you're reading...


Switching Aquarium From Power Filter to Canister

For as long as I can remember, we’ve had some sort of aquarium in the house — always freshwater. Over the years, we’ve had more and more success in keeping fish alive for longer and longer time spans. Currently, we’ve got a 40-gallon tank with just a single fish who’s been with us for several years so far. That single fish is huge. He’s a tiger Oscar, and has grown a ton since we bought him. He’s large. He’s colorful, and he has a ton of personality.


Our Oscar definitely reacts when someone walks in the room. He’s also very into interior decorating, moving the aquarium ornaments around, and changing the depth and layout of the bottom substrate.

Substrate Switch

In every tank I’ve ever had, I’ve had the standard gravel bottom substrate. But a year or so ago, we switched from gravel to sand. We really love the look and the ease of cleaning. But ever since the substrate change, we’ve gone through a ton of filters — the motorized part, not the replaceable media.


For the longest time, I’ve used hang-on-back filters that use a magnetic impeller to suck water through its intake, forcing water through a charcoal/cotton filter and a foam-like mesh filter that both captures larger particles, and allows good bacteria to grow.

tiger oscarWe’ve gone through a lot of these filters. It started happening after the switch to sand. After a few filter failures, I moved the water intake up higher and higher — away from the sandy bottom. I also added a foam cylinder that fits over the intake.

Lately, subsequent filters are lasting a shorter and shorter time with each replacement. This last one lasted less than a week.

Between the finer particles and the fact our Oscar likes to move everything around, I assumed it was sand destroying the filters. I’ve never seen our Oscar do it, but I assumed his proclivity to redecorate was kicking up some sand particles that’s destroyed the filter innards. But now I’m not so sure. After reading reviews, it seems quality of these things has gone down. A lot of people are complaining of the short lifespan and the downward spiral of quality. Curiously, the Tetra power filters I’ve used for years aren’t on their official website at all, though I’ve been buying them as recently as a few weeks ago. Maybe that should have been a sign a while ago. Between the sand and the quality issues, we’re ready to try something new.

Switch to Canister

So later this week, we’ll be trying a canister filter for the first time. A canister is just what it sounds like. It’s a cylindrical unit that sits below the aquarium, sucking water through a tube, through multiple baskets that filter the water mechanically, chemically, and biologically, before pumping it back into the take and distributing it via sprayers at the top of the tank. I’ll be keeping the pre-filter sponge on the intake.

They’re bigger, bulkier, and pricier but here’s to hoping they do the job cleaning the tank and last a lot longer than the last couple filters.

I hope to have a positive experience and a report in a few weeks on the results.


No comments yet.

Post a Comment