Filtration is the key to keeping your aquarium a clean and healthy environment for your fish. When it comes to choosing a filter, however, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options available. Before selecting a filter for your aquarium you need to understand the basics of aquarium filtration which includes understanding the three types of filtration. Different types of filters offer different types of filtration and, unless you understand the basics, you will not be equipped to select the right piece of equipment for your tank.
The most basic, and perhaps the most important, type of aquarium filtration is mechanical filtration. Mechanical filtration simply involves the physical removal of solid waste products from tank water. Generally, solid waste takes the shape of uneaten fish food, decaying plant matter and organic waste like feces. Aquarium filters that offer mechanical filtration usually operate by sucking the aquarium water up through an intake tube. The water is then filtered through some kind of sponge and released back into the aquarium. As the water passes through the sponge, solid waste products become lodged in the pores and are thus removed from the aquarium water. This type of filtration is essential in the home aquarium because, as solid waste accumulates along the bottom of the tank, it breaks down in a process that produces ammonia. Ammonia is a substance toxic to fish and if the ammonia levels in your tank become too high, your fish could become stressed, fall ill or even die.
Chemical filtration is often combined with mechanical filtration as a means of removing dissolved wastes in addition to solid wastes from aquarium water. This type of filtration helps to remove a variety of wastes including proteins, hormones and metabolic waste as well as organic acids and compounds. As the filter takes tank water up through the intake tube, it passes through the sponge along with some type of filter media which removes the dissolved wastes. The most common type of filter media is activated carbon. Most modern filters which incorporate chemical filtration utilize filter cartridges that combine the mechanical filtration of a sponge with the chemical filtration of activated carbon. In order to maximize the effectiveness of these filters, the filter cartridge must be replaced every three to four weeks.
The third type of filtration, biological filtration, does not necessarily require any special equipment. Biological filtration is a term used to describe the process by which nitrifying bacteria break down wastes in your tank, converting harmful toxins like ammonia into less harmful nitrates. While mechanical filters work to remove solid wastes, there is likely to still be some build-up in your substrate. As these substances decompose, ammonia is produced. The nitrifying bacteria in your tank work to convert ammonia into nitrites then into nitrates, a process called the Nitrogen Cycle. While some filters incorporate a Bio-wheel designed to provide beneficial bacteria a place to grow, the most common places these bacteria grow is in tank substrate and on in-tank surfaces.
Tips for Aquarium Filtration
Regardless what type of filter you choose for your aquarium, you will be required to perform some basic maintenance tasks. It is wise to rinse your filter once in a while to remove any build-up of slime algae. It is also necessary to replace your filter media every three to four weeks to ensure that your filter will keep your aquarium water clean. In addition to these simple maintenance tasks, you can increase the effectiveness of your aquarium filter by adding an EcoBio-Stone to your tank. EcoBio-Block products are composed of porous volcanic sand and infused with beneficial bacteria. Once introduced into your tank, these bacteria multiply to form a colony of nitrifying bacteria which will help your filter to convert harmful toxins like ammonia into less harmful nitrates. EcoBio-Stones are easy to use and they are a great way to help keep your aquarium water clean and clear.