Best Aquarium Filter in 2020: Complete Reviews with Comparison

Best Aquarium Filter

If you like to watch marine life and you would like to have a piece of it in the comfort of your home, aquariums make stunning interior design features. You can create a beautiful and healthy environment for fish and turtles that you will enjoy looking at, as long as you are willing to invest a bit of your time and money.

Apart from the accessories that you can put in the aquarium for it to look vibrant and be more entertaining for the marine life, and, of course, yourself, you need to put the focus on water filtration.

As you might know, algae and bacteria are quite common for both salt and freshwater, and it can very soon get out of balance. Along with that, the residue from the food that your fish and turtles eat also make the water dirtier. This is the reason why investing in a proper aquarium filter is a must. But what is your best option and are there big differences between the given models?

In order to help you with the decision and give you more information on the concepts of water filtration, we have prepared a list of the best aquarium filters, as well as a buyer's guide and answers to a few of the more frequently asked questions. Let’s take a look.

Please note: We get commissions for purchases made through links in this article.

Best Aquarium Filter
Comparison Chart

MarineLand Penguin 350 BIO-WHEEL Power Filter

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Whisper-In Tank Filter

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter

Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter

Best Aquarium Filter Reviews

1.  MarineLand Penguin 350 BIO-WHEEL Power Filter

If you are looking to ensure the optimal conditions in your aquarium, then investing in a filter that is manufactured by a trusted brand is a good idea. MarineLand is a company that has plenty of experience with producing the required media and water cleaning solutions, as well as filters. This particular model is appropriate for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums, which is beneficial if you have multiple aquariums with different water sources.

Product Highlights

If we were to define the reason why we love the product, it would probably be the extremely affordable price. It is something that no one can deny — this budget model features a powerful three-stage filter as well as a couple of efficient cartridges that contribute to the overall results.

Running up to 350 GPH the filter is quite powerful, which leaves no room to doubt why this product is so efficient. While there is space for improvement, we have to say that setting up the filter itself is not complicated either. Everything is explained in detail in the user’s manual, and you will not need a lot of time to get it right.

While it doesn’t come with a lot of accessories, there is a double cover as well as the mid-level intake, which should siphon the dirty water through the tubes. As for the media that you should be using, our recommendation is to go for carbon and ceramic rings as they seem to be the most efficient with tanks up to 75 gallons. It all comes down to selecting the right filter for your aquarium and letting it go through the process of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration, leaving you with optimal clean water results.

While it is a bit noisy, and not as sturdy, you have to understand that this is a budget filter so that is not something you should be concerned about. As long as you take care of it, you should be able to get months of smooth performance.

The Good

The main thing that we like about this product is the fact that it doesn’t complicate the filtration process. It uses a simple yet efficient 3-stage filtration and doesn’t involve air pumps, valves, or other accessories that are likely to break and mess with the filtration system. Along with that, the cartridges are ready to use and easily replaceable, which is essential if you are planning to use this product for a long time to come.

The Bad

We have to admit that the filter itself is cheaply built in terms of the exterior material. This means that if you let it get too dirty, you might experience filtration problems and it may break after just a couple of weeks of continuous performance. That is why you need to follow the user’s guide and make sure that you perform the required maintenance.

PROS

  • Affordable for most
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Efficient cartridges

CONS

  • Noisy to run
  • Not a sturdy as similar products

2.  Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

As we mentioned above, the importance of having a trusted brand that stands behind a filter is enormous both due to the warranty policy and customer service. While on the pricier side, the Penn Plax offers one of the top aquarium filter models on the market featuring its compact and sturdy Cascade 1000 design.

Product Highlights

Among the number of different Penn Plax models, this particular one seems to be the best choice if you are to be dealing with water filtration in tanks up to 100 gallons. The efficient filter can go up to 265 GPH and thoroughly clean both marine and freshwater. As we mentioned above, it features a modern design that sits at 11.75 x 17 x 10 inches and will stand nicely next to your beautiful aquarium.

Much like similar high-end filters, this one comes with a number of different accessories with the spray bar (for redirecting and customizing water filtration) and telescope tubing. This filter system comes with large media baskets and a number of different media, including ceramic rings, bio balls, and carbon.

These are quite efficient when it comes to cleaning the water from food residue, algae, and bacteria. The core of this filtration system is the 360-degree valves that improve efficiency and allow the filter to provide optimal results even in the tightest areas.

Unlike the model mentioned above, this one is activated with the handy primer button that puts it into action within a second since you press it. Coarse floss pads, large media baskets, and free sponges that you get along with the filter, all do a great job when it comes to providing your fish and turtles with crystal-clear water.

While there are specific concerns regarding sturdiness, we have to admit that for the given price, you would expect a better build, but the good customer service should be able to cover it.

Other than that, there is not much to say against this great value filter. It uses a complex system involving several accessories and a square canister that can hold up to 5L of media and water. If you are on a more flexible budget and you want to invest in a long-term filtration system, you will not go wrong with this Penn Plax product.

The Good

Our favorite thing about this filtration system is the compact and spacious canister, as well as the 360-degree rotating valves and an abundance of filter media that can produce miraculous work in combination.

The Bad

On the other hand, it seems that you will need to put extra work in taking care that the canister or filter so that it is not damaged by dirty water or other conditions, as the plastic that it is made out of is not of the best quality. Yes, the customer service is efficient, but they only cover built-in defects and the material that the product is made out of doesn’t belong is this category.

PROS

  • 360-degree rotating valves
  • Various media
  • Powerful filter

CONS

  • Pricey for some
  • Could be more robust

3.  Whisper-In Tank Filter

The choice of what filter is most optimal comes down to the aquarium that you are using. It is quite clear that if you have a 200-gallon aquarium, you will need to invest in a high-end filter that is going to provide a few-stage filtration system.

On the other hand, filters for 10-gallon aquariums are simpler, don't cost as much, or require all the complicated equipment. The Tetra company did the perfect job of providing the average marine enthusiast with an efficient marine and freshwater filter based on its BioScrubber.

Product Highlights

Not only can this product be used for cleaning aquariums, but it does an outstanding job when it comes to terrariums and similar reptile tanks. Here we are talking about a filter that is basically a suction cup hung on to the aquarium wall. The whole idea of it is to use the previously mentioned BioScruber cartridges to remove the residue from the dirty water.

While it doesn’t do as good a job when it comes to getting rid of all unnecessary algae and bacteria, you should still be satisfied with the performance for the given price. In order to maximize the performance, you might want to get two of these and remove the bottom of the cup, allowing the impeller to reach the water and thoroughly clean it from residues.

Still, you shouldn't expect that it does nearly as good as those two mentioned above. This is a filter intended for small tanks and mostly fish aquariums. At the end of the day, no one can deny that it is worth the extremely affordable price!

The Good

The obvious good thing about this product is the fact that while it comes at a low price. The suction cup filter can still clean most of the residue from dirty water, as long as you maintain the bottom and allow the impeller to do its job.

The Bad

On the other hand, the product is made out of cheap plastic, and while the motor is quiet, you shouldn't expect it to last very long unless you invest extra time in cleaning it.

PROS

  • Extremely affordable
  • BioScrubber cartridges
  • Good for small tanks

CONS

  • Customer service is poor
  • A bit fragile

4.  EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter

As one of the most innovative filters on the market, this canister filter sits among the best aquarium filter offers. And while it is on the pricier side, we think of it as a long-term investment. The Eheim brand is a young company that has done a great job in manufacturing a few efficient filters that function on an entirely new system.

Product Highlights

What do we mean when we say that this canister filter is one of the most innovative out there? Unlike the previously mentioned suction cup, or the few-stage filtration, this one doesn’t involve expensive equipment or a lot of accessories. The primary method that it uses is continuous water circulation along with oxygen enrichment.

This doesn’t mean that it doesn't include the spray as that is there for redirecting the outflow or the required tube that connects the filter to the dirty water; it's just much more sophisticated and better made than the Penn Plax canister, for example.

Working with ceramic rings and ball media, closing and making sure that none of the dirty water leaks out is done with the silicone ring on top.

It does have rotating valves that are placed at the bottom, and it can clean aquariums that are up to 66 gallons in size. Still, we have to say that the fact it lacks media baskets, and that the intake tube is quite fragile, is not something you would expect out of a product of this price.

On the other hand, everything else seems to be on point, making the filter a great choice!

The Good

The good thing about this filter is that apart from using the rotating valves and loose media to clean the water, it operates a water circulation and oxygen enrichment system that can leave you with nothing but perfect results and pristine water to watch your sea life!

The Bad

On the other hand, we don't like that there are no media baskets included, when even much cheaper canister filters feature the same. Also, there are a few design details in question, including the sturdiness of accessories.

PROS

  • Oxygen enrichment
  • Efficient valves
  • Sturdy canister, safe closing

CONS

  • Pricey
  • Missing media baskets

5.  Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter

We are ending our top aquarium filters list with a budget model that is extremely efficient if you are an owner of a medium-sized fish aquarium. The brand that stands behind this product is well-known for its water-cleaning agents and has now done a great job in manufacturing an efficient filtering system.

Product Highlights

There are a number of innovative features that make this filter a great choice if you have nothing but fish in an aquarium that is up to 50 gallons; it is suitable for both saltwater and freshwater cleaning.

What it stands out is its re-filtration system. This innovative system not only cuts the operating costs but also allows that the filtration media is used more efficiently, which leaves you with optimal results in the long term.

The filtration system is straightforward to install. The three primary media that are used in the filtration system are AuqaClear foam, activated carbon, and bio balls that all work together to form a deadly combo for dirt in the water.

While it may not be as sturdy as you would prefer, you are still getting a 2-year warranty for any defects, which means that the company behind it is ready to help in case of a relevant problem. Overall, a great-value product that is perfect for owners of regular tanks who don't have the funds to invest in expensive filtration systems.

The Good

The best thing about this filter is the fact that it doesn’t circulate the media only once or twice, but does that continuously as a part of the re-filtration process, thus ensuring exceptional results.

The Bad

We aren't the most satisfied with the given build, as from what it seems it is nothing but cheap plastic. Still, as long as you put time into keeping the filter clean, it shouldn't have problems running smoothly.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Various media
  • Powerful filter

CONS

  • Canister capacity
  • Not very sturdy

Aquarium Filter Buyer's Guide

If you are a marine life enthusiast, then you are already aware of the importance of keeping the water clean and clear. But it is not the sole awareness that will help — that is why you need to invest in a proper filtration system. In order to do so, you need to consider features that are critical for a filter that will allow optimal results.

Types of Fish Tank Filters

The most important thing you should know before getting into the decision-making process is that there are two different types of filters. The first one is the external canister filter, which is efficient for medium- and large-size tanks.

On the other hand, a model which uses a suction cup that is attached to the inner side of the aquarium is mostly used for small fish tanks that are up to 10 gallons in size.

Ease of Installation

Of course, you should be looking into models that are easy to set up. While the previously mentioned canister filter is somewhat more complicated due to the fact that it is comes with a number of accessories, such as the tubing system and spray bar, there are still models that you can easily set up within 10 minutes.

Capacity

The better the canister capacity, the better the results from the filtration system. If you are the owner of a larger tank, we would recommend canister types that have a capacity of around 8 liters.

Water-Flow Rate

There are specific models that work their way to clean water by improving the water flow rate by multiple times. Those with re-filtration systems are your best bet if you are looking to invest in a long-term filter.

Filtration Technology

While there are a number of different filtration technologies, our personal favorite is the one that includes a few stages in the process. Filters that include chemical, biological, and mechanical cleaning are your best bet.

Aquarium Filter FAQ

Why do small aquariums need a fish tank filter?

While you can manually clean the water in these on your own, you should invest in a filter because it will do a more efficient job, and you wouldn't have to disturb your fish as often, because manual cleaning requires moving them to a different tank. For a smaller-size tank, an internal filter held in place by a suction cup is just perfect for such a thing.

How often should you clean a fish tank filter?

If you want to be on the safe side, we recommend that you do it every couple of weeks. However, you should note that there is a fine balance between cleaning your fish tank filter too often and too little. Make sure you read the manufacturer's instructions about cleaning and also consider how many fish you have in your aquarium as this will affect how often you should also clean your fish tank filter.

How do I properly clean my fish tank filter?

That all depends on the model you have invested in. Check the user guide and make sure to follow the instructions. In most cases, you will clean your fish tank filter with a sponge and the proper cleaning media as suggested by the manufacturer.

Do all fish produce the same amount of waste?

Waste production is directly proportional to the size of the fish and the amount of food that the fish eats.

Can I use an aquarium filter immediately?

As long as you set it up according to the instructions, you will be able to use it immediately.

Conclusion

The final decision depends on the tank that you own, as well as whether it is only fish or turtles, or both. Our favorite is the MarineLand Penguin Filter as it is an affordable, efficient, and reliable filter that does a great job with both salt and freshwater aquariums.

Make the right decision and turn that simple aquarium into a sea heaven on earth! Not only will your fishy friends thank you for it, but you will be able to enjoy a clean, clear aquarium all-year round.

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