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Best Aquarium Filters in 2020 – Reviews

The more experienced you are at keeping fish, the more you know what a quality filter looks like. Some starter kits have everything you need but it is usually the filter that can be a little suspect. To keep the tank clean, the aquarium filter needs to be reliable, particularly with large tanks that house a lot of fish.

The more you keep, the more waste there is, and the harder the aquarium filter will have to work. This is why you need to find the best product possible for your tank. We have created our list of the best aquarium filters so you can get your hands on a product that works to keep the water clean, and your fish happy.

List of the Best Aquarium Filters
Reviews

Editor’s Choice: Aqua Clear – Fish Tank Filter

This is the best aquarium filter for many reasons with one of them being that it maintains the healthy bacteria that benefit your fish. Available in different sizes, you can find a filter that will work with smaller tanks like those that are 5 to 20 gallons, as well as the larger 60 – 110 gallons. In comparison to other filters in their size, they offer up to 7 times more filtration and it comes with everything it needs to increase the quality of the water.

This means you get activated carbon, AquaClear Foam, and more. It is suitable for use in waters of up to 35 degrees C and comes with a two-year warranty to protect your purchase. Energy efficient, and simple to install in most tanks, these are excellent aquarium filters that are also affordable compared to a lot of the competition.

PROS:

  • Lot noise levels
  • Comes in a variety of tank sizes
  • Fine for fresh water and salt water tanks
  • Good value
CONS:

(none)

Best For 200 Gallon Aquariums: Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

This impressive aquarium filter can be used in either freshwater or a marine environment and it works at a rate of 350 GPH. Because of this, it is capable of cleansing the water of tanks of up to 200 gallons in capacity and features flow valves that rotate 360 degrees. This means it is easy to place in tight spaces and has a simple push-button primer system to get things going. It can be used alongside other accessories such as bio sponges to promote bacteria growth.

5 large baskets make it easy for you to customize to your tanks specific needs and it even comes with a spray bar, tubing, filter media, and more. Installing it is simple thanks to the swimming pool style clamps and features such as the airtight seal works towards ensuring the flow rate is reliable whilst keeping the aquarium filter running quietly.

PROS:

  • Fine for up to 200-gallon aquariums
  • Flow valves can rotate 360 degrees
  • Whisper-quiet operation
  • Easy to install
CONS:

  • Can make a bit of noise when there isn’t as much water as needed

Best Affordable: Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter with Quad Filtration System

Although not everyone is a fan of the hang on aquarium filter variants, this is one of the best and most affordable you can find. It works at a rate of 300 gallons per hour making it fine for tanks with a capacity ranging from 55 to 100 gallons. You can use the activated carbon cartridge to get rid of harmful chemicals and toxins in the water as well as improve the clarity.

This impressive aquarium filter might be modest in its price but it also has some useful features. During feed time, you might wish to reduce the flow rate, something you can do with the adjustable flow knob. Fine for freshwater and saltwater tanks, it provides maximum oxygenation. Although it is extremely light, it doesn’t struggle to provide the power yet remains one of the quietest aquarium filters in the price range.

PROS:

  • Fine for tanks of 55 to 100 gallons
  • Great vaue
  • 300 gallons per hour
  • Very quiet
CONS:

  • Replacement cartridges can be expensive

Best Low Energy Consumption: Fluval 307 Perfomance Canister Filter

This is part of the 07 series of Fluval aquarium filters and they are now 25% quieter than before. The filters in this series are capable of between 145 – 383 GPH making them some of the most powerful filters for at-home use. Even though they are incredibly powerful and known for being reliable, they do not consume a lot of energy. Some models in the range only use the same amount as a common LED lightbulb.

Set up is simple with the easy to follow instructions and it comes with everything you need to install the latest Fluval series of aquarium filters to your tank. There are also filter included to get you started although you might choose to replace these with better ones when they have run their course.

PROS:

  • 25% quieter than previous models
  • Low energy consumption
  • Easy to install
CONS:

  • Might want to relace the included filters

Easiest To Maintain: Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter for Aquariums

The 3 stage filtration system of this aquarium filter from Marineland makes it a reliable option and one that can clean the water in tanks of up to 100 gallons in capacity. Great for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. With a valve block for quick release and easy maintenance, this is a good option for anyone who is still growing in experience but also those who have been keeping fish for some time.

It is available in three sizes so you can choose from 160, 220, and 360 GPH depending on your tank size. There is a polishing filter pad that works to increase the clarity of the water as well as filter foam pads to keep debris out of the water – rinse these every 9 weeks to increase their lifespan.

PROS:

  • Comes in 3 sizes
  • Good for saltwater and freshwater aquariums
  • Easy mantenance
  • Fast set up
CONS:

  • A little louder than other models

Best External Filter: EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

This external aquarium filter makes it onto our list of the best products and features a silicon sealing ring on the pump head to ensure it is easy to close after cleaning. There is everything included for quick installation so expect the likes of an inlet pipe, spray bar, hose, and more. There are 3 sizes available so you can find an external canister filter for tank sizes of 40, 66, and 92 gallons.

The larger size has a flow rate of 164 GPH which improves water and oxygen flow and is fine for freshwater and saltwater aquariums.Easy to set up and low maintenance once you get going, it is a popular aquarium filter for a reason.

PROS:

  • Available in 3 sizes
  • Silicon ring on the pump head prevents spills
  • Includes everything you need
CONS:

  • Plumbing can be a little tricky
Aquarium Filter Guide

If your aquarium is due an upgrade or you are looking for the best aquarium filter possible, there are a few things you need to know before you buy. You can’t just opt for the most expensive product or even the one with the best reviews until you know which is right for your tank.

Some products rightly have a great reputation but to make sure you know how to find a quality aquarium filter for your needs we have created the following guide. With a few helpful tips, your fish will be living in crystal clear water,

What To Look For In An Aquarium Filter

The Right Gallon Capacity

Before you buy an aquarium filter, you need to be sure that it is right for your tank size. If you haven’t already purchased the tank then this should be your first point of call. Getting the correct filter for the size of your tank means it has the power to clean the water, otherwise you will face an uphill struggle against debris and your fish won’t have the hygienic, clear water they deserve.

Easy Installation

Some aquarium filters are more complicated in how they need to be set up and only experienced users should attempt to use them. The best products are those that have easy to follow instructions and not too many intricate steps along the way.

GPH

This is how many gallons per hour the aquarium filter is capable of pushing out. The GPH will determine the tank size you should use and it is an indication as to how much power you will be able to use.

Quiet Operation

Although you will struggle to find an aquarium filter that is completely silent, most of them work to reduce the noise of the motor whirring. Some products are better at this than others and factors such as the water level can influence the noise level but go for a product that is known for being a quiet filter.

Different Types of Aquarium Filtration

You might hear the term ‘3 stage filtration system’ a lot and this is often the sign of a good product. But, to the uninitiated, what does it mean? The 3 most common types of filtration include biological, chemical and mechanical filtration.

Biological

Every fish produces waste and the toxins this created makes its way into the water. In their natural environment, the water breaks this down which is something a quality aquarium filter has to replicate to keep the tank water clean. It should create an environment where helpful bacteria can thrive so it can break down the likes of ammonia and keep the water cleansed.

Chemical

All water contains a certain level of chemicals and a filter that targets these help to maintain the right balance so your fish can thrive. Chemicals such as chlorine in tap water need to be filtered to safe levels or you may end up with poor living conditions.

Mechanical

This is essentially what keeps your water free from particles and floating debris that can make the water murky. It has to go somewhere which is where a mechanical filtration system can help. Your filter media will be made up of different sized holes to make sure debris of all shapes and sizes can be collected.

Different Types of Aquarium Filters

With a selection to choose from, you can find the right aquarium filter for the type of tank you have.

Internal

These rest inside the tank as the name suggests and depending on the product, there are several installation methods. Often known as air-driven filters, they use it to push water from the bottom and throughout the tank.

Undergravel

Again the same does a lot of explaining here but when placed under the gravel on the surface of the tank, they push water through the gravel where a lot of debris rests. They tend to work via mechanical filtration and are only suitable for smaller tanks.

Canister

A popular type of aquarium filter, a canister is installed on the outside of the tank, sucking water in before filtering it and sending it back into the tank. They work on all levels so expect chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration when using a canister filter. The unit itself might be larger than other types but they are capable of delivering high levels of GPH.

Wet/Dry

A popular aquarium filter for chemical filtration, wet/dry filters are good for saltwater tanks in particular. Low maintenance, but pricier than a lot of the alternatives, the media gets both air and water which helps to promote useful bacteria.

How Often Do I Need To Clean An Aquarium Filter?

This will vary depending on the brand, capacity, population of fish, and other factors but a general guide can be between 2-4 weeks between cleaning. Look out for the clarity of the water in between to make sure.

Do Small Aquariums Still Need A Filter?

The short answer is yes! Every fish produces a certain amount of waste and although it might not look like there is going to be a lot, it doesn’t take long for it to build up. Also, depending on the type of fish you keep, most require optimal chemical levels that only a filter can provide.

How Much Waste Do Fish Create?

This varies depending on the fish and it isn’t always the larger types that create the most waste. A carnivore will often create less waste and the likes of tetras will produce next to nothing.

Cichlids are known for producing a fair amount of waste but another factor to consider is the number of fish you have in the tank.

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