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Marineland - Penguin Power Filters
I have a Penguin Bio-Wheel Mini as a second filter in a 55 liter planted tank, and in general I think it's a very good filter. The Bio-Wheel is a really cool feature, adding enhanced biofiltration even to very small filters such as the Mini. It's made of a rather delicate material though, so care must be taken not to bend it, or the wheel will stop turning. It will also stop if the water flow drops too low due to clogging, so you must always keep an eye on it. The filter cartridge is the best I've ever seen. I love the blue acrilic wool...you can rinse it many times and it doesn't fall apart. The Mini has no water flow control, and doesn't allow adjustment of the intake tube length, but these are minor points. The only thing that really bothers me about the Penguin is that you have to keep the aquarium water level perfectly matched with the filter's output level, or else the falling water makes a lot of noise (like a small rocky creek...some people like it, but after a while it became to annoy me).
I have a Biowheel mini for my 10 gallon quarantine tank, and a Biowheel 170 as a second filter on my 55 gallon community tank. I really enjoy these filters. The biowheel is what really sets them apart - a nice rotating wheel with a fibrous material that provides immense surface area for bacterial growth, and since it rotates there is plenty of oxygen to keep the bacteria thriving. The enhanced biological filtration keeps ammonia and nitrite levels in check, and will alow for stocking more or larger fish. I also plan to use the biowheel from my 55 to speed up the cycling process on a 120 gallon tank I plan to get soon - they're easily moved to another tank, and I think this will work well. They also act as a sort of "alarm" for decreasing water levels due to evaporation. I do water changes frequently enough that I only have enough evaporation to cause a problem in the hottest summer months, but when the water level gets low, the waterfall sound changes from silent to loud and annoying - thus ensuring that you replace evaporated water, and perhaps check the thermometer that much more frequently. There isn't a way to adjust the intake tube length, which was a problem on my quarantine tank, as the tube was long enough to be partially burried in gravel. But it's fairly easy to cut a section out of the middle with a hacksaw, and glue the top and bottom back together with aquarium sealant.
I had the Penguin 330...I bought it when I re-entered the hobby a few years ago. People seem to like them, but I hated mine. The "adjustable flow" isn't any good at all...and the bio-wheels always stuck, forcing me to rig them myself to make them run well. It was loud to the point of annoyance and did not seem to clean my 29 gallon tank. It's 330 gph sounds like a lot, but with the inefficiency of its filtration, the flow rate is misleading. I used the "flow control" more to stop water from flowing over the intake tube (unfiltered). I hated cleaning it, and when I did I always seemed to take a small chunk of skin out of my hand from some pointed edge. Finally, it fell off the edge of my tub (which isn't exactly that high off the ground) and, of course, broke. I wasn't even upset. I remember laughing to myself for buying it and I wanted to kick it. In all fairness, I've never seen a power filter that wasn't made of some cheap form of plastic that was designed to shatter...which is one of the many reasons I hate them. Currently I have a Fluval 304...and I really like it. Advice: buy a canister filter. One that lets you customize your filtration...mech, chem, and bio...and if you order it online, you'll only spend a bit more than if you buy a "good" power filter at your local store. Be patient, and spend the extra cash...you'll never regret it...because if you're like me, you will become more interested in the hobby and upgrading later is more expensive than spending a little extra now.
A note of caution for Penguins - I bought a 330 on my new 40 gallon. When I set it up, it has "Media baskets" you're supposed to fill. I bought some "Diamond carbon/zeolite" chips, which clearly stated, "perfect for new aquariums". Unfortunately the zeolite absorbed so much ammonia that the tank never cycled! There wasn't enought left to "feed" the beneficial bacteria. Took out the media, and things are rolling along now. Just a warning.
I had a penguin 125 on my 20 gal long planted tank for about a month and a half before I removed it. While the bio-wheel seemed like an excellent idea on first glance, it has proven to have one drawback: you are potentially in a lot of trouble if it stops spinning. I had to change the cartridges, which are pricy, every 7 to 10 days, or the bio-wheel would stop, and nitrite levels would skyrocket. Even rinsing the cartridge to hold the filter over until I could get to the store didn't keep the bio-wheel spinning. I replaced the penguin 125 with an Aquaclear 200, and moved the penguin to my 10 gallon non-planted tank which currently houses one very mean gold gourami, and the filter seems to work wonderfully under those conditions. I guess the bottom line is to make sure that you buy a penguin bio-wheel rated for a much higher flow rate than you think you will need, or expect clogging and bacteria die-off. In my opinion, the whole Bio-wheel thing, though potentially an effective bio-filter, is mostly meant to attract idiots like me who thought the spinning wheel would look pretty neat. I don't like the idea that the only thing keeping my bacteria alive is a spinning wheel, which dries out very fast when it stops spinning.
I have a penguin 150 on my 20 gallon tank. It works pretty good though I don't use the bio-wheel. I bought a special filter basket for it that allows me to make my own cartridges and the amount of carbon I use. Though more time consuming it is cheaper in the long run. Overall I'd rate this filter a 6 from 1 to 10. It does tend to be noisy if the water level in the tank falls too low.