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An aquarium is a delicately balanced miniature ecosystem that relies on “good” care-taking. The health of your fish, as well as your aquarium, depends on how well you maintain them. Water quality is arguably one of the essential parts of aquarium maintenance. Proper aquarium equipment is important to make sure your fish stay healthy.
The fish excrete waste continuously as they swim around in the water. If this waste is not removed, the excreted toxins will rapidly build up to high enough concentrations, and this may even poison them. Early stages of this are called ammonia stress – when it becomes fatal, it is ammonia poisoning.
Besides, particulate floating in the water, decaying fish food and other organic matter such as leaves of plants in case of a planted aquarium, etc. can contribute to cloudy aquarium water if not kept in check.
Since the aquarium is not self-cleaning, and unless the perfect natural balance is achieved, aquarium filtration is essential. Filtration is a standard method used for the maintenance of healthy aquaria. Water changes can be tedious, messy, and time-consuming.
It is not impossible, but it is rather hectic to change the water of your aquarium and clean it every two days. But it is an undeniable fact that the biological filtration of your aquarium is essential. Aquarium filters are made for this exact problem.
It’s important to understand that all aquariums, be it small or big, require some form of biological filtration and a filter is the easiest way to provide this. A filter cleans the water of debris, removes the toxic build-up of ammonia and nitrates, and aerates the water so your fish can be healthy and happy.
In simple language, aquarium filters help maintain clean and safe water for your fish and invertebrates as well as plants. And if you’re a beginner, an aquarium filter can be of additional help so you can take care of your fish efficiently.
Top 7 Best Small Aquarium Filters 2019
1. Aquatop IF-201 Internal Filter 42 GPH
This filter model by Aquatop is an internal filter. This filter isn’t noisy at all and is efficient. It can be mounted vertically as well as horizontally with the help of the included suction cups. The suction cups are meager, but once firmly in place, holds the filter.
To provide you a more extensive range output, the IF-201 comes equipped with an attached optional spray bar. It also includes an optional Venturi-Line for providing added oxygenation. The IF-201 uses a dense filter sponge for maximum filtration.
The product comes with a remote sensor that can be placed away from the titanium-heating element to ensure accurate temperature throughout your fish tank. The remote external thermostat, with an easy-to-read temperature indicator, makes it easy to adjust the temperature suitable for your aquarium without getting your hands wet.
You can even tilt the flow-bar towards the side of your tank and thus buffer the current so that it is not too much for your fish’s delicate fins. This filter is amongst the best small aquarium filter as it is easy to install and also easy to clean, has a space-saving design and hence is fit for small aquariums up to 5-gallon fish tanks, both freshwater as well as saltwater.
2. Jajale DB-337F Submersible Water Pump – 130 GPH With Filter
The product includes a power filter, spray bar, aeration, and water venturi and aeration tube. This 3-in-1 power internal filter performs three functions at the same time: water filtration, water circulation as well as aeration.
There are a few types of ways you can attach the spray bar to see which direction you want the water current. Its compact and versatile units are ready-to-use, and there’s no requirement of additional tubing or a circulation pump.
You can install it in a vertical as well as a horizontal position as it is easy to handle and install, and it is easy to clean. Its space-efficient design makes it easy to use in a small aquarium.
So if you want a cost-worthy 3-in-1 pump for your 5-10 gallon aquarium, then this can be your best bet. It is tiny and is one of the best for small aquarium filter.
3. Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter
The package includes the Nano 10 External Canister filter, spray bar system for greater aeration, mechanical filter sponge, bio-ceramic filtration media and carbon chemical filtration media.
This filter is built to be convenient with a compact space-saving design and quite anti-vibration brushings.
Although, according to some users, it is found that the pump gear isn’t that strong which is concerning, as much of the junk gets stuck in the intake lines.
So there is room for improvement. But the product is satisfying as per its cost and is quite suitable for a 10-gallon aquarium.
4. Fluval Nano Aquarium Filter
It comes with an integrated spray bar that provides an adjustable flow rate of water so that the water current does not harm your delicate fish or shrimp.
However, the spray bar tends to crack right where it attaches to the black plastic elbow piece. The filter is modular and can be easily assembled and disassembled for easy installation and maintenance.
The package comes with three suction cup sets for efficient in-tank installation.
It is an excellent filter for any tank between 2.5-10 gallon fish tanks. The filter is great for what it is and what it can do.
However, there is room for modifications in the construction itself. The media chamber attaches to the pump by slipping over it. But the connection is not sound; it can be finicky at times. If not entirely submerged, air leaks into the filter through the gap and can cause noise.
5. Penn Plax Cascade 300 Submersible Aquarium Filter
The Cascade 300 provides crystal clear filtered water for freshwater and marine aquariums. The filter includes refillable bio-sponges and filter cartridges, a Venturi aeration system, and a spray bar system.
The filter is designed to provide better filtration and aeration above and below the surface. This aquarium filter is fully submersible and offers physical, chemical as well as biological filtration for tanks ranging from 2.5 gallons to 10 gallons in size.
The filter comes with activated carbon cartridge which removes harmful chemicals, toxins, odors and other contaminants in your fish tank. The filter includes an internal sponge that optimizes colonization for beneficial anaerobic bacteria. The filter comes with large filter cups that allow the users to choose their filtration media according to their needs.
The adjustable water flow output pumps up to 70 gallons per hour. The spray bar system aids better aeration. The round directional flow spout has a connector where you can connect your flexible tubing to drive water fountains.
The filter is easy to install with the help of the included suction cups and can be placed horizontally to remove from view. The versatile outflow options are great for fish that like swimming with a current. You can always save money on replacement media with refillable filter cartridges. When it’s time for replacement, pop in a new cartridge, or replace the spent media in the cartridge with the media of your choice.
No doubt, the Cascade 300 is on the list of the best small aquarium filter.
6. Fluval Underwater Filter
This FLUVAL U2 Underwater Filter provides a three-stage filtration that is ideal for use in marine, fresh and reptile environments. It provides eminent biological filtration by efficiently removing the debris.
In stage 1, the foam removes the large particles.
In stage 2, the poly-carbon cartridge traps fine debris impurities, thus improving the water quality of your aquarium.
And in stage 3, Bio Max provides optimal biological filtration efficiency.
This filter can mount sideways, which is great news for turtle owners who only fill the tank halfway to allow room for a turtle basking platform. Most filters are designed to draw water from the very top of a full tank. This filter can be mounted vertically or horizontally to accommodate a lower water level.
The entire filtration process occurs below the water level, so there is no running water sound only the soft hum of the impeller drawing water into the unit. Also, all the water stays inside the tank so there is no need for the user to worry about any leaks or broken hoses as you might expect from an external canister filter. Also, it is easy to maintain.
The above-mentioned benefits of this filter make it perfect for small aquariums ranging from 2.5 to even 30 gallons in size.
7. Whisper In-Tank Filter With Bioscrubber For Aquariums by Tetra
You’ve got to choose the Whisper In-Tank Filter by TETRA if you want a convenient and quiet filter for your miniature marine ecosystem. With the same quality and performance as an external filter, this model by TETRA will function in as little as 2 inches of water- making it ideal for turtle tanks.
The features and components of this filter adjust easily to high or low water levels with mounting suction cups as well as a hanger. Each of these models comes with a pre-assembled Bio bag filter cartridge. This filter is designed for aquariums up to 20 gallons in size.
One of the benefits of this filter is also its easy installation and small size. Also, it is easy to maintain and clean as you can remove the bottom to access the impeller. This product is also amongst the best small aquarium filter.
Why Do We Need Filters For Our Aquariums?
- Biological Filtration and The Nitrogen Cycle: One of the most vital elements of a successful aquarium is the proper management of the nitrogen cycle.The waste excreted by the fish and the other decomposing organic matter produce ammonia which is highly toxic to fish. In the natural environment, bacterial processes oxidize this ammonia into slightly less poisonous nitrites, which in turn oxidizes into nitrates.
These nitrates are utilized by the plants as fertilizers and do not harm the fish. In a planted aquarium, this process indeed happens to some extent but not to a sufficient extent. An aquarium is, however, a recreation of the marine ecosystem in a miniature form, within the confines of glass walls.
They are much more cramped than the natural environment with all the necessary things that require the fish to feel at home. This increases the amount of ammonia produced all the more.
The beneficial bacteria responsible for breaking down ammonia colonize the surface of objects present inside the aquarium. A biological filter does nothing more than providing a greatly enlarged surface area for the bacteria to develop.
- Mechanical and Chemical Filtration: The process of mechanical filtration removes particulate matter from the water. This particulate matter includes uneaten fish food, feces or plant debris (in the case of planted aquariums).Dissolved wastes are comparatively more difficult to remove from the water. Filters are used to remove this particulate matter from the water.
To a certain extent, plants extract dissolved chemical wastes from the water when they grow, but not completely. A filter helps to remove the particulate waste as well as the dissolved chemical waste. There are different filters designed for various purposes, and according to different filtration processes.
Good quality filters offer all the stages of filtration that is needed for improved water quality.
Types Of Small Aquarium Filters
There are numerous types of filters designed according to the needs of your aquarium as well as your budget that are commercially available.
1) Power Filters
A power filter is a hanging-style model that uses a pump to circulate the water of the aquarium through the system and then returns it to the tank. To pull the water out of the tank, it uses a lift tube and then pushes through various filter media.
The stages of filtration vary model by model. They are the most common type of aquarium filter and are usually more effective as well as easier to maintain than internal filters.
The main advantage of having a power filter is that it allows for a selection of different types of filter media according to the needs of your fish tank.
They are also easy to clean, but these types of filters also come with a disadvantage that they include smaller capacity for filter media compared to other types of filters. They also tend to be noisy, usually resulting from vibrations.
- Canister Filters: When compared to other types of hang-on-the-back aquarium filters, canister filters offer a higher quantity of filter materials to be used for filtration of your fish tank. They also provide a great deal of flexibility when it comes to choosing filter material.Water enters the canister filled with the filter material through an intake pipe at its bottom, passes through the material, and is then fed back to the fish tank through the return pipe.A pump is installed at the top of the canister, which forces the water to circulate through the filter.The thing to be noted is that these filters are sealed, completely flooded systems. They form a continuous body of water because of which the filter doesn’t have to put any extra effort to lift the water back to the aquarium, regardless of how high the pump is installed above the canister.
One of the benefits of this type of filter is that it provides a high volume of filter material without reducing the internal space of the aquarium. But these filters can be quite expensive and are kind of complexly structured.
- Diatom Filters: Diatomic filters are used only for periodic cleaning of aquariums. These filters are not continuously operated on aquariums and utilize diatomaceous earth to create an excellent filter down to 1 micrometer, which removes particulate matter from the water.
- Trickle Filters: These filters remove the water from your aquarium employing an overflow and allow it to fall through or over filter media in an open tower to be collected in a sump, and then pump the water back into the fish tank through a spray bar.
- Algae Filters: Growth of algae is a problem that the aquarium owners will have to face sooner or later. Algae can be removed by treating the water with ultraviolet irradiation, but the drawback of UV is that it will kill beneficial bacteria too. Hence UV treatment is typically used only when needed. It is not used all the time.
- Baffle Filters: The principle of this type of filter is to direct water through a sand bed from below so that the sand bed starts behaving like a fluid. The combined surface of all sand particles in the filter is vast. Thus there is a large surface area for aerobic denitrification of bacteria.
2) Internal Filters
As the name specifies, these types of filters are within the confines of the aquarium. These types of filters include the sponge filter, variations on the corner filter, foam cartridge filter, and the under-gravel filter. There are internal power filters also available in the market, which are often attached to the corner of the tank via suction cups.
- Airlift Filters: These filters filter the water of the aquarium by the use of bubbles which are supplied from an air pump. These filters are often placed at the corner or bottom of the aquarium. This type of filter is one of the best small aquarium filters
- Under-gravel Filters: This one is a pretty simple type of filter, and the way it works is about as uncomplicated as it can get. There is a porous plate located under the gravel to stop the gravel from touching the bottom which lets the water flow under it. There are a water pump and a powerhead that draws water through the gravel. It also consists of a powerhead and a water tube that pumps clean water into the tank.
Best Small Filters for Tanks: Make the Right Choice!
Aquarium filters are a necessity for any fish tank because due to the density and enclosure, the water gets polluted easily, especially if the tank is small. When purchasing a filtration system for your aquarium, the first and most important factor to consider is the size of your fish tank and the needs of your fish.
These days, finding the right filter for your aquarium is not as easy as no filter suits all sorts and sizes of tanks. By researching your fish’s needs, you will soon find a filter that suits them. Luckily, you have plenty of time to choose before making the right decision.
So if you are looking for the best small aquarium filter, then the above-mentioned list of some hand-picked small aquarium filters will prove a beneficial guide for you. Filtration is an integral part of an aquarium’s system, so find the right one for your tank.