Best Aquarium Water Filter for Large & Small Tanks

Best Aquarium Water Filters for Large & Small Tanks

Buying the best aquarium filter is important because it is among the most critical fish tank equipment you need for a healthy aquarium. You need to make no compromises over quality or else you will see your fish dropping like flies. A good filter sticks to the best filtration process and delivers optimum performance around the clock, so you need to take your time, consider your tank size and then choose the best product.

Here are a few options to consider:



  • Suitable for most tanks
  • Very quiet

Rated by: Amber



  • Easy setup
  • Durable plastic construction
  • Suitable for fish and plants

Rated by: Amber



  • Customizable
  • Very quiet
  • Nice filtration at a low flow rate

Rated by: Amber

The Best Aquarium Filter: Our Top Picks

1. AquaClear Power Filter

Quick Summary

Rated by: Amber

This power filter has been one of the finest aquarium filters because of its unique ability to raise or reduce the water contact based on the preferences of the consumers. It will be based on the tank's flow rates that how long the water gets in connection with the filter material.

This aquarium filter has the most prolonged water flow rate to filter material contact vis-à-vis its industry competitors today, which makes it stand out of all. Given the affordability and value-added functionality, this is a significant advantage for consumers.

The Filter is made to reduce the space required for canister filters since it is a hang-on device that can be mounted at the top of the aquarium. It offers a wide range of flow rate choices that can suit the most common aquarium types.

The flow monitor helps the consumers to reduce the flow in the tank by up to 50 percent without damaging the filter machine's motors. Lower flow rate means a longer time for the water to be in touch with its filter media, which can potentially contribute to the quality of the water.

While this is one of the best aquarium filters available in the market, it makes noises of vibrations that can be annoying to some. Overall, it's an excellent buy if you are looking for something that has significant controls and can regulate the water flow rate.


  • It is suitable for most tanks
  • It is known for its quiet operation
  • It is easy to clean


  • Small grain may disrupt its function

2. Penn Plax 1500 Elite

Quick Summary

Rated by: Amber

This canister filter is available in a large number of different options. The smallest is the Cascade 500, rated for up to 30 gallons, while the highest and most durable is the Cascade 1500 elite, rated at 350 GPH flow rate for up to 200 gallons.

There are many styles, as well as standard and elite versions in between. The elite models are black whilst the normal ones are blue, and the elite has more functionalities, personalization, and value-added than the normal ones.

This canister elite 1500 offers mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. There is also an algae magnet in the elite editions to help maintain the tank fresher and free from undesirable algae. Each set of filter media is placed inside their tray, with each tray stacked in the pressurized tank on top of each other. Every filter kit includes bio floss, bio-foam as well as pro carb and ceramic rings while the algae magnet is included in the elite package too.

It builds filter pressure with ease, using siphon suction heads as well as tubing heads. Tube heads can adjust 360 degrees, so you can position the Filter round the tank anywhere, without having to worry about inertial access to water. Media trays are significantly large to fit an appropriate amount of each media type, and need not be replaced regularly. The canister itself has an airtight seal, so it holds the inside cleaner and mitigates noise.

While overall it's a great buy, it has a drawback that it requires a lot of power, such that of 27 watts.


  • It is easy to install with setup included
  • It has strong plastic construction
  • It is suitable for plants


  • Air bubbles may affect pressure sometimes

3. Fluval External Filter 406

Quick Summary

Rated by: Amber

It is reported that the Filter can be used for a long time, so it would be necessary to get a good and analysis filter. From its early look at its frame, the 406 model is easy to see that it arrives with a solid exterior structure.

Compared to normal circular canister filters, making the square form configuration allows this model to hold more light. Such a function is a good value addition for those who want further water flow in a short time. The arrangement, therefore, helps optimize the interaction between the filtration devices and the aquarium water. Such an operation would improve water filtration further.

The installation process for this model is fairly simple. The guidelines may not be that easily understandable but should be done in less time if you put everything together, having followed the pictures. The 406 filters are built to have a filtration cycle at the bottom of the stack. The aquarium water must flow through the inlet, through the filtration screen, and then come out across the pipe on the other side.

While this filter is an amazing buy for all the aquarium lovers, the user might feel difficulty in finding its replacement parts in the market.

The 406 models are fitted with the AquaStop pump, an improvement from the other versions which missed it. The valve is effective in helping with repairs without the main supply pipe needing to be removed. The model is made suitable for tanks up to 100 gallons.


  • It is quite customizable
  • It is popular for its quiet operation
  • It offers good filtration even at a low flow rate


  • It is a bit complex to set it up

4. Marineland Penguin Power Filter

Quick Summary

Rated by: Amber

The power filter is ideal for tanks with up to 70 Gallons of water, with a tremendous flow rate of 350 gallons per hour. It uses various filter cartridges of the Rite-size C "to provide electronic, chemical, and biological filtration in 3 levels.

The soil and contaminants are washed out; odors, discoloration, and microbes are then chemically removed; then, the proprietary BIO-wheel extracts toxic chemicals. Therefore, you can be confident with 3-stage technologies that the tank will be clear, safe, and free from stinks.

The Filter is among those that offer the best values to maintain your tank and keep it out of bacterial infections and viruses, and your aquarium is as safe as possible. The Filter has teamed up with Tetra, which offers several useful products that help with your tank maintenance and protection.

This compact, lightweight Filter in your tank is simple to conceal and offers a quick and easy procedure, so you won't even know it's there. The Filter comes with two substitute water purifier cartridges prepared to be using, prime your Filter, and you're ready to leave. Maintenance is easy, as the filters are just removed and replaced once a month.

This system should last a long time with frequent maintenance and cleaning of the tank and the system. Many have raved about the enduring durability of this device, as well as the simplicity of use it offers. Buyers should be mindful that the

Filter is properly set up and assembled, meaning that the BIO-wheel is properly pruned and that the container is properly submerged. If the filter is too high, irritating cracking sound can be produced, which is easily fixed if it is actually submerged slightly lower.

FAQ - A Buyer's Guide

What is the Best Filter for a 60-Gallon Tank?

The kind of filter you need will depend heavily on your fish tank size. If it is a large tank with a capacity of 60 gallons, you need to buy fish tank filters with high flow rates. In this situation, you should choose a filter with a flow rate of no less than 300GPH.

 You may get away with a relatively smaller filter if you're keeping a planted aquarium, but even in this case, you need to select the best small aquarium filter that comes with a flow rate of 240GPH. Your needs will change considerably, though, if you're opting for a reef aquarium. In this case, the filter should have a flow rate of 390-490 GPH to circulate the water completely. You should at least be going for the one with 400 gallons per hour flow rate for larger tanks.

In order to make a right decision, you should also educate yourself a bit about the types of fish tank filters available on the market. For instance:

  • Internal Filters: These fish tank filters will stay inside the tank – they usually stay at the top. You can mount them easily using suction cups. The internal filters usually use air to push water up and move it through for filtration. Some of them also come equipped with sponges and have activated carbon as well, but keep in mind that there are more suitable for small tanks and certainly not a great choice for a 60-gallon tank.
  • Under Gravel Filters: This type of filter will stay underneath the gravel substrate and is quite easy to set. They have slots on the top that they use to draw water in, and they also rely on a low flow suction tube or an air tube to bring waste and water into the filter. They usually make use of mechanical filtration instead of biological or chemical filtration. Again, they may work for a 60-gallon tank, but they're mainly intended for smaller fish tanks.
  • Hang on Back Filters: Also known as power filters, this type of filter sticks to the outside of your fish tank and has several filter cartridges containing media for mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.  They range widely in size and are relatively easier to maintain, which is why they're popular as the best aquarium filter for large tanks.  Just keep in mind that a power filter may be ill-suited for aquarium life that can't withstand a strong water flow.
  • Canister Filters: They stay outside the fish tank and work by creating a pressurized flow of water. They use a siphon to draw water in and then run it through separate sections with media for biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration.  However, you need to understand that though these filters are quite suitable for mechanical and chemical filtration, they're not that impressive when it comes to biological filtration.  Nevertheless, you can easily find good canister filters to manage a 60-gallon tank.
  • Wet Dry Filters: With these filters, one part will stay inside the water, while the other one will be outside the tank. A siphon is used to draw in the water and then transferred to the external filter section. While these filters offer reasonably good chemical or mechanical filtration, they're just perfect for biological filtration because of their access to oxygen.  They're suitable for most large-sized fish tanks, but can be quite expensive at the same time.

All this implies that you can now find aquarium filters of all types and sizes. It is important to pay attention to the size of your fish tank and then consider the flow rate of different filters to pick the one suitable for your needs.

What is the Best Filter for a Planted Aquarium?

Many people don't realize that planted aquariums have their needs just like fish aquariums, and without using the right filter, you will not be able to see your plants thrive. For plants to breathe and live, they need CO2, and an appropriate filter can help achieve that. The thing to remember is that a filter needs to work without causing serious surface agitation or else it will outgas CO2 from the water. It means that the best filter for a planted aquarium is the one that suits its size but still comes with a lower flow to minimize splashing on the water surface.

Today, you can find many fish tanks with filters that make things easier, but still, the good idea is to look for a canister filter suitable for the size of your aquarium. These filters don't cause visual disturbance, as they stay out of sight and still work amazingly well to create crystal-clear water. Another good reason to choose a good quality canister filter for your planted aquarium or aquascape aquarium is that you can customize it as per your needs. It is possible to change the media to get better biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration, and it is equally simple to change its flow rate to avoid causing any surface disturbance.

It is worth mentioning that many aquascapers still rely on hanging filters. The biggest reason is that these filters don't cost much. They may be simple but work quite effectively. However, the important consideration is that they tend to be quite noisy and usually lower the beauty of a well-built fish tank. Moreover, they're likely to waste CO2, which is a bad thing, as plants need it to survive and thrive. Therefore, they may be good as an entry-level choice, but they use up CO2 a lot faster.

Depending on the size of your planted aquarium, you may also benefit a lot from using internal filters. These filters work by staying fully submerged in the water and are air-driven with a pump. They work effectively if you have a smaller planted aquarium – it shouldn't be an option if you're going for a tank larger than 20 gallons.

For larger planted aquariums, you may also want to go with wet dry filters. They're effective because they also use the natural cleaning effects of beneficial bacteria. However, if you're going for these filters, remember that they will need a lot more maintenance. Nevertheless, if you're willing to deal with the maintenance, they deliver great results by keeping the water sparkling clear.

What is the Best Filter for a 50-Gallon Fish Tank?

As mentioned already, you'd need a filter with a flow rate up to 300 gallons per hour for a 60-gallon tank, you can use the same benchmark when choosing a filtration system for a relatively smaller, 50-gallon tank. You can use the same sized filter, especially if you have a high fish load in the aquarium.

However, the experts are of the view that you should choose a filter with a flow rate between 220GPH and 275GPH to keep your 50-gallon fish tank healthy. However, you can choose a pump with a lower flow rate – somewhere between 175GPH and 220GPH – if you're choosing a planted aquarium. For planted aquariums, the flow rate matters a lot, and it needs to be on the lower side to prevent surface agitation that leads to the loss of CO2.

For those interested in maintaining a reef aquarium, it is important to pick a filter with a relatively higher flow rate. In most cases, you will get good results from a filter of 285-360 gallons per hour. Again, you will be better off choosing canister filters for the task because most internal filters are designed to maintain tanks with a capacity of no greater than 20 gallons.  Canister filters for fish tanks may be a bit more expensive as compared to other options but they're quite suitable for 50-60 gallon fish tanks stocking many freshwater or saltwater fish.

What Size Filter Should I Get for My Tank?

It can be a bit tricky to choose the right filter size for your tank, but you have to do the hard work and educate yourself about the most popular options. To make things easier, consider the size of your tank as well as what you want to keep in it. Your fish tank filter choice will change if you want to keep plants instead of fish.

Ideally, you need to ensure that the filter you choose is capable of leaving the water as clean as possible. For this, you should be choosing a tank that can turn the aquarium water no less than 4 times an hour.  It means that a fish tank filter with a flow rate of 80 gallons per hour will only be suitable for a tank no larger than 20 gallons.  However, you should also bear in mind that depending on the fish load and other factors, the basic rule to find the best filter size may not work. For instance, if you're keeping plants in the aquarium, you will actually be better off choosing a fish tank filter that is capable of working under low flow conditions.

Similarly, some fish just don't like a strong current and feel comfortable in calm water. There may also be fish that love turbulent waters and can manage things easily. Having smaller fish in your tank means you should avoid using a very powerful filter, as they're likely to get sucked up into the filter. Therefore, you should always consider the inhabitants of an aquarium when deciding about the fish tank filter you need.

The Best Aquarium Filter to Choose

The fact of the matter is that choosing the best aquarium filter is always going to be an important yet tricky decision. Therefore, take your time, consider your water tank size, know what the inhabitants of your aquarium prefer, and then select the best brand. If you're confused, try Penn Plax 1500 Elite, as it is quiet, takes less time for installation, and is suitable for freshwater and saltwater fish tanks.

About the Author Steven