If you’re looking to set up an aquarium, there’s a variety of equipment you’ll need to purchase and install. The filtration system, however, may be the most crucial component of your whole aquarium. Filters are necessary to keep a tank clean, healthy environment your fish can swim in. Tropical fish pets, in particular, are almost impossible to take care of without a water filtration system.

To choose the correct filter for your aquarium or fish tanks, you must understand how the different types work. You might not want to overspend on a high-end filter, but you’ll need to get something decent that can do the job well. Here are the basics you need to know about filters and how they work to make the right choice.

aquarium with fish and vegetation

Types of Filtration Systems

When shopping for aquarium filters, you’ll find models combining different systems. More simple filter models will feature only one filtration system, which might not be enough. The best fish tank filters, on the other hand, will combine all three types – mechanical, biological and chemical. 

Mechanical Filtration

This type of system only eliminates particles and debris present in the water. The water from the tank passes through foam or another spongy material that traps the debris and prevents it from entering your tank again. Regularly replace the foam to avoid backup and preserve the efficiency of your filtration system.

Biological Filtration

This is the most important element of your aquarium. It’s responsible for eliminating toxins and harmful substances from the tank – even if it doesn’t technically entail filtering anything out of the water in your tank. 

With this filtration system, the nitrogen cycle is established and maintained by a colony of helpful bacteria cultivated as part of biological filtration. During this cycle, ammonia, a by-product of waste breakdown, is transformed into less toxic compounds that may later be removed from the tank through water changes. 

Chemical Filtration

In this filtration method, water passes over activated carbon to remove dissolved pollutants. Due to its great porosity, activated carbon traps dissolved pollutants and minerals like phosphate when it comes into contact with water. 

In tank water, activated carbon may help eliminate smells and ammonia. Although your tank might be able to survive without chemical filtration, you’ll need to do water changes more frequently to keep the quality of the water in your tank good. Chemical filtration is not only significantly simpler, but it is also a far more effective solution.

Now that you’re familiar with the different filtration systems and methods, let’s take a look at the equipment you can purchase in stores.

aquarium with internal filter

Types of Filters 

Hang On Back Filters

Different types of external filters operate differently, so each of them provides a unique filtering experience. Power filters are one popular kind of filter. Also called hang-on filters or hang-on-back (HOB) filters, they employ various filtering methods and are often hooked to the edge of your tank. They occasionally provide both mechanical and chemical filtering. Other times, they provide all three filtering stages.

These fish tank filters are very effective and powerful. If your fish needs a stronger water current and it is in a big tank, try this. If not, you could want to buy an aquarium filter with less force. Strong water currents won’t affect your marine pets as a result.

Internal Filters

Submersible filters, also known as internal filters, are another type easily available. These filters go completely inside your tank and are suitable for smaller aquariums. Although they don’t produce much water flow, they do provide the ideal habitat for little fish that like quiet waters.

Since internal filters are situated inside tanks, an aquarium may require additional area to accommodate them. So, keep the tank space available in mind when making your purchase. However, internal filters are frequently undetectable and compact. You can also adjust for water flow if you want more water to flow.

Canister Filters 

Another popular alternative is canister filters. They provide aquariums with strong filtration and water flow, similar to hang-on filters. Canister filters are installed either outside or below your aquarium and perform well in bigger aquariums but are not the best choice for tiny aquariums. The fact that these filters only have an input and an outflow in the aquarium makes it a preferred choice of many. 

Canister filters not only produce adequate water flow and cycle hundreds of litres per hour, but they also provide media flexibility. To these, you can add any cartridges or filter materials. The power of the filter should be carefully considered because there are numerous types available. You must find a filter that is the correct size for your aquarium.

Wet/Dry Filters 

Despite being used more commonly by saltwater enthusiasts, the wet-dry filter has become more popular among freshwater hobbyists. The “wet-dry” compartment and the “sump” compartment of a rectangular reservoir that contains wet-dry filters are frequently divided into two halves. Water trickles across a plastic plate into the wet/dry compartment, sustaining biological filtration. The water is then dumped into the sump, where it passes through a baffle that frequently has an activated carbon unit before being restored to the aquarium.

Wet/dry filters are often more costly than other filtration solutions, but they offer great biological filtration and are very helpful in your attempts to maintain good water quality since they raise the quantities of dissolved oxygen entering your aquarium. A wonderful filter for hobbyists with a lot of fish in their tank is the wet/dry filter.

Sponge Filters 

Even though sponge filters are not advised as the main tank filtration device, they are regularly found in hospital tanks and small breeding tanks with tiny fry. Using an airlift tube or powerhead to force water through a porous sponge which subsequently collects dirt and bacteria, sponge filters are simple and inexpensive. They are effective mechanical and biological filters thanks to their simple construction. Consider utilising a sponge filter when setting up a quarantine tank or a tank for small fish.