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Why are some aquarium filters cheap and what makes them inexpensive


When planning a new set up it is advisable to work out a budget which will include your tank, stand and all of the required hardware for running your tank. More often than not the budget will fall short of expectations so a little maneuvering of the available cash has to be sorted.

There are ways to obtain the required gear with out too much hunting around, on the internet there are always suppliers offering reductions on the equipment they sell. In this article I will try to show you the options available for saving a few pennies on your filtration system.

We must remember though that the filtration is a vital part of your tank, by trying to save money, a fish keeper must not buy a filter that is not capable of keeping your water parameters to the accepted levels.

With the larger tanks external filters are normally used as internal filters are just not capable of handling the water volumes, in some cases it is even necessary to run two of these, my own display tank is running two externals as I have always believed it is better to over filtrate the water than have your filters struggling to keep up with the waste produced by the fish. Because of this it would have cost me a fortune if I had gone out and purchased two of the well known brands from new. Fluval, Rena and Eheim are the most well known makes that I have dealt with and yes they all have little extras like inline heaters, lots of chambers for media but if you are running a basic tank do you really need them. In my case the answer was no, I didn’t need filters with the extras, so I went to a local pet store and bought an external filter off the shelf that had been there for a few months, sweet talked the owner into a good reduction and walked out of the shop with a bargain.

Haggling will nearly always work if you try hard enough; there is a lot of competition between the suppliers to sell their goods. The second filter was simply purchased second hand from EBay for a very good price, and with a few pennies spent on replacing the tubing was as good as new.

The filter media was purchased by internet shopping, brand name media can also be bought at a lower cost if you shop around.

I have also found on the auction sites a lot of HOB (hang on back) power filters that are being shipped over from places like Hong Kong and China at a very good price. This type of filter makes a marvelous job of filtering the water and they also have chambers for adding extra media. Even if you are not expecting to buy anything it does pay to keep having a look on the auction sites for future reference as you never know when unexpected things can happen like filter failure.

If you prefer to buy new filters rather than clean up second hand ones there are a couple of new filters available that are very reasonably priced.

The German firm Tetra has produced a range of external filters called the Tetratec series. They have been available on the European market for a couple of years but have now entered the UK market and are proving to be very popular. They are supplied with all the media, plenty of chambers for media choice and I have heard nothing but glowing reports about their water filtrating qualities, rivalling if not outperforming the well known brands. Price wise these are at least 30% cheaper than the top models and I will certainly be trying them out on any future set ups.

As with the HOB power filters that the Chinese are shipping over, they too are bringing out a range of externals that are selling just as cheaply. They are robust enough for the job and equal most models available at the moment.

Remember a filter is only as good as the media inside it!!

With smaller set ups internal filters are quite capable of the filtration required. There are many makes available that are just as good as the top brands, so shop around for these as well. Using internals can make life a lot easier and cheaper as making your own filter is quite possible and home made filters will perform as well as bought models if they are made properly. A lot of the older types of internal filters seem to be unpopular with the new generation of keepers as the equipment inside the tank needs to look good and not take up a lot of space but I am still a great fan of the sponge air driven filters, they do just as good a job as electric powered ones in my eyes.

To save even more money making your own will cost you pennies so here is a quick and easy method that will literally cost you less than a pound (2 dollars) to make. Take an empty 2 litre plastic soda bottle and cut off the top about 3 inches down. Around the neck of the piece that you have cut off make some small holes with a heated nail, taking care not to burn your fingers.

Now push the top back into the bottom of the original bottle, push it down as far as it will go making sure the screw cap end is pointing upwards. Slide some rigid plastic tubing into the bottle neck (overflow piping from a toilet system fits perfectly, (if it doesn’t fit flush seal with aquarium sealant), into the rigid piping add an airline. This will create the uplift required.

Now add a layer of activated charcoal for the chemical filtration, and then add 2-3 inches of pea gravel for the mechanical filtration. Finish off with some filter wool for polishing the water. When the air is turned on it will pull the water through the medium and do the same job as a bought model-easy!

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