Some people who have really small aquariums, such as 10-gallon tanks, think that a good filtration unit is not completely necessary. However, this is simply not true. Small tanks need good filters just like larger tanks.
If you have a small 10-gallon tank, finding an ideal filter can be daunting as there are a lot of different options out there. We have narrowed it down to these 7 that we feel are the main contenders for the title best 10-gallon aquarium filter.
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The 7 Best Filters For 10-Gallon Tanks
We personally feel that these 7 are the best options to go with for 10-gallon tanks, here is a detailed summary of each;
1. Marina Power Filter
The Marina Filter is in our opinion one of the better options you can go with for 10-gallon fish tanks. This filter comes in different options from 5 gallons up to 15 gallons but we are mainly focusing on the S10 (10-gallon) model.
Now, while it is built to be slim and compact, so it does not take up too much space on the interior of the tank, which is nice, if you place it in a smaller tank, such as a 4-gallon tank, it will probably take up way too much space and leave your fish wanting more swimming room. It’s a hang on back filter, so it does need some space behind the tank, but not all that much.
This filter can process around 30 to 40 gallons of water per hour, which is not bad. This means that it can filter the entirety of a 10-gallon tank 3 to 4 times per hour. This should be more than enough to keep the water clean and clear.
One beneficial feature here is that this filter has an adjustable flow level, so you can actually control how much water it filters per hour. This is also convenient because you can adjust the outflow as well. On a side note, this thing is said to be fairly quiet, which is always a bonus.
Motor / Priming
Just to be clear, this thing is an internal submerged motor. While it is not the best in terms of taking up space, it is convenient because it is self-priming. It does not need you to prime it, and therefore you simply have to plug it in once it is submerged, and it will start running on its own.
Installation / Maintenance
The Marina Filter is built for easy installation and easy maintenance, something that you might appreciate. The slots where media goes are all easy to get to, so performing media changes is easy.
This thing has enough room in it for 4 different types of media. Now, as advertised this filter is meant for optimal biological filtration, which is why it comes with 2 types of biological media included.
Besides that, there is also space for you to fit some mechanical and chemical filtration media as well. In other words, this is a 4 stage filtration unit that can handle all 3 major types of media for clean and clear water.
2. Aqua Clear Power Filter 20
This particular filtration unit is ideal for any tank between 5 and 20 gallons in size, but no more or less. Seeing as it can handle a 20-gallon tank with relative ease, it should have no problem handling a 10-gallon aquarium.
One thing that is cool about this option is that it is a hang-on-back filter. This means that you can simply clip in on the back of the tank and you are good to go. You will need to prime it, which is a bit of a pain, but it’s nothing too bad. Seeing as this is not an internal filter, it does not take up room inside of the tank, which is a nice aspect.
One benefit here is that the Aqua Clear 20 can process up to 100 gallons of water per hour. This means that it can process the water in a 10-gallon tank up to 10 times per hour for some pretty clean water. It might actually be too much, but you can turn the flow rate down to decrease water processing speed, which your fish might appreciate.
The Aqua Clear Power Filter comes with a re-filtration system, so if you turn the flow rate down, it ensures that there is still optimal water to media contact for good filtration. In other words, something like 50% of the water in the chamber gets processed multiple times when the flow rate is turned down.
Media / Stages Of Filtrations
The fact that this thing comes with 3 stage filtration is pretty nice. It comes with mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration media already included. Now, it is not the highest quality of media, this much we can say. However, you can always replace it with other and more ideal media that fits in the media slots.
Being a 3 stage filter is great, but it could definitely use some better media. On a side note, this thing is neither very quiet, nor is it very durable, both drawbacks which need to be taken into account.
3. AquaTech Power Aquarium Filter
This is another nice hang-on-back filter option to go with. Like we said before, we do really like hang on back filters because, for one, they are really easy to install. Besides having to be primed, which is a pain in the butt, simply clip this filter onto the rear of the aquarium and it is more or less good to go.
In terms of room, it does not take up any space on the interior of the tank, which is nice for your fish. However, with that being said, you will need some clearance behind the tank to fit this thing.
The AquaTech Filter is intended to be used with aquariums that are between 5 and 15 gallons in size. It should not be used for anything smaller or larger than that. Now, this particular filter can handle up to 60 gallons of water per hour, or close to it, so it can filter everything in a 10-gallon tank up to 6 times per hour, which is pretty impressive if we do say so ourselves.
Now, this thing does not have an adjustable flow rate, so the flow might actually be a bit too strong for some fish in a smaller 10-gallon tank, which is a drawback to think about.
Media / Stages Of Filtrations
The AquaTech Power Filter comes with an EZ-Change filter cartridge which includes both mechanical filtration for debris removal, as well as chemical filtration for the removal of colors, toxins, and odors. This cartridge is very easy to change. It does not last all that long, which is a drawback, but at least it is super simple to change once it has been used up.
This thing does also come with a biological filtration function for the removal of ammonia and nitrates, but this actually never needs to be changed, which is quite nice. Once again, noise and durability are issues here, so just keep that in mind.
4. Tetra Whisper PF10
This particular unit can be used for any tank up to 10 gallons in size. Now, it does not have amazing processing power, but it should be more than good enough for fairly lightly stocked tanks.
It can handle around 30 gallons per hour, which is not awesome, but not terrible either. Once again, as long as the tank is not too heavily stocked, it should perform just fine. The motor on this thing might not last all that long, but the overall level of durability is OK here.
As the name of this thing implies, it is built to be quiet. This is something that we do appreciate because loud filtration units are not fun. In terms of spatial requirements, this thing does not take up any space inside of the tank seeing as it is an external hang-on back filter. It will need to be primed, which is never fun, but at least it doesn’t use up internal tank space.
Installation / Maintenance
With that being said, you will need a decent amount of clearance behind the tank in order to use this thing. Other than needing to be primed, the Tetra PF10 is very easy to install. Simply clip it on the back and you are good to go. Maintenance is quite easy here as well.
Media / Stages Of Filtrations
The Tetra Whisper Filter is a 3 stage filtration unit. In other words, it engages in mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration for the removal of solid debris, ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, other toxins, colors, and odors too.
All things considered, for such a small filter, it does actually have pretty decent filtration capacity. It has a fair bit of room for media on the inside. It actually comes with a ready-to-go bag of biological filtration media to get you started.
These bio-bags are actually all in one chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration bags, which is nice. While the selection of media that this thing can use is limited, using all in one easy to replace bags is a bonus.
5. Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter
This is a really convenient little filter to go with, one that can be used for anything up to 10 gallons. Now, keep in mind that it shouldn’t be used for anything larger than that. If you have a lightly stocked tank, you might be able to stretch things a bit and use this particular unit for a 15-gallon tank, but that is pushing it.
This filter can process up to 57 gallons of water per hour, which is more than enough to keep a 10-gallon tank clean and clear. This thing does also come with an adjustable flow rate, so you can adjust how much water it processes each and every hour. This is also nice for fish that cannot handle a fast water flow rate.
Now, what is fairly convenient about this particular filtration unit is that it does not need to be primed. It is a fully submersible filter that does not need priming. The filter can actually be placed vertically or horizontally, which is nice.
However, with that being said, this is an internal filter, so it does take up a fair amount of space on the inside of the tank. Simply plaster it onto the inside of the tank using the included suction cups.
Media / Stages Of Filtrations
One benefit that you get with the Aqueon Filter is that it uses simple all-in-one cartridges. These cartridges include mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. Now, these cartridges are very easy to change, which is nicer, but they honestly do not last all that long.
Yes, they do a good job when they are fresh, they remove all kinds of impurities from the water, and they are easy to change, but do not expect them to last any longer than 1 month. One cool aspect here is that the Aqueon is built to be super quiet, which is nice, although its longevity is a little questionable.
6. Penn-Plax Cascade 170 Filter
Here we have a nice little submersible filter which is perfectly fine for small tanks. It has an option for a spray bar, a decent processing rate, can be used for multiple aquarium types, and more.
Do keep in mind that this thing can be used for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums, which is actually quite impressive.
In terms of the size, yes, this is a 10-gallon filter intended for 10-gallon tanks, so it should be just fine.
In terms of the physical size of it, it’s not that large, and it comes in at 3.25”L x 1”W x 1.5”D. Therefore, even though it does have to be directly inside of the aquarium, at least it’s not huge, so it won’t take up way too much space.
It is a rather perfect size for a tank as small as 5 gallons.
Something else which stands out about the Penn-Plax Cascade 170 Filter is that it can process up to 45 gallons per hour.
This means that it can process 4.5 times the amount of water in a 10-gallon tank per hour.
Heck, processing about 3 times as much water as is in a tank per hour is enough, so 4.5 times as much should definitely get the job done. Keep in mind that this filter does have an adjustable setting.
Media / Stages Of Filtration
This filtration unit comes complete with 3 stages of filtration, these being mechanical, biological, and chemical.
However, the included media could be a bit better, but at least it comes with some. In terms of filtration quality, this filter excels at biological and mechanical filtration but may be a bit lacking in the chemical filtration department.
7. Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin 75 Power Filter
Here we have a nice little HOB or hang-on back filter to keep in mind, one that has an amazing processing speed, all 3 necessary stages of filtration, and it barely takes up any room either.
Let’s take a closer look at it.
Alright, so this thing is not the smallest filter out there, but not huge either.
It does require a few inches of clearance behind the aquarium, but the great thing about it is that it is a HOB filter, so it hangs off the back, and barely any of it is actually inside of the tank or water, so it really does not take up too much space at all.
Yeah, it needs clearance in the rear, but that is about it.
Now, the really impressive part about this Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin 75 Power Filter is that it can handle up to 75 gallons of water per hour.
When it comes down to it, for a small 10-gallon aquarium, we might say that’s overkill, just a bit.
However, overkill or not, it still processes more than enough water on an hourly basis to keep a small 10-gallon tank clean and crystal clear.
Media / Stages Of Filtration
The Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin 75 Power Filter does come with 3 stages of filtration, and what’s cool is that here you get easy to replace filtration cartridges.
This filter does engage in chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration, but it excels at biofiltration thanks to the included bio wheel.
Bio wheel or not, you get 3 stages and all necessary types of filtration here.
Things To Consider When Buying the Best 10 Gallon Aquarium Filter
Let’s quickly take a look at the most important factors to keep in consideration before you buy a 10-gallon filter for your aquarium.
When it comes to your aquarium, the best 10-gallon filter is one that is going to fit right. Now, these things are going to have a certain size to them, and of course, the larger it is, the more room it is going to take up inside of the aquarium.
Therefore, you may want to consider an external or a hang on back filter, as submerged filters, while not larger than the others per se, will take up room inside of the tank.
Also, just pay attention that what you get does actually match the size of your aquarium, and is not either way too large or small for it.
Simply put, the more stages of filtration a filter has, the better it is going to function overall. Some only have 2 stages while others may have as many as 6.
Generally speaking, a 5 stage filtration system should do fine for every 10-gallon tank out there. As long as there are 2 stages of mechanical filtration, 2 stages of biological filtration, and some chemical filtration, it should be fine.
That said, 3 stages are fine too, especially for smaller aquariums that do not have a very heavy bioload.
You do also want to get a filtration unit that is durable. Now, this is easier said than done, as every retailer out there is going to claim that their filters last forever.
Of course, pay attention to what other people say about it. One thing to look at here is the motor, another the impeller, and the pump too.
These are the most important components, so make sure that they are of a decent quality.
Ease of Use
Whatever filtration unit you get, having one that is easy to install and easy to maintain is always a big deal.
You don’t want to get an aquarium filter that will take up hours of your time just to get it running and to keep it that way.
You can always look for some additional filtration capabilities, such as extra stages of filtration. A cool waterfall that helps add some oxygen to the water never hurts either.
Extra features might cost you more, but they can be quite useful at times.
Commonly Asked Questions
Do You Need A Filter For A 10 Gallon Fish Tank?
Yes, you do need a filter for a 10-gallon fish tank. Technically speaking, all fish tanks, no matter the size, should have a good aquarium filter.
In fact, smaller tanks, especially when heavily stocked with fish, get dirty faster than larger tanks, so yes, smaller tanks do still need filters.
What Is The Best 10 Gallon Aquarium Filter?
We would say that the best filter for 10-gallon tanks would be the Marina Power Filter, our number one pick here today.
It’s a hang-on back filter that doesn’t take up space inside of the tank, plus it is super easy to install and maintain.
Moreover, it comes complete with 4 different types of media, and it can process up to 40 gallons of water per hour.
Can I Use A 20 Gallon Filter on A 10 Gallon Tank?
Yeah, technically speaking, you can use a 20-gallon filter for a 10-gallon tank. You just need to remember that it may be too large, physically speaking.
If you are going to do this, you will definitely need a HOB filter so it doesn’t eat up space inside of the tank.
Also, an adjustable flow rate is required, because it might actually process too much water.
How Often Should I Change My 10 Gallon Fish Tank Filter?
Realistically, if you buy a good filtration unit, you shouldn’t ever have to replace it. Sure, you will have to replace the media on a regular basis, clean the filter, and maybe even repair some parts.
However, if you get a high-quality model, the only time you need to change the filter is if it happens to break.
If you also need some heater suggestions, then this article will help you.
As you can see, there are quite a few good options that you can go with in terms of 10-gallon aquarium filters. We hope we have given you a few suggestions and helped you narrow down your list.
Featured Image Credit: luckypic, Shutterstock