Best Aquarium Supplies for Biological Filtration

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington

Balance is the key to a healthy aquarium and filtration plays a major role. That’s why you need know about the best aquarium supplies for biological filtration.

Your aquarium filter removes solid and dissolved wastes from your tank water, so they don’t overwhelm your aquarium fish, but there is another type of filtration to consider: biological filtration.

Biological filtration is a process facilitated by beneficial bacteria which break down ammonia into nitrites then nitrates. Ammonia is a byproduct of waste decomposition and, in high levels, it can be toxic for your fish. This process is known as the nitrogen cycle.

Because biological filtration is a natural process, it can’t be simulated with a traditional aquarium filter. Instead, you need certain tools to support a colony of beneficial bacteria in your tank. Read on to see our top picks for the best supplies for aquarium biological filtration.

The Best Supplies for Aquarium Biological Filtration

There are a number of different ways to support biological filtration in your tank. Certain substrates provide more surface area for bacteria to colonize than others and some filters come with special bio-wheels that keep the bacteria alive. You can also add biological filtration media to a canister filter.

Here are our top picks for the best biological filtration supplies:

API Quick Start Nitrifying Bacteria

Give your aquarium a boost to jump-start the nitrogen cycle with live nitrifying bacteria. This product can be used in a new aquarium or added to tank water when performing water changes to avoid upsetting the biological balance in your tank.

Seachem Stability Fish Tank Stabilizer

This product is specifically formulated for both freshwater and marine aquariums, designed to rapidly establish the aquarium biofilter. It contains a synergistic blend of aerobic, anaerobic, and facultative bacteria that facilitate the nitrogen cycle.

Fluval Biomax Filter Media

Ideal for use in canister filters and sump systems, these porous rings provide the optimal environment for beneficial bacteria to thrive. They are uniquely shaped to allow water movement to ensure optimal contact time for efficient filtration.

EHEIM Substrat Pro Biological Filter Media

Made from highly porous artificial sintered glass materials, this filter media offers a surface area of 1,800 square feet per gallon. It is cost-effective and can be reused after rinsing lightly with aquarium water for up to 6 months.

MarineLand Bio-Filter Balls

This biological filter media provides a large, multi-faceted area to support the growth of beneficial bacteria. Each box contains 90 bio-filter balls that are specially designed for use in Magniflow filters but can be used in other canister filters as well.

Seachem Matrix Bio Media

If you’re looking for biological filter media you never have to replace, this is a great option. This filter media offers an extreme surface area to support denitrifying bacteria – each liter provides over 170 square feet of surface area.

Hygger Sponge Filter

This is not your average sponge filter. It offers multi-level filtration to culture nitrifying bacteria while absorbing fine particles to deliver mechanical filtration. This sponge filter is powered by an air pump and features two large sponges.

Boxtech Aquarium Filter Media

Made from ceramic material, this biological filtration block delivers 10 times the effect of conveniental filter materials when it comes to supporting beneficial bacteria. With a vast surface area and open flow porosity, these filter blocks can be placed directly in your sump system in a freshwater or marine tank.

MarineLand Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter

If you’re looking for an aquarium filter that does it all, this power filter is a great choice. This filter incorporates both mechanical and chemical filtration, plus it features a unique bio-wheel that rotates to deliver wet/dry biological filtration. This filter comes in a variety of sizes rated up to 350 GPH for all kinds of aquariums.

Polar Aurora External Canister Filter

Canister filters are preferred by many aquarium hobbyists because they are highly effective and allow for 3-stage filtration. This canister filter features a 370 GPH flow rate and 3 customizable filter media trays. It has a self-priming pump as well and a built-in 9-watt UV sterilizer to help control algae and bad bacteria.

The key to a healthy aquarium is good filtration. In addition to mechanical filtration to remove solid waste and chemical filtration to remove toxins, you also need to maintain a colony of beneficial bacteria in your tank for biological filtration. Try some of the supplies recommended above to start and maintain a colony in your own tank.

Tips for Supporting Biological Filtration in your Tank

Before you add fish to your aquarium the first time, you need to make sure the tank cycles. It takes time for a colony of beneficial bacteria to become established in the tank and for them to start converting ammonia into nitrite then nitrate. Once your tank cycles and becomes stable, you can add your aquarium fish a few at a time over a period of several weeks or months. From there, you simply need to keep the beneficial bacteria in your tank alive and healthy.

Here are some tips for supporting ongoing biological filtration in your tank:

  • Give your tank several weeks to cycle before adding your fish – you may need to “seed” the tank with a little fish food to get the cycle going.
  • Avoid replacing all of your tank water at one time or you risk killing off a significant number of bacteria – the same goes for cleaning all of your substrate.
  • Clean your aquarium filter in tank water, not hot or cold water from the tap, to avoid killing the bacteria – if your filter has a bio-wheel, don’t let it dry out.
  • Consider adding a sponge filter to your tank as a supplemental method of biological filtration – it will help remove solid waste and provide a surface for beneficial bacteria to colonize.
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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