Top 5 Best Filters For Tropical Fish Tank in 2020 + Buying Guide

Keeping fish as a pet is always fun and enjoyable for many people. Most don’t seem to find keeping a fish as being a lot of work. With the proper research and knowledge, taking care of your pet fish should be relatively simple and easy, with little to no maintenance. Speaking of maintenance, you’ll need the best filter for your tropical fish tank if you want to keep the water in the tank clean and clear.

The type of filter that you choose should be great in performance, quality, ease of setup, among other features. Before we can decide all of that, let us look at why you need the filter in the first place and some of the types of fish tank filters in the market.

Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Aquarium Filter Check Price
Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter Check Price
MarineLand Magniflow Canister Filter for Aquariums Check Price
Fluval 307 Performance Canister Filter Check Price
EHEIM Classic External Filter with Media Check Price

Why Do You Need the Best Filter for Tropical Fish Tank?

best filter for tropical fish tank
Photo credit: Aquarium

Before you can buy the best filter for tropical fish tanks, you need to understand their importance first. To help you understand better, we’ve categorized the functions of a tank filter into three categories. They include mechanical, chemical, and biological.

  • Mechanical Functions

When you feed the fish, the excess food ends up forming particles in the water. Also, the dust in the room can accumulate in the water too. At this point, you’ll need a filter to help remove debris in the water, leaving it clear and free from particles. With clean and clear water, your fish will be able to thrive and be healthy. As an added bonus, having a clear tank is also more beneficial to owners, as every fish owner loves to see their fish in utmost clarity.

  • Chemical Functions

The type of water you fill into the tank varies a lot depending on the source. Some sources are likely to have hard metals in the water, which will eventually end up harming the fish. To counter this, we’ll need a filter that can handle such materials and leave you with better and improved water for your fish. Depending on the type of filter, some can remove all these impurities, leaving you with the perfect environment for your fish.

  • Biological Functions

The water in the tank is likely to contain ammonia and nitrates. To keep this environment healthy for a fish, you need to remove these from the water. This is done via a filter. The type of filter for tropical fish tanks will determine how effective it is at removing ammonia. A high-quality and powerful filter should be able to remove waste with ease.

Types of Fish Tank Filters

Photo credit: The Fish Doctor
  • Undergravel Filters

As the name suggests, these filters are normally placed under the gravel layer at the bottom of the tank. They will move the water through the gravel to help with biological filtration. Once the water gets to the filter, bacteria will break down the wastes, cleaning the water. These filters are mostly biological, but they will also have replaceable cartridges to help with the chemical filtration too.

  • Air-driven Filters

These are usually small filters that you can set up in a tank. For their size, they can be versatile and adapt to various tanks. Even though they are small, they can still give great performance. Although, do not expect them to have the best water flow rate. These filters are best if you use them for small tanks with less fish.

  • Power Filters

Power filters are the most common type of filter in many tanks today. They are easy to set up and can last for years if well-maintained. They are loved since they will accomplish all the three filter functions: namely mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration.

You can easily hang them on the back of the tank and complete the setup. They are also relatively easy to clean when maintenance time comes.

  • Canister Filters

These filters get their name from the way that their body is designed. They are designed to look like a canister. These filters are best suited for large tanks. This is because they have the best water flow rate compared to the other types. They will also have several layers of filtration. This makes them effective in handling any type of fish environment, leaving it squeaky clean.

Top 5 Best Filters for Tropical Fish Tanks

Our Top Pick

Our Top Pick: Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Aquarium Filter

Product Name: Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Aquarium Filter

Product Description: This is an excellent choice for anyone who needs a filter with a high output. Considering that this filter can deliver up to 265 GPH, it will be a great choice for various tank sizes. The manufacturer recommends the filter for aquariums of up to 100 gallons.

This filter has 3 media baskets. This is important, as it allows for better water filtration. The media includes a floss pad for removing the particulate matter, followed by a course sponge that provides enough surface area for beneficial bacteria growth. The bacteria are crucial for removing nitrates and ammonia.

How about the setup?

For many, they should find it easy to set up. This filter model comes with complete instructions on how you can set it up and start the filtration process.

  • Suction Power
  • Value for Money
  • Noise Level
  • Easy to Clean


Everyone wants a high-quality and durable filter. You have to look around and see which options are best. We’re confident that the Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Aquarium Filter is one of the best filters for tropical fish tanks. This filter delivers a great flow rate of 265GPH, which is very impressive for its size. It also falls within the affordable range of quality filters. The 3-basket media will deliver excellent filtration performance.


✔️Built for durability

✔️Offers a high filtration rate

✔️Great for marine and freshwater environments


❌ Not the most energy efficient filter

Runner’s Up

Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter

Photo credit: Amazon

If energy consumption is an issue for you, then this one can be an ideal option for you. The unit is designed to be energy efficient, and includes an energy efficient pump. You’ll no longer worry about the energy use of a fish tank filter.

It isn’t simply just about energy use, but also the filtration capability. This one offers superior filtration – you’ll get up to 7 times more filtration capability in comparison to other filters in the same price range.

Some of the filtration media includes AquaClear Foam, BioMax, Cycle Guard, and Activated Carbon. After running a few cycles, you’ll clearly be able to see the difference in how the water looks.

✔️ Quick and easy installation
✔️ Superior filtration capability
✔️ Contains an energy efficient pump
❌ Cleaning the filter isn’t the easiest

MarineLand Magniflow Canister Filter for Aquariums

Photo credit: Amazon

This is a versatile option for anyone looking to get themselves the best filters for tropical fish tanks. The unit is designed to work with both freshwater and saltwater tanks. As such, you can always switch it around depending on your needs.

You’ll also appreciate the water flow of this filter. Depending on the size that you want, the waterflow starts from 220GPH, up to 360GPH. So, if you have a larger tank, it’s always better to go for the higher water flow rate.

As for the filtration, it has up to 3 stages of filtration. The water will flow through these different media and end up leaving you with cleaner water in the tank.

The model is easy to clean and maintain. There is a valve block that allows for quick release of the unit for cleaning. The best part is that you will experience spill-free maintenance!

✔️ Easy to maintain
✔️ Great filtration
✔️ Impressive water flow rate
❌ Some feel it isn’t as sturdy as advertised

Fluval 307 Performance Canister Filter

Photo credit: Amazon

Fluval is another top brand you can always trust when looking for the best filter for your tropical fish tank. The 307 series is one of the best, considering it has a new design to make it more effective. This model is even 25% more quiet compared to the previous models. Now you can filter the water without disturbing the peace of your pets, or even yourself!

Depending on the type that you choose from the series, it can have a water flow of 145 to 383 GPH. Even with constant pumping power and pressure, the unit is well built to stand up to such forces – which means you’re looking at a highly durable model.

The filter is huge on performance, while at the same time, consumes a lot less power than comparable filters. Even if you have to run the filter for hours, you never have to worry about it using a lot of power.

The setup process is straight forward and everything you need is in the box. You can have it up and running in no time.

✔️ Impressive filtration capability
✔️ Energy efficient
✔️ The setup process is easy to follow
❌ The water flow could be better

EHEIM Classic External Filter with Media

Photo credit: Amazon

This model has a simple, but effective design. For this type of design, it should be an ideal option for many. It does come with filter sponges and other filter media to help with the filtration process. It’s quite effective, as you will note a huge difference in the water clarity once you let it work its magic.

The model has all the important accessories needed for setting it up. These include a spray bar, hoses, inlet pipe, and more. You do not need to get additional supplies to get it up and running. The set-up process is also simple to follow. Even newbies to handling filters and fish will have an easy time using it.

The model is best suited for a 100-gallon tank. With its flowrate, it should filtrate faster than the other models.

✔️ Great filtration accessories included
✔️ Excellent filtration media
✔️ Cleaning the filter is quick and easy
❌ Expensive for its filtration features

How to Choose the Best Filter for Tropical Fish Tank

Photo credit: Pinterest

Look at the Tank Size

To find the best filter for tropical fish tanks, you always have to consider the size of your tank. If you look at the description of a filter, you will notice the manufacturer recommends it for a certain tank size. So, you should consider using it for that specific size recommendation. This will ensure that the filter works effectively depending on the size of your tank.  

Filtration Media

Depending on the model, it’s likely to have different filtration media when compared to another model. This is why you would want to consider looking for a model with the best filtration media. Manufacturers will proudly showcase the filtration media and how it works if the product is designed well.

It would even be better if you check out several reviews about the product first. From the reviews, it’s always easier to learn more about the filter. Often, you’ll be able to get a good idea of the product and its quality/effectiveness. The reviews also help you to understand if the media is good or not.

Filter Flowrate

The filter flowrate varies from one unit to another. It always comes down to the size of the tank. For a larger tank, you would want a model with a higher flowrate. This helps filter the water faster and effectively. The flowrate will always be highlighted in the product description, so be sure to check that out first.


The installation process is not always easy with some units. For simple devices, it feels good to set it up yourself. This is why you have to look at the installation process of a specific filter. Always go for the one that is easy to install. Depending on the manufacturer, there are some that come with all the installation accessories, which is a plus because it means you don’t have to buy anything additional. Reviews still play an important role here. They will help you understand if the unit is easy to install, or rather a complete pain.

Final Thoughts

Ending up with the best filter for a tropical fish tank shouldn’t be as hard as it might seem. It often comes down to how well you can research and choose the right option for you and your tank/overall situation. Always look at the performance, build quality, and many other features mentioned above. The list we have provided for the best filters for tropical fish tanks will help you choose the right one for your tank.

Whichever you choose, it will be high-quality, and give you great performance so that your fish can enjoy a well-suited environment to thrive in!