How to Choose Aquarium Filtration Media: Chemical

How to Choose Aquarium Filtration Media: Chemical

In part one of this How to Choose Aquarium Filtration Media, we discussed mechanical filtration and its role in providing ideal water quality within your reef tank. In part two, we will discuss chemical media and how it pairs with your other media to create a healthier aquarium.

What is Chemical Filtration Media?

Chemical filtration media is any media designed to remove dissolved organic elements from the water column. Chemical filtration media is a vital part of any filtration system.

Why Use Chemical Filtration Media?

Many reef hobbyists believe chemical filtration is simply for polishing the water and keeping it crystal clear. While that’s one benefit, there are other benefits. Chemical filtration media also helps remove organics through a chemical reaction in which these harmful elements are adsorbed by the media and removed from the water column. This crucial process helps ensure a safe and healthy environment for your livestock.

Types of Chemical Filtration Media

Carbon & GFO are the two most popular chemical filtration media. Each is used to remove different organic elements from the water column and create a healthier aquarium environment. Carbon is the best option for polishing the water to keep it crystal clear and remove contaminants, including chlorine, chloramine, phenols, and tannins.

GFO, on the other hand, is helpful when it comes to the removal of phosphate and silicates. Removing these elements helps prevent algae outbreaks. Mixed resin filtration is generally a combination of carbon, GFO, and other elements. You can select the right media for your needs based on the chart below.

Simplicity Carbon & GFO
Simplicity Carbon & GFO

Chemical Filtration Media Comparison Chart

Type of Media
CarbonGFO (Granular-Ferric-Oxide)Mixed Resin
Recommended UseIn a sump, all-in-one tank, or a media reactorIn a sump, all-in-one tank, or a media reactorIn a sump, all-in-one tank, or a media reactor
MaintenanceWill be exhausted after 1-2 weeksWill be exhausted after 4-8 weeksFollow maintenance directions on the packaging
Nutrient RemovalRemoves chlorine, chloramine, phenols, and tannins and improves water clarityRemoves phosphates and silicatesComes in a variety of configurations to remove specific elements
Other ConsiderationsCarbon should only be used one out of every four weeks in an aquarium.GFO should run continuously on a system and shouldn’t be removed abruptly.Popular mixed resin media include Boyd Chemi-Clean and Fritz MaxOut.
Chemical Filtration Media Comparison Chart

How to Use Chemical Filtration Media

You have a few options when using chemical filtration in your aquarium. For aquariums with built-in filtration, place the media in a bag immediately below your mechanical filtration. For aquariums with sumps, place a bag of media inside of a filter sock or in another high-flow area of the sump. The final and preferred option for chemical filtration media is to place it within a media reactor.

Both carbon & GFO reactors have become beloved accessories for reef hobbyists. If you have decided to use a reactor, keep in mind that the most crucial consideration is the flow rate. For carbon, you want a flow rate that doesn’t cause the media to tumble. When it comes to GFO, you want to prevent any strong tumbling because GFO dust can harm corals and fish.

Final Thoughts on Chemical Media

Chemical filtration media can be a great addition to your system. These media allow for the removal and reduction of nitrate, phosphate, and other potentially harmful elements. This combination will give you full confidence in improving your water chemistry when paired with mechanical and biological filtration media.

Please contact our support team if you have any additional questions or need a filter media recommendation.

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