Read my first review of the 501 Zoo Med Turtle filter here . In that review, I went over my experience of using it with two hatchling red ear slider turtles in a 5.5 gallon tank with 3-4 gallons of water.
This review is an update. I’ve been using it to filter the same 5.5 gallon aquarium filled to the max with water, but set-up this time as a planted fish & shrimp tank instead of a pet turtle tank.
Maintenance. In the year that I’ve been using the 501 turtle filter for the fish tank setup, I’ve only had to open it up for cleaning three times. The first time was because I had to change the filter media inside. At that time I was only using the mechanical (sponge) and biological (ceramic rings) as my filter media. Because I was going to add some new driftwood into the tank, I needed to open it up to add some chemical filtration (charcoal) to filter out the tannins that would leak from the driftwood. The filter didn’t need maintenance cleaning at the time, but since I had to open it up, I cleaned it anyway.
The second and third time I cleaned the turtle filter was after I added laterite to the aquarium gravel. Laterite is a clay-like substrate that is supposed to be good for planted tanks. Although I’ve read that natural, lo-tech setups like I have don’t need laterite, I wanted to try using some anyway. When I first added the laterite, the water got so intensely cloudy. The cloudiness settled down and was picked up by the filter in the next two or three days. The laterite powder in the water column clogged up the filter and I had to open it up to clean out the laterite. About six weeks later, had to open it up again to clean out more laterite, as I had rearranged the tank a few more times, sending more laterite about to cloud up the water.
Priming the 501 Zoo Med turtle filter is simple. Just fill it up with water, plug it in, and it’s running. Can’t get simpler or easier than that.
Noise. A very quiet filter. It only makes noise after you first prime it, when it’s getting rid of excess air in the filter. Once that’s all gone, it’s as quiet as can be.
Options. As with all canister filters, it comes with the usual strainer input and a spraybar output option. As with all canister filters, you don’t have to use the included output / input parts and you are free to use what you want and modify as necessary.
For the input strainer, I don’t use the one the filter comes with. I really want to minimize the chances of getting shrimp and fish fry sucked into the filter and the included strainer’s holes are too big. I use a double layer of fiberglass mesh wrapped around the tip of the input tube. I haven’t seen any fry in the filter.
I don’t use the spraybar as well. I actually just have the water shooting straight into the tank. With my pet turtles, I never filled the aquarium full of water and I used the spraybar. It was easy to visually and audibly find out if the filter was running and whether it was starting to get clogged up. Now, with the fish tank full, I have to rely on some bacopa under where the water is poured into the tank. If the bacopa leaves are swaying a lot due to the water current, I know the filter is running. If it doesn’t move, then the filter is clogged and should be cleaned.
Filter media options. Same thoughts as in my other review: "Comes with all the media you need and is ready to use right out of the box. It comes with a sponge (mechanical media), a carbon bag (chemical media), and ceramic rings (biological media). Carbon isnâ€™t really needed in a turtle tank, but if you really wanted to continue using it, it would be cheaper to buy your own carbon than to keep buying the Zoo Med branded carbon packs. I prefer to ditch the carbon and just use more biological and mechanical filter media instead."
Strength. The filter is no Hoover but it does what it has to. A filter shouldn’t be so strong as to be able to pick up all dirt from all over the aquarium. That would result in an aquarium with way too much water movement, which isn’t good for most aquarium animals and plants. The filter is able to pick up "floaties" near the input tubes. I’m happy with the strength of the turtle filter. I could see some people wanting a filter with more GPH (gallons per hour) as my opinion is that it would be underpowerd for a 10 gallon or larger tank. But I’m happy with it.
Overall. The 501 Turtle filter is an excellent fish tank filter. Make that "an excellent 5 gallon fish tank filter", since I haven’t used it in any other sized aquariums. I had been using the turtle filter for over two years when I first wrote this and have continued using it and have had no problems thus far.