A few weeks ago, I posted a “first impressions” review of the Cascade 300 Internal Filter by Penn-Plax. At the time I made that post, I hadn’t actually set the filter up and used it. Three days ago, however, I set it up for my new kuhli loach tank, and I have to say: it was money well spent!
Before I ordered the loaches, I knew that I’d have to get some cycled filter media from somewhere, because I didn’t have any that I was willing to pull from another tank to use in the loach tank (it’s a long story, don’t ask). I asked the seller if she’d be willing to throw in a little cycled media, and she agreed — with the caveat that she wouldn’t be able to spare much.
I told her that I’d take whatever I could get. That turned out to be a small, maybe ping-pong-ball-sized bundle of filter floss similar to what you find in a Tetra brand filter cartridge. I took the carbon container out of the Cascade’s top chamber and stuffed the cycled media in its place. I also wrapped the sponge in a clean floss pouch of my own, figuring that it would add an extra level of mechanical filtration to the tank.
To make a long story short, I opted to use the spraybar attachment, slightly submerged and pointing just a bit toward the surface. This makes a nice rippling effect on the surface, ensuring good gas exchange and preventing any film from forming on the surface of the water.
After the fish had been in the tank for about two and a half days — long enough to be fed four times — I tested the water for ammonia and nitrite using the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. The test didn’t register any ammonia or nitrite. Awesome! Even that small piece of cycled media is enough to support the tank, since it fills the chamber nicely. The flow rate is easily powerful enough to keep the water circulating. I couldn’t be happier with the filter. 🙂
UPDATE: I’ve been using the Cascade 300 for several weeks now, and I still love it… In fact, I bought a second one for another 10-gallon tank. It probably won’t be my last.
Servicing the filter is slightly messy, since it must be removed completely from the tank, but it’s no big deal. As the sponge gets clogged, the flow from the spraybar slows visibly… if it goes too long, the filter almost stops working. At this point, I pull the filter out, open up the media chamber, pull out the sponge, give it a couple of squeezes over a bucket or sink, and reassemble everything. Maybe a minute to a minute and a half after unplugging the filter for maintenance, it’s running smoothly again. Easy and quick!
And now, some bonus kuhli photos! (I know, I know. I’m a little obsessed.)