You have probably heard these terms before and wondered, “What the heck are Clearomizers, Cartomizers, and Tanks?”

Well, today you’re going to get a lesson in vaping history about the very earliest of vaping atomizers, the clearos and cartos. Experienced vapers are familiar with these because many of them started out with these atomizers on stick batteries before moving onto more advanced vape gear.

The examples below were the options available to vapers in the very beginning of vaping popularity. The options increased over time to what we have now, but some older vapers still use some of these options because they are affordable and the devices are simple to use.

Let’s Start from the Beginning

510 Cartomizer in black

510 cartomizer

In the beginning, there were cartomizers. These early atomizers were cylindrical tubes that encased the coil and wicking material and often came in stainless steel or a colored finish. There are actually two styles of cartomizers, which we will get into as well.

The first type of cartomizer is a short tube filled with a single coil and wicking material rolled up inside. This piece screws into the 510 connection on a stick battery and maybe a yellow color to simulate the familiar “cigarette butt” or maybe a variety of different colors depending on the manufacturer of the device. For example, Halo G6 cartomizers come in white, black, purple, green, burgundy and so on. The stick battery colors are the same as well for customization. These come “pre-filled” with Halo e-juice or as “blanks” you can fill with your own e-liquid.


510 cartomizers – orange

These cartomizers are usually a standard resistance of 2.4 – 3.0 for older devices that are not for sub-ohm use. These include stick batteries, eGo-style batteries, and any device that works with variable voltage/wattage (twist batteries) in the range of 1 – 12W.

These are great for use in an emergency when you accidentally break a tank and have no access to a replacement right away. Just pop one onto your eGo twist and set the voltage between 3.8 and 4.2 and you’re good to go.

These also come in single or dual coil options. The single coil cartos are in the resistance range of 1.5 to 3.0 ohms. The single coil produces a cooler vape with less throat hit, while the dual coil produces more vapor and throat hit and is meant for devices with variable voltage/variable wattage.

The Second Type of Cartomizer: The Carto Tank Cartomizer

Dual coil cartomizer stainless

Dual coil cartomizer for carto tank.

These are pretty much the same type of atomizer, the difference is that they are made to go inside of a cartomizer tank. They have a flat, flanged bottom and pre-drilled holes on the side for wicking juice from the tank. These cannot be used in place of the other cartomizers and vice versa.

Carto tanks are a glass tank with a top and bottom that is hollow in the center (which is where the cartomizer goes) the atomizer soaks e-liquid in through the holes ( or slots) in the sides of the tube. These are older style tanks and not used much anymore. They were prone to flooding and gurgling because there was no way to adjust the juice feed to keep too much juice from getting in at a time. They were also very messy to fill because the metal tube had to be pulled down from the center to allow for refilling which often resulted in juice leaking from the bottom of the tank.

Pluses and Minuses

Both of these types of cartomizers have their good points and their bad points. Their good points are that they are versatile, easy to find from known vendors and some online retailers, blanks can be filled with your own e-liquid flavors, and will last a week or two as long as you prime them before use and don’t let them go dry.

The bad points of these are that they only hold 1 -2 mils of juice, you cannot tell how much liquid is in the tank, can get gunky pretty fast, and sometimes you will get the flavor of the polyfill wicking for the first few uses. You can clean them but it is a pain, so just buy a box of 5 and discard them as needed.

The Next Evolutionary Step: The Clearomizer


Clear and colored plastic clearomizer

The clearomizer was the next step up when moving from stick batteries to eGo-style batteries. Clearomizers are plastic tanks with an atomizer (heating coil) and wicks. You would fill them by removing the drip tip and dripping juice down the sides of the tube. The plastic tanks were more attractive and came in a variety of colors to match your device battery. The only drawback to some of these is that citrus and acidic juices like pineapple and cinnamon would cause them to crack. Also, too much pressure when opening or closing could also cause the tank to crack at the bottom where it screws onto the battery.

Disposable and Replaceable Coil Clearos

Esmart 510 Cartomizer

Esmart 510 Cartomizer

The very basic clearomizers which are the CE4 style are disposable and meant to be thrown away when the heating coil burns out or the tank cracks. These are priced around $1 or so and are easily replaced by a variety of retailers. Can also be purchased in packs of 5.

The clearos with replaceable coils are the eGo CE4+, CE5, and H2. They hold 1.6 mils of e-liquid and come with a tiny coil head that can be removed and replaced as needed. They are also compatible with all types of eGo batteries. The tank is easy to clean and can be used over and over until it needs replacing. This is a very affordable way to vape when you have a small budget. These also come in either plastic or glass and are priced between $2 – $3 each.

Moving On to Tanks: The Glassomizer


Aspire Glassomizer

The earliest tanks besides carto tanks and before sub-ohm tanks were the glassomizer tanks. These tanks had a standard 510 connection and could be used on eGo batteries and some low wattage mods. These tanks often had long wicks like the Vivi Nova that sat on top or were at the bottom of the atomizer tube. The ones with the coils at the bottom tend to last longer and don’t get burnt as often as the ones with the coils and wicks at the top.

The glassomizers hold 1.5 mils of e-liquid, are made from Pyrex glass, and come apart for easy cleaning. Examples of glassomizers are: Aspire K1&K2, Aspire BVC Vivi Nova, Any Vape Davide BDC Mini, and Aspire Triton Mini.

That Brings Us Up to Current Day

Our options as vapers are more varied and equipment has improved over time. Tank options now include modern vape tanks, sub-ohm tanks, rebuildable tanks, and rebuildable dripping atomizers. The previous options are still available for those who want to try them out and work their way up to more advanced gear slowly. The License to Vape guides are designed to help new people understand what vaping is, the terminology and even help experienced vapers find reviews on some of the more advanced gear.

If you are new to vaping and want to learn more, make sure you check out the License to Vape beginners guide here. It is packed with a lot of information for all new people switching over to vaping and why the switch makes sense.

Now that you’ve had your history lesson for the day, go and pass on your newly acquired knowledge. Share with your friends and family and let’s make it a priority to get everyone we love off cigarettes.