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The primary purpose of an aquarium filter is to remove toxic waste products from the water and prevent your fish from being poisoned by these.

There are three types of filtration: mechanical, whereby dirty water passes through the filter media and debris is removed pysically; biological, whereby good bacteria live in the filter media and breakdown toxic ammonia and nitrite; and chemical, whereby using special activated media such as carbon will filter out other toxic substances, water discolouration or medicine treatments.