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Hagen - Fluval Series 4 Canister Filters
Fluval 304: This is my favorite filter to date. I admit, the older models were frustrating, but Hagen has fixed many problems. First, and foremost, the filtration is excellent. The water is directed in an efficient manner throughout the filter, forcing it through a lot of customizable media. With 4 foam cartridges down one side of the canister to remove large debris, and 3 media baskets with 2 compartments each, this filter is perfect for those who continuously change their filtration methods based on the situation. I cannot overstate the convenience of these baskets...Second, the ease of cleaning. Lift one lever and the tubes detach and cut off the waterflow with almost no spilling. Lift the large clamps on the sides and the top comes off...rinse the foam, change basket media if necessary, scrub inside and reassemble. It's really designed well for quick cleaning. The whole process only takes a few minutes. And it's convenient enough to do something quick, such as removing a carbon pack, or putting one in...which, for a canister filter, is really nice. Third, it primes itself easily. Just clamp the tubes with the one lever...and water begins to flow in. Pump the primer thingy, and you can get a lot of air out. Plug in and your in business. I admit, thumping the canister and angling it to get the rest of the air out is annoying, but only takes a minute...seems like forever if you have it placed under your tank, making the whole process awkward. Oh yeah, moving the filter from tank to tank is easy. Now the cons...whoever designed the output tube should be shot. Mine keeps falling off. It's just not tight enough to stay on...you see, it just slips inside another tube and is held in place by friction. Yes, I could easily fix this, but I figure I'll wait for enough build-up of minerals, or whatever, to increase the friction and let it correct itself. But that's really the only complaint right now. For a planted, 280 Liter tank with only a few gold tetras, rams, koolies, and a few zebra plecos...it's overkill...but I don't care...I love it...I'll post future problems as they occur...and maybe swindle my friend to buy an Eheim...those seem like quality filters as well...and I'd like to check em out.
The self primer is a little suction cup (like for your hoses) that is doomed to wear out. There is a huge amount of media bypass (block the top tray with plastic wrap and see for yourself), no way to attach a spray bay. They don't come with enough filter media to fill them and by the time you buy the media to finish filling it you could have bought an equivalent Eheim Classic, completely full of better media.
I've had this and the previous series of Fluvals, and these are better. Both designs bypass media a lot but I have never found this a major problem. I've used EHEIM 2213 which over here in the UK are more expensive - they are good (better manufactured) and I think they do not allow so much bypass, but I'm not convinced this is such a benefit. I get good filtration with both Fluvals and the circulation is better than the EHEIM. Over here we get a spraybar kit with the Fluvals, which I've never used as I prefer the single output - itīs quieter in our living room and gives a really nice defined current for the Mbuna. I wouldn't use a spray bar in the planted tank which is where the old Fluval is.
I agree overall with the comments on the Fluvals. I have two 404's and one 304. The output spigot on one of the 404's in my discus tank continually falls off. I tried a bit of thin electrical tape, but it fell off. My next fix will be to rough up the outside of the spigot surface with some sandpaper and maybe follow up with roughing up the inside of the mating piece. Other than this small glitsche, I really like these filters a lot, but I have nothing to compare them to because they are my first filters for my first tanks, a 72 gallon bow front discus tank and a 37 gallon rainbow/tetra tank. The only other thing was that this winter the plastic parts seemed a little brittle and I easily broke a tank adapter piece and one aqua stop which Hagen replaced promptly through their website.
From what I can tell this is a great filter. I have had it for several weeks and I love it. My water never looked better! Many people say there is a lot of bypass, but the way they are testing it is not accurate. If you take the lid of the top basket and replace it with plastic wrap then you have changed the height of the basket which will cause more bypass. Anyway this is a great filter so far and I love it!
I have a Fluval 404 and one 304. The 404 is running straight in and out of the 77 gallon tank, the 304 goes to my Marineland Pro30 Biowheel. I find the canisters easy to clean, but I do have a couple of complaints. The hoses get clogged way before the canister is dirty enough to need cleaning. I have tried experiments like removing all media and running the pump, to find that the flow is still reduced, but after cleaning every inch of the hoses, I have regained full flow. The spring loaded plunger stoppers are a pain also. I had to remove all live plants from my tank because even the smallest part of dead plant leaves or roots gets caught in that section. I would turn off the power to the 404 and then watch to see how much plant debris floats up from the canister into the clear hose. I solved the bypass problem by simply pulling up the inside foam inserts until they were level with the top of the canister body. When I would take the 404 apart for cleaning, the foam inserts were bent over a bit, from touching the bottom of the motor surface...bypass eliminated.