Do you know the secret to having a freshwater tank filled with vivid fish and thriving plants without a lot of extra effort? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not your substrate, lights or water conditioners. When it comes to maintaining your day-to-day water quality, the most important factor is having the best aquarium filter.
Filtration options have expanded over the last few years as new types have come to market and older systems have been refined. Choosing the best filtration system for a freshwater fish tank of any size is easier than ever, and most systems are quite affordable!
Top 10 Best Aquarium Filter You Must See.
Let’s see the list of our 10 best aquarium filter that we highly-recommeded to you, they might make you
1. MarineLand Penguin 100 Power Filter.
I’ve personally owned at least 10 Marineland power filters of varying sizes and I certainly think these are some of the best premium HOBs around. They offer reliable 3-stage filtration with an adjustable flow rate, and I’ve rarely had problems with the water by-passing the media.
A signature feature of this filter are their patented “Bio-Wheels” for maintaining colonies of good bacteria. There’s probably no other HOB who does bio-filtration as well. But those wheels dramatically increase the noise and the mess from the splashing water. If you have hard water, you’ll spend a lot of time removing deposits from your tank.
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2. Penn-Plax Cascade 1200 GPH Canister Filter.
Canister filters are generally used for larger aquariums (above 40 gallons).
As the name suggests they are shaped like a canister and usually hold all the three types of filtration. These filters are very efficient and hold more media than other setups.
They are also very quiet, and you will hardly hear a thing when they are running.
However, canister filters can be quite expensive depending on the brand and can be difficult to set up so make sure to know the steps to set up.
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3. Penn-Plax Premium Under Gravel Filter System.
The Penn Plax Premium Undergravel Filter is the best one in its class. This filter will help keep your tank looking clear and clean.
These filters are very easy and straightforward to install. The upkeep is a bit more demanding, but not rigorous. You simply need to disconnect the hose and wash it thoroughly.
This filter is designed to sit on the bottom of your tank. Therefore, the size of the tank is ideally the size of the filter. However, once covered, you only see hosing that takes up little space.
The plates on the bottom are an ideal environment for that good bacteria to grow.
This filter comes with Filt-A-Carb cartridges that make for ideal chemical filtration.
The fine porous air stones that come with this filter are great for mechanical filtration thought not as effective as a mesh or sponge would be.
The amount of air that passes through this filter under your tank makes it a bit noisier than other filter types.
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4. Hydro II Sponge Pro Filter.
Sponge filters are simple devices. Water is pumped through the large sponge, by either a powerhead or air pump. This gentle suction catches fish poop and other detritus.
The porous sponge material is the perfect media to grow beneficial bacteria that carry out the nitrogen cycle, which means a sponge filter provides both mechanical and biological filtration.
One thing I really love is that it’s so easy to set up and maintain one of these. It takes only minutes to put this together and just squeeze out the sponge several times in dechlorinated water to clean it. That’s it!
An air driven sponge filter is the safest thing to run in a fry or shrimp tank, in my opinion. There is nothing for tiny critters to get sucked into and many species will feed off of the layer of biofilm and gunk that grows on the surface of the sponge.
However, there is the downside that a sponge filter sitting in the tank is not exactly attractive looking and does take up some floor space.
But, you can easily disguise it by putting some tall plants and/or decor in front of it.
Also, this type of filter only provides mechanical and biological filtration, there’s no way to add on a chemical stage.
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5. Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter.
The Aqueon is a great small filter that has a motor with the ultra-quiet operation, has great water flow, and its easy installation and design can easily fit discreetly into any tank. It will also work in as little as 2 inches of water, so it would be great for a wide variety of uses.
Based on its low price, it’s the ability to filter 66 gallons per hour, quiet operation, and great reviews from all users, the Aqueon QuietFlow Internal Filter would be a suitable choice for any 10-15 gallon tank setups.
For a small fish tank filter, it has a lot of room for biological filtration, mechanical filtration, and chemical filtration. The filter cartridges that you insert are filled with activated carbon media. One of the best fish tank filters around.
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6. Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter.
Even if your tank is on the smaller side, you’ll still want to invest in a great filter. The Whisper IQ Power Filter is just right for 10-gallon aquariums, with an adjustable intake that telescopes up and down depending on your tank’s needs. Its StayClean filtration system is easy to maintain and keeps fish healthy, removing toxic ammonia and nitrites while promoting the growth of healthy bacteria. It’s also extra-quiet thanks to a soft barrier separating the motor from the filter.
Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter starts up immediately with no priming required, and customers say it’s one of the best small, cartridge-based filters on the market. After mixed results using other filtration systems with their small tanks, shoppers have seen a fast improvement in water quality after installing the Whisper IQ.
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7. Eheim Classic Canister Filter.
EHEIM offers a unique looking translucent green canister filter. There are three different sizes for the filter. You can get the smallest one intended for tanks up to 40 gallons, the middle one for tanks up to 66 gallons, or the largest model which serves tanks up to around 92 gallons. Each option comes with the same accessories in the package.
Inside the filter, you can put any type of filter media that you want. It does not use cartridges, so you’re not limited by a specific size and shape. You can use loose-fitting filter media poured one on top of the other, filter sponges of the right size to fit into the canister well, or some combination of both together. The kits each come with some filter media from EHEIM that will provide mechanical and biological filtration. You can add your own activated carbon or other chemical filtration if you feel the need to.
The intake hose connects directly to the bottom of the filter rather than taking water through a U-valve to reach the bottom of the filter area. Water is then pushed up through the filter media and returned to the tank through the outlet hose on the top. All accessories for setting up the filter, including an optional spray bar, are included in the kit. Oxygen enrichment during the filtration process helps beneficial bacteria to thrive while also putting more breathable air into the tank water.
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8. Eheim Pro Filter.
For those looking at a higher end upgrade to the Eheim Classic canister filter, the Eheim Pro Canister Filters answer the call. This square model provides extra media capacity and suitable for larger aquariums.
The pro units come with a self priming feature which allow for the unit to quickly and easily start. The also has the ability to control flow with it’s Xtender control function and also has the ability to redirect water flow from different chambers to extend media life.
Because of the high quality bearings and ceramic axles on the pump, this is one of the quiet and durable canister filters. Eheims have withstood the test of time, with many hobbyist reporting Eheim canister filters operating 10+ years with no setbacks. They come with a price tag, but it is as one and done as you get with a filtration solution. You will not be disappointed choosing Eheim!
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9. All Pond Solutions Aquarium External Filter.
This efficient All Pond Solutions 400L/h EF-150 external aquarium filter system utilises a multi-stage approach to filtration and is suitable for aquariums up to 150L. Filtering aquarium tank water through three coarse filter foams of different grades, a filter floss pad and bio balls it provides thorough biological and mechanical filtration. Designed to be positioned outside of your tank the EF-150 draws water into the filter through an inlet tube and returns crystal clear water via an outlet tube (both supplied). The outlet tube is fitted with a spray-bar to help increase oxygen aeration levels within your tank. Maintaining the filter is very simple. The drip-free shut-off tap allows you to remove the filter and transport it away from your aquarium fish tank to an area more suitable for cleaning. Features suitable for freshwater and marine aquarium tanks suitable for tanks up to 150 litres built-in pump aids priming of filter, drip-free shut-off tap for easy cleaning Layered coarse filter foams x 3 filter floss pad x 1 Bio balls x 25.
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10. FLUVAL U4 Internal Filter.
The best internal fish tank filter is the Fluval U4 Underwater Filter. This filter is great for fish tanks that are against a wall where an external filter is not possible. The output of this filter is up to 260 gallons per hour.
Installation takes a bit of work given that it is internal. The upkeep of the filter is fairly straight forward. It needs to be cleaned at least once every two weeks, and the filter cartridges changed out.
As this filter is designed to go inside your fish tank, there is no external space needed. However, you do need some space inside the tank. These are the dimensions of the filter: 3.5 x 3 x 12.5 inches. It also designed for optimal biological filtration. The area where water is taken in is great for beneficial bacteria.
Given that this is an internal filter, you will see that it does have some mechanical filtration but not all. Anything floating at the top of the tank will not be filtered through as you might want.
The filter contains a two-pack carbon filtration pad. It does remove excess toxins efficiently and helps to maintain the optimal balance in the water.
As with most underwater filters, this one is very silent. You will find that you don’t hear much if anything at all when this filter is working.
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Tips for Finding the Best Freshwater Aquarium Filter.
Now that you know all about the types of filters and their benefits and disadvantages, let’s talk about how you can go about selecting the best option for your aquarium. How much filtration does your tank need? It depends, and as you add species and adjust your aquarium set-up your filtration needs may change.
Aquarium Size and Type of Occupants.
For smaller aquariums 10-gallons and under, you’ll most likely be choosing between the inexpensive and low-flow sponge, undergravel, internal or submersible systems.
Submersible and internal types provide better mechanical and chemical filtration for healthy Betta, shrimp, and plants than sponge or undergravel systems.
HOBs are a great option when you need more filtration, such as for goldfish and planted tanks. They come in the widest range of sizes of all the systems and are suitable for tanks from 5 to 500-gallons. There are so many brands and price points that I recommend reading the aquarium filter reviews before selecting your model.
Canister filters are usually way too powerful for tanks under 20-gallons. You can definitely have too much current and circulation for your fish’s comfort, especially if you’re keeping Bettas or goldfish. But for planted tanks and large community aquariums over 50-gallons a canister can be a great cost-effective option.
Powered filtration systems are usually rated by their flow rate, or the number of gallons cycled through the filter every hour (gallons per hour or GPH). These are approximate rates, and the way you set-up and maintain your filter will directly impact the flow in your tank. If your filter pads are clogged with debris it will dramatically reduce your rates.
There is a lot of argument over the ideal flow rate for an aquarium, and truthfully it really depends on your tank. Some sites recommend getting a filter with a GPH that’s up to 6 times the capacity of your tank. Personally, I’ve found this to be too much for most of my tanks. A 20-gallon set-up usually does not need a filter rated at 120 GPH.
My rule of thumb is to choose a filter that provides 2 to 4 times the GPH of my tank, so around 20 to 40 GPH for a typical 10-gallon tank. For larger aquariums, I usually get better results from using multiple filters with lower rates spread throughout the tank than a single high-capacity filter. You’ll have to see what works best for you.
Choosing the best filtration system for fish tanks doesn’t necessarily mean picking the newest or most advanced model. Afterall, sumps operate on a very old and simple principle even if they are complicated to set-up and maintain. The fancier your filtration system the more than can also go wrong with it.
Instead, I look for proven systems that have already stood the test of time in many tanks around the world. A good, basic filter can often do the same or even a better job as one packed with technological features. Rather, focus on filters with features that make them easy to maintain, like silicon seals and accessible pads and media.
I’m not a very brand-loyal person in my day-to-day life, but years of aquarium keeping have definitely made me wary of some aquatic companies. I avoid off-market filters or those made by unknown brands for a few reasons.
First, it’s safer to go with a brand you can easily find replacement parts and filter pads/media for locally and online. I once had to wait for 8-weeks for a small shipment of cartridges from Asia from an off-brand filter company and my fish were miserable.
Products andknown brands with a proven track record also often turn out to be more cost-effective in the long run. Parts like the impeller tend to last longer so you don’t have to replace them as often. You can also find advice for modifying your filter in online forums. A cheap filter that leaks can do a lot of damage to your floors, too.
The secret to maintaining a sparkling clean aquarium without a lot of extra effort is having the best fish tank filter you can afford. The best option will depend on your tank’s size and set-up, and many do best with more than one type of filter. You can always add another filter as your tank and fish mature.