Most beginners in the hobby start out with a Hang On Back Filter or HOB Filter for short. In this article you’ll learn more information about how they work, how to improve their functionality, and how to keep them clean and running efficiently.
HOB filters are great because of their convenience. They are very easy to install and very easy to clean and maintain. Which is why this is the go to filter type for beginners in the hobby.
Setting them up out of the box is fairly simple. Here’s a video instruction of how to set them up – HOB Filter Setup
HOB Filter Media
Depending on your type of HOB the media that comes with it will be different. They each have their own way of providing Mechanical, Biological, and Chemical media. Let’s cover a few of the most popular types of HOB’s.
Marine Land Penguin
The Marine Land Penguin Filter comes with a sponge cartridge that also contains chemical media inside consisting of activated carbon. Most beginners will opt to using this cartridge as it is very convenient, easy to install, and easy to replace.
But as you gain experience, and start shelling out the dollars over and over for all the cartridges you replace you’ll wonder if there’s a better way….and yes, there is.
Using a course and/or medium sponge in the compartment for your cartridges is going to be just as effective at mechanically filtering your water and just as effective at growing beneficial bacteria. All at a fraction of the price…You can get a big block of course, medium and fine sponges for about 5-10 bucks and cut them up to the size of the compartment for your HOB filter.
After that first 5-10 bucks you don’t have to keep spending it over and over like you would with cartridges. These sponges can be rinsed out, squeezed out, and then re-used over and over for years before ever having to replace them.
If you’re using a fine pad to polish the water, that will probably need to be replaced more often but again its penny’s comparably speaking.
That’s a little hack you can do once you feel more comfortable with your filter or when you start feeling the hole burning in your pocket from replacing cartridges 😊
The Marine land Penguin Filter comes with bio-media in the form of a spinning wheel(s). After water is mechanically filtered, on its way out of the filter, water will drip on these wheels causing them to spin and stay in constant motion.
Beneficial Bacteria will begin to grow and live on these “Bio-Wheels”. This is a very important part of the filtering process. The growth of beneficial bacteria is essential in beginning and completing the nitrogen cycle in your aquarium.
Here’s a short video with a simple explanation of the Nitrogen Cycle.
AquaClear and Tidal HOB Filters
The AquaClear HOB Filters and the Tidal HOB Filters internal media are very similar. They already come with a course sponge block which is already preferable to a cartridge. For the same reasons as previously stated. They can be rinsed, squeezed, washed and replaced every time you do a filter cleaning.
Unlike the Penguin HOB these filters do not have “Bio-Wheels”. These filters come with an external source of bio-media that you place inside your HOB’s media compartment. Ceramic rings are one of the most commonly used forms of Bio-media.
But keep in mind that your sponges will also be a great source for beneficial bacteria to grow on as well as growing on your bio-media. That and every other surface in your tank.
So don’t get too caught up with what type or how much bio-media to use. For now just stick with what comes in the box and with trial and error as you get more experienced you can adjust to how much bio-media you really need, which isn’t much. 😉
Chemical Media is not necessary in any type of filter, its more of a personal preference. Chemical media can and will improve your waters clarity as well as remove odors and medications used in your tank water. I use chemical media periodically whenever my water needs that extra boost of clarity.
HOB Filter Cleaning
Cleaning your HOB’s is very easy and convenient. With the AquaClear and Tidal HOB’s, they come with a removable media tray. So you can just pull the whole tray up and out and move to a convenient place to squeeze and clean your sponges.
Make sure you’re cleaning your sponges and bio media in tank water so you don’t kill any beneficial bacteria. Tap water contains chlorine, and that chlorine will kill the beneficial bacteria living on your sponges and bio-media.
Then you simply replace the media into the tray and replace the tray.
If you’re using the cartridges in a Marine Land Penguin just remove and replace the cartridges. If they’re in pretty good shape then dunking and rinsing them IN TANK WATER may save you from having to replace them. Just clean off the gunk and use the same cartridge. This is also beneficial in preserving all the beneficial bacteria growing on those cartridges.
You don’t ever have to clean or rinse your bio-wheels because they don’t get clogged like sponges do, just make sure they keep spinning.
The ease and convenience of an HOB filter is why they’re the go to for beginners. And they all pretty much work great. Consider the cost and availability of each brand and choose what works best for you.
A great addition to your HOB Filter that would help in improving your waters quality without breaking the bank would be a Sponge Filter! CLICK HERE for more info on Sponge Filters.
As you mature in the hobby and maybe, eventually upgrade to a bigger tank you may be interested in Canisters Filters and maybe even a sump some day.
Good luck with your choice and remember to Enjoy The Journey!