Not all betta fish tanks require a filter. But if they are on the larger side (or you just don’t want to keep cleaning the water by hand so often), a tank filter can be a great investment.
Keep in mind, though, that the best betta fish filters are the gentle ones. Here are some of our suggestions for filters that get the job done without harming your fish.
Top Product Recommendations
1. Aquapapa XY-2008 Corner Filter
This Aquapapa Corner Filter is a great sponge filter for both smaller betta tanks and smaller budgets. It combines mechanical and biological filtration methods by using three specially crafted layers that filter tanks from five to 10 gallons in size.
The top layer consists of a white filter pad that makes up the mechanical portion of the filter. The second layer is a black sponge that works with the layer of gravel beneath it to biochemically filter the water. It sustains the growth of good bacteria that helps to clean the water naturally and keep your betta healthy.
When it comes to maintenance, the sponge must be washed every two to four weeks (depending on how dirty it gets in the meantime). As far as filters go, this isn’t a bad deal.
The biggest selling point for the Aquapapa filter is that it is safe for bettas. It isn’t strong enough to suck them up into the mechanism like many other filters on the market, which is good for everyone (and every fish!) involved.
- Safe for betta fish
- Much nicer to look at than other, more “industrial-style” filters
- Great for small tanks
- Combines mechanical and natural filtration to better maintain the fish tank’s ecosystem
- Some users find it difficult to clean
- Initial setup can be challenging
- Not very strong, which is good for keeping your betta safe, but not always ideal for keeping dirty tanks clean
2. Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters
One of the things that first drew me to this Aqueon QuietFlow Power Filter is that it comes with many other accessories for a price that won’t break the bank. The value pack includes the filter itself, four replacement cartridges, five ammonia pads, and a few samples of water conditioner (just make sure these are betta-safe before you try them!).
Another thing that makes this a good filter for betta fish is that it maintains a high level of oxygen in the water, which keeps your fish feeling more energized and fresh. It also features a five-stage filtration system that cleans the water on a chemical, mechanical, and biological level, making for some truly crystal-clear water.
As an added bonus (that will appeal to anyone who has ever lost time trying to prime a fish tank filter after cleaning or before it gets going the first time), this Aqueon filter is self-priming. This means that even interruptions like power outages won’t cause a delay in filtration or any excessive noise: once the electricity comes back on, the filter gets right back to work.
- Can clean betta tanks up to 20 gallons
- Safe for bettas if the tank is large enough (see cons section)
- Can create too strong of a current for a betta in a tank under 10 gallons
- Not really as quiet as the name implies
- Doesn’t have an automatic shut-off function of it gets jammed, which can cause overheating
3. Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter for Aquariums, With Quiet Technology
If you have ever been a fish owner, you will have surely heard of Tetra. It is one of the biggest names in the fish tank/food/accessories game, and for a good reason. This particular product, the Whisper IQ Power Filter for Aquariums, features “quiet technology,” which guarantees that your filter won’t be disturbing you with the sound of its constant running.
This system is unique in that it works thanks to a specially crafted sound shield that blocks sound waves stronger than 40 decibels. Most fish owners have to just deal with the fact that a working filter is a noisy one, but with this one, you don’t have to compromise.
Like the previous betta tank filter we mentioned, the Whisper IQ Power Filter is self-priming for an added element of convenience. It also helps to ensure that the pH in your betta’s water is perfect at all times, resulting in a happy, healthy fish.
- Very quiet
- Current shouldn’t be too strong for betta if you buy the appropriate-size filter for your tank
- Not as quiet as some users expect (this could be personal preference, though)
- You can’t just clean the filter cartridges; you have to replace them every month, which can get costly
- Blockages can be disastrous (think: ruined carpets and stained floors)
4. Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter
Another great filter for a betta tank that requires no priming is the Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter. This filter comes in a variety of sizes that can work for nearly every betta tank out there. Starting at three gallons (although if you have read my other articles, you know this is below the recommended minimum size) all the way up to 40 gallons, Aqueon has you covered.
One of my favorite things about this betta tank filter is that it is a lot easier to install than some other models. In most cases, all it takes is a quick stick of the suction cup to the side of the tank and/or the use of a hanging clip and voila! Your filter is in place.
Another aspect that fishkeepers might be interested in is the included carbon cartridge. This filters the water on a chemical level, not just a mechanical one. It also helps to cut down on foul odors and yucky, brownish water which, face it, is the bane of all fish owners’ existence!
- Easy installation
- Gives the water a deeper clean than some other filters
- Quiet and safe for bettas
- Affordable price point
- Not very long-lasting: many users reported having to buy a new one after a few months
- Safe flow rate for bettas, but not always strong enough to give the tank a thorough clean
- Can’t be used with a tank lid, which is problematic for jumping fish like bettas
5. Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter
The Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge filter is an excellent option for those on the lookout for the best sponge filter for betta fish. It is small, quiet, and gentle enough for fish like bettas who are small and/or have delicate fins.
This Hygger model comes in various sizes, but is an especially good option for small tanks. The filter itself is small (just a bit more than three-by-three inches) and can be stuck on the side of the tank with a simple suction cup.
Sponge filters are highly recommended due to the fact that they clean the water while still allowing benign bacteria to live in it. This results in clearer, cleaner water, and a system of filtration that is more like something a fish would encounter in nature.
One thing to note, though, is that this filter requires an air pump and a hose, which are not included in the set that we link to in the section title. The filter itself is a bargain, so it may not be a problem for most.
- Very compact, doesn’t take up much space or draw too much attention
- Helps grow good bacteria to help clean the tank in a more natural way
- Easy installation
- You can wash the sponge once a month without having to buy a replacement
- Not everything you need is included in the box
- Some users had trouble getting the suction cup to stick to their betta’s tanks
- May not last very long, breaks easily
6. AZOO Mignon Filter 60
The AZOO Mignon Filter 60 is another good option for those with betta tanks that are on the smaller side. According to the packaging, it is one of the smallest hang-on-back filters on the market. This is good for two reasons: first, there are no problems with fit (and it isn’t an unsightly hulking machine in your betta tank), and second, it is probably too small to suck up your betta.
A lot of good bettas have lost their lives because of filters that were too large, strong, or powerful for their tanks. Luckily, this one is made for small tanks that house smaller species (think tetras and even shrimp) and is specially designed to be safe for them.
In addition to the safety factor, this filter is also quiet and easy to clean. The only downside is that it is on the higher end of the price range when it comes to filters of this size, although it still probably won’t break the average fish owner’s budget.
- Small and unobtrusive
- Very durable, built to last a long time
- Easy to clean and mount
- Features a dial that controls the flow, allowing you to maintain higher levels of oxygen in the water and keep the betta safe
- More expensive than similar products
- Not as quiet as advertised
- Gets clogged with debris quickly and must be cleaned often
7. AQUANEAT Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter
The last filter on this list is perhaps the best. The AQUANEAT Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter combines biological and mechanical filtering systems to maintain optimum tank conditions for your betta. More than this, though, it is incredibly safe for small fish.
The sponge on the filter pulls through debris, but can’t pull your betta through, saving many a fishy life. This also makes it ideal for breeding tanks and tanks in which baby bettas are hatching/have hatched. They will be free to grow up without any fear of being overtaken by a filter that is too strong and powerful for their tiny bodies to fight against.
This betta tank filter also includes an “air infusion chamber,” which works to increase the oxygen level in the water, which is great for young and old bettas alike.
It works best in tanks up to 10 gallons in size and can be easily maintained by washing the sponge every two to four weeks. A single sponge typically lasts three to six months, but this depends on how dirty the tank is and how beaten up it gets during washing and usage.
- Easy to clean, sponges last a while
- Simple to install
- Very safe for small fish
- Great for breeding tanks, which have special requirements
- Too small for some tanks
- You have to take special measures to keep the sponge from floating up to the top of the tank (fill it full of water before mounting it)
- May not be strong enough to clean well (depending on tank size and level of debris)
Betta Fish Filter Buying Advice
As you would expect, there is a lot that goes into choosing the best filter for your betta fish tank. The products on the list above are great suggestions, but if you really want to find the right filter for you, you need to keep the following things in mind.
Not All Bettas Need a Filter…
I know, that subheading sounds absurd. You can’t have a fish tank without a filter, right? Wrong.
When it comes to bettas, the stiller the water, the better. Betta fish come from rice paddies in Thailand, where there are really no waves to speak of. All filters, even the weakest ones, create a current as they remove dirty water and let the clean water flow back in. Depending on the strength of the filter, this current can be not just annoying for bettas, but stressful — or even deadly.
Large filters in a small tank or filters that are just too powerful in general can either cause currents that destroy the fins of a betta or exhaust them from their constant efforts to swim against the tide. They can also do worse: they can suck the betta up into the mechanism, and he or she will be a goner.
If you have a tank that is 5 gallons or less, you probably could get by without a filter if you are very diligent in cleaning it.
…but There Are Some Big Benefits to Having One
Obviously, you can’t put a huge filter in a small tank or use a filter that is too powerful to be safe for your betta. That being said, there are some really good reasons to get a filter for your betta tank.
The first of these reasons is that a filter can help maintain healthy levels of things like ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates in the water. Too much of any one of these things can be fatal to your betta. Some betta owners (me included) spend a lot of time trying to adjust these levels, and a filter – specifically a sponge filter — can be a great help for this.
Filters are also useful for oxygenating your tank. As you read in the product analyses above, many filters are designed to help increase the level of oxygen in the water. Bettas have a labyrinth organ that lets them breathe oxygen from the air at the surface of their water, so this maybe isn’t the highest priority on the list, but it can’t hurt!
Having a filter also means less frequent water changes. And who among us would rather spend half their day cleaning a fish tank every weekend when they could do it a couple of times a month or less instead?
Types of Filters
When it comes to tank filters, there are many different kinds to choose from. Here is a quick look at three of the most popular:
- Sponge filter – This is perhaps the best choice for bettas. They provide both biological and mechanical filtration, allowing the water to be cleaned and helpful bacteria to grow on the interior sponge. They are very gentle, as well as very affordable.
- Canister filter – Canister filters are neat, quiet, and effective at moving a lot of water through the system in a short time. They use a pressurized canister to pump water out of the tank through the cleaning mechanism and then back into the tank.
- HOB filter – HOB stands for “hang-on-back.” You simply hang them on the back of the tank, and they don’t disturb your tank design at all. These filters are more effective at mechanical filtration than sponge filters, and are often used in tandem with them.
This section is the most important in this entire article. You must consider the flow power if you are going to put a filter in your betta’s tank. Get a model that is listed as having “low flow power,” and even then keep a careful eye on it in the first few days to make sure it isn’t pushing your betta around or stressing him out.
If your filter has a flow that is battering your fish around, you have a few different options. The first is to adjust the flow rate on the filter if possible.
If your filter doesn’t have this option (or if its lowest setting is still too strong), you can try to limit the amount of water taken into the filter by covering the filter intake valve with something like a piece of pantyhose.
You can also break up the flow with a “baffle.” Baffles slow down the flow of water and are typically made up of mesh screens or similar things you can find around the house.
Frequently Asked Questions about Betta Tank Filters
Does Filter Noise Bother a Betta Fish?
Some fish are more sensitive to sound than others. Most bettas can get used to the filter sound if it stays constant, but a malfunctioning, screechy filter can surely cause stress and upset to a betta.
Should I Set Up the Filter Before or After I Add the Betta Fish to the Tank?
It is usually best to add the filter to the tank before you introduce the betta, during the tank cycling phase. It is also a lot easier to set it up if you don’t have to worry about a fish swimming around your hand as you do it!
How Much Electricity Do Filters Use?
The answer to this depends on how big/powerful the filter is. However, filters do have to run all day every day (and night), so it is understandable that people would be worried about the energy consumption.
Luckily, most filters have very low wattage, so they don’t consume as much electricity as you might think. Check the packaging for the exact wattage, so you know what to expect.
How Do I Wash the Sponge From a Sponge Filter?
Always wash the sponge from a sponge filter with water from the tank. Washing it with the tap water could introduce chemicals to the water that could be harmful to your betta (this is the same reason why you should use water conditioner when filling or refilling the tank so that the water is safe for your fish). Also, NEVER use soap!
There is a lot to consider when choosing the best filter for your betta fish. The most important of these is power, which is why I would recommend the AQUANEAT Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter. It is gentle and safe, which is exactly what a betta needs. Nothing is worse than losing your fishy friend to a bad filter, and that will never happen with this product!