A Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Filtration System for Your Aquarium

Having an aquarium can add beauty and life to your space, but this isn’t just all about fish and aquatic life, it’s also about something even more important; choosing the right types of equipment for the tank itself.  This can be a really daunting task considering just how many filtration systems, pumps, thermometers and other products are out there and are available.  Obviously the tank itself is an important part of any aquarium, but a filtration system even trumps over that because this is essentially a piece of equipment that is going to keep the tank clean and healthy for the fish and keep them healthy, alive and thriving.  Sure, you don’t need a sophisticated aquarium water filtration system for a small fish bowl or a small betta tank. Heck, there are even self-cleaning aquariums, which are still relatively smaller than standard fish tanks. Without a filter, though, it would be nearly impossible to keep your fish alive or keep them as pets in a medium to large fish tank.  Before you begin to choose the best aquarium filter, it might be a good idea to understand and educate yourself about the different ones available.  Below, you will see a quick guide on the types of filtration systems available, as well as some of the best options to choose from.

>> In a Rush? Click Here for Our Favorite Aquarium Filter! <<

Box Filters or ‘Corner Filters’

Aquarium Box Filter

These box filters, sometimes also called corner filters are one of the least expensive options to choose from.  These are going to work for smaller tanks – 10 gallons or less.  The corner filter so aptly named is called this because it sits in the corner of the tank.  When you bought a tank in the past, these were the ones you usually bought, but times have changed, and these are being used less and less.  These filters are also not the best aquarium filter to choose from if you are a fish hobbyist and you want to enjoy the view – not have it obstructed by a filter in the corner of the tank!

Under Gravel Filters (UGF)

Under Gravel Filters

These are usually sold in those beginner tank kits you can find in pet stores; they are maintenance free and again inexpensive. You can also make your own DIY under-gravel filter if that tempts you more. You place the filter on the bottom of the tank, under the gravel.  Unfortunately, these tend to clog over time, but again it’s relatively maintenance free so you might need to vacuum the bottom of the tank every few weeks to remove any particles to prevent clogs.

Power Filters

Aquarium Power Filter

These are some of the most common filters used today, because they provide chemical, biological and mechanical filtration.  There are different sizes available depending on the size of your tank and these can usually fit on to tanks that are up to 75 gallons.  The benefits of these are the fact that they are easy to use, easy to set up, easy to maintain and they are pretty affordable too.

Trickle Filters

Trickle Filter

These are a great option if you have saltwater in your tank and they are becoming more and more popular as time goes on.  However, because these are specifically for saltwater, they tend to be medium to highly expensive.  Nonetheless, they are still one of the best options for biological filtration i.e.; they give you the ability to maintain really high quality water.

Canister Filters

Canister Filter

These are a much better option for people that have larger tanks because it can essentially fill a large tank with a lot of water quite quickly.  These are also going to be placed under the tank, whereas many or all of the ones above can be seen in plain sight.  These do require more maintenance though, and they are more expensive.  If you have a larger tank though, and you want it to look as natural as possible, this is a good option. According to us, the Fluval FX6 is the best canister filter overall.

Some of the Best Aquarium Filter Systems – My Picks

Earlier I spoke about helping you find the best aquarium filter.  Below you will find a list of aquarium filters that include the types of filters listed above. All of these fish tank filters have gotten really superb reviews almost everywhere and they are tried and tested.  Hopefully, you find something that can fit into your criteria in terms of price and quality.  The only product not included is the box filter because we already linked out to our favourite box filter from the ‘corner filters’ section and there really aren’t many more options available online.

Lee’s 40/55 Premium Under Gravel Filter, 12-Inch by 48-Inch

Depending on the brand you choose from, Lee’s for example, the plate is going to be made of something different.  You are going to want to find one though, that has a specialized plastic.  This is going to prevent cracking, peeling, or splitting.  The Lee’s 40/55 Premium Under gravel Filter, 12-Inch by 48-Inch is a larger plate but this is a good thing because then you have to use less plates for the tank.  This is a piece of equipment that can also be used for saltwater specifically because it’s made out of quality materials, but make sure when you look at UGF that the product specifically notes that this is what it can be used for because not all products are created equal!

Marineland Penguin Power Filter

This is a product that has almost 4.5 stars on Amazon and yet it’s really quite inexpensive.  For a 20 to 30 gallon you are looking at around $23, which isn’t bad.  For a larger gallon 50 to 70 gallons even that only costs $32.  This filter has a flow rate of 350GPH and is a good option for pretty much any aquarium that go up to 70 gallons.  It also features 3 stage filtrations; mechanical, bio and chemical.  Each filtration system you buy also comes with the right size of the cartridge so you won’t have to go searching all over the place for the right brand, model and size.

Aqueon Power Filter

This is by far one of, if not THE best power filters you will find on the market right now.  This is a system that has every size you could possible think of and the price is pretty sweet as well.  What’s more – the cartridge replacements are really inexpensive. A large pack of 12 it costs around $24 and for a medium 12 pack it costs around $19.53, so not that much of a difference.

SunSun HW-302 3-Stage External Canister Filter, 264 GPH

Mentioned above I said that these are the more expensive option, but one of the things I really like about the Internet these days is being able to shop online and find some of the best prices around.  In a regular pet store this costs anywhere from $60 to $100.  But, I have found it quite a few places for a mere $40!  The SunSun HW-302 3-Stage External Canister Filter, 264 GPH is going to be your best option for tanks that are up to 75 gallons.  It also includes 3 trays that allow you to choose whatever type of media for the filtration that you want, so you can use whatever you are more familiar or comfortable with.  This filtration system will be able to handle 264 gallons per hour and it includes everything you need to get started including the pads for filtration and the hoses.  This is a system that also has a self-priming pump.

Concluding the Aquarium Filtration System Dilemma…

Aquarium filters are one of the most important components of your aquarium. If you’re not relying on a filter yet, you’re committing a huge blunder, while putting the health of your fishes at risk. But even when you decide to get a fish tank filter for your aquarium, choosing one can be hard, simply because there are literally endless options for different fish tank sizes and use cases. Hopefully, you’ve got a fair amount of idea about various types of fish tank filters and how each of them work, from this guide. I’ve also listed some of my top picks that I’ve found to be really efficient, as well as cost effective. I hope this guide about aquarium filtration systems has been able to get you out of your confused state. Happy fish keeping!

3 thoughts on “A Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Filtration System for Your Aquarium”

  1. Do not buy the Aqueon filter!!!!! I have had THREE in the last six months! They last about two months and then burn out. I am going back to the Tetra Whisper. The last one I had lasted about ten years, kept my tank crystal clear, hummed quietly and kept my fish healthy. The Aqueon mentioned here is the one I had for a 25 gallon tank. You cannot imagine the squeal when it went bad. I took the last one apart, cleaned it, put it back in the tank and it lasted about 4 hours before it quit again. They are a piece of crap filter!!!!!

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