No matter how perfect the filter you bought in terms of design, yet it is not a key element in the purification of aquarium water. In fact, the filter is a reservoir in which special materials are located, passing through which various impurities are removed from the water.
Accordingly, the key role for ensuring a clean environment in an aquarium belongs to filtering materials: their quality, structure, layout, and cleaning method.
As a filter element in a conventional glass filter, there is an ordinary piece of foam sponge, a bundle of synthetic threads and other porous material that is able to take the shape of the compartment in which it will be located. The main condition is that the filtering material must be completely inert with respect to the aquarium environment, only in this case it will perform its tasks.
The stronger the porosity of the sponge, the more suspended it can absorb, and the less often the aquarist will have to wash it. But, if the pores are too large, then even the largest particles will quietly pass through the sponge and fall back into the aquarium water, turning the water filtration into a farce.
As a rule, filters for sale already have filtering material in the set. If you really care for your aquarium, then you without hesitation put a quality sponge in the filter, which will allow you to get the proper effect of filtering. However, the trouble is that no material or filler is everlasting.
Over time, the aquarist raises the question of replacing the filter element.
Today on sale you can find a great variety of filter materials made in the Middle Kingdom, the quality of which leaves much to be desired. Yes, their price is low, and the look is such that even tomorrow you place it on the cover of a glossy, coolest aquarium magazine.
But let this pathos not mislead you, the quality of such products is such that you either will not get any benefit from them at all, or it will be scanty.
Ideally, the sponge should be the same firm as the filter. Thus, you reinsure yourself, because the filtering material will meet all the necessary requirements of aquarium safety.
Particular attention should be paid to the inscription “free of phenols.” Believe me, this is a tricky marketing move, so necessary.
In the most ideal case, if the sponge will belong to your particular filter model. After all, if you stuff a lot of filter material into the filter compartment, you seal it in this way.
As a result, the bandwidth of the device decreases significantly. And on the contrary, a very small piece of the sponge will not be able to fully clean the aquarium water from mechanical suspensions, and the water will flow freely past the sponge.
In both cases, the filtering quality will not be a fountain of emotions.
God forbid you skimp on normal filtering material and put “free” packing materials into your filter. Chances are that they contain harmful substances that are dangerous to aquarium animals.
It is also not advisable to use household sponges: they are also not waterproof in all cases, respectively, at one point they will give your pets an unknown chemical broth. This applies in particular to bright Chinese products, which are literally saturated with all sorts of dyes..
Therefore, if you do not want to harm your aquarium pet, it is better to fork out for a special aquarium sponge, especially since its cost is scanty when compared with other aquarium attributes. If the filter has several sections, you can try to organize a two- and three-stage mechanical cleaning of aquarium water.
In the process of rough cleaning, aquarium water is purified from coarse suspensions, and the remaining small fraction will settle in the second section, where the more dense filter material is located.
Hollow cylinders and hexagons are well suited for rough cleaning. Such materials well pass aquarium water, they are easy to wash, and they are durable.
Since they will accumulate in their cavities most of the large waste, thus saving the resource of more dense fillers in the section of fine water purification.
We should also talk about the filtering materials for the biological filter. For beneficial bacteria to contribute to the purification of aquarium water, their colonies must be large.
To achieve this, the filter must be appropriate conditions due to a special substrate, wherever they began to actively develop and resist a strong flow of water. For this purpose, it is necessary to select a substrate with roughness and high porosity, such as expanded clay or pumice.
In addition to them, you can use special ceramic and glass-ceramic, as well as plastic figures of various geometric shapes. The essence of such a structure of fillers for biological filters is simple – you need to create a large surface area in a limited volume in order for the beneficial bacteria to be populated.
Among the manufacturers of filter media, the following companies can be distinguished: Juwel, Dennerle, Eheim and Tetra. All of these fillers are sold by weight or volume, which must be suitable for a particular filter modification.
The price of biological filler is based on the raw material, that is, plastic fillers are 25% cheaper than their counterparts made of ceramics. But, in general, their cost does not exceed 10 – 15 dollars per pack in a liter volume.
Approximately for the same money you can buy a filler for prefiltration.
I would like to pay special attention to activated carbon. Granules of coal have an impressive surface area due to the numerous pores that permeate the entire structure.
But the problem is that the pores of coal are dead ends and they cannot be fully ventilated with water. As a result, pores become clogged with debris.
Over time, the effectiveness of activated carbon decreases and one day it will have to be replaced.
Do not rush to the nearest career for pieces of anthracite or coal. The fact is that fuel and activated carbons are two completely different things. And the second reason why it is better to use special fillers is that they are subjected to special treatment.
Before using the aquarist, it is enough to wash and clean it properly from dust.
Another type of filler for a filter that is used for another purpose is peat. Peat fillers acidify and soften the aquarium water due to the large amount of humic acids.
Water acquires an amber shade, which is characteristic of many tropical reservoirs.
The final part of our conversation about filtering materials will be a conversation about the frequency of their replacement or washing. Sponges should be rinsed regularly, it is especially convenient to do this with weekly cleaning (siphon of the soil, cleaning the walls of the aquarium, etc.).
But to give a specific time frame for cleaning filter materials is not an easy task, because the intensity of contamination of the fillers will be different in each aquarium. It all depends on the volume of the aquarium, the number and species of its inhabitants, the amount of debris floating in the water.
For example, in aquariums with goldfish, which eat a lot and crap, you have to clean the filters much more often than if you had a hodgepodge of saltwater in your aquarium.
Washing the filter should not be put on the back burner, because the quality of cleaning suffers from this, and the fillers are a warehouse of rotting products. And this is extra organic matter, because of which your aquarium can attack algae with terrible force. Sponge is better to rinse under running warm water slightly squeezing it.
Ideally, water from a common aquarium should be used to flush the sponges. Thus you save most of the beneficial microorganisms that have settled in it. But you need to replace the sponge, depending on the degree of wear.
But on average, this procedure should be done no more than 1 time per year.
But the fillers for biofilters are not so durable: tiny pores in ceramic fillers eventually become clogged with silt and other debris, all the roughness is polished with water and bacteria cannot fix on it properly. Regenerating a bio-filler for a filter in home conditions is almost impossible, or it requires a lot of effort and free time from an aquarist.
Therefore, in order not to bother when the time is right, they are simply replaced with a new one and that’s it. In general, specific dates can be found on the packaging with filler.
It is not advisable to neglect these tips, since unreasonable savings can have a bad effect on the entire filtering system. To summarize, the ceramics in the filters are changed two or three times a year, and the activated carbon is changed every two months.
You just can’t change the whole filler in one fell swoop, because by discarding the old material you also throw away the beneficial bacteria that take an active part in the development of biological equilibrium and the normalization of the nitrogen cycle.
Accordingly, as a result of the complete replacement of the filler in the aquarium, there will be a pause in the filtration process, as it takes time for the beneficial bacteria to settle in the new filler. Ideally, the replacement of filter elements in biofilters should be carried out in several stages.
Only in this way will you be able to save some of the beneficial microorganisms that will quickly colonize all the available space and begin to work again like bees.