Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
Couple of ways to make the water spread out at the top of the bucket, then trickle through more of the media:
1) Put a small piece of plastic at the top of the bucket, on top of the media. (Like a piece of pond liner, or garbage bag, perhaps 4-6" square, or put more work into it and make it round)
2) Water entering the bucket will sheet across and spread out over this plastic, then seep through the media on all sides of this plastic.
1) Add any sort of mesh (like needlepoint craft sheet). This is fine enough to help spread out the water some, but the water will go through the holes.
2) Water entering the bucket will sort of scatter across the mesh, then seep through the media.
1) Aim the water sideways as it enters the bucket, for example by adding a PVC Tee so it goes sideways instead of straight down through the lid and into the media.
Combine either A+C or B+C
In much larger set ups (like a sump for several hundred gallons of tanks or pond) they make a spray bar out of PVC that spreads the water across the top of the media. This is going too far for a 5 gallon bucket filter, but the concept is valid, just a bit difficult to do on this small scale.