fish tank filter systems

How Many Types of Fish Tank Filter Systems Are There? [Explained]

Last updated on September 5th, 2022

A filter is an essential part of an aquarium. You should not even think about starting an aquarium without a filter. Aquarium filters systems play a major role in maintaining clean water and removing contaminants in the water. This provides your fish with a healthy and clean environment.

There are different types of filters that you need to have in your aquarium. It is important to know the difference between these filters so that you can choose the right one. I will take you through fish tank filter systems that you can consider. But before we get there, let us first look at the categories of filtration that every healthy aquarium needs.

Ways of Filtering Water in an Aquarium

There are three essential means of filtering water in an aquarium. These include mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. Here is a brief description of each to give you a better understanding.

Mechanical Filtration

This is an efficient process that eliminates solid particles in water. It circulates the water and then strains it through the aquarium filter. You should know that this process alone is not enough because it doesn’t convert the nitrite, nitrate, or the ammonia in water. It only gets rid of floating wastes, and you need to clean these filters in 2-4 weeks.

Biological Filtration

This is a type of filtration that breaks down essential nitrite and ammonia to nitrate. The tank should have water with plenty of oxygen so that beneficial bacteria can flourish. All aquariums need to have biological filtration because it can sustain the aquarium alone.

Chemical Filtration

It refers to a process in which chemical additives get rid of dissolved and toxic wastes. The water passes through resin or chemical media. One of the most popular forms of chemical filtration is the use of activated charcoal.

Types of Fish Tank Filter Systems

Now that you know the different ways of filtering water in the aquarium, the next thing is the type of filters that you can choose. Read on to find out how many types of fish tank filter systems that are there.

  • Internal Filters

They are also referred to as box filters or corner filters. These filters are easy and convenient to use.  The filters are inexpensive, and they allow you to load different types of filter media. They are ideal in tanks with low water levels like turtle tanks provided you submerge them in the water. Internal filters have a compact design that sticks perfectly inside the aquarium glass hence making them suitable for up to 20-gallon aquariums.  In other cases, people use internal filters as a supplement filtration system.

  • Canister Filter

These are the most popular forms of filtration that provide silent operation. The filters also consume less power, and they have a nice body that can hold many biological filter mediums to enhance the filtration in the aquarium. You can use canister filters in medium to large fish tanks that are larger than 40 gallons.

The filters offer great chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration. The filters are pressurized to help force the water via the filter media. This makes them ideal for heavy loads, unlike other filters. The only negative side of these filters is that they are hard to take apart and can also be hard to clean and maintain.

  • Sponge Filters

This is a type of a filter that is placed over the tube from the power head or an air pump. They force water to pass through it, and bacteria grow to bring about effective biological filtration. These filters also provide mechanical filtration, and they are best for tanks that have fry. This is because the sponge ensures that the young fry does not get sucked. The downside of these filters is clogging quickly when there is more debris.

  • Hang-on Filter

Just like their name suggests, these filters hang on the rear of the aquarium, and they are ideal for small aquariums. The filters provide maximum filtration to keep the water clean. Some models feature a surface skimmer to skim the oil on the surface that results from the bio-waste.

  • Overhead Filters

The filters are placed above the aquarium tank with a water pump submerged in the water. This helps to pump the water to the filter box through the tubing and then draw it up from the fish tank through the plastic pipe.

  • Sump Tank

This refers to an additional water containment section under the aquarium that offers filtration. You can get sump tanks in simple single chamber designs to more complex models. They are versatile, and for best results, you should design it such that there is a high contact time in the tank to provide effective filtration.

  • Under Gravel Filter

This is another type of filtration system that uses filter plates below the gravel. They allow effective water flow, and the water passes through the gravel beds that provide biological and mechanical filtration. These plates are connected to a power head through a pipe, and the entire setup is perfectly attached to the canister filter for optimal filtration.

These filters are common in shrimp tanks, and the gravel acts as a protection to prevent the shrimps from being sucked in the filter. They are easy to set up and come at pocket-friendly prices. The downside of these filters is that they clog and not suitable if your aquarium has live plants.

Other types of filters

  • Trickle filters (wet and dry filters)
  • Fluidized bed filters
  • Diatomic filters

Final Words

Every aquarium requires an effective filter to keep the water clean and remove toxic substances. No filter is designed to fit all aquariums. Therefore, you need to consider several things like the water circulation, budget, ease use, and others to help you pick the right filter. I have given you a detailed guide on these filters to help you choose the right one for your aquarium.

When buying the filter, you should also consider the type of filtration that it provides. I would recommend a filter that provides biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration. All these work well to give your pets a healthy and clean environment.

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