You Just Got A New Fish Tank, What Filter Is Best?
Fish Tank Mike
Picking the right filter for your new aquarium can at first seem like an overwhelming task. So may different types and sizes of filtration are available, one needs to sift though all the choices to find the correct match. In today's article I'll highlight my favorite filters for a few different ranges of aquarium sizes. NOTE: All the filters we discus are the best of the best, they are all silent, reliable and trusted.
Before we get into the specific picks, I want to quickly mention two types of internal filters for smaller to medium sized aquariums. I personally don't use any type of filter that takes up room in my aquariums because i'm always focused on the aquascape. These filters work great, they just take up valuable room and visual space in the aquarium.
One example is the internal power filter, this specific one is made by Aquatop and is only rated at about 42 gph. It would work great on a 2-7 gallon planted tank and is very inexpensive. It comes with a removable spray bar, making it easy to create good water surface agitation and oxygenation.
Sponge filters are another good choice for small to medium sized aquariums as they provide a high surface area for bacteria and extra oxygenation. These filters are air driven and thus require you to have an aquarium air pump. Sponge filters can be great for someone with several tanks. With strong enough of an air pump, you could run 20+ of these off one source instead of having 20 small hang on back filters plugged in to each one.
This type of filter is great for shrimp tanks as they love to feed off the material. Another good use of these filters is a hospital tank. They are easy to remove and clean in aquariums where you are not concerned about the aquascape.
Great Filters For Small Tanks 20g or less
Lets start with my filter recommendations for smaller aquariums that are less than 20 gallons. For me, hang-on-back (HOB) filters are the way to go. They are small, efficient and take up very little visual space in your aquarium. Let's take a look at a couple that I really like.
Azoo HOB Filter
Inexpensive hang-on-back filter that works well on smaller tanks. The Azoo 60 fits well on 10 gallon tanks all the way down to 5 gallons. If your tank is a little larger, say 15 to 20 gallons, the Azoo 150 will do the job! It has a little more flow and a larger media capacity. Perfect filter for small shrimp and betta tanks.
Dymax Slim Flo
The Dymax Slim Flo comes in a few different sizes and can provide great filtration to smaller tanks. Similar to the Azoo, the Dymax comes with a pre-sponge filter to prevent large particles from clogging up the main filter. The smallest version is good for tanks in the 5-10 gallon range with the largest version working well on tanks 20 gallons and slightly above.
Canister Filters For Small Tanks 10-20g
Sometimes you just want more filtration capacity; that's where canister filters come in. These filters will stay on the exterior of your tank while continuously filtering your tank water. I like to use these two mini canister filters on smaller tanks, usually 25 gallons or less.
Oase Filtosmart 60
The Oase Filtosmart 60 is a good filter for tanks 15 gallons or less in my experience. It includes all the tubes, inlet, outlet, etc. You can even purchase a separate mounting clip to transform it into a hang-on-back canister filter! Pretty cool.
I have used this small canister on betta tanks as well as shrimp aquariums where i'm feeding a lot and need more filtration capacity.
This small canister filter has a slightly higher flow rate than the Oase Filtosmart 60 and thus I have used in on up to a 20 gallon planted tank with great success.
It comes with everything you see in the picture, just remember you can swap out the inlet/outlet with other components like glass lily pipes if you prefer!
Filters For Larger Aquariums 20 to 75 Gallons
Now that we have a handle on smaller tanks, let's chat about some larger tank options. There is a wide range here, but i'll break down my specific preferences as we go along.
Oase Filtosmart Thermo 200
This is my go to filter for tanks 29-40 gallons, Here's why: It has a comparable mechanics and flow rate to other canisters in the same price range but have the option of a built-in heater. You can purchase either model, with or without heater, but this is huge for me. Again, i'm all about less stuff in my aquarium and this filter solves my heater issue. If you need a more or less flow, adjustments can be made on the outlet, or you can simply purchase the Filtosmart 100 or Filtosmart 300 to get a weaker/stronger pump.
Fluval 207 Canister
The Fluval 207 canister filter is a super popular option, your going to see this thing everywhere. It's a great filter, I've used several of them over the years. The included inlet/outlet tubing is fantastic, probably the best on the market. Never had an issue with any of my Fluval filters, although it does not have the built-in heater element like the Oase. There is also a FLuval 107, 307 and 407 for different sized tanks and situations. Inherently, all canister filters have the same little issues but for the most part the Fluval and Oase brands are both rock solid choices.
Oase Biomaster Thermo 350
Need more beef? The Biomaster series has it. Just like the Filtosmarts, these canisters can include a built-in heater or not, depending on what you need. The non heater version can still be adapted to fit a heater if you change your mind. The Biomasters also feater a really nice quick clean system that allows you to clean the intake sponges without having to fully open the filter. This is a HUGE plus. I like using the 350 on tanks 40-75 gallons. The slightly lower flow rate 250 model is good for slightly small tanks.
Filters For Aquariums 75 and Up
Now let's talk about the big boys! Another wide range of aquarium sizes, let's break it down a show off the best filters for the job!
Oase Biomaster Thermo 600
The Biomaster Thermo 600 is the filter I use on my 167 gallon planted tank called Ancient Gardens. I'll be honest, I would like this filter to have more flow as it sit at about 350 gph. Not a problem for me since I have wavemaker on the other side of the tank. For me, this is the perfect filter for tanks literally 75 gallons to 150 gallons. It will work great on pretty much any size in that range as long as you are dealing with a reasonable sized community of fish.
The Fx4 is a great filter from Fluval, its high powered and has great media capacity. Kind of shaped like a short bucket, the Fx4 is a great pick for tanks in the same range as the Biomaster 600. My only issues are as follows: No heater, can be awkward to get in and out of cabinet (bulky shape) and its annoying to open up and clean.
The advantage here is the flow rate, if you are concerned about turnover due to having a high number of high waste producing fish, then the Fx series will most likely be the right choice.
The Fx6 is just a larger (taller) version of the Fx4 with of course an even higher flow rate. This is gonna be your filter all the way up to 220 gallons, at that point though, you probably want 2 of them.
So there is my guide on filters for different sized aquariums. Keep in mind there are a ton of different brands and even other styles of filters I just didn't have the time to cover. The purpose here was to highlight the best of the best when it comes to aquarium filters so you don't have to weed though it all. Hope it helps :)