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In an aquarium, floating particles of matter are taken out of the water by a process called “mechanical filtration.” In other words, it is the process of separating the solid phase from the liquid phase as the mixture flows through a porous medium. Dissolved substances are also cleaned out of the water as it flows through the filter. Mechanical filtration is a very important part of an aquarium. It’s what makes the water clear.


Cartridge filters

The size of the removed particles depends on the type of filter material used. On the zoological market, there are a lot of options. There are different types of sponges, as well as perlon wool, fleece, and ceramics. When any of these media are used, a process called collimation (clogging) takes place. This makes the water flow slower and keeps more and more fine particles in the water. The filter, or more specifically the filter cartridge, can get completely clogged, which stops water from going through. As you might expect, colonization happens more quickly when you use dense filter materials or take care of fish that are very dirty. Loricariidae or goldfish are examples of “filthy” fish because they eat wood.

Getting water ready for use

Mathematical formulas have been used to describe the physical processes that happen when water filters through porous materials. These formulas are used on an industrial scale in wastewater treatment and water treatment plants. I won’t go that far into the subject, of course. But it’s worth taking a look at the different physical things that can change the purity of aquarium water.

Suspensions being sifted

The filter cartridge works like a sieve, catching particles on its surface that are bigger than the bed pores. This looks great on both the sponge and the fleece. We use this method a lot by putting a “prefilter” on the pipe that draws water from the aquarium to the bucket filter. This “prefilter” is just a thick sponge that stops large impurities and keeps the main filter bed from getting clogged up quickly.

Solids in the water settle into the pores of the filter cartridge.

It means that the sieving process didn’t catch all of the pieces. You can think of the bed pores as winding channels with different widths. From time to time, water flows from narrow to wide channels, where its speed slows down. This causes particles to settle (deposit) on the bottom. As these pores fill up, the flow speed in them increases, which slows down sedimentation. Then, the deeper, wider tubules take on a bigger role. In this way, the bed is slowly filled with water until the quality of the water coming out of the filter starts to get worse.


Keeping out even the smallest particles

Electrostatic forces in the bed can bind the smallest suspended particles that are too small for the filter cartridge channels and don’t have enough mass to stay in the bed by sinking.



Particles can stick together in the pores of the filter cartridge, which makes them bigger. Flocculation makes it more likely that they will stay in the filter bed.


Choose the right filter material

When the right filter cartridges are used in an aquarium, the mechanical filtration will work well. Manufacturers usually give a set of filter materials with internal filters with more than one chamber. They are the right size for the average aquarium and do well there. But if you want to try something new, you can use a sponge instead of a module with many chambers, which, for example, gets clogged up all the time. If the fish are very dirty, it might be a good idea to put in a sponge with more holes. At first, it won’t be able to catch the smallest particles, but as its pores fill up, it will. But the most important thing is that it won’t get clogged up after a few days. External filters can also be changed in terms of the type of filter cartridge they use. If the bucket is going to be a mechanical filter, it doesn’t need ceramic for biological filtration. A sponge, for example, could be used instead.


Filter cleaning by hand

When using mechanical filters, it’s important to clean them every so often. How often depends on the fish in the aquarium. Care for dirty fish species more often, even once a week. Rinsing the mechanical filter not only makes the water flow better, but it also helps get rid of a lot of the organic matter that has built up in the aquarium. If an aquarium only has one filter, which is usually a bucket filter, it is not a good idea to open it and rinse it often because it also works as a biological filter. When this happens, using the above-mentioned pre filter makes the device much easier to use.

Small tanks with small filters that work as both mechanical and biological filters are more of a problem. Here, if the cartridges are cleaned too thoroughly, the biological balance in the aquarium will always be off. So, a good choice is an internal filter with two or three chambers. This keeps us from having to clean the whole filter cartridge all at once. Several chambers also let you use smaller ceramic rings as a cartridge, which makes for good biological filtration.

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