Proper Use of Matala

Proper Use of Matala

Matala® is very versatile. Matalas characteristics lend it to many applications.

Pictured to the right is a Small pre-filter

Most peoples initial reaction when they see Matala® is " Hey, this looks like good stuff !".

Well, it is, but it has to be used properly. Many filter designs will benefit.

Koi ponds and water gardens

Mechanical / Solids Filter. (Water filtration)

The Black Matala® can be used as a support grate for other layers of media due to it’s very sturdy and open design. In a settling chamber the Black will slow down and trap very large particles and hair algae. The Green Matala can follow thereby trapping a medium size particle. Both Green and Black clean out very easily by simply shaking the pieces out before draining the sump. When you use the Black or Green Matala® for solids filtering you may use the garden hose to spray clean them. The dirt falls off very easily. The Blue and Gray Matala® will filter out a much smaller particle and yet still maintain good flow distribution. In larger systems all four types can be used in sequence to essentially remove all solids.

Biological Filter. (Water purification)
As you know, a good biofilter needs a lot of surface area with open spaces between for good aerated water flow. A high surface area is useless if the passageways are so small that water flow cannot penetrate. The filter must provide an even distribution of water flow to prohibit channeling and anaerobic conditions. The filter must also have interstitial spaces which are the small areas directly between the filter media which provides an area where the bacteria can fill up in a bacterial matrix. Usually the water flow through these spaces moves a little slower than in more open areas. This provides an aerobic flow of slow moving water and is an excellent environment for a stable population of bacteria to grow in. The Blue and Gray Matala® provides for these requirements. Did you know that a biofilter produces it’s own waste called detritus. Even with total prefiltration some biofilters can plug themselves up with detritus.

More BacteriaDetail of Black Matala® showing growth of bacteria in interstitial spaces and showing bacteria flocks

Detritus will settle out on the top or the bottom of an upflow filter or on the bottom of the tank in a downflow filter. Detritus is actually good in small quantities. Tremendous bacterial growth is occuring on it. However, excessive detritus which is trapped in the media or built up anywhere can turn to sludge over time. Matala® lets the detritus move on through so you can drain it from the system as needed.

Be careful when you clean biological Matala®. A vigourous shake up and down in the filter is often all that is necessary. Very dirty mats will clean properly if you pour pond water through the mat. Large filters can leave the Matala® in place while cleaning. Why take it out if you don’t have to.

Waterfall Filters and Skimmer Boxes

The natural water garden pond uses a skimmer box and waterfall filter. Usually this type of pond also has gravel and rocks covering a rubber liner. Aquatic plants are planted along the shoreline and water lilies in the center complete the picture of a beautiful natural pond. A few koi are added and all seems well until the water turns green. This green water bloom is a normal and natural part of the cycling period of this type pond. Additions of beneficial bacteria will help to eventually clear the green water over a period of one to two months. These benefical bacteria will start to grow in the rocks and gravel and will help to consume some of the nutrients that the algae is feeding on. These bacteria essentially starve the algae of a food source by competition. This type of pond requires religious weekly additions of beneficial bacteria to help reduce nutrients and maintain the eco-system balance. These bacteria can only consume so much waste at a given time. If the water temperature is cold they will function more slowly and will not work as efficiently. If the oxygen level is low they cannot function well. Without sufficient oxygen, the good aerobic oxygen loving bacteria will die and be replaced by a toxin producing stinky anaerobic bacteria. If you add a lot of medicines to the pond you can also damage these bacteria. Bacteria may not be able to keep up with the input of nutrients going into the pond. Too much fish food, rain water or landscape runoff into the pond will add more nutrients than the bacteria can consume and the algae will simply grow more quickly to help reduce the nutrients. (Often your water will test perfectly during an algae bloom because the algae is eating all the available nutrients.) In time the nutrients begin to buid up to a point where the bacteria cannot keep up and you will likely start to grow lots and lots and lots of hairy stringy algae which is simply growing because the bacteria cannot keep up with the nutrient load. So bacteria do help but they can only do so much.

Your filter system can work for the bacteria or against the bacteria. Your filter system does two things.

1) Removes solid waste.

2) Acts as a home to grow more beneficial bacteria, (Biofilter)

It should be able to capture solid debris such as excess food, plant debris, algae particles, etc. If you flush the filter frequently and remove these solid waste then you are lightening the work load of the bacteria. You are also flushing away potential fertilizer for the algae. Removing solid waste frequently is the single most important job you should do routinely for the pond. Your skimmer is your first line of defense for solids capture and removal. If you use our Green Matala pads in the skimmer you will capture large type debris without clogging the skimmer too quickly. The Green Matala will also protect the pump from clogging or running dry. If you are using the typical polyester pad that comes with these skimmers you are likely cleaning your pad daily in some cases. You will have better results with the Matala Green pad in the skimmer. Some of the smaller dirt will pass through the Matala pad and the pump and be sent to the waterfall filter. The waterfall filter is supposed to function as your biofilter but what typically happens is that the dirt clogs the bottom pads of the waterfall and then the water cannot go through the pads anymore. The water pressure simply pushes around the clogged pad and sends the dirty water channeling up the corners and right back into the pond !! Furthermore, if your water flow is channeling around the filter pads the bacteria are not getting adequate oxygen flow and will become a stinky toxic type of bacteria called "anaerobic bacteria" which can actually harm your koi. If you place several layers of Green Matala on the bottom of your waterfall filter instead of the polyester pads the dirt can penetrate into these pads without causing a channeling condition. Then follw the progressive filtering by adding a few layers of Blue Matala on top of the Green. These will capture a smaller particle without clogging and also become an excellent home for beneficial "aerobic" oxygen loving bacteria. Top off your waterfall filter with a final few layers of Gray Matala. this will trap your finer particles and also provide tremendous surface area for aerobic bacteria. Try to fill up all your available space so to maximize your filter capacity. Measure the vertical distance above the shelf or ledge in the waterfall filter up to the waterfall spillway. This shelf is where your pads will rest. Usually there is also some type of support bar or pipe at this shelf. Add enough pads to fill this available space. Each pad is 1.5" thick so you can calculate how many pad layers you will need. Keep a few inches of open space above the final filter pad so water covers the pad before flowing over the waterfall spillway. You may place two hand size boulders on top of the pads to help hold them down if your water flow is too strong. The goal is to allow a progressive filtering of large particle to small particle with good distribution of oxygen flow throughout the available filter area. Now if you do this you will be able to capture a lot more dirt without the clogging and channeling problems. You will not be sending dirt right back to the pond anymore. Plus, your bacteria will actualy have oxygen in order to function properly.

Regardless, every filter has a limited capacity to hold dirt depending on the size of the tank, the quantity of Matala media and the flow rate through it. So you will still have to clean your waterfall filter periodically. Periodically may mean once a year to a pond with only a few koi and no yard runoff. Or periodically could mean once a month if you have an overstocked koi pond. Every time you flush out or backwash your waterfall filter you are washing out the excess dirt and organics from your pond. So the waterfall filter also acts like a solids removal filter. You will lighten the nutrient load on the pond and the bacteria will not have to work so hard and the algae will not have as much available nutrients. All good things. However, if you wash the Matala pads too aggressively or if you use chlorinated tap water to wash the pads then you may also lose a lot of the benefical bacteria that you are trying to culture. So clean the dirt from the pads but do it in a manner that does not completely wash off the bacteria. Try pouring pond water from a 5 gallon bucket over the pads and then drain the dirty water out of the tank. You might have to use a wet dry shop vac to suck out the idrty water. Get real smart and add a bottom drain to your waterfall tank and then use a sump pump in the pond to pour pond water over the Matala pads sending dirty water right out the bottom drain of the filter. This way you don't even have to take the pads out to clean them !!

Here is a little secret that actually makes sense. All the gravel and rocks in the bottom of your natural water garden already harbor sufficient bacteria to act as a biological filter. The bacteria you may lose by cleaning the filter is small compared to the bacteria you already have in the pond gravel. If you can flush out your waterfall dirt frequently you will have a lot nicer pond. There will be a lot less dirt building up in the pond gravel. You will have a lot less nutrients for algae and you will use less additions of bacteria product. It's all about removing nutrients frequently from the pond. PERIOD.

Aquatic plants are also an extremely important part of this eco system. If you do not have aquatic plants in this type of pond then you should consider adding as many as possible right away. Aquatic plants will become your greatest filter in a natural water garden over time. They do need time to grow and develop so don't expect them to help you for at least 6 months to a year unless you plant heavily right from the beginning. As the root structures spread out through the gravel and into the water, they will remove organic dissolved waste from the pond and thereby reduce the nutrient load and help to control algae naturally. Instead of growing algae you will be growing plants. But this will only work if you have sufficient plants.

Multi-Chambered Filters
Multi-Chamber FiltersThis is a more sophisticated type of filter system which can give excellent results. Koi pond enthusiast have been using this type of filter for decades with wonderful results.

A truly functional filter system will utilize a mechanical / solids filter followed by one or more biological filters. In this way the solids are kept from the bio chamber and the bacteria can grow in a high oxygen environment without disturbance for a long time. Many multiple chambers allows for cleaning one filter at a time thereby reducing any drastic changes to water stability. This type of system if properly designed does not just filter your water, it purifies and conditions it. Multi-chambered systems encourage healthy living water and promote stability.

Gravity Fed Systems vs. Pump Fed Systems
Gravity fed filters will fully utilize the Black Matala® since the solids will not be ground up. The Green will also give excellent results following the Black. Most of your solids can be removed in one or two chambers in this way. Your final chamber should utilize the Green, Blue or Gray Matala®.

Pump fed filters will better utilize the Green as a solids filter since the fine solids will be more numerous after the pump. Follow up with the Blue and the Gray Matala for biological filtration.
The Black Mat is very sturdy and can be used as a support grid for any of these systems if desired.

A gravity fed system helps maintain stability in the pond because the waste particles are not ground up into juice by the pump. This controls excessive microbial growth due to lower overall dissolved waste.

The Staggered Effect

Staggered EffectYou will notice from the pictures that many systems stand the Matala® vertically on edge and the colors are staggered upright next to each other. This is actually how Matala® should be used.

The passageways through the edge of the mat are non-restrictive. For example, by combining a Green mat next to a Blue mat, eg. gr/bl/gr/bl/gr/bl sequence, you will get a faster flow of water through the Green ( less resistance ) and a slower flow of water through the Blue mat. Water travels the path of least resistance and so will the dirt along with it. This puts more dirt into the Green and conserves the Blue. .

The Green Matala® cleans easier than the Blue; the Blue is not loaded with dirt so the bacteria are not dealing with high organic loads. If you neglect the filter, this effect will also spread the dirt out more evenly through the filter chamber, as the Green plugs up more flow is forced through the Blue. We have tested this theory for over 4 years now and it does work.

System Designs
Your first look at Matala® will convince you of the benefits of sequential and progressive filtering. The obvious use is to lay the pieces flat in a tank, one on top of the other. In a small filter this is very useful since 2 or more colored layers may be used to spread the dirt out within the tank. A single tall barrel type filter will also benefit from 3 or more layers stacked horizontally. Larger systems will more fully utilize Matala® stood up vertically on edge with colors staggered. Square and rectangular tanks are perfect for Matala®. Round tanks will require R-Matala coils, choose from 8 precut diameters.

Every system will require individual considerations. We have tried Matala® in many types of systems for over 4 years and seen excellent results.

Upflow Systems
Matala works perfectly with upflow filter designs. The ideal configuration would be the Matala® stood vertically rather than flat. This allows for easier cleaning. All you do is grab an individual piece and shake it up and down to clean it. If your filter chamber is packed to tight, take out one piece first. Laid flat you will have to remove all the pieces to get to the bottom dirty piece. Stagger your vertical pieces with different Matala® densities to achieve better solids removal or better biological filtering depending on the tank capacity. A Green piece next to a Gray piece for example will give good flow around the Gray one and trap solids in the Green one. Similar to the typical honeycomb effect seen in Japanese matting filter methods, however you will be trapping dirt as well. Place a Blue or Gray piece flat on top to finish.

Downflow Systems
The same types of configurations will work for downflow as for the upflow but you might want to utilize a top sheet as a prefilter piece. This will also function as a water flow distributor.

Filter pads may need to be removed from the tank to clean on a downflow design. Because of the open design of Matala®, shaking vigorously in the filter will release most of the dirt thereby maintaining the bacterial film.

Crossflow Systems

Big Sister Filter system with MatalaAnother great design with Matala®. Dirty water comes in on one end and travels through various layers of Matala® to extract dirt before the biological pieces at the end of the line.

Cleaning simply involves shaking the pieces up and down in the tank to remove the dirt. Very dirty layers may need to be sprayed off. Fortunately, the Matala® is so open that a quick hose with pond water is all that is necessary.

Trickle filters
The rigid structure and the different available densities of Matala® makes it a perfect media for use in trickle filters. Due to the structure of Matala® the trickling water will tend to spread out more evenly over the different levels of the bio-filter. One should select the density of Matala® depending on the expected fish load, feeding quantity and frequency.


Matala® can be used in aquarium filtrations in the following designs:

  • Wet/dry filtration
  • Cartridge filtration

This beautiful 500 gal. saltwater aquarium is filtered with Green Matala in the pre-filter and Gray Matala in the wet/dry biofilter.

Contact Pentair Aquatics 800-628-8771 for Aquarium Matala cartridges and wet/dry sheets.

Waste water treatments

WastewaterDue to Matala® extremely high surface area vs. its free flow design, bacteria will colonize in mass.

The picture to the left is an actual photo of a small community in Belgium figuring a waste water treatment recycle experiment.

These brown fuzzy strands are actual bacterial growth.


Besides its use for mechanical and biological filtration Matala® can be used for:

  • improving shrimp, lobster and mollusc habitats
  • as a spawning substrate
  • to create extra grazing surface
  • to enhance multi-level rearing
  • as pre-filter for the water intake of an on-land rearing system
  • growing of floating plants
  • Larval feeds do not become trapped within Matala®.
  • Excellent in high density recirculation filter systems

More Matala Usage ↓

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