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Diatom Filters -Vortex vs System 1 vs H2O Changes
Surely others must have had different experiences (or these products
wouldn’t still be on the marker) but based on mine, these are my
I find that both the Vortex D1 and Aquarium Products System 1 diatom
filters are *not* reasonably practical for use, at least, not as they
are right out of the box.
The D1 uses rubber band clamps that I found to be unreliable--"Hey, why
is yucky colored water all over the floor AGAIN?" "Daddy, Daddy,
hurry, that thing is squirting all over the fish room again!" Vortex
says that using these rubber bands ensures against overtightening. I
say, using them also risks undertightening, but that's just my soggy
opinion. I think the rubber band clamps are acceptable for
inside-the-aquarium use, but for outside the tank, I call for something
much more reliable.
The D1 is as easy (or difficult) to start a siphon on as an Eheim 2213.
For both, it's actually easier if the canister is nearly empty of
water. I think a lot of people find this aspect to be an unacceptable
pain -- once you've had an Eheim Pro II, you'll never go back. Once
you have the D1 charged and filled with water, you don't have to
disassemble it again until you're ready to put it away. You can remove
the DE and put in new DE without any disassembly. Just put the tubes
in the sink, backflush then put them in a pitcher of water and new DE
and recharge. What? You don't have twenty feet of tubes to reach to
the sink? Okay, then just carry the whole thing over to the sink. You
have to go to that much trouble to clean your Eheim don't you?
But recharging (loading the filter medium with diatomaceous earth or
DE) is a pain for many anyway. Actually, I find backflushing and
recharging to be less work than cleaning an Eheim. In any case, siphon
and recharge are much much less of an issue with the recharge valve (a
$30 option). The valve lets you take the tubes out of water without
losing the siphon. It also lets you run the filter and load up the DE
without anything coming out of the ends of the tubes. Magic? No, the
valve just short circuits the out-tube to the in-tube. I think Vortex
is absolutely nuts to sell the D1 or XL without automatically including
the recharge valve right in the box. [Hint, if you want quick
disconnects also, the Eheim 594 tubing is about the same inside
diameter as the D1 and XL tubing.]
BTW, I found the Vortex folks to be helpful on the phone -- but I found
that email doesn't always get their attention. I hate it when a
company posts an email address and then doesn't answer the mail for
The System 1 doesn't need to have a siphon started and the filter media
won't pass DE, even if the media hasn't been charged. So "reloading"
is a breeze -- dump the powder in the jar, screw on the jar, turn on
the filter. Cleaning is about as easy, unscrew the jar but hold it in
place while you twist off the filter media, carry to sink, rinse,
reload -- ta daa. But, my System 1 is so noisy (most of it coming from
the belt drive assembly) that I packed it up and banished it to that
place in the basement where I keep all those old
"too-good-to-throw-away but not-good-enough-to-use" parts. Old rotors
with perfectly good magnets . . . Tubing fittings that I don't
remember where they came from . . . heaters I tried and didn't like .
. . Every now and then I find a part in the graveyard that I can use
for some new purpose -- "Hey, I bet one of those old biowheel bearings
would work here."
I contacted Aquarium Products about the noise problem. I heard back
once that someone was looking into the noise problem -- that was a
couple of weeks ago or so. If I ever hear back from them again, I'll
post the response. Meanwhile, the brand-new System 1 is beneath a pall
and it deserves it.
The most surprising thing I found out about the System 1 was that the
maker absolutely insists that you do not run the motor continuously for
more than four hours! I don't know how you would do that without,
either keeping watch on it -- what? You had something better to do with
your time ;-) -- or set an alarm or put it on a timer. They could
include a 4-hour timer with the filter -- or better yet, they could
have designed the filter with a motor that can run continuously. I
certainly didn't see on the box "runs for up to four hours continuously
without damage!" as one of the product highlights.
The Vortex can be run nonstop, 24-7, even after the point that the
media becomes so clogged that the water virtually stops flowing and it
won't hurt the motor. Come back and turn it off whenever you want, or
just let it run. It gets louder when it gets clogged because the motor
is working harder, the filter is designed so that the motor can work
that hard -- what a durable design!
I think: AP bought the System 1 from some other company that hadn't
perfected the design and AP doesn't know what to do about it except
keep selling the filter as is and telling people, “BTW, don't leave the
thing on for more than four hours.”
Personally, I wouldn't recommend either the Vortex (as it comes right
out of the box) or the System 1. I recommend the Vortex if you get the
recharge valve and replace the rubber bands with better clamps--plastic
quick clamps work fine, so would metal screw-tight type clamps. I
wouldn't recommend the System 1 until they replace the motor and solve
the noise problems.
Of course, these filters, generally are designed for occasional use and
are merely substitutes for water changes. Nothing cleans like a DE
filter but a lot of folks would recommend water changes as a preferred
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