Loving aquatic pets and having a fish tank, I always want to make the best investments for tank equipment that helps ensure the safe aquatic environment and great health for my fishes and other residents of my tank. A fish tank filter has come to my mind.
I spend a lot of time wondering if we really need a filter for the tank and what are the best fish tank filter models in the market. And the time of searching and testing a lot of products and brands has given me the answer.
Why Needs A Fish Tank Filter
Being asked whether we need a fish tank cleaner, I have to say that I never feel disappointed with the purchase as a fish tank filter has many advantages and benefits.
Generally, maker built and designed a filter to remove the toxic buildup of nitrates and ammonia, clean the water environment and aerate the water in order to make your fish breathe easily.
For many people, removing the fish and replacing water are traumatizing tasks especially when some fishes try to squirm away. A filter is useful equipment as it can do this task for you without removing the fishes and other aquatic pets. With a high-quality fish tank filter, you don’t need to make water changes every week basis.
It is also true for the tropical fish that needs a saltwater environment as the task of cleaning the tank or aquarium yourself become impractical and impossible. So, having a fish tank filter can cut down the household chores which definitely makes you feel at ease.
Besides removing the toxins and debris from the water, the filter also helps to increase the oxygen into the water that is beneficial for fish’s life.
Moreover, another purpose of a fish tank filter is that it creates a favorable environment for good bacteria to grow.
However, you can not rely completely on the filter that will do all the work for you without doing anything. It is important for you to maintain a filter well and check it frequently to ensure that it still functions well.
There are a lot of types of filters available in the market, including internal and external filters, mechanical, chemical and biological filters. You can choose the best filter that is suitable for your needs and purposes.
Here are 12 best fish tank filters based on their own cons and pros
|Product||Dimension||Water-Flow Rate||For Aquariums / Tanks|
|SunSun HW-302 3-Stage External Canister Aquarium Filter||10 x 13 x 15 inches||264 GPH (1000L/hr)||Up to 75 gallons|
|Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter||6.2 x 6.1 x 2.4 inches||Up to 40 gallons|
|Up To 30 Gallon Tank Power Filter||6 x 4 x 6 inches||Up to 30 gallons|
|Marineland Penguin Power Filter||15.2 x 6.1 x 8 inches||Up to 350 GPH||Up to 70 gallons|
|Tetra Whisper in-Tank Filter||5.1 x 5.9 x 10.5 inches||Up to 40 gallons|
|Aqua Clear – Fish Tank Filter||4 x 9 x 8 inches||66 GPH||Up to 50 gallons|
|Aqueon Replacement Filter||4.9 x 6 x 4 inches||100 GPH||Up to 20 gallons|
|Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter||7 x 5 x 7.5 inches||200 GPH||Up to 55 gallons|
|Marineland Rite-Size Penguin Power Filter||4.5 x 6.5 x 6.8 inches|
|Whisper IQ Power Filter||10 GPH||10 gallons|
|Upettools Aquarium Filter||20 gallons|
|Huijukon Air Pump Double Sponge Filter||8″ tall x 6″ wide, Height: adjustable freely||Up to 55 gallons|
1. SunSun HW-302 3-Stage External Canister Aquarium Filter
Buy it now
I have done a lot of careful research before concluding that the canister filters are effective products although their costs are often pricy. With that high price, it seems hard for you to spend too much money on something that cleans the water in the tank. When I found this one, I was surprised at the cheaper cost (cheaper than other canister filters) and I would like to give it a shot.
The result is I am extremely satisfied with the purchase. Using this filter, I can set up the filter medium I want as it features 3 shelves for filtration medium. What I also like about this model is that it is super quiet and silent so that you can only listen when sitting next to it.
This filter also offers green vinyl hoses that are thin and flimsy. Because the outlet and inlet connections are also thin, which makes the hose/curry bar connections easy. With a little bit of patience, you can set up this litter without using any additional equipment.
The SunSun external fish tank filter has done a good job in cleaning the tank and protecting the health of my shrimp and fish; therefore, it deserves to be the best seller in the filter market. However, if you want to use this filter that is suitable for tanks up to 75 gallons, you should consider the size your fish and other aquatic pets in your tanks as the filter may be large and make small fish or shrimp get sucked into.
2. Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter
Buy it now
One of the best small fish tank filter with a cheap price I had a chance to try out is Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter.
In comparison with the canister filters that are difficult to set up and maintain, this unit has its own cons and pros. One of the amazing cons is that the set up is easy and the filtration system is amazing and effective. The fact that it avoids the tension on the surface of water gives this filter better point as most of the canister filters cannot do that.
Furthermore, this filter is designed with auto-start pump without priming, which means that it can automatically restart when the power is restored or interrupted. The included carbon cartridge is also powerful in removing the discoloration and odors from the water.
However, if you are so sensitive to something loud, this filter may annoy you because of the noise from the motor working.
3. Up To 30 Gallon Tank Power Filter
Buy it now
This filter is suitable for tank or aquarium up to 30 gallons. I have tried more expensive brands more than this simplified filter but for my only concern about an affordable filter working efficiently in cleaning the water, this filter ends up meeting my needs.
Thanks to the unique filtration technology, it can get rid of toxins, contaminants, and discoloration from the water. Furthermore, Hi-Flow bio-sponge ensure a healthy aquatic environment.
I like the no-mess cartridges as it is easy to make cartridge changes and my hands are still clean and dry during these changes.
As a saltwater fish tank filter, it is pretty nice and quiet as well as easy to set up even though there are no included instructions. This filter can also be used for a freshwater aquarium.
4. Marineland Penguin Power Filter
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The instruction claims that this Marineland Penguin fish tank filter features 350 gallons per hour flow rate; therefore, it is suitable for tanks up to 70 gallons. This filter works in three stages: mechanical, chemical and biological filtration, which ensures the tank totally safe, clean, and stink-free.
I can say that the Marine Penguin fish tank filter is one of the best that keep viruses and bacterial infections in the tank at by, so it ensures the safe environment for your fish.
What I like about this product is that the filter is small enough to disguise in the tank easily. The operation is also discreet and quiet, so there is no discomfort when I use this filter.
Furthermore, using this one, hobbyists don’t have to to pay too much time on its maintenance as the filters just need removing and replacing once a month.
Finally, make sure that the filter is submerged a little lower because setting it too high may result in an annoying slapping sound.
5. Tetra Whisper in-Tank Filter
Buy it now
Tetra Whisper fish tank filter is an inexpensive quiet filter for up to 40 gallons aquarium as the filter is well submerged. Don’t think that it isn’t much more than a plastic bucket. Its simple design works as effective as other expensive filters.
There is no need for priming even when you have a power failure. When the power comes back, it continues working automatically.
This filter is designed with large biofilter cartridges and bio scrubbers; therefore, it can be used for both turtle tanks and aquariums. I can also install it with two suction cups or a suction cup and a hanger, depending on where I want to place this filter. For cleaning, the bottom can be removable to access the impeller.
This fish tank filter has received a lot of reviews and some of them have complained that it stops working after a few months. I think it means you have to clean the filter now. Whatever good filter still needs cleaning at least once a month to maintain the maximum function. Other complaints are about mechanical noises; however, in my opinion, this issue can happen with any filter. So, it isn’t a big deal.
It is easy for you to notice that this filter’s pros still overweight its cons. For example, among similar products with the same cost, this filter looks better. Made of flexible and tough plastic, it is hard to break even when you drop it on the floor.
6. Aqua Clear – Fish Tank Filter
Buy it now
I have bought the Aqua Clear fish tank filter and like them. One of the good points of this filter is to able to clean all the filter components by removing three filter segments from the unit and then returning them. Anyone who has cleaned this Aqua Clear filter can know its advantages.
About the performance, the maker claimed that this filter has a wonderful larger filtration volume than other similar filters, which is a big bonus.
Among the outstanding features, what I like about this one is how efficiently it saves my operation costs due to the fact that it is easy to clean and maintain.
Someone may complain about the waterfall sound but for me, the filter’s operation is fairly quiet and relaxing.
Other cons are that they need to be primed and it is the most expensive HOB filter. However, the excellent design and function still make it worth a try.
7. Aqueon Replacement Filter
Buy it now
I have tried some models of Aqueon QuietFlow power filters that have different prices and are designed for different sizes of the aquarium. Although they are not the best hang on fish tank filters, in my opinion, this Aqueon filter can give you what you pay for and even it also exceeds your expectation.
Overall, the Aqueon filter has a number of pros such as multi-stage filtration system, quiet operation, self-priming, easy maintenance and lifetime warranty. This filter is definitely good at cleaning the water and making sure that fish isn’t dead. For the cost of $18, I think this Aqueon filter is quite affordable for someone who wants to maintain a safe and healthy environment for fish and aquatic pets.
For the optimal performance, it needs changing every 4 to 6 weeks, which is a note that I would like to mention before you make the purchase. Another note is that the included Bioholster shouldn’t clean when you replace the cartridge because of the beneficial biological bacteria that also contribute to the benefits of this fish tank filter.
8. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
Buy it now
Seeing the price tag of more than only $20, I was skeptical about its durability, but it is perfect so far. No leaks, quiet in operation, plenty of room that enables you to use the filter medium combo.
This filter is designed with Bio-Falls Quad-Filtration system that contains anaerobic bacteria removing ammonia and increasing oxygen into the tank. This two-in-one system gives it a standout point for the purchase decision.
For those features, I consider this Penn Plax Cascade is one of the top 3 HOB filters on the market, along with the Fluval Ca and AquaClear. Furthermore, it is also much less expensive, compared with other similar sized products.
This hang on the fish tank filter with the water flow rate of 185 gallons per hour is suitable for aquarium up to 55 gallons.
9. Marineland Rite-Size Penguin Power Filter
Buy it now
This Marineland works great although the cost is much cheaper than other filters in the market. The three stages of filtration and activated charcoal are really good at getting rid of chemical residues and odors, purifying the water and ensuring a healthy environment for fish. Any harmful particles are removed in a couple of hours thanks to the Marineland’s operation. The fish looks happy and active when I use the filter regularly.
This filter is super cheap (about $8) and it can fit for every tanks and aquarium, which makes me want to buy it immediately. Compared with other products of the same price, this one of cheap fish tank filters is the best and even exceeds my expectation.
Consistent, effective and super affordable. These are what I would like to say about this Marineland filter. For me, it is the best fish tank filter you can buy with the price of less than $10.
10. Whisper IQ Power Filter
Buy it now
Because of its name, I expected that this brand is the quietest filter on the market. But the truth is different. However, thanks to numerous unique features, I can say that it is the best small cartridge filter among other products I have tried.
Besides producing minimal noise, this filter is durable and easy to maintain; therefore, it saves a lot of costs in operation if running in the long term. Furthermore, when the submerged motor doesn’t need any priming when starting to work, which also helps to eliminate the steps in the cleaning process.
For more other benefits, this ideal item also provides more oxygen into the aquarium and improves the water condition with water movements and underwater bubbles
I would like to recommend this filter for sensitive fish like bettas as it has a low flow rate. All of these features have shown that this reliable model is what hobbyists need for their aquarium. The high capacity and affordability are also two important factors that encourage me to pick this one on the market.
11. Upettools Aquarium Filter
Buy it now
This Upettools Aquarium Filter is a sponge filter but is the best one I have known in this type of filter. Its design is far more beneficial bacteria and faster cycling, which has been improved significantly. The bottom is a good spot for small media.
In my opinion, it is a suitable filter for a small tank. If you have a good pump, this filter can purify a lot of water and have a good flow. Furthermore, how easy it is to use and clean and how customizable it is even with the little container gives this filter a big bonus.
With all unique features, I understand why the price is much more expensive than other similar products but it is worth for you to pay more.
12. Huijukon Air Pump Double Sponge Filter
Buy it now
This double sponge filter made from high-quality material has a simple design but works great for that price. The sponge with 10 layers is very fine, which actually does a good job in purifying the water and ensuring a healthy and safe environment for fish.
This filter is recommended for tanks of shrimp or baby fry because with this feature, they won’t get stuck in it.
Gentle flow but it definitely attracts food, dirt and other waste effectively. I also really like how I can adjust the angle and height of the bubbles, and even the lean on the sponges; therefore, this filter can be tilted away from the wall.
The pump is a bit noisy although the maker claimed that it has no noise. That is the only drawback I found about this product.
How To Pick The Most Suitable Fish Tank Filter
1. Types Of Fish Tank Filter
In the market, you can find many types of fish tank filters including air-driven internal, undergravel, power, canister, biological (wet or dry) filters. In my opinion, it is important to understand the basic features, pros, and cons of each type before you make the purchase decision.
Here is the table that gives you that information.
|Air-Driven Internal Fish Tank Filter||Small size|
Placed under the water
|Fit in a variety of fish tanks|
Very well-constructed and sturdy
Have a small amount of media
Take time on maintenance
|Someone whose aquariums are at the home or a hospital|
|Undegravel Fish Tank Filter||Installed in the bottom of the tank||Work for the chemical filtration and biological filtration|
|Difficult to clean|
Likely to get debris build-up in the tank
Not good for planted aquariums
|Someone who has tanks with live plants or large community tanks|
|Power Filter||Often hang on the back of the aquarium|
Filter water through the tube
Easy to set up
Work for the mechanism, biological, and chemical filtration
Easy to install
Require little maintenance
|Not suitable for weak swimming fish|
Take up space
Cause the loss of water
|Someone who has strong swimming fish|
|Canister Filter||Hold different filter media type|
|Hold more filter media|
Clean the aquarium more efficiently
Out of the way
No loss of water
|Difficult to set up and maintain|
|Someone who isn’t on a tight budget|
|Wet/Dry Filter||Exposed to both water and air|
|Increases the good bacteria|
Cut down maintenance
A little bit noisy
|Someone who has large saltwater aquariums|
|Diatomic Filter||Submersible unit|
Designed with the UV radiation filtration system
|Remove very small particles|
|Easy to get clogged|
Need to clean too often
|Someone who has enough time|
|Sponge Filter||The simplest form of filters|
A piece of sponge on the top with an air stone and a tube
Produces less current
Prevent injury for small fish
|Take extra space|
Not be pretty
|Someone who has tiny or delicate fish|
|Fluidized Bed Filter||Efficient biological filter using silica chips or sand as the filter medium|
Hang on the back of the aquarium
|Hidden from view||Have to buy water pumps separately||Someone who doesn’t want something bulky or complicated|
To select the suitable type of a fish tank filter for your needs, you should follow these guidelines.
- Know the size of your current fish tank and number of your fish
- Make sure that the filter is suitable for your type of fish. Are your fish sensitive?
- Choose the tank filter that is easy to clean and maintain
- Know the basic functions of the filter type you choose and how to clean and maintain it
- The external filters are often expensive but they will save you a lot of money on their maintenance
- Consider your budget
- Try different types of filters to get the best one
2. Know The Recommended Fish Tank Size
Before taking the purchase, you should consider the size of the fish tank recommended by the filter manufacturer to use with their models. You can easily find the information about recommended fish tank size in the model’s instruction, for example, “up to 20 gallons” or “up to 50 gallons”. This number shows the maximal size of the aquarium the manufacturers recommend you use with their filter.
3. Choose The Right Water-Flow Rate For The Tank Filter
The water flow rate for the filter indicates the number of gallons per minute flow through the foot of filter media. Choosing the right water-flow rate determines how efficiently and fast the entire filter system works. This number is calculated in gallons per hour.
There is the rule of thumb for you. Make sure that all the water in the tank or aquarium passes through the fish tank filter at least four times each hour. Based on this rule, it is easy for you to calculate the right water-flow rate for tank filter you need. When it comes to borderline, you need a higher flow rate. For instance, a 30-gallon tank needs a flow rate of at least 120 gallons per hour.
It is recommended understanding this rating before you make the purchase.
4. Find The Top-Rated Brands
Brands are also an important factor when you want to choose the best fish tank filter for your current aquarium. Some brands are considered as the top-rated brands that have made a lot of high-quality products such as Penn Pax, Fluval, Marineland, EHEIM, AquaClear, and SunSun, etc.
5. Read The Reviews
Any reviews on fish tank filters reviews from the trustworthy review sites and stores will definitely help you choose the good product you need for your current aquarium. There are many users like me who have tried such filters and want to help others choose the best filters in the market by giving them useful information.
Besides these factors I mentioned above, you should also learn more about the filtration technology that is a unique feature manufacturer adds to make their models stand out.
How To Build A Fish Tank Filter
It is possible for you to build an affordable homemade fish tank filter if you can not afford an expensive tank filter or want to try something new. Three years ago, I made a filter tank in 5 steps with under $20.
If you want to know how to build a fish tank filter by yourself, I would like to instruct step by step.
First of all, you need these following items:
- Igloo Thermos with cap (I recommend you choose the one with 11’’tall and it needs to have a hold in the bottom for an adapter)
- Activated carbon pellets
- A submersible pump
- Filter sponges
- A plastic ring
- Clay and gravel
- Inflow tube
- Ceramic tubes
- An adapter
Here is the step by step instruction:
- Put the submersible pump inside the thermos cap
- Connect the electric wires with the top through the hold in the bottom of the thermos cap
- Use the sealant to attach the pump
- Let it dry for at least 24 hours
- Inside the canister, you place these items in order from the bottom to the top of the canister: inflow tube (it needs connecting to the adapter installed on the canister’s bottom), filter sponge, ceramic tubes, gravel, and clay, activated carbon, another piece of the filter sponge
Before you put them together, make sure that the canister has enough room at the top for the pump to fit inside.
It is undeniable that creating a fish tank filter at home can help you save a lot of costs.
However, not all attempts can lead to success. After building my fish tank filter, I have noticed some issues such as cloudy water or bad odor. I even re-build this filter when I have done something wrong.
Furthermore, the materials used to make this filter is suitable only for a small and medium tank. But if your tank is quite larger, this filter may not be as efficient as we anticipated.
Of course, it is good for you to save money but it isn’t a perfect choice for your fish’s health with these on-going problems. If you aren’t on a tight budget, you should spend money on a professional-made fish tank filter.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How do you tell if your fish tank filter is not working?
How easily you see whether your fish tank filter is not working depends on the type of filter. In some products, you can see the bubbles coming out or listen to a ripple sound produced by a canister filter, enabling you to know it is working. If there is no water flow, it means that your filter may be clogged and dirty, so it is the time to clean the filter.
Furthermore, you can check the nitrites and ammonia. If the amount of nitrites and ammonia is so high, you have to fix the pump (repair or clean).
For ensuring the filter always function well, the regular schedule for cleaning and maintenance is the most important.
2. What is the most economical fish tank filter?
There are many fish tank filters with the economical price but they have a good quality for you to choose from if you are on a tight budget. Among models I mentioned above, the most economical fish tank filters are Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter, Marineland Rite-Size Penguin Filter, and Huijukon Air Pump Double Sponge Filter that cost you about $10. I couldn’t find any things at the local pet store cheaper than these models. However, their quality really exceeds my expectation.
3. What is the strongest fish tank filter?
Among the products I mention here, one of the strongest high-performing filters that are worth a try is Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter. It has an impressive filtration rate (200 gallons per hour) and the outstanding filtration ability that makes the water becomes clearer quickly.
The Sun Sun HW-302 3-Stage External Canister Aquarium Filter also is the strongest tank filter that has the water flow rate of 264GPH with super silence and advanced features.
The Huijukon Air Pump Double Sponge Filter is one of the best filters which has the strongest performance. It is perfect for aquarium inhabitants such as angelfish, shrimps, discus, etc.
4. Why is my healthy fantail goldfish sleeping under the fish tank filter
It is not like your goldfish sleeping. In my opinion, they may get sick or ammonia poisoning. Fish don’t sleep or crawl under the tank. When you see they do some strange things, it might mean that the ammonia levels reach the critical stage.
To avoid that situation, it is important for you to make a quick water change and use a conditioner to get rid of ammonia frequently. I often do it every 3 or 4 days. A good fish tank filter can help you do it as many products are designed with a system that helps you check your water daily.
If you have many kinds of fish but the tank is so small, you should buy another tank with a larger size.
If you like a big fish tank, don’t feel hesitate to click here
5. Why is my fish tank filter not pumping water? How do I fix it?
In my opinion, there are a couple of reasons, depending on which kind of filter you are using. Here are some general tips I would like to give you for help:
First, check the plug for the power to ensure that it isn’t dislodged. Make sure that your power strip isn’t failed.
If there is a grinding noise, you should unplug the power and take it apart. After that, you should test the impeller. If it is damaged, it is important to replace.
In the case of the power plugged in, if you feel cool when touching the pump without any vibration, the motor may be burned out. To fix it, you have to replace the motor. You can buy the motor from the manufacturer online or order the motor from the better filter brand.
If the motor is working but there is no water flow. The possible reason is that the pump blades are likely to have broken. You should replace the blades or order a new pump.
6. What is the best canister fish tank filter?
The SunSun HW-302 3-Stage External Canister Aquarium Filter and Tetra Whisper in-Tank Filter are the best canister fish tank filters among models I listed above.
There is no doubt about their durability and high-quality. I was amazed at how affordable they are as the SunSun costs you only about $70 while Tetra Whisper is definitely perfect for someone who is on the tight budget with the cost of about more than $10.
As you can see, the filter is an important item for your aquarium. There are new high-quality models with different prices in the market, so it is better to pick the right type that works for your aquarium and pets. Considering my best fish tank filter items, you can easily choose the amazing one.