How Often do You Clean a Filter?
All things being in moderation, filtration maintenance can be conducted on a regular schedule. Moderation is defined as not overstocking or overfeeding.
Establish a Schedule
It is easy to forget when a filter was last serviced, especially if you have multiple aquariums with different types of filters. To help remember, attach a small piece of masking tape on the side of the tank and write the date of service with an indelible marker. Some filters such as hang-on-the-back (HOB) require cleaning every few weeks while canister filters may go four months between service intervals. Sponge (biological) filters should be cleaned every two weeks. Vacuum the gravel bed of an undergravel filter every two weeks unless it is a reverse flow with pre-filter in which case monthly servicing should be sufficient. In-tank power filters should be serviced every two to three weeks.
How do You Service a Filter?
First and foremost, remember to take precautions to preserve the beneficial bacterial living in the filter. For example, a canister filter contains a medium such as bio-balls for growing massive quantities of bacteria. The media must be kept wet during maintenance. Protect the bacteria growing on this medium by rinsing the balls in either old tank water or water treated to remove the chlorine.
Sponge filters are sensational biological beds. If powered, clean the impeller in the same manner as a canister filtration.
Make sure you have a spare sealing ring also called a seal gasket. This is the large O-ring that seals the canister motor to the body. Few things are more stressful than discovering the sealing ring needs replacement after cleaning and reassembling the filter.
Regular filter maintenance is essential for a healthy tank. It is not safe to assume that clear water is an indication of a clean filter.