Good canister filter, $100 range
I recently moved and now the fish tank is near the bed. My wife complains that the filter keeps her up at night. I thought a canister filter might help solve this problem. My current filter is a penguin 200, it makes the most noise when I havenít serviced it in a while and the filter loads up and the water overflows (that usually when I know to clean it). But even when its operating with new filter pads and everything is working as it should it still makes too much noise for my wife. I have heard canisters make less noise because they donít disturb the surface of the water as much and you can keep them underneath behind closed doors. This would also benefit for the CO2 injection. The tank is 36 gallons with mostly plants (various) but a few small fish, I probably will fill it with fish at some point. I am unbiased to the brand just need to stay within my budget of $100 maybe +$30 if needed. I have been looking at the Magnum 350 because that is what the LFS guy likes. reading various reviews most people seem either love or hate them. some people say they are the best filter for the money, others say it lacks biological filtration which makes it worthless. But I have found one for $102. I would like input on this model or other similar priced models.
i cannot imput whatso ever on the magnum filter, my best advice to you is search craigslist.
I really like the Rena Filstar XP filters. I'm using three of them right now (two XP 2s, one XP 3). Very quiet filters. The XP 2 would be good for a 36 gallon. Costs $120-160 depending on source.
In a planted tank the only purpose for the filter is to gently move the water through it so the suspended particulate matter can be trapped in the pad and media. Plants do the "cleaning" of the water, the filter makes it "clear", two different things. Biological filtration in a lanted tank is pointless, because the plants grab more ammonia and nitrite than the bacteria; plus, most planted tanks tend to be slightly acidic in pH and the nitrosomonas bacteria is inhibited the lower the pH.
Canisters work best because they can have lower flow rates (some are even adjustable now) and they are quiet and easy to maintain. You are correct, there should be no surface agitation with planted aquaria as it drives off the CO2. [BTW, when you get CO2, have it on a timer so it shuts off at night; it is best not to pump more CO2 into the tank at night when the plants can't use it and it may adversely affect the fish.]
I have personal experience with Rena XP3 and Eheim canisters. Both are good filters. I have read that the Fluval is also good, but seems to be less preferred that Rena or Eheim. I have had Eheims on two tanks for 12 years, no problems, and I cannot hear a thing. The Rena was more noticeable when I first got it, but now 9after 2 months) seems to be almost as quiet as the Eheims. Both these are expensive new, so if you can find them used--and they work--go for either.
However, you mention a 36g tank; I have a 33g (3 feet long) and the filter is an internal Eheim sponge. It is just a sponge with a motor pulling the water through it. Very quiet, my only negative is that I can't adjust the flow; I have it aimed along the back wall of the tank to reduce the current. It has worked fine in this tank (planted) for years.
If you want a canister, a new Eheim 2213 can be had for much less than $100, it is rated to flow 116 gph, so would provide a gentle flow through your 36 gallon tank. You can put any media in it, but since you have lots of plants, you might want to just get a stack of the blue Eheim sponges and fill the canister with those (I think it holds five).
Eheims run very quietly, and repair parts are available in good fish stores and online.
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