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11 Different Types of Aquarium Filters for Your Fish Tank

Photo collage of different types of Aquarium Filters.

People who have fish or want fish and people who are just fans of all things aquatic might often ask about things like fish aquariums. One question that may arise concerns the various types of aquariums, such as how many different types of aquariums are there? Another question could be about the filtration systems used in aquariums or the different types of aquarium filters.

Not surprisingly, there are as many types aquarium filters (similarly, there are many types of fish tanks and aquariums as well as many popular types of aquarium fish). There are two basic types of freshwater fish, and therefore two different types of aquariums for those types of fish. These aquariums are known as fresh water and cold water aquariums.

There are also saltwater or Marine fish, which will require a Saltwater aquarium, and then there are fish that live in a saltwater-freshwater habitat. This water habitat is known as Brackish water. Fish that live in this habitat require (you guessed it), Brackish aquariums.

Here is a look at and a few things you might want to know about each type of aquarium, along with an overview of the different filtration systems and aquarium filters. As aquarium hobbyists, we hope this helps with some direction, and for those new to fish keeping and aquariums, we hope this gives you some insight, answers, or excites you to get started. Of course, make sure you talk to a professional before getting fish, or an aquarium, because, for your fish, it is literally a matter of life and death.

Related: Fish Tank Sizes (Charts & Tables) | 22 Different Types of Fish Tanks (Buying Guide) 

A. Aquarium Filtration System Options

There is one thing every aquarium keeper should get to know and become well-versed in and that is filters. Aquarium filters are the central nervous system of your aquarium, they are the key to keeping your aquarium beautiful and clean, and your fish happy. There are three types of filtration systems to consider which are mechanical, chemical, and biological.

1. Biological Filtration

Biological Filtration

Rocks and sand can often act as biological filtration in the simplest of systems. Biological filtration refers to the process of bacteria breaking down and transforming ammonia. Good bacteria need surface area to attach to such as those rocks and stones.

2. Chemical Filtration

Chemical Filtration

Aimed at dissolving water waste this is done by introducing chemical additives into the water, the most common being activated charcoal.

3. Mechanical Filteration

Mechanical Filteration

This is typically what most people associate with water filtration and the familiar humming of the motor, cycling particles and waste out of the water.

B. Aquarium Filters

That was an overview of the various filtration systems you will find or find being used in combination together. These are the filters that get the job done:

1. Power Filters

Power Filter

Also known as the traditional hang-on-back filter, these are the most popular and most used of all the filters. They deliver strong biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration. As an added bonus they are also easy to maintain and set up which explains their popularity and common use.

Power filters in combination with other filter systems can help keep your aquarium healthy and beautiful.

2. Box Filters

Box Filters

Sometimes called internal or corner filters, box filters are accredited as being the first filters for home aquariums. Great for smaller tanks too, some box filters require a pump and airline to produce water flow.

3. Canister Filters

Canister Filter

These powerful filters use pressure to force water into the media filter, unlike most filters that allow water to flow past. Because of their power, they are ideal for medium to large aquariums but they also present a little more work with cleaning and maintenance. These filters are most useful in tanks of 40 gallons or greater.

4. Diatomic Filters

Diatomic Filter

Source: Ebay

A specialized filter designed for removing very small particles, these filters might be employed in special circumstances where diatomic algae are the problem, for example. Some filters today are made to allow for a diatomic filter insert for such occasions.

5. Fluidized Bed Filters

Overstep Aquarium Aquarium Biofilter Fluidized Bed Filter Media Biomedia Filter with Air Stone and Sponge Filter for Aquarium Cleaning

A newer filter on the scene and utilizing biological filtration, these filters use mediums like sand as the filter while pumping water down into that media. These units, that hang from the back, will normally require the purchase of a water pump as well.

6. Sponge Filters

Sponge Filters

These filters act as fittings over water and air pumps. Bacteria collects as water is pushed through creating the biological filtration system. It is worth noting that these are popular filters for people who keep fry as it prevents them from being sucked out.

These filters also work as a good compliment to many air and water pump systems.

7. Trickle Filters

WUPYI Aquarium External Filter Fish Tank External Filter Box Aquarium Filter Fish Tank Upper Trickle Box Filters System 6-Drawer,Transparent (6-Drawer,Transparent)

A very popular filter for marine aquariums, these filters are made to allow maximum water exposure to air. The water is forced over media containers of balls or strands, hence the exposure and the “trickle” effect. They are reported to clog easily and do require regular maintenance as a result but can be effective filters for saltwater tanks.

8. UGF (Under Gravel Filter)

UGF (Under Gravel Filter)

Not quite as long as the box filter, the UGF has still been around a long time. This filter sits beneath the substrate using the force of the air pump to pull water along with the waste matter along with it. This filter is limited, however, and offers little in the way of biological filtration.

They are a good low-maintenance filter barring the tendency of being susceptible to clogging. Choosing the right aquarium and the right filtration system and the right filters will take some time to figure out. It will require some experience and some learning about how the world of fish keeping and aquariums work but it does come together eventually.

Much like figuring out which filters to use together and which filtration systems work best on which tanks, it comes together but sometimes takes a little trial and error.