View Full Version : Proper Maintenance - Canister Filters
09-24-2009, 12:11 PM
Hello everyone, this is my first post! I have a 46 gallon reef tank with about a dozen coral, mostly grape and bubble, and eight fish including a rabbitfish, two clowns, cardinals and a small sail fin tang. I recently upgraded my old Eheim 2213 canister filter (which developed a crack after three years) to the more impressive, powerful and significantly larger Eheim Pro II 2026. The difference in flow rate and performance is apparent, but I'm concerned about proper maintenance. Since it is much larger than my old canister I am assuming I need to fuss with it less often. I used to clean my old filters after about two months, then replace them two months later, then repeat, always leaving half the substrate intact. I swap 5 gallons of fresh saltwater every ten days or so. Since I live near the beach, I dunk in and take the water directly from the Atlantic - which made a big difference to the corals, who seem quite happy. There is little available online about the proper intervals for cleaning and / or replacing filter pads and media - especially for this filter - but also for other popular canister brands. So here's my question: what is YOUR sage advice on when to clean white pads, blue pads, replace them, and swap substrate? I am assuming that those bestowing wisdom in this area are experienced aquarium enthusiasts. By the way, all that Eheim's website says on the important subject of how often you should clean your filters is: "There is no general rule because the necessary cleaning frequency depends on many factors such as size of the aquarium, population, vegetation, type and amount of feed. Therefore we recommend cleaning the filter only when the pump performance deteriorates noticeably. A minimum period of 8 weeks should be allowed from one cleaning to the next because shorter cleaning intervals impede bacteria activity." That was helpful, but I'd love to here some more detailed responses. So what is YOUR successful strategy, time-proven technique, or magic maintenance method? Thanks in advance for your excellent advice! - Jerry in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida
09-24-2009, 01:23 PM
When you say you change the substrate, are you referring to the biomedia? Substrate is commonly used to describe the rock/sand/etc... on the bottom of the tank.
There's no reason to change your bio media. It should last a lifetime- though occasionally they may need some rinsing if they develop gunk along the sides.
Taking water from the Gulf or Atlantic really isn't a good idea. Toxins and pollutants are abound, particularly near the shoreline, where the beach sand acts as a giant protein skimmer. The salinity factor is also different, as the sand utilized from commercial sources won't have the same properties as the south Atlantic.
Cleaning or replacing the media pads is very much determined by the size of your tank and what fish you have. Visual inspection is the best indicator of when your mechanical filter needs changing, but checking it once a month is a good starting place.
You didn't mention it, but are you using live rock as well? If so, you may be able to ditch the Eheim altogether, or use it just for mechanical filtration and ease your maintenance schedule.
09-24-2009, 06:01 PM
First off IMO and IME your tank is overstocked especially with tang and rabbitfish.
I personally feel that canisters on the marine side especially reefs have no real place, and I am a huge canister advocate. But canisters due to their amount of media and general lack of time between cleaning them easily become nitrate factories, and with an overstocked tank its a matter of time really. I agree with MP, taking water from the ocean especially in active urban places like Flordia...is a terrible idea. You are just asking to introduce all sorts of toxins and chemicals into your aquarium.
What is your tanks water paramaeters? Are you using a protein skimmer? Live rock? Is the canister your only source of water circulation?
09-24-2009, 08:22 PM
I used to have even more fish in the tank! I only realized after a bunch died that the tank population was too great. The exact fish are: blue tang, sail fin tang, small and large clown, medium rabbitfish, 3 cardinals who mostly hide and have been with me since I set the tank up three years ago. I've also got three emerald crabs, a cleaner shrimp and lots of small bottom feeding creatures in shells on the bottom. Gathering my own salt water is enjoyable for me and the tank honestly looks better since I began those kinds of water changes. I hear what you and MonkeyPox had to say about this so I'll use less ocean water and more from the store even though this feels counterintuitive to me. There are thousands of small fish in the waters where I'm filling up and it seems that the fresher, "living" water source should be healthier in some ways than using chemical treated water from giant plastic tanks. Yes, I have alot of live rock, and you can see it in this pic: http://www.levinefilms.com/tank2.jpg You are the first person to mention a protein skimmer to me. I've heard of them but don' know what they do. Is this a good thing for me to get? In addition to the water flow of the canister I have a circulating pump inside with a large circular ball type aerator. Regarding Dr. James question - yes I meant biomedia - thanks. Those noodle things and balls in the bottom baskets. I usually rinse everything in salt water about every two months, then replace some of the biomedia. If i don't need to change that stuff because it gets better with age - great! What do you mean by "ditching the Eheim altogether" or using the Eheim only for "mechanical filtration." That my live rock is already doing everything the biomedia is supposed to do, so I only need the white and blue filter pads? Also, what about using the additional charcoal pads they sell for the canister? Thanks alot for your very informative and thought-provoking answers to my questions. - Jerry
09-24-2009, 08:34 PM
Paragraphs help readability!
I would recommend rehousing your tangs. Your tank is about half too small for the blue and you'd need triple the room for a sailfin.
Depending on species, your rabbit fish is likely too small for that tank is well.
Remember, you can't observe the health or lifespan of the fish in your waters. Those inhabitants can also travel farther away if they feel the area is unhealthy to them. Fish in your aquarium can not.
Boat, car, pesticide, etc... all that run off is a lot more concentrated near land.
Certainly do not replace your bio media.
In a properly stocked FOWLR environment, which you have, a secondary bio filter isn't needed; your live rock takes care of that. Since you're overstocked, I'd not recommend removing anything until you address what you have in your tank. With enough live rock and a properly stocked aquarium though, secondary biological filtration isn't needed.
So yes, you could ditch the bio media and run filter floss or some other mechanical filtration instead.
Activated carbon isn't necessary to run unless you're attempting to remove something specific from the water.
09-24-2009, 08:45 PM
Your corals look great, your setup is obviously working. I would think about getting a protein skimmer for your tank, it is a very essiential item for reef tanks IMO. Do a search on them, a nice easy one that I really like is the BakPak skimmer. I would definatly consider removing the tangs and rabbit fish they simply get to large for your tank.
As for the filtration, most people typically use their LR as the sole source of biological filtration(and use pumps to push water over the rock)...and use filters for mechanical and chemical filtration. Thats a pretty standard way to set up a marine tank because canisters especially have a tendancy to leach nitrate back into the tank due to the fact most of us dont want to mess with them constantly and marine tanks do best with nitrates under 5ppm.
I would suggest you get on a good store bought salt mix, I personally use Seachem Reef salt with great results. Using tap water is usually not a good plan, I would suggest you either buy some distilled or RO water as it wont contain nutrients which can cause an algae outbreak. If your adament about collecting your own water and the waterway is healthy which was my concern as how polluted everything is these days. Then do a mix of that and a prepared saltwater for tank use, it will dillute any offbeat toxins if any exist in your collected water.
09-27-2009, 01:17 AM
I am taking your advice on the fish population. The Sailfin Tang has already been transferred. I'm also going to remove one of the Cardinals. That will leave 2 Percula Clowns, a Rabbitfish, Blue Tang, and two Cardinals. If some of these fish grow too large, what types of community reef fish would you suggest as ideal for my setup?
Regarding the saltwater, everyone I've asked agrees with you on this fact so I just got water from the store instead - even though collecting the water myself was a good excuse to take a swim and was alot more fun somehow. The people at the store told me they get their water from the ocean as well, but the boat travels out several miles before collecting. I will say that my tank seemed to become more vibrant with the freshly collected water I got, but maybe that was my imagination? I doubt I'd take the time to mix the salt water myself. I've tried that before and my results looked like a science experiment gone bad.
While on this subject, what about collecting fish from the local reefs? I know plenty of people who do it but everyone says that is bad as well. This also seems counterintuitive to me.
I looked into the protein skimmer as mentioned by MCHRKiller. I saw two at the store and they work in a wet/dry setup and are not made to work inside a canister obviously. I asked about an inline skimmer that could work but they were stumped, and then I remembered your suggestion about the bakpak skimmer. I just went online and saw that this one hangs on the back of the tank, so it should it work just fine. I'm going to try that. I am assuming the protein is the fine, yellowish particulate matter that floats at the top of the water?
I hear all the talk about better filters and may go that way in the future. I just bought the Eheim though. Before I take the plunge, I'd need to find a setup that works in a small area - under my tank cabinet. The main factor in the decision for me, besides the apparent quality difference, is how much less maintenance is required with the kinds of filters you have mentioned? Is their a specific brand or product model you'd recommend for my size setup?
Thanks again for all the great advice and assistance . . . finding this forum has already made the hobby more enjoyable! - Jerry
09-27-2009, 07:01 AM
I am assuming the protein is the fine, yellowish particulate matter that floats at the top of the water?
The surface particulate matter you're describing problem is composed of some proteins. A protein skimmer that can surface skim, or one that operates from a sump will process that. Protein skimmers also remove a lot of other stuff, microparticulates, such as dissolved organic compounds, and even trace elements to a degree.
Skimmers pull of of this out of the water via foam fractionation and the consolidated matter is called skimmate which can resemble black coffee or dark tea and smell horrid (you'd be surprised that stuff was in the tank to begin with). The protein skimmer exports this out of the tank before it has a chance to break down and degrade water quality or promote nuisance algae and cyanobacteria.
You have a nice reef set up, I especially like the large green corallimorphs in the center (amplexidiscus?). Just an observation: you seem to have a fairly significant aiptasia infestation (pest anemones), though your corals seem unaffected by their presence; and also some cyanobacteria on the back glass.
09-27-2009, 01:34 PM
Wow... I'm no sw guy, but seems like you all got some great advice here. thumbs2:
09-27-2009, 02:17 PM
The surface particulate matter you're describing problem...
That should be "probably", typographical error there!
09-27-2009, 03:13 PM
BakPaks are geat skimmers, and they are somewhat customizeable. Personally I would pick up a used BakPak 2R+ skimmer, they are common on reef classified forums and ebay...for around 40-60bucks. I would then order a Rio RVT 800 pump which would replace the skimmers normal Rio RVT 600 pump. Invest in a surface skimmer box which also increases the performance of the skimmer by siphoning all that junk off the top of the tank as well, and you'll also see some improvement in the performance of the skimmer by replacing the endcap to the venturi line with a standard airstone. It will allow the pump to suck in more air, mixing with the water and thus increasing the amount of disolved organics that can be removed from the water. I recommend the 2R+ because it has a much better design than previous models...it removes the biobale and has a 3 chamber design which IME prevents bubbles from being shot into the return of the skimmer and into your tank.
Doing this your going to have an essentially brand new skimmer, since the only part on these that can tear up is the internal pump...for alot less. The pump upgrade will cost about 25bucks, and the pre-skimmer box costs about 20bucks. Youd have at most 100-110dollars in an improved skimmer that would normally be about 150bucks.
09-28-2009, 07:12 PM
The AquaC Remora line is another excellent choice for protein skimmers.
09-29-2009, 01:06 PM
Ok, a skimmer sounds like a better and better idea the more I hear about the benefits. Now I'm surprised that the people who helped me set up my tank initially never suggested it. But that may be because my tank is curved and angled into in a corner (see http://www.levinefilms.com/tankwide.jpg), so there won't be enough room for the Bakpak 2R+ in the space between my wall and the back of the tank (http://www.levinefilms.com/Corner.jpg).
The specs from CPR Aqauatics say the Bakpak is 7.5 inches wide, so I guess I could attempt to move the tank away from the wall, but that may mess up more stuff than all of this trouble is worth. What do you think? Should I risk my rocks falling by moving the tank with maybe half the water in it? Is there an alternative method for skimming protein that would work for my situation?
Kaybee mentioned that I have an aiptasia infestation (pest anemones). Is this what you mean (http://www.levinefilms.com/Anem.jpg). From your comments, it sounded like this was no big deal. Do people scrape these off usually?
09-29-2009, 07:32 PM
None of your images are working for me.
Its never a good idea to move a tank when full or even partially full of anything....so I definatly wouldnt attempt to do that.
The AquaC Remora I believe is a bit more compact than the CPR skimmers. It just needs about 3" of space behind the tank to work.
09-29-2009, 10:40 PM
To view your photo I clicked on your hyperlink and then backspaced to remove the closed parenthesis so that the URL ends in .jpg and not .jpg)
I like the full tank shot.
Aiptasia are kind of a big deal in that they multiply very rapidly and can sting adjacent corals and can be hard to get rid off. They're filter feeders as well as photosynthetic. Your corals don't seem to be affected by them.
Aiptasia shouldn't be scraped since microscopic cell-group remnants can develop into multiple aiptasia (so scraping off one could result in the resurrection of a group of them). Aiptasia are also mobile and can move (albeit very slowly, perhaps a 1cm-1 inch per week). As they move they leave a trail of microscopic fragments of themselves which become new aiptasia.
There are various ways of killing them (chemically such as Joe's Juice, kaulk, injections of boiling water, lemon juice, vinegar, etc), biological controls (certain fish will eat them, true peppermint shrimp, and a type of nudibranch which feeds exclusively on them, etc), and in extreme methods such as flame or drying the rock.
10-04-2009, 11:44 PM
Thanks for the advice on getting rid of the Aiptaisia. Will the true peppermint shrimp you mentioned harm any of my other corals or fight with the cleaner shrimp I have? Any other down side to adding on of them?
10-06-2009, 01:02 AM
Also, getting back to the large Eheim canister filter . . . it has been suggested to me that the small balls in the upper basket can be removed after a couple of months, as they lose their effectiveness. I was told they should be replaced by the media that looks like noodles that are already in the lower basket of the filter. Is this accurate?
10-06-2009, 01:57 AM
Not really on either account.
Bio media do not lose their effectiveness, though they can become clogged. A single rinse in tank water can clear that up.
10-06-2009, 02:21 AM
Thanks for clearing that up - I will just leave the bio-media alone to propagate. I swapped out the blue and white filters today and added a thin charcoal filter since i had bought a set with the canister. I always pour out the sediment and wash everything out with salt water when I'm changing filter pads. The last time I did this was six to eight weeks ago. I did notice the water flow was slowing down so I took your advice and now use that as my sign to change the filters. I also do five gallon water changes about every ten days.
10-06-2009, 11:00 PM
...Will the true peppermint shrimp you mentioned harm any of my other corals or fight with the cleaner shrimp I have? Any other down side to adding on of them?
Like any other crustacean's, true peppermint shrimp may raid (steal from) any corals you feed (which is why I keep crustacean's in my tank to a bare minimum). Should be a non-factor, though, if you don't feed your coral or feed them micro-food (crustaceans may be apt to go after brine shrimp sized and larger food items). Not sure how they'd co-exist with other shrimp.
Controlling aiptasia biologically (as with all biological controls, such as using CUC to combat nuisance algae, etc) won't be 100%, may be close to 100%, though. One downside would be acquiring "peppermint shrimp" and finding out they're actually a similar species of shrimp (sold as peppermints but do not touch aiptasia). These seem to be more commonly available than the genuine peppermints.
10-13-2009, 07:53 PM
I'm off to the store today to get a true peppermint, or what I hope will be one. I'll see how it does. Someone also told me that thier is a kind of slug that can control that pest aiptaisia. Gotta do something, they are spreading very fast and its getting a little scary. Thanks again for the heads up and the help.
10-13-2009, 09:47 PM
I actually just bought four True Peppermint Shrimp. I'm hoping to see some results in the next two weeks. If nothing happens, I'll try adding some of the recommended packaged chemicals that come with the syringe. I was told the True Peppermint can be distinguished from close cousins by the way it wags its tail from side to side.
10-14-2009, 03:13 AM
I'm not sure if tail movement is the distinction, but overall appearance of the true peppermints distinguishes them from the others. One shrimp which is very similar to the peppermint and often sold as them are the camel shrimp. Do a google image search on "peppermint shrimp" and "camel shrimp" and note the subtle differences. Hopefully you've got the real deal.
The slug you're referring to is the berghia nudibranch. These creatures eat aiptasia and nothing else. So, they'll die off when the aiptasia are wiped out or become to sparse for them to locate and consume. This site has lots of info about them and even sells them: http://www.berghia.net
If you've got a robust reef club in your area someone may have these handy (they're sometimes passed from hobbyist to hobbyist so that they both rid the tanks of aiptasia and don't starve).
10-18-2009, 07:23 PM
Thanks for the heads up about the camel shrimp and the slug. I am going to look for the slug right away since the aiptasia apparently love my tank and have decided to become the dominant life form. They expand at breakneck speed, something I was unaware of. Gonna buy a couple today from that website you recommended. My local aquarium store said he knows the difference with the true peppermint and only sticks the correct one as this is what everyone requests. He's been in the business for many years here in Miami.
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