Sustainable Aquatics introduced the Wheely Complete Bio Processor in 2014, marketing this device as “Powerful Biofiltration for Heavily-Stocked Systems”. Matthew Carberry personally delivered one to me at the 5th Annual Marine Breeders Workshop in July, and I brought it home where it sat in the box for a couple months while life simply got in the way; I officially installed it on my larviculture system towards the end of October.
Prior to running the Wheely Complete on this system, I had been using a pretty standard DIY biological filter unit; a bright orange Home Depot 5 gallon bucket filled with bioballs; bioballs on the bottom were submerged, those on top sometimes were running in a more typical “wet/dry” configuration. No mechanical filtration at all either. Wheely Complete was going to be a step up.
So what is the Wheely Complete? In short, it’s a remake of Marineland’s Commercial Biowheel. As SA tells it, they first tried to obtain only the Biowheel portion of Marineland’s filtration systems for use in the SA hatchery, but weren’t able to obtain only this part. Since the patent on this biowheel had expired, SA did what most handy folks do when they can’t get what they want; they make it themselves. The resulting product is SA’s Wheely Complete.
So no, this isn’t really “new” in terms of being some groundbreaking device you’ve never seen before. And no, this probably isn’t what you necessarily want to throw on your reef tank (folks just got over wet dry filters with bioballs and DLS rolls, right?). This is a new product offering meant for applications where serious amounts of biological filtration are required.
So how did the Wheely roll? First, the unboxing.
I should note this was an early, pre-production model, so it’s possible that yours might look or be packaged look slightly differently. Once it was out of the box, I was able to strip away the layers to look at the Wheely Complete’s setup and construction. It’s designed to start out with a mechanical filtration layer, easily accessible standard bonded blue filter pads in the first tray.
Removing the blue pad reveals the design of the upper tray.
Removing the upper tray shows reveals the drip tray, where the water is funneled to only one side in order to turn the biological filtration wheel below.
Removing that tray reveals the wheel.
Next, a closeup of the wheel’s axel, and the wheel’s biological filtration substrate.
The wheel is easily removed from the carriage / frame.
Installation of the Wheely Complete went pretty smoothly. I had to first disassemble my pre-existing “bucket” setup, including retaining all the bioballs. Once initially in place, I threw as many bioballs onto the drip tray as I could in order to help start seeding the wheel; the rest of the bioballs were simply floated in the sump for the time being.
And this is how the initial setup looked. At this point, I should note the following; the tall cascade of water had me concerned, but that was going to be an easy fix. I just needed to cut a new section of PVC pipe to bring the water down from the drain feed above.
More concerning was the setup of the Wheely itself. Initially the wheel turned very slowly, being submerged roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the way. I was further concerned about bioballs getting stuck in the wheel, which did in fact ultimately happen. Over the next few days the wheel just sat there, not turning, until I had time to do the next steps of installation.
Referring back to the design of the Wheely Complete as shown above, I’d like to point out the “feet” on the device.
Take another look at the above image; these feet are actually designed to allow for height adjustment. The Wheely Complete has a spill way on one side, designed to allow for water to exit the bottom of the carriage after water has passed through and over the wheel. Basically, we want that spillway to be right around or slightly above the water level; this design allows for the proper amount of water contact with the wheel. Therefore, I needed to raise my unit up. This was easily accomplished with 4 short sections of 1/2″ PVC pipe cut to the appropriate length, and inserted into the “feet” on the base of the unit.
That said, I didn’t get to raising up the unit for about a week, during which time water was flowing over the wheel, but the wheel was not turning. When I finally correct things, the wheel was terribly out of balance, and at first had a hard time spinning. Within about another week’s time however, the wheel spun smoothly and continuously. Note to users out there – be ready to adjust the height when you set it up so you can avoid this headache.
After four months of use, I’m pleased to say that the Wheely has never stopped turning and appears to do a good job. I’ve taken to placing a small section of poly filter on top of the blue bonded pad, and swapping that out has worked well. My system runs at a pretty low flow, but it’s enough to turn the wheel all the same.
I’ve continued to leave my bioballs in the sump, slowly removing them as-needed to help instantly seed on-demand quarantine tanks I might need to set up. At this point I’ve pulled most of the media, and I had no problems transitioning from my DIY hack job to something substantially more “professional grade” than a drilled 5 gallon bucket!
You can find technical specifications and more in the White-Papers section of Sustainable Aquatics’ website, including this PDF file spelling out more specs and installation options. I think the best way to sum up the Wheely Complete is that it’s an easy to apply classic high capacity wet/dry type filtration design, but is easily adapted to multiple DIY options where purchasing an all in one biological filter and sump isn’t really what you’re going for.
This item was furnished without charge for use and review, but this in no way has any bearing on our opinions and views of any product.