'SEA-style' Shower/Trickle Filter, 8 month review

islandguy11

Redtail Catfish
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Sep 17, 2017
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I've been running what I personally call 'SEA-style' (mostly popular in China and Singapore; can't find them here in Thailand) OH trickle filters on my 2 X 325 gallon Asian Arowana tanks for about 8 months now, thought I'd share some pro & cons.

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Pros:
-- Overall quite effective filters, esp. with regards to making a nice, oxygen-rich home for beneficial bacteria. That said I wouldn't use them as sole filtration on a bigger tank; imo they work best as supplementary bio-filtration.
-- Reasonably Flexible: you can change media or add tray levels as needed pretty easily (though one wouldn't want to go too high with them).
-- Esp. in small-medium size tanks you really don't need a big pump. In my case though I'm using bigger (8,000 & 12,000 l/hr) DC pumps because they're also feeding external UV sterilizers and there's also a decent amount of head pressure in the system.
-- For me, with my relatively low bio-loads and bare bottom tanks that are siphoned at least once a day, they are quite low-maintenance, I only need to clean the course pads (and change the fine pads) about every 1.5 months. For those with heavy bio-loads it would be different but that's true of every type of filter.
-- They're quite safe and easy to use compared either canisters or sumps. Really the only thing that could go wrong (besides falling over during an earthquake or tsunami) is that a hose could slip off a connector but that's easily solved with hose clamps. These units are great for non-mechanical/engineering types like myself.

Cons:
--From the way the unit is designed (with only one gravity fed outlet hole), you can only get so much flow going through them -- certainly less than canister filters or sumps -- so turn over rate could be an issue on larger tanks, which is why imo they're better as supplementary filtration. That said I guess you could drill another outlet hole at the other end if you wanted to allow more flow.
--If you have a high bio-load or say planted tank with good amount of leaves or detritus, you'll have to be cleaning/changing pads probably at least weekly (though a good pre-filter on the intake would help, as both of my pumps have).
-- If water supply to the trays stops (for cleaning pads, changing media or pump, or during no-power situations, the main PIA is that you have to manually pour water into the tray tops about every 10 min. or so to keep the media from drying out and killing your BB. If you weren't home or didn't have auto electric back-up, you could lose most if not maybe all the BB pretty easily. If same happened with a canister or sump, I think the still submerged bio-media/BB would have a higher survival rate.
-- As they come in the box they are pretty noisy due to the return flow falling into the tank, like any OHF. However, I got around this very easily by installing a common sink drainage hose as pictured below. You can barely hear the water coming down and this type is adjustable in length or angle.
-- Looks: I really don't mind them at all but some might not like the aesthetics of having it on top of the tank and so visible.

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Please excuse my as usual long writing style but hope the info helps at least some. You can find these on Amazon.
 

deeda

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Nice write up on your experience with this style filter! Honestly I don't find that particular style very ugly or obtrusive for an OHF.
 

fishdance

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I endorse this style of filter too from my own personal experiences.

You do not need high flow to get effective biological filtration even with high stocking rates.

They are very easy to modify if you wanted a second overflow /drain set slightly higher as backup or to have 2 pumps (redundancy). The moisture in biomedia will last several days, possibly a week without any water flow.

I modify one portion to slowly fill with water and then suddenly dump /flush to drain cyclically. The flush creates a sudden wave of water to stir up bottom and the slow fill ensures 100% of biomedia is used without the chanelling issue trickle filters can get. Filling the chamber also drives out all the air so fresh oxygen/air is pulled in each flush.

Can be noisy or a relaxing water feature depending on your own perspective.
 

islandguy11

Redtail Catfish
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Nice write up on your experience with this style filter! Honestly I don't find that particular style very ugly or obtrusive for an OHF.
Thx deeda, esp placed width wise I feel the same, you really don't notice it that much.

I endorse this style of filter too from my own personal experiences.

You do not need high flow to get effective biological filtration even with high stocking rates.

They are very easy to modify if you wanted a second overflow /drain set slightly higher as backup or to have 2 pumps (redundancy). The moisture in biomedia will last several days, possibly a week without any water flow.

I modify one portion to slowly fill with water and then suddenly dump /flush to drain cyclically. The flush creates a sudden wave of water to stir up bottom and the slow fill ensures 100% of biomedia is used without the chanelling issue trickle filters can get. Filling the chamber also drives out all the air so fresh oxygen/air is pulled in each flush.

Can be noisy or a relaxing water feature depending on your own perspective.
Appreciate your input fishdance, I didn't know the bacteria would last that long and sounds like a good idea how you've modified yours for flushing, if you could ever get a pic of how you've done that it would be nice to see.
 
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islandguy11

Redtail Catfish
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Have you had any problems with debris getting caught in the ceramic bio media, or do the mechanical filtration pads get all of it?
Hey Carp, my bare bottom tanks really don't have much in the way of debris (and even when feeding I throw in bits at a time, nothing really hits the bottom and no leftovers). But to answer your question I'm sure the filter pads would catch most all of the debris, you'd just have to clean/change the pads more often. In any case I would use a simple pre-filter on a pump intake like this:

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Gokul2787

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Aug 12, 2019
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Very good one!

Personally, I am someone who prefers to see the moving parts of any system, rather than hiding them aside. I wish my motorbike came with a transparent engine and gearbox :ROFL::ROFL:

So, don't worry about aesthetics - its all in the eyes of the viewer.
 

islandguy11

Redtail Catfish
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Very good one!

Personally, I am someone who prefers to see the moving parts of any system, rather than hiding them aside. I wish my motorbike came with a transparent engine and gearbox :ROFL::ROFL:

So, don't worry about aesthetics - its all in the eyes of the viewer.
Good points Gokul. These also come in black for those who might prefer; I chose clear for the reason you stated. I'm pretty sure both are available on Amazon and/or Ebay.

One thing though: the clear ones are more susceptible to algae growth in them if exposed to a lot of light, so given the way my lights are situated I blocked off one side with some plastic future board, problem solved. Looking at this pic I think I'll change that to black future board.

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oscarcichlids

Jack Dempsey
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Oct 15, 2009
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I also use this style ohf in conjunction with two fx6 filters. My version has two return outlet holes which i have modified to have a return under water rather than crashing into the tank. Simply done using normal plumbing supplies.

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islandguy11

Redtail Catfish
MFK Member
Sep 17, 2017
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I also use this style ohf in conjunction with two fx6 filters. My version has two return outlet holes which i have modified to have a return under water rather than crashing into the tank. Simply done using normal plumbing supplies.
That's really nice, you've taken it to another level, Thx for sharing. Besides being a nifty set up it also looks heaps better on that nice cabinet/hood.

I wish I had proper hoods for my 325's as I'm wondering if the weight of the OHF sitting directly on only one end of the (glass) tank is detrimental to its structural integrity. Probably not a huge issue but it is in the back of my mind; perhaps later I'll do it another way.

Btw I can't tell 100% from your picture but it looks like your OHF stack has inflow on only one side? I tried this but it resulted in the first trays getting considerably more water than the last ones. So I bought a properly sized connector from the hardware store for the other side and ran lines to both sides, resulting in more even coverage.
 
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