First off, this is my first post on the forum, so introductions are in order. I've been into the hobby for about 3 or 4 months, after buying my girlfriend a 29 gallon tall tank for valentine's day. I was, of course, "that guy" who thought "Hey, buy a tank, fill that sucker up and put some colorful fishies in there, that's all there is to it!" Luckily we have a very good LFS that "set me straight" on that one, and now I know, of course, that there's a little more to it then that.
Anyways, just so you know, I run a 29G tall tank with a Penguin 150 bio wheel and a pair of two inch "bubble disks". Currently our tank is stocked (fully) with:
2x Opaline Gourami
2x Neon Blue Dwarf Gourami
1x Albino Long Tail BN Pl*co
We currently don't run any live plants or anything like that.
Right now, our Penguin 150 is providing adequate biological filtration (and I guess chemical too, as the water stays clear) and the water is stable at 0/0/10-20 levels. However, especially since adding the little poop machine that is the BN pl*co, I find myself having to change out the filter pads on an almost weekly basis. They get clogged up really quick with fish doo, and I'm pretty certain having fresh cucumber / zucchini in the tank for the pl*co doesn't seem to help either. The pads get slimy and coated real quick, and washing them doesn't seem to improve things any.
Hence my question. I'm looking for a fairly cheap (say sub $100) and aesthetically unobtrusive way to add some additional mechanical filtration to the tank, but I'm not sure what sort of filter would work well for this purpose. I like the idea of a canister or one of those Marineland hang on tank canisters for the aesthetic value, but the price is a little hard to swallow. I considered possibly an internal powerhead filter or sponge filter, but I'm thinking most of those would look pretty ugly and take up valuable tank space. My other option is to just run another Penguin 150, which would work, but require modification of my tank lid to fit another on there. Also, I like the idea of over-filtering the tank, but I would assume that there is some upper limit of flow I can run through such a small tank without negatively affecting the occupants. I want the fish to be happy, and not feel like they're in one of those swim in place pools all day. So, if you were in my shoes and had up to $100 to blow, what would you do? What if price was no object, what would you run then?
Thanks all for your help and opinions.