Filters can be noisy affairs, and many people would rather keep the noise to a minimum. You can get quiet filters without sacrificing any filtration if you know where to look. Instead of trying them out one-by-one, read on for some of the quietest fish tank filters and the information you need to pick the right one for your tank.
Best Quiet Fish Tank Filters
1. AquaClear Fish Tank Filter – Overall Best Quiet Fish Tank Filter
AquaClear’s HOB-filters are my favorite for most people. You’ll need to stay on top of the tank, but they’re whisper-quiet, and even a complete newbie can effectively break down the filter for cleaning.
AquaClear makes filters for any size of a fish tank. This one is meant for tanks in the 60-100 gallon tanks, according to the manufacturer. The pump is rated as performing at 500gph, which may be a bit high in actuality. This is meant to be a three-stage filter, but you can change from their proprietary media if you’d like.
AquaClear’s filters are easy to maintain. But they still need to be maintained. An AquaClear, which is making a lot of noise, has needs to be addressed. They can also be a bit loud at the top of the tank but adjusting the flow often fixes it. I also don’t like having to prime the pump if there’s a power outage.
Overall, these are my favorite quiet filters for most aquarists. They require regular maintenance, but when given that, they’ll pump away silently for years.
2. XpertMatic DB-368F Quiet 3 Stages 475 GPH Aquarium Filter – Runner Up
The DB-368F is a large in-tank filter that runs very quietly. It’s meant for larger tanks. We’ll cover a good option for nano-tanks in the next review. At 475 GPH, it works great up to about 100 gallons.
This internal filter is three-stage, unlike most of its type. This variation comes with three cups that you can fill with media of your choosing. Go with a porous ceramic, activated carbon, and a sponge if you’re not sure how to take advantage of that. It doubles as an aerator, too, if you want to attach an air pump line.
The downside is that attaching an air pump line makes this a loud filter rather than a quiet one. The media cups are also a bit of a pain to deal with.
This is a solid, quiet pick for a large planted tank. Just don’t use the airline inlet if you want the filter to remain quiet.
3. DaToo Aquarium Power Filter in-Tank – Best Quiet Filter for Nano Tanks
Small tanks are short on options, but they also allow an opportunity to find a really quiet fish tank filter. The DaToo is designed for these small tanks, and it delivers with an efficient pump that barely makes a sound.
It’s rated for up to ten gallons as well. It utilizes a sponge filter and activated carbon to deliver clean, clear water from its output. You can customize the filters as well if you want. They’re also a remarkably cheap option, even among the cheap filters that are promoted for tiny tanks.
It’s not one that’s going to scale up, however. There isn’t an equivalent, larger option that’s as quiet. The suction cups can also be a pain. Clearing them of air before attaching usually solves the problem.
For nano-tanks, this is my favorite quiet option. It cleans well, is almost silent, and it’s easy to maintain. That makes it a winner in my book.
4. Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter – Best Quiet Filter for a 55 Gallon Tank
55-gallon tanks are one of the most common starting points, and this filter flows just right for most of them. It’s very quiet for a canister filter, which is rare at this price point for a larger tank.
The nice part is that Marineland is one of the few companies that underestimates the gallons per hour you need for a given tank’s size. You can also find this one in other sizes if it sounds appealing. Other than the quiet motor, it’s a standard 3-stage canister filter. Marineland is also a big brand name, so you can find branded filter media easily.
Being a canister means more maintenance and a bit of playing with hoses as well. It can be a bit frustrating for a newbie who is trying to get it entirely quiet. It’s also a pain to prime and start if it gets turned off.
Overall, this is a great buy for a medium-sized tank. Just be aware it may take some finesse to keep it entirely quiet.
5. Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter – Best Quiet Internal Filter
Aqueon produces this little in-tank filter that’s suitable for tanks up to 40 gallons. It’s nearly silent, and as an internal filter, all you have to do is drop it in. Easy to maintenance, and very quiet, the Quietflow is an awesome option.
This one has two-stage filtration, going through both mechanical and chemical media. It also primes easily on starting and seems to vibrate less than most. It also filters exceptionally well, creating crystal clear water even with dirty eaters.
It’s a bit limited. I’d like to see biological filtration since customization takes more work with this than most. Unfortunately, some seem to come from the factory with an internal rattle as well. It’s rare, but the filter is not supposed to be loud. That’s a defective one.
Overall, this is an excellent internal filter. Just be aware you’re most likely stuck using Aqueon filter media.
6. Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade 1500 – Best Quiet Filter for Large Aquaria
Large aquariums have fewer options than most. Once you’re over the 100-gallon mark, getting a quiet filter is increasingly hard. The filters just have to move too much water to remain whisper-quiet.
The Cascade 1500, on the other hand, is quiet and can handle up to a 200-gallon aquarium. It’s not silent, but it’s a lot quieter than most options. It’s a solid canister filter all the way around, including the ability to use whatever filter media you choose.
This filter needs its lines run deep to remain quiet, which can be a problem for tall tank/stand displays. It’s also painful to prime and often leaks during maintenance. Just keep a towel handy.
The Cascade 1500 is a great option for larger tanks, especially when you want things to stay quiet. The truth is that there are few filters with the same capacity that can say the same.
Quiet Fish Tank Filter Buying Guide
Picking a quiet filter isn’t hard, but there are a few key things you need to take into consideration when you pick one.
All filters function similarly: an electrically powered motor spins a propellor that moves water through filter media.
Most filter types can be quiet, but keep in mind the following:
- HOB Filters: Can be whisper quiet, but only if the tank is topped off. Otherwise, you’ll have a waterfall effect. On the other hand, they can serve as a good reminder to top up since other filters sound the same.
- In-Tank Filters: These cheap filters often make a considerable amount of noise from the vibration. The better ones will be silent unless the water falls under the filter’s output.
- Canister Filter: Cheap ones can make a fair bit of noise. Good canister filters remain quiet no matter what, which also makes them a good choice for vivariums. They’re also more expensive than any other kind of aquarium filter.
- Sponge Filters: I didn’t include any of these in my list because they’re entirely dependent on the air pump. Air pumps range from overly loud to lightly buzzing, but few are actually silent.
Flow rate is debated often, but a good rule of thumb is the volume of a tank multiplied by 6 in an hourly flow. So a 10-gallon tank needs about 60gph for optimum flow.
If that’s too complicated, you can go by the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Check the number of filtration stages in a filter. They range from one, which is a simple sponge, to complicated arrays with four or more filter types.
Unless you’re using an in-tank filter, I recommend shooting for three. More stages are nice, but they can mean more maintenance and more expense as the old filter media retires.
All stages can be broken down into one of the following:
- Mechanical: Sponges, for the most part. These separate larger particles from the water, allowing bacteria to break them down over time. In smaller filters, they can also perform the function of a biological filter.
- Chemical: Activated carbon and other materials help clean nasty stuff out of the water. They act chemically on it to contain the chemical in the filter’s media. While it can be helpful, it mainly keeps the water clear in a balanced system by removing tannins.
- Biological: Many filters contain porous ceramic media. The ceramic has a high surface area and makes an ideal growing field for the good bacteria in your tank.
Filter maintenance is never the most fun thing to perform. If you’re averse to working with your filters, you should put some thought into it.
As a general rule, canister filters require the most maintenance. I’ve had a finicky HOB or two over the worse years, but canister filters always take the longest. Fortunately, they don’t need to be cleaned out as often.
HOBs are next down. They’re often easier and less messy to maintain. They’ll need to be gone over once every two or three weeks to keep them in optimal shape to be quiet.
In-tank filters are usually the easiest. Most have carbon inserts and sponge inserts. The sponge can be cleaned in a bucket of aquarium water. The carbon should be replaced every month like normal.
Keep in mind that once you reach much over 125 gallons, your only option is a canister.
You can modify almost any filter to accept any media. For the most part, it just needs to sit in the filter compartment.
Some people prefer to run their own mixes of media. More activated carbon, perhaps. Or a tremendous amount of porous ceramics for extra bio-filtration.
Sometimes it’s not practical to mess with them. This is particularly the case for multi-stage in-tank filters, but it happens across the board.
You may also want to see if you can get your filter media locally. This is no problem for big brands like Aqueon or Fluval but can become an issue with off-brand and online purchases.
Common Questions About Quiet Fish Tank Filters
What’s the Quietest Type of Filter?
Canisters are often the best for noise, especially once the intake/outtake is configured properly. In-tank filters come next, and HOBs are the hardest to find. You can find very quiet filters in each type, but the above are good guidelines.
Why is My Impeller Making Sputtering or Hissing Noises?
Air or clogging are the main problems. Check the filter’s intake and clear any moss, algae, or other debris that’s there. You can also briefly remove the impeller on most filters and clean the entire pump assembly if the problem persists.
Will Changing My Filter Media Make My Tank Quieter?
Unfortunately, no. The majority of noise comes from the pump motor unless there’s a waterfall effect from a HOB filter.
Can I Make an Air Pump Quieter for My Sponge Filter?
Yes. Soundproofing an air pump is easier than a filter since they’re external to the tank. It takes some doing, but here are some instructions if you want to shut up your loud pump.
Helpful Tips for a Quiet Fish Tank Filter
The most helpful tip that can be given on keeping a quiet filter is this: keep your fish tank topped off. You can do it during your regular water change, or even when needed if you have softer water at home. Most filters are relatively quiet as long as the water level is where it needs to be.
If you have a noisy filter, you may be able to keep it quieter. Check it for the following:
- Impeller: Impellers can get impeded by algae growth, detritus, and even some invasive plants like Java Moss. It can result in a variety of noises, but none of them are good. Even worse… if the impeller suddenly stops making noise, it may be seized, which will burn the pump motor in short order.
- Check for Air Around the Intake: If you’re running an air pump, it may be too close to your filter’s intake. The bubbles can cause a filter to make noise as they come through and can damage it over time if there’s too much.
- Dampen Vibration: If you can find a place where your filter is vibrating against part of the tank, you can often dampen the noise. Even a cardboard shim between a HOB and the tank, for instance, can make a huge difference.
In most cases, a noisy filter is caused by a problem. In some, however, it’s a losing battle, and you should look for a quieter filter to keep your peace of mind.
Quieter Tanks Forever
For those who don’t like the hum of water pumps, there are many options available. It’s just a matter of getting the right size and type of filter to suit your tank and making sure it’s not a loud one.
So, if you’re looking for noise-free aquarium enjoyment, get to work checking out some of the quiet fish tank filters on the list above!