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/Aquatic Gardens, Design, Construction & Maintenance

 Cleaning Pond Filter Cartridges


By Bob Fenner

Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
Volume 2. Maintenance, Stocking, Examples

V. 1 Print and eBook on Amazon
V. 2 Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Some sale now! Oh how we used to smile knowingly and rub our hands together, seeing a customer come into the shop with a prematurely worn out filter element. I wish I had all the money in filter sleeves and cartridges that aquatic gardeners are going to ruin this week. No, I don't really want that. Being a value investor, and fellow ponderer I'd like to save us all the money lost from the early death of these filter elements. And only you can do it.

What Are These Filter Elements:

Though not everyone will employ these particulate filters on their system, there are millions of the whitish filter thingies you have to clean every now and then in many water feature filtration set-ups.

These elements have a general plan: some sort of internal skeletal support with synthetic sleeves or pleats arranged in folds to increase surface area. The pleat material is made to be used with or without other media (diatomaceous earth, carbon, other sleeving), acting as a two-dimensional sieve, trapping particles larger than filter-opening size on their incoming sides. Filter cartridges and sleeves require regular observation and cleaning, and there's the (non) rub as you will see.

What's The Problem?:

What not to do. The difficulty with these filter elements is not the parts, it's the people using them. Technology marches, hops, okay let's settle on jumps along. Cartridges and sleeves are built to last, and will give good service for many years when used and cleaned properly. The three big causes of filter element early death syndrome:

1) Infrequent Cleaning:

Filter-pumps are designed, engineered and constructed with a range of pressure and flows in mind. Allowing the element to get and stay too-clogged hurts filter function, efficiency and shortens element life. Check your flow and/or operating pressure differential per the manufacture's specifications and routinely clean them (see below procedures) per their suggestions.

Do this along with other routine checks and aquarium maintenance tasks like water changes. If you're into such things, make a checklist or pond log book entry.

2) Scrubbing:

Don't scrub the element, don't do it, das ist verboten, it's a bozo no-no, quit, nicht, nein, stop scrubbing. Whew, is this clear? Scouring physical contact wears and tears the material. See below for appropriate cleaning methods.

3) Over-Treatment:

Some folks endorse commercial preparations and other chemicals for deep and thorough cleaning. I'll give you my own home-grown remedy. The prescribed chemical agents are meant to be used at a given strength for a stated period of time. Too much too long and your cartridge/sleeves will dissolve. Bummer.

Cleaning Maintenance:

When you perceive it's time, from a specified differential in pressure (usually 10 psi) or reduced flow rate, thoughtfully turn off the pump, disengage the filter, remove element(s), and...

1) Rinse debris off sleeves, pleats with pressurized water. You're not scrubbing are you? Good.

Most of the time this is it. Re-assemble the filter, put it back on the system, fire-over and check for leaks; you're done. Periodically, you may want to sterilize and really clean the element. Proceed to number 2, sheesh.

2) Either acquire a specialty cleaning product designated for pet-fish use and follow their instructions or go directly to step three.

3) Here you are. Now be careful here. We're going to use "ordinary" household bleach, but you do not want to be the next tabloid centerpiece as a consequence of carelessness. If you can procure your very own certified pond-use-only (aka pickle) buckets or trash cans, so much the better. These you know to be free of soap and detergent, or other noxious residue.

After the rinse in step one above, gingerly place the element in a bucket of dilute (about ten parts water to one part bleach) bleach solution. Leave this for one hour. How long did I say? How come such an arbitrary interval; "You don't know how big, grungy, hot the water is...". Enough already, an hour is long enough. Carefully remove the element and just as painstakingly dump the used cleaning solution.

4) Rinse the element and bucket with fresh water to remove most of the remaining chlorine bleach.

5) Now, if you've got big bongo bucks and more sense than the average bear, you can let the element air dry while you're employing your "extra". What? You don't have a set? Well let's get out that bucket and hose again, you cheapskate.

If you have the cash, two alternating sets of elements will last about three times as long as only having one; go figure.

6) Fill that bucket and submerge the element in clean water. Over-treat with dechlorinator (or if you want, dechloraminator). Let soak for, guess how long, yep, an hour.

7) Too chintzy to invest in a two dollar OTO (Ortho-tolidine for all the service people who always wanted to know what it stood for) swimming pool chlorine test kit? Too bad. You may very well bump off your livestock (if you have any).

Rinse the cartridge, sleeve in freshwater again. Can you detect any chlorine? Retreat as in 6). Otherwise, it's time to slap that baby back into action. Easy, eh?

Killer Repair Technology:

I didn't go to college for twelve years and help run an employee-owned corporation doing aquatic maintenance for eighteen years including fourteen "on the floor" in pet-fish retail for nothing, no sirree-bob let me tell you. I did learn a couple of things of worth along the way. One was how to do repairs on torn filter sleeves and cartridges that really do work. The "magic" is in the "glue". Silicon rubber. "Yawn", you say? "The same stuff that glass aquariums are held together with?" Yes, that and giant skyscrapers.

Let the element material dry completely and apply over the tear. So, I saved you a bundle; you're welcome.

Oh, a few last notes. Silicon rubber for aquariums is "100% silicon rubber", not the stuff for shower stalls among other labeled applications. Either purchase at your friendly neighborhood pet store, or otherwise make sure it's 100%. One hundred percent is one-hundred percent. And for those wise-n-high-mers who have access to industrial or swimming pool bleach; yes you can use these instead of household strength. Dilute to about a five percent solution, and don't be a fool and be tempted to "goose" it with an acid.


So, tah-dah, that's all folks; easy when you know what to do isn't it? Don't throw your money away operating your pumps with clogged elements, ruining them in the process, or scrubbing the sleeves/pleats as it will destroy them. If you develop a tear, or a hole in your sleeve, shoe or surfboard try the 100% silicon rubber solution; it works.

Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
Volume 2. Maintenance, Stocking, Examples

V. 1 Print and eBook on Amazon
V. 2 Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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