Best Aquarium Filters for Fish Tanks

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When people are looking for the best aquarium filter, they must think about all the components that make an aquarium healthy, attractive, and successful. The filters used in an aquarium are definitely among the most important elements. In this article, we will analyze the importance of fish tank filters and suggest a few that have proven to be efficient.

What does an aquarium filter do?

As the name suggests, an aquarium filter cleans the water of toxic accumulation which usually consists of nitrates and ammonia, removes the debris, and provides air to the water which means helps the fish breathe. This is a must-have component for every aquarium.

With the help of a good aquarium filter, you will save time and make sure that your fish and plants in the aquarium are thriving well. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that once you install the filter, you will get a chance to forget the maintenance of this item. On the contrary, you will have to clean, change and maintain the aquarium filter regularly, but this task is quite simple.

Top 5 Best Aquarium Filters

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AquaClear 110 Aquarium Power Filter - for 60 to 110 Gallon
Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter (Cascade Black 1500...
Fluval 406 External Filter
Fluval C4 Power Filter
Hydor Professional 350 Canister Filter, 60-100 gal, 280 GPH
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AquaClear 110 Aquarium Power Filter - for 60 to 110 Gallon
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Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter (Cascade Black 1500...
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Fluval 406 External Filter
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Fluval C4 Power Filter
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Hydor Professional 350 Canister Filter, 60-100 gal, 280 GPH
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1. AquaClear Power Filter

AquaClear 110 Aquarium Power Filter - for 60 to 110 Gallon
  • Refiltration system that offers superior contact time with filter media and energy efficient pump...
  • Quick and easy installation
  • Filtration volume is up to 7 times larger than comparable filters
  • Comes equipped with AquaClear Foam, Activated Carbon and BioMax and Cycle Guard for continuous...
  • 2-year warranty; Ideal for aquariums up to 110 gallons

The AquaClear Power Filter is efficient and promises low operating costs. This is an excellent solution even for filtering larger aquariums because it has a large filter media volume. This filter is made by a reputable company and provides complete filtration. Another thing that is worth mentioning is that AquaClear Power Filter comes with Activated Carbon, AquaClear Foam, and BioMax. These filter inserts will make the work of the filter even smoother.

Pros

  • Different sizes to fit your tank
  • Cheap and Effective
  • Comes with filter media
  • 2-year warranty

Cons

  • Might be loud during first day

2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter (Cascade Black 1500...
  • Cascade 1500 Black Elite Kit. Handles up to 200 gallons.
  • Over $50 of added value. Includes new black canister housing, all tubes and tubing, Bio Floss, Bio...
  • All parts and replacement media is OEM from Penn Plax factories
  • Large capacity stackable media trays allow for multi-stage filtration
  • Quick & easy push-button primer and two independent 360 degree rotating taps

If you are interested in keeping the aquarium clean and safe, then you should definitely check the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium. Penn Plax is known for making great filter systems that have many useful features. Made of durable plastic, this filter promises many months to years of efficient filtration without any issues.

With the largest model having a whopping flow rate of around 312 gallons in one hour, this is one of the most effective aquarium filters compared to its size. This filter can help you with every stage of filtration starting from mechanical and biological all the way to the chemical. Every material used in it is carefully tested before it is used.

Pros

  • Different sizes to fit your tank
  • It has a spray bar that supports water circulation
  • High-quality connectors and tubes
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Self-priming

Cons

  • It requires slightly more power compared to other popular aquarium filters

3. Fluval External Canister Filter

Currently on Sale
Fluval 406 External Filter
  • Multi-stage filtration for healthy fresh & saltwater aquariums
  • Suitable for aquariums up to 100 gallons
  • Sound dampening impeller design for a quieter operation
  • Equipped with a clog-proof intake strainer and a dual layer foam screen
  • Built with a patented Aquastop Valve, multiple filtration baskets, and rim connector assemblies; 3...

Fluval is another well-established brand, so it is quite natural for aquarium enthusiasts to expect a good product whenever some of the products that they are interested in have the Fluval logo on it. This external filter is not an exception. This is actually an upgrade of a previous model created by Fluval.

This External Filter comes with a very strong motor and some excellent features. Thanks to the specific square form, this filter promises durability and larger capacity. The bottom-top filtration has proven to be perfect for all types of aquariums. When it comes to the filtration media, this specific model has a coarse sponge and extra three media basket where you will get mechanical, biological and chemical media for a perfect filtration.

Pros

  • Different sizes to fit your tank
  • Very quiet operation
  • Unique and efficient priming method
  • Simple water management with the help of the unique AquaStop valve
  • Build from premium-quality materials

Cons

  • The impeller isn’t the strongest element

4. Fluval C Power Filter

Another great aquarium filter created by Fluval, the C power filters to be precise. This sophisticated aquarium power filter has a powerful  five-stage filtration system. Again, the main objective is to turn the smelly and dull water into crystal clear and healthy water for your fish and plants.

The original 5-stage filtration system includes biological, mechanical and chemical filtration. It also has a useful cleaning indicator which you can use as a reminder to start the automatic procedure. This incredible aquarium filter can process up to 119 gallons of water per hour (for the smallest model) to 264 gallons of aquarium water in one hour. They offer sizes perfect for aquariums with a capacity of 5 to 70 gallons. If you are planning on handling a larger aquarium, it would be better to look into a canister filter (Hint: Our #2 Pick) 😉

Pros

  • Efficient five-stage filtration system
  • Bio media that is simple to clean
  • Ideal water flow

Cons

  • Largest aquarium supported is 70 gallon
    • *You could buy two to filter an aquarium larger than 70 gallons

5. Hydor Professional External Canister Filter

This is another example of a popular and efficient aquarium filter that has become a best seller in the last few months. Hydor is a reputable company and without any doubt, this is one of their greatest filters. The Hydor Professional External Canister Filter comes with extremely porous Bio Rings, filter wool that provides outstanding mechanical filtration supported by the sponge with large pores.

This IL-listed model of aquarium filter is very easy to use and even complete beginners can use it in both freshwater and marine aquariums. The compact design has shown that it can be very energy efficient. In addition, this is also a filter that doesn’t cause a lot of noise. Those who have more experience with aquarium filters will be glad to hear that this model comes with a few advanced features based on the latest technological advancements in this industry.

Pros

  • Different sizes to fit your tank
  • A simple installation process
  • Easy to maintain and use
  • It is equipped with an efficient safety lock system
  • It has an impressive flow rate

Cons

  • Be careful disconnecting the valves, may trigger leaks

Types of Filtration

There are a few different cleaning techniques that aquarium filters rely on. The most important ones include Biological, Mechanical and Chemical.

Biological function

According to many experts, this is actually the most important part of the process of filtration. Of course, the other filtration techniques are important too. The biological function is here to break down the compounds of ammonia found in the water. If too much ammonia is left in the aquarium, it can cause poisoning or even kill your fish.

With the help of biological filtration, the potentially dangerous ammonia is turned into nitrite while toxic nitrite is turned into ordinary nitrate. It’s worth mentioning that nitrate is actually a relatively safe compound, but in case it’s not eliminated from the aquarium with the help of water changes on a regular basis can lead to health complications in fish. This situation can also affect the appetite of fish and proper supply of oxygen.

While we are talking about the biological function, we should mention the Nitrogen Cycle too. This is a process that supports the formation and balance of useful bacteria in the tank and in the filter itself in order to speed up the conversion of ammonia into nitrite and from nitrite to nitrate. It usually takes between 2 to 6 weeks for this process to be finished. There are special aquarium test kits that can help you check and analyze the nitrogen cycle.

Mechanical function

The mechanical function and filtration is all about the removal of floating particles/debris from the water. Thanks to the freshwater mechanical filter, users will be able to collect fish food that was not eaten, fish feces, parts of the aquatic plants that have fallen off and other pieces and particles that should not be in the aquarium water.

Chemical function

Finally, the chemical function will eliminate wastes that are already dissolved in the water. As you’ve probably guessed, this unwanted waste comes in the form of molecules that are practically invisible to the naked eye. Chemical cleansing usually consists of using carbon or purigen.

Types of Aquarium Filters

Hang on Back/Power Filters

Power filters are a very popular type of filters used in different kinds of aquariums. One of the best things about this type of filter is that it can be used in almost any kind of filtration system. Thanks to a power filter you will get chemical, mechanical and biological filtration. These filters use an internal motor and rely on electricity. The opportunity to filter the water at a very high rate is another reason why people choose power filters.

Check out our Top 5 Picks for Best Hang on Back Filters

Canister Filters

Canister filters represent another popular type of aquarium filters used today. They are wanted for their efficiency. Just like power filters, they use biological, mechanical and chemical filtration functions. Furthermore, they don’t require much aquarium space to operate. Additionally, maintenance and cleaning of this specific type of filters is usually very easy. Of course, there are some disadvantages associated with these filters like the high price and the possibility of leaks. In order to avoid situations like this, purchase high-quality filters.

Check out our Top 5 Picks for Best Canister Filters here

Internal Filters

One of the main characteristics of internal filters is that this type of aquarium filters is used in relatively small fish tanks. These submersible filters are driven by a powerhead style motor, a powerhead or air bubbles. The bottom of the aquarium close to the substrate is the place where these filters are usually placed. They are relatively cheap, but as we said before they are inefficient for bigger aquariums.

Under-gravel filters

Under-gravel filters are actually very simple filters, but they are also one of the most effective filters too. As the name suggests, they are placed under the gravel and their intake tube is connected to an efficient air filter. With the help of this specific filter, you can get aeration and boost the number of bacteria. Siphoning the gravel is a must whenever you change the aquarium water because otherwise it can get clogged with feces. The under-gravel filters are perfect for mid-sized aquariums; we only recommend using it on fish tanks below 35 gallons.

Sponge filters

Here’s another popular type of aquarium filter. If we compare them to most of the filters used today, they will appear weaker. However, they are powerful enough to cleanse the water in aquariums hosting house fry and other similar tiny species like shrimp. Air driven filters deliver biological filtration and some are designed to offer chemical filtration as well. However, if the fish are releasing a relatively high amount of poop, these filters are inefficient. They are however the best option for shrimp tanks.

Sumps

Sump filters or simply sumps are receptacles that have all the necessary media for filtration, a heater and a water pump. In the past, sumps were used only in saltwater tanks, but today they are used in different tanks that have large sizes. They have a simple design, but they are very efficient. It’s also worth mentioning that sumps or sump filters are great because they have an ability to store different media. With their help, aquarium owners can bring additional water to the system which is certainly beneficial for the tank.

Every Tank Needs an Appropriate Filter

As you have probably concluded by now, every tank size needs an appropriate filter size. Using a small filter in a large tank and vice versa can sometimes bring more harm than good. In order to determine the right size of the filter, it is highly recommended to take the capacity of your tank into consideration. Generally speaking, the entire water content from the aquarium should be able to pass through the aquarium filter four times per hour. For instance, a 60-gallon aquarium needs a flow rate of 240 gallons per hour. In case you can choose between a 200-gallon per hour and 250-gallon per hour aquarium filter, choose the 250-gph model. The good news is that the market is full of filters that have different sizes and aquarium filters with different properties.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter what kind of aquarium species or plants you have, using a filter is a must. Fish and plants found in aquariums generate waste and this waste must be treated. If you are ignoring this waste you can expect many problems. In some cases, a dirty (nitrate filled) aquarium water can lead to the death of the living beings found in your aquarium. A good aquarium filter should eliminate the waste and create a suitable environment inside the aquarium.

There are different methods and functions of filtration and the basic ones include – mechanical, biological and chemical. There are also many different types of aquarium filters. The decision which type of filter you will use depends on the fish and plants you are planning on growing, the size of the tank and few other factors. It is important to remember that each filter comes with certain advantages and disadvantages so choose carefully. It is also good to mention that the size of the filter is determined by the size of the aquarium too.

Please make sure if you are looking for the best aquarium filter in the market, it is the best idea to stick to the ones that are made by reputable companies. Any questions please feel free to drop a comment, we (or if another reader beats us to it) will be gladly help you.

Last update on 2017-08-23 at 04:11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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