One of the most sensitive devices you will ever have to purchase when you are setting up your fish tank is the filter. With hundreds of filters available on the market, sorting through them all to find the best filter for fish tanks can be challenging. Both saltwater and freshwater fish need at least three levels of proper filtration to live long, healthy lives. In the guide section below, we discuss what makes a great filter, and what features you should and for when purchasing a fish tank filter
Guide to Purchasing the Right Fish Tanks Filter
There are quite a few styles, options, styles, and features to think about when buying an aquarium filter. The first thing you have to consider is the style of aquarium filter you want for your fish tanks.
Types of Aquarium Filters
These are the most common type of filters. They come with a suction cup or some kind of clip and are easy to attach to the aquarium wall and have a powerhead that provides filtration, and they allow water to flow through them, thus filtering them in the process. They perform mechanical, chemical, and bacterial filtration perfectly.
Hang on Filter
They are attached to the side of an open tank and can aerate their own water flow themselves. They are able to perform the three stages of filtration perfectly, and they come with different flow capacities.
Canisters filters allow users to swap out the various filtration material that makes up the filtration process, and they last longer than most types of filters. They are also more expensive and provide a powerful flow.
Gallons per Hours, Filter Sizes, and Three-stage Filtration
Gallons per hour represents the volume of water your filter can purify or clean and aerate within an hour. This typically means that you will need to use the device less, thus causing less noise and consuming less power.
Filters come in different sizes and are typically measured by the volume of water they can comfortably filter before becoming ineffective altogether. This number typically ranges from 10-70 gallons or more.
Three-stage or Step Filtration
This term denotes the mechanical filtration (involves removing debris), chemical filtration (removes odor), and bacterial or biochemical filtration (removing nitrite and ammonia) process every good filter has. This three processes clean the debris and purify the water. Typically, you want the device you choose to be capable of all three levels of filtration, but just the bacterial, and the mechanical is fine also. We recommend always choosing a filter capable of all three levels.
Top 15 Best Filter for Fish Tanks
In this section, we cover 15 of the best fish tanks filter, and we itemize their various strengths and weaknesses.
MarineLand Penguin 150 Bio-Wheel power Multi-stage filter
The MarineLand Penguin 150 Bio-wheel is a three-stage filter for aquariums just under 30 gallons. It is a unique filter that runs on MarineLand innovative bio-wheel technology. With this bio-wheel, the filter can perform mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration on your tank.
It does not come with small and easily damaged parts like air pumps, valves, tubing air stones, etc. This bio-wheel only needs a simple cartridge swap out to be fully operational again. It uses a combination of the patented bio-wheel, a cartridge floss filter, and the black diamond premium activated carbon to filter the water of both salt and freshwater aquariums.
Aqua Clear- Fish Tanks filter
The Aqua clear is a three-stage filter for fish tanks that have about 30 gallons of water or less. It uses a unique multi-stage filtration system that runs through seven times the standard amount of regular filters. It runs a completely noise-free operation and delivers filtered water with a waterfall.
It’s easy to mount and even easier to attach and maintain. It uses Aquaclear Foam activated carbon and Biomax technologies for water filtration.
MarineLand Magnum Polishing Internal Canister filter
The MarineLand Magnum Polishing Internal Canister filter is a two-chamber filter able to clean up to 290 gallons of water per hour. It can handle large aquariums with up to 97 gallons of water, and it uses a three-step filtration process to filter an aquarium.
The signature MarineLand floss sleeve traps dirt and debris, the black diamond premium activated carbon removes discoloration and odor, and the two-chamber design propagates the growth of healthy bacteria that neutralize ammonia and nitrites. This unique filter also comes with a potent water polishing feature that leaves the aquarium’s water crystal clear upon use.
Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter
The Aqueon Quietflow E Internal filter is a compact 2-step quiet filter for fish tanks. Depending on the size of your aquarium, the size and power of the product you order might differ. All models of this amazing device come with automatic starting features that promise no delays with reboots or restarts.
It comes with an easy to use suction cup that you can use to attach it to the aquarium wall. The filter is equipped with two-step filtration technology that consists of a carbon cartridge that carries out mechanical and chemical filtration. This means that you will have to change the aquarium water more frequently to avoid nitrite levels rising too high.
Hygger Sponge Filter
The Hygger Sponge filter is an air pump powered sponge filter that takes the widely beneficial three-step approach to filter water. Through cultivating healthy bacteria and absorbing the fine particles in the water to achieve mechanical filtration, this machine slowly cleans out the water without harming the fish.
The device comes with four sponges in total, the extra two for quick replacements during cleaning sessions. The filter box also needs changing and cleaning every once in a while. This filter is suitable for tanks that range from 10gallons to 40gallons freshwater tanks.
Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter With Quad Filtration System
The Penn Plax Hang-on Aquarium Filter is a powerful semi-silent aquarium filter. This filter is available in various sizes and configurations. Depending on which model you get, you will have access to three-step to four-step filtration options, and a maximum limit of about 100 gallons of water.
Its signature Bio-Falls Quad-filtration system adds another layer to the typical three-step filtration by removing additional nitrite and ammonia that manages to make it through the third stage. It increases oxygenation of the air and makes it healthier for the fish. It also features a carbon cartridge, an internal sponge, a flow knob that allows you to increase and reduce filtration.
Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter for Aquariums
This heavy-duty filter provides a silent multi-stage filtration experience that is beneficial to both fish and users. It creates a continuous waterfall that clears the water and gives the filter a lovely aesthetic look. The filter also runs immediately out of the box without the need to prime it.
This filter comes in numerous size options for tanks that range from 10 gallons to 70 gallons. It requires minimal maintenance, and you won’t need to replace that pesky filter cartridge every few weeks. It flosses the water multiple times, eliminates odors, and uses a bio-scrubber to clean out all the ammonia and nitrite.
Tetra Whisper Power Filter Quiet 3-stage Aquarium Filter
Tetra Whisper 3-stage Aquarium filter is a compact 10-gallon aquarium filter designed for small aquariums and beginner hobbyists. It ships with the standard 3-stage filtration that cleans debris removes odors, and even treats ammonia and nitrite.
It features innovative cleaning technology that helps reduce the gradual build-up of dirt on the glass and makes debris easier to cleanout. It’s possible to attach this device to smaller filters too.
XpertMatic Submersible Aquarium Filter with Water Pump
The XpertMatic Submersive Aquarium filter is an ultra-quiet machine that produces less than 35db of sound under full load. It features a typical three-stage water filtration process that ensures water clarity, freshness, and safety. It is suitable for both fresh and saltwater aquariums. And it comes with a simple cartridge removal system for easy swaps and changes.
It is easy to set up and clean up, and it is a fully submersible filter, so it won’t awkwardly stick out when it’s not in use. It has a fully submersible water pump feature that lets you completely submerge it and use it as a water pump when you need to.
Thanger 400GPH Submersible Water Pump with Filtering Fountain Pump
The Thanger heavy-duty water pump and filtering fountain pump is a reliable water pump/tank filter. It produces little to no noise during operation, and it comes with two filter nets. It comes with the standard three-stage filtration system, and it has multiple adjustable water nozzles that increase and reduce the flow rate of the filter.
Thanger has a maximum flow rate of about 400 gallons per hour, and it can be attached to fountains, ecological tanks, breeding tanks, gardens, rockery fountains, etc.
Da Too Aquarium Power Filter Ultra Silent Filter
Da Too silent filter is a powerful yet inexpensive waterfall style filter. It uses a quiet motor, and it allows users to scale up the filtration capacity of the device. Each stage of filtration can be improved upon by adding more biochemical balls or carbon bags, etc.
It is a very low impact filter and uses about 2KWH of electricity per month to operate. It was built for a 10-gallon tank and can work with as little as 1.5 inches of water.
Seachem Tidal Power Filters
Seachem Tidal Power filter is a self-priming aquarium filter for experts and beginners who are ready to invest in a reliable filter. It simplifies the filtration maintenance process considerably and automatically sends an alert when you need to change out cartridges. It has an impressive flow rate of 1500 liters per hour, and it was designed for large 75-gallon tanks.
Seachem Tidal Power comes with a self-cleaning impeller, a surface skimmer, and a high capacity basket that lets you load up materials and improve the quality of each filtration cycle. It, of course, comes with the three-stage filtration process, and it is perfect for both beginners and experts alike.
Boxtech Aquarium Hang On Filter
The Boxtech Aquarium features a three in one multi-functional filtration system which filters the water in the tank, oxygenates it, and clears out its oil-film. Its filter plate design allows you to swap it out when needed, and it produces zero noise during operation.
It’s made of durable ABS plastic, and it features a clever and stylish waterfall design. It comes with an adjustable flow valve, and it is suitable for shallow aquarium and normal aquariums that are under 10 gallons.
GMsound Bio Sponge Filter 20 or 40 gallon Fry Betta Aquarium
GMsound Bio sponge filter is a soundless filter for 40-gallon aquariums. It uses a pure sponge system which makes it perfect for freshwater fishes, and not so great for saltwater fishes. GMsound Bio comes with an impressive compression system that prevents complete blockage of flow during filtration. It utilizes air stones to oxygenate the water and keep it fresh during filtration.
It’s easy to disassemble and even easier to clean. It does need additional support in the form of secondary filters you can install to take care of chemical filtration.
Sunsun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter
Here we have a very unconventional-looking aquarium filter. It is shaped like an unusual water-bottle/lunch box, which is quite different from the flat and sleek design of most filters. However, don’t let its odd shape fool you because the Sunsun Canister Filter is as capable as they come. It can handle tanks of up to 150 gallons, and can filter 525 gallons of water per hour.
When you buy the product, you get an entire kit that includes replacement filter pads and a9-watt UV sterilizer. Most aquarium owners don’t bother sterilizing the water and if you’re one of them, the Sunsun filter gives you a chance to try something new.
Choosing the best filter for fish tanks can be difficult sometimes. You have to factor in price, value, speed, and aesthetics. It can get very overwhelming without a simple guide to help you sort through all your options. As important as getting the best filter is, it should not overshadow more important lessons like always cleaning the filter with bacteria water gotten from the tank. When picking a filter, you should also try to choose products that are above the capacity of your current tank. This way, you are future-proofing and ensuring that you will be able to upgrade your tank at any time without having to worry about getting a new filter.