Best Quietest Aquarium Filters 2020: Reviews and Buying Guide
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“Why would I need a silent aquarium filter?”
There! I put the question up for discussion before you ask me this question.
It’s a fair point considering it’s a fish tank we’re talking about.
But imagine this tank being in a place where you work or talk with guests. Constant noise at these places can disrupt the conversation or your concentration.
Now imagine the aquarium being in your bedroom. Can you put up with the constant noise of running motors and filters even when you sleep at night?
That’s why I’ve searched for 5 of the quietest aquarium filters. I came across different types of these machines with different functions.
After nailing my quest, I’ve compiled all of my experiences into this single article.
Marina Power Filter
Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter
AquaClear Power Filter - 110 V
Polar Aurora 4-stage External Canister Filter
MarineLand Penguin Power Filter w/Multi-Stage Filtration
Types of Aquarium Filters
Believe it or not, you’ll find a number of aquarium filters in different shapes, sizes, and functions.
As we’re hunting down the silent fish tank/aquarium filters, it’s imperative to know about different types so that we can make better choices.
Air driven Filter
The first type you’d come across is the air driven filters. These babies run on the air your aquarium’s air pump drives in.
Air filters are sturdy but small. The making is good.
These filters sit on a panel that’s usually at one corner of the aquarium. I’d say air filters are reasonably quiet.
The next type I’ve come across in my research is the power filter. These are lovingly nicknamed, “The Hangback Filters”.
More often than not people will find them as a part of a kit. These devices drive water in through a water pump paired with a lift tube and throw it back out with a spill-way.
I’d call power filters quiet too. The level of sound depends on your aquarium’s size.
Want a sleek and modern filter for your fish tank?
Canister filters are here to help. These things are compact. The size makes for an easy placement inside the tank. I dare say, these machines are “Very Quiet.”
Mark my words. These operate using filter media.
The larger your machine, the more filter media it can hold. The more filtering functions (more on this later) it can deliver.
Let me tell you about the most common type of filter you’d see. It’s the “Overhead” water filtering machines for the aquariums.
These hang on top of your aquarium from the back. These things create water splash in the tank.
Hence, we hear some degree of sound. I’d keep them somewhere in the lower-middle category when it comes to noiselessness.
The last type of filters I encountered during my research for this article is the Undergravel Filter.
These are handy if you don’t want fish and people not to notice the filtration machine.
Yes, they sit beneath the aquarium gravel and are fairly quiet too. But there are tradeoffs.
I’ll lay them out in detail for you in the latter part of this article.
Aquarium Filter Buying Factors
Now that we know about different types of filtering machines, let’s set our goals to honing in on the right product for our little fish space.
Most of these devices are easy to get and place no stress on your wallet. Therein lies a problem. There are too many out there.
We must focus our attention on the factors that make up a quiet and efficient aquarium filter.
Decide What Filtering Process You Want to Go for?
This is the decision you need to make early into your purchase.
For people who don’t know, you can choose from three types of filtering processes. Each specializes in a different task.
For example, there’s the mechanical filtration system. It’s used to remove debris from our fish tanks.
The devices which run on this system, are adept at handling all the waste the fishes produce.
These filters are handy if you have large fishes which defecate a lot and make a mess of the aquarium.
You’ll also find machines that support chemical filtration systems as well.
These machines are exceptional at countering discoloration of the water and removing the stink or nasty odor that’s common in aquariums from time to time.
Lastly, if you have problems with your fishes defecating a lot, go for biological filtration systems.
These clean up after your fish buddies and keep the environment of an aquarium.
I know what you are thinking. “I have all three of these problems in my fish tank.”
Well, go for a filter that has multiple trays. These trays often support multiple filter media that do the job of weeding out different types of wastes and foul material inside the tank.
Need a hint? Try Polar Aurora from my list.
Evaluate the Size of Your Fish Tank/Aquarium
You’ll find these machines in all shapes, types, and sizes.
But don’t just push the buy button mesmerized by all the features and benefits.
Look at the size and the capacity for water in your aquarium. Then, select the best quiet aquarium filter that complements that size.
For example, if you own a fish tank that can hold 10 gallons of water, buying a filter that supplies clean water to a 50-gallon tank is an overkill.
Not to mention, it won’t look good at all!
Similarly, buying a small device for a large tank would leave portions of the tank dirty with hazy water.
We don’t want that, do we?
That’s why it’s necessary to check if the device suits your tank or not.
Decide Which Type of Machine You Want
If you’ve been paying attention thus far, I’ve already discussed different types of filters that are available these days.
A buyer needs to decide which type he/she wants.
Each of the five types has their advantages and disadvantages. Carefully consider them before you decide to spend some bucks.
For example, power filters give you an advantage of size over everything else.
They’re quiet as I mentioned earlier.
The canister filters are very quiet and require very little maintenance. But they can cost you more money than other alternatives.
Overhead filters require space on top of the aquarium for you to set them up. Plus, there are quieter options than one of these.
When selecting a specific type, make sure you check on the refills and additional accessories.
It’s always a good practice to read online articles on filter maintenance to learn a thing or two about your device.
Protection Against Noises
Filters are motor-driven machines. It’s normal for them to vibrate and make sounds.
When I say, “We want the quietest aquarium filters,” I mean devices with good protection against sound.
Take the filter from MarineLand for an example.
This thing comes with two covers that guard the filter while it works. These covers dampen the noise and vibration to a degree.
You also have intake strainers that minimize the sound of water movement through the filters.
Canister filters, on the other hand, have strong builds.
The strength and isolated filter chambers dampen the noise to allow your fishes a quiet place to rest in.
Look for a Self-Priming Feature in Your Machine
Make no mistake, this is an important feature to have as a part of the machine.
I’d advise my readers to buy a device that facilitates “Self Priming” feature.
Thanks to this, air won’t be able to jam the tubes and obstruct water on its way out of the filter.
This feature is handy for areas with random power outages or voltage inconsistencies.
Advanced models come with a switch or two so that the motor sucks the air out whenever a power failure occurs.
When it starts again, people won’t notice drops in performance level.
Judge the Water Flow Control Mechanism
When buying a filter for your fish tank, make sure you have total control. This includes having the ability to control at what speed you want water to flow out of the filter.
This helps when you’re dealing with different aquariums within a gallon range. It’s also great to have in case you have different fishes.
Let me explain. There are some fishes that are used to water flowing at a certain speed.
Goldfishes, betta fish, guppy etc. require different environments and water speeds to thrive. Without proper water control, you can’t ensure that.
Make sure you have a regulator or a switch to control the flow.
Some filters compromise on the filtering power when you lessen the speed. Very few models keep it on the same level while reducing the flow speed.
Choose the latter and be worry-free.
Even with all the factors that make up great aquarium filter in place, I had to deal with 20 – 25 devices.
Narrowing it down to my magical number of 5 was quite a task. It took some doing before I could point my finger at the top five silent aquarium filters.
Here’s my own list.
Best Quietest Aquarium Filters 2020
I found three varieties of this device that account for aquariums measuring up to 10, 15, and 20 gallons of water.
Just to be clear, I’ll be reviewing one that’s sufficient for a tank with 20 gallons of water.
This power filter machine takes up little space behind the aquarium. Your fish buddies won’t even notice this thing at the back.
This is all thanks to the slim design of the Slim S20 (as it’s alternatively called).
Installation and maintenance of this machine are as easy as making a pie.
The small size means you need less time setting it up for the job. It should take owners 30 minutes to set it up and get the ball rolling.
Do you remember me speaking about how important water flow is when choosing a filtering machine?
As I said back then, you have to have the ability to control the water flow to your advantage. You can increase the flow rate for up to 92 GPH.
The makers of Marina Power Pump know that. That’s why they’ve put in an option to regulate the water flow of the tank.
Different fishes feel at home living in different environments governed by the water. Customizing the water flow alone, you can house different species of fishes in your tank.
Wondering how quiet this machine is?
Well, it comes with a motor that remains submerged under water. This dampens vibrations and the noise.
So, there’s not much sound to bother your fish buddies.
I must mention here that the unit features “Self-Priming” facilities.
Whenever you start the Marina Slim-line product, the motor clears the air in the tubes to make sure water properly fills the reservoir.
Thanks to this feature, I didn’t need additional tools to help me with the maintenance during my time testing this aquarium filter.
I pointed out a certain fact earlier that filtering machines do three types of filtering. Do you remember?
As it turns out, Marina Power Filter is apt for the biological filtering process.
People have two cartridges with this device. One is bio-carb and the other is bio-clear.
Both of these are handy when removing ammonia from your aquarium or fish tank is concerned.
Let me give you a tip before I end it here. Always fill the water properly and keep it below the waterfall spout.
It helps to grant better airflow and oxygen count for your fish friends.
Just to give you an idea, you can barely hear it at work when standing beside the aquarium.
Installing this thing is easy as well.
Aqueon doesn’t come with an entourage of its own. It’s just some tubes, a power cord, and suction cups to help it stick to the back of the aquarium.
Although it’s a power filter, it’s vastly different from my previous choice.
Aqueon cannot be submerged under water. The filter has to be at least 2 inches above the water for it to work.
This just goes to show how well the makers muffled the sound and made it into a quiet unit. The noise you hear is just the water hitting the aquarium surface.
I used it on my framed aquarium. Don’t worry if you have a frameless one. Apparently, this wonder device works well with both kinds.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the size options.
With Quietflow E, you can take care of an aquarium that holds up to 40 gallons of water. This one can be used for fish tanks as small as 3 gallons. The range you get with this device is incredible.
Just to put your minds at ease, this thing doesn’t require priming job to be done. It does that by itself.
Don’t worry when the power is out or you see sudden spikes in the voltmeter.
Aqueon is good enough to restart on its own by clearing the air from the tubes. Just be sure to plug it in a 110V connection.
I had no hassle while running maintenance on this machine. All you have to do is clean the filter inserts every two weeks.
Feel free to replace them whenever they go bad. I do it on a monthly basis. This is a low maintenance kit with no consistency issues.
This thing comes with a carbon cartridge. Yes, as you might have guessed, it’s good for chemical filtration. Meaning, it eradicates discoloration of water from your fish tank.
Aqueon also takes care of the nasty odor our aquariums develop as time goes by. Yeah, it won’t stink anymore. Trust me, this thing works!
Don’t worry, these are not mere sales speeches. Apparently, you can do it all with AquaClear power filter at the helm of your fish tank.
The filter is powerful enough to take care of fish tanks up to 110 gallons of capacity.
At the very least, one can start with a medium fish space of 20 gallons.
For the sake of experience sharing, I went ahead and bought the largest one available for my friend’s aquarium. It feels like a pool compared to mine.
The first thing that caught my eye is the re-filtration system that AquaClear boasts about.
In simplest of terms, the machine filters water multiple times to remove the debris.
That’s not a big deal, right?
While re-filtering the water this machine reduces water flow by as much as 50%. Normal filters would slow down as the water circulation speed reduces.
But not AquaClear. It maintains the same level of efficiency as before.
This little product is the perfect fit for an aquarium with delicate fishes. As these fishes need gentle water flow, decreasing it by 50% helps them maintain their natural habitat.
The best thing about this machine is the fact that you won’t hear any sounds standing next to it. Okay, there is the splash of the water.
But besides the extremely low humming noise, there’s nothing. The manufacturers gave AquaClear a body which never rattles when working.
This also helps when you want the filter to last longer and avoid damaging itself and the aquarium.
If you are wondering how efficient it is at the job, don’t fret.
The machine works in three stages.
There are filter media at the bottom, in the middle, and at the top. The bottom and the top halves grant people biological filtration. The middle part comes with carbon cartridges for chemical filtration process.
AquaClean is the reason I didn’t opt for a separate under-gravel filter on my list. This thing takes care of the job flawlessly.
Just make sure to change the foam filter insert at the top in every two months. Change the carbon insert in the middle every month, and the BioMax filter insert in every three months.
One can also use inserts from another brand such as Purigen.
He/she just has to remember that there should be mesh clothing and granules present in the insert to allow water to flow through and be filtered.
This mean machine can take care of the big boys. I’m talking about aquariums with a 200-gallon capacity.
Polar Aurora can achieve a water flow rate of 525 GPH at the top of its gears.
People have as many as four media trays with this canister filter. You can put different filtering media inside three of them.
This means you’ll have the ability to customize this machine to deliver mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.
Wondering which ones you should use?
Well, I experimented with SunSun’s activated carbon, ceramic rings, and the bio-balls. The components stay separate by virtue of different chambers.
Each bucket or tray has its own filtering material. I had the pleasure of dissecting this machine and found 10cm cotton to filter out the impurities from the filtration media themselves.
One can regulate water flow using this machine. Yet, the water doesn’t flow inside the core mechanism of the bucket. The machine swivels 360 degrees.
You have separate valves for water coming in and going out. There’s a spray bar that lets people dictate the amount of water they want to be constantly flowing.
This little canister does its own priming with the help of a priming pump. It reduces maintenance costs and hassle regarding opening up the tubes and cleaning the air.
All you need to do is to press a button and that’s it! All the air inside will be discarded. No manual siphoning of water needed at all!
Wondering if the water will leak out in some way? Relax!
There’s an O-ring on the top which seals the opening of the filter tightly and prevents water from leaking.
Did you notice I’m not discussing the noise aspect of this filter? That’s because it’s inherently quiet.
You’ll have to thank the sturdy and thick construction of Polar Aurora. The thick walls help to muffle the sound and keep it quiet on the outside.
Hold on, there’s one more benefit that I didn’t speak of yet, There’s a UV sterilizer inside the filter. It exposes the bacteria and algae to the UV light and eradicates them.
It is a handy tactic follow if you want the water of your aquarium to be clean and healthy.
Would you believe me if I told you that this machine can conjure up 350 Gallon/Hour when it comes to water flow rate?
Surprised? One can even control the water flow to suit the aquarium size. It’s made for aquariums that can hold up to 75 gallons of water at a time.
I’ve been going on about three-stage filtration process, right?
Well, that’s because you’ll be getting mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration all within the same machine.
This little device removes waste, fixes discoloration of the water, and removes the stinking odor from the water.
I know for a fact that biological filtration process is carried out by a patented system called Bio-wheel. It removes ammonium nitrate and toxins without troubling the fishes.
This little filter uses two vented covers. If you don’t know, these things reduce noise and vibrations so that you get a noiseless fish tank at your disposal.
Don’t worry, you’ll have the accessories tucked in along with the package. No extra money involved in purchasing these things.
I’m not done yet. There’s one other measure taken to ensure you get a silent aquarium filter. The makers have put in mid-level intake strainers.
As a result, the filter goes about its business without ringing in your ears. Well, you’ll hear a bubbling noise but that’s if the water level drops beyond a point.
When it comes to cartridges, you’ll have to use Rite-Size penguin power cartridges for the job.
Each of these cartridges use activated carbon which acts faster than the normal version people get with other filtering machines. These things are low on maintenance too.
Pro Tip: People neglect this but you can add extra biofiltering material. Do that and take the old ones out.
This way, you can run maintenance and replace the media without hampering the filtering cycle. Just remember not to remove too much of the substance at once.
On the Quietest Aquarium Filters
I must tell you, these machines come within double digits. But don’t let the price fool you.
These are important pieces of your fish tank puzzle. The wrong selection can turn out to be a disaster for your swimming pets. The entire eco-system of the miniature pond depends on one of these things.
That’s why I don’t take any chances with mine. I spent hours testing these devices before narrowing it down to five. Any of these machines will do nicely.
But if you insist on picking the quietest aquarium filter of the bunch, it’ll have to be Polar Aurora Canister Filter.
This brand has the most filtering stage of the lot.
You’ll also have a leak-proof machine at hand. Strong construction and isolated chambers mean that there’ll be no sound escaping the device.
Not to mention its durable. A bang for your buck I’ll say!
Related: Aquarium Filter Noise Reduction Tips