There are many types of media you can use in your aquarium to create the most welcoming environment for the fish and plants that call it home. Choosing the right type of media can be a bit confusing as there are so many different options.
If you’re looking for the best aquarium filter media available, here’s everything you need to know, as well as reviews of our top six picks. It can be difficult to decide which filter media, whether biological, mechanical or chemical, is best.
Every tank is different, and what works in a 15-gallon tank probably won’t work in a 100-gallon tank. In this article, I’ll walk you through the types of filter media, discuss how to choose them, and review my options for finding the best filter media available.
Do you want bacteria to help you purify the water in your aquarium? Then this article (the best biological media filter for canister filter) is for you. By biomedia we mean biological filtration media. Of the three types of filter media [mechanical, biological and chemical], this is the most natural filtration process to filter toxins from your aquarium.
The 10 Best Filter Media for Your Aquariums
We know that finding the right supplies for an aquarium can be a little overwhelming. If you’re not sure where to start when looking for the best filter media for aquarium, we found a nice variety of products for you to consider.
Aquarium Filter Media Reviews
One of the first things you will notice about these Aquatic Experts filter pads is how thick they are.
In fact they have two layers. The top layer has an open grain designed to accommodate large chunks of debris such as food, debris, rotting plant parts and debris. The bottom layer is denser to trap fine particles coming through the first layer.
The great thing about this filter medium is that it comes on a roll. You can adjust it to the perfect size for your filter. It is perfect for fresh or salt water and can be used in a variety of systems.
Fluval Biomax is made from highly porous ceramic material. It is covered in all kinds of little corners that are perfect for beneficial bacteria.
The hole through the center of the ceramic noodles also allows water to flow through each piece, allowing more oxygen per square inch of medium.
This is a durable medium that will last for years and is small enough to fit many hanging filters. Just put it in a mesh bag and put it in your filter.
- Lots of surface for biomedia
- Small enough to hang most filters on your back
- Nothing I can think of!
Aqua Flo has been making aquarium supplies for over 30 years and this filter medium has served many satisfied customers.
They do not use any chemicals in production which means that it is completely safe for all aquariums, tanks or even fresh and salt water ponds.
This medium has two layers, a thick white layer for catching large particles and a thinner green layer for small things that slip. It is stiffer than its competitors and extremely durable.
Since it comes in a large roll, you can cut it to the perfect size for your filter. The roll is actually 12 x 6 feet, so one roll will last a long time.
This medium consists of irregularly sintered glass spheres. You can put this in a mesh filter bag to hang on the back or on the filter canister.
Provides 1,800 square feet of floor space for every gallon of volume, enough room for a thriving bacterial colony.
- Creates a lot of surface for bacteria
- Great amount of media for the price
- I can’t think of any!
Activated carbon is especially effective as a medium for aquariums. It also works quickly, up to two times faster than other materials.
This Marineland product is specially sized to be as efficient as possible. It comes in small pebbles, but if you find yourself wanting something small for your filter, all you have to do is run it through a coffee grinder and you have a fine powder that is just as effective.
It filters out impurities that mechanical filters just can’t touch, keeping the water crystal clear and the fish as happy as possible.
Sturdy synthetic sponge material that can be cut on any filter.
I love that you can spray this with your hose and use it over and over again.
It’s a medium thickness so you still need finer filter media to catch very small things.
- Can be cut on any filter
- Can be cleaned and reused
- Does not collect really small waste
These Fluval ceramic rings work in two ways. First, the unique hexagonal shape creates a barrier that traps solid debris and helps prevent your filter from clogging.
Second, the ceramic surface provides a perfect environment for large populations of beneficial bacteria to grow, keeping ammonia and nitrite levels under control.
This is the best part. They are reusable.
All you need to do is rinse them every now and then and you can put them back in the filter.
It is a super fine mechanical medium designed to “polish” water by trapping super fine particles.
Comes in a large 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 inch) roll. You can cut pieces to fit any filter size or shape. The large roller allows it to cut many pieces, making it much more economical than filter cartridges or pre-cut polishing pads.
It would be a great addition if you are using thicker media such as the AquaPapa sponge.
This will clog up easily as it is a very fine medium and will need to be replaced regularly with a new part. And it is not resistant to reuse, so you have to add a new part every time.
- Traps super fine particles
- Cheaper than other polishing pads
- Cannot be reused
- Hidden quickly
This Marineland blend contains zeolite and activated carbon.
Zeolite is a white mineral with an incredibly porous surface and is very effective at removing ammonia from aquarium water. Activated charcoal also works to remove ammonia and chloramines, along with other impurities.
This medium is truly a double threat. It acts fast and lasts a long time, providing clean, sparkling water for fish to thrive.
Another option is this CNZ media kit that comes with everything you need to keep your aquarium water clean and chemically balanced.
What types of media are included?
One of the materials it contains is activated carbon, which filters ammonia and other invisible impurities. Also included are bio balls, which are 1 inch in diameter and are the perfect environment for colonies of beneficial bacteria to grow.
Finally, it comes with ceramic rings, which act as mechanical filtration to trap larger debris and provide extra surface area for bacterial colonies to grow.
This kit includes all the types of filtration you need to get sparkling, clear water that your fish and plants can thrive on.
Frequently asked questions about aquarium filter media
1. How to place the aquarium filter media?
There is a science to putting medium in an aquarium filter, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
How to Stack Aquarium Filter Media
The first thing to filter the water is a mechanical means. This removes large particles and debris and stops them before they reach the other layers of the filter. It also makes it easier for you to clean the filter as everything has to collect on the surface.
If you are using something that has a dual purpose, you should go next. Ceramic rings are a good example of a dual surface medium, as they retain large particles and provide a home for bacterial colonies to grow. They act as mechanical and biological filtration, which is why they are known as “dual purpose”.
The following is the biological environment. It is important that this layer does not become clogged. If the water flow stops, the bacteria will not get enough oxygen and the colonies will die. If you put in the mechanical filtration first, it shouldn’t be a problem.
The bottom layer must be a chemical medium. It removes any toxins that are left after the water goes through biological filtration, so it makes sense that this is the final stage. If placed in front of biological media, there is a risk that not enough impurities will remain for bacteria to thrive. By placing these last, each filter layer can do its job more effectively.
2. How often should the filter media in the aquarium be cleaned?
Maintaining the filter is the most important thing you can do to maintain a healthy aquarium. If they don’t work properly, toxic levels of ammonia and nitrate will quickly build up in the water, potentially killing fish.
Cleaning the filter media is essential for it to work properly. A good rule of thumb is that the more fish you have in an aquarium, the more often it needs to be cleaned. Larger tanks may take a little longer between cleanings, but smaller tanks require regular maintenance.
Test your water weekly with test strips. These will tell you the levels of ammonia, nitrate and pH, among other things. If you see a change in the results, it is time to clean your filter. If you notice that the flow rate is slowing down, it is probably because the filter media is blocked, which also means it is time to clean.
It’s difficult to set a clear time frame for when to clean as this varies from tank to tank, but on average once a month is a safe bet. Again, depending on the results of the strip test, you may need to do it more or less often.
Mechanical media, bio balls and ceramic rings should never be cleaned with tap water as chlorine can damage them. The best way to clean these things is to fill a bucket with water from the tank and rinse the medium well into the bucket.
This prevents the death of beneficial bacteria and prevents possible contaminants from entering the water. The easiest time to clean is when you change the water as you are already removing water from the tank. There are some exceptions as some media, such as charcoal, cannot be cleaned.
3. How often should I change the filter media in the aquarium?
The carbon filter media should be changed every 3 weeks to keep it functioning properly. Carbon cannot be cleaned because the chemical properties required for filtration slowly deteriorate over time. It’s not as easy as rubbing it well.
As for the other types of media, it depends.
Mechanical means can be used until they essentially fall apart. Since this medium’s job is to filter out large chunks of debris, it will continue to work even if not in perfect condition. Check your filter every day to make sure it is running smoothly. When you see particles going that should have been mechanically stopped, it’s time to replace them with new ones.
If you are using ceramic bio balls or rings, you should only replace about ⅓ at a time and only if they fall apart. Remember that colonies of beneficial bacteria grow on this medium, so replacing them all at once will kill any good colonies that take time to grow back.
All of the filters we’ve reviewed are great, but it’s hard to pick the best one because they all work in different ways. If you are just starting out and need something to meet all your needs, get started with CNZ Aquarium Filter Media Kits.
Since it comes with mechanical, biological and chemical means, it gives you everything you need to start a healthy aquarium.