What is the proper way to change a filter? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 13 Old 08-18-2013, 11:06 PM Thread Starter
What is the proper way to change a filter?

Hi,

It is time for me to change my filter. I am not clear as to the proper way to do it. I have a 10 gallon tank with 2 mollies in it.

Some say there is enough bacteria in the tank and I can change the filter without leaving the old filter in the tank - is that correct?

Or:
Do I take out the old filter and put it in the tank for a few days? I have seen this suggested.
Won't it just put all of the dirt and extra food back in the tank if I do this?

Do I put the new filter in the tank and let it just sit there for a few days?

Do I cut off some of the surface of the filter and put that in the tank for a few days?

How many days should I leave the old filter or its parts in the water?

Thanks!
Juggernaut
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post #2 of 13 Old 08-18-2013, 11:30 PM
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I leave my media (filter) in till it's falling apart. If you were inclined to change it, then cutting away the pad from the plastic (assuming its a cartridge and sticking that in the filter with the new media will transfer the bacteria.

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post #3 of 13 Old 08-18-2013, 11:36 PM
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What part of the filter are you looking to change? Generally (I'm assuming you have a hang-on-back filter, correct me if I'm wrong) there is a coarse foam piece that collects debris, and then another cartridge that contains carbon. The piece with the carbon can be thrown out and replaced, but it's best to hang onto the foam piece as it contains a decent amount of bacteria, and doesn't need to be thrown away. Just rinse it in used tank water (not tap, as it may kill the bacteria) during the weekly water change. They can last for ages, there's really no reason to throw them away, I think companies just say that to get people to buy more ;)
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post #4 of 13 Old 08-19-2013, 07:15 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jentralala View Post
What part of the filter are you looking to change? Generally (I'm assuming you have a hang-on-back filter, correct me if I'm wrong) there is a coarse foam piece that collects debris, and then another cartridge that contains carbon. The piece with the carbon can be thrown out and replaced, but it's best to hang onto the foam piece as it contains a decent amount of bacteria, and doesn't need to be thrown away. Just rinse it in used tank water (not tap, as it may kill the bacteria) during the weekly water change. They can last for ages, there's really no reason to throw them away, I think companies just say that to get people to buy more ;)
Hi.

Yes, I thought the charcoal / carbon cartridge was the main filter.
Are you saying that does not house any of the bacteria and that it is the small foam piece that has the bacteria in it?

I was told to "change the filter" every month - what am I supposed to change every month?

Thanks!
Juggernaut
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post #5 of 13 Old 08-19-2013, 07:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juggernaut122 View Post
Hi.

Yes, I thought the charcoal / carbon cartridge was the main filter.
Are you saying that does not house any of the bacteria and that it is the small foam piece that has the bacteria in it?

I was told to "change the filter" every month - what am I supposed to change every month?

Thanks!
Juggernaut
I'm sure the carbon contains some bacteria (I'd think...) but the majority of surface area, and therefore bacterial growth, will be on the "Small foam piece" or any spongey material in the filter.

The part of the filter they recommend that you change monthly is the actual carbon "rocks" as it gets old and used up.

If you have one of those HOB filters with the carbon built into the sponge I'm not sure what you should do. I'd think a lot of bacteria would be removed if you just replace the whole thing.

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Last edited by Austin; 08-19-2013 at 07:27 AM.
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post #6 of 13 Old 08-19-2013, 09:25 AM
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The carbon just becomes another place for the bacteria to live.

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125 - cichlids (severums, bolivian rams, chocolate), rainbows ( turquoise, red), loaches (angelicus, zebra, kuhli and horseface), plecos (BN, RL and clown), denison barbs, tiretrack eel, pearl gouramis, betta
90 - Congo tetras, african knife, upside down cats, spotted ctenopoma, kribensis, delhezzi bichir
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post #7 of 13 Old 08-19-2013, 10:42 AM
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Carbon will stop working after while. They say you are suppose to change it soo often but I have the same bag of carbon in my aqua clear since I bought it a year ago. In fact I still have all the media and sponge that came with it originally. I don't want new carbon as it filters out a lot of the beneficial stuff from the water that plants need. If you don't have plant it will clean the water well but isn't needed then either and stops working when it gets "full". This can be an expensive cost that the manufacturer wants you send. I simply take all the bags and sponge out and rinse/squeeze them out to clean them and put them back in. If you have a cartridge in your filter you kind of have to do it a lil different as they fall apart sooner.

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post #8 of 13 Old 08-19-2013, 11:37 AM
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I believe if the tank is less than two months old,,I would just leave the cartridge in the filter and maybe rinse it ,or swish it around in old aquarium water each week when you do weekly water change.
After a couple month's ,,there will be enough bacteria on substrate,rock's,wood, glass, inside walls of filter's,filter hoses, that replacing it would pose no problems for the fish.
It is in newer tank's where removing it ,or cleaning it in tapwater can result in loss of good portion of the bacteria we try to protect for it is not yet fully established perhaps.
companies that sell the cartridges want you to replace the cartridges monthly so they can sell more cartridges.
Really can use them till as mentioned,,,they begin to fall apart.
No more carbon than there is in these cartridges,,the carbon is only really effective for maybe three week's hence,,,the recommended replacement.
I used to run HOB filter's and simply went to Walmart, and found some polyester batting in 15X17 inch square,two inches thick,,and cut this to fit the compartment that held the cartridges.
Carbon will clean the water, but if we perform weekly water changes,don't over feed the fish,,then water can be just as clear without the use of carbon.

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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post #9 of 13 Old 08-19-2013, 12:31 PM
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Just don't change the filter.

The people that want you to change it are the people that make money from you changing the filter.

The bacterial portion of the filter... the part that is doing nearly all the work... is hampered or killed when you change the filter. The fibrous padding or packaging will last for several years.

The part that quits working over time and would need to be replaced is the carbon and other chemical additives. However, while these can be beneficial in the early set up in an aquarium, they actually become harmful in the long run... removing things needed for plants or making medications inactive. Thus, that they "run out" is beneficial. There are probably a few people out there that need some kind of chemical filtration, but these are the same people that cannot drink their water.




In your specific situation, two mollies, 10 gallon tank, couple plants. There is really no way to mess that up. Whatever you do will be fine. 50 year ago, the idea of putting a filter on that tank would've been laughed at. The plants and the surface area, along with the occasional water change, are theoretically enough for the tank as is. (NOTE: Do not go ripping the filter out as unneeded. Keep it. Call it a guarantee.)

For completeness,

Larger tanks with heavier stocking usually represent a much larger investment. If you enjoy the ease of HOB filters still, then most of us have two such filters. The idea is, if a filter does need a change for some reason, the second filter can "carry the load" while the first filter reestablishes.

Or, that is the theory. The reality is, we still don't change the filter except when jump starting a new tank.

When setting up our next tank, we can skip all the "cycling" time period, set up a tank, fill in water and fish, and drop a ready to go filter from the first tank to the second.



Larger and more complex setups, as well as those with more expensive fish, run external canister filter or sumps.
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post #10 of 13 Old 08-20-2013, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by 1077 View Post
I believe if the tank is less than two months old,,I would just leave the cartridge in the filter and maybe rinse it ,or swish it around in old aquarium water each week when you do weekly water change.
After a couple month's ,,there will be enough bacteria on substrate,rock's,wood, glass, inside walls of filter's,filter hoses, that replacing it would pose no problems for the fish.
It is in newer tank's where removing it ,or cleaning it in tapwater can result in loss of good portion of the bacteria we try to protect for it is not yet fully established perhaps.
companies that sell the cartridges want you to replace the cartridges monthly so they can sell more cartridges.
Really can use them till as mentioned,,,they begin to fall apart.
No more carbon than there is in these cartridges,,the carbon is only really effective for maybe three week's hence,,,the recommended replacement.
1077 NAILED IT! If your tank has been established for several months you can just pitch it and put a new one in or make a DIY filter as also mentioned.

Also, most aquarist suggest rinse everything in old aquarium water to keep the good bacteria. This isn't necessary as what 1077 above is true.
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