Chemical Filtration


Chemical filters are commonly used in aquaria applications, and for good reasons.  This is a good way to keep the water very pure and crystal clear.  Chemical filters are not used in all applications, as most are with biological and mechanical filters.

As with the other types of filters, the choices of devices in chemical filters are many.  The proper choice here is key, and can directly affect the short, and long term health of the specimens.  Consult with an expert, or read up on what system is appropriate for your aquarium.

There are different methods to "chemically" treat the water.   Some of these ways include: ion exchange, adsorption, chemical bonding, and molecular destruction.  There are many different media that you can use in the chemical filter, and in different applications.  Some of these chemicals include:  carbon, zeolite, peat moss, calcium hydroxide, poly adsorption pads, and other chemically treated media.  There are also many other additives, and vitamins to aid in supplementing the efficacy of the chemical filtration.

These are some of the most commonly used chemical filters on the market today. 

Canister Filter-These are available in both free-standing and hang-on units.  Water is taken from the aquarium via the water pump in the filter.  Media is used in the canister such as carbon, or zeolite.  Many times, mechanical medium, or sometimes even biological medium is incorporated into the canister to make it multi-functional.

Trickle Filter-Popular among reef hobbyists, and other serious aquarists, the trickle filter is the ultimate in combining many types of filters, including chemical.  There are many interesting designs.  Most are a separate system, whereby water is drawn from the aquarium, siphoned through the mechanical, biological, chemical, and auxiliary filters, and put back into the display tank.  Trickle filters offer great filtering diversity because of the physical size, and the fact that the filter is a separate entity from the display tank.

Power Filter-Most are available in hang-on units that simply mount to the back of the tank.  These have fairly simple designs, and few moving parts.  They are also inexpensive.

Reactor-Water is pumped through a canister-type chamber, and exposed to the chemical media.  Sometimes these reactors are run pressurized for more effective filtration.  Reactors are good for targeting specific chemicals to remove from the system water.

Internal Filter-Effective, simple, and inexpensive.  These filters are small, and go into to display tank, or sump.  Many people use these in smaller aquarium applications.

Chemical Additives-Can be effectively used to remove toxic elements such as ammonia, nitrogen compounds, and heavy metals to ultimately purity the water to the desired specs.  These are available in many different types and sizes.

Foam Fractionization-Also referred to as protein foam skimming.  Used primarily in saltwater applications, but infrequently also effectively used in freshwater tanks.  Usually, these filters  are tall and columnar in shape.  The principle is to pump water and tiny air bubbles into the column.  This air/water contact time allows the toxins to bind to the tiny air bubble and form a scummy foam.  This foam contains many bad, (and sometimes good) elements from the aquarium water.  Also considered an auxiliary filtration device. Protein Skimming is an efficient form of toxin removal.

Power Filter

Most chemical filter media needs to be completely changed out on a regular basis.  Power filters have convenient pouches that are easily removed and replaced.



Many chemical filters also combine mechanical, biological, and auxiliary filtration into one unit.  Some however, like the canister filter, may only serve one purpose to target- eliminate a certain chemical.



Precaution should be used while the aquarium is under medication.  Many times the chemical filter needs to be turned off, or removed as not to absorb the medication.



Some chemical units are expensive and complex pieces of high tech equipment.  However, there are still simple alternatives, too.  The internal filter is self contained, simple in design, and inexpensive.  Most are also very easy to maintain.



Some filtration devices can be very effective at removing a broad range of toxic chemicals from the aquarium.  Protein skimmers, also called foam fractionators are one of these devices.


Canister Filter

Chemical Eliminator

Internal Filters

Protein Skimmer

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