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10 Best Budget Friendly Goldfish Tank Filters in 2021

Brooke Billingsley

goldfish and guppies in tank

Goldfish are extremely messy fish that create a heavy bioload in their tank. Poor water quality is the leading cause of disease and death in goldfish, so maintaining the water quality is one of the most important aspects of goldfish husbandry. One of the most effective ways to maintain your water quality is with a proper filtration system. However, you can get a great filtration system for your goldfish tank without breaking the bank, even if you’re on a tight budget. These reviews cover the 10 best filters for your goldfish tank to help you make the best choice for a budget-friendly filtration system that works well.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Marineland BIO-Wheel Aquarium Filter Marineland BIO-Wheel Aquarium Filter
  • Three-stage filtration
  • Filters 400 GPH
  • Appropriate for tanks up to 80 gallons
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Power Filter Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Power Filter
  • BioScrubbers never require replacement
  • Three-stage filtration
  • Filters 125 GPH/175 GPH
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Aquatop HOB UV Sterilizer Filter Aquatop HOB UV Sterilizer Filter
  • Four-stage filtration
  • Includes UV sterilizer and surface skimmer
  • Appropriate for tanks up to 40 gallons
  • Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter
  • Appropriate for tanks up to 200 gallons
  • Filters up to 350 GPH
  • Large filter media trays allow for lots of media and customization
  • Seachem Tidal 75-Gallon Aquarium Filter Seachem Tidal 75-Gallon Aquarium Filter
  • Includes surface skimmer and flow-adjustment knob
  • Powerful filtration up to 350 GPH
  • Customizable filter media basket
  • The 10 Best Budget Friendly Goldfish Tank Filters – Reviews & Top Picks 2021

    1. Marineland BIO-Wheel Emperor Aquarium Power Filter – Best Overall

    Marineland BIO-Wheel Aquarium Filter

    Filtration Stages: Three
    GPH Filtered: 400
    Tank Size: 80 gallons
    Type of Filter: HOB
    Cost: $$

    The best overall goldfish tank filter for the money is the Marineland BIO-Wheel Emperor Aquarium Power Filter because it’s a powerful filter for a great price. This filter is intended for tanks up to 80 gallons and filters 400 GPH, making it a good option for goldfish tanks, especially tanks that are 40-50 gallons. This hang-on back filter uses three-stage filtration with a unique BIO-Wheel that allows for maximum colonization of beneficial bacteria. It includes a dual impeller design that allows for maximum efficiency and power. The intake tube is extendable to accommodate tanks of multiple sizes.

    While the filter cartridges may be able to be replaced with your preferred filter media, the BIO-Wheel can only be replaced with other Marineland BIO-Wheels. This is also a relatively large HOB filter and it requires 3-4 inches of clearance between the tank and wall.

    Pros
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Filters 400 GPH
    • Appropriate for tanks up to 80 gallons
    • BIO-Wheel allows for maximum beneficial bacteria growth
    • Dual impeller allows for max efficiency
    • Extendable intake tube
    • Filter cartridges can be replaced with media of choice
    Cons
    • BIO-Wheel can only be replaced with other BIO-Wheels
    • Requires up to 4 inches of clearance between tank and wall

    2. Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Power Filter – Best Value

    Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Filter

    Filtration Stages: Three
    GPH Filtered: 125, 175
    Tank Size: 10-20 gallons, 20-40 gallons
    Type of Filter: Internal
    Cost: $

    The best goldfish tank filter for the money is the Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Power Filter because it’s cost-effective and uses three-stage filtration. This filter features unique BioScrubbers, which have a high surface area for beneficial bacteria colonization. These BioScrubbers never need to be replaced. This filter is available in 10-20 gallons and 20-40 gallons tank sizes. For a goldfish tank, it may be best to size up this filter to ensure adequate filtration. The smaller filter processes 125 GPH, while the larger filter processes 175 GPH. Both sizes use the large Whisper Bio-Bag cartridges.

    This filter attaches to the internal walls of the tank via suction cups and may come loose if bumped. It is not “whisper” quiet and may be too loud for some people’s preferences.

    Pros
    • Best value
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Filters 125 GPH/175 GPH
    • Appropriate for tanks up to 40 gallons
    • BioScrubbers for maximum beneficial bacteria growth
    • Cartridges can be replaced with most brands of mesh media bags
    • BioScrubbers never require replacement
    Cons
    • Suction cups may come loose easily
    • Too loud for some people’s preferences

    3. Aquatop Hang-On Back Aquarium UV Sterilizer Power Filter – Premium Choice

    Aquatop Hang-On Back UV Sterilizer Filter

    Filtration Stages: Four + UV Sterilization
    GPH Filtered: 64, 90, 128
    Tank Size: 15 gallons, 25 gallons, 40 gallons
    Type of Filter: HOB
    Cost: $$$$

    The premium pick for the best goldfish tank filter for the money is the Aquatop Hang-On Back Aquarium UV Sterilizer Power Filter. This HOB filter uses chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration, which is combined with a surface skimmer to help clear oils and proteins from the water. It also includes a UV sterilizer light, which can be turned on and off independently of the filter and works to kill free-floating algae, bacteria, and parasites. This filter also includes a flow adjustment knob, allowing you to choose the flow needed for your tank.

    This filter is quite powerful, so if you have small fish or fry, you may need to invest in a baffle, even with the filter on the lowest flow setting. There are three sizes of filter for tanks up to 40 gallons, but the largest filter only filters up to 128 GPH, so this filtration system would likely function best if you choose a larger filter size than the size of your tank.

    Pros
    • Four-stage filtration
    • Includes UV sterilizer and surface skimmer
    • Appropriate for tanks up to 40 gallons
    • UV sterilizer has its own on/off switch
    • Flow adjustment knob
    • Powerful filtration
    Cons
    • Premium price
    • May need baffle for small fish
    • Highest GPH is 128

    4. Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter

    Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Filter

    Filtration Stages: Three
    GPH Filtered: 115, 185, 315, 350
    Tank Size: 30 gallons, 65 gallons, 150 gallons, 200 gallons
    Type of Filter: Canister
    Cost: $$$

    The Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter is a good pick for a heavy-duty canister filter at a cost-effective price. It’s available in four sizes for tanks up to 200 gallons and includes all hoses and equipment needed for installation. This filter includes large filter trays that allow for customization of the filter media and plenty of space for lots of media. It has a push-button primer, 360° rotation valve taps, and flow control valves, allowing for easy setup and maintenance. This filtration system uses three-stage filtration and features a tip-proof rubber base and quiet operation.

    This filter does not come with thorough installation instructions, so it may be confusing to set up, especially if you are new to canister filters. If it’s getting close to time to replace the impeller, this filter may become loud. The rubber feet on this filter come off easily and may become lost.

    Pros
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Appropriate for tanks up to 200 gallons
    • Filters up to 350 GPH
    • Large filter media trays allow for lots of media and customization
    • Includes all parts and equipment needed for installation
    • Features tip-proof rubber base and push-button primer
    Cons
    • Lacks thorough instructions
    • May become loud as impeller wears out
    • Rubber feet come off easily

    5. Seachem Tidal 75-Gallon Aquarium Fish Tank Filter

    Seachem Tidal 75-Gallon Aquarium Filter

    Filtration Stages: Four
    GPH Filtered: 350
    Tank Size: 75 gallons
    Type of Filter: HOB
    Cost: $$

    The Seachem Tidal 75-Gallon Aquarium Fish Tank Filter is a HOB filter that features three-stage filtration plus a surface skimmer to remove proteins and oils. It’s made to be extra powerful, filtering 350 GPH for tanks up to 75 gallons. The filter media can be customized in the media basket in this filter and it has a flow-adjustment knob, allowing you to select your preferred flow.

    The way this filter is designed allows water to bypass some of the filter media if it is becoming clogged, so it’s important to ensure the filter media is not clogging in order to maintain the efficacy of the filter. You will need around 3.5 inches of clearance between the tank and the wall for this HOB filter to fit.

    Pros
    • Four-stage filtration
    • Includes surface skimmer and flow-adjustment knob
    • Appropriate for tanks up to 75 gallons
    • Powerful filtration up to 350 GPH
    • Customizable filter media basket
    Cons
    • Water may bypass some filter media
    • Requires 3.5 inches of clearance between tank and wall

    6. SunSun HW-304B Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter

    SunSun HW-304B UV Sterilizer Filter

    Filtration Stages: Three + UV Sterilizer
    GPH Filtered: 525
    Tank Size: 150 gallons
    Type of Filter: Canister
    Cost: $$$

    The SunSun HW-304B Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter is a great canister filter pick for tanks up to 150 gallons. It filters 525 GPH and uses three-stage filtration in conjunction with a UV sterilizer, ensuring your tank water is spotless. It has a sprayer bar that increases oxygen levels in the water as it is returned to the tank, and it features large media trays that allow for filter media customization. This filter includes everything needed to set it up, a drip-free shutoff tap, and a push-button primer.

    The instructions included with this filtration system may be confusing and priming the system may take some time. If the drip-free shutoff tap is not activated before opening the canister for cleaning and maintenance, then it may flood.

    Pros
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Includes UV sterilizer
    • Filters 525 GPH
    • Appropriate for tanks up to 150 gallons
    • Large filter media trays allow for media customization
    • Includes everything needed for setup
    Cons
    • Setup may be confusing
    • Priming can be time-consuming
    • Canister will flood if opened without drip-free shutoff tap activated

    7. AquaClear Power Filter 5-20 Gallons

    AquaClear Power Filter 5-20 Gallons

    Filtration Stages: Three
    GPH Filtered: 100
    Tank Size: 20 gallons
    Type of Filter: HOB
    Cost: $$

    The AquaClear Power Filter 5-20 Gallons is a nice option for smaller goldfish tanks and uses three-stage filtration. Even though it is rated for tanks up to 20 gallons, it is best used in nano goldfish tanks under 10 gallons to ensure proper filtration. This filter only requires about 2.25 inches of clearance between the tank and wall, which is smaller than many other HOB filters. It features an easy-access filter media basket and an adjustable flow knob. When the water flow is set to the lowest setting, at least half of the water within the body of the filter is recirculated through the filter multiple times.

    This filter only processes 100 GPH, so it is relatively low-powered. If the filter media is allowed to clog, water may bypass the filter media altogether and not be filtered properly before returning to the tank.

    Pros
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Good nano tank option
    • Filter media basket is easy to access
    • Less clearance between wall and tank than many other HOB filters
    • Features adjustable flow that allows for recirculation
    Cons
    • Best for tanks up to 10 gallons
    • Only processes 100 GPH
    • Water may bypass some filter media

    8. Marina Slim Power Filter

    Marina Power Filter

    Filtration Stages: Three
    GPH Filtered: 55, 71, 92
    Tank Size: 20 gallons
    Type of Filter: HOB
    Cost: $

    For a HOB filter that takes up minimal space, the Marina Slim Power Filter is a good option. This filter only requires about 2 inches of space between the tank and the wall. It uses three-stage filtration and features an adjustable flow. This filter does not require priming and is available in three sizes for tanks up to 20 gallons.

    It may be difficult to customize the filter media for this filter due to how shallow the media area is. The commercial filter media cartridges that will fit in it are very limited. This filter is somewhat loud, so it may be too noisy for some people’s preferences. The highest GPH the 20-gallon filter can put out is 92 GPH, so this filter is not adequate for goldfish tanks above 10 gallons or so.

    Pros
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Good nano tank option
    • Less clearance between wall and tank than most HOB filters
    • Adjustable flow
    • Self-priming
    Cons
    • May be difficult to customize filter media
    • Loud operation
    • Best for tanks up to 10 gallons
    • Only processes up to 92 GPH

    9. YCTECH Aquarium Hang-On Back Aquarium Filter System

    YCTECH Aquarium HOB Filter System

    Filtration Stages: Four
    GPH Filtered: 211
    Tank Size: 50 gallons
    Type of Filter: HOB
    Cost: $$

    The YCTECH Aquarium Hang-On Back Aquarium Filter System is rated for tanks up to 50 gallons and uses three-stage filtration in conjunction with a surface skimmer to remove oils from the water. It features rotating valves and adjustable water flow. The media area is larger than many HOB filters of the same power, allowing for better customization.

    This filter requires priming prior to use and may not restart properly after a power outage. Even though it is rated for tanks up to 50 gallons, it would likely be best for goldfish tanks smaller than 30 gallons. This filter is larger than many other HOB filters are, so it does take up quite a bit of space. For the surface skimmer to function correctly, the water level needs to be high and may be too high for some tank setups.

    Pros
    • Four-stage filtration
    • Features a surface skimmer
    • Up to 211 GPH
    • Large filter media area
    • Rotating valves and adjustable water flow
    Cons
    • May not restart properly after power outage
    • Best for tanks up to 30 gallons
    • Larger than many other HOB filters
    • Requires high water level

    10. Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter

    Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Filter

    Filtration Stages: Two, three
    GPH Filtered: 25, 60, 130, 290
    Tank Size: 3 gallons, 10 gallons, 20 gallons, 40 gallons
    Type of Filter: Internal
    Cost: $$

    The Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter is available in four sizes for tanks from 3-40 gallons and can filter up to 290 GPH. This filter uses three-stage filtration and is an internal filter that suction cups to the inside of the tank. The 3-gallon version of this filter only uses chemical and mechanical filtration and does not include biological filtration.

    The water flow of this filter is not adjustable, and the filter’s operation can be noisy. This filter functions best with the water return above the water level and the cover of the filter does not stay on well. Also, this filter is quite tall, making it a poor option for some small tanks.

    Pros
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Appropriate for tanks up to 40 gallons
    • Filters up to 290 GPH
    • Suction cups hold well
    Cons
    • Flow is not adjustable
    • Loud operation
    • Functions best with return above water level
    • Cover does not stay on well
    • Too tall for some smaller tanks
    • 3-gallon size only features two-stage filtration

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    Buyer’s Guide

    Choosing the Right Goldfish Tank Filter for the Money for Your Tank

    Tank Size

    The size of your tank is one of the top considerations when choosing a filter for your goldfish. You should not size down when it comes to filtration for goldfish, so if you have a 40-gallon tank, your filter should be rated for no smaller than a 40-gallon tank. You aren’t going to over-filtrate your tank, but you can easily under-filtrate it.

    Tank Stock

    The type and number of living things living in your tank are the number one consideration when choosing a filter. A tank with one goldfish will require significantly less filtration than a tank with ten goldfish, regardless of the size of the tank or the fish. Other heavy bioload animals, like plecos and mystery snails, may cause you to need more filtration, while low bioload animals, like small fish and dwarf shrimp, will have little to no effect on your tank’s filtration needs.

    Available Space

    Consider the amount of space available in and out of your tank. Are you working with a desktop tank or a living room centerpiece? Internal filters require more space within a tank than canister filters do, but canister filters require space on the floor or under the tank. HOB filters need rim space, and some rimless tanks won’t be strong enough to hold a HOB filter.

    What Filter Options are Available?

    • Hang-on back (HOB): These filters consist of an intake tube that extends down into the tank, while the main part of the filter hooks over the edge of the tank. HOB filters are the most popular and easy to come by filter option. They are efficient and functional, but they aren’t always the most attractive option.
    • Internal: Internal filters function in a similar way to HOB filters, but they are attached to the side of the tank under the waterline. These filters are usually not good options for tanks over 50 gallons or so, but they can be efficient additions to large tanks. They can function well for nano to medium tanks on their own.
    • Canister: Usually considered to be more powerful and effective than most other filters, canister filters usually sit on the floor by the tank or underneath it on a shelf or in a cabinet. These filters have an intake that extends into the water in a similar fashion to a HOB filter, but the rest of the filter is fully external to the tank. A system of hoses pulls water from the tank, through the filter media within the canister, and then pushes it back into the tank.
    • Sponge: When it comes to goldfish tanks, sponge filters should not be used alone. The main function of these filters is to increase surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize. They pull very little waste from the water column and rarely do more than biological filtration. Sponge filters are excellent additions to goldfish tanks with another filtration system, though.

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    Conclusion

    These reviews only scratch the surface of budget-friendly filter options for your goldfish tank. The best overall pick is the Marineland BIO-Wheel Emperor Aquarium Power Filter because of its ease of use, functionality, and efficiency. The best value is the Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Power Filter, which provides thorough filtration for a low price, and the premium pick is the Aquatop Hang-On Back Aquarium UV Sterilizer Power Filter, which features four-stage filtration and UV sterilization, but with a premium price tag.

    Choosing filters with good warranties and that allow for customization of filter media will help you keep your filtration system budget-friendly. Proper care, cleaning, and maintenance will all help lengthen the functional life of your filter.


    Featured Image Credit: S-F, Shutterstock

    Brooke Billingsley

    Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping has become a hobby of Brooke’s and she is continually learning how to give her aquarium pets the best life possible. Brooke enjoys plants and gardening and keeps a vegetable garden during the summer months. She stays active with yoga and obtained her 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2020. She hosts a podcast focusing on folklore and myth and loves spending her free time researching and writing. Brooke believes that every day is an opportunity for learning and growth and she spends time daily working toward new skills and knowledge.