Hang on back filters or power filters are easy to install, don’t cost a lot and they’re perfect for small to medium-sized aquariums.
For those of you with aquariums up to 10 gallons, I recommend a small hang on back filter that can easily deal with the water volume in your tank without taking up too much space.
In this article, I answer some common questions about HOB filters including maintenance and differences between HOB and other filters suitable for small tanks. I will also review my top picks for best HOB filters.
Best Small HOB Filters for 10 Gallon Aquariums or Less
|1. AquaClear HOB Fish Tank Filter
|2. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
|3. AZOO Aquarium Mignon Filter
|4. Tetra Whisper in-Tank Filter
|5. Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter
Here’s my take on the 5 best small hang on back filters that you should consider for a small aquarium of 10 gallons or less:
1. Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter
Due to its 3-stage filtration and easy filter changeover, this Aqua Clear HOB filter is suitable for small tanks that aren’t larger than 10 gallons.
There are three layers of filtration offered by the Aqua Clear as follows:
- AquaClear Foam Insert removes debris and facilitates biological filtration by offering a welcoming site for beneficial bacteria to develop on;
- AquaClear Activated Carbon insert offers chemical filtration by adsorbing VOCs, chemical disinfectants and their by-products from water; it also eliminates bad odors;
- BioMax ceramic rings, which offers another layer of biological filtration.
The foam layer is replaceable every two months, the activated carbon filter is replaceable every month, while the ceramic rings are replaceable every three months.
Another major selling point of this power filter is its patented re-filtration system, which allows you to reduce flow rates without compromising on filtration efficiency. Even at reduced flow rate, up to 50% of the water continues to be processed multiple times.
The flow control is a feature that comes in handy when housing small fish that don’t require a powerful current in their tank.
2. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
Offering quad-filtration, this hang-on-back aquarium filter from Penn Plax processes 20 gallons per hour of water, being suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
The filter is easily installed on your aquarium by sliding over the edge of the tank. It has a quiet motor and self-leveling case, which keeps the filter leveled in the aquarium.
The filter media within this system offers a multi-purpose filtration as described below:
- Internal sponge filter allows beneficial bacteria to develop that will help process toxins in the aquarium;
- The activated carbon cartridge provides chemical filtration by removing toxins, bad odors, traces of volatile organic compounds, chemical disinfection by-products, and any other water ingredients that are attracted to carbon;
- The polyfiber floss cartridge traps debris and suspended solids, contributing to the clarity of the water and the undisturbed operation of the other filter media within the system.
This filter is ideal for fish that don’t require a strong current (e.g. bettas), allowing you to adjust the flow rate to the required level. The Penn Plax Cascade power filter also comes with a 3-year warranty.
3. AZOO Aquarium Mignon Filter
This quiet and efficient hang-on-back filter is easy to install and maintain. It has a flow rate of 30 gallons/hour and it’s rated for aquariums up to 10 gallons.
The filter media included is a black sponge filter, but you can easily upgrade the filter media by using AquaClear Biomax and AquaClear Foam.
This is a great filter for keeping shrimp, bettas, or other small fish or fry thanks to the flow rate, which can be regulated.
The Azoo filter hangs easily and securely on the back of your aquarium and creates a small cascade effect, which is another plus if you want a “waterfall” effect for your aquarium.
4. Tetra Whisper in-Tank Filter
The Tetra Whisper filter that’s rated for 10-gallon aquariums installs with a hanger and a suction cup or two suction cups depending on how you want to place the filter.
Once installed, you can envelop it in live plants or decorations to hide it since it’s small enough to not disturb the decor of your tank.
As for the filter media, the Tetra Whisper comes with easy to replace filter bags that use activated carbon. The cartridge floss traps debris and other particulate matter, while the carbon medium acts as a chemical filter.
This HOB filter is silent, uses medium bag cartridges, and comes with all that’s needed for installation. It’s perfect for small fish and shrimp.
5. Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter
This Tetra Whisper power filter offers silent and efficient filtration for aquariums that are 10-20 gallons large.
Besides the easily replaceable BioBag filters (medium size) and easy access door located on top of the filter, the Tetra Whisper also comes with Timestrip technology, which essentially lets you know when you need to replace your filter, so you never miss a filter replacement.
The BioBag filters that come with this system contain activated carbon media, which offers chemical filtration. The cartridge floss keeps out debris from filtered aquarium water, which contributes to a cleaner and clearer tank.
The integrated filter cartridge carrier system allows a clean, drip-free filter changeover, eliminating any contact with the used filter material.
This intuitive filter is excellent for any hobbyist, whether they’re just starting out or they’re already experienced aquarists.
Why Choose a HOB Filter for Your Aquarium?
Hang-on-back filters have become the gold standard in aquarium filtration for small to medium aquariums, and rightfully so, because these power filters come with multiple advantages:
1. Hassle-free Installation
Unlike canister filters designed for professional use in large aquarium, hang-on-back aquariums are easy to install with suction cups or hangers that are included in the filter kit.
By getting rid of the hassle of installation, these filters can be easily operated by beginners and advanced aquarists alike.
They require no technical know-how or any plumbing skills, as they simply slide on the edge of the aquarium with hangers or they can be attached with suction cups, depending on the preferred mode of installation and type of HOB filter.
2. Easy Maintenance
All filters require maintenance, but HOB filters make this step simple too. The filter media included in these filters can’t be used forever, therefore, periodic replacement — every month, two months or three months depending on the filter media — is needed.
Filter changeover is usually an easy and clean process. Some filter system also create slots that allow you to replace the filters in a drip-free way, without any contact with the used filter material.
Affordability is another advantage of HOB filters along with variety. There’s a filter for every aquarium size at every price range.
Whether you have a nano tank, a 10-gallon aquarium or a medium sized aquarium, there is a HOB filter rated for the type of aquarium you have.
4. Complex Filtration
Quality HOB filters offer multi-stage filtration thanks to the multiple filter media integrated into the filter. Depending on the type and brand of filter biological, mechanical and chemical filtration can be achieved.
The filter media in HOB filters can include a sponge filter that removes debris and creates favorable conditions for beneficial bacterial colonies to thrive, activated carbon filter, which is responsible for the chemical filtration of the water, and ceramic filters, which are also responsible for biological filtration.
5. Silent Filtration
It’s important that aquarium filters are silent not only because it’s annoying to have something buzzing in your home all the time, but also because noisy filters can stress out fish.
The sound-dampening technology of HOB filters, makes them quiet alternatives to more robust filtration solutions, e.g. compared to canister filters designed for large aquariums.
These are the reasons why you should consider getting a HOB filter for your small aquarium. Next up, let’s how to maintain these filters and how they compare to other small aquarium filters.
6. Flow Control
Another feature of HOB filters that’s worth noting is their adjustable flow control, which allows you to adjust the current in your aquarium so that it meets the preferences of your fish.
Small fish like bettas and guppies don’t require a strong flow, therefore, the fact that flow is adjustable makes it easy to create the ideal water flow for your fish.
Traditional internal filters can take up too much space in the aquarium. When it comes to small aquariums, you don’t have too much space to work with to begin with. HOB filters are an elegant solution to this problem allowing you to have a filter without it taking up valuable space in your aquarium.
How to Maintain a HOB Filter?
The reason why maintenance is important when it comes to any filtration system is because, with time, the filter media in the system becomes saturated with debris and contaminants.
This causes performance issues, clogging issues, and renders the whole system unable to perform and continue cleaning your water.
Therefore, periodic maintenance is the only way to ensure that your filter operates at peak performance and your aquarium water is clean and clear.
Periodic maintenance means replacing the filter media at the intervals recommended by the manufacturer and cleaning out the filter chambers.
When you buy a HOB filter, make sure you check its maintenance requirements too. Buy a filter that’s easy to clean and maintain because the time and effort you spend on maintenance can be a deciding factor in how well your filter will perform in the years you’ll be using it.
Filter changeover should be as easy as taking out a filter bag, a sponge or a cartridge and replacing it with a new one. The whole process of replacing the filter cartridge and cleaning the filter should not take longer than 20 minutes.
HOB Filter vs Internal Filter vs Sponge Filter
Hang on back filters are popular because of the ease with which they install, because they offer mechanical, biological and chemical filtration in one system.
HOB filters suck water through their siphon tubes and perform mechanical and chemical filtration as water passes through the filter bed. Biological filtration is achieved by creating a hospitable ground for beneficial bacteria to thrive.
Internal filters are those that are submerged in water and sit inside your aquarium unlike HOB filters, which are installed on the edge of your aquarium and aren’t fully submersed.
But unlike HOBs, internal filters have the disadvantage of being more difficult to clean (you have to take the entire filter out, which tends to send muck all over your aquarium).
Internal filters also offer less flow, less filtration and they take up valuable space in your aquarium, leaving less space for plants, decorations and, of course, your fish.
Another type of aquarium filter suitable for nano tanks, nursery tanks or hospital/isolation tanks are sponge filters.
Sponge filters on their own don’t do much in the way of mechanical or chemical filtration, unless they’re attached to an air pump with an airline tubing that forces water through the sponge, which helps along with mechanical filtration.
Sponge filters are also capable of biological filtration as they form a hospitable site for healthy bacteria.
A good sponge filter can last for a long time provided it’s cleaned periodically by rinsing them in aquarium water to dislodge debris and accumulated dirt.
Hang on back filters are great for most aquariums, except for very large tanks, which would require more powerful systems intended for professional use.
HOB or power filters come with a series of advantages for aquarists among which ease of use, affordability, multi-stage filtration and silent operation are just a few of the main reasons why most aquarists choose a HOB filter over internal filters or sponge filters, for example.
The 5 HOB filter are all a great choice if you have a small aquarium up to 10 gallons. They install easily, operate silently and do a good job at removing dirt and impurities from your aquarium water.
I hope that you are now equipped with more knowledge on HOB power filters and what makes them stand out, and you can confidently choose a filter for your own aquarium.