Play Video

Aquarium Filtration Media I Have Used For 15 Years

By King of DIY on

Joey: I need to get this fixed. Yes, there, good as new. For those that don't know, this is actually Styrofoam and paint. It's not real bricks. I have a video on how I did this. Anyways, I was tidying around and doing some cleaning when one of the things I started doing reminded me of something that I want to talk about, but first, let's feed the fish. Let's feed the big guy first. Where did you go? It's difficult not to see you. Run over, come on, over here, I got you some num nums. Eat your food and stop staring at me. Thank you.

You want some more? Fine, have it. Okay, for those that are not following along, the Aquarium Gallery is going through some renovations. We no longer have the racking system, they've become too cumbersome, too difficult to maintain, too difficult to scape. I couldn't arms in, et cetera. I've got about almost 30 videos on this renovation now, so watch back. Anyway, so far, we've got all the tanks off of the racking systems and most of the lighting set up. We have six of 10 of the aquariums with water in them. Most importantly to point out is that none of these aquariums are scaped or properly stocked right now.

They are all acting like bare holding tanks until we can progress and get things moving. Anyway, topic of the video. For those that have been following me for some time, you'll remember me saying things like this, "More on that in a later video," or, "Maybe we'll do some videos on that in the future," or, "More on that later," something along those-- I also say, "Something along those lines," apparently all of the time now. Anyways, one of the things that I've been wanting to do is a series on filtration. I don't want to just go video back to back to back on filtration, but I do want to get them in where we can.

I want to talk about all the different methods of filtration, how to size them properly for your aquariums, which method and which type of filtration is best for a size of aquarium or size of the fish, and, of course, the filtration media. Filtration media or at least a portion of that is what we're going to talk about today. Now when it does come to aquarium filtration media, media is the stuff we put in our filters. I'm going to try to dumb this down as much as possible because not everybody watching knows every term that we use in the hobby. There's three main types of media we use and we stagger them in the following.

Typically we go pre-filter or mechanical filtration and that is filter flow sponge. It could be a number of different types of matting that we use in the first stage of filtration to remove particles, fish waste, debris, uneaten food. All of the stuff we see in the tank, it removes it from it within the filter. The second type of media we typically talk about is biological media. This is ceramic rocks, bio-balls, fluidized media, sand, et cetera. All the different types of biological media that we use to house the nitrogen cycle.

The nitrogen cycle, of course, is responsible for when your fish create ammonia, bacteria like Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter are responsible for oxidizing it down into nitrite and then, of course, down into nitrate, which we remove with water changes, plants and sometimes even chemicals. Chemicals is the third type of filtration media. It's weird that we call it chemical because activated carbon is within the chemical media category yet it's a hard substance. It's literary sometimes pebbles, granules or dust to an extent. It's not necessarily a chemical, but what it does is removes tannins, medication.

It can remove discoloration from the water column, and, of course, it can remove smells, but it's not something we use all the time. Usually, if you have one of those problems, we use it otherwise, it's a waste of money. That's a topic for another video. Of course, there is many other types of chemical media, but today we're talking about one type of mechanical filtration that I've been using I would say for 15 years. I started using it before forums were a thing and I discovered other people were using it. Do you ever go to Walmart and you get those filter sleeves, it's like a polyester filling type thing. It's usually blue and then it's got carbon in the middle and that's your insert.

Those were my first types of filters outside of internal box and sponge filters, but I was always doing things myself and creating things myself. When I discovered I wasn't the only one doing this, I was elated. One of the most popular aquarium filtration media, do it yourself type of things is cotton padding or quilt padding. Basically, it's just a big old sheet of stuff you find in your comforters and blankets, and sometimes pillows, and other types of things. Today I want to talk about how I use it, how you should use it, and how you should actually shop for it. That's probably what we should start with first. I don't care what brand you get, I got this from Walmart.

I paid 10 bucks for it. Just quilt padding them. Two things I look for, one, I look for that's 100% polyester filling. If it doesn't say that on there, the second thing I look for is that it does not say 'mildew resistant' or something along those lines. Meaning that there's something else added to this that can leach into your aquariums and kill your fish or harm them in some way, so I do make sure there's no other additives and that's essentially it. I buy the biggest, baddest bag I can find and unfortunately, this is it, but for 10 bucks, if you're just a home aquarium with, say, like a hundred-gallon tank, this should last you, I don't know, six months.

This is really cool because one of the filtration systems I haven't completely set up yet. I just need to add in some mechanical filtration. No big deal, but here's an example of with the cotton padding versus none of it or the quilt padding, whatever you're going to call it. The tank on the right does not have it, the tank on the left does. If we zoom in a little closer here, what's the thing we notice? This tank is crystal clear, this tank has a haze or a fog to it. That doesn't mean it's uncycled, it means that if we look closely, there's a ton of debris, and, of course, we can argue that I just fed this tank, but I didn't feed them whatever is floating around in there.

All of the debris that's in this tank goes down into this cotton padding and gets trapped there, whereas in this one, it goes through the entire filtration system. I don't have to clean this out, that's not that big of a deal. That's actually one of the things that inspired me to make this video and that was seeing this side by side comparison because I'm adding in some mechanical filtration this evening. The other thing is all of these need to be changed and I figured why not bring this video up now? I know many of you guys are going to say, "Joey, you have huge sums. I got a little canister filter or I got a little hang on the back filter, what am I going to do with this?"

The simple question is whatever you want, you want to put it in your canister filter? Go ahead, we cut it into our little squares, I cut this up in bulk. That means that whatever I needed, it's always available, I don't have to go finding scissors, and cutting it up, and making it difficult. I spent 10 minutes cutting it all up, that means I just grab it when I need it and change it out.

If you have a canister filter, you cut it to the size you need, but you want to follow this simple rule; the more you use, the thicker you use, the cleaner and more pristine your tank will look, the more of a better job it will do, but the faster it's going to clog believe it or not because it has so many pores to go through and they clog up tremendously fast.

The thinner you use, look, we can almost see through this. This is going to take much longer to clog. It's the opposite of what you might think. You can cut up a bunch of these blocks, put them in your canister filter. If you're going to hang them in the back, the same thing. Cut up some strips, put it where the water flow is.

Maybe you've got a fry tank and you are a small fish, you'd put a little bit of this around your intake and elastic if you've got a pre-filter or you've been known to use this as a bit of a media bag. You can put biological media in and of course or even activated carbon pellets or granules, put it in there like that, take an elastic, tie it up and you've got a do it yourself little media bag that's cheap, disposable and it's actually going to mechanically filter your water as well. There's so many uses for this, you should definitely go pick up a bag, but I have to admit I think the hobby is driving up prices on things like this including things like lighting diffuser for those that know what that is.

The price on that has darn near doubled in the last five years. I don't think it's that much in demand. Of course, then the question becomes, how often should you actually change it? For me, since it's so accessible, I like to get it out of there as soon as I can, usually every few days. It's not that big of a deal. It's damn cheap for me to do and super simple. I like to put it in here and go through two layers and then a layer goes on top of it so there's no splashing. This is just a temporary fix. I'm still going to put a lid on here and put plywood across the entire portions of these which is called facing them or covering them up, making them look more like the 375 out there.

How often should you do it depends on how dirty it gets or how fast it clogs, but you have to keep this in mind, just because it's not in the aquarium does not mean it's not in the system. Just because you can't see it, it doesn't mean it's not affecting the aquarium water. Imagine this, you take all of the waste of your aquarium and before your fresh filtered water gets to go back to the tank, you have to put this in front of the output first. Does it seem that welcoming? It seems disgusting, right? It's the same thing is if it's in your filter or if it's at the output, it's still within the circulation of your tank. For me, I try to replace my mechanical feed media as much as possible.

I know it's a headache, but you will see a noticeable increase in the clarity of your aquariums if you just stay up on top of that just a little bit more. Yes, it was so crazy that I thought about this and I've been using it for like 15 years or something like that. I've been in the hobby for 17. I know for the first couple, I was just using whatever you get at the store. There was no online presence for me. I never had a computer, nothing like that, just library cards and subscriptions to magazines. Whatever the industry was pushing out was whatever I consumed. I tried to build whatever I could.

My first big project I ever did was build an aquarium stand. I don't know if you guys like these types of videos, but I'm always doing things and I'm always wanting to talk about some of the things, why I'm doing it and how I'm doing it. Even if it's this simple, and I know somebody's going to say or many people will say, "Joey, you've got a million subscribers and you're talking about polyester filling?"

Yes, I have because most of the hobby is made up of new people and that's some of the people that I want to inspire and educate as well, and we can, of course, talk about advanced topics, but if you have an idea or something you want to hear about, if you enjoy these types of video, let me know in the comments section below. I'd also like to know how do you run your mechanical filtration portion of your filter; what do you use, why do you use it, and what have you found? Share some of your experiences down in the comments section below.

If you guys enjoy these types of videos and you want to see more of them, you're not subscribed to this channel yet, make sure that you do so you don't miss any of them. I got to get back to work. I'll see you guys tomorrow probably.

About King of DIY

Joey is THE King of DIY, and when he built his gallery of aquariums he chose the Custom Aquariums rack system with 120-gallon tanks...a lot of them!

Joey Mullen is also known as the king of DIY, uarujoey or the DIY fishkeeper on social media. Providing education and inspiration for aquarium enthusiasts on YouTube, he is also the author of The Ultimate DIY Handbook; for the DIY Aquarist. His channel is about educating all levels of fish tank hobbyists who are passionate about caring for fish and keeping an aquarium of their own. Joey's aquarium rack systems were custom made by our professional fish tank engineers, here at Custom Aquariums.

Please watch the King of DIY's videos for some helpful information and great tips on diy aquarium keeping.

View More

Connect with King of DIY