GEAR GUIDE

Want to know how the goods on sale re­ally per­form? We put them through their paces so you can sort the good from the bad...

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Contents -

New prod­ucts tried and tested, in­clud­ing JBL fil­ters, Northfin food, an Aquael shrimp tank, an HPV light and Trans­for­matank paint.

First look: Nathan Hill & steve Baker RRP: £153 More info: Jbl.de/uk Steve Baker: The Ger­man brand JBL is now proudly sell­ing the evo­lu­tion of its ‘01’ ex­ter­nal fil­ters. The up­dated ‘02’ range builds on the suc­cess of the out­go­ing model with some small changes, while re­tain­ing the fea­tures that have placed JBL to­wards the top of the ex­ter­nal fil­ter mar­ket.

The main change is to the top tray, where JBL has lis­tened to cus­tomer crit­i­cisms. The older model used two thin strips of coarse foam as a pre­filter, the new model sees the pre­filter area increased to the full size of the top (coarse) sponge to ex­tend clean­ing in­ter­vals of the pre-fil­ter.

The new style, two-piece top tray is clipped to­gether us­ing the top half as a baf­fle, only al­low­ing wa­ter to flow through the ex­treme edges once it’s been through the coarse sponge. From here it flows to the bot­tom of the can­is­ter be­fore trav­el­ling up through the re­main­ing me­dia.

Two ar­eas where JBL ex­ter­nal fil­ters ex­cel is power con­sump­tion and quiet­ness, and this trend is con­tin­ued with the ‘02’ range.

Ef­fi­cient ce­ramic bear­ings and an op­ti­mised pump im­peller help to re­duce fric­tion, which leads to both a lack of vi­bra­tion (noise) and smooth run­ning for ef­fi­ciency. Even the type of plas­tic the can­is­ter is made from has been picked for its vi­bra­tion ab­sorp­tion qual­i­ties, as well as its strength and longevity.

Elec­tric­ity-wise, the medium model of five, the e902, gives a max­i­mum flow of 900 l/h for just 11w on a par with the likes of Eheim’s Pro­fes­sional 4 (950l/h, 12w) but out­com­pet­ing Oase’s Biomas­ter 250 (900l/h, 15w). This high ef­fi­ciency means it prob­a­bly works out cheaper over a few years to buy this fil­ter rather than bud­get brands with higher run­ning costs. And you get to en­joy the use of a higher qual­ity prod­uct in the mean­time too. Reg­is­ter your pur­chase with JBL to turn the stan­dard twoyear war­ranty into a four-year one.

Nathan Hill: I’ve been a fan of JBL ex­ter­nal fil­ters for some time now, run­ning them on a range of tanks from 30 l aquas­cape (yeah, I ran an e401 with an in­line CO2 dif­fuser in the hos­ing and it worked a treat), up to 150 l+ biotopes. So I was keen to see what was new, and what stayed the same.

The main new thing I noted was the lower wattage. JBL seems ob­sessed with re­duc­ing our car­bon foot­prints to zero, and that’s just fine by me (and the planet). At full flow, 11w of con­sump­tion for 900lph is pretty ex­cep­tional – the prvi­ous model the e902 re­places ran at 15w for the same flow.

While the pack­age comes with am­ple me­dia out of the box, there’s scope to add or re­place to your heart’s con­tent. In all, you have 7.6 litres of fil­ter ca­pac­ity to play with, di­vided be­tween five trays. The pre­cut slots in the fil­ter foams al­low a range of JBL ded­i­cated resins and re­movers to be added, or you can tailor some­thing of your own de­vis­ing.

Com­ing to­gether, the unit has a cer­tain build qual­ity you can feel. There are no rough edges or poor fin­ishes. Ev­ery­thing slots to­gether firmly and pre­cisely, as it should. The clips hold­ing the fil­ter body to the head feel sturdy, un­like some other brands where ev­ery stab at fil­ter main­te­nance can be a gam­ble as to whether they’ll break off.

As well as the me­dia, the fil­ter comes with all the re­quired hos­ing and fit­tings to get it op­er­at­ing. Draw­ing wa­ter out of the tank, you have the typ­i­cal shep­herd’s crook and strainer as­sem­bly, while the re­turn is based around a spray­bar you can ei­ther run ‘short’ or at full ex­ten­sion by con­nect­ing the parts to­gether.

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PUMPHEAD The pump is quiet and ef­fi­cient with a man­ual prim­ing sys­tem and ro­bust, quick re­lease taps that in­clude flow con­trol.JBL COMBIBLOC The fi­nal stage is a fine sponge (35ppi) to re­move small par­ti­cles. It can be changed for fil­ter floss to in­crease wa­ter clar­ity, but this may re­strict the flow, es­pe­cially when dirty.JBL UNIBLOC Coarse sponges work both me­chan­i­cally (clean­ing par­ti­cles) and bi­o­log­i­cally (pro­vid­ing a sur­face for ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria to colonise).BAS­KETS The me­dia bas­kets are study, with fold­ing han­dles to aid main­te­nance. They are in­di­vid­u­ally shaped to pre­vent them go­ing back in the wrong or­der. JBL COMBIBLOC The coarse pre-fil­ter sponge re­moves large par­ti­cles such as old plant leaves, avoid­ing block­ing up the finer me­dia quite so quickly. This gives you more time be­tween cleans. JBL UNIBLOC All coarse sponges are pre­cut to be used with JBL’S range of me­dias, such as Pho­sex, Bion­i­tra­tex and so on. This al­lows greater con­tact time for ab­sorbent me­dia. JBL MICROMEC High-ca­pac­ity bi­o­log­i­cal fil­ter balls. Con­i­cal pores cre­ate an ideal set­tling area of 1500m2/l for ben­e­fi­cial mi­cro-or­gan­isms. The red ar­row shows the di­rec­tion of wa­ter flow through the fil­ter.

Quiet, cheap to run, sturdy, well equipped. No pro­vi­sion for heat­ing.

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