The stock filter for the Fluval Spec series of aquariums are generally . . . OK. They perform their intended function adequately, but where they fall a bit short is getting that crystal clear water quality that we all want in our tanks. I recently came across a great set of filtration products a few months ago and they have proven to be a very effective, easy to install, and have made a dramatic improvement of the water quality in our Fluval Spec V aquarium.
The products are a pair of aquarium filtration media that work in tandem. The first is Bonded Blue & White Poly Filter Floss Pad. It works as a pre-filter to protect the second stage – a 100 Micron Polishing Filter Pad. Let’s learn what each of these filter media do and how they work together to improve your aquarium’s water clarity.
Overview: Poly Pre-Filter and Polishing Pad Final Filter:
The star of my filtration system is this new media – the 100 Micron Polishing Filter Pad. I was cruising around Amazon looking for new aquarium filter media to add to our tank. This one came up over and over. Reviewers described tank water so clear the ‘fish were floating on air’. Seemed a bit too good to be true but it basically works that well!
The polishing pad filter media comes in a generous roll – 24″ x 36″ (61 cm x 91 cm). It is very thin – less than 3mm (0.12″ ) thick. One side is slightly rough – it is intended that this side be ‘downstream’ where the water exits through this surface.
As the name implies, this polishing pad removes impurities larger than 100 microns. The polishing pad is also available in a 50 micron variety if your system demands extremely fine filtration.
The intent with a polishing pad filter media, as the name implies, is to give the water a final polish to remove the last of the fine impurities in your aquarium water column. Prior to water entering the polishing pad, it’s beneficial to pre-filter the water to remove the larger detritus and impurities. If you don’t provide a pre-filter ahead of the polishing pad, the polishing clog up quickly. I found a great complementary product in the Bonded Blue & White Poly Filter Floss Pad. It comes in a three pack of 10″ x 20″ (25 cm x 51 cm) roll and is around 45 mm (1.8″) thick (fully fluffed – it can be compressed down quite a bit).
This product is actually staged as well – the white floss layer at the top captures the big stuff. The blue layer below holds the media together as a nice pad and is slightly more coarse to catch finer bits floating in your water. Similar to the polishing pad, you need to pay attention to orientation – layer so that the water travels first through the white layer and then through the blue layer.
With the poly filter floss pad in place, it will make the polishing pad filter last longer and keeps it from getting clogged up (which could reduce flow in your filter system).
Adding Poly / Polishing Pad Filter Media to your Spec Aquarium:
Both the pre-filer and the polishing pad filer fit great in the space above the stock foam filter that comes with a Spec V aquarium.
I cut both to dimensions just slightly larger than the space of the filter section. On the Spec V, the area of the filter section is 110 mm x 54 mm. I cut with a little excess and settled on 113 mm x 57 mm. I made the cuts using a good pair of kitchen shears.
Cutting the filter sections slightly larger than the space allotted ensures that the filter media extends all the way to the edge and does not leave a gap. This is important. Water will take the path of least resistance, and if there is a gap (you cut the filter media too small) part of the water will bypass. It will still work – just not great.
Since cutting these pieces is going to be a recurring task, I made a template to the proper size. This way, I can easily repeat the cutting process. I use the template and then transfer the outline onto the filter media using a marker. Then I just cut along the mark.
There are a few tricks to placing both the filters in the Spec Aquarium’s filter section. The first to be installed is the polishing pad. As I mentioned before, place the slightly grippy / rough side facing down. I slip the polishing pad beneath the plastic filter handle that comes with the stock Spec foam filter.
Next, I press that plastic filter handle down. Then, I place the poly pad on top. (In the picture above, I hadn’t yet learned that I could put the poly pad above the plastic handle. It works fine as pictured with both filter pads tucked below the handle.) Again, this pad is directional – place the blue side downwards. Sometimes the white part is fluffed up above the water line. I just tamp it down a little. It’s ok if this filter media stands up just a bit out of the water.
Performance of Poly / Polishing Pad Filter Media:
I will cut to it. I’m very satisfied with the water quality in our Spec V tank since adding the combination poly and polishing filter pads. Right away, I noticed a difference in water clarity. It’s hard to tell when the CO2 system is on (lots of bubbles) but in the late evening when the CO2 solenoid shuts off for the day, the water goes crystal clear. It lives up to the hype.
Both of these filters are washable. When I perform my weekly water change, I rinse out all the filter media in the bucket of old tank water. This includes: Stock Spec V foam filter, the (stock) biomax bag, 100ml purigen bag, and the new poly and polishing filters. What I have noticed is that the other filter media are coming out much cleaner. I’m used to seeing the stock foam filter give off a lot of detritus when squeezed to clean it out. Now, it has almost nothing in it. The new poly filter, however, is filled with gunk – absolutely disgusting, in a very satisfying way! I clean it out by swishing it around in the bucket of old tank water; I gently and repeatedly squish it between my two palms to get most of the dirt out of it.
The polishing pad is often darkened significantly, but I don’t notice it giving up much dirt when I try to clean it. I have settled on changing out both the poly and the polishing filter every 4th water change. Some aquariums might require more frequent replacement depending on the bio-load, age of the substrate, etc.
One trick I have learned – don’t replace the filter media on the day that you perform a water change. The weekly maintenance tends to stir up a lot of detritus and that will get removed overnight (and will thus load up inside the poly and polishing pads). Instead, swap them out the day after you perform your water change (and after the old media has full done it’s job – sparing the new media from the onslaught of stirred up dirt).
One thing you can observe that will help you know that the filter media is clogged: Look at the difference in water level between the main (display) tank and the pump section. As the filter media gets clogged (and the pressure drop across the filtration media increases) this difference will become greater. With some observation, you will be able to tell the difference at a glance. This can tip you off that it is time to either rinse out, or replace the filter media.
Here is what the pump water level looks like with a clean filter:
Here is the pump section water level when the filters are dirty:
I get alot of comments from Spec Aquarium users that indicate they are frustrated with the performance of the filtration system. For these people, and anyone who wants to take their tank to the next level of water clarity, I would highly suggest these two products.
On first glance, these filtration products seem costly, but it is not bad when you consider how long an order of both will last. At the time of this writing, the poly pad cost $14 USD and has enough to make (approximately) 60 individual Spec V filter pads. The 100 micron polishing pad cost $13 USD and has enough to make (approximately) 86 individual (Spec V) filter pads. If you change the pads about every 4 weeks, this puts the annual cost for both filter media at $1.97 / year. I think that is well worth it!