The name conjures up images of a snail chasing man in a top hat, like the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But it’s a real thing. A pretty good real thing, too, says Nathan Hill.
When I was about seven I had a toy hoover that looked like a robot Emu that would ‘eat’ colourful plastic balls from the floor, and this thing is 99% the same but scaled down. There’s an extending arm that stretches to 30cm, with a pivot head on the end that rotates roughly 90°. It has a frontal collecting chamber that you can manually open, and a rubber harvesting rotor, so it rolls against glass nicely.
Operation is simple. Starting at the bottom of the glass, roll the rotor up the pane and over any snails. They’ll be scooped up in the rubber baffles and transported to the collecting cup at the front. Then just pull the thing out, flip open the collecting chamber, and out pops your mollusc bounty. No squished snails in the tank to pollute your water, and no need for harmful gastropod poisons.
As a negative, it only really works with snails that are on glass. If they’re in the substrate, this thing can’t touch them. So just turn your lights off for a few hours until they all come out, ping them back on, and you should have snails out all over the place. You’re welcome.
This thing cost me almost £11, so I’m trying to work out if it brings over a tenner’s worth of laziness to my life. If I struggled with snails, maybe. If you don’t like getting your hands in the tank and picking the things out manually like the rest of us, then you’ll love it.
Price: Seems to vary. I’ve found them as low as £7.99, but most stores are in the £10 to £12 region. I paid £10.99 for mine.
More info: dennerle.com
What a treat this is — a gravel cleaner designed to be powered by either an FX4 or an FX6 Fluval canister, writes Nathan Hill.
Best of all, this gravel cleaner currently comes as a free gift when you buy a new FX filter (read our review of the new FX4 here). The bad news is that if you want one, and already have an FX filter, you can’t buy it separately at the moment. The gravel cleaner is what it says on the box, but in this case the canister filter powers it. In the package you get the gravel cleaning attachment, some hosing, a pre-filter/strainer, and some suction cups. So far, so good.
The reach of the gravel cleaner is subject to how many attachments you use (two come as standard, each 365mm long). The cleaner connects to a hose, which in turn connects to the pre-filter — a clear chamber with a fine filter bag inside. This is where the waste collection happens.
The pre-filter has a quick-fit connection at the base, which you attach to a hose leading to the bottom port of your FX canister. At this stage, you sucker the pre-filter chamber to the side of your tank, and you’re ready to start.
Operation involves closing the inflow of the canister, but keeping the return open. When you open the valve on the bottom port to which the gravel vacuum is hooked up, flow will begin, drawing water through the cleaner and returning it to the tank.
Controlling the flow is performed with a ‘thumb tap’ on top of the device. Insert the gravel cleaner into the substrate, open the tap, and it’ll lift substrate up and swill off dirt. When the gravel is clean, close the tap again and let the substrate drop back out. It’s basically the same as any other gravel cleaner in this regard.
That’s pretty much it, apart from subsequently cleaning out the bag afterwards. Hagen’s website lists two grades of filter bag — fine and super fine. In a really dirty tank, that bag will clog pretty fast, so don’t expect it to be outstanding if you’re in the habit of leaving your tank for months between cleans — which you shouldn’t do anyway.
If you’re still unsure of how to operate it, Fluval even has a pretty good ‘silent movie’ tuition video using universal hand gestures — scroll down to see it.
I really hope they start selling these and not just giving them away to new FX buyers, because eventually everyone with one of those canisters will want one of these to accompany it. Easy enough to use, and makes a fiddly job a lot simpler.
Ease of use: 4/5
Value for money: 5+/5 (it’s free!)
Price: N/A, currently a free gift for FX buyers.
More info: uk.hagen.com
Marketed for ulcers, abrasions and wounds for Koi, this kit is actually one of those 'best kept secrets' that every aquarist with fish over a few inches in size, be they tropical or coldwater, will want, writes Nathan Hill.
Inside the box you get a professional assortment of bits, with not just treatments but also the safety gear and applicators you’ll want when using.
Gloves, swabs and even a spray applicator are all part of the bundle. I’d be ecstatic if a pair of goggles ever found their way in as well, but as it stands there’s no way I can knock what Kusuri have put together here.
You get six chemicals in the pack, all directly related to the treatment of surface wounds in fish. Raised scales, fight injuries, post infection lesions, parasite wounds and a host of other surface maladies are well within the scope of what is included.
First of all you have Masuizai, which is a fish sedative based on the ingredient 2-phenoxyethanol and is the current vogue method of anaesthetising fish. In a worst-case scenario, 2-phenoxyethanol is also the most humane method to euthanise dying fish.
Next is Anti-Bac, an iodine-based medication that can be used to directly treat ulcers as well as bacterially raised scales. Some keepers even report good results using this chemical in tandem with water-soluble treatments to deal with finrot, though this is not mentioned on the packaging.
Roccal Wound Cleaner is included, using the active ingredient benzalkonium chloride, which has been extensively used as a biocide in an antiseptic role, as a cut cleaner for humans as well as an ingredient in hand sanitising. Used in the same sense on a fish’s wound, further infection can be plugged early on.
Top coat sealer is a tincture of benzoin-based antiseptic that helps to form a sealing layer over wounds (hence the name) and is destined here to be used in tandem with my favourite product of all, Orahesive Powder.
Orahesive is nothing more than a watertight sealant, which is sprinkled on to a wound directly after treatment. At the first hint of water, it forms a resilient, almost gelatinous skin that helps to stop osmotic stress as well as keep medications locked against the infected site. Having used the powder countless times, I can attest to just how good a seal it forms underwater.
As a complete kit, I couldn’t imagine being without it. Kusuri’s topical kit carries so many chemicals that I would want immediate access to in an emergency. I’d recommend it to anyone who had fish, let alone fish that were prone to fighting and/or physical injuries. It may not exactly be cheap, but it’s still cheaper than a couple of dead Malawis.
Price: RRP £52.45 for an eight-piece kit. More info: kusuri.co.uk
Here's a product format most won't have seen before, says Nathan Hill — a range of water quality and chemistry based products in 1 ml ampules instead of bottles.
These products from French company Prodibio look like those wonderful stink bombs from my childhood days of playground fun, but inside is a good blend of ingredients.
Dosing is blissfully simple. Each ampule relates to a volume of water. Calculate how much water you have, check off how many ampules you need, pop off each end and just pour it in.
Stop Ammo is a plant extract-based product, using chemicals that plants utilise to bond to ammonia, rendering it quite harmless.
Although some communication with Prodibio’s development researchers was lost in translation, I understand the process takes place via the medium of glycoproteins these plants use to bind ammonia and other nitrogen sources.
These gradually release the active ammonia back into the system over a delayed period.
That’ll certainly give bacteria some breathing space in the event of a filter crash or surge of pollution.
BioVert is pretty self-explanatory as a plant food supplement. It’s made up from a mix of iron, manganese, sulphur and potassium, in the absence of nitrate and phosphate, and although it’s not going to appeal to aquascapers who use EI, or someone on a strict fertiliser regime, it should help the everyday aquarist who has limp greenery.
However, the biggest treats in the range are the biological supplements. Unlike UK companies that refuse to reveal which bacteria they use, Prodibio is quite transparent.
In its BioDigest additive, it advertises a mixture of bacteria from the Nitrosomonas, Nitrobacter, Paracoccus and Pseudomonas groups — so is a good mixture of both authotrophic and heterotrophic nitrifiers and denitrifiers.
If all of these bacteria reactivate in the aquarium we’re in for a treat. They all activate at different rates and do different jobs, and in an ideal world would even help to reduce nitrates and phosphates.
Do they have any effect on my tanks? It’s hard to say, as nitrates and general water quality issues don’t tend to bug me. The jury’s out on this one.
Like similarly marketed products, these bacterial supplements require periodic replenishing, with fortnightly doses recommended. With no need to refrigerate, and having a long shelf life, that shouldn’t pose a problem.
I’m taken by BioTrace, which is literally just that — trace elements for anything in the aquarium. That may be bacteria, fish or plants. Either way there are vitamins and other goodies for all organisms.
It’s also claimed that bacterial colonies may flourish at a higher rate and that this may help water quality. My fish look a little sprightlier since I’ve started using it, but I can’t comment on filter activity.
Included in BioTrace is an interesting addition of plant surfactants, which, on investigation, may indeed enhance the rate at which bacteria can grow. There’s much speculative science surrounding the subject, but a similar process is often used in reducing the surface tension of fertilisers, making them easier to absorb at a cellular level by plants.
This range is well thought through. There are also a couple more products in circulation, inspired combinations of the above products. These are BioClean, which is a biodigest/biotrace, and Start Up, which is an ammo stop/biodigest combo.
The latter product makes a grand claim that I’d ignore, in that in freshwater tanks fish may be added a mere four hours after the additive. Of course, there’s much to factor in to that, but I’d still avoid doing so.
Prices: From £4.99 to £34.99.