Aquarium Filtration Methods | Aquarium Filter

In the present-day many pet enthusiasts are keeping fish as their pet that can fit in small spaces in the house. An aquarium is a closed environment for both fish and aquarium waste. If you don’t eliminate those waste, you are creating an unfavorable environment for fish and eventually killing them. So, one of the most important parts of fishkeeping is aquarium filter(aquarium filtration methods).

Today’s aquarium filtration methods offer a wide variety of filters to keep your tank’s water clean and healthy. While choosing your aquarium, your decision must be based on the size of the tank, type of fish, and the number of fish. The turnover rate of the filter should be at least three times the volume of the aquarium per hour. For example, if your aquarium is 20 gallon, then you must get a filter that has at least 60-gallons per hour.

Why do you Need Filter in your Aquarium?

All aquariums require both mechanical and biological aquarium filtration methods to maintain a healthy environment for your fish. Having the right filtration system will determine how much time you need to devote to the tank to clean your tank. And it does make a big difference in what kind of filtration system you use.

Most of today’s filter works mechanically, trapping solid wastes in its filter media which can later be removed manually. Whereas a biological filtration is for building beneficial bacteria in your filter media that break down ammonia and nitrite that are toxic “nitrogen cycle.” Any filter you use must be mature enough to work properly. You cannot expect a filter to clear pollution in your tank right away, and it takes time to start working. This process is known as the aquarium nitrogen cycle; if you want to learn about what is the aquarium nitrogen cycle do read my article on the topic. It will help you a lot about how the filtration in your aquarium work. To achieve the absolute best water condition, you may need to use more than one type of filter. There is various type of filter on the market today.

What a Good Aquarium Filter Has?

No, any aquarium filters are made the same, but all good quality aquarium filters have the same components. The three main components that are required in a quality aquarium filter is mechanical, chemical, and biological media.

Mechanical Filtration is the first stage of any good quality aquarium filter. In this stage, all the solid waste of your aquarium is trapped, like fish poop, uneaten foods, dead plant matters and so on.

Chemical Filtration is the second stage in an aquarium filter. An aquarium is a closed system so it is common for aquarium waste to decompose resulting chemical changes in an aquarium. So, in the second stage, chemical media like activated carbon absorbs the toxins in an aquarium reducing the chemical change of the tank. However, chemical media won’t completely eliminate the chemical change, fo this you need to change your aquarium water every week.

Biological Filtration is the last stage in an aquarium filter. In this stage, various biological media, like bio-balls, K1 media, ceramic ring, lava rocks, and many more breaks down different bacteria. This is the stage where the toxics ammonia created by fish waste, dead plant matter, uneaten food, is broken down into nitrites and finally into nitrates.

These three stages are the stages in the nitrogen cycle process. Now you know how filtration system work, let’s have a look at some of the best aquarium filtration methods for your freshwater tank:

Various Aquarium Filtration Methods (Types of Aquarium FIlters)

Undergravel filter
aquarium filtration methods | Gravel Filter

As the name suggests, this filter finds its place underneath a layer of gravel. In this type of filter, water moves through the gravel to create a biological filter. Once beneficial bacteria colonize in the gravel, then they effectively break down the waste material. Undergravel aquarium filters are relatively the cheapest form of a biological filter. Unfortunately, chemical filter does not takes place in under-gravel filters. These filters are suitable for a small aquarium or aquariums with a light fish load.

Internal Power Filters
aquarium filtration methods | internal power filter

Power filters are the most common aquarium filter. This type of aquarium filter is a compact form of canister filter. This filter is fully submerged in water. Some of these internal power filters come with UV sterilized as well. Power filters provide great power and versatility, offers excellent filtration and water movement. If you are buying an internal filter as you, buy the one with lots of filter media inside. Power filters with different cartridge are more effective and efficient to clear the water as it resembles like a canister filter that houses beneficial bacteria in it.

Sponge Filters
aquarium filtration methods | Sponge Filter

The most basic filter setup is the sponge filter that does not do much in the three stages of the nitrogen cycle. A sponge filter is fit over a tube from an internal powerhead or an air pipe. The air pump forces the water through the sponge, and beneficial bacterias grow on the sponge, thus creating a biological and mechanical filtration.
This filter is suitable for tanks housing young juveniles and fry because the sponge prevents the pump from sucking the fry.

Hang On Back Filters
aquarium filtration methods | Hang On Back Filter

A Power filter is, without a doubt, the most common aquarium filter. The reason behind it being common is because they provide excellent mechanical, chemical and biological filtration. A standard power filter hangs on the back of the fish tank; these filters are easy to maintain. Easy to install, and provides both mechanical and biological filtration and also chemical filtration.

In HOB filters, the nasal sucks up the water from the tank passing it through filter pads or floss; which is a mechanical filter. The filtered water then passes through activated carbon in the next stage “chemical filtration.” And finally, there the biological filtration happens in biological filter pads or bio wheels or the filter cartridge.

Canister Filters
aquarium filtration methods | Canister Filter

One of the types of external filter is Canister Filter. The canister filter is a great aquarium filter for tanks with a capacity of 40 gallons or more. A Canister Filter is a standard filtration system in large aquariums or tanks which house a lot of fish. This filter usually finds its place beneath the aquarium. Each canister will have a different location to hold each different types of media; the larger canister will have more filter media.

The canister filter provides excellent mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration due to its size. A canister filter has two siphon tubes, three layers of the filtration system and some expensive models have UV sterilizers. Among two siphons, one is to suck up water from the tank to the canister filter; whereas another siphon is for dispensing filtered water into the aquarium.

Canister filters are pressurized so they are great for mechanical filters as the water is forced through the mechanical media. Mechanical filtration is the first stage in a canister filter where filter floss is kept in the first basket of the filter. The second basket consists of chemical media and works the same way as mechanical media making it a great chemical filtration.

Sump Filter
aquarium filtration methods | Sump Filter

A sump filter is nothing but an aquarium with all the filtration media, water pump, and heater. Sump filter is customizable; you can build it according to your choice. Generally, we place a sump filter beneath the aquarium. Traditionally, sump filters were used in marine tanks where good water quality is essential. Nowadays, as freshwater tanks are getting bigger and people start keeping larger fish, sump filters are getting popular; this is because of its superb effective and efficient filtration they offer. If you are interested in the sump system, please read the following article: “Sump Filter.”


So, here we come to an end of the article. My final tip for you is that when purchasing an aquarium filter for your fish tank; the most important factor to consider is what filtration system suits your aquarium. You can always go with the filters that are a little higher in capacity than your aquarium requires. I run many aquariums in my breeding facility, and I use a big sump filter for a group of aquariums. So, my first recommendation is to use a sump system in your aquarium, if not use a canister filter they work just fine.

Filtration is a crucial part of an aquarium system, so buy the right one of your fish tank. I hope I made everything clear about aquarium filters. If you have any queries please comment in the comment section below I will be happy to reply to your comments.

2 thoughts on “Aquarium Filtration Methods | Aquarium Filter”

  1. That’s good to know that you would want to choose a filter that would suit your aquarium. I would think that it would depend on the type of fish as well. I’ll have to keep that in mind if I decide to get an aquarium.

    • Yes, that is correct. Its already mentioned in the first paragraph of the article. number, size and the type of fish also matters a lot in choosing the best types of filter for the aquarium. 🙂

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