ZooMed Turtle Canister Filter Set-Up, Use, Maintenance, Review
PART 1 - Unboxing and Initial Setup
1. The first thing I noticed it that it seems to be built from sturdy materials. It's plastic but not cheap plastic. The latches in particular seem to be well-built which is a plus because those are the pieces that would likely break due to regular use.
--- Update #1: I was cleaning the hood on the tank today and was moving stuff around. I noticed that the outflow hose was starting to crimp a bit because of where I was moving the canister. They're REALLY soft and have pretty thin walls for filter tubing. I'm gonna go to the hardware store and replace them.
--- Update #2: I went to the local hardware store as well as one of the big box stores and came up empty on replacement tubing. The hose barbs on the filter are 1/2" ID. However, standard 5/8" OD tubing slips out of the compression collars. 3/4" OD tubing doesn't fit into the compression collars at all. Upon measuring, the provided tubing is 5/8" OD but is 7/16" ID. That must be why it's so pliable - the hose barb stretches it enough that the compression collars don't allow the hose to detach. I ended up removing one of the existing hoses and stashing it. I then aggressively cut the other one so that it simply can't twist and subsequently crimp. Overall, I'm kind of disappointed.
2. Upon separating all of the parts, I found that I was missing one of the compression collars needed to connect the vinyl tubing. I called ZooMed, waited on hold for LESS THAN 2 minutes and when I told them of my predicament, the rep said "look inside one of the intake strainers. They tend to settle in there during shipping." Sure enough, there it was. So ZooMed quickly and painlessly turned a potential minus into a big plus - excellent customer service!
3. All of the pieces assembled quickly and easily. Both the intake and outflow have flow limiters and they're built right into the elbows that sit on the tank. Very interesting design, we'll see if they actually work well.
4. I like that the outflow has both a spraybar and outflow diverter option. My daughter decided to go with the diverter but it's nice to know we've got options and can change it whenever we want.
5. The outflow is configurable but the intake is NOT. The intake strainer attaches to the elbow via a clear, rigid tube that is 12" long. This means it absolutely won't work on a standard 20x10x12 10-gallon tank. My tank achieves 14 gallons by adding 4 inches to the height (20x10x16) and it's STILL too long. Rather than cut the tube, I think I will just use a few inches of vinyl tubing.
6. The filter canister has 3 chambers, two of which came pre-populated with sponges. The primary chamber contains a fine sponge (smaller pores than a Filter Max but considerably larger than a Hydro Sponge) and the 2nd compartment has a coarse sponge similar to the Filter Max in porosity. While this might not suit some, I find it to be a big plus. I've developed a pretty strong preference for sponges (over floss-type materials) due to their easy maintenance and durability over time. The presence of two sponges with different pore structures sounds like an interesting idea too.
7. The 3rd chamber is for BOTH chemical and biological filtration. This could be a potential issue for people. The filter came with two bags of ceramic rings (about 1/4 cup each I think) and a carbon pillow (about 1/4 cup). The material properties that keep the carbon pillow from ripping easily also keep it from fitting well into the bottom of the chamber. The chamber is fairly rounded at the bottom and the pillow is rigidly square. This means the pillow is occupying about 3 times the space that its payload would otherwise occupy if it were laying flat on it's side.
8. In turn, the above issue with the pillow means you'll be putting roughly 1/4 of the ceramic rings provided in a baggie and storing them somewhere - all of the included ceramic rings simply won't fit if you're using the carbon too. In my case, I generally only use the included carbon and once it's exhausted I remove it and replace it with more bio media. Ultimately, this canister will be filled with a mixture of ceramic rings and Seachem Matrix that I have leftover from my other canister. So it's not a big problem for me but I see where it could be for others. Overall, if the 3rd chamber is just used for bio-media, it would imagine it could probably hold an entire 500mL bottle of Matrix which to me seems like quite a bit for a 14G tank.
PART 2 - Installation
1. Installing it was easy. It took us about 45 minutes total and that includes a 20% water change and the fact that we basically took EVERY plant out of her tank (the space vacated by the HOB intake and sponge filter allowed us to rearrange her plants).
2. The hose collars (similar to the ones on my AquaTop) work very well and create a nice tight fit. No leaks at all with the hoses.
3. While we were working, we needed to reduce splashing, so we turned down the outflow using the inline mechanism I mentioned in the previous section. It works well.
4. The intake tube issue I mentioned was easily solved with a short piece of vinyl tubing.
5. The canister itself fits neatly right next to the tank and is not too large or unsightly.
6. Priming the canister is a little funky. There's a small opening in the top with a screw-in cap - you pour water in there to fill the canister. I filled it all the way up and plugged it in - it started right up and it only took about 15 seconds to expel the remaining air from the intake tube.
7. While the intake was bubble-free quickly, the outflow was not. It was obvious that there was air trapped in the canister itself. Letting it run for several minutes didn't solve the issue so I eventually resorted to uncrewing the cap - mistake. Like any good pressurized setup, the air was quickly expelled and I wasn't paying good enough attention to avoid shooting water all over the dresser and floor. I guess if one is very careful, the priming issue can be overcome easily by removing the cap but it's certainly not a desirable solution.
--- Update #1: When I walked by the tank this morning, I could hear a knocking sound. I can't prove it was coming from the filter because it wasn't constant. I can prove the the canister still had considerable air trapped in it. You could hear the bubbling sound when you walked by - the vibrations through the floor jostled it just enough to cause some air to escape. I tilted it back and forth to expel it. I haven't heard the bubbling or the knocking since.
--- Update #2: When I walked by the tank this morning, I could hear a knocking sound. I can't prove it was coming from the filter because it wasn't constant. I can prove the the canister still had considerable air trapped in it. You could hear the bubbling sound when you walked by - the vibrations through the floor jostled it just enough to cause some air to escape. I tilted it back and forth to expel it. I haven't heard the bubbling or the knocking since.
--- Update #3: I've stricken one of my comments from the original post. I walked by it again a bit ago and it was still spitting out air. I removed the cap and this time I was VERY careful - water still spilled out onto the floor and furniture. So even with close attention, it's impossible to avoid spillage. I don't recommend removing the cap. I did pick up the filter and tilt it sideways a couple of times. It seems better but it seemed better before, too. On a good note though, tilting it didn't affect flow or function, nor did it leak.
--- Update #4: I believe that this canister is INTENDED to spit air bubbles once in a while. While cleaning it, I noticed it has a small piece of airline tubing attached to the intake tube. Reading in the instructions, this is present to bleed air out of the top of the canister periodically.
8. Flow is very good, especially considering that it's packed with carbon and rings. Honestly, it's just about PERFECT for this size tank. I would definitely hesitate to use it on anything above 20G. Despite us stirring up quite a bit of muck the water is almost clear again and it's only been about 20 minutes.
---Update #1: We decided to remove the simple jet adapter and install the spray bar in a vertical position. Flow is REALLY strong with it this way. We tried turning down the flow but in the end, we opted for position some decorations to protect a couple of plants and let the flow go through on high.
PART 3 - Maintenance/Cleaning
1. Removing the intake/output fitting was simple and straightforward. It twists off (as opposed to using an open/close lever like my AquaTop) but did not spill a drop of water.
2. While removing the fitting from the head did not spill water, removing the head from the canister did, creating a large puddle (luckily I had a towel underneath). I actually don't see any way to remove the canister head without spilling water because the water level is actually higher than the top of the canister housing when the pump is running. The only thing I can think of is to siphon water out of the priming hole.
3. Due to the strange side-by-side nature of the media arrangement, I'm thinking customizing media beyond replacing bio/carbon is going to be hard if not impossible. I just can't tell by looking what direction the water flows through, so using a micron pad or something similar probably won't work.
4. Cleaning the canister with the ceramic rings sitting in there loose proved to be difficult, so I removed all of the rings and put them in a standard 4x8" mesh media bag. Just by sight, it looked like the media bag might fit well and since it was only 3/4 full, I topped it off with Seachem Matrix. I threw away the carbon pillow and dropped the full bag into the chamber - it fit absolutely perfectly.
5. Getting it running again was smooth and simple - I re-attached the head and filled it with dechlorinated water through the priming hole. I re-attached the intake/outflow fitting and plugged in the power - it spit air for about 30 seconds and was then back to full strength
6. All in all, cleaning it was even easier than installing it. From start to finish, it took only 10 minutes!
For the FULL Thread, follow this link:
ZooMed "turtle" filters.
For other articles that may interest readers of this article:
*Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle
*Aquarium Filtration; Filters; this is an excellent article with reviews, information, troubleshooting and more about choosing the correct aquarium filter.
This includes information about under-rated Sponge Filters or Fluidized Sand Bed Filters of which will outperform many of the most expensive canister filters.
*UV Sterilization; this is an excellent article for those desiring to lower the risk of disease in their shrimp tank, especially since shrimp are sensitive to many medications. This article starts with basics, answers many facts and myths, and provides UV bulb maintenance information too.
For Aquarium Repair Information, see: Aquarium Silicone, Tank Repair, Applications, DIY
Or to purchase: Premium Aquarium Silicone
For the ONLY Internet Website that dispels the Myth that IS Aquarium Planaria (actually Detritus Worms). Do NOT source About.com, eHow, Fish Lore, etc. for this question.