Like most common forms of aquarium filtration, a canister filter provides chemical, biological and physical filtration by removing water from the aquarium via an intake tube, passing the aquarium water over a series of filtration media housed within a pressurized canister, and they returning the filtered water to the aquarium via a spray bar or spray nozzle. The unique form factor of the canister filter allows for a lot of flexibility in terms of where the filter is located. Since flexible tubing is used for both the intake and return, a canister filter can be located underneath, behind or off to the side of the aquarium, with the length of the tubing and the strength of the return pump within the canister filter being the only real limiting factors. The sealed and pressurized design of the canister filter also allows for very quiet operation, as the noise associated with water overflowing from the fish tank or flowing from one chamber to another as in a non-sealed aquarium filter design are kept to an absolute minimum. Being a sealed design, the canister filter can also be disconnected from the intake / return tubing and carried away for maintenance and cleaning. This design allows the hobbyist the flexibility of maintaining and cleaning the filter in a location better suited for the activity and not being forced to work underneath the aquarium or in other less than desirable locations. Canister filters work by drawing water from the aquarium via a lift tube and through plastic tubing into the externally located canister filter. This is done via a pump that is typically located in the bottom of the canister filter. The extracted water is forced through a series of filter media layers located within the pressurized canister filter. While the exact flow of the water through the filter media can vary by models and brands of canister filters, a typical scenario has the water first passing through media designed to remove physical particles from the water, then through biological filter media and lastly through media designed for chemical filtration, before being returned to the aquarium back through plastic tubing connected to either a nozzle or spray bar. There are a number of different filter types available within the aquarium hobby, and depending on the particular needs of an aquarium setup or the specific requirements of a hobbyist, they all have their niche. This being said, canister filtration is considered to be one of best forms of filtration for a wide variety of aquarium setups ranging from smaller freshwater or marine aquariums like nano cubes, all the way up to very large freshwater aquariums housing large Cichlid species and even larger FOWLR or predator marine fish aquariums. Hobbyists can also use multiple canister filters on the same aquarium, which allows canister filters to scale up and handle even extremely large aquariums (300 gallons plus) or aquariums with high bio-load species like Peacock Bass or freshwater Stingray. While canister filtration can be used successfully on marine reef or larger marine fish aquariums, they are probably not the best option overall for these types of setups. Generally these larger saltwater fish or reef aquariums require large wet/dry, sump or refugium based filtration with additional foam fractioning filters like Protein Skimmers in order to provide the necessary level of filtration for complex marine aquarium environments. Overall though, canister filters do provide high quality filtration, have low power consumption, are cost effective and easy to maintain, which makes them a great choice for most all freshwater community aquarium setups, most all Cichlid aquarium setups, marine nano cubes and moderately sized FOWLR setups and as additional filtration on larger aquarium setups where multiple forms of filtration are required. Canister filters are designed with efficiency, application flexibility and ease of maintenance. The main portions of the filter that require periodic maintenance are contained within the main housing of the filter, where they can be easily transported to a utility sink, outside or other convenient location for cleaning. Aside from clearing algae or debris from the return nozzle or spray bar, the bulk of the maintenance required to keep a canister filter running smoothly and efficiently is centered around the chambers containing the filtration media inside the canister. Cleaning a canister filter mostly revolves around cleaning or changing the filter pad that captures physical particles from the water and changing out any filter bags containing activated carbon or other chemical media. The biological media (bio balls or ceramic media) typically only needs to be rinsed off from time to time if physical debris is able to build up within the tray containing the bio media. Be sure to use aquarium water or non-chlorinated tap water to rinse off the bio media, this is important in order to not kill off any of the beneficial bacteria living on the media by putting it in contact with the chlorine present in most tap water. Hobbyists should also occasionally pull out all of the media trays and rinse and wipe down the inside of the canister to remove any algae growth or detritus that has built up on the inside of the filter, as this will reduce water flow and ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the filter. In terms of how often a canister filter should be cleaned, it varies widely based on the sizing of the canister filter vs. the aquarium size, the fish load, the type of fish and feeding regime; however, it is safe to say that most canister filters will need some attention basic cleaning of the physical filter pad every 1 to 2 months and a more thorough cleaning at least every 4 months. While many hobbyists go longer periods of time; often up to 6 months, their filter are most likely quite dirty and their capability significantly degraded by 6 months of use. So canister filters come in a wide variety of models, designs and capabilities, but is canister filtration the right filtration for your particular tank? The short answer is that it depends mostly on the size of your aquarium and your budget. While in theory a canister filter or a combination of multiple canister filters can provide proper filtration for essentially any home aquarium (assuming you don't have a 2000 gallon home aquarium), it may not always be the best form of filtration or the most cost effective form of filtration. AquariumDomain.com Members, if you have questions or suggestions on how to make this blog post better please comment below or discuss on our forums.
Wet/Dry filtration has become one of the corner stones of a well designed aquarium filtration system. Along with the general aspects of Wet/Dry filtration, this guide covers all of the benefits of this type of system including biological filtration, mechanical filtration, water oxygenation, chemical filtration and sump configurations. From the basic Wet/Dry filter to the more recent advancements in these filter systems, this guide bring the aquarium hobbyist up-to-speed on this very desirable aquarium filtration system. Wet/Dry filtration is a method of filtration that focuses on providing biological, mechanical and chemical filtration for both marine and freshwater aquariums. Wet/Dry filters get their name because they take water from the aquarium via an overflow system and pass the water through the air over a series of porous bio-material which is usually in the form of plastic bio-balls. While this process gives the filter system its name, the modern Wet/Dry filter system does much more. While the primary task of a Wet/Dry filter is to provide biological filtration, it is also an excellent filter for both mechanical and chemical filtration as well. After siphoning the water from the aquarium via a skimmer or overflow system, the water is passed through one or more chambers containing filter pads or sponges, where mechanical filtration takes place as physical particles are removed from the water stream before they enter the trickle tower portion of the Wet/Dry filter. It is at this point that the water is passed into the trickle tower or bio-chamber where it drops down onto plastic bio-balls that are piled up on top of a plastic grate at the bottom of the chamber. This allows the water to pass through the air as it drips through the bio-ball chamber which creates an ideal environment for beneficial aerobic bacteria to live. It is these aerobic bacteria living on the bio-balls that perform the biological filtering of the water as they remove waste products from the water and produce oxygen. At this point the water drops down into the main sump area of the Wet/Dry Filter system, where chemical filtration can be added along with other filtration devices such as protein skimmers, activated carbon media and much more. Lastly, the water moves into the final chamber which contains the pump to return the water from the Wet/Dry filter sump back into the aquarium. Since Wet/Dry filters excel at biological filtration, they have become one of the most important ingredients to a successful aquarium filtration system. Biological filtration is the process in which ammonia is converted to the less toxic nitrite, then to the relatively non-toxic nitrate. While nitrate is non-toxic at low levels, it can build up over time and become toxic to most aquarium inhabitants. Nitrate will need to be removed from the aquarium system either through the use of live plants which consume nitrate as food or from water changes where aquarium water is removed and replaced with fresh water that is from a nitrate free source. Wet/Dry systems earned their reputation as excellent biological filters by the method by which they stimulate bacterial growth. A successful bacteria colony requires moisture, heat and oxygen, all of which are effectively cultivated in properly maintained Wet/Dry filter systems. The temperature of your tank will provide the necessary heat for proper growth, and the moisture is taken care of by the water in your tank. The process of how the water is siphoned from the aquarium surface and trickled over the biological surface is how the Wet/Dry does the rest by providing the correct environment and living conditions for billions upon billions of beneficial aerobic bacteria colonies to live and thrive. Each Wet/Dry filter uses its own type and grade of bio material. Most filters use bio-balls, which are spherical plastic balls which are hollow and have a netted structure that provides large amounts of surface area for beneficial bacteria to live. Other Wet/Dry filter designs use a structure called Bio Bale, which looks like plastic hay, which is also very effective at stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria. New versions of bio-material and Wet/Dry configurations are popping up within the hobby as filter manufacturers look to further improve on what is already a very effective design. The initial process of skimming the water from the aquariums surface and returning it via the surface of the water creates excellent water agitation which saturates the water with large amounts of dissolved oxygen. On top of this process, when the water enters the Wet/Dry filter from your tank, it is poured over the biomaterial at a high velocity, as the water flows over the material it mixes with the surrounding air, supersaturating the water with oxygen. It is this mixing affect that contributes to the name Wet/Dry filtration. There are even opportunities within the sump portion of the Wet/Dry filter itself for oxygen to be introduced into the water via the return from a device such as a protein skimmer or by passing over additional filter media or substrates where more beneficial bacteria may be present. While all models of Wet/Dry filters have mechanical filtration via pre-filters in the skimmer box to filtration trays located above the bio material, newer model Wet/Dry filters are constantly improving on this by providing more physical filtration in the form of micro mesh bags, sponge filters and media pads located in various locations throughout the filter system. Any of the Wet/Dry filter systems commonly available within the aquarium hobby provide not only excellent biological filtration, but top notch mechanical filtration as well. Additional mechanical filtration would only be necessary in the most extreme of cases where the aquarium inhabitants produce large amounts of physical waste. The sump area of the Wet/Dry filter system allows the hobbyist a convenient location to locate chemical filtration, protein skimmers, live rock (saltwater setup), plants, macro algae and much more. It is now quite common for Wet/Dry filter systems to come with expanded sump sections to allow hobbyists to keep a variety of additional filters and even create refugiums and plant based vegetable filters. All of these additional forms of filtration make the Wet/Dry filter a complete all-in-one filtration system that is capable of handling all types of marine or freshwater aquarium setups. Wet/Dry filtratioin systems are not simply a good option to consider, it has become the ideal starting point for a high quality filtration system that excels in both freshwater and saltwater aquarium installations. Due to their popularity, they have expanded with many different variations of the standard Wet/Dry system with expanded sumps, refugiums, Berlin style setups and many more. Be sure to carefully investigate your options when setting up your next aquarium and find the right Wet/Dry system to fit your aquarium goals.
Aquarium lighting does far more than just illuminate the aquarium itself, proper aquarium lighting can greatly enhance the appearance of fish, plants, corals and invertebrates along with providing vital health benefits to all types of aquarium life forms. Thus, there are many important factors to consider when selecting the correct lighting system for your aquarium. When choosing the correct aquarium lighting system for a particular aquarium setup, the hobbyist needs to their best to replicate the natural lighting conditions that their aquarium inhabitants would experience in nature. Fortunately with the recent advancements in aquarium lighting systems, this has become much easier to do due to the introduction of complex lighting systems that simulate all types of natural lighting environments even night time lighting as well. In order to put together the best lighting for a particular aquariums needs, it is important to know the factors that go into deciding on which lighting system to choose. The main factors involved in choosing the correct aquarium lighting system are the lighting spectral qualities and lighting intensity. There are many factors the affect the lighting quality and intensity of a lighting system, thus the following factors: water depth, water clarity, water movement and lighting intensity should be taken into consideration before making a lighting system decision. Understanding the natural conditions of your aquarium inhabitants and their lighting needs along with understanding your home aquarium environment are critical to implementing the best lighting solution for your aquariums needs. Lighting Spectrum is something most aquarium hobbyists have heard about in connection with aquarium lighting, but probably do not have a full understanding about exactly what it is and what it means for their aquarium inhabitants. Sunlight is a combination of many types of light blended together, with the red, yellow and green areas of the spectrum being the ones most easily visible to the human eye. Ultraviolet, in the blue end of the spectrum, is invisible but its effect can be felt very easily as it is this end of the spectrum that causes the warm sun sensation you feel on your skin from the sun and causes sunburn when overexposure occurs. You can usually feel a quick change in temperature of your skin when a cloud passes over, this signals a decrease in the amount of radiation in a given light field. For humans prolonged exposure to this type of light is dangerous to both our skin and eyes; however, in the aquarium environment this UV radiation plays an important role in coral, plant & invertebrate health and photosynthesis. The spectrum of bulbs for aquariums are expressed as a color temperature given or stated in Kelvin degrees. Sunlight has a color temperature of about 5500K, at 12 noon over a tropical reef while actinic light sources typically have a color temperature of about 7100K. The more blue the light the higher the temperature. Light is electromagnetic energy in the form of waves, with these waves having frequencies. As the temperature of a substance increases, the frequency of the light emitted also increases, thus lower temperatures produce red and yellow light, while higher temperatures produce light ranging from white to the blue colors of the spectrum. In nature, as light enters and passes through the first 15 feet of water, the red and orange wavelengths are absorbed by the water, increasing the Kelvin rating of the light, and giving the light a more blue appearance. As the light penetrates to 30 feet, the water absorbs the yellow spectrum, and when the light continues past 50 feet, the water filters the green wavelengths, leaving just the blue and violet wavelengths resulting in the light with the highest Kelvin rating. This is not so noticeable in the home aquarium as we typically do not maintain aquariums with a depth of 15 or more feet! Poor quality lighting products not intended for the aquarium hobby typically have Kelvin ratings in the 2700k to 4300K range which produces too much red and yellow light. These lighting products are not only undesirable because they do not provide the needed lighting qualities for most aquarium plants and corals, but they also promote undesirable types of nuisance algae. While the quality of aquarium lighting and its affects on aquarium inhabitants is extremely important, so is the look or aesthetics of the aquarium as well. It is important to select bulb types and spectral qualities that satisfy both the needs of your aquariums inhabitants and also provides a pleasing aesthetic for the aquarium hobbyist as well. Lighting intensity is measured as Lux at the surface it impacts and as watts when measured at its source. Since light spreads outward and scatters in all directions, the farther we are from the source the less light we see. The intensity of light decreases by the square of the distance that area is from the lighting source. If a fluorescent bulb is moved 2 inches away from the water, it will be 4 times lower in intensity. This is an important fact to remember when placing bulbs that appear at first to have the correct amount of intensity for an aquaria. As you raise them higher above the water, the intensity will drop dramatically and you might not have the correct amount of light reaching your animals. Lighting intensity can be affected by other factors other than distance. Turbidity of the water can significantly reduce the actual amount of light that penetrates the surface and reaches the animals. In tanks where activated carbon is used and is changed regularly light penetration into the aquarium can be maximized. Cleaning or removing glass or acrylic lenses from the light hood will also help. The intensity of light above the surface of a reef can be as high as 130,000 lux. The actual amount of intensity that penetrates the surface of the water can be about 70,000, with maybe only 15,000 lux actually reaching the 10-15 meter mark. The water surface also reflects some of the light back, reducing the amount that penetrates the water and reaches the corals. Light intensity at the source is measured in watts. The higher the watts, the more intense the light, and the more energy required to produce the light. A 100-watt bulb, for example, will give off more light than a 40-watt bulb, and will cost more to use. A watt is actually related to a lux in that one lux is equal to 1.46 milliwatts (0.00146 watts) of energy of one specific frequency (555 nm) hitting a surface area of one square meter. However, since bulbs used in aquarium lighting systems emit light of many frequencies (not just 555nm), no exact formula can be used when determining the number of lux produced by a bulb of a specific wattage. It is also very important to note that some types of aquarium light bulbs (metal halide, fluorescent, etc.) begin losing intensity long before they stop emitting light. The general rule of thumb is to replace these type of aquarium bulbs every 8 to 12 months with some reef aquarium lighting needing replacement every 6 months. These times will vary based on bulb type and lighting requirements for a particular aquarium, so one should consult the documentation for the bulb type being used. In nature most corals and marine invertebrates live in conditions that are lit mostly by blue light waves, thus they have adapted to this and will require bulbs that produce these blue wavelengths in the aquarium environment as well. While corals and marine invertebrates thrive under blue light, most hobbyists find aquariums illuminated with blue light only to be unattractive. This aesthetic dilemma can be solved by combining an actinic light with a white light, such as a 50/50 bulb half blue/white or a light combination in which the white lights give light in the range of 8000 to 12000 K. This lighting combination gives corals and invertebrates the spectrum necessary for growth, in addition to the spectrum necessary for accurate color rendering within the aquarium. Lastly, it is important to consider initial and ongoing operating costs, lighting intensity and spectrum and the heat produced by the lighting system when choosing a lighting system for your marine reef aquarium. Lighting systems for reef aquariums, such as metal halide and hi-output fluorescent systems, tend to be rather expensive due to their high initial cost, high levels of required energy, and characteristically frequent bulb changes. Lighting systems designed for reef aquariums produce two types of intense heat, which must be addressed prior to installation. The first type of heat - from the actual bulbs - surrounds the bulbs and should be removed with cooling fans. The second type of heat - radiant heat produced by the lighting system - is unavoidably absorbed by the aquarium water and should be controlled with a water chiller (be sure to budget for a water chiller in your installation plans). Fortunately a large number of LED aquarium lighting systems for both freshwater and marine environments are becoming widely available and at a variety of cost points. These newer LED lighting systems require much less energy, produce less heat, long bulb life and produce full spectrum quality light even towards the end of the bulbs life span. When choosing lighting for your aquarium, keep your aquarium inhabitants natural lighting conditions foremost in your mind, while still budgeting for the initial cost of the lighting system and for replacement bulbs. Other factors such as heat produced from the lighting system, physical size and dimensions of the system and airflow should also be considered before purchasing a lighting system. Having the correct wattage, Kelvin rating and lighting intensity can mean the difference between an aquarium with beautifully colored fish, thriving plants and corals and a tank overgrown with nuisance algae.
LED Lighting Systems are quickly becoming the preferred choice of aquarium lighting for both freshwater and marine aquarium hobbyists. Long bulb life, low heat output, shimmer effect, sleek designs and overall power savings make LED systems hard to beat. The past few decades have brought about an enormous amount of innovation in aquarium lighting systems for the home aquarium hobbyist. It was not that long ago when many hobbyists used "shop light" fixtures with basic 40 watt per tube fluorescent bulbs for their aquarium lighting. Advanced hobbyists would employ expensive metal halide solutions that required both a large up front cost and expensive on-going bulb replacement ever 9 to 12 months. Over time fluorescent aquarium fixtures based on power compact or t5 bulbs became the norm for the average hobbyist, with metal halides dominating the marine reef and other high-end aquarium setups. However, the entire aquarium lighting landscape is rapidly changing with the introduction of LED based lighting systems that combine brilliant lighting options with affordability and efficiency. A LED or light-emitting diode is a solid state semiconductor lighting source. LEDs produce light through the use of a light-emitting diode that when switched on allows electrons to recombine with electron holes within the device, which release energy in the form of photons. Basically, LEDs are just tiny light bulbs that fit easily into an electrical circuit. However, unlike ordinary incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, they don't have a filament or gas that will burn out, and they don't get especially hot. They are illuminated solely by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, and they last just as long as a standard transistor. The lifespan of an LED surpasses the short life of an incandescent or fluorescent bulbs by thousands of hours. LEDs have many advantages over incandescent lighting, fluorescent lighting and even metal halide lighting sources including lower energy consumption, longer bulb lifetime, improved robustness and resistance to shock, smaller size, faster switching, and greater durability and reliability. LEDs powerful enough for aquarium lighting are relatively new to the hobby; however, new LED lighting systems are quickly becoming available to the mainstream aquarium hobbyist. LED Lighting Systems are capable of providing an intense amount of light in any desired kelvin temperature, while using less electricity and producing less heat than either modern fluorescent or metal halide systems. Since LEDs do not produce a lot of heat, they can be cooled through the use of heat sinks instead of bulking and noisy fans. This allows LED Lighting Systems to be exceptionally small and quiet, which means LED enclosures are often extremely thin and light. As LEDs are very small and light, they can be configured into a large variety of fixture configurations including; leg mounted on top of the aquarium, suspended pendant from above, flexible rope enclosures and even sealed underwater fixtures that allow for truly unique lighting placement. LED lights also create the shimmering lighting effect of sunlight dancing underwater as the light passes through the rippling water at the surface of the aquarium, similar to natural sunlight or metal halide lighting. LED Aquarium Lighting Systems are quickly changing the way aquarium hobbyists illuminate their aquariums and grow plant and coral livestock. LED Aquarium Lighting Systems can be implemented in a wide variety of form factors including: strip, pendant, rope, retro-fit and completely custom configurations. The compact size and limited heat output of these systems allows hobbyists to utilize LED lighting in places and ways that they could never have done with metal halide or fluorescent lighting. LED lighting systems also reduce or eliminate all together the need for expensive equipment like water chillers and moving track systems designed to combat the excessive heat output of Metal Halide Lighting. There are currently LED Lighting Systems from a variety of major aquarium lighting vendors that cover all aspects of the aquarium hobby from planted freshwater aquariums to coral reefs. Reef aquarium hobbyists now have a true replacement for high wattage (250 to 400 watt) Metal Halide bulbs. 400 watt metal halide lights can now be replaced with 60 watts of LED lighting without any adverse effects on corals or plants. LED Aquarium Lighting eliminates the yearly expense and hassle of replacing expensive bulbs and eliminates fading colors in corals, clams and inverts caused by bulbs that slowly lose their lighting intensity. In addition, hobbyists are able to save a significant amount of money on their electric bill through lower wattage consumption from their lighting system and less usage of cooling devices like chillers, fans and air conditioning. As of early 2016, LED Aquarium Lighting Systems have become widely available within the hobby, and are evolving very rapidly in both design and capability all while lower in price. Manufacturers are coming out with new fixture configurations and higher output designs with such frequency that it can be difficult to keep up. Over the next few years LED Aquarium Lighting Systems should continue to increase in features and continue to come down in price as they are produced on a large scale. Higher output designs intended for large aquariums will become more numerous and more affordable. Current LED Aquarium Lighting Systems are also now being fitted with high end capabilities like programmable timers, computer control capability and dynamic lighting modes. The future of aquarium lighting looks very bright!