I been running a Fluval for about ten years. Started with a 203 , then quickly moved up to 303 and sold the 203 because it was too small. About two years ago, the first 303 developed some stress cracks of some of the motor housing parts (clamps). Instead of repairing it, I decided to try the redesigned 304
. HUGE improvement. HUGE.
I installed a Xp3 this weekend on my new 70gal corner tank. It's only been running for two days so far, but here is a comparison rundown.
In pre-purchase comparison, the pricing was close enough among the major on-line retailers as to be a non-issue. (I purchased from www.thatpetplace.com
, but www.drsfostersmith.com
had similarly attractive pricing). Both the Fluval and Rena were MUCH less than a comparable Eheim.
Fluval has the edge in setup. The Rena is ultimately more flexible, but at the cost of setup complexity. There are about 20 pieces in the intake/exhaust system alone. The intake tube consists of a u-tube (and incorporates the standpipe for priming), which connects to the variable-length siphon tube (four-five individual pieces), and then to the screen. Exhaust is comprised of a u-tube, and an assortment of elbows, extensions, outlets (spraybar or jet), flow control, etc. All the parts have tapered ends to allow a friction fit except a very few that snap together. All parts are opaque. Exhaust is black. Intake is a bluish charcoal. I prefer black or transparent. Fluval parts are translucent charcoal (1pc. siphon tube) and medium gray (hoses, exhaust jet, couplers). The Fluval comes with a weird convoluted hose and special tank-side couplers that I don't particularly like, but they DO work well. I just prefer things to stay "standard", so repair parts and modifications are easier (like adding an in-line heater or sterilizer). The Xp3 comes with a set 4'-5' thick walled vinyl tubing. It's kind of a frosty translucent blue. Nice tubing. The fitting on the Rena pump and accessories are all barbs. The system includes locking plastic hose clamps. Have a towel or pair of pliers handy when you install them, they are kinda sharp and hard to close tightly (a good thing, IMO
). The Fluval uses the aforementioned special coupler on the tank-side accessories and uses plastic threaded compression fittings. In both filters' cases, leak tight operation is simple to achieve. Both units use captivated o-ring seals on the pump/case interface, so there is no worry about twisted or pinched seals.
Priming is a tossup. The Fluval has a priming pump, the Rena has a standpipe and a funnel. If the top back edge of your tank is hard to access, the Fluval would be easier to prime, IMO
... Once set up, priming is almost a non-issue, since the siphon doesn't need to broken on either filter to perform regular cleaning.
This one is a dead tie. They are both silent enough to run in a bedroom. I've read a lot of people complaining about a noisy Rena, but they probably didn't assemble things tightly enough. Lots of places for air to enter the system... Mine is silent. (I wish I could say the same thing for my Orbit...) Both systems employ rubber feet to help dampen noise and vibration.
Cleanup is slightly easier on the Xp3 because of the tray handles and sponge sizes. Fluval's sponges are a bit thicker, so they take longer to flush clean. The tray dividers in the Xp3 are a nice touch. Repairs from breakage are easier to do on the Fluval, but it's also built less heavily than the Rena, so pick your poison... Both systems have a quick disconnect which includes a flow shutoff for the hose bibs, so you won't lose your siphon during cleanups. The Rena has one lever, while the Fluval uses two (one for flow, one for locking).
With a simple control on the filter housing, Fluval has the edge in this area. RENA decided to put the valve inside the tank (yes, submerged). I prefer my tanks to look natural, not mechanical... I elected to keep the flow control out of the circuit, for appearance. Kudos to Rena for allowing this option, but the currents from the unrestricted spraybar are a bit too strong for docile fish. My Giant Danios would love it, but I intend on planting this particular tank and stocking it with more laid back breeds. I'll have to add a valve to the system. I may do that with a ball valve down by the filter or I may drill out the spraybar orifices to about 1/4" instead of the 3/16" they came at...
Since I've only been running the system two days, I can't really comment on filtration, but the structural differences between the Fluval and the Xp3 lend me a few clues on how I expect them to differ. The Xp3 has larger trays, so contact time at a given flow should be longer in the Xp3. That will improve biological and chemical filtration efficiency. The trays in the Xp3 nest together a bit tighter than in the Fluval. In addition, the top tray in the Xp3 seals against the pump housing with an o-ring and the top tray cover is MUCH more rigid in the Xp3. These things all mean lower bypass from the Xp3, which means cleaner water. Media choices for either system are practically limitless.
In my Fluval, I use the foam pre-filters and ceramic hex-tube for large particle removal. For biological, I use porous ceramic tubes. My final stage is floss for a nice polish.
In the Rena Xp3, I am using the 20 and 30 ppi foam for mechanical, 40 FilStar Bio-Chem stars (enough for 200 gallons supposedly) for biological, activated carbon, and finally the supplied polishing pad.
Both filters include the foam pads. The Rena also
includes a Carbon pad.
The Rena media selection seems really nice. Lot's of rechargable resins (similar to water softern resins, but specifically to remove phosphate, nitrites, ammonia, etc.) Instead of throwing them away, you just recharge them.
Now, this category may not matter to many of you with enclosed equipment cabinets, but some may care. It is for them that I include my impressions about appearance... The Rena has got cleaner-looking plumbing connections, while the fluval incorporates several bulky fittings that clutter the look on top of the filter. The inlet/outlet of the Xp3 swivel to allow a graceful curve of the hose, while Fluval hoes juts straight out the top. The colors are pleasingly neutral for both systems. The shape of the Rena is a bit more angular than the case of the Fluval, which is composed with many more curves. Some may find the angularity either complimentary or detractful from the style of their other furnishings. The Xp3 is nicer looking unit, IMO
I wish filter companies would include a power cord socket right on the motor/pump housing. I don't know about your tank's equipment "room", but mine is a dark rat's nest of wires/tubes, timers, bottles, and odd discards from past experiments gone bad. Having to trace a power cord from the pump to the socket is irritating. Fumble around in the dark and bump a timer, and all of a sudden your ten minute cleaning turns into a thirty minute job once you go find a flashlight, come back, find the timer you bumped, re-set it, and get back to the cleaning... Now, once you unplugged the cord, you have to pull it out and wrap it up, so you don't trip on it, on the way to the tub/sink. Once there, you kneel down and put your knee RIGHT on the plug end, which sets off a tirade of not-so-nice words and "well-wishes" for many innocent parties. Once cleanup is done, and you managed to keep the cord out of the way, you have to make the trip back without tripping, fumble around in the dark again while missing all those timers and finicky plumbing to plug it back in.
Why not put a $3 gasket-ed socket on the case and make everyone's life easier? I'd gladly pay the extra!
I can easily recommend a Fluval 204, 304, 404. They filter great, run silent, and are durable in normal use. I've seen a few x05 models out there, but I don't know what the changes are. At a glance, they appear the same as the x04 series.
I haven't lived with the Xp3 long enough to stand behind it as solidly as I do the Fluval, but my experience so far has been excellent. So far, I am VERY pleased with the purchase and would not hesitate to recommend one.
Ultimately, It's a toss up. Look at the pros and cons of each and pick the one that fits your specific needs best. Or, If you find one on sale, pick it up.