Power consumption (120V – 60Hz): 18 W
Flow Rate: 390 gph
Max Head: 7.2 ft
Canister volume: 2.25 gal
Filtration volume: 2.00 gal
Tank capacity: 80 – 135 gal
Tubing: 5/8 – 15/16
CORRECTION 2/5/16: In the Components/Installation section of the review, I originally stated the following: "There is a plastic, intake basket strainer that connects to the end of the clear pipe (Figure 5). Sicce calls the strainer a “ball valve with strainer.” There is no valve. There is a float ball inside the basket, which serves no real purpose that I can tell."
I have corrected that information below and I apologize for the error.
Inside the easy to open box are the canister unit (wrapped in plastic), an instruction booklet written in multiple languages (the English version was used for this review), a sealed plastic bag of components (suction cups, union clamps for connecting rubber tubing to union housings, intake strainer, etc.), a 12.25-inch long plastic intake pipe, and a single piece of gray, rubber tubing 9.75 feet in length.
Unpacking the components is easy. The filter head unit is clamped closed on the square canister, requiring that all four corner clamps of the pump head unit be released to separate it from the canister. Inside the canister are four, square shaped baskets, each with holes in the bottom for water flow. The baskets loosely stack on top of each other and do not latch to each other in any way.
Biological media, in the form of ceramic rings (called Bioker), are loose inside the first (top) basket rather than sealed inside a plastic bag. This top basket has a removable plastic handle attached, which makes its removal from the canister easy. The second basket contains a dense, square sponge 1” thick that sits on top of a sealed plastic bag of another biological media of porous ceramic, called Akuapure (resembles small, rough gravel). The third basket contains a sealed plastic bag of chemical media called Akuaclear, which resembles very small gravel and which sits on top of a dense sponge that is identical to the sponge in basket two. The fourth basket contains two additional sponges that are roughly the same thickness but less dense than those in baskets two and three.
Strangely, only the top basket has the removable handle already attached. The plastic handles for the other three baskets are inside the sealed bag of components. Without the handles attached, the baskets are difficult to grasp inside the canister when they are dry and will be much harder to grasp when they are wet.
The bag of input/output components contains some small pieces (e.g., rubber feet for the canister bottom and the suction cups) that may get lodged inside fittings such as the suction and pressure fittings or the union housings. If it appears that you're missing a rubber foot or suction cup, check inside these fittings and housings.
The instructions are poorly conceived. Pages are not numbered inside the instruction booklet, which would make referencing much easier. On page 1 (the page opposite the inside cover page), there is a components diagram. Strangely, the key to the diagram is on page 5, rather than with the diagram itself.
Pages 2 and 3 contain many numbered photos that are referenced in the installation instructions, which do provide considerable guidance. Pages 4 and 5 provide warning and safety information. The actual assembly instructions do not begin until page 6. Ideally, the components diagram, the photos, and the instructions should not be separated by warning and safety instructions. The latter two sections of information should precede all instruction text, diagrams, and photos.
The separation of the components diagram from the actual components key notwithstanding, the instructions also sometimes refer to components not shown on the diagram nor in the photos. Adding some confusion is the use of component names that have no corresponding drawing in the components diagram (e.g., “security locks”, “retention clips”). For example, one instruction step, when describing the connection of the tubing to the tap group on the filter pump head states, “Connect the corresponding flexible tube to the tap group. When this is done, push the security locks down to the final position so that the clamps are firmly in place (see fig. 11).” Figure 11 is a photo of the output union housing that hangs on the back of the aquarium. It contains no security locks or clamps.
Combined, these errors unnecessarily complicate and hinder the installation of the filter.
The installation for this review was on a standard 55g aquarium. There is an input and output union housing (Figure 1) that each hangs on the back of the aquarium. Figure 2 shows the output union housing installed on an acrylic tray to demonstrate how the union housings install on the aquarium tank glass (also see Figure 12 below). These housings are what the canister input and output tubing attach to.
Figure 1. Input union housing (left), Output union housing (right).
Figure 2. Output union housing showing how it should appear once installed (without the included suction cups, the output fittings, and tubing attached). Note: on the back of the aquarium, the housing will slide all the way down so that the underside of the housing “sits” on top of the aquarium rim.
Each of the housings holds two small suction cups. One cup slides into the clip that presses against the glass from inside the aquarium and the other cup slides into a slot on the housing that presses up against the glass from outside. The cups should be installed before the housings are positioned on the back of the aquarium. Trying to install the cups after the housings are in place would be very difficult because of the tension created by the inside clip as it presses against the glass. The purpose of the suction cups is to secure the union housings and keep them from sliding or pivoting along the rear glass. Unfortunately, the suction cups don't fit snugly into the slots on the housings and easily become dislodged when positioning the housings on the back of the aquarium. This becomes irritating when the suction cups slide off and end up inside the aquarium or on the floor behind the aquarium stand. Snap-on suction cups would be more practical.
Two rigid plastic fittings (Figures 3 and 4) are included for the output housing which direct the output flow from the canister into the aquarium. This combination allows for numerous options of flow direction. Water volume flow is adjustable via a small round knob on the top of the output housing.
Figure 3. Output fittings.
Figure 4. Output fittings connected.
For the input, a long, clear plastic pipe, ~ 12 inches long, is included. There is a plastic intake basket strainer that connects to the end of the clear pipe (Figure 5).
Sicce calls the strainer a “ball valve with strainer.” There is no valve. There is a float ball inside the basket, which serves no real purpose that I can tell. There is a float ball inside the basket, which acts as a valve to prevent backflow in the event of a hose leak or other malfunction. The ball valve also aids in priming the filter by allowing water "pumped" upward in the tube toward the filter to remain in the tube until the next pump action is initiated.
When the tube and basket strainer are connected, the intake will sit only inches above the aquarium bottom (on the 55g tank used for this review). The pipe length is fine for deep aquariums, but may be a hindrance for those less than 18” deep, especially if installing some type of prefilter sponge in place of the strainer or if the substrate is sand. It would have been nice if the Whale had come with two or three different lengths of rigid tube to vary the intake depth.
Figure 5. Clear plastic intake pipe with intake basket attached.
As mentioned previously, only a single, long length (9.75 feet) of tubing is included (Figure 6). It must be cut to fit both the input and output. Hooking up the tubing to the tap group (Figures 8 and 9) and the input/output union housings is straightforward and reasonably easy.
Figure 6. Rubber tubing.
The Whale comes with four tubing clamps (Figure 7). These are to ensure that the tubing ends remain snug against the input/output union housings and the tap group nozzles. The clamps are round and go over each tubing end before the tube is connected to the housing and nozzle. However, it’s unclear which way to turn the tube clamps and they are not bidirectional. The instructions do not make a distinction. One of the installation photos has an illustration, which is barely clear enough to make out the direction. However, the tubing secures pretty tightly to the housings and nozzles, in fact, the clamps do not seem to provide much additional compression to the tubing ends.
Figure 7. Tubing clamps (two shown out of four).
The tap group fittings is a single component (Figures 8 and 9) that connects to the canister pump head and it contains the input and output nozzles. This fitting contains a ball valve that is activated via a small black handle installed in the fitting (see Figure 9), which extends outward. The tap group fitting disconnects from the pump head when this handle is pulled straight out. This action simultaneously activates the ball valve, which shuts off water flow both into and out of the fitting, allowing for no water loss from inside the attached tubing. This fitting, when attached to the canister and in the closed position (black handle pushed inward), firmly locks it into place and provides a firm seal.
Figure 8. Tap group fitting (rear view).
Unfortunately, the angle of the input/output nozzles on the tap group fitting is fixed, and the tap group is recessed when seated into the pump head. Though the input and output nozzles do swivel some side-to-side to accommodate variable spacing of the input and output union housings on the rear of the aquarium, their recessed seating means that the canister should ideally face the rear of the aquarium. If the canister unit is turned so the tap group faces the front of the aquarium, the tubing will need to curve unnaturally toward the back of the aquarium (creating an “S” shape in the tubing). This might be okay for some installs, but the length of tubing provided leaves little extra to allow for much variation in the canister placement. Thus, the optimum placement is with the tap group facing the rear, making the shut-off handle on the tap group fitting difficult to reach when installing, uninstalling, and maintaining the canister.
Figure 9. Tap group fitting (front view).
As mentioned, the Whale comes with four square media baskets that are each identical in size (Figure 10) and are quite deep, allowing for a large volume of media. The large volume size also allows the baskets to accommodate a large variety of media types and sizes. The separable handles (Figure 11) are nice because they make removing the baskets easy and facilitate the cleaning of both basket and handle.
Figure 10. Media basket with attached handle (one of four).
Figure 11. Removable media basket handle (one of four).
Priming the Whale is straightforward but takes some patience. There is a small, manually operated pump in the input union housing (Figure 12). This mechanism is about 5” long when extended and must be raised and lowered, or “pumped,” rather vigorously until water is pulled up the input tube and over the back of the aquarium, creating a gravity water feed into the canister. Several strokes will be required. Once gravity takes over, the water will flow into the canister and cease flowing once the canister is full.
Figure 12. The input housing, installed on aquarium and with pump mechanism extended.
When everything is fully assembled and the canister is filled with water, it can be plugged into the electrical outlet. There is no on/off switch, so plugging it into an outlet is how the filter is started and stopped. During initial startup for this review, the filter made a harsh, squealing sound. It was unplugged and, after about 10 seconds, plugged back in. The squealing ceased and there was some purging of air at this point, but then it quieted down and ran smoothly.
During installation, a large piece of newspaper was placed underneath the canister in order to quickly check for small leaks. Any water that leaked from the input/output union housings on the outside, from the tap group connection on top of the canister, or from the seal between the filter pump head and the canister would eventually make its way to the feet of the canister and would darken the newspaper. This review was written three weeks post-installation and the filter has been leak free.
The filter is both quiet and powerful. On the 55g aquarium, the output stream was directed straight across from the back glass where it easily struck the front glass. The flow control mechanism on the output union housing was not tested. Furthermore, neither the flow rate was tested nor was the power consumption to verify either of those specifications.
The Sicce Whale 500, as reviewed, is a nice canister filter, especially as the sole filtration source for midsize aquariums, and is a good addition to an aquarist’s repertoire of filter options. Despite the flawed instructions, assembly was not difficult. However, a novice aquarist who is unfamiliar with canister filters should expect to struggle some with the assembly and installation.