I have always loved having an aquarium, since I was young. I had a small 10 Gallon freshwater tank one for about 10 years through college. I was never very successful at it, until I added a Whisper filter and learned about doing water changes. Up to that point, my fish never lasted more than a year. Once I learned the real fundamentals of maintaining a healthier environment, I was able to get a couple of fish I had to live 3 years. Once I graduated from school I was without a tank for a number of years.
After my oldest daughter Olivia was born, I decided to put a small freshwater tank together to entertain and teach her about it. I got a 6 Gallon Marineland Eclipse6 acrylic tank with a self-contained 3-stage filtration and lighting system. I decided to plant it with Java Fern on some Malaysian driftwood and a couple of Anubias plants to make it a little healthier environment for the fish and make it prettier to look at. I’ve had this system for about 8 years now and am on about my 3rd generation of livestock. So far, I’ve had a pair of Rasboras that lived almost 6 years and I had a school of Neon Tetras that lived over 4 years. I currently have 2 Cherry Barbs that are over 4 years old and a group of Neon Tetras with the oldest ones that are just over 2 years old now. So, since I learned all the important basic stuff to do to maintain the water, I’ve been fairly successful at keeping fish well over their expected lifespans. In addition, the tank has generally looked fairly clean and not been an algae eyesore.
Notes on Maintenance
Probably the most important thing, especially in a smaller tank like this with a low power filtration system that doesn’t get very much water movement, is to perform regular water changes. I spend about a half hour and I change about a gallon to a gallon and a half out every week to 2 weeks which is roughly 20% of the water volume. I use a suction vacuum hose to suck up the substrate and get all the crud out. I stir up the plants to get all the loose detritus or organic waste material floating and then I use a fish net to collect it and dump it out. I use an old toothbrush to scrub any algae formation off the sides and brush over the wood and plants to stir them up. I also change out the filter cartridge which has a floss trap layer with carbon enclosed and clean the inlet tube and trap. Occasionally I have used a Phos-X packet added under the filter cartridge to reduce the phosphates in the tank and that has helped reduce the algae growth.
My Purigen Experience
That routine has worked fairly well over the years. However, I’ve always noticed that no matter how much I’ve cleaned the tank, there has always been this sort of slight milky haze to the water. This is primarily due to the fact that the tank has live plants in it. So there is a lot of waste exchange going on with the nitrogen cycle. So, I did a little research and learned this is considered normal in a planted tank. But, if you want to have crystal clear water, you need a better chemical filtration agent instead of or in addition to carbon. I had been reading other recommendations about ditching carbon altogether, but that is a story for another experiment and post. I discovered a couple of fairly recent products on the market that claim to do just this. The products are Chemi-Pure and Purigen. These products essentially trap dissolved organic waste through the magic of chemistry.
Due to a number of recommendations and cost, I decided to try Purigen. Purigen is a synthetic polymer made up of very tiny cream-colored beads. The product is rechargeable meaning that it can be reused over and over, after following a chemical rinsing process that cleans it. Seachem recommends to use a minimum of about 1ml of the product for every gallon of water in your tank. You can buy 100ml of Purigen in an included mesh media bag or you can buy it in 250 or 500ml and greater bulk containers which will require you to purchase separate media bags to hold it.
I chose the pre-packaged 100ml option. Even though my tank is only 6 gallons and 100ml of the product seems like overkill, the Purigen media will be able to just last that much longer before it needs to be recharged. The Purigen media is enclosed in a special 180 micron fine mesh pouch and should be placed somewhere in your filter after the mechanical filter stage. Purigen is a macro-porous synthetic polymer that helps trap all the dirty, unwanted, organic stuff in the water like Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates.
I opened up the package and it had a noticeable synthetic plastic chemical smell. Following the instructions, I rinsed the bag using RO water and the smell seemed to be gone, for the most part. I placed it under my filter cartridge last night and within a half hour I could already see a visible difference in the water. This morning, the lights have come on and the tank looks absolutely crystal clear. I tried to capture before and after pictures but it is very hard to tell the difference with the resolution of my iPhone camera. I zoomed in and compared the images and the only real difference I can identify is that the gravel substrate is much visibly clearer than before. Trust me when I say that there is a visible difference.
Disclaimer – Here are the pictures for your own reference, but like I said it is difficult to see the difference at this resolution:
In my years of keeping fish, I have to say that this product is nothing short of phenomenal. My 10 year old daughter just came in and she said “Whoa! The tank has never been that clean since it was brand new.” The best part is that you never have to buy it again (well, at least for a number of years anyway). Depending on your tank volume and the amount of Purigen you use, it just needs to be rinsed/recharged every couple of months. I’ve read a number of accounts where individuals are still using the same Purigen media after several years and 10+ recharge/refresh cycles and it is still going strong. It’s safe to say I’ve found my new permanent 3rd stage chemical filtration media for my tank.