February 27, 2015

When it comes to choosing the right filters and pumps for your customers, “the product line should be quality, be easy to use and offer differentiation from the competition!” said Les Wilson of Cobalt Aquatics. “Look for companies with robust warranties and a reputation of working with retailers when times are good and when an issue might arise.”


Hang-on filters are ideal for beginning to intermediate hobbyists because they’re easy to install and convenient to service. Virtually all hang-on filters today use disposable mechanical/chemical inserts, though they can be expensive over the long run. Most models include permanent biological media as well, which are never replaced but should occasionally be rinsed in clean, aged aquarium water to remove built up particulate matter. Generally, hang-on filters must be primed before starting but Aqueon’s QuietFlow line features submersible pumps that are self-starting.

Canister filters are a good choice for larger aquariums and advanced aquarists. They offer better use of chamber space, have higher flow rates and operate under pressure, reducing the chance of water bypassing the media due to partial clogging. They are also quiet, do not require cleaning as often as comparably sized hang-on filters and can be loaded with almost any media the hobbyist desires. Most models feature quick-release connections and lift-out media trays making them user-friendly.

“Cobalt’s EXT’s external pump allows complete flexibility in setup and a true ‘no priming required’ setup,” said Wilson. “The innovative valve block and top-mounted gasket make cleaning the canister as easy as changing a filter cartridge in a power filter but with the capacity and power of a canister.”
Internal power filters are good choices for small- to mid-sized tanks, where having equipment or hoses hanging off the back of the aquarium is undesirable. Hagen’s Marina and Fluval lines provide mechanical, chemical and biological filtration, while Tetra’s internal filters are ideal for turtle tanks as they can be operated in just a few inches of water.

“Cobalt’s DUO-FILTER UV filters are internal power sponge filters that also feature an LED-UV clarifier that removes water-borne microscopic algae, bacteria and other organisms and keeps water clean and green-free,” said Wilson. “In addition, the larger 1000 model also features a ceramic-ring biological filtration stage.”

Lastly, there are undergravel filters. Considered by many to be old fashioned, they have the highest biological capacity of any traditional filter on the market and are enjoying a resurgence in the aquarium industry. They can be operated with an air pump but motorized powerheads make them more efficient.

To ensure optimum performance, sales staff should always recommend filters sized slightly larger than the tank they will be used in. For goldfish, cichlids or fish that dig in the gravel or create more solid waste, extra mechanical media should be recommended. Heavily stocked tanks should be fitted with a filter that has additional biological media. Aquariums larger than 75 gallons work best with multiple filters, which should be serviced in alternating weeks.
Always keep filter cartridges, replacement pads and other filter media in stock and recommend routine replacement. And don’t forget impellers, seals, gaskets and other wearable parts. Being a reliable source of replacement parts keeps customers coming to you instead of ordering online. Avoid manufacturers that make parts difficult to get.

Air Pumps

When it comes to air pumps, quality, not price, is critical.

“The Cobalt OXY-PRO air pumps feature innovative electronic adjustment to provide [the] precise amount of air,” said Wilson. “OXY-PRO air pumps feature innovative electronic adjustment to provide precise amount of air.”

A reverse-flow check valve should be sold with every air pump to prevent backflow in the event of a power outage. Be sure to keep multiple valve sets, extra airlines and diffusers in stock.

Water Pumps

The same considerations for quality, performance and warranty should be considered for water pumps. Internal water pumps provide circulation and are essential for larger aquariums and reef tanks. Cobalt’s MJ pump is ideal for wavemakers, protein skimmers, calcium reactors, nano aquariums, undergravel filters and hydroponic applications, according to Wilson.

Hydor’s Koralia pumps attach to the glass with magnetic retainers and are available in 12 volt models that can be used to simulate the ocean’s wave action by connecting them to their alternating wavemaker controllers.

Drive pumps are larger and are used to operate wet/dry filters, large protein skimmers, reactors and other specialty filters. They are available as external in-line models or submersible models that are placed in filter sumps. Danner Manufacturing’s Supreme pumps can be operated in or out of water, making them especially versatile. Drive pumps should be easy to adapt to a wide array of aquarium equipment using standard PVC fittings or universal hose barbs and they should have low energy consumption.

By offering quality filters and pumps, providing clear choices and training your staff in their application and use, you’ll gain your customers’ trust and keep them coming to you for all their aquarium needs.

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