Hang on Back (HOB) Aquarium Filter Reviews

The question of what is the best filter for an aquarium regularly comes up, but it really comes down to why a person needs the filter. Do they have a tight budget and need a basic filter? Are they filtering a large show piece tank? Do their fish have any special requirements? But if a person is just looking for an affordable, high quality filter for a community tank, then there is no better choice than an HOB (hang on back) filter. These filters come in a variety of sizes and prices, and most are extremely durable.  There are many different manufacturers of HOB filters, but listed below are the four most common types according to their rank.

1. AquaClear Power Filter

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Whisper quiet operation
  • Durable and long-lived
  • Keeps the water exceptionally clean
  • Excellent bio-filtration

Cons

  • Smaller filters can develop flow problems
  • Doesn’t operate well with sand substrate

The Aquaclear power filter narrowly edges out the Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel filter as the best HOB filter on the market. I personally have this filter on the large majority of my aquariums, along with the Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel filter, and it really just comes down to which one was on sale when I needed a new filter. The Aquaclear power filter boasts an excellent design which allows for a quick cleaning during water changes, a large internal surface to allow for excellent bio-filtration, and durable construction that results in the filters having long lives. The inserts for the filter are also extremely sturdy, and the charcoal insert can be replaced with bio media for extra biological filtration. (I rarely use charcoal on my tanks.) The one downside to these filters, is that the smaller ones can develop flow problems over the long-term. This usually only affects the smallest filter in the product line-up, and can be partially remedied with a regular cleaning schedule. With that being said, I would recommend sticking with the larger size filters (20 gallons+) if you can afford them, as these don’t seem susceptible to the  flow problem. You can find a great deal now at Amazon. com on all AquaClear Power Filters

2. Marineland Penguin Power Filter

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Quiet operation (It is slightly louder than the Aquaclear Power Filter)
  • Extremely durable and very long life.
  • Keeps the water exceptionally clean
  • Excellent bio-filtration
Cons
  • Occasional problems with the bio-wheel
The Marineland Pengiun Bio-Wheel filter is one of the best HOB  filters on the market, and will meet nearly anyone’s needs for their home aquarium. This filter is on a number of aquariums that I own, and it has proven to be a hardy, excellent filter.
The main benefit of the Marineland Pengion Bio-wheel filter is its sturdy and open design. The design allows for a number of extras to be added to the interior of the filter, such as bio-balls or extra filter media. This allows a level of customization that isn’t available on many other filters, and is a welcome addition to any serious hobbyist. The filter itself, is also extremely durable, and has been running on several of my tanks for over five years. Its operation is also very quiet, and it keeps the water exceptionally clean.
The only problem with this filter that prevents it  from taking the number one spot on the list, is that occasionally there can be problems with the bio-wheel. While this is rare, the bio-wheel can occasionally stop spinning for one of several reasons. Because most of the beneficial bacteria inhabit the bio-wheel, this can lead to a quick decline in water quality.
While it is easily rectified, it does mean that you have to keep a close eye on the filter to ensure that the bio-wheel is always spinning. This is especially true if you don’t keep up a regular cleaning schedule, as the reduced flow from a dirty filter can sometimes  prevent the bio-wheel from spinning.
You can find great deals on the Marineland Penguin Power Filter at Amazon.com

aqueon

3. Aqueon QuietFlow Power Filter

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Quiet operation (It is slightly louder than the Aquaclear Power Filter)
  • Keeps the water pristine
  • Excellent bio-filtration
Cons
  • No space to add any extras (Bio-balls, Filter Media)

The Aqueon QuietFlow filter is a solid, reliable filter, but it does come with some drawbacks. The first being that it doesn’t have the space to add any extras such as bio-balls or additional media, which is incredibly important to the more hard core aquarists. The second problem is that in my experience, it’s not quite as durable as the Aquaclear or Marineland filter. With that being said, it will still normally give several problem free years of operating and is still a viable filter choice for any aquarium. When this filter is operating at peak efficiency, it is an extremely high quality filter. Not only does it keep the water crystal clear, but it also so quiet that you can barely hear it running. It also provides excellent bio-filtration, although like previously stated, the lack of extra internal space to add more bio-media hurts this filters ranking. The one true downside that people occasionally encounter with this filter , is that the impeller is known to stall. I have had this happen several times, but after a bit of cleaning I have always been able to get it running smoothly again. Another minor issue that can crop up from time to time, is that the design of the filter cartridges make it impossible to remove the carbon if you are medicating the tank. While this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, it can be very annoying if you have to medicate some sick fish in your tank. One of the best places to find deals on the Aqueon Quietflow Power Filter is at Amazon.com

4. Tetra Whisper Power Filter

Pros

  • Very affordable price
Cons
  • Suffers from some durability issues
  • Some are louder than their rivals

The Tetra Whisper filter is a decent filter, but they have suffered from numerous problems in recent years. Where Tetra once dominated the filter market, they are now seen as the “cheap” filters. When I first started in the fish keeping hobby, nearly all of my filters were Tetra filters. But after numerous problems and a few filters outright dying, I switched to Aquaclear and Marineland Penguin filters. While I don’t currently operate any Tetra filters on my tanks. that shouldn’t deter you if you are looking for an affordable basic filter. The best thing that can be said about the Tetra Whisper filter is that it is by far the most affordable filter of the four listed here. And when it is working properly, it is a good little filter. The filter operation is quiet and it will keep the water clean and clear. However, the negatives on the Tetra Whisper filter do tend to outweigh the good. Many of these filters end up becoming annoyingly loud after a short period of time, and some have been reported to even shake continually. They also suffer from the  flow problem that plagues several  other types of filters, and even after a thorough cleaning, can still have a anemic flow at best. The Tetra Whisper filters are also known to have common durability issues, and in a review that is completed based on my personal experience and several other people who have purchased them, it’s not unusual for a filter to die within the first year of operation. Though this by no means implies that all filters will cease functioning that quickly and this may have been caused by other problems outside of Tetra’s control. The best place to find deals on the Tetra Whisper Power Filter is at Amazon.com

Comments

  1. ryan christensen says

    My aqueon spit out fine particles on me had to dump the water clean the gravel by hand and boil it clean the ordiments wash the aquarium outside and reset it up to get it too work . Will be replacing it as soon as possible with a non carbin setup.

      • ryan christensen says

        The c4 and aqua 70 and fluval aquaclear come with bags that catch the good bacteria ille just use that and the spunge and skip the carbon. It will still perform just as good without carbon.

      • ryan christensen says

        My aqueon still works but there is no telling what will happen after my next change I don’t trust it.

  2. ryan christensen says

    It was spuing particles and dust that should be picked up that created white fog the only way too fix it was to dump the entire tank.

  3. Tim Calhoun says

    I bought an Aqueon tonight. I’m not pleased. It is much louder than expected. The flow is great. I like the adjustable intake tube. I pondered on the MarineLand for halfan hour and went with the Aqueon due to flow rate/price ratio. I will be exchanging it tomorrow. Thanks for the review. I have recently started keeping discus. I will eventually run a refugium. But the extra media space in the Aqua Clear has sold me.

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