The 5 Best Aquarium Filters
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Maintaining a healthy aquarium involves keeping multiple systems going in sync. Not only do you need to choose an aquarium heater that is appropriately sized for your tank to keep it at a stable temperature, but you need to provide the right lighting for your tank inhabitants. Perhaps even more important than all these, however, is installing an aquarium filter to keep your tank water clean.
In this article, we’ll talk about keeping your aquarium water clean and provide some tips for choosing the best aquarium filter. You’ll also see our top 5 picks for the best aquarium filters.
At a Glance: Best Aquarium Filters To Buy
We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
Compare Best Aquarium Filters
Best Canister Filter
1. Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter
Best External Filter
2. Fluval Canister Filter for Aquariums
Best Biological Filter
3. Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter
Best Small Aquarium Filter
4. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
5. AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter
350 GPH (200 gallons)
383 GPH (100 gallons)
350 GPH (70 gallons)
300 GPH (100 gallons)
Push button primer, 360-degree valves
Sound-dampening impeller, clog-proof strainer
Three-stage filtration, rite-size cartridges
Quiet run, biological filtration, adjustable flow
Three-stage filtration, affordable
What To Look For In Aquarium Filters?
Aquarium filters come in all shapes and sizes, but they are not all created equal. There are two primary categories of filter – internal and external. Canister filters and wet/dry filters can be housed outside of the tank with intake/outlet tubes while internal filters hang on the back of the tank or inside it. Either could be a good option for your tank, so consider the different options reviewed below.
Here are some important things to look for in a filter for an aquarium:
- Type of filter. There are many different types of aquarium filter, but the most efficient options are hang-on (power) filters, canister filters, and wet/dry filters.
- Three-stage filtration. Make sure you choose a filter that offers all three stages of filtration – chemical (for dissolved wastes and toxins), mechanical (for solid wastes), and biological (to support beneficial bacteria).
- Size and rating. Once you’ve chosen the type of filter, make sure you choose the size that is most appropriate for your tank. You can always go up in size but shouldn’t go down.
- Price. You never want to shop for aquarium equipment by price alone, but it is a factor to consider when shopping. If you can afford it, buy a high-quality filter because it will last longer.
Our Top Picks For The Best Aquarium Filters
Now that you have a better idea what to look for in an aquarium filter, it’s time to start shopping! Keep reading to see our top 5 picks for the best aquarium filters.
Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter
- Brand: Penn Plax
- Rating: 350 GPH (200 gallons)
- Features: Push button primer, 360-degree valves
- Available in a wide range of sizes up to 350 GPH
- State-of-the-art features for convenience
- Three-stage filtration, large-capacity media baskets
- Significantly more expensive than some models
- May be noisier than other models
Fluval Canister Filter for Aquariums
- Brand: Fluval
- Rating: 383 GPH (100 gallons)
- Features: Sound-dampening impeller, clog-proof strainer
- Impressive 383 GPH flow rate (100 gallons)
- Square shape holds 50% more water
- Clog-proof strainer and dual-layer foam screen
- More expensive than many other models
- Only three size options to choose from
Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter
- Brand: MarineLand
- Rating: 350 GPH (70 gallons)
- Features: Three-stage filtration, rite-size cartridges
- Powerful three-stage filtration (350 GPH)
- Rite-size filter cartridges for easy replacement
- BIO-wheel filters for biological filtration
- Requires space to hang on the back of the tank
- May not hold as much filter media as canister filters
Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
- Brand: Penn Plax
- Rating: 300 GPH (100 gallons)
- Features: Quiet run, biological filtration, adjustable flow
- Powerful quad-filtration system 300 GPH
- Adjustable flow knob to alter flow rate as needed
- Available in six different sizes, affordably priced
- Limited interior space for filter media
- Requires space to hang on the back of the aquarium
AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter
- Brand: AquaClear
- Rating: 70 gallons
- Features: Three-stage filtration, affordable
- Available in five sizes, all priced under $75
- Quick and easy setup and installation
- Comes with filter media for 3-stage filtration
- Smaller parts can be tricky to clean
- Not as powerful as some other brands/models
Tips For Keeping An Aquarium Clean
Maintaining an aquarium is not as difficult as you might imagine it to be. If you choose the right equipment and set it all up properly in the first place, it basically runs itself. You do, however, need to check certain tank parameters on a weekly basis and will need to perform routine maintenance tasks.
Here are some simple tips for keeping your tank water clean:
- Treat your tap water with an aquarium water conditioner to remove chlorine and heavy metals, making it safe for your fish.
- Install an aquarium heater to maintain your tank water at the proper temperature according to the species of fish you’re keeping in your tank.
- Make sure your aquarium filter is the proper size for your tank (bigger is always better) and choose the right filter media to provide mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.
- Top off your tank water as needed on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to replace water lost to evaporation.
- Perform small water changes of 15% or so every two weeks to help remove the byproducts of waste breakdown (like ammonia and nitrites).
- Use a gravel vacuum to perform a large 25% water change once a month – make sure to suck up as much accumulated debris from the bottom of your tank as you can.
- Change your filter media every 4 to 6 weeks (as recommended by the manufacturer) and clean your filter as well without killing the beneficial bacteria colonizing it.
Now that you know what to look for in an aquarium filter and how to use it to keep your tank clean, you’re ready to start shopping! Remember, an aquarium filter is just one of the necessities for starting and maintaining a healthy aquarium, so check out our other guides to essential aquarium equipment!
Before you add any fish to your aquarium, it is recommended that you fill the tank and let it run for up to 2 weeks. This will give the tank time to establish a colony of beneficial bacteria which help to maintain the biological balance in your tank. To support that colony, be sure to choose an aquarium filter that includes 3-stage filtration – mechanical, chemical, and biological.
If you’re still not sure where to start in looking for an aquarium filter, try out one of the top 5 best aquarium filters we’ve reviewed above. Good luck!