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Last updated: 25 Feb 2020

The Best Aquarium Filters (Review) in 2020

Aqua Clear Aquarium Filter

Aqua Clear Aquarium Filter

Key features

Seven times larger filtration volume

Different flow rates to choose from

Features AquaClear foam and activated carbon

Comes with a cycle guard

Penn Plax Canister Filter

Penn Plax Canister Filter

Key features

Features a large tank

Can be used with any combination of media

Features flow rate control cut-off valves

360 degrees rotating valves

Tetra Whisper Fish Tank Filter

Tetra Whisper Fish Tank Filter

Key features

Very affordable

27 GPH pump

Space-saving design

Comes with a hinged-lid

Show contents
Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 14:18 pm

You may think that dogs are not the cleanest of pets until you try fishes. These little guys do not mind doing their business anywhere in the aquarium. Plus, their ‘deeds’ will be floating all over the tank for you to see. As the pet owner, it is your duty to keep the aquarium clean at all times. Unlike the vast habitat that fishes are used to, an aquarium offers much smaller confinement. As a result, it is easier for the fish to fall sick from pollution when living in an aquarium or tank. In this article, we will take a close look at the best aquarium filter worth investing in if you own a fish aquarium.

The Best Aquarium Filter

1

Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter is a good place to start our review as it is also our pick for the best choice. For most buyers, Aqua Clear has been making the best fish tank filters, and the Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter is no exception, as it is one of the best aquarium filters that you can invest in. It comes in a hang-on-back design that gives it the versatility that any fish tank owner will love. As well as coming in different sizes to choose from, this aquarium filter has been designed to give you different flow rates to pick from. Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter also comes with a filtration volume that s about seven times larger than other brands you will find on the market. It also features an AquaClear foam, activated carbon and biomax, and a cycle guard that ensures that the biological filtration system is continuous.

Easy to install

Ideal design for biological filtration

Two years warranty

Protected motor and impeller

Specification:
  • Brand: Aqua Clear
  • Model: A615
  • Weight: 2.69 pounds

2

The next fish filter on our list is the MarineLand Penguin 360 BIO-Wheel Power Filter. MarineLand is not a new name in the game. And this MarineLand Penguin 360 BIO-Wheel Power Filter model series shows exactly why MarineLand has forty years of aquarium water filter experience. This aquarium filter system offers three stages of filtration. Plus, this is without the trouble of air pumps, valves, tubing, and air stones. MarineLand Penguin 360 BIO-Wheel Power Filter uses a bio-wheel system that is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. It also features a rotating patented bio-wheel technology that perfect dry or wet biological filtration. To add to that, MarineLand Penguin 360 BIO-Wheel Power Filter is available in five different sizes to choose from.

Features a rotating bio-wheel

Multi-stage filtration system

Available in five different sizes

Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums

Specification:
  • Brand: MarineLand
  • Model: PF0350B
  • Weight: 3.53 pounds

3

It is time to talk about our premium pick with the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter. Just like the MarineLand Bio-wheel Power Filter, this canister filter is also suitable for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter has a huge base of loyal customers, especially because of the broad range of applications it comes with. Aside from the fact that it has been designed to be suitable for different kinds of aquariums (with a capacity of up to 200 gallons), it provides a water flow of 350-gph when being used. It is easy to operate as it comes with a simple start button and also comes with a 360-degree rotation feature that offers a thorough tank filtration process. Plus, Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter comes in different design options and features to choose from, no matter your filtration need.

Made of durable materials

Easy setup

Easy to operate

Available in different sizes and designs

Specification:
  • Brand: Penn Plax
  • Model: CCF3UL
  • Weight: 12 pounds

4

Moving on, we have the Tetra Whisper Power Filter For Aquariums. If you are looking for a small aquarium filter, then the Tetra Whisper Power Filter For Aquariums is one of the best you can find out there. It is available in four different tank capacities to choose from, ranging from 20 gallons to 60 gallons maximum. Tetra Whisper Power Filter For Aquariums also features a closed-off design at the top of the filter. This helps to reduce the filtering noise considerably while offering an elegant design. Tetra Whisper Power Filter For Aquariums also features three Whisper bio-bag cartridges with ultra-activated carbon that will get rid of any odor from the water or tank. It also comes with a double-sided mesh that filters debris and fish waste from the aquarium. Plus, this fish tank water filter comes with Integrated Stay Clean technology that helps to reduce build-up while binding small dirt particles to make for easy cleaning.

Available in different tank capacities (60 gallons max)

Ultra-activated carbon removes odor

Integrated Stay Clean technology

Large-sized Tetra Whisper Bio-Bag cartridges

Specification:
  • Brand: Tetra
  • Model: 25775
  • Weight: 2.87 pounds

5

Fluval C Power Filter is the next product to make it onto our list. A Fluval fish tank filter is a reliable fish tank filter. Fluval C Power Filter comes in three different sizes to choose from. It offers five stages of filtration for aquariums with capacities that range from 40 gallons to 70 gallons. It is designed to filter 264 gallons per hour. Fluval C Power Filter also comes equipped with a cleaning indicator. This indicator will notify you whenever the polyfoam needs to be cleaned. Moreover, because it is a clip-on filter, maintenance and usage are stress-free. Fluval C Power Filter also comes with an integrated trickle chamber, which helps to ensure that the aquarium is always clean and healthy.

Available in different sizes to choose from

Offers five stages of filtration

Filters 264 gallons per hour

Equipped with cleaning indicator

Specification:
  • Brand: Fluval
  • Model: 14003A1
  • Weight: 2.73 pounds

6

It is time to talk about our pick for the best price with the Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter. Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter comes in five different sizes that offer capacities ranging from 3 gallons up to 40 gallons. It uses filter cartridges with sizes that depend on the gallon-capacity. However, the cartridges adjust easily to high or low water levels. This external fish tank filter comes with a two-in-one filter feature. The cartridge is designed to trap and catch debris as well as fish waste, while an ultra-activated carbon feature helps to get rid of any odor that may be present. It also helps to eliminate discoloration that may be as a result of the waste and debris. Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter comes in a design that stands vertically and, as a result, helps to save a lot of space.

Available in different sizes to choose from

Maximum capacity of 40 gallons

Features a tank clip

Aquarium internal filter

Specification:
  • Brand: Tetra
  • Model: AQ-78056
  • Weight: 8.8 ounces

7

Penn Plax makes another entry onto our list, but this time with the Penn Plax Cascade Hang-On Aquarium Filter. This fish tank water filter comes in six different sizes to choose from. Designed to be a hand-on aquarium filter, the Penn Plax Cascade Hang-On Aquarium Filter cleans quietly and delivers a maximum of 300 gallons per hour capacity of crystal clear water for your pet fish. It has a minimum capacity of 20 gallons per hour. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-On Aquarium Filter features the revolutionary Bio-Falls Quad Filtration system that comes with anaerobic bacteria. This helps to remove nitrate and additional ammonia in order to provide the maximum generation of oxygen. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-On Aquarium Filter also features activated carbon cartridge that helps to get rid of any odor from the tank.

Available in different sizes

Maximum capacity of 300 gallons per hour

Features activated carbon cartridge

Comes with Bio-Falls Quad Filtration technology

Specification:
  • Brand: Penn Plax
  • Model: CPF5
  • Weight: 5 ounces

8

Moving on, we have the Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter. This aquarium sponge filter comes with two spare sponges, one bag of bioceramic media balls, and a submersible foam filter that filters the aquarium without any noise. Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter can be used for both freshwater and saltwater fish tanks. This tank filter is available in different sizes to choose from. It comes with a maximum capacity of 55 gallons per hour and offers multi-filtration functions. For example, it combines bio-filtration, oxygenation, as well as physical filtration all in one. The sponge filter also comes with media balls which do not take up extra room. The two spare sponges are very easy to replace. Plus, all parts of the Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter are detachable. This makes it very easy to use and clean.

Available in different sizes to choose from

Maximum capacity of 55 gallons per hour

Two additional sponges

Multi-filtration functions

Specification:
  • Brand: Hygger
  • Weight: 14.4 ounces

9

If you are looking for the best undergravel filter, then Lee’s 40/55 Premium Undergravel Filter is an excellent choice to have. Plus, it is very easy on any budget. Lee’s 40/55 Premium Undergravel Filter comes in various plate sizes. The larger plate sizes have the advantage of reducing the number of plates you will need. Lee’s 40/55 Premium Undergravel Filter also features the strength of UGF plates. This is one of the reasons why this filter is preferred by a lot of saltwater aquarists. Lee’s 40/55 Premium Undergravel Filter provides for the growth of billions of beneficial bacteria to detoxify the water in a natural way. Plus, the filter circulates water flow through the gravel bed. This helps to filter the water naturally and also helps to remove ammonia. Lee’s 40/55 Premium Undergravel Filter can be used with power filters to maximize the quality of the water.

Features UGH plates

Suitable for saltwater aquariums

Undergravel filter can be used with power filters

Provides billions of beneficial bacteria to detoxify water

Specification:
  • Brand: Lee’s
  • Model: 13160
  • Weight: 1 pounds

10

And our last but definitely not least entry is the Azoo Mignon Filter 60. Perhaps you are looking for a filter that has a rather small and compact design. If that is the case, then you may be looking for the Azoo Mignon Filter 60. Azoo Mignon Filter 60’s compact design makes it very easy to use as well as maintain. It features an inlet strainer sponge with a replaceable filter cartridge for easy maintenance. It also comes with an adjustable flow control dial that allows you to maintain high levels of dissolved oxygen. Azoo Mignon Filter 60 also features a patented automatic water recovery that ensures startup after a power outage. Azoo Mignon Filter 60 is very easy to use. All you need to do after setting it up is to fill the chamber with water. Plus, this product comes with a three-year warranty.

Adjustable flow control dial

Patented automatic water recovery

Replaceable filter cartridge

Inlet strainer sponge included

Specification:
  • Brand: AZOO
  • Model: AZ13097
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces

Best Aquarium Filter Buying Guide & FAQ

Do I Need a Fish Tank Filter?

Every aquarium or fish tank needs some form of a biological filtration system. And a fish tank filter is the best bet when it comes to efficiency and cost. A fish tank filter plays a lot of roles. But its main role is to clean and detoxify the water in a biological way. When the water passes through the filter toxins, debris, and waste are eliminated, leaving clean water to run back into the tank.

Features to Look for in an Aquarium Filter

Before you pick out an aquarium filter, there are some things to look out for.

  • Type of filtration: There are mainly three types - biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration—all aim at cleaning the water and getting rid of toxins. But biological filtration also targets micro life.
  • Type of tank filter: There are five main types of tank filters to choose from - undergravel filters, wet/dry filters, canister filters, hang-on back (hob) filters, as well as internal filters.
  • Ease of setup or installation: Hang-on back and internal filters are usually the easiest to set up. Undergravel filters require a bit more work to install before adding the water. Wet/dry filters are usually reserved for large-sized tanks.
  • Capacity: As you may have noticed from the review, the filters come with different capacities to choose from—these range from as little as 5 gallons per hour to as much as 40-plus gallons per hour.

Types of Fish Tank Water Filters

As mentioned earlier, there are mainly five types of fish tank water filters.

  • Wet/Dry filters: These types of filters come mainly in two types - external and internal parts. The water runs through the internal part and is sent through a tube to the external.
  • Undergravel filter: These filters are placed underneath the gravel substrate before the water is added into the tank. They make use of suction tubes or air tubes to draw waste and debris into the filter.
  • Canister filters: These are mainly external filters that offer three stages of filtration. The filters located outside the tank draw water in using a siphon by creating a water flow that is pressurized.
  • Hang-on-back (hob) filters: Just as the name suggests, hob filters are hung outside the tank, and they draw water in through suction tubes. Hob filters also offer three stages of filtration. Plus, they are very easy to set up.
  • Internal filters: These are placed inside the fish tanks with suction cups to keep them properly in place. They are usually used for tanks that have a capacity of 20 gallons or less. Plus, they are also the cheapest type of filters.

Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Your Aquarium Water Filter

  • Avoid using hot water to clean the tank. Also, never use any bleach or soap either as these can destroy the biological filtration system.
  • When cleaning a canister filter, always unplug it first. Do this a few minutes before turning off the filter. Empty the tank into a bucket and clean the canister. Always keep the filter media wet so that the beneficial bacteria do not dry out and die.
  • If you are using a sponge filter or a hob, keep in mind to always disconnect anything attached to it first. Carefully disassemble the parts before cleaning. The same applies to internal filters.
  • When cleaning an undergravel filter, it is best to coordinate your cleaning time with your water changing schedule. Vacuum the gravel to help remove the built-up debris.

Planted freshwater aquarium

Best Aquarium Filter FAQ:

Q: What size of aquarium filter do I need?

A: The size of the aquarium filter that you will need depends on the type and size of fish tank or aquarium that you are using as well as the type of fish you have.

Q: Can a fish survive without a filter?

A: A fish cannot survive for too long without a filter as it will, at some point, fall sick and die. This is because fish tanks build up with debris and waste as time goes on. If the stagnant water is not filtered regularly, this will easily lead to contamination.

Q: Can I use a new fish tank filter immediately?

A: You can use your new filter immediately, depending on the instructions that it comes with. However, it will need some days in order to start producing the beneficial bacteria that will detoxify the water.

Q: How do I know if my aquarium filter is too strong?

A: The first thing to do is to check if your fish is swimming with ease. If the current in the aquarium is too strong, your fish will have difficulty swimming with ease without looking like it is being ‘blown’ away.

Dr Tracy Douglas
Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
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