When should I change the filters in my tanks? Should I do it before a water change? The same time as the water change is performed? Or sometime AFTER the water change?
Ok, what filter and what part are you talking about changing? Details details details please :-)
You don't want to change filter pads unless they are ready to fall apart. You just want to swish them in some old tank water to rinse off the debris.
But knowing what type of filter you have would be helpful and whether they are pads at all or sponges etc...
if you really do need to replace pads or sponges, you'd want to put a new pad in with the old and run the filter that way for a week or so. Then you can remove the old pad.
Again, it depends on the type of filter you're working with.
I think what you may be asking is at what point in the weekly water change should you service the filter...yes?
As the others are quick to point out, you only rarely change the media. For a cartridge, you just rinse and reuse until it nearly falls apart.
But just as importantly, you often don't have to touch the filter every week. I'm using a couple of Aquaclear 70's and they typically run for over a month without servicing. The need for service is relative to the number, size and messiness of the fish you have. In theory, some tanks could go for months before a filter really needs to be serviced.
In any event, whether service the filter before, during or after the water change, it really doesn't matter. If you keep the filter running while you stir things up, then you would wait. If, however, you turn them off, you could do it at any point with no timing advantage.
I clean my filter pads at each water change and you would be amazed at the amount of gunk and how black the rinse water is after I swish them in the bucket. This certainly adds to the nitrate level so I think it's important to keep them fairly clean. I will add that I have 2 filters running on each of my large tanks and I alternate cleanings each week, so one week one of the filters will get serviced and the next week the other filter will. Also I don't touch the bio-wheels on the tanks that have them running on them.
So, yes, if you could tell us what type of filter, what size tank and your fish stock that may help. But you'll probably get a different answer from everybody.
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