Tom's (Rapid's) mini canister filter
I've seen several old threads around here about this particular filter. And several more asking whether it would work on a particular tank. Since ours has been up and running for an entire day I figured I'd add my experience to the mix.
First and foremost I want to agree with all the other posts I've read; the stock hoses are absolute junk. I really wish aquarium product manufacturers would just use standard size fittings so we could use regular PVC or silicone hose to connect things. The corrugated hoses supplied with this filter make it unnecessarily difficult to position the intake and spraybar.
Because our tank was such a mess (we've been running filterless) I had to service the filter this morning after just one night's running. And again the other posters have been correct; this filter is a PITA to service. You have to lift it out of its cradle to get it above the water level and disconnect the hoses while trying not to spill water everywhere. But you will spill water. I've also had to use pliers to open the fill cap to prime the filter after servicing. Reconnecting the hoses to the filter housing is also a pain.
At first I was disappointed by the layout of the filter. The pump is on the return line after the media compartments. So the water only has the force of the siphon from the tank to move it through the media. I wasn't convinced this would allow for decent mechanical filtration. And mechanical filtration was the entire motivation behind the purchase. Our tank didn't need biological filtration. The plants have kept the ammonia and nitrites at or near zero.
I solved this problem with some spare parts from previous experiments. The sponge from a small sponge filter fit perfectly over the pump intake tube. I wrapped a layer of blue/white filter pad around the sponge as well.
The small divider in the housing didn't really do anything except take up space. So I pulled it out to make room for a large pouch of API Nitra-Zorb.
Basically this system works out exactly like an HOB overflow sump with a sponge pre-filter on the return pump. I think it's a stretch to call it a canister filter. Yes, it is an enclosed system. But functionally it is identical to a sump. A true canister filter is a pressurized system that functions more or less identically to a pool filter system. The Tom's "canister" is not pressurized except for the return line.
Despite what it may seem from what I've written above, I am not disappointed in the filter. Yes, it needs some tweaks to make it work properly. But it really can be made to work. Our tank looks amazing after just one day. The pump produces enough current in this ten-gallon to annoy the betta. But it isn't nearly as much current as the Penguin 150 HOB filter we tried before. And this filter works better than the Penguin did. I think the Tom's filter is decent value for the money. I think it does a fine job on this size tank. I am even considering buying another for the twenty-gallon we are starting to build.
In case anybody needs to know, our tank has one betta, three cories, two otos, three apple snails, and a handful of ghost shrimp. It's planted with anubias congensis, alternanthera reineckii, eleocharis parvula, bacopa carolinia, a nymphoides aquatica/cordata, a couple moss balls, and a bunch of anacharis. It's pretty overstocked and heavily planted for a ten gallon tank. So I'm really impressed with both the filter and the Nitra-Zorb.
I will post pictures later to clarify what I've done.