Ok, as many of you know I collect a lot of loaches. Loaches, by the very nature of their diet wreak havok on the biological filters in my tanks. mechanical filters also get clogged pretty quickly as the loaches like to prune leaves sometimes.
Anyway, before my 135 Gallon tank sprung its leak I was filtering with a Fluval 404 (MSF) and a Marineland Magnum 350 Pro (its the 350, with a pair of biowheels, and quick disconnect valves). I'll start by reviewing them both and listing their pro's and con's. You'll see very quickly why I became frustrated with the filters for my
Magnum 350 Pro
I was actually pretty happy with this canisters overall performance. It ran relatively quietly, was extremely easy to clean, and was totally self contained (the motor housing to drive the impeller was in the base and had no exposure to the water at all, a great idea, but had some drawbacks that I will discuss later).
Things I liked
The canister body (the part that holds the media and the water) was seperate from the base where the mechanical components were. This greatly reduced the risk of leaking from around the impeller assembly (some other canister suffer from this symptom if they are too far below the tank, etc)
The Canister body simply slid off the motor base for cleaning, and the canister shape, and media basket design made it a breeze to clean.
Rim Clamp!! Yes this canister uses a rim clamp for the intake and outlet. I loathe suction cups as they never last more then 2 weeks in my tanks. The loaches have developed a taste for them so they will bite at them untill they no longer are capable of holding a seal
Things I did NOT like
The impeller is mounted in the bottom of the canister. Of course it needs to be at the bottom for the other design aspects of this canister to function, however, it has a severe flaw. The impeller sits in the impellers well at the bottom of the housing. This well has a groove that is "supposed" to capture any minor debris that could make its way into the well. This does not work very well. I have had to replace my impeller 3 times since I purchased this canister 3 years ago. 2 due to snails that fell in, and one to a single grain of sand that worked its way in and carved a groove around the impeller magnet.
This canister has a very limited media capacity. Its very easy to replace though. I mainly used this canister for water polishing with a micron cartridge.
Replacement parts cost a fortune. I never like spending over $30 for an impeller. I only paid $180 for this canister filter, so spending $30 a few times a year to replace a part that frequently wears out seems a little excessive. I wouldn't mind so much if they it didn't require frequent replacement.
Frustrating to Prime! This canister can get airlocked fairly easily, but it won't damage the motor because the impeller is always under water (its at the bottom). When the canister fills it often would fill from the outlet side so when it would start the air in the inlet tube could break the syphon and you would have to spend a fair bit of time "burping" the canister.
Fluval 404 MSF
This canister has recieved a lot of bad reviews. Some points are valid, but many of the good points have been completely missed by several reviewers.
Things I liked
This canister has a relatively solid design with a fair bit of media capacity. There are 4 seperate trays that you can fill with whatever media you choose, and 4 sponges that act as an internal prefilter to prevent larger pieces of waste from making their way into the main trays.
Built In quick Disconnect valve. This is the handiest feature for cleaning your canister filter. You simply close the flow valve, and open teh locking mechanism and the assembly that your inlet and outlet hoses connect to simply pops off the top of the canister. This is actually fairly well designed, although I would recomend keeping a spare one around (more on this later).
This is a pretty quiet canister filter. Even after 2+ years of service (so about 8-9 cleanings) I have not had to replace any worn impellers (although I did have to replace an impeller shaft I dropped down the toilet, but thats another story)
Simple design. Sometimes less is more, and this canister really takes that into consideration. There are no O rings to worry about keeping lubed (I am still using my original), there are few moving parts, and they are very easy to remove and clean.
Replacement parts are cheap, and sometimes even free! I had one of my locking clamps snap because I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing and Hagen sent me a new one in 2 days.
Things I did NOT like
The ribbed hosing that this canister uses builds up a lot of sludge. When the filter starts up again after it has been stopped it can blow this debris into the tank making a real mess of a tank you just meticulously cleaned.
There is a priming plunger that this canister uses to start the syphon. It works for about a month before the plunger gets worn and can no longer hold a seal strong enough to prime properly. You can replace this part, or prime the filter by filling the intake hose.
The plastic that the Quick Disconnect valve and the locking tabs is made of is fairly soft and can bend or break fairly easily. This is not a big deal if you attentive and pay attention to what you are doing, but I have broken locking tabs if I tried to lock the top before lining it up properly.
The intake and outlet hoses are fastened inside the tank using suction cups. I have already explained my distaste for suction cups so I will not bore you with that explanation again. There are also these snap on little elbows that bend the ribbed hosing into a corner so you can get it over the tank wall. All in all I have never felt that the hoses were secured adequately in my tank.
Last night I retired the Magnum Canister. I will be adding CO2 soon, so the Biowheels had to be removed, and the impeller was shot again anyway. I did however attach the Magnums Rim Clamp to the Fluval hosing. This has proved to be a fantastic improvement to the fluval... After I cleaned the hoses and canister and connected it to the Magnum Rim Clamp I can actually feel confident that the setup is secured and loach safe!
I am re-writing this review for my web site that will have pictures illustrating my points here.[/list][/b]