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Best tank filter ever made!


gtippitt
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I  bought a great new filter for a 55 gallon tank where I want to start a colony of Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi var. red).  It is the best filter I have ever used or seen in over 50 years of keeping aquariums, while still being affordable for a hobbyist like me who needs to keep to a budget.  It is the first filter I have ever used, with which I didn’t see things I wanted to change or wish had been designed a bit different.  I have been running this filter for over 2 months, and I have not found a single thing I would change about its design.

It is a wet-dry filter that sits atop a tank behind a light bar, so that it does not have the worries of leaks, siphons, or overflows that plague sump versions of wet-dry filters below a tank. Wet-Dry filters have long had the advantage that their increased aeration provides for growth of beneficial microbes, but they have mainly been used for very large tanks and ponds.  The small versions of this filter will work great for small tanks where a sump is impractical.  I bought mine from eBay seller TopStore1016 at the link below, and similar designs are available from sellers elsewhere. 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Aquarium-External-Filter-Trickle-Rain-Drop-Upper-Fish-Tank-Water-Aqua-Filter-US-/122350271841?var=&hash=item1c7ca4fd61:m:mCXWToKfl6dM8Qiz9-u2BFg

These filters are sometimes called "Rain Drip/Drop", "Upper Trickle Box", or "Above Tank Wet-Dry" filters. They are a Bakki Shower for a koi pond, but in miniature for a tank.   Of the ones I saw available, I liked this one best.  The base that supports the filter and captures the water to be returned to the tank is a very sturdy, yet lightweight, composite.  I like that the base and the media containers are black rather than the clear ones I saw elsewhere.  While the idea of showing off the filter media might seem cool at first, it will seem less cool once it gets properly colonized with beneficial bacteria and looks brown and gunky.  Brown gunky microbes are not what most of us want as the visual centerpiece of a tank. The black acrylic for the boxes which comprise the filter chambers,  will have much less problems with algae than clear ones that would allow light to pass through.  

In the pictures I've seen with the clear versions sitting on a tank, being able to see the media, even when new and clean, causes your attention to be drawn to the filter more than the tank.  I don't find the black version of the filter detracts from my tank.  In my picture below, the filter is particularly obvious since it is in stark contrast to the white window blinds behind it.  When people see the tank, they ask me what the filter is, but they've said that they don't think it detracts from the tank's appearance.  One person described it as "mysterious looking but not ugly."   

The only part of the media you will need to monitor really is that in the top row where I am using a poly fiber matting as a mechanical filter.  It’s easy to remove the top lid, inspect the top media layer, and replace or clean it when needed.  If you are using a good mechanical filtration media at the top, the lower levels should not require much maintenance at all.  I am using a large sponge pre-filter on the pump to prevent small shrimp from getting sucked in, so it is the only media that I expect will need regular cleaning.

I love animals and hate that so many people's fish die quickly because they have been sold bad filters at "Big Box Pet Store" chains.  I had never posted a YouTube video before, but after using this filter, I was so impressed with it, I posted a video at the link below to show some of why I liked it.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5zhDgD9Whk&t=48s

I later found another video from a guy in the UK who is reviewing the same model.  He regularly posts videos regarding aquariums and ponds, and his video is much better than mine.  While I think the black version of the filter is best for usage, the clear one in his video does allow you to see inside the design much more easily to understand its great features.  They got so many little details perfect about this filter, it is difficult to describe them all.  One small but important detail is an example of the foresight of its design.  Each of the media compartments has an overflow slot where excess water can flow to the next lower level if the media or the drainage holes in the bottom of the box were to become partially blocked and restrict the downward flow of the water.  And again, if anything were to drip or leak, the filter sits above your tank, so the water simply returns to your tank rather than your floor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWKJz9ft2gs&t=432s

The Bakki shower design for a bio filter was first developed by the Momotaro Koi farm of Japan, which has long been the world's top breeder of prize winning koi.  The design was developed to cope with low O2 levels in ponds during summer. As water temperature is increased, bacteria can often consume more O2 in a system than the fish.  This is the reason that wet-dry filters can remove ammonia and nitrite so effectively.  When the bio media is completely submerged in water from the tank, the bacterial metabolism of wastes is limited by the amount of O2 that can dissolve in water.  With a wet-dry filter, the water flows through the media, but it is also exposed to air, which provides the bacteria with unlimited O2.  Throughout nature, the boundary areas between water, air, and land are where life is most abundant.  Freshwater sport fishermen in boats spend most of their time near the shore for fish, rather than in the middle of a reservoir. This boundary is where live from its microscopic size to trophy size fish are found most abundantly. 

The design of Bakki showers takes the wet-dry advantage regarding O2 to its extreme.  The layers of media are separated in containers above one another, allowing water drops to rain down from one container to another.  As water flows though the media in most other filter designs, it contains progressively less O2, but with a Bakki Shower filter, the opposite happens, as water is aerated more as it passes through the chambers.  Where other bio filters can deplete the available O2 dissolved in the water by the time it returns, the shower design results in the water leaving the filter being higher in O2 than when it enters!

There is much information available about Bakki showers, so I won’t try to duplicate it here any further.  Wikipedia has a fairly concise description, which if a good place to start if you want to read more about the design.  The home I purchased 6 months ago has an old concrete in ground swimming pool, which needs significant repairs before it would be suitable for swimming.  I am instead planning to use it as a 30,000 gallon koi pond.  While I was planning my tank for Red Cherry Shrimp, I was also reading about pond filtration, so I was very excited to find this tank filter based upon the design of these pond filters, which are considered one of the best pond filtration systems available.

There are two things about the filter that I should mention, as some may see these as drawbacks.  It does not include a pump nor any filtration media.  Some may see this as a drawback, but I saw it as an advantage.  Depending upon the tank with which one plans to use the filter, the type and flow rate of the pump one wants can vary considerably.  If the manufacturer included a pump, this would add to the cost and could never have a pump that was best for every tank.  I liked that instead the price was lower, and I could pick the pump I wanted.  This does add a little complexity to the initial setup.  The filter provides all of the connections needed from the tank to the filter, but the buyer must find whatever is needed to adapt the filter's connector to the pump to be used.  I simply took the connector from the filter and my pump to my local hardware store, and they quickly found the adapters and hose I needed.

Similarly, many filters come with media that is not what I want to use.  In the worst cases, filter makers design their systems so that it is difficult to use media other than the pads they sell for the filter.  This filter lets you use whatever filter medias that you want, and does not increase the cost by proving media that isn’t what you want to use.  

I used a combination of ceramic rings and poly fiber matting.  This provided the balance of cost, weight, and effectiveness that I wanted.  I filled each of the media boxes with a sandwich of poly fiber matting with ceramic rings between.  My 15 box version now holds 10 pounds of ceramic rings (about 2 gallons) and 600 cubic inches of poly fiber matting.  The matting I am using is fluffy on one side and more dense on the other.  I have it placed where the fluffy side is up so that water quickly soaks in, and the lower more dense side ensures that water is spread out evenly as it falls and does not channel straight through leaving dry areas.  I have also found that the filter is almost silent since I added the layers of poly matting above and below the ceramic rings.  The wet matting does an excellent job of absorbing the sound of the water dripping through the filter chambers.  If you let the water run directly from the filter's output and splash down onto the water surface in the tank, it will make a significant amount of noise.  A clear pipe is supplied with the filter that can be attached to the outlet to prevents this splashing and its sound.  When trimmed to reach just into the tank's water, it is barely visible and still muffles the sound.  This filter makes less noise than a small HOB filter I have on a nearby 10 gallon quarantine tank.  

After I made the video that I posted, I tinkered a bit with the water’s return from the filter before I got my shrimp.  I’m using a 400+ gallon per hour pump because I wanted to make sure water quality was always good as my colony hopefully increases in size, but I didn’t want too much current to make life too difficult for  baby shrimp in fast water.  I eventually replaced the exit pipe provided with the filter and used one that is closed on the end and has lots of horizontal cuts to allow water to disperse with less agitation.  I’m getting good agitation at the surface for gas exchange, while only one corner of the tank has lots of water agitation.  With minimal DIY skills, this can be easily adapted this for your tank’s requirements if needed.  My shrimp now spend most of their time in the 3/4 of the tank that is calm, but some also seem to enjoy going to play in the currents for a time each day.

Besides its great design, the best thing about this filter, is that it is available for tank sizes from 10 gallons and up.  The seller was out of stock of the 18 box version to fit my 48 inch long 55 gallon tank, so I ordered the 15 box version.  It provides more than enough capacity for my plans for the tank, but its support arms at each end would not reach the ends of the tank.  To cover my tanks, I like the “egg crate” material used as a diffuser in commercial lighting applications.  It keeps things from falling into a tank, prevents fish from jumping out, while allowing light and air to pass freely.  It is easy cut to size or remove wholes using side-cutting wire pliers.  I now have sheet of this on top of the tank, and it easily supports and distributes the weight of the filter and wet media.  

If you have a large tank that already has other filters, but you would like some additional bio filtration capacity, the smaller sizes of this filter could easily be added above one end of a tank.  My other fish tank where I keep an assortment of tetras and barbs, uses a canister filter I made from a 5 gallon bucket filled with ceramic rings. It provides good filtration for the most part, but I don’t like that the water returned from the filter has very low O2 levels.  With summer approaching here in the US, I am a bit concerned that lower O2 levels at higher temps will be problem.  Even with air stones and plants to maintain acceptable O2 levels for the fish, the effectiveness of the cannister will decline, and higher temps will need more bio filtration capacity.  I am planing to order the small 6 box version of this shower filter that is the size for a 10 gallon tank to solve this problem.  The pump in my canister filter is strong enough to lift the return water the short distance to the top of the new filter, so I can simply attach the canister’s return to the input of the new filter.  The low O2 water will get aerated before it is returns to the tank, as well as giving me additional bio filtration capacity as temperatures rise. 

The small 6 box size of this filter would also work wonderfully for a 10 gallon tank.  People often buy 10 gallon tanks because they are cheap and don’t require much room, but they are easily overstocked.  Getting enough bio filtration capacity for them can then be difficult because HOB filters can create excessive water agitation for shrimp or fish that prefer calm water, and there is limited room inside the tank for sponge filters.  An external canister filter requires additional space, which is often not available since a small tank was chosen because of space limitation.  This filter can sit atop a tank behind an LED light bar, without requiring any additional space footprint.  Without taking up much space inside a small tank or creating excessive agitation, a small and inexpensive low-flow power head with pre-filter can provide plenty of water flow through the filter, since the aeration within a wet-dry filter greatly improves the ability of microbes to remove wastes. 

I do not have any financial stake in the sales of these filters, I simply love mine and wanted to share my thoughts on how it can improve water conditions in your tank.  I gave the eBay seller some advice on how to better describe the filter for buyers, and it’s listing at the link at the top provides lots of pictures to show how the filter works.

In the picture below, the water looks bad because I let algae grow uncleaned on the back for Red Cherry Shrimp to feed upon.  The water is actually very clear, and little algae needs to be cleaned from the front, since that on the back sucks up nitrates in the water.  I'm also a bad photographer using a cheap phone, but it shows the shape of the filter, which is what I was trying to accomplish.

If you have any questions about it that I might answer, let me know.
Greg

filter.jpg

Edited by gtippitt
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Excellent review. A few pictures of the filter would make it so much better.

Hope you have more reviews of other products.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 3/22/2017 at 7:23 PM, jayc said:

Excellent review. A few pictures of the filter would make it so much better.

Hope you have more reviews of other products.

Did you buy one ? I like the design concept however i forsee issues in a shrimp tank with the pumps sucking shrimp and shrimplets against the pump intake or into the actual pump itself. I have experienced this when i had a internal pump previously and had to cease its useage

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@OzShrimp,

I've been using this filter for nearly 3 months and still love it.  I have a HydroSponge V filter that I use as a prefilter for a SunSun Power Head  that is rated at 400+gph.  It's a big sponge that is 6 inches in diameter and 6 inches tall.  It diffuses the intake enough that even the baby shrimp climb about on the pre-filter to pick off bits to eat.   I've used this same sponge filter on the intake for a DIY canister filter on my 55gal community fish tank.  They make a few sizes of this sponge.  I use the large one, which is a but ugly, but I like to equip my tanks with lots more bio filter capacity than I need.  

These sponge filters provide additional bio filter capacity, but I mainly use them to make sure the intake suction is safe for small fish and as a prefilter.  They are wonderful as a pre-filter so that I never have to worry about the main bio filter media ever getting clogged with debris.  About once a month all I must do is turn off the pump, pull the sponge off,  rinse it in water I've drained when doing a water change.  They are also great when setting up a new tank, because I can swap the used sponge from an other tank and use it on a new tank to seed the main filter's bio media.

For this 55 gallon shrimp tank, I wanted lots of bio filtration and aeration, without too much of water current within the tank for small shrimp.  For the water return outlet, I attached a 6 inch length of plastic pipe with lots of holes to diffuse the return current as well.  The pump intake and filter return are at opposite ends of my 48 inch long 55 gallon tank, so it creates a gentle but thorough circulation of water.

The only negative about the big sponge pre-filter besides it being a bit unsightly, is that it is the shrimp's favorite place to spend most of their time.  They spend a great deal of every day climbing about on the sponge since its easier to find bits to eat there than climbing about on the plants.   

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On 21/04/2017 at 9:05 AM, OzShrimp said:

Did you buy one ?

No, I don't need more filters. But if I ever setup a new tank, I'd try this.

@OzShrimp, you don't have to use an internal pump just because the eBay site shows it. You can always use an external pump hooked up to a sponge or stainless steel mesh prefilter.

Alternatively, an internal power head can also be used hooked up to a sponge or SS mesh prefilter.

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  • 3 years later...

I made 2 shower filters for this 6 ft. x 18" x 24" tank. I used high-end components so each filter cost $500 (as much as my Fluval FX4) but they're worth it. Each is pumping 5,000 lt. per hour and holds somewhere between 5-10kg of media. Water circulation is strong and ridiculously well aerated. Ammonia and Nitrite remains rock solid at 0 ppm. A downside is they're noisy (it sounds like a river next to the dinner table) and it's taken some learning to incorporate sufficient anti-flood design measures. I've got all the bits to make another two for a new 4 ft. x 2 ft. x 2.5 ft. tank. The Fluval FX4 has sat unused in the laundry for 7 months. Ideally, I'll never buy any canister filter or internal filter again. I have one tank running a 3 ft. sump but am not overly impressed with running a sump setup compared to overhead shower filters.

Internal build has been modified since these initial seven photos. The last 3 photos are from today with filters running.

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DIY_high-performance_shower_filter_-_Build_Guide_v0.3_(18-05-2021).pdf

Edited by Gavin
Updated build guide.
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Thats very interesting?

I like the coat hooks for handles on the cover, ingenius! Any fiter maintenance should be nice and easy with the stacking containers! I can imagine it is quite noisy.

Simon

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The tank needs a hood to sit 20-30 kg of filters on. The coat hooks were my idea for handles to lift the lid but also (and more importantly) to attach the chain that comes from back of tank so the lid can be held open while I work on the tank. Normally the lid would be folded back flat but you can no longer do that once trickle filters are installed on top.

Look at second last photo to see the chain hanging down back of tank.

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1 hour ago, Gavin said:

I made 2 shower filters for this 6 ft. x 18" x 24" tank.

Good job! 

What anti flood measures have you taken in particular?

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There are several. To answer that it's best I write a build guide. Your question motivated me to build two shower filters this weekend that have been due for months so thanks for that. My earlier post has been updated with a draft manual that has parts source and pricing but is yet to be edited with commentary. I'll update the file version over weeks as I get time to edit it.

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8 hours ago, Gavin said:

To answer that it's best I write a build guide.

I was quietly hoping you would write a guide. Well done, with the guide. The shopping list makes it very easy looking for parts.

 

 

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