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Choosing the Perfect Filter for your Aquarium: A Comprehensive Guide

Choosing the Perfect Filter for your Aquarium: A Comprehensive Guide

Today, we're going to dive deep into the world of aquarium filters. From the humble sponge filter to the mighty canister filter, we'll explore the pros and cons of each type, helping you make an informed decision for your aquatic habitat.

Sponge Filters: The Under-appreciated Workhorses

Let's kick off our filter journey with sponge filters. These unassuming devices often go unnoticed, but they are fantastic for those on a budget. With the help of an air pump, sponge filters can effectively aerate and filter the water. They are not only inexpensive but also a safe choice for shrimp and baby fish. Many hobbyists use sponge filters for fish breeding or as a cost-effective way to maintain water quality. The primary investment is in a reliable air pump, which can even handle multiple sponge filters, making them ideal for larger setups.

While they are great, sponge filters are not without their drawbacks. They can be noisy due to the air pump and the bubbles breaking the water's surface. Some people may find the aesthetics of sponge filters less appealing, making them unsuitable for meticulously designed aquascapes.

Internal Filters: Compact and Versatile

Internal filters sit inside your aquarium and are excellent choices for smaller tanks. They are also budget-friendly and widely available. Some models come equipped with a spray bar, offering improved surface water movement and a delightful sound of water splashing. However, internal filters have limited space for filter media and may reduce the space available for aquascaping, affecting the types of plants and fish you can keep.

Hang on Back Filters: Space-Efficient and Accessible

Hang on back filters, available in two variations - cartridge and customizable media chamber models, are both space-efficient and accessible. They offer good water movement and are budget-friendly. The customizable media chamber versions allow you to tailor your filter media to your specific needs, reducing the need for regular purchases. However, they can be bulky, and cartridge models require ongoing investments in replacement cartridges.

Canister Filters: Powerful and Customizable

Canister filters, the heavyweights of aquarium filtration, are external filters with tremendous water turnover capabilities. They come with ample space for customizing your filter media and are relatively low maintenance. Canister filters tend to be quiet, making them suitable for bedroom aquariums. However, they come at a higher cost and occupy significant space in your cabinet or on the floor. A rare disadvantage is the potential for catastrophic water loss in case of hose failure.

Sumps: Hidden Powerhouses

Sumps are like chambered aquariums, often hidden beneath your setup. They are powerful and provide a clean, cable-free look for your main aquarium. However, sumps can be intimidating to set up and are relatively expensive. They also require careful consideration of your space and floor support due to their weight.

Which One is The Best Filter for Your Aquarium?

The question of which filter is best ultimately comes down to your specific needs and preferences. All these filters perform the same essential function: filtering water. Choose the one that aligns with your budget, tank size, and design preferences. They all work effectively when properly maintained.

We hope this comprehensive guide to aquarium filters has been helpful. By the way, the best way to keep your aquarium clean is with a healthy parameters and inhabitants. Using KAI, the Felix Smart controller, you can completely automate your aquarium's environment, which helps immensely in the battle of filtration. 

CO2 for Dummies - A Practical Perspective

CO2 for Dummies - A Practical Perspective

Tips by Dou Mok, Felix Smart Ambassador 

If you're starting a freshwater planted tank, you will inevitably run into the question - do I need CO2 to grow plants? The short answer is no - you actually don't need CO2 to grow plants. The long answer is not for dummies - so I'll leave that to the experts* to discuss. However... "no" doesn't mean that all plants can't benefit from CO2 injection. So, what do you really need to know?

* https://www.advancedplantedtank.com/blogs/choosing-co2-why

Buy things once, right - not twice.

There is no question that you should consider buying and setting up a CO2 system if you are serious about growing plants underwater. There are various options out there, but the one I recommend is the option that involves a CO2 Cylinder and a Regulator with Solenoid. Do your research and buy products from reputable brands so that you can focus your attention on your tank and plants. Injecting CO2 is something you will want to put on a schedule and automate, so that you don't have to manually turn on and off (Use the FelixSmart's Range feature!).

Take things slowly at your own pace.

It might be tempting to add a lot of CO2 in your tank at first, because you want your plants to grow fast, but adding CO2 does come with it's own complexities. With any new element that you add into your tank, you should take things slowly so that you can observe the changes. Start with 1 bubble per second and see what happens after a week. If you have many plants, consider starting with 2. Make sure that your CO2 bubbles are being spread all throughout your tank - this might mean moving your CO2 diffuser underneath your outflow! If your tank is one that develops an oily film on the surface, add a skimmer and set that on a timer (use the Felix Smart's Range feature!). If you have fish, they will appreciate you giving them some time to get used to the CO2.

"The Water Tests" vs. "The Eye Test"

How does one find out if one's tank has enough CO2? You can either test your water parameters (pH/kH) or do an eye test. The eye test is about confirming that your plants are growing by observing whether you see pearling (photosynthesis) or not. George Farmer* describes this best - it happens when plants have the food they need to grow so well that they start to form visible bubbles of oxygen on their leaves. You should be able to observe this happening within 2 hours of your lights turning on if you inject CO2.

If you really want to get into this more, I'll leave you with some verbiage from Tom Barr**: "Adding CO2 increases photosynthesis 10-20X normal rates without adding it, thus the O2 is produced at a much higher rate. This leads to more pearling due to O2 production by the plants. Oxygen is pretty insoluble in water to begin with, CO2 is not. Try and get 50 ppm of O2 into your tank's water sometime. Water is equilibrated with air at 100%(say 7 ppm at 28C), but it's so "saturated" that O2 forms into bubbles and pearls away."

The water test is not for dummies so if you're ready to challenge yourself, here is some advice from Dennis Wong***, author of "Advanced Planted Tank": "As a very general guide, if you have KH values between 1 - 10 dKH, aim for a 1 point relative pH dropfrom the point when CO2 injection is not yet turned on to the time after it has been turned on and CO2 has risen to a high, stable equilibrium point."

If you have a Felix Smart, you can easily monitor the pH through the App as a rough way to gauge your CO2 levels. Practical.

* https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC210QPUiYoCjm9IEuu5SHLQ
** https://barrreport.com/
*** https://www.advancedplantedtank.com/blogs/choosing-co2-why/the-wrong-way-to-read-the-ph-kh-chart

Remember, every tank is different just like we are as humans. The right answer is the one that works for you and your plants - don't feel pressured into doing something that you don't feel comfortable with (or at least do your research!).

By the way, if you're looking to keep your aquarium inhabitants happy and healthy with automation, you should check out the KAI Smart Controller aquarium kits!

3 Easy Steps for Crystal Clear Water

3 Easy Steps for Crystal Clear Water

There is nothing quite like having crystal clear water in your aquarium, but achieving crystal clear water is not always easy. Particulates like dust and debris, tannins from driftwood and suspended algae can make your water look foggy, discolored and dirty overall. The good news is, there are 3 simple steps you can take to help remove any unwanted particles from your water and achieve that stunning clarity all aquarists strive for!

STEP 1 - Activated Carbon

Activated Carbon is a chemical media that when added to your filter, or aquarium directly in a media bag, will absorb a wide range of chemicals including tannins, and other substances that can cause discoloration to your water. If your water happens to be a little smelly, activated carbon is going to help remove that as well.


STEP 2 - Fine Filtration

Poly pads, filter floss and felt pad media with a small micron rating placed inside your filter are some of the best options for removing small particulates like dust, mulm and even suspended algae from the water column. Most filters will have branded options for fine filtration, but best results may come from a specialized cut-to-fit micron pad with a rating of 100 microns or less. Keep in mind that this filter media should be used for maintenance only and not all the time since it will bog up quickly with dirt and debris. 24 to 48 hours is usually all it takes to get the job done.


STEP 3 - Water Clarifier (Flocculant)

The last step that will really boost the results of step 2 is the addition of a water clarifier. In essence, a water clarifier is a liquid additive that acts as a flocculant to bind all of the tiny particles in the aquarium into larger clumps, making it much easier for your fine filtration to pull out even the tiniest of particulates. This is where we most often see the water really clear up to the point where it looks like our fish are floating on air!


Following these 3 steps has a proven track record of excellent results and can be the secret weapon of any aquarium owner looking to achieve that highly sought after ultra-clear water.

By the way, if you're looking to automate any function of aquarium care, you should check out the KAI Smart Controller aquarium kits!