Filtration is essential in your African Cichlid tank. The job of the filters is to keep your tank water clean and safe. A good filter should remove toxins and dangerous chemicals from the water cased by food and overfeeding, remove fish waste and decaying organic matter and keep your water looking clear. In our African Cichlid tanks is very important that we get this right as with overstocking and the reputation of being a messy fish, these dangerous levels of toxins can build very quickly.
How Filtration Works
Filtration can be broken down into 3 different types: Biological filtration, Mechanical filtration and Chemical filtration.
Mechanical filtration is best described as the process of removing waste particles from the water. This is usually achieved in a filter by using different grade sponges which the water will pass through. Sponges are usually arranged from the coarsest sponge to the finest sponge and are best placed at the start of the filtration process. Mechanical media can also store beneficial bacteria, although it should be noted that this is not its primary function.
In brief the job of biological filtration is to break down the toxic wastes in your aquarium to a safer non toxic form for your fish. Biological filtration is a natural filtering system consisting of good bacteria colonies that gather on your chosen media and when water passes through it the good or beneficial bacteria will covert harmful pollutants in the aquarium water into harmless nitrate. The most common media types used for biological filtration are ceramic rings bio balls and sponges. It is important to know that when you add your biological media to your setup you do not actually have biological filtration taking place yet. To get a greater understanding of how biological filtration works it is advised that you first understand what the “Nitrogen cycle” is.
Chemical filtration is the use of media in a filter such as carbon to remove impurities from the water in the tank. The problem with most chemical filtration is that the lifespan of the media is short and it loses its effectiveness very quickly. Some people keep a media like carbon in there filters all of the time whereas others will keep it to hand to be used in emergencies or to remove medication from water after dosing the full tank.
Different Filter Types
There are many filter types on the market the most common ones are, Internal filters, Canister Filters, Hang on filters, Sponge filters and Sumps.
Internal filters can come in a variety of different sizes and hold anything from just sponges to ceramic rings and carbon on larger models. These filters work well and provide good water movement but are often not used because of the valuable space they take up in the tank and limited space for media.
Probably the most favored filter by keepers of African Cichlids. There are many different types of canister filter but they all share the same benefits. Good flow rates, lots of flexible space for media and filters can be kept in the cabinet out of sight of the aquarium.
-Hang On Filters
Hang on filters or HOB filters are clever filters because they sit out of the way of the main tank but also do not take up space in the cabinet. These filters can work well on smaller aquariums but don’t seem to meet the needs of the larger highly stocked African Cichlid aquarium.
Sponge filters are very basic, yet very effective. They run of an airline making them cheap to run and can also be cleaned in a matter of seconds. In the hobby these are mostly used in small fry tanks or fish rooms.
A sump is a popular choice for people who keep very large aquariums or fish rooms with multiple tanks. A sump is usually a tank that will sit below your aquarium that is divided into different compartments holding different media types. Water will enter at one end of the sump, pass through all of the compartments and is then pumped back up to the tank.
How do I choose a filter?
The most important thing to remember about choosing a filter is that we should be aiming to be filtering out tanks over at least 5-7 times an hour for African Cichlids. For example if we had a tank that’s water volume was 240 UK liters we want filters to be rated at 1200 liters per hour or above. 55 US gallons we want filters to be rated at 27.5 gallons per hour or above. More filtration is always better.
Another good idea is rather than using one big filter on your tank, choose 2 smaller rated ones. This has many benefits including staggered maintenance of filters and peace of mind that if one goes off, the second will carry on filtering your tank until you get the first filter working again.
Key points to take in are:
-The size of your aquarium and how many times per hour you will need to filter the water in your tank.
-Chose a filter that will give you the desired type of filtration you will need, biological and mechanical being the most important.
-If using Internal, HOB or canisters then two filters are better than one larger filter.
Credits by Blenk11