Variable sizes offered to ensure proper filtration for your tank. Moves a lot of water very efficiently.
Customers love the power of this filter and its performance level. Uses 3 different methods of filtration. Maintains flow of water, even with dirty filters.
Owners report some setups run extremely noisily. Some owners report problems with longevity for the system.
A top-selling brand that makes a variety of effective and affordable aquarium filters for tanks.
Three-stage filtration system with a reliable flow rate. Available in several different sizes. Isn't extremely noisy. Easy to set up, and comes at an affordable price.
Bio-wheel of the biological filtration stage has been known to stop turning. Some longevity concerns.
A 1-piece durable filter for larger salt or freshwater tanks.
Includes filter, sponge, activated carbon bag, and 5 poly-fiber floss pads. Features a manual primer and valves that can be turned in all directions. Moves 350 gallons of water per hour. For tanks up to 200 gallons.
Not as quiet as some other options.
A compact and easy-to-clean filter designed for smaller tanks.
For salt and freshwater tanks between 10 and 40 gallons. Features sponges that are removable for cleaning and ceramic balls for filtering. Sticks to the tank with suction cups. Includes 2 extra sponges.
Some reports of murky water with filter use.
A tank filter with a powerful flow rate and effective water sterilizing system.
For aquariums under 100 gallons. Cycles 370 gallons of water per hour. Uses UV light to remove bacteria and cloudiness. Filter operates with ceramic rings, bio-balls, and activated carbon. Pump primes automatically.
May cause water to spill outside of the tank.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Keeping fish can be a fun, relaxing hobby – and they’re definitely low-maintenance pets. A fish isn’t going to wake you up at two in the morning to go for a walk, after all.
But that doesn’t mean that maintaining healthy fish is easy. For fish to thrive, they must have the proper environment, and that takes a lot more than simply pouring some water into a tank and letting the little guys swim away.
To ensure that the water is as clean and healthy as possible for your fish, proper filtration is key. That’s why choosing the right aquarium filter is so important.
Unfortunately, choosing an aquarium filter isn’t as easy as you might think. There are so many different types on the market that finding the right one for your tank can be tricky, especially if you’re new to maintaining an aquarium.
At BestReviews, our goal is to help take some of the confusion out of the shopping process. We never accept products from manufacturers, so our reviews are completely unbiased. We conducted field and expert research to examine the top aquarium filters on the market. Our hard work allows us to pass along all the info you need to make an educated shopping decision for your aquarium.
An aquarium filter helps remove fish waste, excess food, decaying organic materials, toxic chemicals, and other debris from the water in a fish tank. Removing these materials is crucial to the health of your fish, because they can build up to dangerous levels and poison the fish if they’re left to accumulate.
Your aquarium’s water can also become cloudy if you don’t have an effective filter, making it difficult for you to enjoy your fish.
Three broad types of aquarium filtration exist: mechanical, chemical, and biological.
Mechanical aquarium filtration drives the aquarium’s water through some type of filter material that catches particles or debris.
Chemical aquarium filtration usually focuses on specific chemicals or nutrients that are found in excessive amounts in the aquarium’s water. The chemicals pass through some type of filter media or resin which removes them from the water.
Not to be confused with types of aquarium filtration, there are several physical prototypes of aquariums to choose from. It’s important to select the right one for your aquarium. Here’s an in-depth look at your choices.
Sponge filters, also known as air-driven filters, use an air pump to push and pull water through a sponge that provides both biological and mechanical filtration. This type of filter works best for smaller aquariums.
Undergravel aquarium filters sit beneath a layer of gravel in your aquarium and pull water through the gravel to provide biological filtration. They usually require replacement cartridges, but undergravel filters are relatively inexpensive compared to other options. This type of filter works best for small or large aquariums, though the fish load should be light.
Power filters are the most common type of aquarium filter and can provide biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration. They typically hang on the back of the tank and require replacement cartridges. This type of filter works well for most aquarium sizes.
Internal power filters are submerged completely in the aquarium’s water, so they can save a great deal of space. They offer extremely effective filtration and can move the water well because they’re usually placed at the bottom of the tank. This type of filter works best for small aquariums that are 20 gallons or less in size.
Canister filters offer excellent mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration for large aquariums or those with a large fish load. They can hold several different types of filter media inside the canister for the best water quality possible.
Wet/dry filters provide extremely effective biological filtration. The biologic media is exposed to both water and air, which allows a large number of beneficial bacteria to grow. This type of filter works best for a large aquarium.
Fluidized bed filters hang on the back of the aquarium and pump water through sand or silica chips. Bacteria grows on the filter media to provide very effective biological filtration. This type of filter works best for smaller aquariums.
An aquarium filter’s “flow rate” refers to the number of gallons of water the filter can pass through it each hour.
For effective filtration, an aquarium filter should be able to pass four times the full volume of the tank through it each hour. For example, if you have a 20-gallon tank, you need a filter with a flow rate of at least 80 gallons per hour.
If your ideal flow rate falls between two filter choices, always opt for the filter with the higher flow rate.
Aquarium filters vary in price based on their size and type, but you can expect to pay between $10 and $200 for one.
$10 to $40: You can get a small, basic aquarium filter in this price range.
$50 to $80: In this price range, you can get a fairly powerful filter of medium size.
$90 to $200: You will find some large, powerful aquarium filters in this price range.
As your fish grow in size (or you add more fish to your aquarium), you may need to increase the size and power of your filter. The reason: the more fish you have, the more waste there will be, and the greater your need for filtration.
Read the manufacturer's instruction manual to learn about proper maintenance procedures. In general, it’s a good idea to clean your aquarium filter at least once a month.
Use lukewarm water to clean your aquarium filter parts.
Overfeeding your fish can make it more difficult for the filter to adequately clean the water. Be sure to feed your finned friends the recommended amount of food.
To verify that your aquarium filter is working properly, use a water-testing kit to check ammonia and nitrate levels. They should both be at or close to zero. If they’re higher, your fitler isn’t getting the job done.
Q. Does using an aquarium filter mean I don’t have to change the water in my fish tank?
A. While a filter helps keep the water clean, you still need to perform regularly scheduled partial-water changes to maintain water quality. In most cases, that means replacing about 25% of the water with fresh water to dilute any problematic elements.
Q. What maintenance does an aquarium filter require?
A. Depending on the type of filter you have, you’ll likely need to change the filter cartridge or media once a month. At the same time, you should remove the filter from the tank and clean all of the components according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The proper way to clean a filter depends on its type, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual.
Q. What type of filters work best for large or extra-large aquariums?
A. For larger aquariums, canister filters are a good choice because they are large and powerful enough to handle a greater number of fish. Wet/dry filters also work well for large tanks of up to 120 gallons.