Don't bother with mass market pond filters that are under $1000...

JohnHuff

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They all have outlandish claims of how many gallons they're supposed to filter and are usually a pain to clean.

My first pond came with one of these.


They were enclosed and partly hid in the ground. I hated to clean mine because it was in an awkward position to open. I had to walk up to the top of a slope, remove pads, walk back down to spray clean the pads, climb back up, then close and seal the lid while making sure no mud/soil was in the seal. If I had gotten soil in between the lid and body, I would have to bring up the hose up and rinse everything off. And I would have to do this rain or shine.

Most of the ones I find now are shaped like this:

Some of them have UV filters but I've never felt the need for them. In fact, you should never need them. And some of them have special handles which you can pump to clean the pads inside but I don't think you can clean them well if they are really gunked up.

Some of them have filter pads inside like this:

or like this:

but I've never liked using fibrous pads as media because as soon as the outside is clogged up, the insides of these pads are useless so the useful surface area is just the outside of the pads. These cylindrical shaped pond filters can cost anywhere from $100 to $600 depending on size.

Some of them have a box shape with a larger capacity of pads:

But I feel the same way, once the outsides of these blocks are clogged, the insides become useless. And you would need a very fine pre-filter to ensure that very clean water comes in. And that means a lot of maintenance for the pre-filters.

Here's a double:

It's $280. Or you can buy triples which proportionally cost more. At this point, they just seem like Skippy filters to me, a box with some kind of fibrous mat/pad media for bio-filtration but is actually more of a mechanical filter with some bio capacity.

Then there are some which don't pretend the pads are bio-filtration. They have pads that mechanically filter and balls for bio-filtrate:


or



But these to me are a lot worse:
1) The surface area of the pads are so small that they must be clogged up in a few days during the active season. I have 6 sequential filter pad cylinders and my 700g pond can clog all 6 up in two weeks during the active season. I can imagine the poor owner unscrewing the lid every few days to rinse out the pads as I used to do.
2) The number of bioballs is laughingly small.

Here's one for $109 with pads and balls:

The blurb optimistically recommends this for a 1500g pond with fish or 3000g without fish. The size of the box is 21" x 17" x 15". Personally, I wouldn't use this for more than a 500g pond with fish.

In all fairness, all of these filters are actually quite well designed, some of them with bottom drains, black flushes, debris trays, uv lights. But I think companies under-estimate how dirty fish ponds can be. From reviews I'm seeing people with 3-4000g ponds with 20 koi use a single one of these for filtration. Some of them are cleaning the filters 2-3x a day and they don't understand that clear water doesn't mean water that is chemically clean.

So I dug around to try and find what kind of mass market pond filter I would get if I had a 1000+ gallon pond and the only ones I would trust all cost over $1000. This one is about $1500 I think:


This is rated at 5000g (at some dealer websites) And I would throw in a bunch of bioballs for good measure.

I also found some multi-chambered ones (with or without vortex for settling):


A 5 chamber one, bit of an overkill.


Or I'd probably try and find an old bathtub and use that. They also sell a 2 chambered one:

But's like $300-500. At this point, I think it's just best to go DIY. You can buy all the innards of these filters anywhere, the balls, pads, pipes, etc. And the containers can be pretty cheap. This commercial grade trash can is about $50.

In summary, I think the cheap commercial mass market pond filters are not robust enough for anything over a 100g to 300g pond with any fish in them. And almost everyone I've seen here have over 1000g ponds. Any realistic commercial pond filter would be too expensive, so the best route is DIY.
 
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For filtering a 650 gallon pond, I've used that exact trash can for the past 16 years, but it has leaked intermittently around the PVC fittings I installed through 1 1/2" holes I drilled in top and bottom. Even with copious amounts of silicone sealer applied when they were attached. I think using flat washers and fittings against a curved surface (even though a bit flexible) was the reason. I am nearly finished with a replacement filter using a square trash can (the kind with wheels, from Lowe's), and the fittings went in much better and fit very snuggly. It is also bigger so I can include more filter media, as well. DIY seems to be the way to go to get the most bang for your buck.
 
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Lots of good thoughts here @JohnHuff . Did I see you start a thread on building a DIY filter?

And @Relic the square trash can idea makes lots of sense! Flat it definitely easier than round for good seals.
 
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The number of bioballs is laughingly small.
Great post John
Yes, I always get a kick out of those little pressure filters that come with 8 or 9 bio-balls in them just so they can call it a "bio-filter". However those little filters are not worthless, they do make really nice filters for aquariums. (y)
Those removable chamber filters are the most practical design for non-DIY backyard ponders. The filter material in the separate chambers is easily monitored and serviced. You can clean and change the stuff in one chamber without disturbing the other chambers or even shutting down the pumps.
 
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Thank you for this post. It makes me feel better about using a homemade filter.
 
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For my 15,000 gallon pond I love my Aqua Ultraviolet Ultima filter. Does a great job and takes about five minutes to backflush and I don't even get my hands wet. But you're right. It wasn't under $1000. I think I paid around $1200 for it ten years ago. I bet they're a lot more now. Quality is worth every penny.
 

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For my 15,000 gallon pond I love my Aqua Ultraviolet Ultima filter. Does a great job and takes about five minutes to backflush and I don't even get my hands wet. But you're right. It wasn't under $1000. I think I paid around $1200 for it ten years ago. I bet they're a lot more now. Quality is worth every penny.
How does your Ultima filter mechanically clean the solid waste?
 

JohnHuff

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it has leaked intermittently around the PVC fittings I installed through 1 1/2" holes I drilled in top and bottom. Even with copious amounts of silicone sealer applied when they were attached. I think using flat washers and fittings against a curved surface (even though a bit flexible) was the reason.
I used this:

It's been so long I don't even know what it is. I think I got it at Home Depot in the plumbing department. It's some kind of flange or seal expressly for sealing against curved surfaces and mine hasn't leaked. I don't have any sealant or silicone around it.
 
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I would caution the quality and durability of the plastic used especially in extreme climates. Having said that my skimmer is DIY and my bio filter is a bog love the looks and it's 10x bigger than all the filters listed. But yep I am all for DIY 100% homework and trial and error saves a lot of money or at least it can.
 
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Durability is good for me...my filter is in my garage, out of the elements. I couldn't find a location by the pond to hide it reasonably well, so since the pond was up against the wall of my garage, I just bored a couple of holes in the wall so the hoses could enter and exit. They are hidden outside by piles of rocks (the waterfall is up against the house). It's nice because it is easy to monitor/inspect the filter at anytime, despite nasty weather. And the gurgling sound is a pleasant addition to the garage ambiance...
 
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That's a great setup. Keeps your stuff out of the elements. I am considering plumbing a winter filter to the unfinished basement area behind what will be a bathroom. It will be a bit more complicated but I like the ideal setup as you have. @GBBUDD has something similar if I recall. This could also allow you to run your pump through the winter in harsher weather if you get that where you are.
 
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Harsh weather in Texas is a cloudy day. After our brutal summers, we enjoy our 3 weeks of winter...I even bought a long sleeve shirt to wear.
 
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I used this:

It's been so long I don't even know what it is. I think I got it at Home Depot in the plumbing department. It's some kind of flange or seal expressly for sealing against curved surfaces and mine hasn't leaked. I don't have any sealant or silicone around it.
They are called Uniseals, and they're great! I have 6 of them connecting the 3" PVC pipes that run through my 3 tanks.
My Vortex settling tank.

 
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They are called Uniseals, and they're great! I have 6 of them connecting the 3" PVC pipes that run through my 3 tanks.
My Vortex settling tank.

Wish I heard of these little gizmos sooner - look so much simpler than the fittings I used. Next time for sure...
 
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For my 15,000 gallon pond I love my Aqua Ultraviolet Ultima filter. Does a great job and takes about five minutes to backflush and I don't even get my hands wet. But you're right. It wasn't under $1000. I think I paid around $1200 for it ten years ago. I bet they're a lot more now. Quality is worth every penny.
I have a 2500 gal koi pond with 13 large koi that I have had for 10 years . When I got the pond I was talked into a filter that would barely keep the water clear to my satisfaction. After talking to various pond owners , I came across the name of Aquadyne Filters. I talked to owners who were using them and they said you can not beat them. I found a used one ( 1 year old ) on line and bought it . It is a 4.4 C and I have been using this filter for 8 years. I use a UV sterilizer and it keeps my pond crystal clear. It is a bead filter and is extremely easy to back wash. The company is located in Georgia and you can talk directly to the owner Craig if needed. Yes they are a little pricey, but when your pond is crystal clear and all you have to do is backwash your filter every 2 weeks , it sure beats changing media. bio-balls etc. in other filters. Just my opinion.
 

addy1

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I like my filter, crystal clear water, zero care, well except for yanking plants. Pea gravel and plants.
 
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I gotta do the bog thing this spring! With our fish load and since some branches were cut allowing more sun in, I couldn't keep my water clear this past summer. It was healthy with all good readings, but a slight bit greenish.
I have two of those pressure filters servicing 1500 gallons. One is a Tetra that is only bio media and UV, no filter pads. The other has bio media and three different pads. A 3690 gph pump feeds these two filters. Oh, and I also have a bucket with a 550 gph pump covered with lava rocks.
 

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I gotta do the bog thing this spring!
You won't regret it. I never need to mess with filters, cleaning, fixing etc. My bog keeps the ponds in perfect shape. It is big, full of plants and pea gravel.

The only time I have cloudy water is when I first turn it back on in the spring. Within 2 days the water is back to crystal clear, I never have green water. This is the 5 foot deep area, you can count the trap door snails on the bottom. Nothing but a bog running.
118525
118526
 
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