Best Filter for Betta Fish Aquariums – 5 top Choices for 2019

Whether you’re thinking about setting up a new betta fish tank or you already have one and are considering new options for filtration, this is the article for you.

One of the main parts of fish keeping is taking proper care of your charges. Your betta’s tank is their whole world, so you need to provide a suitable habitat and the correct water parameter to keep them happy and healthy.

We know that the world of aquarium filters can be baffling enough as it is, but when you factor in the specific requirements of bettas, things get even more complicated.

To help you, we’ve put together a rough guide to the best filters for betta tanks.

The best filters for betta tanks written beside a bright red betta in a planted tankFirst, we explain a bit more about why filters are essential, then we examine the most common types and touch on what you should look for in a model for your betta fish, before finally revealing our top five picks.

Want to find the best filter for your betta fish? Read on.

At a Glance: Our Top 5 Choices for Best Filter for Betta Tanks

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

Why do Betta Tanks Need a Filter?

Some people believe betta fish don’t require a filter in their tank since they’re capable of coming to the surface of the water and breathing oxygen from the air.

While this is true, it doesn’t mean your betta doesn’t need one, because aquarium filters do more than just put oxygen in the tank water. Here are some of the reasons why you should install one:

  • While betta fish can survive in poorly oxygenated water, they thrive when there’s more of that precious O2.
  • Aquarium filters also remove dirt and debris, such as leftover food and fish waste, from the tank, keeping the water clean.
  • Filters that provide chemical filtration help get rid of harmful chemicals in the water, such as ammonia and nitrates.
  • If you choose a model with biological filtration, it provides a place for beneficial bacteria to live, which improve water quality and help create a balanced ecosystem.
  • Since male betta fish must live alone, they’re often kept in compact aquariums without filtration, and it can be hard to keep small tanks clean enough via water changes alone.
  • Betta fish kept in an aquarium with filtration generally tend to be healthier and live longer.
 

What Types of Filter are Best?

So, now you know why your betta requires a filter, let’s look at some of the most popular types available.

Since bettas don’t like currents in their water, one of the primary features we’re looking for is the ability to turn the flow rate down low.

Sponge Filters

These are one of the oldest and most basic filtration systems. How do sponge filters work? They push water through a sponge by way of air bubbles rising up through the sponge, providing biological and some mechanical filtration.

They’re not extremely powerful, which is why they’re somewhat fallen out of favor and are usually only used in fry and hospital tanks.

However, since sponge filters are powered by an air pump, it’s easy to turn the flow rate down low, keeping your betta fish happy.

HOB Filters

Hang on Back (HOB) filters are a powerful type that use a pump to push water through various filtration media (the media used varies depending on the model you choose) and back out into the tank through the return pipe.

Many HOBs have a strong output flow, making them unsuitable for betta fish without modification. However, some models allow you to turn the flow rate down low, without affecting the performance.

Having said that though, because betta tanks are often small, and HOBs are external to the tank, they are popular to allow more room inside the aquarium for the inhabitants.

Note: Check out or guide to the best HOB filters.

Canister Filters

Like HOBs, canister filters push water through a combination of filtration media. While they’re very effective, they can be too powerful for the average betta tank. If you choose a canister model, it must allow you to adjust the output rate to a very weak flow.

Under Gravel Filters

Under gravel filters consist of a plate that sits under the substrate and several uptake tubes that suck water down underneath the substrate and back up through it.

The beauty of a UGFis the substrate itself acts as a filtration media, but this does mean debris can build up in the gravel, plus there’s no chemical filtration, so tanks using these can be high in nitrates and ammonia.

Some under gravel models use powerheads on the uptake tubes, which makes the flow of water too strong for betta fish.

 

A Note on Reducing Current

Of course, the best thing to do is to buy a filter that’s appropriate for your betta fish and doesn’t create a current in the water. However, if you find that your carefully-chosen model creates more water flow than you thought it would, there are a few things you can do to reduce the current.

You can use a flow baffle, which is basically anything you can safely use to either partially block or dissipate the output or return flow pipe. Mesh screens and (clean, unused) soap dishes can both help to deflect the flow of water.

Many betta keepers also secure pantyhose over the water intake pipe, which mostly serves to reduce water flow through the filter and to protect your betta’s delicate fins.

Some people also choose to make a screen out of living plants or suitable tank ornaments in front of the output flow to help dissipate the water and provide a calm sanctuary for their betta.

What to Look for in The Best Betta Filters?

What exactly should you look for in an aquarium filter for a betta tank? These are some of the most vital features.

  • A low output rate. We’ve touched on this above, but betta fish aren’t happy in moving water. Choose a model with a low (or easily adjustable) output rate so it won’t create a current.
  • It probably goes without saying, but your chosen model should be effective. If doesn’t keep your betta’s water clean enough, then it’s not up to the job.
  • The last thing you want is for your filter to break down or be temperamental. Pick one from a trusted brand that’s well-made and known to be durable and reliable.
  • Easy to use. If you feel like you need to get a master’s degree in engineering before you can work your chosen aquarium filter, something’s not right. Choose one that’s simple to install, set up, and get running.
  • Media access. Most filtration media must be replaced or cleaned regularly, so it’ll make your life easier if it’s simple to access and change each type of media without disturbing the others. If your chosen filter only accepts specific cartridges, make sure they’re easy to source.
  • Right for the size of your aquarium. Filters are made for aquariums of certain sizes, so you make sure the one you choose isn’t too powerful or not powerful enough for the size of your tank.

Best Filter for Betta Tanks – Our Top 5 Recommendations

From here we list and discuss our top recommendations fof all the models available on the market toay. There’s sure to be one to suit your needs!

1. Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter, 10 Gallon,

The Aqueon Quietflow is an effective model that provides three-stage filtration: biological, chemical and mechanical. The fact it provides all three forms of filtration means it does an excellent job of keeping water clean.

Well-made and reliable, the Quietflow comes with a limited lifetime warranty, which speaks for its quality.

You can adjust the flow rate, flow direction, and flow height, which means it’s easily adjustable to fit the needs of your betta fish.

What Size Tank is it Suitable for?

There are 4 sizes in the range, suitable for 10, 15, 30 and 40-gallon tanks.

Is it Easy to Use?

While the Aqueon Quietflow is easy to set up, you will need to completely remove it from the tank and open it up to replace the cartridges that hold the media, which can be a pain.

What We Like

  • Extremely quiet
  • Highly adjustable flow output
  • Offers mechanical, chemical and biological filtration

What We Don’t Like

  • Hard to change filter media
  • Can’t use your own media, only Aqueon cartridges

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

2. AquaClear Power Filter – 110V

Aqua Clear - Fish Tank Filter - 5 to 20 Gallons - 110v

If you’re looking for an effective, easy-to-use filter for your betta fish, look no further. This model from AquaClear offers mechanical, chemical and biological filtration. Plus, with its refiltration system, water comes into more contact with the media for even more effective filtration.

Although the amount of water flow it produces at its full output rate is too great for a betta fish, you can adjust the output to a more comfortable setting for your betta.

This is a sturdy, well-constructed filter that seems to be reliable and long-lasting, according to fish keepers who use it.

What Size Tank is it Suitable for?

The model we’re looking at is designed for betta fish tanks between 5 and 20 gallons, which is suitable for most betta tanks. However, it does come in four large sizes so that you can find options for tanks all the way up to 110 gallons.

Is it Easy to Use?

As a HOB model, the AquaClear is extremely easy to set up. It’s also simple to maintain and to change the filtration media, as it sits outside of the tank, so you just open up the media box and switch out the cartridges.

What We Like

  • Fits seven times more filtration media than similar models
  • The flow rate is easy to adjust
  • Provides extremely effective filtration

What We Don’t Like

  • Not the quietest option
  • Needs manual filling before starting/restarting

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

3. Penn Plax Cfu55Ug Fltr For 5.5 Gallon Aquariums

Penn Plax Cfu55Ug Fltr For 5.5 Gallon Aquariums

This aquarium filter from Penn Plax is a good choice if you want an under gravel model for a small tank. It can be effective, but it’s only as good as the substrate you choose to filter the water through.

While some users claim the water flow is of a good level for a betta tank, others would disagree. It really depends on the air pump you choose to use—the less powerful, the better where bettas are concerned.

It does, however, seem to be a solid and reliable choice.

What Size Tank is it Suitable for?

This particular model is only suitable for use in tanks of up to 5.5 gallons, which limits its use.

Is it Easy to Use?

The thing about all under gravel filters is that they’re easy enough to set up if you’re in the process of setting up a brand new tank, but they’re nigh on impossible to add to an existing tank. Since they go under the substrate, you need to start with an empty aquarium, place the plate on the bare bottom of the tank, and then put the substrate over the top, before filling it with water.

The good news is there isn’t any media to replace since your aquarium’s substrate acts as a filtration media.

What We Like

  • Requires little maintenance
  • Silent
  • Inexpensive

What We Don’t Like

  • No chemical filtration
  • You’ll need to vacuum the substrate to remove debris
  • Can create too much water flow

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

4. Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter, up to 10 Gallons

Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter, up to 10 Gallons

A small canister filter, the Zoo Med Nano 10 is extremely efficient and effective and provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration for optimal water quality.

If you’re looking for a durable and reliable product that’s unlikely to break down, this is an excellent choice. It does cost a bit more than some alternatives, but it is worth the extra cash.

As for the output rate, this is where opinions start to vary. Unfortunately, it’s not adjustable, so it’s full power or nothing. Some users state it creates very little water flow, whereas others claim it’s too strong for their betta fish unless they do something to diffuse the water from the output.

What Size Tank is it Suitable for?

The Zoo Med Nano 10 is suitable for tanks of up to 10 gallons. Because the flow rate isn’t adjustable, we wouldn’t really recommend it for betta tanks smaller than 10 gallons, as this will increase the water movement.

Is it Easy to Use?

We love how easy this filter is to set up, and because it sits outside the tank, rather than being submerged, it’s fairly simple to change the media.

What We Like

  • Provides effective mechanical, chemical and biological filtration
  • Extremely quiet
  • Easy to use

What We Don’t Like

  • No flow adjustment
  • Not the cheapest option in this list

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

5. AZOO Aquarium Mignon Filter 60

AZOO Mignon Filter 60

Although the AZOO Aquarium Mignon Filter 60 isn’t the most effective when you use the media that comes with it, you can easily replace this with your own choice of media to get yourself more than enough efficiency for a compact tank.

The flow rate is easily adjustable, so if it’s too strong on full power, you can easily turn it down to create calmer water for your betta fish.

We wouldn’t say this is the most durable and reliable filter out there—it’s more of a budget model—but it is extremely inexpensive.

What Size Tank is it Suitable for?

It is only suitable for very small tanks, up to 3.5 gallons, so many betta keepers will find it’s not powerful enough for their aquariums.

Is it Easy to Use?

Like all HOBs, the AZOO Aquarium Mignon Filter 60 is extremely easy to set up and the change and clean the media inside.

What We Like

  • Space to use filter media of your choice
  • Runs very quietly
  • Adjustable flow rate

What We Don’t Like

  • The media included is ineffective
  • Needs to be manually refilled after being switched off

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Filters for Betta Fish – FAQ

We’re collecting common questions for certain topics and adding them to FAQs. This list should expand over time.

How do You Slow Down The Current a Filter Produces?

There are many methods to choose from. If the flow rate of your model is adjustable, you can simply turn it down. If it isn’t you can try reducing the outflow with a baffle, either store-bought, homemade or partially block the filter intake. Alternately, you could add lots of decorations to break up the flow and create pockets of calm water.

To learn more about these methods, consult this insightful article.

How to Baffle a Filter?

Slowing the rate of flow with a filter baffle is a simple DIY project, and there are many ways to do it. Anything that is safe to put in the water and will impede but not stop the water will work.

You can use a plastic water bottle cut to fit over the outflow mechanism. Or, you could use a sponge filter to disperse the flow. You can also tie on some pantyhose. For a look at a couple of different methods, follow this link.

How Often Does a Betta Tank With Filter Need Cleaning?

This will partially depend on the size of the tank and how many other creatures are sharing it with your betta. On average, expect to perform a 20-40% water change weekly.

Vacuuming the substrate may also be a weekly task. However, it may be possible to extend this to every two weeks. You’ll have to judge for yourself based on how much debris you observe during cleaning.

Are Sponge Filters Good for Bettas?

Because they provide very gentle mechanical and biological filtration, sponge filters are excellent for delicate, ornamental fish, and fish that aren’t strong swimmers. Using a sponge filter is a great way to clean your betta’s water without risking damage to his fins.

Will a Filter Hurt a Betta?

Some people are afraid to use a filter in a betta tank for fear of hurting the fish, as they aren’t strong swimmers. Filters that create strong currents can damage or stress your betta, but more dangerous is the potential to sucked onto and stuck on the intake pipe!

However, it is still important to have one to keep the water clean and healthy. so don’t let these fears put you off. Using a filter with a low flow rate, or slowing the flow with baffles will protect your betta from any harm.

Can Betta Live in a Bowl Without a Filter?

The answer is yes, they can live in a bowl without a filter, BUT they sure as hell won’t thrive (unless you’re incredibly experienced and expert in alternative water care techniques!)

Bettas don’t make much of a mess, and they like slow-moving water, so many people think it’s OK to keep them in small bowls or cups. It’s far healthier and more enriching, however, to keep your betta in a proper tank with a filter, even if it’s a very small one. Just choose a modelwith a low flow rate, or baffle the filter to make it a betta-friendly environment.

Final Thoughts

All the filters looked at above are high quality and suitable for betta tanks. We never discuss or recommend equipment unfit for purpose or that will not work very well. However, we have to pick a top choice and winner for our roundup, and in this case we would say:

The clear winner is the Aqua Clear Power Filter.

It works incredibly well, is very popular, well reviewed and liked by current and previous owners, is available for aquariums from 5 to 110 gallons, has multiple stages of filtration – that you can change – and generally speaking is just all around good.

Happy fish keeping!

 

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

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B Hamilton

Hey there! I'm Brian, a lifelong enthusiast and fish keeper with a wealth of knowledge and experience on freshwater aquariums, that I love to share on this site. If you have any questions or need any help, please do ask in the comments section below, I'd love to hear from you and will help where I can.

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