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+1 you can rinse and re-use filter cartridges until they all but fall apart.

Some folks think that the beneficial bacteria only (or mostly) lives in the filter. Although the filter is a great place, once a tank is established, there is a lot of BB elsewhere in the tank, especially in the substrate. This makes any BB in the filter much less significant, so in time, you could even rinse that cartridge in tap water and/or replace it with no negative results....'believe it or not'. :)
 

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Getting back to cartridge and filter cleaning, here's the thing... the cartridge traps larger detritus as it should...but if the material stays there the water erosion and rot and decay will convert it into dissolved organic solids (DOCs) that will pass on through and pollute the water. DOCs can cause a slight yellow or tan tinge to the water and can encourage heterotrophic bacteria that can make the water slightly cloudy. This condition is often the root cause of fungus and fin rot problems.

If it's a newly setup aquarium, you might want to leave the filter cartridge untouched for as long as it takes to cycle the tank, being careful NOT TO OVER FEED. After that, or otherwise, the cartridge should be rinsed (Tank or conditioned water) as often as necessary, maybe even twice a week to remove the detritus and prevent it from dissolving. Once a tank is established (6 months) you can rinse the cartridge in tap water or replace without concerns.

As to cleaning the filter itself, it shouldn't need it anymore than say a few times a year, once a month if you really feel the need.

Thanks for reading. :)
-AD

Edit:
Tip: Increased cartridge filter filtration - stuff polyester fiber in the space behind the cartridge.
 
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