Best Aquarium Filter in 2024: Complete Reviews

A high-quality aquarium filter is essential if you want to ensure that everything runs smoothly in your tank, that your fish are happy and the water remains clean.

Today, I am here to share the best overall aquarium filters of the year. They work for various aquarium sizes, are either internal or external and you will be extremely pleased with them.

I have full reviews of each of my recommendations down below, but I’m starting by listing them below in case you’re in a hurry.

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

Best Aquarium Filter Chart

MarineLand Penguin Filter – Editor’s Choice

marineland aquarium filter small


Penn Plax Cascade

pennplex cascade filter small


Tetra Whisper-In Tank Filter

tetra whisper filter small


EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter

eheim canister filter small


Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter

aquaclear filter small


Best Aquarium Filter Reviews

Now, let’s get a bit more in depth with each of the recommendations above. Let’s check out my reviews to see why each product made it on my list of the best aquarium filters.

Related reading: Best aquarium filters for large tanks.

1.  Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter

marineland aquarium filter

Buying a filter from a trusted brand is always a good idea. MarineLand is a company that has plenty of experience with producing various aquarium components, including filters – so you’ve got this covered.

The main reason why I consider this model the top choice is that it’s appropriate for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. Let’s check out what it offers next.

Product Highlights

It’s undeniable that I was first attracted by its low price. But despite the affordable price, it 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 (smaller ones are available for smaller tanks), the filter is quite powerful, being able to process a high quality of water in your aquarium.

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, my recommendation is to go for carbon and ceramic rings.

While the Marineland Penguin is a bit noisy, and it doesn’t seem very sturdy, I like it because it has all the features you need for a basic filter that does a solid job.

  • Affordable for most
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Efficient cartridges and easy to set-up
  • Does a good job filtering the water
  • Noisy to run
  • Not a sturdy as similar products


2.  Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

pennplex cascade filter

As I mentioned above, the importance of having a trusted brand that stands behind a filter is important. And I don’t think anybody would have any complaints about Penn-Plax.

But opposed to my first recommendation, this is an external filter that can really take water filtration to the next level.

And while I am talking particularly about the Cascade 1000 filter here (for Tanks Up to 100 Gallons) there are smaller models available if you have a smaller tank.

Product Highlights

This efficient external filter can go up to 265 GPH and thoroughly clean both marine and freshwater.

It has a nice design and I like that the external part doesn’t take up much space. The Canister Filter measures 11.5” (W) x 10” (D) x 17” (H) and can stand nicely next to the aquarium, if you can’t hide it.

Much like similar high-end filters, this one comes with a number of different accessories that make it highly customizable.

It also 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.

All in all, 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.

  • 360-degree rotating valves
  • Various media
  • Powerful external filter
  • Pricey for some
  • Could be more robust


3.  Tetra Whisper Internal Filter

tetra whisper filter

I have to admit that I am a big fan of Tetra products and I’ve already recommended one of their heaters, and today I’m putting their Whisper internal filter on this list.

I personally use almost exclusively internal filters without any problems – and the Tetra is by far my favorite.

The models available are for tanks up to 4 gallons, up to 10, 30 or 40 – so you can easily find one suitable for your particular situation. Let’s learn more about what it offers!

Product Highlights

Using the regular design of internal filters – being attached to the aquarium’s wall via a suction cup – the Tetra Whisper has a unique filtering media, with a dual-sided mesh that filters debris and fish waste.

It is easy to clean and not noisy at all. I personally enjoy listening to the splashing water coming from the filter’s waterfall feature. It’s very relaxing – and also does a good job cleaning the aqurium.

And while there’s not really much to talk about when it comes to the Tetra Whisper – it is decently priced, does a great job keeping the water clean and I’m sure you’ll like it.

  • Extremely affordable
  • Innovative filtering mechanism that does a good job
  • Not noisy and offers good value for the money
  • Due to its design, difficult to use with an aquarium with a lid
  • A bit fragile


4.  EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter

eheim 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 I 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, I 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!

  • Oxygen enrichment
  • Efficient valves
  • Sturdy canister, safe closing
  • Pricey
  • Missing media baskets


5.  Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter

aquaclear 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.

  • Affordable
  • Various media
  • Powerful filter
  • Canister capacity
  • Not very sturdy


Aquarium Filter Buying Guide

While my recommendations above are indeed of the best tank filters you can purchase today, in case you want to know exactly what to look for when buying a filter, I have this full guide down below.

There are a few main features that you need to consider before making the purchase, in order to be 100% sure that what you’re getting is the perfect fit for your aquarium.

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.


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

Now let’s address some main questions regarding filters in general.

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.

Read more about Betta aquariums and water filters. Also, you can read my list of the best fish for small aquariums.

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.

Make sure to also consider introducing some good algae eaters to your tank.

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.

If you need even more help, make sure to check out my previous article on how to prime an aquarium pump.

Also, I have a full guide for beginners on how to set up a filtration system for an aquarium.


The final decision depends on the tank that you own, as well as whether it is only fish or turtles, or both.

My 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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