The best fish tank filters will vary on the purpose you require the filter to serve. There are many different styles of filtration and your choices will depend on your aquarium requirements including aquarium size (volume and quantity) fish type (fresh or saltwater) and many other variables, in the majority of cases filters will be beneficial to the maintenance and well being of your scaly friends, but not always a mandatory requirement. First we will start with filtration types, to give you an understanding of how they work and their specific filtration purposes.
Fish Tank Filter Types
- Air Driven Filters – Sponge Filters and Box filters
- Under Gravel Filters – Air and Power driven
- Internal Power Filters
- Hang On Power Filters
- External Power Filters – Canister
- Wet and Dry Filters
- Fluidized Bed Filters
- UV Filters
Air Driven Filters
Air driven filters are fish tank filters that run on an external air pump rather then it’s own motor like that of a power filter. Air is pumped into the tank through an external compressor known as an air pump. The “air pump” pumps air into the fish tank and up through the center of the filter, as the air travels through the filter it draws the water into the filter element creating circulation, air-ration and filtration. Air filters come in many different shapes and styles, but the two most common variations are box filters and sponge filters.
- Box Filters – Are just that, a box generally shaped to fit in the corner of an aquarium, the contents of the filter is usually a replaceable styled media like filter wool or sponge and can coupled with carbon (typically non activated) to increase its filtration benefits. The filter media (wool & carbon) are replaced generally weekly or fortnightly depending on the tank size and quantity of fish.
- Sponge Filters – Simply put are an exposed sponge rather then a box with added media. Sponge filters typically don’t allow for extra filtration media like box filters, however the sponges are generally reusable for some time. Anywhere from a few months to even years.
Air Filter Purpose
Air Filters are best suited to small aquariums, anywhere from 10 – 30 liters, but depending on the circumstance the have been used in numerous sized tanks. Due to their replaceable medias the filters will not hold much in the way of healthy bacteria, but this is not an issue with small aquariums where the majority of the water is replaced regularly. Having an air filter on a small aquarium can decrease maintenance buy up to 50%. Air filters are commonly used for goldfish, Betta’s (Siamese Fighting Fish) and nursery tanks for baby fish. The air filters are perfect for these circumstances due to their low volume turnover, a typical small air-rater or air pump will pump 150 l/ph (liters per hour). Very large air pumps typically known as compressors can be used to run multiple air filters, people have been known to use this style of setup to reduce power usage, however their are certain styles of hang on filters that would do a much better job and use less power then a compressor. But the initial cost of multiple air driven filters would be much cheaper.
Best Deals On Air Filters
General Double Super Biochemical Sponge Filter Air Powered Filter for Aquarium Fish Tank
- Sponge filters provide both mechanical and biological filtration — Works great,easy to clean (squeeze in tank water), keeps water cycled and clear.
- Simply install an airline into the unit and provide both aeration and filtration for your fish
- Aerobic bacteria colonize the sponge providing a bacterial substance to facilitate the nitrogen cycle
- The filter is therefore the best choice for specific application for raising Discus, Angel Fish and other fish
- Environmentally friendly and filter operation is no noise【Max Tank Size: 53 Gallons】
Corner Filter Aquarium Fish Tank Internal Air Driven Filter with Media XY-2008
- Supply the water with much needed oxygen, For tank size up to 5-10 Gallons
- Reduce noise from air pump and consume lowest wattage.
- Multi-layer media, easy to move and clean.
- Top layer of white filter pad provides a mechanical filtration.
Black bio-sponge and ceramic rings with gravel provide biochemical filtration.
Tetra Whisper Air Pump
- For use in 10-Gallon aquariums
- Whisper air pumps provide reliable service at an economical cost
- Efficient and easy to use
Under Gravel Filters
Under gravel filters named so because the are hidden under the gravel of your fish tank. This style of filter can be run by an air pump just like the previously discussed sponge and box filters or it can also be connected to internal power head (internal power filter without the filter) or external canister filter to increase it’s filtration throughput. The idea behind the under gravel filter is to create a large oxygenated surface area hidden under the gravel to break down waste. In tern cleaning the tank without the use of filter media’s like wool carbon and other matrix. However some under gravel filters come with replaceable filter heads, which honestly don’t do a great deal to filter the water. Just like the sponge and box filters the under gravel filter typically uses air to draw water and waste, but in this circumstance it is drawn into and under the gravel. This style of filtration is fairly outdated and bacterial filtration has been well outperformed by certain ceramic filter media’s which create a much greater bacterial surface area breeding ground then that of the bottom of your fish tank. However it is still a popular style of filtration as it is easily hidden and comes in various sizes for fish tanks ranging 6 inches to 6 feet. Also combining the under gravel filter with an external canister filter or a wet and dry filter is an easy and effective way to increase your biological filtration.
Best Deals On Under Gravel Filters
Lee’s 20L/29/26S Original Undergravel Filter, 12-Inch by 30-Inch or 10-Inch by 36-Inch
- Made of special quality plastic which resists splitting and cracking
- Also has optional flow-thru set-up for use with a power head
- Size: 12-inch by 30-inch or 10-inch by 36-inch
AquaClear 50 Powerhead, 270 Gallons per Hour
- Increases water flow through a gravel substrate and improves its filtering efficiency
- Provides stronger currents and consistent output over time
- Maximum flow rate of 270 gph
- Silent operation; Powerhead lifts water as well as moves it
- Provides additional safe mechanical filtration
Internal Power Filters
Internal Power Filters are a submersible filter similarly designed to the box filter, but with its on submersible motor completely sealed and safe to place under water and plug directly to a power source rather then using a external power source like an air pump. The motor is much stronger and more compact then an air pump, it consists of a magnetic driven propeller and can pump from as little a 5 l/ph through to 8,000 + liters per hour. The filter media in internal filters varies but at a minimum they include a sponge which is reusable up to around 6 months and can also include compartments for carbon (activated charcoal) which lasts 6 – 8 weeks and ceramic bio matrix (bacterial filtration) which can last years.
Internal Power Filter Purposes
The internal power filter can be used as an alternative to air driven filters, it’s power and reusable filter media make it a more efficient choice and the price difference is generally fairly competitive to the air driven styles when you include you are required to purchase a pump airline, even connectors and one way valves. When wouldn’t you purchase an internal power filter over air driven? When you are using the tank as a nursery for raising baby fish, as the internal power filter is much stronger and could suck up the unsuspecting fingerlings. Although the internal power filter is very strong and versatile it is not recommended to be used as a stand alone filter for saltwater aquariums, as it’s size limits its ability to carry the required bio matrix for salt water aquariums.
Best Deals On Internal Power Filters
JEBO AP112F Internal Filter for Aquariums, 66GPH
- Flow rate: 66 GPH
- Increase oxygen content
- Improve water circulation
Hang On Power Filters
Hang on power filters are an external alternative to the internal power filter. If you have the room to hang a filter on the back or the side of your aquarium this is a really great option. It gives you the power of an internal, with generally more room for filter media and matrix such as foam, carbon, ammo-rid and bio matrix. With the added ability to take up less room within the fish tank. This is my preferred all round option for fresh water aquariums, it’s ease for access and cleaning.
Hang On Power Filter Purposes
The hang on power filter can be used as an alternative to air driven filters, it’s power and reusable filter media make it a more efficient choice and the price difference is slightly more then that of the internal power filter. When wouldn’t you purchase an hang on power filter over air driven or internal power filters? When you are using the tank as a nursery for raising baby fish, as like the internal power filter it is much stronger and could suck up the unsuspecting fingerlings. Also when you don’t have the room or a cabinet with a hood. Although the hang on power filter is very strong, larger and holds more matrix, it is still not suitable to be used as a stand alone filter for saltwater aquariums, as it’s size limits its ability to carry the required bio matrix for salt water aquariums.
Best Deals On Hang On Power Filters
Aqua Clear Power Filter – 110 V
- Refiltration system that offers superior contact time with filter media and energy efficient pump lowers operating costs
- Quick and easy installation
- Filtration volume is up to 7 times larger than comparable filters
- Comes equipped with AquaClear Foam, Activated Carbon and BioMax and Cycle Guard for continuous biological filtration and superior water quality
- 2-year warranty; Ideal for aquariums up to 50 gallons
External Power Filters – Canister Filters
External power filters also known as canister filters are a power driven filter similar to the that of the internal power filter, except they sit outside of the aquarium and are much larger. Like the hang on power filter, the canister filter takes up to no room in your fish tank with only an inlet and outlet traveling to and from the filters motor and canister.