I use a Diatom filter. I run it occasionally after water changes, if I have stirred things up. Also after adding new fish or plants, just in case
I use the Marineland H.O.T magnum and the micron filter. I then "seed" the filter with diatom powder.
This unit works great... reliable, easy to clean and maintain. Plus it is fairly versatile. I can hook my gravel vac to it an use it for thorough cleaning. Or on the occasion I need to run activated carbon (say to remove medications), the micron filter comes out and the unit also came with a basket to put the media of your choice into.
To seed the filter, I hang the unit on the tank and turn it on. I then get a giant cup (king sized cup from burger king in fact) which I put over the intake and outflow, so the filter is just recirulating the water in the cup. I then pour 1/4 cup of the Diatom powder in the cup and run it like that for 10 minutes, until the water is clear in the cup. I remove the cup and run the filter until water is barely dribling out of it. Let it run as long as you can, the slower teh flow, the smaller the particles that are being filtered.
I had looked at those ones you listed when i was shopping for mine. I talked about them with the owner of a trusted LFS
. He was the one who pointed me to the HOT magnum. Best part is it is cheaper than the ones you listed.
for the full kit: which includes the gravel vac, and even a bio wheel. $62.99
or for just the basic unit: $44.99
The diatom powder you can buy at home depot at $8 for like 50lbs (that is more than you will ever need). It is also used for swimming pool filters.
I originally bought the Diatom filter to deal with green water (and have never had green water since). At 250 gph
it took one full day to go from yuk to "omg I did not know an aquarium could be so clear"
To answer your questions directly:
How long does it take to clean a 58 gal
? at 250 gph
I cleared my 55gallon in 24 hours.
Is charging and cleaning them as much as a PITA as I have been led
to believe? Not hard at all, I describe seeding the filter above, and the Magnum is very easy to clean. Everthing rinses off. If you use enough diatom powder the filter stays like new. If the filter gets dirty because you did not put enough in, then you have to soak it in bleach for a couple days.
Is the strong current a problem for most fish? The outflow is adjustable on mine, I usually point it toward teh side of the tank. The current quickly slows as the diatomite does its job.
How do you protect small fish from the intake? Mine has a basket, only fry would be in danger. Once I was running it without a basket and I did not notice I had sucked up an adult female swordtail (I was using it as a gravel vac). The unit seemd clogged, and I was real surprised when I opened it and found her in ther, none too much the worse for wear I might add.
How do you store the filter between use? In the box it came in, no special precautions. I do double bag the diatomite to avoid any messes.