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Choose the Best Filtration System for Your Aquarium

Water quality is essential to keeping your aquarium healthy, and you have many options to choose from when it comes to filtration systems. But how do you choose the right one? It comes down to a number of factors, including the size of your aquarium and the needs of your fish.

Filtration Methods

First, let's look at the types of filtration you'll need in your aquarium. These include:

  1. Mechanical: Most filtration systems have a mechanical element that pushes water through a filter to remove debris.
  2. Biological: Biological filtration uses bacteria to convert toxic ammonia and nitrite into less toxic substances.
  3. Chemical: Chemical additives (such as activated charcoal) remove dissolved waste from aquarium water.

Biological filtration is the most important of the three, but mechanical and chemical systems shouldn't be neglected either. As such, the best systems incorporate multiple filtration methods.

Common Types of Filtration Systems

The six most common types of filtration systems include the following.

1. Corner Filters

Also called box filters, corner filters are compact and inexpensive, making them great for small aquariums. Over time, bacteria build up on their surface, allowing them to provide both mechanical and biological filtering. However, they can be a bit unsightly, making them less popular among those who want a more natural look.

2. Sponge Filters

Sponge filters force water through a sponge, which collects debris while also breeding bacteria. The end result is both mechanical and biological filtration, though they do tend to clog. Even so, sponge filters are a good option for aquariums with small fish.

3. UGF's

Undergravel filters, or UGF's, are commonly included with starter aquarium kits. They consist of a plate under the gravel in your aquarium and an air pump that pulls water through. While they do tend to clog over time, they are otherwise low-maintenance, making them great for beginners.

4. Back Filters

Back filters - also known as power filters - are the most commonly used system out there. Back filters work by siphoning water through a filter pad, activated charcoal, and bacteria in an external chamber, providing all three types of filtration at once. Back filters are inexpensive and easy to maintain, making them highly popular.

5. Canister Filters

Canister filters are large external filtration systems that are designed for high-volume aquariums. Like power filters, they provide all three types of filtration, but they are generally best reserved for large tanks due to their complexity and size.

6. Wet/Dry Filters

Wet/dry filters are also called trickle filters since they trickle water over plastic media. Wet/dry filters are a bit pricey, but they are becoming increasingly popular since they help improve water quality tremendously.

Choose the Best System for Your Aquarium

The best filtration system for your aquarium depends on the size of your tank, the needs of your fish / underwater plants, and the amount you want to invest in your aquarium. If you're not sure which one is best for you, contact us and we'll help you choose the right system.


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