5 Best Freshwater Aquarium Filtration Systems 31

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Best Freshwater Aquarium Filtration Systems

Fish make great pets. They can are great to look at and relatively low on the maintenance. All you need to do is feed them a few times a day and make sure that their aquarium is clean. Sounds easy enough right? Well for the most part keeping the aquarium clean is easy work but not if you don’t have the right filtration system.

Having the right filtration system will be the big difference maker when it comes to how much time you actually have to spend cleaning your tank. You want to make sure you get the right filtration system for your freshwater aquarium. Let’s take a look at 5 of the best filtration systems for your freshwater aquarium.

Best Freshwater Aquarium Filtration Systems

1. Cascade 1000 Canister Filter

BestFreshwaterFilter

Cascade 1000 Canister Filter

The Cascade 1000 Canister Filter seems to be a top choice in the freshwater aquarium market. This superior filter can be used in any size tank that is 100 gallons or less.

This freshwater aquarium filtration system pumps up to 265 gallons per hour! But that’s not all it does.

Let’s take a look at what this filtration system is capable of :-

  • The combination of powerful mechanical, chemical and biological filtration guarantees you crystal clear water.
  • Fine particulate matter which would otherwise buildup in your tank is removed thanks to the floss pad.
  • Other toxins and impurities in the water are removed by the activated carbon media.
  • Filter comes with 4 locking clamps to make for the tightest fit possible.

The Cascade 1000 Canister Filter seems to be a popular choice among freshwater aquarium owners. If you want crystal clear water in your aquarium this might be the right choice for you!

Recommended Retailer : Amazon is currently offering this Cascade Canister Filter for below $99 plus you get free shipping. Click here to check the offer

2. Emperor 400 Pro Series Bio-wheel Power Filter

Emperor 4000 by Marineland

Emperor 4000 by Marineland

Whether you have experience with freshwater aquariums or you’re brand new to them this filter is a great addition to your tank. The Emperor 400 is perfect for aquariums that are 80 gallons or less.

With its 3 stage filtration system this powerful filter has a flow rate of up to 400 gallons per hour.

Let’s take a look at some of the custom features designed for this powerful filtration system:-

  • Dual impeller design delivers professional grade filtration. The main impeller drives the water through the mechanical and chemical filtration systems. The secondary impeller pressurizes the filtered water.
  • The extra-large BIO-wheel comes with a noise reducing cover. This is perfect for you if you want to keep your tank quiet.
  • No set up required.

The Emperor 400 is the only filter on the market that incorporates the dual impeller design. This innovative design makes this filter unique and reliable. This is definitely a good choice for you if you have a tank that is 80 gallons or less.

Recommended Retailer: Yet another awesome deal from Amazon, the Emperor 400 is now at a 71% discount on Amazon! Don’t miss this deal here 

3. Fluval 406 External Canister Filter

Freshwater Aquarium Filtration System

Fluval 405 Canister Filter

If you want to take aquarium filtration to the next level this is the filter for you. High on quality and low on maintenance the Fluval 406 is the perfect choice for any tank that is 100 gallons or less.

The Fluval 406 can circulate up to 245 gallons of water per hour.

Let’s take a look at some the best features:-

  • Instant prime system guarantees a quick start up.
  • Comes complete with a clog proof intake strainer.
  • Includes a dual layer pre-filter foam screen.
  • Easy installation and setup.

The Fluval 406 is best suited for anyone who wants the absolute best quality filtration. This filtration system is backed by a three year warranty. With a great reputation and a great warranty you can’t go wrong if you decide to purchase this filter.

4. Rena 721 Filstar XP2 Canister Filter

Rena 721 Filstar XP2

Rena 721 Filstar XP2

The Filstar XP2 is one of the most reliable and easy to maintain filters that money can buy.

This filter is perfect for freshwater aquariums that are 75 gallons or less. The XP2 has a flow rate of up to 300 gallons per hour which is amazing for its price range.

This filter has some great and unique features. Here’s a quick rundown:-

  • The XP2 is color coded to the instruction book for a very easy set up.
  • The self-priming features guarantees that this filter is low maintenance. No pumping is necessary.
  • Secure and flexible tubing with two flexible tubing clamps.
  • Anti-airlock system for silent operation

The XP2 will keep you aquarium clean and will keep itself quiet. This filter is great for you if you don’t have much time for maintenance but want the cleanest aquarium possible. With quality made parts and an easy setup this filter is a great addition to any aquarium.

5. AquaClear 110 Aquarium Power Filter

AquaClear 110 Filter

AquaClear 110 Filter

For such a small filter you wouldn’t expect the AquaClear 110 to be so powerful. Don’t let size fool you. This filter is one of the best on the market.

Despite its size this powerful filter is great for tanks that are 110 gallons or less. This filter is energy efficient and pumps up to 500 gallons per hour.

This filter has many great features. Let’s take a look at a few of them:-

  • The media system includes patented re-circulation grid and multi-filter media stacking. This allows water to be passed through the media filter more than once. This custom contributes to the superior water quality.
  • When the flow rate is reduced 50% of the water is processed multiple times.
  • The custom intake “U” tube directs unfiltered water through filter inserts. This process traps particles and debris that could pollute the water.
  • Lifetime warranty

This filter is perfect for you if you’re looking for something with power that won’t take up much space. The company is so confident in its product that it offers a lifetime warranty. This is a great option for anyone in need of a superior filtration system

When it comes to freshwater aquarium filtration systems you have a lot of options. The hardest part is finding the right one for you and your tank. The filters listed above is a great place to start.

However, I’d suggest doing a little bit more research and read up on what other aquarists have to say too. Be sure to make sure that reviewer has a similar to setup as yours to fully gauge its effectiveness. As this may vary based on different freshwater aquarium setups.

If you need further guidance, be sure to read our short guide on freshwater aquarium filters. This covers the 5 things you should know about filters and understanding this will help you make a better choice.

What’s Your Freshwater Aquarium Filter Of Choice? 

Have you used any of the filters listed above?

Do you think they deserve to be labeled as the Best Freshwater Aquarium Filter System?

Share your thoughts and experience with us and other hobbyists in the comments section below. We’d love to hear about other brands too!

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

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31 thoughts on “5 Best Freshwater Aquarium Filtration Systems

  1. Reply Matthew Moore Jul 11,2013 7:23 pm

    I also would recommend sponge filters if you are wanting to breed any type of aquarium inhabitants. They provide the mechanical and biological filtration necessary, without endangering any of the baby fish.

  2. Reply Kyle Aug 30,2013 1:55 am

    I can’t decide between Cascade 1000 and the AquaClear 110. Cascade 1000 seems to have a pretty comprehensive mechanism but the AquaClear 110’s lifetime warranty sounds like a solid promise.

    • Reply Ernie Masson Aug 31,2013 4:46 pm

      My aquarium purchase came with the free Aquaclear 110 power filter. Not that I really understand its mechanical quality but so far, I’ve not had any algae problem for a year already so it seems to doing its job right. :)

  3. Reply D Alfred Sep 1,2013 2:58 am

    I have the Filstar XP2 as I personally prefer convenience of minimal maintenance. They each have their own specific design and own quality strengths, so it can be hard to compare effectiveness wise!

  4. Reply Julius Giron Sep 17,2013 3:49 am

    Can you like place 2 filters in 1 aquarium?

  5. Reply CFerguson Sep 18,2013 4:03 am

    Julius – You can use more than one filter, just be aware of how much water turbulence you create by doing so. Too much water movement can harm fish, but the extra filtration offered may improve water quality and overall fish health as a result.

    I’ve had a Fluval canister filter for two years now, and within the last few months it’s begun to leak. I’ve greased the o-ring, and have ensured that everything is properly aligned. Unfortunately the first time the leak happened it damaged some hardwood. I now run the filter in a large bucket, which I have to empty daily. Obviously I’m in the market for a new filter now, and even though the Fluval comes with a three year warranty which is still valid for my 206, that hardly does my fish any good while the filter is out for service. Better than a warranty is simple reliability. Do a quick search for leak problems with Fluval’s and you’ll find many people with the same issue. I also checked into the Cascade 1000 above, and though I’ve not personally tested it, I’ve seen the same problems mentioned by others online that the Fluval has with leaking.

    I’m thinking about switching to a fluidized bed, has anyone tried one out?

    • Reply Dennis H. Oct 28,2013 9:27 pm

      Hey C,

      I personally would recommend the Cascade 1000 simply because my experience with it have been great.

      I’ve not had any personal experience with a fluidized bed, unfortunately.

  6. Reply Scott Oct 19,2013 2:47 pm

    I’m thinking of setting up my 55 again and am trying to decide which is the best filter these days.

    Are under gravel filters a thing of the past? I’m not a big fan of them anyway, but I’m suspect of the biological filtration provided by canister filters. When it’s time to clean the canister filter, doesn;t that ruin the biological setup within and it just has to start over?

    How often do the canisters have to be cleaned?

    If I don’t use an undergravel then I should be able to have just enough gravel to cover the bottom of the tank, correct?

    Appreciate any input guys! Thank you!

    • Reply Dennis H. Oct 28,2013 9:20 pm

      Hey Scott,

      No, gravel filter are not things of the past, but you don’t have to use it if you don’t like it.

      How often to clean your filter media depends on how quickly it gets dirty. If your aquarium is heavily stocked and filter is less powerful you need to clean it even on weekly basis.

      I will suggest for you to buy a filter having intake of somewhere around 100 – 110 gallon per hour. And look for output water flow, if it decreases, it’s time to clean the filter.

      You can either use single powerful canister filter which may come hard on your pocket or if you are not using sand you can go ahead with a HOB filter along with a power head filter.

      Hope this helps. Cheers!

  7. Reply marcman Oct 23,2013 4:54 pm

    I’ve used Aquaclear over the tank filters for many years and they work well.but if the filter media is not inserted properly it’s very easy for the water to bypass.

  8. Reply Pramith Nov 6,2013 8:09 pm

    I have a 9ft x 2.5ft x 2.5ft cement tank with the front glass. Based in the out side (garden).

    What is the best and cheep filter method suitable for my aquarium?

  9. Reply Jacob N Nov 21,2013 9:38 pm

    I find that my eheim 350t works incredibly well in my planted aquarium, and gets rid if the need to put in an inline heater, or a heater in the tank. It has trays and trays of biological and mechanic filter media, and works for all kinds of freshwater aquariums. I’ve used many clip on, and external canister filters as well as in tank filters after 8 years of fishkeeping, and this is honestly the best I have ever used.

  10. Reply Marek Dec 20,2013 4:30 am

    So they are all relatively good filters but the BONUS question-which one will make my life the easiest when it comes to cleaning, regular maintenance?

  11. Reply Keith Snyder Jan 22,2014 1:23 am

    I have a 125 gallon tank I am planning on keeping 2 big bluegills and 2 big crappies need advice on the best filter and arriator

    • Reply Dennis H. Feb 15,2014 2:07 pm

      Hi Keith,

      Use a canister filter or a sump, those are the better filtration methods to keep big fishes(which produce a lot of waste).

      Use a pump that moves up to 400 Gallons Per Hour(GPH), if you get a pump over those 400 GPH(Like 500 or 600 gph) is better, the bigger the better, but don’t exaggerate.

      Best wishes.

  12. Reply 2crazygirls Jan 25,2014 6:51 pm

    I have a planted 75 gallon freshwater tank with many rainbowfish and a cranky old angelfish. I find getting into/out of canisters a little cumbersome, and time has become a bit more dear now that I have kids. So I run my old classic Eheim (165gph) with biological media+ an Aquaclear 70 (300gph) with 1 sponge and filter fluff in a bag. That way I get the benefits of a slower flow canister for bio (which doesn’t require much maintence and contact time is the key with bio filtration), and the ease of being able to change filter fluff weekly (takes only 2min- hence gets done routinely). With 30% water weekly water change my tank is crystal clear, and my nitrates are always <20 (usually <10). I can get weekly maintence done in 15 minutes! I am a fan of having 2 of anything, so if one device craps out u have the other going.

  13. Reply Amanda Feb 3,2014 11:36 pm

    I think a better representation of the “best filters” would include a voting poll of aquarists and not just your opinion.

    After doing hours of research on this.. I have come to the conclusion that the “Aqua Clear” filters are hands down the BEST. Good post though still!

  14. Reply Geri Mar 15,2014 1:20 pm

    Do these filters work for turtles? I have two large red-eared sliders and the Eheim filter does an ok, but not great job. The turtles are dirty creatures,and frequently stir up all sorts of debris in the water. Suggestions?

  15. Reply Geri Mar 16,2014 11:06 am

    Are these filters just for fish, or will they work for aquatic turtles as well?

    • Reply BayAreaMP Apr 10,2014 11:51 pm

      Aaron,

      I have been using a two Fluval 406s for over a year and they are phenomenal. I have one on my 100 gallon community with some no name brand canister filter. The other is on my 55 gallon bichir tank. No problems what so ever. No loud noise and I have great filtration. Literally a week ago I thought my 406 on my community tank was rattling. I went to service the 406 and when I removed power the rattling did not stop. The air pump was rattling. But this caused me to look for a way to fix the noise. I came across this video and this was what I was going to try. I also have an eheim 2071 on my FH tank and it runs great too. I am debating between another eheim 2071 and fluval 406 to supplement my FH tank. I may stick with the eheim to keep the FH tank eheim and move the bichir fluval 406 go my community and sell the bichir. I have only ever had problems with off beat brand canister filters. Hope this helps.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYYEKm4c9wQ

  16. Reply Aaron Mar 16,2014 7:55 pm

    Fluval 406 should be renamed as a Super Duper Loud Fluval 406. This thing is really loud and i can’t believe myself that i actually fall in love with their marketing and misleading description. I owned 2 Eheim filters in the past and they were doing fine but i was greedy and wanted to get a better one with bigger capacity for biomedia, carbon bangs, different sponges and fine wool floss etc. So i made some research and read their description about 406 product as it is described as silent running filter etc. So i made a (rather stupid) decision and sold both of my used Eheim filters with a ridiculously cheap price on eBay and i bought the 406 and i massively regret after using this crappy filter. There are also tons of customers who have experienced this noise problem of 406. I tried so many ways to fix the problem but it does not work. My old Eheim products were much better than this new crappy fluval 406. will never buy again. never.

  17. Reply tom Apr 1,2014 2:02 am

    help

    I have an oscar and two turtles in a 55 gal tank. every week i have to clean waste from gravel. I also have a 55 gal tank with community fish that i clean gravel every two weeks. i am looking for a way to enjoy my tanks without having to clean gravel all the time.

  18. Reply Jim Kessler Apr 29,2014 11:05 pm

    I recently bought the Emperor filter and have found it to be very noisy. In spite of the noise-reduction cover, it is LOUD and very annoying, especially to my wife. What is the QUIETEST quality filter you have experience with? My marriage may depend on your input. ;)

  19. Reply Joe Gary May 29,2014 11:23 pm

    I have a Fluval 306 that developed a leak after about 4 years at the hose coupling, actually at the swivel where the flow adjustment is. I figured i didnt trust repairing it so I replaced it with a new Fluval 306 since i figured it was cheaper than potentially replacing my floor. After about 3 months at its second disassembly for cleaning I found one of the small plastic tabs that holds the impeller cover on was missing. It obviously has broken off but I couldnt find it anywhere. I called Fluval amd was told i would have to purchase one. The only thing the 3 year warranty covers is the motor. So don’t be misled by what sounds like a good warranty. I expected better for a filter that was $150 or so.

  20. Reply RP Jun 2,2014 12:03 am

    I am interested in setting up a fresh water 210 gallon. The plan is to house several large South American cichlids. What would you recommend for filtration. UG is not an option he fish most likely will disturb gravel.

  21. Reply Scott Quadcro Jun 15,2014 3:44 am

    Thanks for your list. I also am a fan of the Cascade 1000 as well, but the Fluval 406 is my pick to click. Its great for larger size aquariums and is the largest Fluval external canister in its class (106-306). The pump output is outstanding and anyone would be delighted in how this filter will circulate up to 245 gallons per hour.

  22. Reply Skye Jul 1,2014 3:11 am

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very
    well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info.
    Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  23. Reply cichlid playground Aug 10,2014 9:19 am

    I am replacing 2 Aqua Clear 70 filters for my 125 gallon Amazon sevrum tank. These Aqua Clear filters are not very effective for the best filtration, because of the way the water flow through the system. Although the flow rate is very strong, the water going into the sponge filter media area seems to not move through the media very well. A really good HOB filter is Tetra Whisper. They seem to be much more effective keeping and cleaning my 55 gallon for water quality. I’m now going to a Sunsun canister 4 stage filter for my 125 gallon tank. This SunSun filter is powerful and silent. Moves 525 gph. You can load 4 types of filtration items in big trays. Under $100 and comes with a built in UV light. It has had great customer reviews. So far working great for me. Btw, I studied this filter for 3 years before purchasing it. Wanted to make sure people had owned it for a couple years before buying one myself.

  24. Reply fishboy Aug 31,2014 6:25 am

    Thank you for this great post. I’m planning to get a filler system for my 55 gallons fish tank. Should I get Cascade 700 Canister Filter or Cascade 1000 Canister Filter? Your recommended is really help.

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