Best Aquarium Filters – Review & Guide

Aquatic pet owners everywhere have different preferences on how they maintain their fish’s environment, but one thing remains constant. Fish tanks and aquariums can get very messy.

In order to clean up the mess, there must be a barrier to clean and purify the tank appropriately. Therefore, it is highly important to choose the right filter that fits your preferences and your fish tank.

However, with so many options available, it can sometimes be difficult to find the fish tank filter that best suits your needs. There are a large variety of factors to take into consideration when choosing the perfect filter for you. Here is a list of the 10 best aquarium filters on the market right now.

Aquarium Filter Reviews

Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter

The Aqua Clear fish tank filter brands themselves as one of “the world’s best-selling aquarium power filters” because of its popularity among pet owners. It is both quiet and efficient, making it a super easy and low-effort option. What makes this filter specifically so popular is its versatility of the unique hang-on feature.

The filter is equipped with different flow rates depending on the fish and plants in the tank. This makes this filter the most ideal for a more delicate aquatic-life because you can slow down the flow rate without compromising the efficiency of the filter.

The filtration volume holds up to 7 times more than compared filters, making it an optimal choice for a low price. It comes installed with additional products from Aqua Clear such as AquaClear Foam, Activated Carbon and BioMax so you won’t have to buy those features separately.

The function of BioMax is to effectively remove the harmful bacteria while making sure to preserve the healthy bacteria needed to remove toxic chemicals from the tank.


  • Easy to clean
  • Quiet operation
  • Different settings for flow rates


  • Doesn’t leave the water absolutely crystal clear
  • Most efficient for smaller tanks

Penn Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter

This filter is to be fully submerged in water delivering clear water into the tank. It can be utilized in tank sizes ranging from 20 to 50 gallons in size.

The activated carbon cartridge helps to remove chemicals from entering the tank, as well as removing any harmful chemicals that are already in the tank.

Both the pump head and the spray bar option allows for a variety of ways to distribute the clean water evenly throughout the tank. This makes it one of the more versatile options for filters.

The suction cups on the back of the filter allows for easy placement and removal. Also, it can be placed either vertically or horizontally so it can fit both the tank’s size and personal preferences. Because it can be easily hidden by placing it horizontally, it makes for a good option for the aesthetic of the fish tank along with functionality.


  • Versatile in how it is placed in the tank
  • Able to be used in tank sizes ranging from 20 to 50 gallons
  • Easy to distribute the filtered water because of the spray bar option


  • Difficult to clean
  • The longevity of this filter varies


This aquarium filter comes in a variety of different size options, making it a reasonable choice for fish tanks sizing all the way up to 70 gallons.

This filter prides itself on providing all three levels of filtration: mechanical, biological, and chemical. The included BIO-Wheel feature efficiently removes toxic ammonia and nitrate from the tank.

Little installation is required to set up this product, so it is perfect for beginner aquatic-life owners. The easy cartridge replacement process is another feature perfect for beginners.

The hang-on function of this filter allows for some versatility meaning it is great for not taking up too much space in the tank. Although, because of its unique shape, it is best placed in the back of the tank since the straight edge would work best being installed horizontally.


  • Little setup required
  • Versatility in regards to what size tank you have
  • Adjustable flow-rate


  • Slightly noisy
  • Not versatile in where you place it in the tank

Fluval C Power Filter

Filtering 264 gallons per hour, this filter provides high-end filtration for a variety of different aquariums. It comes with features such as polyfoam and a clip-on attachment.

Like many of the other filters, this comes with numerous sizing options. It is suitable for tanks sizing anywhere from 30 to 70 gallons. Also, this system allows you to efficiently control the flow-rate to your desired level based on the aquatic-life in your tank.

This filter also comes with a filter cover, a filter case, a leveling device, an impeller, a chemical basket, Bio-Screen, and more. Therefore, because of the large number of different components, this filter has many benefits to it.

It upholds a five-step filtration system to make sure your aquatic-life is getting the best filtration possible. The system utilizes all of the three factors of filtration.


  • Thorough filtration methods
  • Can be used in numerous tank sizes
  • Filters out mostly every small piece of bacteria or dirt
  • Quiet operation for the most part


  • Difficult to install
  • Hard to clean because of all the different pieces
  • Impeller requires frequent cleaning

Marina Power Filter

This filter is perfect for very small aquariums, as it can only be used for tanks up to 20 gallons in size. Because of this specialization, it excels in filtering smaller aquariums. It contains two filter cartridges (1 Bio-Carb and 1 Bio-Clear) which help to biologically filter the tank.

It is very easy to clean and maintain because of its small size. The small design makes it optimal for cleaning and aesthetic purposes. Like a lot of the other filters, you can also adjust the rate of flow with this filter.

The small sizing of this filter also allows for quiet operation. There is no extensive installation guide. To set it up, all you have to do is plug it in. Installation and maintenance are easy to keep up with. Also, this filter proves to have excellent longevity.


  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Easy to clean
  • Can adjust flow-rates
  • Easy to install


  • Only can be used for small aquariums
  • Limited features

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter

This silicon-based canister filter is perfect for people who want a low maintenance filter. It allows for constant circulation of water making for a healthy and vibrant-looking aquarium.

This filter is equipped with numerous accessories at no cost including an inlet pipe and a spray bar. Also, with the usage of filter sponges, it excels in removing all of the bad bacteria and toxins from the tank. It comes with everything you need in the box in order to have an effective filter, so you don’t have to buy anything extra.

Since the ring is made from silicon, it is very easy to clean and maintain. Also, the silicon allows for little to no leakage.

However, the instructions can be a little difficult to follow, so it takes some time to set it up. But once it is installed, it is extremely effective in all three levels of filtration.


  • Easy to clean
  • No leakage
  • Low maintenance


  • Difficult to set up
  • Intricate pieces with little instructions on how they are used

Hydor Professional External Canister Filter

This canister filter excellently provides all three levels of filtration: biological, mechanical, and chemical. Again, the flow-rate is adjustable so you can choose the option that best suits your needs. An optional spray bar is available.

This filter comes in a design that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It is rectangular and can fit perfectly in the corner of your tank. This prevents the filter from taking up too much room and looking too bulky.

Also, this is a sturdy and quality product that is sure to hold up for a long period of time.

Even with all of the parts included, the instructions are easy to follow. It is made clear that every part has its purpose and it is easy for customers to understand the different features for optimal usage. If you want a high-end filter without difficult installation, this is the filter for you.


  • Rectangular shape is aesthetically pleasing
  • Easy installation process
  • Long-lasting, durable product


  • Sometimes causes leakage
  • Difficult to clean

Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g

This canister filter has proven technology for overall filtration efficiency through its pump/motor unit and one chamber design. This brand of filters is very well-known for creating durable and reliable filters for aquariums.

Flow-rates have been taken accounted for in providing excellent filtration. The flow-rates can also be changed based on your needs.

This filter requires little maintenance and is very reliable in doing an efficient job without having to pay too much attention to it. This is because of the improved technology provided in this model.

The noise is practically silent and it is incredibly easy to set up. The only annoyance is priming it, but once you do that, it’s good to go. Because this is a newer model, it is unclear whether it holds up as long-lasting, but it has proven to be very durable.


  • Very easy maintenance
  • Reliable filtration
  • Different settings for flow-rates


  • Questionable in its longevity
  • Annoying to prime

Tetra Whisper Power Filter

This filter is a set of three filters all in one. Even though this can sound a bit confusing, it is optimal for tanks that get very messy. The system allows for cleaner water and healthier aquatic life. This filter is designed for smaller aquariums but can be used for tanks up to 60 gallons.

The Bio-Bag feature is put in place to effectively remove bacterial particles in the water. Also, it is used to help fix the discoloration of the water that happens over time. This does a great job of creating crystal clear, healthy-looking water.

It is simple to assemble, as it comes already set up right out of the box. Also, the hooks on the back of the filter help with installation.

Odors are practically removed with the help of this filter. There are different settings for different flow-rates, so you can protect more delicate aquatic life and plants living in the tank. The biggest con of this product is the noise it makes.


  • Great for smaller tanks
  • Three filters in one
  • Simple to assemble
  • Creates crystal clear-looking water


  • Can be quite noisy
  • Cannot use for larger aquariums


This filter provides all biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration, while also incorporating their signature specialty filter pads into the system. This is available to use in tanks sizing all the way up to 90 gallons.

The system is self-primed, making for easy installation and maintenance. The pump inside of the filter system is made to eliminate noise and leakage.

The LED feature is unique to this filter. The light turns on when the filter is clogged so it notifies you when it is time to change the cartridges.

The flow-rates remain a constant high rate, making this optimal for more durable and larger aquatic life. This also increases the oxygen levels in the filter. This feature helps to keep the water crystal clear. Longevity may be an issue.


  • Makes for crystal clear, clean water
  • LED feature
  • Variety of different tank sizes
  • Little noise


  • Only has a high flow-rate option
  • Longevity may be an issue

How Aquarium Filters Work

Aquarium filters remove harmful bacteria and microorganisms from your tank. It also removes any excess food or waste that is floating around in your tank. This ensures a clean and healthy environment for your tank. It also makes the water appear clearer and less cloudy.

There are three types of filtration: biological, mechanical, and chemical.

Biological filtration is absolutely necessary for any filtration system you use. It converts the excess food and waste from the tank into substances that are less toxic. If they are not converted, they will become harmful to aquatic life.

Mechanical filtration is provided by pushing the water through some sort of filter media that acts as a strainer. This will capture any harmful particles or free-floating bacteria that are damaging to your tank. Filter media can be a sponge, mesh, specialty filter pads, or filter floss.

Chemical filtration extracts any harmful toxins from the water. It uses activated carbon to remove chemicals in the water until the carbon becomes saturated. It is important that it is changed frequently to ensure that the activated carbon does not become too saturated. If it does become too saturated, it will not be able to efficiently extract the toxins until it is replaced.

Different Types of Aquarium Filters

If you are currently looking to buy a filter for your aquarium, it is essential that you understand all the different factors of choosing the right one for you. This is going to ensure that the filter you end up choosing will meet your expectations and priorities and in return give your aquarium a healthy environment.

  • Canister filter: Canister filters are usually best used for larger aquariums usually sized 40 gallons or more. They are shaped like a canister, and they usually sit below or beside the tank. They are highly efficient at biological filtration in larger tanks. They are practically noise-free.
  • Hang-on back filter: Hang-on back filters are best used for smaller sized tanks, as they do not have the functionality to serve larger sized tanks. Just like the name says, this filter hangs on the back on the filter, so it does not take up much room. They are very easy to clean and maintain, but some of them do have problems with being too noisy.
  • Power filter: Power filters are the most commonly used filtration systems among fish tank owners. They provide the best filtration among all three levels of filtration. They are also usually hung on the back of the tank.
  • Wet/dry filter: The name of this filter stems from it being able to be exposed to both air and water. These filters are usually compatible with both saltwater and freshwater applications. This filter does an effective job of preserving the beneficial bacteria in the tank.

How to Maintain an Aquarium Filter

Aquarium filters are one of the most essential parts of your tank, but they will not work if they are not maintained properly. There is not a specific measure of time correlating to when you should clean the filter. It is important to check your filter regularly to know when it is time to clean it. Daily and weekly checks will notify you when it is time to clean the filter.

These daily and weekly checks should include checking the water the flow, cleaning the inlet cage, making sure the tubes are properly attached and making sure that there are not any leakages. Leakages normally occur in canister filters. For normal everyday maintenance, you can use a brush tool to clean around the outsides and openings of the filter.

When you do decide your filter is ready for a deep cleaning, the instructions vary depending on what type of filter you have. It is important to follow the instruction manual for your specific filter in order to make sure the filter is cleaned properly. As an approximately measure of time, 3-4 weeks is a loose measurement for how often you should be cleaning the filter.

It is important that you do not clean your filter with tap water. When you clean the filter media with tap water, the good bacteria that you have protected can potentially be killed.

FAQ’s for Aquarium Filters

What flow rate should I look for?

The flow rate for aquarium filters is measured in gallons per hours. Aquariums that require higher flow rates include tanks with larger sized fish, large tanks, and reef tanks. This ensures that the water moves all around the tank and is powerful enough to clean the tank from any toxins. Aquariums that require lower flow rates small tanks, tanks with betta fish, and live planted tanks. This is because delicate fish can be harmed by a strong flow rate, and live plants cannot endure faster-moving water.

Do small tanks need a filter?

Using a filter for small tanks is not necessary, but highly recommended. No matter the size of the aquarium, a filter is essential to make sure your tank is maintaining a healthy environment. Daily water changes and cleaning are necessary if you do not have a filter which is much more maintenance than just buying a filter to do it for you. Also, a filter is going to get rid of all the bacteria not visible to us which is going to help improve and maintain your fish’s health.

Should the filter always be running?

Yes. Fish do not produce waste on a cycle; it is constant. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that you keep your filter turned on at all times in order to effectively maintain a healthy tank environment. Also, the filter provides a constant moving water cycle in the tank which helps the filter run properly. If the filter is turned off, this water cycle will be interrupted.

Do all fish produce the same amount of waste?

No. Different species of fish produce different amounts of waste. For example, betta fish produce a very limited amount of waste, while goldfish and guppies have a higher amount of waste they produce.

These 10 aquarium filters were my top picks based on a variety of different factors including durability, quality, flow-rates, maintenance, and more.

From this list of comparisons between different filter models and brands, it can prove to be quite difficult in choosing your ideal filter. However, it is important to choose wisely based on both your personal preferences and fish tank needs.

So when you go to buy a filter for your fish tank, I hope you take all of these factors into consideration in order to have clean water and healthy fish!

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