The aquarium filter is, hands down, the heart of every thriving, spotless and crystal clear fish tank. Whether you are keeping a betta or a saltwater finned pet, an aquarium filter helps maintain a safe haven for your fish by removing waste products and dangerous chemicals from the water.
That is why I always recommend HOB (Hang on the back) filters when people ask me for suggestions for their aquarium’s filtration system.
Not only are HOB filters super effective, but they are also easy to install, even for a complete newbie. Plus, maintaining them will not take a great deal of time and effort on your end.
As you are reading this, you may have a couple of questions about HOB filters.
Which HOB filter type should I get?
What is the best HOB filter for aquariums in the market today?
The market today teems with different types of HOB filtration systems. Unfortunately, some of them perform poorly and will even break down after a few days of usage.
To help you pick the best HOB filter, I have highlighted some of the top brands and models available these days.
And guess what? These HOB filter models are also excellent for freshwater aquariums as well as saltwater and reef tanks.
Go through this in-depth shopping guide, and find the best HOB filter that works for your aquarium and fish.
Table of Contents
Things to You Need to Know About HOB Filters
There are a few things you need to know about these filters if you are planning to use one for your aquarium.
Here are the most essential nuggets of information about hang on back filters that every aquarist should know.
Of course, these tips will also help you pick the best HOB filter.
Every HOB filtration system comes with a motor that pulls the aquarium water into the fish tank and through its filter. In general, newer models of HOB filters have built-in motors.
Older models, on the other hand, have detachable motors.
One of the perks of a built-in motor is that there is no need to remove it when cleaning it.
I suggest that you cover the impeller to prevent the debris from getting in.
The HOB filter cartridges provide either chemical, mechanical or biological filtration. Alternatively, it may feature a combination of these 3 filtration types.
Some HOB models come with a bio-wheel, which helps promote your tank’s beneficial bacteria.
Just do not clean the filter’s bio-wheel or allow it to dry because it will kill these beneficial bacteria.
Another upside to using a HOB filter is that it is so easy to maintain. You will need to replace the filter’s cartridges every month or 3 weeks, but that is basically about it.
From time to time, algae build up inside the tube and filter. You can quickly remove it, though, with a scrub.
HOB filters, depending on their size, have one or a couple of waterspouts, designed to return clean aquarium water back into the fish tank once the filtration is done.
HOB Filters Comparison Chart 2020
Before diving into my top selections, please spend a moment checking out this comparison chart. Trust me, it will help you pick the best HOB filter since it compares some of the key features of each option.
|Product Name||Capacity||Flow Rate||Filtration Stages||Media|
|Aqua Clear HOB Filter - Best Overall||5 to 70 gallons, depending on the size||Adjustable flow rate (150 to 280 GPH depending on the size)||3||Biomax, activated carbon, and foam|
|Fluval C Power HOB Filter - Best for Reef Tank||40 to 70 gallons||264 GPH||5||Bio-screen, c-nods, activated carbon and poly foam pad|
|Penn Plax HOB Filter - Best Budget||55 to 100 gallons||300 GPH||3||Activated carbon, bio-floss and internal sponge|
|MarineLand Penguin HOB Filter - Best with Sponge||10 to 20 gallons||100 GPH||3||Biomax, activated carbon, and foam|
|GRECH HOB Filter - Best for Planted Tank||10 to 30 gallons||132 GPH (adjustable)||3||Biomax, activated carbon, and foam|
|Azoo HOB Filter - Best Nano HOB Filter||Up to 30 gallons||30 GPH||3||Biomax, activated carbon, and foam|
|Seachem Tidal HOB Filter - Best with Protein Skimmer||55 to 110 gallons||250 GPH||3||Foam filter and matrix bio-media|
|Marina Power HOB Filter - Best Small HOB Filter||Up to 10, 15 and 20 gallons||55 GHP||2||Bio-clear and bio-carb|
|Aqueon QuietFlow HOB Filter - Best for 50 Gallon Tank||50 gallons||125 to 400 GPH, depending on size||5||Aqueon cartridge|
|AquaTop HOB Filter - Best with UV Sterilizer||15 to 40 gallons||128 GPH||2||Filter pad, ceramic rings|
What is the Best HOB Filter to Buy?
Even with the numerous choices available, finding the best HOB filter for your aquarium is easy. Just take note of these words, and you will be perfectly fine.
- Best Aquarium HOB Filter (Overall) – Aqua Clear HOB Filter
“With its extraordinary design and enormous filtration volume, this versatile and top-rated HOB filter is indeed one of the best performing filtration systems ever.”
- Best for Reef Tank – Fluval C Power HOB Filter
“Not only does it boast adjustable flow rates, but it also has a dynamic 5-stage filtration system, making it the best HOB filter for saltwater and reef aquariums.”
- Best Budget – Penn Plax HOB Filter
“This innovative and wallet-friendly HOB filter has exceptional features that can give the leading brands a run for their money.”
- Best with Sponge – MarineLand Penguin HOB Filter
“Perfect for newbies, this HOB filter will keep any 10-gallon aquarium spotless clean and clear with its bio-wheel and 3-stage filtration system.”
- Best for Planted Tank – GRECH HOB Filter
“Thanks to its gentle and adjustable flow rate, this HOB filter will definitely make your plants grow and remain healthy.”
- Best Nano HOB Filter – Azoo HOB Filter
“Efficient and quiet, this HOB filter has a variety of features suited perfectly nano tanks with gorgeous and delicate fish.”
- Best with Protein Skimmer – Seachem Tidal HOB Filter
“From its self-priming pump and protein skimmer to its non-corrosive impeller, this HOB filter offers a host of perks to all fish keepers.”
- Best Small HOB Filter – Marina Power HOB Filter
“This superb HOB filter has a slim and unique design with tons of tantalizing features, including self-priming and adjustable flow rates.”
- Best for 50 Gallon Tank – Aqueon QuietFlow HOB Filter
“Engineered for mid-sized aquariums, this HOB filter will impress you with its silent operation, stylish look, and multi-stage filtration process.”
- Best with UV Sterilizer – AquaTop HOB Filter
“Create a healthy and incredibly clean environment for your fish with the sophisticated features of this underrated HOG filter, including a UV sterilizer.”
Best HOB Filter Reviews 2020
The best way to find the best HOB filter for your aquarium is to gather unfiltered ideas and opinions from actual reviewers.
And, I am going to make things easier for you by sharing all my reviews of the best HOB filters in one section of this guide!
1. Aqua Clear HOB Filter
Aqua Clear HOB filter is, to me, the epitome of the best HOB filter for aquariums. Engineered to be highly versatile, this top-rated filter has an array of features to suit the needs of its users.
For one, it has adjustable flow rates, meaning you can use it for fish types that prefer still waters, like bettas.
And, with its multi-stage filtration, this filter can effectively make your aquarium look stunning and crystal clear. Furthermore, its biological filtration helps remove toxic elements in your aquarium, including ammonia and nitrite.
- Remarkable filtration volume
- Multi-stage filtration system
- Adjustable flow rates
|Dimensions||4 by 9 by 8 inches|
|Flow rate||Adjustable flow rate (150 to 280 GPH depending on the size)|
- Does not take a ton of space
- Easy and quick installation
- Second to none in improving aquarium water quality
- Efficient pump
- Enormous filtration volume
- Has a small grinding during when operating
2. Fluval C Power HOB Filter
(Best for Reef Tank)
Some of the world’s rarest and most stunning fish flourish in a saltwater setting. But, setting up a saltwater tank is no picnic, compared to freshwater aquariums.
Thankfully, this Fluval filter will make it simpler for you to create the perfect environment for your saltwater fish. With its 5-stage filtration, the filter will thoroughly clean your aquarium water, eliminating odor and toxic substances.
Even better, it has a strong water flow, which some saltwater fish like.
As a bonus, it has an LED indicator that will let you know if you need to change the filter’s polyfoam.
- 5-stage filtration system
- Filters around 260 gallons per house
- Clip-on filter with an LED indicator
|Dimensions||6 by 8.2 by 8.5 inches|
|Flow rate||264 GPH|
- Strong flow of water (adjustable)
- Filtration is second to none
- Re-filtration system increases efficiency in water cleaning
- Easy to install and clean
- A little expensive
- Not a self-priming filter
3. Penn Plax HOB Filter
Do not let its size deceive you! Sure, this HOB filter is a little small, but it is remarkably powerful and can service large tanks with a capacity of 100 gallons.
Another upside to this filter is that it has an adjustable flow rate, meaning it is also suitable for small aquariums and fish that prefer a low flow.
And, it is flexible, applicable to saltwater and freshwater tanks, and comes in different sizes and flow rates.
On top of it all, it is so affordable!
- Groundbreaking Quad-filtration Bio-Falls system
- Delivers 300 GPH of crystal clear aquarium water
- Suitable for freshwater and saltwater
|Dimensions||9 by 6.5 by 11 inches|
|Flow rate||300 GPH|
- Excellent value for the money
- Long warranty period
- Has a trolling motor built for a more quiet environment
- Adjustable flow rate and intake rate
- Replacement filters are slightly expensive
4. MarineLand Penguin HOB Filter
(Best with Sponge)
MarineLand Penguin is, no doubt, one of the best and most enticing HOB filters for 10 gallon aquariums. Not to mention, it is an outstanding option for those who just ventured into the world of fish keeping.
With its perfectly small size, the filter is easy to maintain and set up, meaning it will not overwhelm its users. And, it is ideal for red cherry shrimp and ghost shrimp.
Another thing I love is its moderate flow rate of 100 GPH.
And, did I mention that it has 3 filtration types – biological, chemical, and mechanical?
- Multi-stage filtration
- Rotating bio-wheel
- Available in a range of sizes
|Dimensions||5.5 by 5.5 by 8 inches|
|Flow rate||100 GPH|
- Has vented covers that reduce noise
- Has 1 filter cartridge and bio wheel
- Small, compact and easy to install
- Can hold a small water softener pillow
- Filter cartridge cannot be reused
5. GRECH HOB Filter
(Best for Planted Tank)
You are going to have a blast using this hang on back filter. It is long-lasting and is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
And with a rather practical and simplistic design, this filter is so easy to install even if you have not installed one before.
Another thing I love about this HOB filter is that it comes with a handy UV sterilizer.
To me, this sterilizer is a simple yet effective solution when it comes to removing bacteria in aquarium water.
Plus, the HOB filter kit comes with a surface skimmer.
- Comes with a UV sterilizer (5 watts)
- Has a surface skimmer
- Adjustable flow rate
|Dimensions||7.6 by 4.4 by 6.5 inches|
|Flow rate||132 GPH|
- Excellent value for the money
- Surface skimmer
- Effectively removes bacteria and debris
- UV light
- Appropriate for planted tanks
- Filter basket is small
6. Azoo HOB Filter
(Best Nano HOB Filter)
No list of the best HOB filter kits is complete without the inclusion of this Azoo product. While it is not as well-known as the other brands, this one works efficiently. Additionally, it keeps the aquarium conditions favorable for your finned buddies.
The most fascinating feature of this filter, though, is that it operates quietly. Trust me, your pets will not experience any type of noise with this HOB filter.
And, since it has a hang on back design, this filter is pretty easy to install.
- Efficient and quiet
- Ideal for up 30-gallon aquariums
- Purifies water effectively
|Dimensions||4 by 3.5 by 4.5 inches|
|Flow rate||30 GPH|
- Perfect flow for fish that prefer still waters
- Totally silent aside from the faint water cascade trickle
- Hangs easily on your aquarium
- Not self-priming
7. Seachem Tidal HOB Filter
(Best with Protein Skimmer)
They do not call the Seachem Tidal as the king of HOB filters for nothing. Whether you are keeping a freshwater tank or a saltwater aquarium, this HOB filter will come in handy in a myriad of ways.
For instance, this HOB filter has a built-in surface skimmer as well as a self-priming pump. And, the HOB filter is incredibly silent for a HOB filter. Thus, you will not have any problems if your aquarium is located in your kid’s room or bedroom.
- Suitable for saltwater and freshwater tanks
- Appropriate for larger tanks
- Dual water intake and comes with a surface skimmer
|Dimensions||15 by 6 by 15 inches|
|Flow rate||250 GPH|
- Adjustable flow
- Comprehensive and premium quality filtration
- Adaptable to a wide range of fish tank conditions
- No priming needed
- Flow rate is too powerful for some fish
8. Marina Power HOB Filter
(Best Small HOB Filter)
Add a touch of flair and style to your fish tank with this slim and chic HOB filter! Unlike other hang on back filters, this one does not take a lot of space.
And, it comes with flow controls, allowing you to adjust your aquarium’s flow rate. The filter’s motor is submerged into the aquarium water, allowing a rather quiet operation.
Of course, it filters proficiently, thanks to its bio-clear and bio-carb filters. And you can enjoy all these perks without spending a fortune.
- Flow control is adjustable
- Motor is submerged
|Dimensions||3.7 by 7.3 by 6.5 inches|
|Flow rate||55 GHP|
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Motor is submerged
- Easy to set up and maintain
- Occupies small space
- Made of cheap plastic
- Water may spill out
9. Aqueon QuietFlow HOB Filter
(Best for 50 Gallon Tank)
Looking for a more advanced filtration system? With its 5-stage filtration, this HOB filter definitely fits the bill.
Even better, the unit comes with an LED light to let you know when it needs a filter change.
Moreover, the filter packs in the biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration along with its superior quality filter pad.
And, it operates quietly and does not need any priming. It even automatically restarts in case there is a power loss, making it one of the more technologically advanced HOB filters to date.
- Uses large replacement Aqueon cartridges
- Internal pump design eliminates leaks and dampens noise
|Dimensions||8.4 by 7.9 by 4.1 inches|
|Flow rate||125 to 400 GPH, depending on size|
- Suitable for saltwater and freshwater aquariums
- Power cord is long
- Effectively removes particulate matter, thanks to its dense floss
- Maintenance is minimal
- Quiet operation
- Frequent change in filter disrupts beneficial bacterial colony
10. AquaTop HOB Filter
(Best with UV Sterilizer)
AquaTop is, truthfully, a little underrated compared to the other units and brands mentioned in this review. Even so, this HOB filter packs quite a punch with its astounding features.
With an impressive flow rate, this HOB filter will purify your aquarium in a rather short time.
The filter also comes with a UV sterilizer and a self-adjusting skimmer that can keep the water surface spotlessly clean and breathtaking.
Of course, the skimmer helps promote the aquarium’s gas exchange as well.
- Pumping power of 7 watts
- Suitable for tanks up 40 gallons
- 128 GPH flow rate
|Dimensions||8.5 by 11 by 6.5 inches|
|Flow rate||128 GPH|
- Adjustable flow of water
- Exceptional pumping capabilities
- Remarkable flow rate for such a small size
- Operation is slightly noisy
How to Find the Best HOB Filter for Your Aquarium
Not every top-rated HOB filter will work like a charm on your aquarium. Some hang on back filters are more expensive than the rest, some have a faster flow rate, and some are built for larger aquariums.
Make sure to take note of these factors in your search for the best HOB filter.
Fish Tank Size
Your HOB filter must be suitable for your aquarium’s size. If your HOB filter is not strong enough for your tank’s capacity, the aquarium water will not get the cleaning that it needs.
This, in turn, may lead to your fish developing diseases or even death.
Likewise, a supremely powerful hang on back filter may create too much water current, which your pets may not like.
My advice is to look for a HOB filter that is appropriate for your aquarium’s size. HOB filter manufacturers mostly list the suitable aquarium size or capacity (in gallons) that their products are ideal for.
Flow rate is, in essence, the amount of water that an aquarium filter or clean in an hour. My advice is to pick a HOB model that can turn over around 4 times your aquarium’s capacity every hour.
If your tank has a 50-gallon capacity, you will need a HOB filter with a minimum flow rate of around 200 GPH (Gallons Per Hour).
For a safe bet, always go for a trustworthy manufacturer that has been in the industry for years. Some of the manufacturers I recommend include Marina, Fluval, Marineland, Aqueon, and AquaClear.
The most common material used for filtering is the sponge. It is easy to clean, relatively cheap, and does not need to be changed often.
Other well-known media types for filters include bio-media and ceramic rings.
To increase the filtration’s efficiency, you may use sponges that are covered with biological compounds like activated carbon.
Most aquariums will be, however, fine with only a sponge.
Achieving quiet filtration is close to impossible because of the running impeller. But, some HOB filters are more silent than the rest.
This may be crucial to you based on where your aquarium is located.
HOB filtration systems vary in terms of price, depending on several factors, including the overall quality, flow rate, and size.
Although opting for the cheapest filter is not the best solution, there is no need for you to spend a ton of money, especially if you are on a tight budget.
I suggest that you set yourself a budget, and keep it in mind when looking for the best HOB filter.
Eager to know my top pick? Before I reveal my top selection, spend some time reading the guide’s FAQ section.
Who knows? Maybe, it contains answers to some of your questions about HOB filters.
My Top Pick
The Aqua Clear HOB Filter is an absolute powerhouse and a worthy holder of the title of the “best HOB filter”. Even though it has faced some stiff competition, it has made its way to the top, thanks to a mishmash of features.
Not only does it boast a multi-stage filtration system, but it also has an efficient pump and an adjustable flow rate.
Build the stunning aquarium of your dreams by equipping it with any of these remarkable and dependable HOB filters!