DIY Internal Canister Filter - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-18-2016, 07:15 PM Thread Starter
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DIY Internal Canister Filter

I love aquariums. I love planted tanks. I love my fish. I love my plants. I love my shrimps. What I dont love is crawling under an aquarium stand and fighting the hoses on my canister filter. I hate an unsightly hob hanging off of the back of my tanks. In an effort to combat canister cleaning fatigue syndrome and to ditch all of the unsightly hob filters I am taking the plunge into the diy filter world and building an internal canister filter. If this test works well I will be ditching and selling all of my hob and canister filters.

My plan is as follows:
A two inch pvc pipe capped at both ends that will hang vertically in a corner of the tank.
At the bottom end a hole drilled into the cap and a fitting from an ati sponge pre-filter glued in place. The fitting will be connected to a 90 degree elbow that I attach the sponge to so that it hovers the bottom of the tank horizontally.
In the pipe a layer of blue bonded filter pad. Filter floss. A plastic mesh will be inserted. Seachem Matrix (not packed full more on this later). Another plastic mesh. More filter floss. Another mess. Seachem purigen. Mesh. Then more floss. The top cap will have the poweread attachment glued in and sealed with silicone. Then powering it all will be an Aquaclear 70 powerhead.

Questions/theories:
If I leave space in the matrix compartment is it light enough to move around in the water flow will it bounce around some thereby increasing efficiency? Ive never used Matrix so I dont know if it is light enough to do this. If the consensus is that no it is not light enough to bounce around then I may just use lava rock which I have in abundance and save some dollars.
Purigen and a nylon stocking. Have you done this and if so what was the result? I was thinking a double stocking wrapped in one of those top fin mesh bags from petsmart. I have a 100ml pouch of purigen but I dont know that it will work well in this setup so I was going to buy 250ml bottle.
I am also thinking I will attach a diy pvc spray bar to my powerhead output. In this spray-bar I will insert my heater. now the problem the head of the heater is a little bigger and the wire. So I would adapt from lets say 1 inch to 1 1/2". The head of the heater sits in the 1 1/2 part. I cut a slit for the heater power cord in the end of the adapter and then cap it off.

I have everything I need to build the base filter minus the spray-bar and media so I can test it to see how it works.
I'm looking for input from those who may have built something similar to one of these or if you are lke me and just doing things to do it the please chime in.
I see no reason why this should not be as efficient as any other filter and very easy to maintain.

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Last edited by thedood; 04-18-2016 at 07:44 PM. Reason: Spelling
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-18-2016, 07:36 PM
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Don't glue the caps and you'll need a pump.

A DIY sponge filter is an option as well.


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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-18-2016, 07:43 PM Thread Starter
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@mistergreen Thanks for replying. I wont be gluing the caps, have to remove media for cleaning . As for pump I have an AC 70 powerhead that should fill the bill nicely. The AC 70 is rated at 400gph, I figure going through the sponge and media it should still pull 350 or 375 unless it is clogged somewhere.

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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-18-2016, 07:44 PM
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sounds like an interesting project, i am not sure this filter is going be better looking (but this is totally subjective), more efficient or easier to maintain than a canister filter.

Seachem Matrix is very light, the smaller particles (rocks) will definitely bounce around with water flow. but there is a possibility they will get sucked to the top and get stuck there.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-18-2016, 07:55 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by gbb0330 View Post
sounds like an interesting project, i am not sure this filter is going be better looking (but this is totally subjective), more efficient or easier to maintain than a canister filter.

Seachem Matrix is very light, the smaller particles (rocks) will definitely bounce around with water flow. but there is a possibility they will get sucked to the top and get stuck there.
I am painting the pvc green or black and surrounding it with plants. It is going in a corner with Bacopa caroliniana which is tall and thick. The canister itself will be buried among that jungle so it will be pretty well hidden, except the spray bar if I add one. If I add a spray bar it will be painted black.

On top of the matrix I will be placing plastic mesh and on top of that more filter floss aka quilt batting. That should keep the matrix contained. I may need to add a small plastic dowel to keep the mesh from sliding down into the matrix chamber but that would be simple to do.

As for maintenance here is my thought process. All I have to do is clean the sponge prefilter every water change which will be a matter of popping it off, rinse it, and slide it back on. As for the canister itself there are no hoses, no gaskets, and no trays to align. Dump the media in a bowl, rinse it, replace the blue pad and floss and fill the tube up with the clean bio-media. Pretty simple and with no hoses or gaskets to worry about leaking. My thinking may be flawed but thats why I posted is to hash this out and work the kinks out of my idea. Well someone elses idea this is just my implementation.

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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-21-2016, 03:24 PM
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Do not trust the manufacturer's rating. A test by someone several years ago showed these PH do not perform as claimed. Test it yourself: PH in one full bucket, spouting water into empty bucket. Time it.
Is 2" pvc large enough?
Paint it camouflage or blended colors, not one solid color.
if the heater is going to be in the tank anyway, don't bother to put it into a tube. Tube is bulkier an harder to hide than simply the heater.
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-21-2016, 04:06 PM Thread Starter
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@Diana you are a knowledgable member whose opinion I greatly respect so thanks for replying.

I will test the powerhead tonight see what kind of flow I get with it.

I wonder myself if two inch would be big enough. I came to the conclusion I think it will. I will have about 18" of pvc height in addition to the filtration capacity of the sponge pre-filter attached horizontally at the bottom which will give me about 23 or so inches of total height. I will have 6 inches of floss, 6 inches of space for bio-media with it filled with about 4 inches of media with the intention of having 2 inches of room for the media to become a moving bed, another 4 to 5 inches for purigen (which I also hope to figure a way to become fluidized but right now that one has me stumped), topped with 1 to 2 inches of floss.

I wondered myself if two inches would be enough. I think with a sponge pre-filter and that I will be using a moving bed bio-filter chamber coupled with no bypass that this filter will be efficient enough to make up for its lack of size.

I love the idea of camo paint. What brand paint would you use in this situation? I was thinking either rustoleum acrylic or krylon fusion but I dont know if those come in camo.

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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-21-2016, 04:19 PM
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The first thing I thought when I read you want the matrix to be moving is it will grind itself to dust and get sprayed all over the tank slowly, that's if it actually stays in motion. My other thought was that it will just get stuck to one side and not continuously tumble around. Interesting idea though, I think it's doable for sure just don't sell all your filters until you know you've got yours working properly haha
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-21-2016, 04:22 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by harrynolan27 View Post
The first thing I thought when I read you want the matrix to be moving is it will grind itself to dust and get sprayed all over the tank slowly, that's if it actually stays in motion. My other thought was that it will just get stuck to one side and not continuously tumble around. Interesting idea though, I think it's doable for sure just don't sell all your filters until you know you've got yours working properly haha
Thanks for the reply. I will look into getting k1 mini then which should work just as well. I was thinking matrix because of the anaerobic properties.

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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 03:27 AM Thread Starter
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I thought I would give an update to this project. I have the filter built and it is indeed to short to do much good as a stand alone filter. However, what I have done is attached an ati sponge pre-filter to the intake. This is the ati 3 which is the courser high flow sponge. I then filled the bottom section with floss. I packed a mesh bag, nylon stockings for now but I ordered one of Seachems 'The Bag', full of purigen (about 125ml) and then topped with floss. The way this is built the water cannot bypass the purigen as the purigen is really crammed in there. So basically I built a high flow water polisher.

My initial observations are this powerhead moves a little more water than I want in this application. I'm going to continue using it as the idea was a low cost filter using stuff I had laying around for the most part. I had the powerhead and the pre-filter and had to buy the pvc and some glue. I also bought some dye and pvc cleaner but that plan did not work but for the most part the filter is hidden by plants and after a little rescaping it will be hidden. I am going to slow the flow by changing the ati sponge number 3 for a number 2 which is a finer sponge and will restrict the flow some.

One other thing I am going to do is put a piece of sponge up near the powerhead to insure no floss gets into the impeller.

Another observation is it belches air for awhile. I dont think this will hurt anything but there are a lot of air bubbles floating around the tank. No o2 starved fish here! I guess I will know in a few days how well this works. I look forward to seeing if the water is clearer and has less odor. The tank doesnt smell bad but it has that earthy aquarium smell. Time will tell if this endeavor was worth my while.

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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 07:47 PM Thread Starter
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Here is another update. After much thought I am going to mount this filter horizontally rather than vertically. It will be easier to hide and have a much smaller foot print when viewed from the side of the tank.

When I woke up this morning I looked and the water looked good and clear. I noticed quit a bit of bubbles in the water and some on the top of the water. The water is definitely getting aerated. I smelled the water and it is now basically odorless.

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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 07:50 PM
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i'd be interested to see how it looks?

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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 08:29 PM
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Worried about the purigen. If that nylon tears you will have one hell of a mess lol I speak from experience.
I always get the bags purpose built for the stuff now or the pouches. Still finding a piece here and there a year later lol.
And that's with water changes and filter cleanings throughout the year lol.

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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 08:33 PM Thread Starter
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@Veritas I will get a pic of it tonight in the tank and in a few days when I do the upgrades I will get a much better one of it out of the tank. Basically it is 2 inch pvc capped on both ends with a large hole drilled in each cap. One cap has a power head mounted on it the other cap has an ati pr-filter. The ati pre-filter has two elbows so the filter forms a J shape.

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Worried about the purigen. If that nylon tears you will have one hell of a mess lol I speak from experience.
I always get the bags purpose built for the stuff now or the pouches. Still finding a piece here and there a year later lol.
And that's with water changes and filter cleanings throughout the year lol.
I have two of Seachem's 'the bag' coming. Should be delivered Friday. As soon as I get them I am going to do some alterations to the filter itself and replace the nylons.

One of the alterations is going to be hanging the filter horizontally and I haven't figured out how I am going to do that yet. I have a couple of large suction cups I can super glue into holes drilled into the canister tube but I dont know if they will hold the weight.
@Lonestarbandit how long did the nylons last? Maybe I should tear the filter down and wait until my bags come in.

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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-26-2016, 09:16 PM
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It might be a bit late now, but why not just use a Hamburg Mattenfilter in one corner? Cant get much simpler, cheaper, and low maintenance than that.
I am with you though, I have several canister filters and switched out a few for HOBs because I was tired of cleaning the canisters. I keep small fish and shrimp mostly so bio load is small and I don't need the big canister filters, but I didn't know that when I started this way back when.

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