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The Best Small Aquarium Filter for 2022

best small aquarium filter

Although a small aquarium is not quite as troublesome as larger tanks, there are some tasks you would wish you did not have to do. I do not like having to change the water of my small aquariums every other day.

This is the reason why I like using the best small aquarium filter. This handy gadget will be enough to minimize the need for water changes, so you have more time to enjoy your fish.

There are lots of aquarium filters out there, but you need to be careful when choosing one for your small aquarium. You better choose the right size. Get one that is too small and it might not clean the water. On the other hand, if you choose a filter that is too big the water in the tank might get too turbulent.

This article will teach you how to pick the best aquarium filters for small tanks. You will be learning about the different qualities that you need to look for, and what features would come in handy.

Best Small Aquarium Filter Reviews

1. Boxtech Aquarium Hang On Filters

boxtech aquarium hang on filters

I have been keeping fish since I was a kid so assembling this filter is almost second nature. As far as aquarium filters go, this product is one of the easiest to assemble. I didn’t even notice that the box did not come with assembly instructions.

Another nice thing about this product is that most of its structure is from sturdy ABS plastic. The nice thing about ABS plastic is that it can last for years without getting too brittle.

I have been using the same filter for nearly a year and even the plastic knobs are still intact. There are a couple of stress marks, but overall, the filter is still working as intended.

This is ideal for small tanks because the inlet tube has a design that prevents it from sucking up the small fish. The inlet tube has a mesh to keep fish from getting drawn into the filter. There is also a foam sleeve that goes over the inlet so the fish will not get hurt if they get too close.

At first, I thought that this filter was a bit too strong for my small tank, but then I saw that there was a regulator valve. A couple of twists and I got the water flowing at the rate I wanted. The water pump is quite strong so I advise not to let the water flow at full tilt.

The only issue I have is the filter cartridges that this filter uses. It is a bit too thin, so they get clogged up quite easily. Sometimes, the clogging is too much that I have to change it weekly, and the costs add up eventually. After a while, I switched to using the large filter sheets that need to be cut to size and they worked much better.

Pros
  • Easy to assemble and install
  • Made of durable ABS plastic
  • Has foam insert to protect small fish
  • Water flow is easy to adjust
Cons
  • The filter cartridges are thin and need replacing every week
  • Requires tweaking the water flow because it is initially too strong

If you are looking for a small aquarium filter that is not too complex to use, then you would love this product. Even though the kit did not come with assembly instructions, it is still easy to put together.

2. Hygger Super Mini Single Small Sponge Filters

hygger super mini single small sponge filters

I was quite surprised when I first saw this filter. The main reason is that it was so small and compact. Completely assembled, the whole thing (except for the air pump) can fit inside the palm of my hand. This was the perfect size for my 5-gallon betta tank. It is so small that it was almost effortless to hide it behind the decorations.

Another nice thing about this product is that it does not just filter the water but also aerates it. This means you do not need to use a separate air stone to keep the oxygen saturation at an optimal level. You just have to hook up a simple air pump to the filter. This will be enough to make the filter suck up and circulate the water.

As mentioned earlier, you will need to hook this device to an air pump but you do not need to get a powerful one. You should not use an air pump that is more powerful than 5 watts. This means you can use one of those cheap air pumps and you will be just fine.

In terms of assembly and installation, it does not get any easier than this. Including the unboxing, it only took less than a couple of minutes before I got this filter running. There is very minimal assembly required.

Although I do love this tiny contraption, there are a couple of minor issues that you need to know. The first is that the manufacturing quality checkers should have been more vigilant because the one I got sprung a small leak. It was not that serious though, and a tiny bit of silicone was enough to fix the leak.

Pros
  • Boasts of a small and compact design
  • Filters and aerates the water at the same time
  • Only needs a simple air pump to work
  • Requires minimal assembly and easy to install
Cons
  • The plastic is a bit flimsy and might spring a leak later
  • The suction cup included in the set is quite weak

This is one of the most interesting filters I have owned so far. This is quite affordable and even though it does not come with an air pump, you can buy one for less than 10 bucks. If you have a small aquarium and the bioload is not that large, this is the most suitable small fish tank filter for your needs.

3. NICREW Aquarium Internal Filters

nicrew aquarium internal filters

The thing I liked the most about this small internal aquarium filter is that you can set it up in several different ways. I have mine set up so that the water trickles from above the water. However, if you want it to be a bit quieter, you can just set it so that it will circulate and/or aerate the water in the tank.

This is not just a water pump. It is a fully-functional water filter. The design of this submersible pump allows it to draw water through a dual-stage filter before recirculating it in the tank. The water goes through a bit of bio-foam for mechanical filtration, and the beneficial bacteria will also process the ammonia.

If you want your fish to be able to “breathe” properly, you will need to aerate the water that they live in. This will ensure that the fish will be getting enough oxygen into their bodies so they can function. This water filter comes with an attachment that will draw air in from outside the tank and into the water.

Unlike other water filters where the water goes through the pump first before going through the filter media, this product does it the other way around. The inlet contains the filter media so the water that goes through the pump is essentially clean and debris-free.

Although I do like this water filter, it does have a rather serious issue. The water flow rate, even when dialed down to the lowest setting, is a bit too strong. If you will be using this in a small aquarium, the water pump might blow your fish around too much.

Pros
  • Allows you to position the filter in several different ways
  • Has multi-stage filtration
  • Can work as an aerator as well
  • Low-maintenance and easy to clean
Cons
  • The current is still quite too strong for small fish
  • Not advisable for tanks with fine gravel or sand substrate

This product is a very versatile small canister filter aquarium. This means you can set it up in several ways. You can even use it in a turtle tank. The water flow rate is a bit too strong though, so you might not want to use it in a tank with fish that are prone to get stressed.

4. DaToo Silent Aquarium Power Filters

datoo silent aquarium power filters

The thing that I liked the most about this device is its compact and space-saving design. I am using this in a 5-gallon betta tank and this extra small fish tank filter fits perfectly.

In addition, even though this device is quite small, there is plenty of space inside for additional filter media. I do wish that this came in another color aside from white as it does tend to stand out in the background.

Even though I do feel that the included filter cartridge is not enough on its own (more about this later), it does have its merits. For one thing, I liked that this contained activated charcoal, which helped keep the water smelling fresh.

The best thing about this water filter is that it is whisper-quiet. This has to be one of the quietest filters I have used in all the years I have been keeping aquariums. If not for the slight sound of water trickling out of the outlet, I would think that it was not working. This is ideal for aquariums that you want to keep in your bedroom or office.

Another thing I liked is that this device comes ready to work straight out of the box. There is no assembly required other than slipping in the filter cartridge and attaching the suction cups at the back.

Now, let us talk about the included filter cartridge. As I mentioned earlier, it is not enough on its own to keep the water clean. I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt the first time I used it and the water in the tank was always cloudy. Also, because the filter was quickly clogged up, unfiltered water would flow out of the device often.

Pros
  • Features a compact design while still providing a lot of space for the filter media
  • Included filter cartridge contains activated charcoal
  • Operates quietly – You can hear only the soft sound of trickling water
  • No assembly necessary – It is also easy to clean and maintain
Cons
  • The included filter cartridge is not enough
  • The suction in the inlet might be too strong for small fish

This product is one of the quietest and smallest external aquarium filters I have used so far. If not for the water flowing out of the device, you may think that it is not working at all. Although this water filter does need a bit of tweaking, once you have it dialed in, it will keep the water in your aquarium crystal clear.

5. PULACO Quiet Small Fish Tank Filters

pulaco quiet small fish tank filters

This product is a very basic HOB filter and its design is not much different from the first filters that came out years ago. The design might be outdated by quite a bit but it is functional and reliable. If you are only keeping a couple of small fish, this filter will be enough for your needs.

The nice thing about this basic water filter is, unlike some of the products in this list, it has a flow rate controller. The pump is just 3 watts, but it can still be too much for small fish. You can change the flow rate simply by turning a knob on top of the device.

Another benefit of using this device is that it is small and compact, which promotes ease in hiding it in the background. If you will be putting large decorations in your tank, like live plants and driftwood, this filter will work great. Because it is so small, and it is also transparent, it will not grab the attention away from the rest of the tank.

Another nice thing about this device is that it is very low-maintenance. There are only a couple of parts that you need to take apart. Most of the time, you only need to take out the sponge filters to clean or replace them. Deep cleaning will be necessary around once a month and it is quite easy to do.

Speaking of the filter sponges, those are the only things that you can use. The space inside the device is so small that there is only room for one or two bio sponges. This is why you should only use this for small tanks and the fish should not produce too much waste.

Pros
  • Simple yet effective working design
  • Has an adjustable water flow
  • Small and compact, making it ideal for small aquariums
  • Low-maintenance and easy to install
Cons
  • The plastic housing is quite brittle
  • The filter media clogs up quickly

If you are a beginner at aquarium keeping, this is a good filter to get you started at the hobby. If you will not be taking care of fish that make a lot of waste, like small fish like bettas, tetras, or mollies, this filter will be enough.

6. Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filters

aqueon quietflow e internal power filters

This aquarium filter is ready to use right out of the box. Unlike other filters, it does not require any assembly at all. You just need to insert the included filter cartridges into the filter, and then hang it on the side of your tank. After that, you can plug it into a power strip. It will not take you more than five minutes to set this thing up yourself.

Another nice thing is that this is a self-priming pump. This means you do not need to fill the inside of the filter with water before you start it. If you live in an area where power outages are so commonplace that all your appliances are on surge protectors, you will love this filter.

In the event of a power outage, this filter will restart without any problems when the power goes back on.

The kit also comes with two filter cartridges – one is a simple bio-foam insert and the other contains activated charcoal. The second filter cartridge is quite nice because it helps to minimize or outright remove the bad smells from the tank.

In my opinion, the best thing about this device is that it is true to its name since this filter is very quiet. You can place this in the bedroom and you will not even notice it working. It is so quiet that the only thing that you will be hearing that is evidence of it working is the slight sound of trickling water.

However, I did discover that this pump would start getting louder after a couple of months. Even though I regularly clean and replace the filters, the motor would start getting audibly louder. I discovered that there is gunk stuck on the impeller shaft that keeps it from moving.

Pros
  • No assembly is necessary while also being easy to install
  • The pump does not require priming – It auto restarts during power interruptions
  • Comes with activated carbon filters that eliminate odors
  • Operates quietly, hardly produces any noises
Cons
  • The included filters clog up quickly
  • Starts to hum loudly after a month or so

When this water filter starts to make sounds, it might seem unsettling at first, but you can fix it by flushing it with hot water. However, it would have been better if you did not need to do this every month or so. On the other hand, if you are only keeping small fish in your tank, this might be enough for you.

7. Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filters

penn-plax cascade hang-on aquarium filters

Do not be overwhelmed when you see this water filter in pieces upon opening the box since assembly is not that hard. You do not need to use any tools whatsoever to put this filter together. It would not take you more than a couple of minutes to assemble and install this filter in your aquarium.

In addition, you can disassemble this filter to such a degree that you will be able to clean it thoroughly. I have had a couple of aquarium filters that had so many nooks and crannies that made them very difficult to clean. Once disassembled, the individual pieces are a lot easier to clean.

Another nice feature of this water filter is that it comes with a telescoping inlet tube. This means that you can adjust it so that it can draw water even when the water level is a bit low. You can also adjust the water flow so that you will not be blowing your small fish around in the tank.

This kit also came with two free filter cartridges. This means that you do not need to buy separate filters to get started using this device. The filters are double-sided so you are essentially getting four different types of filtrations. These filters can also last quite a long time.

However, even though I kind of like the included filter cartridges, I am not quite satisfied with how they work. The cartridges were a bit too short, thus causing unfiltered water to flow up and through the filter without getting cleaned first.

I had to replace the filter cartridges with DIY filter pads after less than a week because they are not working as well as I thought they would.

Pros
  • Fairly easy to assemble and set up
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Can work even with low water levels
  • Uses two, double-sided filter cartridges
Cons
  • The filter cartridges that came with the kit are too small
  • The motor burned out quickly after just running dry for a couple of seconds

It is a shame about the included Penn-Plax filter cartridges, but thankfully, there is more than enough room in the filter for whatever type of filter media you would want to use. Aside from the filter cartridges, there are very few things that warrant complaints. Overall, I am quite happy with this water filter and you should use it, too.

8. JackSuper Waterfall Reptiles Internal Filter

jacksuper waterfall reptiles internal filter

I always appreciate when products need minimal, if any, assembly. This aquarium filter is great because it is usable straight out of the box. The only thing I need to do is insert the included filter cartridges and then hang this on the side of the tank.

Another nice thing about installing this filter is that you can set it low near the base, using the suction cups. This is if you will be using this in a turtle tank.

Also, even though this filter has a compact design, there is plenty of space inside the casing for additional filter media. I did not use the included filter cartridges because I wanted to use another brand. I also wish to use bio-balls to control the nitrate level.

It also does not matter if you have a rimmed or rimless aquarium. For rimless tanks, you can use the included hook to hang this on the side of the tank and use the suction cups to fix the filter on the side.

Meanwhile, if you have a rimmed tank, you can just stick the filter on the side of the glass using the suction cups. Don’t worry as they are strong enough.

If you live in an area where power outages are quite common, you should check out this aquarium filter. I have had the bad luck of losing a couple of filters because of power outages.

When the power came back, the filters ran dry and burned out their motors. The nice thing about this aquarium filter is it has a self-priming feature, so there is no risk of the pump running dry.

This is far from the perfect aquarium filter as it has a couple of issues. The thing I liked the least about this product is that the housing is made from thin plastic. This makes the entire device feel quite cheap. There is no satisfying heft to it. Be careful not to drop this on the floor as the housing will surely crack on impact.

Pros
  • No assembly required
  • Ideal for use on rimless and rimmed aquariums
  • Provides a lot of space inside the filter for additional filter media
  • Self-priming – There is no danger of the pump burning up when the power starts
Cons
  • The water flow is a bit too strong
  • A bit flimsy plastic material

This is a good beginner’s aquarium filter as it is easy to set up and maintain. You might need to use other filter cartridges other than the ones that came with the set, but overall, the device is good for beginners.

9. WEAVERBIRD Mini Sponge Small Tank Filters

weaverbird mini sponge small tank filters

At less than 4 inches long fully assembled, and only an inch wide, this is the perfect small fish tank filter and pump. If you have a planted tank and you need a filter that you can easily hide in the background, this is the one for you. Because of its size and shape, you can put this filter right in the corner of the tank so it will not bother the fish.

This device not only filters the water but also aerates it. The thing with this aquarium filter is that you need to connect this to an air pump to make it work. As the air flows through and out of the filter, it draws water through the filter medium. This means that aside from cleaning the water, the bubbles from the air pump also aerate it.

Another thing about this filter is that because there are no moving parts, unlike filters with built-in water pumps, this filter can last for many years. Of course, this is possible with proper cleaning and maintenance. I have been using this filter for nearly a year and it has not shown any signs of quitting just yet.

This is ideal for small tanks with small fish because the water suction is not so strong that small fish get sucked up the inlet tube. In addition, the inlet tube has a mesh covering. It also comes wrapped in a bio-foam sleeve. Even if your small fish were to accidentally brush against the inlet tube, they will not get stuck.

Now, if you are a total beginner at aquarium keeping, you might not know that you need to hook this up to an air pump. Also, if you will be positioning the air pump on the same surface as the tank, you have to put a check valve on the air tubing so that the water will not back up into the air pump.

However, after checking the kit several times, I am sure that there is no check valve included in the kit.

Pros
  • Has a compact design that is suitable for small tanks
  • Filters the water and aerates it at the same time
  • No moving parts, so no possibility of wear and tear
  • Ideal for small fish as they will not get sucked through the inlet
Cons
  • You will need a separate air pump
  • There is no check valve included in the kit

This aquarium filter, as simple as it is, may just be one of the smoothest small tanks. Because there are no moving parts, this filter can last for many years. Also, the bio-sponge filter is more than enough to keep a small tank clean, even if you are keeping a goldfish in there.

Note that you need to find a solution for the weak suction cup, but overall, this filter is highly recommended.

10. AQUATICLIFE Internal Protein Nano Tanks Filters

aquaticlife internal protein nano tanks filters

This device is not just an ordinary aquarium filter but it is a compact protein skimmer. It essentially removes leftover food particles and fish waste from the water before they break down and contaminate the water. This means that it keeps the water clean. It does it so much that you will only need partial water changes every week or so.

The thing about keeping small tanks is that they are more likely to experience sudden nitrate or ammonia spikes. Having a protein skimmer will help you keep the nitrate and ammonia levels extremely low, so your fish will be healthy and happy.

Even though this device only has an 8-watt electric pump motor, it has more than enough power to make this device work. The motor and impeller do make a bit of noise when working, but it is not so loud that you can’t sleep. I am using this protein skimmer on a five-gallon tank, but this should be good for a 10-gallon aquarium as well.

Another nice feature of this device is that the collection cup, where all of the solid waste from the water goes into, is conveniently on top of the device. This is unlike some of the other protein skimmers I have used where the collection cup is inside the housing.

Now, as much as I do love this water filter for a small fish tank, it has a couple of flaws. The most inconvenient is that the plastic seams are prone to leaking, so I suggest you put a bit of sealant before use.

Also, the suction cups that are supposed to keep the device in place are too weak. Expect the filter to come off the side every time you take out the collection cup.

Pros
  • Not just a filter but a protein skimmer as well
  • Effectively filters solid waste before it can chemically alter the water
  • Small yet powerful pump
  • The collection cup is accessible and easy to clean
Cons
  • The seams of the housing are prone to leaking
  • The suction cups alone are not strong enough to keep the entire thing in place

This is perhaps the smallest protein skimmer that I have ever used, and it works quite well. This nifty little device worked great at removing almost all the solid waste before they can get the chance to contaminate the water. Although this filter is a bit too complicated for casual or beginner aquarium keepers, this is a good jumping-off point.

What to Look For When Buying a Small Aquarium Filter

best small fish tank filter

If you are a complete beginner at taking care of an aquarium, it is understandable if you do not know how to choose a filter for it. There are even some people who did not know that they need to use a filter at all. To give you a heads-up, here are some of the features you need to keep an eye out for when shopping for a good small aquarium filter.

Size

Since you will be using the filter on a small tank, you need the smallest fish tank filter you can find. It is best to check the packaging for the recommended tank size where you can use the filter.

Flow Rate

For a small tank, like say 5-gallons, the pump motor of the filter (if it has one) should not be too strong. This will cause the water in the tank to become too turbulent and stress the fish. Just to be on the safe side, use a filter that has an adjustable flow rate.

Filters Used

This is the main reason why you are getting an aquarium filter. Ideally, the filter you get should provide at least two kinds of filtration. One is for filtering the solid waste out of the water, and another for biological filtration.

This is where beneficial bacteria will deal with ammonia and nitrate in the water. However, if you will only be taking care of small fish, a bio-filter should be enough.

Noise and Vibrations

Regardless of where you will be putting the aquarium, it should be running as silently as possible. Aside from the trickling of water from the filters, you should not be hearing anything else.

Frequently Asked Questions

smallest external aquarium filter

Which Filter is Best for a Small Aquarium?

Anything small enough that it will not take away too much swimming space and has ample filtering capabilities will work for a small tank. However, the most convenient ones to use are HOB (Hang-On-Back) filters as they are easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance.

Do Nano Tanks need Filters?

Yes. All fish, regardless of size, will produce waste. Using a water filter will keep the water cleaner for longer. This means you do not need to stress the fish with frequent water changes.

Conclusion

Even if you will only be keeping a small aquarium, like a 2-gallon nano tank, it is still better to use the best small aquarium filter on it. Even small fish will make a certain amount of waste, and if left unattended, it will affect the quality of the water.

Good fish tank filters for small tanks will keep the water clean and clear for much longer, which means less hassle for you.

4.4/5 - (9 votes)