Do Aquarium Filters Remove Nitrates, Ammonia, And Chlorine?

Image of an aquarium with a filter that removes impurities

Aquarium filters help keep the tank water clean by removing unwanted particles from it. But do aquarium filters remove nitrates, ammonia, and chlorine from the water?

Aquarium filters can remove nitrates, ammonia, and chlorine from the water through biological and chemical filtration. A nitrate removing filter media is used to remove nitrates, ammonia is removed with the help of beneficial bacteria, and chlorine is removed by activated carbon in the filter media.

It’s essential to control ammonia, nitrates, and chlorine for the healthy development of fish. So let’s understand the role of an aquarium filter in keeping these under control.

Do Aquarium Filters Remove Nitrates?

Aquarium filters contain media designed to remove nitrates from the aquarium water through biological or chemical means. These filter media are either permanent or disposable.

Some nitrate removers are mixed media, which can clear other impurities apart from nitrates. For example, some media contain carbon while others use resin to filter out other impurities from the tank water.

A nitrate removing media in the aquarium filter is a great way to remove the nitrates. However, it needs to be replaced regularly.

In contrast, permanent media works by growing anaerobic bacteria in it. These anaerobic bacteria remove the nitrates from the aquarium water by consuming them.

The good thing about these bacteria is that they are not dangerous to the tank inhabitants and reside in the filter compartments.

As nitrates are invisible and odorless, they are sometimes difficult to detect unless you check them regularly through a kit.

Algae bloom is usually an indication that the nitrate levels are high in the aquarium. However, algae are also common in newly set up tanks.

Some of the common factors that contribute toward an increase in the nitrate levels of the tank water are:

  • Overfeeding the fish,
  • Decaying plant matter,
  • Dirty or uncleaned filters, and
  • Overstocking the tank inhabitants.

Although nitrates are not as harmful as ammonia and nitrites, they can still impact the health of the fish if left untreated for long periods.

A high level of nitrates can negatively impact cell development in fish. Nitrates can also result in lethargy, weakened immune system, appetite loss, open sores or red scars on the skin, and poor coloring of aquarium fish.

Also, when nitrates rise to intolerable levels, they can shock the fish, resulting in their untimely demise.

Therefore, you need to regularly monitor the aquariums’ nitrate levels to avoid any mishaps.

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Do Aquarium Filters Remove Ammonia?

The majority of the aquarium filters can remove ammonia from the aquarium water. These filters work in conjunction with the beneficial bacteria that grow in the substrate to remove ammonia.

The beneficial bacteria convert the ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates that are less harmful to the fish.

Besides, these beneficial bacteria also reside in the aquarium filter and clear the ammonia as soon as it shows up in the tank water.

Another effective way to keep the ammonia levels in check is by adding an additional cycled filter like a sponge filter that can help lower the ammonia levels.

If you find that your filter is not up to the mark in removing the ammonia, you can use filter inserts explicitly designed for ammonia removal from the tank water.

They mainly contain an ammonia removing resin product. In addition, they have a large surface area that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria that help in removing ammonia.

Moreover, numerous filter media is available in the market specifically designed to remove ammonia from the aquarium. Also, adding ammonia chips to the existing filter serves the purpose.

Some of the common factors that contribute to an increase in the ammonia levels of the tank water are:

  • Overfeeding,
  • Overcrowding,
  • Poor tank maintenance,
  • Decayed plant matter,
  • Uncleaned fish excreta, and
  • Uneaten or leftover food.

Ammonia is highly toxic to aquarium fish and proves lethal at higher concentrations.

In addition, high ammonia levels can stress the fish, lead to lethargy, weaken their immune system and make them prone to diseases. Also, fish can’t extract energy from the food efficiently. So the fish may lose their appetite over time.

In ideal water conditions, the ammonia level should be less than 0 ppm.

However, even the smallest increase in ammonia levels of the tank water can cause chemical burns to the fish tissue. Also, it can damage the gills leading to respiratory problems.

Ammonia poisoning can happen suddenly or build up over a while. Initially, the fish will gasp for air at the surface of the tank.

As their gills get affected, they will become red, making them appear as if they are bleeding. As the damage continuous, the high ammonia levels will start affecting other body parts as well.

The fish’s tissue will start deteriorating. You may notice bloody patches or red streaks on their fins and other body parts.

Eventually, this will start damaging the brain and central nervous system of the fish. In the worst scenario, there can be brain hemorrhage, both internally and externally.

Therefore, it’s crucial to keep the ammonia levels under control by regular monitoring and proper filtration methods.

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Do Aquarium Filters Remove Chlorine?

An aquarium filter can remove chlorine from the water if the filter media has activated carbon. The activated carbon in the filter media helps remove chlorine and chloramine, and a host of other compounds to make the water safe for the fish.

These filter cartridges need to be replaced more often as chloramines can exhaust carbon much faster than chlorine alone.

In addition, you can remove chlorine and chloramine from the water before adding the water to the aquarium.

Chlorine and chloramine can be removed when the water comes out of the faucet through a carbon filter. The other option is to install a carbon filter directly in the plumbing itself so that the water is always carbon filtered.

You can easily remove chlorine from the water compared to chloramine that needs chemical removal methods.

The other widely used ways to treat tap water for removing chlorine and chloramine are listed below.

1. Evaporation method.

In this method, you need to simply let the water sit out in a pot, bucket, or any container with a huge opening. It’s most effective when the container allows most of the water’s surface to be exposed to air.

The water needs to be exposed to the air for at least 24 hours or more, depending on the chlorine concentration. The chlorine then slowly escapes into the atmosphere.

The water becomes safe for aquarium use once it stops showing signs of tiny bubbles forming on it.

Although the evaporation method works for removing chlorine, it doesn’t remove chloramine. So you need to use chemical methods if the water contains chloramine.

2. Usage of chemical water conditioners.

Using chemical water conditioners specifically designed to remove chlorine and chloramine from the water is the most effective and safest way.

Another advantage of a good water conditioner is that it also removes other toxic substances like heavy metals along with chlorine and chloramine.

You can use a water conditioner while setting up a new tank or even in established tanks.

For example, you can mix the water conditioner and water in a separate container and then add it to the aquarium to ensure that the water is fully dechlorinated.

To properly use a water conditioner, you need to follow the instructions mentioned on the bottle and use the recommended concentration to avoid overdosing.

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3. Usage of Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid).

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) is another effective way to remove chlorine and chloramines from the water. The recommended concentration of Vitamin C to neutralize the chlorine and chloramine from the water is 4 P.P.M.

To achieve the desired Vitamin C concentration, you need to add 40 mg of Vitamin C per gallon of water. If you add Vitamin C to an existing tank, it’s better to mix the Vitamin C and water in a separate container and then add it to the tank water.

Some aquarists worry about adding Vitamin C as it is an acid that can alter the pH levels of the tank water. However, any drop in the pH level is short-lived and doesn’t affect the fish when used at the recommended level.

The chlorine present in the tank water is highly toxic to the fish. Even aquarium fish can get hurt if exposed to low chlorine levels.

The symptoms of chlorine poisoning include fish swimming erratically. It will hover at the top of the tank water, struggling to breathe.

Also, fish will look pale and weak. Besides, exposure to chlorine damages the fish’s skin. As a result, you can notice red marks on their body caused by chemical burns.

Chlorine is hazardous as it burns the fish’s sensitive gills as well as the skin. Fish exposed to chlorinated water can suffer from respiratory problems and may suffocate. It also leads to stress making them more susceptible to diseases.

Therefore, it’s crucial to treat the water and remove chlorine before introducing it to the aquarium. Besides, it’s advisable to regularly monitor the amount of chlorine using the test kits available online.