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Canister filters and power outages


s a v v o
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This is my first post on the forum, having just moved from 47 years of marine systems. Hence, my knowledge of canister filters, sponge filters, etc. is poor.

I've read some threads here about what to do with filters during or following a power failure, but there are a few questions remaining in my mind :confused: .

I'd appreciate some replies from people who have had personal experiences, rather than folk expressing an opinion not based on facts -- or if someone knows of an article dealing with this subject, I'd be happy to be pointed in the right direction. Also, if there are threads that deal with my specifics, I'd like to look at them (my apologies for not finding them).

Firstly, in the event of a power failure and consequent canister filter downtime, how long will the contents of the filter remain viable before power resumes and the filter is operational again. In other words, after what lapse of non-functioning time does it become necessary to open the canister and rinse the filter media in aquarium water? (Someone suggested an hour or two, but I'm not prepared to act on an opinion.)

Secondly, does it follow that the same practice should apply to sponge filters on pump intakes in the aquarium?

Thirdly, how long does it take before a non-functioning filter needs more than a rinse -- say, out of concern that the bacteria can't recover and the whole thing has gone bad, needing to start over again with new media and the need for a re-cycling period? And the same for sponge filters?

Fourthly (and last), someone on one of the threads suggested that a back-up battery-operated aerator be installed in such a way that air is pumped into the bottom of the canister filter while it's not going. Is there some information somewhere explaining how to go about this (remember, I've never had a canister filter; go easy on me! :wub).

I've read some threads about using an auto back-up power system, and I'll look at that too, but for now I want to keep it simple.

As I'm about to set up my first Malawi tank (first freshwater for 47 years), I'd like to get some of these things clear in my mind. Any help will be greatly appreciated :clap .

Les (s a v v o)

Edited by s a v v o
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hi Les

anything more than a couple of hrs, my canisters are striped and cleaned. i leave the media sitting in a container of water from the tank it came out of. it's not the ideal way, but that's about as good as it gets without a battery air pump. give the sponges a rinse out in old tank water and put them back in tank.

what filters did you have with the marines, sumps? what did you do with them after a prolonged blackout?

setting up your first malawi tank, congrats :thumb they're not a lot different to tanganyika, i treat my tangs as marine, without the salinity content

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Anything more than two hours on a canister from a tank that has had no O2 I also strip it down. Bacteria will start to die off immediately once the O2 drops.

I have been know to go from tank to tank with an O2 cylinder during prolonged blackouts - the longest 17 hours. Needless to say our current air driven filtration with UPS backup is a godsend :)

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what filters did you have with the marines, sumps? what did you do with them after a prolonged blackout?

Thanks for your reply, Colfish.

My marine systems were (in the early days) UG filters. With a power outage, I'd simply live with the fact that the sand bed would have to remain undisturbed. I can't remember any outages that exceeded a few hours, and there were never any problems when things got going again.

In the latter years, I took the same approach with deep sand beds and live rock, which (along with a skimmer) were the only filtration means I used. Again, I never had problems with resumption of power after a failure.

I'd take the same approach with a sand bed in a freshwater tank: leave it there and hope for the best.

However, since beginning my investigation into keeping Africans I keep coming across the concern about external filters having the potential to mess a tank up badly when they resume operation following an extended loss of power. A friend who keeps S. American cichlids is paranoid about cleaning his canisters if the power has been off for more than an hour or so. On the other hand, a LFS guy said this would only be necessary after three or four days.

So I've found this a bit worrying, as I'm away from home several times a year. If there's a substantial power loss while I'm away, then there's a probability of losing everything.

Having read what I've seen so far, I think the first thing I should look at is some sort of automatic power backup (battery, etc.), which brings its own challenges. I've got to do a lot more research on this.

Thanks again.

Les

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Thanks, Chipimby. It seems that a couple of hours is all we've got without taking major risks.

You said: "Needless to say our current air driven filtration with UPS backup is a godsend."

I've read a few threads that mention UPS backup, which I don't yet know anything about.

Would you mind pointing me in the direction of some information about how to learn about this?

Thanks.

Les

Edited by s a v v o
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Thanks, Chipimby. It seems that a couple of hours is all we've got without taking major risks.

You said: "Needless to say our current air driven filtration with UPS backup is a godsend."

I've read a few threads that mention UPS backup, which I don't yet know anything about.

Would you mind pointing me in the direction of some information about how to learn about this?

Thanks.

Les

Hi Les,

These are modified units that defy my technically challenged female brain :lol3:

PM Matthew and he can answer all your queries.

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Savvo – with all your years of marine experience you will know the answers to your questions yourself. I think you are just over-thinking it.

Asking how long a canister filter’s bacteria will last without power is a little like asking how long is a piece of string? There will be a number of variables such as how long since you last cleaned the filter, how large the canister, how many fish in tank (= bioload). Probably also, how long you personally can stand the strain.

If you underestimate how long the filter can go with no power and intercede to protect the fish sooner than later, there is no downside but extra work for you. But if you leave it too long and let the dead bacteria pump back into the tank once the power comes back on….

I have tanks with canisters that I would be getting worried about after an hour, and before two hours come around I’d be well into rolling my sleaves up.

To answer your questions;

1) and hour (bearing in mind the string)

2) No, it does not as a sponge filter has access to O2 in the tank (of course they may also run out with too many fish in the tank)

3) Don’t let it get to this stage. Open canister up and while making sure the biomedia stays moist let it sit in the air.

4) Is a dumb idea on too many levels

All filters and filtration systems have their pros and cons. The con to a canister comes into play should the power stop. So how to get around this? Two ways I use is to have a back-up generator, or a UPS (more suitable for a one tank per one UPS situation).

Africans are simply fantastic fish to keep. They are hardy, but don’t be presumptuous about this hardiness as if there is blackout, they can die too.

Listen to what Colfish and Aline has said too.

“Three of four days”! “Tell em their joking”.

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a LFS guy said this would only be necessary after three or four days.

anything this guy told me from here on in , i would take with a grain of salt. he may have some brilliant ideas, but this is not one of them.

i'm becomming increasingly worried about what some lfs tell people

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G'day Les

This is a topic that has caused us some grief in the past and as Craig has said there are no absolutes in this area.

An hour should present no major hassles. By two hours I am cleaning the filter media in tank water.

Where the problem lies is that if a substantial amount of bacteria die, the water will enter the cannister with oxygen and then return to the tank with no oxygen. This will cause the fish to drown.

To get around this keep an airstone / sponge filter going in the tank to assist in this area.

The second problem occurs later and this happens because the bacteria has died and the fish waste products build up.

No bacteria = increased waste products = unhappy fish and owner. = problems.

I am sorry that I cannot actually answer your questions I wish I knew the answer, but there are so many variables. Especially the bio load on the tank.

To assist in this area I have the following

Battery powered air pumps

UPS(s) that have been modified (Much bigger batteries)

Generator

Currently building a lead that will attach directly to my car battery to power the UPS's overnight. The car is a lot quieter than the generator to run at night.

If you do a search here as you have already done, please read up on how to modify a UPS, I have previously posted this information.

This is probably the easiest thing for you to do. It is automatic and it works well. If not then just add some air stones/sponge filters to the tank and when you get home thoroughly clean the media in the cannisters.

cya

Matthew

PS. I read the other day an update to the maximum amount of fish in the tank.

Simply reduce the number in the tank (that we keep) and remove two thirds!

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Currently building a lead that will attach directly to my car battery to power the UPS's overnight. The car is a lot quieter than the generator to run at night.

I like this idea. That way with the car engine going, once the ups battery has run out, connecting the ups to the car battery it will last as long as there is petrol in the car. :thumbup:

I should add Matthew, I have belatedly remembered that I have done this once myself with one of your UPS. I have never bought a battery for it, and it was before I bought the generator. I took the UPS to the car and attached the clips to the car battery and ran a power board on an extension lead into my garage where I put the limit of equipment on to it. Doing it this way the only extra equipment you need is an extention cord.

Edited by CThompson
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