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9 Best HOB (Hang On Back) Aquarium Filter (2023 Reviews)

When it comes to your marine pets, there’s no doubt you’d go above and beyond to make sure they stay healthy and happy.

Achieving such a goal means your number one priority should be keeping their environment clean and free of toxins.

That’s where a filter comes to the rescue, more particularly, a HOB filter. This type of filter is widely popular among aquarists thanks to its unmatched convenience and outstanding performance.

However, even if you’re familiar with the idea, choosing the best HOB filter for aquarium can be quite a struggle with so many brands, sizes, and features available on the market.

Today, we’ll be presenting you with a complete buying guide, as well as a list of the top 9 HOB filters for aquariums, to help you land the perfect deal. So without further ado, let’s dive in!

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9 Best HOB Filter for Aquarium

1. AquaClear – Fish Tank Filter

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Kicking off our list with one of the most versatile HOB filters, the AquaClear Fish Tank Filter pleased thousands of aquarists thanks to its efficiency and adaptation to any type of tank.

It features 3 stages of filtration: the bottom AquaClear Foam removes debris and carries good bacteria, the middle AquaClear research-grade Activated Carbon Filter adsorbs most toxins and impurities, and the top AquaClear BioMax Filter which contains ceramic rings where beneficial bacteria thrive.

Such a system provides premium water filtration with a very long media contact time, allowing you to use it for both freshwater and saltwater tanks. Some even consider it the best HOB filter for saltwater aquarium.

Let you control the flow rate

Moreover, the AquaClear re-filtration system is designed to let you control the flow rate without sacrificing cleaning performance, so if you have sensitive fish and plants, you’ll be able to deliver a suitable gentle flow that doesn’t disturb them.

The AquaClear Filter is available in 6 different sizes, serving tanks of 10, 20, 30, 50, 70 and up to 110 gallons capacity. Installation is also pretty quick and easy, and the filter runs fairly quiet although the motor tends to overheat it.

AquaClear backs up this filter with 2 years of warranty and a lifetime guarantee covering all non-replaceable parts.


  • Energy-conserving pump reduces operating costs
  • Uses foam, activated charcoal, and BioMax ceramic rings
  • Suitable for saltwater tanks
  • Available in multiple sizes
  • 2-year warranty


  • The motor may overheat

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “PetSolutions: Aqua Clear Power Filters”

2. Marineland Penguin Power Filter

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The Penguin Power Filter is a highly praised product from Marineland, a manufacturer that has been in the industry for more than 40 years, designing fishkeeping equipment with premium quality and efficiency. This HOB filter is no exception.

Starting from its 3-stage filtration process consisting of a Rite-Size Cartridge floss responsible for trapping debris with maximum water/carbon contact time, Black Diamond Activated carbon that serves to eliminate odors, discoloration, and contaminants, as well as a patented BIO-Wheel which does a superb job removing toxic nitrogen compounds.

Setting up the Penguin Power Filter is a straightforward task with provided instructions to make it even simpler. Once mounted, you’ll have to prime the filter with tank water before plugging in.

Allows you to adjust the water flow

This HOB filter is equipped with a mid-level intake strainer that fits over the intake tube, allowing you to adjust water flow for enhanced circulation. The filter cover sports a two-piece vented design to grant you easier access to media cartridges while operating quietly.

Marineland Penguin Power Filter comes in 4 sizes: 100 GPH for tank size up to 20 gallons, 150 GPH for aquariums up to 30 gallons, 200 GPH for 50-gallon tanks, and 350 GPH for 70-gallon aquariums.


  • Upgraded BIO-Wheel with 50% additional filtration surface area
  • Adjustable water flow
  • Easy access cover
  • Works for freshwater and saltwater aquariums


  • Replacement parts can be pricey
  • May have some clearance issues

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon (Penguin 100)

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon (Penguin 150)

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon (Penguin 200)

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon (Penguin 350)

Video: “How to Set Up and Install a Marineland Penguin Filter”

3. Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters

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The QuietFlow PRO Power Filter is manufactured by Aqueon, an established brand dedicated to facilitating your fishkeeping experience. This particular model is equipped with an impressive count of 5 filtration stages to deliver reliable performance.

First, the dirty water passes over dense floss which blocks out debris and larger particles. Then, the activated carbon stage removes organic wastes to ensure that no odors or discoloration are left behind.

3rd stage with patented BIO-Holster grid

The 3rd stage is their patented Bio-Holster grid which is responsible for eliminating harmful ammonia and nitrites, followed by a Bio-Media screen that removes any extra toxins while adding in oxygen to keep your fish active. It also works to minimize splashing for a quieter operation.

Moreover, the Aqueon Specialty Filter Pad is placed right before the water returns to the tank for further treatment. This filter is self-priming, so you don’t have to worry about starting it again after power cuts or cleaning sessions.

This HOB filter comes with an LED indicator that keeps track of water levels to warn you when it’s time to change clogged cartridges. It’s available in various sizes, fitting aquariums with a capacity of up to 20, 30, 45, 50, and 90 gallons.


  • 5 filtration stages
  • Self-priming system
  • LED Indicator
  • Provides good aeration


  • Can get too loud
  • Complaints about LED lights failing

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “Aqueon | QuietFlow – Power Filter: Set Up Instructions”

4. Tetra Whisper Power Filter for Aquariums

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Engineered using 50 years of experience in fishkeeping products, the Tetra Whisper Power Filter is an excellent solution for aquarists seeking a dependable performance at an affordable price.

This filter offers 3 stages of purification through mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration to produce crystal clear water for a healthy marine life.

The first step is a double-sided mesh that catches debris via a dense network of fibers. Then water is treated over their Ultra-activated carbon to remove lingering odors and discoloration. Lastly, the Tetra Bio-Foam carries aerobic bacteria over a 3-dimensional space to get rid of toxic nitrogen compounds.

Features a flow control button

The Whisper Power Filter features a flow control button, enabling you to adjust water intake for extended cartridge life since fewer particles are likely to get stuck. It also has heaters to keep water at a steady temperature, as well as air pumps to add oxygen and maintain a healthy environment.

The Tetra Whisper HOB Filter comes with a 2-year warranty, easy to replace cartridges, and you can choose from several sizes suitable for 20, 30, 40, and 60-gallons aquariums, each with a corresponding flow rate.


  • Flow control option
  • Heaters for accurate temperature setting
  • Air pumps to add oxygen
  • 2-year warranty
  • Affordable


  • Too loud for some users
  • Not the best quality

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “PetSolutions: Whisper Aquarium Power Filters”

5. Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter For Aquarium

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Another HOB filter from Tetra, the Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter has been designed to provide you with ultimate convenience and operation simplicity.

The setup process is pretty easy since the system requires no priming, meaning you can start it up right out of the box. You just need to make sure that the strainer is at least 2 inches away from the tank’s gravel. Also, keep the aquarium water above or at the minimum level as indicated on the motor.

The Whisper EX Filter is equipped with floss of several densities to catch floating particles and debris, a carbon stage to remove discoloration and odors, as well as a Bio-Scrubber that serves to eliminate toxic ammonia and nitrites.

Integrated Timestrip Technology

A neat feature of this filter is the integrated Timestrip technology which tells when you should change the carbon filter. Once the cartridge is used up, the Timestrip turns from white to red.

Additionally, the Tetra Whisper EX Filter comes with a cartridge carrier so you can keep your hands clean and your floor drip-free. This HOB filter is available in 4 sizes: 10-20 gallons, 20-30 gallons, 30-45 gallons, as well as 45-70 gallons.


  • Innovative Timestrip technology
  • Comes with cartridge carrier
  • Easy to install
  • Good value for money


  • Replacement filters are expensive
  • Noisy water flow

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “Whisper EX Power Filter”

6. Fluval C Power Filter

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Built with the purpose of creating exceptional water quality in mind, the Fluval C Power Filter comes packing a lot of impressive features to enhance your tank’s environment.

The C Filter offers 5 different stages of filtration:

1 & 2 are mechanical filters which are vital for better chemical and biological filtration. These stages utilize a large area Poly/Foam pad where bigger particles are trapped in the porous foam and the finer debris are caught by dense polyesters.

Stage 3 has research-grade Activated Carbon Insert for adsorption of unwanted impurities as well as the elimination of undesirable odors and discoloration to achieve superior water clarity.

Stages 4 & 5 are Biological-Bio-Screen and Biological-C-Nodes joining forces to deliver optimal removal of toxins.

Fluval’s patented re-filtration system grants you the ability to control the water flow, so you can adjust it to better suit delicate fish and plant residents.

The C HOB filter is easy to set up and maintain, it comes with an impeller cover to extend the period before it requires cleaning. Additionally, there are 3 models of the Fluval C Power Filter: C2 for 10 to 30-gallon aquariums, C3 for 20 to 50-gallon tanks, and C4 for aquariums of 40 to 70-gallon capacity.


  • 5 stages of filtration
  • Supports flow rate control
  • Easy to clean
  • Highly effective
  • Quiet for the most part


  • Expensive
  • Fluctuating noise levels

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “Fluval C-Series Aquarium Filter Maintenance”

7. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter

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The powerful and reliable Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter by Penn Plax was designed to live up to the demands of nowadays modern aquariums. It features a unique Bio-Falls Quad Filtration System that’s guaranteed to leave your tank clear and healthy.

The poly fiber floss collects floating debris, while the activated carbon cartridge eliminates toxins, impurities, foul odors, as well as discoloration. There’s an internal sponge that supports the colonization of useful bacteria to get rid of ammonia and nitrites.

Also, an external biological booster provides more bacteria for better filtration while improving oxygen exchange. The integrated option of adjustable flow rate and intake tube means you could simply alter the filter performance to suit your specific needs.

Comes in 6 different sizes

The Penn Plax Cascade Filter comes in a variety of 6 sizes to fit just about any tank out there. The Cascade 20 (GPH) is recommended for nano aquariums up to 7 gallons, the Cascade 80 for 10-gallon nano tanks, the Cascade 100 for up to 20 gallons, and the Cascade 150 is meant for aquariums up to 35 gallons.

If you own a 55-gallon tank, go for the Cascade 200, and if your aquarium is a huge 100 gallons, the Cascade 300 is the right size. All the filter models offer mechanical and chemical filtration, however, biological stages are missing from Cascade 20 and 80.

The Penn Plax HOB Filter works with both freshwater and saltwater environments, backed up with a 3-year warranty.


  • You can adjust the flow rate
  • Fair price
  • Self-leveling case
  • 3-year warranty


  • Smaller models lack biological filtration
  • Durability issues

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “How To Set Up a Penn-Plax Cascade Hang On Filter”

8. Marina Power Filter

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The Marina Power Filter is an ideal choice if you’re looking for a compact yet sleek filter that delivers reliable practical performance while still looking stylish without taking up too much space behind your aquarium.

This HOB Filter utilizes 2 filter cartridges: a Bio-Carb and a Bio-Clear. Each one carries Ceramitek, which is an extensively porous ceramic media that serves to enhance biological filtration by efficiently removing impurities and toxins to keep your aquarium inhabitants healthy.

You’ll particularly enjoy this instant start system if you’re not very fond of doing priming tasks just to get your filter running. The Marina Filter comes out of the box ready for action.

You also don’t need to worry about the constant tracking of water levels in your aquarium since you can adjust the filter’s height to accommodate the current level of the tank’s water. Moreover, it’s equipped with a strainer sponge designed to protect small fish from accidentally being pulled into the filter.

This HOB filter lets you manipulate the flow rate to create a comfortable environment for your fish. It’s available in 3 sizes for aquariums up to 10,15, and 20 gallons. Marina backs their filter with a 2-year warranty.


  • Slim design
  • Very affordable
  • Decent filtration
  • Perfect for customizing


  • Loud splashing sounds
  • No permanent basic filtration media

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “Marina Slim Filter S15 runs”

9. AZOO Aquarium Mignon Filter 60

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Last but definitely not least, the Mignon Aquarium Filter 60 is manufactured by the AZOO company, owned by the TAKIKONG corporation. This HOB filter sports a well-thought design that sits perfectly on small-sized tanks.

It comes with filter media consisting of a sponge insert and a carbon filter insert. Obviously, it’s not as capable or fancy as other 5-stage filtration systems, but it does deliver a decent job for what it’s meant for; nano aquariums. Of course, you can always boost the cleaning performance by adding custom media such as ceramic rings.

This particular Mignon 60 model is recommended for aquariums of 3.5 gallons maximum capacity. However, if you own a larger tank size up to 30 gallons, AZOO also offers a Mignon 150 version to accommodate such capacity.

The AZOO Mignon Filters are equipped with all-clear intake tubing as well as an adjustable knob that allows you to control the flow rate according to your tank’s residents.

Installing this HOB filter is a breeze, and the fact that it runs very quietly makes it much more efficient. The package also includes pre-filters to protect tiny fish from getting sucked up the tube.


  • Ideal for small tanks
  • Comes with flow control
  • Very quiet
  • Protective pre-filters


  • Confusing instructions
  • Filter media are low-quality

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon ( AZOO Mignon Filter 60 )

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon ( AZOO Mignon Filter 150 )

Video: “azoo mignon 60”

What is a HOB Filter and How Does it Work?

To understand what a HOB filter is, we got to take the words apart. The HOB part stands for “Hang on Back”, which refers to the location where you’ll be mounting the filter; on the back wall of your aquarium.

The filter hangs externally via clips rather than being submerged in the tank’s water. HOB filters are also called backpack filters, and they basically consist of a case or a box that encloses all the parts of the filtering mechanism.

So how does a HOB filter work?

Well, let’s start by saying that actually getting your filter up and running varies from one model to the other. You’ll find some brands ready for use right out of the box, where you just need to plug them in and you’re practically all set. Other filters may require some sort of priming before you can use them.

Generally speaking, you’ll have to first pour some water first in the storage compartment of the filter, then attach it to the back of your tank. Once you turn it on, water from inside the tank will travel through a nozzle and into the intake tube which directs it to pass over filtering stages.

These stages are also known as filtering media that differ in number and composition, each type dedicated to removing specific contaminants. After purification, clean water is pushed back into the aquarium via outlets, producing a waterfall-like motion. You can see such a flow in most HOB filters because it helps in oxygenation and mixing the water.

Some filter models are equipped with valves that allow you to control the flow rate of the water, so you can better adjust it to suit your fish and reduce the noise resulting from the filter operation.

Why Should You Buy a HOB Filter?

Video: “Why I always add an HOB Filter”

There are several reasons why you would want to purchase a hang-on-the-back filter, starting from the obvious cleanliness of the aquarium, all the way to the facilitated system maintenance. Here are the main ones:

Water Purification

Over time, the water quality inside your fish tank gradually declines due to the build-up of organic wastes, debris, dirt particles, and plant fragments, causing an increase in the concentration of toxic nitrogenous compounds that are extremely harmful to your marine life unless kept under a certain balance.

Using a filter on your aquarium serves to maintain the nitrogen cycle by extracting pollutants, leaving your water clean and your fish happy. Filters also help aerate the water, boosting your tank’s ecosystem.

Low Maintenance

HOB filters have quite the reputation of being hassle-free machines, so if you’re searching for a filter that doesn’t demand too much attention, you should really consider the hang-on-the-back type of filters.

As they’re placed on the outside of the tank, you may only need to replace the filter’s cartridges every once in a while. Even if the intake tube gets clogged with seaweed or algae, cleaning it is usually a breeze.

Convenient Installation

If you really think about it, you’ll come to find HOB filters to be a safe option for any size or design of aquariums. They take up such little space in the tank which makes them great for small aquariums

The external installation also means you can easily access the filter for periodic cleaning, as opposed to being submerged in water.

How To Find The Best HOB Filter For Your Aquarium?

If you’re in the hunt for the best HOB filter for aquarium, the last thing you want to do is go in blind and pick up a random model. HOB filters aren’t all the same, they come in different sizes, flow rates, and of course, prices.

There are multiple factors that you should account for before investing your cash in a HOB filter, here are the most important ones:

Tank Size

Choosing the right HOB filter depends first and foremost on knowing what size your tank is. It’s crucial that your filter has the ability to accommodate the size of your aquarium so that it can deliver optimal cleaning performance.

If you end up with a HOB filter that’s not sufficiently powerful to handle your tank’s size, you’ll definitely be disappointed with how poorly it works. Such a filter won’t clean the water enough which will harm the aquarium’s inhabitants.

On the other hand, if the filter runs too powerful, the current produced in the tank’s water may be too vigorous for your fish to thrive.

Consequently, you should pay attention to the recommended tank size listed under the HOB filter description to match it with your own.

Flow Rate

The flow rate is yet another crucial aspect of deciding whether or not a HOB filter is right for your aquarium, but what does it mean?

The flow rate of a filter represents the amount of water it can process and purify in one hour, so it makes sense for the flow rate to also fit the size of your tank.

Generally speaking, you want to choose a HOB filter model with a flow rate of at least 4 to 6 times more than the total capacity of your aquarium. So if you’re working with a 20-gallon tank, you’ll need to pick a filter that offers a flow rate of 80 to 120 gallons per hour (GPH) at the minimum.

However, you should avoid using a filter with a too-fast flow rate. In this case, water entering the filter won’t have enough contact time with the filter media which means the returning water won’t be clean as it should be.

Filtration Media

Filtration media is the part of the filter composition responsible for the actual removal of toxins and impurities from the aquarium water. It’s usually made up of a series of cartridges housing 3 stages of filtration: mechanical, chemical, and biological.

Now, you may be thinking that more filtration media equals better filtration, but the truth is, it’s the type of media that matters rather than the number.

A lot of HOB filter brands use a sponge as filtering material since it’s pretty cheap and requires minimal changing.

However, biological filtration media is a much more efficient stage that makes a significant difference in cleaning your tank’s water. Popular examples of biological media include bio-balls and ceramic rings.


While older versions of HOB filters are equipped with detachable motors that you’d have to separate first in order to clean, we strongly recommend you go with a newer model that carries a built-in motor to save yourself the trouble and frustration of removal and reassembly.

Additionally, you should make sure the integrated impeller comes protected with a cover to block out any debris or particles that might compromise its performance.

Noise Level

It’s no secret that filters will generate some level of sound as they operate. Granted, there are models that are louder than others, so if you own pets, have young kids, or face a situation at home that requires limited noise, be sure to pick the quietest HOB filter possible.

Water Spouts

Water spouts are a fundamental component of any filter, they’re the outlet from which clean water returns back into the fish tank.

The number of water spouts depends mainly on the size of your aquarium and the quantity of water it holds.


There’s no such thing as a filter requiring zero maintenance work. However, there are types that demand far less of your time and effort to stay in good shape, a hob filter being one of them.

One of the top reasons HOB filters are pretty popular among aquarists is their limited list of maintenance needs. Besides the occasional cleaning and changing of the filtration media every month or so, there’s not much else for you to worry about.

If you’re set on a hob filter that doesn’t include a guard for the impeller, you may have to do some extra cleaning to remove any stuck residue threatening to decrease its efficiency.

It’s also a possibility that some algae may clog the intake tube, in which case a simple scrub would be enough to clear it out.


Many factors contribute to the final cost of a HOB filter including the size, filtration media, flow rate, quality of materials, and manufacturer brand.

You don’t have to spend a huge sum of money if you can’t afford it to get a reliable HOB filter, but we do recommend that you avoid buying the cheapest model just for the sake of saving a few bucks.

Such filters are usually so poorly constructed that it’ll fail to perform in only a couple of weeks, forcing you to make another purchase once again.

Instead, we advise you to set yourself a reasonable budget to narrow down your choices. You’ll find that we’ve included a range of prices in our list of the best HOB filters for aquarium, so you’re guaranteed to find a product that matches your preference.

HOB Filter – FAQs

How do I Make a HOB Filter Quieter?

If you notice your HOB filter getting louder than when you first installed it, the problem may be a clogged up impeller/intake tube or a certain part that’s not properly screwed in place.

You should detach both the impeller and the intake tube, give them a thorough rinse, then tightly secure them back in their original positions once you’ve made sure all the lodged debris is out of the way.

If the noise persists, you can try inserting some felt pads between the filter reservoir and the outer side of the back wall of your aquarium. This will help muffle any sound resulting from vibration.

Can I Use a HOB Filter on a Saltwater Aquarium?

Yes, you surely can, but you do need to make sure your HOB filter features appropriate filtering media for saltwater tanks, which is a biological filtration stage.

Some HOB filter models, such as the AquaClear Fish Tank Filter and the Marineland Penguin Power Filter, are engineered to work with both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. These typically offer multi-stage filtration systems that can deal with both types of aquariums.

Remember, if your saltwater tank is on the smaller side, you should be able to use a HOB filter as your primary filtration system. However, if you own a large saltwater aquarium, you might want to consider adding another filter for extra support.

Where Should I Place a HOB Filter?

As per its name, a Hang-On-the-Back filter is mounted on the back wall of your aquarium. We advise you to keep it away from other tubings or cables connected to the tank.

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Wrap Up

Choosing the best HOB filter for aquarium surely isn’t an easy task, however, it’s crucial for you to understand that not every tank is the same. Consequently, a filter that suits one aquarium doesn’t have to necessarily work with yours.

That being said, if you’re looking for an all-round efficient HOB filter for both freshwater and saltwater tanks, the AquaClear Fish Tank Filter should be right up your alley!

On the other hand, if you’re searching for a budget-friendly option that you can customize, the Marina Power Filter is definitely worth considering.

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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