Best Undergravel Filter in 2023 – 4 Easy Choices + Buyers Guide

You got your fish tank perfectly set up with all of the nice plants and rocks and things for your fish. You even added gravel and substrate to the bottom that really make it pop. What are you doing for a filter? Did you know that not just any filter will do if you have gravel in the tank? You need the best undergravel filter.

When you have gravel, or really anything coating the bottom of the fish tank, it’s only concealing a lot of nasty things that aren’t getting cleaned up by your filter unless you have an undergravel filter. From fish waste to uneaten food to plant debris and everything else, not just any filter type will do.

Undergravel filtration is not necessarily a filter that rests under the gravel There are several options you can use for under gravel filters and many of them will work for just about any tank size. Whether you have a 5 gallon or 55 gallon tank, your aquariums need the right undergravel filter system to keep the fish and plants safe.

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Before you start looking at UGFs, you need to know about the best undergravel filter systems so that you can make the rich choice for your aquarium. We’ve got you covered! We’ve scoured the market to bring you the top rated undergravel filters for aquariums and we’re excited to share each of those here with you.

Keep reading to find the best undergravel filters and complete undergravel filter review details so you can get yours set up!

Undergravel filter on a table

Top Rated Undergravel Filter Reviews

In this part of our guide, we’ve searched and sorted through the options and narrowed it down to the very best undergravel aquarium filters. We’ve got some really great options with full reviews and a list of pros and cons.

Let’s take a look at your next undergravel aquarium filter!

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1. Best Overall: Aquarium Equip Ista Undergravel Filter System

Aquarium Equip Ista Undergravel Filter System Check Latest Price

First up, we have the Aquarium Equip Ista Undergravel Filter System which is out best overall option for filtration systems. This best undergravel filters option can be used with cehimical filtration or a canister filter and provides solutions for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. This particular option is sized for tanks that are 55 gallons.

This covers a surface area of 45.3 x 9.6 (perfect for a 48 inch tank), resting under your gravel substrate to clear bacteria and unwanted waste from aquariums. It’s very easy to set up as well, which is perhaps one of its best qualities. The filter plates attach to lift tubes through a bar tube and the set comes with With the filter plate and quality tubes, your UG filter will be ready to use in no time.

If you have a mechanical filtration system with activated carbon cartridges, it can be connected to and work in conjunction with the plate design of this 55 gallon filter will keep your aquarium water clear of ammonia and bacteria solution that could be harmful.

Your aquarium fish or betta fish will thank you for a clean gravel bed. The UGF in this spot is a gravel filter for the books. It might just be one of the original undergravel filter designs. So click that check price button and at least learn a little bit more about it.


  • Best undergravel filter overall
  • Can be used in conjunction with chemical filtration or biological filtration
  • UGF Fish tank filters with needed filter plates and uplift tubes for use
  • Great for freshwater and saltwater tanks
  • Simple and easy to set up
  • Set in a 50 gallon, 55 gallon, or 48 inch fish tank


  • You may need more than one person during setup just to get the plate design right

Why We Like It

The Equip Ista undergravel filter is one of the best filter system options out there. The check price is reasonably and it’s easy to set if you have a friend to help you out. It works well and functions with just about any filter system for aquariums.

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2. Budget Pick: Penn Plax Undergravel Filter

Penn Plax Undergravel Filter Check Latest Price

Next up, we have our budget friendly pick, Penn Plax Undergravel Filter that is well worth a mention for the best undergravel fish tank filter. Your aquarium fish tank will be clean and clear for your fish. This particular Penn Plax premium filtration system is made for aquariums that are 10 gallon to 20 gallon tanks, depending on how they measure.

You won’t have to worry about air stones, just piece together the uplift tube, place it under gravel and hook it up with your activated carbon filter cartridges. The Penn Plax premium filtration is great for betta fish and other types of fish as well. The lift tube is simple and won’t hinder your general filtration set up either.

Related: Best Filter For 10 Gallon Tank

The Penn Plax undergravel filter almost has a multi level plate design so your gravel substrate will be bacteria free without harming the quality of the substrate. You can use these filters with mechanical filtration or a carbon cartridges filter system. Your gravel will remain clean and clear as it should for your fish and plants.

Your aquariums set up might as well be the best that it can be, right? Why not get a UGF filter on a budget? The beauty of it is, this isn’t cheaply made. It’s one of the most highly-rated filters on the market. The uplift tubes and filter plates are the original undergravel filter design and it’s still reliable.


  • Penn Plax is a quality filter plate set up
  • Compatible with carbon cartridges and biological filtration or mechanical filtration
  • Made for 10 gallon to 20 gallon aquarium sizes, check measurements
  • Offers aeration for your tank with air stones
  • Fits under gravel without messing up gravel
  • Budget-friendly choice


  • The air stones are not the best quality from Penn Plax
  • You may have to sometimes vacuum to prevent build up on the filters for your fish health

Why We Like It

We like these Penn Plax UGF filters because they are both affordable and effective. The filter plates work well, especially with gravel and your aquarium water will be clear thanks to this simple gravel filter.

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3. Lee s Premium Undergravel Filter 18 Inch by 48 Inch

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In terms of the best undergravel filter, Lee s Premium Undergravel Filter 18 Inch by 48 Inch is definitely amonth the best UGF for any tank out there. Lees original undergravel filter is a premium undergravel filter option so it does cost a bit more. However, the air pump UGFs have been shown to be an ideal tank solutino when you need a UGF that really works.

Whether you have a canister filter, chemical filtration, air pump, or something else in your fish tanks, this premium undergravel filter is on the top-rated list of UGFs across the board. The gravel filter is sleek and simple for any fish tank set up.

Lee s original undergravel filters are a hot market item and people are willing to pay the price for this filter plate because every aquarium experiences long-lasting success and cleanliness ultimately. This undergravel filter works on biological filtration and carbon cartridges are a hit. the air pump filters water through and cleans up waste and debris from fish in the aquarium.

Lees premium undergravel filter is made to provide optimal filter work undergravel in any tank. Check the measurements as if this UGFs size doesn’t work in your tank, there are other UGF sizes available from this brand and it will be well worth the look and the money for your fish tanks.


  • Sizes for just about any tank undergravel filter
  • Can be used with a canister filter or chemical filtration in a tank
  • Air pump is strong and sturdy for undergravel cleaning in your tank
  • Works with carbon filters
  • Designed for 40 55 tanks with other sizes available, even down to 5 gallon


  • Might not have the best water flow underneath the grave and undergravel filter
  • A little on the pricy side for undergravel filters

Why We Like It

Compatibility with carbon filter cartridges is nice and to have an option that doesn’t just let the gravel fall through is nice. You can tell the air pump and filter set up are well-designed with the undergravel filter being slim so it doesn’t take up all of your fish tanks space.

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4. XMHF Aquarium Fish Tank

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Finally, we leave you with an in depth option for undergravel filters that you can rely on. This XMHF Aquarium Fish Tank  undergravel filter is pretty unique because it comes in 32 pieces and you can set it up just how you need to. Whether you have 40 55 gallons in your tank or even something in aquarium size.

These filters are nice and you still get all of the filters quality as well as hoses, air pump, and UGF building supplies so your fish tank can be set how you need it. Whether your fish tanks have chemical filtration or a canister filter, this undergravel filter can be great for an aquarium that needs something unique or a size that is hard to find.

When it comes to the best undergravel filter, this tank option fits the bill because it offers alternative solutions that so many others don’t option. It’s another top choice among many tank creators and it works.

This undergravel filter for your aquarium will make your water clearer using a double filtration chemical filtration approach. It will attach to a canister filter or some other tank filter as needed as well. Filter under that gravel and stop worrying so much about the looks.


  • Chemical filtration undergravel filter design
  • Can be set up to filter any size of tank for your needs (50 gallon or 5 x ? Both will do!)
  • One of the best unique options
  • Cleans water for fish and plants
  • Can work with a canister filter


  • This undergravel filter doesn’t come with any instructions for setup
  • Limited information available for tried and true aquarium or tank use

Why We Like It

Whether you prefer chemical filtration or another filtration method, you still need a reliable aquarium system. This undergravel filter stands out to us as one of the best primarily because it allows you to adjust to just about any aquarium so you don’t have to worry about finding the perfect size.

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Buyer’s Guide

Before you go pick out an undergravel filter for your aquarium, there are some things you might need to consider. There are a lot of small variables that can make a really big difference when it comes to fitting an undergravel filter to your aquarium. They are all very different when you take a deeper look and yet they all provide the same purpose for your aquarium, which is to filter our waste underneath the gravel.

If you have fish, this is especially important because there are things that your standard canister filters just can’t get. The undergravel filter can work in accordance with whatever other filter you are using so you get cleanliness in every area that it counts within the aquarium.

The best undergravel filter could vary from tank to tank so be sure you keep your aquarium and your specific needs for undergravel care at the top of your mind as you make a selection.

Undergravel filter on a table with other aquarium accessories buyer's guide

How an Undergravel Filter Works

An undergravel filter? What is that even? Well, it is exactly as it sounds but how does it really work? These simple filter devices are typically made with plastic and hosing and they often are affordable as well.

The flat piece lies on the bottom of your tank, often with a slight ramp or grade to it. Those plates will have holes in them or slits in them but not large enough for the gravel or even substrate to just fall through it.

The ends of the undergravel filter are typically fitted with uplift tubes, which are part of the filter operation. Water is drawn up through the tubing and suction circulates through to filter out and remove bacteria and waste and it will also improve circulation and air flow.


Before you pick up a filter, be sure you know the sizes and dimensions of your tank. While some filter options allow you to build them to size, not all of them have that capability. You want to be sure that you are getting an option that will fit in your tank but also won’t be so small that it doesn’t do the filter job that it is intended to do.

You may want to check out whether your filter choice has multiple plates or a single plate so you can determine whether or not it can be adjusted to your needs as well. Definitely measure the interior bottom of your tank as well as the height. Check out the dimensions of your options before you buy so that the filter you end up with won’t be too large or too small for the task.

What’s Included?

While every filter on the list here comes with the hoses and tubing and filter pieces to completely assemble it and make it work, not every one out there does. Be sure to watch out for what is included and know whether you might need something else to make it compatible with your needs.

What you also need to keep in mind is that these are not usually a stand alone type of tool. You will most certainly need an air pump or a traditional filter in order for this to work in the way that it is supposed to work.

Keep in mind that you need enough suction in the overall setup or the undegravel filter won’t effectively clean up debris and bacteria. If you have 3 inches of gravel, you will need at least 60 GPH on your tank filter to handle the job.

Type of Filtration

This filter works in accordance with another filter. It all depends on what you have in place. Ultimately, it is best if you have some sort of chemical filtration in place. If you operate using only biological or mechanical filter devices, then you may need to take some additional steps for an effective filtration setup.

This all depends on whether or not your tank requires chemical filtering. This filter is not your primary filter and is most likely secondary to something else so just keep that in mind and understand just how it will coordinate with the filter in use in your tank.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are Undergravel Filters Any Good?

Yes, they are very helpful if you have a tank that uses gravel, sand, or some other substrate in it. However, they are only as good as the overall setup that you have. If you don’t have a powerful enough total filter operation, you will be disappointed with the undergravel option.

Are Undergravel Filters Obsolete?

Many people fail to use an undergravel filter because they simply don’t realize they need one. However, they are certainly not obsolete and they are very much needed when gravel or rocks are in place. There are ways you can avoid using these but they certainly serve a purpose.

Additionally, you can still find these easily on the market and they are not that expensive. They are readily available and certainly not going anywhere anytime soon. If you’ve heard they are obsolete, this is a misconception.

Should I Use an Undergravel Filter for My Aquarium?

If you have gravel in a tank with fish, we highly recommend using an undergravel filter. It is the only way that you will keep the ammonia and fish waste produced at bay in order to have a truly safe environment not just for the fish but for the plants as well.

What is the Best Type of Filter for an Aquarium?

It really depends on what your aquarium contains. Most people would tell you that biological filtration is the best out there but there are times that might not be the right solution. You may need to do a bit of research specifically based on what is in your aquarium in order to understand what type of filtration you specifically need.


If you’re looking for the best undergravel filter, we hope that you can find such a tool here. We made every effort to provide you with a variety of options so that there would be something to meet your needs. Happy aquarium building!

Expert Tip

Always make sure that your traditional aquarium filter is powerful enough to handle the filtration needed but also handle the additional requirements as well.

Did You Know?

Your gravel gets loaded down with ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates from waste and uneaten food as well as dead plant matter. This can add up and be harmful to your fish if it isn’t handled properly.

Bestseller No. 1
Penn-Plax Undergravel Aquarium Filter for 40-55 Gallon Tanks – Four 11.25” x 11.25” Plates – Under Gravel System for Clear, Clean Water – Safe for Freshwater and Saltwater Tanks
  • NOTHING LIKE OLD SCHOOL: The Clear-Free Premium Under Gravel Filter is air driven and utilizes an Air Pump...
  • BIOLOGICAL, CHEMICAL, AND PHYSICAL FILTRATION: As air is pushed through the Air Stones and rises through the...
SaleBestseller No. 2
Penn-Plax Undergravel Aquarium Filter for 10 Gallon Tanks – Two 9.5” x 9.5” Plates – Under Gravel System for Clear, Clean Water – Safe for Freshwater and Saltwater Tanks
  • NOTHING LIKE OLD SCHOOL: The Clear-Free Premium Under Gravel Filter is air driven and utilizes an Air Pump...
  • BIOLOGICAL, CHEMICAL, AND PHYSICAL FILTRATION: As air is pushed through the Air Stones and rises through the...
Bestseller No. 3
Penn-Plax Filt-a-Carb Replacement Activated Carbon Media Cartridges (2 Pack) – Fits Multi-Pore and Undergravel “E” Filters – Provides Chemical Filtration (FC2)
  • REPLACEMENT FILTER MEDIA: These Activated Carbon Cartridges are made to fit the lift tubes of Muti-Pore and...
  • CHEMICAL FILTRATION: In addition to absorbing ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and phosphates in a timely manner,...

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