my new Penguin 150 BIO-wheel power filter
I know these are not new by any means. There are probably hundreds of professional and private reviews, but I have read lots of them and think I can add some important things I haven't yet seen addressed. Maybe someone is looking to upgrade or, like me, just had an old filter fail and is curious how these will perform.
The old BIO-wheel 170's are now "discontinued". I have had a couple of these on a tank for for maybe 10 years and loved them. When one of them finally failed recently I decided to go with two newer 150 models and keep things symmetrical instead of just replacing the discontinued one with something different. Here is the skinny on the newer one if anybody is considering purchasing it and haven't yet heard it all:
The newer 150 model claims to have better, more efficient BIO-wheels and they do look like there are more pleats and therefore a bit more surface area, but the older ones worked fine for all those years so this alone wouldn't have been worth the swap to me. They do spin faster, so if anyone ever had trouble keeping the older ones turning (I didn't) I don't think that will be a problem with the newer 150 either - Slight advantage newer model.
I think I like the new lid design. It is two pieces - one for the BIO-wheel and one for the filter. Both are see-through and you can clearly see the wheel and know if it is turning. Though I don't think this makes filter or wheel maintenance any easier than before, there is an advantage that appeals to me: The lid for the wheel reaches farther down and below the back of the aquarium hood. This allowed me to carefully cut the plastic hood strip right up to the wheel lid and completely eliminate any security breach for eels, frogs, or any other 'escape artist-type' critters I might want to keep. The 170's had a non-secure spot where the water dropped in no matter what you did. This might not matter to most, but I found it appealing. This will also cut down on evaporation - Clear advantage newer model.
The redesigned main spillway on the 150 is a bit quieter. The older models seemed to make more turbulence and therefore more noise. The newer ones also run quieter mechanically, but I do not remember if the 170's were as quiet when they were new, although they still weren't too bad 10 years later- Slight advantage newer model.
Filtration was good with both, so no complaints there with either model. The 150 does come with a coupler and an extra piece of intake tubing for high tanks. Integrated into this coupler is a nifty, adjustable, intake strainer so you can decide how much water to pull from what level of the tank - "Gadgetry" advantage newer model.
The 170's were a slightly bigger filter rated for slightly higher GPH's, but the 150's are plenty for my purpose and certainly appear to put out what is claimed - Claimed power equal.
The biggest difference between these closely related filters is in the overflow. The older 170's had a HUGE, confidence-inspiring overflow spillway that rivaled the main discharge and could deal with a lot of water, and as long as there was still enough passing through to spin the wheel you had decent filtration and were OK for a while. Even with almost half the water bypassing the filter, you didn't have to worry about the overflow causing you grief. You could put off that cartridge change if you needed some time to get to the aquarium shop for a replacement, or even if you just needed to stretch your budget and hold down filter cost.
Not so with the 150. The redesigned overflow let's you know when it needs a filter and compels you to act right then. There is still no danger of disaster at all, but the narrow, "convoluted" path sends water in unusual directions rather unnervingly before landing it safely back in the aquarium, almost "prodding" you into purchasing that next filter. At times you can see it hitting the backside of the see-through wheel cover above the aquarium hood. You will also realize why there is a see-through lid that goes down below hood-level in the first place. It happens all too quickly too. Water threatens to jump into the overflow with even a brand new filter, and will do so in a matter of days, not weeks. Where my 170"s sipped filters sparingly, the new 150's gobble them up. No wonder I have seen videos on You-tube explaining how to "rebuild" the filter cartridges and save money!
Some discerning aquarists might see all this as a useful system to keep them from using that dirty filter for too long. I see it as a clever ploy to sell more filters - a ploy I will certainly defeat if I have to just ignore all the drama and play hardball; replace that filter when I say it needs it - even if it means a putting up with a little more "hoopla". What is life without a mission or a thrill here and there? Actually, there is no real danger of a flood at all, just the illusion of one. I can live with it. It is a weird design, but safe and all water must eventually land in the tank under any circumstance if you leave the lids on the filter.
I do like and recommend Marineland's products, especially their budget line of "Penguin" power equipment, and these Penguin 150's should be no different. Overall I am very happy with my purchase and still believe this filter to be a top performer in it's price range. It does have some clear advantages over the older Penguin models and most comparable models from other companies, in my opinion (maybe on another thread sometime). And if the 150's last me half as long as my many other Penguin products over the years I promise I will never again complain.
4.5 stars out of 5
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