The best filter for a 55-gallon aquarium is one that can keep up with the biological load. If your tank is almost at the limit of its biological load, you will need a workhorse of a filter to get rid of all the waste that the fish will be creating.
On the other hand, you may not need a strong 55-gallon aquarium canister filter if you don’t have that many fish. You should concentrate more on water plants instead. You don’t necessarily need to have a larger capacity filter if you upgrade to a larger tank.
However, it is always good to err on the side of caution. Do not go overboard by getting the most expensive filter to control a very light biological load, too. It is just a waste of money.
So how do you figure out what is the best product for your aquarium? This article will teach you what to look for. You will also be getting a couple of recommendations for the best 55-gallon fish tank filter.
Best Filter for 55 Gallon Aquarium Reviews
1. Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Filter
I was surprised at how small this HOB (hang-on-back) 55-gallon fish tank filter system was when I first saw it. I thought back then that this would not be enough to keep a large 55-gallon tank clean.
However, when I primed it and turned it on, I was surprised at how fast it moved the water. This filter is small enough that I can hide it easily behind the tank, but it has a powerful motor that can move the water efficiently.
I like using a HOB Fluval filter for a 55-gallon tank like this because it is easy to set up and maintain. Unlike submersible filters, you don’t need to submerge your arm inside the tank. Whenever I need to thoroughly clean the water filter, I just lift it off the side and place it on an old towel. My hands would not even touch the tank water at all.
Another thing I liked about this filter that is not present in some of the others that I have tested is the flow rate adjustment valve. Despite its size, this filter can move water at a rate of 200 gallons per hour. If you are keeping small fish, strong water flow quickly agitates them. This filter allows you to dial the flow rate down so it won’t stress the fish.
A nice little addition to this filtration system is the activated carbon filter. Not only did it turn the water crystal clear, but it also eliminated a lot of the fishy smell that usually emanates from aquariums. This filter cartridge essentially purified the water as it passed through, thus keeping all the fish in the tank happy and healthy.
Although I liked the activated carbon filter, I was not a huge fan of the other included cartridges. In my opinion, they were a bit too fine. They filter a lot of waste but they also clog up quickly, thus reducing the flow rate considerably. I had to replace the filter cartridges almost immediately because the water was not flowing fast enough.
2. Polar 265GPH Aurora External Aquarium Filter
Compared to the other 55-gallon fish tank filter cartridge, this one is relatively easier to set up and use. This set already came with all the fittings and filter media, I just needed to connect the hoses and the output pipe then place the filter mediate inside the canister. I spent just a little over half an hour from opening the box to getting the filter going.
Speaking of the output pipe, I noticed that I can set this top fin filter 55-gallon aquarium to work in many configurations. There’s an option to submerge the pipe underwater, creating a slight undercurrent. However, I prefer to put it above the water line to agitate the surface. It prevents the formation of a thin film on top of the water.
I liked the large filter trays this canister filter has. I was able to put even more filter media, making it more efficient at mechanical filtration. Each tray has plenty of space containing the activated carbon and bio-spheres. It allowed me to put several more filter sponges. It helped keep the water clear for weeks even without partial water changes.
One reason why it is among the best power filter for a 55-gallon tank is that it operates quietly. I am now using it on a tank in my living room. I struggle to hear the water pump working even during the early morning when everyone is asleep. At times, I even thought that it stopped working until I heard the slight bubbling sound of the water.
The only issue I had with this filter is that the output bar clamps do not work that well on rimmed tanks. The rim would not let the plastic clamp hold onto the side of the tank securely. I had to use a couple of shims to give the clamp an even surface to latch onto.
3. NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter
This is yet another small submersible filter that packs quite a lot of punch for its size. It has a water pump that is capable of 1000 liters per hour, ideal for aquariums from 55 gallons to around 100 gallons in size. However, I am also glad that I can adjust the flow rate because at maximum power, this filter disturbed the substrate of my aquarium.
Even if the filter for a 55-gallon freshwater tank can efficiently keep my aquarium clean, I would not like it if it is hard to clean. It is not the case for this one. I loved that I can tear it apart without tools. This allowed for thorough cleaning and maintenance. It is also easy to put back together. It took me less than 15 minutes to finish.
I also liked how this filter has a somewhat modular design. This system has two sets of sponge filters that are great for clearing up a cloudy tank. However, I found that for just maintaining the clarity of the water, it is enough to use one set of filters. This made it even more compact and easier to hide in the background while keeping the water clean.
Another nice thing about this filter is that I did not need to use a separate air stone to add oxygen into the water. I just attached the air hose onto the nub that is on the water outlet. This attachment is a lot better at aerating the water using an air stone because air is mixed with flowing water.
Now, I did say that this filter’s pump is powerful enough to circulate the water in a 55-gallon tank. However, the included filter media does not have enough surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow. Thankfully, I could fit a decent number of biospheres in the filter compartment after pulling out the included sponge media.
4. Hygger Replaceable Sponge Filter
This product is probably the best sponge filter for a 55-gallon tank because it does not need a water pump to work. I only need to use a small air pump, which I already have because I used an air stone. The air creates a vacuum inside the filter that makes it draw through the sponge and bio media and then out through the outlet pipe.
I have used this type of filter before but this is the first one with a bio-filter. There are two compartments that I filled with ceramic biofilter balls, making it eventually a home for beneficial bacteria that will filter ammonia and nitrates from the water. I have been using it for a couple of months and so far, there have been no ammonia or nitrate spikes.
Other than circulating the water in the tank, because it uses an air pump to work, this filter also oxygenates the water at the same time. This means you do not need to use a separate air stone. This filter does the job of two attachments, so it saves a lot of space and keeps the aquarium looking clean and uncluttered.
I also liked that the output pipe can extend quite a bit over the surface of the water. This allows me to extend the output high enough to effectively agitate the surface of the water or set it low to give the water a bit of a current.
However, what I did not like about this filter is that the suction cups that were supposed to hold the filter in place are not that strong. I had to replace the ones that came with the filters with larger and stronger ones just to keep the filter from floating in the tank.
5. Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Power Filter
I have been unlucky enough to go through a couple of water filters because their motors burned out after a brief power outage. This is not a problem with this water filter as it has a self-priming pump. Even after a couple of thunderstorms tripped the fuse box, this filter kept on chugging.
Another neat feature of this filter system is that you do not need to visually inspect the filters to find out when you need to replace them. This filter has an indicator LED that lights up when the filter senses that the flow rate has gotten significantly slower.
This compact HOB filter has 5 stages of filtration. This filter uses mechanical, chemical, biological, and two optional specialty Aqueon filter pads. I used this filter when I reset my 55-gallon tank, and it only took one day to get the water crystal clear. The filters also worked well at decreasing ammonia and nitrate levels and keeping them down.
I also liked how low-maintenance this filter is. When it comes to cleaning, it is easy to dismantle. I did not need any tools to disassemble the filter completely, even the impeller was easy to remove and clean. Once the parts are clean, they are as easy to put back together as they were to take them apart.
The only thing I did not like is how easy it was to burn out the water pump motor. Even running it dry for a short while is enough to cause the motor to burn. The first filter I had burned out was when the water level got a bit too low. This would have been better if it had an emergency cutoff switch to prevent this from happening.
6. OASE Indoor Aquatics Biomaster Thermo
The thing I liked the most about this water filtration system is that it has an all-in-one function. It is not just a water filter. This device also has a built-in heater, which is a must for fish sensitive to sudden temperature changes. I liked this feature especially since I live where the temperature usually drops to below freezing during the winter.
I was also quite happy with how this filter kept the water in my tank clean and free of harmful chemicals like ammonia and nitrates. The water goes through 4 filtration stages, namely pre-filtration, mechanical, chemical, and biological filters. The water coming out of the output pipe is not just clear but also free of chemical contaminants.
I have used other brands of external cartridge water filters and most of them were quite noisy. It is like you can hear the water gushing inside them. This product is quite the opposite. It is so quiet that I sometimes think that it is not working or got unplugged accidentally.
In addition, this cartridge filter has a water pump that can easily circulate the water in a 55-gallon tank, maybe even bigger. It is so powerful that I had to dial down the flow rate as it is disturbing the substrate too much.
I honestly do like this filter quite a bit. However, I do wish that the heater feature was a bit more consistent. There have been times when the water temperature would fluctuate by an entire degree or two. It caused quite a bit of stress on my fish. It is not enough to kill them, but you can see their agitation.
7. JackSuper Ultra Quiet Fish Tank Filter
This aquarium filter has a novel little feature that I kind of like: interchangeable water outlet pipes. You can choose to use the wavemaker attachment, which is ideal for turtle ponds. There is also the aerator attachment, which you can connect with an air pump, oxygenating the water. There is also one to use the filter as a submersible pump.
For something so versatile, this aquarium filter is surprisingly easy to use. This was technically ready-to-use right out of the box. I just had to remove the plastic covering of the filter media and it was already good to go. It was also nice that it did not need any additional tools to disassemble and clean.
For something so powerful, I was surprised that it was not bigger. This aquarium filter has a water pump that is strong enough that it can circulate the water in a 55-gallon tank easily. However, it is also so compact that it was easy to hide behind aquarium decorations. This gave my aquarium a clean and uncluttered look.
Speaking of the water pump, I always used it for partial and full tank water replacements. I would run a hose from the device’s water outlet and into my kitchen sink for a mess-free water replacement.
Afterward, I would also use it as a submersible pump. I would place it inside a bucket of clean, treated water and run a hose into my tank. It helped quicken the entire process.
This would have been much better if I could adjust the water flow. As it is, the water pump is a bit too strong for my tank. It would sometimes blow my fish away. Thankfully, I was able to jerry-rig a flow limiter to slow down the water coming out of the outlet.
8. Marineland Emperor 400 Pro Bio-Wheel Filter
Getting this aquarium filter was a no-brainer for me considering that this is one of the most popular HOB filters in the market. The biggest selling point of this device, for me, is its durability. I have lots of aquarist friends that have been using theirs for almost ten years, and they have not run into any serious problems whatsoever.
Aside from being durable, this aquarium filter also does a great job at chemical and biological filtration, thanks to the bio-wheel feature. The spinning ceramic water wheel allows beneficial bacteria to grow on their surface, and the rotating action constantly exposes them to air, which makes them work more efficiently.
I also like the long inlet pipe that can almost reach the bottom of my 55-gallon tank. This makes sure that all the water in the tank gets sucked into the filter. I have had some aquarium filters that had short inlet pipes and it resulted in the water at the bottom getting stagnant.
Even though this aquarium filter has a lot of moving parts, this is quite easy to clean and maintain. Even the bio-wheels are easy to remove and clean. No wonder this brand of aquarium filter can last so long.
Although I haven’t experienced it myself, several people said that their filters were a bit noisy. This might be due to not cleaning the bio-wheels properly, resulting in a slight squeaking sound as they turn.
9. FREESEA Internal Aquarium Power Filter
This aquarium filter does more than just clean the water but also dissolved oxygen effectively. I liked this feature because it removes the need for a separate air stone for oxygenating the water, which gave my tank a nice uncluttered look. I also used this filter for my planted tank, which uses an external CO2 tank.
Another reason why I like using this aquarium filter is that it is easy to dismantle for thorough cleaning. The filter compartments simply snap in place. I can also easily remove them by hand. I was even able to pull out the impeller easily for cleaning.
Although this filter has such a powerful pump motor, it is still quiet. If not for the bubbles that come out of this water filter, I would have sworn that it was not working. I have a small aquarium set up in my bedroom with this filter, and I can only hear it humming when completely quiet. The white noise it produces is also quite relaxing.
As I mentioned earlier, I also use this water filter for a smaller tank. Typically, a filter with a pump as powerful as this one would not work with a tank smaller than 55 gallons. However, since this has an adjustable flow rate, I was able to dial the power down so that it will not cause the water to splash around in the tank.
The only issue I had with this aquarium filter is that it is quite tricky to clean due to it having so many parts. You have to be careful when you dismantle this filter for cleaning since there are a couple of small parts that you might misplace.
10. SunSun Hw302 265GPH Pro Canister Filter
When I first got this filter kit, I thought I needed to buy the filter media separately. It is mostly my fault for not reading the label. When I opened the box that this device came in, I was surprised to see that it already contained everything that I needed, including the different kinds of filter media.
Just like all external canister filters, this one has a priming button for when you need to start the water pump again. Unlike other canister filters I have used before, this device primed right up after just a couple of pumps. In addition, even when the power goes out for a couple of moments, you do not need to prime the pump again to get it going.
I have a tank full of goldfish, Black Moors to be exact, and people who keep fish like this know that they create a ton of waste. I used a HOB filter on the tank once, and it did not take more than a couple of days before it was full. I opted for this canister filter for a 55-gallon tank because it is larger than a HOB, and I was glad I made the switch.
Also, unlike some of the other canister filters I tried so far, this has proven to be quite leak-proof. It has thick and beefy O-rings that prevent even the tiniest amount of water from getting through. Other filters I have owned usually sat in a small pool of water after a couple of months, but I haven’t had any problems like that with this product.
The only complaint I have with this kit is that the included rubber hoses for the inlet and outlet were stiff. I needed to soak the hoses in a basin of hot water for a couple of minutes to get them nice and loose. On the other hand, once the hoses cooled down, they held onto the hose connectors tightly.
What to Look For When Buying a Filter For 55 Gallon Aquarium
Shopping for the most suitable filter for a 55-gallon aquarium can be tricky, especially if you are not aware of the qualities you need to look for. The following are just some of the qualities that a good water filter needs to have:
Mechanical and Biological Filtration
Mechanical filtration pertains to how effectively a filter removes solid matter from the water. The filter should be fine enough that it can remove most if not all the dirt and debris suspended in the water, but without hampering the pump’s ability to move the water.
Biological filtration, on the other hand, gets rid of hazardous chemicals, like ammonia, from the waste of the fish using beneficial bacteria. If the ammonia level gets too high, your fish will get sick and eventually die. To figure out if your filter has mechanical and biological filtration, check if there are ceramic balls in the filter compartment.
A good aquarium filter does not require frequent maintenance. There are lots of cheap aquarium filters that you need to clean every other day or so; otherwise, the water output will significantly lessen, and eventually, the pump motor will burn out.
If the time comes that you need to give the filter a thorough cleaning, it should be easy to dismantle so that it will be easier to clean.
If you mounted your 55-gallon aquarium on a sturdy cabinet with plenty of storage space, an external canister filter system might be more to your speed. These filters have significantly more filter media, allowing them to clean the water in the aquarium more efficiently.
If you do not have the luxury of space, you should opt for a HOB (hang-on-back) or a submersible filter. These kinds of filters are small enough that you can hide them at the back of the tank or behind the plants or decorations inside it. Although they are not quite as efficient at filtering compared to canister filters, they still do a respectable job.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Size Filter For 55 Gallon Tank?
The rule of thumb when choosing a filter for your tank is that it needs to have a flow rate that is four times the volume of the tank. If you have a 55-gallon tank, you will need a filtration system that can move water at a rate of at least 220 gallons per hour.
How Often Do I Change My 55 Gallon Aquarium Filter?
Ideally, you will need to replace your filter media every three to four weeks. While the filter is already out of the water, take this time to scrub the inside of the filter housing using an old toothbrush and water that came from the tank. This will keep you from accidentally removing the beneficial bacteria from the filter.
If you are upgrading from a smaller aquarium, you will also need to upgrade your hardware, which includes getting the best aquarium filter for a 55-gallon tank. The filter you used for your smaller tank might not be able to keep up with the load that comes with the larger one.
A filter for a 55-gallon aquarium is the one that can handle all the biological waste that your fish can produce while circulating the water in the tank at the same time.