The Best Aquarium & Fish Tank Filters (2021 Reviews)

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The best aquarium or fish tank filter is the heart of your tank. With the average flow rate of fish tank filters ranging between 500 to 2000 gallons per hour, and some having a max of even more, you'll likely find a filter to meet your aquarium's requirements.

There are many varieties of fish tank filters. However, we will cover how to select the best aquarium filter and how to choose a filter that meets your tank needs.

By the end of the article, you'll know all about your aquarium filter options. This is vital information if you want to keep your fish tank or aquarium live and healthy.

NameCategoryProduct
Fluval FX4 Canister FilterBest OverallFluval FX4 Canister Filter
AQUANEAT Bio Sponge Filter Breeding Fry Betta Shrimp Nano Fish Tank Aquarium 20 GalBudget PickAQUANEAT Bio Sponge Filter Breeding Fry Betta Shrimp Nano Fish Tank Aquarium 20 Gal
Aquatop CF Series Canister FilterUpgrade PickAquatop CF Series Canister Filter

1. Fluval FX4 Canister Filter

Our rating: 9 / 10

Fluval FX4 Canister Filter

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Pros:

  • Includes an automatic pump
  • Has two outlets for the water
  • Easy to assemble and use
  • The motor is quiet
  • Easy to service and maintain
  • Effective at keeping water clean
  • Takes up very little counter space
  • Can be used for both fresh and saltwater fish tanks
  • Ideal for land, aquatic, and semi-aquatic animals

Cons:

  • Quite expensive
  • Not for large tanks
  • Some people find it flimsy

This filter is great for individuals with small aquariums. It’s also best used for terrariums for snakes, frogs, lizards, and turtles. The filter is also ideal for keeping a turtle as a pet.

This filter is ideal for keeping your water clean and in good condition. The filter is also ideal for koi or goldfish. In addition, the filter can also be used for a water fountain. If you’re looking for a filter that is easy to maintain and affordable, the Fluval FX4 Canister Filter is a good choice for you.

2. BACTO-SURGE HIGH DENSITY FOAM FILTER

Our rating: 9 / 10

BACTO-SURGE HIGH DENSITY FOAM FILTER

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Pros:

  • The BACTO-SURGE HF foam filter comes in 2-packs … so you can clean all your aquariums at once
  • The 6-stage filter design uses natural BACTO growing medium to keep your fish tanks clean and healthy
  • The activated carbon removes toxins from your aquarium and keeps your fish healthy
  • The foam filter media is designed to break down into smaller pieces which keeps your aquarium cleaner
  • Made in the USA, in Fenton, MO

This set of BACTO-SURGE HF foam filters comes in a 2-pack and covers all your cleaning needs. These filters contain tanglegroove cartridges which can remove up to 98% of ammonia and other organic pollutants.

You can use these filters on both freshwater and saltwater tanks. They are also ideal for both marine and freshwater tanks.

The BACTO-SURGE HF foam filters come with 6-stages of filtration and use BACTO growing medium. BACTO grows culturing bacteria and is proven to help filter out debris from your aquarium and keep it healthy.

3. Marina Power Filter

Our rating: 8 / 10

Marina Power Filter

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MD Series: The Best Fish Tank Filter

When it comes to filters, Marina OB8 can do it all. It can provide not only mechanical filteration, but biological and chemical as well.

With a power of 67-watts, this filter is very powerful. So powerful that it can pull water from high levels and get the job done. Which means less water changes for you to deal with.

4. Aqua Clear

Our rating: 8 / 10

Aqua Clear

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Pros:

  • Very lightweight and easy to carry to another location (unlike the other models)
  • Ideal for tanks up to 55 gallons
  • Easy to set up and maintain

5. Lee's 40/55 Premium Undergravel Filter

Our rating: 8 / 10

Lee's 40/55 Premium Undergravel Filter

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Aquarium ….

If you're looking for the best aquarium filter, this is likely it. The Lee's 40/55 Premium Undergravel Filter is the cheapest undergravel filter on the market.

Available for both large and small fish tanks, this filter can filter up to 25 gallons for up to 55 gallons. The idea behind this type of filter is that it's buried beneath the substrate, and it requires no additional pump, filter or energy source. It serves as an efficient alternative to a hang-on-back filter.

6. Polar Aurora Free Media 4-Stage External Canister Filter

Our rating: 8 / 10

Polar Aurora Free Media 4-Stage External Canister Filter

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Pros:

  • Provides ample filtration for aquatic creatures
  • The filter is very quiet
  • Easy to setup, in about 10-30 minutes depending on your set up
  • Comes with a test kit for water quality
  • Includes a pre-filter and a UV sterilizer
  • Designed to be used in both freshwater and saltwater tanks
  • The body of the filter is sealed in acrylic
  • Has a back lit power button to check filters
  • The filter’s flow rate can be adjusted as needed
  • Ideal for most freshwater betta fish

Cons:

  • Water inlet is a little bit too small
  • System is fairly loud
  • The blue LED light on the filter can be a bit blinding
  • The cords can get a bit messy

If you’re looking for a canister filter that has a reputation for being powerful, then this is probably the one for you. The Polar Aurora Free Media 4-Stage External Canister Filter is great for both fresh and saltwater fish.

7. AQUANEAT Bio Sponge Filter Breeding Fry Betta Shrimp Nano Fish Tank Aquarium 20 Gal

Our rating: 8 / 10

AQUANEAT Bio Sponge Filter Breeding Fry Betta Shrimp Nano Fish Tank Aquarium 20 Gal

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Betta owners are always on the lookout for the optimal tank environment. With the AQUANEAT Bio Sponge Filter Breeding Fry Betta Shrimp Nano Fish Tank Aquarium 20 Gallon With Accessories, the search is now over.

This filter is absolutely perfect for your Betta. Its sponge absorbs toxic ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, chlorine and removes any type of odors.

All you have to do is to feed the Betta and the tiny shrimp will do the rest. They’ll consume the waste and provide the tank with clean water. You can even buy a breeding pair of shrimp and start your own shrimp aquarium.

8. Whisper In-Tank Filter

Our rating: 8 / 10

Whisper In-Tank Filter

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Pros:

  • Available for both fresh and saltwater tanks
  • Easy to maintain; especially if you’re a beginner; minimal need for tools
  • Filters out debris and Dissolved Organics Compounds (DOCs) effectively
  • Does not add traces of ammonia or other harmful chemical compounds
  • Large capacity more than adequate for medium to large tanks
  • Can be fitted into most tanks without any problems
  • It’s virtually silent
  • Available at low price points according to your budget

Cons:

  • The BioScrubber may have low capacity if you have a lot of fish
  • The Filter doesn’t come with a compartment for the cartridges
  • The tank needs to be cleaned manually on a regular basis; which can be messy
  • Some reviewers have reported that it’s prone to leaking

(Editor’s Choice)

When it comes to fish tank filters, the Whisper by Marineland is a model that you’ll find on the majority of these lists. That’s because it’s efficient, easy to use and priced favorably.

9. Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter

Our rating: 8 / 10

Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter

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Pros:

  • It comes with a built-in water pump
  • Filters are easy to install, even if you’re a first time fish owner

Cons:

  • Doesn’t last as long as other filters
  • It’s not as quiet as some users would like, especially on high settings

Our top pick is the Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter.

This product has an impressive number of reviews, with over 1000 pieces of feedback. With that many reviews, it means that a lot of customers are happy with their purchase.

The Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter is designed for aquariums between 10 and 100 gallons. And it’s easy to use with all kinds of fish imaginable.

10. Lee's 70/90 Premium Undrgravel Filter 18-Inch by 48-Inch

Our rating: 8 / 10

Lee's 70/90 Premium Undrgravel Filter 18-Inch by 48-Inch

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This aquarium-specific filter is great for larger tanks and ponds. It has a large surface area and water filtration capability. It can filter as much as 200 Gallons of water in an hour and a half.

The gravel itself is made of inert polyester floss with a rounded stone substrate. There is a no-leak top and bottom section so this filter will last and not spill.

Another great feature is the return pump inlet and outlet – instead of being built into the filter. If your pump happens to break or malfunction, you can simply disconnect the return pump and install a new one.

11. Fluval C Power Filter

Our rating: 8 / 10

Fluval C Power Filter

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(50-150 Gallon)

This is a popular fish tank ornament that is well made and is good value for money. It is a slender looking decoration that can easily fit into most fish tanks.

The design of this decoration is simple but attractive. The top is clear and has a nice dark blue rim. The bottom is currently white but it would be nice if it was blue or black to match the top rim.

12. Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter

Our rating: 8 / 10

Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter

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Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Modes that help you customize your filtration system
  • Speed control feature with high flow and low flow settings
  • Quiet despite the low flow setting
  • Good for customization
  • Relatively cheap price for the number of features
  • Easy to install
  • Can be attached to the back of the aquarium
  • No leaks
  • Removes all water impurities with its four stage filtration process

Cons:

  • Adjusting to the right flow rate can take some time
  • Not ideal for undergravel filters
  • The flow rate is a bit too high for small fish
  • The topmost stream that comes out of the filter is rather powerful and shoot kind of high up
  • The installation instructions are pretty simple, but this can create some hassle if you’re a complete beginner

13. Penn Plax Premium Under Gravel Filter System

Our rating: 8 / 10

Penn Plax Premium Under Gravel Filter System

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Believe it or not, the Penn Plax premium under gravel filter system is the best overall under gravel filter in the market.

This excellent product is known for its simplicity and reliability. The basic components of this tank include: the suction cup-style pump, gravel cleaning plate, tubing, and a plastic water connector.

You won’t need a separate filter for your fish tank. This product will carry the load for you. All you need to do is to take care of your tank.

14. Imagitarium Undergravel Filter

Our rating: 7 / 10

Imagitarium Undergravel Filter

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We highly recommend these aquariums because they’re great for beginners looking to get into the hobby. The terrarium can be used for freshwater, and saltwater fish tanks. Being 10 gallons in size doesn’t make it ideal for large fish, but it’s a great size for smaller ones. And, depending on the fish, the capacity can actually be much higher.

This product includes a multicolor LED light, which you can turn on and off with a small remote. It’s extremely helpful if you want to regulate your fish’s sleeping and feeding schedules. The light is easily positioned, and it’s bright enough to populate the whole tank.

15. Huijukon Double Super Biochemical Sponge Filter Air Powered Filter

Our rating: 7 / 10

Huijukon Double Super Biochemical Sponge Filter Air Powered Filter

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This little wonder didn’t need a lot of research to land on our list of the best aquarium filters.

It’s a simple device that use a Quartz sand filter. Inside the Quartz filter are 304ss rustproof purified sand pumice pebbles.

This aquarium filter is suitable for aquariums with medium to large sized fish such as Betta, Clownfish and other types. It has a larger capacity of 100L.

16. Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

Our rating: 7 / 10

Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

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400 Flow Rate.

The Aqueon Quietflow is one of the best aquarium filters in the market today. This filter is not going to be a permanent fixture of your aquarium but instead, it’s going to work in conjunction with your existing filtration system.

It’s the perfect solution for aquariums that don’t have enough room for a filter or for ponds that are planted with live plants. This can be placed on the inside and you’d continue to use your existing filter for other aquarium functions.

17. Polar Aurora 3 Stage 100 Gallon Aquarium Fish Tank Canister Filter + 9W UV Sterilizer 370 GPH

Our rating: 7 / 10

Polar Aurora 3 Stage 100 Gallon Aquarium Fish Tank Canister Filter + 9W UV Sterilizer 370 GPH

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Pros:

  • Powerful motor
  • Very quiet in operation
  • Comes with an integrated UV sterilizer
  • The filter system has 3 stages: Mechanical, chemical, biological
  • The product is high quality and long lasting
  • Better and cheaper than most cheap filters
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • When you place the filter in a tank, the upper container is too large and doesn’t support it well. The lid falls. It’s not a big problem to fix if you have some tape
  • May require some hardware to make a more sturdy connection
  • UV sterilizer doesn’t work at night

26W DC Pump.

This filter system works well and is recommended by many pet owners. It gives clear water for a long time and it has all the advantages of a canister filter, which we’ll cover below.

Canister vs. External Canister Filter

18. MarineLand Magnum Polishing Internal Canister Filter

Our rating: 7 / 10

MarineLand Magnum Polishing Internal Canister Filter

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One of the best fish tank filters on the market is the Marineland Magnum Polishing Internal Canister Filter. It’s available in three different sizes – 4,000, 5,500, and 11,500 total gallons per hour.

Each unit also comes with the same features including a vari-flow pump and removable media baskets for easy cleaning. Plus, it’s easy to backwash because there’s no need to remove the lid.

The filter can also be used as a wet/dry filter with excellent results. You can even use two of these filters inverted to create a wet/dry system.

19. Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter

Our rating: 7 / 10

Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter

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Pros:

  • Adding an ultraviolet light prevents algae blooms
  • Can be combined with other Aquatop filters
  • Only moderately loud
  • Easy to set up
  • Small form factor is convenient for tanks

20. SunSun Sun HW-704B 525 GPH 5-Stage External Canister Filter

Our rating: 7 / 10

SunSun Sun HW-704B 525 GPH 5-Stage External Canister Filter

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Pros:

  • Doesn’t cost an arm and a leg
  • Extremely easy to maintain
  • Perfect for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums
  • Well-manufactured item
  • Will keep your tank crystal clear
  • Comes with a spray attachment
  • 5-stage filtering system
  • Also includes a pump and stand
  • UV Sterilizer helps keep your aquatic charges bacteria-free
  • User Reviews:

“`This is a really good product for the price. It easily connects to my fish tank through the hose. The filter is an average size and with 5 different levels of filtering. It definitely keeps the tank clean and clear.

“`I’m not sure how well it would work as a pond filter because it is a bit loud. It has three moving parts for the pump so I think that might have something to do with it being noisy. However, if you have fish in a small tank or bowl, then I’d highly recommend this filter.

“`I've been using it for a while and I'm happy with it. My fish tank is cleaned weekly so this filter is perfect for my small tank and it’s well worth the money from Petsmart.

21. Fluval Advanced Filtration System

Our rating: 7 / 10

Fluval Advanced Filtration System

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Pros:

  • Proven fish tank filtration technology
  • Reduces fish tank maintenance work and cost
  • Comes with multiple filtration media including activated carbon
  • Includes pre-filter for mechanical filtration
  • Non-porous filtration system makes it easy to clean
  • 8 different media refills available to choose from
  • Fits Fluval Edge and other aquariums

Cons:

  • The chemical media is only meant for tanks under 40 gallons
  • Available at two filter size

(FPDF)

One of the best double-stage aquarium filters on the market comes from Fluval. It features 8 different filtration media to choose from.

The first stage is the mechanical filtration system, which is handled by media like foam, pad, filter wool, and ceramic rings. This stage does all the heavy lifting in cleaning the water by removing dirt, debris, and waste buildup from the water. This media is then cleaned by the second stage of the filter, the biological filtration system.

22. MarineLand Emperor Bio-Wheel Power Filter

Our rating: 6 / 10

MarineLand Emperor Bio-Wheel Power Filter

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Pros:

  • Available in sizes 5-25 gallons
  • Easy to clean – detachable front panel for easy access
  • Removes bad odors and the visible ones from the water
  • Comes with easy-to-follow instructions
  • The pump is very quiet
  • Easy to set up – plug and play

Thinking of buying a new aquarium filter? Here are our suggestions.

The MarineLand Emperor Power Filter is best for people who want a filter that’s easy to use and clean. This filter is equipped with a unique backwash feature that helps you drain aquarium water back to its source.

Since the filter tanks come with four adjustable trays you can depend on them to effectively filter the aquarium water for up to four weeks.

23. Aquarium Equip Under Gravel Filter 7.8"x5.5" undergravel filteration

Our rating: 6 / 10

Aquarium Equip Under Gravel Filter 7.8"x5.5" undergravel filteration

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Pros:

  • Comes in two sizes – 60 gallons and 30 gallons
  • Exceptional water and air flow
  • Made from high-quality material
  • Backed with a 2-year warranty

Cons:

  • The 10-watt LED light is too dim to grow many plants
  • The filter is designed for tanks that are smaller than 60 gallons

We couldn’t write a product review on aquariums without mentioning the drip, which is among the cheapest and most popular types of aquarium filters on the market (discussed in our best aquarium filters article).

However, there’re a lot of imitations out there, so it’s important to note that Aquarium Equip under gravel filters are made with a high-quality ABS material, which is very durable and reliable. Moreover, these resist rusting because the whole filter is molded, not just the connectors.

The kit also comes with locking nuts, suction cups, a suction cup mount, water waveling, locking system, water circulation system, and air blower.

24. Zacro Aquarium Filter

Our rating: 5 / 10

Zacro Aquarium Filter

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Pros:

  • The 4 stage filtration process demonstrates superior performance
  • Great for planted and bacterial tanks
  • There are two types of help and advice if you need to call
  • It’s designed to work with any type of fish
  • It’s a Compact design, so it fits any certain space
  • The filter is easy to install

Cons:

  • It can make a lot of noise
  • Sometimes the air bubbles can get the way inside
  • The canister might leak if it gets to hot or too cold
  • It requires some time to get it going

If you’re looking for a filter that covers all your needs, then you may want to consider the Zacro Aquarium Filter. It’s equipped with a seven-stage filtration system which will provide your fish with an optimal environment to live in.

With the amazing filtration and simple design, this is a must have for any fish lover. Not to mention, it’s very affordable and cheap.

25. Jebao 4-Stage Aquarium Canister Filter 320 GPH

Our rating: 5 / 10

Jebao 4-Stage Aquarium Canister Filter 320 GPH

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The Jebao Aquarium Canister filter is a reservoir based canister with a pump. The pump is powerful enough to circulate the aquarium water continuously. With plenty of spare filters parts, this feature would come in useful if you have fish that cluster in an area.

The canister adds beauty to an aquarium without the need of an ugly filter located where you can constantly see it.

Although some may say the filter would be less efficient the aquarium that is in the filtration-facing area, this has not be proved by years of field testing. This certainly would decrease the capacity of the canister filter.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is a bigger aquarium filter better?

While bigger definitely means stronger, the real question is whether or not your aquarium or fish tank needs a larger filter. This really depends on the size of the tank and the number of fish contained therein.

Which fish tank is easiest to maintain?

Of all the fish tank and aquarium options out there, the easiest to maintain is a fresh-water tank. Being able to fill it with tap water and never worry about water changes is a big plus. Plus, the setup is simple and typically fast. No assembly is required.

The worst chore in a freshwater tank is vacuuming gravel. But if you vacuum once per week, you can minimize the amount of debris that infiltrates the water.

The easiest to maintain is a salt-water tank. It’s important to note that you have to keep it meticulous for the hobby to be enjoyable though.

For the salt-water tank, you still have to feed your fish, still have water changes, still vacuum, and still have lights. But there is more added to the mix:

  • Have to be able to change your carbon filter every so often
  • General maintenance to tank set up

Which type of aquarium is best?

Fish tanks have come a long way since the days of bright blue water and bubbling air stones. Today you can find fish tanks that are made of all types of different materials that can simulate the exact environment that your fish will thrive in!

In this article, we will be focusing on fish tanks that you can find at home improvement centers. These are commonly referred to as rectangular fish tanks or fish tanks with glass tops. However, there are many other types of fish tanks out there, such as hexagonal and butterfly shaped fish tanks that are even more common in public aquariums and zoos.

Though they are not as common in the average home, many people are quickly discovering the appeal of having hexagonal or even spherical fish tanks in their homes. These types of fish tanks are much more popular in public aquariums but are becoming more popular as a choice for private home fish tanks too.

Conclusion

The aquarium filter you choose is very important for the health of your aquarium and the fish that live within your aquarium.

There are many grades of filters on the market that purify water so it will be safe for the fish in your aquarium. There are many brands of filters on the market as well, some more expensive than others.

There are many types of filters on the market, some perform better than others, but cost more. Some filter types do well but are noisy. Some are easy to maintain and some are not.

When you consider all the factors above, you realize that you have some freedom to choose.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Fluval FX4 Canister FilterBest OverallFluval FX4 Canister Filter
AQUANEAT Bio Sponge Filter Breeding Fry Betta Shrimp Nano Fish Tank Aquarium 20 GalBudget PickAQUANEAT Bio Sponge Filter Breeding Fry Betta Shrimp Nano Fish Tank Aquarium 20 Gal
Aquatop CF Series Canister FilterUpgrade PickAquatop CF Series Canister Filter