Eclipse 5 HEX vs. Aquatic Gardens Bookshelf (sorta)
The goal here was to buy myself a tank for a single betta (and maybe a snail or something) that would be planted, and provide me with some level of interaction for my desk. This is to replace the still cycling 10g that was here, as the 10g just took up too much room. I decided after reading a review on another forum, the only option for me would be the ever so famous petco sold Aquatic Gardens 6.6g bookshelf kit. Now there are 2 key words here that should have screamed NOOO! DONT DO IT! those two words being "aquatic" and the other "gardens".
The other gentleman who reviewed the kit basically gave it all thumbs up with the exception of the near useless filter. even if the filter works like its supposed to, its a HOB filter which takes up a few extra inches at the back of the tank. I placed the kit under my arm and proceeded off to grab a new tetra 10i filter for it.
now, let me preface the next part with the fact that I do like the idea of eclipse systems, but their cost (for the most part) and the fact that I have not seen many replacement parts on shelves in stores always just left me a bit put off. Sure I like them, but I can buy and set up a 10g with a light and a filter for the price of an eclipse 6 and much cheaper than an eclipse 12.
I decided to check out the reptile section on my way to get the tetra filter, to see if my toads needed anything exciting... and out of the corner of my eye I catch a sale tag. A 5 gallon hex eclipse tank on sale for $39.99. well.... the bookshelf kit was $49.99 and the filter another $15-20 at petco... So I looked into it. $30 cheaper, much much better filtration, a regular bulb socket which comes WITH a marineland 10 watt compact florescent full spectrum (i dont remember the color temp) bulb, which is actually pretty sweet.
Heres my initial impressions now that the tank is up and has started cycling with about 3-4" (used up the last of my substrate) of my AquariumPlants.com substrate. The kit went together super easy, provided you exercise a wee bit of common sense and read the directions if you get stuck. I did stop at wal-mart (i know i know) to get a preset 50 watt tetra mini heater. These little things are great, and I put it up sideways in the hex on the back wall so that its well in the water flow and almost invisible from the front of the tank. P E R F E C T :D oh and id like to point out, when I took the water from my 10g to fill this 5g, it was WAY more than half the tank lol sooo I think its a bit over 5g.
now the only thing left to do is let this puppy cycle for a bit (new filter media and gravel, but cycled water) and hopefully she will be ready to go in a couple weeks. aaand when im done here im going to start researching a plant or two or 3 that my new betta (when i get him) will enjoy hiding in and playing around.
bottom line, unless you have a REALLY thin shelf you want to put a tank on (and even then you will need a replacement filter) just go get an eclipse system of some sort. I cant speak for anything but the HEX 5g but this little system is pretty great, easy to maintain, attractive, and didnt cost me a ton of money :) by the time you factor in a new filter for the bookshelf, or a hood with a florescent light for a 10g, this system becomes a nice value!
3 - 4 inches of substrate? That's a bit deep, and could cause problems later... you might want to knock that down to 2 - 3 inches max.
Eclipse systems can be wonderful... if you have somewhere to get replacement parts for them over time. They are not known to be the easiest things to keep, but that depends on what you're putting into it. An eclipse system for a betta.... eeehh.... you might find that the current from the filtration unit is not going to work with a betta... the water flow tends to be too strong, which stresses them out. When it comes to keeping bettas, you might find that the Whisper internals are still the better bargain.
The problem with the eclipse and betta combo is that if the betta can't handle the heavy current from the filtration unit, there isn't much you can do other than replace the filter with something not so strong... and then the hassle of the amount of space the eclipse filtration unit takes up when doing this.... ease of access for taking care of that new filter... and if you're looking at it in $ terms, you've spent extra money anyways.
I just measured it, its 2.5 - 2.75"
and it aint hard to make a flow diverter, besides im going to get a plant or two that will grow to the surface and give the betta something to hang out under. between the plant and a flow diverter it wont be a problem for the little guy. I have spent alot of time engineering ways to do exactly that in my other tanks, and IMHO ive been extremely successful. to be honest, the way the outflow of the filter lies, it moves an impressive amount of water for having very little motion in the water. this fix should be a breeze ;)
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