11-29-2009, 06:58 PM
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Yes, stop wasting your money. You do not need to replace filter media until it literally wears out/falls apart. "Cleaning" by rinsing the media is a different thing, and this should be done as often as you need to for the biological load in the aquarium. The water must freely flow through the media and pads; if it is blocked, the media/pads need rinsing out. The water must not be impeded or find alternate routes around a clogged pad.
Rinse the media and pads and replace them. Some will suggest doing this with tank water, I don't bother because I have plants. You mention plants, so if you have live plants in the tank that are growing, there will be more bacteria on surfaces in the tank (plant leaves, tank walls, substrate, decor) than in the filter anyway. Plus plants consume more ammonia than bacteria can. The filter is only needed to circulate the water and run it through the pads to remove suspended matter, in other words, keeping it clear. The plants will do the major job of cleaning the water.