For choosing the best filter for a small 3/4/5 gallon fish tank which stock Betta fish or other small fish, you should choose one that not only ensures the water clean and clear but also generates a gentle flow rate in order not to stress the fish. So what I’ll do in this post is to cover some of the best aquarium filters (include internal/external power, canister, corner, sponge filters) for small tanks with small fish or Betta that you can choose from based on your needs and budget.

Best small power filter (HOB) for 3-5 gallon fish tank

Tetra 26316 Whisper Filter PF10 for 5-10 gallon fish tank

You may keep small fish like Tetras, Guppies, Bettas or shrimps in your small tank and having a too strong filter will suck the fish into its chambers. Beside too strong water output produced by the filter causes very fast water movement that can stress the fish by forcing it to keep in constant movement with no rest. The Tetra 26316 Whisper Filter PF10 with its proper output would be an ideal filter for your 5 gallon fish tank.

Tetra Whisper 10i internal power filter for 3-10 gallon tanks

  • Tetra Whisper 10i internal power filterEditor's rating: Check on
  • Model: Tetra Whisper 10i internal power filter
  • Type: internal power filter
  • Rated for: 3-10 gallons
  • Filter media: medium Whisper Bio-Bag cartridge.

If you love to use traditional in-tank filter, this filter is a great choice for small tanks from 3 to 10 gallons. The filter uses a medium Whisper Bio-Bag cartridge to keep the water clear, remove odors and discoloration. The cartridge is very cheap, easy to assemble, easy to replace and needs to be changed once a month.

Deep Blue Professional Nano Filter for tanks up to 4 gallons

Deep Blue Professional ADB88700 Biomaxx Nano Filter can do well for small Betta fish tanks or aquariums up to 4 gallons. Moreover, the filter come with an adjustable flow control knob make it perfect for Betta fish as well as other small fish which love to live in gentle and clean water flow.

Deep Blue Professional ADB88700 Biomaxx Nano FilterDeep Blue Professional ADB88700 Biomaxx Nano Filter

The inside of this filter is a abundant place to contain filter materials that ensure your aquarium water is properly purified and ideal for stocking fish. You can use the filter cartridge coming with the product or buy your own filter media to set up the filter as you want. You can buy some ceramide rings or Bio-sponges to add to the filter to perform the most biological filtration keeping your fish healthy.

AZOO Mignon Filter 60 for nano aquariums up to 3.5 gallons

  • nano aquarium filter for aquarium up to 3.5 gallonsEditor's rating: Check on
  • Model: AZOO Mignon Filter 60 for nano aquariums
  • Type: external power filter (HOB)
  • Ideal for: aquariums up to 3.5 gallons with Betta or other small fish
  • Filtration types: mechanical and biological.
AZOO Mignon Filter 60 for nano aquariumsAZOO Mignon Filter 60 for nano aquariums

This is also an ideal filter for small tank with Betta or other small fish. The filter is loved by its powerful features such as small compact design, very quiet performance, easy maintenance. The large filter chamber of filter make it a good filtration system. With its design, you can buy and use your own filter media as you think best for your fish.

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Canister filter for 5 – 10 gallon aquarium

  • canister-filter-for-10-gallon-fish-tankEditor's rating: Check on
  • Type: canister filter
  • Flow rate (gallons per hour):  80 GPH
  • Ideal: 5 – 10 gallon aquariums
  • Filtration types: mechanical, biological, chemical
  • Used for: freshwater or saltwater aquariums
  • Includes: sponge, bio ceramic, carbon media, spray bar system.

A power filter is just strong enough to keep your 5 gallon aquarium clean; however, if you want to use a canister filter for the tank except that it is more expensive than the other filters, the Zoo Med Nano 10 external canister filter will make you love it.

This canister filter can perform all 3 types of filtration (mechanical, biological, chemical filtration) that keep your small tank clean and clear. As you seen in the product picture, the large capacity of the filter offers to accommodate more filter media for the best filtration. You can choose your own filter media that you like best without necessity to use ones included in the product. Besides, a spray bar included make it a serious competitor of other filters.

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Best sponge filter for 3 – 5 gallon breeding or fry tank

  • sponge-filter-for-small-5-gallon-fish-tankEditor's rating: Check on
  • Type: sponge filter
  • Recommended for: 3 – 5 gallon tanks, can use more than one sponge filter for larger size tank for efficiency
  • Filtration types: mechanical and biological
  • Filter sizes (D*H): 2. 2″ x 2. 8″ (5. 5 x 7 cm).

A good fish tank filter to use in a small fish tank setup is the aquarium sponge filter. Being powered by an aquarium air pump, the suction is distributed throughout the sponge so it will not suck up even a small fish and is ideal for breeding or fry fish tank. Besides, an aquarium sponge filter will provide sufficient mechanical and biological filtration to keep your fish tank clean and clear.

The sponge filter is very easy to set up and maintain. To clean the sponge filter, just remove the sponge and give it a couple of squeezes in a bucket filled with the old aquarium water (NOT tap water) to remove the large debris but not kill the helpful bacteria.

Read more about sponge filter:

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Corner filter, ideal filter for small Betta fish tank


Corner filter works very similar to the sponge filter, they are powered by aquarium air pumps. So these filters don’t stir up the water too strong that makes them the best filters for Betta fish tank as well as for other small fish that don’t like to live in the turbulent water.

  • Corner filter is dirt cheap,
  • Not stir up the water too strong so it’s very useful for small fish tank,
  • Good performance of both mechanical and biological filtration.
  • Not be able to keep the water clear for long,
  • The filter media need to be clean frequently,
  • Sometime it floats on the water surface.

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Some tips for keeping your fish healthy in small aquarium

Honestly, if you’re just starting off fish keeping, having a small fish tank is really not a good idea. A small aquarium contains a small volume of water (obviously) which tends to shift conditions a little too rapidly to be easily controlled. Temperatures change very fast, pH levels fluctuate rapidly and waste build up is frequent, making it require a little more maintenance than a larger fish tank. As you know, a 20 gallon aquarium is recommended for a beginner because it is easy to maintain this size tank than smaller ones.

Small fish tanks are often sold as a complete setup like the Marina LED aquarium kits which you can get online or any pet store. These kits usually comes with a hood, lighting and a small filter for small aquarium. However, if you don’t like to buy a kit or you are finding a new supply to replace the old one damaged, you must choose the right type fit for your small tank in order not to disturb the peaceful life of fish.

You will need to perform your weekly a quarter water change for your small fish tank to ensure that the environment you create is ideal to maintain the aquatic life you are keeping. A good filter may reduce the frequency of water change, however, it’s a must to ensure the health of your fish.

The last point to keep in mind is the number of aquatic life you plan to have in there. Don’t immediately dump in a bunch of fish into the water from Day 1. Firstly, a small fish tank will not support too many fish so keep it to a minimum. If you do plan to have a few more fish in there, take it in stages. Putting too many fish in at one time will raise the nutrient level in the tank, causing a bacterial bloom which will cause cloudy water harmful to the aquarium lives.

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