Many pet enthusiasts now keep aquariums inside their homes. Part of making sure that the fish survive involves feeding and cleaning the mess left behind like dirt as well as excess food.
A good fish tank filter is needed if a fish tank is to be properly cleaned. With so many options available, choosing the best aquarium filters can be difficult. Not all of them are suitable for every fish tank. Before embarking on a quest for a fish filter, it’s important that you read this guide which outlines the best filters and what makes them great as well as a buyer’s guide that’s sure to make the purchase process much easier.
Overview of the top 10 aquarium filters
Sponge fish tank filter
Less than 30 gallons
Up to 150 gallons
Up to 3 gallons
HOB Power filter
Between 40 and 70 gallons
Types of aquarium filters
Fish tank filters come in different types depending on their intended use. The most common types of include canister, bang-on-back (HOB), internal and small filters.
Canister fish tank filters are the most popular option for larger aquariums that can fit 40+ gallons. This is not to say that you can’t find canister filters for smaller fish tanks. As compared to other types of filters, canister filters provide the best biological, chemical and mechanical function. Water is pressurized and forced to go through fine material to trap smaller particles, thus offering superior filtration. They are a great option for aquariums with Koi and Cinchlids as well as plant & saltwater aquariums. The only downside is that been bigger, canister filters often come with a higher price tag.
Hang-on-back (HOB) filters
The hang-on-back filter is the most popular of all filters due to the ease of setting up and using. The HOB filter also does a great job of cleaning your fish tank. While it never gets into the water, this filter works by sucking the water up a long tube then taking it through three filtration chambers where toxins are removed before resending it to the tank. Despite the ease of use, set up and superior filtration, the HOB has a disadvantage in that the good bacteria colony is removed every time the cartridge is replaced.
These are usually meant for use in fish tanks with a capacity of less than 20 gallons. They are mounted inside the tank and suction cups are used to keep them in place. Internal fish tank filters just sit at the bottom, thus preventing debris from building up and compromising the health of your fish pets. Perhaps the greatest advantage of internal filters is that they are the cheapest compared to other types of filters. Some manufacturers produce models that require an air pump as well as an airline, which also help with production of oxygenate bubbles.
Sponge fish tank filters
The simplest filters to understand and use are sponge fish tank filters. It comes in handy for sensitive fish species like Betta, newborn fish and when you need to set up a hospital tank for your sick fish. A sponge filter works hand in hand with an air pump that pulls water through the sponge to remove dirt. In addition to being easy to use and cheap, sponge filters allow for mechanical filtration and for good bacteria to live on the sponge for the benefit of your fish.
Under gravel fish tank filters
These are placed below gravel from where they suck water to trap debris then pass the cleaned water through tubes back to the tank. An air pump and air stone are placed at the top of the tube so as to create suction. Under gravel fish tank filters aren’t recommended because they allow for accumulation of debris at the bottom of the aquarium leading to increased levels of hydrogen sulfide, which is harmful to fish.
Of course, you can expect that there are types of filter models in the market. They all come from different manufacturers, making it hard for consumers to know which filter best suits their needs. The good news is that in this section, we review the best options in the market. This should help you narrow down your search considerably.
Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Cascade 700
Whether you own a saltwater or freshwater fish tank, this filter will come in handy. It can be used for various types of fish tanks, including those with a capacity of more than 150 gallons. It provides a water flow of 315gph when in use and if maintained well. The press of a button allows for a 360-degree rotation, hence better filtration. It comes with an impressively large tank and as such, you can use it for longer without the need to replace the filter arising. It is built with strong, durable materials and setting up the system is easy. The Cascade 700 can also be used alongside other media like activated carbon, bio-floss and bio-sponge for a wide range of filtration applications.
Fluval External Fish Tank Filter
This filter provides superior filtration for your fish tank and works for both freshwater and saltwater fish aquariums. It comes with a powerful motor technology that allows for a faster filtration process. It works with fewer vibrations and less noise. Set up is easy, as you only need to follow the instructions outlined in the user manual. With a three stage filtration process, the Fluval External Fish Tank Filter is much more efficient than most filters. The clamps lock this filter in place for better strength and stability while working. It comes with independent modules that allow for easy removal of dirt from the filter.
Aqueon QuietFlow 10 Power Filter
This is probably the best filter for small fish tanks in the market. It is rated 20 gallons and can filter up to100 gallons of fish tank water in an hour. With that speed of filtration, the Aqueon QuietFlow 10 Power Filter can keep the water in your 10 or 15 gallon fish tank crystal clear and clean. It combines enhanced filtration capabilities, industry high flow rate and ultra quiet operation to provide premium quality solution for your fish tank. Its in-tank pump design not only lowers the overall profile of the unit, but also eliminates the need for priming. It has double biological grids that allow for growth of beneficial bacteria as well as easy to replace cartridges that make maintenance of this unit easy.
AquaClear 20 Power Filter
A fish tank filter is meant to ensure a healthy, clean environment for your fish as well as maintain a presentable, sparkly appearance of your aquarium. The AquaClear 20 Power Filter ensures just that by incorporating a multi-stage filtration system. This filter is easy to install and comes with an energy efficient pump. It’s ideal for small fish tanks and can handle a capacity of 20 gallons. The AquaClear foam that comes with this filter acts as a sponge that traps dirt while the activated carbon does a good job of treating any chemicals that may be present in the water.
Jardin Fish Tank 6-Layer Sponge Biochemical Water Corner Filter
This sponge filter handles up to 20 gallons and is an incredible option for keeping your Betta fish tank clean. It does a great job of keeping your fish tank clean and clear without being noticeable. Simply install an airline into the unit and be sure to provide filtration and aeration for your fish pets. Its cylinder design eliminates dead space between the layers while the weighted base plastic helps keep the filter at the bottom of the fish tank. You may need to replace the bio-sponge twice a year but other than that, this filter is easy to set-up, use and maintain.
Lustar Hydro III Sponge Pro Filter
This sponge filter works great for aquariums with a capacity of up t0 40 gallons. It provides chemical as well as biological filtration for your fish tank. It comes with an external air pump that produces oxygenated bubbles. The base is made of strong, durable weighted plastic that holds the sponge nicely away from the bottom. During cleaning, this filter dismantles easily and the sponges have pores that allow for growth of healthy bacteria colonies. In a nut shell, the Lustar Hydro III Pro Filter comes in a simple, elegant design that’s optimized for provision of amazing performance.
Elite Mini Underwater Filter
The Elite Mini Underwater Filter is specially designed for small fish tanks of up to 3 gallons. It’s one of the best internal filters with a compact design that makes it easy to conceal the filter in any setting. It’s ideal for biological and chemical filtration, and comes with a foam filter insert. Moreover, the manufacturing company also offers replacement media that is specifically designed for the Elite Mini Underwater Filter, making maintenance easy.
Tetra Whisper In-Tank 3i
This is also designed for use in aquariums of less than 3 gallons, but there are sizes available for larger aquariums. The Tetra Whisper In-Tank 3i filter utilizes a convenient 3 stage filtration system to eliminate dirt and chemicals from the water. It comes with small Whisper Bio-Bag cartridges that allow for efficient biological filtration. It mounts inside the fish tank and uses air bubbles to move water through the tube, into the filtration chambers and back into the tank. Mounting clamps allow this filter to adjust easily to changing water levels.
Fluval C4 Power Filter
This is one of the best selling HOB filters from Fluval, one of the most respected brands in aquarium filters. With a modular media compartment design and a five stage filtration strategy, this filter makes changing media and keeping fish tank water clean a walk in the park. The large and easy to access compartments make easy to fit custom media. It can filter up to 264 gallons of water in an hour and is ideal for 40-70 gallon fish tanks.
Emperor 400 Pro Series Bio-Wheel Power Filter
This HOB filter from Marineland comes with two Bio-wheels that provide a habitat for healthy bacteria while filtering out harmful chemicals that may be present. It also features a quiet & efficient operation, high flow rate, unique dual pump design, 3-stage filtration as well as adjustable intake. This is arguably the best HOB filter for those looking for a biological filtration powerhouse.
Important factors to consider when buying fish tank filters
Fish tank filters are crucial for ensuring survival of marine life living in aquariums. Depending on the type of fish tank one owns, one will require a different type of fish tank. And while the aquarium type is an important consideration, there is more to purchasing a fish tank filter. Other than the type of fish tank, here are other factors that you should consider when buying an aquarium filter.
Type of aquatic life in your fish tank: The major concern here is the strength of suction by a filter. Fish that are too weak may get stuck in the suction inlet or worse get sucked in if there’s too much suction. Canister filters tend to have too much suction and may end up killing your delicate fish. A sponge head or cage like attachment over the head of the inlet may reduce the strength of the suction. Sponge filters are a great idea if you plan on breeding weak fish species.
Maintenance of the filter: If you have a tight schedule, you may want to go for a filter that requires less servicing. A canister filter is a good idea in this case. If you have time on your hands, a sponge or gravel filter may appeal to you.
Availability of filters: Expensive filters are harder to find as compared to cheaper models. You may have to order online or from a pet store if in search of an expensive fish tank filter.
Filter function: Filters utilize different principals to clean and purify water. And whatever strategy a filter employs to clean, it should offer quiet operation, consume as little power as possible and effective. External filters are preferred over internal filters by many fish tank owners due to smooth operation, effectiveness and ease of use.
Finding the best aquarium filters is one of the most important components of an aquarium. You are committing a huge blunder if you aren’t using a filter in your fish tank especially since this presents a huge health risk to your fish. And even when get around to purchasing a filter, making the right decision is almost impossible because there are so many options available in the market.
Hopefully, this guide has given you an idea of the various types of fish tank filters and how each one of them works. We’ve also compiled a list of the top picks in the market and a buyer’s guide that outlines important factors to keep in mind during the purchase process.
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