How To Select An Aquarium Filter For Best Cleaning:

Tank filter is one of the most crucial part of every aquarium because it wipes out fish waste from water. This way fish can safely live in aquarium water. It also helps move the water & aerate it which adds oxygen from air into water. There are 3 main types of aquarium filtration media that help in mechanical, biological & chemical filtration.

Mechanical filtration media utilizes sponges, foams etc. for trapping waste particles & other debris present in the water. It is very easy to setup mechanical filtration because we only need to add course foam, followed by fine foam, or use sponge in the way of water which remove solid particles of waste or debris from water. This way only clean water free of waste flows through the media.

Biological filtration media allows you to build heaps of good bacteria which cleans water. Mechanical filtration media only traps solid waste particles but can’t remove chemicals present in the water such as ammonia which releases from fish waste & flows through the mechanical filtration media. Biological filtration media converts ammonia into nitrites, & nitrites into nitrates which is less toxic as compared to nitrites & ammonia. However, ordinary biological filtration media is not able to remove nitrates from water & we can only remove it with regular water changes or by adding plants in aquarium which treat nitrates as fertilizers & it helps in better growth of the plants.

How to select a fish tank filter
How to select a fish tank filter

Chemical filtration is sometimes optional & not every aquarist use it as much as mechanical & biological filtration media. However, it is still important to use it because you can remove medicines, tannins & other impure chemicals that pollutes water using activated carbon. In case there is high saturation of impurities that clog up chemical filtration media, then the media can’t remove more impurities.

It looks like you know how filtration media removes waste from aquarium water so this is time to know how to select an aquarium filter:


Top Overall Cheap Filter: Sponge Filter:

Sponge filter is a very simple filter which consists of 3 parts, a sponge which removes solid waste particles, or debris, an air pump for aerating the water & running the sponge filter, & an air tube is required for attacking filter to sponge filter for filtration. Air pump is needed to push air into the tube into the hollow space inside sponge filter. With rising water bubbles, sponge starts sucking water which also sucks solid particles & hence trap them as they pass through the sponge walls & offers space for growing good bacteria.

Best cheap filter - Sponge filter
Best cheap filter - Sponge filter

Pros of Sponge Filter:

Sponge filters are available for low price, needs simple maintenance including cleaning & changing sponge, & can work for longer periods of time with low maintenance cost. It assists in circulation of water & aeration, & can be used in fish babies’ aquarium because it can’t suck fish, shrimp or other small creatures that can’t swim fast. Also builds up heaps of good bacteria which helps biological filtration media. Often aquarists use 2 or more sponges in one filter & only clean one sponge at a time because this way good bacteria is not lost all at once. Later after a week you can clean another sponge.


Cons of Sponge Filter:

Sponge filter takes up your aquarium space & it looks odd in aquarium, & a lot of aquarists usually hide it behind a rock, plant or structure. You can’t add chemical filtration in sponge filter. Bubbling voice coming from sponge filter is not good & often aquarists don’t like it, but you can reduce it by adding an air stone.

Check out: How to build a free DIY sponge filter at home


Best Cheap Exterior Filter: Hang on Back Filter:

A hang on back filter sits on the top rim of fish tank & the filter is hanging at the exterior of aquarium & an intake tube is inside aquarium for drawing water. Dirty waste draws through the intake tube using a pump inside hang on back filter, & then it flows through the filtration media inside the filter, & clean water flows back to the aquarium using outlet tube which is located very close to inlet tube.

Best Cheap Exterior Filter: Hang on Back Filter
Best Cheap Exterior Filter: Hang on Back Filter

Pros of Hang on Back Filter:

Hang on Back Filter has customizable filtration media because unlike sponge filter, you can also add chemical filtration media. This filter can effectively clean water as compared to sponge filter because adding a fine filtration media unlike coarse foam (in sponge filter) can crystal clear your aquarium water. This filter looks beautiful because it hides in the aquarium canopy & filter box is located outside aquarium which does not take up tank space. You don’t have to do dirty work of cleaning up filter located inside water & can easily service filter located outside water. Also this filter has an adjustable water flow which increase or decreases water circulation.


Cons of Hang on Back Filter:

A power motor is required to push water into the filter, & it can burn your filter if in case your filter runs dry or sucks sand from aquarium. Using a filter sponge can help avoid sand from entering the filter. This filter is very similar to a waterfall but if someone does not like its sound, then raising water level in fish tank will reduce its noise.


Best aquarium filter for cleaning: Canister Filter:

A canister filter is very good at cleaning water. It is setup inside a cylinder usually made of plastic that is located outside fish tank, & there are intake & outtake hoses that sucks water from fish tank & pushes water back into the aquarium. Using a motor, water is sucked into a canister, flows through multiple sections of filtration media, & then flows back into the aquarium.

Best aquarium filter for cleaning: Canister Filter
Best aquarium filter for cleaning: Canister Filter

Pros of Canister Filter:

Very similar to Hang on Back Filter, canister filter does not take up space as it is setup outside water & you can customize it. It is very efficient & silent, & it is very effective in cleaning tank water.


Cons of Canister Filter:

Canister filter are expensive as compared to sponge or hang on back filters. Its maintenance is a bit difficult which requires disassembling the complete setup every time you want to clean the inside of canister filter. You can experience flooding while servicing the filter so my advice is to use towels if required. Canister filter is situated outside fish tank, so there is a bigger danger of suffocating & dying of good bacteria if your filter is not operational.

Check out how to build best cheap canister filter at home

Best Biological Filter: Live Aquarium Plants Filter:

Live plants help in effective biological filtration of water & is more efficient than good bacteria. Plants extract ammonia & nitrogen compounds for better growth. Fish waste releases ammonia, & good bacteria converts it into nitrogen compounds. So if you have fish & live plants in same aquarium then plants will absorb ammonia & nitrogen compounds that fish release & it will help in growth of live plants because it treats those impurities as nutrition.

Best Aquaponics Filter - Live Plants Biological Filter
Best Aquaponics Filter - Live Plants Biological Filter

Pros of Live Aquarium Plants Filter:

In nitrogen cycle, good bacteria reacts with ammonia to make nitrates, which is still dangerous & if present in high amounts can kill your fish. It is advisable to remove nitrates using regular water changes. Live plants consume ammonia & nitrates for growth, & it saves your effort of doing regular water changes. Also plants offer hiding places to stressed fish & babies, make oxygen for aquarium inhabitants (during day), & lower algae by consuming nutrients that are responsible for making algae. It also allows you to make perfect aquascape in aquarium.


Cons of Live Aquarium Plants Filter:

Live plants can’t offer mechanical & chemical filtration, so if you add plants to your filter for example an overhead SUMP filter, then you can have all 3 types of filtration such as mechanical, chemical & biological. Also this filter will need a pump which can help in water circulation. However, adding plants is mess & you will need to wipe out algae & dead leaves from aquarium. Also some aquarists do not like the look of plants as they spread in aquarium & they also take up lots of space. Plants need more maintenance such as trimming.

Check out how to build best live plants - aquaponics filter

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