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Filtration & Media


December 13, 2018 | By Tom Sarac

by Tom Sarac

When it comes to aquarium set-up and equipment purchase, a filter ranks as one of the most important piece of hardware you are going to rely on. Why? Because not only does it filter aquarium water in three distinct ways (mechanically + biologically + chemically), it is also excellent at supplying oxygen to the water; a strong oxygen level is ensured when the filter output is creating a good surface movement.

The importance of oxygenation cannot be understated. Fish constantly take in dissolved oxygen as do the vast quantities of friendly nitrifying bacteria that are always hard at work converting the waste products your fish produce.

While there are many types of filters to choose from for most freshwater aquariums, the decision for choosing the right filter for your freshwater aquarium really boils down to 3 types: the Canister; the Clip-On, and the Internal.


Canister filters come in a full range of sizes typically capable of filtering aquariums of approximately 10 gallons all the way up to 400 gallons.

These filters can hold more filter media than other conventional filters thanks to their large filter capacity. This enables them to provide clean, purified water for the widest range of aquarium sizes and the heaviest stocking levels of fish.

Canisters are also well-equipped with features to make installation and maintenance a breeze. These two aspects used to be drawbacks to canisters but today’s units have quick disconnect valves such as the Fluval patented Aqua-Stop, and are also modular in design, which makes accessing any compartment quick and easy. This is very important because you can increase a filter’s efficiency by regularly rinsing mechanical filter media.

Priming the filter has now become convenient as well – you simply move the priming handle up and down. The types of filter media you can effectively use in a canister are greater versus other conventional filters, helping you to create specific water conditions should they be necessary for the types of fish you are keeping.

Canister filters are also effective at improving oxygen levels. You just locate the output nozzle so it sprays across the water’s surface.


The clip-on has been the staple power filter for many decades. They filter aquariums ranging anywhere from 5 to approximately 100 gallons.

Given the many innovations this category of filter has enjoyed, it is now possible to realize amazing filtration performance thanks to multiple compartments that allow for a greater variety of filter media.

The hang-on is a suitable choice for beginners and typical aquarium starter kits intended for the keeping of hardy tropical fish species.

Inherently this filter is quick to set up. It distributes filtered water across the surface of the tank ensuring adequate oxygen levels. Maintenance is simple, alternating media replacement ensures biological stability is maintained and these economically-priced systems represent a top value choice.


Internal filters are a great option for many aquariums where an inside-the-tank installation is preferred, either because you have space limitations or just simply because you don’t want to see something hanging off your aquarium.

These filters can handle a range of aquariums, typically between 10 and 70 gallons in volume on a stand-alone basis. Of course, this is very much dependant on the types of fish species being kept and stocking levels.

The internal is ultra quick to install and easy to adjust in terms of flow direction. These systems are also great to use as a supplementary type of filter or as a back-up to a larger system. The Internal is also very efficient with no hosing to pump through, position or clean. Moreover, their cartridge style media makes maintenance easy to deal with.

All 3 types are excellent choices, each offering various and exclusive advantages. So, overall which filter is the best for you? Well, once you have decided on the type of aquarium you are setting up and the fish you are going to keep, you will have your answer.


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