Best Aquarium Filter Media

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington

There are parts of your aquarium that work behind the scenes to ensure that it works properly. Here’s how to choose the best aquarium filter media for your tank.

Your aquarium is a miniature aquatic environment and your fish spend their entire lives in it. As you can imagine, your fish tank would get pretty dirty pretty fast if you didn’t take steps to keep it clean. Though regular water changes are important, filtration is the most important aspect of keeping an aquarium clean. There are many types of filters to choose from, but you also need to think about what goes inside your filter – your filter media. The media is what actually does the work.

In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of filter media and why each of them is important. You’ll also learn what to look for in filter media and our top 10 picks for the best options.

Filter media for aquarium filters comes in many different shapes and sizes, so choose the right filter media for the type of aquarium filter you’ve chosen. If you haven’t chosen a filter yet, do so before you pick your filter media so you can be sure it is compatible with the model you’ve purchased.

Here are our top picks for the best aquarium filter media:

Aquatic Experts Aquarium Filter Pad

Filter pads are an essential choice in filter media for most aquarium filters. This filter pad comes in a role that is easy to cut to whatever size you need, and it is thicker than ever before. It is made from durable polyester fibers with a special resin.

Aqua Flo Aquarium Filter Media

Similar to the previous product, this aquarium filter media can be cut to size and it is made from 100% polyester for safety. This filter media pad is a full 1-inch thick and it is made without any unsafe chemicals, so it is perfect for aquarium use.

Fluval Biomax Filter Media

For superior biological filtration, be sure to include these Fluval Biomax Filter Media rings. These rings offer plenty of surface area on which beneficial bacteria can grow. Just make sure to only replace half at a time to ensure proper seeding.

Leyouyou520 Pre-Filter Foam Sponge

These premium foam sponges trap fine debris before it even enters the filter, maximizing your tank’s mechanical filtration. They also help increase safety for tanks housing baby or very small fish and other fragile inhabitants.

CNZ Aquarium Filter Media Kit

Choose from a variety of filter media kits to ensure optimal mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. These kits feature extremely porous media for biological filtration while also removing odor, toxic compounds, and organic pollutants.

AQUANEAT Bio Ball Filter Media

In case you want filter media that will both capture the solid waste particles and help cultivate beneficial bacteria, bio balls such as these are an excellent choice. Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater tanks, this filter media offers twofold filtering: mechanical and biological. The balls, which measure ¾ ” by ¾ ” or (2 centimeters by 2 centimeters), have a highly porous structure and are rich in tourmaline, which in turn emits far-infrared rays and makes the water more oxygenated. AQUANEAT Bio Ball Filter Media is mostly made out of natural clay, which can also be useful to the fish. Natural clay is rich in minerals and microelements and will slowly release them into the water for the fish to make use of.

The bag contains approximately a gallon (2 kilograms) of bio balls or circa 450-500 pieces. For convenient storage, bio balls come in a mesh bag with a zipper which is another plus.

Boxtech Aquarium Ceramic Filter Media

Made from high-quality ceramic materials, these biological filtration squares offer a vast surface area and open-flow porosity. They are ideal for ammonia and nitrate removal as well as nitrate reduction.

Marineland Black Diamond Media

A must-have for chemical filtration, this black diamond activated carbon media comes in a variety of different sizes. It is specifically sized to maximize efficiency and it works twice as fast as competitor brands.

API Bio-Chem Zorb Filtration Pouches

These filtration pouches are made from a unique superior resin-carbon blend that removes compounds 3 times more efficiently than activated carbon alone. They are incredibly easy to use and work for freshwater and saltwater tanks.

Seachem Purigen Organic Filtration Resin

This filter media features a unique macro-porous synthetic polymer that removes both soluble and insoluble impurities at an accelerated rate. It is an organic filtration solution that removes nitrogenous compounds as well as the waste produced by aquarium fish, corals, and plants to keep tank water clean and clear.

Choosing the right filter media for your aquarium filter is important, but it’s a decision you can’t just make once and be done with it. In order for your filter to work efficiently, you need to replace the media as recommended by the manufacturer – generally every three to six weeks. Buying filter media in bulk will save you money and it will ensure that you have what you need when it comes time to replace it.

What to Look for in Aquarium Filter Media

The first step in creating a strong filtration system for your aquarium is to purchase a tank filter. Canister filters are some of the most popular options because they are highly efficient, come in larger sizes, and can be stored outside the aquarium. Power filters are a more affordable option, in many cases, but they take up space hanging off the back of the tank. Whatever type of filter you choose, be sure to select the filter media that is appropriate for it as well.

Here are some things to know about aquarium filter media:

  • Mechanical filter media is designed to remove solid waste particles from the water column – the most common type of mechanical media is sponge, though it can also be mesh or ceramic rings.
  • Chemical media helps remove dissolved wastes and toxins like ammonia – common types include zeolite and activated carbon.
  • Biological filtration involves cultivating a colony of beneficial bacteria to maintain the nitrogen cycle in your tank – biological filter media gives that bacteria surface area on which to grow.
  • Certain types of aquarium filter require certain types of media – for example, power filters need cartridges while canister filters can be filled with free media like bio balls.
  • Aquarium filter media needs to be replaced once in a while to make sure you get the maximum benefit – pay attention to the manufacturers instructions to see when you should replace it.

Now that you have a better understanding of what to look for in filter media and how to use it, you’re ready to start shopping!

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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