Could the Seachem Tidal 55 take the throne from the Aquaclear Series HOB Filters? You decide!
Ever since I have started this hobby I have always heard that the Aquaclear filters were the best and even if you look up videos on YouTube you will find that the Aquaclear Filters dominate the number of videos about it.
When I first saw the video of the Seachem Tidal Filter In 2016, I instantly knew that this was a filter I wanted to get. At the time it was not available in stores and was going to be released a few months later. The waiting game was harsh and I kept on looking for updates and I even posted some Seachems FB Page, which is sometime I almost never do.
When it was finally released I got my hands on the Tidal 55 and I was in shock when I opened the box. Before I get into a In depth review let me tell you I got the smallest Tidal Filter the 55 and it is BIG! This filter IMHO is not for smaller tanks and should be used on 20 Gallon tanks and above. I am using this on my 33 Long and with the intake strainer on, the strainer is about 1/2-3/4 inches above the bottom on the tank. BUT, I use the filter without the telescopic intake on and Seachem has done a great job of “thinking ahead”. More on this later.
At First Glance this filter has the same shape and form as any other HOB filter but if you take a closer look there are things that Seachem has done that I don’t think I have ever seen on any other HOB filter on the market.
Note: How to read this review. I will post a picture and right below that I will have a description on the picture I just posted.
I will use the first picture and numbers that correspond with each feature as a guide to explain what I have noticed and what I think about each feature.
(This some of these images was taken from Seachem.com and the other pictures were taken by me of my Tidal 55 HOB Filter)
1- Lid or Cover
When you take off the lid and turn it over you will see some inserts sticking out from the tray(see pic) these inserts will fit into the bottom of the media basket. The lid works as a drip tray and stand for the media basket so you don’t drip water all over the place when doing maintenance on your filter. It also frees up space so you don’t need a bucket or something big to place the media basket into, when taking it to the sink. Just make sure to let the water drain into the filter before moving it to the tray.
2- Maintenance Monitor(Fancy name for a blue peg)
This is a blue peg that uses the flow in the filter to let you know when the media is getting dirty. As the flow in the filter backs up because the media is dirty the water will make the Maintenance Monitor pop up letting you know that it’s time to clean your media.
a). If you look at the bottom right picture you will see a blue circle around what appears to be a hole. This hole is for your overflow. Most or all other HOB filters that I know of will have the overflow of water escape from the part where the intake tube is placed. Since the Tidal filter has the intake tube almost integrated into the filter itself you don’t have that classic “U” shaped intake tube. Always make sure that this hole is clean and there is no build up of algae or gunk trapped inside of this small space.
3- Filter Media Basket
I find the tidal Filters media box a little odd in design. It’s more rectangular thank square and unlike the Aquaclear Filters you are a little more limited on what you can put in you media basket.
As a user and seller of Biohome filter media I love to use this media in all my filters. But because of the shape of the media you can only place so much in the media basket. The Tidal Media basket would do better with media like the Eheim Substrate Pro. Because this media is in the shape of little balls it’s better suited for this media basket.
The one GREAT thing I like about the way the media basket is integrated with this filter is that when you need to do filter media maintenance you DO NOT need to take off the entire filter to do your maintenance, all you need to do is pull the media basket out by holding the 2 tabs on the side of the basket and slowly lift the basket out of the filter and then placing it on the lid. No more taking off the entire filter just to do maintenance!
BYPASS BYPASS BYPASS........
This is something most hobbiest avoid when buying a filter. And there have been videos and threads made about the Seachem Tidal’s bypass problem. I can tell you that in those videos and threads they are pointing out the wrong place where bypass occurs. I can say with 100% certainty that when users complain about bypass they have more than likely stuffed the media box way too much and because of the way the media box is made it will look like bypass. If you were to fill the media basket within reason you will not find any problems here.
I have circled in Red where the water flows through the filter.
If the media basket is too full or too dirty the water will start to flow more prominently from the space between the back of the filter and the media basket. There are fins that are integrated on the media basket itself. Those fins help channel the water in a more uniform manner.
Say Hello to my little MOD............
On the second picture you see a square and 2 small slits circled in red. These areas is where water also flows through. This area to me is where there could be some concern, about bypass. Water from the big square is pushed out and in front of any media you could have. Unless you place something close to the edge water is not being fully filtered through any media, thus creating bypass.
In the bottom picture you can see the media basket in the filter itself and you can see where that square and slits now sit. If you let it go then water will be pushed in front of your media. What I have done and not pictured is I took some bonded filter pads like those blue and white filter pads and I took a small piece(big enough to fit in the square area and the slits, but a little bigger so it does not get pushed out) and I separated the blue and white parts of the pads. I use the blue part and I cut it to fit where the square is and make sure you do this when the media basket is in the filter. Use something thin and long and gently stuff the blue pad into the square and slits. What is going to happen is, in the beginning water will still flow though the pads but as it gets dirty the detritus will clog the media and force the water to go back down and go though the basket. You can also do this for the back of the media container where the fins are.
I have done this and my water is much clearer and my filter runs the same or even better because it is filtering all the water going though it. I would also make sure to fill the media basket to the top so that In the case where your basket gets dirty and water starts to go though the back the water will hit the media before going back into the water.
4- Adjustable Leveling Device(Just a Blue Round Knob)
This is one area where I think Seachem messed up. This knob is a pain when trying to level the filter. It does NOT turn easy and if you have big fingers you will have a hard time trying to adjust this while on your tank. And if you have your tank against a wall or in an area that is hard to reach, this will become a problem. Because on most rimmed tanks you cannot have the knob sticking out because the filter will NOT fit over the rim. You have to make sure that the knob is all the way in, then place the filter on the tank and then turn the knob. And for me because the way my tank is setup it is impossible for me to reach the knob. What I had to do is I have to use a shim and place that between the knob and my tank. My tank is a standard 33 Long and this is one part where I think Seachem screwed up on.
5- Adjustable Intake Flow
This intake flow is a cover that fits right over the motor iteself. Some people think that if you close the area where the telescopic Intake tube sits you effectively close off the bottom half of the filter. Trust me when I first got the filter I thought the same. But what happens is that, all you do is close off the suction where the intake “tube” sits. The water is still being sucked in though the slits on the bottom of the cover.
My other MOD.........
What I did to force the water to get sucked in from the surface skimmer was I cut a thin piece of foam and placed it on the bottom of the cover. In the first picture you can see the foam. Again at first water will be sucked in through the foam but as it gets dirty water less and less water will be sucked in from here and sucked though the surface skimmer more. I cut the foam thin because the motor will be sitting on the foam and if the of is too big the cover will not slip on all the way.
6- Self Priming Pump and Self Cleaning Impeller
Seachem partnered with a well known Italian company named Sicce (pronounced Sea-che) the company is well known for making good motors as well as other filtration devices.
This motor if you look at it resembles a miniature pond pump. Water gets sucked In from the side and pushed out of the top, a very unique way to have a HOB filter run. The motor I have to say is quite powerful. The Tidal 55 does well on full power making current in my tank. It also is able to minimize that power on the lowest setting. There is a very big difference between high and low. The other good thing about this Filter is that unlike other HOB filters if you lose power or if you have to do filter maintenance there is no need to prime the filter. This feature is great In the event of a power outage especially if your not home and if the power returns the filter automatically fills up and runs. There is no worries on coming home to a burnt out motor!
7- Optional Heater Holder
On the side of the filter there is a blue holder. You can slide a heater down the holder and there is no need for suction cups for holding your heater. I am not sure how big of a heater it can hold. I would assume it can hold cylinder style heaters up to 100w, sorry Colbalt Neotherm this holder is not for you.
The only down side to where the heater holder is placed is that I am not sure it provides enough current to evenly heat the water. There is minimal water current passing by on the side of the filter.
8- Scarface Skimmer, I mean Surface skimmer-
Now this is what I was looking forward to when I purchased the filter! This meant I didn’t have to use a separate surface skimmer on my tank! I am very disappointed in this skimmer! While it does skim larger particles on the surface of your water, it does not at least for me skim any film on the top of the water. I feed my fish the Hikari Omega Enriched Frozen Brine Shrimp and this food will leave a oily film on the top of your water. I don’t rinse out this food in water first because I want to make sure that all that extra stuff in the brine shrimp isn’t washed away.
I think the reason the skimmer doesn’t work like I thought it would is becasue the slits are way too long. Most surface skimmers will bobble up and down skimming the top part of the water. The Tidal’s surface skimmer, I’m sorry to say is just a water intake that partially sticks out of the water. The surface skimmer is way too big to skim the surface of the water. If the slits were a lot shorter then maybe it could work as a true surface skimmer.
Sorry Seachem this was a major disappointment for me!
Fully Adjustable Flow Regulation
In the second and third picture you can see where the water is coming from. The area where water comes out from is pretty big when compared to other HOB filters. I really like how you can fine tune the flow in the Tidal Filters. Most other filters you have to use the intake tube which sits right on top of the impeller to control the water flow. When the intake tube is fully over the impeller and motor you have the most water flow coming through the filter, if you have the intake tube sitting partially over the impeller and motor then you have less water coming through the filter. The way the Tidal controls the water flow is not easily seen but has the same concept as the other HOB filters. The control knob is attached to a long plastic arm which at the end has a cover, the cover moves over the top of the motor where the water if shooting out of and regulates the water flow in that manner.
Now I am not sure if this is how the Tidal works but this is my theory. Unlike other HOB filters which the intake tube sits over the impeller and motor and splits the water going though the intake tube to control the flow. The Tidal uses a cover to control the flow of water. Now, because it uses a cover the water has to go somewhere. and since we are not controlling the motor by making the motor run faster or slower, when the cover partially sits over the motor where does the excess water go? Or unless the way the impeller is made and it allows the back pressure to clean the impeller(remeber self cleaning impeller) the water has to flow back out through the openings.
On the last picture with the red circles, I have pointed out where you could have possible bypass issues. But with the MODS I have used those issues are taken care of and most of the water goes through the media basket. Even the famous Aquaclear filters can have some bypass. And I place a bag of Purigen on the top to make sure that most of the water is going through some sort of media.
You can also use those square plastic sheets used for crocheting to make a stopper if you want to use media all the way to the top and not have your media blown out of the filter and into your tank. I will post a picture later on so you can see what I mean.
Seachem in my opinion did a GREAT job in making this filter! I think Seachem took the time to listen to what hobbiest wanted and what they were looking for in a HOB filter and applied it to the Tidal Series Filters.
If it wasn’t for its size I would use this filter on all my tanks. You can find the Tidal 55 for around $45-$50, which is in the price range for the Aquaclear 70. I believe that the Tidal 55, which is made for 55 Gallon tanks will do the same job as the Aquaclear 70 for around the same price, plus you get all these other great features which I think you and your fish will like.
Also Seachems customer support is AWESOME! I ran into a problem with my filter and Seachems customer support helped me fix my problem with my filter. Here is the story........
Their warranty and customer service is GREAT! I ran into a very unique problem with my filter. It would make this grinding noise when i had it set just a little above the lowest flow settings. I am one who always lubes my o-rings, impeller magnet, and impeller shaft with water proof and food safe silicon grease. I took a video of the problem and emailed it to seachems customer service. There was a problem in the beginning because for some reason my name was blocked from receiving any emails from me on their side(this is what they told me). But once I had talked to someone in customer service and re-uploaded the video they watched the video and heard the sound and they immediately sent me a replacement impeller. I got the impeller very fast and used it right away. BUT maybe a month to a month and a half later the same sound came back. So I took another video with and emailed the video to Seachem and called customer service. This time they sent me a brand new motor and impeller. So far I haven’t gotten this noise again. They ask that you return the “damaged” parts and the GREAT part is that they also send you return postage so you don’t have to pay for return postage!
I’m sorry for such a LONG review! I honestly feel, for bigger tanks 20 gallons and up the Tidal’s Series HOB Filter will do a better job than the Aquaclear filters! And if your like me who likes to over filtrate your tank then the Tidal 55 would be a great filter for a 20 Gallon tank. Just make sure that your fish can handle the flow and that they are not smaller than any of the slits on the filter or else they can be sucked up into the filter.
Thank You Very Much!
Tanks and Plants