The Best Aquarium Filters to Buy in 2018

Aquarium Filters Types: Which One to Choose?

Well, you might know the purpose of any filter – make water or air clean as well as any other substance. This equipment helps to remove fish waste, excess food, organic and toxic chemicals, and other things from the water in a fish tank. It is important for your fish health because this material can become dangerous and poisonous for them.
First of all, you should understand the difference between aquarium filter types and category of filtration. There are three filtration categories:

Mechanical

It is a process that drives the aquarium’s water through the filter material. This material could be of different types of foam, floss, pads, micron paper pleats. It catches particles or debris. However, you should remember that the filter should be cleaned to work properly. Sometimes you’ll have to replace the media – material that catches and holds the tank’s waste.

Chemical

The other way to clean water in a tank is using special chemicals. Water passes through a chemical media or resin, which removes toxic materials from water. Manufacturers use modern safe media that won’t affect fish health. However, the chemical filters should be used carefully and correctly.

Biological

This filtration system involves certain bacteria that grow in the aquarium. The main purpose of these bacteria is to remove toxic ammonia from the water. All the fish waste and food become dangerous ammonia, which can provoke fish disease and death. Nevertheless, you should take several important things to account: bacteria require a place to grow and a lot of oxygen, so this type of filtration can be used for big tanks only.
So, now you know about three filtration systems that can be applied in different tanks. Your next step is to choose the best type of aquarium filter. You might be confused because of the variety of filters, especially if you are a newbie. There are a lot of different ways to clean the water in the tank that is why you can see so many different types. However, the most common and popular ones are internal, undergravel, sponge, wet/dry, power and canister filters.

Internal

One of the best solutions for small tanks is an internal aquarium filter. It is easy to install and maintain many of this models. They provide effective filtration and can be placed almost anywhere: at the aquarium side or corner.

Undergravel

The undergravel filter must be installed under substrate (gravel). It looks like a plate with lots of tubes. It provides good biological and mechanical filtration. You can use it for small or big aquariums, but the fish load should be light.

Sponge

Another type is aquarium sponge filter that works well for small tanks about 10 or 20 gallons. These models are also called air-driven ones because of their construction: an air pump pushes and pulls water through the sponge. This is how biological and mechanical filtration works.

Wet/Dry

If you have a big or even huge aquarium, pick this type of filter. It combines both systems of filtration: biological and chemical one. It also requires a lot of space. One part of it should be placed inside the tank and the other one outside. The sponge model in one part holds the waste and the biological media, as well as cleans the water.

Power

This term is used for the majority of aquarium filters. It can provide mechanical, biological and chemical filtration. You can place it on the back of the tank and replace a cartridge in a month or less. It is also easy to install and maintain.

Canister

The aquarium canister filter is one of the best solutions for big tanks or aquariums with a large fish load. It usually contains several types of filters that provide good filtration. It also offers all three types of filtration. This device is reliable and long-lasting, but only if you clean it as it is recommended in the instruction. Read aquarium canister filter review to learn more about this product.
If you buy your first aquarium filter, try to find as much information about the device as possible. Read reviews, customers’ comments, and recommendations.

How to Choose the Right Aquarium Filter

Buying an aquarium filter is a responsible task as your right choice determines the life quality of your little fish. If you pick out a low-quality model, you will not only get irritated by its noise, frequent breakdowns, and constant maintenance but will also watch the fish in the tank slowly die away. To avoid this, we have prepared some recommendations. Make use of them to find the best aquarium strainer.

Recommended Aquarium Tank Size

Aquarium filters have specific instructions for usage and they fit not all aquariums equally well. There are models that can handle more than one tank size, while others are to be fixed to only one. Carefully read the size description on the package when buying one. A too small aquarium filter won’t be efficient enough if installed in a big aquarium, while a model designed for larger capacity may appear too noisy and even suck in small fish if installed in a too small aquarium.

The Filtration Technology

Depending on the model and the brand, filtration technology of an aquarium filter may differ. Good models ensure efficient chemical, mechanical and biological filtration phases, yet more affordable models fulfill only one or two filtration types.

Water-Flow Rate for the Filter

Generally, the water flow rate is measured in GPH (gallons per hour). When buying one, take this rate into consideration as it will determine how fast the filter will fill your aquarium. Larger and reef aquariums require more powerful models with higher GPH, while those aquariums in which you keep live plants, baby fish, and small fish species do much better with those models that ensure slower water flow rates.

Compare and Choose the Proper Filter

Now, when you know everything about the types and main characteristics, choose the top rated aquarium filter that will fit your tank best.

Product Model

 

 

Type

Product Dimensions

Gallons per Hour

Recommended Aquarium Size

Mechanical Filtration

Chemical Filtration

Biological Filtration

AquaClear Power Filter

AquaClear Power Filter - 110 V BUY NOW AMAZON Hang on Back 6,2 x 10,7 x 8,6 inches 300GPH Up to 70 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

Penn Plax Cascade

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter BUY NOW AMAZON Canister 11,5 x 17 x 10 inches 265GPH Up to 100 Gallons Yes

Yes

Yes

Fluval C Power Filter

Fluval C Power Filter BUY NOW AMAZON Hang on  6 x 8.2 x 8.5 inches 264GPH Up to 70 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

Marina Power Filter

Marina Power Filter BUY NOW AMAZON Hang on Back 3.7 x 7.3 x 6.5 inches 55GPH

Up to 10 Gallons

Yes No Yes

Whisper In-Tank Filter

Whisper In-Tank Filter with BioScrubber for aquariums BUY NOW AMAZON Internal 5,1 x 5,9 x 10,5 inches 170GPH Up to 40 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

KEDSUM 4,8W 25GPH

KEDSUM 4.8W 25GPH Submersible Aquarium Filter 3-in-1 External Hanging Fish Tank BUY NOW AMAZON Hang on Back 11,4 x 6 x 1,5 inches (tubes not counted) 70GPH Up to 25 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

Marineland Penguin

Marineland Penguin Power Filter w/ Multi-Stage Filtration BUY NOW AMAZON Hang on 15,2 x 6,1 x 8 inches 350GPH Up to 70 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

Classic External

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media BUY NOW AMAZON Canister 11 x 7,3 x 14,6 inches 164GPH Up to 92 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

Sunsun Hw304B 525GPH

Sunsun Hw304B 525GPH BUY NOW AMAZON Canister 12 x 12 x 18 inches 525GPH

Up to 150 Gallons

Yes Yes Yes

Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO

Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters BUY NOW AMAZON Hang on Back 9,5 x 4,9 x 8 inches

200GPH

Up to 45 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

Elite Underwater

Elite Underwater Mini Filter, UL Listed BUY NOW AMAZON Internal 2 x 2,8 x 8,5 inches 10-15GPH Up to 3 Gallons Yes No Yes

How We Choose and Tested the Best Aquarium Filters

The best aquarium filter should create good conditions for your tank inhabitants. Therefore, you must choose the proper one that will work well for your aquarium. When picking out the best models for testing, first of all, we paid attention to the equipment’s flow rate. It shows a number of water gallons that pass through the filter each hour – the full volume of the tank should pass through the media four times per hour. It means, if you have a 10-gallon tank, your filter should pass 40 gallons per hour. For a small tank, we picked up smaller models. The fish load of such an aquarium should be light. For example, a top fin aquarium filter can be a great choice in this case.
We chose most quality canister or wet/dry filters for big aquariums. They help to keep the water clean and safe. Thanks to their construction all the waste and excess food are held inside them. They also provide three types of filtration.
Once all the appropriate models were selected, we tested them for effectiveness, low operating, lifespan, easy installation, and maintenance. Now you can already read aquarium filter review on every model tested. Here you will find all the specifications, advantages, downsides, as well as our opinions on each of them.

The Best Aquarium Filters

To choose the best models for our guide, we’ve read a lot of aquarium filter reviews and experts’ recommendations. We have also explored customers’ comments as well as interviewed some aquarists. Therefore, now we can offer you several models that can be used for home tanks.

AquaClear Power Filter - 110 V

AquaClear Power Filter – 110 V

Review:

AquaClear aquarium filter will fit well big tanks up to 70 gallons. It provides three types of filtration and should be installed on the back side of the aquarium. The installation is easy and quick. The model comes with AquaClear Foam, BioMax, Activated Carbon and Cycle Guard for ensuring superb water quality.

What we think:

This model conducts a very efficient multistage filtration. The two-year warranty is a great advantage along with this. However, you have to change it twice a month in order to keep the water clean. Besides, the this equipment is difficult to clean. The model is on the expensive side.

Pros:

  • Three different types of filtration
  • Good flow rate
  • Easy to install
  • Works silently

Cons:

  • Not durable
  • Difficult to clean
Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Review:

Penn Plax Cascade Aquarium Filter was designed for tanks up to 100 gallons. It is able to pass 265 gallons per hour. This model is a heavy-duty external filtration system. It provides mechanical and chemical filtrations based on activated carbon and clears the water from toxic substances.

What we think:

Like any other filter, you should maintain this model in accordance with the instruction recommends. Usually, it is once or twice a month. What disappointed us is the build quality – the equipment appears to be not very durable. Besides, it is one of the priciest models in this list.

Pros:

  • Works silently
  • Can be installed on the aquarium wall
  • Cleans the water with activated carbon

Cons:

  • Not very durable
  • Expensive
Fluval C Power Filter

Fluval C Power Filter

Review:

Multifunctional aquarium filter that provides five-stage water filtration. One of the most modern and efficient models on the list. Can be used for tanks up to 70 gallons, though experts recommend to install it in aquariums up to 60 gallons only because of its flow rates – 264 gallons per hour.

What we think:

This model provides easy and quick maintenance. It will conduct an efficient five-stage filtration in your aquarium – 2 mechanical, 2 biological, and 1 chemical stage, thus ensuring top performance. The working noise is barely noticed, and the model features a cleaning indicator to that users learn when the polyfoam needs to be rinsed.

Pros:

  • Silent work
  • Multilevel filtration
  • Easy to install, remove and maintain
  • Has a cleaning indicator

Cons:

  • More expensive than other models in the list
Marina Power Filter

Marina Power Filter

Review:

This is a 10 gallon aquarium filter that was created for small tanks. It has a compact and slim design, easy to install and maintain. It provides a biological and mechanical filtration that help to keep your fish healthy.

What we think:

The low price of this model along with its good functioning make it a decent purchase. However, you should be careful with its parts in order not to damage them.

Pros:

  • Easy to maintain
  • Provides biological filtration
  • Works silently

Cons:

  • Some details are really fragile
Whisper In-Tank Filter with BioScrubber for aquariums

Whisper In-Tank Filter with BioScrubber for aquariums

Review:

This inner filter is very quiet and easy to install even for the beginner. Its big bio-bag cleans the water, so it’s considered to be absolutely safe for all aquarium inhabitants. It was specially designed for tanks up to 40 gallons.

What we think:

Taking into consideration the affordable price the equipment is sold at, it’s quite an efficient one. It can be applied for both aquariums and terrariums. What we didn’t like about it is its maintenance. Compared to other models we listed here, this one should be cleaned more often.

Pros:

  • Very quiet
  • Easy to install
  • Safe for fish

Cons:

  • Should be maintained more often than other models
KEDSUM 4.8W 25GPH Submersible Aquarium Filter 3-in-1 External Hanging Fish Tank

KEDSUM 4.8W 25GPH Submersible Aquarium Filter 3-in-1 External Hanging Fish Tank

Review:

This filter can clean the water from debris, waste, excess food and other things that can become toxic for your fish. What is more, it offers oxygen aeration, removes oil from the water surface in the aquarium. By the way, it is really noiseless.

What we think:

This affordable Kedsum aquarium filter is great for smaller aquariums (up to 25-gallon ones), glass cylinders, and fishbowls. We can’t praise the flow rate, though. Neither did we like the vibrating noise.

Pros:

  • Extremely quiet
  • Provides multi-level protection filtration
  • Works better for the 20-30 gallons tanks
  • Filters the water for 30 minutes only

Cons:

  • May fall out if you won’t install it properly
  • Loud vibrating noise
Marineland Penguin Power Filter w/ Multi-Stage Filtration

Marineland Penguin Power Filter w/ Multi-Stage Filtration

Review:

This cheap aquarium filter will work well for tanks up to 70 gallons. At the same time, it can pass 350 gallons per hour that make it very efficient and reliable. It provides three types of filtration and can be easily installed and removed.

What we think:

Buying this equipment by MarineLand brand, you get convenient Penguin Rite-Size Cartridges. It’s a good model sold at the medium price range, though the noisy operation does not impress.

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • Provides three-stage filtration
  • Easy to maintain

Cons:

  • Operates noisily
EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

Review:

The Classic External Canister manufactured by Eheim is a great model for up to 92-gallon aquariums. Safe and easy closing after cleaning is ensured by the Permo-elastic silicon sealing ring which you can find fixed on the pump head. It ensures four types of filtration. The water flow rate of the model is 164 GPH.

What we think:

Besides the efficient operating and simple design, the model also comes equipped with a number of accessories including an inlet pipe, spray bar, hose, and installation tools. Anyway, we didn’t like the water flow rate of this equipment, especially when it’s sold at such a high price.

Pros:

  • Silent operating
  • Safe closing
  • Equipped with extra accessories
  • Provide four types of filtration

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Low water flow rate
Sunsun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit with 9-watt UV Sterilizer

Sunsun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit with 9-watt UV Sterilizer

Review:

Perhaps the best freshwater aquarium filter in this list is offered by Sunsun. It’s a great model specially designed for huge aquariums, those with up to 150-gallon ones. The 525 GPH water flow rate really impresses, just as the accessories it comes with (ceramic rings, premium carbon, Bio Balls). Installing the equipment in your aquarium, you will get efficient chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration guaranteed.

What we think:

This is an aquarium filter you can fully trust. Your fish will enjoy the odor-free and clear water and you will be sure the equipment is there to serve you unimpededly. The only disadvantage we can mention about it is its high price.

Pros:

  • Easy installation
  • High water flow rate
  • Three-level efficient filtration
  • Noiseless operating
  • UV sterilizer

Cons:

  • Expensive price
Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters

Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters

Review:

Though having a small size (perfect for aquariums with up to 20 gallon-capacity), the model is quite an effective one. It delivers decent three-stage filtration, features a self-priming property, and works silently.

What we think:

If you have a limited budget, this Aqueon QuietFlow model might be a profitable purchase for you. It works quite well, yet we noticed certain downsides. First of all, the equipment not always operates silently. And then, its bottom part easily dissembles.

Pros:

  • Three-stage filtration
  • Affordable cost
  • LED light indicator
  • Self-priming feature

Cons:

  • The bottom part often dissembles
Elite Underwater Mini Filter, UL Listed

Elite Underwater Mini Filter, UL Listed

Review:

If you are seeking a small device which you can successfully conceal in your aquarium, this mini aquarium filter by the Elite brand can be a perfect choice! It is appropriate for compact 3-gallon aquariums, has a foam filter, and is priced cheaply.

What we think:

Taking into account the cheap cost, this equipment is not a bad offer. It ensures mechanical and biological filtration due to its foam filter insert. Although it is designed especially for small aquariums, its pressure is quite palpable and can suck in small fish species if installed in 1- or 1.5-gallon tanks.

Pros:

  • Cheap price
  • Small size
  • Two-phase filtration

Cons:

  • May suck in small fish

Aquarium Filter Facts: Some Interesting Things You Didn’t Know

A multifunctional aquarium filterHistorians claim that people kept fish as a pet many years ago. Some of them say that even Cleopatra had tropical fish in her palace. However, at that time servants had to change the water every day. Then people started to use plants as natural filtration means.

  • First fresh water aquarium filter was invented back in the 1960s and since that, a lot of companies and inventors tried to improve it.
  • Even a mini aquarium filter was designed for tanks up to 5 gallons. So, if you have a really small aquarium, use plants or change the water more often.
  • Sponge models are the most gentle and safe for the aquarium inhabitants. However, if you have a big tank, it should be used or combined with another type of filter.
  • Many experts say biological filtration is the most important for the aquarium fish health, therefore you should pick a model that offers it.
  • Almost all aquarium strainers contain activated carbon or have a section for its use. Place this media to remove dissolved organic compound from the water.

How to Maintain Your Aquarium Filter

Now it is time to set up an aquarium filter. Make sure you have the instruction or watch a video guide that will show you how to install a proper model. In any case, you should follow some easy steps to ensure your equipment will perform at its best and last longer:

Start with Cleaning the Filter

Yes, before placing it inside the tank, put all washable parts under fresh water and clean them. There could be an exception from the rule, but this info should be mentioned in the instruction.

Set Up the Filter

Install all of the components following the instructions included the filter system. Place it in a proper place: at the back of a tank, in the corner or under the gravel.

Prime the Pump

This step is very important because the aquarium filter pump must be run with water only. In another case, the motor will be burned. Use a priming button before the start. If your model doesn’t have the one, fill the pump with water and only after that turn it on.

Of course, you need to know how to clean aquarium filter. The whole process is very easy and clear. In most cases, all you need to do is just replace the cartridge with media and wash tubes. However, some models require more careful maintenance. Read the instructions to learn more about yours. A cartridge should be replaced at least once a month, while some models require replacement more often. You should also change water and wash aquarium walls. Well, you don’t have to change all the water, but at least 25% for one time would be good enough.
If you use a filter with a chemical filtration system, it is recommended to test the water with a special test kit that checks the ammonia and nitrate in the water. This will help you to learn when it is time to replace cartridge of the equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you hurry to search the web to get an answer to your questions relating to an aquarium filter, look it up here. Here are the most commonly asked questions by users:

Q: How Do I Make My Fish Tank Water Clear?

A: So that the water in your aquarium is always kept clear you need to maintain it regularly. First of all, make certain the water has enough useful bacteria in it. For this, you can purchase gravel with the necessary bacteria on it. Or you can add rocks, gravel or driftwood from another already-established aquarium. Live plants help to keep the water in an aquarium clear, too. And finally, check if you have placed the right model in your aquarium. The type and size of your aquarium, the density of fish in it, and the presence of any live plants in it will help you determine which is the best aquarium canister filter to keep the water of your aquarium clear and odor-free.

Q: What Is a Wet Dry Filtration System?

A: Wet/dry filters, or otherwise referred to as trickle models are highly effective as they expose the useful bacteria to both the water and the air. When you install this type in your aquarium, the water will trickle over the media and mix with the air, thus allowing a rapid oxidation of nitrate and ammonia.

Q: Can I Keep My Small/Nano Aquarium without Filter?

A: Keeping a small aquarium without a filter is possible yet highly tiresome. If you determine not to install it, be prepared to change the water at least once a week. Besides, the unfiltered water of an aquarium can become a source of infections, which might even be fatal for your aquarium inhabitants.

Q: Can I Use a Filter if I Have Live Plants?

A: If you install a water filter in your aquarium with live plants, your aquarium inhabitants will be grateful to you as they will be provided with clearer and healthier living environment. Only remember to check the water flow rate of the equipment before buying it. In aquariums with live plants in, powerful models with high GPH shouldn’t be installed as they will damage the plants.

Conclusion and Our Recommendations

In-tank aquarium filter is an extremely important thing, that is why you should choose it carefully. If you have a large tank, perhaps, you should look for best aquarium canister filter. Sunsun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit with 9-watt UV Sterilizer is the best model in the list if you can afford to buy it.
However, if you have a medium home or office aquarium, as well as a limited budget, we can recommend you to apply KEDSUM 4.8W 25GPH Submersible Aquarium Filter or Fluval C Power Filter. According to customer reviews, these models are long lasting, reliable and efficient despite the affordable price. It is really easy to maintain them and install even for a newbie.

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