Last Updated on June 8, 2020 by Anne Thynne
What is the best HOB filter (Hang On Back) for an aquarium?
Well, I’ll reveal and review them for you. However, to keep your pet fish healthy and happy, apart from feeding it, cleaning your fish tank for the mess left behind is also your responsibility.
In order to keep your aquarium clean, you will need the best aquarium filters! And for small to medium size tanks, hob filters are the best in terms of simplicity and price. If you are looking for a filtration solution for your medium to large tank then by all means go for a canister filter if possible.
Not all HOB filters are made equally. So, having the right information makes all the difference. Luckily, here in this article, you’ll know what a HOB filter is, different types and their functions. Furthermore, I’ve compiled a list of the 9 top quality HOB filter models that deserve your consideration.
I’ll discuss all in this article. But first, let us take a look at short comparison table.
Table of Contents
- Top 3 HOB Filters (Side by Side Comparison)
- What Is a Hang on Back (HOB) Filter?
- Benefits Of A HOB Filter
- How to Choose the Right HOB Filter for Your Aquarium – Buying Guide
- Top 9 Best HOB Filters for Aquarium Reviewed
- How To Set Up & Maintain A Hang On Back Filter
- Supercharging Your HOB Filter
- Wrapping Up
Top 3 HOB Filters (Side by Side Comparison)
What Is a Hang on Back (HOB) Filter?
People are opting for a hang-on-the-back filtration system because the installation is fairly easy. Additionally, they require very little maintenance. As you can imagine from the name, all you have to do is clip the filter onto the back of the aquarium and you’re done!
Unfortunately, caring for freshwater fish in a tropical aquarium can be a bumpy road. Over time, debris and waste lead to the toxic buildup of nitrates and ammonia. This is dangerous for your pet fish. Removing the fish and then draining the water may seem like a straightforward thing to do, but don’t fall for it. The nitrogen cycle will be destroyed and all the beneficial bacteria colony may wipe out in the process.
Now, a filter keeps the ecosystem in the tank clean, nitrogen cycle in place and aerates the water, so that your pet fish can be happy and healthy again! There is a variety of filters available. But, hang-on-the-back filters become the most popular filtration system over the years.
Benefits Of A HOB Filter
- Minimal maintenance, compared to other styles of filters
- Needs media replacement rarely
- Very easy to clean if the intake tube is clogged with algae
Most of us know what an aquarium filter is and its functions, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll take great pleasure in maintaining a tiny ecosystem for fish and plants. You usually get hooked to a aquarium immediately.
I was too! Since I was 10, fishkeeping to me made more sense than origami or painting. Visiting Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium with my Dad was the beginning. Watching sharks, stingrays, sea turtles floating in the endless blue for the first time fascinated me and inspired me to tinker with glasses and pots for aquariums.
However, not gonna bother you with my stories here! The thing is filtration equipment are vastly improved these days. But, the dilemma in finding the best filter option remains the same. Hang-on-back filters have made life easy for small to medium fish tank owners tremendously.
How to Choose the Right HOB Filter for Your Aquarium – Buying Guide
Before you decide which HOB filter you’re going to buy, getting started on the basics is always a good idea. Shopping for something is a daunting task. It becomes more difficult when you’re new to a product.
If you’re not aware of the mechanism or parts of a HOB filter, you’ll struggle to pick the right HOB filter for your aquarium. So, I’d like to talk about few factors you should know before purchasing a HOB filter in this buyers’ guide.
Factor – 1: Filtration Media
In a HOB filter, the filtration media are the cartridges that remove impurities from the water generally through 3 filtration stages: biological, chemical, and mechanical.
But, the truth is, having more filtration media doesn’t ensure better filtration, rather the type of filtration media is what matters the most. Biological filtration is by far the most important stage of your filtration and you can choose from a wide variety of media like ceramic rings, bio-balls, seachem matrix, purigen etc.
Factor – 2: Flow Rate
Flow rate is directly related to filtration. The higher the flow rate, the faster the filtration process? Well sort of but not always true.
Obviously, the aquarium size is proportional to the quality of a filter and it’s flow rate. The rule of thumb is you need at least six times flow rate (measures in per hour) than the total volume of the water in your fish tank. So if you have a 10 gallon fish tank, you need to ensure a filter with at least 60 gallon per hour flow rate. What if it is a 20 Gallon Fish Tank? Well, you know the math, right 🙂 ?
You can go all the way up to ten times or even more but there is a limit. If the rate is too fast the water won’t get enough time to come in contact with the biological filter media and the bacteria colony will simply not get required nutrition to thrive. As you already know, bacteria lives on the ammonia your fish waste produces.
Factor – 3: Maintenance of the Filter
Although a HOB filter requires much less maintenance, compared with other models of filters, you do have to take a little care of it for the ultimate protection of your pet fish. Maintenance and instruction vary according to the filter models. Make sure you fully understand the quality and type of media you’re using. Ditch filters that do more harm than good.
After all, you don’t want to install a filter that constantly requires maintenance. In this case, the recommended HOB filter will be an excellent choice, as it requires virtually no maintenance! The goal is to find a model which is easy to clean and maintain.
Factor – 4: Motor
The older filter models would come with a removable motor. You could remove the motor and clean it with these models. Taking apart, then putting things together are always frustrating.
However, new filter models have an incorporated motor.
This minimizes hassle. I had my fair share of trouble with the impeller being jammed by debris. The incorporated motor has a special cover for the impeller, which basically protects the motor from debris.
Factor – 5: Capacity of the Filtration Chamber
You need enough space to employ your desired filter media inside the chamber of your HOB filter. Well, almost all filters come with some default media cartridges but they are not always enough. You may need to supercharge your filter with adding some crashed lava rocks, matrix or purigen.
When it comes to stocking the tank everyone loves to get more! Supercharging with special filter media will give you the flexibility to carry away a little. Tell me how tempting (and frustrating) it is when you are in your LFS and just want to add a pair of those newly imported fancy guppies and you know your tank is already fully loaded!
Top 9 Best HOB Filters for Aquarium Reviewed
In the course of my research with complex underwater ecosystem, I sometimes had to work with tiny ecosystems for direct observation. Obviously, culturing them in aquariums was an appropriate decision, considering the proximity to my desk.
Since there were numerous species and different types of water, I had to install different types of filtration systems. It’s not that different types were really required. But, over the course of time, I had to change and install new systems consequently. HOB filters were of course my first choices.
I’ve found 9 HOB filters that match any standards you’d want to measure their excellence with. In the interests of transparency, I’ve reviewed and compared these HOB filters with their advantages and disadvantages side by side. Hopefully, this could help you choose the best one possible.
HOB filters of different models abound in the market. It’s normal for a customer to feel lost in the middle of all these products, promising best filtration and introducing new technology. Since you’ve arrived on this page, finding the best option should no longer be a problem.
Here we go!
1. AquaClear Power Filter
The AquaClear Power Filter is the aquarist’s best friend with its CycleGuard System that removes solid waste, promotes colonies of beneficial bacteria, and ensures a successful tank. It also boasts of a unique design for a larger volume of filtration, AquaClear Foam, BioMax, and Activated Carbon.
- Versatility: Versatile in the extreme, the AquaClear Power Filter is a powerful HOB filter that comes fully packed with attractive features, especially if you are an aquarist. The AquaClear boasts of every crucial feature that a HOB filter must have – powerful removal of contaminants, high-quality motor, and finally impeccable filtration system!
- Multi-Stage Filtration System: CycleGuard system really is an effective unit that is able to remove all sorts of contaminants and impurities, including algae, dangerous chemicals, and more using Activated Carbon system. As reliable as it could get, the system drives water in your aquarium through an impressive three-stage filtration process that shows no mercy for particles, debris, and contaminants. Note that, when doing all this, the intuitive filtration system doesn’t impact the colonies of bacteria. Good bacteria are needed to keep your fish healthy and happy.
- Design: What’s more, it’s very obvious that AquaClear has gone to extra lengths too with the unique design incorporated into this fabulous model. The media volume of the AquaClear Power Filter is significantly greater than that of other competitors in this category. This gives the filter remarkable filtration capacity.
- Control: The AquaClear Power Filter utilizes flow control technique. You may want to be able to reduce the flow in order to according to your tank requirements or to protect the motor or impeller. The AquaClear stands to reduce the flow up to 50 percent.
- Easy to install and use
- Keeps biological filtration at an optimal level
- Comes complete with a large amount of media
- Reduces flow pressure, but doesn’t harm the impeller
- Features Activated Carbon, BioMax, AquaClear Foam for better filtration
- Difficult to clean, might just break
- Debris is sometimes trapped in the impeller box, requiring removal
2. Fluval C Power Filter
This HOB filter from Fluval boasts of the premium quality and filtration performance that the brand is well-known for – strong water flow, impressive filtration capacity, multi-stage filtering process and powerful motor.
- 5 Stage Filtration: A powerful filtration system that passes water though five-stage filtration process gets rid of contaminants and pathogens that have been making your pet fish sick. Fluval have gained prominence among Aquarists over the years. It has a larger surface area of filtration media, evidently maintaining a through filtration process.
- Build and Technology: The HOB filter features a powerful motor and a patented re-filtration system. In addition to controlling the water flow rate, re-filtration processes water through filtration chamber multiple times. The impressive five-stage filtration and re-filtration process efficiently removes 99% of contaminants, making the HOB filter a top choice among aquarists.
- Performance: The Fluval C Power Plant filters up to 264 gallons of water per hour, utilizing multi-stage filtration system. One of the biggest advantages of this model over other models is its innovative technology to filter huge volume of water. An obvious sign of the model’s solid performance is that it keeps water in contact with the media longer.
- Intuitive: Many aquarists struggle to maintain an aquarium due to constant clogging. Fortunate for the Fluval C Power Plant users, the HOB filter will notify you before clogging becomes a serious issue. Yes, as an added bonus, the filter-clog indicator lets you know when to open up the filter and clean it for potential clog. With other models, you constantly just have to be on your toes, open up the model to check whether there’s clogging.
- Filtration Rate Adjustment: I didn’t expect a HOB filter at this price point to contain this intuitive setting. Surprisingly, the Fluval C Power Plant comes with this setting.
- Adjustable filtration rate
- Five-stage filtration process
- Very easy to install and maintain
- Filters 264 gallons of water per hour
- Filter-clog indicator tells you when you need to clean the filter
- Crevices in the impeller make it difficult to clean
- Foam pads need replacement every a couple months
3. Marineland Penguin Power Filter
This HOB filter has solid construction base for improved durability and will filter water in your aquarium through three filtration stages: mechanical, chemical, and biological media. High-end quality and ease of customization provides reliability and delivers better performance to meet the needs of any aquarist.
- Durability: Durability is a crucial value component for any product. This HOB filter with its rugged durability is one of the most popular filter models.
My fellow aquarists who have been using the model during the period of our research noted its surprisingly long-lasting appearance and mechanism. High-end quality filters deserve to be paid for, don’t they? Since it’s expected to last long, you’re going to get real value for investment, no doubt about that!
- Ease of Customization: One of the advantages that Marineland Penguin users enjoy is that ease of customization. What’s more is the larger surface area. This allows the HOB filter to take in more water for filtration. The system efficiently removes harmful bacteria, chemical residues from a large volume of water by increasing contact time with media.
- Ease of Use: Aquariums do have a few complicated parts that are best left to professionals. Concern grows over installation of a HOB filter for aquarists. Easy installation makes all the difference for any HOB model. As I wrote this guide with beginners in mind, I wouldn’t include any filter, requiring higher learning curve.
- Filtration Process: The filtration system of this HOB filter is meant to surpass your expectation, as did it mine. Three-step efficient filtration process ensures that you get the most of our HOB filter. Filter sponges and a variety of loose filter media increases media’s contact with water, thus keeping your water crystal clear.
- A Complete Kit: The Marineland Penguin Power Filter is complete with a Rite-Size filtration cartridge and does a decent job at screening out dirt and debris. Besides, such multi-stage filtration process gets rid of impurities, discoloration, and odor.
- Water Level Alarm: Cool thing about this HOB filter is that there’s alarm built-in to warn you of water level. If water level drops too low and threatens the survival of your fish, waterfall will sound very loud. Just replace the lost water by pouring in water if you want to avert this situation.
- Powerful filtration
- Durable construction
- Features Rite-Size cartridges
- 100% water to media contact
- Delivers a powerful 3-stage filtration
- Requires regular maintenance
- Bio-wheel seems fragile
4. Marineland Emperor Filter Systems
Another superior quality filter from Marineland – the Marineland Emperor Filter is an effective unit that is recognized as one of the top HOB filters for removing chemical substances, food residue, waste, and more! Incredibly powerful at handling flow rate up to 400 GPH, the Marineland Emperor can efficiently transform any type of polluted water into a safe ecosystem for your pet fish.
- Filtration: This brilliant HOB filter can perfectly filter an 80-gallon aquarium. This model can facilitate a large volume of media in the grey media baskets. One of the reasons why this model is considered a powerhouse is that it ensures an excellent flow rate of 400 GPH. This rate of flow keeps water pressure stable, so your pet fish don’t experience a drop and are spooked by it.
- Bio-Wheels: The dual bio-wheels equipped in this model sustain and help grow all those beneficial bacteria, much important for a healthy ecosystem. In addition, the bio-wheels improve filtration process. The wheels tend to slow in due course. But, as long as they spin, there’s nothing to worry about.
- Intake Tube: A long intake tube will work with any type of aquarium. It comes with two intake sections – one in the middle of the tube and the other at the bottom. The special filter pads make filtering of the water even better. All in all, you’re getting a complete, fit unit.
- Powerful filtration
- Long intake tube
- Two bio-wheels for healthy ecosystem
- 3-stage filtration
- Durable and efficient
- Remains quite during operation
- Extra filter pad slots
- Spray bars tend to get clogged easily
- Flow rate isn’t adjustable
5. Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters
Widely known in the filter industry for its durability, Aqueon strives to manufacture user-friendly HOB filters which improve efficiency and filtration obviously. The Aqueon QuietFlow LED is another top-notch filter – the quietest HOB filter – made to be superior on all levels.
- Filtration: This a high-capacity filter. Maintaining excellent brand reputation, the Aqueon QuietFlow has been a reliable HOB filter for years. Available for 75-gallon tanks, the filter is perfectly capable of handling most aquariums people have today. It offers you a multi-stage filtration process that will always deliver the cleanest and clearest aquarium water.
- Ease of Maintenance: Compared to other models, the Aqueon QuietFlow is relatively effortless to maintain. Filter material of this model is placed in a way that would let you swap it out and clean without any hassle.
- LED Indicator: Smart accessory you would appreciate from this model is the LED indicator. When it’s time to replace your clogged cartridges, the LED indicator will flash. This makes sure you don’t miss any maintenance date.
- Quiet, durable
- Reputable brand
- Four-stage filtration process
- Ease of maintenance and operation
- Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums
- Disappointing impeller bushings
6. EHEIM Liberty 200 Hang on Filter
The EHEIM Liberty 200 is an impressive HOB filter that comes with large filter sponge and filter media. This model is convenient for both beginners and aquarists with experience. Easy installation process, large filter sponge, and phenol-free cellular foam cartridge will bring your confidence back in HOB filters.
- Installation Process: You may be a newbie to aquascaping and want to take extra caution in setting up your filter. To allay your concern, the EHEIM Liberty is very easy to install and perfect for beginners. The filter is readily usable out of the box. So, simply hang over the tank edge and you’re done!
- Biological Process: A filter cleaning aquariums by biological process is the most favorable to the fish and plants in your aquarium. The EHEIM Liberty comes with a large filter sponge that leads to a high biological filter efficiency and longer lifespan.
- Phenol-Free Cartridges: The EHEIM Liberty offers a reliable way to remove dissolved pollutants. The cellular foam cartridges equipped in the intake area keeps things under control for nursery tanks.
- Easy to install
- Comes with a filter media
- Large filter sponge for biological processing
- Phenol-free cellular foam cartridges
- Loose filter media for greater efficiency
- Short intake tube
- Objectionable construction in some parts
7. Tetra Whisper Power Filter
This HOB filter model is like no other model. Extremely user-friendly, the Tetra Whisper Power Filter packs a heavy punch. It’s a ready filter. You wouldn’t have to tinker with any part. Patented carbon fitters, time strips, various construction materials – all testify to this model’s efficiency and effectiveness.
- User-Friendly: The Tetra Whisper Power Filter has all parts assembled by the manufacturer. Just hang the filter onto your tank and it’s ready to filter! It’s compact and designed to fit easily with your aquarium.
- Construction: Featuring two patented carbon fitters, you will find it very convenient for effortless cleaning. The two bacteria plates of the filter grow beneficial bacteria. The combination of various material used in the manufacturing of this HOB filter ultimately ensures clean and healthy ecosystem for your beloved pet fish.
- Intuitive: The Tetra Whisper Power Filter will alert you when it’s time to change the cartridges. Yes, time strips will alert you for maintenance. Just check if it’s red. It’s relatively quiet in operation as well!
- Handles large volume of water
- Easy to set up
- Silent operation
- Large bio-bag cartridges
- Dialer to adjust intake and output of water
- Filter leaks
- Cartridges need replacement
8. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
Offering filtration at an impressive rate of 300 gallons per hour, the Penn Plax Cascade maintains a peaceful, healthy ecosystem for both the fish and any person living in the room. Efficient Bio-Falls-Quad-Filtration system perfectly removes contaminants, discoloration, and toxins common in an aquarium.
- Carbon Cartridge: The activated carbon is an important ingredient for removing damaging chemicals and toxins. Additionally, they help you maintain a viable environment in the aquarium water.
- Construction: The Penn Plax Cascade boasts of an incredible filtration media that delivers an outstanding filtration rate 300 gallons per hour! The sound of crystal clear water running through the aquarium is surreal! But, make no mistake, the Penn Plax Cascade is very quiet in operation.
- Biological Filtration: One of the most outstanding features of this model is its filtration of ammonia and nitrates. The Bio-Falls-Quad Filtration system is quite unique and efficient as well. The canister filtration system helps you filter saltwater efficiently. Hence, the Penn Plax Cascade is my favorite HOB filter for saltwater.
- Internal sponge for colonization of bacteria
- Brilliant filtration capacity
- Activated carbon for removal of harmful bacteria and toxins
- Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums
- Adjustable flow rate
- Should have included an attachment to lengthen the filter
9. SeaChem HOB Filter
Boasting of a simple, yet effective design, the Seachem HOB Filter passes water through a mechanical filter sponge. This model is capable of filtering both freshwater and saltwater. Very easy to set up, the Seachem HOB Filter sweeps contaminants into the filter for removal.
- Construction: Most hang on back filters in the market are of very poor quality. The EHEIM Liberty will change your perception in this regard. This model comes with a dual water intake with a surface skimmer that passes water through the filter twice as much.
- Unique Features: To take things to the next level, the filter boasts of a couple of unique features – a self-priming pump, adjustable flow control, self-cleaning impeller.
- Versatility: The Seachem HOB Filter offers multi-stage, comprehensive filtration. Besides, the self-cleaning impeller will prove very convenient, since impellers are usually very difficult to clean.
- Self-priming pump
- Dual water intake
- Adjustable flow for water control
- Self-cleaning impeller
- Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater set-ups
- Small filter chamber
- Delicate cord placement
How To Set Up & Maintain A Hang On Back Filter
Setting up a HOB filter is quite easy comparing to canister filters, though not that plug and play like an internal power filter. But either way it will not take more than 5 minutes for you to set this up. Let’s take a look at the steps to set up a hang on back power filter –
- Step – 1: Add the filter media in the filtration chamber. Most manufacturer provides the media or cartridge along with the package. But sometime you may need to add more filtration media to support your aquarium (more on that in the next section)
- Step – 2: Hang the filter on your aquarium. If you are not using an aquarium kit then place it wherever you see fit or looks good.
- Step -3: Now you need to prime the filter. Priming a hang on back filter is very easy. Pour water in the filter chamber and then switch it on.
Cleaning is also simple for this type of filters. Once in every 15 days or month (depending on the bio load of your aquarium) take out the media and rinse it with tank water. You can rinse the sponge more frequently if you want crystal clear water always. Put everything back. That’s it!
Supercharging Your HOB Filter
Well, the most common issue with HOB filter is the filtration media. The cartridges that come with the package is most of the time not adequate to support the bio-load of your fish tank. Activated carbon stops working after a few month and requires to be changed. To speak the truth in an established tank, activated carbon is not even necessary. So what you can do is remove the unnecessary cartridges and fill it up with more bio media. This is called supercharging or turbo charging the HOB filter.
Let’s watch a video demonstration to understand this awesome hack.
I’m confident that after going through the list of HOB filters reviewed and the comprehensive buying guide I discussed, you’ll be able to make an informed decision. Hang-on-the-back (HOB) filter systems are some of the most popular filtering solutions for aquariums.
However, if I were to pick a single HOB filter from all those magnificent filters, Fluval C Power Filter would be my personal favorite. This model is especially designed for delivering an outstanding 264 gallons per hour.
It’s a smart hang-on filter, coming with adjustable flow rate that doesn’t impact the filter’s efficiency. Included bio-media is very easy to clean. With five-stage filtration process, the model effectively removes debris and harmful chemicals. Fluval C Power Filter will be a top pick for both large and small water tanks.
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