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Old 03-11-2009, 07:05 PM   #1
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Which canister filter should I choose?

I have always ran my 55g with a UGF and at one point had a medium HOB. Set it up again this year and the HOB was no good (15+ yrs old) so only UGF w/2x550 penguin powerheads. I have a community with about 25 or so fish, and a 10g full of molly and guppy fry (45 !! in total), some of which will eventually go in the 55 and it will be quite full. I also have 4 swords, some mundo grass, and vallisneria. This is my first tank that I've really tried to keep well planted. The vals propegate like crazy - 2 turned into 8 in no time. 1 sword is doing great, one ok, and 2 not so great, but I think it's due to diatom/brown algea resulting from high municipal phosphates. Plenty of light, no CO2 (probably will do soon). I will probably need something that has space for a phosphate absorbing pad also to control the algae.

Anyways...

So I think I'm starting to see the light about ditching my UGF, especially with the plants, and have been researching different canister filters and I am having a hard time understanding a few things. Each has their own 'suggested' 'up to' tank size, and then another GPH. I guess I want to do apples to apples and get the best bang for my buck, since the one I get I am going to stick with, and have to take into consideration media cost, space in canister, and flow.

To start, I have heard that with a planted tank, it's a good idea to have the water turnover rate be less than 5. So with 50 effective gallons, 250 GPH would be the max I would want for flow. But it seems that the bigger the filter (more space/trays) the better for flexibility, but then the flow rate gets too high for the plants.

I've basically figured that there are essentially 4 major reputable brands: Rena/API, Cascade/Penn-Plax, Fluval/Hagen, and Eheim. I'm looking for the best match, here's what I've come up with so far.

*** Prices are Big Al's Online for a baseline ***

Rena:
XP1 is 250 GPH for up to 45g, 1 basket, $100 (too small?)
XP2 is 300 GPH, 75g, 2 baskets, $140

Cascade:
700 is 185 GPH, 65g, 2 baskets, $60
1000 is 265 GPH, 100g, 3 baskets, $70

Fluval:
205 is 180 GPH (110 GPH 'filter flow' whatever that means - from tech manual on website) for up to 40g, ? trays, $115
305 is 260/185 GPH, 70g, $140
405 is 340/225 GPH, 100g, $170

Eheim:
Looks like there are 2 styles on Big Al's, 221 and 223 series. The 223 series looks more like the other above (dual connections on top w/disconnect) so I'll just go over those. I could not find GPH data for Eheim.
2232, 35g, 2 trays, $100
2234, 60g, 3 trays, $120
2236, 80g, 4 trays, $130

So I'm looking for all opinions, positive and negative (I want to hear the negatives!!), as well as some suggestions on the size/flow I should choose.

I haven't had a chance to go shopping and pull some of these out of the packages yet, but from what I see, the Eheim looks like it has great bio media with those ceramic balls compared to I think Rena which had a handful of spiky looking cylinders (kinda like licorice sticks), not much I could find for the others. Also I noticed that Eheim is round vs all others are square. Round seems more logical to me, leave it to the Germans. So I guess right now I'm leaning Eheim. I would love to get a 3e series if I had the $$ those look cool.

So if you have any one of these brands, I would appreciate your input, tell me what bio media they use, how easy to clean (I'm guessing this is about the same for most), how quiet, how much the filter media runs & what you have to replace regularly (besides carbon - not going to use that because of plants), etc, etc, etc...

Thanks ahead of time!!!
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Old 03-11-2009, 09:39 PM   #2
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I have only used the Cascade brand and I love it. I've had 4 Cascades and for a 55 I'd go with a 1000.
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Old 03-12-2009, 06:19 PM   #3
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I have unly used Fluvial and love them too! LOL! I have a 304 on my 55.
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Old 03-12-2009, 06:39 PM   #4
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I have a Rena XP3 and two penguin 650 reverse flow UGF on my 55gal. I really like the XP3, I used to use a magmum 350 but this is so much easier to clean. Get the XP3 if you decide on a Rena it comes with a valve so you can control the flow if you want to turn it down, the extra capacity of the 3 trays is worth it, you can put much more bio media in there. I have the top two trays filled with ceramic.
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Old 03-12-2009, 08:20 PM   #5
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Thanks all for the input. I got some hands-on at an LFS today, took out an XP2 and a new Marineland canister, but he didn't want to take the cascade out of the box, said it was too hard to get back in.

He mentioned that the Rena model had better connectors, 4 ribs, than the Cascade, 1 or 2 ribs, and that the screw-on connector on the Cascade can be connected incorrectly causing the tube to slip off, but that would never happen with the Rena, that made sense I guess. I thought it was kind of weird that the Rena inflow jet comes out about 3mm from the top tray, then it pushes out and around and down to the bottom, I would think that would cause some kind of flow problem because it seems so restricted, but I guess not.

The Marineland version had a tube built into each tray to direct the water straight down to the bottom, and there was virtually no space around each tray, so the flow is down thru the tube in the tray, and back up from the bottom. I liked that design, it made more sense to me.

The LFS which keeps these tanks http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...albums436.html said that the Rena is the best. They didn't carry Eheim because he couldn't get parts for it or something, and just didn't carry Hagen.

The interesting thing is that the XP2 on Big Al's Online is $140, LFS had it for $148. The Cascade 1000 was !! $155 !! at LFS and !!! $70 !!! on Big Als. Why the difference I wonder???

Didn't check the Marineland price, but Big Al's C220 220 GPH / 55g $150, I think the LFS was higher.

He also said that the flow rate for almost all canisters reduces by about 25% after a couple weeks, I guess that could affect my decision also, 250 GPH becomes < 200 GPH, so with that logic sounds better to go with a higher GPH than generally needed, because 90% of the time you'll have lower flow, unless you clean the canister weekly.

Right?
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Old 03-13-2009, 07:56 AM   #6
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I own a Marineland Magnum 350 it is nice the hoses and clamps were a bit cheap out of the box.

I use this on my 55 gallon turtle tank does a great job. Turtles are about 3x as dirty as fish.

If i was to do it over again. I would buy the fluval 405 check the video out on U-tube the hoses are of higher quality and clamps and you can customize your intake and your out put hoses to match your needs.

Any canister you go with you should make sure you can get the media easy no since in buy a canister filter off of the INTERNET only to not be able to buy the media any where else.
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Old 03-13-2009, 08:06 AM   #7
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I'm not sure how the connectors can be done incorrectly on the Casacde. It's pretty straight forward, you just screw on the connectors. Either way you go, don't worry about the media. As long as you get the filter foam, the rest can be purchased locally no matter the brand.

I'm not sure why the price is so different. My lfs sells the Cascade 1000 for about $125. I tend to buy online for equipment and in stores for stocking.
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Old 03-13-2009, 10:25 AM   #8
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I am looking myself.
I found the Rena XP2 for $99 + $20 shipping on Ebay
XP3 for $120 + $20 shipping (3 baskets 350 GPH) same vendor
NEW! Rena Filstar XP2 External Aquarium Canister Filter - eBay (item 140300972875 end time Mar-13-09 19:12:11 PDT)
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Old 03-13-2009, 10:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishyfanatic View Post
I'm not sure how the connectors can be done incorrectly on the Casacde. It's pretty straight forward, you just screw on the connectors. Either way you go, don't worry about the media.
It sounded more like an idiot thing, if you don't get the hoses far enough over the ribs, when you screw down the hose clamp it can actually push the hose back off, which can cause the hose to break free I guess. The rena has 4 ribs and a snap-on clamp that will never come off. Sounded like if you knew what you were doing, you'd have no problems...
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Old 03-13-2009, 10:51 AM   #10
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Love my XP2 - though many will tell you that the XP3 is in the butter zone for a 55 gallon... I'm quite happy with it - been running since early Jan - crystal clear water and chemistry is spot on...
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Old 03-13-2009, 11:30 AM   #11
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Interesting post. Rena is sounding very good. I have the EHEIM 2232 Ecco and have a1/2 inch inline heater with no problems. Easy to clean the flow rate is ruffly 127 GPH, the 2234 ≈ 143 GPH, 2236 ≈ GPH.
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Old 03-13-2009, 03:05 PM   #12
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I see what you are saying. If you follow the instructions you won't have an issue. When it comes to canister, as long as you pick a reputable brand, you're fine.
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Old 03-14-2009, 06:43 PM   #13
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So I stopped at a petsmart and they had a Fluval 305 open box, so I got hands on one of those today. I was not impressed, it seemed like an illogical design.

The tub is separated into 2 section, one side is a vertical cartridge that contains 2 filter pads, one of either side, and it takes up about 1/4 to 1/3 of the tub. The rest of it has the stackable trays in it. So the water flows through the vertical pad and is forced through the bottom to the other side and then up through the trays. The vertical pad design is what didn't make sense to me. Maybe I just didn't see it right?

The others seemed consistent with tray-only design, which makes sense to me. Hoever the fluval did have plenty of space below the inlet for flow into the tub.

Still hung up on the Rena inlet tube being right against the top of the top tray cover. IMHO that is a serious design issue, fluid dynamics tells us that orientation will result in restriced flow, meaning to get the necessary flow desired you need a more powerful motor. Perhaps they needed backpressure for it to function right?

Still haven't gotten into a Cascade yet.

So far the one that looks the best to me is the Marineland with the inlet tube running through the inside corners of each tray to the bottom of the tub, then up through the trays. The trays were snug in the tub since there's no need for flow around them, and it seems that you would have less chance of flow-by between trays in that design.

Can someone describe to me how Eheim designs their inlet and trays since I can't seem to find one around here? The round design they use makes sense, almost no chance for flow-by between trays there, but can't find pics to see how it all looks.
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Old 03-14-2009, 07:02 PM   #14
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I would recommend Rena xp2 or xp3. I have an xp2 on my 55gallon and the water is always crystal clear. My brother has an xp3 on his 55 gallon and you really can't tell the difference. I have 2 xp3's on my 120 gallon again the water is always crystal clear. My dad has a 125 gallon in which he had 2 eheims on it and his water was never as crystal clear as ours was. We tried to tell him before he bought them but the store he bought his tank from didn't carry Rena. So just recently he finally switched to 2 rena xp3's and it has made a world of difference on his tank. With the rena you can use either the stars or ceramic rings in the media baskets. I have been very satisfied with my Rena filters. I would definitely buy them off of ebay or online somewhere, it's definitely cheaper than your lfs.
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Old 03-15-2009, 12:16 AM   #15
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Quote:
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My dad has a 125 gallon in which he had 2 eheims on it and his water was never as crystal clear as ours was.
Thank you, that's the kind of input I was looking for.

I finally got my hands on a Cascade and Eheim Ecco series at Petco today. I noticed that the Eheims had a much lower GPH rate, and was surprised when I opened one up to see that the inlet seemed to be even more restrictive than the Rena inlet! It lets out into a section less than 1 square inch, then it flows through an outlet toward the outside of the tub again less than 1 sq in. I however did like the trays, they lock together on top of each other, and the bio media was hundreds of little balls about 1/2 cm in diameter, each tray was packed with them, and there was an additional package of them (lord knows why). Interestingly, the hose clamps were exactly the same as the Cascade clamps. I was expecting to see something different, I guess.

The Cascade was interesting, it also has a design similar to the Marineland where the inlet is via a tube through each tray down to the bottom, and the trays are very large, probably the largest out of all the canister filters I looked at. The drawback I saw was that the trays did seem kind of flimsy, cheap plastic. Maybe that's why they are 1/2 as much as everything else on Big Al's Online.

The german made Eheim with it's restrictive flow design made me think that maybe there is a reason behind the Rena design, and maybe it's not that bad after all. I guess since the flow rate on the XP2 is 300/hr that's 5/min and maybe at that rate the resistance doesn't affect the efficiency. Eheim flow rate was much lower for a comparable tank size recommendation, the 2236 (largest) said 80 gallons tank size @ 185 GPH, whereas Rena's XP2 was 75 gallon @ 300 GPH. Perhaps this explains your dad's problem and the difference Rena made.

As far as bio media goes, that stars seem like a poor choice, the ceramic rings seem better, but I really dig the balls that come with the Eheim, they seem like the best, tons of surface area.

So at this point, I'm definitely leaning towards Rena XP2, though the XP3 has the flow control I'm looking for 300 GPH max with the planted tank, and if that reduces by 25% over time to 240 GPH, I'm still turning the tank almost 5 times an hour.

I'm guessing that if I use the Eheim substrat bio-balls in the Rena filter, that would probably slow the flow rate down since they're so tiny, and that seems like the best of both worlds. In that case, I might go with the XP3 so I have enough room in the trays for the coarse and fine prefilter pads, the bio-chem zorb (see more below on that), and 2 half trays of Eheim bio-balls, then the fine floss at the top. I guess I might go with the XP2 and ceramic rings if it really doesn't make a difference, I just think the more bio-media the better.

I don't need carbon filtration because I'm running a planted tank, but I just watched the API video on Bio-chem zorb and it says it's supposedly good for a planted aquarium, even though it says it's a blend of materials that include carbon. Any input from the planted tank experts on this?
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Old 03-15-2009, 12:29 AM   #16
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If you are teter tottering over the xp2 and the xp3 I would go with the 3 that way if you ever get a bigger tank you already have a filter you can use. I'm pretty sure with the rena you can use any kind of media in the baskets I got both stars and ceramic rings. I started my 120 gallon with only 1 xp3 and had no problems, I only got the second xp3 because it was free and I got it about a month ago. I'm sorry I don't have any experience with live plants, I don't think they would survive in my tanks, the cichlids love picking at my fake ones.
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Old 03-15-2009, 12:36 AM   #17
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Oh, how I would love to get a bigger tank someday...I tell ya, once you get into aquariums and they get into you - you're hooked for life. If I had money, space, and time (lottery???) I'd set up as many tanks as I could and become a local breeder!
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Old 03-15-2009, 12:45 AM   #18
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They are addicting my very first tank was a 20g then I went to a 55g and a 30 g then I wanted bigger.....petsmart had an awesome deal for the 120g I just couldn't pass up. I just helped my brother clean up and set up a 220g that he got for $500.00. He lucked out big time! He got the tank, stand, a coralife 4 way lunar light, 4 xp3's (thats how I got my second one free) 100lbs of holey rock(I stole some of that too because I found the deal for him and talked him into it) He also got about 30+ cichlids including an 8 in clown loach and a 7 in frontosa (both are gorgeous) and then all the chemicals and stuff. It was a lot of elbow grease though, the guy was getting rid of it becuase he was to the point he couldn't take care of it. We think that he only ran 1 xp3 at a time and once it got so mucked up and wouldnt filter very good he would just buy another because when we went to pick it up he only had 1 running at the time. Eventually I would like to go for a 150g or 180g not sure which, but 220g is too big for me but it is gorgeous. Right now I'm selling my 30g because my husband doesn't want 3 tanks set up right now
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Old 03-15-2009, 01:03 AM   #19
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That's cool! I'll be saving up for the big tank...if I can convince the 'better half'!!

Back on the subject though...I just went to the Marineland site and watched their video on their C series. I have to say I was impressed, and it did strike me that they mention competitors flow-by rate due to the design of forcing water around the outside of the trays and down vs through the tray. This was the other concern I had with Rena, their trays are made of a semi-flexible rubbery like material from what I remember, and since they're square, you would think if the bottom tray of coarse/fine gets too clogged, the water pressure/suction is going to pull the side of the tray inward and you would easily get flow-by at the tray junction.

I'm kind of wondering, why not go with a brand new design that addresses all these issues I'm coming up with? Plus I love my Marineland Magnum 330 that's 20 years old and still works great, I replaced the top and I didn't add oil for a really long time, then used the wrong kind so it's a little loud, but that's about it. They make great products...

Oh, decisions. Gonna make another rum & diet and have a smoke and think about it some more...not enough $ right now to jump on any decision, I suppose that's good though.
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Old 03-15-2009, 01:44 AM   #20
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I will second the Rena XP's in general and the XP3 specifically for a 55g. That's what I have on my planted 55 with pretty high bioload and it works great. I have an XP2 on my 36 corner and while it is a bit of overkill on that tank (mostly just because of the current speed in such an oddly shaped tank) the XP2 would not be enough on the 55.
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