Emperor 400 Alternate Filter Media
I purchased a 55 gallon fish tank and all the accessories over craigslist. The filter that came with it is an Emperor 400 or a Penguin 350, the pictures are inconclusive and my brother, who picked it up, wasn't able to determine it himself.
Would it be possible to use something like filter floss, a foam block, or something else instead of the OEM filter cartridges?
The Emperor units are designed with 3 stage filtration. The water first is trapped by the filter pad, removing large particals from suspension. Next, the water flows thru the carbon filter tray, allowing the carbon to absorb organic acids directly from the water. Finally, the water enters the biowheel stage, where remaining organics are processed into Nitrates.
It is important to understand the purpose of the carbon tray to properly answer your question. Carbon absorbs organic waste directly from the water, reducing the amount of waste that is processed by the biowheels. This reduces the number of carbonate buffers which are removed from your buffer system, helping to stabalize pH and hardness. Additionally, less organics hitting the biowheels means less Nitrate buildup, which means a healthier aquatic environment.
When Marineland made the Emperor units, they came up with an amazing design which changed the way hang on filters are made. Even today, in marine aquariums, manufacturers struggle to duplicate this design in a hang on protein skimmer. The removal of organic waste prior to the exposure to biological filtration was an amazing step in technology.
Adding a foam block will do nothing to improve the aquatic environment. Bottom line, you do not want to use a different media. The unit is a work of art as it is.
Well, while Pasfur makes a well supported point, personally I don't run carbon in any of my filters. It needs to be replaced often which adds quite a bit to general maintenance and expense. Carbon removes trace elements which is important for plant health, as well as fish health. Poor quality carbon (such as the kind generally used in the filter inserts) are known to release phosphates as well as increase pH.
Carbon is honestly a matter of choice and opinion, and a constant point of contention in the fish keeping community.
The Marineland filters are known to provide plenty of space for alternate filter media. You can fit bioballs or something like that as well as cut your own filter pads to fit in the slot (you can purchase sheets of the stuff at your LFS). So the answer is yes, you can put something different in. I have a Penguin/Marineland filter and I don't use the OEM inserts.
I'm aware of the way the filter operates but I've also heard similar opinions on the effectiveness of carbon in the filters with quite a few people simply recommending to leave the filters in and not worry about the carbon deactivating.
The volume of the filter compartment had me thinking about alternate filter media as a cost savings measure. A single filter cartridge is over $5 for this filter, but a bag of filter floss big enough to fill the filter four times over is only $4. I'd thought there might be some merit to using an alternate filter media and only occasionally add carbon as needed.
I am The Emperor's biggest fan. I do not use the over the counter replacement pads. I choose to manufacture my own. I buy the generic "socks" for the Magnum 350's and slip them over the frames. I also use bulk fiber material in the media frames. All adds up to more biological filtration.
One thing to note here. Do not change both elements at the same time. I change the pads about every six months as I rinse them weekly.
I figured with two, or four, it'd be best to do maintenance one at a time rather than all at once. Manufacturing them was what I was thinking, use old frames and make new filters.
Good luck! Sounds like you've got it under control.
Just a note on leaving carbon in- apparently old carbon has been linked to hold in the head disease. No idea how accurate that is or what the basis is, but I have heard it from several different sources.
Back to the original discussion.... I regularly hear people talk about increasing the effectiveness of the biofilter by adding additional biomedia. This simply does not happen. The amount of bacteria which grow is in direct correlation with the amount of organic wastes and acids that are produced in your aquarium. The biowheels have more than enough surface area to accomplish the task, so adding a sponge or additional filter pads will not increase the biological effectiveness of this unit. There are simply not enough organics being produced to sustain additional bacteria growth.
Next, looking at the use of carbon. The negative comments all have very easy solutions if carbon is used correctly. You need to change the carbon on a regular basis. You need to use high quality carbon which does not contain phosphates. And yes, you should be doing regular water changes and adding supplements to replenish trace element depletion. But all of these things are part of regular aquarium care. If you are doing these things already, then the negative attributes of carbon have no place in the discussion because they do not apply to you.
Let me take this a step further. Look at light bulbs. They have to be turned on and off every day. They use electricity. They get dirty and need to be wiped off. They need to be replaced every 9 months to retain the proper spectral output. They have parts to replace, such as starters and switches. All of these things are negatives, true. However, we still use light bulbs! Because they have positive benefits to the aquatic environment. Ditto for carbon.
Carbon has no other use than to absorb unwanted material in the water. If one "builds" their water from RO water, carbon is not usually necessary. I use carbon ONLY to filter out medications, as I see in my past experience, it has no benefit otherwise.
I agree that bacterial filtration is based on available load. However, Adding "homes" for this bacteria to colonize is a good idea. The practice "spreads the wealth", so to speak.
As far as carbon causing "hole in the head" disease, it has been linked not proven. The disease has been directly linked to bad tank hygiene and improper diet.
The analogy to light bulbs is somewhat on target. The spectral breakdown is caused by a deterioration of the gases in the bulb. Switches seldom go bad. Reflectors are usually in a place where they seldom get dirty. And light bulbs usually have a life of about one year based on hours of usage.
As to hole in the head, there is not a definitive cause. But if your statement is correct, then "old carbon" could help cause the disease. By definition, carbon which is no longer capable of absorbing organics from the water would result in decaying water quality.
We are saying the exact same thing, so i'm not sure how you are arriving at a different conclusion. Interesting.
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