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10 Best Filters for Goldfish in 2021: Reviews & Top Picks

Brooke Billingsley

goldfish in freshwater_ luckypic_Shutterstock

Goldfish are known as messy fish, but many first-time goldfish owners often underestimate just how dirty these fish can be. Filtration is easily the strongest tool you have to maintain water quality and keep your goldfish healthy. If you’re keeping more than one or two goldfish in a tank, it’s a good idea to size up the filter so it’s rated higher than the size of the tank. Even still, you want a powerful filter that will keep your water clean, keep your waste products down, and allow for the colonization of beneficial bacteria. These reviews cover the 10 best filters for your goldfish tank to help you pick a filter to meet your needs.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Winner
SUNSUN Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter SUNSUN Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter
  • Three sizes available
  • Includes UV sterilizer with separate on/off switch
  • Five-stage filtration
  • Second place
    Marineland Bio-Wheel Emperor Power Filter Marineland Bio-Wheel Emperor Power Filter
  • Six sizes available
  • Three-stage filtration
  • Unique Bio-Wheel feature
  • Third place
    Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter
  • Includes startup filter media and all connectors and hoses to get started
  • Requires cleaning and maintenance every 1-2 months
  • Solid-colored hoses
  • AquaClear Power Filter AquaClear Power Filter
  • Filter media basket makes basic maintenance easy
  • Easy to see when cleaning and maintenance are needed
  • Self-priming
  • Fluval C-Series Power Filter Fluval C-Series Power Filter
  • Three sizes available
  • Five-stage filtration
  • Includes startup filter media
  • The 10 Best Filters for Goldfish – Reviews 2021

    1. SUNSUN Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter

    SunSun HW-703B Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter

    Size Options: 75 gallons, 100 gallons, 150 gallons
    Filter Style: Canister
    Filtration Stages: 5-stage
    Upkeep: Moderate
    Bonus Features: UV Sterilizer

    When it comes to keeping messy goldfish, the best filter option is the SUNSUN Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter. This filter is available in three sizes and features a built-in UV sterilizer and 5-stage filtration. The UV sterilizer has a separate on/off switch, so you can run it as needed and turn it off when not needed without stopping tank filtration. UV sterilizers are used to kill free-floating algae and parasites in the water. Canister filters may seem overwhelming if you’ve never used one before, but the learning curve is quick, and they require far less frequent cleaning and maintenance than hang-on back filters. The included instructions are thorough to make setup easy.

    The upkeep level would be considered moderate because shutting the filter down, disconnecting the hoses, and cleaning all three filter trays can be a big task. The filter trays are deep enough for you to customize with your own filter media, but it does come with filter floss to get you started. A downside to this filter is the included hoses are clear green, so you are easily able to see algae and biofilm growth in the hoses.

    Pros
    • Three sizes available
    • Includes UV sterilizer with separate on/off switch
    • Five-stage filtration
    • Thorough setup instructions included
    • Includes three deep filter media trays
    • Includes filter floss and all necessary equipment to get started
    • Requires cleaning and maintenance every 1-2 months

    Cons

    • Moderate upkeep difficulty
    • Included hoses are clear


    2. Marineland Bio-Wheel Emperor Power Filter

    Marineland Bio-Wheel Emperor 400 Aquarium Power Filter

    Size Options: 10 gallons, 20 gallons, 30 gallons, 50 gallons, 75 gallons, 90 gallons
    Filter Style: HOB
    Filtration Stages: 3-stage
    Upkeep: Easy
    Bonus Features: Bio-wheel

    For a powerful HOB filter, the Marineland Bio-Wheel Emperor Power Filter is a great pick. This filter is available in six sizes for tanks from 10-90 gallons and is powerful enough for the messiest goldfish. It features 3-stage filtration and offers a unique Bio-Wheel that has large surface area for beneficial bacteria colonization. As the water flows back into the tank from the filter, it passes over the Bio-Wheel, creating a gentle waterflow. This filter includes the filter floss and activated carbon filter cartridges and Bio-Wheel to get you started.

    HOB filters tend to require frequent cartridge replacements, which should be done carefully to avoid crashing the tank’s cycle. You may choose to use your own filter media so you can change the cartridges less frequently. The Bio-Wheel will require a replacement a couple of times per year, but the filter itself will likely require cleaning every 1-2 weeks.

    Pros
    • Six sizes available
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Unique Bio-Wheel feature
    • Easy setup
    • Easy maintenance
    • Includes first filter cartridges to get started

    Cons

    • Requires cleaning and filter cartridge replacement every couple of weeks
    • Bio-Wheel can only be replaced with brand-specific part


    3. Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter

    Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter

    Size Options: 30 gallons, 65 gallons, 150 gallons, 200 gallons
    Filter Style: Canister
    Filtration Stages: 3-stage
    Upkeep: Moderate
    Bonus Features: None

    The Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter is a powerful canister filter that’s available in four sizes. This canister filter includes deep filter media trays and startup filter media. This filter also includes all connectors and hoses to get you set up. It has a push-button primer and rubber feet to prevent tipping. Like most canister filters, the upkeep and cleaning of this filter will only need to be done every 1-2 months, but it is moderately difficult when it does need to be done.

    The hoses included with this filter are solid-colored, so you are not able to see the algae and biofilm buildup inside the hoses, so you’ll avoid the unsightly “dirty” look. There are no bells and whistles on this filter, but it is a powerful, high-quality filter. It doesn’t come with very thorough setup instructions, but YouTube videos can be a great setup resource.

    Pros
    • Four sizes available
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Includes deep filter media trays
    • Includes startup filter media and all connectors and hoses to get started
    • Requires cleaning and maintenance every 1-2 months
    • Solid-colored hoses

    Cons

    • Moderate upkeep difficulty
    • Doesn’t include thorough setup instructions


    4. AquaClear Power Filter

    AquaClear Power Filter

    Size Options: 20 gallons, 30 gallons, 50 gallons, 70 gallons, 110 gallons
    Filter Style: HOB
    Filtration Stages: 3-stage
    Upkeep: Easy
    Bonus Features: Flow control

    The AquaClear Power Filter is a powerful HOB filter that comes in a variety of sizes for tanks up to 110 gallons. This filter is a lightly tinted clear grey-blue color that allows you to clearly see when the filter needs cleaning and maintenance. It comes with startup filter media that provides 3-stage filtration. You can purchase separate filter media that helps with lowering nitrate levels, ammonia levels, and other specific issues. The filter media sits in a basket inside the body of the filter and cleaning and maintenance is as easy as lifting the basket out, cleaning or replacing filter media, and dropping the basket back in. You will need to clean the intake, impeller, and other parts of the filter on occasion. This filter includes a simple switch that allows you to control the flow of water back into your tank.

    This filter operates quietly, but if not kept well-cleaned and well-maintained, it will become noisy. This filter does self-prime, so it will not burn out the motor if turned on without water in it.

    Pros
    • Five sizes available
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Includes startup filter media
    • Filter media basket makes basic maintenance easy
    • Easy to see when cleaning and maintenance are needed
    • Self-priming

    Cons

    • May become noisy without proper cleaning and maintenance
    • Requires cleaning and filter cartridge replacement every couple of weeks


    5. Fluval C-Series Power Filter

    Fluval C-Series Power Filter

    Size Options: 30 gallons, 50 gallons, 70 gallons
    Filter Style: HOB
    Filtration Stages: 5-stage
    Upkeep: Moderate
    Bonus Features: Biological trickle chamber, pop-up indicator

    The Fluval C-Series Power Filter is a HOB filter available in three size options. It offers 5-stage filtration and has a special biological trickle chamber that passes water through a filtration area that is well colonized with beneficial bacteria. This filter recirculates water through the filter multiple times before returning it to the tank for thorough filtration. It also has a pop-up indicator that lets you know when it’s time to perform cleaning and maintenance of the filter media. Startup filter media is included with this filter.

    The manufacturer recommends a schedule of filter media and part replacement that ranges from every 2 weeks for the carbon filter media, to annually for the O-ring in the filter. Filter maintenance is moderately difficult due to the multiple filter media chambers that require cleaning and media replacement. This filter also can run slightly noisy, so it’s not a good option for places like bedrooms.

    Pros
    • Three sizes available
    • Five-stage filtration
    • Includes startup filter media
    • Special biological trickle chamber colonizes beneficial bacteria
    • Water recirculation thoroughly cleans and clears water
    • Pop-up indicator helps you know when it’s time for cleaning and maintenance

    Cons

    • Requires routine media and part replacement
    • Moderate upkeep difficulty
    • May be noisy


    6. Tetra Whisper EX Filter

    Tetra Whisper EX Filter

    Size Options: 20 gallons, 30 gallons, 45 gallons, 70 gallons
    Filter Style: HOB
    Filtration Stages: 4-stage
    Upkeep: Easy
    Bonus Features: Bio-scrubbers

    The Tetra Whisper EX Filter is a unique filter system that includes special bio-scrubbers that colonize beneficial bacteria, remove ammonia and nitrites, and never require replacement. This filter is available in four sizes and is self-priming. It includes startup filter media and features a carbon cartridge door that makes filter cartridge changes easy. The filter cartridges are designed to minimize dripping, so maintenance is easy and less messy than many other filters.

    Filter cartridges should be replaced monthly or more frequently and are specific to this filter design. This filter has a lot of vibration and tends to be noisy. It also may require separately purchased O-rings to help keep the intake tubing together.

    Pros
    • Available in four sizes
    • Four-stage filtration
    • Includes startup filter media
    • Bio-scrubbers never require replacement
    • Self-priming
    • Cartridges minimize dripping

    Cons

    • Requires cleaning and cartridge replacement every few weeks
    • Filter cartridges are specific to this filter design
    • May be noisy
    • May require additional O-rings to keep intake together


    7. Seachem Tidal Aquarium Power Filter

    Seachem Tidal Aquarium Power Filter

    Size Options: 55 gallons, 75 gallons, 110 gallons
    Filter Style: HOB
    Filtration Stages: 3-stage filtration
    Upkeep: Easy
    Bonus Features: Self-cleaning impeller, surface skimmer, maintenance alert

    The Seachem Tidal Aquarium Power Filter is a HOB filter available in three sizes and featuring multiple bonus features. This self-priming filter includes a self-cleaning impeller and surface skimmer to remove oils on the water’s surface. The built-in maintenance alert lets you know when it’s time to clean the filter or replace filter media. The filter media basket is made to hold a wide variety of filter media, so you can customize your filter media. This filter operates quietly, making it a good option for places like bedrooms.

    The maintenance alert in this filter tends to be somewhat sensitive and will pop up quickly, even if it isn’t quite time for cleaning and maintenance. This often leads to poor filtration and low flow, sometimes even leading to water bypassing the filter media and going straight back into the tank.

    Pros
    • Three sizes available
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Multiple bonus features
    • Includes startup filter media
    • Filter media basket allows for media customization
    • Operates quietly

    Cons

    • Maintenance alert is sensitive
    • Will not adequately filter without proper maintenance
    • Sometimes allows for low flow and water bypasses filtration
    • Requires cleaning and media replacement every couple of weeks


    8. EHEIM External Aquarium Canister Filter

    Eheim Classic 250 External Aquarium Canister Filter

    Size Options: 40 gallons, 66 gallons, 92 gallons, 159 gallons, 500 gallons
    Filter Style: Canister
    Filtration Stages: 3-stage
    Upkeep: Moderate to difficult
    Bonus Features: None

    The EHEIM External Aquarium Canister Filter is available in five sizes all the way up to 500 gallons, making this a great pick for large tanks. This filter includes startup filter media and all valves and hoses needed for installation. It also includes thorough setup instructions, making setup easy. This filter helps improve your tank’s oxygen levels via the water return spray bar. Pump head features a silicone elastic ring that prevents leaks.

    This filter is a premium price and priming is either done by sucking on the tubing or by a special tool that is not included with the pump and may be difficult to acquire. It also may be difficult to get replacement parts or filter media as needed. The included tubing is solid-colored, so you don’t have to see the buildup in the hoses. This filter doesn’t have filter media baskets and the filter media stack on top of each other, so cleaning and maintenance may be more difficult than some other canister filters, especially for the larger sizes.

    Pros
    • Five sizes available
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Includes startup filter media
    • Includes all valves and hoses to get started
    • Thorough setup instructions included
    • Improves oxygenation and has a silicone elastic seal
    • Only requires cleaning and maintenance every 1-2 months

    Cons

    • Premium price
    • Priming requires special tool or sucking on tubing
    • May be difficult to find replacement parts or media
    • No filter media baskets
    • Cleaning and maintenance is moderate to difficult
    • Filter media is specific to this design


    9. Hygger Sponge Filter

    Hygger Sponge Filter

    Size Options: Single sponge, double sponge
    Filter Style: Sponge
    Filtration Stages: 2-stage
    Upkeep: Very easy
    Bonus Features: None

    If you’re looking for a sponge filter, the Hygger Sponge Filter is a perfect pick. If you’re unfamiliar with sponge filters, they are a great addition to a tank that already has thorough filtration. Sponge filters help remove some solid waste from the water, but their main purpose is to colonize beneficial bacteria. This sponge filter comes in a single sponge and double sponge option, and both options include bio-ball filter media that sit in the base for additional bacteria colonization. A single sponge will work well for tanks under 40 gallons and a double sponge is ideal for tanks 40 gallons and above. These require very minimal upkeep and cleaning, usually needing little more than a rinse and squeeze in dirty tank water from time to time. This filter is not a replacement for a full filter, though. This sponge filter requires an air pump and tubing for use, but does not include them, so they will need to be purchased separately.

    Pros
    • Two sizes available
    • Requires minimal cleaning and maintenance
    • Great option for colonizing beneficial bacteria
    • Includes sponges and bio-balls
    • Maintenance and cleaning is very easy

    Cons

    • Only offers 2-stage filtration
    • Does not replace a full filter system
    • Requires separate purchase of air pump and tubing
    • Does not provide water flow
    • Removes very little physical waste from the water


    10. Penn-Plax Cascade Internal Aquarium Filter

    Penn-Plax Cascade Internal Aquarium Filter

    Size Options: 20 gallons, 50 gallons
    Filter Style: Internal
    Filtration Stages: 3-stage
    Upkeep: Easy
    Bonus Features: Adjustable water flow

    The Penn-Plax Cascade Internal Aquarium Filter is a good pick if you’re interested in an internal tank filter. Internal filters tend to be a better option for smaller tanks and tanks that aren’t overstocked, but they are easy to disguise within the tank. This filter is available in two sizes and offers 3-stage filtration with included filter media. Setup and maintenance are easy, and this filter is made for you to be able to customize your filter media. It includes a pump head with adjustable water flow.

    Internal filters require the same cleaning and maintenance schedule as HOB filters, so this filter will require cleaning and maintenance every couple of weeks. This type of filter is best used in conjunction with a more powerful filtration system. This filter can be noisy and on initial setup, it may be difficult to get it to run. This is due to air in the impeller, so you may have to submerge and attempt to run it a few times before it will work.

    Pros
    • Two sizes available
    • Three-stage filtration
    • Pump head with adjustable flow
    • Easy setup and maintenance
    • Includes startup filter media but can be customized

    Cons

    • Won’t replace a full filter in most tanks
    • May take multiple attempts to get started
    • May be noisy
    • Requires cleaning and maintenance every couple of weeks
    • Not a good option for overstocked or large tanks


    Buyer’s Guide

    Choosing the Right Filter for Your Goldfish Tank

    Tank Size

    The size of your tank is one consideration when it comes to choosing the right filter. For messy goldfish, you want to choose a filter that is marked for no less than the size of the tank. A 55-gallon tank shouldn’t have a filter for a 40-gallon tank. A too small filter will not adequately filter toxins from the water and will lead to a dangerous buildup of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate. Goldfish produce a large bioload in an aquarium, and your filter should be able to handle that. This is a big reason why sponge filters are acceptable in low bioload tanks, like shrimp tanks, but not in heavy bioload tanks, like goldfish tanks.

    Number of Fish

    The number of fish in your tank will correlate to how much filtration you need. A single goldfish in a 55-gallon tank will probably be perfectly fine with a filter for a 55-gallon tank. However, four goldfish in a 55-gallon tank will likely require a filter for a 70-gallon tank or more. Keep in mind that you will almost certainly not over filtrate your tank, but you can easily under filtrate your tank.

    Types of Fish

    Obviously, we’re discussing goldfish here, but what else is living with your goldfish? Dojo loaches create a relatively heavy bioload, but snails don’t. If you just have goldfish in your tank, then you should consider that in choosing your filter. If you have goldfish and a mix of other fish or invertebrates, then the type of tank mates and their bioload should be considered in your decision.

    Goldfish and Mystery snails_Madhourse_Shutterstock
    Image Credit: Madhourse, Shutterstock

    Other Considerations

    Other things you should consider when choosing a filter should be the type and number of plants in your tank, the availability of filter media and parts, and if you already have filtration present in the tank or not.

    Filtration Stages and What They Do

    • Mechanical: This stage of filtration refers to things like filter floss and sponges that catch large particles of physical waste. Mechanical filtration removes fish waste, plant matter, and leftover food from the water.
    • Chemical: This stage of filtration refers to things like activated carbon, which helps remove smells and purify the water. Other chemical filtration options can help remove things like ammonia, nitrites, nitrate, and phosphorus. Each tank may have different chemical filtration needs based on parameters.
    • Biological: This stage of filtration refers to the healthy colonies of beneficial bacteria that live inside filters and other parts of the tank where there is water flow. Beneficial bacteria, called nitrifying bacteria, consume ammonia and nitrites for energy, removing them from the water and leaving you with an improved water quality. Beneficial bacteria may be the most important part of a tank’s cycle, so ensure you don’t ever remove all of your beneficial bacteria at one time.

    divider-fishbowl

    Conclusion

    For the best filters for your goldfish tank, the SUNSUN Aquarium UV Canister Filter is a great pick for UV sterilization in your filter. The Marineland Bio-Wheel Emperor Power Filter is the top pick for HOB filters and the Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter is the top pick for a basic canister filter without special features. These reviews cover the 10 best filters for your goldfish tank, but it still may take trial and error for you to find the perfect filter for your tank. Purchase filters with strong warranties and return policies that will allow for replacement if your first filter choice doesn’t suit your needs.


    Featured Image Credit: luckypic, 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.