Aquael Pat Mini Review
Many regular visitors to the Seriously Fishy Club will have noticed that I have been breeding a rare and endangered species of Cichlid, Amatitlania Myrnae.
The fry are doing very well and I have a good number of them that are reaching a good size now. This means that the ‘grow-out’ tank has been getting a little messy lately.
Sponge filters are great for fry tanks, they keep the water safe for the fish with lots of biological filtration. However, they do not create much flow meaning that mechanical filtration is not as good. Mechanical filtration is far less important, but like most fish keepers, I like to have nice clean looking aquariums.
Now that the Myrnae fry are larger, they are stronger swimmers so they should be able to cope well with a little more flow than an air-driven sponge filter can provide.
More flow would help to keep the aquarium tidier from the mess these little critters are creating in there.
So, I had the task of finding a suitable filter to keep their tank cleaner (visibly) between water changes whilst they keep growing into beautiful, messy little Cichlids.
Awesome! I love nothing more than shopping for a new filter!
Mini filters – Aquael Pat Mini Review
The aquarium market is flooded with mini filters. So, it may seem like an easy task to find a decent model.
But, because this filter is for a relatively shallow aquarium filled with fairly young fry, it is important to consider a few factors before diving in.
Some of my top considerations would be:
- Flow rates – flow rate needs to be high enough to keep the tank clean but not so high that it turns it into a washing machine.
- Media capacity – the larger the better.
- Size of the filter itself – this is a small (ish) tank, so the filter needs to be relatively compact.
(More in choosing the correct filter HERE).
I’ve tried some ‘mini filters’ in the past and haven’t been particularly impressed, so I put a fair bit of effort into my search for the perfect filter for this set up.
I’m sure that from the title of this article (and the image above) that you can guess what decision I came to…….
Aquael Pat Mini
After a couple of weeks of comparing mini filters, I selected the Aquael Pat Mini as the filter for the job.
The Aquael Pat Mini is not a particularly new release and has been around for at least a couple of years. It looks good and as it has been around for a while any errors in the initial design (if there were any) should have been rectified.
It is very small and packs a relatively powerful punch. This tiny filter measures only 14cm in height (with the standard sponge fitted) yet it circulates up to 400 litres per hour (LPH).
It is rated for aquariums up to 120 litres in total volume when fitted with its standard sponge.
The fact that it is fitted with a sponge as filter media means that this filter is deemed shrimp and fry safe.
There are no gaps for them to be sucked through or trapped in and if the worst should happen (they get stuck to it), then being stuck to a sponge wont harm them over a short period.
This is very unlikely though as the in-flow is spread across the whole sponge, this means it is spread out and not too powerful in any one spot.
Why did I choose the Pat Mini?
Aside from the fairly impressive stats above, I chose the Aquael Pat Mini over other filters for its apparent adaptability.
I noticed online that there are several variants of sponge being made to fit it, not all of them made by Aquael themselves. This makes the filter pretty adaptable.
Fitting a larger sponge onto the filter means improved filtration due to the larger media capacity. A larger sponge provides more space for bacteria to grow along with increased mechanical filtration – albeit with a potential slight decrease in flow rate.
These sponges are also available in different densities, allowing even more flexibility.
A good while ago I came across a thread somewhere on the web that was talking about a mini filter that would fit directly on top of a sponge filter.
This would be ideal as I have those already in the tank, cycled and ready for a power boost.
I was pretty convinced that the filter mentioned was the Aquael Pat Mini, so I had a search for it….
I couldn’t find anything from my search so I thought I may have made it up, but with the larger sponges of varying shapes already available, I knew I already had options to play with if I wanted.
Unboxing the Aquael Pat Mini
The Aquael Pat Mini certainly looks the part. It is well designed, feels robust and comes with every thing it needs to be an adjustable little filter that will suit a good many set ups.
There is more than one way to attach this filter to your aquarium, it comes with standard rubber suckers to attach directly to the glass and it also has a hook style attachment that can be used to hang the filter from the rim of the aquarium.
It also comes with various outlet attachments that enable you to effectively manage the flow produced by the filter.
It is supplied with a straight ‘tube’ that can be fitted with a veturi air pipe (included) and a wider nozzle that allows spread of the flow and directional adjustment. It can even be fitted with a spray bar (Sold separately).
This gives you many options and means that the flow provided by the filter, whilst quite powerful for such a tiny filter, can be easily adjusted if needed.
One of the first things I noticed when unboxing the filter was that the sponge provided was not particularly large, this is absolutely expected with a total length of 14cm.
This is great for a small tank like this one, and it would be pretty inconspicuous even in here.
But with so many growing fry in the tank I was concerned that I needed a larger capacity for filter media, this is where this filter’s adaptability comes in to play.
Straight away I took the filter apart and removed the strainer from the bottom, sure enough, the fitting looked about the same diameter of a sponge filter’s central tube.
Obviously, I gave it a try.
The Aquael Pat Mini does indeed fit directly onto the top of a standard sponge filter – Quite securely too! (Some sponge filters may vary).
This gives it a huge uplift in filtration capacity when attached to a large double sponge.
This makes it a very flexible little filter, it can be used in conjunction with a sponge filter of any size, making it suitable for various aquarium volumes.
Combine this with the options for flow output and direction and it is very very adjustable in where it can be used and on what size aquarium.
How I’ve set it up
I initially attached my Aquael Pat Mini to the top of a short, double sponge filter. This increased the media capacity of the filter and didn’t affect the flow noticeably.
This went well for a few days and this set up seemed to be doing a great job. The water was crystal clear and all the debris that was previously lying around in the tank was being effectively collected by the filter.
After a few days though, I noticed that the filter had slowed down. The sponges had become clogged with debris and were making life pretty hard for the filter.
The sponges on this filter were not very porous and due to their smaller size had clogged up far too quickly, so I needed to change it.
Whilst it is pretty easy to clean a sponge filter, it isn’t something I want to be doing every couple of days. But this was a quick fix.
I had opted for the short sponge filter due to the height of the tank, but there is no reason why I cannot use a larger one and mount it sideways if needed, so this is what I did.
I now have the Aquael Pat Mini attached to a large, double sponge filter with more porous sponges.
This is working perfectly and, so far, has had no clogging issues.
I have used the outlet nozzle that spreads the flow and have angled it upwards so that it disturbs the surface of the water to increase gas exchange.
This spreading of the outlet flow means that there isn’t a single, powerful stream of water that could blast the fry around.
The venturi adaptor came in handy too, even though I have not used the outlet attachment that it connects to.
Air-driven sponge filters have an air pipe connection (of course!) but without an air pump connected this leaves an uncovered opening where the airline would connect.
If left uncovered, this would allow water to be pulled through this hole, bypassing the sponges and not being filtered. So, I have attached the venturi pipe to this connection. This gives me two options:
- Leave the venturi adaptor closed – No water bypasses the sponges and no air is sucked through.
- Open the venturi adaptor above the water line to allow air to be sucked in – this air would pass through the impeller so may not be good for the longevity of the power head, it also causes more noise from the filter.
Clearly, option 1 is the better/safer option and is the one I have used. In fact, I initially used the venturi pipe to attach a large Anubias to the side of the smaller filter – why not?
(Aquael Pat Mini attached to a small double sponge filter. Worked great but clogged quickly)
(Aquael Pat Mini attached to a large double sponge filter – Seriously effective!)
Performance – Aquael Pat Mini Review
The Aquael Pat Mini has done a great job of cleaning up the fry tank and it has kept it crystal clear since I installed it. Its size means that it fits perfectly on top of a sponge filter, making it very adaptable with interchangeable filter media.
It looks the part, has the option of adding a venturi air pipe and the direction of flow can be easily adjusted.
The flow rate is perfect, it isn’t so strong that the fry cannot withstand it yet it is strong enough to keep water moving around the whole aquarium (110l).
I have had the Pat Mini attached to a double sponge filter which means it has a larger capacity than it would with the sponge provided with it. Whilst this isn’t necessary, I feel much better having more filter media attached to it.
I would estimate that this arrangement is easily capable of providing filtration for at least a 200l aquarium (dependant on stock).
The Aquael Pat Mini is extremely quiet. It is almost silent. This is a vast improvement on the noisy air pump that previously powered my sponge filter.
The Aquael Pat Mini is extremely adaptable and performs very well. 400LPH is very impressive for a filter of this tiny size and the various attachments make it easy to manage.
I would say I made the correct choice for my fry tank but this filter could be used on an aquarium of any size when combined with a suitably sized sponge filter.
Its quiet operation is great too! Gone is the noise of bubbles popping and an air pump murmuring, only the very slight trickle sound of some surface agitation remains.
This filter could be the ideal solution for Betta keepers too. A spray bar attachment could spread the flow even more, making it Betta friendly.
Using a spray bar allows even more spread of the outflow without reducing the (up to) 400 LPH rating.
The interchangeable filter media is the stand out factor for me with this filter. Fitting it onto a large sponge filter gives it a massive increase of media capacity without showing an obvious decrease in flow (though I am sure there is one).
The quality of this little filter for its low price has taken me by surprise a little bit. I’m now having a good look at Aquael’s range of external filters, namely the Ultramax series which looks very promising.
Maybe I’ll have to put some pennies aside and try one of those out in the future.
If you’re in need of a mini-filter that is compact, powerful and flexible in set-up then the Aquael Pat Mini is well worth a look!
At under £14 (as I write this) its a bargain!!
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Disclaimer: This is not a paid or sponsored review. The opinions expressed here are my own and have not been influenced in any way.
What is the capacity of the Aquael Pat Mini?
The Aquael Pat Mini is rated for aquariums up to 120l in volume. When fitted to a larger sponge filter this volume may be comfortably increased.
Can the Aquael Pat Mini be fitted to a sponge filter?
Yes, the Aquael Pat Mini is very adaptable and can be fitted to a sponge filter. This makes it very flexible in filtration capacity.
What is the flow rate of the Aquael Pat Mini?
The Aquael Pat Mini is rated up to 400lph.
Is the Aquael Pat Mini Betta safe?
Yes, whilst the flow of the Aquael Pat Mini is fairly strong, it can be easily spread out by using the attachments provided or a spray bar (sold seperately). This spreads the concentration of flow making it Betta friendly.