Phosphates are produced naturally by the breakdown of waste, such as decomposing plants, food, and fish excrement. Allowing phosphates to build up in your tank can lead to algae blooms, resulting in depleted oxygen levels and cloudy water.
You can try to prevent phosphate buildup by regular water change but thanks to technological advancement, products like phosphate remover can easily eliminate phosphates and harmful nutrients from the water.
So, today I’ve brought you some of the best phosphate removers to aid in your fight against phosphate, keeping your aquarium clean and healthy.
Top 7 best phosphate remover reviews
Phosphates are a common component in many household cleaning products and fertilizers. When phosphates enter your aquarium, they can cause algae blooms to occur more quickly than normal.
Phosphate remover is a product that will remove phosphates from the water before they have an opportunity to cause problems.
There are many different brands for you to choose from, so it is important that you do research on which one will suit your needs best before making a purchase. And, so I made things easy for you by researching it in your stead. Check out the products I’ve shortlisted:
1. ROWAphos Phosphate Removal Media
ROWAphos is a highly efficient phosphate remover that can be used in both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. It possesses a one-of-a-kind ability to absorb enormous amounts of phosphate. This prevents excessive algae bloom and negative impact on coral growth caused by phosphate.
You can use it as a separate slow phosphate filter in a canister filter or as the final step after the biological and mechanical filters in the main filtration system. The material can be sandwiched between two layers of thin filter pads or used in a filter bag. Each package of the product will tell you how much to use for various water volumes.
Just be aware it might turn the water a bit muddy for a short time by ousting some of the fine material.
ROWAphos has a remarkably high binding capacity which is why you don’t have to worry about replacing it right away as it can last for several months at a time. And it won’t let the phosphate leach back into the water when exhausted. Impressive, right?
And it does all of that without affecting the tank’s water quality or shocking the animals in your aquarium, because ROWAphos is gentle and perfect for fragile reef systems.
2.GFO HC – High Capacity Bayoxide E33HC Phosphate Remover
In all freshwater and marine aquatic environments, this High Capacity GFO effectively eliminates phosphates as well as silicates, arsenic, growing algae, and other heavy metals. Kolar Labs GFO is claimed as being able to absorb up to four times more phosphates for the same amount of GFO as other brands.
It lasts a long time and does not require replacement for an extended period of time. If you want a fast-acting product then you’re in luck, because Bayoxide E33HC starts functioning as soon as you put it in the tank. As opposed to ROWAPHOS, this one does need a bit of washing before going into the tank.
This is a high-end product that best works in reefs and high-end marine fish tanks.
But it also does a really good job at keeping the water clean and clear by efficiently reducing phosphates in fresh and saltwater aquariums, ponds, pools, and planted tanks. Bayoxide E33HC is perfectly safe for all kinds of pets, invertebrates, and plants.
In tumbling applications such as media reactors, the high hardness of HC GFO results in reduced particles and improved abrasion resistance. Although it best works in reactors, you can use it in media bags too as long as you have a good flow going through the bag.
3.Kolar Labs GFO Bayoxide E33 Phosphate Remover
I’m back with another Kolar labs product. This GFO Bayoxide E33 Phosphate Remover is the classic phosphate removal media of Kolar labs. It works effectively in all sorts of salt and freshwater aquariums, reef tanks, pools, and ponds.
GFO is ideal for phosphate removal because of its wide specific surface, which allows for quick and long-lasting phosphate bonding. The high iron concentration of GFO Bayoxide E33 displays significantly higher absorption capacity paired with faster removal performance for extremely effective and long-lasting phosphate reduction, resulting in a healthier aquarium.
Just like its HC version, this one also requires rinsing before the first use. It’s an almost powdery substance with fine particles so you’ll have to be careful with where you’ll place it. You can put it directly in a fluidized reactor with low flow. If you choose to do so, then it’s a good idea to run the reactor exit through a filter sock to trap any escaped grains or dust.
Since GFO removes phosphate pretty quickly, you’ll want to start with a slow and small dose. Then once the phosphate level is under control, you can raise the amount to maintain consistency.
Keep monitoring the phosphate level and change/ add media if the level starts rising. Kolar labs GFO Bayoxide E33 works quite well at preventing algae. But if you see an increase in algae growth despite the low phosphate level, keep increasing the media volume or you can switch to the high capacity GFO.
4.Two Little Fishies ATLPB4 Phosban 454gm
Phosban from Two Little Fishies has the highest absorption capacity of any phosphate filtration material. The Synthetic ferric oxide hydroxide-based granules have the ability to prevent algal bloom in your aquarium by permanently removing phosphates and absorbing other pollutants such as silicate. And it does all that without releasing any substances back into the water.
It’s non-toxic and lasts for months in just about all salt and freshwater aquariums.
Phosban can be rinsed quickly before use, but because it can crumble easily, don’t stir or it’ll crush the granules into powder. This product comes with a mesh bag. So you can place it in the media bag but it’s not fine enough. The best thing would be to place it in a media reactor and let the water run through it freely.
The flow must be low enough to keep the granules from tumbling and grinding into powder. So for best results, you can pair it with a TLF Phosban Reactor.
PhosBan is safe and can be taken up to 5 times the recommended dosage, however, it can induce a decline in alkalinity at large doses.
Monitor alkalinity levels and supplement with buffer or other alkalinity supplements as necessary. PhosBan’s usable life is determined by the phosphate concentration in the tank. Just replace it when you notice the phosphate level starts to go up and you’ll be fine.
5. Seachem PhosGuard 500ml
Although PhosGuard works in both fresh and saltwater, it performs better in the latter. It’s extremely porous and bead-shaped in form, allowing water to flow unobstructedly through and around it, improving efficiency and capacity.
This product is best used in limited amounts and adjusted on a regular basis. It exhausts pretty quickly (faster than GFO) in an environment with a high phosphate measurement (4–5 days).
Place the product in an area with a high flow rate and monitor the phosphate levels, making adjustments as appropriate.
I’d not recommend using phosguard in a media reactor since all the tumbling can turn it into dust. You can use fine mesh bags instead.
Also, phosphate buffered freshwater is no good since PhosGuard will remove the buffer until the water is saturated.
The product needs to be washed by adding it to freshwater first. The addition of seawater to the dry product may create enough heat to bring the water to a boil. Freshwater creates far less heat, and adding the product to it allows the heat to safely disperse.
Note that, PhosGuard may turn yellow as it picks up organics, but this isn’t an indication of exhaustion. Start testing the phosphate weekly until it starts to climb again. When this happens, you’ll know it’s time to change.
If you want a phosphate remover that won’t drop the phosphate way too quickly, PhosGuard can help you with that.
6.API PHOS-ZORB Filtration media
PHOS-ZORB is a filter material that eliminates phosphate and silicate, two major nutrients present in freshwater and saltwater aquariums, selectively. And it does its job without expelling any trace elements or affecting the pH. In freshwater aquariums, PHOS-ZORB also eliminates chemicals that hinder plant development.
This product should be used when testing indicates the presence of phosphate (greater than 0 ppm) or silicate (greater than 0.5 ppm) in the water. To eliminate dust and activate PHOS-ZORB, rinse the pouch under running water for several minutes before using. The activation process might generate some heat temporarily so be careful with that.
Then Place the pouch in the aquarium filter’s water flow route. Replace it every 2 months or when rising phosphate or silicate levels are detected by testing.
PHOS-ZORB works well with most canister filters and media bags. Just make sure the water is flowing through it.
However, this filtration media is for a tank filter that holds 35-60 gallons. So, if you have a tank filtration system smaller than this, it would not be able to accommodate it.
Just like every other product, PHOS-ZORB will work well if it isn’t clogged by organic debris, so I’d recommend using some sort of mechanical filtration beforehand.
All in all, I’d say this product does a pretty good job at creating a healthy environment in your aquarium for your plants, fish, and other aquatic lives by effectively removing phosphate and silicate from the system.
7.Kent Marine Phosphate Sponge for Aquariums
This Phosphate Sponge is a ceramic media that will adsorb phosphates within hours when placed directly in the water flow. In a 120 gallon tank, it reduces 1.0 ppm of phosphate or silicates to less than.05 ppm for every dry quart of the medium in both fresh and saltwater aquariums or ponds. Cracked beads expose greater surface area, increasing efficiency!
Rinse thoroughly with clean water before using. While rinsing, wear rubber gloves and place them in a plastic container as it can be very hot when you wet the product for the first time. Then place directly in the water flow in a large mesh bag or a canister filter. The water should run through the material. Leave for 8 hours to 2 days at most.
Replace the initial charge and change on a frequent basis if you wish to keep phosphates low or eliminate silicates from the system.
Phosphate must be removed first, then a new charge of Phosphate Sponge must be kept in the system for several days to remove silicate.
Depending on the circumstances of use, you can renew this product two times at most. Each time the capacity will be significantly reduced. You can also use this product to absorb moisture while drying for ozone. In that case, you can use it again and again.
How to pick the best phosphate remover: Buying guide
There is a myriad of phosphate removing products in the market right now so it’s only natural for you to get confused over which one to buy. After all, you only want what’s best for your aquatic space where your plants and pets will thrive, right?
In order to get a healthy, phosphate and algae-free aquatic environment, you’ll need to tick off some important things before choosing the perfect phosphate remover for your tank.
As a baseline. Your chosen product should be able to easily bring down the phosphate concentrations to a safe level. But there’s more to that. So, let’s check out all the things you’ll need to consider before picking the best phosphate remover for your tank.
Size of your Aquarium
Next, you have to look the size of your aquarium. Now, most of the products that I’ve mentioned earlier do work in almost all sizes of tanks. But there are phosphate removers like API PHOS-ZORB filtration media, which works only in bigger tanks. So if you’ve got a smaller tank, it won’t be able to accommodate it.
So, check if the phosphate remover would be able to fit in your tank’s filtration system.
On to our next topic, filtration devices. You’ll need a good filtration system and somewhere to house the filter media, right? This is where the filtration devices come in. and there are quite a few of them. Media reactors, canister filters, filter socks, filtration media, etc are some of the popular ones.
Different brands of phosphate removers require different types of containers. Some work just fine with your primary filtration system while there are others that work efficiently if the substance is paired with a media reactor or canister filter.
Find out what kind of filtration system your specific media requires. Make necessary modifications and purchases if you have to. Note that some phosphate removers come with media bags but they don’t always work well together, while others do.
Also, every filtration media requires a specific rate of flow. Some need to be placed in a high flow area while others won’t work properly without a low flow.
Find out how efficient the phosphate removal media is, if it’s long-lasting, and about its binding capacity. If you want something that’ll quickly fix your phosphate problem you can check out GFO based substances.
If you don’t have much time to spare don’t invest in products that’ll exhaust too quickly. And they will leech back the nutrients into the water if you fail to change them timely. Having a high binding capacity is a very important factor.
Compromising pH level, toxicity, ease of use, maintenance, your budget, are some of the other things you’ll need to look out for while picking the perfect phosphate remover.
How To Maintain Low Levels Of Phosphate In Water?
Your job isn’t done once you bring the phosphate level down on the tank. You’d have to make sure the phosphate level stays low.
As I mentioned before, the optimal nutritional value for phosphate in water should be 0.5ppm (mg/l) or less. If it rises to a level of 1.0ppm or higher, it’ll start aiding algae bloom. To avoid this, you’ll have to keep the phosphate level low.
So, here’s what you need to do to prevent phosphate build-up in the water:
- Water Changes: Maintain a regular water changing schedule. Big, abrupt water changes can mess with the water chemistry that can be shocking for the animals. So, once you’ve brought down the phosphate level, keep changing 10-15% of the water every week. That will keep your tank water out of phosphates and other harmful substances.
- Water source: Tap water most of the time contains 1ppm or higher levels of phosphate. In that case, if you use tap water, there’ll be a rise in the phosphate level of your tank. So, test your water source and if it contains higher phosphate levels, you have to find an alternative water source for your tank. If you must use the tap water, make sure to treat it first to get rid of the high phosphate level.
- Tank maintenance: keep your tank clean. Regularly clean the debris . Vacuum the substrate to remove uneaten fish foods, feces and deteriorate. Always keep your walls clean of any algae. Use a non-abrasive cloth or pad to wipe the side of the walls. In case of any particularly strong build-up, use an algae scraper. Make sure to clean the debris and algae off the props, plants and grass too.
- Test kits: Even when you think your tank has a safe phosphate level, don’t stop testing the phosphate, nitrate level and the overall water condition. Most of the time the water would look fine but the fishes and plants would be suffering and you wouldn’t even know. Keep in mind that phosphates can be present in both organic and inorganic form. So, when you’re testing the phosphate level, you’re only testing a small part of the total phosphate content as test kits can only test the inorganic phosphates. If the test result shows any sign of phosphate growth, take immediate action.
- Food source: Fish food is one of the key sources of phosphate in aquarium water. Store-bought fish foods contain phosphate as preservative. So, do your research and buy fish food that contains zero or a lower level of phosphate.
- Feed in moderation: Feed your fish babies sparingly. Overfeeding will cause the uneaten food to decay and produce phosphate and other harmful chemicals. Keep notes of how much they eat or how often you need to feed them in a day to avoid wasting food. Seek expert advice if needed. Vacuum the gravel to get rid of any leftover munchies.
- Avoid overcrowding: Don’t get your fish tank packed like sardines. The more fish you have in your tank, there will be more fish waste. Which will increase the phosphate and nitrate levels. Get a bigger tank if you think the current one is not accommodating the fishes and their waste level. Plus, an overcrowded tank would just not be fun for your fishes anyway.
- Filter media: Choose a good phosphate removing filter media. Carbon filter is usually a good choice. But it’s infamous for adding phosphate to the water. However, many manufacturers are now making carbon media that won’t leech the phosphate back into the water. So, whatever filter media you choose, make sure to read the labels and instructions to see if it’s formulated for not releasing the phosphate. Make sure to always keep the filter clean. Or it’ll leech the substances back into the water.
- Water treatments: Chemical treatments should be used only when nothing else seems to work. Because as helpful they can be, pH and kH buffers and other chemical additives can add phosphates in the water. So, use water treatments only as a last resort. Do your own research and select the ones that contain the least amount of phosphates.
Why do you need a phosphate remover?
First of all, you’ll have to check if you do actually need to use a phosphate remover in the first place. Phosphate is present in all kinds of tanks and aquariums. Routinely testing the water using test kits will show you the phosphate and other nutrients levels in your aquarium.
The optimal nutritional value for phosphate in water should be 0.5ppm (mg/l) or less. If the test shows a level of 1.0ppm or higher, that means the phosphate level is climbing and you’ll need to bring it down before it aids in algae blooming.
If you have a smaller tank than regular water change, a good filtration system, substrate vacuuming might help you to bring down the phosphate level. However, if you possess a big aquarium, you’ll definitely need to invest in a good phosphate remover.
Frequently asked questions
What is a good phosphate level for water bodies?
Phosphate level should be 0.5ppm or less. To keep a healthy tank, the level shouldn’t exceed 1.0 ppm (mg/l).
Are phosphate removers algaecides?
Phosphate removers aren’t algaecides. By removing phosphate from the water you can prevent it from aiding algae bloom but you’ll still need the algaecide to kill them off.
Can frequent water changes eliminate phosphate?
To some extent, it isn’t very effective. Since the underlying source could still be present there, it’s more of a temporary fix. But regular water changes are necessary to keep your aquarium healthy.
How often do I need to change the filter media?
There are no hard and fast rules about how often you should change your filter media as different types of products work differently. So it solely depends on what media you’re using and how fast it exhausts.
Do I have to disassemble everything in the tank, including the fish, to clean it?
No. don’t take out the fish and tear down the tank to clean it. Don’t do large-volume, abrupt water changes. This will cause stress for the fish and disrupt the tank’s biological balance.
So there you have it, my top picks for the best phosphate removers you can get for your aquariums and tanks. PhosBan from TLF takes the cake for me but to be fair, all of the products are great in their own right.
You should choose one according to your preference and needs. And I hope this write-up helps you find the perfect match.
Table of Contents
- Top 7 best phosphate remover reviews
- How to pick the best phosphate remover: Buying guide
- How To Maintain Low Levels Of Phosphate In Water?
- Why do you need a phosphate remover?
- Frequently asked questions
- Final Words