Aquarium Filter Reviews

A Guide to Finding the Right Filtration System for your Fish Tank:

When you make the decision to own fish as pets, you are not simply making the decision to bring home a fish from the pet store and put it in a glass bowl with some water. 

There is far more to owning fish than that! One of the main components that many people overlook is proper filtration. Filtration systems are incredibly important to the overall health and stabilization of your finned friends. 

Without proper filtration, your fish will not be able to thrive and will ultimately become ill and die. Shopping for a filtration system can also be overwhelming and confusing. The following is a guide that has been researched and executed to assist you in finding the right filtration system for your fish tank.

fish tank filters

Why is proper aquarium filtration necessary?

Being knowledgeable about healthy fish tank filtration is a primary necessity when you are considering owning fish as pets. 

Not only do you need to understand the different types of filtration, but you should also be aware of how big of a filter your particular tank requires, whether you need a saltwater filtration system or a freshwater filtration system as well as various other details.

A quick overview of the three different types of filtration:

1. Biological filtration is in charge of breaking down the bacteria inside the tank.

2. Mechanical Filtration is in charge of forcing water throughout the filter to catch any particles that might be floating in the aquarium water.

3. Chemical filtration is in charge of keeping the tank water free of chemicals and other pollutants.

These three types of filtration may be combined in some filtration systems, and others may only have one of two of the three types. Generally, you should consider a filtration system with all three types in order to ensure your tank water is properly cleaned.

Proper filtration in a fish tank is a necessity for most (if not all) types of fish. Goldfish, in particular, are a very messy fish species. Their anatomy has evolved in such a way that they consume and expel their food very quickly. This causes their water quality to decrease rapidly. 

This is where the filtration system steps in. Fish tank filters remove floating debris, chemicals, as well as create good bacteria ecosystems which in combination, provide high-quality water for the fish to live in.

What size filter do I need for my fish tank?

The size of the filter you need will greatly depend on the size of your fish tank. If you are planning to purchase a 100-gallon aquarium, then a 20-gallon filter will not cut it. 

Similarly, if you only have room for a 20-gallon aquarium, then there is no need to shop for a filter that can handle 100-gallons of water. Another factor you should consider is your budget. Fish keeping can become a very pricey hobby if done correctly. 

If you have champagne taste but a beer budget, then you may need to adjust your expectations of what you want versus what you can realistically afford. Don’t let this discourage you from the hobby! 

There are many ways that you have a decent sized aquarium with beautiful fish and setup on a budget. The primary concern is how well you care for the inhabitants, and if you care for them properly then your setup will be naturally beautiful.

Each filter lists the tank size recommendations on the packaging. This is important because not every filter is appropriate for each tank size. 

Typically, this information is found on the front of the packaging, and it will say something like “up to 50-gallons” or “50/75” which is just another way to inform the consumer that the filter inside can handle 50-gallons to 75-gallons of water. 

Pay close attention to this detail on the packaging and find the filter that lists the amount of water in gallons that match the aquarium you desire.

Side Note: While you read the information on the Filtration System packaging you may notice the letters GPH. These three letters stand for Gallons Per Hour. This informs the consumer of how many gallons of water are processed through the filtration system per hour.

Do I need a Canister Filter or a Power Filter?

Filtration systems on the market today range in price, size, and features. The most common types of filtration systems that you will see while shopping is likely going to be either Canister Filters or Power Filters. This does not mean that these two are the most appropriate options for your particular aquarium.

Canister Filters are generally larger in size and will, therefore, take up more room. They work very well for aquariums that are large in size and contain a lot of fish. This is because of the fact that Canister Filters are large themselves and can handle a greater capacity for water and waste. Their medias (mechanical, biological, chemical) can be customizable depending on the brand. 

For example, this means that if your fish require chemical filtration, or you prefer to go without it, you can add it, or you take it away. Canister Filters may also be a good choice if you are considering a saltwater tank or even a freshwater tank with live plants. 

However, you should read all of the information on the packaging before purchasing to be sure that it contains the features your aquarium requires.

Power Filters can also be referred to as HOB Filters (Hang on Back Filters). They are a very common choice amongst fish hobbyists. They are generally easy to use, simpler to clean compared to Canister Filters, and tend to be fully equipped with all three filter media types. ​​​​

Power Filters usually create a strong current in the water. This is important to remember as you select your tank inhabitants. 

Delicate fish species (such as the Bubble Eyed Fancy Goldfish) should not be housed in an aquarium with a strong current.

A Power Filter would be better suited for an aquarium housing hardier fish (such as the Common Goldfish).

Top 5 Filtration Systems On The Market Today:

Fluval C4 Power Filter

The Fluval C4 Power filtration system is known for its performance and reliability! It is fully equipped with a five stage filtration process that is capable of maintaining a clean and clear aquarium. This filter contains all three filter media types (mechanical, biological, and chemical). 

In addition to these three filtration medias and the five step cleaning process, there are various other beneficial features to the Fluval C4 Power Filter! For example, this product is capable of processing 264 gallons of tank water each hour according to the manufacturers GPH. 

You may think that the Fluval C4 is not as good of a filter as the Aqueon QuietFlow Filter because the Aqeon QuietFlow Filter can process 400 gallons of tank water per hour and the Fluval C4 treats 264 gallons of tank water per hour. However, this does not imply that one is better than the other. It is simply a detail to take into consideration, and each could be beneficial to the right inhabitants in particular aquariums. 

Mechanical Filtration is in charge of forcing water throughout the filter to catch any particles that might be floating in the aquarium water. In reference to the five different stages, the mechanical filtration media in the Fluval C4 Power Filter takes care of the first two! These two steps include purifying and detoxifying the tank water. 

Mechanical Filtration should be the first media that the water is filtered through as it removes physical debris from the tank This media may need to be rinsed more often than the others. The Fluval C4 Power Filter uses a Poly/Foam pad to trap the larger particles and debris floating in the water.

Biological filtration is in charge of breaking down the bacteria inside the tank. This filtration media also requires two stages. The first step is the tank water moving through the bio-screen that is unique to the Fluval brand name. This bio-screen removes even more of the debris from the water which increases the oxygen levels in the tank water.

The second step in this media is when the water moves into c-nodes. These c-nodes contain good bacteria which then remove ammonia and nitrates. Thus, decreasing the toxic levels in the water.

Chemical filtration is in charge of keeping the tank water free of chemicals and other pollutants. The Fluval C4 Power Filter then uses activated carbon that removes odors, discolorations, and other impurities from the water.

The chemical media requires only one step, but without that single step, the tank water would contain odors and other impurities that can make your aquarium inhabitants ill as well as make the tank unattractive to look at.

Finally, the Fluval C4 Power Filter includes a patented control system that “re-filters” the water. It allows the consumer to take control over the water flow and protect the tank inhabitants by indicating that the polyfoam needs to be cleaned.

  • Great use of space
  • Excellent all-in-one filter
  • Customizable
  • Quality design
  • Easy maintenance
  • Cleaning indicator
  • List Element
  • Quiet operation
  • May occasionally have maintenance problems

Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters, Size 75-400GPH

This particular filtration system is one of the most popular choices amongst fish hobbyists. The QuietFlow Filter made by Aqueon is fully equipped with attractive features at an appropriate price. This filtration device is considered a Power Filter which means that it can be installed by on the back of the aquarium, can be easy to use and clean and it should include all three types of filter media (mechanical, biological, and chemical). 

The Aqueon QuietFlow Filter takes its ultra-quiet operation and combines it with an industry high-flow rate and enhanced water cleanliness to ensure that your tank is operating ideally. One of the many features that this filtration device includes is an automatic startup. 

This feature is beneficial after the cleaning process is completed as well as if there is a power outage. The Aqueon QuietFlow Filter is highly recommended for families that are away from home frequently or enjoy traveling.

This particular Aqueon QuietFlow Filter is designed for a 55-gallon to the 75-gallon aquarium and can process approximately 400 gallons of water each hour. This GPH is ideal for aquariums that are large in size and contain a lot of fish as this filtration device is designed to keep the tank water consistently clean. 

Another great feature of this filtration system is that it aims to produce little to no noise. This is especially impressive compared to its size and GPH capacity. Typically, large devices that can handle a higher capacity tend to be noisier. 

This is not ideal for the consumer, even though the device might filter the water well. This filter has an internal pump that is designed to make filtration maintenance effortless. This is the result of the device being able to prime itself during use!

The internal pump is also a great feature because it assists the device in being quieter than many other competitor brands.

Additional functions that make the Aqueon QuietFlow Filter an ideal option is its four-stage filtration process. These four steps help to guarantee the cleanliness of the tank water as well as the health and wellness of the inhabitants. ​​​​

These four steps of the filtration process include:

1. The presence of dense floss helps to remove all of the waste particles and other debris that is floating throughout the tank water.

2. The activated carbon effectively eliminates toxins, odor, and discolorations from the tank

3. This step in the filtration process is unique to the Aqueon QuietFlow Filter as it has been patented by the manufacturer. This patented step is known as the Bio-Holster which is responsible for removing toxic ammonia as well as nitrates from the tank water. This step is essential for healthy fish and inhabitants.

4. Finally, a diffuser grid eliminates toxins and adds oxygen at the same time! This simultaneous step in the filtration system’s process reduces the amount of splashing when the water is returned to the tank.

More information about the Aqueon QuietFlow Filter includes the higher flow rate. Higher flow rate can be very beneficial to your aquarium’s inhabitants, as we discussed earlier. However, it can also damage them. This will depend on whom you have living in the tank. 

Goldfish that are considered “handicapped” swimmers or are “delicate” may not thrive in an aquarium with this filter. Bubble Eyed Fancy Goldfish are incredibly delicate fish, and their bubble eyes could be damaged by the fast current or by the powerful suction.

Alternatively, goldfish like the Black Moor are considered “handicapped” or slow swimmers and would struggle in an aquarium with a fast current.

  • Does the job
  • Quiet operation
  • Easy installation
  • Economical
  • Reliable
  • Well-designed
  • Not appropriate for goldfish
  • Not suitable for Betta Fish

Aqua Clear 20 Power Filter - 110 V, UL Listed (Includes AquaClear 20 Carbon, AquaClear 20 Foam & AquaClear 20 BioMax)

The AquaClear 20 Power Filter is the perfect filtration system for small aquariums. If you want to begin your fish owning hobby slowly or if you are interested in providing a small fish tank in your child’s bedroom then a 20-gallon aquarium should be the place to start and the AquaClear 20 Power Filter the filter of choice! 

This filter should be installed by hanging it on the back of the aquarium wall which makes it relatively safe for children as well as easy to access, clean, and install.

The AquaClear 20 Power Filter contains a filter pump that has been developed with energy efficiency in mind.

The AquaClear 20 Power Filter is not lacking in any area and can be the perfect filter for your aquarium. However, if you desire a larger aquarium, then you will require a larger filter that can handle a higher capacity of water per hour. This filtration device is perfect for beginners with small aquariums or for a child’s 20-gallon aquarium.

  • Reusable filtration media
  • User-friendly design
  • May need to clean the propeller box after power outages
  • ban
    Filter can be noisy for some

Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter, 100 Gallon, 265gph

The Penn Plax Cascade 1,000 Aquarium Water Filter is highly recommended for experienced fish hobbyists.  Why? Well, the answer is simple. This filtration device is capable of big things! Meaning that it has been designed for large aquariums with a large quantity of inhabitants. Not only is it intended for large aquariums with a lot of fish, but it is considered a saltwater aquarium Canister Filter. This filtration device will remove debris and impurities with the mechanical and chemical filtration medias. 

This is a heavy duty filtration system! The Penn Plax Cascade 1,000 Aquarium Water Filter can handle up to 100 gallons of water and pump approximately 265 gallons of tank water each hour! This is done with two trays that each contain mechanical and chemical filtration that work simultaneously.

  • Reasonably simple to install
  • Simple instructions to follow
  • Quality hoses
  • Filtration media included
  • Very quiet operation
  • It may leak over time and if not cared for or installed correctly
  • ban
    Baskets are flimsy
  • ban
    Power consuming
  • ban
    Not as quiet as other brands

Fluval 206 External Filter

Finally, the Fluval 206 External Canister Filter is another great option for smaller aquariums that are around 40-gallons. This filtration device is easy to set up and easy to use when you follow the included user manual and start up guide. This filtration system includes all three filtration medias (mechanical, biological and chemical). 

It is also a nearly silent machine that is ideal for families with young napping children. The filtration medias are easy to access and easy to clean as needed. They are each housed in their own separate compartment which creates a quick and simply cleaning routine. 

This is a great option for those considering a 40-gallon to 45-gallon aquarium, are beginners, or are looking for something simple yet effective for the gallon capacity.

  • Solid and well built
  • Well designed
  • Has great flow
  • Quiet operation
  • AquaStop option for reducing flow
  • Stable hose brackets Includes startup filtration media
  • Basic output nozzle
  • ban
    No spray bar

Additional Filtration System options on the market:

Fluval 406 External Filter: this is another Canister Filter option. This filter has a 100-gallon capacity with an impressive processing capability of 383 gallons of water each hour. This particular filter may be a little pricier than the competition.

The Marineland Magniflow Canister: this is an additional Canister Filter option. It is designed for aquariums of a 55-gallon capacity and the polishing filter pad acts as a water polisher removing fine debris.

The Penn Plax Undergravel Filter: this is an undergravel filtration system. It is designed for 55-gallon aquariums. This is a good option for those that prefer an undergravel filter.

Final thoughts to sum up:

Filtration systems are a vital part of owning fish as pets. Without filtration, your fish will become ill and likely not survive for any particular length of time. Do your research and choose the appropriate filtration device for your desired fish tank.