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What is a diatom?

A diatom (Greek - cut in two) is a mobile plant of microscopic single cell or colonial algae. Among the relatively simple forms of microscopic life are animals that cannot move and plants that can. One class of these mobile plants is known by the name of diatoms. A favorite subject in many general biology or botany classes, diatoms are also of interest to geology students because diatoms have been inhabitants of both fresh and salt water for at least 15,000,000 years, and possibly over 20,000,000.

As living plants, they serve as food stuff for animals as small as themselves and for the largest whales. As fossils, their siliceous skeletons form the substance of diatomaceous earth—once less accurately called kieselguhr—now generally mined, refined, and sold as diatomite. Diatoms reproduce by self-division, as suggested by the name. Under ideal conditions, each diatom may divide every eight hours. In thirty days a single diatom may produce ten billion descendants.

In the course of growth, a diatom extracts silica—the basic ingredient of common sand—from the water and converts it into a sort of external skeleton or frustule. When a diatom dies, it settles to the bottom of the sea or lake and the organic part disintegrates, leaving this siliceous skeleton, microscopic in itself and as full of tiny holes and passages as a sponge.

A cubic inch of diatomite contains millions of diatom fistulas, which is one way of dramatizing the fact that phenomenal growth over a period of ages was required to produce the vast deposits of diatomaceous earth. Some layers measure as much as 1,500 feet thick and extend over thousands of acres. The individual diatom comes in a great variety of shapes—well over 10,000 have been separately identified. Microscopic to sub-microscopic in size, their forms are as fanciful and delicate as snowflakes. The highest power microscopes reveal each minute particle as a mesh-like structure, a lacework spun for silica, the stuff of sand. The combination of minute size and frozen-lace particle structure accounts for the unusual and important properties of diatomite.

  • Light Weight Compared to Buck (7 -13 lbs. per Cubic Foot)
  • Large Surface Area per Pound (3,000 to 30,000 Square Feet)
  • Absorptive Facility (Up to 300% by Weight)
  • Liquid Suspendibility (Carried Easily by Very Light or Very Viscous Fluids)

Thanks to a certain proportion of elongated particles, a layer of diatomite tends to mat, like straw or felt. It is curiously both flexible and rigid in practical use, and a thick cake is almost incompressible although minute voids from 75 to 96% of its bulk. Diatomite is practically inert, being essentially the same chemically as common sand. The melting point is 2,900°F. It is friable and from grit.

Hose clamps—rubber or metal?

Have you ever wondered why Vortex Innerspace Products Inc uses rubber hose clamps on our Diatom Filter? It's simply better, because there is a steady even squeeze from the rubber hose clamps. Study the picture below (fig 1). One can see that the rubber clamp is making an even squeeze on the solid plastic port thru the flexible vinyl hose. Metal clamps a lot of the time will leave a small hole down the side as shown below (fig 2). This makes the consumer tend to tighten the clamp even tighter possibly distorting the solid port. Last week I examined two Diatom Filters returned with metal clamps. Both the casting was replaced because the metal clamps had permanently distorted the plastic casting ports. The best solution is to replace a broken rubber clamp with an original rubber clamp like the Diatom Filter was equipped with.

Another point I would like to share with you is the static grip that vinyl tubing will make on the plastic fidget ports. Hoses that have not been removed in sometime should be pushed on to break the static grip.


Can I backflush and recharge my filter without taking it apart?

Yes. Take the filter to your kitchen or laundry faucet. Remove the U-tubes from the hose. Attach the exhaust hose to the faucet, and run water back through the filter to flush out debris, shaking jar several times to loosen dirt.

Remove exhaust tube from the faucet and put intake hose on the faucet to fill jar 1/2 full. Replace the U-tubes. Take the filter back to the aquarium, and put the intake and exhaust tubes in the tank. Make sure the strainers face away from each other. Plug in the filter, turn it on, and turn the jar upside down for a few seconds to get the prime going, and then set it upright.

Back-Flush Instructions

Submerge a plastic container—such as a tea pitcher—into the aquarium and put the intake and exhaust tubes into the container. Lift the container with the two tubes inside high enough to get the top above the water's surface. At this point, you will be running the filter only on the water in the small container. You may add our Diatom Powder directly into the container while the filter continues to run. A minimum powder charge for the "XL" diatom is about 3 cups and for the "D-1" diatom, 1 cup. Naturally the more powder you add to the system the better the filter will perform.

When all the powder has been absorbed into the filter and the water in the small container is running clear you may carefully lower the container out from under the pickup tubes.

How do I find my XL-9 "O" Ring and my XL-9-1 Retainer Ring?

This is a frequently asked question. The "O" Ring and Retainer Ring are both inside the main casting. If you run your fingernail along the inside edge of the main casting you will feel a groove. Pull up on the groove and you will remove the Retainer Ring. Under it is the "O" Ring.

The "O" Ring and Retainer Ring as well as the interior of the XL-2 Main Casting should be cleansed of debris each time the Diatom XL Filter is recharged if you have taken the filter apart to clean it. After removing the XL-4 Filter bag and the XL-5 Turbulence Tube from the casting, slide off the XL-9-1 Retainer Ring as described above. Remove the "O" Ring. Wash each of the parts and set them aside. Wash the main casting with a small brush and water spray to remove any Diatom Powder or other debris from inside the cavity.

Allow the parts to dry. Apply a thin coat of Vaseline or silicone grease to the "O" Ring and roll it back into place. Install the Retainer Ring and assemble the filter per assembly instructions. Following these instructions will assure a good seal.

How do I replace my jar ring?

Replacing the jar rings on your Diatom Filter need not be a hard job. To replace the jar ring, it is not necessary to remove the Main Casting from the P-1 Motor. Remove the old jar ring from the casting. Heat the new jar ring to about 150 degrees by running hot tap water over it. Hold the jar ring against the side of the main casting (fig. 1). With the jar ring still hot you will be able to force it over the rim of the casting into its proper position (fig. 2).

Removing Jar Head

fig. 1

Replacing Jar Head

fig. 2

How do I extend the life of Diatom Filter bags?

Diatom Filter bags (Model P-4 & XL-4) will wear out around the top port where the solid plastic is bonded to the filter bag material. To extend the life, apply a thin layer of silicone rubber to the top of the fabric extending out from the ridged plastic port 1/4" to 1/2". Make your silicone layer a little thicker next to the black plastic, and then taper the silicone down as thin as possible. This will give the fabric a larger flexible area. But remember you are also blocking flow area so don't overdo a distance of 1/2".

Can I run my Diatom Filter continuously?

The Diatom Filter is designed to operate continuously in salt or fresh water. The main reason we don't recommend it is because most fish will not be able to stand the strain of constantly having to swim against the strong current generated by the Diatom Filter or any other high flow filter for that matter.

Fish needs rest and may very well die if they don't get it. Naturally it is up to the individual to determine how much current his fish can tolerate and how much filtration is necessary, depending on the size of the aquarium and fish. I strongly suggest that all power filtration be turned off for a few hours each day unless it is particularly needed at the time. The Diatom Filter will filter out particles and parasitic life forms down to about one micron in size. We are not particularly after the bacteria. We are after the fish killing parasitic protozoan life forms, such as Ishthyophtririus Multifiliis (Ich), Chilondonella, Myzobulus Sporozoan, Octonitiasis and other Flagellates, Sporozoa, Leaches, Etc.

It is almost impossible to get rid of all the parasites in an aquarium, but with the proper filtration we can keep the population of parasites low enough so they do not harm healthy fish. Medication sometimes helps, but I am a firm believer that more fish are killed by over treatment with medication than any other cause. Proper filtration is the key.

Oxygen molecules are on the order of four Angstroms in size and are unfilterable in the general sense of the word. The diatom will not filter out the oxygen; in fact it actually reduces carbon dioxide levels in the aquarium because of the speed of the impeller (3,000 RPM). Dissolved gases are liberated and allowed to escape at an accelerated rate.

It is quite alright to medicate (if you feel you must) while the filter is running. The diatom will not filter out the medicine as long as you are not using SUPER-CHAR in it with the Diatom Powder. When you feel the medication has done its job, simply add SUPER-CHAR to the filter and the medicine will be absorbed.

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