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Why are filters not more user-friendly?

orxe87

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Hello. First post after introducing myself on the intro board and I'm off on a rant...

I've been getting very frustrated with external canister filters recently. I've had three or four types only over the years, and researched loads - none of them seem to meet what I think are sensible mechanisms for operation.

1) Filter media order. WHY do manufacturers just get this so wrong? Particulates first, then biological, then chemical if you need it. What is the reason manufacturers don't do this? I can't believe they just throw them together without research, so why not get it right?
2) Prefilters. Why do manufacturers insist on making the coarse foam the easy one to clean? In my experience the fine pad is ALWAYS the one to block flow, and always blocks first. I want a filter where that one is the first one to access, not the coarse foam. Fluval FX seems to get it closest - (flow is outside to top via coarse sponge, then down through an area for fine pad and out - but way too big for my setups. Wish they did an FX2...
3) Bypass - what's that about then? Why would I ever want a filter that bypasses the media? if it blocks I want to know about it, so don't allow water to go through unfiltered ever.

SO, what would we want as a perfect filter? Here's my list:
1) Water flow initially from bottom to top in a stack of mechanical filtration, course to fine. Separate lid to open, pull out the fine pad, replace. In a tray so all can be removed if needed without taking the head off.
2) Water flow next to go through a single big tray/compartment of bio media.
3) Pipes individually removable, individual taps, in/out at the top, closing off both pipe and filter when either is removed. Less leakage, no chance of leaving one tap open when removing the other and flooding.
4) Intake pipe larger than outlet to redice cavitation and noise. I think only Hydor and some Eheims classics do this.
5) No bypass!
6) I'm ambivalent on built-in heaters, kind of like the idea but not the implementation so far - I want one power cable to a filter not two, and I don't want the heater channel to bypass filtration again (Oase?). The Eheim I had a long time ago did good for that, kettle-like element in the bottom, but had yet another wire out for the temperature probe and controller. I think the later Eheims have everything built in but still need a second power cable. Inline heaters just seem easier at the moment.

Anyone know of a filter meeting those requirements, or getting close? What would you like to see on a filter? Am I being unreasonable, what have I got wrong, and why?

Thanks for reading and letting me get that of my chest. Interested to know if I'm alone in being frustrated...

Colin
 

dw1305

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Nice try, canister-filter-brand-manufacturer! JK, i agree with most and fully with @dw1305.
I think we need @NayrP on board to build a sweet proof of concept on the collective conclusion of this one.
 

orxe87

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I'm glad it's not just me, I'd not found the first thread Darell linked to. Fewer seals I'd like, but primer I find quite useful (although also a fan of the Eheim double taps) and I'd be happy enough with mech filtration in the body if it that fine pad was easily cleanable instead of the coarse pad...

@si walker - yeah, maybe if we put it out there someone picks up on it!

@PM_ME_YOUR_NEONS - if you're suggesting I'm a manufacturer/brand then no, I'm not. Nothing to do with the industry whatsoever, I'm a software engineer making chips/software tools for cars. Just fed up I can't get what I want and can't believe they get it so wrong.

Just had a look at @NayrP 's thread. Wow! What a superb looking device, but I still think the flow is wrong - either two of them needed (bottom to top, coarse/settlement, med, fine, then on the next one just bio media) or some other way of having the fine pad at the top. Also, having both inlet and outlet at the top helps prevents spillage if the pipes are removed - if one is at the bottom that can't be the case. I'd like a filter where the inlet is on the top but piped to the bottom then rises to the top with mech filtration (so course at the bottom, fine filter at the top), then over a partition, then down the other side and through the bio media to be extracted at the bottom via a long pipe to a connector at the top again. I'll have to draw it, my CAD skill are not good though. If anyone makes that I'd buy one...

In the mean time maybe a couple of large food canisters are the way to go, one mech one bio, external pump, if there is a source of good swivelling bulkhead tap connectors around.

Colin
 

sparkyweasel

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These days I buy cheapo filters. They have all the same problems as the expensive ones, but I'm much less angry about it than when I pay a small fortune and get poor quality. :)
 
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It seems that early external canister filters by the likes of Eheim and Fluval were designed to be practical units. Practical doesn’t always sell though. Although having said that Eheim still sell their Classic range. Bypass is either done on purpose - it helps maintain a high flow level in spite of blocked media. Or it’s down to bad design. Filters of one type or another are used in a huge range of different products to filter all kinds of different fluids. The vast majority of these are normally cylindrical, I’m guessing there’s a good reason for this. Look at most modern external aquarium filters though and they’re square in section. I’m guessing because they look nice so sell well? You can also add all kinds of different fancy sections in them like pre filters. I admit though, some of the square filters do look really nice even though they may have dead spots and suffer bypass. It would be really helpful if someone actually did some long term tests on a handful of modern designs to see how well they actually perform in these areas. A possible downside of an effective filter is that it may need cleaning more often. I’ve gone back to using an Eheim Classic with the media basket removed to see how it performs. It’s not been easy though as the filter itself was very noisy straight out of the box and I’ve had to perform some mods to get the noise down.
 

Driftless

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My ideal filter is the ADA Super Jet filters, which I don't own because of their price. I ambivalent about heaters inside of filters, for example I think that the Oase heaters have too low of wattage for the size of the tanks that they are supposed to be used on. I like the pre-filters on the Fluval 7 series but it does not take that much longer to clean a filter than it does to clean a pre-filter, my filters are cleaned every 4 weeks.
 
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Eheim Classics - have used them for more than 35 years and they're still the easiest and best - the dirty water goes in at the bottom and clean water comes out at the top - simple! There's no complicated stuff to go wrong and spares are readily available!
Yes agreed. Some time ago I bought a 2213 that comes with a media basket for convenient media removal. Sadly it caused bypass so I’ve removed the basket and it seems to be working fine now. Eheim Classics never used to have these baskets years ago so I don’t know why they added them, and only to one particular model in the range. Strange indeed. If you remove the basket though the Eheim foam filters are now too small so you have to cut your own which is what I’ve done. I have in addition added my own home made basket just for the loose biological media.
 

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tiger15

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Canister is the most user unfriendly class of filter because it is tedious to clean and vulnerable to leak due to present of hoses, clamps and O rings. This is why I avoid canister, and use HOBs exclusively. HOBs require more frequent cleaning because of small capacity, but not more cleaning effort because it is user friendly to clean. Without external plumbing, HOBs are leak proof.

But I am surprised to learn that canister is the most popular filters for planted tank folks for reasons other than user friendliness.
 
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orxe87

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The Ehaim classics suffer from no media basket, plus a single bottom-to-top flow, so again you can't see or clean the fine filter pad first. No built-in shutoff valves either. Two of them would work, one as prefilter and the other as bio, but a bit of a pain - I'm running a prefilter now and am about to change back to a single larger canister (a cheap, simple Tetra EX) because the number of pipes is a hassle, even if it does allow the fine pad to be at the top of the prefilter.

HoBs just plain look ugly to me I'm afraid, noisy, and take up space in the tank - any filter ought to add volume, not reduce it. A good canister filter ought to be able to be made at least as easy to clean as a HoB , too.
 
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The Ehaim classics suffer from no media basket, plus a single bottom-to-top flow, so again you can't see or clean the fine filter pad first. No built-in shutoff valves either. Two of them would work, one as prefilter and the other as bio, but a bit of a pain - I'm running a prefilter now and am about to change back to a single larger canister (a cheap, simple Tetra EX) because the number of pipes is a hassle, even if it does allow the fine pad to be at the top of the prefilter.

HoBs just plain look ugly to me I'm afraid, noisy, and take up space in the tank - any filter ought to add volume, not reduce it. A good canister filter ought to be able to be made at least as easy to clean as a HoB , too.
From my experience media baskets can cause bypass so a disadvantage from a performance standpoint.
The quick release manifold fitted to many modern external filters is helpful for filter maintenance but not hose cleaning. I’ve fitted Eheim double taps to my Tetratec filter which already has a manifold for just this purpose. The last Eheim Classic I bought came with double taps so filter and hose cleaning is relatively easy.
My Classic cleaning routine is pretty simple. After removing from the cabinet I place it next to the kitchen sink and open the taps. The lower tap is angled into the sink. I then remove the top of the filter and pull out the loose media basket. The sponges are then removed, rinsed and replaced. The media is then rinsed if needed and the basket replaced. It doesn’t take long.
 

Paulus

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Same here with the classic 2217.
Remove it from the cabinet. Using the eheim taps.
Put it on the table/sink. open up the bottom tap and top so the vacuum is gone.
Remove the top en first grid/mesh.

The substrat is inside a filterbag so i can pull it out easy and put it in a bucket with aquarium water.
Remove the second (extra part) grid/mesh.
Below that i have the white filterfloss.
Remove the third grid/mesh (also a spare part so the white filter floss doesnt get crushed by the substrat media)
And below that is the blue foam and the mech and the 4 grid/mesh.

Easy clean etc with the meshes/filterbag :)
 
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Yes, media bags are useful. I actually bought some Sera Siporax and it came in a mesh bag ready to be dropped into a filter. I’ve not actually used it yet so I’ll take a picture.
Edit: here it is, 500 ml Siporax. As you can see it’s a very open mesh so won’t interrupt water flow like perhaps some fine media bags might? It’s a shame you can’t buy these bags. They are similar, but not the same as those bags you get fruit in, in the supermarket.
 

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papa_c

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Siporax and it came in a mesh bag ready

I also use siporax, but decided to use it loose in my canister as the net bag prevented it from lying flat. My concern was the water would easily bypass the media if constrained to the net.

I have no idea about hydrodynamics so whether this is correct thinking is open for debate
 

si walker

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There you go. Real life filter problem's.
It's confusing that a company like Eheim would introduce an element like a media basket that causes bypass. Did they not test it? It would be great if you could randomly buy the bits you need and they clip together. In a way customised for each person.
The Oase Thermo I setup this weekend is really great so far although straight away I was left thinking "they could have done that a bit better" about small parts. For example the clamps that hold the hose. I was left wondering if they were done up enough. Again I hate buying things new and changing them before they are even used. That frustrates me, so I am trying to leave it as is for the mo.
 

Diogo Sousa

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In my opinion the oase biomaster (after fixing the loud humming noise and a leakage problem) is pretty efficient and easy to maintain. Mostly because the prefilter is so easy to clean.
I never open my filter anymore unless I'm rescaping.

Also the built in heater is amazing considering the alternatives. Yes, it does have a seal that could leak but that is fixable. And if it breaks altogether you can simply replace it.

I've been using it for 4 years now and it's still going strong. So if there is something I'm not satisfied with it is not that part of the hobby (but rather why are my amanos stealing food from the fishes instead of eating the damn algae!!).
 

orxe87

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Still not there for me. The Oase prefilter is coarse - and that blocks much less often than the fine filter pad, assuming you use one. And the heater is a bypass path through the rest of the media, so it neither filters as efficiently as it could nor heats the water as efficiently as it could. I've only had experience of the smaller FiltroSmart Thermo and I couldn't get enough flow around the heater to get it to work properly, plus the two-cables problem - I imagine the bigger Oase solve the first problem, but not the second.

The path should be:
16mm in (e.g.) -> Primary settlement (optional) -> coarse prefilter -> pump -> medium -> fine pad (EASILY INSPECTABLE/CHANGEABLE!) -> Bio media -> chemical (if required) -> 12mm (e.g.) out.

Impellor pumps used in canisters can tolerate reasonable particulates, so ideally they'd be after the prefilter but before the rest - that way the input (larger diameter) isn't constrained and the output is - so the pump is pushing, not sucking: better, longer-lasting flow and less cavitation therefore smaller pumps and quiter, cheaper filters. Baskets are fine IF they don't bypass (old Hydor Pro filters look good for this). Flow indicator if getting fancy I guess so you can see when to clean - not some fancy electronic gizmo that measure time, just measure the flow (I think Eheim sereis 3 did this?). Inlet and and outlet on the top with the usual easy disconnect, ideally either both pipes and individual pipes (the Tetra I've just received does this, which is good, and seems reasonably OK on bypass too - just prefilter in the wrong place for easy maintenance).

Add in minimising number of seals and gaskets as per Darrell's post and for me we'd be there, but nothing I can find does that so far!

All filters seem to work, all filter the water, all have some means of being cleaned and of shutting off (e.g. external double Eheim taps) - just that no filteris as efficient or as easy to use as they could be. It annoys me that this is a design, not a cost issue. Manufacturers could do better.

Definitely a first-world problem though. I'm not normally this rant-y, I promise :)
 
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Judging by what I’ve seen on the net plenty of folks have made their own external filters. Maybe you could too?
 

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