Category Archives: Filters

Tunze DOC 9410 Protein Skimmer Review


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Tank Size Noise Level Longevity Price Rating
up to 150 Gallons Low 5+ Years Medium-low 8/10

Tunze, masters of the quiet aquarium, produces what I find to be the quietest protein skimmers available. The Tunze DOC 9410 Does a great job for tanks up to 100 gallons, however it does pull out more water than most other skimmers. This means your skimmate won’t appear too dark and you will have to empty the skimmate cup more often. It has a large footprint, so be sure your tank has the space for it.The Dimensions are 9.8 x 7.0 x 16.3 in. If you use the post filter, which comes with the skimmer it’s closer to 10.8 x 9.0 x 16.3 in. What I found really impressive is that its water pump is custom made for the skimmer. All in all it is a good skimmer, runs super quiet but needs a large area to run.

  • Features
  • 600l/h aeration
  • 900l/h water flow and filtration
  • Removable post filter, which runs water through a mechanical filter of 300 micrometers.
  • The absolutely massive skimmate head means you won’t need to empty this skimmer every day.
  • Runs at only 15 watts, a few below other skimmers of its size.
  • Automatically shuts off if the skimmer is going to overflow.
  • The rubber base of the Tunze makes its operation quieter.
Set-up

Tunze supplies one of the best instruction manuals of any skimmer company. You can access it directly Here

  • 1. Screw the hydrofoamer silence on to the skimmer. Be sure not to make it too tight.
  • 2. Attach the silicone hose form the air connection outlet of the skimmer and hydrofoamer.
  • 3. Attach the adapter ring and post filter onto the black PVC outlet pipe.
  • 4. Place the Skimmate cup on top of the skimmer
  • 5. Mount the post filter to the outlet pipe and turn towards the skimmer until it is tight.
  • 6. Rinse off the filter bag and place it into the post filter
Adjustments

Adjusting the Bubbles of the Tunze 9410 is a bit different than most skimmers. The adapter ring can be raised or lowered to adjust the skimmer. This changes the internal water level of the skimmer. Moving it higher will result in a wetter foam, which may be what some tanks need to form a proper skimmate.

What is interesting is how the Tunze 9410 is claimed to need no adjustments to form proper skimmate. This was true in my aquarium, however when running through the break in period the skimmer will not produce enough foam. This is nothing to worry about and subsides within a few days. Once it has broken in the foam should reach a good height and begin to form skimmate.

If the foam does not reach the top even after this break in period it is likely that:

  • A. The tank is new and does not have enough nutrients to form a proper skimmate
  • B. The tank has been fed recently, which affects the water tension and reduces the foam level
  • C. The water level is too low for the skimmer, which can be remidied by moving the adapter ring.
  • D. The water is too high, tripping the anti overflowing system. This is also remedied with the adapter ring.
  • E. The skimmer is in a zone with too strong of a current.

You shouldn’t have to spend too much time, if any, adjusting the Tunze 9410. Just let it run through the break in period and check on it every day. Once the skimmer is running properly and forming skimmate you should wait until the cup is full before emptying it. This will give you a good estimate on how often you need to empty the skimmate cup. The more heavily stocked your tank is the more frequently this will be.

If the protein skimmer is too loud then it is likely that either the water level is not set properly. If the water level is too high then the water will enter the air passage of the skimmer. If the water level is too low then the filter will be flowing over the sides.

Cleaning the Pump

Protein skimmers themselves cannot wear down. Instead only their connections and water pumps can wear down over time. To combat this we need to clean out the water pump once every year. Thankfully this is a pretty easy task.

  • Taking the pump apart
  • 1. Start by unscrewing the stainless steel screw
  • 2. Turn the impeller cover counter clockwise and remove it
  • 3. Using pliers, remove the drive assembly
  • 4. Use the pliers to take out the cooling duct
  • 5. Check the bearing in the pump.
    This part can only be removed using a hook.
  • 6. Check the bearing in the impeller cover and make sure it fits well
  • 7. Check the interior space of the body.
    This includes the cooling duck. There should be no signs of wear.

Once you have the pump apart clean it out thoroughly using cotton swabs. I use these as they are cheap and can get into any small parts of most aquarium equipment. The non abrasive nature of the swabs allow us to clean even the magnetic impeller without fear of any scratches or internal damage. Additionally they are, or should be, new and do not have any chemicals on them, so there is no risk of contamination.

While you have the pump removed you should also check and see if any grime is accumulating anywhere. The anti overflow part of the skimmer can be a good place for bacteria to accumulate, as it gets very little water in a working system.

Reassemble the pump in reverse order before placing it back into the skimmer. Make sure it is secured before turning it back on.

Warranty & Lifetime

Tunze gives us a Two year warranty on the 9410 protein skimmer. This is double what most skimmers give us. They will also repair damaged skimmers outside of warranty at a much reduced cost, so even if you do need repairs much later down the line Tunze will still help you out. Just be sure to hold onto your purchase information

Tunze 9004 Protein Skimmer Review


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Tank Size Noise Level Longevity Price
Up to 65 Gallons Very Low 3-5 Years Medium-High

The Tunze 9004 Protein Skimmer offers excellent filtration in small spaces without being difficult to use. The set-up process is a few minutes tops, with a couple adjustments throughout the first day. Once in place the skimmer will start to filter out any organic debris from the tank, preventing them from corrupting your aquarium with dangerous ammonia and nitrites.

Set-up

Note: Many users have reported the same issue, where the air tube inside the Tunze protein skimmer is disconnected. This will create a lot of bubbles, increase the noise of the skimmer and make it almost useless as a skimmer. If you see these issues open up the skimmer and make sure the air tube is attached before resubmerging it. If you have not submerged it you may want to check before doing so.

The Tunze 9004 Protein skimmer has only two real requirements.

First the grate located near the top of the skimmer must be partially submerged. The skimmer should be deep enough to prevent micro bubbles from forming, without being so deep that the skimmer is flooded with water.

Use the provided magnets to hold the skimmer in place. When doing this always press the magnet into the glass above the skimmer and slide the magnets down into place, opposite the skimmer’s glass wall. Make sure to keep the magnets separate! They are very strong and can be difficult to separate without a work bench. Also ensure you do not place your fingers between the magnets.

Once you have the skimmer in place you may plug it in and turn it on.

The skimmer should produce a fair number of bubbles now. You will need to use the tube attached to the back of the skimmer to dial the bubbles up or down. This part is labeled 6 on the diagram on the right. You will want the bubbles to come part way up the top of the skimmer’s cup. This will let the skimmers bubbles pop near the top, pushing the organic materials and a small amount of water into the skimmer’s cup. The more bubbles you let reach the cup the more frequently you will need to clean out the cup.

For a good skim you should be getting fairly green water. If your tank is rarely over fed it may only be slightly green, however many reef tanks will get a sludge like consistency from their skimmer. This frequently happens from the excess foods the water holds for corals.

The cord is about 2 meters long.

Cleaning

Protein Skimmers are typically disassembled and cleaned on the inside once a year, or if they become less effective than usual. Thankfully the Tunze 9004 Skimmer is easy to disassemble.

To start remove the skimmers cup and unplug the skimmer. Next loosen the latch hook from the cover. This shouldn’t take too much force, but it wont come off right away either.

Next loosen the latch hook from the skimmer panel and open the housing by applying pressure to the sides of the skimmer. Now remove the foamer from the place and disconnect the air line from the foamer.

The skimmer should now be disassembled and can be cleaned out thoroughly. Use tank water to rinse off the skimmer and paper towels for any scrubbing. You want to be sure you are not using anything that has come into contact with cleaning solution.

When you have finished re-assemble the skimmer in reverse order before restarting it. Take a minute or two to ensure you have the skimmer the right depth and the bubbles at the right strength.

If the skimmer is producing a lot of micro bubbles you may need to squeeze it shut a bit tighter.

Warranty & Lifetime

Tunze provides a two year warranty on this particular protein skimmer. Be sure to keep the packaging tucked away somewhere, as the manual states this is needed. This has not been the case when I have dealt with Tunze’s customer support, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Most users will see well over two years of lifetime from this skimmer. When it does stop working you typically only need to replace a part, which is often under $15. Simply contact Tunze to make sure you are replacing the right part.

Tetra Whisper Power Filter Review


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Right away I will say that I like this filter. The Tetra Whisper Power filter is a strong, inexpensive power filter. It uses the waterfall method, which sucks water from the tank, passes it though a few layers of filtration and pours it back into the tank. This means it will run louder than an internal filter and canister filter. It makes up for this by being much stronger than internals and significantly cheaper than canister filters. The Tetra Whisper Power Filter comes in four different sizes.

Model Tank Size # of Filtration stages Max Flow Rate
(Gallon Per Hour)
Longevity
20 up to 20 Gallons 2 105 2+ Years
30 up to 30 Gallons 2 145 3+ Years
40 up to 40 Gallons 3 210 3+ Years
60 up to 60 Gallons 3 330 3+ Years
Features
  • Easy to open motor makes maintenance really fast.
  • Waterfall design aerates water, removing the need for air pumps
  • Multiple extra tubes let the filter extend deeper into the tank. Good for high ridge tanks like those kept outdoors.
  • Large compartments let you add any additional filtration stages you wish.
  • Control knob on the top of the filter makes adjustments easy.
Set-up

Setting up this filter isn’t difficult. While I have the largest model, the 60, installation will be the same for smaller models as well.

Open up the body and put everything in the box to the side of the filter. Depending on the size of your filter you will get a few bags inside the body. The paper on the top of the bag in the filter simply says to rinse off the cartridge before using it. This is to get the dust out rather than letting it go into your tank.

The filter body comes assembled, so you will only need to get the intake tube set up. Remember to only make it as long as you need. Making it longer than needed will make the filter less effective, as it has to pull the water further, losing strength/speed along the way. This means it is ideal to use as little tubing as possible. However you need to make sure the entire intake is under water. Any air and you risk the filter stopping. If this happens the filter is likely to break, as it will try to run dry and break the impeller.

If your filter is able to run like this then do so. Otherwise extend the tube using the additional pieces provided with the filter. Mine is for an outside turtle tank, so it needs to be quite long. If the water was too high he would hop right out of the tank, which he has done before.

As shown in the picture you will be putting the tubing into the filter followed by the lid. cartridges should be removed from their bags, rinsed off and put into the filter. There are small divots in the filters compartments that will hold the cartridges in place.

Seeing as the cartridges do not take up the whole compartment I highly advise you add some sore of bio-filter, like these fluval biomax ceramic rings. The will house beneficial bacteria, which eat toxins in the water.

Adjustments

The adjustment method here is simple. Turn the black knob, which will be on the top of the filter protruding from the hood. The more you block the tube with the black knob, the lower the water flow will be. For my tank I will be leaving it on full strength. If you have fish who do not like the full strength feel free to turn it down.

To make the filter run quieter you will need to keep the water level near the top of the tank. The less distance the water falls the less noise it will make. If the water is up to the bottom of the filter than you can expect the filter to be nearly silent.

Cleaning The Filter

Shown to the right of the adjustment valve is the impeller. This will be inside the motor, but its really easy to get out. When you are cleaning the filter you want to focus your attention on this impeller and its housing. It is the only part of the filter that can break. It only needs to be cleaned maybe twice a year.

To take apart the motor you only need to empty the filter of water, twist the motor from the base of the filter and twist off the face plate of the motor. This gives you direct access to the impeller and its housing. Clean both of these only using non abrasive materials. I like to use cotton swabs, as they are always on hand and can get into small places easily.

Warranty & Lifetime

Tetra offers a Two Year Warranty on their power filter. This is pretty handy, as most filters will either last well beyond the warranty or break fairly quickly. The filter isn’t often defective, but it is still nice to have the warranty.

The lifetime of the filter is mostly limited to the motor, and more specifically the impeller that was shown above. While the motor itself can break, I have never seen one break before an impeller. Keep it clean, cleaning twice a month and never let the filter run dry. Do this and you will easily see over four years of life from this inexpensive power filter.

SCA Protein Skimmer Review


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Tank Size Noise Level Longevity Price Rating
up to 180 Gallons Low 2+ Years Low 7/10

The SCA is a pretty good skimmer with a lower price than its closest competition, the Bubble Magus. One thing to note is the small body and footprint. With a 9 x 9.5 inch foot print, you can fit this skimmer in even the smallest of sumps. The pump produces a similar, dense foam that collects skimmate reliably. It is also really energy efficient, which adds up since skimmers are often running 24/7. Combine this with the ability to manage tanks up to 180 gallons and you have a solid protein skimmer.

The issue that comes with the lower cost skimmer is mostly the one of losing power/restarting. After reorganizing the power cables I noticed that the SCA protein skimmer was not restarting like the other skimmers would. I lifted it out, listened to the pump and heard it hum a little before putting it back in the sump. It started back up so I assume the impeller just gets stuck sometimes when restarting it.

Features
  • Despite the small size, the SCA protein skimmer works great for large tanks. It really gives the bigger brands a run for their money.
  • The custom pump runs quietly and produces great bubbles for removing skimmate.
  • The laser cut parts are extremely easy to assemble.
  • The wineglass shape makes the skimmer fairly durable.
  • An included drain tube for the skimmate cup makes maintaining the skimmer a breeze.

The impeller features a unique head that, as it spins, creates a swath of small bubbles. These are then compacted in the bubble chamber to form a dense foam, which does an amazing job at removing skimmate.

Dimensions
  • 9″W x 9.5″L x 18″H
Set-up

Setting up the SCA protein skimmer isn’t very difficult. For the most part you need to take the four screws off of the base of the skimmer. Next you’re going to connect the pump adapter to the pump, pushing it through the bubble cup. Screw it into place, but do not over tighten it. Then place the bubble cap onto the bubble cup with the solid side over the water pumps output. Use the long white screw to connect the bubble cups lid to the base. You do not need any tools for these. Just use your hands and make it tight enough to hold. Next install base plate of the water pump and the pump itself on the inside of the skimmers body. You want the pump to be right next to the case of the skimmer so that you can connect the intake valve. Push the water pump into the small end of the blue intake piece and twist it to secure the two together. The tube will go up and to the side of the collection cup and is used to install the air silencer.

Next we just need to slide in the blue tube. This will go into the adjustment area and bottom blue port just underneath it. This blue tube will have a small dot on it. This will show what the skimmer is set to. You can color the dot or make it easier to see if it isn’t visible enough for your liking. Screw the body back onto the base of the skimmer and you’re ready to go.

The air silencer creates a path for loose air, which would otherwise run through the skimmer and make a fair amount of noise.

Adjustments

As stated in the set up section, the SCA protein skimmer is adjusted using the small blue tube on the side of the skimmer. The adjustment tube is surrounded by markings that make it a lot easier to set and reset your skimmer

  • How to adjust the amount of bubbles
  • Turn the blue adjustment tube clockwise decrease the bubbles
  • Turn the blue adjustment tube counter clockwise to increase the bubbles

Being a lower cost skimmer means you may have to wait a full week for this skimmer to break in. In this time you shouldn’t try too hard to get the skimmer running perfectly. As it breaks in and adjusts to your tank the bubble level will fluctuate. This means you should really leave the bubbles a bit low so that they don’t suddenly surge and overflow from the top of the skimmer.

Warranty & Lifetime

I have not had this skimmer long enough for it to break down, however I have seen it break down in another persons tank. They had owned it for over two years but only cleaned out the skimmer and water pump twice since they owned it. If you are fairly regular on your cleanings, maybe 3-4 times a year, you can probably expect a longer lifetime. Again this is based more off my knowledge on water pumps rather than this specific skimmer.

The company SCAquatics offers a 1 year warranty from the date of purchase. This may not be too long however the pump used is the Atman PH2000. It’s on a pretty good sale most of the times, costing less than a third of a new skimmer. Seeing as only the water pump is able to break, this makes a short warranty not too big of an issue. Additionally any new pumps will come with the same 1 year warranty.

Summed up

The SCA Protein Skimmer does a good job for the low price its sold at. It runs just about the same as a bubble magus but doesn’t restart every time it loses and regains power. The collection cup is fairly big and comes with a drain tube, so keeping the skimmer running doesn’t take much effort. If you’re in the market for a powerful skimmer but don’t want to spend too much the SCA is the perfect choice for you.

Best Reverse Osmosis Systems of 2018

iSpring RCC7 SpectraPure MaxCap Aquatic Life RO Buddie Home Master TMHP
Filtration Excellent Excellent Medium Medium
GPD 70 Gal 90 Gal 50-100 Gal 10-40 Gal
Waste Ratio
(Waste:Water)
low 2 : 1 10 : 3 1 : 1
Warranty 1 Year Warranty 3 Year Warranty 1 Year Warranty 5 Year Warranty
Price Medium High Low High

Local water supplies are dramatically different across the world. While one states water may be close to ideal for your tank, other areas may have far too many minerals in the water. While harmless or even beneficial for humans, these differences in water can be devastating in aquariums.

Thankfully the process of reverse osmosis removes the majority of minerals from waters. This means water from different areas, while originally different, will end up just about the same. This makes for high quality aquarium water and promotes fish, coral and plant life. However not all reverse osmosis filters are made equal. The best reverse osmosis filters will work quickly, with little waste and have high durability. It does us no good if the filter can only process twenty or so gallons before it must be replaced, as even small tanks will reach these small numbers quickly. Likewise we want a ro water system that will not make us wait a week for a water change.

Each of these Reverse osmosis systems have been tested for durability, speed, effectiveness and efficiency. To extend your RO/DI filters lifetime use softened water, as this will make filtering easier on the membranes.

iSpring RCC7


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GPD Filtration
Stages
Micron Size Warranty Price
75 Gallons 5 .0001 Microns 1 Year Medium-low

The iSpring is designed to support an entire households clean water needs. It comes at a lower than average cost as well as the option to have it installed by professionals. The components are easy to replace and last for quite a long time, making this one of the most cost effective reverse osmosis systems for aquariums and general use.

Pros/Cons
  • Pros:
  • Easy To Use
  • Lifetime Support
  • Smallest Micron Size
  • Water Quality Association
    Gold Seal Certified
  • 75 GPD Supports Any Tank
  • Cons:
  • Time Consuming Set Up
  • Some Tools Required
Rejection Rates

Set-up

The process is not too difficult, but will take a fair amount of time. Use the above video and follow the steps exactly. Getting impatient will only make the process more difficult. If you would like professionals to install the system for you the option is available at an additional cost.

There are also great instructions in the owners manual. I just work easier with the video.

You may use any water supply line in your house. For my system I used a splitter with the washing machine. This allows me to only use the RO/DI system when I want to, which will extend its lifetime dramatically.

The iSpring requires between 45 and 80 psi to function properly.

Detailed Parts List

Replacing the RO/DI units components is fairly cheap and easy. The parts are sold in a low cost pack on amazon. Depending on the tank size and how often you do water changes you should only need to replace these parts every one to four years. The membrane is not included in the one year pack shown above, but is included in the three year pack. The membrane costs a fair amount on its own, making the three year a significantly better value If you plan on using the filter over 5 years.

Additionally you can add a UV light filter, making it much closer to the Home Master system at a fraction of the cost. The light costs almost as much as the system itself, which is how the iSpring can be so much cheaper than the Home Master while still being extremely effective.

Warranty & Lifetime

iSpring offers a 1 year warranty as well as a 90 day warranty on any replacement parts that are provided via warranty. You will need to either call iSpring customer service or register the reverse osmosis system on their website. Replacement parts purchased later will also receive a one year warranty from the date of purchase.

SpectraPure MaxCap


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GPD Filtration
Stages
Micron Size Warranty Price
90 Gallons 4 .5 Microns 3 Years High

While the technology behind this reverse osmosis filter is a bit dated, the SpectraPure is still favored by a huge portion of the aquatic community. This is largely due to the company high standards on their products. All SpectraPure RO/DI units are hand tested to ensure their 98% rejection rate. Couple this with the dual inline TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meters and you get a great guaranteed value.

Pros/Cons
  • Pros:
  • Dual TDS Meter Included
  • Tested Before Sale
  • Long 3 Year Warranty
  • Easier Set Up
  • Cons:
  • Larger Than Other RO/DI Units
Set-up

The SpectraPure comes more assembled and is not designed to be used as a sink connector. This makes it much easier to install than the iSpring. It is up to you if a harder installation is a big deal.

The SpectraPure requires between 40 and 80 psi to function properly.

Replacing Parts

Replacing parts on the SpectraPure Maxcap is fairly simple. Each compartment screws off of the white top, giving you direct access to the cartridges and prefilters. These can then be swapped out with a new part when necessary. Unlike the iSpring the components are best purchased individually. These components are the RO Membrane, Carbon Block Filter, MicroTec Sediment Prefilter, D1 Cartridge #1 MaxCap and D1 Cartridge #2 SilicaBuster

Warranty & Lifetime

SpectraPure offers an amazing three year warranty on their RO/DI system. There is no product registration needed here. Simply keep your proof of purchase for easy service.

Replacing the sediment filter and carbon block filter every 6 months will help extend the lifetime of the more expensive membrane, while also keeping the system cleaner. Likewise using the RO system with a softened water input will reduce the stress on the membrane. Keeping the system away from direct sunlight will also keep away algae growth.

SpectraPure Recommends replacing each component every 4-6 months. The membrane must be tested to know when to replace it. To do this run the system for ten minutes. Turn the left meter on and measure the tap water conductivity. This is done by sliding the switch on the meter to the left to “IN”. Next measure the RO conductivity by sliding the switch to the right “OUT”. Finally use a bit of math: (IN – OUT) ÷ IN X 100. This will give you the rejection rate. It is recommended to replace the membrane once it falls below 95% rejection rate.

Aquatic Life RO Buddie


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GPD Filtration
Stages
Micron Size Warranty Price
90 Gallons 3 – 4 .5 Microns 1 Year Low

The Aquatic Life RO Buddie is a low cost reverse osmosis system that can make water clean, with rejection rates that match its more expensive counterparts. It is easy to move around, allowing you to only pull it out when needed rather than install it somewhere. For those not looking to install a permanent RO system in their homes or trying to choose a more budget friendly RO system, the RO Buddie is a solid choice.

For those who know they will be using their RO system a lot, a more efficient system would likely be a better choice. The RO Buddie creates a 10:3 waste to ro water ratio. The amount of waste water produced would be quite difficult to deal with for a 100+ gallon tank. Likewise the optional fourth DI step wears out more quickly than other RO systems, making it more costly to maintain RO system for large aquariums. In short, this system is best suited for small aquariums.

Pros/Cons
  • Pros:
  • Great Customer Service
  • 98% Rejection Rate
  • Has multiple sizes
  • Low Cost
  • Cons:
  • High Amount of Waste Water
  • Can be Clogged Depending on
    Geographical Location/State
  • Only Comes With Garden Hose Adapter
Set-up

The set-up process is very quick. You will only need to insert the membrane, connect three 1/4″ tubing and choose a location for the RO system to be.

The membrane is enclosed in its own packaging and must be placed into the large center housing. To do so, start by removing the blue clip that holds the tubing in place. Next push the connector inwards and pull the tube that goes into the connector out. This should not take much force.

With the tube removed unscrew the top of the center housing and insert the membrane with the black gasket facing upwards. Push the membrane down into the housing, put the cap back on and reattach the tubing.

Remove the three plugs as shown below:

This is done the same way as with the tubing. You will need your own 1/4″ inch tubing here. Insert tubes into all three connectors, giving yourself enough tubing to lead the water to its destination. I have a 4′ tube to lead the filtered water into a bucket for my water changes, a 3′ tube to lead my waste water into another bucket for the garden, and a 2′ tube to supply my RO Buddie with water from the adapter.

As this RO system only comes with a hose adapter I highly suggest placing the RO unit by your washing machine, using a Y adapter to split the water between the washing machine and RO unit.

Replacing Parts

The RO Buddie’s components can be worn down faster than most other units. This is likely caused by its excessive waste water production. For smaller tanks this will not be much of an issue and choosing this lower cost RO system will still save money for quite a long time. Again those who know they will be using the RO system for a long time may want to get a more efficient model.

The membrane can be found here on amazon in both 50 and 100 GPD sizes. The other cartridges

Cleaning
Warranty & Lifetime

Home Master TMHP


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GPD Filtration
Stages
Micron Size Warranty Price
90 Gallons 4 .001 Microns 5 Years High

The Home Master TMHP system is really the best reverse osmosis system out there. Not only does it create a steady supply of RO water, making large tank changes quick and easy, but the way it’s installed creates clean, drinkable water for every other activity in the house. The iSpring also does this, and is much cheaper, but the ppm of the water will be better from the Home Master. Additionally the Home Master TMHP system has an end of system filter to remove any materials that come off of the membranes during the osmosis process.

Some quick important numbers here would be the 99% rejection rate of major minerals as well as 99.9% of all microorganisms that are in the water. Rates this high are due to the micron size of the membranes, which is just over the size of a water molecule. This allows us to create the perfect start for our tanks, keeping both fish and incoming beneficial bacteria healthy.

One of the biggest draws, especially for me and multiple tanks, is that you only need to replace some of the membranes after 2000 gallons or around a year of use. This helps on the water bill and keeps the cost of maintenance down. Still the filters are more expensive than those of other RO systems. Sadly no money saving in the long run.

On of the bigger plus sides the applies especially to freshwater tanks is eliminating the microorganisms. Most of these will not survive in salt water conditions, however they can often thrive in freshwater setups due to the warm water and consistent feedings. This is done by the UV lighting in the third filter.

Dimensions
  • For the Filters
  • 16″ high
  • 15″ wide
  • 5″ deep
  • For the Tank
  • 15″ high
  • 11″ Diameter
Installation

While I will describe how to put this RO system together, it is a lot easier when you see things done. Perfect water has a great, multipart video on setting up this exact model. The included manual does a good job of explaining how to set the Home Master up as well. It is not too difficult, but certainly isn’t something you want to mess up on.

Remember to always wear eye protection when installing this system. As you will be under your sink dust and debris may fall in your face. Keep your eyes safe. Likewise keep towels around incase some parts end up not being water tight. The tubes are color coded and easy to use, but accidents do still happen.

This system, just like the iSpring, installs into a sink faucet. I found it easiest to start with the faucet on top, putting the washer, metal plate and then small washer around the pipe that will be going down under the sink. For the bottom you will need the locating washer, followed by the lock washer, locknut and faucet adapter in that order. This will connect to your tubing. Mine came with 3/8″ and attached perfectly.

From here you will need to install the EZ adapter on your cold water line. Find your cold water angel-stop. There should be two of these lines under your sink, one for hot and one for cold. Turn this clockwise to shut off the water. Next find the 3/8″ fitting, which should be found on the line out of the angle-stop/where the existing line connects to the faucet.Take off the 3/8″ fitting on either the kitchen faucet or the angle-stop. Using Teflon tape on the EZ adapter and the male threads of the angle-stop, making sure o-rings are properly seated. Connect the EZ adapter and tighten it. Ensure that the EZ adapter ball valve is closed. Check for water pressure and leaks on the ball valve before moving on. Turn the handle perpendicular to the tube to close the EZ adapter valve.

Remember to keep a towel, bowl or bucket under to catch water, because around now is when you should get some left over water. Open the angle-stop valve by rotating it counter-clockwise. Dry everything off, look for leaks and ensure everything is tight and in place.

Lifetime And warranty

The tank itself should never need to be replaced, however it is recommended that you replace the membranes around every 2000 gallons. They also suggest once each year, but this may be a bit too often if you are not using the system too much. By using an RO meter you can see just how effective your membranes are. If you find your ppm hasn’t changed since you first installed the unit then there is no reason to replace the membranes.

The membranes do not start wearing down before use, meaning you can order them before you think you will need to replace them. Worst case they take up space until they are needed. Just do not get the membranes wet while they are in storage.

The Home Master TMHP RO system comes with the best warranty out of all the systems at 5 years. When components, such as the sink faucet, break you can expect them to send a replacement and any tools necessary to get your RO system back up and running.

Reef Octopus Hang on Back Protein Skimmer Review


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The Reef Octopus Hang on Back filter brings skimmers to sump less tanks without any draw backs. The skimmer is really easy to set up, works just as well as normal protein skimmers and actually adds water volume to the tank rather than subtract. The cost is higher than normal skimmers, but this is offset big time by not having to create a set up for the skimmer.

I originally got this skimmer to use in my 100 gallon basement display, that way if it overflowed it wouldn’t damage my carpet any. However, after using it for over a year with no spills I can say the Reef Octopus hob skimmer is certainly reliable enough to use anywhere in the house.

Model Tank Size Output Size Max Flow Rate
(Gallon Per Hour)
Longevity Price
100 up to 110 Gallons 25 mm 92 5+ Years Medium-low
90 up to 130 Gallons 32 mm 198 5+ Years Medium-low
1000 up to 130 Gallons 32 mm 92 5+ Years Medium-low
2000 up to 210 Gallons 40 mm 198 5+ Years Medium-low
Features
  • The hang on back(hob) version of the Reef Octopus comes with a pinwheel pump, producing a good sized foam for detritus removal.
  • Being hob allows this skimmer to be added to any tank at any time. No breakdowns required.
  • A built in air silencer allows this skimmer to be as quiet as those hidden underneath the tank.
  • An acrylic casing protects the skimmer, making it durable enough to withstand some drops and bumps.
  • A specially designed Aquatrance pump helps the skimmer make a good foam while also being able to handle excess strain.
Dimensions
  • Classic 100-hob
  • 4.5″W x 7.7″L x 21″H
  • Classic 90-HoB
  • 5.3″W x 7.5″L x 23.7″H
  • Classic 1000-HoB
  • 4.58″W x 8.8″L x 23.6″H
  • Classic 2000-HoB
  • 5.67″W x 9.8″L x 24.4″H
Set-up

The parts may look complex, but setting it up isn’t so hard. This just gives you a good idea of what each piece is, what it does and makes the whole thing easy for me to reference. Depending on your model you may need to use the top or bottom image. The top will be for the 100 and 90 while the bottom is the 1000 and 2000.

Usually I would try to talk you through how to set it all up, but for this one it is just plug in the pieces like Lego blocks. The diagram shows you exactly which piece goes where and no piece is too hard to identify. It isn’t to assemble hard but there are a lot of pieces. Be sure to keep everything organized as you put it together.

Once you have the body assembled you will need to attach the skimmer to the tank and tighten the holder screw. This helps the skimmer stay up by distributing its weight to more solid parts rather than relying on the tubes connections for support.

Next fill up the skimmer about 8 or 9 inches. switch off the air valve and start the skimmer. After a few seconds you can turn the air valve back on, once the skimmer starts working normally is when I turn it back on. Once there is a good stream of bubbles replace the air valve by the silencer.

Now adjust the water outlet so that the bubble stopper is able to come out from the surface a bit. This will be the small pipe that’s located inside the defoaming device. If all goes well your skimmer is ready to use. If you notice any issues stop the skimmer and restart the process.

Adjustments

Adjusting this skimmer is a bit strange. Rather than turn any knobs or small adjustment tubes, you need to twist the water output valve.

  • How to adjust the amount of bubbles
  • Turn the water output valve clockwise increase the bubbles
  • Turn the water output valve counter clockwise to decrease the bubbles

Unlike most skimmers, I found this skimmer only takes a day or two to adjust to your tank. For the first day I would just adjust the tube so that you are getting small bubbles that would carry skimmate to the top of the collection cup. Don’t worry too much about getting the bubble level right just yet, as it will be changing a lot on its own. Instead let it break in for two days and then adjust it so that the bubbles are just about reaching the top of the tube that goes in to the collection cup. Do make sure the skimmer isn’t overflowing with bubbles before you let it break in.

Warranty & Lifetime

Reef Octopus offers a two year warranty on the skimmer and a one year warranty on the pump. As their pump is custom made it is really unlikely to break down. Mine is just over 15 months old and has had no issues. Even if the pump were to break I would only need to order a replacement impeller, which is dramatically cheaper than ordering a new skimmer all together.

The body should never break down since it has no moving parts. the only thing I have to note about the body is if you clean it to remove as few parts as possible. Re-assembling the skimmer is a lot harder when the pieces are a bit wet.

Summed up

Compared to the Eshopps HoB skimmer, the Reef Octopus is an absolute godsend. Even on normal skimmer standards this would be one of my first choices. I highly recommend the Reef Octopus HoB skimmer for anyone who doesn’t mind or needs an out of tank skimmer. Just be sure you have the space to install it before you order one. Moving large tanks full of water to fit it on the back is a huge headache.

Reef Octopus 152-S Review


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Tank Size Noise Level Longevity Price Rating
up to 160 Gallons Low 5+ Years Medium-high 8/10

Right away I want you to take a quick look at the dimensions.

  • Dimensions
  • 10.4″W x 8.1″L x 20.7″H

This skimmer is much bigger than the Bubble Magus curve 5. Make sure your tank can fit this skimmer before reading more about it. Otherwise you may need to expand your sump into something bigger, and with it being in the cabinet underneath the tank, this usually means an entire tank upgrade.

Size aside the Reef Octopus is amazing at what it does and extremely easy to use. The instructions included are great and adjusting the skimmer is very easy to do. This is certainly one of the easier skimmers to work with.

Set-up

The owners manual gives us a great look at all the pieces as well as distinct labels. Using this makes assembling the Reef Octopus much easier. Everything connects exactly where it shows so there shouldn’t be any errors when setting this up.

Right when you open the box you will find instructions and all the loose components in Styrofoam casing. When you take these apart you find the body and cup of the protein skimmer. Take all of these out of their wrapping and give them a rinse to remove any debris that could otherwise sneak into your tank. This includes running some water through the water pump.

Start out by taking the base of the skimmer off of the Body. there should be 5 screws hold it in place. Remove these and the base of the skimmer. Now connect the adapter, bubble skimming chamber and place to the top of the water pump. This is held in place by the provided screw. Next you will need to connect the venturi to the front of the skimmer. The venturi then connects to the skimmer’s pump. Once those are connected set the skimmer back on the base and reseal it.

Next out the pipe, gate valve and vent pipe on the side of the skimmer. These all attach with just a bit of force. Now at the neck of the skimmer we will want to put the holder, silencer and plastic cap into place, securing it with the screw provided. Attach the silencer to the venturi. The last thing to do is put the collection cup on top of the skimmer with its top cover and plug in place.

Adjustments

As with all skimmers this could take you one try or twenty tries. What we are aiming for is bubbles just below the top of the skimmate cute but not high enough to pour over into the cups reservoir. There are two main ways to adjust the Reef Octopus 152-s. The first is to use the gate valve, which will directly change how many bubbles the skimmer creates. For the first few days do not adjust the skimmer. Every protein skimmer has a break in period where it adjusts to your tanks water. During this time the bubbles will rise and fall erratically. Just give it time to break in and don’t waste time adjusting it before it is ready to use. Finally it is best to do adjustments when you will be home. This way if the bubbles get way too high and spill out of the sump, you can quickly clean the water before it has a chance to cause any damage. This is not too common, as the bubbles will usually pop before this happens, but I have seen it a few times when people just let the skimmer run full blast without looking at it.

  • How to adjust the amount of bubbles
  • Turn the gate valve counter clockwise to increase the bubbles
  • Turn the gate valve clockwise to decrease the bubbles

You can also raise or lower the skimmer/the water level to adjust how many bubbles are created. I personally try to keep my sump as full of water as possible, without risking an overflow, to keep my water column bigger. Most people will build an egg crate base to suspend the skimmer a bit higher, which is certainly one of the better materials to use. Mine is fine resting directly on the tank floor.

Warranty & Lifetime

The Reef Octopus comes with a standard 1 year warranty, which is nice but doesn’t tell the full story. High quality skimmers like this one only have one component that can fail: the water pump. Should this happen and you can no longer use your warrant it is much more cost effective to replace the water pump.

The pump used by the Reef Octopus 152-S is the 1800S skimmer pump. Because it has a specific way it attaches to the venturi, you would need to modify any other pump to get it to work in its place. For that reason I don’t recommend trying a different water pump unless you are fairly handy.

The pump should last for quite some time, over 3 years in my experience. If you have a particularly heavy bioload you can take apart the skimmer and clean out the water pump to extend its lifetime. The component you need to pay special attention to here is the impeller. Only clean it using non abrasive materials like a cotton swab.

Summed up

While this does cost more than the Bubble Magus curve 5, I still highly recommend the Reef Octopus 152-S. It is much easier to use, adjust and clean than the Bubble Magus. Additionally, the larger skimmate cup means you will not need to empty it nearly as often. When it comes to keeping an aquarium this is a really nice thing, as there is already enough small things we have to do around the tank.

Penn Plax Cascade Power Filter Review


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Tank Size Filtration
Stages
Noise Level Longevity Price
10-100 Gallons 4 Low 3-5 Years Very Low

The Penn Plax Cascade Power Filter is a low cost, high strength power filter with surprisingly good reliability. It runs water through four stages of filtration, leaving the water crystal clear while boosting the beneficial bacteria’s colony. If you’re looking for something more than an internal filter without spending a lot of money, this is the choice for you.

Set-up

The Penn Plax Cascade power filter comes fully assembled and consists of a white poly filter to remove tank debris and an activated carbon insert. The carbon will absorb many of the waters contaminates, making the water more clear. It can however absorb medications and does not combat ammonia or nitrite. For these two issues the filter uses its internal sponge and aerated water bracket to help form colonies of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria will be responsible for breaking down this harmful chemicals into much less dangerous nitrates.

To start the power filter you will need to first ensure the motor is well in place and does not allow water out of the filter. You can do this by filling the filter with water over a bucket or towel. With the filter full of water you will simply need to place the tube into the tank, with the filter resting on the rim of the tank, before plugging it in. It is essential that the filter be full of water at this point. The motor will start, making the impeller pull water from the tank through the tube and through the filtration system. If the filter is empty it will simply spin in place, damaging the impeller without moving the water.

Assembly & Cleaning

Disassembling this power filter is as easy as lifting off the top and sliding out the components. Each component has its own holder, making it easy to rinse or replace.

For my Cascade I replaced the filter cartridge with these poly pads found on amazon. They are extremely cheap, which is the main draw of this filter, making an already good draw even better. Simply cut the filter pad down to size and place it where your removed the filter component. Cheap and easy

The activated carbon will need to be replaced every few months if you have frequent water contaminates. This can be anything from extra medicine after treating a sick tank to tannins leaching woods. Remember to not run carbon as you are treating the tank with medication, as it will absorb the majority of the medicine before it reaches the fish.

The biological filters, sponge and waterfall, should not be washed or replaced. These parts generally do not trap debris and only support the beneficial bacteria our tank needs. If you do choose to rinse these off, only use tank water. Tap water has chemicals in it that will kill off the colony, rendering the biological filtration useless.

The motor can be removed simply by twisting then pulling down. Always turn the motor off and empty the filter before doing this. Additionally do not leave the filter anywhere where it can leak water near electronics. The motor drives an impeller, which can be brushed clean using a cotton swab. Refrain from using and abrasive materials, as scratches can easily damage the impeller. These scratches will cause irregular spinning, leading to a much shorter lifetime on the impeller.

located on the intake tube is a flow control valve. This will adjust how fast or slow the filter takes in water. Keeping the top in line with the tube will create the strongest filtration possible, as well as the most noise. Turning the valve 90 degrees will result in the slowest filtration setting, lowering the volume and speed of the filter. Essentially this allows the filter to function with day and night settings in the bedroom. If the tank is not in a bedroom feel free to leave it on high. The control valve simply limits the water that goes into the filter and not the motors strength, meaning no power is saved on lower settings.

Warranty & Lifetime

Despite this being one of the cheapest filters available it does come with a three year warranty from the manufacturer. This will not cover user created damage, but will cover the majority of defaults and wear on the filter. When my filter arrived its motor had some issue with it, making the filter much louder than it should have been. One call later and I had a replacement on the way while sending the damaged filter back. No shipping charge or anything.

The low cost design means this filter can be damaged more easily than high end filters. To prevent this you should clean off the impeller at least once a month. Following this practice you should reach no less than three years of life time. If the filter does break before then you can have it replaced, extending the lifetime further.

At this price, and with the majority of aquarists upgrading their tanks within a few years, the Penn Plax Cascade power filter makes a strong case for itself.

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter Review


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Tank Size Filtration
Stages
Noise Level Longevity Price
30-200 Gallons 3-5 Low 3-5 Years Medium-Low

The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter is a the perfect balance between performance and price. It can easily handle large aquariums, run silently without creating any noise. Unlike many other canister filters, Penn Plax keeps the price relatively low. While this does make the casing more fragile than other filters, it should not be an issue unless you treat the filter roughly.

Set-up

To start you should select a spot for the canister filter. I highly suggest you pick somewhere that is not too difficult to access. When cleaning it is best to pick up and move the filter. The canister filter will have two tubes coming from the top of it, both of which can be rotated 360&deg. The included tubes are ribbed, making it difficult to kink and easy to place.

Their are two outlets on the top of the filter. The blue one is the intake valve while the black is the output. Each tube will attach to the outlet with a bit of force before turning and tightening the included nozzles. There will then be a control valve you can use to stop the flow. You will be using this for cleaning and maintenance.

With both tubes in place and well tightened you can place the tubes into the tank. The filter comes with several attachments for the tubes, including a spray bar and directional output for the return tube. The spray bar will make the waters return a bit more noisy, so you may want to avoid this for silent operation. The intake should use a standard grate intake, ensuring no fish or large objects are sucked into the filter.

With the tubes in place you can begin priming the pump. To do this you will simply be pressing the large button on the top of the filter multiple times. I find this works best when done quickly. Push the button down until you hear the water draining into the filter. Watch the water fill up the filter, waiting until the filter is just about full of water. At this point you may plug in the canister filter to start the motor. The water will then be returned to the tank and your filter should run without issue from here on out. When it starts it may produce a lot of bubbles, as the tube is full of air and not water. For this reason I kept the output tube high in the tank, which made sure no bubbles were trapped underneath the live rock that lie deeper in the tank.

Cleaning

To start cleaning you will need to shut off the intake valve. This is done by simply turning the valve on the blue intake valve. Once the intake is shut you can watch the output carry the rest of the water out of the filter. Once the filter has been emptied shut the valve before turning off the filter. This will prevent any reverse siphons while you clean out the filter. Now you may shut off the filter and unscrew the two nozzles from the filter. Be sure to take the whole nozzle and not just the tube. Unplugging just the tube and not the nozzle will undo the seal and allow water through the tubes. You should be disconnecting everything up to the blue and black valves that are attached directly to the filters body.

With the filter disconnected from the tank you may carry it to a sink or tub to clean it. The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter has a carrying handle on it, making this rather easy. Be sure to set down the filter gently, as the footing can chip without too much force.

You can open the filter by lifting the side clamps from the filter, followed by the top of the filter. This will give you access to the filter media trays, each of which can be removed. Each tray has its own carrying handle. The top tray should be held in place by a rubber gasket, which you can remove by hand. Do not lose this as it must be reattached for the filter to work properly. Change or clean your filter media and baskets and put them back into place. Re assemble the pump in reverse order and you should be done cleaning. To restart the pump simply follow the set up process a second time.

Warranty & Lifetime

While this may be one of the lowest cost canister filters out there, the Penn Plax Canister filter is covered by a strong three year warranty. Simply call or email Penn Plax and they should help you with any issue you may have. They are fast and friendly, however the emails can take a day or two depending on the time and day of the week.

The pumps are unlikely to break down completely, with the main component you need to worry about being the impeller. However unlike many other filters the impeller in canister filters rarely becomes damaged, allowing the filter to run for many years without issue. Should the impeller break it can easily be replaced either by warranty or a small separate purchase.

Lee’s Counter Current Protein Skimmer Review


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Model Tank Size Height Price
Small 30 gallon 12.06 inches Very Low
Medium 50 gallons 16.13 inches Very Low
Large 90 gallons 23.13 inches Very Low
Overview

Lee’s counter current protein skimmer is the perfect protein skimmer for new aquarists and aquarists on budgets because it offers high performance at a low cost.

Lee’s counter current protein skimmer comes with almost all necessary equipment to setup: suction cups, on-tank hangar, airline tubing, one 2 inch limewood air stone, and two adjustable air valves. However, a needed air pump does not come included. You will need to get either one strong air pump with two air holes, or two moderately strong air pumps with one air hole. I recommend using only one air pump because noise level will be lower.

Pros

    • Inexpensive

 

    • Easy to setup

 

    • No in-tank water pump required

 

  • Works effectively

Cons

    • Made of low-grade plastic

 

    • Does not come with needed air pump

 

    • Must change air stone occasionally

 

  • No collection cup drainage hole
Setting Up Your Lee’s Counter Current Protein Skimmer

Lee’s counter current protein skimmer is easy to setup. The protein skimmer comes presassembled with the limestone air stone in place. All that is needed is to attach airline tubing from your air pump(s) to the protein skimmer, and to place the protein skimmer in your tank. Place the air pump(s) somewhere where they will make the least noise: in your aquarium cabinet, or in a different room by using a longer piece of airline tubing.Follow these steps to setup your Lee’s counter current protein skimmer:

A. Attach first piece of airline tubing from air pump to airline connector at the base of the protein skimmer. This will be known as “airline A” for reference, and “air valve A” is attached.

B. Attach second piece of airline tubing from air pump to limestone air stone. This will be known as “airline B” for reference, and “air valve B” is attached.

C. Attach your Lee’s counter current protein skimmer to your tank using the suction cups, on-tank hangar, or both. A great place for equipment in your tank is in the corner. Position the collection cup so that it is approximately 5 inches out of the water.
Note: If you are placing this in an aquarium with a canopy, you may need to cut a hole for the protein skimmer to fit.

D. Plugin your air pump.

E. Turn both air valves completely closed so no air can escape.

F. Air valve A controls the downward flow of water. Turn air valve A very slowly, opening the air valve until you see bubbles rising about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch apart in the return tube.

G. Air valve B controls the upward flow of bubbles through the limewood air stone. Turn air valve B very slowly, opening the air valve until you see bubble foam reaching the bottom of the collection cup.

H. This concludes the setup. For the first few days you may not see much foam in the collection cup. After roughly a week when the protein skimmer gets broken in more, you will start to see more foam in the colors of green to black. This means your Lee’s counter current protein skimmer is catching wastes in your water very effectively.

If you need more assistance setting the Lee’s counter current protein skimmer up, refer to the video below.

Maintenance

The collection cup will fill up with green and black foam every few days. When the collection cup is full you will need to gently remove the collection cup from the protein skimmer body and rinse it out in the sink. Take care not to spill the removed waste back into your aquarium.

The limewood air stone that comes included with the purchase of the protein skimmer will wear out within approximately one month. You can tell it is wore out when your Lee’s counter current protein skimmer starts producing way too much foam , because the aged air stone is producing too large of bubbles. To replace the worn limewood air stone, you can purchase new Lee’s limewood air stones, or you can purchase a ceramic air stone and bake it so that it will last for months.

Watch for salt deposits in the tubing. Salt deposits may clog the airline tubing so that bubbles cannot effectively be produced. If you see a salt deposit, unplug the system and either use a toothpick or rinse the airline tubing out to remove the salt.