HOB Filters


Aqua-Tech 30/60

Posted in HOB Filters

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Filters are a very important piece of equipment in an aquarium and critical to your aquarium’s success. The job of the filter is to move the water through the filter cartridge where it is processed to remove odors and small particles of waste and through the BIO-Fiber to eliminate the toxic ammonia and nitrites from the aquarium water. Each of the AQUA-Tech® Power Filters provides this 3-stage filtration for healthier fish and cleaner water.

The first stage of the AQUA-Tech® filtration is mechanical. The blue polyfiber pad that is integrated onto the EZ-ChangeTM Filter Cartridge screens out dirt and debris as water passes through.

The second stage of the AQUA-Tech® filtration is chemical. The activated carbon that is in the EZ-ChangeTM Filter Cartridge removes dissolved waste and cleans the water of odors.

The third stage of the AQUA-Tech® filtration is biological. The BIO-Fiber that is included in each AQUA-Tech® Power Filter provides additional surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow and thrive. The bacteria then eliminate toxic ammonia and nitrites that can be fatal to fish.  You should never clean or throw away the BIO-Fiber. If the BIO-Fiber becomes too clogged, rinse it with conditioned water only.

AQUA-Tech® Power Filters come in four sizes providing 3-stage filtration for aquarium sizes from 5 to 60 gallons.

Aquarium Size


AQUA-Tech Filter

EZ-Change Filter Cartridge


AQUA-Tech® 5-15

EZ-ChangeTM #1


AQUA-Tech® 10-20

EZ-ChangeTM #2


AQUA-Tech® 20-40

EZ-ChangeTM #3


AQUA-Tech® 30-60

EZ-ChangeTM #3

Aqua-Tech 30-60 Review:


By Kmuda


If you bought a 55 gallon Aquarium Kit at Wal-Mart, this is the filter that came with that kit. They are an inexpensive standard HOB filter, limited in biofiltration capacity. I do not recommend using these as primary filtration on anything other than a community tank containing small fish.

As mechanical filters, they are serviceable, so they make decent secondary filters with a decent flow rate.


  • Inexpensive

  • Uses the same media as a Penguin 350

  • Easy maintenance


  • Cannot be considered "silent". If absolute silence is at the top of your list, spend more money

  • Replacement cartridges can be an added expense, look under "Other information" for recommendations

  • Looses prime relatively easy during water changes (when the water drops to a certain level) and may not self prime on power up after a water change (may have to pour water into the filter to get it restarted).

  • Extremely limited in biofiltration capacity. This filter should not be used as the primary filtration on an Oscar tank. 

  • Difficult to retrofit with a prefilter so use on sand tanks is questionable

Other information:

  • I don't use the manufacturer cartridges. Instead, I use Bio3 Penguin Filter Cartridges, only using the clamshell and blue sponge, setting the carbon pads aside, and using blue bonded padding cut to fit, using four of these cartridges in each Penguin 350. 

  • I have several "cut to fit pads". Each week, I pull the cartridges, removing the blue bonded padding, replacing it with a recyled pad, and squeeze the blue sponge out into a bucket of water. The dirty pads are taken to the sink, rinsed clean with a dish sprayer, and then boiled for several minutes. Boiling returns the pad to "like new" condition (including fluffing it back up). This cleaned pad is then dried and stored for reuse. Using this process, I have not purchased additional media in several years. 

  • Can be retrofit with Biowheels from a Penguin 330, which would minimize the limited biofiltration concerns.

Posted: 3 years 6 months ago by bassetmancichlids #54280
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We do not sell stuff here.
Posted: 3 years 6 months ago by abro5011 #54277
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Hello,,, I need 4 Bio Foam and Frames for the Aqua Tech 30-60. Part # AQ11736. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

AquaClear 110

Written by ~Rush~. Posted in HOB Filters

User Rating:  / 41




  • Versatile multistage power filter for superior filtration
  • Quick, easy, and convenient filter installation and maintenance
  • Filter comes with biomechanical filter foam and carbon media inserts

Superior filtering capabilities through triple filtration: biological, mechanical, and chemical. The size of the foam and carbon inserts offers large surface area to increase filtration capacity. The foam block can also be easily rinsed and reused to preserve the biological bacterial colonies. Patented flow control feature and media basket allow custom filter performance. Includes foam, carbon, and BioMax media. Foam media is custom cut to fit precisely, trapping dirt and debris. Carbon effectively removes dissolved organic compounds, medications, and dyes. BioMax allows growth of bacterial colonies to convert ammonia and nitrite to nitrate. 2-year manufacturer's guarantee.

Filter Size Tank Size (up to) gph
100 (20) 20 gallon tank 100 gph
150 (30) 30 gallon tank 150 gph
200 (50) 50 gallon tank 200 gph
300 (70) 70 gallon tank 300 gph
428 (110) 110 gallon tank 500 gph

AquaClear External Power Filter Manual

After purchase check the following: Inspect filter for visible damage. If motor does not start, make sure the impeller blades are moving freely on the magnet assembly.

Filter Insert Installation

The AquaClear Foam Insert must be installed in the media basket first. The foam block should totally fill the bottom of the basket and fill the chamber completely to the sides. There should be no space anywhere between sides and foam. Be sure to rinse the insert thoroughly before installation.


The AquaClear Carbon Insert is packaged in a nylon porous pouch over wrapped with a protective plastic dust sleeve. Remove dust sleeve, and rinse the insert to remove any carbon dust particles. To properly install the Carbon Insert, flatten the insert on top of the Foam block already placed in the filter basket.

AMRID removes harmful ammonia before it has a chance to build to toxic levels and stress aquatic inhabitants. AMRID can reduce some poisonous ammonia build up in a newly established aquarium, before nitrifying bacteria have populated enough to remove it naturally. Excessive feeding, overpopulation, and failure to remove decaying organic matter also promote the rise of toxic ammonia within the biosphere. Chloramine used in municipal water is a hazard for many fish. When chloramine is removed with a dechlorinator, ammonia is released into the water. AMRID helps to remove ammonia whenever properly conditioned new tap water is added to an aquarium during water change or top-up procedure.

To install the AMRID insert (C - graphic on previous page), rinse bag well to remove any fine dust created by shipping and handling. Flatten the insert and lay it directly on top of the Carbon insert in the filter basket. As with the Carbon insert, be sure that the entire surface area of the filter basket is completely covered by the insert.

Insert Maintenance

The AquaClear Foam, Carbon, and AMMO-RID inserts should be changed alternately in order to maintain continuous biological activity.

Never replace all filter media in any AquaClear filter at the same time.

Follow individual packaging instructions for proper replacement intervals. When rinsing an insert, it is best to rinse only in used aquarium water or lukewarm dechlorinated tap water to protect the bacterial population. This will ensure the least amount of disturbance to the biological filtration during standard filter maintenance. The filter inserts initially require several days to commence full mechanical filtering action. Bacterial cloudiness may occur during the first week of a new aquarium set up. Biological balance of a new aquarium should occur within the fourth to sixth week of operation. Established aquariums will accomplish biological filter balance within the second or third week of operation.

Operating Instructions

A) Inspect filter for any visible signs of shipping damage and verify that motor is securely fastened to filter case.

B) Install Filter Inserts.
NOTE: Be sure that the filter basket sits evenly on the supports at the bottom of the filter case.

C) Mount filter in the desired location on the aquarium, most often a power filter is installed at the rear of an aquarium. AquaClear MINI, 150 and 200: Filter must be level. If it is not, carefully cut the integrated leveling device protruding from the motor until the filter is vertical to the floor. AquaClear 300 and 500: Insert leveling device pin into provide opening on bottom of filter case. Adjust leveling device by turning to the required setting in order that the filter is level.

D) Install intake stem (adjustment control above impeller) and attach integrated strainer/siphon tube on aquarium side of intake. Add more than one intake tube if tank is deep. (Extra extension tubes may be ordered separately from their respective parts list.)

E) Fill AquaClear case with sufficient water to completely submerse the impeller cover.

F) Plug power cord into electrical outlet. Priming will take 30 - 45 seconds.

G) To change water flow rate, move adjustment control on intake stem to reduce or increase water intake.


Filter Maintenance

For optimum filter operation and efficiency, regular cleaning of the filter and its parts is recommended every two weeks. Media maintenance should follow individual packaging instructions of the separate media. If the filter is left unattended for too long, the filter materials become clogged with debris. In extreme cases, the filter basket may be forced up from the filter case due to the pump pressure. This is an indication that the efficiency of the filtration is very low and that the media requires immediate rinsing or replacement.

To clean the unit, unplug the filter. Remove cover. Remove filter basket and dump water remaining in case. Rinse collected debris from filter case, flow diverter, impeller and impeller well in clean lukewarm water. Soap or detergents are NOT recommended for filter maintenance.

Every three months the motor should be removed from the case and thoroughly cleaned. Remove motor by twisting it in the direction of the arrow on the motor. The motor should rotate 90 degrees. Pull motor gently down to prevent damage to filter case or motor guide.

The impeller shaft is permanently installed. Pull impeller out of impeller well. Rinse impeller and impeller well of accumulated slime deposits.

To prevent kinked seal ring, wet motor seal ring before inserting into filter case.

Filter Maintenance
Filter inserts should be changed at the intervals recommended on the individual packaging instructions. Rinse filter basket and inserts being reused. Never discard the entire contents on the filter basket. Alternate introduction of new media allows the established bacteria to migrate from the reused media to the new insert(s). This permits the biological filtration capacities of the AquaClear filter to continue to operate uninterrupted. The intake stem and extension tube can be cleaned with a filter stem brush to remove any buildup of deposits. After all parts have been cleaned and thoroughly rinsed, reassemble filter and replace in position an aquarium. Follow operating instructions to prime and restart filter.

NOTE: Do not use harsh detergents. Rinse well to avoid toxic residue.


Disconnect the plug of all the appliances inside the aquarium before putting any hand into the water. The supply cord of this appliance cannot be replaced; if the cord is damaged, the appliance should be discarded. This appliance has no user serviceable parts.


Aquaclear 110 Review


The Aquaclear 110 is one of the most, if not the most powerful HOB on the market. It moves 500 US gallons per hour and is rated for aquariums up to 110 gallons. This rating of 500 gph 'one ups' its big competitor, the Emperor 400 (which moves 400 gph). This feature makes the AC 110 an excellent mechanical filter.


  • The power of this HOB is unmatched. It moves a lot of water and is great for tanks that need a high turnover rate.
  • This is a large filter that holds a good amount of water and filter media. Its also not form fitted, so you can pretty much customize what you want to use as biomedia and floss.
  • The motor is removable from the filter on all Aquaclear filters. This makes for easy cleaning.
  • This is a reliable filter. I've had several for several years without a break down.
  • Availability. Aquaclear filters have come on strong in the past 5-6 years or so and are seemingly as common as some Marineland filters. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding one of these.


  • If your impellar happens to melt from running it dry, or become damaged from sand, most of the time these filters are still going to run. You might think this is a good thing... its not. The reason this is a Con is because they are so loud its unbearable. I had to toss two filters that were damaged from sand because they were just so noisy. They were still fully functional, but it was like running the vaccum and lawn mower... at the same time.
  • If you are looking for a filter that is a strong biological converter, this isn't it. It will still get the job done, but I think that Marineland Bio-wheel filters really fit that niche better than most.
  • This filter needs to be cleaned often. Due to the high over turn, (depending on what you use for filter media) it clogs rapidly. Clogs slow flow, and that defeats the purpose of having this filter.

Posted: 5 years 3 months ago by popss #5969
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new AC110 arrived today, took advantage of the Amazon sale for 64 bucks new and the 8LB of seachem matrix. time to do a little filter shuffling.
Posted: 5 years 3 months ago by toom #5724
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whitneygene wrote:
They go for about $400 here, Tom.

HOLY MOLY!! I buyed both for 500 euros with media :pinch:
Posted: 5 years 3 months ago by whitneygene #5716
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They go for about $400 here, Tom.
Posted: 5 years 3 months ago by toom #5715
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2 Eheim 1200XL never saw an canister with equivalent media hold, power use and GPH another great thing about that canister is that its super silent.

whats the common price for them at the US?
Posted: 5 years 3 months ago by popss #5710
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FYI ac110 are on sale at amazon for 64 bucks, already ordered one. hell of a good deal. gonna put on the 175. that will bring it up to 4k gph counting the under gravel pumps after i pull the 2 AC70ies and move them back to the Jag tank.
Posted: 5 years 3 months ago by kylestivers33 #5708
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I use two ac 110s on my 75 gallon and they work great. The only thing i had to modify was using some of the micron filter pad that drs. Foster and smith sell because the foam alone doesnt filter the smaller particals from your water but with my mod it keeps the water crystal clear. My ac 110s are now five years old never had to replace any parts.
Posted: 5 years 4 months ago by tom #4342
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AquaClear 70 HOB filters are rated at 300 gallons/hour.
We recommend HOB filters be capable of processing at least 10x the volume of the tank every hour.
You have 2 giving a total of 600 gph which is substantially short of what we recommend.
Your filters are sufficient for 600/10 = 60 gallons, so you need to provide enough to cover the remaining 65 gallons.
This would require 2 more HOB filters capable of 650 gph (or more) combined flow.
Your other option is to add a canister, but the math changes.
Canister filters are far more efficient and we recommend they be capable of processing 4x the volume of the tank.
That means you could get a canister rated for a minimum of 65x4= 260 gph which would cover your 125g combined with your existing filters.

Also as mentioned, we usually recommend you change a minimum of 50% of the water when nitrates hit 20 ppm.
Do you test your water?
If not, I strongly recommend you get a test kit like an API Master freshwater test kit.
This will allow you to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and PH.
This is valuable information when it come to the health of your pets.
Posted: 5 years 4 months ago by popss #4339
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I would add a canister filter. Eheim pro3 or what you can afford. long as rated for tank size. do you do water tests with a liquid test kit like API master fresh water testing kit?
Posted: 5 years 4 months ago by bskelton0907 #4338
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You are way underfilterd and water changes are 50% a week
Posted: 5 years 4 months ago by nucci455 #4337
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The 2 aqauclears in my 125 gallon tank are aquaclean 70.

Posted: 5 years 4 months ago by nucci455 #4336
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I have 2 AquaClear filters on my 125 gallon tank with under gravel filters with 4 power heads, I have 2 tiger Oscars, I do 10% water change, is this okay to keep my Oscars, please let me know.
Thank you, Nucci

Emperor 400

Written by Kmuda. Posted in HOB Filters

User Rating:  / 0


  • Hang-on aquarium power filters with multi-stage filtration
  • Aquarium filters with easy-change cartridges and media containers
  • Power filters with adjustable dual intake system for ultimate water quality

Aquarium power filters combine three filtration styles with power and flexibility. Each Emperor BIO-Wheel powerfully cleans your aquarium water through mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration mechanisms to remove debris, water impurities, and dangerous toxins. Redesigned models feature: BIO-Wheel filtration, refillable coarse media containers, and an easy-access, hang-on design with a flip-top hinged cover, plus an adjustable intake system that can simultaneously filter water from both the lower and middle levels of the aquarium for boosted filtration and water circulation. Epoxy-sealed, moisture-proof motor ensures safe operation. The 400 filters up to 400 gallons per hour through two BIO-Wheels. It includes two each of the Rite-Size "E" Filter Cartridges and 4 ounce media containers. The 280 filters up to 280 gph through one BIO-Wheel. It includes one each of the Rite-Size "E" Filter Cartridge and 4 ounce coarse media container.

Dual strainer/intake system simultaneously filters water from two levels of the aquarium: The lower (where debris, food, and fish waste settle) and the middle (where medications, additives, food particles, and waste float). In addition to cleaning the water, this process also creates greater water circulation. Plus, this improved circulation works to better mix the water and helps regulate water temperature and oxygenation levels, while preventing the "pooling" of toxins and additives within one level or area of the aquarium. For freshwater or marine aquariums. Replacement filter cartridges and replacement parts available.

Emperor Size Flow Rate Rite-Size Filter Ideal for
400 16-1/2" w x 6-1/2" d x 10-1/2" h 400 gph 2, "E" Cartridges 30-80 gallon
280 10" w x 6-1/2" d x 10-1/2" h 280 gph 1, "E" Cartridge 25-50 gallon

Additional and In-Depth Features on Emperor BIO-Wheels

Total 3-Stage Filtration Efficiency:

  1. Mechanical Filtration - heavy-duty Emperor Filter Cartridges trap solid debris like dirt, uneaten food, and fish waste. The double-thick polyfiber pad aids in removing large debris particles while permitting the water to pass through for chemical and biological filtration.
  2. Chemical Filtration - black diamond premium activated carbon is packed inside each filter cartridge to remove odor, discoloration, and water impurities. Maximum water-to-carbon contact is obtain via the patented ribbed back of each filter cartridge. Plus, fill the included refillable four ounce media container* (two in the 400; one in the 280) with your favorite course media for added chemical filtration.
  3. Biological Filtration - the most critical kind of aquarium filtration is obtained by the large, patented BIO-Wheel (two in the 400; one in the 280), which encourages the growth of beneficial, oxygen-breathing bacteria. This bacteria helps eliminate toxic ammonia and nitrite that accumulate in aquarium water. The bacteria culture biologically changes the ammonia and nitrite into nitrate, which is then removed with monthly partial water changes. The patented BIO-Wheel is the undisputed best power filter when it comes to biological filtration. BIO-Wheel is scientifically proven to be better than frames, foams, fluidized beds, under-gravel filters, and other submerged biomedia.
    * NOTE: Fine media must be placed in a mesh bag inside of the refillable media container to avoid leakage into your aquarium system.

Adjustable Filter Regulators:

  1. Spray Bar Drive - simple, twist-adjust bar regulates BIO-Wheel rotation speed for maximum biological filtration. Controlling the amount of BIO-Wheel spin ensures the beneficial bacteria that grows on each pleat of the BIO-Wheel get adequate contact with both the aquarium water and the surrounding air/atmosphere. It also controls how fast or slow the filter pulls water out of the tank and through the three-stage filtration process.
  2. Intake Tube Extension - designed to easily slip-on to the Intake Tube for the filtering of water from deep within a larger tank. With this extension in place, the filter strainer is located nearer to the gravel line of your tank to pull water ripe with settling debris and fish and food waste. Plus, having water that is pulled from the bottom of the tank, ran through the multi-stage filter, and returned to the top water level of the tank creates the necessary, natural cycling of water beneficial to both your aquarium plants and animals.
  3. Mid-Level Intake Strainer - also designed to easily slip-on to, and act as a coupler between, the Intake Tube and Intake Extension Tube. This mid-level strainer ensures mid and high-level water quality isn't sacrificed when the Strainer is attached to the Intake Extension Tube and set deep in a larger tank. The Mid-Level Strainer features a notched flow-adjustment valve to both regulate intake flow and let water near the top of the tank also enter the multi-stage filter process. Filtering water from the higher levels of the tank - where medications, food particles, and descending debris - is good tank husbandry. Plus, by allowing water from all tank levels access to the multi-stage filtering process at the same time, the BIO-Wheel filter aids in the natural mixing of tank water. This water mixing is essential to good water quality that helps regulate water temperature and oxygenation levels, while also preventing the "pooling" of high toxin levels and chemical tank maintenance additives within one level of the tank.
  4. Media Containers and Filter Cartridge Expansion Slots - pre-formed slots throughout the filter chambers (four in the 400; two in the 280) allow you to add as little or as much mechanical and chemical filtration as needed to suit your specific tank. Plus, each included media container (the 400 includes two; the 280 includes one) holds 4 ounces of your preferred course media to target the removal of specific high-level chemical toxins or nutrients within your tank.

Easy-Access Maintenance and Cleaning:

  1. Hang-on Design - the molded heavy-duty plastic housing rests on the back wall of your tank to meld optimal, multi-stage filtration with easy access for maintenance and cleaning.
  2. Slip-out Spray Bars - sturdy plastic clips on the outside edges of the filter housing allow easy removal of the Spray Bars with minimal contact to and disruption of the BIO-Wheel and/or filter media(s). Included FREE cylindrical cleaning brush is perfectly designed to slip inside each Spray Bar, as well as the Intake Tube, for monthly cleaning.
  3. Hinged Filter Chamber Cover - durable plastic cover features a hinged top design. This allows you to simply and periodically check the BIO-Wheel(s) to ensure proper bacteria growth and function without disrupting the filter process or accidentally bumping the tank when removing a bulky cover. Plus, when cleaning the tank, the snap-on cover also easily removes, permitting full access to the filter chamber, filter cartridge(s), and media.
  4. Tension-Tab Closure Media Containers - the included media container(s) (the 400 includes two; the 280 includes one) features tension-tab closures that allow you to easily open each container to fill and secure your chosen filter media.


Emperor 400 Review

For the last decade (or more) you could not have a discussion pertaining to the “Best HOB Filter” without two specific filters rising to the top, the Marineland Emperor 400 and the Aquaclear 110. Man, have times changed. While such a discussion must still consider the Emperor 400, it can no longer compete with the Aquaclear if the subject of noise levels is included. Since “noise” has a direct correlation to quality, the longevity of the newer Emperor filters must also be questioned.

Marineland is a shell of its former self, run to the ground by United Pet Group who has turned it into an offshoot of Tetra. The newer models of Emperor 400s reflect the change in philosophy resulting from United Pet Group leadership, quantity over quality. As a result, the Emperor 400 now sells based upon its former reputation, which is no longer as well deserved.

I have owned Marineland Bio-Wheel filters since the early 1990s. I have observed a decline in the quality of these filters over the years with a very sharp decline occurring around the 2008-2009 time frame. The filters look the same, they just do not run the same and they certainly do not sound the same. The two most recently purchased Marineland HOBs I own happen to be the loudest HOBs I own, with one of those being an Emperor 400.

I don’t want to come off as completely negative. The Emperor 400 remains a viable option. It’s not as if the decline in quality that is affecting this filter is not a universal problem. Basically, All manufacturing of All filters now occurs in China so the quality of All filters is suspect. The days of “make the best product and people will buy it” are gone, replaced by the “make the cheapest product and people will buy it”. Unfortunately, we, as consumers, support this change in philosophy so we deserve what we get. This is why the Emperor 400 remains a viable option. It is so much less expensive than it’s only (true) competitor, the AC 110. I purchased my Marineland 400 for $39, which is a great price on these filters. The competing Aquaclear is $89 (can be found on sale for $69). Still the Emperor is much less expensive. So if you can handle the noise, it is a better option because in reality, as a biological filter, it remains superior to the Aquaclear design.

Nor do I want to over emphasis the noise levels. If you want absolute silence, you do not need to be using HOB filters. When I first hooked up my Emperor 400, it rattled and hummed like U2 in 1998. 24 hours later, the rattle was gone, only the hum remains. It certainly is not as quite as its 2005 and prior version (versions with flow control knobs) but nor is it at jet engine levels. However, if you are in the same room with this filter, you will be aware that it is running.

EDIT: Several months after authoring this review, the filter has become somewhat quieter. It has reached the "bearable" stage. A hum remains and you will be aware of the filter if you are in the same room with it, but it is no longer nearly as obnoxious.

It is also an impressive filter. Open the box, pull it out, and the size of the filter will surprise you. The “water wells” are very deep for an HOB which allows for very large mechanical surface area of the cartridges. It also utilizes a much larger Biowheel than the Penguin line.

  • As a primary filter for those that simply do not want to go with a canister filter, it remains a viable option, potentially even preferred over the Aquaclear line (because it is a better bio-filter). Just be prepared to handle the noise.
  • As a secondary filter to be used in conjunction with a canister filter it remains a viable option, potentially even preferred over the Aquaclear line (because of costs). Just be prepared to handle the noise.

If "design" is the primary focus of the discussion of "Best HOB", the Emperor 400 wins, hands down. If you include noise and noise as an indicator of quality, it does not. 


  • Outstanding Biomedia Capacity – Best biofiltration capability of any HOB.
  • Large Biowheels– The inherent dynamics of HOB filters makes them undesirable as biological filters. Biowheels eliminate this concern. They are the only method of biofiltration where flow rate is more important than surface area.
  • Large Media Containers– Each Emperor 400 ships with two media containers. If using the Emperor 400 as primary filters, you should fill these containers with Eheim Ehfilav, Eheim Substrate Pro, or some similar (smaller sized) biomedia, to extend the bio-capacity. Combined, these two containers will easily hold more biomedia than can be included in an AquaClear filter, then you have the added biofiltration capacity of the biowheels.
  • Large Mechanical Surface Area– Mechanical filtration effectiveness is determined by surface volume (length x width) and flow rates. Combined, the two cartridges provide more mechanical surface area than other HOBs, including the AquaClear line. If using as a secondary filter optimized for mechanical filtration, you can include 4 cartridges (see “Suggested Modifications” below.)
  • Impressive Flow Rate– At 400gph, only the AquaClear 110 surpasses it. However, as it relates to biofiltration, the higher flow rate on the AquaClear 110 is pretty much wasted whereas it is not on the Emperor 400. As it relates to mechanical filtration, as mentioned, flow rate plays a significant role. Since the flow rate of the Emperor 400 is higher than most canisters, it can easily be optimized to become the primary mechanical filter on a tank (see “Suggested Modifications” below).
  • Marineland Customer Service– While manufacturing has moved overseas, Marineland Customer Service has not. They remain amongst the best.
  • Cost – A high end capacity filter at a reasonable cost.


  • Frigging Noise- Come on Marineland/Tetra/United Pet Group. Do something about it.
  • Quality - As far as materials used in construction of the casing, the Emperor 400 is an improvement over the Penguins. However, noise is an indication of quality construction, and the Emperor 400 fails here.
  • Tube length - In order to use the shipped tubing or mid -level strainer in a 55 gallon tank, it would have to be cut. Otherwise, you just connect the strainer to the first level of tubing, which means it is not at the optimal depth for mechanical filtration.

Emperor 400 Modifications:

I don't use the manufacturer cartridges. Instead, I use Bio3 Emperor Filter Cartridges, only using the clamshell and blue sponge, setting the carbon pads aside, and using blue bonded padding cut to fit. If optimizing your Emperor 400 for mechanical filtration, you want to use 4 of these customize cartridges.

Posted: 3 years 9 months ago by Astronotus6 #48768
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like someone else stated, the bio-wheel on my emperor would always stop moving & a bit noisy.
Posted: 3 years 9 months ago by MikeB #48761
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Posted: 3 years 9 months ago by kmuda #48760
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I use AC 70s on my water aging tanks because it's easier to remove and replace media such as Peat and Carbon. But on my tanks with fish I use Emperors and Penguins, because it's easier to clean or replace mechanical media.

I simply cannot justify the increased cost of an AC110 over an Emperor 400. If I am going to spend that much on. Filter it's going to be a canister.
Posted: 3 years 9 months ago by MikeB #48750
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Same here I have emperor 400's , I like them and fill the grey plastic cases with blue filter pad cut to fit and use foam pads for my fluval ( generic pads from amazon) in front of the grey case as extra filter . It works well, they were loud at first but have since gotten much quieter over time. I'll keep them till they go out , then try the AC or penguin.
Posted: 3 years 9 months ago by MarshyMellowFluff #48707
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Maybe if one of my emperors breaks down I'll try one, I see lots of people have them with oscars.
Posted: 3 years 9 months ago by Astronotus6 #48703
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I've also had both Emperor 400 and 2 AC 70's... I like the AC much better. (quieter, easier to maintain, better quality) IMO.
Posted: 3 years 9 months ago by MarshyMellowFluff #48698
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Emperor 400's uses to be $40. In Canada they went up to $80, I don't know when or if its increased in price anywhere else, but man does it suck. I had them running on my 125 for two years with no issues, so i decided to buy another one for my 55 and it was $80.. crazy.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by FreshyFesh #13528
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Oh that is VERY cool. I didn't know those re-usable filter clamshells existed. Definitely makes a cartridge HOB way more attractive.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by kmuda #13519
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Imagine makes the clamshell cartridges that fit Emperor, Penguin, and Whisper filters. So it's less DIY than it is adopting something designed to fit. I use the blue sponges that come with the clamshell cartridge and only diy the blue bonded and micron pads, cutting them to fit the clamshell. I am able to run four of these in and Emperor 400 or Penguin 350. Two in a Penguin or Emperor 250. The fit just like the stock cartridges.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by FreshyFesh #13516
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There's some good options for DIY media for sure. I know the problem I've run into with my somewhat recent (non AquaClear) HOBs purchases was they were smaller HOBs, and trying to retrofit them with DIY was difficult because of the small size of the filter housing. Stuffing anything other than the OEM cartridge in there would totally change the flow path of the water being filtered.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by kmuda #13513
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Imagine 3 clamshell and sponges combined with blue bonded padding and 100 micron padding cut to fit. I have not bought any additional media in 3 or 4 years. But you are right. If you are buying the Marineland Rite-Size cartridges, you will quickly exceed the ACs cost.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by FreshyFesh #13511
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True about the price, but if you factor in the cost of replacement filter cartridges, you will meet/exceed the cost of a comparable AC at some point. If you make your own mechanical media, it's all good.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by kmuda #13510
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Don't get me wrong. I am not touting an Emperor over a AC110. If you read the review you will see I was not overly positive on the Emperor. What I am saying is that the Emperor is a better bio filter than the AC110. If I was going to rely on an HOB filter as my sole source of biofiltration I would select an Emperor.

But fact of the matter is that I don't rely on an HOB for biofiltration. Even my small tanks have an Eye I'm 2213 on them. An HOBS primary function should be to offload mechanical filtration from the canisters in an easy to access location allowing for weekly quick cleaning..... removal of the stuff before it breaks down into nitrate while feeding bacteria you would rather not have in the tank. To accomplish this, the HOB should have the highest flow rate of any filter on the tank. By default, the highest flow filter will be the primary mechanical filter. The AC110 fits this requirement better than any other HOB.

I just have a hard time paying between $60 and $90 for an AC110 when I can get a filter that does this job, when properly outfitted, almost as well for between $40 and $60.

Freshyfresh.... that is a shortcoming of any biowheel filter. In hard water the wheels will calcium and stop spinning. My water is very soft. I've had wheels spin continuously for.20+ years. Albeit that is on the old original Penguin filters. Completely different animals. You could throw them off.of a roof and they would bounce, go right back on the tank and work. Not.like this brittle plastic ones made today..Although even with the new ones, I have not had an issue with the wheels siezing. But again, I have soft water.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by FreshyFesh #13507
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I didn't care for the small Penguin bio-wheel I had. Couldn't keep the wheel spinning after multiple spindle/receiver cleanings. Also don't care for filter cartridges in general. I know you can make your own to an extent, but there's nothing easier than AC's and their sponges IMO. Pretty much have had all your common HOBs at this point. First was a DynaFlow (sp?) back in the 1980's. They had an actual fan-cooled electric motor that spun a metal platter that got the impeller magnet spinning. Memories.. good times.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by popss #13488
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agreed, but I will take the sponge and matrix in the ac over the bio wheels with panels any day.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by kmuda #13471
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popss wrote:
Kmuda you killen me, i have a marineland on the 180, the duel wheel 150. no where near the AC110 for bio filtration.

I assume your concept is based upon available surface area?

Two things you have to keep in mind. 1st is that with standard filter media (sponge, rings, etc....) flow rate in excess of around 270gph becomes a detriment to biofiltration. This is sound filtration dynamic principle. The water has to stay in contact with the media long enough for the autottrophic bacteria to oxidized the ammonia. In high flow rate systems, you compensate for this by increasing bed depth.. It's a complicated concept.I don't want top thumb tap on my phone. You can read more about it in my bacteria articles in the articles section, especially the article where I dispute the "bacteria populations only grow to the size of the amount of ammonia being produced" belief. Regardless, let me clarify the "increase bed depth".statement. Think Eheim 2262. A monster filter with massive media capacity. You simply are not to achieve the necessary bed depth in an HOB.

So, the 1st basic concept is that, while high flow rates are beneficial to mechanical filtration, they are detrimental to biofiltration.

The 2nd concept is that this all goes out the window with biowheels. When it comes to HOB filters, biowheels are the only type of media where surface area and bed depth are irrelevent. Where flow rates in excess of 270gph can become beneficial to biofiltration. Autotrophic bacteria become more efficient at higher oxygen concentrations and higher PH. Regardless.of.surface movement in your tsnks, the highest O2 saturation you'll achieve is 9ppm. Nowhere near what is available in the atmosphere, where biowheel bacteria get their oxygen from. Think of it as biowheel bacteria run on rocket.fuel while submerged bacteria run on diesel.

So a single autotrophic bacteria on a biowheel is able to.oxidize significantly.more ammonia, faster than bacteria on submerged media. This tosses out both limited surface area and high flow rates as detriments.to biofiltration.

Since all hobs have limited surface areas and the two in discussion have high flow rates, if selecting an HOB as my primary filter, I would select the one where the biofiltration limits of all HOBs, based upon the principles of filtration dynamics, are the least concerning. A filter not impacted by high flow rates and limited surface area. Which would be the Emperor 400.

At.least those are the concepts that go into me identifying the Emperor 400 as the better biofilter.

I'm sure there are a ton of fat thumb typos in this post. Hopefully it still makes sense.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by JAJameson2010 #13469
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Thanks! This is an extensive review! I was planning on buying the aquaclear. But if this is half the price, I'll try it out. It's not going in the bedroom and BF has this annoying habit where the TV has to be on all the time! So noise isn't really an issue for us. Plus of its annoying it will motivate me to switch to a canister quicker.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by popss #13467
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Kmuda you killen me, i have a marineland on the 180, the duel wheel 150. no where near the AC110 for bio filtration.
Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by kylestivers33 #13464
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Total piece of junk do not waste your money the only marineland filters that are good are the c series canister filters all other marineland filters are junk. It is so dam loud sounds like a grinder running.

Penguin 350

Posted in HOB Filters

User Rating:  / 0




Eliminate toxic ammonia and nitrite on contact. Extra large BIO-Wheels provide superior biological filtration - 10 times more than other power filters. Adjustable intake system draws water from bottom AND mid-level for total water circulation and filtration. Innovative vented-hood reduces noise for quiet operation. Clear two-piece design means unobstructed view and convenient access to easy-change, longer-lasting, Rite-Size mechanical/chemical filter cartridges. Traps more debris and removes more odors, discoloration, and impurities. Models 200 and 350 feature an additional media slot for optional Media Basket(s), to customize your filtration needs.

Installation/Quick Setup Guide

  1. Verify Model. Includes BIO-Wheel Cover, Filter Cover, Impeller Housing, Impeller, Intake Tube, Mid-Level Intake Strainer, Extension Tube, Strainer, BIO-Wheel(s), BIO-Wheel Bearings, Filter Box, and Filter Cartridge(s).
  2. Install Filter Cartridge(s). Rinse filter cartridges thoroughly and install with blue side facing back of filter box. BIO-Wheel should rest securely in BIO-Wheel Bearings.
  3. Assemble Intake. Attach strainer to extension tube and insert extension tube into mid-level intake strainer. Attach mid-level strainer to intake tube and insert intake tube into impeller housing.
  4. Install and Fill. Install Power filter on back of aquarium frame before adding water to filter box. Fill filter box with water. Replace BIO-Wheel and filter covers. To start your system, just plug in. Adjust intake if desired.

Replace filter cartridge every 2 to 4 weeks. NEVER clean or replace BIO-Wheel. Discoloration of material is normal and desirable. If excessive buildup occurs, rinse gently with dechlorinated water (room temperature) as needed. Extra media slot is for inserting additional filter cartridge or adding other filtration media.

Troubleshooting Guidelines
Symptoms Comments/Solution
If your filter fails to pump water or flow has slowed...
  • Make certain the power outlet is functioning properly. Unplug electrical cord momentarily, then reconnect to power source to restart the impeller.
  • Check to make sure Impeller Housing is firmly seated in Filter Box and that water is at correct level.
  • Remove Impeller Housing and make sure Impeller Assembly is free to rotate. A particle of carbon or gravel may be interfering.
  • Inspect aquarium water level. Maintain at least 1/2" below top of frame.
  • Clean inside of Intake Tube with flexible filter brush.
If your filter makes excessive mechanical noise...
  • Make sure the Impeller Housing is firmly seated in Filter Box and water is at correct level.
  • Remove Impeller Housing and make sure Impeller Assembly is free to rotate. A particle of carbon or gravel may be interfering.
  • Replace worn Impeller Housing or worn Impeller Assembly.
If air does not evacuate from system...
  • Check for crack in Intake Tube and replace if defective.
If your BIO-Wheel splashes and/or makes excessive water noise...
  • Allow 24 to 48 hours for "breaking in" period. Material in BIO-Wheel is not fully absorptive when new.
  • Check aquarium water level. Lower than normal levels can result in excessive splash or noise.
If your BIO-Wheel fails to move or stops...
  • Inspect the BIO-Wheel Bearing and Axle for dirt or mineral deposits. You may need to clean these areas carefully.
  • Make sure all parts are installed properly and that nothing is blocking BIO-Wheel.
  • Examine the Intake Tube for flow interference.
  • Lift Filter Cartridge and check for blockage.
  • Perform regular filter maintenance.
If your BIO-Wheel becomes discolored or dirty...
  • This is not a problem. It indicates the growth of beneficial biological bacteria, which remove toxic ammonia and nitrite from aquarium water. Do not attempt to clean BIO-Wheel pleats.
  • As long as BIO-Wheel is not damaged, it does not need to be replaced.

Penguin 350 Review:

By Kmuda


The Penguin 350 is perhaps the best value of any filter on the market. For a very low cost, you get a very reliable and effective filter that surpasses almost all other HOB filters, excluding its big brother, the Emperor 400, in biofiltration.

The inherent dynamics of HOB filters limits their biofiltration capacity. Biowheels eliminate this limitation.


  • A dependable filter

  • Use of Biowheels ensures adequate biofiltration

  • Use of biowheels allows full use of the flow rate for biofiltration

  • Very low cost, perhaps the best "bang for the buck" of any aquarium filter.

  • Easy maintenance


  • Cannot be considered "silent". If absolute silence is at the top of your list, spend more money... and even then, you might not find an HOB that is any more quiet. (Note: My Penguin 200 is the quietest HOB I have ever owned. The 350s are not as quiet.)

  • Replacement cartridges can be an added expense, look under "Other information" for recommendations

  • Looses prime relatively easy during water changes (when the water drops to a certain level) and may not self prime on power up after a water change (may have to pour water into the filter to get it restarted).

Other information:

  • I don't use the manufacturer cartridges. Instead, I use Bio3 Penguin Filter Cartridges, only using the clamshell and blue sponge, setting the carbon pads aside, and using blue bonded padding cut to fit, using four of these cartridges in each Penguin 350. 

  • I have several "cut to fit pads". Each week, I pull the cartridges, removing the blue bonded padding, replacing it with a recyled pad, and squeeze the blue sponge out into a bucket of water. The dirty pads are taken to the sink, rinsed clean with a dish sprayer, and then boiled for several minutes. Boiling returns the pad to "like new" condition (including fluffing it back up). This cleaned pad is then dried and stored for reuse. Using this process, I have not purchased additional media in several years.

  • The biowheels almost never need to be replaced. I have the same biowheels on a couple of Penguins that have been in use for over 20 years. The only maintenance I perform on biowheels is a weekly to monthly shake-out in a bucket of tank water. The exception to this would be if you have hard water, in which case calcium build up on the wheels will eventually force replacement.

Posted: 3 years 10 months ago by shaleeon #46271
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How much is a penguin 200
Posted: 5 years 9 months ago by kmuda #13
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I recently purchased a Penguin 200 as a secondary filter on one of my 55 gallon tanks. I'm very happy with it. I was surprised at how quiet it is. The last Penguin 350 I bought has a habit of getting a bit loud for a filter. Not so with the 200. As quiet as it can be.

Whisper 60 HOB

Posted in HOB Filters

User Rating:  / 32





  • Easy-to-use 3-stage power filters for clean, clear aquarium water
  • Reliable filter performance loaded with convenient features
  • Provides efficient mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration

Whisper Power Filters are the best-selling brand of power filters in the U.S. Appropriate for every size aquarium, they provide the three types of filtration that your aquarium needs: Biological, Mechanical, and Chemical. The unique feature of this power filter is its open Bio-Bag filter cartridge. This allows you to use the included Ultra-Activated™ carbon or choose additional media that best suits your aquarium's needs. Quiet and dependable filter incorporates superior 3-way filtration. Easy-to-use, Bio-Bag fiber quickly traps particulate matter, Ultra-Activated™ carbon removes dissolved contaminants, and Bio-Foam supplies plenty of surface area for optimal biological filtration. A specially designed reservoir prevents back siphoning in the event of a power failure. Flow control knob permits slower flow rates during feeding time to keep food out of your filter.

Filter Size GPH Recommended
Aquarium Size
Filter 20
105 gph 10-20 gallons
Filter 30
(Model 1)
150 gph up to 30 gallons
Filter 40
(Model 2)
200 gph up to 40 gallons
Filter 60
(Model 3)
330 gph up to 60 gallons

Whisper 60 Review


I am a big fan of the Whisper line of filters, especially the Whisper 30-60. I have been using Whisper filters for a long time...don't know exactly how long, but a long time. I currently have 2 Whisper 30-60s on my 55 gallon mixed South American tank. One of them is the first Whisper 30-60 that my wife and I bought for our first tank together...ah, how sweet. That filter was purchased in May 2005 and has been in continual use ever since, only being shut down during tank cleanings and during filter maintenance (which I will give a break down on later in this review). I have used the Whisper 10, Whisper 20, and the Whisper 40 as well, and liked them almost as much as I like the Whisper 60s.

The Whisper 30-60 has a factory rated flow rate of 330 gallons per hour. It is a quiet filter, as long as it is kept clean. Once it gets dirty, it gets a bit noisy...but not too bad. A dirty Whisper is still quieter than an Emperor 400 by a long shot. The Whiper 60 (that's what I refer to them as, not Whisper 30-60) primes very easily, very quickly. After water changes, I rarely have to reprime the filter...turn the power back on and they get back into action on their own. One thing that I love about the Whisper filters (and this is true with all the Whisper HOBs I have used....Whisper 10, Whisper 20, Whisper 40.....they are great for low water level applications. We had a 20 long set up with a Whisper 40 for a couple Red Belly Newts, Fire Belly Newts, what ever they were called. The tank was filled only half way with water...and that Whisper 40 had no problems pulling water up from that low level and maintaining full flow. I have started my Whisper 60s up when the 55 was less than half filled and they quickly drew the water up and resumed full flow. This is something that the Emperor 400 and Penguin 350B which we had could not do...those filters would not flow until the tank was nearly full. The impeller/power head design on the Whisper filters is incredibly strong and if the filter boxes were enlarged and the media made wider I am sure that the impeller/power head on the Whisper 60 could easily produce a flow rate of 400 to 450gph.

I have only had to replace 1 impeller on the Whisper 60s that we have owned (we had three others but let them go with tanks when we sold the tanks...I wish I would have kept them)...and that was on the first one we bought back in May 2005. Five and a half years of use and only needing one impeller replacement...that is darn good service life. The Penguin 350B that we bought new needed a replacement impeller at the one year mark...instead of buying a new impeller, I bought a new Whisper 60 and replaced the Penguin with it.

The biggest down side to the Whisper filters is the stock media. Those BIO-Bag media cartridges are flimsy and do not do a great job of mechanical filtration. And the thin Bio-mesh that comes with the filters is just too little surface area to do a great job of biological filtration. I have not used stock filter media in any of my Whisper filters in years. For my Whisper 40s and Whisper 60s I have ordered Bio-3 Clamshell filter frames from the DrsFosterandSmith web site. Very nice frames, come with a blue bio-sponge for added biological filtration. For my mechanical media I order bonded Blue/white pond filter media off of E-Bay. One inch thick. I usually buy a 1 foot by 10 foot roll of it. Last order set me back $22US. Out of that 10 square foot roll I was able to cut 48 Whisper 60 size filter pads and two pads for the Magnum HOT canister filter that I am using on my 30 gallon tank...which will be replaced with a brand new Whisper 60 soon. The black Bio-Mesh that I use in my Whisper filters started out as bio-mesh for one of the Cascade canister filters. It is nearly an inch thick, much denser than the stock stuff that comes with the Whisper 60. I cut it to size and stuffed in into the black plastic frame that holds the bio-mesh.

Using this custom filter media set up, I have never had an issue with ammonia or nitrites..not even when the 55 was home to my 15 inch behemoth Red Tiger Oscar, who died due to complications from a very nasty bacterial infection known on Oscarfish.com as JSS. ANd the Whisper 60s, again using the custom media set up, did a fantastic job handling all the mess that Drifter made. My tank was spotless....those 1 inch thick pond media pads really do their job. Would the same be able to be said for the Whisper 60 using the stock filer media...NO! Like I said, the stock media is the weak spot in this line of filters..from the Whisper 10 all the way up to the Whisper 60.

They have changed the Whisper 40s, and for me it was a hit and miss thing. I had one on a 35 Hex tank, but wasn't too happy with the filter until I made changes in the filter media. The biological mesh has been replaced with a blue plastic plate with nubblies...looked like a dog brush with half the teeth missing. I threw that away and stuffed some of the Cascade bio-mesh in its place. The media has been changed...but not improved. The filter came with a weak clamshell device that the media bag fit into....the same flimsy and inefficient media material that comes with the older style Whisper filters. I again used some of the bonded pond filter media to improve the filter's efficiency. I did like the No Prime design....the impeller/power head sits inside the tank, below the water line....just hang the filter on the tank, plug it in and it fills itself and gets to work...that was neat. Whisper really needs to rethink their media though...that is the weak point in all the Whisper filters. And the intake tube was far too short for the 35 hex...I modified it using a section from an old gravel python and some aquarium safe silicone.....why spend $5 for an extension when a little hillbilly engineering will do the job, right?

One key think to remember about the Whisper 60 filter...it needs to be maintained....which is true for all filters. I clean mine monthly. I pull the filters off the tank and take them to the bath tub. I drain the water out of them, yank the filter media out and set them on the edge of the tub. I pull the intake tubes apart and clean them with a sponge (outside) and a filter brush (inside). I clean the impeller with a clean toothbrush. I remove the impeller power head (read the owner's manual as it describes how to remove and replace the unit) and clean out the impeller well with some cotton swabs. I clean the inside and outside of the filter box with a sponge (a tank only sponge...never been used with any soaps or cleaners). I clean the lids as well. I put the filters back together, hang them back on the tank, fill them with water, plug them in..bango just like new again. Given a monthly cleaning, Whisper filters will last a long time. I have one that has 5 and a half years of use and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.