Hugo Kamishi Bio Sponge filter
A few years back, a company called Algarde broke my heart. I downloaded their latest catalogue, a catalogue that had been a steady part of my life for decades, and two filters were absent. The air-driven Biofoam 45 and 200 models were gone.
Since then, my lo-fi fishkeeping world sort of fell apart. I mean, the Biofoams had their flaws (call it charm if you like, but charm doesn’t cause something to split down the middle and stop working) and were as ugly as bulldogs eating mince, but they were a breeding tank staple. They were the filters I’d reach for in a powercut, proud of my resourceful preparedness as I rooted about for batteries to stick into a temporary air pump. Biofoams were as much fishkeeping heritage as functionality.
So, when I visited wholesalers ALF a few months back, I performed a merry jig when I spotted these Hugo Kamishi versions on a shelf. Snatching them up in both arms and snarling at staff that I was taking them, I’ve coveted them ever since.
If you’re newish to fishkeeping, you probably have no idea why these are so good. I mean, they look like primitive filters from the hobby’s dark ages, right?
Well, yeah. Kind of. They’re also the hobby’s best kept secret. If you’ve tried to spawn a fish, for example, you’ll have soon discovered that a gutsy internal canister filter is a great way of sucking up weak-swimming babies and emulsifying them. If you’ve put together a hospital tank, you’ve probably been perturbed at the way your powerful pump is buffering about your dying patient.
Air driven filters have a few benefits. They are cheap, and cheap to run — a good sized air pump with a network of airline and valves can run several at once. They are light on flow but heavy on biological activity. They take up surprisingly little space. And my favourite feature — their surfaces promote the growth of tiny organisms feeding on biofilm. Yep, the slimy skin that grows over the foam produces all kinds of aufwuchs, which shrimplets and fish fry will graze on. The Hugo Kamishi design even has a corrugated foam, increasing the surface area. Small details, big impact.
Despite looking like a rigid, moulded piece of pipe, the Hugo design has some features. The neck can be extended, allowing for a total height of 34.5cm. Or you can squish it down to 23cm, for a shorter tank. The default position is to have the foam jutting forward from the uplift, but you can rotate the uplift 360°, allowing you to position the foam either side of it. And the 90° bend that supports the foam can also be rotated through 360°, meaning that you can have it flat, upright, or pretty much anywhere you choose. The return nozzle also rotates through 360°.
Removing the foam to clean it is as easy as pulling it off of the central support, washing and replacing.
What’s my favourite feature of air driven filters? Their surfaces promote the growth of tiny organisms feeding on biofilm. Yep, the slimy skin that grows over the foam produces all kinds of aufwuchs, which shrimplets and fish fry will graze on.
To clarify, this is unlikely to be your main filter on a community set-up. Rather, this is the domain of the fish-house keeper and hobbyist running a dozen projects at once. My own history of working with filters like this goes back a long way — in my public aquarium days we had similar filters in our seahorse and octopus rearing tanks. On a personal level, these designs have been with me through numerous tricky spawns.
In addition to the single sponge, Hugo also makes a twin sponge design. Same height, same foam size ( just two of them) but slightly less in the way of orienting features. Which is pretty obvious when you think about it. You can still tilt the foams down through upright to flat, though.
Suppliers ALF run a ‘click and collect’ service on this one, which means that you can buy it online from home and either collect it from your local retailer (as long as they are an ALF stockist/participator), or have it delivered directly to your home. NATHAN HILL
ROTATING RETURN The return nozzle can be rotated through 360°. CORRUGATED FOAM The design of the foam increases the surface area.
Depending on the height of your tank, you can extend this from 23cm up to 34.5cm.