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!
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter||
|Best Value||Marina Aquarium Power Filter||
|Premium Choice||Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filter||
|Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Power Filter With BioScrubber||
|SunGrow Hang On Back Aquarium HOB Filter||
The 10 Best HOB Filters
1. Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter — Best Overall
Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter is the best overall HOB (hang-on-back) filter. It has the three main filter types—mechanical, biological, and chemical—and uses high-quality, fast-acting Black Diamond Premium activated carbon filters to keep your water as clean as possible. A rotating bio wheel helps cultivate important bacteria that help keep your tank healthy, and it has noise-reducing vent covers that look attractive and promote silent operation.
The downside to the Marineland filter is that many users complain that it doesn’t spin enough, if at all, and can also produce a high-pitched squealing sound.
2. Marina Aquarium Power Filter — Best Value
The Marina Aquarium Power Filter is the best HOB (hang-on-back) filter for the money. Its small, compact size takes up much less room than many other filters for the same size tank, and the motor sits under the water for quiet operation. Another nice feature of this filter is that you can adjust it for different water levels, which is perfect if you have snails or an oddly shaped tank. The water flow is also adjustable, and there is a foam cover over the intake so your fish don’t get sucked in. It’s easy to set up, and you can run it within minutes of opening the package.
This filter uses cartridge filters that contain Ceramitek, which is highly porous for better filtration and bacteria growth, which will help maintain a healthier tank. Two filters come in the box.
The only downside about the Marina Aquarium Power Filter is that while it starts off quiet, many users report that it can develop a hum or vibration after a few months of use.
3. Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filter — Premium Choice
The Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filter is a premium choice HOB filter. It has a powerful motor that will help get your water cleaner than you thought possible and a self-priming pump that helps restart the filter if the power is interrupted. Unlike many other filters, the motor is inside the housing for quieter operation, and many users report not hearing it at all.
It has a mechanical, biological, and chemical filter and a flashing LED light to tell you when it’s clogged and needs changing. It also has optional and specialty pad filtration spots, so you can improve filtration even further if your budget allows.
The downside to this pump is that it’s quite expensive, and although they are costly, the filters appear cheap and require frequent replacement.
4. Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Power Filter With BioScrubber
The Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Power Filter With BioScrubber is a quiet filter system that keeps the motor under the water where it’s harder to hear. The filters are easy to find in pet stores and even in many large grocery stores, so you won’t need to worry about your tank getting cloudy. This unit design also has a solid back, which prevents clogs, so you should never have standing water in the tank.
The filters have a unique dual-sided bio-bag design, which helps filter the water while fostering the growth of healthy bacteria over a large surface area. While they don’t last as long as some other types, they are relatively inexpensive.
The downside to the Tetra Whisper is that it doesn’t hold on to the side of the tank that well and could fall off. It can also be hard to angle, and some users complained that it creates micro-bubbles in the tank. It also goes through filters fairly quickly.
5. SunGrow Hang On Back Aquarium HOB Filter
The SunGrow Hang On Back Aquarium HOB Filter is an attractive and compact filter for smaller tanks. It’s clear design makes it easy to see when to clean it and where any clogs might be. It operates quietly with the motor underwater, and the compact size takes up little space. Most users report that the powerful motor easily cleans the water, and you can control the flow of water so you don’t damage your sensitive plants or fish.
This filter uses a simple sponge filter that will help remove larger contaminants from the water while fostering the growth of healthy bacteria that will help remove harmful nitrates from the water.
The biggest problem that most users have with the SunGrow filter is that it doesn’t come with any instructions to assemble the unit, and it arrives in several pieces. The motor can also develop a hum after a few months of use, which can get quite loud.
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.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Right HOB Filter for Your Tank:
|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|
Among these reviews, our top choice of HOB filter is the Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin Aquarium Power Filter, which contains the three main types of filtration, along with a rotating bio wheel that will help foster the growth of helpful bacteria. If you are looking for a premium filtration unit, the Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filter is a great choice. It has up to five stages of filtration and a flashing light that tells you when the unit needs attention. The Marina Aquarium Power Filter is great for the budget minded. It can adapt to different water levels and is small in size.
We hope that one of these filters will help keep your tank clear!