How to setup Aquarium Filter (Trickle/Shower Filter):

Trickle filter lets water flow freely out of the aquarium using an overflow. The principle of overflow is clear from its name as it allows water to freely flow out of the aquarium when a certain level of water is crossed. This technique is used in swimming pools & water reservoirs too as it can help in maintaining water level & allow excess water to freely flow out. The excess water that flows out of the aquarium, flows into a drain pipe.


Aquarium Trickle Filter Setup
Aquarium Trickle Filter Setup


A trickle filter has another name Shower filter & it is widely used in tanks & ponds. Aquarium plants can assist in filtration but still we need a filter to keep aquarium clean.

Video below shows how to setup trickle filter:


How to setup tickle filter


Setup of trickle filter in aquarium:

  • We use coarse & fine foam for mechanical filtration.
  • Bio balls & Seachem matrix are used for biological filtration.
  • We are using submersible pump with sponge connected to its inlet.



Why filter is very important in aquarium?

The objective of having a filter in your tank is to wipe out uneaten food that can pollute water overtime. Also filters can help remove fish waste, toxic chemicals, floating particles, plant leaves & other debris in aquarium.

If waste of aquarium inhabitants is not removed from the aquarium, then it will build up quickly & high concentrations of this waste will make water toxic for inhabitants. The early levels of waste build up can produce ammonia in little amount & it stresses fish but when there is too much waste then it release toxic ammonia & it is very dangerous.


Importance of filter in aquarium
Importance of filter in aquarium


Waste particles are responsible to make water cloudy. It is very important to have an aquarium filter that can remove all waste particles & help grow beneficial bacteria. The good bacteria that grows on aquarium surface can enhance immune system of fish. Strong immune system can help fish fight all the odds that includes harmful bacteria, stress, diseases & other challenges that they encounter in aquarium water.

To learn how filtration works in aquarium, we have divided filtration system in 2 section i.e. mechanical filtration & biological filtration.


Mechanical Filtration:

Mechanical filtration is responsible for removing all physical waste particles, dead pieces of aquatic plants, food particles, & other debris present in the water. The use of mechanical filtration can avoid cloudy water. Also water looks clear when you have an operating filter. It is easy to setup a mechanical filter in aquarium. When water is pumped to enter mechanical filter chamber, then it removes debris & allow clean water to flow out.


Mechanical filtration
Mechanical filtration


Tank filter in our planted tank contains mechanical & biological filtration. We are using coarse foam & fine foam to achieve mechanical filtration. Coarse foam can trap large particles while fine foam removes small particles that enter filter. We are using Bio balls and Seachem matrix for cleaning aquarium water that consists of harmful fish waste & keep inhabitants safe.

Coarse foam followed by medium & fine foam
Coarse foam followed by medium & fine foam


It is important to setup coarse foam in the top layer & then install fine foam at the end. Coarse foam is required to remove all large debris, & fine foam can remove the remaining small debris that are not trapped in coarse foam. 

Note: We are not using medium foam in our filter.

We need to order mechanical filtration media based on the size of holes that let clean water to flow through it.

  • Coarse foam consists of big pores.
  • Fine foam has little pores.


Coarse media vs fine media
Coarse media vs fine media


Debris that are not trapped in coarse foam, can be easily trapped in fine foam. But the question is, if fine foam can trap every particle, then why we install coarse foam in filter?


Mechanical filter media


The answer is we need coarse foam which not only takes longer to clog but we can easily wash it. As compared to coarse foam, fine foam clog immediately when large debris passes through it.


Biological Filtration:

Biological filtration can help in building up good bacteria inside filter that makes water less stressful & less toxic for aquarium inhabitants. It involves a mechanism that changes inhabitants’ waste into less poisonous particles. If these substances are not removed from aquarium, then it pollutes water. Biological filtration can change poisonous ammonia into nitrite, & poisonous nitrite into not very dangerous nitrate, which can be removed from water with regular water changes.


Biological Filtration
Biological Filtration


For biological filtration, it is recommended to cycle your aquarium first. Without aquarium cycling, even though you set up the highest quality biological filter, it wouldn’t work efficiently.


Bio Balls:

It is a breathing bio ball & it is required for producing nitrifying bacteria. It can help restore natural water quality, & provides close to ideal environment for aquarium inhabitants.

Bio Ball
Bio Ball


Bio balls are the perfect solution for producing good bacteria. They can sit inside tank filter. There is an open structure pattern on bio balls that has a crucial role in biological filtration. It helps in increasing surface area of the ball. Good bacteria like to attach to surface & can be located in high amount on surfaces that offer more surface area. Plastic balls can offer large surface area for beneficial bacteria to cling to.

The type of bio ball we are using have a foam inside that provide even more surface area for beneficial bacteria to attach to it. This ball can be divided into 2 & there is a foam located inside. This foam can help in growing big colonies of good bacteria that can serve the purpose of nitrifying bacteria.

Bio balls are used for converting ammonia into nitrite & nitrite into nitrate which isn’t that toxic & you can remove it easily with regular water changes. The good bacteria is known as nitrifying bacteria which is essential part of nitrogen cycle.


Seachem Matrix:


Seachem Matrix
Seachem Matrix


It is a very porous biological media that offers best biological filtration that can be used to remove nitrogenous waste particles. It is about 10 mm in diameter. Bio media made up of plastic can just offer external surface area, but Matrix can help in providing external & internal macro porous surface area. These macro porous surface area are best suitable for supporting nitrifying & denitrifying bacteria. Matrix can remove nitrate as well as ammonia & nitrite, simultaneously & in the same aquarium filter.


Benefits of Trickle Filter:

  • Low running cost.
  • Inexpensive.
  • 2 types of filtration are used: mechanical & biological for removing waste particles & producing good bacteria.
  • Water passes through mechanical filtration media before entering biological filtration media, hence all waste particles are removed that can clog biological filtration media.
  • Mechanical filter media can be used for a long time before you need to replace them. Biological filter media does not need replacement.
  • Low power is required to run this filter because it only needs power for pumping water into filter. The rest is done automatically.
  • Maintenance of trickle filter is simple.
  • It adds oxygen from air into water.

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