How to Choose the Best Filtration System for Your Aquarium

How to Choose the Best Filtration System for Your Aquarium

When I went to get a pet fish, all I really looked into was the aquariums for sale list and the actual fish. I mean, I wanted to see where to get some cheap fish tanks. I didn’t really think I need a big 75 gallon aquarium, maybe just a 29 gallon aquarium. One that’s mid-sized enough for me to see the fish but not too much by way of space and time consumed.

See, I thought all it takes to have a pet fish is an aquarium and fish. That’s it. I was wrong, of course.

A good friend of mine has had an aquarium in their family home for quite a while. And when I mentioned looking for an aquarium for sale, he started asking me about stuff like lights and filters and what not. Okay, I understood about the lights. I didn’t want to be in a dark room all the time so I imagine my fish won’t either. But it’s a small tank I’m getting. A 29 gallon aquarium. Why do I need an aquarium filter? It’s not like I’ll have a ton of fish swimming around to mess the tank up.

That got me a good smack in the head from my so-called buddy. So in the interest of saving you from physical harm from people you think are your friends, I’ll tell you why you need a filtration system for your aquarium and how to choose the best one for your kit. See? I’m nice like that 😀

Why You Need a Filter

First things first: you need a filter because it impacts the type and quality of the fish (and other aquaria) you plan to have in your tank.

The aquarium filtration system is responsible for keeping the water clear and free of particulate matter. By that I mean the leftover food, feces and waste products from the fish and even tiny fragments of plant material. It also gets rid of whatever toxic material may be in there that’s harmful to your fish.

Three Types of Filtration

There are three different types of filtration. Read on so you can make the best decision about what you need for your aquarium.

1. Mechanical

The mechanical process removes particulate matter through a media designed specifically to catch them. The media is usually made of foam, filter floss, pads, micron paper pleats or diatomaceous earth. You will need to regularly clean the media to make sure it functions properly. Otherwise, the water flow around and through the material will decrease and become less efficient.

Here’s the thing though: oversizing your mechanical filter won’t mean less maintenance. It won’t allow you to put in more fish either. That’s just a misconception.

2. Chemical

Chemical filtration removes the toxic and unwanted chemicals from the water using a chemical media or resin. Used correctly, they can even improve water quality and reduce the amount of maintenance and water changes.

3. Biological

This type filters out the toxic chemical by-products from the aquarium inhabitants by using different types of bacteria to convert them.

Filter Options

Now that you know a bit about the types of filtration, it’s time to look at actual filters for your aquarium. Here are the most common options.

1. Air-driven Internal Filter

  • Small, inexpensive.
  • Box-like or foam filter.
  • Placed inside the tank.
  • Ideal for rearing fry, hospital aquariums and small aquariums with small fish.
  • Strong enough to maintain water condition without harming aquarium inhabitants.
  • Ideal aquarium placement: near or adjacent to walls to save space.

2. Undergravel Filter

  • Placed under layer of aquarium gravel.
  • Creates conditions favorable for biological filtration.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Relies on air pump to function.
  • Available for small and large aquariums.
  • Ideal for tanks with light fish load.

3. Internal Power Filter

  • Placed underwater.
  • Space-saving.
  • Made for aquariums under 20 gallons.

4. Power Filter

  • Most widely used filter.
  • Easy to use.
  • Provides good biological, chemical and mechanical filtration.
  • Hangs off the aquarium.
  • Replaceable cartridges make maintenance easy and convenient.

5. Canister Filter

  • Superior filtration for larger aquariums or those with heavy fish load.
  • Needs 1-3 media baskets to hold different filter media types.
  • Needs more effort to set up and maintain.
  • Ideal for saltwater aquariums and freshwater planted aquariums.

6. Wet/Dry Filter

  • Great for saltwater aquarium set up.
  • Requires most effort to set up.
  • Placed under the aquarium.
  • Requires overflow box on the back.

Finally, before making your choice, know that the following will need to be considered:

  • Size of your aquarium.
  • Number of fish in the tank.

To achieve the best water conditions and keep your aquarium inhabitants healthy, you need a filter system. Actually, you may end up using more than just one type of filter to achieve that. At the end of the day, it’s just important to know that you need a filter for your aquarium, no questions asked. So go ahead and get one.

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