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The 7 Best Filters For Small Aquariums

When maintaining a tiny or nano aquarium, it might be challenging to determine the optimal filtration balance. Some filters remove insufficient trash, while others are excessively strong and threaten your aquatic creatures.

Trying to locate a suitable tiny aquarium filter might even be intimidating. This is when the reviews come into play.

BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has compiled a list of the best filters for small aquariums to assist you in narrowing the field and determining what sort of filter is appropriate for your small aquarium and which specific filter would be the best option for your needs.


Marina Aquarium Power Filter

The Marina Aquarium Power Filter is an excellent, budget-friendly HOB filter for aquariums up to 10 gallons. This filter is simple to install and self-priming, so you need not worry about the motor running dry.

It is available in three sizes and comprises starter filter cartridges, both of which include Ceramitek, a patented filter material that permits healthy bacteria to colonize.

It runs silently with a submersible motor and may be adjusted to accommodate tanks of varied heights. It is designed to be tiny, so it won’t take up too much room in your little tank. This filter has chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration, as well as a strainer sponge for the protection of tiny fish and invertebrates.

This filter’s smallest capacity is 10 gallons, however, it might still be used in a smaller, overstocked aquarium. This filter may shake against the side of your aquarium, and it lacks rubber feet, therefore it may be necessary to place anything between the filter and the glass to reduce vibration sounds.


  • Startup filter media
  • Ideal for tanks no larger than 10 gallons
  • Self-priming
  • Budget-friendly
  • Ceramic filter media are included in filter cartridges.
  • Offered in three sizes


  • Not recommended for tanks under 10 gallons unless overstocked.
  • Filter media are unique to this filter
  • Not equipped with rubber feet or a spacer between the glass and filter.


AZOO Mignon Filter 60

The AZOO Mignon Filter 60 is yet another excellent HOB filter choice, however, it is designed specifically for micro aquariums up to 3.5 gallons. It includes filter media and a strainer sponge to safeguard your aquarium’s most sensitive residents.

This tiny filter is designed for small tanks, so it won’t take up too much space on the tank’s rim. It has an adjustable water flow and an automated restart option so that the filter will resume itself after a power interruption, preventing the engine from overheating.

The provided filter media are unremarkable and readily replaceable with media of your choosing. This filter operates silently and will not vibrate against your aquarium’s glass.

This filter is not suitable for aquariums larger than 3.5 gallons, making it a nano-filter. This is not a suitable choice for an overstocked nano aquarium. The accompanying instructions are unclear and may be difficult to comprehend, so some trial and error may be required to make the filter fully operational.


  • Startup filter media
  • Includes automatic restart following a power failure
  • Best for nano tanks
  • Variable water flow
  • Budget-friendly
  • Filter media are modifiable


  • Not rated for tanks beyond 3.5 gallons
  • Not suitable for an overstocked nano aquarium
  • Instructions are ambiguous.


High Density Hikari Bacto-Surge Foam Filter

The Hikari Bacto-Surge High-Density Foam Filter is the most effective sponge filter for tiny and nano aquariums. Sponge filters are ideal for tanks containing small invertebrates, such as dwarf shrimp and fry because their suction is not strong enough to hurt them.

This filter will produce a vast surface area for the colonization of beneficial bacteria in your aquarium and is an excellent technique to promote moderate water flow and aeration. This sponge is available in three sizes; the small and big sponges are cylindrical, whilst the little sponge is wedge-shaped to fit into a tank corner.

Sponge filters are not a suitable solution for tanks with a significant bioload, thus tanks with large bioload producers, such as goldfish, should not rely only on sponge filters.

These sponges are not certified for specific tank sizes; thus, you must use your best judgment based on the size of your tank and the amount of stocking. To work, sponge filters require an air pump and airline tubing, neither of which are included with these sponges.


  • Protects tiny invertebrates and fry
  • Creates a vast surface area for beneficial bacteria colonization
  • Produces mild water movement and oxygenation in the aquarium.
  • Offered in three sizes
  • Collects vast quantities of organic detritus that will be consumed by invertebrates.


  • Not a suitable alternative for producers with a high bioload
  • Unrated for certain tank sizes
  • Lacks the required air pump and airline tubing


Zoo Med Nano 10 Canister Filter, External

The Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter is the ideal size for nano aquariums of up to 10 gallons. This filter includes startup filter material, however, the media may be customized. The anti-vibration brushings on this filter allow it to run as quietly as possible.

In a nano-sized body, it enables chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration. It is constructed with a small spray bar system that promotes oxygenation and water movement in your aquarium without generating currents that are too powerful for microorganisms. The filter head is designed to be easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance.

Because this filter does not include an intake strainer sponge, you will likely need to purchase one separately to ensure the safety of your nano-sized pets. This canister filter’s limited pumping power makes it inappropriate for tanks larger than 10 gallons or nano tanks that are overstocked. It is not recommended for tanks with a high bioload.

Due to the size of this canister, it will require more regular cleaning and maintenance than other canister filters to keep it functioning and prevent clogging.


  • Suited for nano aquariums
  • Includes filter media for start-up
  • Filter media are modifiable
  • It operates quietly because of the anti-vibration brushing.
  • The sprayer bar produces a moderate water flow and enhances oxygenation.
  • It is simple to remove the filter head for cleaning and maintenance.


  • No intake strainer sponge
  • Low pumping power
  • Not functional for tanks exceeding 10 gallons or nano aquariums that are overstocked.
  • Premium price
  • Requires periodic cleaning and upkeep


Tetra Whisper EX Aquarium Power Filter

Multiple sizes of the Tetra Whisper EX Aquarium Power Filter are available for tanks as little as 10 gallons. It is a HOB filter that features bio-scrubbers that colonize beneficial bacteria and remove any residual ammonia and nitrites before the water returns to the aquarium.

The bio-scrubbers, which are part of this filter’s biological filtration together with mechanical and chemical filtration, never require replacement.

This filter’s filter cartridges are model-specific, and it is challenging to alter the filter media. The filter cartridges will likely need to be replaced monthly or more regularly.

When you initially install it, it may be challenging to prime and start it, so be prepared to invest some effort. This filter is likely too strong for tanks less than 10 gallons, thus you should only use it for tanks of 10 gallons or more.


  • Ideal for tanks no larger than 10 gallons
  • Offered in three sizes
  • Includes filter media for start-up
  • Integrated bio-scrubbers never need replacement.


  • Filter media is model-specific
  • Too potent for nano tanks
  • Hard to prime and install.
  • Filter cartridges require regular replacement


Penn-Plax Crystal Falls Vivarium Aquarium Filter

The Penn-Plax Crystal Falls Vivarium Aquarium Filter is an excellent choice for aquariums up to 10 gallons, particularly if they contain semi-aquatic creatures that require a basking area. This internal filter is concealed under a fake rock basking area that may be maintained partially above the waterline so long as the filter is submerged.

It includes filter media for startups and has space for you to add your own filter media. The fake rock is created from scratch-resistant resin, so it should be able to withstand the aquarium environment. This filter utilizes chemical and mechanical filtering primarily.

This filter is designed for shallow aquariums and vivariums, which makes it ideal for turtles but maybe not the greatest solution for fish. The faux rock cover is not linked to the actual filter, therefore it is conceivable that it will float if fully submerged in some tanks.

This filter only filters 45 gallons per hour, therefore it is not appropriate for aquariums with a high bioload and may be too large for some nano tanks.


  • Ideal for vivariums and aquariums with semi-aquatic creatures
  • Contains a rock-like filter cover that doubles as a sunbathing place.
  • Includes filter media for starting and flexibility for modification
  • Resin resistant to abrasions


  • Not the optimal choice for fish
  • The fake rock cover is detached from the filter.
  • Fake rock may float if completely immersed.
  • Only filters 45 gallons per minute.
  • Perhaps too large for certain nano tanks


Aqueon Betta Volcano Aquarium Filter

The Aqueon Betta Volcano Aquarium Filter is a sponge filter that conceals itself within an ornamental volcano. It is suitable for aquariums of up to 3 gallons and would be a fantastic addition to a bigger aquarium with an additional filtration system.

This filter is constructed of airline tubing, suction cups, an air adjustment valve, and a check valve. This filter provides biological and chemical filtering.

Because the sponge provided with this filter is model-specific, it cannot be customized. Since this sponge is a specialist item, it may be difficult to get replacements. This sponge filter does not include the required air pump, thus you will need to purchase one independently.


  • The filter is buried within the volcanic adornment
  • Also includes suction cups and valves.


  • Only applicable to tanks no larger than 3 gallons.
  • Model-specific sponge filter
  • It could be difficult to locate a replacement sponge.
  • Does not contain air pump

Buyer's Guide


  • The inhabitants of your aquarium have a significant impact in selecting an aquarium filter. Some creatures create a greater bioload than others, thus if your aquarium has two goldfish, it will require better filtration than if it included ten tetras. Consider whether your aquarium has fry, dwarf shrimp, or other small creatures that might be pulled into the filter. If it’s a betta tank, you’ll want to pick a filter that doesn’t generate an excessive amount of water flow.
  • Similar to how your tank is stocked, the size of your tank will define your requirements. Even though they contain the same stock, a 3-gallon tank and a 10-gallon tank may have radically different filtering requirements. The effectiveness of a filter may be affected by the size and form of the tank.
  • Other Filtration: If your aquarium contains an additional filter, you have access to choices you wouldn’t have otherwise. A sponge filter would be a nice addition to a tiny goldfish tank with a HOB filter, but it would not be efficient or effective enough on its own.
  • Consider the available area surrounding your aquarium while deciding which filter to purchase. Some HOB filters may require more room than others, so if your aquarium is pressed against a wall, you’ll need to consider where you’ll place the filter. The same is true with canister filters, as they need a considerable amount of room outside of the tank. Are you able to place a canister filter on the tank stand on the floor adjacent to the aquarium?

Varieties of Filters

  • Hang-On-Back Filters are the most prevalent form of aquarium filter. Typically, they are excellent at filtering out huge debris, but they have a tendency to consume little aquarium creatures.
  • This sort of filter is completely exterior to the aquarium, and a series of pipes draw water from the tank, filter it, and then return it. Typically, these filters allow for complete modification of filter material and are quite efficient, especially in tanks with high bioload.
  • Internal: Internal filters operate similarly to HOB filters, except that they are submerged entirely within the aquarium. Because it is difficult to connect a strainer sponge to the intake, they are often not a good alternative for small aquatic creatures.
  • Sponge: Sponge filters are sponges with a modest degree of suction, allowing them to capture very minute particles of waste. They are great for the growth of beneficial bacteria, and snails and dwarf shrimp frequently feed on them. These are insufficient to filter a strongly filled aquarium on themselves alone.


The Marina Aquarium Power Filter is inexpensive, however, the AZOO Mignon Filter 60 is highly effective for nano tanks. These evaluations include the very finest small aquarium filtration systems. Determine the type of filter your aquarium requires, then consider the advantages and downsides of several filters to arrive at the optimal choice.

BestForPets (bestforpets.org) hopes that our reviews of the best filters for small aquariums have assisted you in narrowing down your selections and identifying the ideal product for your needs.


Will Changing my Filter Media Make My Tank Quieter?

Multiple things contribute to the filter’s noise. Therefore, the only method to make the tank quieter is to discover the issue. Once the cause has been identified, the issue may be resolved to lessen the noise production.

Common causes include poor installation, accumulated debris in the filter, and many more. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the root cause before implementing a solution. Simply replacing the filter material is insufficient.

Can I Make an Air Pump Quieter for My Sponge Filter?

Sponge filters are far quieter than staple filters. In addition, because of the sponge’s high porosity, it actively absorbs extra noise, so aiding in noise reduction, particularly with the bubbles. To attain comparable results, you must use a thick, high-quality sponge with air pumps.

Author Image

Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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