15 Best Small Fish Tank Filter in 2023 (Review & Comparison)

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As each aquarist knows, fish can produce a lot of waste, which leads to disease spreading and a dirty aquarium. Whether you are a specialist aquarist or hobbyist, knowledge about the best filters for smaller tanks with 10 gallons or less is crucial.
Choosing the best filter can be a challenge.

Your considerations include efficiency, quality, reliability, and cost. This still leaves many different choices, and it can be difficult to know which is best for your tank. But we’ve done the legwork for you, and this article will discuss the best 15 small fish tank filters for 2023.

Table of Contents

Here are the Best Fish Tank Filters  dual-function action– Tried and Tested

1. Tetra Whisper Internal Filter

Tetra Whisper Internal Filter

The Tetra Whisper Internal Filter is your best bet if you have a freshwater tank. This filter is designed with a quiet home in mind. If you don’t want to listen to the constant whirring noise of a filter gurgling in the background, this filter is the one to get.

This one is an excellent choice since we are highlighting small fish tank filters. It’s ideal for 4-gallon tanks, and you can simply plug it in and enjoy. The filter has four small filter cartridges. These adapt to the water requirements in the tank, adjusting depending on the water levels.

The 27 GPH power of the filter easily cycles and filters a 4-gallon tank six times per hour. So, if you are worried about how clean water affects your fish’s health, worry no more.

The extra benefit of this filter is the dual-function action. The internal filter comes with two individual filters – the cartridge floss and the ultra-activated carbon floss. The former helps filter out debris and fish waste. The latter tackles any odor build-up and discoloration by filtrating nitrites.

The filter is designed with a clip-on function. Clip it over the tank edge, then hide it with extra plants or decor. Also, the filter kit comes with all the rightful hose attachments for the filter.

Price – $10.76

Key Specifications

  • Designed with two separate filters for dual action
  • Ideal for fish tanks up to 4-gallons capacity
  • It comes with an internal attachment for easier attachment to the tank
  • Very sleek and modern design that’s unobtrusive
  • Quiet functionality, reducing noise during the day

Pros

  • No whirring noise
  • Biological and chemically effective filtration
  • Removes odor and water discoloration
  • Includes all accessories in the package
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Not good for heavily planted aquarium

2. JackSuper Store Aquarium Filter

JackSuper Store Aquarium Filter

If your tank has shallow water that needs timely filtration, the JackSuper Store Aquarium Filter is your safest bet. Not only is it affordable, but it also comes from a reliable brand with amazing reviews. In addition, you get a 90 days refund and replacement policy in case something doesn’t work.

This versatile internal filter for fish tanks works with almost every type of small fish, shrimp, and turtle. The filter cycles up to 40 gallons of water despite the smaller size. The dual-function design is another benefit.

Users can either attach the filter via suction cups to the bottom of the tank or hang it on the side with an adjustable clamp. This filter is one of the few options that work effectively in low water capacity (as little as 1.6 inches in depth).

The filter provides continuous water circulation in the tank. Continuous water circulation prevents dirt and biowaste from settling to the bottom. Load the filter with five activated carbon cartridges that absorb the dirt, waste, and sponges at the water inlet for mechanical filtration. Enhance water quality while creating a great aquarium by turning the filter into a waterfall.

When fitted inside the tank, the filter motor is more silent than other filters. Great news if you keep your fish tank in your bedroom and want to catch a good night’s sleep without needing to shut off the filter. The sleek and durable design makes this a winner for your small-size tanks.

Price – $23.99

Key Specifications

  • Ideal for different aquatic species like small fish, turtles, and shrimps
  • Filtration is effective in a maximum of 40 gallons water in the tank
  • Installed with activated carbon cartridges
  • Can work efficiently in low water levels

Pros

  • Quiet function for all-day usage
  • Gets rid of odor and discoloration
  • Sleek, space-saving design
  • Backed with lifetime tech support
  • High-performance filtration

Cons

  • The cord is too short

3. AquaClear Fish Tank Filter

AquaClear Fish Tank Filter

Although a little more expensive than the previous two, the AquaClear Fish Tank Filter is worth every penny. It is touted as one of the best exterior filters that hang off the back of your tank. The product is available in multiple variants, depending on the capacity.

The filter does come disassembled with variable parts. So, in case you are confused with installation, follow the instructions religiously. However, the parts are very easy to assemble.

Since the filter has multiple parts, the upkeep is a little tedious. You have to clean individual parts every few weeks to prevent water contamination. Additionally, the size of the filter depends on the filtering capacity. But with five sizes, you get to pick the one that best suits your needs.

The filter is integrated with unique Biomax ceramic rings. This takes care of biological filtration. The sponge surface of the filter retains the good bacteria in the tank to help remove nitrites from the water. The inserted foam in the filter clears the water mechanically of any debris. This also ensures that the smaller fish don’t pass through the filter.

As for chemical efficacy, the activated carbon middle layer clarifies the water. It removes harmful contaminants that could cause disease. And, as with most modern filters, even this out-of-tank filter is fairly quiet in its operation. 

Price – Starts from $80

Key Specifications

  • It comes with multiple parts in the package that needs to be assembled
  • Designed with different filtering components – Biomax ceramic rings, activated carbon filter, and foam filter pads
  • The foam layer prevents smaller fish from entering the filter
  • Has a sponge layer for ideal filtration
  • Filtration volume is up to 7x more than standard

Pros

  • It comes in a variety of filtering capacities
  • Easy to assemble and install
  • Ideal for biological and chemical cleaning
  • Faster and efficient filtration
  • Protects small fish

Cons

  • A little over budget

4. Penn-Plax Cascade 500 Aquarium Canister Filter

Penn-Plax Cascade 500 Aquarium Canister Filter

The Penn-Plax Cascade series filters come in different sizes, depending on the size of your aquarium’s needs. The Penn-Plax Cascade 500 is a great little filter that’s ideal for small size tanks of up to 30 gallons. 

With Penn-Plax, you know you are getting quality, and don’t think because it’s a smaller size filter that it compromises on quality—it doesn’t. This little filter can cycle through 115 gallons in an hour. So for a 30 gallon tank, it will cycle and filtrate the water 3.8 times in an hour. 

The push button primer helps start the filter, so no need to struggle or suck on nasty tank water to start the filter. The inlet and outlet valves are able to rotate through 360 degrees for optimal hose connection. 

The filtration chamber takes two media baskets, and a sponge, so you can optimize on mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. The filter will clear cloudy water, remove any foul smell, and filter out any harmful chemicals. 

Despite being small, the filter also has a flow rate control, which makes operation super safe and efficient, especially when your fish are spawning. 

Cleaning the filter is a breeze. Simply open the four alignment clamps, pull out the media baskets, rinse the filtration media or replace, then fill the filter with the media of your choice. Add some tank water to start the filter, close the alignment clamps securely, and push prime the filter to start. Voila! 

Price – $103.95

Key Specifications

  • Model is available in five sizes and nine styles
  • 115 gallon filtration capacity 
  • Suitable for tanks up to 30 gallons 
  • Sturdy and stable at nine pounds weight
  • Suitable for freshwater and saltwater

Pros

  • Exceptionally easy to clean
  • Easy to install thanks to the rotational valves
  • Sturdy push button primer on the top cover of the filter for priming
  • Comes with aerating spray bar

Cons

  • The filter is not the quietest on the market, and it may get annoying if the filter is exposed and not in a cabinet

5. AZOO Mignon Filter 60

AZOO Mignon Filter 60

The AZOO Mignon Filter 60 is another popular hang-on filter for smaller fish tanks. Although quite underrated, the filter comes with its fair share of advantages. The small and compact build is what sets it apart from the rest.

The filter works for a tank as small as 5 gallons. The small size makes it ideal for compact tanks where you don’t want the filter to take up half of the space. The silent function of this filter is another benefit to keep in mind.

Additionally, it also has a restart function that automatically starts up the filter if there has been a power cut or interruption so your tank won’t turn stale while you’re away. 

Although it works for 5- and 10-gallon capacity tanks, it is ideal for 3.5-gallon fish tanks. The maintenance and upkeep of this filter are also pretty easily managed.

Price – $22.99

Key Specifications

  • Ideally designed for fish tanks between 3.5 to 5 gallons
  • Designed with silent function
  • Features multi-layer filtration design
  • Integrated with an inlet strainer sponge

Pros

  • Small and compact design for smaller tanks
  • Backed with silent function for all-day usage
  • Upkeep is easy
  • Easy installation
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Adjustable flow control isn’t the best

6. Fluval High-Performance Aquarium Filter

Fluval High-Performance Aquarium Filter

The Fluval High-Performance Aquarium Filter is a good option for users particularly looking for a canister filter for their fish tank. It is available in multiple sizes and filtering capacities, depending on your need, since the filter fits under the fish tank.

Like the Penn Plax filter, this one comes with a primer button. This makes it an easy-to-install choice, especially for beginners. While cleaning, you can leave the tubing inside the tank and clean the rest efficiently.

The only downside to this filter is its large size. But remember that you get access to high-quality filtration without compromising with this product. The filter has a carefully designed microchip system that filters your system optimally and without effort. 

The most popular of the filtration materials is the sponge layer. This is ideal for restoring bacterial growth and supporting the optimal health of the fish. Finally, the activated carbon layer in the filter is fitted to eliminate the toxins and odor from the tank.

The added sponge layer also protects the smaller fish from getting filtered out of the tank. The canister design is fitted with motors that work silently. So, if you were worried about creating a lot of noise with this one, you won’t have to worry anymore.

Price – $339.99

Key Specifications

  • Designed with a canister-like build for rigorous filtration
  • Comes with a separate sponge layer that supports good bacteria growth
  • Integrated with a primer button with flow control
  • Silent operation with well-oiled and frictionless motor

Pros

  • Can filter small and larger tanks too
  • Adjustable flow functions
  • Comes with a sponge layer for protecting small fish
  • Silent functions

Cons

  • Large size with expensive price point

7. XINYOU XY-280 Aquarium Fish Tank Bio-Sponge Filter

XINYOU XY-280 Aquarium Fish Tank Bio-Sponge Filter

Last but not least is the XINYOU XY-280. This is one of the few air-driven filters available in the market. The unique design and functionalities of this product make this an option worth looking into.

Not just for smaller tanks, this one work equally well in the larger tanks, if not better. The high flow management of the filter manages the water turbulence without complications. However, this is a very sensitive filter and will stop working if the tank is unclean.

The sponge filter design is the perfect addition to tanks with smaller fish. This is your best bet if you want to keep the water current but don’t want the smaller fish to get sucked in. When it comes to its maintenance, all you have to do is run it under some water. Squeeze out the excess water, and you are good.

The compact design of the filter easily fits in the smaller and tight spaces in the tank. The biological filtration is quite good in the filter. It gets rid of the odor and discoloration pretty efficiently. The middle of this filter has a carbon filter sponge that supports chemical filtration.

Despite all the good, there’s one factor that this filter falls short on. The constant noise from the bubbles can be disturbing. However, besides that, the filter is pretty silent. The sponge should be cleaned every other week. And, you need to change the sponge with a new one every 3-4 months.

Price – $14.98

Key Specifications

  • Ideal for breeding or spawning aquariums
  • Integrated with a carbon sponge filter for easier cleaning
  • Works well with smaller and larger tanks
  • Functional for biological and chemical filtration
  • Does create constant bubbles that make noise

Pros

  • Affordable and well-priced
  • Compact and sleek design
  • Gets rid of odor and coloration
  • Good for smaller fish-inhabited tanks
  • Easy to install and maintain

Cons

  • Does create noise due to bubbles

8. Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter

Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter

A unique approach to filtration technology is the Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter which has a bio-wheel that spins, moving the water onto the filtration pads. The bio-wheel also has a specialized mesh covering that cultivates helpful bacteria to combat nitrate formation. 

The filter has an easy-access top hatch, allowing for a convenient filter pad and bio-wheel cleaning and replacement. 

Technical Specifications

  • Wet-dry biological filtration with a bio-wheel that spins
  • Mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration via multiple filtration features
  • Quiet operation 
  • Bio-wheel increases surface area to cultivate beneficial bacteria
  • Filter needs to be primed with aquarium water before the first use

Pros 

  • Smallest filter unit circulates 20 gallons 5 times in an hour
  • Filter is mounted on the side of the tank out of the water, enabling dry-changing of filter cartridges 
  • Filter intake is located near the substrate, enabling better filtration of plant particles 
  • Filter removes plant materials, clarifies water, removes harmful chemicals, and mechanically removes fish wastes

Cons 

  • Intake pipes easily disconnect, harming fish that are nearby

9. AQQA Aquarium Internal Filter

AQQA Aquarium Internal Filter

The AQQA Aquarium Internal Filter is an elegant, quiet, submersible filter, making it ideal for home fish tanks. Like most submersible filters, this unit offers mechanical, chemical, and biological cleaning and filtration to produce clear and clean water. 

Available in three motor sizes, filtering enough water for 5-30 gallon tanks, the motor can circulate water at speeds that won’t upset your fish. Simply use the flow regulator to select the flow speed that best suits your fish and plants. 

Technical Specifications

  • Three filtration media, ranging from rough sponges for the biofiltration unit, chemical filtration with the activated carbon pads, and mechanical filtration with different sponge pads 
  • Improve water current with the wave-maker feature
  • Variable intake and outlet choices 
  • Transparent filter cartridge to allow easy observation if filters are soiled

Pros 

  • Improves oxygenation and filtration of water
  • Variable flow regulator for different levels of filtration and circulation 
  • Multiple design features to reduce pump noise
  • Triple filtration methods

Cons 

  • Filtration pads fill up quickly, and the pump then produces more noise

10. COODIA Internal Green Water Killer Filter Aquarium Tank U-V Pump

COODIA Internal Green Water Killer Filter Aquarium Tank U-V Pump

The COODIA Internal Green Water Killer Filter Aquarium Tank U-V Pump offers a different way to clean the water in your aquarium, removing contaminant bacteria that turn the water green and dull. The filter works on a UV-light principle, where water is circulated through a chamber with a UV light that kills harmful bacteria and microorganisms. 

Technical Specifications 

  • Adjustable outlet to direct the flow of water
  • UV light in sealed chamber cleans water by destroying bacteria and algae 
  • UV bulb is replaceable if needed
  • Bubble function for aerating water 

Pros

  • Silent operation 
  • Cleaner water in a matter of four days
  • Less water changes are required as UV light destroys harmful organic components
  • Four suction cups to secure the unit to the tank panel

Cons

  • No mechanical filtration to remove larger particles, which means you’d need an additional sponge filter

11. AQQA Aquarium Sponge Filter

AQQA Aquarium Sponge Filter

The AQQA Aquarium Sponge Filter is a mechanical and biological filter that features a twin set of inlets that are covered with sponge and an internal chamber filled with ceramic filtered balls that develop healthy bacteria to cleanse the tank water. Due to the sponge covers, the filter is super safe for small fish and during spawning time as no small animals can enter the sponge inlets. 

Technical Specifications

  • 9-layer ribbing sponge effectively absorbs finer particles, while cultivating healthy bacteria to remove chemicals such as ammonia and nitrites
  • Biofiltration with the internal chamber filled with ceramic filtration balls 
  • Fully rotational inlets for ideal positioning in tank
  • Comes with four extra sponges

Pros

  • Efficient operation with built-in pump
  • Inlet provides aeration of water
  • Effective filtration and circulation of tank water, up to 55 gallons tank size
  • Adjustable outlet pipe to improve aeration 

Cons

  • Low-level chemical filtration

12. Aqueon QuietFlow 10 LED PRO Aquarium Fish Tank Power Filter

Aqueon QuietFlow 10 LED PRO Aquarium Fish Tank Power Filter

The Aqueon QuietFlow 10 LED PRO Aquarium Fish Tank Power Filter offers three-way cleaning with biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration pads and the option of an additional specialty cleaning pad. The cleaning cartridge comes with an LED light to indicate when the cartridge is full and needs to be changed. 

Technical Specifications

  • Internal motor for quiet operations
  • Sits on the side of the tank, creating a water cascade from the water outlet, which aerates the water
  • Bioholster that filters fit into develops colonies of helpful bacteria to filter ammonia and nitrites

Pros

  • Suitable for up to 20-gallon tanks
  • Efficiently cleans the tank water with mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration 
  • Flow rate of 100 gallons per hour, circulating 20 gallons five times per hour

Cons

  • Replacement cartridge is quite pricey at almost $30

13.  Atlantis Aqua™ Internal Filter for Aquarium

Atlantis Aqua™ Internal Filter for Aquarium

The Atlantis Aqua™ Internal Filter for Aquarium is a highly rated multi-stage filtration unit for aquariums from 20-100 gallons in size. The filter comes with preloaded filter pads, which are said to last a lifetime, so no more smelly filter changes. 

Water enters the filter canister from the bottom, moving through the entire length of the filter before exiting at the top via the wave-making feature. As a whole, the filter creates great circulation, oxygenation, and filtration for healthier fish and plants. 

Technical Specifications 

  • Adjustable water flow and power levels
  • Internal filters fitted in the canister
  • Fully submersible and slim-line design 
  • Suction attachment to the side of the tank

Pros

  • Better economy because filters don’t need replacement
  • Full filtration up the length of the filter
  • Suction from the bottom of the filter, which limits the risk of filter drawing in a fish
  • Wave making feature helps create a current that some fish species prefer

Cons 

  • Filter is 11.4 inches tall, but sections can be removed for tanks with shorter sides

14. Kulife Aquarium Filters in-Tank Filter

Kulife Aquarium Filters in-Tank Filter

The Kulife Aquarium Filters in-Tank Filter is ideal for those who have a really small size aquarium or fish tank. This is a compact little filter that is elegantly simple in its design and at a great price point. The filter suctions to the side of the tank sucks water through two sponges to remove larger particles and chemical contaminants before pumping the water with a great dose of air back into the tank. 

Technical Specifications 

  • Available in four sizes for tanks from 5 gallons to 100 gallons
  • Adjustable air regulator controls the flow rate of air into the outgoing water
  • Sponge system clears out larger particles, followed by a second sponge that’s biologically and chemically treated to filter any harmful contaminants in the water

Pros 

  • Clear sponge cup allows for easy inspection of the sponges
  • Disassembly to clean out parts of the filter is easily done
  • Suction pads at the bottom of the motor for placement on the aquarium floor or on the sides.

Cons

  • Filter cup’s tabs can become damaged with repeated cleaning

15. AquaMiracle Aquarium Filter 3-Stage in-Tank Filter

AquaMiracle Aquarium Filter 3-Stage in-Tank Filter

The AquaMiracle Aquarium Filter 3-Stage in-Tank Filter is quite innovative with a double water outlet, which helps direct current in the tank and increase circulation. Three sponges help with mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. The coarse sponge removes larger particles, such as decaying food. In contrast, the carbonated sponge helps remove contaminants, and the fine sponge helps culture helpful bacteria that improve water clarity and health. 

Technical Specifications

  • Epoxy-sealed motor helps ensure no electric shock 
  • Additional air tube helps aerate the water 
  • Double outlet valves to increase water circulation
  • Designed to work best as a set of filters, placed in the left and right back corners

Pros

  • Replacement sponges easily available
  • Silent operation 
  • Fully submersible, which increases filtration 
  • Clear casing for easy inspection of the filter media

Cons

  • No water flow adjustability

Why Does a Small Tank Need an Aquarium Filter?

Every living being, despite its size, creates waste. The same goes for fish too. Any size fish tank will become toxic with a high deposit of fish waste that’s rich in ammonia and nitrate.

We’ve got you if you are still struggling to understand the significance of a water filter in a small tank.

Biological Filtration

The most important reason for an aquarium filter is biological filtration. The filter actively eliminates the waste accumulated in the tank water over time. The more food a fish has, the more waste they’d create in the tank from fecal matter and rotting uneaten food.

Not cleaning the wastes results in higher ammonia and nitrate levels in the tank water. This makes the water highly toxic for the fish to live in. Lack of biological filtration even leads to infections, such as ick. Therefore, the main objective of a filter is to minimize the toxicity of the waste generated by removing biological material.

Mechanical Filtration

Another important reason why small tanks need a filter is to remove particles from the water. It can include smaller grains of the substrate, dead plant leaves, and so much more. These free-floating elements can harm the fish or obstruct their path while swimming.

The filters mechanically remove particles from the tank to enhance the tank’s cleanliness. Most of these filters have a sponge-like middle layer that filters out these elements while also preventing small fish and crustaceans from entering the filter.

Chemical Filtration

Last but of the utmost importance in a filter is chemical filtration. The filters cancel out any rise in a chemical imbalance in the water and filter out the toxic elements. The activated carbon filters neutralize chemicals in the water and control water pH.

The filter keeps the water circulating so that the chemicals can be removed effectively. This promotes enhanced cleanliness without compromise.

Buyer’s Guide: What to Look for in a Fish Tank Filter

Before we dive into the best fish tank filters, let’s look at what makes for a great filter:

Design and Fitment of the Filter

The overall design of the filtration unit should be practical, allow for the easy change of filter pads, and take up as little space in the tank as possible. Your fish tank filter needs to fit conveniently and securely over the side of the tank, or keep its place on the tank wall or floor. 

Filtration Media

Filters are only as good as their filtration media. Depending on your tank’s unique needs, you may want to get a filter that has bio-filters, carbon pads, ceramic rings (to cultivate good bacteria), and organic filtration material compartments. Keep in mind that each filter will likely have its own replacement filters, which means these need to be affordable too. 

Filtration Rate and Power

Your filter unit should offer enough filtration power to cycle through your tank’s full water capacity several times per hour to ensure it adequately cleans the water. For this to happen, the pump’s flow and power rate must be sufficient to circulate the full water volume. 

Price 

You only have x-amount to spend, so don’t look at nice filters, but you know you’ll never afford them. Choose a filter that’s within your budget and still allows you room to buy the other necessities for your tank, such as a water heater, tank scraper, siphon kit, or fertilizer for your biomass.  

Aesthetic of the Filter Unit

Filters should be small enough that you can hide them with tank decorations or plants, but if they’re too large, you would want a unit that’s not awfully ugly to look at. A smokey-finished or clear filter is much more attractive than a plain black plastic filter unit. Likewise, a filter with many tubes running to and from it can become an eyesore too.  

FAQs

1. Will changing my filter media make my tank quieter?

Several factors contribute to the noise from the filter. So, the only way you can make the tank quieter is by identifying the problem. Once you know what’s causing it, you can fix the issue to reduce the noise output. Typically, it can be due to improper placement, accumulated dirt in the filter, and so much more. So, find the cause first and then fix it accordingly. Just changing the filter media is not the solution.

2. Can I make an air pump quieter for my sponge filter?

Foam filters are a lot quieter than the sponge bubble ones. In addition, since the sponge is a lot more porous, it may not absorb the excess noise from the air bubbles. However, choosing different densities of high-quality sponges with air pumps can help to lower the noise levels.

Verdict

Despite the size, functionality, and design of a fish tank or aquarium, a filter has to keep the water clean, free of contaminants, and circulating. You just need to find the right filter choice. We’ve tried, tested, and reviewed a number of great filters as well as sifted through hundreds of user reviews.

If you are in the market for a fish tank filter, we hope you will agree with us that the Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter and Tetra Whisper Internal Filter are the favorite choices.

Which one do you consider buying?

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