Maintaining good water conditions in a small aquarium isn’t easy, especially if you’re not an experienced aquarist. But if your fish doesn’t require a large tank, you may not want to invest in a larger tank that will naturally be more expensive.
An aquarium filter is an easy fix for these situations, but they’re just as useful in large aquarium too. Although a filter alone isn’t enough to keep your water clean, combined with regular water changes, it will significantly improve the quality of your water.
In what follows, I’ll discuss 10 filters designed for 10 gallon tanks, so you can choose the best filter for a 10 gallon aquarium.
What Type of Filter to Choose for 10 Gallon Fish Tank?
For 10 gallon aquariums, there are a few filter types that you could use, depending on how much money you want to spend, the bio-load of your fish, and the type of filtration you need.
Here are the most common filter options for small tanks:
- Sponge Filter
- Hang-on-Back (HOB) Filter
- Internal filter
- Small External Canister Filter
Sponge filters must be used with an air pump to force water through the sponge for mechanical filtration. They’re great for biological filtration and they’re easy to clean. Sponge filters are great for raising fry and small fish that could otherwise get sucked into the water inlet of a traditional filter.
HOB filters sit outside of your aquarium and they’re installed onto the edge of you tank. Depending on the filter media within the system they can offer chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration. They’re easy to clean and they’re designed for small to medium-sized aquariums.
Internal filters are usually submersible filters that are placed inside your tank. Some internal filters are designed for small aquariums in a way to save space. They’re a good choice for terrariums and other freshwater applications.
Small external canister filters have the benefit of not taking up any space in your aquarium and providing multi-stage filtration for better water quality. They’re easy to service and unless they’re fairly large units, they aren’t too noisy.
How to Choose a Filter for a 10 Gallon Aquarium?
When deciding on a filter you must weigh multiple aspects including price, efficiency, type of filtration offered, etc.
But one of the most crucial things is making sure your filter is rated for the water volume you have in your aquarium.
For a 10 gallon aquarium a filter with a flow rate of at least 40 gallons per hour is desirable. In fact, slightly oversizing your filter is even better.
Best Filters for 10 Gallon Aquariums
Here are the filters that work best for 10 gallon aquariums:
1. Aquapapa Bio Sponge Filter
As I said, sponge filters offer both mechanical filtration (by trapping debris) and biological filtration (by allowing aerobic bacteria to colonize the sponge).
However, mechanical filtration can only be achieved if the sponge filter is attached to an air pump via airline tubing.
For small aquariums, I recommend using the Tetra Whisper Air Pump as an affordable and silent pump that will offer smooth airflow in your tank.
Because the sponge filter is dense enough to trap debris, it’s also an ideal filter for raising fry or any small fish that may otherwise get sucked into the water inlet of traditional filters.
You can use sponge filters as primary or secondary filters placed on the inlet of other filters to prevent fish from getting sucked into the tubing.
When using them as primary filters, I recommend using two sponge filters for maximum efficiency.
The Aquapapa Bio Sponge Filter comes in two sizes, one for small aquariums, the other for large tanks.
The kit does not include airline tubing, you must purchase that separately just like the air pump I mentioned.
- Affordable biological and mechanical filter;
- Easy to use and maintain;
- Ideal for small fish and fry.
- No chemical filtration;
- Additional equipment required.
2. Aquapapa Corner Filter
Using a corner filter like this Aquapapa filter is another way to filter water in a small aquarium.
This multi-layer sponge filter offers biological and mechanical filtration featuring sponge, gravel, amd bio-ring filter media.
It’s designed for small aquariums and for raising guppies, shrimp, killifish, dwarf cichlids.
I wouldn’t use it with fry since they can get trapped inside the plastic of the filter even if they wouldn’t otherwise get trapped into the sponge.
Like any sponge filter, this too, works with an air pump like the Tetra Whisper one I mentioned and it requires additional airline tubing that’s also sold separately.
The filter is easy to clean and maintain and produces minute bubbles that increase the oxygen exchange in your tank.
The Aquapapa corner filter produces minimal current and it’s extremely quiet.
As for maintenance, simply remove the sponge rings and give them a rinse in aquarium water.
- Affordable and quiet little filter for small aquariums;
- Minimal current production, ideal for fish that don’t need much current;
- Easy to use and maintain.
- Additional equipment required;
- No chemical filtration (no activated carbon, although you can add activated carbon granules to the filter chamber).
3. NEWKOSEA Aquarium Air Filter Double Sponge Filter
The Newkosea double sponge filter is designed for mechanical and biological filtration in small aquariums.
The suction cups included with the filter make it very easy to install onto the side of the aquarium. The adjustable water inlet allows you to change the direction and height of the water flow.
The arms of the filter holding the sponges are adjustable, allowing you to move the sponges away from the tank walls.
The two sponges have a ribbed design and they’re removable for easy cleaning and maintenance.
This filter is perfect for bettas, guppies, shrimp and raising baby fish. Use it either as a primary or secondary filter.
Because there are two sponges, there’s a larger surface area for bacterial colonies to thrive.
The sponge filter must be attached to an air pump and airline tubing, otherwise it won’t help remove debris and other particulate matter from your aquarium.
For small 10 gallon aquariums, I recommend you use the Tetra Whisper air pump, which is easy to use and noiseless.
- Double sponge design for double the surface area;
- Installable on the back of the tank with two suction cups included in the package;
- Adjustable sponge arms.
- No chemical filtration.
4. Aqua Clear – Hang on Back Aquarium Filter
Available for different tank sizes, the Aqua Clear fish tank filter that’s rated for 5-20 gallons will be right for your 10-gallon aquarium too.
This filter offers multi-stage filtration because of the multiple filter media included: sponge filter, activated carbon and ceramic filter, offering mechanical, biological and chemical filtration.
Apart from the quiet operation and multi-stage filtration, this filter also offers increased contact time of water with filter media.
Thanks to this multi-layer filtration design your water will not only become clear of debris but aerobic bacteria that feed on ammonia and nitrites will find it easier to establish their colonies and your water will also become clear of toxins that are absorbed by activated carbon.
The entire filter is installed hang-on-back style, not interfering with the space in your aquarium.
This allows you to easily clean the filter and replace its filter media at the intervals recommended by the manufacturer.
- Easy hang-on-back installation;
- Good flow rate and increased contact time for better contaminant removal;
- Chemical, biological and mechanical filtration in a single filter.
- Needs sponge placed on the intake tube to prevent fry from getting sucked inside.
5. Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter
As a submersible filter, the Aqueon is one of the best filters in its category and suitable for 10-gallon aquariums.
The filter works with multiple filter media for a three-stage filtration that will get rid of debris in your tank with the help of a dense foam filtern.
Moreover, the activated carbon filter will remove toxins and odors as well as any chemical disinfection by-products that may find their way into your aquarium.
The third filtration element, the BioGrid filter, deals with biological filtration, neutralizing ammonia and nitrites.
Flow rates are adjustable in many ways — adjustable flow rates, adjustable flow direction and adjustable flow height, allowing you to choose the type of current needed for your fish.
Although it isn’t a large filter and has a quiet operation, it’s not ideal for baby fish as they’ll get sucked into the inlet.
- Quiet, multi-stage filtration for all types of aquarium filtration needs;
- Easy to instal with suction cups;
- Unobtrusive and efficient;
- You can use it with own filter media.
- Not ideal for baby fish.
6. Fluval Underwater Filter
Offering 3-stage filtration, this Fluval underwater filter is suitable for applications where external filters are not achievable.
It can be used as a secondary or primary filter. The filter chambers contain 2 foam pads, 2 poly/carbon cartridges and 40 grams BioMax.
Together these can get rid of a wide range of impurities that affect the clarity and cleanliness of your aquarium water.
By removing debris, suspended solids, toxins like ammonia and nitrites as well as odour issues, your water quality will be much better.
As with any filter that sits inside your aquarium, there is a need to remove it when cleaning it or when changing filters in it. This can drive dirt and muck into the aquarium.
A second thing to consider is that you can’t really use standard filter bags with this filter, and you’ll either need to use Fluval’s own media bags or tweak standard ones to fit into the filter chambers of this filter.
Other than these issues, the Fluval underwater filter is silent and efficient, and a suitable choice for 10-gallon tanks.
- Multi-stage filtration including chemical filtration;
- Silent and efficient
- Filter chambers too small for standard filter bags.
7. MarineLand Magnum Polishing Internal Canister Filter
While canister filters are more suitable for larger aquariums, this one from MarineLand can work for smaller aquariums too if you have more serious water cleanliness issues because of high bio-load fish or algae blooms.
The canister filter uses a three stage filtration and water polishing that works as follows:
- The monthly replaceable Rite-Size floss sleeve removes debris from your water, making it clearer;
- The Black Diamond Premium Activated Carbon is responsible for the chemical filtration of the system, removing bad odors, water impurities and discoloration. It needs replacing every month;
- For biological filtration and for enhanced growth of Bio Spira the dual chamber design has a larger surface area;
- A water polishing pleated filter further removes fine particulates for cleaner water.
The two refillable filter chambers can be filled with custom media, depending on your water issues and filtration needs.
- 3 stage filter + polishing filter;
- Extremely efficient for troubled tanks, especially efficient at dealing with algae blooms.
- Noisier than other small aquarium filters.
8. Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter
Installed vertically on the rim of your tank, the Aqueon power filter sits inside your aquarium and it’s attached to the wall of your tank with suction cups or clips.
It’s a filter that has made it to my list of best filter for 10 gallon aquarium because of its 3-stage filtration that includes a carbon cartridge for the removal of odour, discoloration and impurities.
The bioholster offers biological filtration aiding in the neutralization of ammonia and nitrites. The last filter is a course media sponge that’s responsible for the mechanical filtration stage.
Internal power filters that offer this sort of filtration are very useful if mechanical and biological filtration offered by sponge filters isn’t enough for your tank.
Because of their positioning, these filters are easy to install and they’re easy to service. They offer flow rates of 60 gallons per hour, which is more than enough for a 10-gallon aquarium.
I wouldn’t recommend it in an aquarium with very small fish without some tweaking of the water inlet to avoid fish from getting trapped into the tubing.
- Efficient filter that offers multi-stage filtration;
- Installs hang-on-back for extra space in the tank;
- Easy to clean.
- Mixed reviews about noise levels.
9. Sunsun Tech’n’Toy HW-603B
Sunsun’s 3-stage external canister filter is perfect for smaller aquariums, where space is an issue but bioload is also a concern.
This canister filter can handle up to 106 gallons per hour, and it has mechanical, biological and chemical filtration capabilities.
Because it sits outside of your tank, it will take up no space in the aquarium. The filter comes with bio pads only, which should be supplemented with your own filter media or Sunsun’s brand name filter media, which you can place above and below the filter pads.
Other than these, the canister filter comes with all other necessary equipment required for proper installation and operation. To get the filter started simply fill it with water and turn the power on.
Cleaning the canister filter is a breeze and it requires minimal maintenance, especially if you have a low waste aquarium.
- Powerful filter suitable for small tanks;
- Multi-stage filtration if desired;
- Very good at cleaning a problematic tank;
- Easy to maintain.
- Additional filter media for chemical filtration is sold separately.
10. Finnex PX-360 Compact Canister Aquarium Filter
A compact canister filter, the Finnex PX-360 can be used with small aquariums as well. As far as filtration media is concerned, this canister aquarium filter offers the filtration trifecta — mechanical, biological and chemical filtration.
The filtration media includes activated carbon floss pad, sponge filter and ceramic rings, which is what you want from a high-performance filter.
The Finnex Px-360 includes some useful accessories as well like a spray bar for smoother current, high-durability water intake strainer, and filter hanger.
The filtration media holding trays are easily removed, making the maintenance of these filters an easy endeavor.
The flow rate per gallon advertised by Finnex is 95 GPH, which is more than sufficient for a 10 gallon aquarium.
The only thing I don’t enjoy about this filter is the inlet/outlet pipes, which stick out like a sore thumb, so you may want to change those for different ones.
- All types of filtration included;
- Easy maintenance;
- Comes loaded with accessories (spray bar, filter hanger, water intake strainer);
- Customizable to fit your needs, great for DIY aquarists.
- Water inlet/outlet tubes look bad.
With so many contenders for best filter for 10 gallon aquariums, there’s certainly a filter suited perfectly for your needs.
A filter is a useful addition for any aquarium, but in a small, 10-gallon aquarium a filter is the best way to ensure that your tank maintenance efforts are not in vain and you can rely on an extra system to keep your tank water clean.
I hope you’ve found this article on best filters for 10 gallon tanks useful and you are better informed about the type of filter you need for your tank.