I would remove it> 2.) Just plain "Thanks" for all the reading enjoyment and subsequent assistance you have already given me. <A pleasure my friend. It is to you and others that I write to/for. Bob Fenner> -ed in San Diego

Bio Wheel and other Bio Media Hello again Mr. Fenner, I have another question for you. I've seen many different people say different things about the Bio Wheel. I have a new Marineland Penguin 330 Power Filter lying around, and I would like to make use of it. Many people say that the Bio Wheel is a "nitrate factory" and is not recommended because the live rock and live deep sand bed will take care of the filtration. <Mmm, with enough "going" live rock, substrate... users of nitrates, not (the amounts of nitrate produced by BioWheels) really problematical> Others say they use it with no problems, and some say it okay to have the carbon filter, but leave out the Bio Wheel. My question, obviously, is can I use the Penguin filter, and if so, with or without the Bio Wheel. I plan on growing Caulerpa, which will supposedly eat the nitrate. What is you opinion. Thanks again, and Happy New Year. <Ah! I would use the unit intact... You can easily measure any accumulating nitrate, remove the wheel part later if you consider that it is more detriment than beneficial. Bob Fenner> Stan

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

Recommendations, please. Setup I have an 80 gallon tank that is currently going through the cycle process. It currently is using the HOT Magnum with bio-wheel that came with the setup. A skimmer is planned. I do not have a sump attached. First question: How do I attach a sump to this glass aquarium, if a sump is needed. Live rock is planned to start a reef type setup. <You don't necessarily need a sump... there are hang on skimmers that work well enough for this size, type system... If you wanted a sump, you can utilize a constant level siphon device (like the ones sold, made by CPR) to get the water out of your system, and a pumping mechanism to return it to the main> Question 2: Depending on the answer to one, I am presently considering a hang on type skimmer. I would appreciate recommendations on this. <Take a look at the models offered by FFExpress.com... a Remora, CPR or best a Turboflotor hang on...> Rick Farris I also have a Koi pond. See it at: http://pages.prodigy.net/rwfarris <You're getting all the aquatic madness! Watch out, you'll turn out like me! Bob Fenner>

This time its about filters Bob should I buy a Millennium external wet/dry multi filter? If I bought that I would buy the Millennium 3000 which pumps 295 gallons a hour designed to fit a 100 gallon tank. Or should I buy a protein skimmer? Which one is worth my while? Talking about protein skimmers I do own a sea clone but I never use it because I don't like it. Also remember which ever filter you tell me to choose remember I'm running my tank now with a undergravel powered by 2 AquaClear 802 powerheads and a Aqua clear 500 that hangs on the back. please respond soon. >> I would definitely get the skimmer first.... I'd even put on (or better, trade in, sell) the Seaclone and put the money toward gear that is better... that you will use. The Millennium is a good product, but I think you're ready to look into the usefulness of sumps/refugiums, and use a pump of much larger capacity/flow. Bob Fenner

CPR BakPak Hi Bob, It's been a while, I hope all is well. I like the changes to the WWM site, it keeps getting better and better. <Yes, and thank you> Quick question for you, I have a 26 gallon reef with about 35 lbs of Fiji live rock, a CPR BakPak, whisper hang-on filter, and four powerheads for circulation. Corals include branching frogspawn, green striped mushrooms, green bubble coral, anchor coral, green open brain, devil's hand leather, toadstool leather, and umbrella leather, couple of feather dusters. Fish include a Banggai Cardinal, Maroon Clown, pseudo diadema, a lawnmower blenny, six turbo snails, and 5 red legged hermits. <Sounds like it's packed to the proverbial gills...> 110 watts PC lighting, replace evaporation with R/O freshwater, feed sparingly, yet I have a crazy algae problem. pH = 8.3, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia = 0, phosphate = 0 - .1, calcium = 400, temp = 82-84 degrees, S.G. = 1.025. I have a bit of everything: Red Slime, Green Filamentous, and brown diatoms that trap bubbles on my liverock and crushed aragonite. I try to get as much out as possible but I have to wipe my panels and rock clean every day or two. From what I have read this seems excessive. <Lots of light, available nutrient, not much in the way of competitors or herbivores... If it were me, I'd go the "some" macro-algae route... in the main tank (or I can hear you groan, a separate tied-in sump... with its own lighting) to deprive the other algae of chemical nutrients, produce allelopathogens> Would removing my BioBale help at all in my algae fight? I also have a Polyfilter in the flow path of my whisper hang-on filter, and some small pieces of grape Caulerpa in the main tank. I don't have a sump as of yet, not possible at this time. Thanks for your time. Brian >> <Hmmm ah, maybe... try taking it out and see... or use the space there to better advantage by placing a bunch of anaerobic ceramic... like Eheim's Bio-mech... Bob Fenner, who says, ultimately, save up and get that sump/refugium going... it IS your ultimate salvation>

New Salt Water I am just getting into saltwater aquariums and am doing a ton of reading on the web. I am planning on purchasing your book, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist. My question is on filters. Specifically the Skilter 400. I have been trying to find out more information on this filter. All I know is what the manufacturer has printed on the box. Will it work as the primary filter on a saltwater aquarium and if you would suggest it what is the max size I should use it with? Thanks for the help Jonathan Finley  >> The Skilter (tm) line of Supreme will really only do an okay job (mechanical and definitely skimmer wise) on small systems (like twenty or so gallons). You are welcome to peruse my archived files and FAQs on this topic and others (in particular, pls see the Tom Walsh/Mini-mini reef piece) stored on our site: Home Page  Bob Fenner

canister filter Bob- Would a canister filter filled with carbon be as effective in a sump as it is in the display tank? Thank you, Rob >> Absolutely... as a filter....though I might hook the same directly to the tank for the increased flow (circulation, aeration) it might grant... versus the sump. Bob Fenner

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