Aquarium Filtration

Aquarium Tips, Aquarium Filtration

Choosing a Custom Aquarium Filter: Wet/Dry Filters

In our last post, we discussed Canister filters.

As mentioned, three custom aquarium filters to select from when choosing your setup are:

  • Hang-on-Back filters (low-end),
  • Canister filters (mid-range), and
  • Wet/Dry filters (high-end).

When used properly, each one can keep the fish in your aquarium setup healthy, and reduce the work for aquarium maintenance.  

We have one type of filter to review, and that is a Wet/Dry filter.

A wet/dry filter is, by far, the best filter you can put on any aquarium that does not have live plants or coral in it. Wet/Dry filters usually consist of an acrylic box that sits beneath the aquarium. Water is drained from the aquarium and directed to the filter via an overflow box. Overflow boxes can be hung on the back of the aquarium or you can purchase an aquarium with an overflow box built into it already. These are called “reef-ready” aquariums.

The hang-on models are great if you have an existing aquarium that you are adding a wet/dry filter to, but they need to be monitored regularly. A hang-on overflow box works by siphoning water from a box inside the aquarium to another box outside the aquarium and then the water drains down to the filter. If power goes out, the siphon can stop working and will not start itself again once the power is restored. This means that, if/when power is restored, the filter pump will start pumping water from the filter to the aquarium but the drain will not work to drain the water back down to the filter. If this happens, your aquarium will spill over onto the floor until you turn the pump off, restart the siphon, or all of the water is pumped out of the filter.  The built-in overflow boxes are the safest because they will eliminate the possibility of flooding due to power outages but reef-ready aquariums are not available in smaller sizes and are more expensive than their basic counterparts.

Once the water reaches the wet/dry filter it is directed over a “drip-plate”. The drip-plate is a flat plate with many small holes in it designed to change the water flow from one large stream into many smaller streams (like a shower head) and displaces them over a larger area. The drip-plate is usually covered with a mechanical filter pad to trap large particles of waste, keeping them from moving into the rest of the filter. This pad should be changed periodically to ensure proper flow through the filter.

Under the drip-plate is a compartment that holds bio-balls. The drip-plate spreads the flow of water out so that it falls over and through all of the bio-balls evenly. This compartment is where a majority of the filtration occurs. As discussed earlier, the bio-balls are capable of holding a very large amount of beneficial bacteria because of the way each ball is constructed. In a wet/dry filter, the bio-balls are suspended above the water in the filter so they are constantly exposed to air. This means the bacteria will have the maximum amount of oxygen available to them and will allow them to thrive and work more efficiently.

Another benefit of suspending the bio-balls above the water is aeration of the aquarium water. Once the water is broken up by the drip-plate, it passes through the bio-balls as small droplets and hits a network of spikes on the balls as it passes through them. Each time a droplet hits another spike it is broken up and then rejoined with other droplets. This process forces oxygen into the water, which is then collected in a reservoir under the bio-balls and pumped back to the aquarium. It is this capability that makes the wet/dry filter the best choice for your freshwater or marine, fish-only aquarium.

There are, however, a few negatives about wet/dry filters. For starters, they are more expensive than most canister filters. Another issue is size. Most are bulky and only fit in cabinets made for larger aquariums. Wet/Dry filters generally do not have a convenient means of using chemical filter medias either. This problem can usually be overcome with some minor customization by the user or with the addition of a small canister filter.

If you have a freshwater aquarium with live plants, a wet/dry filter will over-produce oxygen and push out the CO2 necessary for your plants to thrive. In a reef aquarium, the bio-balls will over-produce nitrates and can cause harm to your corals and other invertebrate animals. Finally, wet/dry filters do not come with a pump to move the water from the filter to the aquarium. This is because most wet/dry filters can be used on a range of aquarium sizes but a pump is more specific and should be selected based on the aquarium size. When purchasing a wet/dry filter, you must keep in mind that the pump will be an additional cost to your filter purchase.

Once the filter type has been determined, you can turn your attention to other accessories you required types of aquaria you may set up.

Have questions? Contact the aquariums experts at Diamond Aquatics and we will be happy to help. 

Aquarium Tips, Aquarium Filtration

Choosing a Custom Aquarium Filter: Canister Filters

There are three commonly used custom aquarium filters to select from when choosing your setup:

  • Hang-on-Back (HOB) filters are the low-end filter,
  • Canister filters are the mid-range filter, and
  • Wet/Dry filters are the high-end filters.

Each has pros and cons, however, when used properly, can keep the fish in your aquarium setup happy and healthy for a lifetime, and reduce the work for aquarium maintenance.  In this post, we are going to explain Canister filters.

Canister filters are the next step up in the world of aquarium filtration. These filters are a bit more expensive than the HOB filters but have much more capacity and flexibility. Canister filters are canisters that sit below the aquarium and have an intake hose and an exhaust hose which carry the water to and from the aquarium. These hoses present a major advantage over HOB filters because they allow you to spread the intake and exhaust ports across the aquarium from each other, providing the maximum amount of water circulation possible. The filters are also compartmentalized to separate each of the three filter components.

Most canister filters are designed to accept all types of filter media, making them totally customizable. In other words, the user has the freedom to put any media into the filter. This can be helpful when battling different water quality issues such as phosphate or nitrate buildup. Canister filters are generally very user friendly and media changes/filter cleanings are rather simple to perform.

The downside to canisters is they are designed as sealed systems. In a sealed system, the media itself cannot aid in the aeration process because the media is completely submerged and no air can get to it. The filter exhaust must be placed above the water surface in order to aerate the aquarium. This makes canister filters a poor choice for marine aquariums unless they are grossly oversized for the application. Having the exhaust above the water surface in a marine aquarium will create a tiny bit of splashing, and this splashing will result in “salt-creep”. Salt-creep is when salt crystals build on areas where salt-water has splashed and then evaporated. This is messy and can be very damaging as salt is extremely destructive to things like wood and metal (typical materials used in aquarium furniture). Marine aquariums also require a tremendous amount of aeration so a wet/dry filter is more appropriate for marine applications.

Have questions? Contact the aquariums experts at Diamond Aquatics and we will be happy to help.  

Aquarium Filtration, Aquarium Tips

Choosing a Custom Aquarium Filter: Hang-on-Back Filters

There are three commonly used custom aquarium filters to select from when choosing your setup:

  • Hang-on-Back (HOB) filters are the low-end,
  • Canister filters are the mid-range filter, and
  • Wet/Dry filters are the high-end filters.

Each has pros and cons, however, when used properly, can keep the fish in your aquarium setup happy and healthy for a lifetime.  In this post, we are going to explain Hang-on-Back (HOB) filters.

HOB filters are compact, inexpensive and, yes, you guessed it, hang on the back of your aquarium. These are intended primarily for freshwater use and should only be used in marine applications by the experienced hobbyist. They usually consist of simple, removable cartridges, which should contain three filter elements. Some still use a single all-in-one cartridge you replace each month. The advantage to the hang-on-back filter is ease of use. All you have to do is change one element every month in order to refresh your carbon filter. The downside, is you will be throwing away a large portion of the aquarium’s good bacteria with each cartridge and your aquarium will go through a short unstable period while the bacteria re-grow.

Most HOB manufacturers have thought of this, and now include a second cartridge just for the bacteria to grow on. This cartridge gets left alone or only rinsed every month while the other cartridge still gets replaced. Some have gone one step further and include three separate cartridges for mechanical filtration, chemical filtration, and biological filtration. The benefit is the ability to properly maintain a bacteria culture in the filter. The down side is there are now three filter-elements to be maintained. They are still very simple to use as they are intended for beginner aquarists. HOB filters, due to their compact construction, only circulate the small portion of the aquarium water directly in front of the filter. For smaller aquariums ,this is a negligible problem but for larger, longer aquariums an alternative, or multiple HOBs, should be used.

Have questions? Contact the aquariums experts at Diamond Aquatics and we will be happy to help.

Aquarium Filtration, Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Preservation

Aquarium Maintenance: Biological Filtration

As you know, the health of the animals that live in your custom aquarium or fish tank relies on proper and consistent aquarium maintenance. So far we’ve reviewed mechanical filtration, and we’ve reviewed chemical filtration. Now it’s time to take a look at the third crucial piece of the puzzle: biological filtration.

                                  Example of bio-balls

                                  Example of bio-balls

Biological filtration is the most important function of an aquarium filter. Biological filtration is facilitated in a filter with a coarse medium, usually a ceramic noodle or plastic, spiked ball called a “bio-ball”. The object of this medium is to grow bacteria. That’s right, some bacteria are actually good! The bacteria actually grow on all surfaces in the aquarium. The biological filter media simply creates a larger amount of surface area for the bacteria to grow on. Your gravel bed is also a great biological filter. These bacteria eat organic waste (fish urine, feces and leftover food) in your aquarium.

The Nitrogen Cycle

More specifically, bacteria in your fish tank facilitates the nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle is the process by which organic matter is converted to gas and released from the water. In the first stage of the nitrogen cycle the bacteria begin to eat the organic waste and convert it into ammonia (NH3). Ammonia lowers the pH of your aquarium and also burns the fishes’ skin and gills making it difficult for them to breathe.  It is also introduced directly into the aquarium in the form of urine by your fish.

Next, the bacteria begin to convert the ammonia into nitrite (NO2-). Nitrite is also highly toxic to fish, and both ammonia and nitrate levels should be monitored on a routine basis in order to ensure proper filter functionality. Both compounds are measured in ppm (parts per million) and both should always read  zero (0) ppm in a properly maintained aquarium.

The third stage of the nitrogen cycle consists of the bacteria converting the nitrite into nitrate (NO3-). This compound is relatively non-toxic to fish as long as it does not reach excessive levels. Also measured in ppm, nitrates should be kept under 100-150 ppm in a freshwater or marine “fish-only” (no corals or live plants) aquarium and under 10 ppm in a marine reef aquarium. This is not the final stage of the nitrogen cycle but, in an aquarium, it is where nature stops (or slows drastically) and the hobbyist must pick up the slack.

Too much weird science for you? Give Diamond Aquatics a call and we’d be happy to help you maintain your aquarium, or answer any questions you may have.

Aquarium Filtration, Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Preservation

Aquarium Maintenance: Chemical Filtration

A couple of posts back we talked about aquarium filtration, and how important it is for the health of the animals that live in your custom aquarium or fish tank. As a reminder, proper aquarium maintenance will not only prolong the life of your favorite aquatic pets, but also help save you money in the long run (by reducing the number of animals you will have to purchase).

A good filtration system is an important part of aquarium service. As we mentioned already, there are three main functions to most common filters:

  • Mechanical filtration
  • Chemical filtration
  • Biological filtration

Our last post covered mechanical filtration. This time we dive into chemical filtration.

Chemical filtration comes in many forms to remove many different dissolved elements from the water, but they all work in a similar fashion. Each one absorbs a harmful/unwanted element from the water, like a sponge absorbing a liquid. For example, activated carbon or charcoal, possibly the most common chemical filter medium, absorbs dissolved organic material from the water like a sponge. Dissolved organics are what lead to foul odors and cloudy water when left unchecked. You want to reduce the proliferation of them within your tank, or they can lead to larger issues including excessive algae growth and ammonia build-up.

Just as a sponge can only hold a certain amount of liquid, carbon can only hold a certain amount of dissolved organics. This medium should be replaced frequently. In most cases once per month is adequate. Some aquariums may produce excessive dissolved organics requiring more frequent carbon replacement. There are products on the market that have been manufactured to last longer than one month. These are usually carbon resins mixed with other chemical filter media and are generally more expensive than plain activated carbon.

Feel like this is a daunting task? For those who would rather not take it on, but would still love an aquarium, Diamond Aquatics provides maintenance services to fit your needs. We can answer your questions and guide you towards the right aquarium maintenance solution. Contact us at 973-356-4434 or info@diamondaquatics.com today!

Aquarium Filtration, Aquarium Maintenance, Custom Aquarium Design

Aquarium Maintenance: Mechanical Filtration

It’s important to remember that proper aquarium maintenance is a crucial part of your aquatic pets’ health, and will help save you money over time by reducing the number of animals you will purchase.

Just like cats and dogs need to be bathed and kept after, all aquariums require regular maintenance. This fact eludes most people who have never had an aquarium before. It’s called maintenance, and not simply cleaning, because you are not just making it look nice, you are actually removing potential harmful compounds! For some hobbyists, this aquarium maintenance process is an enjoyable, stress-relieving aspect of the hobby. For those who would rather not take on the chore, yet still want to have an aquarium, Diamond Aquatics provides maintenance services to fit the needs of your custom aquarium.

A good filtration system is an important part of aquarium service. Many people purchase inadequate filters for their first aquarium and eventually have to purchase a more advanced filter later. Avoid this expense by researching before you buy. Understanding how aquarium filters actually work will help you make the right purchase the first time and also help you fully appreciate the need to properly maintain an aquarium. There are three main functions to most common filters:

  • Mechanical filtration
  • Chemical filtration
  • Biological filtration

This article explains the mechanical filtration function.

Mechanical filtration usually appears in the form of a piece of foam or polyester floss. The sole function of this medium is to physically “catch” large particles of waste that are pulled into the filter. Rinse or replace the foam or polyester floss regularly, as this will remove a substantial amount of solid waste from the aquarium. Rinsing should generally be done every 2 to 4 weeks but, in some aquariums, may require more frequent attention.

In our next blog post, we’ll discuss chemical filtration.  For more tips and advice, Diamond Aquatics can answer your questions or guide you towards the right aquarium maintenance solution.