The Best Fish Tank Filter for Your Aquarium

Having a small piece of the sea right in your home is an attractive idea. Not only would it be extremely eye-pleasing but it also would give you the satisfaction of owning pets. But when most people think of aquariums, they would think of tanks with crystal clear water with beautiful creatures swimming around in it.

The truth is much more complicated and less satisfying than that, though – with time, the water would turn a disgusting color and have a nasty odor. This is where your aquarium’s filter comes in and turns the mere dream into reality! And by picking the best fish tank filter for your little world, you would cast magic on it immediately back to dream.


So what does a fish tank’s filter do?

Over time, it’s common sense the water in your tank would deteriorate – and that’s exactly why you need to make a habit of frequently changing the water. But the filter prolongs this time and makes the water a bit more comfortable for your fishes by removing everything. From harmful chemicals to excess food bits, you name it.

And yes, to even the fishes’ excrement, which is unavoidable. The fishes excrete, just like us, to remove toxins from their bodies. In your aquarium, without proper waste disposal, the excrement would just mix up with the water and slowly concentrate. The toxins would accumulate until the fishes are poisoned by their wastes. High enough in concentration, they would die from poisoning.


Image source: Amazon

That is exactly why you need to have a filter in your aquarium. It not only helps keep your water clean and hospitable to its inhabitants but also keeps your fishes healthy and lasting for a long time.

To achieve this, filters are often designed around three main filtration functions (Or methods): Biological, Mechanical or Chemical.

Biological Function

True to its name, biological filtration employs the power of bacterias and micro-organisms that are capable of converting Ammonia from fishes’ waste to less harmful Nitrate. Be warned; Nitrate is only less poisonous than Ammonia. It would still require clean-up, or in high concentration, NItrate could still do considerable harms.

Mechanical Function

Most of us are probably familiar with this kind of filtration. Mechanical filtration involves forcing the water through a series of filters that would catch back harmful particles in the water.

Chemical Function

Chemical filtration uses, often, active carbon or chemicals that can attract and remove toxins from the water. The most common type, active carbon, can gobble up all of the harmful toxins in the water until it is completely saturated. This also means that you would have to take note and change the filters frequently.

And together with these three functions combined, an aquarium’s filter would create the perfect paradise for your fishes.

What to consider


Air-Driven Filter

The most basic filter you could ever get your hand on commercially is an air-driven filter. It is both simple in concept and simple in its ability because of using an air pump to force water through a filter media resembling a sponge. This media contains beneficial bacterias that can provide the necessary biological filtration. The pulling motion of the air to the water acts as a mechanical function in the process.

Of course, this is an extremely elementary filter, and you shouldn’t expect much performance to come from it. At homes, you should only get an air-driven filter if your tank is small and only have small fishes, to begin with. For larger caliber fishes or a larger tank, this: Avoid

Air-Driven Filter

Image source: Wikipedia

Undergravel Filter

An undergravel filter is also simple to explain and simple to understand. Instead of a sponge, this time, your filter media is going to gravel. Often, right beneath the layer of gravels, there would be a grate to keep the gravels from hitting the bottom of the tank. Of course, there’s also going to be a pump that draws water through the gravels – which is the primary filter.

The gravels would act as both biological and mechanical functions to the water passing by. One of the greatest plus for an under gravel filter is that your aquarium would look amazing with a layer of soil beneath. The downside is that undergravel filters do not provide chemical filtration to the water passing through.

Undergravel Filter

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Power Filters

Power filters are amongst the most popular types of fish tank filters for both amateurs and hobbyists. This is because they are much more efficient at filtering wastes out of the water than the majority of the alternatives available. They are also affordable, nonetheless, making them an attractive option to have in your aquarium.

The filter uses power to suck the water through the siphon tube using electrical power. Squeezing the contaminated water through layers of filters to create mechanical filtration. After passing through the mechanical filters, the water would proceed through a layer of activated carbon to swipe away the toxins. Lastly, the now 90% cleaned water would go through a filter cartridge stuffed with beneficial bacterias. This helps weed out the last contaminations in the water before being shot out again into the tank for the fishes’ consumption.

Power Filters

Image source: Love Fish Tan

Power filters ensure a well-rounded filtration cycle for the water. Since the filter itself relies greatly on electricity for its operation. The electrical bill for the filter would be considerably higher than the rest, as default.

Canister Filters

This is also one of the most popular types of filters for aquariums worldwide, especially those with a volume larger than 40 gallons. With a fish tank of such size and so much water to cover, a simple power filter would be wholly inadequate to handle the task. This is where the canister filter steps in.

Canister Filters

Image source: Best Fish Tank Filters

Canister filters are large containers with an assortment of filters within to ensure that your water would get the best treatment it could ever get. And also at speed as fast as a filter could manage. Due to its size, canister filters would provide a much better degree of thoroughness in water treatments than a simple power filter. Handling a larger water volume also, in the process.

It works on the same principle. Forcing water through filtration medias (Because it’s pressurized, the mechanical filtration would be much more effective as a result). And through chemical filters made from Carbon (Again, the high pressure made it more efficient). Biological filtration capability depends on the Oxygen level of the water that it filters.

One thing about canister filter is that they are very expensive compared to other types. And if you don’t have a spacious aquarium for it to work its magic, you should avoid throwing money into this lavish investment.

Wet / Dry Filters

Also called ‘Trickle Filter,’ this type of filter is not as popular to the fish-growing community like power or canister filters. However, it was relatively well-received in some parts of those who have saline aquariums.

Trickle filters are excellent biological filters because they expose the filter media right to the water of the fish tank and the air above. Which is the perfect condition for the benign bacterial cultures in the media to grow and digest your wastes? You can achieve chemical and mechanical filtration by placing them in the water current.

Wet Dry Filters

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The downfalls of trickle filters are that they have extremely limited mechanical filtration. This is because the water has to squeeze themselves through sponges to leave behind the harmful particles. But it slows down the current as a result. The other con is that they are complicated to build, you need plumbing directly to the aquarium. An auxiliary reservoir is also needed to hold water that would power the water pump.


The size of your filter also reflects on the size of your fish tank. For example, you don’t need an elaborate aquarium’s filter for … say, a goldfish bowl. And certainly, you would not have a makeshift, crude filter for an aquarium carrying 50 gallons of water and a dozen fishes swimming around.

Size does matter, in this case. The larger the filter, the more complicated the filter would become and the more space it would take up to your aquarium. In a large casing, more filtration medias could be stuffed in and more water it could process at once.

Filtration Flow Rate

The filtration flow rate indicates the speed at which the water is passing through your filter would be at. The higher the flow rate, the more water volume it could process at once.

Best Fish Tank Filter Reviews

1.Aqueon Filter Cartridge

Aqueon Filter Cartridges are the bread and butter of Aqueon’s brand filters. For a single use, it could provide thorough filtration – mechanical, chemical, biological, wet/dry – for the entire fish tank.

It forces the water through a dense layer of floss-like fabric and removes the particles in the water, erasing harmful toxins through activated carbons. Aqueon’s patented biological filter helps to remove noxious ammonia and nitrate from wastes. And finally, to ensure that the water is oxygenated as much as possible – would also add Oxygen as the water passes through the last layer.


  • Throughout filtration cycles.
  • Long-lasting cartridge.


  • There is not much carbon in the filter.
  • There can be built-up gunks in the long run.


It is a rounded design, and considerably cheap and effective. A single cartridge could last up to a month and more before passing its prime. So if you’re looking for something both reliable and cost-effective, this should be high on the list.

2.MarineLand Penguin Power Filter

The MarineLand Penguin Power Filter is a multi-talented brand, consisting of 4 separate models to fit four different sizes of fish tanks. From 20 gallons to 70 gallons, depends on your needs and your budget, you could always find something that would work right there.

The water would similarly pass through the three stages of filtration. From a chemical, mechanical to biological filtration in pretty much the same way as any other filters. However, the Bio-wheel technology available within the filter could, in fact, be much more efficient at biological filtration than most. By growing cultures of bacterias within the wheels, you could expect the aquarium to be free of ammonia and nitrate around the clock.


  • Complete filtration cycles.
  • Cheap even for high-capacity variants.
  • Strong in biological filtration.


  • Can be obnoxiously loud.


Not very costly for its capability with the model able to filtrate 70 gallons of water at roughly $25. If you’re looking for the best fish tank filter in the lower range and higher needs, this could be what you need.

3.AquaClear Power Filter

Coming higher up the cost and capability spectrum, we would have the AquaClear Power Filter. Running at 110 volts while driving powerful water pumps. It is what you’re looking for when your aquarium is way too large for smaller filters to handle.

As the AquaClear could handle up to 110 gallons of water at once. If you have an oversize aquarium that needs immediate cater, this is a single name for the list. Due to its power, the filter could clean several times more water and at a faster rate than most of its competitors. Which is why it was very much preferred in large tanks. The AquaClear achieved clear filtration through, once again, the three stages of filtration – patented techs, this time around. It could be entrusted to the life of your fishes, should you wish it to.

But if you don’t have a 110 gallons tank lying around, it has four more options between 5 gallons to 70 gallons aquarium for your choosing.


  • Complete filtration cycles.
  • Variable tank size.
  • Fast water procession and filtration rate.


  • Quite steep in price.
  • Bypass flows can be a real problem with the filter.


The only thing that’s not so great about it is the cost. For its abilities, the AquaClear makes quite a statement that it is worth the price tag it was branded. However, the smallest model costs up to $25 a piece. Surely not what you would like to purchase if you’re on a budget. But it is the best fish tank filter on this list, hands down and well worth the money.

4.Whisper In-Tank Filter with BioScrubber for Aquariums

A cheap and quiet filter for your small needs. If you don’t have much to clean and a lot of fishes to keep alive. and you just want your aquarium to be a small part of your house, this should be it for you.

The Whisper, true to its name, is completely quiet as the motor handling the filtration itself is submerged under the water (The filter goes into the tank). It has the moderate ability to keep the water clean and healthy. If you have a 10, 20 or 40 gallons, the aquarium would make it worth looking at if you’re not asking a lot in a filter.


  • Extremely budget.
  • True to its name: Very quiet.
  • Adequate water keeping ability – just enough to get by, and fair for its price tag.
  • Variable tank sizes.


  • The adequate water keeping ability is also its downfall: If you’re expecting something serious, this is not it.


If you only have a small tank to take care of or not particularly serious with your aquarium, this is the way to go. It’s only enough to do the small job and would be the perfect alternative instead of wasting money on more expensive ones.

5.Corner Filter Aquarium Fish Tank Internal Air Driven Filter with Media XY-2008

Simple and cheap – but it works. Once again, if you’re not asking for a lot, and this time, even lower needs than for the Whisper above, you should see the Corner Filter. It’s not necessarily the best looking or the most effective filter out there. But it works for tiny needs if you have a herd of small fishes to keep alive.

The fish tank most fitted for the Corner Filter range from 5 to 10 gallons, as expected from its size and simplicity. It uses air pumps to drive water through the three steps of filtration. And you are also expected to clean the media after four weeks to ensure the best out of the filter.


  • Dirt cheap.
  • It can do all of the jobs a very, very basic user would want it to Filtering water.
  • Supplying all the necessary medias in one small package.


  • Only does a mediocre job at water filtering.


As said, it is very low in price – almost a steal – at only $6. But the best thing about it is, once again, it works. If you’re looking for only a functioning filter, this would be the best fish tank filter for you.


Growing fishes, or having an aquarium, in general, is a great sport and also a nice decorative detail to have in your house. For many, it is a passion, and a fish tank filter is one of the most useful tools to prolong that hobby. But for whatever that you need and seek, we hope this guide helps you with the questions you were having.