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

Fish, despite their size, produce a lot of waste in the tank. If not cleaned, the ammonia and nitrate build-up in the tank eventually inflicts risks of infectious diseases, some of which are non-treatable. So, like an aquarium hobbyist, knowing about the best filters for smaller tanks with 10 gallons and less is crucial.

With so many different brands and types of fish tank filters in the market, choosing one becomes a hassle. First, you have to check the efficiency, quality, and reliability. Even then, there are factors you might end up missing.

To make this a smooth ride for you, we have done all the hard work. We know just the right spots to hit for someone who has prior experience with fish tanks and taking care of fish species. So, every product we talk about should suffice one or the other needs you have.

We understand that a dirty and non-equipped fish tank is the breeding ground for diseases. Hence, we have sorted out a list of the best quiet fish tank filters that you’d appreciate purchasing.

Here are the Best Fish Tank Filters – Tried and Tested

1. Tetra Whisper Internal Filter

Tetra Whisper Internal Filter

If you have a freshwater tank, this is your best bet. The Tetra Whisper Internal Filter is designed for the quieter houses that live off of the silence. If you don’t want to listen to the constant whirring noise in the background, this filter does its job well.

Since we are highlighting small fish tank filters, this one is an opt choice. Ideal for 4-gallon tanks, you can stick in it and forget about everything else. The filter is integrated with small filter cartridges. These adapt to the water requirements in the tank, depending on the water levels.

The 27 GPH power of the tank easily cycles and filters around 4 gallons of water in no time at all. So, if you are worried about your fish’s health, you won’t have to anymore.

The ultimate flex to 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 our debris and fish waste. The latter tackles the odor buildup and discoloration.

The filter is designed with a clip-on function. You can stick it in the wall of the aquarium and secure its function. The design is quite inconspicuous to get hidden with the decorations and plants too. Also, the package comes with all the rightful 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 attaching to the tank
  • Very sleek and modern design that hides away in the back
  • Quiet functions that can be kept switched on throughout the day


  • It doesn’t create a whirring noise
  • Has biological and chemical effectiveness
  • Gets rid of odor and discoloration
  • It comes with all accessories in the package
  • Very affordable


  • 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 90 days of refund and replacement policy in case something doesn’t work.

This versatile internal filter for fish tanks works with almost every small fish and even shrimps and turtle. Despite the smaller size, the filter can work for up to 40 gallons of water. The dual-function design is another benefit.

Users can either fix the filter using suction on the bottom of the tank, or they can hang it in. The choice is solely dependent on the flexibility of the users. The filter is one of the few options that work with low water capacity.

As for the functions, it keeps up with the water circulation in the tank. The water cycling prevents the dirt and biowaste from settling in the bottom. The insides of the filter also come with activated carbon cartridges that absorb the dirt and waste. If you are worried about odor and discoloration, the filter fixes that too.

The motor fitted in the tank is a lot quieter with its functions. So, you won’t have to worry about causing any disturbance with it in the house. The sleek and durable design is also what contributes to the credibility of the filter.

Price – $23.99

Key Specifications

  • Ideal for different aquatic species like small fish, turtles, and shrimps
  • It can work with up to 40 gallons water tank
  • Installed with activated carbon cartridges
  • Can work efficiently in low water capacity


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


  • 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 hang-on back filters in the tank. The product is available in multiple variants, depending on the capacity.

The package does come disassembled with variable parts. So, in case you are confused with installation, follow the instructions religiously. But, don’t get worried about the parts; they are very easy to put together.

Since they come in multiple parts, the upkeep is a little tedious. You have to clean individual parts every few weeks to prevent contamination of the water. In addition, the size depends on the filtering capacity. Since there are so many variants, you get to pick the one that best suits your needs.

The filter is integrated with the unique Biomax ceramic rings. This takes care of biological filtration. The sponge surface of the filter retains the good bacteria in the tank for co-existence. There is an inserted foam in the filter too. This ensures that the smaller fish doesn’t pass through the filter.

As for chemical efficacy, the activated carbon middle layer takes care of it. It removes any and every harmful chemical that could affect the health of the fish. But, like most of the modern filters, even this one has quiet functions.

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
  • It comes with a foam layer to protect smaller fish
  • Has a sponge layer for ideal filtration
  • Filtration volume is up to 7x more than standard


  • 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


  • A little over budget

4. Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

The Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter is one for advanced aquarists. Ideal for freshwater settings, this aquarium filter is here to suffice your aquarium’s filtering needs. The filter is programmed with three-stage filtration with leading brand reliability.

This is one of the few filters that come with swimming pool-style rotating valves with steady outflow. The valves are highly flexible and rotate 360-degrees for comfortable filtering. Even in the smaller setups, this takes the cake.

The extra-large media baskets contribute to a comfortable setup of the media. The aquarists have the free will to choose the ideal media and then get along with it. If you are a beginner with no idea, the easy push-button primer can be a savior.

The primer button allows quick priming of the filter without excessive complications. Besides the actual filter, the package comes with a host of accessory items with full customization choices. The input and output tubing further makes it an ideal choice.

Price – $124.95

Key Specifications

  • Designed with flexible 360 degrees swimming pool valves
  • Easy to install with accessory items
  • Designed with extra-large media baskets for comfortable filtering
  • It comes with a primer button that allows easier functions
  • It comes with input and output tubing for efficiency


  • Easy to set up and maintain
  • Flexible and precise filtering functions
  • Ideal for small to medium-sized tanks
  • The package comes with all the necessary equipment
  • Beginner-friendly choice


  • Does create a whirring noise

5. AZOO Mignon Filter 60

AZOO Mignon Filter 60

The AZOO Mignon Filter 60 is another popular hang-on back 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 in half of the space. The silent function of this filter is another benefit you can consider.

If you have your fish tank placed in the offices or even in the living room, the silent function comes in handy. You can keep it switched on for the entire day and not be disturbed. You almost won’t notice its presence in the room.

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

Price – $21.99

Key Specifications

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


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


  • 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.

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

The only downside to this filter is a large size. But, be aware that you get access to high-quality filtration without any compromise with this product. The filter is designed with varying parts and a filtration system.

The most popular of them all 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 in for eliminating 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 cannister-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


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


  • 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 create noise


  • 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


  • Does create noise due to bubbles

Why Does a Small Tank Need an Aquarium Filter?

Every living being, despite its size, creates waste. The same goes for fish too. Any tank size won’t perform well with a high deposition of waste rich in ammonia and nitrate.

So, if you are consistently struggling to find the significance of a water filter in a small tank, we got you.

Biological Filtration

The most important reason for an aquarium filter is biological filtration. The filter actively eliminates the waste accumulated in the tank over time. The more feeding a fish has, the more waste they’d create in the tank.

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

Mechanical Filtration

Another important reason why small tanks need a filter is to remove particles from them. 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 them from the tank to enhance the tank’s cleanliness. Most of these filters have a sponge-like middle layer that filters out these elements.

Chemical Filtration

Last but the most important importance of a filter is chemical filtration. The filters detect any rise in a chemical imbalance in the water and filter out the same toxic elements. The activated carbon filters are responsible for taking care of that aspect.

The filter keeps the water flowing around so that the chemicals don’t stay stagnant in one spot. This promotes enhanced cleanliness without compromise.


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.

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

Sponge filters are a lot quieter than the staple ones. In addition, since the sponge is a lot porous, it actively absorbs the excess noise, helping reduce the noise created, especially with the bubbles. However, you need to choose a dense and high-quality sponge with air pumps to achieve similar results.


Despite the size, functionalities, and design of a fish tank or aquarium, a filter meets the needs. You just need to find the right choice. This article lists some of our best picks that are tried, tested, and reviewed by global users.

If you are in the market for a fish tank filter, we hope you find your right calling in this article. The Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter and Tetra Whisper Internal Filter are our favorite choices.

Which one are you considering buying?

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