Every aquarium needs a filter from a 1-gal. Betta tank at 300 gallons. reef environment. If there is a heart to an aquarium, it is the filter. It is therefore the most essential element of a properly functioning aquatic environment. The problem is that it is probably the most complicated piece of equipment to operate. Few people are willing to take the time to study how their tank filter needs to be set up to operate at peak efficiency.
Over the years I’ve seen just about every abuse of a filter you could imagine possible. At the top of the list is the so-called cartridge filter. With this filter you cannot see exactly what is going on with the filter media as it is hidden inside a plastic container. Only the outgoing stream of water can give you an idea of the proper functioning of the filter. And, of course, where do you put that filter, so that it works at its maximum efficiency?
From my perspective as a long-time fish retailer and grower, I want a filter that I can keep an eye on with just a glance. If the flow rate out of a cartridge can be relied upon to give you an accurate picture, that is fine, but virtually all cartridge filters release treated water through a return pipe that ends underwater. It is therefore difficult to say how fast the return flow is moving. For a thorough assessment of return flow, either lift the end out of the water or place your hand in the undercurrent and hope you are a good judge of the water flow.
When a customer in your store wants to buy a cartridge filter, try to engage them in a friendly conversation about which brand and size of filter will best suit their needs. Gallonage of the tank is not the only factor to consider. The fish load is just as important, if not more so. Large predatory species will require heavy filtration to keep the water from degrading quickly. You can always unbox a filter and go through an in-person explanation.
Today, it’s the old-fashioned way. Everything you need to know how to set up a filter is on your mobile phone. Some filter brands even have online instructions directly from the manufacturer. Otherwise, there will be a plethora of hobbyists who have posted their opinions on how to set up the filter, including lots of creative tips and tricks.
As a retailer, it is highly recommended that you watch some of these videos yourself to make sure the people doing the presentations know what they are talking about. When you find one you really like, recommend it to your customers.
No matter what sizes or brands of cartridge filters you sell, it is essential that you have spare parts for the disposable items used in the filters. Of course, people can also buy them online. So you’re going to need a hook that will bring customers back to you for replacement cartridges, pads, carbon bags, sponges, etc. Price is one way to achieve this, but I prefer a punch card which will provide additional filter materials. at a discount. This card may apply strictly to the items in question, or it may relate to money spent, regardless of what items the person purchases.
Types of filters
Now, for tanks up to 55 gallons, I generally recommend overflow filters. Above that gallon, I personally prefer cartridge filters, up to a point. Once you reach 90 gal. and beyond that, you should probably use two cartridge filters, or you can take the next step of filtration and opt for a sump. This will require a substantial down payment for the tank owner.
There are two ways to go about this situation: (1) a leaky tank with one or more overflows or (2) an overflow box. For years, I only used a drilled tank, but I have gradually been conquered by overflow tanks because they take up practically no space in an aquarium. They are perfect for freshwater environments or fish-dominated marine tanks.
Plunge into sump filtration
Tanks that are four feet or more and eighteen inches or more wide can benefit greatly from sump filtration. To begin with, the overflows should be at opposite ends of the tank. If there is only one overflow chamber, the return should be branched off and the overflow located dead center on the rear wall. With an internal overflow (or double overflows) there is always a chance that something will go wrong. In my many years of using sumps, I have only had one instance where a significant amount of water has leaked out of a tank and onto the floor.
Now, are cesspools for everyone? Of course not, but anyone can use a sump pit with great success if they adopt good tank maintenance habits. Let’s take a closer look at cesspools and discuss the options they offer.
Whether it’s a tank with overflow or an overflow box – once the water reaches the sump – everything works the same. From my perspective, sumps are superior to any other type of filtration for a number of reasons. First of all, they are totally out of sight except for well-hidden overflows. Even an overflow box can be placed so that it is unobtrusive. If you have the hoses under the tank or those coming from the overflow pipe tight, they will never come loose. Even if the pipe itself begins to leak, it’s never more than a pinhole leak.
A question arises: are there any disadvantages for customers using a sump instead of a mechanical filter like cartridge or overflow models? Well, yes, it lessens or eliminates the need for customers to use proprietary filter cartridges. All they need in this regard is a set of backup filter socks and a “bubble trap” sponge that can be turned around whenever the tank owner deems it necessary. With that in mind, I’ve seen non-reef shops phase out or drastically reduce the number of sumps they carry for freshwater customers. This is a clear mistake on their part as far as I am concerned. You’re in business to make money, but if you can’t serve customers honestly, you should rethink your sales strategy.
Finally, don’t forget about sponge filters that are powered by an air pump or even an underwater motor. With proper aquarium maintenance, these simple filters can do a great job in a Betta aquarium or an environment with shrimp and miniature fish. BP
Edward C. Taylor has worked in the pet industry for over 40 years as a live fish retailer, importer and wholesaler, and hatchery manager.