Fish Tank Filters

3 Types Of Fish Tank Filters: Which One Should You Get?

Aquarium filtration systems are an essential part of maintaining a healthy and balanced aquatic environment. Filtration helps to keep the water clean and free of waste, providing a healthier living space for fish, and other marine life.

There are three main types of fish tank filters available: mechanical, biological, and chemical. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages in regards to cost, maintenance requirements, effectiveness at cleaning the tank water, and more.

This article will highlight each filter type as well as explore which one is best suited for home aquariums. Additionally, advice will be given on how often filters should be cleaned or changed in order to maintain the healthiest environment possible for your fish tank inhabitants.

Why Your Aquarium Need Filtration System?

An aquarium filtration system is necessary to maintain the health and cleanliness of an aquatic environment. Filtration plays a key role in keeping a balanced and healthy ecosystem that allows for the growth and thriving of fish, plants, and other creatures living inside an aquarium.

Each type of filtration has its own stage within the overall aquarium filtration process. By understanding each stage of this process it can be easier to understand why your tank needs a filter in order to create a safe habitat for your fish.

Ultimately, having a quality filter is essential for any healthy marine environment as it keeps all types of pollutants at bay while allowing beneficial bacteria to thrive.

The Three Types of Aquarium Filters

Aquarium filtration is essential for the health of fish and other aquatic life.

There are three main types of aquarium filters: mechanical, chemical, and biological.

Mechanical filters remove particles in the water by trapping them on a physical filter media, such as foam pads or floss, while chemical filters use activated carbon to absorb pollutants.

Examples of mechanical, biological, and chemical filter media

Biological filtration uses beneficial bacteria to break down ammonia and nitrites into less toxic nitrates.

Each type of filter works differently but all are necessary for an effective filtration system.

Filtration MethodMechanical FiltrationChemical FiltrationBiological Filtration
PurposeRemoves solid particles from the waterRemoves organic pollutants, toxins and odorsBreaks down waste and ammonia using beneficial bacteria
EquipmentFilter pad, filter sponge, filter flossActivated carbon, zeolite, peat mossBio-balls, ceramic rings, gravel
  • Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filtration is a process of removing particles from the water, allowing for a clean and healthy aquatic environment. It involves passing aquarium water through filter media that catches debris such as uneaten food, waste, and other particulates.

There are several types of mechanical filters available to aquarium owners including canister filters, internal filters, gravel filters, and filter pads. These all work by using tubes or hoses to draw water into the filter where it passes over or through different kinds of media such as carbon or filter pads before being pushed back out into the tank by an air pump or water pump.

The most important part of this type of filtration is its ability to remove biological waste from the water while still providing adequate flow rate throughout the system.

  • Chemical Filtration

Chemical filtration is a process that utilizes chemical media to remove dissolved organic compounds from aquarium water, allowing for improved clarity and water quality. This process typically takes place in a filter chamber with an uplift tube, siphon tube, intake tube and lift tube.

Commonly used chemical additives for this type of filtration include bio pellets carbon, carbon insert, carbon traps and carbon units. A powerful pump is necessary to ensure proper circulation of the water within the filter chamber.

  • Biological Filtration

Biological filtration is a process that utilizes beneficial bacteria to break down organic waste, resulting in improved water quality and clarity. It is an important part of aquarium filters, as it helps to remove chemical waste such as nitrogen compounds and toxic ammonia that can build-up from excess feedings or decaying organic material.

Biological filtration methods may include the use of biopellets, bio balls and other solid wastes which provide surface area for bacteria to colonize and consume nutrients. This process helps to convert toxic ammonia into less harmful nitrates, ultimately creating a healthier environment for aquatic life.

Which are the Most Popular Common Filter Types?

There are several types of filters commonly used in aquariums, including Canister Filters, Hang-on-Back Filters, Sponge Filters, Fluidized Bed Filters and Diatom Filters.

Of these, the most popular types of aquarium filters tend to be the Canister and Hang-on-Back models due to their efficient filtration capabilities and relatively straightforward installation process.

Sponge and Fluidized Bed filters are popular for aquarists with more specialized needs while Diatom Filters are best reserved for advanced hobbyists who require the utmost clarity from their tanks.

  • Canister Filters

Possessing the advantage of a larger capacity, canister filters are among the most popular types of aquarium filtration systems.

This type of filter is installed outside the tank and typically contains multiple compartments filled with sponges, biopellets, carbon dosing media, and sometimes battery-operated air pumps for additional aeration.

What makes them unique is their ability to provide adjustable flow rates along with adequate water flow for maintaining an aquarium’s nitrogen cycle.

Canister filters use plastic balls or containers of balls in combination with fine mesh bags and trays in order to achieve specific filtration requirements for different types of aquariums.

  • Hang-on-Back Filters
Hang On Power Aquarium Filter

Hang-on-Back filters are a type of aquarium filtration system that is installed on the back wall of the tank, providing adjustable flow rates and efficient water circulation. They use various types of filter media to remove particles from the water and are usually powered by black pumps that provide enough pressure for the filter to operate.

Hang-on-Back filters also help to maintain a balanced nitrogen cycle in an aquarium, which is essential for keeping fish healthy as it prevents a high concentration of ammonia in the water. Additionally, these filters can be used with other types of filtration systems such as undergravel or canister filters to create more efficient filtration.

With their ease of installation and ability to effectively clean water, Hang-on-Back filters are an ideal choice for aquarists looking for optimal tank filtration.

  • Sponge Filters
Sponge Filter

Sponge filters are a popular choice for fish tank filtration. These are indeed an effective and low-maintenance type of aquarium filter. Sponge filters consist of a plastic or ceramic tube with a sponge attached to the end. Water is drawn through the sponge, trapping debris and other particles in the process.

The trapped particles are then removed from the water by mechanical means such as vacuuming or siphoning.

  • Fluidized Bed Filters

Fluidized bed filters are a type of aquarium filtration system that utilizes a bed of sand or gravel to trap debris and other particles. It is estimated that these filters can remove up to 99% of suspended solids from the water, making them an effective choice for maintaining clean and healthy aquariums.

The filter works by creating a fluidized bed in which the sand or gravel is suspended in the water column, allowing it to capture particles as they pass through. This process also helps to oxygenate the water, providing beneficial bacteria with an ideal environment for growth.

Additionally, fluidized bed filters require minimal maintenance and are relatively inexpensive compared to other types of filtration systems. As such, they are often recommended for hobbyists who want an efficient yet cost-effective way to keep their fish tanks clean and healthy.

  • Diatom Filters

Diatomic filters are a type of filter that utilizes diatomaceous earth to remove particles from the water. This type of filter is often used in fish tanks, as it is effective at removing small particles and debris from the water.

Diatom filters work by passing water through a chamber filled with diatomaceous earth, which acts as a sieve to trap particles and debris. The filtered water then passes through another chamber where the trapped particles are removed.

Diatom filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain, making them an ideal choice for aquarium owners who want to keep their tank clean without spending too much money or time on maintenance.

Also read: Beyond Goldfish To 10 Best Fish Species For Indian Aquariums

Live Plants As Fish Tank Filters – Is It True?

Live plants have been suggested as a natural way to filter aquarium water, but the effectiveness of this method is still debated.

Many aquarists believe that live plants are able to absorb dissolved toxins in the water, such as nitrates and phosphates.

In addition, they can also act as a biological filter, helping to break down waste materials created by fish.

However, other aquarists argue that live plants are not effective enough at filtering out pollutants from tank water and may even add to the build-up of these substances if not properly maintained.

Furthermore, some species of aquatic vegetation require higher levels of light and other nutrients in order for them to thrive and contribute effectively during filtration processes.

Ultimately, whether or not live plants should be used as part of a filtration system depends on the type of tank being used and its specific requirements.

How Often Should You Clean Your Fish Tank Filters?

Regular maintenance of aquarium filters is essential to ensure the health and safety of aquatic life. The frequency of cleaning a filter depends on the type of filter being used, the size of the tank, and how densely stocked it is.

Generally speaking, biological filters should be cleaned once per month while mechanical or chemical filters may need to be cleaned more frequently. A good rule of thumb is to clean any filter when there is a noticeable drop in water quality.

To make sure that your aquarium’s filter remains in optimal condition, it is important to use the table below as a guide for how often you should clean each type of filter:

Type Of FilterCleaning Frequency
BiologicalOnce Per Month
MechanicalEvery 2 Weeks

When Should You Change Your Aquarium Filter?

Regularly replacing an aquarium filter is essential for the maintenance of a healthy aquatic ecosystem. The frequency of replacement depends on the type and size of the filter, as well as the size and number of fish in the tank.

Generally, it is recommended to replace mechanical filters every two to four weeks, while chemical filters should be replaced every one to three months. Biological filters can last up to six months before needing replacement.

It is important to check your filter regularly for signs of wear or clogging, which may require more frequent replacements. Additionally, if you notice any changes in water clarity or quality, it may be time to replace your filter.

Taking these steps will help ensure that your fish tank remains clean and healthy for years to come.


The use of a filtration system in an aquarium is essential for maintaining the health and wellbeing of aquatic life. It is important to consider the type of filter that best suits the needs of your tank before purchasing one.

Popular types include biological, mechanical, and chemical filters, while live plants can act as a form of natural filtration as well.

On average, it is recommended to clean or replace filters every 3-4 weeks to ensure optimal performance. Additionally, it has been found that using multiple types of filters can increase water quality by up to 50%, making this an effective option for many home aquarists.

With careful consideration and maintenance, aquarium owners can be sure their tanks are kept clean and healthy for their fishy friends.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How much does a fish tank filter cost?

    The cost of a fish tank filter depends on the type, size, and features that it has. Generally, a basic filter can range anywhere from ₹500 to ₹2500. A more advanced filter with additional features can cost up to ₹5,000 or more.
    It is important to consider not only the initial cost of the filter but also any additional costs for replacement parts and ongoing maintenance.

  2. Are aquarium filters difficult to install?

    No, aquarium filters are relatively simple to install, depending on the type and size of tank. Most aquariums come with a standard filter, but it is important to consider the necessary flow rate for the particular filter in relation to the size and volume of your tank.
    Installing an additional filter may require some minor adjustments such as connecting tubing or changing out parts; however, if instructions are followed carefully, installation should not be difficult. Furthermore, many retailers offer assistance in setting up and maintaining your filter system.

  3. Is it okay to leave my aquarium filter running all the time?

    Yes, it is generally recommended to leave an aquarium filter running all the time, as this helps maintain a healthy environment for the fish. The filter works by removing debris and other particles from the water, while also helping to keep it oxygenated.
    Additionally, leaving the filter running continuously can help reduce stress on the fish by providing a consistent flow of clean water.It is important to note that filters should be cleaned regularly in order to ensure they are working properly and not clogged with debris.



Meet me, your dedicated author and fish aficionado. With a deep-rooted passion for all things aquatic, I bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm to this fish and aquarium website. As an avid fishkeeper myself, I understand the joys and challenges that come with creating a thriving underwater world. Through my articles, guides, and recommendations, I strive to provide you with accurate, reliable, and engaging content that will enhance your fishkeeping journey. Join me as we dive into the fascinating realm of fish and aquariums, and together, let's make your aquatic dreams a reality.

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