What types of fish tank filters are there you ask? Quite a few, some are better than others!
So you need to figure out what fish tank filters are out there and which you should choose right?
I knowwwww... when you look them up there is just a dazzling array of them right? Some big, some small, some cheaper than others. How do you figure this stuff out??
Well firstly there are quite a few kinds and it really depends on how much money you want to splurge. Lets look at the simpler ones first and then get to the nice and cool ones.
The simple and cheap fish tank filters are the kinds that are 'internal' to the fish tank i.e. its something that you put inside the aquarium water with the fish themselves.
Usually they will need a connection to a fish tank pump whereby the air being pushed through the filter will help water to flow through and therefore any visible fish crap will be caught up by whatever filter media you might have in the filter itself.
These aquarium filters tend to be small so at most you can put only some white cotton fiber material and maybe some sand and stones as the filter media.
There is also the 'undergravel' type of aquarium filters, which essentially has the same concept above but instead of being a box of some sort which holds filter media, this filter literally covers the floor of the aquarium and the same principle of passing air bubbles through hold as well.
There are also more expensive internal filters which may house more filter media and have more ability to move more volumes of water through it than the cheaper ones and therefore, at least in theory, 'clean more water'.
Internal fish tank filters are decent, do the job fine for small to medium fish tanks. They are by no means ideal, however. They are okay for a few small fish and would be a good start for newbies.
The second group of fish tank filters are basically external to the fish tank. In such cases, water is basically taken out of the fish tank and flows into a filtration system and the filtered water is then flowed back into the aquarium.
These have a couple of styles as well.
The first of these external aquarium filters, which is the least effective among the lot (but still, in general more effective than internal aquarium filters) are the ones that have a pump in the fish tank that sucks water out of it and passes the water into a filter that resides above or to the side of the fish tank itself.
Then by gravity, the water will drop back down into the aquarium via an excess water pipe, after it has passed over a series of filter media.
So why is this the least effective?
Well it has the drawback of allowing excess, unfiltered muck and other bad stuff to fall back into the aquarium.
This will tend to happen especially when the filter media is already saturated or the filter media is not placed in a way that is optimal to catch the dropping water being sent up by the fish tank pump.
However, with diligent, well understood water quality and predictable scheduling of filter media cleaning, this filter method is decent. Its also the cheapest method among external aquarium filters.
There are also varieties where the water drops back in to the aquarium like a waterfall and so can be quite aesthetically pleasing.
Unfortunately these types tend to be small and therefore have little space for filter media and so depending on your fish tank size, number of fish and how big they are, these may not be too effective.
Still, they look pretty cool! And yeah they are okay for a few fish.
The second external fish tank filter type also uses fish tank pumps. However, instead of pushing water up into a filter setup, it actually pushes water up into the fish tank from a filter enclosure below the aquarium.
Basically, the aquarium itself will then have an 'excess water' exit or hole whereby water will then drop back into the filter enclosure below and gets filtered from passing through the series of filter media.
The series of filter media will also tend to be in different compartments so as to further encourage visible and invisible waste to settle or be consumed by good bacteria. The filtered water will flow towards the fish tank pump and will get pumped back into the fish tank and so the cycle continues in this way.
Hence, the filter media in this case is below the fish tank rather than above or to the side, as in the first type.
These sorts of fish tank filters tend to come 'custom made' with certain types of fish tanks. Usually the larger ones. Hence, its price is embedded in the cost of the fish tank itself but its well worth the investment.
As you can probably tell by now, its first major advantage is that nothing 'falls back' into the aquarium since everything has fallen beneath the fish tank into a separate filter enclosure.
Also, last I checked, gravity will not pull anything upwards! :)
Immediately, you have the advantage of getting less fish muck and other bad stuff going back into the aquarium via gravity. Of course, if you dont change your filter media often enough, some of the muck will escape and get pushed up by the fish tank pump back into the aquarium.
A more expensive external fish tank filter essentially has the pump and the filter enclosure built together in one setup. They will tend to have one pipe that shoots water out, and another pipe that sucks water in.
This filter setup (and they tend to look like miniature R2-D2s, I kid you not!) will have a series of filter media built within it. It has the same advantage as the one described above.
There are those who will argue these are better and some others, that the customized built in ones are better. I dont have a particular preference, they are both external fish tank filters and should work better than internal fish tank filters. (Unless you are a Star Wars fan, in which case you will feel the force and know your preference!)
The real difference is cost and how disciplined you are at checking the filter media :). Generally, the larger the
fish tank filter (the customized ones tend to be quite large), the less often you need to check on the filter media.
So there you go, a thesis on some of the common fish tank filters. Phew!
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