The nitrogen cycle (or nitrification cycle) converts toxic ammonia into other less harmful nitrogen compounds. Fortunately, nature has provided us with bacteria that can perform this process for us! These bacteria will convert ammonia into nitrite and then eventually to nitrate, which is relatively harmless to the animals in our exhibits as long as regular water changes are performed. The Aquarium uses three main types of filtration: mechanical, chemical, and biological – Source.
Mechanical filtration is an essential component of aquarium filtration systems. Its primary function is to remove solid particles and debris from the water, preventing them from accumulating and causing water quality issues. This type of filtration typically involves the use of a physical barrier, such as filter floss, sponge, or a mesh screen, which traps larger particles as water passes through it. By capturing uneaten food, fish waste, and other organic matter, mechanical filtration helps to maintain clear and visually appealing water.
There are several mechanical filtration devices commonly used in aquariums. One popular option is the sponge filter, which consists of a porous sponge attached to a tube or air stone. As water is drawn through the sponge, solid particles get trapped within its structure. Sponge filters not only provide mechanical filtration but also serve as a substrate for beneficial bacteria to colonize, promoting biological filtration as well.
Another commonly used mechanical filter is the canister filter. This type of filter utilizes a sealed container filled with various filtration media, including sponges, filter pads, and sometimes even activated carbon. Water is pumped into the canister, and as it passes through the media, solid particles are captured. Canister filters are known for their high filtration capacity and versatility, as they can accommodate a wide range of filter media, allowing for customizable filtration setups.
Chemical filtration, as the name suggests, involves the use of chemical substances to remove specific contaminants or impurities from the aquarium water. This type of filtration targets substances that cannot be effectively removed through mechanical or biological means alone. One of the most commonly used chemical filtration media is activated carbon.
Activated carbon is a highly porous substance that has the ability to adsorb organic compounds, toxins, and odors from the water. It works by attracting and binding these substances to its surface, effectively removing them from the aquarium environment. Activated carbon is particularly useful in removing dissolved organic compounds, medications, and discoloration from the water. However, it is important to note that activated carbon has a limited lifespan and needs to be replaced periodically to maintain its effectiveness.
Other chemical filtration media include ion exchange resins, which can remove specific ions from the water, and phosphate-removing media, which help control algae growth by reducing phosphate levels. These chemical filtration methods can be beneficial in certain situations, but it is essential to use them judiciously and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid any adverse effects on the aquarium ecosystem.
Lastly, biological filtration plays a crucial role in aquariums by providing a habitat for beneficial bacteria that break down toxic ammonia and nitrite into less harmful nitrate. This process, known as the nitrogen cycle, is vital for maintaining a stable and healthy aquatic environment. Biological filtration typically occurs in the filter media, substrate, and any other surfaces where the beneficial bacteria can colonize.
One popular type of biological filtration is the use of bio-media, which provides a large surface area for bacterial colonization. Bio-media can come in various forms, such as ceramic rings, bio balls, or porous rocks. These materials offer ample space for the growth of beneficial bacteria, allowing them to efficiently convert harmful nitrogen compounds into nitrate.
In conclusion, the three main types of filtration for aquariums are mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. Mechanical filtration removes solid particles and debris from the water, ensuring visual clarity. Chemical filtration involves the use of substances like activated carbon to remove specific impurities from the water. Lastly, biological filtration relies on beneficial bacteria to convert toxic ammonia and nitrite into nitrate. Combining these filtration methods in an aquarium setup is crucial for maintaining optimal water quality and promoting the health and well-being of aquatic life.