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Zoo Med 501 filter problem

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:14 pm
by timg
I have a 40 gallon tank with a Zoo Med 501 canister filter that has stopped working.

The flow suddenly dropped to almost nothing. I thought maybe it was clogged, so I cleaned it thoroughly, but now it won't pump anything.

Is this filter fixable? Is it worth fixing? If not, can someone recommend a replacement filter?


PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:51 pm
by BullDog
I don't know anything about that filter, but I can suggest a few things.
Did you clean the impeller? Sometimes the impeller can get clogged, and it's easy to miss when you do a filter clean.
Did you put the filter back together properly? If one little bit isn't in quite the right place, it can stop the filter in its tracks.

If it comes to getting a new filter, for a 40 gallon tank I would recommend a Fluval 404 or 405. It'll more than get the job done in the current tank, and when it comes time to upgrade the tank, you probably won't have to buy a new filter as well.
Just remember, you want something that pumps at least 3x the gph as the size of your tank (so you'll want something rated at least 120 gph). The higher the better though, and there's really no such thing as too much filter :)

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:04 pm
by timg
Yes, I put the filter back together properly and I cleaned the impeller as well.

I can't seem to find much info on this filter online, so it looks to me like it's almost a "disposable" item.

The local pet stores don't seem to stock any other canister type filters - only the type that hang off the side. Do most people get their filters online?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:14 pm
by BullDog
I got all my canister filters from eBay. Way way cheaper than my lfs.
A couple other sites that often come up (though I can't vouch for the prices) are (or .ca if you're in Canada) and
Sometimes you can even get a deal on a used filter from craigslist.

There are a few people on here who use the Zoo med 501, so it might be worth waiting around to see if anyone else has a suggestion.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:05 pm
by untsmurf
With smaller filters, i've actually had to start the propellor myself. Does the motor make noise when it starts?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:31 pm
by timg
It does make some noise and the water in the tubes moves a little, but never seems to get pumping - at most it just trickles.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:21 pm
by TurtleKeeper48
I have two of thses filters - one for me, one for my son.

My son thought his had quit pumping - same thing - the water was just a trickle. The tubes were so full of brownish alge that nothing was coming out - I cleaned some stuff out of the tubes (still looked yucky) and it was working great again.

Did you clean the tubes? Those clear tubes get full of algea after a while.

You might be over working that fliter too. It is my opinion that the 501 is only good for up to a MAX of 15 gallons. It is rated at 75 gph - for turtles you want your water cycled 5 times per hour - so the Zoo Med 501 is only good for up to a 15 gallon turtle tank.

Did you ask for help at the local pet store? I looked for a long time to find the 501 in the reptile section and had to look even longer to find teh big canister filters in some wierd and random place. Just ask the workers to show you the biggest caniter filter they carry. If you can, and you feel comfortable - buy it from Craig's List and save a bundle. Good luck.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:39 pm
by timg
Yes the tubes are clear. It's very possible that the tank is too much for the filter, but it's the filter that the pet store "recommended" for the tank at the time.

It's possible they recommended it because they didn't have anything else. It's not a very big store.

I recleaned everything again last night with no improvement, so I contacted Zoo Med and they have offered a replacement since it is still within it's 1 year warranty.

I'll send it in, but will probably look for another filter that's more "up to the task".

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 9:41 pm
by imderanged
I had that filter on a 20 long tank, and eventually that same thing happened. Honestly, it's just not a good filter. i suggest upgrading if possible.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:47 am
by Kemul
You didn't mention this in your post, but have you primed the filter before turning
it on? Fill all the tubes and the filter with water.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 11:33 am
by timg
Yes, I primed it before turning it on.

PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:08 pm
by timg
I got the replacement back from Zoo Med and it's working fine. Don't know for how long though. Zoo Med customer service was excellent in this case. I couldn't find my receipt, but Rita at Zoo Med approved the replacement anyway. I had the new filter within a week of shipping the old one.

I also bought a Fluval 405 on eBay that should be arriving soon. So the Zoo Med will only have to survive a few days to a week.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:50 am
by timg
The Fluval arrived and I installed it. WOW! What a difference from the Zoo Med.

I don't think the tank has ever looked this clean.

Of course there is a major size difference between the 2 as well. I think I could fit about 12 Zoo Meds in the space the Fluval takes up.

PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 7:32 pm
by mikee
Tmg - You will find the Fluval 405 is/will be a big improvement. The 501 only put out 79 gph and the 405 pumps about 300 gph. Good Luck! m.