Biological, mechanical, and chemical filtrations, in any form, are critical to sustaining a healthy tank environment. While there are many sorts of options, cheap and expensive, available to achieve the same, hang-on-back (HOB) filters are one of the most popular choices.
As these filters are smaller and can be maintained easily, HOB filters are more common among aquarists with smaller tanks and space constraints. Moreover, as the name suggests, these units are meant to be hung on the back of the aquarium.
In this article, we’ll compare and review the 8 best HOB filters that we frequently use and recommend.
Table of Contents
7 Top HOB Filters (Hang-on-Back)
Designed for aquariums up to 90 gallons, while we recommend 70, the Aqueon QuiteFlow 75 is a small yet powerful HOB filter. Its compact design offers chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration through proprietary cartridges. Owing to the name, an LED indicates the clogging of filters and water flow.
- 5 Stage Filtration
The speciality media pad by Aqueon combines filter floss, activated carbon, bio media, and other filtration media to offer a complete package. The grids also act as bio media for the HOB filter.
- Easily Replaceable Filter Cartridge
You can easily replace the filter cartridges after a few months of successful usage. Replacement cartridges are available online.
- Self-Priming Filter Pump
There is no need to prime the pump initially or after a power outage. Being compact in nature, it takes care of the trapped air automatically.
- High Flow Rate
This HOB filter has a pretty high flow rate to be deemed unusable in smaller aquariums. But, for larger aquariums, it dissolves additional oxygen and keeps your fish active.
- Easy to maintain and clean.
- The pricing is perfect.
- Great water flow.
- A bit noisy.
Rated for 60-gallon tanks, the Tetra Whisper IQ is one of the quieter HOB filters out there. It takes every rattling and humming out of the equation despite moving a massive amount of water every hour. Its 3-stage filtration also ensures biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration through the proprietary Bio-Bag.
- Sound Shield Technology
A sound barrier separates the motor from the filter to offer a sound-free filtration process. Tetra claims a noise level of <40dB is achieved when other conditions are met.
- Self Priming Pump
The powerful Whisper IQ pump doesn’t need to be primed wherever you decide to turn the filter off. Even at the initial stage, the pump automatically primes itself without any issues.
- Easy Cartridge Refills
Tetra Bio-Bag Cartridges are available online for the HOB filter. A plastic frame, a Stay Clean Tablet, and Ultra-Activated Carbon are flapped down to be replaced with a previous bag.
- Adjustable Intake
Adjust the intake length according to your aquarium height. You can use this BOB filter even if your aquarium lacks depth.
- Can be used for both freshwater and marine aquariums.
- Easy installation. All the required accessories are included.
- 300 GPH water flow rate.
- The intake tube is longer than some small aquariums.
Available in 5 variations and catering tanks from 10 to 75 gallons, the Marineland Penguin HOB filter offers chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration to your freshwater and marine tanks. It also comes with a two-piece vented cover for minimal noise and an adjustable intake tube for better water circulation.
- Bio-Wheel Technology
A bio-wheel located after the filter cartridge offers additional space for beneficial bacteria and provides excellent wet/dry filtration. This way, you won’t lose beneficial bacteria colonies when replacing the cartridges.
- 3-Stage Filtration
The Rite-Size cartridge or the cover filters dirt and other sediments to deliver cleaner water, while its ribbed back evenly distributes the activated carbon for chemical filtration.
- Replaceable Filter Cartridge
The Rite-Size cartridges are cheap and easily replaceable. You don’t have to do anything but replace the old cartridge with a new one.
- 350 GPH Water Flow
This filter maintains pristine tank condition by moving a massive 350 gallons of water per hour.
- Pretty easy to assemble and maintain.
- Very quiet and has a waterfall effect.
- Space of extra filter cartridge.
- Filter media doesn’t last long.
Built to circulate up to 110-gallon tanks, the AquaClear 110 HOB filter is similarly efficient to a canister filter with a 3-stage filtration system and built-in filtration system. In comparison to other HOB filters with cartridges, this product uses ceramic rings, foam, and activated carbon, which are cheaper and more effective.
- Superior Contact Time
Individual canister design and free-floating filter media ensure longer contact time and better filtration than cartridges.
- 3-Stage Filtration
Polyfoam, BioMax ceramic rings, and an activated charcoal insert offer chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration to your tank.
- 500 GPH Waterfall Flow
Most powerful in this segment, the 500 GPH power filter is capable of effectively filtering a 110-gallon aquarium with ease.
- Flow Control Design
Depending on your preference and filtration capacity, you can control the water flow delivered to the HOB filter.
- Easy to install and prime the pump.
- Replaceable motor.
- More control over filter media.
- A bit louder than Marineland.
Powered by a 350 GPH power filter and HOB design, the SeaChem Tidal 75 is one of the best filters for 75-gallon aquariums. Thanks to its corrosion-less design, you may use it for both saltwater and freshwater operations. While it may be a bit broader than other HOB models, it’s quite effective in surface skimming and overall filtration.
- Self-Priming Pump
There is no need to fill the pump with water, siphon, and monitor while starting the filter. The self-priming Sicca pump facilitates filtration without any hiccups.
- Self-Cleaning Impeller
Corrosion-resistant and self-cleaning impeller reduces maintenance and works for saltwater aquariums too.
- Adjustable Water Flow
The output water flow can be adjusted with a simple dialer on the front of the device. You may adjust it accordingly, depending on your filter media and species preference,
- Large Media Basket
The fully removable media baskets hold a huge amount of filter media of your choosing. However, the filter comes bundled with Matrix bio-media.
- Easier to clean and maintain.
- Surface level suction to intake food and other debris.
- Maintenance indication.
- Always needs the tank to be topped off.
Designed for aquariums between 40 to 70 gallons, the Fluval C4 HOB power filter prides itself on a robust body and impeccable filtration system. It empowers you with customizable filter media baskets and a biological trickle chamber for additional nitrification.
- 5-Stage Filtration
2 stages of mechanical filtration, 1 stage of chemical filtration, and another 2 stages of biological filtration complete the Fluval C4 filtration system. It also refilters the water for maximum efficacy.
- Pop-Up Cleaning Indicator
The pop-up indicator lets you know when the mechanical media are clogged up and water doesn’t flow easily. As it’s a mechanical switch, you don’t need to rely on a circuit for it to work.
- Adjustable Flow
You can adjust the water flow on the C4 to maintain any aquarium in the 40 to 70-gallon range. Adjustability also helps in maximising the filter media.
- Telescopic Intake Tube
The telescopic intake tube can be fully adjusted to fit any aquarium.
- Liberty to use any filter media.
- Clean laminar water flow.
- Output ramp distribution.
- Maintenance costs can be a bit too high for the number of filters included.
Great for aquariums of up to 70-75 gallons, the Penn-Plax Cascade 300 maintains healthy and crystal-clear water. Offering chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration, this HOB filter removes ammonia, and nitrite, and enhances oxygen in the water. It also has a pretty small footprint for a HOB filter.
- Adjustable Flow Rate
This filter offers an adjustable flow rate that may be useful while feeding your fish. However, it doesn’t offer adjustment benefits like prolonged contact between water and filter.
- Double-Sided Media Cartridges
Specially designed double-sided media cartridges contain fiber floss and activated carbon for mechanical and chemical filtration.
- 300 GPH Max Flow Rate
While the 300 GPH flow rate is pretty soaring, it can’t sustain 100-gallon aquariums. Therefore, we’ve recommended 70-75 gallons max.
- For Both Saltwater and Freshwater Aquariums
You can use this filter for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. The HOB design keeps most of the filter dry, while the corrosion-less internals prolong its life.
- Large filter media. Easy maintenance.
- Pretty quiet and effective.
- Strong trickling water flow.
- The flow rate isn’t enough for 100-gallon tanks.
In this section, we’ll be discussing a few elements that prove to be critical when buying a HOB filter for your aquarium. While flagship features are advantageous, they often fail to produce any significant outcome and only exist to increase the maintenance cost of those models.
It’s not very hard to understand that you need to buy a HOB filter that is suitable for your tank. But why can’t you get a filter that is rated for a higher-capacity tank?
Apart from being wasteful, having a higher-capacity filter generates a greater water current and puts undue stress on the fish.
If you have an adjustable HOB filter, a reduced flow may damage the pump and reduce the life expectancy of the filter.
However, most HOB filters don’t squirt water and rely on waterfall designs to facilitate the process. Therefore, a tad higher tank capacity shouldn’t present any issues for your fish.
Cartridges, media baskets, and bio-wheels are only a few examples of elements of filtration systems. There are numerous other products and systems out there. While they’re not necessarily more effective, they are unique.
Your focus should be on the filtration stages and media used. While most HOB filters use filter cartridges, the customizable ones are arguably better.
Recirculation is another feature that you need to keep your eye out for. This, in contrast to just passing the water through the cartridges, circulates it through each filter media.
HOB filters aren’t canister filters. The former has very few moving parts, lacks power, and shouldn’t make as much noise as a canister filter. The only sounds that you may hear are the sound of the pump and the trickling sound of water.
As these filters are designed to cater to beginner or intermediate aquarists, who prefer to keep it inside the living rooms, having a noisier HOB filter could prove to be an issue.
However, it’s typical for a HOB filter to make an increasing amount of noise as they start to age and the impeller starts moving slower. Your HOB may also groan at a slower speed.
Always consider online reviews before purchasing a HOB filter. Especially negative reviews. They can reveal details that may have been hidden in the product description. Also, do keep an eye out for specific names of tools, such as plumbing tools, vinyl tubing, bulkhead fitting, clamps, etc., in the reviews.
Consider your budget before committing to the premium option. A higher price doesn’t necessarily reflect a greater quality, Moreover, in the case of HOB Filters, it often exclusively signifies a higher tank capacity and additional features.
Premium HOB filters from Fluval and other companies, however, also are expected to have a higher lifespan and can maintain better operation efficiency for many more years.
The Bottom Line
We’ve given you a comprehensive comparison and review of the 7 best HOB filters available in the online marketplace. Hopefully, aided by our buying guide, you’ll now be able to make your own decision and buy the most suitable HOB filter in both online and offline markets.