2018’s Best Fish Tank Filter Reviews: Top Aquarium Filtration Systems

the best aquarium filtersA lot of people have a fish tank for various reasons. One of the main reason is that they are a relaxing addition to the house and bring a sense of peace to a room. With the correct LED lighting in your tank, you can also produce some impressive light array effects that can be very therapeutic.

However, it is very important that you get all the necessary fish tank attachments when you own a tank to ensure that the fish inside is well and healthy, as well as any plant life you may be growing also. You do not want you little fish to be swimming around in their own waste and in toxic substances that have been produced by their own gills.

A fish tank filter is the best way to help maintain the health of your fish and to make sure that the environment is safe for them to live in. A filtration system essentially purifies the water and makes it clean and fresh, just like the ocean they came from. However, choosing a filtration system is actually very difficult, there are just too many brands and variations. A lot of them have fancy bells and whistles whereas others are a little more simple.

Read our simple yet comprehensive guide so that you can get the most bang for your buck on the best aquarium filter money can buy…

Best Fish Tank Filters – Freshwater Filtration Systems

Now that we have covered just about all you need to know when choosing an appropriate aquarium filter, let’s dive in and have a look at the best ones on the market. We have selected 8 of the top ones and using the knowledge that you read above should help you find the best fish tank filter for your tank. Without further ado, here they are.

Fluval Fx6 Aquarium Canister Filter

Like many of the products on this review, this aquarium filter is a canister. It will start up once the canister is filled with water and, fortunately, you are not required to siphon the water for it to function effectively. The filtration system is also great because you can have the spout firing streaming of water into multiple areas of the tank so purify the water with an even spread.

The device also has a purge valve with the purpose to help during tank maintenance. The water intake is shaped in a way that allows the filter to suck more water at a quicker rate, which is always beneficial.

The filtration system is also very quiet and will not keep you awake if you have the tank in your bedroom. It should also be noted that it is clog-proof and has a screen to prevent any debris from entering the system, which could break it and prevent filtration.

The only issue with this filtration system is that there are massive sponges which do not help with the removal of bacteria inside the fish tank. Other than that, it is a great canister filtration system.


Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Cascade 1500

This is a great aquarium filter and, again, is of canister design. It’s a favorite for many because of its broad application and the fact that it can deal with the majority of tanks, due to the fact that it goes up to 200 gallons. The filtration system is also great for both saltwater and freshwater, which will be good news to some of you.

It has a 360-degree rotation feature allowing it to filter and cleanse areas all over the tank, making it perfect for larger aquariums. The device also pumps 350GPH and need to be maintained for high performance.

Due to the design, the product will last a long time without the need of replacement and will start with the touch of a button. In terms of cleaning, there are a lot of attachments and filter media which can help with biological, chemical and mechanical waste.

The one issue with this canister aquarium filter is that is it loud. The device tends to grind and chatter when it is filtering the water, which may be very annoying if the tank is in a waiting room or in a quiet room in the house. Apart from that, this aquarium filter is fantastic for all tank types.cta

Fluval External Fish Tank Filter

This aquarium filter is perfect for any type of fish tank and is a very clean and efficient filtration system. It is also able to pump both freshwater and saltwater, which is good to know.

The pump has some power technologies which allow it to pump water at an impressive rate and this is what makes it stand out from the competitors on this list. Some of you would be happy to know that this filtration system is also very quiet and will not make horrible grinding and vibrating noises like some other pumps on the list.

The pump is also very easy to setup and is great for beginners. It has an instant start-up option that makes it easy to start and is held in place using clamps that offer great support. Another fantastic feature is that the device can be cleaned and maintained because it is made of multiple components that can be detached separately.

The only real issue with the great filtration system is that it is very expensive and is more expensive than a lot of competitors on this list. Nonetheless, it is still great for the majority of tanks.cta

EHEIM Classic External Canister Fish Tank Filter Media

This a great device that is one of the few filtration systems that has not been reported to leak. This is because of the permo-elastic silicon seal that is used to keep the filter watertight.

This filtration system can also tackle all types of waste, including biological, chemical and mechanical (because it is a canister system) and has various attachments such as an inlet hose, a spray bar and much more. With the extra filter media that this system can have added, it is easy to increase its working capacity for larger tanks.

The main issue with this device is that there have been questions about the durability of some of the filter’s components and further research is required.


Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g

If you are looking for a durable and reliable piece of kit that will require less attention, this filtration system is for you. The company that makes this device are well known for their expertise and history of making quality filtration systems and with 2217 there is no exception. This is a reliable system and you won’t need to change it or maintain it as often as some of the other systems on this list.

This aquarium filter is truly amazing and has a whole host of features. It has one chamber that makes it very to choose, insert and swap out filters without any hassle.

When it is time to change a filter you simply have to slide it out and replace it – no need for fiddling and effort as with some other devices. With better tech and better efficiency, they filtration system is perfect for any tank.

The only thing that we can critique the device on is that the sprayer begins to lose its capabilities as time goes on.


Eheim Classic External Canister Filter 2215

This is another excellent filtration system that can be used in any fish tank. The company that makes these devices is well-known for their fantastic filters and fish tech and there is no exception with this device. It is reliable and powerful enough to suit your every need. Every Eheim aquarium filter we have used in our tanks has performed very well and we would recommend this brand to a lot of people.

This device is also very affordable and has a lower power consumption cost, meaning you have little excuse if you’re looking for a filter to clean your tank and maintain your fish’s health. The system also runs smoothly and it very quiet, which is always an added bonus.

The only issue we could find with this filter is that the design has never changed and they seem to be very boring. Maybe Eheim should add a little design variation to their latest additions?


Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Cascade 1000

This filter is one of the big boys in this list and can be primarily used for larger fish tanks. This heavy-duty filter can pump an impressive 265GPH and is perfect if you have a fish tank that has 100-gallons+. Saying this, the tank is still useful if you have a smaller tank, the only issue is that it is quite big and may take up a larger space.

This filter is very reliable and won’t need changing or replacing for a long time. The device is designed to last and has a series of filters that make it perfect for all types of waste, including biological, mechanical and chemical, thanks to the application of a coarse sponge. As a bonus, you even get free filter media with each canister bought!

However, with a big filter comes more power consumption. This is not an eco-friendly filter and will result in increased power consumption which may be a problem for some of you.


Fluval Aquarium Canister Pro Kit

This is another aquarium filter that is especially good at stopping leaks because of its stop valves. As well as leak preventing, this filter is simply another device that will keep your tank incredibly clean and is a really reliable machine.

The filter does not need to be changed or maintained as frequently as other tanks and is very easy to start up. The operation is instant and only requires the touch of a button. Once it is running, you’re pretty much good to leave it.

As a bonus, the device is very quiet and you won’t be bothered too much when you’re sleeping or if you use this in a hospital waiting room.

The only small issue with this tank is that it is expensive (more so than some of the other tanks on this list) and is not exactly the best-looking device that money can buy. However, if you’re not bothered about these factors then go ahead with the purchase!


Fish Tank Filter Buying Guide

Before we even get involved with the filtration system reviews and guide, you need to know what you’re looking for so you can make a quick decision about which system suits your needs.

Below we have made a guide for you to follow, so you know the considerations you need to make when choosing. It is important to get the right filter for the right rank otherwise it may not function to the best of its abilities.

Assess the Water Flow Rate of the Filter

oxygen flowThis is important for a number of reasons. The first being that you are going to want a filter that can clean more water in a shorter period of time and the flow rate is measured in gallons per hour (GPH). The higher the rating the faster the filter pumps water.

You need to research the rating of the filter and the recommended rate for your tank. A common rule of thumb is that the bigger the tank, the higher the GPH. If you have a large tank you are going to want one that can clean water faster than it can get grubby, so aim for something faster.

The Technology of the Filter

A lot of brands have different features and are always trying to one-up the competition. A lot of the companies will claim to have the best features, yet some features may be harmful to your tank in particular. It is important to research the features and technologies of each product before you go ahead with your purchase. It is important to find a system that works with your style of tank and its size.

Assess the Size of Your Fish Tank (Small or Large?)

A lot of filters will be able to pump and work with a range of high quality fish tanks, no matter if it’s big or small. However, some have fixed GPH and it is important that you read the description of the product before you commit to the purchase.

The brand will also suggest the perfect sized tank to use and once you find this you can begin to look further into the product. This is probably the most important consideration to make when choosing a which one to buy.

Read Aquarium Filter Reviews

aquarium petsReviews are so important in this day and age and they act as social proof for customers, so they know that the product is of high quality and will perform how it’s meant too. You should always assess the reviews of a filtration system before purchasing to see what the community is saying about it.

If the filtration system has a lot of good feedback online then you can be more certain that the system will perform how you need it to perform. Users will also be able to tell you what the key qualities are and whether it is right for your tank.

Aquarium Filter Brands Are Also Important

As with any product, there is always going to be a big brand that is better than the rest. However, with fish tank filters, there are so many brands it can be difficult to assess which one is better. The truth is that some brands offer strengths as well as weakness.

Some have products that are built to last and are sustainable, whereas others have extra features that make life easier for you when maintaining the tank. Sort the products by their rating and you will soon find a good brand that individuals are using and trusting.

Types of Fish Tank Filters

Yep, there is still more considerations that you need to take into account before you go ahead and purchase the first filtration system you see. There are a lot of different options available to buyers so here is a small guide breaking down what you versions you’ll see in the market.

Power filters

These ones are probably the most widely used aquarium filters on this list. They are a fantastic addition to any fish tank and work great to remove all types of waste from biological, chemical and mechanical. They are well-known to be easy to set up and work great if you need to maintain the tank because of their easy cartridge changing system. They tend to hang off the back of the fish tank for convenience purposes and can be used with a range of fish tanks. These are very diverse and popular.

Undergravel Aquarium Filters

gravelThese are exactly what they sound like – a filtration system that sits on the bottom of the tank below a layer of gravel. They are primarily used to clean biological waste and they manage that that through cleverly filtering the waste through the gravel.

The healthy bacteria in the gravel helps to break down the biological waste and leave the water clean and fresh. However, these filtration systems are not the best for chemical and mechanical cleanup but they do sometimes come with replaceable cartridges for this exact purpose. It is important to do your research to see if they do.

Air-Driven Aquarium Filters

These are designed for average-sized to small fish tanks. The kind of ones you would keep at home or in a hospital waiting room. They are easy to setup and fit and can keep the water clean and healthy for your little fish. They are also very diverse and can be used with many different styles of fish tanks. They can still pump a reasonable amount of water and are very well constructed.

Wet and Dry Fish Tank Filters

These are special filters that are mainly designed to deal with the biological waste that is produced in the tank. They get the name “wet and dry” because they are placed both in the water and outside and they make for a great filtering system when you have a saltwater aquarium. They act in a way that increases the number of good bacteria that breaks down the biological waste, leaving you with clearer water and happier fish.

Canister Filters

These are an all-in-one kind of filter and work to clear and get out all types of waste, including chemical, biological and mechanical. They are bigger products and can range in the number of “canisters” they have. The canister is actually the main body of the filter and has different sections inside that helps deal with various impurities.

The bigger the canister the more filter media there is, making it more effective. A big canister may not be suitable for a smaller tank, which is why you tend to see these in bigger aquariums. It is easy to setup (despite the size) and offers fantastic power and flexibility for the user.

What Can an Aquarium Filter Clean?

So that is about it for the best fish tank filters on the market, hopefully, you find one that suits your needs and keep your tank squeaky clean. However, it can be helpful to know what the filters are cleaning exactly. We have spoken about biological, chemical and mechanical waste, but what if you don’t know the difference? Here is a small guide to help you understand better.

Chemical Impurities

The fact of the matter is that fish cannot swim and live in our drinking water. Although we may consider it “fresh”, it is not to the fish. Our drinking water has a lot of chemicals in it as a result of our own personal filtration process. As a result, fish will not survive long or live healthy lives when they swimming in chemically harmful water.

The products above can clean away the chemicals in the water and leave it pure and fresh for fish to live in. They have special technologies (that we won’t get into) that allow the water to be rinsed of these impurities, once and for all.

Biological Impurities

biologicalBiological impurities are a little simpler to understand. When fish breathe they release a toxic chemical (toxic to them) called ammonia. This is what is released from their gills and if it is left in the water it can actually start to kill the fish.

It works the same way as if a human was breathing CO2 – we wouldn’t survive long. To remove the ammonia from the water a filtration system is required and can remove the toxins from the water before they cause harm to your fish.

Mechanical Impurities

From time to time your fish may leave food behind and other waste. In addition, dust and dirt particles in the air in the room may begin to settle in the fish tank, resulting in dirty water that makes the fish hard to see. This is not just a problem for us but a problem for the fish’s health. A filtration system will make sure that the debris is filtered out of the water, keeping your fish clean and healthy.


We hope you have found this guide useful and that you now have found your perfect filtration system. As we have said before, make sure that you consider a range of factors before you make a decision as to which one to buy. All the products we have listed above are canister-styled. These are the best aquarium filters on the market at the moment and if you want your fish to stay healthy and happy, we recommend one of the eight choices above.