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Is It Possible to Over-Filter an Aquarium?

Can There Be Too Much Filtering in Aquariums San Diego, CA

There are many mistakes beginner aquarists can make with their first tank. Some mistakes can end up being lethal to plants, fish, and invertebrates, but this isn’t really the case with redundant filtration. You can safely place two or more filters in a tank, but it wouldn’t make too much sense to do so if one of them provides enough filtration for the volume and all species. In some cases, installing more than one filter can be helpful, and we’ll explain this a little later. A filter is one of the most important saltwater and freshwater aquarium supplies, and it’s important to understand how much filtration your tank actually needs. Once you grasp this, you can think about whether more filters would be a good idea.

How Aquarium Filtration Works

When you install a filter in your aquarium prior to introducing fish, you’re combining three processes: mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. First, the amount of mechanical filtration you get from many filters isn’t sufficient to skip vacuuming, scrubbing, and skimming the water for debris. As for biological filtration, this is absolutely crucial because the water flowing into the filter captures Nitrobacter that feeds on the byproducts of fish waste, thus reducing ammonia levels. Chemical filtration removes toxins and clarifies the water.

The Right Filtration System for Your Tank

All filters work with the aeration systems. Some are integrated right into the filters themselves and some aren’t. The most common are submersible in the form of air stones attached to an air pump and check valve and can be hidden behind rocks or decorations for a nice effect if you wish. Filters that attach to the vertical surfaces of tank walls can create a nice waterfall effect. Canister filters tend to be more expensive, but they’re also the most effective. Most beginners start off with submersible filters. However, many experienced aquarists who take pride in building self-cleaning ecosystems tend to prefer canister systems.

Understanding Redundant Filtration

Aeration and filtration systems need to provide enough air circulation power and surface agitation to be adequate for a tank. The systems are measured in terms of water volume, and there’s no need to exceed them, but it definitely can’t hurt anything. The problem with installing an overpowerful canister filter is that the strong flow of water may be too much flow for the fish in relationship to the size of the tank. Redundant filtration means installing more than one filter or even more than one complete aeration and filtration system. This is a good idea insofar as considering the potential of one filter failing.

Backup or Emergency Filtration Systems

Instead of redundant filtration, a more sensible idea is to keep an extra filter or even a battery backup air pump or aeration pump complete with filtration media in case the system that’s installed stops working. If you have two functional systems in place, there’s nothing to guarantee one will continue working when the other fails. Ideally, the backup system should be the same type as the one installed. For example, a canister to replace a canister.

At Aquatic Warehouse, we carry only the highest-quality filtration systems for aquariums. In addition to your filtration needs, we also carry all of the other supplies you’ll need to properly care for your tank, whether you need a dosing pump, protein skimmer, heater, or any other supply. Stop by our store in Kearny Mesa, order what you need from our website, or give us a call with any questions at 858-467-9297.

Contact Information

  • Address: 5466 Complex Street Suite 204
    San Diego, CA 92123
  • Phone: (858) 467-9297
  • Email: sales@aquaticwarehouse.com
  • Working Days/Hours: Mon - Fri / 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
    Saturday / 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Sunday / 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM


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