If you are looking for an excellent aquarium filter that will keep your fish tank as clean and clear as possible, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done some of the research for you and found some top-notch aquarium filters. So let’s take a look at the five best aquarium filters of 2023.
Aquarium Filter Reviews
Cascade Canister Filter for Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks
The Cascade canister filter is designed for large fish tanks as it is suitable for tanks up to 100 gallons. It has a maximum flow rate of 265 gallons per hour, which means that it can handle the entire water volume of a 100-gallon aquarium more than two and a half times per hour.
This filter has three media baskets for the three main types of filtration media. These media baskets also feature a large capacity, so you can put a lot into them. In addition, you can use any combination of media that you want.
This might be a large canister filter, but it sits outside the aquarium, taking up no space within the tank. It measures 11.5 x 17 x 10 inches, which may be on the large side, but the 360-degree rotating valves make the setup a bit easier.
You might appreciate how this filter has a push-button primer for an easy startup, and moreover, the filter is relatively easy to maintain.
MarineLand Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter
This is a hang-on-back filter, which means that it doesn’t take up any space within your aquarium, and it also doesn’t require a cabinet. The fact that it sits on the tank makes everything relatively easy to access and maintain.
Now, the model is designed for aquariums between 30 and 50 gallons and features a flow rate of 200 gallons per hour.
Therefore, if you use it for a 50-gallon aquarium, it could handle the entire water volume four times per hour. That should be more than enough to keep any tank clean and clear. With that being said, there are five different sizes available.
This filtration unit provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration, with the main aspect being the rotating bio wheel that offers wet and dry biological filtration. You may also appreciate that the filtration media comes with simple to change cartridges.
Tetra Whisper Internal Filter For Aquariums
Suppose you’re looking for a relatively small and compact internal filter that works well for pretty small aquariums. If so, this is an excellent option. This filtration unit mounts on the inside of your aquarium; the interior is easy to access for maintenance.
Now, this is an internal filter, so it will take up space inside the tank, but with that being said, it’s still not very large. On a side note, this unit functions in as little as two inches of water, making it ideal for turtle and reptile tanks.
This model is designed for aquariums up to 30 gallons. It can handle up to 125 gallons per hour. This means that it can process a 30-gallon tank up to four times per hour, which means it should be more than enough to keep it clean.
Each filter has a pre-assembled whisper bio bag filter cartridge. As far as we can tell, this filter provides mechanical and biological filtration, although it does not appear to give a very high level of chemical filtration.
Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter
This filter from Aqueon is a small and compact internal filter for aquariums up to 10 gallons. There are also other models for 3-, 20-, and 40-gallon tanks.
However, what stands out is how small and compact it is; you can fit it in more or less any size aquarium, and it won’t take up much space. Simply hang it on the back of your aquarium, and you are good to go. There is an auto primer, so there’s no messy manual priming on your part. You might also appreciate how it produces a little waterfall effect.
This filter provides all three major types of filtration, including chemical, mechanical and biological; it has compartments for all three types. You also get all of the required media with your purchase. Note that the cartridges will have to be replaced about every four weeks.
AQUA-TECH Power Filter for Aquariums
This is another hang-on-back filter that’s very compact. It doesn’t take up space inside the aquarium and barely any outside as well.
Keep in mind that this model can handle tanks up to 40 gallons in size, and it can process up to 200 gallons per hour. With that being said, it is also available in larger and smaller sizes.
What else stands out about this unit is how the noise level remains below 40 decibels. This filter provides all three major types of aquarium filtration, and it comes with these media included with your purchase.
The media cartridges that you need last for quite some time, and they are also easy to replace due to their user-friendly design. In addition, it comes with a self-primer, so you never need to prime on your own.
We’ve reviewed the best aquarium filters, but how do you know which one to choose? What criteria did we use for our tops picks?
Let’s discuss the most important factors are when determining which aquarium filter is best for your setup.
The Type of Aquarium
Perhaps the most crucial consideration when choosing an aquarium filter is the type of aquarium you have. This boils down to saltwater versus freshwater aquariums. Not all filters are designed for both types of tanks.
Generally speaking, freshwater filters can only be used for freshwater tanks. However, saltwater aquarium filters can usually be used for both types of tanks. But, again, read the label before making a purchase in this regard.
Size and Biological Load of the Aquarium: Filter Size and Flow Rate
Another element is the size of your tank because filters are designed for specific sizes of aquariums. Usually, these filters have size ranges. For instance, some filters might be intended for 50- and 100-gallon tanks.
If the filter is too small for the tank, it won’t be able to clean the water enough to keep your fish alive and healthy. In general, you want an aquarium filter rated for a slightly larger aquarium than your tank. This will ensure that it is strong enough to handle your tank.
Moreover, consider the flow rate. You want the filter to be able to handle at least three to four times the amount of water in the tank per hour. This means that if you have a 100-gallon tank, the filter should be able to process at least 300 gallons per hour.
On that same note, it helps if the filter has an adjustable flow rate. Also, the strength of your filter should depend on the biological load of the tank; the more fish you have, the more powerful and efficient your filter needs to be.
External or Internal Filters
You will also have to choose between external and internal aquarium filters. If you have a small aquarium, an external filter is best. This could be a hang-on-back aquarium filter or an external canister filter.
External filters are ideal because they don’t take up space inside the tank. That said, internal filters tend to require less of a setup process. So there is a tradeoff to consider.
Moreover, external filters are great if you have an aquarium cabinet to house them. However, if you don’t have any space outside of your tank, then you will need an internal filter.
The Three Major Types of Water Filtration: Filtration Capabilities
One of the most important things to consider here is the type of filtration. You want a filter that can perform mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration for the best results. These filtration types are essential in their own ways to keep the aquarium clean. In addition, all three types are required to keep fish healthy and alive.
That said, the two significant types are mechanical and biological filtration. In addition, pay attention to the media capacity of the filter. The more media the filter can hold, the more efficient it will be.
Loose Media vs. Cartridges
Some aquarium filters require loose media, whereas others require cartridges. Loose media is more versatile because you can often customize the types of media that you put in the filter.
On the other hand, cartridge-style media is easier to maintain and replace. You just have to buy a new cartridge and pop it in where the old one used to be.
Ease of Setup and Maintenance
Also, determine how easy it is to set up and maintain the filter. Generally speaking, external canister filters and hang-on-back filters are the easiest to maintain. First, however, determine how you access the media from outside the filter.
You also want to look for a model that is either self-priming or has an easy priming button.
Remember that internal filters are generally the easiest to set up as they do not require much tubing. However, internal filters are harder to maintain because you need to remove them to change the media from the tank.
Durability and Overall Build Quality
Needless to say, you want an aquarium filter with durable materials. Therefore, getting a high-quality unit from a reputable brand is essential. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for when it comes to aquarium filters.
Some aquarium filters can be extremely noisy, and some are listed as whisper quiet. Generally speaking, internal filters make less noise than external filters. However, some external filters are designed to make very little noise.
If you need your filter to perform other tasks, this is something to consider. For instance, some filters have UV sterilizing lights to help kill algae and bacteria. Some also come with air pumps to aerate the water.
What Is Mechanical Filtration?
Mechanical filtration uses pads, sponges, and foam to remove small solid objects from the water. This is the first stage of filtration, and it removes fish waste, uneaten food, and other solid debris.
What Is Biological Filtration?
Biological filtration uses special media that allows beneficial bacteria to grow. These bacteria break down the ammonia and nitrates released by fish waste and rotting organic matter, which is poisonous to fish.
What Is Chemical Filtration?
Chemical filtration involves using substances such as activated carbon to remove various pollutants from the water. This can include heavy metals, pesticides, and other chemicals.
What’s the Best Type of Aquarium Filter?
An external canister filter is best if you are looking for power and efficiency. These usually have the most space for media and are the most powerful. They typically have the highest flow rates too.
How Often Does Chemical Filter Media Need Replacing?
It will depend on the biological load of your tank. However, replacing chemical media every three to five weeks is recommended.
After reviewing these five aquarium filters, we think the Cascade Canister Filter for Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks is the best choice to go with. It comes in many sizes, it’s big and powerful, and very reliable.
Aquarist & Writer 15+ Years