What filter media is best?

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14 Dec 2014
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Hi all,

I have the Tetra EX 800 plus
Some specifications here;
  • Suitable aquarium size: 100 - 300 l
  • Water flow: 790 l/h
  • External size: 21.2 x 21.2 x 41.2 cm (L x W x H)
  • Maximum pump height: 1.3m
  • Filter capacity: 6.6l
  • Filter chambers (number): 4
  • Pipe internal diameter: 12mm
  • Power consumption: 10.5 Watt
Here a picture of the filtermedia inside;
71v4nCwq7YL._SL1500_.jpg

From bottom to top;
1. Ceramic Filter Rings & Biological Filter Sponge
2. Bio Filter Balls
3. Biological Filter Sponge
4. Filter Floss Pads & Biological Filter Sponge (Normaly this tray has carbon in it wich i dont use!)


I have looked in filter media from Seachem and ADA bio rio and i believe i can easily improve my filtration.

Can you please advice me how i can improve my filtermedia by switching the media in with something better?
Which changes would you make in my situation?

(p.s. for more info about my setup you can look in my journal. Link is in my signature)
 

Manuel Arias

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Hi Timon,

Well, a simple question with very difficult answer because this depends of many factors, between others that media should change depending on the stage of your tank, but this is not always the case. At the end each person comes out with something different, so reality is that most filtering strategies will work.

But in planted tanks, there are some general assumptions or conventions that are a good guideline:

-Degradation of organic matter shall be as fast as possible.
-We do not want to lose microelements or trace elements due to filtering.
-We want to have filter media well oxygenated to avoid anoxia.
-We target a crystal-clear water.

Considering that:

1. It is good to maximize the filter stages in which the nitrifying and heterotrophic bacteria can grow. This usually means to have a very porous filter media. In my point of view, the stuff from Seachem for that is the best one. I would have two of three of these baskets filled with it.

2.You do not need so many sponges. They are good to trap coarse pieces of organic matter but they get clogged within the time, substantially reducing waster flow (and hence, oxygen flow). They are good as a pre-filter stage. I would keep only two of those ones with finer gaps, getting rid of the rest.

3. Careful with active carbon. It add phosphates, which is not an issue "per se" as in planted aquariums is a nutrient, but the annoying capability is that they affect to microlements, especially iron. The use of active carbon is only recommeneded for new tanks in which some premium soil has been added with excess of microelements and ammonium (e.g. ADA soils) and just for a couple of weeks.

4. Bioballs are rubbish (in my point of view). I would get rid of them, and perhaps use porous media, as proposed above.

5. Filter floss pads are useful, as they can retain thinner particles than the sponges. As they are thinner, they also have less effect in water flow when they get clogged. They need to be, maintained in regular basis, however.

So considering the filter you have:

Top basket: Filter floss pad and bio-sponges but the ones with the thin gaps.

Medium basket #1: Porous media.

Medium basket #2: Porous media.

Bottom basket: Porous media.

If you need to use active carbon, you can replace the medium basket #1 with it.

That would be my strategy. But as said, this is not the only solution (and probably others will give you different approaches). Hope this help, though.

Cheers,
Manuel
 

DavidW

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Best filter media I've used is Biohome it supports aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, but any sintered glass based filter media will do e.g. Eheim Substrate Pro. I'm using the Biohome in my sump and it's taken the nitrate level down from 40mg/l to 5mg/l.
 

Manuel Arias

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Location
Plymouth
Best filter media I've used is Biohome it supports aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, but any sintered glass based filter media will do e.g. Eheim Substrate Pro. I'm using the Biohome in my sump and it's taken the nitrate level down from 40mg/l to 5mg/l.
BioHome uses a denitrification strategy. Besides the fact that you do not want to your nitrates disappearing from water in planted tanks, denitrification is carried out by anaerobic bacteria, which means it can only happen with practically no oxygen, and it is also quite dependant of water flow, what makes it not easy to use in all the filters. For a sump can be OK, but not for a canister filter, as this case. Location of the Biohome in the filter then becomes rather important. Additionally, under anaerobic activity not only denitrification happens, but also formation of H2S and CH4. In both cases, these substances are quite toxic for aquatic life. In general terms this is not a problem, so far you do not disturb the filter or having any issue with the pump. However, if for any reason a mess happens, the media is stirred and that water goes to the tank...well.

I have read about the product in the past, and to be honest, I do not think is good for planted tanks, apart of implying an unwanted risks of toxicity. Considering that more conventional approaches work as good as this and with less a risk, I do not recommend its use. However, I recognize that can be interesting for people knowing what they do, and especially using sumps, as canister filters tend to get clogged easily and then requiring more maintenance (and then more risk).

Cheers,
Manuel
 

zozo

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I think in terms of what is the best, if you leave the mechanical such as sponges and filter cotton part a side and emidiately jump to the biological part. :) Then we might say in general consensus it would be the media providing the most surface area per volume.. And with regular media of differnet types usualy offered in the lfs it is often hard to say when you look at it from the outside which one has more to offer then the other. But can it be beter than sufficient?

Anyway there are a few very good explanatory videos about filtration on youtube from "Pondguru" and he has some very educative videos to show. I have no personal experience with a product he calls one of the best biomedias know as Biohome filtermedia. I believe it is not for sale in the Netherlands, don't know never saw it in any lfs and never bothered to order it, but it had me a little curious maybe one day i might.

But when it comes to surface erae as far as i know nothing can beat a fluidized sand bed filter. I have one in use in my low tech.. I used it for severla months in my high tech as well.

I didn't realy notice any difference or major improvements, nor anything negative when i stoped using it.. There was nothing happening telling me obviously it is so much better. Thus for my self i came to the conclussion i said above.. Can it be better than sufficient?

Ps, i see now some cross posting occured about Biohome.. :thumbup:
 
Last edited:

zozo

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We might add to the story :) in a way people tend to think there is a major difference in mechanical and bio media.. As you might think a sponge and cotton is mechanical and some other alien substance is biological.. But a sponge or cotton can be as biolocical as any other media as soon as it starts to colonize a bacterial population it becomes both, mechanical as well as biological. Many of us probably all especialy the older genration started out with such a silly air driven in tank corner filter filled with cotton only.. Believe it or not, these silly things are very sufficient biofilters much more sufficient than a closed cannister just because they are air driven and very wel oxygenated.

Only thin is the biological part has to start up from scratch again every time it is cleaned out.. But in a well matured tank where the substrate takes a large chunck of this biopart as well a small tank can take that without any problems. I ran fish tanks for years with those silly things.

At the time my 45 liter high tech tank is running on a sponge cannister only.. (No hate emails please.. :rolleyes::lol:) It contains no alien biomedia. It's the same story, if the substrate is mature enough the tank can take it and doesn't feel it if the filter is cleaned out partialy and needs to recolonize a little bit.. This goes rather faster than one would think. I experience absolutely no negative effect with not using other biomedia then sponges. The sponges are biomedia as well.. And it is sufficient.. :thumbup: (Sorry.. correction CAN be sufficient.)
 

DavidW

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I do not think is good for planted tanks, apart of implying an unwanted risks of toxicity.
Humm, my tank is a fully planted discus tank and the plants are growing really well and the discus are very happy. As for toxicity biohome is sintered glass which is the same as eheim substrate pro which is used in canister filter. I use eheim substrate pro in a canister filter on my smaller tank and have done for 3 years and have never had any issues with toxicity and I clean that filter quite regularly. I also have shrimp living in my sump quite happily. In my experience I've never had any toxicity issues with sintered glass as a filter media and never had any issues with plants not growing well others might have but for me it's the best filter media I've used.

Anyway there are a few very good explanatory videos about filtration on youtube from "Pondguru" and he has some very educative videos to show. I have no personal experience with a product he calls one of the best biomedias know as Biohome filtermedia.
He's a very helpful guy I've spoken in depth with him about biohome before I purchased the product, I was sceptical at first but after seeing it in action I'm really impressed. He also told me the smaller version can be used in canister filters.
 

Manuel Arias

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umm, my tank is a fully planted discus tank and the plants are growing really well and the discus are very happy.
Yes, of course. As many things, there is a difference between particular cases and general terms. In particular can go pretty well, and the product is good, do not take me wrong. As you well say, it is quite the same thing, being just a variety of sintered glass, so essentially pretty similar to any other sinteresed glass product for filter media.

Nonetheless, there is a difference: Eheim does not state their product removes nitrates by denitrification. This always happens in all the tanks, but the amount in which this happens is really minor and usually plants are the main reason of low nitrates levels, plus water changes of course: https://www.eheim.com/en_GB/products/filter-media/biological/substratpro
However, if they are pretty the same, why Biohome makes a totally different statement? http://www.tarkusaqualife.com/products/treatments/bio-home/ I doubt EHEIM would ignore a denitrifying activity in their filter media, unless it is happening but they consider is not significant (which is quite probably the truth of it). But then, if the product is the same material...why?

This leads to two possible situations:

1. Biohome are telling the truth, in which case, anoxia will generate too H2S and CH4. One thing goes with the other and that is well-settled knowledge. Obviously, H2S and CH4 will not last for long as there are other bacteria in the biofilms that use them when oxygen is available, but that is why I say is a bit risky under some situations. This would match the observations and would also match with the statement of Biohome requiring a good water flow, so to keep in bay the problem. In fact, have been reported that with the wrong flow rate, some problems can raise with it: http://www.fishlore.com/fishforum/m...opics/142845-new-bio-media-after-1-month.html

2. Biohome is making a bit of hype about its capability of removing nitrates by denitrification.

That is why I name it "risky". It works, that is for sure, but stops working if gets clogged or water flow is not high enough, and under some situations can produce toxic elements (not the material itself, but some of the anaerobic groups of bacteria growing in it). No other brands have copied it, so there must be some reason for that. Other filter media have also the same problems, but the requirements of maintenance and water flow are minor and the possibilities of this happening are minor. So yes, good stuff but in my point of view, not ideal for the general user. :)

Cheers,
Manuel
 

DavidW

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Yes, of course. As many things, there is a difference between particular cases and general terms. In particular can go pretty well, and the product is good, do not take me wrong. As you well say, it is quite the same thing, being just a variety of sintered glass, so essentially pretty similar to any other sinteresed glass product for filter media.

Nonetheless, there is a difference: Eheim does not state their product removes nitrates by denitrification. This always happens in all the tanks, but the amount in which this happens is really minor and usually plants are the main reason of low nitrates levels, plus water changes of course: https://www.eheim.com/en_GB/products/filter-media/biological/substratpro
However, if they are pretty the same, why Biohome makes a totally different statement? http://www.tarkusaqualife.com/products/treatments/bio-home/ I doubt EHEIM would ignore a denitrifying activity in their filter media, unless it is happening but they consider is not significant (which is quite probably the truth of it). But then, if the product is the same material...why?

This leads to two possible situations:

1. Biohome are telling the truth, in which case, anoxia will generate too H2S and CH4. One thing goes with the other and that is well-settled knowledge. Obviously, H2S and CH4 will not last for long as there are other bacteria in the biofilms that use them when oxygen is available, but that is why I say is a bit risky under some situations. This would match the observations and would also match with the statement of Biohome requiring a good water flow, so to keep in bay the problem. In fact, have been reported that with the wrong flow rate, some problems can raise with it: http://www.fishlore.com/fishforum/m...opics/142845-new-bio-media-after-1-month.html

2. Biohome is making a bit of hype about its capability of removing nitrates by denitrification.

That is why I name it "risky". It works, that is for sure, but stops working if gets clogged or water flow is not high enough, and under some situations can produce toxic elements (not the material itself, but some of the anaerobic groups of bacteria growing in it). No other brands have copied it, so there must be some reason for that. Other filter media have also the same problems, but the requirements of maintenance and water flow are minor and the possibilities of this happening are minor. So yes, good stuff but in my point of view, not ideal for the general user. :)

Cheers,
Manuel
I generally take what companies state to sell products with a pinch of salt :rolleyes:. I think probably the company that produce biohome are making a sales pitch to try and make there product stand out from the crowd.

What brought it to my attention was that it was made of sintered glass which I have used for a long time and have always had great results with.

So for me there were 2 reasons to try biohome the first one was it contains an added minerals that feed the bacteria and create a good environment for them (more sales talk but at least the science behind this seem ok), the second was the size of the biohome which made it easy to removal for cleaning, trying to remove 5kg of eheim substrate pro would have been a nightmare and cost a fortune!

Thanks for the education on the who nitrate process i've learned something new :)
 

Manuel Arias

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Just to support a bit more the statements, I have looked for old information I got about the topic.

This is a pellet of Biohome, a mature one, splitted in a section:

biohome.png

The structure is as expected in any kind of media/sediment in which anaerobiosis takes place:

From outer part to inner part, the amount of oxygen reduces, This also changes the REDOX potential what alloews the reduction of several substances. The red layer, full of oxygen has its colour from nitrifying bacteria and heterotrophic bacteria. They need oxygen and then they reduce its availability for further use deeper in the pellet. The next layer, which is light brown, contains the denitrifying bacteria. They can reduce the nitrates to nitrogen gas, which leaves the warer. The next white layer is where Manganese reduces from Mn3+ to Mn2+ due to the reduction of the REDOX potential. The next layer is black and it is where iron reduces from Fe(3+) to Fe(2+). The reason why is black the layer is because iron reacts with H2S generated in the inner core, and FeS (iron sulfur) is not soluble in water and precipitates into a black mineral (commonly known as pyrite). Below it, it is a thin layer (yellowish) where reduction of SO4(2-) into H2S can happen by another type of bacteria. The H2S leaving that layer is the one which reacts with Fe(2+) generating the black stuff. And below this one, is a grey/brown area, in which the REDOX potential is low enough to produce methane. Methane, however, tends to react easily with oxygen, so unless production is large enough, it tends to be contained within the anoxic layer.

The image comes from filterpro.co.uk: http://filterpro.co.uk/ekmps/shops/filterpro/resources/Design/biohome-maxi-ultimate-2-copy.jpg

This schema is then basically this one:

fig5702p56a.jpg


So all the elements are there. Biohome they say that "normal sediment properties do not apply" but..what else are they going to say if they sell the product? The images are clear enough, and also matches the need of high water flows. The thickness of these layers and positions will depend on the availability of oxygen. As the pellet is so dense, penetration of oxygen is rather limited. Only a part of it has in fact aerobic organisms. If you reduce the flow, the capability of oxygen to go deeper reduces even more, what causes the H2S and CH4 layers getting closer to the surface. If, for any reason, you do not perform the right maintenance, spaces between pellets will get clogged, and the anaerobic area will extend even outside the pellets. In such situation, perturbating the media (not talking about cleaning, just perturbation) can produce H2S going to water, which explains the toxicity I was referring to. Yes, I know: Probability is not high, unless you really neglect the filter, but it can happen. This is less likely to happen with other media.

So my point is: why using something that have some risks when there is other stuff that works just fine with such a hassle? On the other side, if properly used, it can help to reduce nitrates and also water changes. However. there are other reasons for water changes than NO3-, especially following EI method, so at the end, most people have to do the same routine anyway.

Obviously, this is just a comment from my side. Everyone is open to decide what they want to use, and many Biohome users are very happy with it. :)

Cheers,
Manuel
 
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Manuel, zozo DavidW, first of all thank you very much for taking time writing!

My filter has four trays and if i understand you correctly it is best to;
- Fill one tray with filter-floss and bio sponges; For small and bigger floating particles (and as zozo said; bacteria also colonizes in there)
- Trow out the bio balls, ceramic rings and other bio sponges
- Then there three trays left which i could fill with "porous media"

Well, Manual did a great job adding knowledge too this thread which made it harder for me to just choose which product is "the best" to use.
I need to read up on these things a bit more before i can say something useful about it.

I've heard from someone who went to the Nature Aquarium Store in Tokyo that all of ADA's filters are mostly filled with just Bio Rio.
At least i can draw a conclusion is that pumice is a good option (from ADA or Seachem, maybe others there too).
 

Manuel Arias

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My filter has four trays and if i understand you correctly it is best to;
- Fill one tray with filter-floss and bio sponges; For small and bigger floating particles (and as zozo said; bacteria also colonizes in there)
- Trow out the bio balls, ceramic rings and other bio sponges
- Then there three trays left which i could fill with "porous media"
That's totally right. I think we agree in the setup, and Marcel did a good job summarizing it up.

Well, Manual did a great job adding knowledge too this thread which made it harder for me to just choose which product is "the best" to use.
I need to read up on these things a bit more before i can say something useful about it.
Sorry about that. I have a personal crusade to provide scientific background supporting the statements. I learn in the process and no few times makes me change my mind about something I believed working in a way but was not. Anyway, it does not matter too much for your question, and it is relevant to other topic.

I've heard from someone who went to the Nature Aquarium Store in Tokyo that all of ADA's filters are mostly filled with just Bio Rio.
At least i can draw a conclusion is that pumice is a good option (from ADA or Seachem, maybe others there too).
Yes, ADA recommends to employ only Bio Rio. They also produce filters with huge volume, so they think that large amounts of pumite are better than anything else. And I tend to coincide with them. However, I think that a pre-filtering is good to remove large particles and have better water, besides reducing the clogging of the media.

Cheers and sorry for the "scientific stuff"!

Manuel
 
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Besides everything that is already said i would still love to here more! ;
Can you please advice me how i can improve my filtermedia by switching the media in with something better?
Which changes would you make in my situation?
 

zozo

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Yes Timon it always was and maybe always will be a bit, no longer see the wood for the trees, issue with all the different medias around and ways people apply them. And the stories told there after why it is used like that. They all will have a true side to the story and many are also a bit overrated.. There are so many ways to sufficiently filter an aquarium or pond with so many different materials and techniques it is already a painstacking job to sum it all up in a list and even more difficult to say what is the best.

I've been doing aquariums and ponds for the biggest part of my live starting at age 7 till today. And used about anything availble i could get my hands on and already made quite a few DIY filter systems.. Still i can not say what is the best to use in the way i used it.

The best answer i can give you is just read all information and deside for your self what makes most sence to you and give it a go..

There are things to take in consideration when installing a filter and this is bioload of the aquarium.. Higher bioload needs bigger and better filtration..
In this consideration are the differences between good and bad..

If the above filter is for the tank in the journal i think it will do the job.. And if it does, what more or any different would you add to make it even better and in which way is it better if it already does everything it needs to do without any problems?

Manual summed it all up pretty clear.. The best is simply a filter media which doesn't clog, so it keeps a good flow and is easy to clean..

As i told above, my high tech runs on sponges only already for months.. And i started with sponge and bioballs (the ones with the little sponges inside) then matured the tank, tossed the bioballs and installed a sand filter. Could see nor measure any difference for months.. Tossed the sand filter and never did put biomedia back.. Never noticed nor measured any difference again but more flow in the tank (which was the main reason for tossing the sand filter :) ).

That's all i can say, for this particular tank.. And you don't hear me say only sponges are the best.. I lately heard some people in a podcast say toss all the sponges and fill the whole darn thing with biomedia and swear by it. Well if it works, lets shake ratlte and roll, why not. But it wont make beer come out the filter outlet, unfortunately it stays water.. :lol:
 

Daveslaney

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Biiholme is a ceramic heated to high temps that gives it a structure much like foam.
So it gives it a much larger surface area for bacterial colonisation than pourous glass meda.
 

DavidW

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This is less likely to happen with other media.
This would happen with any sintered glass media. I would be interested to know how old the biohome in the picture is, all sintered glass media should be replaced after a certain time, eheim recommend replacing the substrate pro after 1 year most like for the reasons you mentioned above and other filter media such as ceramic noodles and rings should be replaced about every 6 months and filter foam every month (well thats what the manufactures say :rolleyes:)

Bioholme is a ceramic media?Heated to high temps. Not glass so the sructure of the media is totally different.
this is what the website says - 'Biohome is known as a 'SINTERED GLASS' media as it is mostly constructed from special sand. This material is colonised much faster than 'CERAMIC' media which is made from clay.'

All I know is it's doing a brilliant job in my sump :)
 

Daveslaney

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I use it in my canister filters too.Does a great job.
Any pourous media will reduce nitrate to a degree due to anearobic activity in the pores of the media.The way i understand it this nitrate is converted into soluble nitrogen that is easily obsorbed by plants?
 
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