Filtrations Types for Different Types of Saltwater Aquariums


The best filter for your tank is going to depend on a number of variables, including: tank size, tank contents and whether or not the saltwater tank includes a reef. There are three different types of saltwater filters. In general, mechanical filters are the most common filter type because they’re less complicated and less expensive than biological and chemical filters. Overall, the best of each filter type for your aquarium is going to depend on your personal needs.

Filtration for the Small Saltwater Aquarium

In general, a small saltwater aquarium is any tank that is 40 gallons or less. Oftentimes, these micro-tanks can be more difficult to operate because environmental changes occur rapidly in a smaller tank. The best filter for small tanks is one that combines advanced protein skimming with additional circulation. Space is limited, so the best filter is going to be compact, but also very powerful. A great option is a biological filter that works using a sponge and includes system aeration. Additionally, some mechanical hanging filters have built-in skimmers and expanded media capacity.

Filtration for the Large Saltwater Aquarium

It may seem like owning and operating a larger saltwater aquarium would be more difficult for beginners, but that’s not true. Larger aquariums are far more stable than smaller ones and therefore a much better option for beginners. Plus, you have far more options when it comes to filtration. In general, you want to choose a filter that meets your tank’s needs. Consider its contents and then buy accordingly. If your tank is fish only, the best filter has a large filtration capacity. Fish only aquariums do not include the advanced biological filtration live rock provides, so the best filter is often a biological wet/dry filter. Please keep in mind that wet/dry filters can never be used with reef systems, so if you’re planning on adding live rock down the road, do not consider the wet/dry filter.

Filtration for the Reef Aquarium

Live rock is extremely beneficial to a saltwater aquarium. Not only does live rock provide fish with a more natural environment, it also provides helpful organisms to the water, essentially making it a natural biological filter. If your reef aquarium includes a sump, the best filter is a refugium filter because it’s able to stabilize the water naturally. This means, nitrate and phosphate levels will remain low and thus the aquarium’s inhabitants remain safer and healthier for longer. If you’re opting not to use a sump, a biological filter is best. Look for a biological filter that’s designed to be used in conjunction with a reef. Both the filter and the reef will work together to process and convert toxic ammonia.

Sump or No Sump

The best filter for your saltwater aquarium is going to depend on whether or not your aquarium includes a sump. Sump are great for a number of reasons. They increase the water volume, as well as include a refugium for live rock, mangroves and algae. Moreover, a sump gives you more options in terms of filtration equipment. Unfortunately, sumps do have their drawbacks which are why some aquarium owners opt out. Oftentimes, sumps cause external water leaks and they’re difficult to fix.

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