The aim of this study was to evaluate backwashing effects on the apparent porosity of the filter media and on the hydraulic behaviour of a pilot scale submerged filter, prior to biofilm colonization, under different hydraulic retention times, and different air flow rates. Tracer curves were analysed with two mathematical models for ideal and non-ideal flow (axial dispersion and Wolf and Resnick models). The filter media was lava stones sieved to 4.5 mm. Backwashing causes attrition of media particles, decreasing the void volume of the filter media and, consequently, the tracer flow is more uniform. The eroded media presented lower dead volumes (79% for the filter with aeration and 8% for the filter without aeration) compared with the new media (83% for the filter with aeration and 22% for the filter without aeration). The flow patterns of eroded and new media were different because the more regular shape of the particles decreases the void volume of the filter media. The dead volume is attributed, in the case of the filter with aeration, to the turbulence caused by the air bubbles that generate preferential channelling of the bulk liquid along the filter media, creating large zones of stagnant liquid and, for the filter without aeration, to the channels formed due to the irregular shaped media.