In the fish keeping hobby, cichlids represent one of the most colorful and diverse species available to enthusiasts. These fish are territorial and can become highly active when defending their homes. They are also aggressive eaters who produce a lot of debris and fish waste.
Those looking to keep cichlids need a filter that can provide the proper filtration to keep the aquarium clean and healthy. In this article, we take a closer look at cichlid needs as well as these filter products that may provide the best filter for cichlid tank keepers:
- Fluval C4 Power Filter
- Fluval 406 External Filter
- Aqua Clear 110 Power Filter
- Cobalt Aquatics MJ1200 Multipurpose Powerhead
- Hydor 600 Professional External Canister Filter
Filtering A Cichlid Aquarium
In order to get the best out of the aquarium equipment you buy, it may be beneficial to discuss the ways that a good filter works and what to look for when contemplating this critical fish tank component. The ideal filter for cichlid tank will include the abilities and features discussed below.
How Filters Clean The Water Column
All filters, regardless of type, draw water from the tank and run it through filter media. This process pulls unwanted chemicals, debris, and elements from the water column before returning the cleansed water to the aquarium. The various filter media that is used will determine what is removed from the water and what might be left behind.
Using Filter Medias
Water from a fish tank can be cleaned using biological, chemical, and mechanical filtering materials. When using filter media, it is important to remember that some types of media are more critical for a cichlid tank’s health than others.
Chemical Filtration: This type of filter media is composed of materials such as activated carbon and can be used to remove impurities that will prove toxic to cichlids. Even medicines left suspended in the water column can become detrimental, and chemical filtration can prove beneficial in this regards. With that being said, care must be taken if a chemical filter media will be used.
Cichlids require water with a specific range of PH, depending upon the species and what type of water they come from. Many fish keepers must provide natural water buffers or add chemical additives to bring the water column into the proper PH range. Chemical filters should not influence the water’s chemistry, and materials that leach out buffers or additives must be avoided. Of the three types of filtration, chemical filtering is the least important when compared with the other two types of filter media.
Biological Filtration: Of the three water filtering methods, biological filtering is probably the most important. This media type provides a home for beneficial bacteria to grow and thrive on. These bacteria help to filter the water column through a process known as the “Nitrogen Cycle,” which is detailed in this video.
Cichlids are capable of producing a lot of waste, so ammonia management is important when caring for them. The best filter for cichlid tank will include biological filtration at a minimum. In the past, live fish were used to begin the nitrogen cycle in a new aquarium set-up, leaving them vulnerable to waste toxins as the bacteria colonies were established. Today, this process can be started with various fish-less cycling.
Mechanical Filtration: Mechanical filtration is also very important when keeping cichlids. These fish are aggressive eaters, which tends to produce a lot of food waste in the tank. They can also be active within their territories and will suspend debris in the water column.
Mechanical filtration will pull unwanted debris and waste from the water, keeping it clear. The best filters for cichlid aquariums will include mechanical filtration in addition to biological filtration, or provide this media type independently from a secondary filter. Products that include extra mechanical filtration features are also a plus for use on cichlid tanks.
Water Aeration Is Worth Considering
Gas and oxygen exchange is found at the water surface in all aquariums. While this form of aeration is acceptable for many species, cichlids will benefit from extra water aeration. Filters that help agitate the water’s surface (without creating strong currents) or expose the water to more air can provide an additional gas exchange.
The Types Of Filters To Use
Hang-On-Back (HOB) filters are used by many cichlid owners. They provide additional aeration as well as biological and mechanical filtration.
Canister filters are another great choice, as these products can clean a large volume of water each hour. They often provide all three filtration types as well.
Sponge filters with powerheads are another choice, providing biological and mechanical filtration with the sponge. The power head provides more contact between air and water too.
Other types of filters may be used with varying degrees of success. Out of all filters, under gravel filters are the least favorite, as most cichlid tanks use sand as a substrate.
The flow rate (or gallons per hour) is important and should be at least over twice the tank’s volume – often four times is considered the best advice. Other considerations include the volume of media held, ease of access, and features that make cleaning both efficient and fast.
Reviews Of The Cichlid Tank Filters
Fluval C4 Power Filter
The best filter for 55-gallon cichlid tank water quality.
With a flow rate of 264-gallons, the C4 Power Filter can cycle a 55-gallon aquarium nearly five times each hour. This flow rate makes it a good filter for tanks ranging from 40 to 70-gallons.
It provides two layers of mechanical, two layers of biological, and one level of chemical filtration. Replacement of biological pads can be staggered, a feature that allows you to replace the media without completely eliminating healthy bacteria colonies.
An adjustable flow rate allows the filter to be dialed-down, a feature that allows the water to cycle back into the media for a second pass.
- This product provides five stages of water filtration
- The filter media compartment is easy to access when compared to other filters
- It comes with the ability to control the water flow of the filter
- The filter media pads require regular replacement
- This product can be more difficult to clean in certain places
Aqua Clear Power Filter – 110
A strong HOB filter that provides superior media water contact.
Listed with a flow rate of 500-gallons per hour, the 110 could be a good choice as a stand-alone filter for medium / large aquariums.
The flow rate can be adjusted to a variety of lower settings down to 50-percent. It is designed to provide refiltration, which places the water in contact with the various filter media longer than standard models.
While the instructions for this model are not the clearest, there are plenty of online resources to help clear confusion. This model comes with a two-year warranty that provides extra customer confidence.
- Any media can be used and to specialize filtration needs
- This filter runs quietly at the maximum flow rate
- It has a media compartment that is easily accessible
- The propeller box can become filled with debris and requires extra cleaning
Fluval 406 External Filter
A canister that provides filtration for the entire water column.
The 383-gallon per hour flow rate on this canister should make it a good option for medium-sized tanks.
A rectangular shape provides this canister filter with up to 40-percent more room for filter media than a cylinder-shaped filter offers. An intake strainer a double-layered foam screen provide great mechanical filtration.
An Aqua-Stop valve, strong clamps, and separate media baskets make clean-up or maintenance easy and quick. Fluval provides filter media and a generous warranty for this canister, features that get you started quickly and provide you with security from the start.
- This product is made from strong materials that will provide durability
- An Aqua-Stop valve will allow water flow interruptions without disconnecting hoses
- Fluval provides a three-year warranty on this series of canister filters
- No spray bar
- It is fitted with ribbed hosing that is more difficult to clean
Cobalt Aquatics MJ1200 Multipurpose Powerhead
A powerhead that provides good circulation for sponge/under gravel filters.
This product will provide a 295-gallon per hour flow rate for filter systems that require powerheads for water movement.
Both the intake tube and the venturi are adjustable, allowing users to make adjustments unique to their tank’s design. The venturi comes with a noise silencer that should help to prevent fish from being disturbed when the unit is placed in the tank.
A universal connection design allows this product to work with a wide selection of sponge and under gravel filters and is covered by a three-year product warranty by Cobalt.
- This unit is capable of moving a high volume of water
- The product’s output point is fully rotational for the best placement
- It is fully sealed for use externally or internally during operation
- This product requires a sponge or under gravel filter to function
- The power head will produce a strong current near the unit
Hydor 600 Professional External Canister Filter
A roomy filter that is easy to clean and maintain.
A 345-gallon per hour flow rate allows the 600 Professional to cycle medium-sized cichlid tanks properly.
A higher price point is offset by an efficient design that is easy to use, even for aquarium enthusiasts who are just starting out. Multiple media trays allow a user the ability to adjust filtration to meet specific needs. This model runs silently, making it a good choice for a bedroom or entertainment rooms.
The filter comes with an expandable spray bar, which allows the user more options with a variety of tank shapes and sizes.
- The priming system is easy to use on start-up
- A square shape provides a lot of filter media room
- This filter is designed as a no-bypass system which filters the entire water column
- This filter comes at a higher price point
Each of the filter products reviewed above can provide adequate water flow and filtration. Additional equipment and filter media may be required, but these units should work well in cichlid tanks. With that being said, we feel the Aqua Clear 110 Power Filter provides the best all-around solution.
- Aquarium filtration system that offers superior contact time with filter media and energy efficient pump lowers operating costs
- Quick and easy installation, we recommend that you clean aquarium filter every two weeks for maximum operation and efficiency
- Provides optimal mechanical, chemical, and biological filtrations
- Comes equipped with AquaClear Foam, Activated Carbon Filter and BioMax and Cycle Guard for superior water quality
- Filtration volume is up to 7 times larger than comparable fish tank filters
It is capable of operating as a stand-alone filter on medium cichlid tanks and provides up to 500-gallons per hour of water flow. The filter box is roomy, allowing a user to place any desired media into it. An adjustable flow rate allows the filter to run at a lower rate to provide refiltration, providing more contact with the media for a better clean.
It runs silently and is easily accessible. The Aqua Clear 110 should meet the demands of all but the largest tanks!