Filtration design is the most important thing to get right when it comes to keeping fish.

Water quality comes first and everything else follows. Try your best to setup a habitat for beneficial bacteria and you will succeed with fish. This habitat is known as the biological filter.

Biological Filtration is the process where Ammonia, fish waste, is broken down into Nitrite and then Nitrate. This process is done by beneficial bacteria that live in your aquarium. If we create an excellent habitat for beneficial bacteria, they will pay it forward and provide the most stable environment for your fish. 

As an added bonus the waste product of the beneficial bacteria is a food source for your plants. It is these beneficial bacteria that will be the success behind your fishkeeping.

If you can imagine walking through a stream in the bush. Every step churns up currents of brown mulm. This mulm is where beneficial bacteria are most concentrated. You should not be disgusted by it. Honestly, it`s the kidneys of the freshwater system. When you design your filter make sure there is a home for the mulm to collect.

Beneficial bacteria cover every surface in your aquarium. The more bacteria you have the more stable the biological environment for your fish. By designing a convenient place for the mulm and beneficial bacteria to collect you have a clean looking aquarium that is very biologically stable. Win win really.

Mechanical Filtration is the removal of particles to provide crystal clear water. This is the most important factor for people. We all want an aquarium in our home that looks pristine. We use a product called Poret filter foam to remove the debris from our water and provide a habitat for beneficial bacteria to colonise. It comes in different densities and when we design a sump or canister filter setup we always stage the densities. We go from the coarse to the fine. This means all debris gets removed by the appropriate density extending cleaning periods and give you a great looking tank.

Taming the mulm. Now we have to make sure that the mulm is contained in the area we have designed for it. In small aquariums the filters output is enough to guide the mulm into the filter. In larger aquariums we have to create extra currents to keep any mulm in the water column so our filters can action it.We use small low wattage wavepumps to prevent dead spots and the accumulation of debris.

These wavepumps are on timers, coming on intermittently during the day. The bigger the aquarium the more important it is to have strong directional currents. Two benefits #1 is fewer deadspots and #2 your fish are exercised during the day. Fit fish are healthy fish. Very important considering sometimes our fish get a MacDonalds diet.

In a perfect world where money was no option we would always opt for a sump filter. A sump filter is normally a tank that sits underneath the main tank. This sump tank is connected to the main aquarium with piping and a return pump. The sump tank houses all the filter material, heater and return pump. It`s great as it increases the overall volume of water and gives the beneficial bacteria (mulm) a perfect habitat. A very good option especially if it`s going to be a large aquarium 500liters<.

Unfortunately cost is always a real issue. That`s why our favorite filter design is the Hamburg Matten filter. Its a cost effective option that offers unsurpassed biological stability. All you have to do is cycle the tank water though a sheet of Poret foam.The reason it`s so good is that it rarely needs cleaning. Heavily stocked African cichlid aquariums will need cleaning every nine months or so. Smaller aquariums can go years without needing to be cleaned.The fact is every time you clean your filter you damage the beneficial bacterial population. This is the drawback of most conventional filters. They need to be cleaned to remain effective.

Don't stress if you have a conventional filter. Many of our customers have improved their filter design by adding a sheet of Poret foam. You could easily drive an HMF with a canister filter. This extends cleaning periods and improves the biological stability. You now have filter redundancy. This graph below shows why the HMF grows a larger and more varied population of bacteria.

Getting the flow right. When we think of flow rates its important to consider contact time. If the water flows over the beneficial bacteria too quickly, the bacteria don't have enough time to convert the toxins. When using an HMF we aim for a cycle rate* of  2.5 times and hour. This means the entire water volume of the tank passes through the filter 2.5 times an hour. This contact time allows the bacteria to do their job. 

Working out flow or cycle rate of your filter.

No matter what type of filter you have its a good idea to regularly check the flow rate. Simply time how long the output of your filter takes to fill a liter jug. Lets say it takes 5 seconds for the jug to fill up. Dividing 60 seconds by five tells you our flow rate is 12 liters per minute. We multiply that by 60 minutes to find out how many liters are flowing through our filter in an hour. 12 x 60 =720 liters per hour.

This aquarium has been running since March 2013. It is the most biologically stable aquarium I have ever maintained. Its the reason we always suggest the Hamburg Matten Filter design. This aquarium has had many different species in it, now with a large colony of tetras, angels and whiptails. The combination of a super mature filter and the aquaponics have coupled to form a holistic ecosystem where water changes are optional to replace trace elements and remove hormones

Without a doubt the reason behind our success with keeping fish is Poret filter foam. Poret provides the best habitat for our beneficial bacteria.

All of these aquariums are filtered with HMF`s The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We love seeing healthy aquariums and Poret filter foam keeps them healthy.

Any aquarium owner can use Poret filter foam. Its like duct tape for fishkeepers.

Find out more about how Poret filter foam can make your fishkeeping easier.