Thinking of caring for a fish or two? Having an aquarium lets you add the beauty of marine life to your interior.
Even better, you will have a companion that won’t demand much of your time, money, and effort.
For that to happen, you need the best fish tank filter for the kind of fish (and how many) you plan on getting.
Aside from choosing the right type of substrate and plants, a good-quality tank filter ensures the best environment for your fish.
- Best Fish Tank Filter Reviews
- Buyer’s Guide
- Fish Tank Filter FAQs
- Which Is the Best Filter For Fish Tank?
Best Fish Tank Filter Reviews
1. MarineLand Bio-Wheel Power Filter Penguin 100
The Bio-Wheel Penguin 100 is a high-powered filtration system.
It comes from MarineLand’s line of quality filters that offer excellent performance without the stress of a high price tag.
To know if this is a good enough filter for your tank, let’s take a close look at its features.
What makes the Bio-Wheel Penguin 100 stand out is the fact that its filtration system features three stages.
The best part is that it eliminates the hassle of having to deal with air stones, valves, tubing, and air pumps.
The Rite-Size filter cartridges are also worth noting. Not only do they get rid of odors, discoloration, and waste, but they also do it both chemically and mechanically.
As for biological filtration, that’s where MarineLand’s Bio-Wheel technology comes in.
The Bio-Wheel Penguin 100 promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in its three-stage filtration system, something you don’t often see in other filters.
For easy access to the filter cartridge during replacements, the filter comes with a two-piece cover with vents.
Aside from convenience, this component makes the filter operate quietly.
Another remarkable addition is the mid-level intake attached to the tube that you can adjust to improve water circulation.
The Bio-Wheel Penguin 100 works for freshwater and saltwater tanks.
You can leave it on 24/7, which is great considering that frequently turning the filter off can affect the quality of the water in your tank.
While it looks bulky at first glance, it won’t be when installed on your tank. Plus, not only is it effective but is also easy to assemble and easy to install.
There are plenty of size options with color-coded cartridges for easy identification and purchase.
You’ll also like that the filter cartridges are effective, easy to clean, and convenient to replace without turning them off.
The filter itself is not loud, but it does make waterfall sounds, which may or may not be to your preference.
While the Bio-Wheel Penguin 100 is a good tank filter, it also comes with some drawbacks.
For one, the way you install it requires the tank to have rims. Any rimless or custom-made tanks will have a problem setting up this filter.
Also, it can automatically stop from time to time, though cleaning the filter media will solve the issue.
Lastly, there’s also the fact that it does make a sound. Otherwise, it is a great fish tank filter to have.
- Easy to install and maintain
- Can run 24/7
- Plenty of size options with appropriate replaceable cartridges
- Only for rimmed tanks
- Can stick out and stop working
2. AquaClear Power Filter
This AquaClear filter is one of the most reliable fish tank filters around because of its customizable filtration system.
This makes it a suitable pick for tanks that require specialized filters.
For a versatile hang-on tank filtration system, check out the AquaClear Power Filter.
With five different sizes to choose from, you can select a tank filter with a flow rate appropriate to the size of your aquarium.
What makes this an impressive tank filter is the fact that it can hold more than five times more filter media than other options.
It combines the power of AquaClear’s foam, activated carbon, Biomax, and CycleGuard, ensuring superior water quality.
Plus, you will find that the water stays in contact with the filter media for longer to ensure superb filtration.
You might also like that it doesn’t require a replacement cartridge. Instead, you can wash the filter media clean several times until it eventually deteriorates.
That said, you will need to clean the filter every two weeks for maximum efficiency.
The AquaClear Power Filter is very easy to assemble and install. Its design lets you remove the three filters easily for hassle-free cleaning or replacement.
If you like getting creative with how you set up your tank’s filter, this is the choice for you. You can add more media in its large filter media box and mix and match different kinds.
It might be a good idea to use a pre-filter sponge, especially if you have smaller fish or other tiny water creatures in your tank.
Overall, it is a pretty simple yet straightforward design.
If you don’t install or clean it well, the filter will make a rattling noise that is very distracting, especially if the tank is a focus-only area.
The suction also makes it a poor choice for tanks with sand as the substrate. Use gravel substrate instead to achieve the best performance.
- Very powerful yet quiet filter
- Large filter media box to add more media and filter floss
- Filters water from the bottom up
- No pre-filter sponge for smaller fish
- Can create a rattling noise
- Not for sand substrate aquariums
3. Tetra Whisper Internal Filter
The Whisper Internal Filter is a simple but powerful quiet filter from Tetra. Coming from a brand known worldwide, you can expect good things from this tank filter.
This Tetra filter works well, thanks to the three-stage filtration system and one-flow air pump.
What makes it unique is that you can douse the filter underwater.
Unlike other options, this makes it possible to place the tank against the wall and hide the filter behind decors.
Inside the device are dense, dual-sided mesh filters that remove bio waste and debris from the water.
On top of that, you’ll find an air-driven filter that oxygenates the water for a more suitable environment for your fish.
It comes with suction cups and a bracket to allow you to adjust the height of the filter, which is nice.
Another notable feature is the Bio-Bag cartridge, which helps make cleaning and replacement of media easier.
The Tetra Whisper Internal Filter is a pretty straightforward tank filter. There are no questions on what you should do or put in the filter to make it work.
There is only one flow rate, but it is strong enough to create circulation within the tank without pushing the fish around.
This filter doesn’t need to be primed like other options due to its design of having it in water. There’s no lid, and you can easily retrieve it without dipping your arm in the water.
It’s possible to buy and replace the filter media that came with the device
That said, the way the internal structure is designed also makes it possible to accommodate other types of filter media.
This means you’re free to customize it to your liking.
Even though answers need a simple solution, simple can also have its drawbacks.
If you do not have the suction cups installed correctly, the filter will make a vibrating noise that may be annoying to some.
Also, note that the suction power can be too strong for smaller fish inside bigger tanks, potentially catching and mangling them.
If you can invest in a cover for the intake tube without disrupting the flow of the water, it will be a good filter.
- Very simple to use
- Adjustable height
- Can use other media in its filter
- Water intake suction can kill smaller aquatic life
- Only has one flow rate
- Vibration can be annoying without the suction cups
4. NICREW Aquarium Internal Filter
The NICREW filter is a powerful tank filter with a variety of installation options.
It is also available in different sizes, allowing you to pick one depending on the size of your tank.
Other than size options, there’s more to love about this filter.
The NICREW Internal Filter combines a powerful motion system, integrated filtration, and pump into one.
Installation is easy because of its adjustable spray bar, making it possible to set it up in different ways as long as it is submerged in water.
More than ease of installation, this NICREW filter boasts high power and low noise.
It will efficiently clean and filter aquarium water 24/7 without hassle.
To keep it in its best working condition, make sure you regularly wash the removable filter element and replace it when necessary.
Also, adjust the airflow using the filter’s air regulator according to the needs of your tank.
The NICREW filter is by far the easiest and most fun to assemble; it will remind you of tube legos. Plus, it’s very intuitive and very easy to use.
The fact that you can orient the filter however you want, and it will still work like a charm is very appealing for anyone who likes to customize their tanks.
The design is small and sleek, which is a bonus to those who wish to hide their filters for other aquarium attractions.
Lastly, despite having its own filter media, you’re free to change it depending on your preference.
A lot of people might immediately use their filters after receiving them, but this is not recommended for this filter.
It should be run somewhere else to dispel the black carbon before use.
There is also the problem of the usage of the air regulator and valves; it might make some noise when attached.
You might find the regulator not being able to adjust the air output as much as you hope.
The flow rate of this filter is pretty strong, and it would need some testing to figure out whether your fishes would be comfortable with it or not.
- Versatile filter
- Easy installation
- Quiet yet powerful and easy to use
- Can also use different filter media
- Run it somewhere before use
- Air regulator and valves make noise
- Flow rate might be stronger for a small tank
5. Tetra Whisper EX Silent Power Filter
Another product from Tetra makes its way to the list in the Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter.
What makes it so special that we decided to feature it here? Let’s find out.
The Tetra Whisper EX Silent is built to be intuitive. All design choices have been chosen for their simplicity and user convenience.
The best part is that this is one of the best filters for fish tank you can use straight from the box.
Additionally, it has continuous flushing action with engineered water flow to prevent debris buildup.
This filter is specifically for 10- to 20-gallon tanks due to its strong flow rate. It also uses the Tetra EX Carbon Filters as its filter media.
The Tetra Whisper EX Silent is simple to use, just like the other Tetra filter on this list. Of course, it is as quiet as the name suggests.
This filter does not need to be primed like other filter products due to its design of having it in water.
Moreover, you can easily take it out of the water without dipping your arm in.
If you do not connect the suction coupler in the pump assembly properly, the filter will make a vibrating noise way more annoying than it should be.
It could also splash out water when you do not snap down the filter lid properly.
- Very simple to use
- Quiet with well-contained current
- Filter media replaceable
- The filter cartridge can come apart fast
- Vibration can be annoying when you do not assemble it properly
- Water can splash out from the lid
A fish tank without a good filter will just be cultivating algae and building up debris and toxins.
Since this will be toxic for your fish, it’s imperative that you maintain the water quality of your tank.
For this, you need the best fish tank filter. Not only does it clean the water but also circulates and oxidizes it so that your fish can breathe in fresh oxygen.
That said, how do you know which filter will work best for your tank?
More important than any other factor is knowing the kind of filtration system that the filter offers. Here are the most common:
The mechanical aspect is where the filter removes debris. These include fish waste, sludge, uneaten food, dead plant pieces, and dust.
Basically, it filters out particles that may disturb your fish and eventually turn the water in your tank cloudy.
This is done by passing the water through a mesh, sponge, and/or cotton filter.
Mechanical filtration also creates the currents in the water.
In case you are unaware, these currents are important to provide the much-needed oxygen your fish needs to breathe and survive.
The chemical aspect is where the filter neutralizes the toxins your fish make and excrete in the water.
It is used to change and balance the chemical composition of the water in your tank. Specific filter media is used to do this.
The filter of your choosing should be able to provide not just chemical filtration but the option of using other filter media depending on the conditions your fish needs.
The biological aspect is where the filter cultivates beneficial bacteria to consume the toxins and keep the tank clean.
Usually, you would need oxygen-rich water, as well as surfaces the bacteria can attach to like rocks or sand.
This is optional and is usually found in premium filters, but filters these days may or may not come with this.
Fish Tank Filter FAQs
1. How often should I clean my fish tank filter?
Fish tank filters and tanks should be cleaned every month or as often as needed, depending on the number of fish you have and the waste they make.
As long as you periodically check the filters and keep them running efficiently, you should be good.
An inefficient or malfunctioning filter means it is clogged and should be cleaned.
If it is not cleaned properly and regularly, it will prevent the chemical and biological filtering aspects from working.
2. How do I clean my fish tank filter?
Wash your filter using old tank water. Fish are sensitive to changes in water composition, so do not change the tank water if you can help it.
Use a siphon or a cup to scoop enough tank water to clean the filter and do so in a bucket or sink.
Also, do not rinse your filter in tap water. The chlorine in tap water will kill off the beneficial bacteria.
3. When do I change my fish tank filter?
Fish tank filters should also be cleaned monthly or as many times as needed.
To do this, simply rinse any debris that is clogging the filter using the tank water in a bucket.
Squeeze the filter media. If the mechanical filtration is still clogged, you should change it.
Mechanical filters are changed frequently, but the others are not.
Change your fish tank filter gradually if it is absolutely necessary, and never with the mechanical filtration.
Some biological filters conveniently aren’t required to be replaced.
4. How long should I run my fish tank filter?
Your filter should be running daily. That’s because filtration not only cleans your water but also circulates the water inside your tank.
This water flow is necessary to provide the fish and the beneficial bacteria in the tank with oxygen.
Beneficial bacteria can die off without the continuous supply of water from the flow. Moreover, toxins can increase in your fish tank, which will ultimately harm your fish.
If possible, have a backup filter or use two filters you can alternate within the day to ensure that you can rest the motor if that is your main concern.
5. Why is my fish tank filter loud, and how can I fix it?
When fish tank filters make noise after some time, it’s usually because of one of three reasons. It could be that:
- The filter is clogged.
- The flow rate is too strong.
- The impeller is stuck.
Fortunately, these can be resolved fairly easily.
For instance, when the filter is loud due to clogging or debris, all you have to do is clean it.
There is a possibility that a stray pebble or two made its way into the filter and is causing the clicking noise.
This is why periodic checks and cleanups of your fish tank filter are necessary.
Be prepared to at least have a backup filter or clean your filter as soon as possible when this happens.
When the filter is loud due to the flow rate, simply adjust the flow rate if applicable.
Some fish owners and hobbyists customize their filters and do DIY solutions to lower the power of the flow rate. This is applicable to filters with only one flow rate.
When the filter is loud due to the impeller, simply lubricate the impeller using a non-toxic lubricant.
Apply only a thin coat on the shaft of the impeller to ensure it runs smoothly.
If there are vibrations, you’re probably propping it directly against a hard surface.
It is best to layer the surface where your filter is with something that can absorb the vibrations, such as a rubber mat or felt.
Some fish tank filters emit a small humming sound, especially power filters and air pumps, but that is completely normal.
Just to be safe, check on your filters once you notice any issues or abnormalities.
Which Is the Best Filter For Fish Tank?
When looking for a tank filter, think about the tank size, substrate, plants, fish, and maintenance requirements of the filter.
Of the five, the MarineLand Bio-Wheel Penguin 100 is what we consider the best choice for fish tanks.
It runs on a powerful motor and offers three-step filtration. Even better, you get all of its amazing features without having to shell out too much.
For those a simpler fish tank filter, check out the NICREW Aquarium Internal Filter.