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Hagen - AquaClear Power Filters
I have the AC Mini. I really don't like this type of filter, but for my 10 gallon (why does America refuse to use metric system?) quarantine tank, it fits the bill, and it was on clearance because the packaging was ruined. Main thing is the ease of cleaning (meaning that you will actually clean it). The whole process takes just a few minutes. I don't use the carbon insert (I actually don't use carbon for any of my tanks), instead I use a handful of bio-max media. I'm not sure if this is the most efficient system, but it seems to work well. I put the media in a tuperware container with some holes in the bottom and rinse it with tank water (no sludge because this tank does not have many fish). Squeeze the sponge filter a few times under fresh (bottled) water and reassemble...done. This filter is quiet and has never malfunctioned. I abuse this thing. Being that it is small, it hasn't broken yet. I think the larger versions may crack easily because of the k-mart plastic they use, but this one has been running for years and I haven't had any problems. I recommend this filter for small quarantine tanks because it is easy to maintain and seems to work fine. I only quarantine a few fish at a time, so its small size isn't an issue (read: change your water).
I have been using the AC 200 on my 75 L tank for 11 years. It has not stopped once in that 11 years, and it is still running as strong as it did when it was fresh out of the box. A+ product.
I highly recommend the AquaClear line of filters. I own several sizes in the line. They are like the energizer bunny, they keep going and going. The very first AC I bought was a Mini. That was the year of their introduction and the thing is still one of my best and most reliable pieces of equipment. This little Mini has been used and misused in all kinds of apps. I've used it as a stand alone filter in tanks up to 55 L. It's been used as a conditioner filter in black water tanks. It has been used in fresh water and in marine tanks. It has run in soft acid water and in the hardest of hard water tanks. I have yet to change a single part on this filter, other than the intake tube which I accidentally stepped on one day. I also own several 200's and a 300, all of which are around 8 or 9 years old and have been used well in that time. All of my AquaClear filters are still running quietly and efficiently. There are better filters that you can buy, but for price, versatility, and ease of operation, the Hagen AquaClear cannot be beat!
As far as power filters go, AquaClears will always be my only choice. For a long time, I swore by Penguin Bio-Wheels. That was, until I really got into the hobby, reading up on things, interacting at forums. Only then did I realize that half the time, people (including myself) used AquaClear sponges for media in half a dozen other filters! I hate to downplay other filters, many of which are OK, but I think that the AquaClear filters are such a drastic difference from normal power filters, that it would be a shame to skip over it.
Biological: AquaClear - Sponge, which never needs replacing, only occasional cleaning, which means that much of the bacteria is still on the media after your done. Others - Media Cartridges, which do not allow for more than a few cleanings before the particles become too ingrained into the mesh.
Mechanical: AquaClears - I have found, clog less often than others. Furthermore, as stated above, you do not need to buy new sponges, ever. Occasionally they require you to boil it for a little bit, but that still costs you nothing. Others - Clog, and can only be used a few times after cleaning, then new, and often expensive, replacement cartridges must be bought.
Chemical: AquaClears - Allow you to choose if you want carbon or not. Furthermore, the amount of carbon is much, much more compared to most cartridges. You also can just buy the bags and put whatever chemical filtration you want. Or nothing at all. Or another sponge. Others - Give you no choice about if you want carbon or not, or how much. It is already in the cartridge. Although some of the larger power filters have media baskets, I find that the smaller ones do not, and all sizes of AquaClears do.
Another feature of AquaClears, which some other power filters also have, is the adjustable flow control. Also, the filter is clear enough to be able to see if you need to clean it without taking it apart, but is foggy enough to not look bad.
I have used Aqua-Clears in the past and found out very rudely that if they get stopped up they may overflow out the back and will drain your aquarium to the depth of the inlet tube, a friend of mine had the same experience. I do recommend Aqua-Clear power heads, I have five 201's and have been running them 6-7 years without replacing an impeller yet.
I had the same priming problems only when I neglected to clean the impeller and motor inside. I use old toothbrush to clean the impeller and Qtips for inside the motor, under flow of tap water. I do remove the motor to do so, and rinse sponges in tank water when doing water changes. But, I clean the filter only once a month or even 2 months, not every water change. I have 2 AC 150's at the moment. I use 2 sponge inserts at a time to increase biofiltration surface of the filter and amrid or/and carbon on new tank or after medicating of the tank is complete. One can even use BioFoam sponges (you can buy them separately, they are made for Hagen's internal sponge filters) over intake tubes while using the filter in a tank with very small fish/fry. I do recommend AC filters as they do the job well, are reliable, reasonably priced, media is widely available and cheap, quiet, do not take useful space inside tanks, low power consumption, 2 year warranty (if you ever need to use it). For a tank of 200+ liters, I'd rather recommend Eheim Classic 2213 and up the model line as they need cleaning only once every year or two years, depending on the load and whether you use right media.