Tropical Fish Tank filters Review

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Buyer's guide to external filters

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Thinking of getting an external filter? Want to know which ones to buy? Jeremy Gay explains what he expects of them and makes his recommendations.

When I select an external filter for one of my tanks I’m clear what I want from it. It needs to come with everything I need, including filter media, and give me the pipework options to fit a wide range of different tank models.

It should be straightforward to put together and should prime (fill with water and be ready to run) using a button within seconds.

It should be quiet, shouldn’t leak of course, and be reliable. After all, these outlays aren’t cheap…

I don’t like too much specialised media design. I want to be able to fill my external with my choice of media — and I like the pump inside the head unit on the filter, not in the tank, so I can choose my pipework inlets and outlets.

External filters are much better than they used to be and there aren’t many I wouldn’t touch. Comparing them can be interesting though, as some are manufactured in China and can be pretty similar although under different branding.

Clever filters are all the rage, including those with microchips controlling the pump, although from the models I’ve tested I find too much computer-tech can be a turn-off when it doesn’t need it.

I recommend:

Anything Fluval…
Be it an '06, a G series or an FX5, you simply cannot go wrong with Fluval. I even cut my external filtering teeth on the '04 and '05s!

They’re easy to prime, quiet, reliable, come with all the media and are dead easy to get going and service. I’d recommend these time and time again and sleep well knowing that I had done.

The G series literally broke the mould in aquarium filtration and in many ways is the world’s best external filter. The LED screen monitors water conductivity as well as overviews continuous performance, but what does it for me is the ease of maintaining the mechanical and chemical filtration chambers. I find this an absolute joy and the biggest innovation in filter technology since the Prime was mastered.

I’d describe the FX5 as the 4x4 of external filters, being all terrain, having the most grunt, most torque and being able to handle more muck than any other external filter. Yet when you get that sizeable intake strainer out of the box and those 2.5cm/1” pipe fittings you realise you are dealing more with a monster truck than a 4x4 — and the big messy fish owners of this world simply love them.

Before the FX5, big fish owners used pond filtration in various DIY formations. Now they all just use FX5s... Enough said.

Almost anything Eheim…
I changed that wording at the last moment, altering my Eheim recommendation from 'anything Eheim' to 'almost anything Eheim'!

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