7 Best Aquarium Filters For Your Fish or Amphibian [Reviews]

One of the challenges in building a fish tank from scratch for the first time is in choosing the right and even the finest equipment that should come with it. A fish tank is more than just the actual structure that can contain water and fishes, but it’s also about the best fish filters, lights, and pumps among many others. You’ll want to find only the most excellent electronics for your fish tank as these can have a great impact on the quality of life of its inhabitants.

Filters are especially vital for fish tanks as it keeps the water clean and habitable. Because fish tanks are dense and enclosed, it can get polluted easily. This is why a good and effective filtration system is always needed by every fish tank, especially if you don’t intend to replace its water every day.

ModelEditor's RatingPrice 
1. AquaClear Power Filter
4.3$
2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter
4.3$$$
3. Tetra 25905 Decorative Reptile Filter for Aquariums up to 55 Gallons
4.2$$
4. Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters
3.9$
5. Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter
4.3$
6. Marineland Penguin Power Filter
4.0$$
7. Tetra Whisper EX Power Filter
3.8$

Filter Basics: The Most Important Details You Need to Know About the Best Aquarium Filters

To help you find the best fish tank filters that you can use for your aquarium, you need to get to know the basics about these products first. To do this, take note of the following:

Get to Know the Different Filtration Types You can Use

There are three different filtration types that you can use in your tank:

  • Mechanical filtration removes the debris and particles that can be polluting your tank’s water by trapping them with a sponge or foam material before they can get back into the water. The sponge requires regular replacement to ensure its effectiveness.

  • Chemical filtration removes water pollutants with the help of activated carbon. It can handle dissolved wastes, ammonia, minerals, and even odor in your tank.

  • Biological filtration is the most important kind of filtration method as it removes toxins and harmful bacteria from the tank. This often involves cultivating a beneficial bacteria colony to maintain the habitat’s nitrogen cycle.

A lot of filters offer both mechanical and biological filtration but you have to add a unit for chemical filtration. The best filter system for fish tank offers all three methods, though, as it guarantees great efficiency and effectiveness.

Choose from the Various Types of Filters Available

Aside from the filtration type, you should also pay attention to the actual design and construction of the filter product. Units come in a wide range of configurations, each with its own strengths and capabilities. You can choose from a canister, under gravel, power, sponge, internal, sump-style, protein skimmers, hang-on, refugiums, and even trickle filters. Learn more about their differences and you might just find the right match for your fish tank.

Size Matters

Aside from the actual functionality of the filter, you should also consider the size of your fish tank when shopping for a filtration unit. The best aquarium filter for a 10-gallon tank might not necessarily work as well in a 15 or 20-gallon tank. While it’s okay to go a bit overboard in terms of power, you still have to choose one that will have ample cleaning strength for the size of the habitat you’re creating.

Consider Your Tank’s Inhabitants

Different aquatic creatures have their own requirements in the water they live in so you have to know which filter can deliver the best results for the pets you have in your tank. The best fish tank filter for freshwater aquariums may also differ largely from saltwater aquariums, so you also have to carefully research on those as well.

Best Fish Tank Filters: Our Top 7 Picks

Ready to shop for the best aquarium filter? Here are our seven picks:

Editor Rating:

4.3/5

AquaClear Power Filter

One of the most popular HOB (hang-on back) filters in the market today is the AquaClear Power Filter. It offers a great amount of benefits, making it a top choice for most newbies and even experienced aquarists and fishkeepers.

What made this product the best aquarium filter is its ability to use the three different filtration methods in one setting. Each unit comes with three filtration media which offer mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration, ensuring that your fish will always be swimming in clean and healthy water.

What makes it better is the fact that each medium is packed separately, so you also get the opportunity to customize the filtration type that you want to use. You can also easily reuse the

bio rings and sponge after washing them in used tank water, making this product cost efficient.

This product is also designed for re-filtration without sacrificing its effectiveness. Its patented design makes it suitable for pets that require delicate water movements as it doesn’t create a current that can suck or push small fishes but it also won’t be too weak to leave debris and other pollutants behind. It can be the best filter for goldfish tank or for bettas as it can repeatedly process the water in your tank even at its lowest flow rate, guaranteeing that your tank’s water is always clean and healthy.

Its simple design also makes it very easy to clean and install. This makes it a convenient option, which is also why it’s a popular product even for newbies in fishkeeping.

Things We Liked


  • ​Available in 5 to 110-gallon varieties
  • 2-year warranty
  • Easy to clean
  • Transparent casing makes it easy to check if anything is trapped inside Installs in minutes
  • Produces a relaxing cascading water sound
  • Can also be the best filter for saltwater tank
  • Highly customizable filtration system

Things We Didn't Like


  • Not for tanks with sand
  • Has a bit of grinding sound
  • Needs cleaning every two weeks

Price:

$

Editor Rating:

4.3/5

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

When an experts argue about a product being “underpriced”, it’s a great promise that you’ll get more than your money’s worth with a specific item. This is exactly the case for the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter as a lot of people rave about how amazing it is for its very friendly price tag.

The first thing that you’ll appreciate about this product is its variety. You can find units for a wide range of tank sizes, so if you want to go big or small, you might just find a great match from their selection. Next up is its multi-level filtration system. It can do mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration with ease, ensuring an ideal habitat for your pets. You can even customize the filtration system if you’re up for it, giving you more control over how you clean and healthy you want your fish tank to be.

Its flow rate is also something noteworthy. The Cascade 1000 offers a flow rate of up to 265 GPH while the Cascade 700 can go up to 185 GPH, ensuring thoroughly cleaned water all the time.

In terms of quality, this unit is also hard to beat. While it is made of plastic, it uses a very durable variety. The base is also made to be sturdy that it’s guaranteed not to tip easily. This is important for any external filter, so it won’t get damaged easily.

Durable, affordably-priced, and completely customizable, this unit may have a bit of a learning curve on initial use, but you’ll soon ease into it. It’s pros totally outweigh its cons, making it a solid choice for many fishkeepers.

Things We Liked


  • ​Great price
  • Lots of resources about its setup and installation online
  • Available in different tank size varieties
  • Priming is so easy
  • Quick and easy setup
  • Easy to clean
  • Customizable filtration system

Things We Didn't Like


  • Consumes a decent amount of power

Price:

$$$

Editor Rating:

4.2/5

Tetra 25905 Decorative Reptile Filter for Aquariums up to 55 Gallons

One of the biggest drawbacks of tank filters is the fact that they’re not exactly pleasing to the eye. They’re plastic hybrids of plumbing and electronic system and they’re meant to be hidden away. For fish tanks, it’s pretty easy to stash them away, but for herptile tanks that require some open space for your pets to move around in, keeping such items hidden can be a challenge. If only they can be ornamental, too, no?

This is the very reason why we’ve added the Tetra 25905 in this list. As this filter is also a decorative piece, it might just be the very thing you’re looking for if you want to save some space and still get clean water inside your pet’s tank. Disguised as a waterfall cascading down a nice stack of rocks, it’s a great fit for your frog, newt, or turtle’s tank.

If you’re worried about the quality of its filtration, fret not. It has a three-stage filtration system using bio bags that you can easily replace that ensures a thorough job at cleaning the water in your pet’s aquarium. It also has large intake holes to prevent clogging and locking covers so your pet won’t get sucked in and trapped in it.

As this product is designed for herptile tanks, you shouldn’t try to use it for your fish tank, though. It should only be partially submerged (4 to 6 inches) in water to ensure that it will perform at its top capacity. Due to its large size, it might also be the best aquarium filter for 55 gallon tank as tanks this big won’t be easily crowded.

Things We Liked


  • ​Doubles as a decorative piece
  • Effective cleaning
  • Natural-looking
  • Quiet operation

Things We Didn't Like


  • Can be too big for 20-gallon tanks and below

Price:

$$

Editor Rating:

3.9/5

Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters

Those who want to take the quality of their filtration systems up a notch might want to check out Aqueon’s QuietFlow LED Pro. This filter stands out for its 5-stage filtration system, ensuring that your fish tank’s water will always be thoroughly cleaned.

What are the 5 stages of filtration this product offers? Aside from the usual mechanical, biological, and chemical stages, there’s also a wet/dry filtration stage that treats the water before it’s moved back to the tank. This guarantees a very thorough cleaning that makes it perfect for pets with very particular needs.

Another unique feature this product has is its LED light indicator. If you’re the type who forgets to change out your filters due to a very busy schedule, this feature will really come in handy for you. It lights up when the filter cartridges are clogged or already dirty and not at its full capacity. It’s a nice way to keep yourself reminded that your fish tank’s filter needs to be attended.

Available in different sizes, its Size 20 variety is also hailed as the best aquarium filter for 20 gallon tank. It can be suitable for tanks that go up to 30 gallons in capacity as well, making it a very efficient and powerful filter.

Things We Liked


  • ​Light indicator will tell you when the filter cartridges need changing
  • 5-stage filtration system
  • Very easy to setup
  • Calming waterfall effect

Things We Didn't Like


  • Filter cartridges can be costly but you can also opt to DIY filter inserts to make it cost efficient

Price:

$

Editor Rating:

4.3/5

Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter

Some people find it annoying that their fish tanks can’t sit flush against the wall because of their filters. Cats might want to squeeze into the tight space and while they might not be able to actually push the tank off the counter, it can still cause a decent amount of anxiety for a lot of people. Submersible units like the Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter can be a great option if you want to get rid of the space between your fish tank and wall as it will sit inside your tank.

Being submersible allows this unit to be quite versatile. Its water intake is located at the bottom of the unit so even if your tank has high or low water levels it will still work. This makes it one of the best filter for fish tanks and reptile habitats at the same time.

Having a very affordable price is also a highly noteworthy thing for this product. This is probably the most inexpensive item in this list, making it perfect for a lot of rookie aquarists and fishkeepers.

Things We Liked


  • ​Relaxing waterfalls effect
  • Fantastic price
  • 2 inches of water minimum water level
  • 3-stage filtration system
  • Smaller variety can be the best filter for 10 gallon tank

Things We Didn't Like


  • Doesn’t come with a lid so it shouldn’t be fully submerged

Price:

$

Editor Rating:

4.0/5

Marineland Penguin Power Filter

Another strong candidate for being the best goldfish filter is the Marineland Penguin Power Filter. As this unit has a special design for its biological filtration, it might just be the perfect choice for folks who wish to care for the healthiest and prettiest goldfishes around.

With the patented Bio-Wheel feature, this HOB filter gets to provide a nice surface area for bacterial growth. As it also makes use of a wheel design, the colony that you’re cultivating in your tank will constantly get ample oxygen, allowing it to thrive healthier. This makes it a more attractive option for those who want to care for species with a serious need for beneficial bacteria to keep them healthy.

Aside from a fantastic biological filtration method, this filter also has efficient mechanical and chemical filtration systems as well. With the use of Black Diamond® Premium Activated Carbon, it promises of efficient cleaning.

Available in four different sizes, you can get a Penguin Power Filter for tanks 10 to 70 gallons in size. It’s also considered by some as one of the best filters for saltwater tanks, making it a solid choice for its very affordable price.

Things We Liked


  • ​Very quiet
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Quiet
  • Durable
  • Enhanced biofiltration
  • Great price

Things We Didn't Like


  • Some parts can bend out of shape if mishandled

Price:

$$

Editor Rating:

3.8/5

Tetra Whisper EX Power Filter

Having to assemble a fish tank filter before use can be a daunting task for some folks who have never owned and set up one before. This is why the Tetra Whisper EX Power Filter is one of the greatest picks for the best fish tank filters as it comes ready to use straight out of the box. No more need to fiddle with the parts and figure out which parts go where, making it a solid option for first-timers.

Its features are worth noting as well. Available in four sizes that are designed for tanks 10 to 70 gallons in size, it comes with the Timestrip technology that tells you when it’s time to change out the filters. The Carbon Filters this product uses are large, however, so you shouldn’t expect it to need some changing every so often.

Replacing the filters is also very easy. As this item has an easy access door at the top of the unit, you won’t have to remove the entire unit from the tank to take the filter out. It also has a Filter Cartridge Carrier that will ensure that you won’t have to touch the actual filters, making the process easy and hygienic.

However, it should be noted that this product only makes use of carbon filters and bacterial growth plates, so it doesn’t offer a full, three-stage filtration system. It still does a fantastic job at keeping the water in your tank crystal clear, however.

Things We Liked


  • ​Very quiet
  • Compact and easy to hide
  • Easy filter cartridge replacement

Things We Didn't Like


  • Mechanical and bacterial filtration only

Price:

$

 

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