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How to Save Money on Aquarium Filter Media Replacements

Updated on December 6, 2017

With the cost of electricity, lightbulbs, replacement equipment and livestock aquariums can start to be quite an expensive hobby--but there is at least one area were most people can easily cut costs and that is the media or cartridge you use in your filter.


Manufacturer's Recommendations

I always advise people to read manufacturer's recommendation when it comes to operating a filter, but they shroud also bear a few things in mind.

Firstly, if you have a relatively bare tank, without substrate or plants, the material inside your filter is the main host for beneficial bacteria, and you should avoid ever fully removing it.

If bacteria is able to thrive in other parts of your tank it will not matter if you remove and replace your filter cartridges. However you may not need to do it as often as the manufacturer suggests. For many filters, just as with computer printers, the device is quite inexpensive but the replacement cartridges are from $1 to up to $15 each.

Instead of replacing it at regular intervals, wait until the buildup of detritus is preventing the free flow of movement.


Using Generic Filter Media

While manufacturer's go to some effort to make their replacement filter cartridges special shapes and configurations, almost all filters will operate just as well, of better, using a generic filter media.

Six square feet of high quality filter material typically costs around $10. Even if you filter cartridge is quite large, say 6 inches square, this reduces your cost to about 40c each. This material is strong enough to be cut into different shapes and hold together. And for wider areas you can layer it of tease the floss apart to take up more space.


Selecting a Generic Filter Media

You should select a media with a coarse side to trap large particles (this is usually white in color), and some finer material (which may be blue, green or pink). The finer material should be closely woven enough to trap algae.

Cut the material to size and place so the water enters on the white side and exits through the colored side. If it will not stay in place cut the filter material off a branded cartridge, let it completely dry, and attach the generic material with superglue. (Superglue is inert and will do not do any damage to your plants or aquatic livestock).

Filter material is often advertised as having a thickness of one inch but is often somewhat flatter with compression. You may find you can use two layers, removing the dirtier layer at intake and replacing the outer one to keep your bacterial population healthy.

I have used a number of brands but currently favor this Aquaflow material. It is easy to cut and tear, allow water to flow through easily, but it fie enough to remove green algae and other fine particulates to keep the water crystal clear.


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