Best Quiet Fish Tank Filters of 2020 (Reviews & Buyers’ Guide)

The year 2020 is well under way and, to nobody’s surprise, people still love keeping fish as pets. And why wouldn’t they? After all, fish aren’t too demanding, too messy, or, most importantly for readers (and the writer) of Soundproof Living, too noisy.

Some might call them the perfect pets, but my text will not weigh in on that topic. In fact, I won’t really focus on the fish at all. Rather, I will cover some of the best quiet fish tank filters that early 2020 has to offer. In addition, I will provide you with some useful tips when it comes to procuring the best fish tank out there for your needs (or rather, the needs of your fish).

Aquarium with a quiet filter in a living room.

Why Do Fish Tanks Need Filters?

To you and me, a fish tank might just appear like a bowl of water with some cute, tiny creatures swimming about inside. But in reality, it’s an entire miniature ecosystem with its own perils. If we don’t take care of it regularly, our fish might get sick or die.

So, how does a filter contribute to a healthier life of a fish? Well, its primary purpose is to remove decaying organic matter, excess food, harmful chemicals, free-floating particles, and the fish’s very own waste. If these items remain in the fish tank for too long, they can become toxic for the tank’s little inhabitants. Moreover, once the “debris” piles up, it results in murky, cloudy water which makes it difficult to see what the fish are doing and whether they’re good health-wise.

Various Filter Types

The list provides only the basic info on each filter type, as well as its advantages and disadvantages. As a beginner, you might find this list especially helpful.

Air Filters

Air-driven filters are quite common. That’s because they run on the air that the aquarium’s own air pump drives in. Normally, an air filter would be located on a panel that’s at one corner of the aquarium.

So, what are the advantages of air filters, aside from them being quiet? Well, an average air filter can be quite small, smaller than the other filter types on this list. That makes it a great option for easy integration with a wide number of fish tanks.

However, it’s not just the size. Air filters tend to be rather sturdy and tough thanks to their construction. In other words, if you were to own an air filter, it would be some time before you actually have to replace it.

Canister Filters

A canister filter is probably the most modern-looking one on the market. Its main body, known as the canister, is significantly larger than it is for any other type of filter. And speaking of sizes, a typical canister filter can be as compact as an air filter or as large as three, depending on the fish tank you’re using.

In terms of performance, canister filters have a complex makeup, which means it will take some time to set them up. However, once you have them up and running, you’ll love just how efficient they can be.

Power Filters

Also known as hangback filters, these models are used quite frequently by fish owners. The reason they have the “hangback” nickname is that they’re so easy to set up. All they do is hang on the back of an aquarium, for maximum convenience.

Maintaining a power filter is easy. All you have to do is occasionally replace the filter cartridge and you’re good to go.

Undergravel Filters

Normally, people avoid getting undergravel filters since they are a bit of a drag to set up and replace. However, there are lots of advantages to this particular filter type.

As its name suggests, this filter goes under the gravel at the bottom of the aquarium. It moves the water about, allowing it to pass through the gravel and create conditions for natural, biological filtration. Of course, some undergravel filters come with replaceable cartridges. What’s more, each of these cartridges tends to contain activated carbon. Because of its unique properties, activated carbon can help with chemical filtration in the aquarium.

Wet/Dry Filters

The name of these types of filters is not an “either/or,” it’s a descriptor. In other words, these filters are both “wet” and “dry.”

When you get a wet/dry filter, you can expose it to both the water and the air. While that might be a neat feature, it’s more than just a gimmick. Exposing a filter to both water and air will allow beneficial bacteria to enter the fish tank and help dissolve the waste materials inside it.

Various Types of Filtration

Generally speaking, there are three main types of filtration, each dealing with bacteria and debris in a different way. Therefore, when you’re buying an aquarium filter, pay close attention to what type of filtration you’ll need. Keep in mind that it’s also a good idea to use several filtration methods at the same time.

Biological Filtration

Biological filtration is a process where beneficial bacteria break down toxic nitrite and ammonia into a less toxic compound nitrate. If you own a small aquarium, you can use this method alone, and all you have to do is provide a healthy environment for the beneficial bacteria to thrive. Biological filtration pads and ceramic rings can help you out with that.

Chemical Filtration

As its name suggests, chemical filtration includes using different chemicals to break down harmful debris and heavy metals in the fish tank. By far the most popular method is the one that involves activated carbon which you can get from a specific type of charcoal.

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filtration is by far the most well-known. Using filter pads, flosses, and foams, the filter traps floating solid debris. You can then remove the said debris from the aquarium before they start to decay and pollute the water.

How to Find the Best Quiet Aquarium Filter

Fish Tank Size

Imagine having a massive tank, but getting a tiny filter that barely covers half a gallon of water. Alternatively, imagine owning a small tank, but the filter itself is gigantic to the point of almost tipping it over. Neither sounds good, right?

There are fish tank filters out there that fit all tank sizes. However, the vast majority are manufactured for specific tanks. As such, you need to know how much water your tank can hold and buy an appropriately sized filter.

Filtering Technology

Just like size, filtration technology plays a huge part in buying the right product. Not all filters have the same features and, naturally, not all of them can clean up every tank at the same rate. Depending on the fish you own, the tank they live in and other factors, you’ll need to do a bit of research to get the best filtering tech your fish need.

Water-Flow Rate

A filter should be able to fill the fish tank quickly and efficiently. That’s why most brands list their products’ water-flow rates, measured in gallons per hour.

In order to get the best quiet fish tank filters, you need to compare different water-flow rates and get the fastest ones possible. Naturally, this feature is just one of many to pay attention to, but if you can’t decide between two high-end brands of filters, always choose the one with a faster water-flow rate.

Self-Priming

Self-priming is a feature that lots of water pumps and other related products have. An appliance that self-prims will clear all of its passages from trapped air, thus allowing more water to flow.

Of course, the flow of water is not the most important reason for having a self-priming filter. In case there’s a power outage or a voltage inconsistency, a self-priming filter will remove all of the air automatically. Once it starts working again, there will be no difference between performances before and after the outage.

Interestingly, lots of new filters tend to come with a switch or two. These switches facilitate the pumping out of the air during an outage. 

Noise Protection

Since this is a list of the best quiet fish tank filters, we should discuss the noise level. Usually, the quietest filters are the canister ones, since they have strong builds. However, other filter types tend to solve the issue of noise with intake strainers or sound dampening covers.

Price

Fish tank filters are necessary, any fish owner will tell you that much. But just like any other product, they aren’t worth any more (or less) than others just because of their price.

If it’s your first time buying a fish tank filter, don’t splurge on something extremely expensive. After all, it might not fit with your aquarium, rendering it useless. However, don’t rush to buy the cheapest product out there either. If it seems too good to be true in terms of price, it probably is.

What is the best quiet fish tank filter.

Best Quiet Fish Tank Filters — The 2020 List

1. Polar Aurora 200 Gallon Filter Canister

If you own a large fish tank, this particular filter will be your best option. As its name suggests, the Polar Aurora will work for any 200-gallon aquarium. And it ought to be, considering it has a massive filtration rate of 525 gallons per hour!

Thanks to its 9 W sterilizer, the Polar Aurora can kill off any pesky algae that start to grow in the fish tank. Moreover, it has a five-stage filtration process which allows for a thorough, detailed cleaning. And all of it is done to the tune of near-silence!

One thing you’ll love about the Polar Aurora is just how easy it is to install. It comes with a complete kit and an easy-to-understand set of instructions. This feature is especially important for first-timers, as it will help them get used to the filter set-up should they have to replace this filter with a new one.

Finally, as a kit, the Polar Aurora filter doesn’t require you to buy anything extra. Lots of different products out there can’t really work without an additional part sold separately. If you’re looking for a brand that will save you money, Polar Aurora is the best filter for you.

Pros

  • Impressive 525 gallons per hour filtration capacity
  • Fits most large tanks
  • Eliminates most of the viruses and bacteria in the tank
  • Offers five filtration stages

Cons

  • Might get damaged if you expose it to UV rays for a long period of time

2. SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit

Visually, the SunSun Hw304B doesn’t look too different from the Polar Aurora. After all, they are both white, bulky filters with powerful performances. Of course, there are some differences. For example, this filter can only work with fish tanks that can hold up to 150 gallons of water.

While it does have the capacity of 525 GPH (again, just like Polar Aurora), it’s still not the best solution for large tanks. The only other flaw that the Hw304B has is some minor filter motor issues.

Sunsun canister filter for fish tanks.

So, now that we’ve covered what few flaws the Hw304B has, what are some of its strong points? Well, first off, it’s just as easy to set up as Polar Aurora, making it perfect for both beginners and long-time fish owners. In addition, it’s easy to disassemble should there be any technical problems.

Next, there are the three different filtration stages which the product offers — mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. Combined, these stages can clean the fish tank more effectively than any other commercial filter could, and they’ll do it more quickly.

Then you have the 9W UV sterilizer. This addition to the Hw304B is perfect for killing both algae and bacteria that grow within the tank. 

Finally, the SunSun has an additional feature that earned it a spot on this list. Namely, this filter is so quiet that satisfied customers described it as “relaxing to be around.” And there’s no better combo than a silent filter and three separate stages of filtration.

Pros

  • Impressive 525 gallons per hour filtration capacity
  • Easy to set-up and dismantle
  • Comes with a 9W UV sterilizer
  • Offers three filtration stages

Cons

  • Filter motors might be giving you some issues

3. Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Filter

It’s no wonder why the Ehm Fltr 2217 has the added adjective “classic.” Just one look at its green-coated exterior makes you think of an old, reliable product that has only become stronger as the years went by. Of course, there’s a good reason for thinking that; after all, Ehm has been making high-quality fish tank products for years.

There are a few features that make 2217 one of the best. Firstly, it has a single-chamber design. Not only is it simple and elegant to look at, but it also makes it easier for you to change filters. All you have to do is remove the old one and put a replacement in — it takes no more than a few easy steps.

More importantly, the 2217 is not just a regular filter. It’s actually a pump-unit filter that performs reliably. Thanks to its design, it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. In fact, you might only need to overhaul it after 3 to 6 months of regular use.

Finally, to complete the list of features, we have the 2217’s performance. Like all products on this list, it’s a silent, hard-working filter that doesn’t ruin a room’s ambiance. 

Pros

  • Easy design
  • Contains a pump section for faster results
  • Filters are easy to replace
  • Does not require lots of maintenance

Cons

  • After some time passes, the filter will no longer spray like it used to

4. Fluval Fx6 Canister Filter

Lots of filters need to have some of the water siphoned out before they start working properly. In fact, some of them will flat out refuse to start unless the excess H2O “leaves.”

But fortunately, Fluval Fx6 doesn’t work that way. Once its canister is filled with water, the filtration starts immediately. In addition, it has a purge drain at the base. If you have to do some maintenance on the Fx6, simply use this drain to release the water from the canister quickly.

Fx6 comes with an adjustable spout. If you want to send water to different parts of the fish tank, you’re in luck, as this spout can send multiple streams of filtered water at once.

A fine screen covers the intake valve of the Fx6’s canister. This screen helps prevent any debris or filth from entering the filter as it’s running. As for the intake itself, it is round and wide, which helps the filter siphon more water quickly.

Pros

  • Clog-proof screen that protects the intake
  • Automatic filtration
  • Adjustable spout that sends multiple water streams
  • Wide, round intake for faster siphoning

Cons

  • The giant sponges attached to the filter can attract bacteria

5. AquaClear Fish Tank Power Filter 110v

AquaClear is a name you might have heard of if you’re a fish enthusiast. For years, they’ve been making spectacular power filters that have left thousands of customers satisfied. It’s no wonder, then, that their 110v power filter happens to be one of the top ten filters of 2020.

Part of what makes this AquaClear filter great is its design. Because of its shape, it can fit most fish tanks out there. Moreover, the manufacturers at AquaClear have made different 110v models that can cover various flow rates, from 5 to 110 GPH.

In addition to capacity, the 110v’s shape also helps with different stages of filtration. As it filters water, most of the harmful bacteria will be gone. But more importantly, the beneficial bacteria aren’t affected by the filter, so you don’t have to worry about depletion.

Finally, I should note that the AquaClear 110v is incredibly easy to install and remove, though cleaning it might take some time. Combine all of that with a silent, noise-free performance and you have yourself a filter that you can’t resist getting.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Comes with different filtration capacity capabilities
  • Eliminates most of the viruses and bacteria while leaving the beneficial ones
  • Perfect for multistage filtration

Cons

  • Unlike other options on this list, it’s not easy to clean

6. Penn Plax Cascade Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter 1000

A big tank requires a heavy-duty filter, and Penn Plax Cascade 1000 fits that description perfectly. Measuring at 11.5 x 17 x 10 inches, this product is definitely not meant for small tanks.

The Penn Plax Cascade can pump up to 265 GPH of water. With that in mind, any owner of a 100-gallon fish tank ought to get themselves one of these filters. And because of its durable exterior, it’s recommended for both marine and freshwater aquariums.

However, it’s not just about the size and the capacity. What makes the Penn Plax Cascade stand out is just how durable it is. For instance, you can let it run for a very long time and it will still work at the same level of output.

Each order of the Cascade will come with a coarse sponge. You’ll be using this tool to remove any excess food or waste in the fish tank. Moreover, you will also get a free filter media when you order this product.

Pros

  • 265 gallons per hour filtration capacity
  • Fits exceptionally large tanks
  • Comes with a coarse sponge that will remove any excess waste
  • Durable, heavy, and long-lasting

Cons

  • The filter will consume a lot of power when you’re using it

7. EHEIM Classic External Canister Fish Tank Filter

EHEIM, much like Ehm, offers a powerful classic external canister filter. And just like the Ehm, this product prides itself on simplicity. The regular cylindrical design and the solid green of the exterior make the EHEIM Classic an instant favorite. But as is the case with all filters, not everything is in the looks alone.

When you place the Classic in a fish tank, you can use the permo-elastic silicone ring to seal it. That way it won’t budge and it’ll filter the water quietly and with no interruptions. More importantly, you don’t risk any leakage with this model; thanks to its sturdy exterior, it’s one of the safest models on this list.

In and of itself, the Classic performs well, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting a better performance. For that reason, the filter comes with a set of loose media. These include sponges, a hose, a spray bar, and an inlet hose, among others. 

Pros

  • Quite durable for its size
  • Simple, effective design choice
  • Comes with lots of other fish tank media
  • Zero risks of leakage or unwanted movement while in the water

Cons

  • While the filter itself is durable, some of its parts aren’t and you should check them

8. Marineland Magniflow Canister

Another well-known brand, Marineland has no shortage of amazing products. The Magniflow canister is merely one of the latest to grace a top-ten list online.

One of the major selling points of EHEIM Classic is the fact that it doesn’t leak anywhere. If that’s one of your major concerns, then the Magniflow ought to be the filter you end up buying. Thanks to its simple, yet airtight design, this product will not leak at any point while you use it.

Naturally, airtight design alone can’t make the filter one of the best out there. Within Magniflow, you can find an additional polishing filter pad. This small addition allows the filter to remove some of the fine debris that regular means can’t get to. As a result, you get fresh, clean water for your fish friends to swim in.

But the one thing that makes the Magniflow stand shoulder to shoulder with the best is its ceramic rings and biofilter balls. Once this product has finished filtering the tank, the rings and the balls help replenish the biosphere. In other words, they are a vital link to maintaining a healthy ecosystem within the fish tank.

Pros

  • Airtight design prevents any leaks
  • Polishing filter pad clears up fine debris and leaves the water fresh
  • Ceramic rings and biofilter balls help replenish the biosphere of the aquarium
  • Silent operation with basic filter priming

Cons

  • It’s not as sturdy as most of the options on this list

9. Fluval All-New 07 Series

Fluval is back on the list, and this time we have their amazing All-New 07 silent filters. And while the original price might put you off, I can assure you that they are worth every penny. For now, let’s focus on one of the 07 representatives, the Fluval 307.

Not too many filters can work in multiple aquariums and handle different environments. As stated earlier, it’s always better to buy a filter that matches a specific tank size, as well as a specific type of fish you plan on keeping. But the All-New 307 filter can handle it all — freshwater, saltwater, large tanks, small tanks, you name it.

In addition to versatility, the 307 also comes with a powerful motor that helps it speed up filtration. In order to make it work to its full capacity, you get a set of easy-to-follow instructions. This motor alone makes the 307 stand a notch above the competition.

Thanks to the strong clamps on its side, you can fasten the 307 and it won’t budge during filtration. More importantly, when you use the quiet mode, the filter will perform without emitting a single sound.

Finally, the 307’s system contains independent modules. They will help remove the dirt from the filter without any excess grime, filth, or residue.

Pros

  • Quiet mode for a noise-free filtration
  • Independent modules that help clean the filter thoroughly
  • Powerful motor that allows the filter to work fast
  • Powerful clamps that keep the filter in place

Cons

  • Pricier than other products on this list

10. Penn Plax Cascade Canister 1500

The final product on this list had to be another Penn Plax Cascade, only bigger and faster than the previous one. Looking at the Cascade 1500, you might think that there’s no difference between it and the 1000 model. But performance-wise, the two are quite different.

Cascade 1500 is also a powerful filter, capable of filtering 350 GPH. Because of its water-flow rate and its size, the product is perfect for 200-gallon aquariums. Moreover, it works with both freshwater and saltwater tanks,  which is a testament to its durability.

The tank of the Cascade 1500 is huge, and with good reason. With a large-tank product, you can use it for a long time before you even have to think about replacing the filter.

Unlike many other filters on the market, the Cascade 1500 comes with a 360-degree rotation. The manufacturers opted for this feature so that the filter can keep the fish tank clean and debris-free quickly.

Finally, I should note that the Cascade 1500 can work well with other fish tank media. Bio-sponges, activated carbon, and bio-floss all work in conjunction with the filter for a wide range of tank-cleaning needs.

Pros

  • Large tank and 360-degree rotation for thorough cleaning
  • Fits most large tanks, up to 200 gallons
  • Water-flow rate of 350 gallons per hour
  • Works well with other aquarium media

Cons

  • Not as quiet as other products on this list

What if I Can’t Afford a Quiet Filter?

One of the most frequent problems that a fish owner has to deal with is how to handle the noisy filter they already have. After all, even the cheapest of the filters on this list can be too expensive for some people. On the other hand, the noisy filter they have could very well be a brand new model, installed and used for less than ten minutes. What do you do then?

Luckily, there are various methods on how to keep your filter running quietly. In fact, if you apply these methods, you can keep your old filter running for a long time before you even have to think about replacing it. Most long-time fish owners actually recommend trying to clean up the filter or readjusting some of its media, as it saves you both time and money in the long run.

A Word or Two In Closing

There are many benefits to having a noise-free fish tank filter. However, those benefits are not just there for the pet owners. In fact, the fish themselves will prefer to swim around in a tank that doesn’t have constant humming and mechanical noises. They’ll be healthier and happier with a nice, quiet filter cleaning their water up.

But what are your thoughts? Do you agree with this list, or do you have a different fish tank filter product to recommend? Please let me know in the comments below.

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