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The 8 Best Hob Filters

Finding the ideal filter for your aquarium system may be an arduous task. It seems like every week a new filtering product is introduced to the market. These items frequently fall short of our expectations.

HOB filters are an excellent alternative for all types of aquariums. In addition to filtering out trash and contaminants such as ammonia and nitrites, they help oxygenate the water as it returns to the tank.

HOB filters are an excellent alternative for expanding the colony of beneficial bacteria in your aquarium. Bacteria will develop not only in the filter media but also in the filter housing. HOB filters provide enough surface area for germs, maintaining the health of the aquarium.

BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has compiled these evaluations of the top HOB filters and added pros and drawbacks to assist you in selecting the best HOB filters for your fish tank! We recognize that selecting a filter is arduous, but we're here to help!


AquaClear Power Filter CycleGuard

The AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter is the best HOB filter overall because of its excellent multi-stage filtering, adjustable flow rate, and appealing appearance.

This filter is composed of translucent plastic with a grey tinge, making it easier to observe the filter media. Sizes for up to 20 gallons, 20-50 gallons, 30-70 gallons, and 60-110 gallons are available.

This filter system consists of a sponge for mechanical filtration, an activated carbon pack for chemical filtration, and ceramic rings for biological filtration, and employs a three-part filtering method.

The filter insert section is removable, allowing for easy cleaning and customization with your favorite filter material. The filter features a waterfall-like output with a simple switch mechanism for regulating the flow. The extended filter inlet makes it suitable for tanks of any height.

This filter is recommended by reviewers for overstocked tanks and tanks with strong bioloads, such as goldfish tanks. With the addition of an intake cover, this filter is also suitable for shrimp and breeding tanks. This filter requires priming during setup and deactivation.


  • Tri-level filtering
  • Each filter medium is disposable.
  • Four size choices
  • Simple to clean and modify
  • Extendable intake
  • Waterfall discharge
  • Variable flow
  • Simple to set up
  • Excellent for overstocked and heavy bioload aquariums
  • Compatible with freshwater or saltwater conditions


  • Inbreeding and shrimp tanks require an intake cover.
  • Priming necessary


Tetra Whisper Multi-Stage Power Filter

The Tetra Whisper Multi-Stage Power Filter is a great filtering choice since it has four stages of filtration and the biological filtration never has to be replaced.

This filter features two stages of mechanical filtration, in addition to chemical filtration with activated carbon cartridges and biological filtration with “bioscrubbers” that permit bacterial colonization. This filtration system is offered in four sizes that are all cost-effective for tanks between 10 and 70 gallons.

As Tetra is a well-known aquatics manufacturer, new cartridges and parts for this filter should be readily available. There is room for customization in the filter insert region, however, filter cartridges will need to be updated periodically to avoid disintegration.

The Tetra Whisper filter’s extended intake and flushing function are designed to avoid the accumulation of dirt and trash. This system is simple to install and requires no priming. With an inlet cover, this filter is suitable for use with fried and shrimp.


  • Quadruple filtration
  • Bioscrubbers do not require replacement
  • Extendable intake
  • Somewhat adaptable
  • offered in four sizes
  • Replaceable filter cartridges
  • Simple to set up
  • Does not require priming
  • Integrated flushing system
  • Cost-effective


  • Less quiet than other choices
  • The input cover for fried and shrimp is required.
  • If filter cartridges are not changed, they degrade.


MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter

The MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter is available in five sizes to accommodate tanks up to 10 gallons, 20 gallons, 30 gallons, 50 gallons, and 70 gallons.

This filter has three stages of filtration, a filter cartridge, and MarineLand’s proprietary bio-wheel. The bio-wheel rotates as water passes over it, populating a wide surface area with numerous beneficial microorganisms.

Filter cartridges and the bio-wheel are changeable components. This style of filter is widely sold at pet and aquatics retailers, thus replacement components should be readily available.

Some reviews warn that improper installation of the impeller may result in a loud noise. If assembled properly, the filter should be rather silent. It has an extended intake, however, shrimp and fries will require an intake cover.


  • Five sizes available
  • Tri-level filtering
  • Patented biological filtration bio-wheel
  • Simple to locate parts
  • Does not require priming
  • Extendable intake
  • The filter cartridge and bio-wheel replacements
  • Cost-effective


  • Perhaps bit challenging to install correctly
  • Need ingestion protection for fried and shrimp
  • Bio-wheel is exclusively offered by MarineLand.


Aqueon Aquarium Power Filter QuietFlow

The self-priming Aqueon QuietFlow Aquarium Power Filter is offered in five sizes. This filter is available in the following capacities: 10 gallons, 20 gallons, 30 gallons, 50 gallons, and 75 gallons. It is a four-part filtering system with filter cartridges that may be replaced. This filter employs chemical, mechanical, biological, and wet/dry filtering techniques.

The filter cartridge performs chemical, mechanical, and a portion of biological filtering. Wet/dry filtration and the remainder of the biological filtration occur in a filter pad and plastic bio-grid that the water runs over to minimize ammonia and nitrates.

The internal pump of this filter is supposed to be silent, yet some reviewers have reported a small humming sound. It will automatically restart and prime itself after a power loss and shut off if the water level falls too low, such as during a water change. On the top of the housing is an LED indicator light that illuminates when it is time to replace the filter cartridge.


  • Five available sizes
  • Self-priming
  • Restarts automatically following power disruptions and low water levels
  • LED indication lamp
  • Quadruple filtration


  • It is advised that filter cartridges be changed every four weeks.
  • When filter cartridges have been used for too long, they will begin to deteriorate.
  • Wet/dry sponge also requires frequent replacement
  • Possibly emits a buzzing sound when operating.


Fluval C2 Power Filter

The Fluval C2 Power Filter is a filtration system with five filtering stages. Each filtering step is distinct and requires replacement components. Depending on the component being replaced, replacement intervals might range from two weeks to one year.

Since Fluval is a well-known brand, replacement parts should be readily available. This device cycles water many times, assisting in the elimination of as much big waste as possible, including ammonia. This system is available in up to 70-gallon capacities in three sizes.

This filter must be filled with tank water prior to operation to prevent the engine from overheating during priming. This system’s five-stage filtration permits some customization of filter media, however, it must fit within the detachable filter media housing.

Some reviews have noted that the product’s motor burns out after only a few months of usage and that its operation may be a little noisy.

The filter intake is extensible and equipped with microscopic intake holes. This filter’s flow rate is adjustable, thus it may be safe for fish fry and invertebrates without an intake cover.


  • Five-stage filtration
  • Three available sizes
  • Circulating water circulation
  • Elongated intake with minute intake holes
  • Variable flow


  • Only moderately adaptable filter media
  • Each filtering step must be regularly replaced
  • May run loud
  • The tank must be filled with water to protect the motor at the beginning.
  • The motor might fail after a few months despite maintenance.


AZOO Mignon Filter

The AZOO Mignon Filter is a small HOB filter with a maximum capacity of 3.5 gallons. It employs both mechanical and biological filtration and is equipped with interchangeable sponges. You have the flexibility to customize the filter media in this device.

This filter has a prefilter sponge and an adjustable flow rate, making it an excellent choice for breeders, betta, and shrimp tanks. It is meant to operate with little noise and vibration.

This tank must be filled with water prior to operation to prevent the engine from overheating, but it has an automated water recovery mechanism that assures the pump will resume after a power loss.

This pump is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, hence it is not recommended for use in tanks bigger than 3.5 gallons.


  • Dual-level filtration
  • Contains a prefilter sponge
  • Variable flow


  • Solitary size choice
  • Not suitable for tanks greater than 3.5 gallons
  • Must be filled with water prior to operation.
  • Only moderately adaptable filter media


Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter

Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter is a four-stage, 100-gallon-capacity filtration system available in six sizes. It is used in both freshwater and saltwater environments.

This filter features a variable flow and tiny intake pores, so it may be suitable for use with fry and shrimp without an input cover. The intake is extensible, and the filter is self-leveling to minimize spillage in the case of a bump.

This filtration system’s flow rate may not be sufficient for tanks requiring a high flow rate, and it may be essential to upgrade. Otherwise, it might not purify water and enable garbage to accumulate. This filter is affordable, but its construction may not be durable, making it possibly more expensive in the long term.


  • Quadruple filtration
  • Six size choices
  • Variable flow
  • Elongated inlet with minute holes
  • Auto-leveling function


  • May not efficiently filter bigger systems.
  • Not built to endure
  • Replacement filter cartridges may be challenging to locate.
  • Filter media cannot be modified
  • If filter cartridges are not often replaced, they may deteriorate.
  • Not self-propelled
  • To avoid leaks, O-rings may require frequent maintenance.


Hang-On Back EA Performance Power Filter

The EA Performance Hang-on Back Power Filter is a nano filter for aquariums up to 4 gallons in capacity. It is a two-stage filtration system with an adjustable flow rate developed for betta tanks, however, it is insufficient for tanks with a high bio load, such as goldfish aquariums.

Customizable filter media selections must be very tiny to fit within the filter housing. This filter requires a flat surface to attach on, making it incompatible with bowls and circular tanks.

Due to its small size, it can easily become clogged; thus, a prefilter sponge is advised but must be purchased separately. The tiny motor in this filter is susceptible to overheating, thus prefilter sponges should not impede water flow excessively. Priming this filter is also advised to avoid motor failure.


  • Variable flow
  • Customizable filter media


  • Insufficient for tanks larger than 4 gallons
  • Dual-level filtration
  • Filter media may require cutting to fit.
  • Congeals readily
  • Motor deteriorates quickly
  • Prefilter sponge is advised but not supplied.
  • Not self-propelled

Buyer's Guide

Considerations When Selecting the Appropriate HOB Filter for Your Aquarium:

  • Tank Size: Choosing the correct HOB filter for your aquarium requires selecting the correct size! Attempting to filter a 55-gallon tank with a 40-gallon filter will result in hazy water and despair.
  • Does your 75-gallon aquarium contain 10 guppies or 10 goldfish? Increasing the size of your filter or installing a second filter may be required if your aquarium is overstocked or if you have fish that create a high bioload.
  • How much open room do you have for your HOB filter? Choosing a HOB filter depends on the available rim space, the kind of hood, the depth of the aquarium, and the proximity of the aquarium to the wall. While some filters are long yet narrow, others are the contrary.
  • What are the contents of your tank? A filter that does not suction fry and shrimp into its intake and generates a gentle current is required for a shrimp tank or breeding aquarium. If you have fish or invertebrates that might be pulled into the filter, you will need a HOB filter with a low flow and a coverable inlet.

What to Search For

  • Even the greatest filter may stop functioning for a variety of reasons. A reliable warranty will save you money and time over time!
  • Some items are far more accessible than others. If you get a filter from a brand with readily available cartridge and part replacements, you will have a much simpler experience than you would with a less common or unique product.
  • Customization: Finding a product that allows you to alter filter media or make replacements with non-brand parts when necessary will allow you to tailor your HOB filter to your aquarium.
  • A great product is not necessarily the most costly! Locate a HOB filter that is well-assembled, simple to clean and maintain, and repairable. You do not want to get a filter whose components, such as O-rings and motor parts, cannot be replaced.

Which Filter Media Options Are Available?

  1. Cartridges: These are frequently filter-specific and typically comprise filter floss and activated carbon.
  2. Bio sponges are available in a range of thicknesses and are often trimmable, making them an excellent option for personalization.
  3. Bio balls and ceramic rings: These are small devices with a large colonization surface area. They seldom require replacing.
  4. This sponge-like material can be purchased pre-cut or in huge rolls and then trimmed to size.
  5. These micron filter pads are comprised of a very thin substance that assists in capturing minute waste particles. This may not be suitable for all filters due to the product’s tiny particle size, which may make it difficult for some filters to pump water through.
  6. This product can be ordered in either cartridges or in bulk. It helps eliminate garbage from the water and absorbs unpleasant odors.
  7. Ion exchange resins: These materials can be used to soften water, remove pollutants, and remove minerals.


The AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter grabbed the top place for the best HOB filter overall. BestForPets (bestforpets.org) like stylish, practical filters with configurable choices that may make your fish and invertebrates’ aquarium healthier and safer. The filtration requirements for a breeder or invertebrate tank will differ from those for a big goldfish aquarium.

There’s something for every budget and every aquarium arrangement here! Utilize these evaluations as a reference when selecting the best HOB filters for your aquarium.


What is a Back-Hanging Filter?

In the aquarium hobby, there are several types of filters, including canister filters, sponge filters, corner filters, internal filters, wet-dry filters, etc. Each has its own distinguishing characteristics, benefits, and downsides.

Hang-on-the-back filters do just as their name suggests. They dangle over the aquarium’s rear wall.

All of them have a “lift tube” that extends into the tank itself. A motor draws water up via this lift tube and into the reservoir, which is the body of the filter.

Through an outlet on the front of the filter, the water cascades back into the tank after passing through various filter media in the reservoir.

Hang-on-the-backs are quite popular since they need little space, are simple to install and use, and are often more cost-effective than other types of power filters, such as canisters.

The greatest disadvantage of this type of filter is that there is sometimes insufficient area for biomedia and, by extension, beneficial microorganisms.

However, hang-on-back filters are the most prevalent type of filter used in aquariums by hobbyists.

Do You Really Need an Aquarium Filter?


Filters are among the most essential components of any aquarium. In reality, without a filter, the majority of fish species will perish within a few days.

Let me clarify.

Filters do more than simply circulate water in a tank. Aquarists utilize filters for a variety of reasons, but this is not one of them.

Fish excrete pee and excrement into the water nearly constantly. Gross, but completely accurate.

These wastes build and begin to decompose in the aquarium. As they decompose, they emit ammonia (NH3). Without a filter, wastes continue to decompose, ammonia continues to accumulate, and eventually, the water gets so poisonous that any fish swimming in it would perish.

Filters resolve this issue. Inside aquarium filters is a unique type of filter material known as biomedia. Biomedia is the most significant component of a filter since it is where microorganisms that degrade wastes in the water column develop.

These helpful bacteria consume ammonia and convert it to nitrite (NO2 -1). Nitrite is also a dangerous chemical, but fortunately, bacteria quickly consume it and convert it into nitrate (NO3-).

Nitrate is far less harmful than ammonia or nitrite, so it can accumulate between weekly water changes.

It is essential to degrade these poisons if you wish to keep your fish alive.

There are many various materials that may be used as biomedia, such as ceramic, sintered glass, and bio balls, but they all have one thing in common: bacteria love to dwell in little crevices.

All of these tiny pockets significantly enhance the filter’s surface area, allowing a bacterial colony to grow large enough to keep up with the production of fish waste.

And the more fish in a tank, the more space is required for helpful bacteria to flourish.

There is an insufficient surface area within the tank to accommodate all of the bacteria required to keep the water clean. Therefore, a filter is required to house the helpful bacteria and continuously pump water over them so they may convert all the trash into nitrate.

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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