external power (Hang On Back) filter

Power filters (Hang-On-Back filters) are unarguably the most commonly used filters, as they have several advantages in terms of cost, availability and efficiency. They are relatively easy to install at the back of the tank, and are quite easy to maintain. There are so many power filter brands on the market today, the most well-known can be mentioned are AquaClear, Aqueon QuietFlow, Fluval C series, Marina Slim S series, Marineland Penguin… This article will review different Hang-On-Back filters on the market today and help you choose the best one for your aquarium.

How does a power filter works?

external power (Hang On Back) filter

Power filters are also called as Hang On Back filters because they are placed and works externally, usually hang on the rear side of the aquarium. It is the most common type of filters purchased by aquarists, particularly for their small to medium sized tanks (10 to 55 gallons).

When working, the power filter sucks water into its filter capacity via the intake tube and later through various types of filter media inside its chamber for filtration; the filtered water is then returned back to the aquarium through the water fall in front of the filter.

Most power filters can contain various types of filter media for performing all three types of filtration:

  • Mechanical filtration is usually performed by filter cartridges (filter pads), foams, flosses that trap solid matters in aquarium water allowing manual removal.
  • Biological filtration is usually performed by ceramic rings or biological filtration pads that help to convert nitrogenous toxins (ammonia and nitrite) from fish waste to non-toxic nitrates.
  • Chemical filtration is usually performed by activated carbon that deals with heavy metals and organic compounds in the water to keep it healthy, clear and smelling good.

These filters are typically rated for up to 75 gallon aquariums on the high end and in most cases I would recommend trying to use a filter that is rated for an aquarium larger than your tank volume. This means a 75 gallon rated HOB filter should be used for a 55 – 60 gallon aquarium for the most efficiency of filtration.

Best Hang-On-Back filter reviews

AquaClear 110 power filter – best

AquaClear 110 power filter is one of the best HOB filters currently in the market. Its unique design enables you to put a large amount of media in the large filter chamber and allows for very long media-water contact time for the most efficient filtration. The large filter chamber makes it flexible of using filter media and allows you to choose your favorite ones. It comes with an efficient pump that lowers operation costs.

The filter achieves the maximum flow rate of up to 500 gallons per hour and is ideal for 60-110 gallon aquariums. Its patented re-filtration system lets you reduce the flow up to 50% without interfering with the efficiency of filtration. When you lower the flow rate, the water within the filter chamber is processed multiple times to make it ultra-clean and maintain the filtration efficiency.

Cycle Guard with BioMax. Source: Fluvalaquatics.com

The power filter features CycleGuard multi-stage filtration mechanism, which provides optimal chemical, biological and mechanical filtration. It is very easy for you to install the filter with foam at the bottom, activated carbon in the middle and Bio-Max ceramic rings at the top. The foam filter should be replaced after 2 months, activated charcoal after a month, and BioMax after 3 months.

  • Quality product keeps the water clean and clear,
  • Large filter capacity to contain more filter media,
  • Can use with whatever filter media you want,
  • Very quiet,
  • The flow rate can be adjusted without changing its efficiency,
  • Easy to set up and maintain,
  • Cheap to maintain,
  • Impeller can be easily replaced,
  • 2 year warranty.
  • There is nothing to complain.

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Marina Slim S10 power filter – quietest

The Marina Slim S10 features a unique and compact design, which takes up less space than comparable filters currently in the market. It comes fitted with an adjustable flow control that makes it an ideal choice for small tanks under 10 gallons with small fish.

This filter is fitted with two filter cartridges. The first is Bio-Carb and the second is Bio-Clear. Both of the cartridges are included with ceramic, which is technologically engineered to maximize biological filtration for the health and vitality of your aquarium inhabitants.

The best features of Marina Slim S10 power filter is the very quiet operation pump. It can start itself after installation, cleaning or power interruption without the need of manual priming. If you are finding a new HOB filter that can provide an advanced biological filtration system to keep your fish happy and healthy, the Marina Slim S10 is a great choice.

  • Compact design,
  • Quality product keeps the water clean and clear,
  • Quality cartridges excellently perform biological filtration,
  • Can adjust its flow rate,
  • Easy to set up and maintain,
  • Very quiet operation.
  • Less filter capacity than AquaClear power filters,
  • Have to use the cartridges from the manufacturers,
  • High operation cost for buying cartridges.

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Marineland Penguin 200 with bio-wheels

Designed for 30-50 gallon aquariums, the Marineland Penguin 200 is an excellently built and durable HOB filter that can be used in a variety of aquarium setups. The certified flow rate of this filter is 200 gallons per hour but it allows you to easily adjust the water flow using the mid-level strainer attached to the intake tube.

The filter uses a patented Rite-size C cartridge floss pad with activated carbon included, which screens out debris and dirt. The activated carbon inside the cartridge ensures efficient chemical filtration that removes harmful heavy metals, impurities and discolorations. The cartridge uses a patented ribbed back to optimize the contact between water and the activated carbon for better chemical filtration.

bio-wheel wet/dry biological system

Bio-wheel wet/dry biological system

Unlike the biological filtration stage in other HOB filter brands using ceramic rings or bio-foams, the Marineland Penguin filters use patented Bio-wheels to help the growth of helpful bacteria required for biological filtration. These Bio-wheels spin during operating that increases the gas exchange on their surface to provide an ideal environment for helpful nitrifying bacteria to thrive in. These beneficial organisms then deal with harmful nitrogenous toxins to protect your aquarium friends.

  • Quality product keeps the water clean and clear,
  • Bio-wheels for superior biological wet/dry filtration,
  • Excellently aerates the water,
  • The intake strainer of the filter protects small fish
  • Easy to set up and maintain with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Flow rate can’t be adjusted,
  • May cause a little noise,
  • Have to use the cartridges from the manufacturers.

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Penn Plax Cascade Hang-On aquarium filter

Penn Plax Cascade Hang-On aquarium filter is a great hang-on filter to buy. It features a nice, compact design that will complement your aquarium while at the same time ensure that your favorite pets are healthy and safe. It is designed to attach to your tank effortlessly by simply sliding over the edge of the glass. The intake tube is built with an extendable stem, which allows the intake strainer to reach closely to the bottom of your aquarium.

The filter has an adjustable flow rate of up to 300 gallons per hour and is suitable for 55-100 gallon aquariums. The mechanical filtration is provided by the poly-fiber floss, which traps floating particles. The activate carbon cartridge removes toxic chemicals, discoloration and odor. And the internal sponge stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria. The external Bio-Falls dry/wet biological booster enhances the work of anaerobic bacteria for additional ammonia and nitrite elimination while enhancing the aeration.

  • Quality product keeps the water clean and clear,
  • High and adjustable flow rate,
  • Excellently aerates the water for biological filtration,
  • Affordable price and quality,
  • Very flexible to use filter materials,
  • Easy to set up and maintain.
  • Everything is affordable but not best.

Check on Amazon.com

Fluval C4 power filter

Fluval C4 power filter is specifically designed to provide maximum contact surface between water and filter materials in all stages of filtration to increase the efficiency. The result is clean, fresh, clear and healthy aquarium water for active and happy fish.

Fluval C series filtration

Image from Fluvalaquatic.com.

The maximum flow rate of the Fluval C4 is 240 gallons per hour. It comes with a patented re-filtration system, which lets you adjust the flow rate up to 50% without interfering with filtration efficiency. This filter is designed to provide 5-stage filtration including poly/foam pad for mechanical filtration, activated carbon for chemical filtration, and bio-screen and C-nods for biological filtration. It also features a light indicator to remind you when the poly foam pad need to be cleaned.

  • Good idea of 5-stage filtration,
  • Quality product keeps the water clean and clear,
  • Can adjust its flow rate,
  • Easy to set up and maintain,
  • Light indicator for maintenance,
  • Very quiet operation.
  • A little expensive,
  • Small space for biological filtration,
  • Less filtration capacity than AquaClear power filters.

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Seachem Tidal 55 power filter

The Seachem Tidal 55 is designed from the ground up in order to provide your aquarium with comprehensive, high-quality filtration. The compact, hang-on style makes them easy to use and adaptable to various aquarium conditions both freshwater or saltwater. It features dual water intake with surface skimmer (8), self-priming pump (6), large filter chamber (3), and maintenance monitor (2).

seachem-tidal-power-filter

Image from Seachem.

The filter filters 250 gallons of water per hour and is suitable for tanks up 55 gallons aquarium. Its fully adjustable flow regulator (9) allows to adjust performance to meet the need of your specific aquarium volume as well as the type of fish kept in the tank. Its large capacity filter basket (3) can accommodate any type of Seachem filter media. The package comes with a foam filter and Seachem’s Matrix bio-media to get you started. You can interchange the media to place them in custom configurations.

  • Good idea design,
  • Large capacity,
  • Free to use filter media,
  • High and adjustable flow rate,
  • The surface skimmer keeps the water surface clean,
  • Easy to set up and maintain,
  • Very quiet operation.
  • Expensive.

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Aqueon QuietFlow 10 LED PRO

Aqueon QuietFlow 10 is designed to operate so quietly and reduce the likelihood of leaks that are common problems of many power filters after a time of use. It features a flow rate of 100 gph and is suitable for aquariums up to 10 gallons. It features a unique internal pump, which does not need to be primed manually after cleaning or power failure.

Aqueon QuietFlow four-stage filtrationAqueon QuietFlow four-stage filtration

This filter features 4-stage advanced filtration. Stage one uses dense floss to remove debris and particles. Stage 2 uses activated carbon to remove odors, discoloration, chemical toxins, and heavy metal. Stage 3 uses patented Bio-Holster to remove toxic nitrites and ammonia. And stage 4 uses a diffuser grid to neutralize more toxins while increasing oxygen exchange for healthier fish.

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Aquatop PF40-UV Hang-On filter with UV sterilization

Unlike the other aquarium filters reviewed so far, the Aquatop PF40-UV hang-on is both a filter and an aquarium UV sterilizer. The UV sterilization is very helpful in eliminating harmful parasites and unwanted algae blooms which freely float in aquarium water. Moreover, it come with a built-in self-adjusting surface skimmer to clean the aquarium surface and promote gas exchange. The added UV sterilizer and skimmer require no extra plumbing and is ready to install and use.

The Aquatop PF40-UV comes with an adjustable flow rate of maximum 128 gph and is ideal for aquariums up to 40 gallons. The filtration process is five stages including filter pad with Aquatop’s bamboo carbon for mechanical and chemical filtration, ceramic rings for biological filtration, UV sterilizer, and surface skimmer. The filtration media are easily replaceable to ensure that the maintenance is easy and quick to do.

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Tetra Whisper 40 power filter

The Tetra Whisper 40 power filter has an adjustable flow rate of 200 gallons per hour that is strong enough to keep tanks up to 40 gallons clean and clear. The flow control dial mounted on its top allows you to easily adjust the flow rate to meet your aquarium need. It is very helpful for you to lower the flow rate during the feeding time of your fish to keep food particles out of the filter.

Tetra Whisper filtration systemTetra Whisper filtration system

The Whisper Bio-Bag cartridges are designed with activated carbon included in a two-side floss for mechanical and chemical filtration. Mechanical filtration removes bits of fish and plant waste and uneaten food while chemical filtration used activated carbon to remove compounds that discolor water and cause odor. The biological filtration, which is performed by bio-foam, stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria to remove harmful ammonia and nitrite toxins in the water. It also allows you to choose additional media for filtration.

The unit also features a specifically designed reservoir that prevents back siphoning of aquarium water in the event of power interruption. The design is simple making this filter extremely easy to use, clean and maintain. There are four available models for small to large tanks up to 60 gallons.

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Tetra Whisper EX70 Hang-On-Back filter

The Tetra Whisper EX70 Hang-On-Back filter features an elegant, lightweight and compact design making it ideal for aquariums of up to 70 gallons. It has an easy access door situated on its top that remains in place while you are changing the filter cartridges. It also has a unique filter cartridge carrier that helps you to keep your hand away from the harmful used cartridges and preventing unnecessary drippings. The filter features a submersed motor that requires minimal maintenance.

Tetra Whisper EX70Tetra Whisper EX70

The Whisper EX70 achieves a flow rate of 340 gallons per hour. From the information provided by the manufacturer, it is not clear whether the flow rate is adjustable. The filter directs water through several floss layers of the cartridge to remove the most particles. Its coarse floss helps to remove solid particles while the carbon inside removed odors, toxins, and discoloration. Unlike other filters, the biological stage of the Tetra Whisper EX series is performed by patented Bio-scrubbers, which provide the house for helpful bacteria to thrive in.

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