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Hagen - Fluval Series 4 Canister Filters
I did not have much luck with the fluval canisters. The first one I bought seemed to be well made, however, After a few weeks the motor burned up and the one that was replaced for free did the same thing within a couple of more weeks. I wasn't interested in getting a third and instead bought an eheim that has performed flawlessly.
I have kept fish for many years on and off. I recently purchased a juwel 180 and found the internal filter to be inadequate. I resolved the problem by buying a fluval 204 square cannister. I have to say I am delighted with the performance. My water is crystal clear now. The filter is very easy to set up and maintain. Cleaning or changing media is a doddle. Through experimenting I have found the following media setup works real good. The bottom basket is half full of gravel from the tank, and half full of 100 micron filter wool. The second basket is 75 grams activated carbon then fill the basket again with filter wool. Finally the top basket is filled with the biomedia supplied with the filter. Top marks Fluval!
I used to have a fluval 404 on my 48 gal tank and found that it was not doing a sufficient job, I looked around and bumped into the eheim 2215 which by the way was the first time I had ever heard Eheim, once I saw that the intake of the water was placed at the bottom of the canister It rang all kinds of bells in my head. Why would fluval place the intake at the top of the canister??? It really didn't make any sense to me at all, I spoke with the manager of the store and asked him to tell me a little about the eheim and how it would compare to the fluval 404, he told me that I would notice a difference in water quality right away because of the fact that with the fluval, 80% of the water doesn't even get to the bottom of the canister, I didn't believe him, because I thought that he just wanted to push me into buying the Eheim. I bought the Eheim anyway only because of my first impression. After having the Eheim now for about 4 months I could very confidently say that there is no match and no comparing Eheim's system to fluval's, until fluval comes out with a new design where the intake would be placed at the bottom of the canister. My water quality now is better than I have ever seen it.
I have had a Fluval 304 for over a year now, and although it does a great job, no matter how well I cleaned it, it never had the same flow it had when I first bought it. Initially I feared it was too strong for a 70 gal. tank, but ever since the first cleaning, the flow has been cut in half. I absolutely hate the spring loaded plunger stoppers. Although I understand what they are for, they get clogged up every week or two (my tank is heavily planted), and cleaning them is a major problem. The primer also never seems to get the water flowing into my filter, and I spend about ½ hour before I can say it's up and running again (that's not counting the cleaning time, but just getting it filled with water and rid of the air). And I have been around tanks and filters for over 30 years now.
I was reading the comments on the Fluval 404 and noticed a main complaint was how easy the filter plugs up in a planted tank. I have a 77 gal well planted tetra tank with lots of Cabomba, Java moss and Java fern. I use the foam sleeve insert from a Fluval 3 Cylindrical as a pre-filter over the intake and never have any problems although you have to rinse the foam sleeve every week or more. I use the same type of foam sleeve on my 33 gal with an AC 300. As long as you keep the sleeves clean the water flow is the same as without. I also use the filters to difuse CO2 by running standard air tubing through the sleeves - works good with the ACs but is noisy with the Fluval.
I have had nasty clattering noises with my 204 filter for the last few months, and now it has given up completely. I have replaced the impeller and axle, to no avail. The clatter seems to be coming from the fact that the impeller seems to be trying to turn backwards continually. I have even modified the blades to give loads more pressure but I still get the clatter. I have discovered that the little rubber ring under the blades is a one-way clutch, and if you chop it off it reduces the clatter, but it sometimes turns backwards. Which of course is no good. I have been fighting with it all day since it also refuses to run without being spun first, so is very difficult to get it actually pumping, since it needs bleeding and lid putting on and hoses connecting at the same time.