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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Vortex diatom filter - very bad choice?

I am so very angry. A couple of weeks ago I received my new Vortex D-1 diatom filter. Set it up, ran it, five minutes later the motor is barely running and smells like it's burning. OK, bad things happen sometimes. I had it replaced. The new one came without any hoses! The old one had not been picked up yet, so I used those hoses. I'm trying to stay positive. I hook it up and run it. Everything is OK and I walk away after ten minutes. I come back later and the same thing has happened to this one. Here's the really good part - without going into details, when the motor runs very slowly an overflow bypass starts blowing filter media into the water. Yep, my tank looks like skim milk. Diatoms are very small, but also very sharp. The powder can definitely damage gill tissue. We'll find out what happens to the fish by tomorrow. ( update: Filter problem has hopefully been resolved by vortex - see my next post)
 

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Odd I have used vortex for decades and love mine. What was the condition of your tank water when you started. The only time I have had problems like that is when I was trying to clear a tank that had an algae bloom and the water was green. The second time was when I was stirring up sediment from an under-gravel filter and if your tank is very dirty it will stop the filter up in about 10 minutes.
I have had the powder in the water with no ill effects.
I will say the best results are using a pitcher to mix the power into the water and then run the filter in the pitcher to evenly coat the bag. I'll be blunt it took me about 6 times to get it down to a working procedure.
There are other choices but they also will stop up quickly also like the marine-land 350 that I use on my 40G. It polishes quite well with just a cartridge and no powder. I'm just used to using my vortex now and the and also cleaning friends tanks that have gotten a bit out of hand.
 

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Believe it or not your issues may not have to do with the motor itself.

The Vortex D-1 is a very serious piece of equipment. Actually there is no aquarium filter on the market (other than ADA) that has been built up to industrial standards. That being said the Vortex does have stupid hose connections and the glass "jar" could easily crack because it is glass. But getting replacements is a breeze. I've even gotten free parts without asking for anything free.

Now for your problem. I may be wrong but from my experience with a diatom filter I can tell you for sure that the filter stops running in less than 5 min IF there is enough stuff floating in the water. The waste basically plugs the fine filter (the diatom layer). This can happen also with waste that is not visible but it forms a slimy coating on the diatom layer. I've had the filter clog and stop moving water within 1 minute after loading new media - because I stirred the mulm in my aquarium and it immediately covered the diatom media with an impenetrable layer of waste.

Keep in mind that the motor used on these filters is made to work against pressure (only ADA has such motors on their filters). Meaning that the motor will pull water through the diatoms even if the diatom layer is pretty clogged. If the motor stops moving the water the diatom layer has really been stopped up. Only thing to fix it is to clean the filter.

I've noticed that when the motor runs for an hour or so or when the diatom layer is getting dirty and the motor is struggling to overcome the resistance there is a definite smell of motor oil. Once again - the Vortex is built like a tank. And it smells like one, haha.

Maybe here's the place to mention that this hobby has been in a need of a more advanced diatom filter forever. I remember back in 2003 drawing diagrams of a diatom filter that is both practical and easy to use. If you are so inclined you could come up with a version better than the obsolete looking and quirky old Vortex tank. An Iwaki pump would be the obvious choice - both pressure rated and not smelling like oil, haha

--Nikolay
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Good news, sort of. Niko - the water was clean and just being polished and the fish lived. Vortex customer service has been really helpful. They are going to replace the filter for me immediately. They said that they sometimes have problems where vendors save returned/damaged filters and combine parts to make one "new" filter and resell it. He was not happy about what was going on with the vendor and wanted the company name. I'll keep my fingers crossed!
 

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Does anyone keep the diatom filter running 24/7 or is it just used for polishing?
Does it work similar to a pool sand filter?

I would imagine the media in the chamber is inhabited by beneficial bacteria. I've never used one, and don't know exactly how it works, only from what I gather on the web.
 

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I ran my filter for a week once when I though I had an outbreak of Ich. Since this filter even takes the fish slime out of the water I was nervous but had to change the powder once during the week. The hot smell concerned me too at first. But the first one I had was sold to me by a fish store going out of business and I knew him so trusted him. It ran great for years except this was before the INTERNET and I had a bit of trouble getting powder.
The other issue I had with extended running was the force of the water going through this pump. If you didn't watch you could turn you aquarium into a whirlpool and run your fish to death. I'm glad your getting your replacement it's great to hear someone still standing behind their product.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Joshvito,
A diatom filter works by forcing water through a layer of diatom powder, which is actually millions of fossilized diatoms. They are microscopic and the layer will even filter out a single human blood cell. The water is made so clean that it is totally clear. It's better than a sand filter and does not contain any bacteria. Personally, I would not run it 24/7. I might use it once a week at most, unless I had Ick or an algae issue I needed to resolve that requires running for a long period, as mentioned above.
 

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I've had Vortex diatom filters for 30+ years. They're quirky, sure, but are unsurpassed for polishing water. Parts are available and they're the kind of company I'm glad to deal with.

They're not intended to be a full time, but only for polishing.

JNB, I would disagree with you title of this thread. These filters are an excellent choice for their intended purpose.
 

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Re: Vortex diatom filter - very bad choice?

I am so very angry. A couple of weeks ago I received my new Vortex D-1 diatom filter. Set it up, ran it, five minutes later the motor is barely running and smells like it's burning. OK, bad things happen sometimes. I had it replaced. The new one came without any hoses! The old one had not been picked up yet, so I used those hoses. I'm trying to stay positive. I hook it up and run it. Everything is OK and I walk away after ten minutes. I come back later and the same thing has happened to this one. Here's the really good part - without going into details, when the motor runs very slowly an overflow bypass starts blowing filter media into the water. Yep, my tank looks like skim milk. Diatoms are very small, but also very sharp. The powder can definitely damage gill tissue. We'll find out what happens to the fish by tomorrow. ( update: Filter problem has hopefully been resolved by vortex - see my next post)
Sounds you like you got a lemon. I have owned a Vortex D-1 for over thirty years and the motors are practically indestructible as long as you oil them on a regular basis.

I have experienced the diatom bypass that you refer to on several occasions, however it has never harmed my fish, and is usually removed from the tank by the D-1 within 15 - 20 minutes (of course the time it takes to do so depends on the size of the aquarium).

As far as a mechanical filtration system, to this day there has never been a better one than the D-1, since no other filter I know of will remove particles as small as one micron (one millionth of a meter)
in size.

keep in mind that while the D-1 can be used for heavy cleanings with the understanding that you will have to open the filter and clean the filter pad before recharging the system with new diatom powder, that the D-1's real purpose is to polish your tank's water when it is already clean.

When used in this way the D-1 can be used for months without having to recharge the diatom powder.

Moreover, using the D-1 for water polishing can remove harmful particles that your regular filter just recirculates into your aquarium, like dinoflagelletes and other harmful pathogens that can make your fish ill.

Also keep in mind that while the D-1 works very well for removing green water from your aquarium, that once you do so, you will have to backflush the system into your sink to remove all of the green water that is in the D-1 canister, or the next time you turn the filter on it will blow all of this green water back into your aquarium.

Aside from this caveat and the overall quirkiness of the D-1, this is a great filter that will last for decades and keep the water in your aquarium sparkling. For those who are looking to purchase a new D-1, they can be had for a bit over $100. Replacement filter pads run about $13 and can be purchased at a number of online stores, including Big Al's online and Amazon.com. Some sellers are offering the D-1 for as much as $160, however, the price usually ranges from about $90 to $110, plus shipping.

Big Als and Amazon.com also carry most of the spare parts needed for the D-1 and Amazon may ship for free if you purchase more than $25 worth of merchandise at any given time.

As for the D-1, it remains the best mechanical high speed filter on the market, even though it was designed nearly four decades ago.

Most fishkeepers who have been in the hobby for years own at least one D-1, and some own several, depending on the number of aquariums they maintain.

A great product that makes fishkeeping much easier, and keeps your fish healthy, which is why most local fish stores use the D-1 to keep their stock healthy. For the LFS owner, the D-1 is cheap insurance that their fish supply stays healthy and profitable.
 

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I have used a D1 for years as well. I hate the thing and I love the thing. I had one of the earlier models that came with a big rubber o Ring, glass jar and a separate plastic base and sold it which I regret doing. I now use one of the newer versions.

Here are some tips. I use the filter with the lid of a large rubbermaid container. This is for the occasional leaks.Tighten the head on to the jar but don't over tighten or you will have a difficult time disconnecting the motor from the jar. Remembering to oil the filter is important. Sometimes you have to ensure that the screws holding the motor are tight if they rattle loose the pump will pump a lot of air bubbles into the tank.

I use the company's valve which does help keep the powder out of the tank when starting the filter. I take off the strainer and use eheim's siphon starter bulb. If you don't have these you can put a plastic water pitcher with a handle in your tank fill it with aquarium water hang the pitcher handle on the side of the tank add powder to the pitcher start filter, I have also used the carbon powder option a little mixed in with the diatom powder is good. With a new filter pleat I will put some aquarium sealant around the top of the pleat where it joins the plastic mounting part. this helps to extend the life of the pleat. Always clean the filter thoroughly after each use, don't let the filter sit dirty with water as this will ruin the filter pleat prematurely. Clean, rinse thoroughly let it dry. You don't have to disconnect the pleat from the head every time but you have to check the propeller so you will need to inspect that from time to time. One nice use for the filter is to cut the hose on an ordinary gravel cleaner fill the gravel cleaner and hose with water, take the intake strainer off the filter and insert the gravel cleaner hose into the filter hose, now you can clean the gravel without taking water out of the tank. The filter will clog and then you will have to clean it and restart. It's a lot of work but the filter is a great insurance policy against a variety of problems and I am glad I own one.
 

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diatom filter

can you use these to filter out brown algae I'm starting to get some

Here are some tips. I use the filter with the lid of a large rubbermaid container. This is for the occasional leaks.Tighten the head on to the jar but don't over tighten or you will have a difficult time disconnecting the motor from the jar. Remembering to oil the filter is important. Sometimes you have to ensure that the screws holding the motor are tight if they rattle loose the pump will pump a lot of air bubbles into the tank.

I use the company's valve which does help keep the powder out of the tank when starting the filter. I take off the strainer and use eheim's siphon starter bulb. If you don't have these you can put a plastic water pitcher with a handle in your tank fill it with aquarium water hang the pitcher handle on the side of the tank add powder to the pitcher start filter, I have also used the carbon powder option a little mixed in with the diatom powder is good. With a new filter pleat I will put some aquarium sealant around the top of the pleat where it joins the plastic mounting part. this helps to extend the life of the pleat. Always clean the filter thoroughly after each use, don't let the filter sit dirty with water as this will ruin the filter pleat prematurely. Clean, rinse thoroughly let it dry. You don't have to disconnect the pleat from the head every time but you have to check the propeller so you will need to inspect that from time to time. One nice use for the filter is to cut the hose on an ordinary gravel cleaner fill the gravel cleaner and hose with water, take the intake strainer off the filter and insert the gravel cleaner hose into the filter hose, now you can clean the gravel without taking water out of the tank. The filter will clog and then you will have to clean it and restart. It's a lot of work but the filter is a great insurance policy against a variety of problems and I am glad I own one.[/QUOTE]
 

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can these filters filter out brown alge I'm starting to get some and how long would you run it on a 90 gallon to help with brown alge
Hi ceemoney,

Welcome to APC!

No a diatom filter's name is derived from the fact it uses diatomaceous earth as part of the filter media to remove items from the water column. It cannot remove diatoms (aka brown algae) from glass, plants, substrates, and other surfaces.

However there is a little fish that can help in that department, Otocinclus species do an excellent job eating diatoms (brown algae) I would start with four (4) in a 90 gallon (I have four in my 75 gallon). If they eat all of the brown algae they will also graze on soft, flat green algae but not on Green Spot Algae or Green Dust Algae. If they start to look skinny, add an algae wafer just before lights out a couple times a week.

BTW, a diatom filter is an excellent way to clean up green water.
 

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I too have run Vortex Diatom Filters for 35+ years, and never a problem. I use them with the 'star' filter, instead of the diatom bag monthly on all 5 of my tanks. It behaves more like a canister filter, and can clean a tank of all sorts of gunk while I swirl stuff up into the water column with my net or hand. Great for cleaning. AFter I use the star filter to clean debri and crud, I use the diatom filter to polish if I feel the need. But that star filter cleans so well that I rarely use the diatom bag. I use 3 in 1 oil every 2-3months, and a Q-tip with vaseline on the O-ring, and cleaning that o-ring area.

I would not trust buying from anyone but the Vortex company. Too many people abuse them. A diatom bag will only last a short time, maybe 1-3 hrs in a 'clean' tank. If your tank is full of green water and crud, use the 'star' filter first, then the diatom bag. I think they run about 25 dollars on the Vortex Parts site. Well worth it.:typing:
 

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Does anyone keep the diatom filter running 24/7 or is it just used for polishing?
Does it work similar to a pool sand filter?

I would imagine the media in the chamber is inhabited by beneficial bacteria. I've never used one, and don't know exactly how it works, only from what I gather on the web.
Have run vortex 24x7x365x7 years+. Have had several. Will pull out large sediment quick. Maintaining them becomes second nature. Not for gross cleaning. Unless you really want to recharge with new DE more often. For polishing water that has been filtered for pond scum.
I used Dupont DI / deionizing filters and balanced @ 4.5 on the edge of ph crash for many years. Baking soda on hand.
Raised discus for many years. Bred them for 10 yrs. Nothing as handy as a Vortex Diatom filter!!!
 
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