Being hobbyists for more than a decade, we’ve seen our fair share of ‘miracle’ products that make bold claims about their abilities and promise a one-off fix for all manner of problems. There are relatively few that fully deliver on this promise though and sometimes, we find that for the expense involved, the product hasn’t really lived up to the hype. Having used Polyfilter on and off for years, we’ve been impressed with its performance, but when put under close scrutiny, is this product really doing everything it claims?
Well, Polyfilter has been around for a long-time now and has been tried and tested many times. It was actually commercially launched back in 1976. Now, being distributed with refreshed branding in the UK by Arcadia, this media is made by US firm PolyBioMarine and claims to adsorb a wide range of pollutants from either saltwater or freshwater including Proteins, Amino Acids, Nitrite, Nitrate, Ammonia, Phosphates and Toxic Metals. While this adsorption role follows roughly the same principle as Activated Carbon, Zeolites, GFO etc, Polyfilter differs in that it is a woven matrix of polymer threads and it is these fibres which tightly bind chemicals. Forming a fairly innocuous looking filter pad, Polyfilter is nonetheless very easy to administer either being used passively, or with water actively being passed through it. For this method it can easily be cut to fit in powerfilters for example. We actually used ours between sump baffles effectively (note: always ensure that if the filter blocks water won’t overflow the sump). Another benefit of the microstructure is that Polyfilter will not dump what it has adsorbed like certain other media can. It’s also pre-saturated with trace elements so shouldn’t impact on these in a reef setting.
So on first impressions, Polyfilter really compares well to other adsorpative media. There are several more less obvious benefits too that become apparent when the media is in use. Firstly, unlike carbon and phosphate medias, Polyfilter doesn’t require time-consuming and often messy rinsing. Furthermore, it won’t release particles into the aquarium like the other two media often do. Depending on the content of the water, Polyfilter also has the ability ‘feed-back’ to the aquarist on what it is actually removing unlike other media. For example, normal organic loading will gradually turn the filter brown, while heavy loading will lead to a darker brown or even black colour. Heavy metals that may otherwise accumulate in a closed system also turn the filter specific colours. Given this, there’s no question that this media can be highly useful in quarantine tanks where medicaments need to be quickly manipulated. Medications such as Copper Sulphate and Formalin, Quinine Sulphate, Malachite Green, chelated copper compounds and even antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections can easily be managed. Of course, being filter floss type material it is also excellent at polishing water mechanically, again offering an advantage over other media.
So it’s all good? well, although direct adsorption of organic pollutants may well be occurring, the reduction of certain substances may well be occurring most effectively indirectly – that is, through mechanical removal these pollutants are indirectly being reduced. Like any kind of media if you leave it in too long there’s chance that organic material may decompose. During our test, use of Polyfilter initially caused our skimmer to overflow so it’s wise to empty it before deploying Polyfilter. After this the skimmer produced far less skimmate, suggesting that the Polyfilter was outperforming the skimmer. Our Phosphate level dropped quickly to the lowest level we’ve recorded. On the negative side, Polyfilter can’t be reused and is relatively expensive compared to other media.
In conclusion, Polyfilter remains our favourite adsorpative media and we think it is by far the easiest to work with. It is perhaps not as ‘targeted’ as other media, offering rather more of a shotgun approach. It seems effective in this role nonetheless. For those with quarantine tanks or who suspect heavy metal levels it becomes even more useful and is generally a great emergency item to have on hand. While the expense perhaps rules it out as the sole form of filtration on a system for most, we are sure it could easily accomplish this task. In short, this is one ‘miracle product’ that really does seem to live up to the claims.