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The Best Fish Tank Filters 2019: Have Your Little Fish Thriving in Clear and Fresh Aquarium Water

Fish Tank Filters: Peculiarities and Types

Today’s market is full of diverse fish tank filters offered by a number of outstanding brands. Each of these items is designed to meet one’s preferences and provide clean and fresh water to aquarium inhabitants. We can differentiate several fish tank filter types. The classification depends on the structure and the filtration type. These are:

  1. Air Driven/Sponge Filter
  2. Power/Hang On Back Filters
  3. Canister Filters
  4. Internal Filters
  5. Under-Gravel Filter

Prior to describing how each of these fish tank filter types works, it’s worth understanding what filtration types should occur in every aquarium.

  • Mechanical filtration makes water of the aquarium pass through the filter. In this process, all the unnecessary particles left in the water become caught and reduced from the aquarium.
  • Chemical filtration, meanwhile, forces toxic chemicals through the filter media or the resin. As a result, certain nutrients excessive in the water are reduced from the aquarium making the water safer for its inhabitants.
  • Biological filtration boosts the growth of beneficial bacteria. All the waste products in the aquarium and the left food and fungi start a nitrogen cycle, which leads to the emergence of ammonia. The latter is immensely harmful to fish, turtles and other inhabitants of an aquarium. Thanks to the biological fish tank filter system, the beneficial bacteria grow and the ammonia is reduced.

What Do They? How Do Tank Filter Systems Work

An aquarium filter cleans water of an aquarium, oxygenates it, processes all waste types, helps to keep an aquarium pristine. Depending on the filter types, the systems work differently.

  • The simplest fish tank filter type is the sponge or air driven filter. It performs mechanical and biological filtrations quite well. The air pump of this filter type makes water pass through the sponge where it becomes cleared from debris. And beneficial bacteria emerge on such a sponge and live in it quite long, a biological water filtration is carried out.
    Sponge filters are great for office or hospital tanks. They are also great to install in aquariums where you breed fish or keep baby fish.
  • Hang on back filters are the most frequently used filters among aquarium hobbyists. This popularity is conditioned under the amazing chemical, mechanical and biological filtration that this type of filters provides.
    It is to be fastened in the back wall of an aquarium. The filter forces the water to pass through its siphon tube. When the water reaches the floss or pad, it becomes cleaned from the debris (mechanical filtration). Then it flows through the carbon and gets rid of chemicals and toxins (chemical filtration). What refers the biological filtration, the latter occurs right inside the filter’s cartridge. Beneficial bacteria grow here, where the oxygen amount isn’t limited.
  • Canister filters are quite popular now. They are intended to be used in aquariums with 40 and more gallons – compared to all other tank filters, these are impressively larger. A canister filter provides excellent chemical, mechanical and biological filtration. They are especially suitable for saltwater, cichlid and planted aquariums. Thanks to the every canister 100-gallon fish tank filter pressurized structure, the water undergoes keen mechanical and chemical filtration. Biological filtration in a canister filter is not much efficient because of the lack of contact between oxygen and water.
  • The small size of internal filters makes them efficient for small aquariums. A mini fish tank filter sticks to a side of an aquarium and performs mechanical, chemical and biological filtration. There are internal filters which also require an air pump with a connected airline. This way, it can make the water move up through the filter and dissipate in the top.
  • Under-gravel filters are widespread and offered by various manufacturers including Fluval, AquaClear, Aqueon, KEDSUM, Marineland, etc. A Fluval fish tank filter produces mechanical and biological filtration. As a rule, the filter is placed under the gravel forcing the water to pass through the gravel and the uplift tubes. To avoid detritus buildups, the substrate should be cleaned on a regular basis.

Comparison Table

Product Model




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 7,1 x 13,9 x 9,1 inches 500GPH Up to 110 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



Marineland Penguin Power Filter

Marineland Penguin Power Filter w/ Multi-Stage Filtration BUY NOW AMAZON Hang on Back 9,5 x 6,2 x 8 inches Up to 50 Gallons Up to 50 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on

Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter With Quad Filtration System Cleans Up to 50 Gallon Tank BUY NOW AMAZON Hang on Back 7 x 5 x 7,5 inches 200GPH

Up to 50 Gallons

Yes Yes 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 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

Tetra Whisper EX Silent

Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter for Aquariums BUY NOW AMAZON Hang on Back 5,6 x 6,1 x 9,2 inches 110GPH Up to 20 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro

SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit with 9-watt UV Sterilizer BUY NOW AMAZON Canister 12 x 12 x 18 inches 525GPH Up to 150 Gallons Yes Yes Yes

Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext

Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter BUY NOW AMAZON Canister 8,2 x 8,2 x 12,5 inches 210GPH

Up to 55 Gallons

Yes Yes Yes

EHEIM 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

How to Choose Fish Tank Filter

If you have determined to have an aquarium in your house or office, there are certain important things to consider. One of them is which tank filter to choose. In the sea, the water is balanced and fits the fish perfectly, whilst an aquarium is a man-made habitat, so it requires specific measures to keep the fish alive. Here are the main aspects to consider when choosing a fish tank filter.

Recommended Aquarium Tank Size

The more fish you want to keep the more water you need and, consequently, the bigger the aquarium should be. If you have one, the filter must be powerful. Choose such a filter system that will handle the whole work and not get overworked over time. Canister filters can be a great choice. If you have a small aquarium with little capacity, nearly all fish tank filters will work well.

The Filtration Technology

Perhaps the most important aspect to pay attention to is its functionality. A good filter should be able to carry out mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration regardless of its size and type. Today’s filters are mostly made to implement all the processes together.

Water-Flow Rate for the Filter

The water flow in an aquarium determines how long the water stays clean and how healthy the environment in the aquarium is for the fish. If you have large fish or a reef tank you must choose a filter that provides higher flow rates. Remember this. Betta tanks, aquariums with small fish, baby fish, or live plants, in the meantime, do better with slower flow rates.

The Ease of Maintenance

A fish tank filter is supposed to run round the clock and requires certain maintenance to keep on working well further. Some filters are quite difficult and laborious to clean. And other filters require minimal maintenance, which is better for busy aquarium owners. Take this feature into consideration when selecting a fish tank filter.

How We Chose and Tested the Best Fish Tank Filters

Picking up a fish tank filter is a responsible task if you care about your little speechless pets. Whether the water in an aquarium is fresh, clean and healthy or not depends particularly on the filter. It’s better not to skimp on a good filter. Which to choose and what is the best fish tank filter worth your trust? To answer these questions, our investigative team made a research and a survey among aquarium hobbyists, and aquarium fish sellers. We picked up several most praised models and tested their effectiveness. All the filters were tested for quiet operation, lifespan, effectiveness, noiseless operation, easy installation, easy maintenance. Every top fin fish tank filter we have picked up effectively processes the waste generated in a fish tank.

The Best Fish Tank Filters

So that you pick up the right fish tank filter easier, we have gathered the best fish tank reviews. Each of these models is built with quality and effectiveness in mind. None will be a waste of money or let your pretty little fishes down, so just check them out yourself.

AquaClear Power Filter - 110 V

AquaClear Power Filter – 110 V


The fish tank filter by AquaClear a versatile external fish tank filter, which is sure to meet the most scrupulous aquarium hobbyists’ demands. Although small, the item is perfect for aquariums with a capacity of 110 gallons or less. It is able to pump up to 500 gallons per one hour. The filtration capacity of this AquaClear filter is remarkable, while the noise it produces is barely even noticed. Thanks to the flow control technique the large fish tank filter features, the water flowing effect is easily reduced.

What we think:

What makes the model unique, is its multistage filtration. This way, you get sure the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium won’t be affected by the depletion. Besides the biological filtration, this fish tank features other advantages involving easy installation and keeping the impeller and motor of the aquarium safe. What we didn’t like about it is the difficult cleaning. And if you have constant problems with power loss, the filter will burn itself out quickly and the price is on a bit higher side.


  • Easy installation;
  • No harm on the motor and impeller;
  • Appropriate design to carry out biological filtration;
  • Pumps up to 500 gallons per one hour.


  • Difficult to clean;
  • Expensive.
Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters

Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters


This small fish tank with filter offered by Aqueon popular brand is quite a powerful model for aquariums up to forty-five gallons. It ensures biological, chemical and mechanical effective filtration.

Whenever there is a power interruption, the filter will start up automatically thanks to the self-priming feature. The filter is sold at a decent cost.

The manufacturer ensures a quiet operation of the fish tank filter thanks to the unique design of the internal pump that dampens the noise. Besides, it will reduce any water leaking.

What we think:

Choosing this model, you may feel calm for your little fishes’ health, cause the proper water circulation is guaranteed here. This small fish tank filter works well. Although the manufacturer ensures quiet operating, it is rather noisy (particularly when there is nothing else switched on in the room). If you keep turtles in the aquarium, the bottom of the pump can easily get dissembled if the animal hits it. It costs affordable.


  • Ensures chemical, mechanical and biological filtration;
  • Self-priming;
  • LED light indicating when the clogged cartridges are to be replaced;
  • Sensible price.


  • Might be noisy sometimes;
  • The bottom of the pump is easily dissembled.
Marineland Penguin Power Filter w/ Multi-Stage Filtration

Marineland Penguin Power Filter w/ Multi-Stage Filtration


Perfect for up to 50-gallon aquariums, this model by Marineland is made sturdy and durable. It provides easy filtration of three types including chemical, mechanical, and biological. The filter cartridges remove the unpleasant odor, discoloration, and waste. The BIO-Wheel system is in charge of effective nitrite and toxic ammonia removal and the vented covers ensure quiet operation.

What we think:

Most consumers take this model as the best filter for small fish tank as it’s reliable and efficiently working. The price is cheap. In our tests, we noticed the filter starts producing loud working noise within a week after every time you clean it so is to be cleaned even more often than other models. And the bio wheel doesn’t inspire confidence.


  • Delivers a powerful performance;
  • Features a durable construction;
  • Guarantees a long operating lifespan;
  • The bio-filtration media is great.


  • The Bio-Wheel feels fragile;
  • The filter must be cleaned more often than comparable models.
Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter With Quad Filtration System Cleans Up to 50 Gallon Tank

Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter With Quad Filtration System Cleans Up to 50 Gallon Tank


Designed for aquariums with 30-50 gallon capacity, this hang-on fish tank filter provides 200 gallons of fresh and oxygenated water every hour. The maximal oxygenation is achieved due to the special filtration system. It removes any nitrites and ammonia making the water clear. With the help of activated carbon cartridge, all types of contaminants including discoloration, odors, toxins and harmful chemicals are successfully removed from the aquarium.

What we think:

This model can be used equally on saltwater and freshwater aquariums. It’s is sold at a cheap cost. Although the brand claims the filter is appropriate for aquariums with up to 50-gallon capacity, this models is more an efficient 30-gallon fish tank filter. The reason is the weak motor. Another downside is the not quiet operating.


  • Delivers three-stage mechanical, biological and chemical filtration;
  • Pumps up to 200GPH;
  • Uses the Rite-Size filter cartridge;
  • Low price.


  • Doesn't work on big aquariums (maximum 30-gallon);
  • Weak motor;
  • Noisy operating.

Whisper In-Tank Filter with BioScrubber for aquariums


The fish tank filter by Tetra brand will work best in up to 40-gallon aquariums and terrariums. This model doesn’t hang from the outside of an aquarium as most other filters do. Instead, it hangs from the inside, whilst the tank flush is fastened against the aquarium wall. As the motor is kept under the water, the operation is impressively quiet.

What we think:

With the help of the filter’s adjusts, it is possible to easily regulate the water level. Every filter features a Bio-Bag filter cartridge. The filter can operate even if only two inches are under the water, so you can freely use the item in your turtle tank. This way it will also create a pretty waterfall inside the tank.

Having tested out this model we can state in this cheap best fish tank review that the filter is overall very efficient. The downsides are its massive look and the water movement it causes.


  • Can be used in aquariums and terrariums;
  • Quiet operating;
  • Can create a waterfall inside a tank;
  • Uses Bio-Bag cartridges.


  • Bulky look inside the aquarium;
  • Causes much water movement.
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


This fish tank filter manufactured by KEDSUM is great to use in aquariums with 15-25 gallon capacity. It’s rather a 10-gallon fish tank filter. It makes three functions – water filtration, clearing oil-film, and enriching the water with oxygen. It ensures quiet, nearly noiseless operation. To fit the filter well to the aquarium, the latter needs to have a 1,1-inch thickness, and the maximal flow rate of the filter is 25 gallons per hour.

What we think:

Having this filter fastened to your aquarium, your tank will be filled with 25 gallons of fresh, oxygenated and cleared water every hour. It can be considered the best 10-gallon fish tank filter.

Although this model is said to work well in up to 25-gallon tanks, it is great for glass cylinders and fishbowls. What concerns the disadvantages of this fish tank filter, it’s flow rate is quite low. The vibrating noise, in the meantime, is irritating. The price of this model is cheap.


  • Ensures great filtration, oxygen aeration, and clearing oil-film;
  • Cheap price;
  • Provides almost noiseless operation.


  • Fits smaller tanks than mentioned;
  • Produces much vibrating;
  • The flow rate is quite low.
Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter for Aquariums

Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter for Aquariums


This model of a fish tank filter by Tetra is designed to be used in an aquarium from 10 to 20 gallons’ capacity. It ensures efficient chemical, mechanical and biological filtration with the use of Medium Whisper EX carbon Filters. The model was definitely designed with convenience and simplicity in mind. The price is in the mid category. The motor is submerged, thus requires less maintenance compared to plenty of other fish tank filters offered on the market.

What we think:

Sold at a sensible price, Tetra Whisper EX Silent is said to be created to work almost silently. This is a great advantage many customers will take for granted. Other benefits include the easy installation and the self-priming feature. On the other hand, there are downsides we ought to inform you about: although the tank filter provides three filtration types, you can’t customize them. The flow rate is not adjustable, either.


  • Provides 3 filters;
  • Silent operating;
  • Self-priming feature;
  • Easy installation;
  • Smooth water return to the tank.


  • The filtration type is not customizable;
  • No adjustable flow rate;
  • Low durability.
SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit with 9-watt UV Sterilizer

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


One of the most powerful filters designed to be used in big aquariums (up to 150-gallon ones) is the SunSun filter. The flow rate is high – 525 GPH. The filter comes with a built-in UV sterilizer, a complete kit of 1lb of premium filter carbon, 1lb of ceramic rings and one set of Bio Balls. This ensures an efficient three-phase filtration – mechanical, chemical and biological.

What we think:

This filter is an amazing means to improve the clarity, color, and odor of your aquarium water. Actually, it has all the features one can expect buying a fish tank filter: easy installation, improved performance, better technology, noiseless operating, a high level of efficacy. Perhaps the only downside is the high price. We ought to say that this model is worth the price set.


  • Easy to set up;
  • Comes with a UV sterilizer;
  • Silent operating;
  • Can be used in big tanks;
  • Provides 525 GPH flow rate;
  • Ensures three levels of filtration.


  • High price.
Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter

Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter


Among the most innovative canister filters available in the market, this model by Cobalt Aquatics has its own place. The filter can be installed in any aquarium, terrarium or even vivarium with the capacity of up to 55 gallons. The maximal flow rate is 210 GPH. The manufacturer provides a three-year warranty.

What we think:

Thanks to the one-of-a-kind inline pump, the model has a complete flexibility of setup in any aquarium, vivarium or terrarium. You can place it below, next to and above your tank! The filter works very quietly. Our tests showed this model is a highly efficient one but sold at a high price.


  • Original innovative design;
  • Three-year warranty;
  • Quick disconnection of valves;
  • Silent operating;
  • No need in priming.


  • Expensive price.
EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media


The fish tank filter by Eheim is designed to be installed in an up to 92-gallon aquarium. The flow rate of the filter is 164 GPH. It comes with a spray bar, inlet pipe, hose, and installation accessories. The product features a Permo-elastic silicon sealing ring to keep it firmly sealed during the working process. It allows no leakage.

What we think:

The design of this filter is simple and efficient. Coming with all the necessary accessories, the equipment fulfills efficient mechanical, chemical, biological, and absorptive filtration. It ensures to raise the quality of the aquarium water for your dear little fish. What may repel many customers, is the expensive price.


  • Comes with all necessary accessories for efficient filtration;
  • Simple and efficient design;
  • Permo-elastic silicon sealing ring for safe closing;
  • No leakage;
  • Quiet operating;
  • Ensures 4 types of filtration.


  • Some parts are not durable enough;
  • High cost.

Interesting Facts About Fish Tank Filters

First Aquarium 1805

  1. The invention of an aquarium dates back to the beginning of the nineteenth century (1805). It was created by Robert Warrington. It was built from glass sheets that were held together with steel.
  2. Even the best filter for fish tank can’t keep the water of an overstocked aquarium fresh and clean for its all inhabitants.
  3. To help your aquarium filter operate properly, the cartridge is to be cleaned every month. Before you work on a filter, make sure it is unplugged.
  4. Regardless the type, a fish tank filter is to run all the time. Otherwise, beneficial bacteria will die, while the harmful anaerobic bacteria will emerge.
  5. Taking care of fish and the aquarium enhances the hobbyists’ mental and physical wellbeing.

Aquarium Filter Maintenance

Performing constant maintenance on your fish tank’s equipment is sure to enhance its performance and lifespan. Adhering to the original manual provided with the filter, you will know both how to set up a fish tank filter and how to take proper care of it so that your aquatic environment is healthy and your fish thriving. Here are important recommendations about cleaning fish tank filter.

The primary component of appropriate aquarium maintenance is water change. You should change the water (not more than 15% ) of your aquarium every two weeks. The issues how often and how to clean a fish tank filter depend primarily on the filter type.

Mechanical Filtration

The regular maintenance of a system of mechanical filtration implies the cleaning of the pads or sponges from the debris collected. The cartridges are to be washed only in the aquarium’s water so that the beneficial bacteria is not reduced. How often this should be performed is determined by the stocking level of the aquarium and the nitrates present in the system. Generally, once a week will be enough.

Chemical Filtration

The most widely used chemical media is the activated carbon. It not only removes any unpleasant odor or coloration of your fish tank water but also effectively absorbs all the medications and dissolved organics. Activated carbon preserves its efficacy within a month or two.

Biological Filtration

Once you have implemented a mechanic and chemical filtration, a biological media should be placed to keep the water free of harmful nitrites and toxic. This is highly important.

Prior to applying extra chemical and biological filtration, you need to clean the filtering equipment you have in your aquarium. This includes removing the impeller and cleaning it and the impeller housing from all the debris stuck. Other parts of the filter involving the pipes (both intake and outlet), housings, and the body are to be carefully washed.


Buying a fish tank filter, you must have faced certain drawbacks to cope with. Our extensive FAQ will help you find answers to the most common questions nearly all novice aquarium owners have.

Q: How to install a fish tank filter cartridge?

A: Before you install the cartridge into the filter, make certain you have turned it off. After this, take the cartridge and place it into the slot designed for it: if you have a dirty gross cartridge in it, place it in the filter reservoir and keep it there several weeks. Switch the filter only in the end.

Q: How much are fish tank filters?

A: The price of a fish tank filter depends on several aspects – the water flow rate, the functionality (filtration types carried out), the type of the filter, and the capacity of the aquarium. Prices range from around 15$ up to $200.

Q: When to change fish tank filter?

A: A fish tank filter can be used until it is one piece with no broken parts. A quality filter will serve years under the condition you deliver proper maintenance. It’s the cartridge of the filter that needs a change when it becomes too dirty. 

Q: How to clean fish tank filter tubes?

A: The fish tank filter tubes are to be cleaned with hot water (not boiling) that must run through the tube: make certain you wear gloves and use a towel to hold the hose. Remove the tube from the aquarium and take it to a sink. Use commercially available cleaning devices: these are long wires with brushes fixed to their ends. After having pushed one through the tube and passed it several times to clean the tube, rinse with hot water again to get all the loosened gunk out the tube.

Q: Where to put fish tank filter?

A: Where you must put the fish tank filter depends on its type. Under-gravel filters must be placed into the tank right under the gravel in a well-fitted position before you fill the tank with water. External and internal hang-on filters are to be mounted on the tank wall, whilst canister filters can be laced near, above or below the tank.

Q: Can I keep my small/nano aquarium without a filter?

A: You can keep your nano or small aquarium without a filter, but will have to change the water every week. This is not recommended, although. Poor unfiltered water in an aquarium will lead to infections, deterioration, and the premature death of the fish you keep. Fish tank filters create tiny ecosystems that boost the growth and health of the fish and live plants inside the tank.

Q: Can I use a filter if I have live plants?

A: Having both a filter and live plants in your aquarium is beneficial for its inhabitants. Plants absorb and remove all the waste of fish, the excess food and decaying materials, they create an appropriate area for beneficial bacteria to grow on. Just make certain the water flow rate is slow.

Concluding Thoughts

As you must have learned from this article, there are different fish tank filter types to choose from. Which you pick up eventually depends on your specific requirements and expectations. And whether you are a seasoned aquarium hobbyist or it’s your first tank, you need a quality equipment that will serve well and long. And now, after a thorough research, it seems that we have found out the best fish tank filter models of 2018. Here are our recommendations.

If you don’t have a restricted budget and are ready to buy a bit expensive models, it’s worth considering fish tank canister filters by AquaClear, Eheim, Sunsun and Cobalt Aquatics. Priced high (almost and above $100), these are powerful filters designed to be used in big tanks. No doubts, they are great.

Having a tight budget, you can consider buying one of the filters by Marineland, Penn Plax, Tetra, and KEDSUM. These are decently operating affordable models.

What concerns the filter we recommend, it is Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filter. Although designed to be installed in not very big fish tanks (up to forty gallons), the filter guarantees proper water circulation and filtration, quite calm operating, and long lifespan. The price is affordable – around $30.

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