Marineland Penguin Bio-wheel Filter Testimonial/tutorial

Discussion in 'Filters and Filtration' started by uncle fishy, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. uncle fishy

    uncle fishyValued MemberMember

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    As a decades-long advocate of these fine, inexpensive HOB filters, I would like to share some information that might help others. I think there is a lot of misinformation out there about them and I feel I need to chime in. I have used these filters almost exclusively since the 1980s and, through experience/trial and error, I have learned some things.

    First of all, a detailed testimonial based on owning dozens of these over many decades: I currently own 7 Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel HOB Filters that are keeping my fish happy and healthy without fuss, and...
    1) They last for years and years - up to 10 years as a matter of fact. It is hard to believe they are among the least expensive HOB filters on the market.
    2) My Bio-wheels almost never stop turning, and yet I read all the time about others having this problem. (I will reveal a simple, secret fix for this later in the piece.)
    3) My filter maintenance is very minimal, easy and CHEAP. An individual filter cartridge might last me for up to a year. This is quite contrary to the frequent complaint of "expensive" media costs.
    4) My water stays crystal clear. Just ask my fish, almost all of whom live to die of old age.
    5) I have never ever experienced a flood, spill or any other water mishap that originated from a Marineland filter, whether by my own negligence or otherwise. It just doesn't happen. The design of these filters prevents it. I have heard of other HOB filters flooding the floor for various reasons - bad O-rings, poor maintenance, owner neglect, etc, etc. - but never with a Marineland filter for any reason.
    6) My Marineland filters never fail to restart after a power failure as long as I keep the water in the tank topped off, and I consider this to be VERY important. Power blips and failures are common. With Marineland HOB filters on duty I can leave for any length of time knowing with near-100% certainty that my tanks will be running when I return. Maybe twice in 4 decades did it not happen, and those were on very old Marineland filters that probably should have been retired or at least should have had new impellers installed - but hey, they were still running, which is more than you could say for most other filters that old.
    7) They are usually very quiet, though I admit over the years I have seen a few get noisy. I also must admit that even these kept working fine and probably could have been silenced by replacing the impeller, which I have never done. To prevent excessive water noise all you have to do is keep the water in the tank high. As I mentioned earlier, this also helps with restarts so you should do it for that reason anyway.
    8) They are handsome. Most tank hoods are black and so should be the equipment.

    I am currently out of time but shortly I will reveal a few secrets that help me achieve the great results I rave about with these fine filters.

    Cheers!
     
  2. Islandvic

    IslandvicWell Known MemberMember

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    Excellent testimonial.

    I have a question, you mentioned using them since the 80's....

    Have they changed at all over the years?

    Or have they stayed the same?
     
  3. OP
    OP
    uncle fishy

    uncle fishyValued MemberMember

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    Yes, there have been several changes. The shape has undergone subtle changes several times. The lids went from one-piece to two-piece a while back. The plastic went from rather soft and pliable to the more rigid formula we know today. At some point the biggest change happened - the bio-wheel itself was added. Several different methods of mounting the bio-wheel have been utilized. I can't remember specific dates or years for these, but it has been the same basic design now for maybe 15-20 years. All of my present Marineland filters are of this latest design.
     
  4. Islandvic

    IslandvicWell Known MemberMember

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    Interesting, I figured they had always used the Bio-Wheel from the beginning.
     
  5. CHJ

    CHJValued MemberMember

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    I run only marine land HOBs. I like these HOBs. I do not know how many I have (10?). I have run out of backups. Not due to failures but do to more tanks.
    For filters I run rebuildables with quilt batting and nitrate reducing gravel or carbon if removing meds or hormones. So no real cost.
    I also run a prefilter on all of them to keep sand from killing them (long ago I lost a beloved fish to silica sand milling out the shaft in an impeller and killing the HOB)
    When I started buying the emperors I was very disappointed in their cavitation noise and how the spray bars would only function when the pumps were pumping themselves dry after pulling the feed tube.
    Funny story. So in an attempt to get one working right I buy a replacement impeller. The one that shows up is quite different than the one in the HOB. I put it in and everything is suddenly good. Yep, that batch of 3-4 shipped with the wrong impellers. So I got more replacements and the cavitation and bad spray bars was fixed.
    I also stuff airstones in them for high Ox fish.

    So what is your trick to keeping the bio wheels spinning? I have 1 or 2 without spray bars and those wheels do not spin. I need your secret!

    Here is my trick for them. Black Friday sales at Petsmart. 50% off. Stock backups this way. Not that this enables buying more aquariums or anything:D.
     
  6. OP
    OP
    uncle fishy

    uncle fishyValued MemberMember

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    I said I would reveal some tips and tricks:

    1) Don't try to buy new cartridges all the time. This is completely unnecessary and expensive. Once a tank is established there is no need to buy more than 4-6 cartridges a year for a Marineland filter. The filter holds 2 cartridges, and once a month I take 1 of those outside and blow it out at full throttle with the garden sprayer. This completely rejuvenates the media and it is good for another couple of months. The other filter is left alone and stays biological as well as the Bio-wheel. I alternate which of the two filters I clean this way every month to maintain an acceptable degree of biological filtration and I never look back. With two cartridges per filter, one or both can be less than 100% effective at bio or mechanical filtration and I am still good. I will recycle filters in this way till they are tattered and obviously not capable of getting the job done before replacing it. Sometimes a cartridge will refuse to die and might last more than a year (Oddly, a small percentage will die after one or two cleanings. Hmmm. Weird.) Replacing a cartridge brings a fresh dose of charcoal often enough to get the job done in my opinion. A fresh dose of charcoal only works for about 2 days anyway. Unless your water is known to be heavily contaminated with toxins this routine should be enough. Anyone who feels otherwise can change a cartridge more often, or buy bulk and just drop a small bag of charcoal in the bottom of the filter as often as they like. These bags can be made from pantyhose, cheesecloth, or they even sell bags specially designed for this.

    2) There are two tricks to keep the Marineland filter's Bio-wheel spinning without a hiccup. First, always keep the water level high in your tank. I keep mine higher than the bottom of the plastic rim. This accomplishes several beneficial things: It completely eliminates any hint of an unsightly "ring" on the glass that requires constant cleaning. It definitely aids in filter restarts after power failures by insuring that the least amount of suction is needed to bring about said restart. It makes for much less noise by eliminating a loud, "waterfall effect". And it absolutely provides the highest possible water flow to the filter which helps keep the Bio-wheel spinning. It helps that I insist on maintaining a near-completely sealed hood to reduce evaporation which greatly reduces falling water levels.

    The second Bio-wheel trick is the "secret" I promised you. It definitely is controversial and therefore deserves it's own paragraph, but it has worked for me flawlessly since the Bio-wheel was invented, so here goes. Do with it as you will and let the debate rage: I completely plug the small overflow chute in every Marineland filter I purchase with a small, dice-shaped piece of ordinary white packing Styrofoam I carved with a kitchen knife. I have done this since the Bio-wheel was invented without a single problem, not even a near miss, despite what many will consider to be my "questionable" maintenance practices. This keeps the water going past your Bio-wheel instead of out the overflow. There are plenty of other paths the water will take before it ever spills onto the floor, mainly past the Bio-wheel but also over the slightly altered overflow, Styrofoam dam and all. I can't remember the last time I had to clean out a lift tube either. Talk about low maintenance. I started out really worrying about it and constantly checking for problems, but after 15 years or more I no longer give it a single thought. I have 7 Marineland filters running like this right now - four 200s and three 150s - and the Bio-wheels never stop. If I get busy and completely neglect a filter for three months the wheel won't stop. All these years of doing it this way have only served to convince me that the overflow on these filters is there to serve only one unnecessary function - to stop the Bio-wheel in order to force you to constantly purchase new cartridges - or so it seems. I say blind compliance be damned! Like I said, let the debate rage, but I can back what I say with a decade or two of absolute trouble-free defiance.

    (LEGAL DISCLAIMER - Do this at your own risk. Blocking a filter's overflow or otherwise altering it in any way, and/or neglecting manufacturer suggested maintenance guidelines will cause serious problems, including but not limited to, major water damage to your home or it's furnishings, damage to the filter itself, dead or sick fish, Etc., Etc.. I accept no responsibility, legal or otherwise, should you follow my advice and disaster strikes as a result. :cool:)

    There you have it. Take it or leave it. Carve me up if you will. Great filtration doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg at buy-in nor should it nickel and dime you to death over the course of ownership. It doesn't have to be a maintenance hardship. Thanks to these inexpensive but effective and uber-reliable filters, coupled with the easy, cheap routine I have developed over more than a decade to deal with them, along with regular water changes, tank cleanings and a varied diet, my fish are all happy and healthy. They spawn like crazy and live perfectly normal lifespans. They always have.

    Please do not knock Marineland Penguin Bio-wheel HOB Filters until you have tried them in light of my advice. They are EASILY one of the greatest values in the aquarium hobby in my honest opinion.

    Uncle Fishy - About 45 unbroken years in the hobby and counting.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
  7. OP
    OP
    uncle fishy

    uncle fishyValued MemberMember

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    Great story and testimonial. I've never owned an Emperor version of the filter. IMO they take a good enough filter and just add a dose of complicatedness (I'm not sure that is a word) and that can always backfire. I've owned several 350s though.

    I also run a large, fairly coarse pre-filter on every intake tube. Those are probably the greatest advancement in HOB filters in the last 50 years. I can't believe I failed to mention it at all in my main post.

    I was apparently typing my "secret" Bio-wheel trick post as you were posting this. Back up and read it.

    UF
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
  8. OP
    OP
    uncle fishy

    uncle fishyValued MemberMember

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    By the way.... I consider the death of a Marineland filter to be the point at which it will not restart itself after a power failure and I can't determine a logical and correctable cause, and this will eventually happen. Noise has nothing at all to do with it. A slightly noisy filter that restarts every time is not a concern to me. I usually don't waste a lot of time about replacing a questionable one either. One of the greatest advantages of these filters is the very reasonable cost at buy-in. Usually it is almost as cost effective to just purchase another filter as it is to go replacing parts and hoping to save a few bucks. I consider that to be a no-brainer decision that is easy to live with. However, chronic do-it-yourself types could probably find unadulterated bliss in buying an impeller for a few dollars cheaper than a whole unit and making a YouTube repair video out of it. I've never done it so I don't know if it would work, but the parts are readily available.

    Having said all of that, I do get a lot of noise-free years out of these filters, up to 10 of them as a matter of fact. However, if one happens to get noisy or fails to restart on it's own after 4 or 5 years I definitely wouldn't feel cheated.
     
  9. 86 ssinit

    86 ssinitFishlore VIPMember

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    I have 3 bio-wheels running now and one spare (new in box :)). First thing I do with them is throw away the cartridge. I add a sponge and a bag of matrix or biohome and than a pair of plastic scrubbies. Rinse them when doing water changes. They last forever :). the jury is out on weather the bio-wheels do anything. But the filter is great!!

    I recently bought 2 250s for under $30 a piece at Petsmart. Petsmart will match online pricing :).

    I have a bio-wheel 30 on a 15gal and I’m not happy with it. It does not restart after a power outage. Even after water changes I have to play with the intake tube to get it to restart. Less than a year old. It will soon be replaced :(.
     
  10. OP
    OP
    uncle fishy

    uncle fishyValued MemberMember

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    Not 100% sure if the Bio-wheels are the be-all end-all but it is difficult to believe they would be completely ineffective. My verdict is that they are at least beneficial.

    Yes, these filters are definitely customize-able. Anyone with a like mind can set them up to do the job any number of ways using readily available products. I recently purchased a couple of those plastic, hinged, filter cartridge-shaped charcoal media holders that recently became available for my Penguin 200 filters. I had the intention of using one with just a piece of dual density filter media cut to fit in front of it but I haven't gotten around to it yet. They are neat though.

    It is hard to give up the dual filter cartridges per filter though. They make it really easy to cycle new tanks and stuff by just plopping a well-cycled cartridge into a filter slot of any new or re-purposed tank and then you can toss in a fish or two without a care.

    UF
     
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