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Aquarium Filtration Methods and Options

by Rahim Mohamed 25 Jun 2024

Filtration is commonly referred to as the heart of an aquarium, and we would agree. Running the proper filtration for your aquarium is vital to its functionality and health. Luckily for hobbyists, there are many filtration systems to choose from! Before we jump into the different types of filters, let's break down why you need one in the first place.

Why your aquarium needs filtration

If the filter is the heart, think of the water as the blood that keeps the aquarium running. Water needs to constantly pass through the filter's media in order for the aquarium to stay clean and keep a constant flow. Stagnant water creates dead space that allows ammonia to build up and decreases the amount of oxygen in the water, whereas moving water allows for nutrients and oxygen to spread throughout your aquarium and support the life inside of it, including beneficial bacteria. With proper filtration, your aquarium’s water should be clear, and your inhabitants should thrive. 

Hang-on-Back Filter’s

Hang-on-back filters, or HOBs, are the most common beginner filter and for good reason! These filters do their job well and are simple to set up and install. True to their name, hang-on-back filters hang on the backside of your aquarium. A single pump will pull water into its chamber, through media, and spill back into your aquarium. 

Hang on Back filter are most popular because they’re affordable, low maintenance extremely versatile, media chambers and are very cost effective as compared to other filtration types. Some hobbyists prefer other filtration systems instead of Hang on Back filters due to their unsightly appearance and inability to properly filter large aquariums.

Canister filters

Canister filters are powerful systems that are small enough to hide in an aquarium stand. These filters also utilize pumps, so they are not completely hidden and need intake and outtake pumps to remain in your display. While pricier than Hang on Back Filters, canisters are great for larger, livestock heavy aquariums.

If you have an aquarium stand, most times a canister will fit perfectly in it! These systems are easy to clean and give your aquarium a neat look without anything balancing on your glass.

Sump systems

Sump systems, our personal favorite, are typically an additional small, glass aquarium installed underneath an aquarium stand. Sumps are large enough to hold many different pieces of equipment such as protein skimmers, algae scrubbers, additional media, and more. With a large enough sump, it can even be utilized to quarantine a feisty fish! 

Sump systems are plumbed into the actual aquarium and subsequently cannot be seen from the outside. This gives an aquarium a clean, modern look and keeps your aquarium crystal clear. Sumps are pricey, but also the most effective, long lasting, and need the least amount of maintenance. If any of this interests you, reach out and we can price out a quote!

Sponge Filters

Sponge filters are a highly effective and versatile tool in aquarium filtration systems. Their simple yet efficient design makes them popular among aquarists of all experience levels. Consisting of a porous sponge housed within a tube, these filters operate through air-driven mechanisms, creating gentle suction that pulls water through the sponge. This action not only removes debris and particulate matter but also provides a surface for beneficial bacteria to colonize, aiding in biological filtration. Sponge filters are particularly beneficial in breeding tanks and tanks with small or delicate species, as they offer a gentle current and prevent newborn or smaller aquatic organisms from being sucked into the filter. Their ease of maintenance, affordability, and ability to support a healthy aquatic environment make sponge filters a valuable addition to any aquarium setup.

Madden Filters

Matten filters, also known as foam or sponge mats, are a specialized type of aquarium filtration system that utilizes a dense foam mat as the primary filtering medium. These filters are renowned for their exceptional biological filtration capabilities, providing a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to thrive and break down harmful ammonia and nitrite into less toxic nitrate. Matten filters are typically placed vertically at the back or sides of the aquarium, spanning the entire height or width of the tank. Water is drawn through the foam mat via a pump or by natural flow, ensuring thorough filtration without creating strong currents that could stress aquatic inhabitants. This gentle flow makes them ideal for sensitive species and planted tanks. Matten filters are highly regarded for their efficiency, low maintenance requirements, and ability to support a stable and healthy aquatic ecosystem over the long term.

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