Choosing Aquarium Filters (Canister,HOB,Sponge, Matt) Fishtank Filters

There are many kinds and models of aquarium filters on the market. The choice is so big that you might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information. People usually depend on reviews. When they don’t know what to choose, also professionals who test the filters and share their experience with others. I would like to present you some of the aquarium filters that I know and share my thoughts and insights.

I’m not going to write the description of each filter and it’s specification, because I don’t want to duplicate the content which is already there easy to find. If you like the setups I did in the past (pictures), you might wanna here about my empiric experience with some of the filters. I personally have my already tested brands and models which I love and I know all their good and bad sides.

Aquarium filter plays huge role in creating healthy and long lasting eco-system in your fishtank. When choosing aquarium filters you need to consider a few things:

price1. Price

Price for aquarium filters ranges from $20-$30 to a few hundred dollars. Once you establish your budget you can look for aquarium filter in your price range. Stick to well known and reliable brands to avoid the risk of filter failure. The easiest and the cheapest are the sponge filters with air pump, as well ass Matt filter with a power head. On the second place are hang on back aquarium filters (HOB filters). Third and the most expensive are canister aquarium filters, which often comes with build in heater and thermostat.

gph2. The water flow per hour (GPH)

Depends on how advanced is your setup and if you will be using another pump to increase the water flow in your aquarium like power heads, the minimum water flow of your filter should be 3x-4x more than your aquarium water volume. The general rule (not a mandatory thing) is that in more advanced setup you should have a filter with water flow up to 10x bigger than your aquarium water volume. With easy low-tech setups regular sponge filter is  enough. Sometimes you can also get away without any filtration. This is when the popular Walstad method of keeping aquarium comes to a play. Healthy plants growth and strong light should produce enough oxygen to support small fish or other invertebrates life. The least maintenance needs to be done on canister filter due to their huge amount of space for biomedia.

3. Amount of space for bio media

This is generally how much sponges, special rocks with microholes, filter floss, and other aquarium media like: purigen, chemipure, phosphate remover, ammonia removing zeolites, etc., you can fit in the filter.

power efficiency4.Efficiency (power usage)

This needs to be considered when setting up bigger amount of aquariums. The most efficient are sponge filters with one main air pump, which can run even 50 different aquariums. In nano aquariums you may encounter also a different problem. Filter and other devices powered in the aquarium produce heat. If you keep your aquariums in a room that it has already high temperature – it will be harder to lower it. It is important especially when you keeping shrimps in the small nano aquarium. It is good to keep in mind that problem like this exist. Other than that you may wanna lower your electric bill and choose and suitable aquarium filter with the smaller power usage.

5. Individual aquarium needs

Depending on what will you be keeping in the aquarium you might find that with some kind of filters you will need to use a pre-filter which will prevent sucking up small fish,  fry, shrimps, and other creatures, like scuds, which you keep in the aquarium. The best for keeping shrimps are still sponge filters, because shrimps will benefit from biofilm and leftovers accumulated on the sponge.

Sponge Aquarium Filters

Those kind of filters are the most popular and the biggest amount of people use them. The reason is simple – sponge filters has the best ratio of filtering efficiency to price. Sponge filters gives a lot of surface for beneficial bacteria to grow. They also catch a debris and all they need to power them up is an air pump. However it is really hard to find a silent air pump. If you use in fishtank which is in a bedroom or living room where you spend most of your time, you might find it annoying of constant listening of running air pump. Sometimes it is hard to place the air pump so it does not produce any (or much) vibration.

In this case I would say sponge filters are good if you using bigger amount of aquariums. Then you can buy one bigger pump and hide it somewhere so the sound doesn’t bother you. Next you may drag the airline from the pump to your destination where you keep your aquariums. It will save you a lot of money on buying a separate unit for each tank,as well as money saved on electricity.


Using Sponge Filter While Keeping Shrimps and Fry

Another huge advantage of sponge filters is the fact that it won’t suck up your shrimps and little fish. Other filters if used without a good prefilter or used with protein skimmers might suck up your small fish and shrimps. It happened to me multiple times, however most of the time I was able to save them. The best filter for saving your fish after sucking them up by the filter came out to be eheim pro 2. It might mean that the filter has some gaps or that it has very balanced water flow inside the filter. My fish were on each stage of the filtration.

Second thing is that your fry and shrimps can feed on the debris and biofilm produced on top of the sponge filter. Free food will help them grow faster and stay healthy. So sponges are perfect for breeding and while keeping bigger amount of aquariums.


Hang On Back Aquarium Filters HOB

Those kind of filters are worth attention, however by professionals called as very prehistoric type of filtration. Since the first models this kind of filters evolved to really efficient units. They are perfect when you don’t wanna use sponge filters, in advance having more space inside the aquarium.

One disadvantage is that you need to clean them a little more often, but it also depends on what kind of media will you keep inside. I personally like the most Fluval Aquaclear filters. What I like about this filters is the media which you get with it and its look, as well as possibility of adjusting the water flow. I used many other HOB filters and somehow it never let me down. I love the fact that they are engineered in the way that if your media gets clogged, water won’t overflow over the tank, but will spill back into the aquarium. It saved me a few times. I’m not sure about the cheap generic HOB filters if those are also designed in such way.

Canister Aquarium Filters

In my opinion the best kind of filters for aquariums, especially planted aquarium. Some aquariums require even bigger filtration then understandable is to use a sump instead. Canister filters have much more room for filter media and you can freely adjust them to your needs. You can get many different kinds of sponges, special rocks, filter floss, purigen, chemipure, charcoal, zeolite, etc.

You don’t have to clean them that often, especially when you use a prefilter and you clean it every 2 weeks. One time I opened my marineland canister filter after 3 months, while using a prefilter. I looked at the media inside and I closed the filter back without cleaning it, because it looked like it does not need cleaning yet. Canister filters have many stages and you can choose what stages you will clean this time and leave the rest not cleaned. This is perfect because you won’t perturb beneficial bacteria colony and won’t cause sudden changes in biological balance in your aquarium. What you might think look dirty, it really works miracles for your aquarium and polishing your water.

In case like this I would only change the filter floss (number one for clarifying your water, as it catches even the smallest debris).

My favorite brands for canister filters are: Marineland, Eheim, Fluval, Hydor(which I didn’t use, but had really good feedback).

Matt filtration for aquariums

Matt aquarium filters are easy and extremely efficient, with huge amount of surface for beneficial bacteria to grow. However not everyone will find them aesthetically pleasant. They are not suitable for aquascaping, but more for a cheap method of filtering your aquarium, growing fry fish or breading, as well as keeping shrimps. It is basically a bigger piece of sponge cut to the side of your aquarium wall with the power head behind it (also powered by an air pump). The water filters thru the sponge wall and goes back into the aquarium(actually never leaving the tank). I call them DIY aquarium overflow system or inside aquarium sump(if you make it that way). Except of the sponge you might use other media and make it in the way that water flows faster thru them.

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