If you’re a seasoned (experienced) aquarist, you can stop reading. This post won’t provide anything new or interesting. However, if you’re new to the hobby, read on.
You just bought a new filter and you’re in the process of hooking it up. Before you get it all put together and fill it with water – STOP! I’m going to save you some money and maybe even some fish.
Many new filters, especially HOB (hang on back) filters, come with carbon included. You don’t need it. Furthermore, if your HOB filter comes with a “cartridge,” you don’t need that either. Many manufacturers include all three media types (mechanical, biological, and chemical) with their filters because they want you to purchase replacements from them. That can get expensive and you can purchase media just as effective for way less than the manufacturer’s media. In fact, you can mix and match brands how you want. Got a Fluval filter? You don’t have to use Fluval media. Got a Eheim filter? You don’t have to use Eheim media.
The good news is that YOU can decide what filter media to use in your own filter. There are lots of options available for all three media types.
How do you know what brand or type to buy? Great question. There is no simple answer. The media you use depends on what you want to achieve in your tank. If you don’t know much about aquarium filtration and don’t really want to know, then go ahead and use what came with the filter. However, also know that you can customize your filtration. See my post on media here for more information about that?
What do I use? That depends on the tank and what it contains. If I have a sand substrate, I will use different media than a bare bottomed tank. If I have a planted tank, I will use different media than an unplanted tank. If I have a tank with one or more breeding pairs of species, my filters will be set up differently.