Jump to content

Ruminations from an Ancient Aquarist.

Recommended Posts

I'm what's known by my fellow humankind as being 'older than dirt'.  I have also been keeping aquariums since electricity was invented.


 Well, that's slight exaggeration, but I am from the classical period before regular water changes were found to be beneficial, before Java Fern and Moss were imported.   I still have my dog-eared copy of William T. Innes's  Exotic Aquarium Fishes and J.J. Hoedeman's A Naturalist's Guide to Freshwater Aquarium Fishes.  There's a lot of folklore and good basic aquarium keeping knowledge in those old tomes, also a lot of downright anecdotal goofiness and obsolete knowledge.


What strikes me is that there are some old tech items from the past I would think, especially now with the popularity of small and nano aquariums, that would be useful today.


My 10 gallon tanks from the 1960's~70's all had Metaframe SlimJim outside box filters that were airpump powered.  These little filters were sort of lame in some aspects, fed by a J-tube siphon into glass wool, activated charcoal filter media and were extremely narrow in depth, so not much internal volume.  The siphon J-tube would often times get clogged or if the tank water level dropped, lose it's siphon and attempt to empty themselves. The beauty of this is with the air-powered J-tube return, nothing burned up and since the media was exposed to air while the filter did it's job of pumping water out, you didn't kill your denitrifying bacteria colony.  Refill tank, clean the J-tube strainer, restart the siphon, boom, nothing bad happened.


These new dual sponge filters are pretty great, I'm not knocking these in light of the past tech.  But they do take some space in the tank, and if you're wanting a less cluttered interior and (or) aquascaping your tank, the sponge filter just doesn't cut it for visual appeal. The new tiny HOB's like the Azoo Palm 50 are nice, but all require their own 110 volt outlet and they don't always oxygenate as well as an air-powered filter.  Some things lost, some things gained.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well I was reading a thread here about using the Marina outside breeder box. It reminded me of those old HOB filters.


  If you look at the image I posted, that's what the old Metaframe SlimJim looked like from the side.  Going on my faulty teen-aged memory, I believe these were about 7" wide, about 1.5" deep and about 7~8" tall, made of clear Polystyrene with a little divider that could be slid into cast in slots on either side of the box. When the air was adjusted correctly they had good flow and made a nice pleasant hissing-bubbling sound. Three or four all running together on an old Whisper 800 was an aural delight, and no biofilm on the water. Nice freshly oxygenated water to the tank with little splashing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a central air pump to power all of my sponge filters. I have a tank that I wanted to add active substrate to, but instead, I placed the substrate in a Marina breeder box. The tank currently has inert gravel, but everything will be moved to a new setup with active substrate soon. The flow isn't great, but it's not designed for that. The included air lift tube is too narrow, and the there is no air diffuser to provide smaller, more efficient, quieter bubbles. I wish there was an alternative. Mine is modified to use an airstone instead of the large bubble straight from an airline, which helps, but lift tubes like the jetlifters from Swiss Tropicals provide amazing flow. It would be great if Marina made a similar air powered product designed for higher flow. 


Sponge filters are great at what they do, but they take up a lot of space in the tank, and don't look very pretty. I would like an option that is external, but still air powered.


I came across this vintage design that looks interesting. It looks it could be beefed up easily.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recall buying one similar to this, my only criticism of that design is that the water flow isn't quite strong enough to disperse biofilm on the surface of the tank's water, but it otherwise worked as well as the SlimJims. Also I believe that Hartz-Mountain's aquarium products have been out of production since the 1980's.  My first power filter was a Hartz-Mountain one designed for a 30 gallon, with J-tube siphons and an externally mounted shaded pole motor driving the impeller through a long shaft.    The Marina small breeder box has potential, and has all the bits needed to convert to an air-driven overflow filter.   


  I think there's these little hang on shower soap caddies at Dollar Stores that could be made to work as an outside air-powered box filter if you wanted to go with J-tube and siphon intake pipes.  You would need to track down some old stock of Lee's rigid DIY aquarium tubing in 7/16ths" and 1/8th" diameters for the pipes, which is getting harder to find.


Here's another old 1960's air powered HOB filter that is almost identical to the SlimJim.


Edited by LesterBee
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice thread going here.  I too started in the late 60s and all the classic internal/external filters, Innes's book, and limited substrate. (I still like real stone and under gravel filters)  These more modern advances most times are better but occasionally are not the best option for my liking.  I have thought about an active substrate in an external box filter in the past as well, but feel I need more experience before trying this out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...