Filters play a vital role in the success of an aquarium. Filters not only help to keep the aquarium water clean, but they also create a constantly moving environment which in return helps to replenish aquariums with oxygen, which is essential for aquarium life.
There are a variety of filters on the market to meet the needs of you and your aquarium. With so many options to choose from, we have compiled a list of the best aquarium filters that are popular, efficient, and affordable, complete with in-depth reviews.
A Quick Glance at Our Favorites in 2024
|Marineland Bio-Wheel Aquarium Filter
|Aquapapa Bio Sponge Aquarium Filter
|AquaClear Fish Tank Filter
|Tetra Whisper Aquarium Filter
|Hygger Aquarium Sponge Filter
The 8 Best Aquarium Filters
1. Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter – Best Overall
|20–30 gallons (150 GPH)
|Mechanical, biological, chemical
Our favorite aquarium filter overall is the Marineland Power Filter because it provides three types of filtrations to various sized tanks at an affordable price. This is a hang-on-back filter which consists of an intake system that suctions up old tank water, runs it through the filtration section, and then this newly filtered water gets returned into the tank through a waterfall system.
This filter features multi-stage filtration—biological, chemical, and mechanical, and the rotating bio-wheel provides a form of wet or dry biological filtration. This filter comes in five different sizes, so you have the option of choosing a size that fits the volume of water in your aquarium.
2. Aquapapa Bio Sponge Filter (3 Pack) – Best Value
|Up to 60 gallons
The best filter for the money is the Aquapapa Sponge Filter. You get three of these filters for a standard price so you can purchase these filters in bulk, which is beneficial if you own multiple aquariums that you want to stock them with efficient filtration systems. Sponge filters provide both mechanical and biological filtration for aquariums and double as an aeration system.
The air infusion chamber produces numerous bubbles which help promote gas exchange by increasing the dissolved oxygen level in the water. It is easy to set up, and all you’ll need to do is connect airline tubing to the top of the sponge filter. The sponge traps waste particles mechanically which in return keeps your aquarium water clean.
3. AquaClear Fish Tank Filter – Premium Choice
|Mechanical, biological, chemical
Our premium choice is the AquaClear Fish Tank Filter because it is quick and easy to install in aquariums and provides three different forms of filtration (chemical, biological, and mechanical). This filter comes equipped with various filter media to keep the water crystal clear. This filter has a filtration volume up to seven times larger than other types of filters on the market, however, the filter media should be replaced every two weeks to ensure the filter is working optimally.
The filter comes in five different sizes for tanks as small as 5 gallons and as large as 110 gallons, so you can purchase a size that fits the measurements of your tank. The filtration media that fits into this filter must be purchased separately, but when you first purchase this filter it will come with everything you need to get it working in your aquarium.
4. Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Filter With Air Pump
|Up to 30 gallons (170 GPH)
This type of filter mounts to the inside of an aquarium rather than hanging on the outside. This internal filter is quiet and efficient with the ability to circle a large volume of water through its system to keep the water column clean. The Tetra Whisper Internal Filter has adjustable water flow, so it can be used in various sized tanks with different types of fish without the output current getting too strong. It also has mounting suction cups for easy placement in an aquarium where it will stick to the inside of the glass.
Each filter comes with a pre-assembled filter cartridge but when it gets dirty and clogged with debris, you’ll need to purchase new filter media for the cartridge from the same brand.
5. Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter
|Biological, chemical, mechanical
The Hygger Double Sponge Filter is designed for small, medium, and large tanks to help keep the water clean and clear. The bio sponge filter helps beneficial bacteria grow to keep the water parameter stable. The filter parts are detachable and easy to install, and a bonus to purchasing this product is that it comes with two spare sponges to replace the old ones when they become trapped with debris and clogged.
To clean, this filter can be easily detached and rinsed in old tank water and the sponges should be cleaned twice a week to ensure that the filter works efficiently. The sponges are used to trap debris in the aquarium, and the filter media provides chemical filtration and a place for beneficial bacteria to grow.
6. Aqueon Quiet Flow Internal Power Aquarium Filter
The Aqueon Quiet Flow Internal Power Filter is economical, efficient, and easy to use. This filter is self-priming and includes both hang-on clips for framed aquariums and suction cups for the filter to be placed inside the aquarium. This filter includes a bio-holster which is a place for beneficial bacteria to grow and a replaceable cartridge with carbon to be placed inside for chemical filtration.
The filter also features a coarse media sponge for additional mechanical filtration. Altogether, this filter provides aquariums with chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration to keep the water crystal clear and keep the water parameters stable through the beneficial bacteria that inhabit the filter media.
7. Fluval C Series Power Aquarium Filter
|Biological, chemical, mechanical
This Fluval C Series Power Aquarium Filter is designed for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. This filter features two mechanical stages that trap both large and fine debris in the foam mat which can easily be taken out when it needs to be cleaned. The chemical stage of the filtration works through activated carbon to remove toxins from the water while the biological stage features a bio-screen pad that blocks large debris and provides a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow in it.
It can easily be disassembled for cleaning and then reinstalled with fresh activated carbon that should be replaced monthly to ensure that the filter is working properly. The more filter media you add, the more efficiently this filter will work.
8. Marineland Magniflow Canister Aquarium Filter
|Up to 55 gallons
|Biological, chemical, mechanical
This is a slightly more expensive filter in comparison to other models in this review, however, the durability and efficiency of this filter are worth the money. This is a high-quality filter that has multi-stage filtration (chemical, mechanical, and biological) to keep large tanks clean and ensure that dirt and debris are removed from the water column. Water flows through the media layer to filter the aquarium’s water. This canister is watertight, and the lid lifts to easily remove old filter pads.
The strength of this filter makes it ideal for larger tanks, and it helps to keep the water crystal clear while the filter pads provide mechanical and biological filtration by trapping in dirt and growing nitrifying bacteria.
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting the Best Aquarium Filter
What are the different types of filters?
With so many different filters available on the market, it can be difficult to find the right type of filter for your aquarium. These are the main types of filters you will come across:
This is the most popular and simple form of filter to use. These filters provide mechanical and biological filtration by trapping dirt and debris from the water column into the sponge and in return blowing clean water through the top. Sponge filters double as an aeration system too because the bubbles that come out from the top increase the dissolved oxygen levels in the water.
The installation process is simple; you’ll need an air pump and airline tubing to connect it to the sponge filter. Once you turn the air pump on, air will get blown through the tubing and into the sponge filter for it to work. Sponge filters themselves may be cheap, but you will need to pay separately for the tubing and air pump.
It is common for filters to include a sponge section on a filter for mechanical and biological filtration, while also providing a place for filter media (such as activated carbon) to be placed in cartridges.
Canister filters are usually slightly more expensive, but they are efficient at what they do. They remove the water from the fish tank through an intake tube, valve, or sieve which is then run through filter media in a pressurized canister and the clean water is pumped back into the aquarium.
With canister filters, you will have to purchase the filter media separately and change it once a month to avoid the filter getting clogged.
Internal filters are easy to install, and you will rarely have to buy separate items such as air pumps to run one. Internal filters can either have a large sponge in them or a place for filter media. This is where most of the filtration will take place.
These types of filters have an intake and an outtake section, where water is sucked in and then replenished into the tank through the output which can either be a stream of water, a waterfall system, or a trickle system.
With most internal filters, you will need to replace the cartridge containing the media and any filter wool so that the filter does not become clogged, which can cause problems in a balanced aquarium environment.
As the name suggests, internal filters can be placed underneath the water and will usually contain suction cups so that you can stick them to the glass in the desired area.
Hang-on back (HOB) filters
Hang-on back filters may be bulky and hang over the side of the aquarium, but they are usually great at providing 3-stage filtration. Most hang-on back filters will have a long tube (the intake) that will be beneath the waterline, and the dirty tank water will be filtrated through the filter media cartridges towards the outtake which generally looks like a mini waterfall.
Why Do Aquariums Need Filters?
Leaving a tank full of water to sit all day without movement will cause a stagnant environment. This is not the ideal environment for plants and aquatic inhabitants because there is no form of filtration to keep the water clean, provide a place for beneficial bacteria to grow, and provide aeration. Filters are an important aspect of creating the perfect aquarium ecosystem.
Fish and invertebrates (and some plant species) greatly benefit from filters to thrive in their environment. Unless you are using the Walstad method to keep your aquarium water clean, then a filter is seen as an essential item.
Filters provide aquariums with three different forms of filtration; mechanical, where dirt and debris from the water column are sucked into the filter to keep the water clean, biological, where filter media and sponges are used to grow nitrifying bacteria, and chemical, such as activated carbon. All of these filtration methods play a role in the clarity and cleanliness of an aquarium.
How to choose the right filter for your aquarium
Of all the aquarium filters we reviewed in this article, the Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter is our favorite overall as it provides three stages of filtration while still being affordable. Our second favorite pick is the Tetra Whisper Internal Filter due to its silent operation, plus, it comes with an air pump so you will not have to purchase one separately. Hopefully, our in-depth reviews have helped you find the perfect aquarium pump to suit your needs!
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Featured Image Credit: M-Production, Shutterstock