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updated July 2020

PRODUCT REVIEWS AND BUYING GUIDE

What makes the ideal filter? A checklist of the critical features to look out for is covered this section. ​The key thing here is to target a flow rate that is 6X to 10X turnover of tank volume. Good flow rate impacts plant growth directly by enhancing nutrient and CO2 distribution.

Biological maturity affects algae risk directly, and this is achieved by proper tank cycling. Read this article on how to properly cycle a tank. Many beginners fail to cycle their tanks before adding livestock and plants, and suffer from algae problems. The fastest way to cycle a new tank is by using a combination of ammonia and starter bacteria culture, such as the one from API below.

Dennis Wong ADA120p

Above: Good circulation is a cornerstone of vibrant, enduring, algae-free tanks.

Review of canister filters

  • Our present filter of choice is the Oase BioMaster series for having integrated all the critical features in a single unit as detailed here. It has a pre-filter that can be removed without taking the filter apart. This useful feature allows regular cleaning of larger sized debris without disturbing the main filter chamber and making a mess. This encourages good maintenance. The downside of all these engineering is additional vulnerability of vents and clips to wear and tear, and additional cost compared to simpler models. 
  • The Eheim Pro 4 series is another excellent range. The main advantage of this series vs cheaper ranges like the Eheim 2217 are its additional features. This range has very silent operation with in-build on/off flow valves and its priming pump allows the filter to be set up and taken apart for maintenance easily. The quick release flow valves allow the filter to be taken part easily while the media trays allow media to be organized and cleaned easily. These are the additional features over cheaper models such as the 2217. However, the additional engineering also means more flaps and joints that can get damaged or worn out. As the build quality is good, this take many many years to occur. The engineering also incurs additional costs.

Filter Intake and Outflow

  • A simple way to improve circulation is through a Lily Pipe as the outflow vent. This design is elegant and helps circulate water from the surface to the bottom, an important aspect of improving gaseous exchange. This allows better CO2 distribution (we suggest an inline atomizer like the one below), better oxygenation and allows you to 'overload' CO2 safely.
  • Another simple but powerful water intake device is the Surface Skimmer as shown below. By taking in water from the surface, it helps improve gaseous exchange by circulating the more highly oxygenated water through the tank's circulatory system. It also removes surface oils and proteins that can severely inhibit gaseous exchange.

Tools to speed up tank cycling

  • API Quickstart contains nitrifying bacteria which effectively kickstarts the ammonia cycling process in a tank. A well cycled tank is far more resilient to algae and  we advise good tank cycling before adding plants. Using Quickstart reduces cycling time to less than a week even when using ammonia rich substrates such as ADA aquasoil. Seachem Stability works in the same way.
  • ​Ammonia such as the one from Dr Tim's Aquatics is used to start fishless cycling - this is food for bacteria to consume. This product itself doesn't contain nitrifying bacteria, which is where API Quickstart / Seachem Stability comes in.

Filter Media

  • To improve water clarity, Seachem Purigen works well. It does not absorb elemental fertilizer, only larger sized organic waste molecules. It polishes water to a high clarity and is rechargeable with basic bleach. Add it to the last stage of your filter.

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