Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining your Tank Filter

Every aquarium needs a high-quality tank filter, as it is arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment in your tank. Based on what kind of filter you have, it is responsible for filtering out solid and dissolved waste and cultivating beneficial bacteria to aid and maintain the nitrogen cycle. Not having a water filter could be catastrophic for your fish, but similarly, not taking proper care of your filter can lead to more problems with water chemistry. This is why you must make sure to regularly clean and maintain your tank, and to help you, we have put together our best tips and advice for the job!

How Often Should I Clean my Tank Filter?

As a fishkeeper, you probably already have a system in place when it comes to cleaning your aquarium. This may include small weekly water changes, larger monthly water changes, and replacing your filter media. But are you cleaning your tank filter? For healthy fish and a clean tank that is running properly, you need to include your tank filter in your regular maintenance and cleaning routine.

However, when it comes to how often you should clean your tank filter, you need to make sure that you’re not doing so too thoroughly or often. This may sound confusing, but once you have the suitable balance for your type of tank filter, then keeping it cleaned regularly is easy!

How Often Should You Clean a Hang On Filter?

Hang on filters are one of the most commonly used types of aquarium filters, and if you have one, you should aim to clean it every few weeks or at least once a month. We recommend planning to clean your filter when it coincides with replacing your filter media so that you can achieve a thorough and effective cleaning that won’t slip your mind to upkeep!

How Often Should You Clean a Sponge Filter?

With sponge filters, water is drawn through the sponge to achieve mechanical and biological filtration. To ensure this process is effective, you should be cleaning your sponge every two weeks to maintain efficient filtration.

How Often Should You Clean a Canister Filter?

Because canister filters are enclosed filters, they can actually go the longest between cleanings than any other filter type. This makes it a perfect option for those who struggle to set aside the time for a deep and thorough tank cleaning and maintenance routine. Canister filters only require cleaning around every 4-6 weeks.

How Often Should You Clean an Undergravel Filter?

When it comes to cleaning an undergravel filter it is advised to clean the overlying substrate regularly. We would recommend performing this maintenance using a suitably sized gravel vacuum every two weeks for basic maintenance.

How Often Should You Clean an In-Tank Filter?

In-tank filters are very similar to hang-on filters and need to be cleaned a minimum of once a month. However, you should aim to clean it every couple of weeks.

Cleaning your Aquarium Filter

Now you know when to clean your tank filter, you may be wondering how to do so properly. Cleaning your filter means getting rid of any debris or rotting organic matter that may have built up, but also doing so in a way that doesn’t remove too much of the beneficial bacteria. As a general rule, you should avoid using tap water, and never use any soap or bleach. For more detailed cleaning advice for different types of filters, keep reading our breakdown below.

Canister Filters

Step 1: Unplug the filter and remove any other equipment that may be attached, such as an inline heater. Try and unplug the heater several minutes before the filter so that it has a chance to cool down. 

Step 2: Fill a bucket with water from the tank and then empty the filter media into this for cleaning; we need to keep the media wet so that it doesn’t dry out and kill the beneficial bacteria. 

Step 3: Use a soft brush to scrub the impeller and hoses, as well as any other small parts. 

Step 4: Once it is completely clean, reassemble the canister and fill it with tank water before hooking it up and turning it back on.

Sponge Filters

When it comes to cleaning sponge filters, the process varies slightly depending on what kind of sponge filter you have. With a powerhead or pump sponge filter, you will need to disconnect it and clean the impeller using a soft brush. You should also make sure to rinse out the service lines to remove build-ups of debris. Next, check that the air filter (if your sponge filter has one) has not become discoloured or cracked; if it has, you need to replace it.

To clean the sponge itself, simply rinse it in a bucket of tank water to remove any solid debris. But make sure to never let the sponge totally dry out.

Hang-On Filters

The process for cleaning hang-on filters is generally similar to the processes for canister and sponge filters. Disassemble the filter and scrub the impeller, intake tubes and other small parts using a soft brush. For bio-wheels or biological filtration components that may be present in your hang-on filter, float the part in the tank to keep it from drying out during cleaning.

In-Tank Filters

In-tank filters are generally easy and simple to clean. Remove the filter from the tank and clean the sponges in a bucket of aquarium water. Make sure to replace the chemical filter media every 3-4 weeks, and give the filter housing a quick rinse at the same interval. Make sure to clean any build-ups of algae or debris that may have accumulated in the impeller housing, to ensure optimal performance.

Undergravel Filter

Coordinate cleaning your undergravel filter with your routine water changes, as vacuuming the gravel laying on the filter is the most effective way of cleaning it. During the water change, vacuum the gravel to remove any debris and then refill the tank with freshwater, using a suitable dechlorinator.

Finally, take care with your cleaning routines, if you have more than one filtration system. Alternate your cleaning routines so that you do not clean both filters in the same week, and once you have found a routine that works for you, try to stick to it closely!

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