Question was asked if this thing could ever be taken apart for cleaning, here is the answer!
I did confirm one suspicion, I always suspected that the Fluval foam pre-filter (from an Edge I believe, cheap) was so fine that the rest of the filter was only really biologic and chemical - the pre-filter providing all the mechanical. Turned out to be true - the sponges in the body of the filter ran totally clear, even after wringing them out. (they are stained from life before the sponge). This works well for me, as I can easily remove the pre filter to clean every week or 2.
The carrier pulled out with no issues:
Front (with spillway from underneath):
Small roots did penetrate the purigen pillow, pulled out ok though:
The sponge from the top of the stack - I picked this coarse black sponge on purpose as a "growing media" for the plants to root into (it's from a marineland canister)
Re-assembled - new purigen on the bottom this time, keep te roots away and the pre-filter is doing all the mechanical work:
Back in filter body, plants a little beat up but they grew back in real quick!