Finding the perfect filter for your tank setup can be an exhausting chore. It seems like every week a new product appears on shelves, promising the best filtration. Too often, these products fall short of our expectations.
Hang on Back, or HOB, filters are a great option for tanks of all kinds. They not only filter out waste and toxins like ammonia and nitrites but also help oxygenate the water with the return flow to the tank. HOB filters are a great option for growing your tank’s colony of beneficial bacteria. Not only will bacteria grow in filter media, but in the filter housing as well. HOB filters provide plenty of surface area for bacteria, keeping your tank healthy.
We’ve put together these reviews of our picks of the best HOB filters and we’ve included pros and cons to help you pick the best HOB filter for your fish tank! We know picking a filter is exhausting, so we’re here to help!
Table of contents
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 10 Best Hang on Back Filter Choices for Your Fish Tank – Reviews 2021
- 1. AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter – Best Overall
- 2. SunSun Hang-On Back Filter – Best Value
- 3. Aquatop Hang-On Back Aquarium Filter – Premium Choice
- 4. Tetra Whisper Multi-Stage Power Filter
- 5. MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter
- 6. Aqueon QuietFlow Aquarium Power Filter
- 7. Fluval C2 Power Filter
- 8. AZOO Mignon Filter
- 9. Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
- 10. EA Performance Hang-On Back Power Filter
- Buyer’s Guide
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter||
|Best Value||SunSun Hang-On Back Filter||
|Premium Choice||Aquatop Hang-On Back Aquarium Filter||
|Tetra Whisper Multi-Stage Power Filter||
|MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter||
The 10 Best Hang on Back Filter Choices for Your Fish Tank – Reviews 2021
1. AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter – Best Overall
The AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter is our best overall HOB filter choice for its effective multi-stage filtration, adjustable flow rate, and attractive design. This filter is made of grey-tinted clear plastic, making it easy to monitor the filter media. It’s available in sizes for up to 20 gallons, 20-50 gallons, 30-70 gallons, and 60-110 gallons.
This filter system uses three-part filtration and comes with a sponge for mechanical filtration, an activated carbon pack for chemical filtration, and ceramic rings for biological filtration. The filter insert area lifts out of the filter, making it easy to clean and customize with your preferred filter media. The filter has a gentle, waterfall-like output with controllable flow through an easy to use switch mechanism. The filter intake is extendable, making it a good fit for tanks of all heights.
Reviewers note that this filter is a good option for overstocked tanks and tanks with heavy bioload, like goldfish tanks. With the addition of an intake cover, this filter is a good option for breeder and shrimp tanks as well. This filter requires priming at setup and after being turned off.
2. SunSun Hang-On Back Filter – Best Value
Our top choice for the best hang on back filter choice for your fish tank for the money is the SunSun Hang on Back Filter. This filter comes in two sizes, 10-30 gallons and 25-50 gallons, and includes a built-in UV sterilizer, which helps reduce algae. It also includes a surface skimmer, which helps pull oil and contaminants from the water’s surface. Size constraints mean tanks over 50 gallons or overstocked tanks will require more than once filter.
This filtration system uses mechanical, biological, chemical, and UV filtration. It includes a fully replaceable and customizable filter sponge, ceramic rings, and activated carbon. This filter is the most cost-effective filter system and since the filter media is customizable, you can replace the included media with whatever you prefer to use.
Like the AquaClear CycleGuard filter, the filter insert area lifts out of the back for easy cleaning and maintenance. Setup is quick and easy, and this filter works for freshwater and saltwater setups. Reviewers note this filter is very quiet.
3. Aquatop Hang-On Back Aquarium Filter – Premium Choice
The premium choice for HOB filters is the Aquatop Hang on Back Aquarium Filter. This filter comes in three sizes, up to 15 gallons, up to 25 gallons, and up to 40 gallons. It includes a bio-sponge and filter cartridge. This filter has a UV sterilizer and surface skimmer built in. Since the largest option only goes up to 40 gallons, more than one filter would be required for larger tanks. The blue-tinted, clear look of this filter is sleek and attractive.
This filter uses three-stage filtration and includes a bio sponge and filter cartridge made of filter floss and activated carbon. This cartridge is replaceable, as is the bio sponge. This filter media setup is somewhat customizable but more difficult to customize than other setups.
The intake on this filter is extendable and the output is waterfall-like. A sponge is needed over the intake for breeding tanks and shrimp tanks, and a baffle is needed as well to protect small fish and invertebrates. This filter system is suitable for freshwater and saltwater tanks.
4. Tetra Whisper Multi-Stage Power Filter
The Tetra Whisper Multi-Stage Power Filter is a nice option for filtration because it has four-stage filtration and the biological filtration never requires replacement. This filter includes two stages of mechanical filtration, plus chemical filtration with activated carbon cartridges and biological filtration with built-in “bioscrubbers” that allow for bacteria colonization. This filtration system comes in four size options available and all are cost-effective for tanks from 10-70 gallons.
Tetra is a popular aquatics brand, so replacement cartridges and parts for this filter should be easy to come by. The filter insert area does have space for some customization, but filter cartridges will need to be replaced relatively frequently to prevent breakdown.
The Tetra Whisper filter has an extendable intake and built-in flushing feature that is made to prevent the buildup of debris and waste. This system is easy to set up and does not require priming. With the addition of an intake cover, this filter is safe for fry and shrimp.
5. MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter
The MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter comes in five sizes for tanks up to 10 gallons, up to 20 gallons, up to 30 gallons, up to 50 gallons, and up to 70 gallons. This filter includes three-stage filtration and comes with a filter cartridge and MarineLand’s patented bio-wheel. The bio-wheel spins as water flows over it, colonizing many beneficial bacteria on its large surface area.
The filter cartridges and bio-wheel are replaceable parts. This filter model is popular in pet and aquatics stores, so replacement parts should be easy to find. Some reviewers note that if the impeller is not installed properly that it may cause a loud noise. If put together correctly, the filter should be relatively quiet. It does have an extendable intake but will need an intake cover for fry and shrimp.
6. Aqueon QuietFlow Aquarium Power Filter
Aqueon QuietFlow Aquarium Power Filter is a self-priming filter available in five sizes. This filter is available in 10-gallon, 20-gallon, 30-gallon, 50-gallon, and 75-gallon sizes. It is a four-part filtration system with replaceable filter cartridges. This filter uses chemical, mechanical, biological, and wet/dry filtration. The chemical and mechanical filtration, as well as some of the biological filtration, happens in the filter cartridge. The wet/dry and rest of the biological filtration occur in a specially designed filter pad and plastic bio-grid the water flows over that helps reduce ammonia and nitrates.
This filter has an internal pump that is designed to be quiet, although some reviewers report a slight humming noise. It will automatically restart and prime itself after power outages and automatically turns off if the water level gets too low, like during a water change. There is a LED indicator light on top of the housing to let you know when it’s time to change the filter cartridge.
7. Fluval C2 Power Filter
Fluval C2 Power Filter is a filtration system that uses five-stage filtration. Each of the filtration stages are separate and require replacement parts. Depending on which part is being replaced, the recommendations are as low as 2 weeks and as long as yearly. Fluval is a popular brand, so replacement parts should be easy to find. The water circulates through this system more than once, helping to eliminate as much large waste as possible, including waste products like ammonia. This system is available in three sizes up to 70 gallons.
This filter needs to be filled with tank water before running to keep the motor from burning out while the unit primes. The five-stage filtration in this system allows for some customization of filter media, but it does have to fit within the removable filter media housing. The motor of this product may be slightly loud when running, and some reviewers note the motor burning out after only a few months of use.
The filter intake is extendable and has small intake holes. This filter has an adjustable flow, so it may be safe for fry and invertebrates without the addition of an intake cover.
8. AZOO Mignon Filter
AZOO Mignon Filter is a petite HOB filter that is only rated for up to 3.5 gallons. It uses mechanical and biological filtration and has replaceable sponges. You have some customization ability over the filter media in this unit.
This filter includes a prefilter sponge and adjustable flow, making this a good option for breeder, betta, and shrimp tanks. It is designed to run quietly and with minimal vibration. This tank does need to be filled with tank water prior to running to avoid burning out the motor, but it does have an automatic water recovery system that guarantees the pump will automatically restart after a power outage.
This pump is small enough to fit in your hand, so it is not advisable to attempt to use it in a tank any larger than 3.5 gallons.
9. Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter is a four-stage filtration system that comes in six sizes up to 100 gallons. It can be used in freshwater and saltwater setups.
This filter has an adjustable flow and small intake holes, so it may be safe for fry and shrimp without the addition of an intake cover. The intake is extendable, and the filter contains a self-leveling feature to prevent spilling if bumped.
This filtration system may not have an adequate flow for tanks requiring high flow and it may be necessary to size up. Otherwise, it may not clear water and may allow waste product buildup. This filter is inexpensive but may not be built to last, potentially making it more expensive in the long run.
10. EA Performance Hang-On Back Power Filter
EA Performance Hang on Back Power Filter is a nano filter for tanks up to 4 gallons. It is a two-stage filtration system with adjustable flow designed for betta tanks, but it is not a powerful enough filter for tanks with heavy bioload, like goldfish tanks.
Filter media options are customizable but will need to be very small to fit into the filter housing. This filter does require a flat surface to hook onto, making this not a functional option for bowls and rounded tanks. It also can become clogged easily due to its small size, so a prefilter sponge is recommended but must be purchased separately. The small motor in this filter is prone to burn-out, so prefilter sponges should not block too much water flow. Priming this filter is also recommended to prevent motor burn-out.
|When to Use a Prefilter Sponge||When Prefilter Sponges are Optional|
|Breeder and nursery tanks||Heavy bioload tanks|
|Invertebrate tanks, i.e. shrimps and soft-shell crabs||When treating your tank with medications|
|When building up beneficial bacteria||When beneficial bacteria is colonized in internal filter media or tank|
|After installing a new substrate to keep sand and dirt particles out of the motor||When water is cloudy but there are few large particles|
|Tanks with weak swimmers, i.e. bettas and kuhli loaches||Low-powered filters|
AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter took our top spot for the best overall HOB filter choice, with the SunSun Hang on Back Filter coming in right behind it as the best value for the money. For a more premium choice, we like the Aquatop Hang on Back Aquarium Filter.
We love sleek, functional filters with customizable options that can make your tank a healthier, safer place for your fish and invertebrates. Your filter needs are going to be different for a breeder or invertebrate tank than they will be for a large goldfish tank.
There’s something here for every budget and every tank setup! Use these reviews to help guide you in picking the perfect HOB filter for your aquarium.