Saturday, January 25, 2014

Aqueon 75 Gallon Aquarium

Review of the Aqueon 75 Gallon Aquarium

Filter: FX5 (Acurel LLC Economy Activated Filter Carbon Pellets, 3-Pound, 

Fluval Biomax Bio Rings - 500 gram x4)

Heater: EHEIM Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater 300W
Stand: Petsmart stand
Substrate:  Carib Sea Ecco-Complete Live Freshwater African Cichlid Gravel
Thermometer: Marina Floating Thermometer with Suction Cup
Test kit: API Freshwater Master Test Kit
Water Changer: Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System, 50-Feet

MDF stand needed reinforcement
Substrate has to be rinsed many times before use
FX5 needed to the cleaned and lubed for optimal performance
FX5 requires a lot of media
FX5 requires a special screwdriver
Test kit requires many steps
Python leaks around facet nozzle when filling tank with water

Price for a new 75 gallon tank
FX5 has great filtration
Cycling took 7 days
Substrate maintains pH
Python makes water changing easier than buckets

This is a review of a 75 gallon setup for an African Cichlid tank. 

The stand:
This was the standard stand sold by Petsmart from about 2008-2011. I bought this stand from a Craiglist add for $80. It was in very good shape and according to Petsmart can hold the weight of a 75 gallon tank. I have seen many people use the same exact stand which also was available in fake wood tone laminate, for a 75 gallon set up but I wanted more assurance. I was surprised that it was made from particle board and mdf. Not strong enough in my opinion. I liked this stand over the current model because this actually looked like a piece of furniture instead of something that "looked" like a tank stand. 

I reinforced the stand with 2x4 and 1x2. I put 4 1x2 along the back and put 2x4 on the bottom

I put metal L brackets for joints. Be sure to use the ones with the shortest length screws or they will go through the other side. 

The tank from PetSmart is the Aqueon brand. Aqueon is an aquarium suppler for PetSmart. For$220 you get the tank and top. The tank itself is very nice with thick glass. I did have to remove some excess silicon using a razor. Be very careful not to disturb the seal.
The top is a single hinge glass top with a plastic strip. You can cut the plastic strip to the needs of your tank. I really liked the design of the top because it allowed me to make an almost completely enclosed top. This helps with water evaporation and reduces the chance of making the room smell like a pet store.

The light is a standard T8 bulb. It says that it is full spectrum but I suspect it is a standard fluorescent bulb. It make the take very bright. If you have a shy species of  fish, you'll need a lot of cover or get a dimmer bulb. 

The substrate I used is Carib-Sea. They are the best brand for specialized substrate. You have to rinse the substrate before you put it into the tank. I cut a small hole in the bag and just used a hose outside to rinse the substrate. It has be rinsed very, very well or you will have a cloudy tank for several days. It does maintain the pH but I'm not sure how well. My tap water is 7.4 and my tank pH is between 7.4-7.6. I'm not sure how much if at all is due to the substrate. The African Cichlids do like to play it and move it around.

The Filter:
I bought an Fluval FX5 for the 75 gallon tank from Craigslist. This filter is rated for a 400 gallon tank. I wanted the best filter I could get so that I wouldn't have to deal with cleaning the tank as often. This is a massive filter. It just barely fits in the cabinet in the stand but it does fit. This filter is no longer made. Fluval has an FX6 which uses the same motor and made some tweaks, like flow control. The FX5 does not have a flow control feature. When you first start it up, be sure to fill it up almost all way to the top to start it. The instructions say to fill it half way but this will cause a lot of air and strain the motor. It will prime the filter for 60 seconds, stop, release the air bubbles and then turn back on. The filter will also stop every 24 hours to release all the air it has collected. The 24 hour time starts from the time you plug it in. 

If you do plan on getting one, be sure to check the condition of the orange knobs that tighten the lid. People over tighten these and the plastic part often breaks because it is connected to a metal T rod. 

This is a great filter but it has its issues. The main problem I had was noise. Some people have had great luck with them and they can't tell that the unit is even on. The various forum posts suggest that Fluval made a bad batch. There are several things you can do to reduce the motor noise. The best thing you can do is clean the motor housing. This requires a special screwdriver because you need one that is over 7 inches long. This is the only way you can get to the screws to unlatch the motor. 
When you remove the filter, there is rubber o-ring that you need to keep. This goes on the outside of the impeller casing as shown below. 

This is how my unit looked when I took it apart the first time.

Be sure to clean everything so there is not dirt around the impeller. There was also debris in the actual impeller. This can cause an imbalance which will cause noise. 

Check the intake area for the impeller and make sure that is clean

I thought that I had the problem solved so I put it all back together and started it up. The noise was still there. It actually seemed louder after I cleaned it. I did more research and found suggestions make any impeller more quiet. There was one suggestion of lubing the impeller with KY jelly. The noise was unbearable so decided to try it. 
I lubed the impeller on the end points, the shaft and also the top. Anywhere I saw friction marks, I lubed it with KY jelly. The magnetic motor spins this impeller from the outside creating the suction needed to move the water. 

I put it back together again and it ran it. It was much, much more quite. So quite, that I could hear the bubbles from the air hose I had in the tank. It wasn't completely silent, like I've heard other people state but it was a reasonable amount of noise. 
You will get extra KY jelly in your tank from the lubrication. You'll have to fish them out with a net which is easy because they float to the top. It's been running well for two weeks now. I'm not sure how long the lubrication lasts since KY breaks down quickly. I suspect I will need to lube it at least once a year. 

After about a month, it started making noises again! So I bit the bullet and bought a new impeller. It was $50 but it did solve the problem. After 2 months, it is still quiet. I believe the problem is the plastic bushings get worn down and there is space for the impeller to move around to create the noise. The instructions below how to get in there and clean it. 

Basically I paid $50 for the wire tool and new plastic bushings.

The key to any healthy aquarium is to do frequent water changes. They say that you should do a 10% water change every week. Since this was a 75 gallon tank, I needed another way of changing the water without using buckets. I will have to determine how often I really do need to do water changes. I purposely bought a really powerful filter so I wouldn't have to do water changes that often. Since this is a new tank, I will do weekly water changes until the cycling of the tank is complete.

I used an old filter from an established tank to help cycle this tank. I took the filter (cotton cloth) and rinsed it out in the tank. It was the top filter from a Fluval C4 (review here)You will get a bacterial "bloom" which will make the water look cloudy. This will last 7-10 days depending on your filtration and how quickly the bacteria gets established. Mine was clear in 4 days.

I used the API test kit to test, ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels. All were 0 so I added two white cloud mountain minnows to help establish the tank. The API test kit really is a comprehensive test kit. The test for ammonia is easy and the test for nitrate and nitrite have an addition step. It's not bad but I would think they could come up with an easier way.

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