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Making Sense of Aquarium Filter Media

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Aquarium filter media is essential for proper aquarium filtration and creating a healthy environment for your fish. Filter media is anything placed in a filter that changes the quality of water flowing through it. With the variety of medias available, specific types can be chosen to create the optimal environment in your aquarium.

There are three main types of filter media:

• Biological media that facilitates the nitrogen cycle
• Mechanical media that removes physical debris
• Chemical media that removes unwanted odours, coloration, and other contaminants from the water

All three types are recommended, but an aquarium needs to have biological and mechanical filters at minimum. Aquarium filter media is key to keeping your aquarium water clean and clear and plays a significant role in keeping your fish healthy.
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Aquarium Filter Media

Filter media is used to clean the water in the aquarium. The filter, whether it is air powered or electrical, uses a pump to draw water through the filter media. In the process, solid wastes, such as fish droppings and other debris, are dissolved and wastes, primarily ammonium, are neutralised.

Types of Filter Media

There are three types of filter media: biological, mechanical and chemical.
Biological filter media supports the nitrifying bacteria that turn the toxic nitrogenous wastes produced by fish into the harmless nitrate that can be removed through water changes.
Mechanical filter media strain out solid particles of waste, such as fish faeces, decaying plant leaves and uneaten food. When the filter is cleaned, the mechanical filter media can be rinsed and the solid particles it has trapped washed away.
Chemical filter media chemically alters the water in some way. A popular chemical filter medium is peat, which adds tannins and other organic compounds to the water, turning the water in the aquarium into something more closely resembling the tea-coloured blackwater favoured by many tropical fish.

How to Choose

When it comes time to choose the main filter for your aquarium, it is wise to select one that incorporates all three types of filtration, chemical, biological and mechanical.
Although there are only three types of aquarium filtration, there are many types of aquarium filters on the market. These filters range from basic sponge filters to complex sump systems, so it is easy to become confused when trying to make a decision. If you are unsure what type of filter is best suited to your tank, do some research and read consumer reviews to get a feel for the different types and brands of filters available.