How to Setup Mechanical Filtration in an Aquarium

How to setup mechanical filtration in a tank?

The concept behind mechanical filters is very basic. They are used to remove debris present in the water. It is strongly recommended to remove mechanical filters & clean the filter media regularly otherwise debris will gather & decompose which will reduce the livability of the tank environment. This will put stress on the inhabitants of the tank. Proper maintenance of mechanical filtration will give you success in keeping fish happy. Also it is suggested to replace mechanical filtration media after it runs for longer periods.

Also learn how to setup biological filtration


How to Setup Mechanical Filtration in an Aquarium
How to Setup Mechanical Filtration in an Aquarium
  1. What is mechanical filtration?
  2. How does mechanical filtration works?
  3. What are the types of mechanical filtration media?
  4. How to setup mechanical filter?
  5. Why ordering mechanical filter media is very important?
  6. Why 3 types of filtration media are used in mechanical filters?
  7. How to clean mechanical filter?
  8. What are the pros & cons of mechanical filtration?

1. What is mechanical filtration?

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filtration is very essential like other types of filtration used in aquarium. The other 2 types are chemical & biological filtration. Mechanical filtration can remove solid waste particles that pass through the filter media. Thus water free of fish waste flows back into the tank.

They are able to trap waste including fish poop, sludge, uneaten fish food, dead pieces of aquarium plants, dust & other solid waste particles floating in fish tank. They can trap very tiny particles that are hard to see with the naked eye.

2. How does mechanical filtration works?

Fish net is an example of how mechanical filter works
Fish net is an example of how mechanical filter works

The simplest way to know how mechanical filter works is considering the example of fish net. Water can flow through the fish net but fish are trapped inside.

The filter media used inside mechanical filter unit traps waste particles that pass through the media. After removal of solid waste, it allows clean water to flow back into the tank.

Cloudy water
Cloudy water

If there is too much fish waste inside the tank then water would turn cloudy, & it would be difficult to see the fish.

3. What are the types of mechanical filtration media?

3 types of filtration media are used in normal mechanical filters including:

  1. Coarse Filter Media
  2. Medium Filter Media
  3. Fine Filter Media

Coarse Filter Media:

Coarse Filter Media
Coarse Filter Media

Coarse filter media can trap smaller particles of waste & it can be used as a pre-filter.

Medium Filter Media:

Medium Filter Media
Medium Filter Media

While using a medium filter media, the water in your tank will look noticeably clean, but fewer small waste particles will not be trapped inside medium filter media.

Fine Filter Media:



Fine Filter Media
Fine Filter Media

It is suggested to use fine filter media if you want clean water. Fine filter media can remove very small particles of waste.

4. How to setup mechanical filter?

Dry the filter and add mechanical filter media setup. Mechanical filtration comes before biological filtration so that only water clean of fish waste flows through the biological media.

order of filter media
From top: Coarse filter media followed by medium & fine filter media

It is suggested to put coarse foam in the top layer followed by medium foam & fine foam at the end. Coarse foam can remove all the large waste particles, medium foam can catch debris that are not trapped by coarse foam, & fine foam can trap all the small waste particles. If the order of filter media is changed then it will affect the performance of the mechanical filter & overtime the efficiency will be reduced.

5. Why ordering mechanical filter media is very important?

Mechanical filter media are ordered based on the size of the pores (holes) that allow clean water to pass through it.

Coarse filter media vs fine filter media
Coarse filter media (large pores) vs fine filter media (small pores)

  • Coarse filter media has large holes
  • Fine media has small holes

If fish waste or other solid objects that are not trapped in a coarse filter media, can be easily trapped in a fine media. Hence it is very important to put coarse filter media along with fine filter media or fish waste would not be safely removed from the aquarium.

Question. If fine filter media traps everything, then why coarse filter media is required?

6. Why 3 types of filtration media are used in mechanical filter?


Coarse media is required because it not only takes longer to clog but can be washed easily as well. As compared to coarse filter media, fine filter media clog quickly when large waste particles pass through it. Also it will not cost you that much because many fine media must be discarded after use as compared to coarse filter media which can work for longer periods. Also it is recommended to avoid filter clogs because it can prevent oxygen from reaching the good bacteria in your tank, killing them & causing your aquarium to crash.

7. How to clean mechanical filter?


Cleaning mechanical filter media
Cleaning mechanical filter media


Like other types of filters, mechanical filters require cleaning. Without regular cleaning, all the waste trapped inside the mechanical filter media will start to rot, which produces nitrate spike. However, it can be easily avoided with regular cleaning or replacing the filter media, which will reduce the problems that generates nitrate spike.

Proper care should be taken when washing the media used in mechanical filters. Beneficial bacteria that grows inside biological filtration also grows inside mechanical filters. Using tap water or cleaning detergents can also remove the beneficial bacteria which leads to a spike in ammonia or nitrates.


8. What are the pros & cons of mechanical filtration?

Pros of mechanical filtration:

Mechanical filter keeps aquarium clean
Mechanical filter keeps aquarium clean
  1. Mechanical filtration is inexpensive
  2. It increases the colonization of beneficial bacteria
  3. Water should pass through mechanical filtration before entering chemical & biological filtration zone

Cons of mechanical filtration:

Cleaning mechanical filter
Cleaning mechanical filter
  1. Mechanical filtration media requires regular cleaning
  2. Overtime filter media needs replacement
  3. Mechanical filtration is not only sufficient for complete cleaning of water, & it should be followed by chemical & biological filtration
How to Setup Mechanical Filtration in an Aquarium How to Setup Mechanical Filtration in an Aquarium Reviewed by Fishaholic on June 24, 2019 Rating: 5

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