MORE ON FILTRATION:
There are many methods that can be used to achieve your ultimate goal of a beautiful reef aquarium. One aspect of aquarium care that is often intensely debated among reef keepers, and can be confusing to new hobbyists, is filtration.
Most filtration methods are based on biological processes. Waste and left over food in your tank are utilized by bacteria that breakdown the material into various components. Bacteria are present in vast numbers when we add live rock and live sand to the tank and this serves as the basis for the system's filtration.
CHOOSING AQUARIUM FILTRATION METHODS
Filtration removes these unwanted compounds from the tank's water--making the environment more suitable for keeping corals, fish, invertebrates, and any other life forms that you may be planning to add to your aquarium.
All aquariums require biological, mechanical and chemical filtration. Each of these types of filtration require different methods for reef tanks, saltwater fish only tanks and freshwater tanks. Below is a general guide to help you decide which products you need for your aquarium.
Bacteria at the Core of Most Filtration Methods
Bacteria will breakdown the waste and attack leftover food and can eventually convert the toxic wastes into less toxic byproducts. Initially ammonia is produced and bacteria will convert this toxic waste material into nitrite, also quite toxic to most marine animals. Bacteria will convert this toxic nitrite into less toxic nitrate. The bacteria that have converted the ammonia into nitrate do so in an environment with oxygen, they are aerobic bacteria. In an environment without oxygen anaerobic bacteria will breakdown the nitrate into nitrogen gas that can safely be emitted from the system.
This basic process is called the nitrogen cycle and is what occurs in our aquariums. Other biological processes are ongoing too and create a complex web of constant changes in your tank's environment that all impact water quality and filtration.
ABOUT BIOLOGICAL FILTRATION:
Biological filtration deals with the removal of nitrogen breakdown by-products from the water. These nitrogen compounds appear in the tank as a result of the animals added to the tank; the food that is added to the tank, the algae that die off, and the respiration and metabolism of the fish and invertebrates. Even though the water quality is usually excellent when an aquarium is first started up, as soon as animals are added the water quality starts deteriorating quickly. Biological filtration counteracts these negative effects and removes whatever noxious compounds may have been added to the water as a result of populating the tank, feeding the animals, biochemical activity taking place, etc.
Biological filtration has four goals:
1. removal of nitrogen breakdown products, such as ammonia and ammonium
2. conversion of ammonia to nitrite
3. conversion of nitrite to nitrate
4. removal of some of the nitrate from the system
Bacteria is used to eliminate ammonia and nitrite. Ammonia present in the water is broken down to nitrite by a form of bacteria called Nitrosomonas. These bacteria appear spontaneously, or their proliferation can be sped up by the addition of a batch of seeded gravel or rock from another tank. Seeded gravel is gravel, or rock, that comes from an aquarium that has been running for a while, and already has a great deal of bacterial life. Transferring some of the gravel (rock, coral pieces) also transfers bacteria. Ammonia tests should always show zero mg/l, or ppm. Even small amounts are unacceptable in reef systems, as they will definitely harm fish and invertebrates alike.
Nitrite must also be removed. Nitrobacter species appears spontaneously in tanks and convert the nitrite to nitrate, a compound that is less damaging. Should tests of the aquarium water show the presence of merely low amounts of nitrite, such still is an indication that somewhere in the aquarium, or in the filters, the natural breakdown cycle has been, or is being, interfered with. The hobbyist should immediately determine where this interference is coming from and remedy the situation. This may entail cleaning all mechanical filters, ensuring that the gravel or substrate is clean and does not harbor trapped detritus and other organic matter, removing dead or dying algae, checking the cleanliness of corner overflow boxes and/or surface skimming siphons, etc. The presence of nitrite may also suggest that you are feeding too much or the tank is overloaded to such a degree that the filters can no longer deal efficiently with that biological load. This should prompt the the removal of lifeforms, or the increase of the filter capacity by adding additional biological filtration.
Nitrates are another problem altogether. Traditionally nitrate has been regarded as a compound that is not harmful. Such may be the case in fish-only tanks, but it is not so in today's living reef aquariums. Nitrate is definitely a pollutant, and it does affect the well being and appearance of corals and other invertebrates. Levels as high as 8 ppm of Nitrite result in both Catalaphylia jardinei and Discosoma species corals not opening as much as they do at lower levels, respectively not lifting themselves as far off the rocks to which they are attached, and not stretching out as much as usual.
The ultimate goal of any filtration method is to create a cleaner environment for your tank's inhabitants, use of bacteria is usually at the core of this.
Aerobic bacteria are always present in our aquariums and these are certainly needed for waste processing, however we wish to keep the levels of aerobic bacteria somewhat in check. Too much aerobic degradation of waste leads to excessive nitrate levels and without some means of reducing these nitrates we will only serve to fuel algae that utilize this nitrogen source for food. Reduction of nitrates is accomplished through water changes to dilute or via the utilization of anaerobic bacteria that utilize the nitrates and convert it to nitrogen gas.
One of the oldest methods of purifying your tank's water is simply exchanging it with new water. This is the process of literally removing water from your tank and exchanging it with new water. A water change dilutes pollutants in the remaining tank water and also replenishes depleted chemicals and other substances need for your tank's inhabitants. Theoretically you could keep a tank superbly clean by constantly changing some water. However, this can become costly and actually disturb the tank's inhabitants if you were not careful to put back water at the exact same temperature, salinity, pH, and other parameters. Remember that we are trying to reproduce conditions in our reef aquarium as they are on the natural reef, which tend to be relatively constant. Continual water changes are not practical in the long run for most hobbyists as the sole method of purifying their tank's water. Small periodic water changes are beneficial and should be perform approximately at the rate of 10%-25% per month regardless of the filtration method employed. Smaller weekly or biweekly water changes will help to replenish trace elements in the water, they will not do much to dilute pollutants. When doing a water change you may want to consider the Python Gravel Vac
Types of Filters
Hang-on the tank power filters are often used on aquariums for filtration, but are not generally recommended as the primary filtration method for a reef aquarium. A small power filter may be used to hold activated carbon that is used to remove the toxins and yellow color that builds up over time in the water. The carbon should only be a high grade reef aquarium carbon and should be removed and rinsed weekly and replaced monthly. The use of activated carbon is beneficial in the removal of dissolved organic material and should be used constantly or at least for a day or two each week. Other materials sometimes used in power filters are resins that remove phosphates or nitrates from the water. These are OK to use on a spot basis for problems, but should not be relied upon as long term solutions for phosphate or nitrate problems. The use of purified freshwater will often eliminate these issues, as well as careful feeding and watching stocking densities. Any material used in a power filter should be rinsed weekly to help lower the number of aerobic bacteria to reduce nitrate production, these materials are used for adsorption of certain compounds and are not to be used for biological filtration.
Canister Filters .With a canister aquarium filter water is pumped at moderate pressure through a filter material, such as a micron filter cartridge. Canister filters are especially useful in aquaria with large or numerous messy eaters that generate a lot of waste. For these filters to be effective they must be frequently cleaned to avoid the decomposition of waste in the water stream. Clean the filter(s) at least once a week. (As noted above, you should not use a canister filter for a reef tank unless you plan on cleaning the filter daily). More often is even better. Cleaning the canister, cum mechanical filters, involves removing all the material that you placed inside, except biological filtration material, and rinsing it thoroughly in fresh water before placing it back in the canister. These filters usually sit on the floor below the tank, but they can also hang on the tank.
In order to make the cleaning process as easy as possible, it is suggested that you use quick disconnect shut-off valves on either side of the canister filter. This will allow you to take the canister filter out of service without having to worry about water spillage, except for the very little water that is between the canister and the quick disconnect valves.
Some filters use some form of pleated bag, or pleated device, to increase the amount of surface area through which the water can flow and be filtered. The more surface area, the better the filtration, of course. Cleaning is a little more involved, as these bags usually need to be bleached to remove the accumulated detritus. This takes more time and requires that you make sure all the bleach is removed, before putting the bags, or other material, back in the canisters. It is, actually, a good idea to have an extra bag or pleated cartridge around. Because of the way they need to be cleaned, the pleated bags or cartridges will wear out.
Some units come with pressure gauges. This allows you to determine when it is necessary to clean the cartridge (pleated bag or other device) based on what the manufacturer suggests. Increased levels of pressure inside the canister are an indication that it is plugged, and needs cleaning.
Salt water Fish only tanks 50 gallons and above the best method is to use Canister Filter Ocean Clear or Fluva l along with a skimmer (sump or hang-on) Systems under 50 gallons can use power filters or hang on skimmers. We at www.oceanreeflections.com carry canister filter we carry the Ocean Clear and the Fluval Filters
Another method of water purification that became popular at that time and is still used today is UV light purification. The basic theory is that water is passed through a glass tube that is surrounded by UV lamps that destroy organic matter. www.oceanreeflections.com carries a large selection of UV Sterilizers
Ozone is another method of water purification that in fact does a good job even with small units available to marine aquarium hobbyists. The theory here is that the ozone is injected into the water, usually via a protein skimmer air intake, and oxidizes waste and organic matter in the water. Ozone produces very clean and clear water and removes the yellowness. Usually it is best to incorporate the use of ozone with an OR controller. ORP is short for oxidation reduction potential and is a good indicator of water purity. The controller is set for a certain level and then it turns the ozone generator on and off as needed to reach that set point. Small ozone generators are inexpensive and do a good job on many sized tanks. Coral systems need pristine conditions and ozone is an excellent addition to other filtration methods for these systems. You can find the Red Sea Ozoners here at www.oceanreeflections.com
Protein Skimming, also know as Foam Fractionation, is a very important method of water filtration. Basically it works like this, large volumes of water are pumped into an acrylic cylinder along with equal amounts of air and as the air and saltwater mix foam is produced. Proteins such as wastes rise to the top of this foam and are then removed from the system. The greatest benefit of skimming is that you remove the waste from the system before bacteria degradation takes place thus preventing excessive nitrate production.
Over the years skimmers have become complex and in many instances quite expensive. Cheaper skimmers can be a waste of money because they just don't work well but you do not have to buy the most expensive models to get a good quality skimmer. Generally we have had good luck with the traditional downdraft style skimmers. Many of the newer recirculation needle wheel skimmers are excellent too. Our best advice would be to ask some other hobbyists in your area about the brand of skimmer they have and their opinions on how well it works for them.
Regardless of the exact brand you choose, a good quality skimmer is a very valuable piece of equipment and should be chosen wisely. It is the single most important piece of equipment that will produce the best results in keeping your aquarium clean.
To maximize the power of your skimmer keep it clean, Once a month it should be dismantled and cleaned thoroughly. When shopping for a skimmer be aware of the ease of cleaning for each model, some models are very difficult to access for cleaning and should be avoided. A dirty skimmer will not work at peak efficiency and can result in deteriorated water quality in your aquarium. You can find a good variety of skimmers at www.oceanreeflections.com
What Is Aquarium Protein Skimming?
Of the many possible methods for reducing levels of organic matter in aquarium water, one of the simpler and more convenient is foam fractionation, or protein skimming. Protein skimming is a filtration method used to remove dissolved organic compounds before they break down into toxic ammonia and nitrite compounds. In a process analogous to the production of sea foam in surf, injection of air bubbles into the aquarium water creates a meringuelike foam when organic molecules collect at the air-water interfaces of the bubbles. This foam is captured in the collection cup and disposed of.
Foam fractionation is an important part of the successful maintenance of a marine aquarium. It is the only method available that physically removes organic pollutants from the water. All other techniques simply sequester pollution within filter media, which are then removed and replenished with fresh media. Meanwhile, pollutant molecules may be constantly exchanged between the media and the aquarium water, reducing the overall effectiveness of the filtration system. For marine aquariums, foam fractionation is a practical and simple way to control this organic pollution.
Wavemakers None of the above-listed methods will remove solid wastes from the nooks and crannies of your aquarium. One of the easiest methods for cleaning these areas is to ``vacuum'' the gravel, etc., as part of your regular water change routine. (Note that those marine aquariums which use ("live substrates'' are an exception.) Some people install circulation pumps, known as wavemakers , to improve the chance of catching solid wastes in the mechanical filter. Wave Makers
Filtration in a reef tank is best done by live rock (biological filtration), activated carbon (put into the sump or in tank behind rock), and with a protein skimmer and UV sterilizer Using Aquarium Systems Power Filters for smaller tanks are other methods of providing filtration. These methods should also be used in conjunction with a protein skimmer and a UV sterilizer . Do not use a wet/dry filter, a canister filter or any other type of aquarium filter for a reef tank.
Please remember that there are many many ways to reach the same end goal of a healthy and beautiful reef aquarium. There is no one correct way or wrong way and many customers have combined different methods and to reach the goals that they desire. For a beginner an attractive mixed coral reef aquarium with a reasonable number of fish and invertebrates, the combination of live rock and a live sand bed with a good quality protein skimmer and periodic water changes is most of the time the best overall option of filtration.
We at www.oceanreeflections carry a large selection of skimmers for many aquarium applications, you will find many of the skimmers we carry below, if you have any questions we would be more then happy to help, we can be reached at email@example.com