Your Ultimate Guide To Saltwater Aquarium Filter Types

Last Updated on March 13, 2022 by Tanya M.

Do you need to understand the different saltwater aquarium filter types?  This article will give you the best and most updated information that you need.

A saltwater aquarium is a perfect addition to any fish hobbyist. Using a saltwater tank allows for you to raise tropical fish which have amazing colors.  

However, having a saltwater aquarium is much different from a freshwater tank. If it is your first time, you will need to do things a little differently from what you know.  

One aspect is that you need to understand saltwater aquarium filter types because they are not the same as freshwater filters.  

A filter is crucial to any tank system because it helps keep your tank clean.  A clean fish tank is a recipe for success! Filters trap excess debris in your water.  

Once water passes through your filter, it should re-enter your tank squeaky clean.  It is important to make sure you choose the right filter.  

This article will overview different saltwater aquarium filter types as well as discuss the importance of filtration.  After reading this, you should be able to make a well-informed decision about which filter is right for you! 

Keep reading now!

Do Saltwater Tanks Need A Special Filter?

First off let’s discuss the difference between a saltwater and freshwater fish tank.  Saltwater means that your tank water will be salinated.  You will add salt to the water.

Freshwater fish cannot survive in salt water and vice versa.  Since saltwater contains excess salt particles, this will affect your filtration method. 

However, you do not need a special filter for saltwater.  You can use similar filtering processes with saltwater as you do with freshwater, but there is a difference.  Saltwater needs to be filtered more often than freshwater.

The function of a filter in any pond or tank system is to keep the water clean by trapping sediments that have built up inside of your tank water over time.   Your tank water is pumped out of the tank and then passes through your filter.  

According to the University of Florida, a filter system has many different benefits.  Some of them include cleaning your tank, balancing your water/ grow bed’s PH, aeration of the water, and controlling ammonia/ nitrate buildup.

The filter is a semi-impermeable medium that has a small grade.  This is how it traps all the small contents of your fish tank.  

After some time the filter will become saturated with debris, so you will need to clean it out.  Some filters need to be replaced every time it fills up and others are able to be cleaned and reused.  

If you want to save money and materials, go with the reusable option. If you can clean your filter, you won’t have to buy a new filter.  The speed at which the filter fills up depends on a few factors.

What Are The Different Types Of Aquarium Filters?

When it comes to fish tanks, there are three kinds of filters.  These are Mechanical, biological, and chemical.

A mechanical filter physically sits on top of your tank and catches particles.  A biological filter uses natural processes to eat and clean excess debris into usable form of nitrogen in your tank.  Lastly, a chemical filter uses store bought and human made chemicals to clean the water.  

In our opinion a biological filter is the most sustainable option.  This is because it copies what occurs in a natural environment.  Bacteria and microorganisms eat and decompose particles from the fish tank making it acceptable to be in your tank.  

The Biological Filtration method is also the best way to prevent the buildup of too much nitrate in your tank.  Bacteria eats and uses the nitrogen.  This means it will no longer be in your ecosystem! 

Your filter size is picked based on how much water is in your tank.  The larger the fish tank, the larger the filter needs to be.  When your filter system is too small, it can quickly get stuck and water can spill out of your tank.

There are many types of biological filters available. 

Read more about Saltwater Aquarium Filter Setup

What Type Of Filter Is Best For Saltwater Aquariums?

 We highly recommend having some sort of biological filter in your saltwater tank.  

This will help keep your ecosystem balanced in the long run.  Which means less work for you!  Some biological filters are natural rocks or sand that sit on the bottom of your tank.  

The greater the surface area of the rock, the more spaces there are for natural bacteria to live and grow.  So whenever excess debris develops in your tank, the bacteria is there to consume it.  

Working with natural materials provides greater filtration values compared to man-made items.  

Some biological filters are natural rocks or sand that sit on the bottom of your tank

It is a perfectly feasible option to have a mechanical filter and a biological filter in the same tank.  This combination of saltwater aquarium filter types ensures that your tank will remain clean over a long period of time.  

A lot of times, fish tanks come with built-in mechanical filters already.  In this case, you only need to add a biological filter medium to the tank.  

Over time, your biological filter will become stronger and basically works for you.   

It is best to do a combination as mentioned because saltwater fish really like very clean water.  In a freshwater system, you might be able to get away with less filtration.  But in a saltwater tank, fish will quickly die if the tank becomes too dirty. 

You may even want to use two mechanical filters and a biological filter altogether!  It all depends on the size of your tank and how many fish are inside.  

Hopefully, you now understand more about the different saltwater aquarium filter types.  You can experiment with different combinations and products to see which one works best for your specific system.  

Do not over-invest in too many products from the start.  Start slow and improve as needed.  This will ensure you don’t waste money and resources for nothing.

Good luck and enjoy the process! Feel free to comment and ask questions below. 

Learn more about: How To Make An Aquarium Sump


What are the different types of aquarium filters?

There are three main types of filters. These are: Mechanical, biological and chemical.

A mechanical filter is a physical mechanism that sits on top of your tank and traps debris. A biological filter uses nature to consume and process the debris into something usable in your tank. Lastly, a chemical filter uses man made chemicals to clean your water.