How to Get the Best Filter for your Aquarium? (Complete Buyers’ Guide, FAQs & More)

You’ll agree with us when we say that it can be a headache to choose the right filter for your aquarium with so many options out there.

That’s why we’ve spent weeks rigorously testing what factors are most important when it comes to buying the right filter for your aquarium.

In today’s post, we’ll help you figure out what filter is best suited for your needs.

How to Get the Best Filter for your Aquarium? (Complete Buyers' Guide & More)

Filtration Types: 

Biological Filtration

Biological filtration targets micro-life, bacteria and any small, dangerous toxins that might reside in your fish tank.

Chemical Filtration

Chemical filtration deals with all sorts of harmful chemicals present in your tank water that might harm your fish.

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filtration refers to the filtering of small particles and debris from your water to keep the water crystal clear.

Types Of Fish Tank Filters

When you go looking for a filter for your fish tank, you’ll be confronted with many different options. These different types of filters are suited for different needs. The main types of fish tank filters are: 

Internal Filters

Internal filters are by far the cheapest form of filters available and they are suited for small tanks that have a capacity of lower than 20 gallons of water. They are mounted on the inside of the fish tank by use of suction cups and make sure that no debris or dust is built up in the tank that could harm your fish.

Canister Filters

Canister filters are normally installed on the outside of fish tanks and they create a pressurized water flow. They suck water in and pass it through a filtration system that normally accomplishes all three types of filtration described above. Once the filtration process is completed, the water is moved back into the fish tank

Canister filters are available in a variety of sizes depending on your fish load and tank capacity.

Hob (Hang-on-back) Filters

These are very popular because they’re easy to set up and use. They work very similar to canister filters in that the water is sucked up through a tube into the filter where it passes through 3 filtration chambers that get rid of any toxins, dirt and debris from the water and then this water is passed back into the fish tank.

One drawback of hang-on-back filters is that the beneficial bacteria is always removed whenever you change the filter cartridge.

Under-Gravel Filters

As the name suggests, under-gravel filters are located underneath the gravel in an aquarium. They rely on a low-flow suction tube or an air flow tube in order to suck water and waste into the filter Under-gravel filters work well for smaller aquariums but they usually require more maintenance as compared to other fish tank filters.

Wet/Dry Filters

These filters come with an internal and external part. These filters are designed to siphon water into the internal part that is then pushed through to the external part and passed back into the fish tank. These filters are great for biological filtration because the external part is in direct contact with air which provides oxygen.

Here are some important things to consider when going out to buy a fish tank filter

1. Is the Fish Tank Filter Difficult to Set Up?

How to Get the Best Filter for your Aquarium? (Complete Buyers' Guide & More)

If you’re a beginner, you might not want to get a fish tank filter that is difficult to set up. Getting a filter that’s complicated to set up can be a rewarding experience as they have more customization options but we recommend that if you’re a beginner, you should stick with an internal or HOB filter as they are the easiest to install.

Under-gravel filters need to be installed before water is added to the tank and are more labor-intensive. Not to mention that they need to be cleaned more regularly than other filters and their cleaning requires more effort, time and attention.

If you have a bigger tank and want more customizability, you can opt for a canister or wet/dry filter which are the most complicated to install.

2. What is the Fish Tank Filter’s Maximum Working Capacity?

Working capacity refers to the amount of power a particular fish tank filter operates on. This determines the amount of water it can handle at any given time and this strength is often written in units such as volts. You should always go for a tank filter that is either appropriate enough for your fish tank’s size or bigger than what your fish tank’s size.

Never opt for a fish tank filter that has a smaller working capacity than what your fish tank requires.

3. What is the Fish Tank Filter’s Maximum Water-flow Rate? 

Water-flow rate refers to the rate at which water can be filtered out by the fish tank filter. It is usually measured in units of gallons per hour.

Obviously, you want a filter that is able to fill your fish tank with clean water as fast as possible. When you’re making your purchase, be sure to research this rate on the product to make sure that it is within an acceptable range.

Some brands often have higher water-flow rates than others and it is often why certain expensive filters are as expensive as they are. 

4. How Long does the Fish Tank Filter’s Warranty Last?

Fish tank filters work in humid conditions and you can expect that a slightly faulty one could easily break down. You might also bring a fish tank filter home only to realize that it’s not suitable for your fish tank, it doesn’t fit or it’s ineffective for your fish tank size.

In cases like these, you may want to return it or get it fixed. If the fish tank filter doesn’t have a warranty, that would mean that you’ve just wasted your money. So, when buying a fish tank filter, make sure that it has a reasonable warranty period or a money-back policy in case of not being appropriate for your needs.


We hope you’ve found value out of this post and are now more confident in your search for the right fish tank filter for your aquarium.

Give us feedback and let us know what filter you’re using. 

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