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The filter I have came with my 20 g Tetra tank. It's been running for two months now. After one month, I cleaned the filter, just a light rinse so as not to remove all the bacteria.

The filter produces only a small flow so I think I could use better circulation.

1) When do you actually throw out the filter and get a new one? Are monthly cleanings the right thing to do?

2) Is the starter filter sufficient for a planted tank or should I be looking into something better?

3) Would a new filter cause a problem with the lack of bacteria?

Thank you.
 

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1. With disposable filters I always threw them out once they got so gunked up that the water flowed more over than through them.

2. I always replace the standard filters with one or two sheets of foam because the foam is cheaper, easier to wash out, and the carbon in the filter pads isn't really necessary. But, I don't think it really matters either way, just your preference.

3. I've always ran both filters together for about a month to make sure everything is ok, but I don't know if it's absolutely needed. As long as you have plenty of bacteria in your substrate I wouldn't think it would matter too much.
 

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First, most "starter" filters have replaceable mechanical media. This will have some beneficial bacteria but they are supposed to be replaced. I don't know your particular filter but I had one with only one "cartridge" but the bacteria was supposed to form on a plastic piece on the filter. I never had any issues replacing this, plus you have beneficial bacteria elsewhere. I also believe in stocking slow and not being reliant on my filter alone for bacteria.

As for your questions.

1. For me, I found myself cleaning my filter way too much. Not being knowledgeable, I started adding more cheaper filters. I really dislike HOB filters for planted tanks. They blow too much around and you let the water level drop .1in, your plants may be on the ground. I bought my first canister and now all but one tank of the 4 I have I use a canister. The one that still has a HOB is because I don't feel like investing in one for that particular tank.

I found myself cleaning monthly, if not bi-weekly with my "lesser" filters. I stopped buying new cartridges to save money but spent 20-30 minutes spraying my mechanical media down with a hose. It was messy and tedious. If I had the money, it was somewhat expensive.

2. Yes, they do work fine. There really isn't anything wrong with them except maybe a lack of flow. I like less flow on my tanks so that wasn't the issue, the above was mine.

3. The best way to add a new filter is run both your old and new at the same time. The new filter will start to establish the day you put it on. Wait about 2-3 weeks minimum before removing your old. Some do 2-3 months.
 

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the starter filter might work depending on your layout of plants and how much gph it does, also i always just washed the crap out of the filter with a pressure washer set on the lightest setting or something like that and would get about 6 months of use befor they are trashed its jsut a filter floss to cash crap no need to buy more if its not needed carbon doesnt last a week anyway so no point blowing cash imo. if changing filters use both together or put the used media in the other one to jump start it so you dont crash your tank.
when u do clean your filter really clean that gunk out most of the benifical is in the tank, as for saying when you should clean it is up to u, depending on the bio load ext ext, just look if it is not lettin water flow clean it, if you want to clean it the do so you wont harm your filter by having it clean, ive got filters that have had to be cleaned every 3 weeks an some every few months it really depends on the load of crap/work it has to do. this is one reason of many i like to see tanks not over stocked! hope it helps ya understand it all more
 

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if you are having a major flow difference from when u first started uo the tank and now. make sure you thoroughly clean out the input pipe. i have crap plug up the lines and it caj drop flow by 3/4. this is in addition to the filtration pads mentioned above.
 
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