What is the difference between types of filter media?

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loachaholic

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I have a Penguin system so I just use pre-made cartridges, but my mom has an aquaclear and whenever we go the the store she always asks me what the difference is between all the different stuff. I know carbon removes medicines, and pretty much everything in a filter does some bio and mechanical filtration, but is there some 'special' thing the long white cylinders do, or the BioBalls, or any of the rest?
 

Flufeeh

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loachaholic said:
I have a Penguin system so I just use pre-made cartridges, but my mom has an aquaclear and whenever we go the the store she always asks me what the difference is between all the different stuff. I know carbon removes medicines, and pretty much everything in a filter does some bio and mechanical filtration, but is there some 'special' thing the long white cylinders do, or the BioBalls, or any of the rest?
The BioBalls provide extra surface area for the beneficial bacteria to live on. They are not free floating, so all that extra surface they can go onto is good for the tank. Not sure of the white cylinders, probably the same thing. And the activated charcoal is extremely porous so it absorbs lots of unwanted stuff such as coloring or impurities, not just medicines.
 

JRDroid

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the white cylinders are ceramic "noodles". They are very porous and are a similar idea to the bio balls. The difference is that the human eye can see the surface area on the bioballs while in the ceramic is micro-porous, so you can't see all the surface area.
 
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ryanr

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HI Loachaholic,
So the basics of filtration (in a nutshell):

Mechanical - removes free floating particles from your water
Biological - removes the poisonous nitrogenous waste from water (Ammonia, nitrites) and converts to Nitrates
Chemical - removes impurities from the water, and to some extent, polish the water. There are products to remove discolouration, odors, nitrates, phosphates and others

The various filter manufacturers utilise different media types to achieve each stage of filtration.

Mechanical Media - often includes coarse sponges, filter floss/wool (particularly good for water polishing too), the ceramic white cylinders (pre-filters) you mention.

Biological Media - Beneficial bacteria will grow on any surface in the aquarium, and generally speaking, the more porous the media, the easier it is for a bacteria colony to grow and replicate. Some media types used today are Bio-balls, Bio-Wheels, Ceramic rings. Bio-Max from Fluval is a highly porous cyclinder. Substrat (Pro) from EheI'm are small, highly porous balls. Other manufacturers use smaller ceramic porous elements for this. And some hobbyists also use terracotta pots
Note: Many sponges used in mechanical filtration will also serve a double purpose, whereby bacteria will grow on the sponge as well as the dedicated media.

Chemical - the most common chemical media is carbon, it has a short life (usually around 4 weeks) and absorbs impurities from the water such as tannins (leached from driftwood), medicines and odours. Also available are products that absorb phosphate, nitrates etc.

Is one type of media better than another? Yes and no. In sufficient quantities, all media will do a good job.

I hope that helps.
 
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