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Aquarium Filtration
This page explains the three stages of aquarium filtration with an emphasis on the third stage, bio-logical filtration, which is the most important type of aquarium filtration.
 
The ad below links to this advertiser.
 
     
Pet Fish Talk a Podcast about keeping pet fish in aquariums, fish bowls, and ponds.  
Click here to hear a Special Interview about the EcoBio-Block Family of Products, which help keep aquarium water clear.
     
1. The Three Types of Water Filtration

(1)  Mechanical filtration of water is done by passing the water through a screen, or a thin piece of sponge, or through a floss material, all of which remove pieces of debris from the water.

(2)  Chemical filtration of water is done by passing the water through small pieces of carbon or zeolite, which is a natural mineral. The carbon or zeolite remove molecules such as ammonia from the water.

(3)  Biological filtration of water is done by certain types of bacteria that live on gravel, on the surface of glass, on ceramic ornaments, on plastic plants, on bio-balls, on floss, or best of all on BIO-Wheels.

 
These bacteria are often called beneficial bacteria in contrast to the pathogenic or harmful bacteria that cause diseases. The beneficial bacteria in biological filters digest waste that is dissolved in the water by combining the waste with oxygen that is also dissolved in the water.
 
For example, certain kinds of beneficial bacteria combine ammonia and oxygen, that are both dissolved in the aquarium water, to produce nitrite, water, and some energy. Using the usual symbols for Ammonia NH3, Oxygen O2, Nitrite NO2, and Water H2O, the chemical reaction is written as
 

NH3 + O2  --   NO2 + H2O + energy

 
Where  --  is an arrow indicating a chemical reaction proceeding from left to right as usual.
 
Or as a chemical equation like this
 

4 NH3 + 7 O2  =  4 NO2 + 6 H2O + energy

 
where the numbers 4, 7, 4, and 6 have been inserted into this equation so the atoms on both sides of the equation balance.
 
Other kinds of beneficial bacteria combine the nitrite and oxygen, that are both dissolved in the water, to produce nitrate and more energy. Using the usual symbol for nitrate NO3?, the chemical reaction is written as
 

NO2 + O2  --  NO3 + energy

 
Or as an equation like this
 

2 NO2 + O2  =  2 NO3 + energy

 
The combined result of these two chemical reactions is to combine ammonia and oxygen from the water and to produce nitrate and energy.

So we see that to remove ammonia and nitrite from aquarium water in this way, the bacteria need plenty of oxygen in the water.

 
 
Pet Fish Talk a Podcast about keeping pet fish in aquariums, fish bowls, and ponds.  
Click here to hear a Special Interview with Dr. Tim Hovanec about One And Only - Nitrifying Bacteria, which can help keep aquarium water clear and odor free.
 
 
Ammonia is very toxic to fish, nitrite is also toxic but less toxic than ammonia, and nitrate is much less toxic. So the beneficial bacteria take oxygen and toxic ammonia from the water and produce rather harmless nitrate and more water.

Still other kinds of bacteria oxidize other kinds of fish waste to make those kinds of fish waste less toxic to fish.

These kinds of beneficial bacteria and lots of oxygen are the crucial factors in eliminating toxic waste and maintaining excellent quality water in an aquarium.

 
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Aquarium Guys offers a large variety of Aquarium Supplies including both Tropical Fish Supplies and Saltwater Aquarium Supplies for your fish tank. Click on this image to go to the page in Aquarium Guys' web site with more information about the products in this ad.
 
     
2. Biological Filters
are generally devices that provide living space for the beneficial bacteria, that were discussed in the paragraphs above.

Most biological filters are limited by the amount of oxygen available in the water, and oxygen is not very soluble in water. In fact, aquarium water rarely has more than 7 ppm (parts per million) of oxygen.

So biological filters, that rely completely on the water flowing through them to provide oxygen for their bacteria, are limited by the small amount of oxygen that is in the water.

 
Undergravel filters, canister filters, sponge filters, and especially fluidized bed filters are almost always starved for oxygen. They have lots of fish waste and lots of surface area with lots of bacteria, but the water in these filters lacks an abundant supply of oxygen for the bacteria.

All of these types of filters are greatly limited by the small amount of oxygen in the water that flows through them.

 
3. BIO-Wheels
spinning in the air and water, are not limited by the amount of oxygen in the water. Air is 20% oxygen, i.e. 200,000 ppm compared with the 7 ppm in water, and the abundant oxygen in the air rapidly replenishes the oxygen on the surface of the water, such as on the surfaces of a BIO-Wheel. So the water on the surfaces of the BIO-Wheel is always very rich in oxygen.

The beneficial bacteria living on the BIO-Wheel are able to use the abundant oxygen in the water on the BIO-Wheels to rapidly oxidize the fish waste that is dissolved in the water on the BIO-Wheels.

 
 
Click here to go to another page in this web site with more information about BIO-Wheels.
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Books about
Aquarium Filters and Filtration
The books shown below are listed on Amazon.com. You can click on the title or on the image of a book to go to the page at Amazon.com, where that book is listed and discussed. In some cases you can preview several of the pages in that book.
 
Click on this image to go to Amazon.com, where you can learn more about this book.   Aquarium Filtration
By Richard F. Stratton
Hardcover
64 pages
     
Click on this image to go to Amazon.com, where you can learn more about this book. Aquatic Systems Engineering
By Pedro Ramon Escobal, Martin A. Moe, Jr.
Paperback
272 pages
 
 
Click here to go to another page in this web site with more information about BIO-Wheels.
 
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