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If your tank has flat walls and is the 7 gallon you mentioned, you would probably do very well with an aquaclear 20. I replace the filter bags that come with them with a 30ppi (or 20ppi if I can't find 30) filter sponge such as the kind sold for Rena canister filters cut to size. A box with 2 pieces of foam costs about $10 and lasts for quite some time (at least a couple of years.) It becomes a biological/coarse mechanical filter at that point, but that's really all I'm after. I suppose you could buy a water polishing pad and cut that to size. With a prefilter on the intake it should do the job nicely. I don't know how long that will last though (just never tried it, not a prediction of an early death.)

The filter still needs cleaning occasionally of course, but it's relatively quick and painless and only needs attention every month or so (for my tanks anyway.) Remove the sponge, squeeze it a few times in a container of tank water or dechlored tap water, replace. If you're using a prefilter for shrimp or fry, the sponge in the filter almost never needs cleaned.
 
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