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I'm happy to report that I have followed the general advice here and gotten rid of the carbon / charcoal stage of my AquaClear filter, which now uses only the foam insert and the Biomax insert.
So my next question is: with the empty space from where the carbon used to be, should I add more Biomax -- to double that layer?
Or is one layer of that just right and adding a second layer doesn't do any additional good?
Also: do you think AquaClear's Biomax is best -- it's those coarsely textured ceramic rings? Or those spiky little plastic balls? Or another type? Or doesn't it really matter?
Thanks for your advice and ideas!
 

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Plastic balls belong in large sump setups. Most biomedia will do what you need it to do. Personally I prefer matrix by seachem. Now to fill the empty space in your filter I would add some purigen in the sealed bag. If your tank is planted fairly heavy biomedia isn't really an issue. The filter on my 55g was down for two days before I was able to replace it and the ammonia was still 0.
 

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When I face this question, I go back to the basics of what the filter does for me and ask if it is doing it to suit me. First step is mechanical. Does it keep the water looking clean enough to suit me? If not, maybe a bit of finer mechancical is called for. Maybe just a thin layer of filter floss? Bio filtering? Does it convert the ammonia to nitrite and on into nitrate well enough that I don't have to overwork cleaning? If not, a bit more bio media is called for to possibly give it a boost.
If it is doing these and I don't have color or meds to remove which might require chemical media like carbon, I don't mess with a good thing. More media slows down flow and may just be more cleaning than needed. Just right is just right?
While it may be true that we can't overfilter our tanks, it is still true that we can overspend and over work things until we mess up a good thing.
 

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Well, it depends on what you want, or need, to achieve. If you're anything like me, you want to have crystal clear water, all the time.
One of the easiest ways of doing that is, like truvader said above, to use Purigen.
I also like to couple that with a double-layering of filter floss, to be discarded & replaced every 2 weeks with new floss. Works like magic.
 

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I use Matrix in one of my tanks and trust it.
But a word about the general subject...the beneficial bacteria can only colonize in
numbers that can live off of their available food supply.
Really, lots of breeders just use sponge filters only. Easy to clean etc. So I'd just
add a sponge in that open aria. It would add both more bio-media and particle
filtering effect.
 

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I have more mechanical media. The beneficial bacteria can colonize it as well as they can bio media, and it traps more debris.

Most of my filters are set up with coarse, medium and fine (floss) mechanical media, and bio noodles. Some have chem. media like peat moss or coral sand.
 
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