The Best Aquarium Filters
Filters are an essential part of owning an aquarium. There function is simple: keeping your water clean, but how they do that can vary with make and model. However the basics remain the same, a filter must do two things, mechanical filtration, it must remove solids (read: poop) and must also provide biological filtration. In other words, the filter media must house beneficial bacteria that cleans the water of nitrites and ammonia which are both toxic to fish. It is a real challenge making a choice with so many styles and hundreds of brands available, in this article I will give you a run down of each type of filter and their various pros and cons as well as my recommendation on the best aquarium filters in each category. Enjoy!
Hang on back Filters
Hang on back filters as the name suggests hang on the back (or side) of your aquarium, they suck water up the intake tube and pass it through filter media such as a sponge and then the water overflows back into the aquarium. HOB's are sometimes called waterfall filters as the effect of the water over-flowing back into the tank looks and sounds like a waterfall. The key points to understand about hobs are:
Hang on Back filters can be seen when viewing the aquarium the waterfall appearance appeals to many but some would rather not see a filter at all, in which case a canister filter might be a better option as it can be hidden away under your stand/cabinet.
Hang on Back filters are easy to clean, in most models all that is needed is to slide the media cartridge out of the back, wash it and place it back in. simple.
If you tend to let your aquariums water level fall though evaporation hobs will become noisy. Some people (like myself) enjoy this “waterfall noise” others do not (like my wife!)
Hang on back Filter Recommendations
1. Aquaclear 70
2. Tetra whisper
3. Marineland Penguin
I own two Aquaclears 70’s and I love them! I recommended them to my sister and she loves them too! I will be buying at least four more (yes I have a lot of aquariums!) I have owned a number of HOB filters and can personally recommend both the Tetra whisper and the Marineland Penguin but my clear favorite is the Aquaclear for a number of reasons: I like the gentle waterfall noise it makes when my tanks are not 100% full, its super-easy to clean, it consumes very little electricity (5w), its virtually silent when my aquarium is filled to the top and it creates good water flow in my tank. Not to mention I know of people that have used these filters for over 20 years without any problems (they were called Aquaclear 300's back then but design and manufacturing process has not changed)
Canister filters are best aquarium filters for the more serious aquarists and are generally more powerful than other types of filters, they are best used in medium to
large aquariums. Canister filters are as the name suggests a watertight canister that sits outside your aquarium. Two pipes run from the canister into the aquarium, one sucks water out to be filtered and the other pushes clean filtered water back in. The filter media is of course in the canister. Some things to take note of when considering a canister filter:
Canister filters can be kept out of sight. Just place it in under your aquarium or in your stand/cabinet. All that can be seen is two small water pipes.
There is a bit more involved in cleaning a canister filter as you need to open it to clean the media. The filter must be turned off and emptied before cleaning and attention must be paid to re-seal the filter properly after cleaning to prevent it from leaking. Canister filters generally make up for this by having a larger filter media capacity therefore not needing to be cleaned as often.
Best Canister Filter Recommendations
1. Fluval FX5
2. EHEIM Classic 2215 External Canister Filter
3. Marineland Magnum 250
Simple airlift sponge filters are very underrated in my opinion. Submerged in an aquarium they consist of a filter sponge on a weighted base (or suction cup), air is pumped to the bottom and bubbles pull water up thought the sponge, cleaning it in the process. Sponge filters are cheap and very effective at biological filtration, there only downfall is mechanical filtration as the larger particles of waste just “sticks” to the sides and some often falls away when removing it for cleaning. Sponge filters are the best choice for breeding tanks because baby's cannot be sucked into them.
Sponge filters Recommendations
1. Hydro II Sponge Pro Filter
2. D-732 Aquarium Water Double Sponge Filter
3. Lee's Square Dual-Action Foam Filter
I recommend the Aquaclear 70 as the best aquarium filter as I believe it is most versatile filter on the market. The full powered Fluval FX5 is the best for serious fishkeepers with large aquariums and the Hydro II Sponge Pro Filter for people with little ones on the way.