Best saltwater and freshwater aquarium filter Finding the best aquarium filter is one of the most important tasks in setting up a good tank. A good filter will not only clean out any debris and waste in your tank, but also improve the overall oxygen levels in your tank water.

That being said, with the various features and types of filters on the market, finding the right one for you can be quite a hassle.

Well, we are here to help you with this! We have prepared a list of the best saltwater and freshwater aquarium filters according to their unique features and specifications. So, you can easily find the one that suits your tank conditions and requirements. Let’s get straight into it!

Comparison Chart

Name Capacity (in gallons) Weight
Marina I25 Internal Filter

6.6 0.7
Fluval C3 Power Filter

20-50 1.8
Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter

45-70 2.4
AquaClear Fish Tank Filter

5-20 1.4
Fluval U4 Underwater Filter

Up to 65 2.5
Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter

20 2
MarineLand Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter

10 1.3
Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filter

Up to 20 1.2
MarineLand Penguin PRO Power Filter

Up to 90 5.9
No.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter

10-50 0.9

The Best Aquarium Filters: Product Reviews

Let’s get straight into our list of the best filters for your fish tank:

1. Marina I25 Internal Filter

Pros

  • Suction cups for easy attachment
  • Quiet operation
  • Mess-free
  • Reduces odor

Cons

  • Quite small

The Marina I25 Internal Filter is a compact yet powerful device that is great if you have a small aquarium. With dimensions of only 3 x 3.2 x 8 inches, this filter can easily fit into the most cramped spaces and works perfectly with nano tanks up to 6.6 gallons in capacity.

Along with being compact, this filter boasts a unique three-stage filtration system that uses mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration processes to keep your water clean. The whole system is compacted into a single power cartridge which guides water through the center of the media and improves overall cleaning efficiency.

An added benefit of this system is that Marina has designed it to run super silently. Thanks to this, you can leave this filter on at full power throughout the night and won’t have to worry about any loud sounds or vibrations that’ll keep you awake.

This filter from Marina is also a great choice if you are a beginner aquarist. It has an easy installation and maintenance process, thanks to the inbuilt suction cups and cartridge system. So, all you have to do is clip it onto the wall of your tank via the cups and change out the cartridge whenever maintenance is needed.

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Overview

If you have a nano aquarium and are looking for a filter that won’t take up too much space, the Marina I25 Internal Filter is a great option you can look into. Designed for tanks up to 6.6 gallons in capacity, this filter combines a small form factor with three-stage filtration that can keep your nano tank clean without any hassle.

Also, it comes with suction cups and a cartridge system that makes installation and maintenance easy.

2. Fluval C3 Power Filter

Pros

  • Five-stage filtration system
  • Clip-on design
  • Refiltration system
  • Included parts and accessories

Cons

  • Maintenance is time taking

If you have issues keeping your tank clean and are looking for a powerful filter, the Fluval C3 Power Filter is one of the best aquarium filters systems in the market. Designed for tanks of up to 20 gallons in capacity, this filter uses a unique five-stage filtration system to keep even the dirtiest aquariums clean. 

The filtration system uses a combination of two mechanical stages, a chemical stage, and two separate biological filtration stages to offer an overall cleaning process. Water is initially pulled through the separate mechanical filters that block fine and large debris from passing through. After this, the chemical and biological filter media work together to remove all toxins, waste, and debris, leaving you with clean and clear water.

To improve the cleaning capability even further, Fluval has incorporated a patented re-filtration system into this device. This system allows you to control water flow, and when the flow rate is reduced, it recycles water through the system.

Performing this process with up to 50 percent of total water in the chamber allows for more comprehensive cleaning, making this device great even if you plan to use it at slower flow rates.

This filter is also very easy to use and convenient with powerful filtration. Installation is quick as all you have to do is clip the filter onto the edge of your tank, and its self-priming function will get it cleaned in no time.

Also, Fluval has added everything you’ll need, such as the filter media to the O-ring and more, into the package, so you won’t have to spend time making any external purchases with this filter.

That being said, the only thing you will have to keep in mind is that maintenance is a bit of a tedious task with this filter. According to Fluval, you will have to clean out various parts such as the motor, impeller cover, and filter assembly once every few months, which requires quite a bit of assembling and disassembling work.

So, if you don’t want to spend time cleaning, this might be a bit of a hassle for you.

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Overview

The Fluval C3 Power Filter is a heavy-duty and powerful device perfect for a tank with a high bioload. It has an efficient five-stage filtration system that can keep even the dirtiest tanks clean without any issues.

Also, with a unique re-filtration system and installation process, you don’t have to use the full power at all times and can easily install and use this device in smaller aquariums. 

3. Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter

Pros

  • Silent functioning
  • Easy installation
  • Continuous water flow
  • No-mess cartridges

Cons

  • Lacks sturdiness

If you have a bedroom aquarium setup and are looking for a quiet filter that won’t hinder your sleep, the Tetra Whisper EX Multi-Stage Power Filter is an option you can consider. It is designed to provide efficient cleaning while staying quiet enough for you to sleep in the same room as the filter easily. Also, it can be used in tanks between 45 and 70 gallons in capacity.

One of the essential parts of having a healthy aquarium is keeping the water oxygenated. This filter is designed for just this as it maintains continuous water movement that optimizes water oxygenation and quiet functioning.

Thanks to the auto priming and cartridge systems, installation and maintenance are also straightforward with the Tetra Whisper EX. To set it up, all you have to do is place the filter in your tank, turn it on, and it will prime itself, and start cleaning your tank instantly. 

As for maintenance, this filter comes with a convenient cartridge carrier that cleans and replaces the media much more accessible. Just open the carrier and replace it with a new one every 3-4 weeks. Also, this system keeps your hands away from the water, so you won’t have to worry about any unwanted water spills.

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Overview

The Tetra Whisper EX Multi-Stage Power Filter is a powerful yet silent filter perfect for indoor and bedroom tank setups. It uses a continuous water flow to maintain low motor volume while keeping tank oxygen levels high.

Moreover, it has a simple setup and maintenance procedure making it an excellent choice for beginners setting up their first tank.

4. AquaClear Fish Tank Filter

Pros

  • Large filtration volume
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Quick installation procedure
  • Translucent design

Cons

  • Large intake can suck in small fish

The AquaClear Fish Tank Filter is a convenient device that you can consider if you have a tank between five to 20 gallons in capacity. With an efficient multi-stage filtration system and a maximum flow rate of 100 GPH, this filter is a great option you can trust for both freshwater and saltwater tanks.

What sets this divide apart from its competitors is the large filtration capacity and re-filtration system used by AquaClear. The filtration capacity is about seven times larger than most other competitors, allowing more water to be filtered continuously.

Combined with this, the re-filtration system works by filtering water through the system multiple times. According to AquaClear, up to 50 percent of water is filtered twice at lower flow rates, allowing for a much greater contact time with the media and overall cleaning efficiency.

Apart from the impressive filtration performance, we were also surprised by the cost efficiency of the device. It comes equipped with all the needed parts and accessories such as Activated Carbon Filter, BioMax, Cycle Guard, etc. you won’t have to worry about spending any more money.

Also, with an energy-efficient pump powering the filter, it saves you money on your electricity bill.

The AquaClear Fish Tank Filter is quite intuitive to use when it comes to installation and maintenance. Installation is quick, and for maintenance, all you need to do is clean the filter bi-weekly to make sure it is functioning optimally. So, even if you are a beginner, this filter won’t confuse you.

That being said, one thing that we noticed was the large intake tube for the filter. While this is beneficial for sucking in water, you might want to block the intake with a sponge or barrier if you have smaller fish. It is because small fish can be sucked into or damaged by the quick flowing and large intake hole.

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Overview

If you have a tank that is five to 20 gallons in capacity, the AquaClear Fish Tank Filter is a filter that can work well for you. It offers everything you’ll need to keep your tanks clean, such as a multi-stage filtration system, a re-filtration system, and even a large internal chamber. Along with cleaning, it also comes with accessories right out of the box, making it perfect if you are on a budget.

5. Fluval U4 Underwater Filter

Pros

  • Sleek design
  • Easy access to internal cartridges
  • It can be used horizontally or vertically
  • Adjustable flow control

Cons

  • Slightly expensive

If you are looking for a filter for your semi-aquatic or amphibian tank, the Fluval U4 Underwater Filter is an excellent option for you. While it normally works in a vertical position, this filter also offers the option to set it horizontally.

This orientation allows the filter to be used in shallow tanks with low water levels or even create a decorative waterfall output that is great for turtle or crab habitats.

With a flow rate powerful enough for tanks with up to 65 gallons of water, Fluval also allows you to choose between three different flow options. The first, top output, is designed to improve circulation and oxygenation when the filter is submerged.

On the other hand, the integrated spray bar option is excellent if you have small or delicate pets and want a gentle water flow. Finally, the last option is bottom water output which is perfect for deepwater agitation.

Whichever model you decide to set it on, the Fluval U4 offers a powerful three-stage filtration system that combines mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration to stop all kinds of debris and waste from passing through.

Also, the filter uses a smartly designed media cartridge that can control more debris while keeping the overall bulk of the filter low.

This filter cartridge takes up much less space and allows the device to remain sleek and stylish. So, if you plan on using it with an office or decorative aquarium, the filter will surely add to the overall appeal of your tank. 

Adding to the features, Fluval has also added a convenient flip-top lid. This lid allows you to easily open the filter and change out the cartridge without having to take out the filter or dismantle any parts.

Although all this does come at a price, this option is one of the more expensive ones on the list. So, you might want to avoid it if you are on a tight budget.

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Overview

The Fluval U4 Underwater Filter is a versatile device that you can use in all sorts of tanks ranging from normal freshwater ones to even semi-aquatic reptile tanks. It is primarily because it can be used in horizontal and vertical orientations and, with three distinct water flow options, is great for all kinds of tanks.

Also, it has a sleek and stylish design that adds to the look of your tank while also maintaining functionality with easy maintenance and cleaning.

6. Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Self-priming functionality
  • Adjustable intake tube
  • Quiet functioning

Cons

  • Not very sturdy

The Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter is a compact device that you can consider if you have a small tank under 20 gallons in capacity. With dimensions of just 6.88 x 6 x 7.75 inches, this filter can easily fit into cramped spaces, making it a great choice if you have a tank with many decors and plants.

Along with its compact footprint, this water filters for fish tanks also produces minimal sound. Even while running it at full capacity, the filter managed to stay below 40dB in sound and was never annoying to hear.

So, you can easily use it in your bedroom or living area without having to worry about the loud running sound.

If you are a beginner, this filter also comes with a self-priming function, submersible motor, and even an adjustable intake to make managing your aquarium much easier. The self-priming function makes installation a lot easier as you can place the filter in your tank, turn it on, and it will start cleaning your tank instantly.

On the other hand, the submerged motor makes placing the filter a lot easier, and you won’t have to worry about keeping it above your tank, which can take a lot of space. Helping save space under your tank, the filter’s adjustable intake can easily be shifted up or down depending on your tank requirements.

So, if you have a tank full of bottom feeders and plants, you can have a high intake, while if you want to cycle the water throughout your tank, a lower intake would be better.

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Overview

If you are looking for a compact device for a sub-20-gallon tank, The Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter is a great option you can consider. With a small footprint and various features that allow for low space usage, you can easily fit this filter into even the most cramped spaces.

However, while it may be small, it still offers various useful features such as self-priming functionality, silent functioning, and more.

7. MarineLand Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter

Pros

  • Unique bio-wheel filtration
  • Multiple power options
  • Simple setup process
  • Silent functioning

Cons

  • Bio-wheel can get damaged

The Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter is an excellent device that comes with a unique Bio-Wheel for keeping your tank crystal clear. The Bio-Wheel combines three stages of filtration with different filter media to provide an overall cleaning process for your tank water.

Utilizing Black Diamond Premium Activated Carbon, wet-dry biological media, and a fine cartridge for larger debris, this device manages to stop all kinds of waste and toxic materials from entering your tank. 

A common concern with such devices is that the unique filtration system may cause a lot of noise. This is not the case with the Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter, as it uses noise-reducing two-piece vented covers along with adjustable mid-level intake strainers to keep noise levels low.

So, during our testing, we could barely tell if the device was on when a few people were in the room.

Also, if you are a beginner, this device is one you can consider. It offers a very streamlined installation process that is intuitive and takes minimal time.

So, even if you have trouble setting up such devices, this one will be a breeze to get going. Although, maintenance might be a hassle as the bio-wheel occasionally stops and may need to be checked occasionally.

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Overview

With a unique and powerful Bio-Wheel for filtration, the Marineland Penguin Power Filter is an impressive device for most tanks. This filter for fish tank offers a comprehensive filtration system that uses various filtration media for the utmost cleaning efficiency.

Also, with a great system for keeping sound levels low, it can be used as a quiet aquarium filter for your living space.

8. Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filter

Pros

  • LED indicator for maintenance
  • High water flow rates
  • Internal pump design
  • Improved biological filtration

Cons

  • Can be noisy

An excellent option for beginners, The Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Filter is a fish tank filter you can rely on. With various features such as an LED indicator and self-priming that make everything from installation to maintenance very easy, you won’t have to worry about your tank at all while using this device.

One feature that stood out for us was this filter’s built-in LED indicator light. The light is easily visible and is designed to light up if water cannot pass through the device freely. So, you won’t have to open your filter and check if it needs cleaning or if there are any issues with this filter from Aqueon.

While the LED light makes maintenance a lot easier, this filter also comes with a self-priming functionality for installation. With the help of this, all you have to do is set it up on your tank, and it will start up itself without any effort from your end.

This feature is also helpful if you live in an area with frequent power cuts, as the device will start filtering as soon as the power is back.

As far as filtration is concerned, this device uses a multi-stage system that goes beyond the common three-stage cleaning. Aqueon has added an optional speciality pad filtration that furthers the overall cleaning capacity making this an excellent option for high bioload tanks.

However, while the filter has everything you need to manage a tank setup, it lacks an overall flow rate. Due to this, the Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Filter is limited to use with tanks with a maximum of 20 gallons in capacity.

So, if you have a larger tank, you might have to buy more than one of these filters if you want to maintain a healthy aquatic environment.

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Overview

The QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Filter from Aqueon is a sturdy and reliable device that is great for beginners. It comes with various features that make everything from installation to maintenance very easy and save you a lot of effort.

Along with this, it also comes with a powerful multi-stage filtration system that is efficient at cleaning through all types of waste and debris and keeps your tank crystal clear.

9. MarineLand Penguin PRO Power Filter

Pros

  • Bio-wheel technology
  • Silent functioning
  • Multiple sizes
  • Multi-stage filtration

Cons

  • Expensive

The MarineLand Penguin PRO Power Filter is a heavy-duty device that is an excellent option if you have a heavily populated tank with a high bioload. This filter has a robust 450 GPH flow rate which is strong enough to keep tanks up to 90 gallons in capacity clean.

Moreover, if you have a smaller tank, the filter is also available in multiple smaller sizing options, perfect for your setup.

As for the filtration system itself, the Penguin PRO uses a three-stage system to clean out all debris, toxins, and waste. This system combines mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration with high-quality filter media for maximum cleaning efficiency.

Adding to the filtration power, MarineLand has also built a bio-wheel system into this filter. The bi-wheel world provides a habitat for the cultivation of good bacteria in wet/dry conditions. These bacteria are highly effective at cleaning out toxins and improving the biofiltration manifold.

While you may be thinking that this system would create a lot of noise, this is not the case. This filter uses a smart decoupled motor that is able to reduce the overall noise produced during filtration. Thanks to this, you can run this filter non-stop in your living space or bedroom and won’t have to worry about any annoying sounds.

While the device is very well-built and offers great filtration, it is also quite expensive. Due to this, you may want to consider other options if you are looking for a filter on a tight budget.

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Overview

If you have a highly populated tank that is difficult to keep clean, the MarineLand Penguin PRO Power Filter can solve your problems. With an impressive 450 GPH flow rate and an effective three-stage filtration system, this device can easily clean out even the dirtiest tanks up to 90 gallons in capacity.

Also, with additional features like a bio-wheel, decoupled motor, and more, you won’t have to worry about your aquarium at all with this device.

10. No.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Multiple nozzles
  • Various size options
  • Adjustable flow rate

Cons

  • Slightly heavy

If you have a 10 to 50-gallon large aquarium and are looking for a stylish filter, the NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter fits your criteria. With an all-black and sleek finish, this device is a great addition to most modern setups and can easily enhance the appeal of your whole setup.

Apart from its looks, this filter is also very practical. A flow rate of 200 GPH can easily clean tanks up to 50 gallons in size. Although, even if you have a larger tank, you can go for the various size options available in this filter and find one that suits your needs.

On the other hand, if you ever feel like the filter is too strong, it comes with an adjustable nozzle to easily control the flow rate.

As far as filtration is concerned, as long as you get the right size for your tank, you won’t have to worry about your aquarium ecosystem at all. With a multi-stage system that utilizes various filtration media, this tank can clean out all sorts of debris, waste, and other toxic materials from your tank.

Another thing that we liked about this device was the double nozzle system incorporated into it. Unlike many of its competitors, the two inbuilt nozzles allow for multiple connections so you can customize the output and utility according to your tank conditions.

Surprisingly, even with all these features, the device can remain silent, even with increased weight. Compared to the device’s overall look, it does weigh more than you would expect, so be sure to attach it to a sturdy part of your tank.

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Overview

The NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter is a great device that adds to the appeal of any setup while also keeping it clean.

With a multi-stage filtration system and a robust 200GPH flow rate, it is an excellent addition to any 10-to-50-gallon tank setup that needs cleaning. Also, with a dual nozzle setup, you won’t have to worry about any single nozzle clogging up.

Things To Consider While Choosing an Aquarium Filter

Here’s a list of some things you should consider when looking for an aquarium filter: 

Functioning Noise

While many beginner aquarists often overlook this, the amount of noise produced by your filter is an important thing you should consider. Filters these days come with motors of varying power, and many of these can cause vibrations and make a lot of noise.

While this isn’t a problem for professional outdoor tanks, a loud filter is one of the worst things to deal with if you have an indoor or bedroom tank.

So, when you are looking for a new filter for your tank, try finding one that can function silently. It could be with the help of a continuous water flow, sound dampening systems, or even thicker walls to stop noise from seeping through.

It will help you run your filter at full capacity while also allowing you to relax and even sleep.

Flow Rate

While you may have a great filter with a multi-stage filtration system, it will only work if the flow rate is sufficient for your tank. Flow rate refers to measuring the amount of water passing through the device within a specific time.

It is commonly denoted using GPH (Gallons Per Hour), which tells us the gallons of water the filter can clean in an hour.

So, the greater the GPH, the more water a filter can clean, and subsequently, the larger tank it will be able to filter. As a rule of thumb, make sure your filter can clean four times the water in your tank in an hour. It means that if you have a 100-gallon tank, try looking for at least a 400GPH flow rate filter to keep it clean.

Installation and Maintenance

Aquarium Filter Detailed Reviews and Buying GuideOne of the most important parts of buying a new filter is the installation and maintenance procedures involved. With filters available in various styles and designs, each has its process for set-up and maintenance. For example, a sponge filter is easy to install with a simple tube, while a power filter may require some assembly and parts to get it started.

If you are new to setting up tanks and are looking for something more simple, try looking for a filter with added features to make setup and cleaning easier.

For example, buying a filter with auto-priming will allow you to set it up directly without having to run any water through the system. Also, for maintenance, you can look for features like cartridges that allow for quick and easy cleaning and replacement.

FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions asked when buying a fish tank filter system:

Which Is Better: Internal or External Aquarium Filter?

While neither is better than the other, internal and external filters have unique characteristics that work better in specific circumstances. Internal filters are often much smaller and are better suited for compact tanks with a lower bioload.

On the other hand, external filters are usually much more powerful and would be the more reasonable option if you have a large tank with a lot of plants and animals.

Are Two Filters Better Than One?

In most cases, having one powerful filter is better than having two separate filters. This is because, after a point of filtration, the additional power won’t benefit your tank as much, and you will only end up wasting electricity running two filters at once.

However, the only advantage with multiple filters is that you will still have a functioning filtration system if one fails.

Is It Bad To Over-filter a Fish Tank?

Technically, it is not possible to over-filter an aquarium. That is because filters remove various unwanted toxins and debris from the water, so even if you repeat this process multiple times, the filter will just be letting the clean water through.

On the other hand, under-filtering your tank can be pretty dangerous and happens if you are using a filter that isn’t powerful enough for your tank setup. 

Can You Turn off Fish Tank Filter at Night?

It is not suggested to turn your filter off at night, and that is because turning your filter off for an extended period can lead to a buildup of toxins and waste that can harm your aquarium ecosystem. If you feel like you need to turn your filter off, try to limit it to one or two hours maximum.

Should a Fish Tank Filter Make Bubbles?

Yes, it is perfectly normal if your fish tank filter produces bubbles in your tank. Although, if you notice any changes in the number of bubbles produced, it might be best to check if your filter is working alright.

How Often Should I Change Water in Fish Tanks?

As a standard guideline, you should change about 25 percent of the water in your tank once every three weeks. This helps maintain safe levels of various substances in your tank and is also a great time to clean out your plants and tank walls.

Does Filter Noise Bother Fish?

While it is not known for sure, research points towards filter noise being a hindrance for many fish species. In particular, filters’ frequencies between 0.1 and 0.3kHz are known to cause the most harm.

How Often Should I Change the Cartridges in My Aquarium Filter?

Ideally, you should change the cartridges in your aquarium filter once a month. You can keep track of it by observing the quality of your fish tank water. If the water starts to appear cloudy and your fish show signs of sickness, it is important to maintain your aquarium filter immediately. 

Are Aquarium Filters Supposed To Stay on at All Times?

Certain aquarium appliances such as lights, air pumps, and even filters need to stay on at all times for your fish to survive. Even though you can turn off the air pump, lights, and even heaters every once in a while, it is important to have your aquarium filter running at all times.

Conclusion

After going through the various devices on this list, the Marina I25 Internal Filter has become our clear choice for the best overall aquarium filter. This device manages to provide high power filtration while still maintaining a compact form factor that is easy to fit into most tank setups. Thus, you can easily use it in nano tanks up to 6.6 gallons in capacity.

Along with this, it can keep your tank clean of all sorts of waste with the help of its three-stage filtration system. Combining biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration helps this device keep your water crystal clear and safe for your pets and plants.

Also, even running this system at full speed won’t create any loud noises as this system has a super silent motor that can keep it quiet enough for you to sleep next to it.

This filter is an excellent option with many more features and accessories that gets you the most out of a small package. So, we hope this list helped you find the right aquarium filter for your tank.

5/5 - (18 votes)

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