Filtration and Circulation
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The most important part of any aquarium setup is the type of aquarium filtration you choose to use. Aquarium filtration is the means you employ to remove the waste products of the fish and other creatures in your aquarium. It is important to understand what aquarium filtration is and what it can and cannot do for your aquarium. Proper aquarium filtration will remove toxic substances and medication from your aquarium water. Filtration can not replenish essential elements and amino acids to the water and can not stabilize water chemistry. Fish do not come from stagnant pools of water but rather from streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. A lot of the essential elements that fishes bodies need, come from the water they live in. Regular water changes are the best way to replenish the essential elements and stabilize the water chemistry regardless of the form of filtration you planning to use for your aquarium.
Types Of Aquarium Filtration
Modern aquarium filtration can be divided into three basic types : Mechanical filtration, Biological filtration, and Chemical filtration.
Mechanical filtration is the physical process of removing larger particulate matter from the water column. Common mechanical filtration sources may include: filter floss, foam inserts, and diatomaceous earth. It is important to rinse out mechanical filter media and replace as necessary. In most filter systems mechanical filtration is employed first before the water goes through the biological filter. This helps prevent the biological filter media from becoming clogged with particular matter which will reduce the biological filters surface area.
Biological filter media provides a large surface area for live beneficial bacteria (nitrosommonas and nitrobacter) to cling to. Beneficial bacteria can then break down waste products such as ammonia and nitrite which come from decomposing organic matter like fish waste. Ammonia and nitrites are toxic to fish and levels above zero can be considered potentially deadly. The actions of beneficial bacteria keeps your water clear and habitable for fish. Beneficial bacteria is essential to keeping fish alive in any aquarium. Chemical filtration employs chemical media to absorb gases, heavy metals and other foreign materials from the water. The most common type of chemical filtration used in aquariums is carbon. Carbon removes fish odors and discolouration from your water and will also remove medication. Another common type of chemical filtration is phosphate remover. Phosphate remover will absorb phosphate from your water which is the leading cause of pest algae. These types of contaminants cannot be removed with biological filtration or mechanical filtration.
With an understanding of the three basic filter concepts we can move on to water flow. It is important to have water movement in your aquarium for several reasons. Moving the water around in the aquarium improves gas exchange by exposing more of the water to the surface air. This allows carbon dioxide to be exchanged for oxygen. Oxygen is important for the fish so that hey don't suffocate and also for the beneficial bacteria we want to grow in the filter. With increased oxygen levels, bacteria's and enzymes can also break down the fish waste that accumulates in the gravel. With the aquarium filter providing proper circulation particulate matter can be picked up by the filter and removed. For freshwater aquariums you want to turn over the total volume of the aquarium through the filter three to 10 times per hour.
Example: 100 gallon aquarium turned over five times would be 500 gallons per hour.