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Tag Archives: aquarium filtration

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Which Filter Should I Choose for My Aquarium?

Emperor Power Filter Choosing the right filter for your aquarium can be an intimidating task. We’re asked this question every day, from people setting up their first aquarium and from those hobbyists who are upgrading to a larger or different type of aquarium. Most people are looking for a quick and easy answer, which they rarely get from me.  There is no one-size-fits-all in the world of aquarium filters, and anyone who is new to aquariums, and is trying to do some research, is probably overwhelmed with all the options.  We have assembled a lot of good basic information for all the major types of aquarium filters in the article archives on thatpetplace.com. These articles are meant to help and guide you through the process of choosing a filter for your set-up by breaking down how each type works and in which applications they really shine.

The follow up question that I am often asked, is what is my favorite filter?  Again, that is not an easy question to answer with so many options, but I thought I might highlight a some of those I would recommend  from a few different filter types.

If you are looking for the most bang for your buck, especially for freshwater aquariums, it is hard to beat the good old power filter.  Also known as hang-on-the-back filters, power filters are easy to use, provide proven performance, and most are inexpensive and energy efficient.  My favorite power filters are the Marineland Emperor line.  These filters have been around for many years, and have changed very little since introduction.  There are two models of Emperor Filters available for under $50, that can handle aquariums up to 80 gallons.  The Emperor filters, if properly maintained, will provide excellent mechanical, biological and chemical filtration.  The Biowheel feature of these filters is what sets them apart from simpler power filters, they maintain biological filtration at all times, something that is lost on power filters that depend on their filter cartridges, which will lose all their bacteria when filters are changed.  These filters are great for any freshwater aquarium set-up as a standalone filter, or as part of a filtration system for saltwater aquariums.

Filstar Canister FilterFor larger aquariums or aquariums that demand more powerful or customized filtration, the next step up are the canister filters.  My choice in this category is another filter that is time tested, and has been around for many years, the API Filstar XP line of filters (Formerly known under the Rena brand name) The Filstar canister filters are available in several sizes, up to the XP XL model that is rated for aquariums up to 265 gallons.  Modular filter baskets allow you to customize your filter media, so you can add extra biological media for heavily stocked tanks, chemical media for low nutrient levels, peat moss for amazon tanks, the possibilities are endless.  These filters are quiet, energy efficient, and easy to set up.

ProFlex Model 1For the more advanced aquarist, especially the reef enthusiasts, the filtration system of choice is the Wet/Dry or Sump type of filtration system.  Ultimate flexibility, and high performance, are the key features of the these filters, and they are probably the most diverse of the filtration types, in terms of form and function.  My choice here is the relatively new Aqueon ProFlex filter system, mostly because of its 3 in 1, modular design.  With the ability to be used as a traditional Wet/Dry or Refugium, or Berlin style Sump, the filter has the ability to perform many functions as your needs change. If you want to convert your freshwater system to saltwater, your fish tank to a reef tank, or anywhere in between.  The Aqueon ProFlex can be whatever you need!

I hope that this helps guide you towards the filter you are looking for,

Until next blog,


Using Undergravel Filters to Their Full Potential

Undergravel FilterWith all of the technological advances in the aquarium hobby, I thought it would be nice to take a look at one of the most rudimentary and long-standing pieces of equipment in the industry – the Undergravel Filter.

Undergravel filters get a pretty bad rap. They are sometimes considered to be a relic of aquarium history, but are they still serviceable? Some hobbyists swear by them and some hobbyists swear at them. How your tank runs using an undergravel filter is dependent on a couple of factors – set up and maintenance. Let’s take a look at some of the common problems associated with undergravel filters and explore some solutions. Read More »

What Is It and Why Do I Need It, Part 1 – Activated Carbon

There are some products that you can find in every store that sells aquarium supplies and that every aquarist has purchased at some point or another, no matter how long they’ve been in the hobby or what type of aquarium they’ve had. Out of those stand-bys, how many of them do you really need, and do you know what they do (or do not) do for your aquarium? One of the most wide-spread of these “necessities” is activated carbon. Read More »

Canister Filters for Saltwater

A customer recently asked me a question about using a canister filter on their saltwater aquarium. The customer had read on Reef Central that you should not use a canister filter on a saltwater aquarium, especially on a reef aquarium. That they do not work well, and will cause high nitrates.

This is a topic that you will see differing opinions on. The problem with canister filters is not that they don’t work on saltwater or reef aquariums, they work very well. Any biological filter is going to produce nitrate on a closed aquarium system, it is the natural end product of the nitrogen cycle.

This is why many reef tank owners will remove the bio balls from their wet dry filters, or run their systems on a sump only set up, in an effort to reduce nitrate production. This is why some people are of the opinion that canister filters should not be used on a reef tank. You can get away with this approach if you have a sufficient amount of live rock and substrate in your aquarium to act as your biological filter. In fact, live rock is an excellent source of nitrifying bacteria, and will function as a very efficient biological filter in an aquarium with enough rock. Most reef set ups will work well without a dedicated biological filter, so long as the biological load is not too high, and you are using a good protein skimmer. This method is often referred to as a “Berlin” style aquarium (lots of live rock, good water movement, heavy protein skimming, and no biological filter). Canister filters can still be used on reef tanks, they can be used as additional biological filters in heavily stocked tanks, and can easily be used for whatever chemical filtration media you may want to use.

Saltwater fish only tanks are a different story; in most cases you will need a biological filter to handle the fish waste and biological load, even if your tank has live rock in it. You will also want to have a mechanical filter on a saltwater fish tank, especially if you have large fish in your tank. Most canister filters give you the ability to operate them in different ways. You can use them for biological, mechanical or chemical filtration as needed.

Nitrate is going to be produced in any set up, some more than others. My best advice is to use as much filtration as your aquarium demands. Ammonia and Nitrite should be near zero in an established aquarium, if you are detecting either, chances are your aquariums biological filter is insufficient. Nitrate levels will creep up slowly over time in any system, so whatever filtration method you employ, you still need to monitor your water chemistry. Water changes will remove nitrate from your aquarium, so as long as you are testing your water, and performing regular water changes, nitrates should not be a problem.

Speaking canister filters, here’s a video my staff created to help aquarists set up a canister filter on their aquarium. Canister Filter Video