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How to keep your aquarium water sparkling clean with mechanical filtration

mechanical filtration

Having a well-rounded filtration system that included mechanical, biological and chemical filtration is key to long-term success. But sometimes conditions change where more sediment or debris gets into the water column and instead of just letting it settle, you need to boost your mechanical filtration for a short period of time.

Remember mechanical filtration is the means of capturing large particles and other organic compounds (fish waste, food, algae, etc.) out of the water typically involving some sort of filter material working like a strainer.

Now imagine you’re doing a water change and are clearing the gravel, or moving around your aquascaping and you kick up a bunch of murky junk that is clouding the water. Chances are, if you keep your filtration and water movement as it currently is, most of the debris will settle down and not get removed from the tank. So what can you do?

Planning ahead is key and there are a couple of things to keep in mind that will help you out:

Ensure you have enough filtration

Every aquarium is unique and you should take your fish into consideration when it comes to water flow (turnover) and filtration. But the rule of thumb is to have four times turnover and buy a filter rated for a tank higher than what you have. For example, you want to ensure your water movement in a 30 gallon tank it at least 120 gallons and your filter is rated for at least double than your size (some advocate more). Canister filters are typically the some of the more effective filters for mechanical filtration, however some of the hang on back (HOB) power filters are pretty effective too. If you are going for a HOB vs. a canister then definitely go larger.

Invest in good quality media and change/clean often

This is the workhorse of the aquarium and is a great way to protect your fish investment so try not to skimp on poor quality or inadequate media. Make sure the mechanical part of it is adequate enough to capture fine materials to eliminate excess organics in your water. Also make sure you clean or change it often. Think of the mechanical filter like an air mask on your face. If it gets too clogged, its harder to breathe and for your filter, it means less water is going through the filter.

Buy a polishing filter or spare filter

Make sure to pick up a polishing filter like a Marineland Magnum polishing filter, another canister or power filter to add to the system when you need it. The added filtration power will ensure you clear the water in a shorter time. The added water movement also keeps things moving and from settling before the filter can do its job.

Have a flocculating agent on hand

Flocculating agents a good option for short-term use. They are designed to bind small particles together to form larger particles that make it easier to extract from the water. There are a variety of options on the market like Seachem Clarity. Keep in mind you typically need to replace the filter media every 24-48 hours, but by bumping up aquarium flow and filtration, you should be able to clear it up within this time. If you have a lot of debris, you might want to replace it after 12 hours.

When to put it to use?

When you do you water change or aquascaping, keep the cleanup in mind and have your plan ready. Once you are done, add the flocculating agent and added filtration to clean it up as quickly as possible.

Sometimes the murky water is the look you are going for with a planted tank for example. But other times a clear tank is more appealing and you might find your aquarium water to be just cloudy even with water changes. It is always good to check your water parameters (ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, etc.) to ensure its not an ammonia spike or something from poor maintenance.

If all looks good, you might just want to give your water a polish. Adding your extra filter for a few hours or a day can go a long way. Just make sure to take your fish into consideration and don’t add too much more flow than what they can withstand. You might want to start out with a lower setting on the filter and slowly increase it over time.

Bottom line is, there is no better way to keep water clarity and quality up than by using the right level and type of filter, regular water changes, keeping stocking levels balanced and don’t over feed. But, there are times where your mechanical filtration might need a little boost.

AquaMaxx FR-M Internal Media Reactor


AquaMaxx FR-M Internal Media Reactor is a good option to add a media reactor in a smaller aquarium, in a filter chamber in an all-in-one or even a sumps where space is limited. Besides its small size, it gives you the option to use a variety of media including activated carbon, granular ferric oxide (GFO) or even biopellets.

The new AquaMaxx FR-M Internal Media Reactor features an up-flow design to help keep the media suspended and evenly dispersed allowing it to do its job more efficiently. It features an adjustable Sicce Micra Plus pump mounted on the bottom to adjust the flow based on the type and volume of the media.

Like many new internal devices, they got rid of suction cups and incorporated a magnet mount making it easier to mount on aquariums up to 3/8 in. thick (and to keep it there). The AquaMaxx FR-M measures in at 10 x 4.35 x 4.75 in. and will hold up to 700ml of media. This is enough GFO for up to 120 gallons, carbon for up to 80 and biopellets for up to 50 gallons. The integrated Sicce Micra pushed up to 158 gph and consumes 7W.

The AquaMaxx FR-M retails for around $99.99 and is available now.

EHEIM bioMECH provides mechanical and biological filtration in one

eheim biomech

EHEIM bioMECH solves two key filtration issues in one delivering mechanical and biological filtration in one filtration media.

Dirt and debris is captured in dirt-trapping pockets when water passes through the bioMech material.  Biological decomposition gets a helping hand from these same pores that provide the perfect home to colonize beneficial bacteria.

The EHEIM bioMECH media is pH neutral and is washable and reusable. Reviews seem pretty positive and it might be worth looking into if you have poor water issues with your traditional filter media.

EHEIM bioMECH comes in 1, 2 or 5 liter containers and will run you $15.99, $29.99 and $29.99 respectively.

JBJ revamps its all-in-one with new JBJ Cubey Nano


JBJ has been one of the more popular all-in-one aquariums over the years and has taking a new approach to its next generation all-in-one aquarium going extremely cubist with the launch of the new JBJ Cubey.

The previous versions of the tank were often referred to as cubes since the dimensions were typically the same size, but with rounded corners and edges. This version is truly angular keeping all edges a crisp 90 degrees for a modern and sleek look.

Coming in four sizes, a  3, 10, 15 and 20-gallon version, that has an integrated three-stage filtration and a 20W LED lighting system with controllable white, blue and red LEDs with seven levels of brightness control to be flexible for your aquarium needs. The JBJ Cubey comes in black and white and is a good choice for all hobbyist levels.

You can buy the aquarium alone or buy it as a kit with a matching stand. The aquariums range in price from $99 for the 3 gallon to $308 for the 20 gallon version. The stands run from around $160 but you can save a little by buying it as a package.

IceCap REEF-Cam works in freshwater too


Despite its name, the IceCap REEF-Cam is a cool underwater micro camera perfect for any aquarium — fresh or salt water. Think of it as a dedicated mini GoPro you can permanently mount underwater and view like in your aquarium from the inside out.

The IceCap REEF-Cam is designed to be used underwater and able to live stream in 720p HD from anywhere using an iOS or Android mobile device. The small camera is 1 x 1 x 3/4 in. but features a wide-angle lens with a 120° field of view.

It is pretty easy to set up since it has its own integrated WiFi connection. All you need to do is download the free iOS or Android app and then connect to your network to begin streaming and sharing.

You can share your aquarium with friends or family remotely or just check in to see how things are going while away at work, school or just being out and about.

The IceCap REEF-Cam retails for $199.99.

Innovative Marine now makes nuvo Concept Abyss Panorama Drop Off Aquarium with glass


Innovative Marine has taken some interesting approaches to the “glass box” aquarium and have recently made an update using low iron glass instead of acrylic to the nuvo Concept Abyss Panorama Drop Off Aquarium that features an eye-catching two-tier system allowing for some unique aquascaping ideas.

While acrylic is nice and offers flexibility in design, it can scratch easily and tends to be thicker than glass distorting the view somewhat. The drop off tank now features 6mm low iron glass for ultra clarity, eliminating the “green” look you see in typical glass. This updated version sill holds the same dimensions, with a 20 gallons measuring it around is 20 x 15 x 19 in., but it just looks a lot cleaner.

One other major change we liked, is switching the matching pedestal that comes with the tank to anodized aluminum like its new APS stands. The new aquarium will come with a nice bright pearl while version.

As we mentioned the its called the drop off for a reason with the signature double-tier zone. The Innovative Marine nuvo Concept Abyss Panorama Drop Off Aquarium also features dual built in overflows, two return nozzles, two removable filter socks and 211 GPH return pump. It is also fitted with spots that can accommodate their desktop Ghost Protein Skimmer and MiniMax Media Reactor.

According to Innovative Marine, the new aquarium retail for $400 and will be ready to ship in the next week or so.

Friscer’s handy multipurpose zipper filter media bag


Friscer’s multipurpose zipper filter media are a strong and flexible looking reusable filter bag that is a handy thing to have on hand. Filter media bags are a helpful when it comes to holding your filter media, keeping it from spreading all over the place and making it easy to maintain over time, but one downside to the mesh filter bag is dealing with a weak drawstring that always seems to knot up, untie itself or rip.

Designed with high-strength fibers and a sturdy resealable zipper closure and double-stitched seams, it will stand up to some abuse. It can be useful to hold a variety of materials from carbon, sulfer beads or resin pellets all the way up to things like lava rock, zeolite, bio-rings or other media. Just zip open the bag, drop in your media and then place in your canister filter, sump, tank or other filter chambers. It also comes with a simple loop so you can hang it on hooks or other objects in filter chambers, sumps or your tank itself.

The company notes the fine mesh is capable of retaining large amount of loose grit media while allowing ample amount of water flow and micro permeability. This means it lets in enough water to effectively remove the small pollutants you’re targeting for removal with your desired media.

While you can pick up other filter bags for pretty cheap, they aren’t always reusable. For around $6, you can grab one of these and simply wash with water and diluted bleach and hang dry before reuse.

PE Pellets Freshwater Fish Food


Piscene Energetics produce some of the finest flash frozen mysis that are a delicious and nutritious option for your aquatic pets, but using frozen food involves a few other steps. But with PE Pellets freshwater fish food, you can get the nutritional value of mysis is an easy-to-feed dry pellet form.

Handcrafted in small batches at the company’s facilities in British Columbia, Canada, PE Pellets feature fresh PE Mysis as the leading ingredient. This provides a nutritional food your fish will love to eat that will help improve coloration through a nutritious diet of high protein and fatty acids, with omega’s 3 and 6.

PE Pellets are slow sinking to allow for an even distribution in the water column allowing your top and bottom feeders a change to take a nibble. PE Pellets come in three sizes 1 mm pellets in a 2 oz. package, 2 mm pellets in a 4 oz. package and 3 mm pellets that come in a 8 oz. package. They retail for around $9.99, $17.99 and $32.99 respectively.

Cobalt DECORIA are unique hand-blown glass tanks


Cobalt Aquatics has combined art and utility with its Cobalt Aquatics DECORIA line of tanks handmade by European glass blowers. Each tank is made in Poland with low iron glass and since they are handmade, there are no seams.

There are currently five primary shapes – cubes, rectangles, hemispheres, cylinders and the cool looking wave design.  The aquariums range in volume from just under 1 gallon to just over 2 gallons. These are perfect for pico planted tanks, bettas, glow fish, shrimp tanks, goldfish, small community fish, and more.

Prices vary, but one of the larger tanks — the Cobalt DECORIA XL Wave aquarium that holds 2.1 gallons — retails for $99.99.

RLF Design Cichlid Stone Kits


The RLF Design Cichlid Stone kit is a unique set of stackable ceramic mini caves for your cichlids and other fish to use for protection or nesting. Featuring a realistic design, these lightweight and sturdy pieces allow you flexibility to build one rock pile or smaller outposts.

RLF pour and adds design to each one so they all look a little unique and are hand glazed then fired to provide a strong and lightweight home for your fish. Since they are thinner than rock, they allow more interior space to provide more hiding places and breeding niches without displacing too much water like natural rock.

Not only will these be good for fish like African and New World Cichlids, but for plecostomus, corydoras, loaches, freshwater sharks, as well as nocturnal or cave-dwelling fish species.

There are a few options out there including small two-piece kits for around $8 and this 15-stone set, that retails for around $65 that comes with five small stones of two different versions, eight medium stones of three different versions, and two large stones.