Maintaining a fish tank is an absolute excitement. Anyone can spend hours doing nothing but looking at lively fish moving across the tank. However, facts like polluted water, food waste and other debris can completely ruin the looks of your fish tank and make it very unhealthy for fish. The most effective and practical way to keep your fish tank or aquarium clean is by installing fish tank filters. In other words, you cannot expect your fish tank to be a beautiful and healthy place. When you shop around for aquarium filters, you might come across a variety of filters in the market and selecting one of them can be quite a challenge. The following guide to choose best fish tank filters and aquarium filters reviews will be of assistance for you when selecting the best product.
Usage of fish tank filters
The obvious reason of using fish tank filters is nothing but cleaning the water. Aquarium filters can get rid of elements like food residue, organic matter that pollute water, particles that flow on the surface of the water, hazardous chemicals and fish waste and make the tank a pleasant and healthy place for fish.
Fish are living organisms as we all know; so they excrete inside the tank while swimming around. You must remember that water in the tank doesn’t flow. So, if you don’t get rid of this fish waste, it will gather over the time inside the unchanged water and eventually become toxic for fish themselves. The ammonia levels of this water will rise making it really uncomfortable for fish. Ammonia contaminated water will eventually become poisoning for fish. Apart from that, floating food particles and other organic materials will make the tanks a more unpleasant place.
However, with the use of aquarium filters, you will be able to bring back the fresh, clean and healthy appearance to the tank. Once you find the correct type of fish tank filters, you can expect fish to be more active, strong, dynamic and beautiful.
Different types of fish tank filters and introduction
Aquarium filters available in the market in various forms. The functionality of these filters differs from one model to another. In general, the filtration process of an aquarium can be done as a biological, mechanical or a chemical process. This particular categorization is done considering the functionality. Generally, biological filtration is deployed in order to minimize the overall maintenance process of the aquarium. However, filtration processes like chemical and mechanical filtration are too required depending on the situation. Basically, mechanical filtration process is carried out to maintain the clarity of the water. Meanwhile, chemical filtration looks after the quality of the water by neutralizing (or eliminating) toxic substances from the tank water. So, you must keep in mind that just because the water is perfectly clear to the naked eye, it is impossible to be 100% sure that it is toxic free if you haven’t filtered it correctly. On the other hand, even the shadowy water can be good for fish to live in despite the unpleasant appearance.
Waste of your fish is toxic particularly when they are gathered over time. Ammonia percentage will rise remarkably and eventually water will no longer be suitable for fish to live. This is when biological filtration is required; the main role of biological water tank filters is to convert these toxic ammonia substances (which occur in the form of fish waste, dead fish and plant waste etc) into friendly nitrite. You must, however, still know that even nitrite is somewhat harmful for fish (liver and eye-related issues can occur on fish when exposed to nitrite for long periods). Even this nitrite should be removed from the tank with regular water changes. Other than that, nitrite might promote algae growth.
In general, biological aquarium filters operate based on a cycling process. The efficiency of biological fish tank filters depends on the success of cycling.
Mechanical aquarium filters
Mechanical filtration process is called particulate filtration too. Mechanical fish tank filters functions in a way that sends water through a strainer (which is the filter). When water is sent through this strainer, it will retain the particles and send out particle-free water to the tank. The strainer can be made out of materials such as filter pads, sponge, floss, gravel etc. The efficiency of a mechanical filter, however, will be influenced by several factors.
- The quality of the media
If the strainer media inside the aquarium filter is fine, it can retain even the finest particles. But, you should also know that these finer filters need to be cleaned quite frequently due to obvious reason; they retain more particles than the other fish tank filters that have coarse strainers. Modern mechanical fish tank filters come with several filtration layers in order to facilitate better cleaning process.
- The amount of water filtered
If your aquarium filter takes longer time to filter water (less amount of water is sent through the strainer per hour), more particles and debris will collect. Gradually, the water will become unclear and make the water unhealthy for fish.
- The frequency of cleaning
If you clean the strainer of the aquarium filter quite frequently, you can expect better efficiency. Also, you must check for the damages; a damaged strainer will significantly reduce the efficiency of the cleaning process. Therefore, it is always important to maintain the filer with good care.
Apart from that, the quality of the water of the tank will affect the efficiency of the aquarium filter; dirtier water demands more work from the filter and the media will have to be replaced quite often. Generally, mechanical fish tank filters come with either a sump or a settling pool. When provided with a settling pool, it will make the larger particles to deposit at the bottom which will be removed.
- The quality of the media
Most of the chemical aquarium filters are based on carbon. In fact, carbon can extract variety of toxic substances effectively. Carbon filters work extremely hard to eliminate toxins from water. The system will work until the carbon material is worn off. So, it is obvious that you need to replace the strain (which is made out of activated carbon) frequently in order to maintain optimal performance.
Different types of best aquarium filters in the market
Listed below are some of the best fish tank filters with different types in the modern market.
1.Power filters (HOB filter) – for 10-70 gallon tanks
Power filters are also known as HOB (Hang on Back) filters particularly because of the way it functions. These are the commonest tank filters available in the market today. Most of the fish tank owners claim that these aquarium filters are very user-friendly and effective. Good fish tank filters in this category can impressive filtration in all the forms (chemical, mechanical and biological). Since these aquarium filters are designed to be hanged off the backside of the aquarium, they match all the fish tanks that have capacities between 10 – 70 gallons (which are the most popular fish tank sizes). These aquarium filters come with replaceable filter cartridges. Modern HOB fish tank filters have either BIO wheels or bio filters to facilitate better cleaning process.
QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters from Aqueon
These leading aquarium filters are designed to maintain superior clarity and quality of the water. Aqueon has obtained patent for their special design that increases oxygen levels of the tank water while generating very less noise. Its special mechanism filters water using all the four filtration methods namely biological, mechanical, wet/dry and chemical. When water is went through all these filtration processes, you can expect, crystal clear, pure and toxic free water for your fish. In other words, these aquarium filters provide best condition for your fish to be more active and healthy.
2.Internal filters (internal power filters) for 10-40 gallon tanks
These aquarium filters are designed to be placed underwater and therefore they are popular among the fish tank owners who have limited amount of space. They are highly versatile and internal filters are pretty handy in terms of compactness. These fish tank filters are exceptionally effective when it comes to filtering as they are usually placed at the bottom of the aquarium where most of the solid waste is deposited. Usually these aquarium filters are ideal for relatively smaller fish tanks that have capacity within the range of 10-40 gallons.
Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter from Penn Plax
This is among the highly rated fish tank filters in the market today for obvious reasons. Impressive filtration together with great aeration is a benefit for any aquarium owner. It filters the water using three effective filtration methods; biological, chemical and physical. It can effectively eliminate both toxins and odors from the water. These aquarium filters are manufactured to be fully submersed inside the tank and they perfectly match for tanks with 20 to 50 gallons capacity (with a 175 GPH).
3.Canister filters: best for medium to extra-large fish tanks
Canister aquarium filters are also manufactured with better versatility; they come with biological, mechanical and chemical filtration process. Experts recommend this type of fish tank filters for medium to extra-large fish tanks. These filters can handle a lot of waste excreted by large number of fish as the body of the canister is powerful and larger than the conventional models. Depending on the model, these fish tank filters might come with multiple canisters with multiple layers. However, canister aquarium filters might need more effort to be installed.
CF Series Canister Filter from Aquatop
If you own a large fish tank that requires a powerful filtration process, these are the aquarium filters that might match your requirement. These fish tank filters come in the form of 3+1 system that suits both fresh and saltwater alike. It is powerful enough to filter 370 gallon per hour and suits for fish tanks that have capacities up to 125 gallons. It is powered with premium quality activated carbon, bio-balls and ceramic rings to facilitate a better overall filtration process.
4.Corner filters (internal box filters) – for small tanks
The aquarium filters that fit in the corners of the tank perfectly are known as corner filters or internal box filters. These fish tank filters can draw water towards it and send it through the filter media. Usually these devices come in an acrylic or plastic boxes. These boxes are to be placed inside the tank. The filtration process of these aquarium filters is powered by an air pump which is placed outside.
Corner Filter Aquarium Fish Tank Internal Air Driven Filter from Aquapapa
This is a nicely designed filter with an affordable price tag. It is made with an easy-to-clean design. Thanks for the effective mechanism of this device, it can provide just the right amount of oxygen for smaller tanks ranging between 5-10 gallons capacity. It is made to consume very low amount of energy. It provided both the mechanical and biochemical filtration process.
5.Sponge filters – best for breeding, quarantine or fry tanks
Just like the name suggests, sponge aquarium filters function based on a sponge straining system. When the water is sent through this particular sponge, the filtration process will start. Although such filters initially function in the form of mechanical filtration process, it works as a biological filter too; the sponge gets matured over the time with bacterial colonies and starts to perform as a biological filter.
Different sponge fish tank filters come with various sizes, shapes and holes. Depending on the type of the filtration requirement, you can select the filter because of this versatility. More importantly, these filters can be powered by various methods such as power heads or air pumps. Generally, these pumps are regarded to be the best fit for breeding or fry pants.
XY-2831 Air Pump Sponge Filter from XINYOU
If you are looking for biological aquarium filters for your tank, this is a kind of a product you should try. This particular sponge filter has the best kind of sponge which is the home for perfect bacterial colonization and eventually performs a very effective biological filtration together with a mechanical filtration. However, it doesn’t trap any fish fry and therefore it is the ideal filtration solution for breeding spawning. Usually, these sponge aquarium filters match perfectly with tanks up to 10 gallon capacity. XY-2831 is ideal to be used as a secondary or a breeding filter.
Generally, under gravel fish tank filters work collaboratively with gravel at the bottom of the fish tank. These aquarium filters use gravel as the initial filtration media; the water is drawn towards the filter via the gravel. What you purchase in the form of a filter will be grate that is made out of plastic. It is capable of keeping the gravel slightly above the bottom of the tank and permit tubes to flow water with the assistance of an air pump or air pump.
20L/29 Premium Undergravel Filter from Lee
Premium under-gravel filter is one of the best products among the aquarium filters in the market today. The manufactures have used the top quality, special kind of plastic to prevent cracking and splitting. Durability and best return for the money you spend are guaranteed with this special filter. As it comes with large plate sized, you will need less number of plates to cover the bottom of your tank. Thanks for the UGF plates added for extra strength, they can withstand saltwater very effectively.
7.Wet/Dry filters – for reef or large freshwater tanks
Wet/Dry filters are also known to be trickle aquarium filters. These filters effectively remove debris from water of your fish tank when it overflows. These fish tank filters makes the tank to overflow and directs that water through a filter with the assistance of a sump. The filtered water will then be pumped back to the tank either in the form of spilling or spraying. This process continues as a cycle.
Aquatics Premier 125 Wet Dry Aquarium Filter from ProClear
These wet/dry fish tank filters are ‘must-haves’ for most of the aquariums. These fish tank filters are capable of boosting the biological filtration process in addition to empowering the mechanical filtration process. Apart from precise filtration process, this particular filter can significantly cut down the maintenance work. It comes with a set of bio-balls and a polishing block in addition to variety of other components to facilitate a nice filtration. Aquatics Premier is recommended by experts for tanks up to 120 gallons.
Diatom filters are advanced aquarium filters that function with diatomaceous earth. These fish tank filters effectively reduces the micron levels in order to get rid of the unnecessary particles. These aquarium filters can provide an incredibly effective filtration process and make water crystal clear.
XL diatom filter from Vortex
This particular diatom filter from Vortex uses a very smart technology to deploy a better filtration process. It comes with a base diameter of 7 ½”. It can practically filter the water in your aquarium without necessarily ruining the natural bacteria population. The main intention of installing these fish tank filters in your tank is to keep your water free from harmful parasites. It filters up to 350 gallons per hour. Thermally protected water can facilitate a very quite operation.
9.Fluidized bed filters
These particular fish tank filters are also regarded as suspended sand filers. In general, these filters are manufactured to be fixed behind the fish tank. Also, some of these aquarium filters come with canisters that fixed in the sump which will be interconnected with a water pump. Water will be sent through special media that is usually made out of particles such as silica, plastic etc.
Fluidized GFO and Carbon Filter Media Media Reactor from AquaMaxx
These special fish tank water filters are known to be multipurpose. In general, these fish tank filters match for marine and reef. It works fine with most of the media and help getting rid of toxic substances, algae etc. Thanks to the special mechanism, it can evenly filter water by sending through the strainer.
How to choose the best fish tank filters
As we already know, there are hundreds if not thousands of aquarium filters in the market. Despite the shapes and sizes, these aquarium filters come with certain fundamental differences. The way they operate is different from one to another. Don’t think that any aquarium filter will fit your fish tank; there are several things to consider before buying a fish tank filter therefore. Here are the most important things you should consider when purchasing best fish tank filters.
Determine the GPH rate (Gallons per hour) of aquarium filters
The GPH of a fish tank filter is often known as the flow rate too. This term explains the amount of water flows through the filter within an hour. If you use canister aquarium filters, you should clearly know the amount of water it filters per hour and see if they practically handles the capacity of the aquarium. However, the GPH rate greatly depends on what height the pump head is placed.
Be sure to purchase it from a reputed vendor
There can be hundreds of vendors that sell fish tank filters both online and offline. Be sure to select a vendor that has a good reputation as a quality product supplier. You probably should read the testimonials page or the customer reviews section of the respective supplier’s website and get an insight to the quality of the fish tank filters they deal with.
Consider the type of the fish tank you have
You have to seriously consider the type of the fish tank you have before shopping around for aquarium filters. Some aquarium filters suits only special kinds of aquariums. So, you should know what sort of filters matches what aquariums.
Determine the size of the tank
Some aquarium filters match smaller tanks only while some filters best suit for large aquariums. If you do not match the sizes well with the fish tank filters, the consequences can be unpleasant.
Besides, it is always better to get the instructions from the manufacturer before you actually make the purchase. Always follow the provided instructions when using the fish tank filters for optimal results.
How to install fish tank filters
Now you know all the important facts about fish tank filters such as how to select the right one and some of the best products in the market; it is time to see how to install them correctly.
Start with assembling
The first step of installing the filter you purchased is assembling it. It is crucial to ensure that all the components are assembled perfectly; remember that some fish tank filters are harder to assemble than the other. Follow the manufacturer’s manual correctly.
After putting all the parts together correctly, you should start to install the filter. Installation process might differ from filter to filter. If it is an under gravel filter, be sure that lift tubes and other components are well fitted before filling water.
Installing external fish tank filters is relatively easier. They generally come with external power cables; be sure, however, that the water doesn’t get through to the power cables. No matter what the type of the filter, you must not turn it on if the tank is not filled with water.
Ask for help
If you find it difficult to install the filter, don’t be hesitant to ask for help. Wrong installation might ruin your filter. So, ask for help from someone who knows how to do it. If now, there are plenty of instructional videos to follow in the internet.
How to clean fish tank filters
Here are some things you should know when cleaning different types of filters.
You must clean the sponge of the filter with some water taken from the tank itself. It is good for the fish inside the tank. Be sure to unplug the filter. If possible, take the filter out of the tank (in to a separate bowl). It is OK to squeeze and clean the sponge. Make sure water runs through the filter. If necessary, wear a pair of gloves. Don’t replace the sponge unless it is compulsory to do so.
Use some existing water and clean the other components as well. It is better to use a filter cleaning brush to get rid of spots.
Place the sponge back in the filter and install the filter as it was and turn in on.
It is just simple; replace the carbon weekly or when you notice that the water is dirty.
These filters don’t need to be cleaned frequently (you need to let the bacteria be there as long as you can). However, when you need to clean it, just rinse with some water from the tank (as you would do with a mechanical filter).