TIPS FOR CLEANING AND MAINTAINING YOUR TANK FILTER
- Hang-On Filter – This is one of the most commonly used types of aquarium filter and they should generally be cleaned every few weeks, or at least once a month. You can schedule your cleaning to coincide with replacing your filter media.
- Sponge Filter – This type of filter provides mechanical and biological filtration as tank water is pumped through a sponge. To ensure that the filter keeps doing its job you need to clean the sponge about every two weeks.
- Canister Filter – An enclosed type of filter, canister filters can go the longest between cleanings – they may only need to be cleaned every three to four months.
- Undergravel Filter – Cleaning this type of filter is tricky because it is buried under your tank substrate but you should at least vacuum the gravel every two weeks for basic maintenance.
- In-Tank Filter – Similar to hang-on filters, in-tank power filters need to be cleaned every few weeks or at least once a month.
- Canister Filter – The first step in cleaning a canister filter is to unplug and remove any other equipment that may be attached to it such as an inline heater – try to unplug the heater a few minutes before turning off the filter so it has time to cool down. When you are ready, fill a bucket with water from the tank and empty the filter media into it – it is important to keep them wet so they don’t dry out and kill the beneficial bacteria. When cleaning your canister filter you need to focus on the canister itself as well as the impeller and the hoses. Use a soft brush to scrub the impeller and the hoses, as well as the small parts that keep these things together. Make sure everything is completely clean before you reassemble it – incomplete cleaning is the primary cause of leaks for canister filters. When you are finished cleaning, fill the canister with tank water before hooking it back up and turning it on.
- Sponge Filter – The method for cleaning your sponge filter will vary a little bit depending on what kind of sponge filter you have. If it is powered by a powerhead or pump, you will need to disconnect everything and clean the impeller in the same way you did for the canister filter. Be sure to rinse out the services lines as well, using a toothpick to remove any accumulated debris. If your sponge filter has an air filter, check it and make sure that it is clean – if it has become discolored it may need to be replaced. To clean the sponge itself, place it in a bucket of tank water then squeeze the sponge gently a few times to remove most of the solid debris. Make sure not to let the sponge dry out during cleaning.
- Hang-On Filter – Maintenance for a hang-on filter is essentially a combination of the cleaning process for sponge filters and canister filters. You need to disassemble the filter and scrub the impeller and intake tubes as well as any small parts. Depending what type of filter media you are using, you may need to use a similar process as listed above to clean out the sponge. If your filter has a bio-wheel or some other biological filtration component, float it in the tank or place it in a bucket of tank water to keep it from drying out during cleaning.
- In-Tank Filter – These aquarium filters are usually very similar to hang-on filters but they are much smaller. Be sure to replace the filter media at least every three to four weeks and give the filter housing a quick rinse. If any algae or debris has accumulated in the intake tube, clean that as well.
- Undergravel Filter – When cleaning this type of filter you should coordinate it with your routine water changes because vacuuming the gravel over the filter is the most effective method for cleaning it. Undergravel vacuums work by sucking tank water down through the gravel and into the filter bed then releasing it back into the tank through an air stone. Over time, the gravel becomes compacted and solid debris accumulates in the substrate. When you perform a water change, focus on vacuuming the gravel to remove that debris then refill the tank with fresh water.
If you have multiple filtration systems installed in your tank, try to alternate your cleanings so that you do not do both of them in the same week. Try to create a regular cleaning schedule and then stick to it as closely as you can.
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