DIY Aquarium Filter - Clean and Setup Filter Media

Store bought aquarium filter can be expensive and might not be something you are looking for. Because of this, many aquarium hobbyist tend to build their own filter at home. Due to my own requirements, size of tank and number of fish, i decided to build my own DIY Aquarium Filter and it cost me under AUD $50 along with all the supplies and filter media. Filter is located on top of the aquarium and filters 2000 Liter of aquarium water in an hour with the flexibility of double the current capacity if required in future. This step by step article will show you how i have built myself an aquarium filter and i will also discuss routine maintenance and demonstrate when and how bio media in the filter should be cleaned.

DIY Aquarium Filter Setup Video Tutorial

Build DIY Aquarium Filter:

I based the size of the filter box on my aquarium canopy. Since canopy is just over 1.2 meter, i went with a channel drain which is just over meter. Since i live in Melbourne, i head to Bunnings Warehouse and bought it for AUD $19.99. The channel also came with a grate, i don't have any use for it at the moment but looks okay since it covers the channel. Both ends of the channel are open so i bought end cap for the channel.

Container Used For Aquarium Filter
DIY Aquarium Filter Box - Channel Drain & End Caps

Bulkhead is most commonly used for aquarium filter plumbing but are extremely expensive. I believe one would have cost me more than the price i paid for the filter box. The cheap alternative is buying PVC male and female adapters which cost under AUD $5, don't forget to get a washer. 

I drilled two holes in the end caps, a 16 mm for the inlet hose to the filter box and a 40 mm for the outlet hose back to the aquarium. I purposely kept the outlet big so i could easily upgrade my pump and increase the water flow capacity through the filter in future if required.

Cheap Plumbing for Aquarium Filter
PVC Male & Female Adapters To Replace Bulkheads

Selleys glass silicone is used to connect end caps to the filter and seal the plumbing connection. It was bought from Bunnings and i believe for under AUD $10. It is aquarium safe and cure within 24-48 hours, depending on the weather and moisture in the air. A tray was made to hold the mechanical filter media in the filter box and was attached near the inlet.

Silicone for Aquarium use
Aquarium Safe Silicone To Seal Connections

Material Used: 

1. Channel drain
2. End caps and attachment
3. Aquarium Safe Silicone
4. PVC pipe and 90 degree elbow
5. Male and Female adapters with a gasket
6. Electric Drill (equipment handy if available)

Top Filter Aquarium Setup:

For mechanical filtration, the best way is to use 3 forms of filter media if possible and place the coarse foam on top, medium to follow and very fine foam at the bottom. Water entering the filter will get filtered through coarse foam, medium foam will catch remaining particles and fine foam will filter all the tiny dust particles, excess food, fish waste etc.,

Filter Media Setup In Aquarium Filter
Setting Up Filter Media in DIY Aquarium Filter

Biological filtration should be placed somewhere in the filter where only clean water flows. If dirty water from the tank gets in touch with the bio media then there is a risk of clogging up tiny holes in the bio media which will reduce its capacity to hold and grow beneficial bacteria. 

Chemical filter media if applicable or desirable should be placed between mechanical filter media and biological filter media. Not every fish keeper keeps chemical filter media in the filter. However, mechanical and biological filtration is a must.

Cleaning Aquarium Filter:

I clean my aquarium every fortnight that involved scrubbing the inside of the glass and changing 35% of aquarium water. I also replace the mechanical filtration and clean my sponge (filter sock). Over time, my aquarium filter start getting dirty. Some dirt, excess food, fish waste that couldn't be stopped by the mechanical filtration got stuck in the filter box and stayed there. It has been 6 months that filter has been running and it was time for me to temporarily stop the filter, keep beneficial bacteria alive and do a quick clean up.

Cleaning Aquarium Filter Media
Cleaning Bio Media in Aquarium Water

I replaced the mechanical filtration which is the easiest part. Half filled a small bucket with aquarium water and rinse all the bio media in the bucket. Loose bio media was placed inside the media bags and soaked in the bucket after refilling it with clean aquarium water. It left me with dirty water in the filter box to clean, which was easy as i rinsed it using garden hose. I quickly dried the inside of filter box with microfiber cloth and placed all the bio media back. DIY aquarium filter was connected back to the pump and put back in action.

Setting Up Mechanical Filtration
Aquarium Filter - Mechanical Filter Media Setup

It must be noted that bio media must only be rinsed in aquarium water and should only be clean if needed to do so. By rinsing bio media in aquarium water, there is always a risk of loosing beneficial bacteria but if your filter gets to a stage when the risk of clogging up the holes in bio media out weights other things then i would suggest you to do a quick clean. Open holes will increase the surface area of the bio media to hold more beneficial bacteria.

I hope you have found this article informative, if i have missed anything or if you would like to know more then please feel free to ask in the comment section below. Happy fish keeping

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