Questions on changing filters in a Penguin Biowheel 150

Discussion in 'Filters and Filtration' started by 1hawaii50, Dec 30, 2009.

  1. 1hawaii50Valued MemberMember

    I have a Marineland Penguin Bio Wheel 150 on my daughter's 10 gallon tank. I've never touched the bio-wheel, other than to clean the "bearings". I usually rinse the filter in tap water once a week, and totally replace it at 2-3 weeks. If I don't rinse it after a week, then the bio-wheel slows and eventually stops. Am I doing the filter cleaning/replacing correctly? I was told that the bio-wheel would hold the bacteria, so I wasn't worried about the filter. Should I be using the filter longer?

    Her tank is stocked with:
    2-dalmation mollys (turned all black now)
    2-Rainbow fish
    1-chinese gold algae eater
    1-angel fish

    I ditched the filter that came with the tank shortly after I set it up, and replaced it with the Marineland Penguin. The tank is fully cycled, and has been running for over a year w/o any problems. I was just browsing the forums and I saw where people are saying NOT to change your filters, so I'm now confused on how I should be treating the filter.

    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  2. MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    I would continue to use the filter until it is falling apart. It doesn't really help anything to replace it, and it will get expensive. You can do light rinsings, but use discarded tank water instead of tap. Chlorine can kill the beneficial bacteria.

  3. stanmanNew MemberMember

    With the marine-land bio wheel you have to replace the cartridge every 4 weeks. It uses activated carbon, so it will eventually contaminate the tank. The bio wheel has enough beneficial bacteria so you shouldn't have to worry. I put a sponge in the extra media slot just to be on the safe side though.

  4. bettafish2816Fishlore VIPMember

    i cut a line in my biowheel filter media and dump the carbon out and rinse it so i don't have to worry about changing it :)
  5. MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    I agree with Agabr. Just ((carefully) use a knife or something to cut a slit and pour the carbon out. I've even read where people who want to use carbon buy it in a box and refill the cartrigde every 3 weeks.
  6. JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    I dump out the carbon as well.

    Here's the thing about the wheels. All the bacteria colonies in the tank/filter combine to be 100%. Of that, I'm going to say that 15% is in the tank (substrate and decor) and the other 85% is in the filter. The 15% is a constant, so we can take it out of the equation. So now that we're talking about just the filter, we can go back to 100%. 10% of that colony is attached to the filter housing (everything but the media). That too is a constant, so it gets removed. That leaves the media.

    The colonies in the media, which includes mechanical, chemical and biological, add up to 100%. The split between the medias is always in flux. What that means is it's not an even distribution. When you put a fresh cartridge in, 100% of the colony is in the wheel. Immedately after switching carts., the bacteria on the wheel begins rapidly multiplying because of the abundance of food.

    For penguins, as bacteria colonates the new media, the colony on the wheel begins to starve and die because the water that spins it has a lower concentration of ammonia since it has already passed through the filter. Ultimately, the colony in the media will become stronger than the one on the wheel.

    Emperors are different. They have a spray bar that spins the wheel, which supplies the wheel with UNFILTERED water. This water has a higher concentration of ammonia and supports a much stronger and more stable bacteria colony. This, among other improvements, is what makes them far superior to penguins.

    If you are changing the cart. of your penguin every 2 weeks, then the colony in the wheel is doing most of the could change mechanical media every week and it wouldn't matter - I have tested this. The wheel is not a gimmick.

    IME the integrity of the cartridge begins to deteriorate after 2-3 months. Custom media holds up better.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  7. 1hawaii50Valued MemberMember

    OK, so with the Penguin cartridge, the blue filter material is sewn onto the black plastic frame. At 1 week old, the cartridge has enough fish waste on it that the wheel is slowed significantly. At 2 weeks, the wheel barely, or doesn't, spin at all. I've been rinsing the filter at 1 week, and replacing it at 2 weeks, this keeps the bio-wheel moving.

    Your recommendations are:

    Cut the top edge of the filter @ 3 weeks, and replace the carbon media inside it
    Rinse the filter in the bucket I use to dump the tank water when doing the water change
    Re-use the original filter until it falls apart (2-3 months)

    When I "rinse" the filter in the used water, do I just "swish" it back/forth in the bucket, or do I use my hand to try to clean as much waste off of the filter media as possible?

    What carbon media do you recommend for replacing what is packed inside the original filter (I'd like to be able to use it for my new tank w/ the AquaClear 110 also)

    What "custom" media is available for a Penguin filter? I've poked around on Amazon, and couldn't come up with anything.
  8. MeenuFishlore VIPMember

    That sounds fine. :)

    Either way should work, I would think.

    At the fish stores, you'll find carbon in a box (usually intended for canister filters, probably). I doubt that brand matters.

    I am not positive, but I think Jaysee means he prefers filtration systems that use loose media rather than premade cartridges. I know my LFS sells off-brand media for the penguins at a much cheaper rate than the Marineland cartridges, but it is still a cartridge.

    Some people really like the Penguins, others say the biowheel is a gimmick. I had one briefly, and liked it. I think if you aren't over-replacing the cartridge, then there should be a more even distribution of the bacteria on the cart and biowheel.

    Is there space for 1 or two cartidges? If you can fit 2 in there, then maybe you could stagger replacing them, and switch which one is in front (so you'd replace the one in front after 6 weeks with the one in back, and a new one in back, repeat every 6 weeks). That would get them replaced every 3 months, with consistency in how the bacteria is distributed. If this didn't make sense, I can try to explain what I mean better.

    Jaysee, thank you for the explanation of the biowheels. :)
  9. JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    No no no, when we dump out the carbon we don't replace it. Using carbon is a personal choice, not a requirement. Not one of my tanks have carbon in it. IMO the tanks are better off without it, otherwise I would be using it.

    :) cystom means DIY. You can buy big rolls of filter pad and cut them to shape. I like to use the Aquaclear sponges because they do not break down. What I do is cut the sponge so it'll fit(sometimes in pieces), then I put a rock on top to keep it in place - without it the sponge can lift up off the bottom and prevent the wheel from spinning.

    ACs come with a carbon pack, which is seperate from the mechanical and biological media. One of the things that makes ACs so awesome is that it's set up like a canister, where all 3 components are distinct, so if you need to change the carbon, just pull out the bag and drop a new one in. There are no cartridges. Instead of using the carbon pack, I add extra bags of biomax.

    At 1 week old, you're cartridghe should not be clogged, and you're wheel should not stop spinning ever. Perhaps you should stop cleaning the bearings? I never clean them. Is anything obstructing the wheel? Is there enough water flow to spin the wheel? Is there water spilling over the intake tube? Can you take a picture or better yet a video?
  10. 1hawaii50Valued MemberMember

    I'll try to get a picture of it. My filter looks pretty clogged at 2 weeks old. When I change the cartridge @ 2 weeks, I also take the filter itself and pull it apart and clean the impeller, intake tubing, and scrub out the insides of it. Then I clean the plastic bio-wheel "bearings" and I put it all back together with a new filter and the bio-wheel turns like crazy. I tried a home-made cartridge using filter foam rubber banded over the plastic frame, and within a couple of weeks, the tank started smelling REALLY fishy. When I put a stock cartridge with the carbon in it back in, the smell went away.

    I've found that if I try to go 3 weeks without changing the cartridge, then by the end of the 3rd week, the water is running over the by-pass, and the wheel is not turning. I do have space for 2 cartridges. I think I'm going to try the homemade cartridge and drop a media bag of carbon in behind it and I'll see how that works.

    Here is a pic of the filter after a week:

    This is the tank:

    Why don't you recommend carbon? Is there anything else I can do/use to keep the odor away? I'm going to get some filter media and go back to using a self-made filter, and I'll try rinsing it in the bucket of tank water and putting it right back in.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  11. JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    Adding more media (2nd cartridge) to the filter will slow the flow even more, which will make more water spill out the overflow (intake tube).

    I gotta be honest, it's probably been 6 months or more since I've cleaned the actual filter. It really doesn't need to be cleaned as regularly as you are.

    As for the pic of your cartidge, it looks almost new and should not be restricting the flow enough to do anything. Having used those cartridges for both penguins and emperors, I think the plastic back is what causes the problem. I would get some of these and cut it to fit. There are some pics of how I have my penguin 100 set up.  

    It's not that I don't recomend carbon, I just don't use it because it's not needed. One of the benefits of carbon is that it removes odors, but there shouldn't be any foul odors. IMO it's a sign there's something wrong with the tank. Using carbon is one thing, but using it to cover up foul smells is just masking the issue. The issue is there is something causing a foul smell, and my advice is to find out what that is rather than using carbon to cover it up.

    Attached Files:

  12. AquaristFishlore LegendMember

    Good morning. You've been given some wonderful advice above. :)

    My two cents on activated carbon: I'm a firm believer that every freshwater aquarium should use it. Granted it is a personal choice and many members only use it at certain times, if they use it all. I respect that and it's their decision.

    I use it around the clock in all of my tanks, changing it out every 3 weeks. I don't feel that carbon masks the problem but removes it as long as you change it out periodically. It absorbs minerals and organic substances, helps to keep your water clear, eliminates foul odors. It will also remove medications and discoloration in the water (caused by driftwood for an example). If you're running more than 1 filter on a tank, the carbon does not have to go into every filter only 1. I have 4 filters on my 265g and I only use it in 1 of them. The other filters you can stuff full of good bio media. (sponges, ceramic cubes and tubes, bio balls).

    If your tank smells foul then I highly recommend adding it to your filter immediately. A water change would probably be a good idea too.

    This is the brand I use:
    I also use drsfostersmith as one of my suppliers. Very reliable. :)

  13. 1hawaii50Valued MemberMember

    Thanks for all of the info guys/ladies!
    I always thought that cartridge looked dirty and needed cleaning, never figured it was fine and leave it alone. I'm going to look into the sponge material, and even the plastic egg crate from Home Depot and we'll see how that works.
  14. ThunderValued MemberMember

    I have two Emperor 400 on a 100g tank. So, I only need just one chamber to have the carbon behind the blue pad? I just remove the carbon from the blue pads. Stock the plastic cartilages with AC's Biomax. I only use the carbon from AC, since it is nicely packaged in a bag. Buying a box of carbon and adding them into the plastic cartilage is so messy.

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