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Thread: Please evaluate/critique my trickle/wet-dry filter - doesn't seem to be doing great

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    DIYFK member Homeslice's Avatar


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    Please evaluate/critique my trickle/wet-dry filter - doesn't seem to be doing great

    So, I built a total DIY trickle (or wet-dry) filter after watching several youtube videos on the subject, including of course the DIY King Joey. I will give you the low-down on it, then post pics.

    Tank and the water and the filter are over 2 months old, so cycled for sure. 29 gallon tank.

    Pumping water to the top are two Odyssea-350 powerheads, rated at 350 gph. Obviously they will be pumping much lower flow than that as the water had to go up the tubes, but still is a lot of flow I think (and previously I had an even more powerful non-powerhead as one of the pumps, but didn't like that I couldn't effectively mechanically filter the intake, so went with both powerheads - the greater flow didn't seem to change anything).

    So I think there is sufficient flow.

    I have polyester fiber inside paper hair-nets inside poweraide bottes on both intakes.

    The water dumps into the highest level of the trickle filter, which is again more polyester fiber, then filter floss under it.

    From there it drops down into the second level, which is bio balls and plastic pot scrubbies.

    Then into the third level with lava rock and bio rings.

    Then showers back into the tank. The minnows in the tank actually bathe in this sometimes so funny haha.

    In addition to all that, I have TONS of moss balls, which you will see in the pics, plus floating plants. Then some more lava rock and stones in plastic cups for breeding purposes (nothing has happened yet).

    So, I know that these types of filters are supposed to be very powerful, up there with the fluidized filters.

    But this one just doesn't SEEM powerful at all. I have about 10 minnows in the tank, and have for several days, but it is still showing material positive ammonia. You will see in the one of the pics I have the ammonia reading from a tank that is not cycled yet on the far left, and the readings of the ammonia next tube to the right is the tank I am talking about are not quite as bad, but still far above zero. The other thing to note is that the nitrates, on the far right in that pic, are very high, hence I need a water change which I will do this weekend. I was hoping that the massive amount of moss balls and floating plants could do a better job soaking up the nitrates, but it does not seem that way.

    And I will also note that the mechanical filters need changing, also to be done this weekend. But the changes never seem to make much of a difference.

    So, even with 10 minnows this thing seems to struggle. Then if I add just a few more, the ammonia goes green QUICK. I just thought this would have WAY more biological filtering power. Just today I was listening to a youtube video where whoever it was had just a 2-liter half filled with K-1 caldness or whatever as his only biological filter, and it was supporting 300+ fish, even with power feeding them. And my huge thing struggles with 10 minnows?

    Anyways, all thoughts, ideas and suggestions welcome. Thanks so much!

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    Above is a general picture of the tank.

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    DIYFK member Homeslice's Avatar


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    Above is picture of the filter.

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    Above I cracked one of the drawers to show some of the water pouring down.

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    Hard to see but water showing back down into tank.

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    Test results, 2nd from left is ammonia in the tank, then nitrites, then nitrates. Far left is ammonia from uncycled tank.

    That's it, thank you for any thoughts!

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    DIYFK member Meep's Avatar


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    The pictures could be deceptive, but it doesn't look like that high of a flow rate, I see bottle/filters on the powerheads combined with several feet of head, that is destroying the flow rate... Can you remove the bottles and filter inside the tank and just use the factory mesh over the input and see how that goes?

    Take a 5 gallon bucket, place it so the top of bucket is equal to top of your drip filter, and see how long it takes to fill to get an idea of the flow rate...

    How much are you feeding those fish? Try cutting down the feeding to once a day at a bare minimum amount for a week and see what happens with the ammonia

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Meep Click here to enlarge
    The pictures could be deceptive, but it doesn't look like that high of a flow rate, I see bottle/filters on the powerheads combined with several feet of head, that is destroying the flow rate... Can you remove the bottles and filter inside the tank and just use the factory mesh over the input and see how that goes?

    Take a 5 gallon bucket, place it so the top of bucket is equal to top of your drip filter, and see how long it takes to fill to get an idea of the flow rate...

    How much are you feeding those fish? Try cutting down the feeding to once a day at a bare minimum amount for a week and see what happens with the ammonia


    Meep, thank you so much! As soon as you mentioned the flow rate being low, it snapped to me that it indeed is not as high as I remember it. I am going to do a big water change tomorrow, so I want to keep the filter head on there until after that, but I realized that mine were way too dirty and that could be causing the slow-down. Sure enough, I replace the polyester fiber filter head on both (and with less head), and the flow rate seemed to double. See the pic(s) below - does that look more normal? Tomorrow after things settle after the water change I am planning to take off the heads completely and just let the first layer of the trickle filter do the mechanical filtering. Question for you - if I am not using the powerhead's sucking ability to such through a head, do you think it would make sense to use a non-powerhead pump to pull and push the water up to the top of the trickle filters? I have a Kedsum 550 gph (non powerhead) pump that I had hooked up for a bit that definately outflowed the 350gph powerhead by a significant margin. I liked the powerhead's ability to more easily add another mechanical filter in the head, but based on my readings it sounds like I need more bio rather than the mechanical. Would you recommend using that in place of one of the powerheads?

    I'm also cutting down to feeding them once per day (although I would guess this is not the problem - I normally fed them twice a day but very little for being 10+ fish), and will definately try your 5 gallon bucket measuring test soon as well! Thanks so much!

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    DIYFK member Nil13's Avatar


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    Where is the filter in relation to the tank? The flows listed on those powerheads are optimistic at best and at zero head. Once you start putting tubing on them you are providing static head and decreasing flow. If you have to lift water to the tank because the filter is under the tank, that's a lot of static head.

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    DIYFK member Meep's Avatar


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    if I am not using the powerhead's sucking ability to such through a head, do you think it would make sense to use a non-powerhead pump to pull and push the water up to the top of the trickle filters?
    As a general rule, powerheads are not designed to lift water beyond a few inches, so they have poor head lifting power, so yes a traditional pump that will almost always include a chart to show you how much flow rate is lost vs lift is a better choice...

    it sounds like I need more bio rather than the mechanical.
    Yes, more bio is what you need to drop the ammonia levels, you only need enough mechanical to filter out the floaters in the water and prevent the bio media from getting clogged up and to polish the water for appearances... The top bin in you wet/dry with a layer or two of mechanical should be plenty for such small fish...

    I'm also cutting down to feeding them once per day (although I would guess this is not the problem - I normally fed them twice a day but very little for being 10+ fish)
    You can't cheat math, less food equals less waste, equal less ammonia build up and in turn lowers the load on the biofilters... It's a temporary fix to the ammonia build up problem, giving you time to get the filtration up to speed, and generally easier to do then daily water changes... Once you get the filtration and water in order you can increase feeding...

    And honestly, it still doesn't look like much flow rate, I'm comparing what I see in the pictures to a standard 30 gallon tank size rated hang on back filter that averages about 150gph turnover, that looks significantly less to me... This is why I suggested the 5 gallon bucket, test, for a 29 gallon tank I would aim for at minimum 5x turnover an hour, aka about 150gph, best to aim closer to 8-10x (240-300gph) that way as it gets clogged (the pump itself will get slime and junk buildup inside the pump and in the hoses over time that will slow the flow rate) it still maintains a decent turnover... Doing the math 150gph will fill a 5 gallon bucket in 2 minutes flat, ideally it would be best to see that 5 gallon bucket filling closer to the 1 minute mark... Make sure when you do the 5 gallon bucket test you maintain pump head height so it's an accurate calculation...

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Nil13 Click here to enlarge
    Where is the filter in relation to the tank? The flows listed on those powerheads are optimistic at best and at zero head. Once you start putting tubing on them you are providing static head and decreasing flow. If you have to lift water to the tank because the filter is under the tank, that's a lot of static head.

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    Haha, its a trickle filter above the tank. Going to post a picture. Yall have confirmed flow is definitely too little methinks.

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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Meep Click here to enlarge
    As a general rule, powerheads are not designed to lift water beyond a few inches, so they have poor head lifting power, so yes a traditional pump that will almost always include a chart to show you how much flow rate is lost vs lift is a better choice...



    Yes, more bio is what you need to drop the ammonia levels, you only need enough mechanical to filter out the floaters in the water and prevent the bio media from getting clogged up and to polish the water for appearances... The top bin in you wet/dry with a layer or two of mechanical should be plenty for such small fish...



    You can't cheat math, less food equals less waste, equal less ammonia build up and in turn lowers the load on the biofilters... It's a temporary fix to the ammonia build up problem, giving you time to get the filtration up to speed, and generally easier to do then daily water changes... Once you get the filtration and water in order you can increase feeding...

    And honestly, it still doesn't look like much flow rate, I'm comparing what I see in the pictures to a standard 30 gallon tank size rated hang on back filter that averages about 150gph turnover, that looks significantly less to me... This is why I suggested the 5 gallon bucket, test, for a 29 gallon tank I would aim for at minimum 5x turnover an hour, aka about 150gph, best to aim closer to 8-10x (240-300gph) that way as it gets clogged (the pump itself will get slime and junk buildup inside the pump and in the hoses over time that will slow the flow rate) it still maintains a decent turnover... Doing the math 150gph will fill a 5 gallon bucket in 2 minutes flat, ideally it would be best to see that 5 gallon bucket filling closer to the 1 minute mark... Make sure when you do the 5 gallon bucket test you maintain pump head height so it's an accurate calculation...


    Thank you for all this meep! I follow you on all fronts, and glad to know you still think the flow is low - I have plenty of regular (non-powerhead) pumps I can use, if time permits will do bucket test this weekend as well, and will follow up. Thanks!

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    DIYFK member Nil13's Avatar


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    The biotower is above the tank with an excessively long tube feeding it. Yeah, that's going to be a head issue.

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    DIYFK member Nil13's Avatar


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    You have a big empty tank, why not just make an in-tank moving bed?

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    DIYFK member Homeslice's Avatar


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    Thanks so much Nil13! The hoses are too long no doubt. I need to rotate it so they go straight up into the holes, not wrapping around the thing to get to them. I'm definitely thinking about adding a moving bet using K-1 caldness I have and an HEB distilled water bottle, along with some sponge - the trickle filter I decided to make my first project as as they seemed really cool. Moving beds are cool too of course. Thanks!

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