Calculating Filter Media Volume Requirements

7.3. Calculating Filter Media Volume Requirements

If one works all the numbers on biofiltration media in the aquarium filter you come up with two very interesting tables based on volume (cubic inches). The first volume table is based on the well-established fact that ammonia oxidation needs 5 square feet of effective biomedia surface area per pound of fish.

Amount of Biomedia required to give only ammonia oxidation (in cubic inches)

Biomedia454
grams
fish
370
grams
fish
247
grams
fish
123
grams
fish
62
grams
fish
Fluidized K1 (60% loading in sump)1612842
30 ppi foam in canister or sump25181263
30 ppi powerhead operated sponge25181263
30 ppi foam air-operated sponge filter29221574
Plastic pot scrubbers31241684
Static K1 media33261795
20 ppi foam in canister or sump33261795
20 ppi foam powerhead sponge filter33261795
20 ppi air stone sponge filter382919105
Powerhead operated under-gravel624631157
Aquarium gravel in canister or sump624631157
Air-operated under-gravel filter gravel725436189
Blue Matala pads725436189
1/8-inch garden pumice or perlite8665432211
Bio balls8665432211
Alfagrog10881542714
1/2-inch lava rock14498723618
Seachem Matrix14498723618
Biohome Ultimate2161621085427
Ceramic rings2161621085427
Ceramic balls2882161447236
Expanded clay pebbles2882161447236
Biomedia Volume ONLY ammonia oxidation

If one wants crystal clear water and healthy fish, ammonia oxidation is only a small part of the story. For heathy fish and crystal clear water one wants at least 100 square feet of surface area per pound of fish. This gives a considerably different table.

Amount of Biomedia required to give healthy crystal-clear water (in cubic inches)

Biomedia454
grams
fish
370
grams
fish
247
grams
fish
123
grams
fish
62
grams
fish
Fluidized K1 (60% loading in sump)3202401608040
30 ppi foam in canister or sump50037525012563
30 ppi powerhead operated sponge50037525012563
30 ppi foam air-operated sponge filter58043529014573
Plastic pot scrubbers62046531015578
Static K1 media66049533016583
20 ppi foam in canister or sump66049533016583
20 ppi foam powerhead sponge filter66049533016583
20 ppi air stone sponge filter75156337518894
Powerhead operated under-gravel1240930620310155
Aquarium gravel in canister or sump1240930620310155
Air-operated under-gravel filter gravel14401080720360180
Blue Matala pads14401080720360180
1/8-inch garden pumice or perlite17201290860430215
Bio balls17201290860430215
Alfagrog216016201080540270
1/2-inch lava rock288021301420710355
Seachem Matrix288021301420710355
Biohome Ultimate4320324021601080540
Ceramic rings4320324021601080540
Ceramic balls5760432028801440720
Expanded clay pebbles5760432028801440720
Biomedia volume CRYSTAL CLEAR water

Most of the media numbers represent what a given volume (cubic inches) of media will do stationary in a canister, sump or hang-on-back filter.  We’ve added fluidized bed K1, 30 ppi, 20 ppi sponge filters and an undergravel filter gravel as media in order to give a more complete picture.

It has to be emphasized that these volume tables apply for fish fed at a 1.5% feeding load of typical commercial dry fish food. This is typical for adult fish. Obviously if one uses a  3% feeding (juvenile fish) load will require twice the media. If you feed your fish per the directions on most fish food containers (“what they can eat in five minutes three times a day“) you will need like ten times the volume of media.

Melanochromis chipokae
Melanochromis chipokae

Depending on what your goals are for your aquarium, only ammonia oxidation or crystal clear, healthy water, one can now calculate the media needs for any given aquarium. The only missing piece is the weight of the fish.

One surprisingly accurate way to tell the weight in grams is to multiply the length by the width by the height in inches (I know, we’re mixing measurement systems but that’s the rule!). Each calculated cubic inch is very roughly 10 grams of fish. So

  • a “normal fish” a five-inch peacock (including tail) is 5 inches by 1.5 inches tall by half an inch wide gives 5×1.5×0.5=3.75   –  3.75x 10=       38 grams.
  • A five-inch discus (including tail) which is 3.5 inches high and 3/8ths of an inch wide is 5×3.5×0.375=6.6  –  6.6×10=     66 grams.
  • A five-inch fancy goldfish is 5×1.6×1.6=12.8    –  12.8×10=    128 grams.

We will use what researchers have found. Researchers have compiled lists of the weights of very many fish and set up an equation to calculate the weight of the “average” fish. Using the equations and correction factors a table is easily set up for the “average” fish.

Length
Inches
Weight
Grams
Metabolic
Weight
Grams
10.321
1.250.642
1.51.13
1.751.85
22.57
2.253.7310
2.55.1214
2.756.8118
38.8622
42147
54182
670.5113
7112140
8167167
9239239
10328328
12581581
Metabolic Weight versus Total Length

The “metabolic” weight reflects the fact that small fish swim much more than large fish, burn up far more calories, and thus give a lot more bioload per gram of fish than do large fish. But note this has to be tempered by the shape of the fish and how active they are.

A wide-bodied fancy goldfish can weigh three times what its length says it should weigh. A slow-moving catfish will only have the actual weight, not the metabolic weight. Surprisingly, tall fish like discus and angelfish are only twice the weight of a similar “normal” fish shape. But also note that long flowing fins like a guppy has have to be ignored in the length calculation. All these considerations makes knowing the actual weight kind of a guessing game.

OB Peacock
OB Peacock

If one were starting out and put together a typical aquarium with a bottom-to-top flow hang-on-back filter, what would be the minimum amount of each type of biomedia one could have?

Let’s assume the stocking was a community aquarium with three 3″ angelfish, two bristle nose plecos, and one opaline gourami. Because the angelfish are tall one has to multiply 22 by 2. So three angelfish are 132 grams, a 4″ bristle nose pleco is only 21 grams because he moves very slow, and one 4″ opaline gourami is 47 grams. This is 132+21+47 = right about 221 grams.

Let us say you have a bottom-to-top flow hang-on-back with 10 inches by 2 inches by 8 inches of room for media. That is 160 cubic inches (10 x 2 x 8). What will be the media types you can use for ONLY ammonia oxidation with 221 grams of fish? Note the gallons of water and GPH is immaterial.

So the volume chart goes to this:

Amount of Biomedia required to give only ammonia oxidation (in cubic inches)

Biomedia454
grams
fish
370
grams
fish
247
grams
fish
123
grams
fish
62
grams
fish
Fluidized K1 (60% loading in sump)
30 ppi foam in canister or sump12
30 ppi powerhead operated sponge
30 ppi foam air-operated sponge filter
Plastic pot scrubbers16
Static K1 media17
20 ppi foam in canister or sump17
20 ppi foam powerhead sponge filter
20 ppi air stone sponge filter
Powerhead operated under-gravel31
Aquarium gravel in canister or sump
Air-operated under-gravel filter gravel36
Blue Matala pads36
1/8-inch garden pumice or perlite43
Bio balls43
Alfagrog54
1/2-inch lava rock72
Seachem Matrix72
Biohome Ultimate108
Ceramic rings108
Ceramic balls144
Expanded clay pebbles144
HOB 220 gms only ammonia

Ammonia oxidation is EASY and all the media in an HOB will do the job for this 200 gram fish aquarium.

Melanochromis maingano
Melanochromis maingano

Now let us say that we have the same situation: a bottom to top flow hang-on-back with 160 cubic inches and roughly 221 grams of fish. What is the media which will give us CRYSTAL CLEAR, BACTERIA FREE, HEALTHY WATER?

Amount of Biomedia required to give healthy crystal-clear water (in cubic inches)

Biomedia454
grams
fish
370
grams
fish
247
grams
fish
123
grams
fish
62
grams
fish
Fluidized K1 (60% loading in sump)
30 ppi foam in canister or sump
30 ppi powerhead operated sponge
30 ppi foam air-operated sponge filter
Plastic pot scrubbers
Static K1 media
20 ppi foam in canister or sump
20 ppi foam powerhead sponge filter
20 ppi air stone sponge filter
Powerhead operated under-gravel
Aquarium gravel in canister or sump
Air-operated under-gravel filter gravel
Blue Matala pads
1/8-inch garden pumice or perlite
Bio balls
Alfagrog
1/2-inch lava rock
Seachem Matrix
Biohome Ultimate
Ceramic rings
Ceramic balls
Expanded clay pebbles
HOB 200 gms crystal clear

That’s right: there is NO media which will give crystal clear water with a typical moderate loading of fish and a typical bottom to top flow HOB filter.

Now since there are at least 12 variables (food level, protein level in food, aeration, etc.) affecting water clarity it is possible to have a very healthy, crystal clear aquarium with this loading and a bottom to top flow hang on back. Possible but not probable.

Cochliodon soniae L 137 pleco
Cochliodon soniae L 137 pleco

Doing some other situations:

So let us say you have an aquarium with a fully grown 11 inch Oscar that weighs over 450 grams (about one pound). And you have a large canister with 700 cubic inches (3 gallons, 0.4 cubic feet, 11 liters). What media will give you crystal clear water that will keep hole-in-the-head at bay?

Amount of Biomedia required to give healthy crystal-clear water (in cubic inches)

Biomedia454
grams
fish
370
grams
fish
247
grams
fish
123
grams
fish
62
grams
fish
Fluidized K1 (60% loading in sump)
30 ppi foam in canister or sump500
30 ppi powerhead operated sponge
30 ppi foam air-operated sponge filter
Plastic pot scrubbers620
Static K1 media660
20 ppi foam in canister or sump
20 ppi foam powerhead sponge filter
20 ppi air stone sponge filter
Powerhead operated under-gravel
Aquarium gravel in canister or sump
Air-operated under-gravel filter gravel
Blue Matala pads
1/8-inch garden pumice or perlite
Bio balls
Alfagrog
1/2-inch lava rock
Seachem Matrix
Biohome Ultimate
Ceramic rings
Ceramic balls
Expanded clay pebbles
Biomedia Amount of One Oscar

Per the above only 30 ppi foam, plastic pot scrubbers and static K1 media will give an Oscar complete freedom from the POSSIBILITY of hole-in-the-head syndrome. Note the gallons of water in the aquarium and the GPH are immaterial.

Neolamprologus pulcher
Neolamprologus pulcher

So let us say you have an aquarium with 123 grams of fish. And you have a big canister with 700 cubic inches (3 gallons, 0.4 cubic feet, 11 liters). What media will give you crystal clear water? Per the below most of the media will do that. Note the gallons of water in the aquarium and the GPH are immaterial.

Amount of Biomedia required to give healthy crystal-clear water (in cubic inches)

Biomedia454
grams
fish
370
grams
fish
247
grams
fish
123
grams
fish
62
grams
fish
Fluidized K1 (60% loading in sump)
30 ppi foam in canister or sump125
30 ppi powerhead operated sponge
30 ppi foam air-operated sponge filter
Plastic pot scrubbers155
Static K1 media165
20 ppi foam in canister or sump165
20 ppi foam powerhead sponge filter
20 ppi air stone sponge filter
Powerhead operated under-gravel
Aquarium gravel in canister or sump310
Air-operated under-gravel filter gravel
Blue Matala pads360
1/8-inch garden pumice or perlite430
Bio balls430
Alfagrog540
1/2-inch lava rock
Seachem Matrix
Biohome Ultimate
Ceramic rings
Ceramic balls
Expanded clay pebbles
Biomedia Amount 123 grams Canister
Hypancistrus sp. L 201 pleco
Hypancistrus sp. L 201 pleco
An Illustration

Here is a comment to this web page and its answer:

“Paul

I have a 75-gallon community tank with an EHEIM 2217 canister filter.  I’m planning to replace all the EHEIM filter media with Swiss Tropical 20 PPI Poret foam.  I’m thinking of having 5 foam pads, each 2” thick and 7” in diameter.   Would this give me the 220 sq. ft of effective surface area mentioned in your chart?  Using one of your other charts, I calculate that I have 0.75 lbs of fish.    Using the 100 sq. ft for 1 lb. of fish metric, I would think I’ll be able to easily accommodate more fish – is that right?   I’m planning to use your recommendation to squeeze liquid from the existing filter pads onto the new pads to jump start the cycling of the new foam.  How long do you think I should wait before adding more fish?  Thanks for your help.

Dave

OK you have a cylinder ten inches tall and 7 inches in diameter. V = π rh  π x 3.5 x 3.5 x 10 = 384   This will give one 384 cubic inches of 20 ppi foam. 12x12x12 is 1,728   So you will have 384/1,728 or 0.222 cubic feet. 0.222 x 220 = 49 square feet. So you can do 0.49 pounds of fish at the 100 square foot per pound of fish metric. At the current time you are at (0.49×100)/0.75 = 65 square feet per pound of fish. 65 square feet is good, but it isn’t 100 square feet. So you cannot accommodate more fish.”

And you can add fish right away and just not feed them for a few weeks or wait literally as long as you are comfortable with. I add pond mud (see the article on the “mature aquarium”) and wait at least six weeks minimum but I’m a little nuts.

Symphysodon aequifasciatus Discus
Symphysodon aequifasciatus Discus
Another Example of Aquarium Filter Media Calculations

This exchange is from the comments section of this website:

Question #1

“Hi there,
I’m reaching out for some clarity on ‘Square Feet of Biomedia Surface Area’.  I’m considering the 5″ Poret® Foam Sheets (26 × 19.5″ Sheet) and am wondering what the calculations would be for cubic sq. ft.? I plan on executing the ‘10 ft2/gallon of water’ OR ‘100 ft2/pound of fish.’”

Answer #1

“To calculate the volume the math is 5 inch x 26 inch x 19.5 inch / 12 inch x 12 inch x 12inch = 1.47 cubic feet per sheet of Poret® Foam. With a 20 ppi Poret® foam (what I recommend) which has about 220 square feet of effective surface area per cubic foot, this is 1.47 x 220 = 323 square feet. So If you use the whole sheet of Poret® you can support roughly 3.23 pounds of fish in a healthy environment (100 square feet of surface area per pound of fish). And I don’t recommend “10 ft2/gallon of water”. Go ONLY with the “100 ft2/pound of fish”.

Question #2

“Thank you so much for the reply but I’m still confused. Essentially I’m wondering how many – 5″ deep x 26″ long x 19.5″ high Poret® Foam Sheets, will I need for 13.2 lbs. of fish (24 × 8.8 oz Discus or 24 x 8.8/16)?”

Answer #2

“The calculation for 13.2 pounds of fish is 13.2 pounds divided by 3.23 pounds  equals four sheets of 5″ deep x 26″ long x 19.5″ high Poret® Foam”

These examples illustrate the process very well.

Tropheus duboisi - Maswa
Tropheus duboisi – Maswa

Sump Considerations

If one is doing the calculations for a sump one should be aware that fluidized bed K1 is roughly 58% more efficient than static 30 ppi foam as far as filtration. The effective surface area considerations are that fluidized K1 is 900 square feet per cubic foot of media. At 60% loading this becomes 540 square feet per cubic foot of sump filter.

Foam with 30 pores per inch has a surface area of 340 square feet per cubic foot. 540/340= 1.58

Buccochromis rhoadesii
Buccochromis rhoadesii

Still another illustration:

Question:

How do you calculate the surface area in media used for biological filtration? For example, I have 30 pot scrubbers and some foam in a Fluval 407 canister filter on a 75 gallon tank.

Reply

OK Each pot scrubber is roughly nine cubic inches of media (large pot scrubbers???). 9×30/12x12x12 = 0.156 cubic feet. Pot scrubbers are 260 square feet per cubic foot media (I could be off on that). 0.156x 260 = 40 square feet from the pot scrubbers. If I remember right a 407 has a piece of 30 ppi foam that is 10 inches x 1 inch x 14 inches. 10x1x12/12x12x12= 0.081 cubic feet. Foam is about 340 square feet per cubic feet 0.081×340 = 27.5 square feet. 27.5 + 40 = 67.5 square feet. That is just off the top of my head. You need to correct the numbers depending on the size of your pot scrubbers and the true size of the 407 foam.

Calculations for a pond

A pond requires different graphs and different calculations:

Media“Efficiency”
from two
tests
“Effective”
Surface
Area ft2/ft3
ft2/ft3
from
math
Fluidized K1 Medianot tested540na
30 PPI Foam17340400
Pot Scrubbers1428080
Static K1 Media13260200
20 PPI Foamnot tested220180
Aquarium Gravel6120120
Blue Matala Pads5100120
Eshopps Bio Balls510060
1/4 to 1/2 inch lava rock36060
Matrix36030
BioHome Ultimate24030
Ceramic Rings24040
filter biomedia efficiency

Still another illustration:

Question:

I am planning a pond of approx. 29000 gallons. I have chosen to buy Japanese imported butterfly koi. not bought or created yet as I am in planning mode, and want this right the first time. I will have a k1 fluidized bed, for the main biofilter, and I want to do this for crystal clear water, and super healthy fish…… So if each mature adult koi will end up being ??’8′?? pounds, how many for a heavy stocked 29000 gallon pond, and most importantly how much k1 fluidized? How many gallons of moving k1 should I have for each koi and altogether? I just cant seem to figure it out.

Answer:

You need to work with cubic feet for a pond, It gets pretty big pretty fast. Let us say you want one koi per thousand gallons, or 29 koi. 29 Koi with 100 square ft of surface area per pound is 2900 square feet. So you want 2900 square feet times eight of surface area or 23,200 square feet on your fluidized K1. Each cubic foot of K1 gives roughly 540 square feet. 2900 divided by 540 equals roughly 5.2 cubic feet. Times eight = 43 cubic feet. (alternatively 23,200 divided by 540 equals 43 cubic feet) So you will need a fluidized bed which is 3 foot high 4 foot wide and 3.6 foot deep (three times four times 3.6 equals 43 cubic feet).

Another way to look at it is that an eight pound koi will 8×100 or 800 square feet of fluidized K1. 800 divided by 540 = 1.5 cubic feet of fluidized K1 per koi. 29 koi need 29 times 1.5 or 43.5 cubic feet.

Further Research

For more on how to calculate filter volume go to these articles:

8.8. Filter and Media Design

7.6. Required Aquarium Filter Media Surface Area


Startpage Aquariumscience

Source: Aquariumscience.org – David Bogert

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Searchfilter
zoekfilter

Neuws, Updates en Promotions

Would you like to be kept informed of News, Updates and Promotions on the AquaInfo website? Subscribe below!