Choosing the Right Freshwater Aquarium Filter for Your Tank

Along with other equipment you need to consider finding the best fish tank filter for your freshwater aquarium, you want to pick the correct filter to help keep the aquarium clean.  What kind of freshwater aquarium filter should you choose?

First of all, you’ll need to make sure that you clean your aquarium manually at least once a month.  Even with a high quality filter, you’ll need to clear algae off the sides of the tank, and perhaps vacuum the substrate to pick up excess waste, leftover food, etc.

Be sure to do this regularly.  The cleaner your tank is kept, the better it will be for the health of your fish.  It will also keep the nitrate and ammonia levels more normal, also the pH levels.

There are different types of filtration methods for your aquarium.  There are usually three main types, which include mechanical, chemical and biological filtration.

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filters are the type of filters that you normally see in aquariums.  They are a separate filter that you need to change on a regular basis.  They filter out particles in the water, and there are many, many types of them.

These types of filters are readily available and usually quite inexpensive.  The secret here is to clean and replace them regularly.

Chemical Filtration

Chemical filtration and mechanical filtration usually go hand in hand.  Quite often chemical materials like carbon are added to the mechanical filtration system to aid in clearing the water.

Biological Filtration

This is a more natural way of filtering the tank water.  It is usually sponge-like substances that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.  This filtration system helps convert toxins and produce less toxic conditions in the tank.  These systems do not involve adding chemicals and are very simple to operate.

There are different kinds of filtration systems to add to your aquarium.  Here is a list of the main types of filters:

Sponge Filters

This is a very simple cellulose sponge filter that is operated by an air or water pump.  It’s inexpensive to operate, easy to find, and does the job quite effectively.  It will cultivate beneficial bacteria to help break down wastes.  Sponge filters are great for smaller tanks or breeding tanks.

Under Gravel Filters

undergravel-aquarium-filterThe first true and basic type of filter invented for aquariums, and easy to set up and use.  They are still used widely and can solve all sorts of problems in the tank.  A raised plate in the bottom allows waste and debris to flow through the substrate under the raised plate.  Air tubes run from the bottom to the top of the aquarium allowing aeration from under the plate.

Power Filters

Usually a small motor-driven filter found mainly in use today in smaller aquariums.  They have small cartridges and foam pads that filter the water, often not too well.  They can be found everywhere and rather inexpensively, too.  They are easy to install and use.

Canister Filters

Canisters are mainly a mechanical and chemical filtration system but one that works well for larger aquariums.  It uses more force, thus forcing the wastes through faster.  They’re more expensive, but work quite well to filter the water.


There are many other kinds of filters in use, including the wet/dry filters, and bed filters.  It’s best to go to your local fish store and see what they would recommend for your type of tank.  But these listed are the main types in use.

The big secret is to buy the right type of filter for your size and type of aquarium.  Sometimes you’ll need to combine a couple of systems like the under gravel filter and the power filter.  You’ll know what you need as you gain experience with your tank.