Pumps & Filters

Aquarium filters are critical components of both freshwater and marine aquaria. Aquarium filters remove physical and soluble chemical waste products from aquaria, simplifying maintenance. Furthermore, aquarium filters are necessary to support life as aquaria are relatively small, closed volumes of water compared to the natural environment of most fish.

Undergravel filters

One of the oldest types of filters, the undergravel filters consist of a porous plate which is placed beneath the gravel on the base of the aquarium and one, or more, uplift tubes. Historically, undergravel filters have been driven via air displacement. Air stones are placed at the base of uplift tubes which force water out of the uplift tube creating negative pressure beneath the undergravel filter plate. Water then percolates down through the gravel which itself is the filtration material. Greater flow rate of water through the gravel can be achieved via the use of water pump rather than air displacement. Beneficial bacteria colonize the gravel bed and provide biological filtration, using the substrate of the aquarium itself as a biological filter.

Airlift filters

Sponge filters and corner filters (sometimes called box filters) work by essentially the same mechanism as an internal filter. Both generally work by airlift, using bubbles from an air pump rising in a tube to create flow. In a sponge filter, the inlet may only be covered by a simple open-cell block of foam. A corner filter is slightly more complex. These filters are often placed in the corner on the bottom of the aquarium. Water enters slits in the box, passes through a layer of medium, then exits through the airlift tube to return to the aquarium. These filters tend to only be suitable for small and lightly stocked aquaria. The sponge filter is especially useful for rearing fry where the sponge prevents the small fish from entering the filter.

Canister filters

Compared to filters that hang on the back of the aquarium, canister-style external filters offer a greater quantity of filter materials to be used along with a greater degree of flexibility with respect to filter material choice. Water enters the canister filled with the chosen filter material through an intake pipe at the bottom of the canister, passes through the material, and is fed back to the aquarium through the return pipe. Water is forced to circulate through the filter by a pump typically installed at the top of the canister. It is important to note that canister filters are sealed, fully flooded systems, meaning that the aquarium, intake pipe, filter interior and the return pipe form a continuous body of water.


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