I know what you’re thinking, “what’s the best aquarium filter for large tanks?” Well, this is a question I hear often, and I have the answer! One of the more challenging aspects of owning a fish tank is having to clean it.
Larger aquariums are safer for their size. If something gets unbalanced or toxicity builds up in the water, large tanks have high volumes of water that dilute it and keep things balanced. However, they’re still prone to some problems and need an adequate filtration system.
Of course, filters are necessary for any aquarium setup, but choosing the right type can be difficult, specifically for large tanks.
Luckily for you, we’ve found some great products that will help strip your aquariums water, so they stay clear and healthy-looking without all the scrubbing!
I hope this article will help!
What Size Is Considered As A Large Tank?
The bigger, the better! Anything above 75-gallon is typically considered a large fish tank. So big home aquariums can range anywhere from 75 gallons to 400 gallons depending on how much space you have in your house or apartment.
To fill your home with the colorful and diverse underwater world, you will need a sufficiently big fish tank. Most people who wish to have a large fish tank opt for between 100-200 gallons as it is enough room for some really cool aquatic life and won’t completely take over an entire side of one’s living quarters.
What To Look For In Filters For A Large Aquarium?
Your fish need food and water just like you do. But when it comes to their tanks, not all sizes of aquariums require the same things! For large tanks, here’s some information on filters you should consider, and that will help keep everything running smoothly:
1) Appropriate Capacity
A good way to select the perfect aquarium filter for your fish tank is by checking out how much water it can cycle (GPH) per hour. The ideal GPH should be four to five times the tank gallon.
If you have a huge tank and planning on using two filters, it is not a bad idea at all – just make sure they match the exact GPH so that you don’t create a current too strong for the inhabitants of your pet kingdom.
A higher GPH means more possibilities for healthier conditions in their tank which can be good news for your fish or plant. However, it also has some drawbacks, such as too much movement from the current could stress certain kinds of fish who don’t enjoy being moved around constantly.
Like betta fish do not tolerate moving water very well because they cannot comfortably swim when feeling stressed.
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If the GPH of your aquarium filter is not up to par, this could result in “dead spots” in some areas where there’s not enough water circulation to break down waste or purify the water properly.
Dead spots also allow harmful bacteria and parasites like ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) or whiptail worms (Paracaudinae sp.) to thrive unchecked.
If you want an absolutely clean tank with perfect water quality, keep this important factor top priority! Installation of a filter with higher GPH will help keep these pockets from growing and allow for healthier fish living conditions as well!
2) Filtration Stages
Most large aquarium filters will have all three stages of filtration. These are mechanical, biological, and chemical. Different types of filter media are there to accomplish the job.
The balance is important when designing your filter for a larger tank. However, it might not need much focus on chemical filtration because there’s already enough biological and mechanical cleaning to do all the tasks almost.
Aquarium filters trap debris and waste with media like foam and sponges. When water passes through those filter media, solid wastes are removed from the aquarium’s water by a process called mechanical filtration.
Biological filtration in aquariums is responsible for removing ammonia and nitrites from the water. It does this by using media that bacteria can grow on to do most of the work, called the nitrogen cycle.
Chemical filtration aims to extract toxins, heavy metals, and chemicals from the aquarium water as it passes over some kind of chemical resin or media.
Traditionally activated carbon was used for this purpose. Now, specially targeted products remove specific substances from fish tank water depending on what you need your filter to do.
3) Type Of Filter
Filters come in many different types. The most common filter you will see is the HOB (hang on back) and canister filters, while other less-common filters include undergravel, internal submersible, and sponge filters.
However, a canister-type filter is the most suitable for large aquariums, and HOB filters are the second choice. Other types are not really ideal for larger tanks as they can’t generate sufficient water flow.
Hang On Back (HOB) Filters
HOB filters are a compact and straightforward piece of equipment that requires an easy setup. The water is pushed through filter media, which boosts the cleanliness by removing impurities like fish waste or chemicals in the tank.
HOBs can be noisy due to splashing sounds when returning filtered water back into your aquarium; however, most include an adjustable flow rate option, so you don’t have to worry about it being too loud!
HOB aquarium filters are popular among planted aquarists because they take up so little space and have no compromise to make with the visual appeal. In addition, since they sit externally at the aquarium’s rear end, only one part is visible from a front view.
Canister filters are the best for large tanks; they offer superior filtration to any other filter.
They’re also expensive, though but do require less maintenance than other types of filters. So, if you want a healthy fish tank with little work involved, then it’s worth spending money on these high-tech canisters.
You will position your canister filter outside the aquarium, with the most common location being under it and hidden by a stand.
All three stages of filtration occur inside this casing (canister) – something to keep in mind if you’re looking for an efficient way to provide water treatment! You can read my detailed article on canister filter vs. HOB filter; which one is best for you?
Learn More On Canister Filter:
- A complete Guide on Canister Filter Setup for Beginners
- Is Canister Filter Not An Ideal Choice For Saltwater Setup?
- Review of Some of the Best Canister Filter for Saltwater Tanks
- Turtle Tank Filter, is Canister Filter the Best One?
When it comes to cleaning your filter, some can be more difficult than others.
For instance, the process is much easier for HOB filters, and you may not need to do so often either! The filter media replacement is more manageable, and you just need to wipe out the filter chamber.
But what about canister filters? You may have heard that canister filters are hard to clean, but the truth is that’s not impossible. The only part that’s really tough to get used to is opening and closing the filter, but it takes some practice before this becomes easy for you. And remember, you need to re-prime it after a filter change.
Related Article: What is the Correct Order to Insert Filter Media in A Filter
5) Practical Considerations
Filtration and power are not the only factors you need to consider when shopping for a new filter. You also have to think about how well it will fit in with your tank setup, what kind of space is needed around or near the aquarium, etc.
If you have a large aquarium in a congested area without much room, it wouldn’t be smart to use a HOB filter. Canister filters fit underneath your tank, so they don’t take up space around the tank.
You don’t want to ruin your view of the tank by having a vast, black filter box in the aquarium sight. The best way is to use an external filter system that does not spoil the aquascaping view.
12 Best Aquarium Filter For Large Tanks
My Top Pick: Penn Plax Cascade 1500 Canister Filter (Up To 200 Gallons)
Penn Plax’s Cascade series offers a heavy-duty multi-stage external filtration system, perfect for freshwater and saltwater aquariums up to 200 gallons. With user-friendly features that provide excellent qualities like durability, this product will be sure to take your tank from dirty to clean in no time!
With a multi-stage filtration process, this filter has got you covered. It comes with several media baskets that allow it to perform mechanical, biological, and chemical filters while creating an environment in your aquarium safe enough for marine creatures!
The Penn Plax Cascade 1500 Canister Filters are attached with two-valve taps that rotate 360 degrees, making maneuver flow in your aquarium easier. The filters also come equipped with a handy Flow Control Valve for added comfort and convenience!
The filter is automatically self-priming, so you can start the pump with just a few clicks. You don’t even need to prime it yourself!
Whether you are new or not when starting out on an aquarium journey, this one gives an incredible value between the quality of life factors like cost versus performance & ease of use – perfect balance indeed! If you want to know more about this filter unit, I would suggest reading my detailed review here.
- Easy to install and clean
- Adequate flow rate
- Large media capacity
- High power consumption
AquaClear Fish Tank Filter (Best HOB) (60 – 110 Gallons)
The AquaClear Fish Tank Filter is an excellent choice for those who have aquariums up to 110-gallon and need to keep up with their fish tank maintenance without too much effort on their part.
It’s got excellent flow capability that will keep all your water moving nicely! This filter comes complete with everything you need, including a sponge-like foam used for mechanical filtration and activated carbon filters for chemical filtering. In addition, the BioMax pieces are great at biological filtration.
So, this filter provides maximum mechanical, biological, and chemical filtrations – what more could you ask?
AquaClear Filters give you a quick and easy way to keep your fish tank running at its best. All it takes is two weeks of cleaning the filter for maximum efficiency and filtration!
The problem with this filter is that sometimes, it won’t start on its own after a short power failure.
- Large space for biomedia
- Small fry or shrimp safe
- Easy cleaning
- Starting problem after a power failure
Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter (100 – 150 Gallons)
With this filter, you’ll never have to worry about your fish tank water being cloudy or smelly. The 3-stage filtration unit includes various cleaning systems that keep the water crystal clear and fresh.
It comes pre-loaded with biological, chemical, and mechanical media, which removes waste from the water in your tank. Extra filters are also available if you need an upgrade!
It also comes with everything needed for installation at home!
The Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter is excellent because it really does provide easy maintenance in every way possible: pump locking head & quick disconnect valves make setup simple.
Besides a spray bar for additional aeration, the Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter has a unique backwater polishing unit that spins and is claimed to provide an extra level of filtration.
But to be frank, I haven’t found any use for that backwater polishing unit – still, it is a perfect filter indeed.
- Adequate media capacity
- Easy maintenance
- Reliable & handy
- Unnecessary water polishing unit
SunSun HW-404B External Canister Filter (Up To 150 Gallons)
The SunSun Pro Canister Filter Kit is a powerful canister filter that will give you great value for your money. Although it’s not very well-known in the world of filters, this product still earns praise and popularity because of its good reasons.
The SunSun Pro Canister Filter Kit is a complete filtration system containing everything you need to get your tank up and run.
The blue self-priming pump eliminates the need for manual siphoning, which promotes natural biofiltration in your aquarium!
This filter includes four flexible media trays that will help you achieve excellent mechanical filtration as well as chemical or biological filtration to keep your aquarium sparkling clean.
The UV sterilizer of the SunSun Pro Canister Filter can promote crystal clear water by killing algae spores and bacteria.
- UV sterilizer
- Operates quiet
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Large media storage
- Flimsy plastic parts
Fluval FX6 High-Performance Canister Filter (Up To 400 Gallons)
Fluval is a name that has been synonymous with aquarium innovation and quality for over 50 years.
They have had the most success in producing top-notch technology, better style, high-quality materials, and functionality – all properties of Fluval’s popular FX6 canister filter.
This product features an improved motor made from highly durable material to work more efficiently while using 10% less electricity than its predecessors!
The Fluval FX6 Canister Filter is a high-quality filter with precisely engineered bearings and a protective cover, which can minimize the noise created by the impeller.
The unit also has an enclosed design to protect it from moisture and debris for long-lasting durability!
With the self-priming pump, you’ll be able to set up the pump with ease and get it running in no time. So, you just need to add water and plug it in for your own easy filtration process!
Moreover, each filter basket has been precisely designed so that nothing gets by without being filtered through the six stages of a thorough purification process!
- Easy to set up
Polar Aurora 4-Stage External Canister Filter (Up To 200 Gallons)
If you’re looking for a massive filter, then the Polar Aurora External Canister Filter is just what your fish tank needs.
This product comes with 200 gallons of space in which to fill up and a 9-volt UV sterilizer that helps keep pesky algae at bay – all while being reasonably priced! It also has an impressive flow rate of 525 gallons per hour, so you can have quick cleanings.
The canister of this filter has four different media stages. These phases provide your fish with the purest water possible for their every need.
It also comes equipped with ceramic rings that fit inside to help filter impurities in the tank, and activated carbon helps remove any harmful chemicals from what is being filtered into it, like chlorine or chloramine.
Whereas coarse sponges trap solid particles and bio-balls promote biological filtration. And the good news is that you don’t have to buy these media separately.
- Easy to set up & cleaning
- Large media capacity
- Not too powerful
Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter (Up To 125 Gallons)
Have you been struggling to find the right filter for your large tank? You don’t have to look anymore because we’ve got a great option for you: the Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter!
It’s not just affordable, but it also operates quietly. However, we all know how annoying that is when your external filter makes so much noise, and thankfully this one won’t do such things!
The excellent feature of this filter is the 9-watt UV light! So if your tank suffers from algae problems, it is going to be a lifesaver. The lights kill up to 99% of all those pesky little bugs and keep it feeling fresh as new!
The Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter is a breeze to set up. It couldn’t be easier for novices and experts alike to quickly assemble the filter with little fuss or bother with its simple design.
- UV sterilizer
- Adjustable flow rate
- Relatively cheaper
- Electric shock
Lee’s 70/90 Premium Undrgravel Filter (Up To 90 Gallons)
The Lee’s 70/90 Premium Undergravel Filter is a hidden gem that helps clean your tank and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria through natural biological processes.
Lee’s 70/90 Premium Undergravel Filter is a favorite of many aquatic enthusiasts for its clean, crisp water. This filter includes carbon filtration cartridges to provide crystal clear water.
The unique material of this filter resists splitting or cracking, so it can be submerged in your tank with ease! At the same time, they are easy to clean!
This black undergravel filter is the nicest one, making it blend in with gravel for a natural look. It also does an excellent job of keeping tanks clean because you can use it alongside another power filter to achieve stellar water quality.
- Excellent biological filtration
- Efficient only with a secondary power/ canister filter
Marineland Penguin PRO Power Filter (Up To 90 Gallons)
One of the more common household fish tank filters, the power filter, has its limitation and, unlike canister filters, is not suitable for extra-large tanks. This brings us to Marineland’s Penguin PRO Power Filter, which works best with aquariums up to 90 gallons in size.
Marineland Penguin PRO Power Filter is a multi-stage filtration system that delivers mechanical, chemical, and biological aquarium filtration to maintain a clean aquatic environment.
This power filter has an easy-to-use lever handle that allows you to control the flow rate of water. In addition, the adjustable spray bar can be directed into any area of your aquarium.
The ultra-quiet motor and decoupled design make it relaxing to enjoy.
This Marineland filter provides wet/dry biological filtration for superior performance with bio-wheel technology, eliminating toxic ammonia and nitrates fast!
- Adjustable flow rate
- Easy setup & cleaning
- Water splashing sound
Hydor Professional External Canister Filter (Up To 150 Gallons)
If you’re looking for a filter that is not just stylish but also works well on large aquariums up to 150 gallons, the Hydor Professional External Canister Filter will do wonders.
It features four locking clamps and an anti-leak design, so there are no messes left behind after use.
This Hydor filter has three trays with ceramic rings, filter pads, and sponges to ensure your water is clean for your fish. In addition, the rotating spray bar will help oxygenate the tank while scrubbing away any dirt or debris from surfaces.
This high-quality filtration system also features an adjustable telescopic intake tube to be used in many different ways without excess hassle! In addition, the installation and mounting of this filter are super easy!
This filter is noise-free, and you won’t be bothered by humming noises! You can keep it in the bedroom or living room without being disturbed by any sound.
However, the only downside is that it does not have a carbon media for chemical filtration.
- Different types of filter media
- Easy installation & cleaning
- No carbon filter
OASE Indoor Aquatics Biomaster Thermo (Up To 160 Gallons)
The OASE Indoor Aquatics Biomaster Thermo is an absolute powerhouse that was designed with the future in mind. The innovative features come as no surprise considering this company has been around since 1949!
This filter is suitable for tanks up to 160-gallon, which means it’s perfect for those of us who want a large tank.
The Hel-x suspended filter media creates a sustainable environment for bacterial growth that mimics the natural aquatic state. The four-stage filtration process filters out all of our impurities and toxins from the water, making it safe for your aquatic pets!
The OASE Indoor Aquatics Biomaster Thermo is a unique aquarium filter with an integrated heater to provide uniform temperature throughout the tank.
This filter also comes with the EasyClean pre-filter module, which can be removed separately from the filter, reducing maintenance and increasing the efficiency of this great product!
- Adjustable flow
- UL certified heater
- Four-stage filtration
- Easy maintenance
Fluval 406 External Filter (Up To 100 Gallons)
The Fluval External Filter is one of the most popular choices among aquarium owners, and it has a sleek black design with red highlights on top.
The filter offers superior filtration capacity, thanks to its robust flow rate. In addition, its sturdy construction allows for an upright position, making cleaning much less difficult than other filters out there!
The Fluval 406 External Filter is a reliable choice for any aquarium that needs the assurance of clean and healthy water. The filter has not one but three media baskets full of space to place different filters inside, depending on what your tank needs most!
The first basket in this external filter holds carbon filtration, which removes odors from the water as well as discoloration so you can enjoy transparent colors without worrying about contaminants coming into contact with your fish’s home.
Whereas Fluval Biofoam performs biological filtration excellently, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. In addition, mechanical filtration is also superb!
You’ll have no problem installing this filter. You can even do it yourself if you want to save some time and money! It comes with a detailed step-by-step guide, so nothing is stopping you from having an amazing new home for your fish in just minutes.
- Hold adequate media
- Suitable for saltwater and freshwater
- Multiple filtration medias
- Relatively expensive
Problems From Sand Gets Caught In Filters
You usually don’t have to worry about sand getting sucked into your filters. Unless that is, a burrowing bottom feeder fish decides it wants to make itself at home in your tank and stir up some clouds with its digging motions. Sometimes, sand can damage your filter.
Sand getting caught by the filter can cause a major problem for fish tanks. If sand does not get cleaned out of the filter, it will clog the unit, and waste can start to build up in your tank with harmful consequences like more ammonia production!
The mechanical element of all filtration systems is an impeller or motor that draws water up through the filter unit and back into a tank. Unfortunately, if sand gets sucked in, it can damage moving parts on the system, which will eventually stop returning clean filtered water to your tanks!
That means the filtration system will no longer be available – and your tank is in danger of toxicity!
Damage To Filter Parts
Sand can damage important parts of your filtration system, particularly wearing down any plastic components. This will cause leaks and other malfunctions that will decrease its efficiency in filtering water.
Sump Filtration For Large Aquariums
Which one is better for larger tanks – canister or sump? If you have a saltwater tank, especially one with an elaborate reef system that takes more water care than a freshwater aquarium would need, it’s highly recommended to use a sump.
This can help regulate all the different aspects of your tank better and is essential for taking on any other tasks like adding protein skimmers or chemical filtration if needed without interfering with their function in the main body of the fish tank.
A sump filter is much simpler than you might expect. In the most basic terms, a sump tank is a small tank that draws in water from the main aquarium and regulates or filters it before returning it to maintain safe conditions for your fishy friends. Watch the video below to know how to set up a sump filter for aquariums.
Why Do You Need A Sump Tank?
There are undoubtedly several benefits to using a sump tank to support a large aquarium.
Increased Water Volume
Sumps provide extra gallons of water to the total tank volume. This will strengthen your system by lessening any chance for catastrophic failure or considerable fluctuations in pH and salinity levels, as everything is more diluted.
You’ll have a lot more control over what happens with your tank’s water, so you can react before anything becomes too problematic in your aquarium!
Adding a sump tank to your aquarium can help you keep all the ugly equipment out of sight. Not only will this make for an aesthetically pleasing setup, but it’ll also enable you to put the aquarium in places where space might not have been feasible before.
A HOB filter and other items like heaters, and protein skimmers occupy valuable floor or wall rooms nearby, but these things could be hidden inside away from view with a sump tank!
More Freedom To Use Tank Equipment
With a sump tank, you have more options for the betterment of your aquatic pet. You can use more equipment to maintain healthy water conditions. Your sump doesn’t need to look pretty- it just needs to work as a filtration system for water when pouring from one container into another higher up.
However, canister filters are not suitable for sumps, which is a limitation of it.
What Kind of Filter Can You Use In A Sump Tank?
Sump tanks don’t use traditional filtration; you can still have your own filter by hooking up an external power filter! But it would not be efficient.
You cannot use a canister filter with a sump tank. This is because canister filters are structured to take water out of the tank and filter it. Also, too much time may pass before this process occurs, so some water from your main tank may never reach the filtration system.
In order to maximize your sump tank’s filtration, consider setting up a customized filter. You can use the whole sump as one giant custom-made filtering system!
You can add e few dividers within the sump, thus creating filtration chambers full of different media types. The design should prevent water from bypassing any section and ensure each one has an equal balance between biological and mechanical filters for optimum performance.
Filters are generally made up of various combinations of gravel, sand, activated carbon (AC), nitrate traps, or denitrators that trap ammonia.
However, pre-made sumps are available in the market; you can buy and fill them with media or make your custom sump by looking up designs and instructions!
Our search for the perfect aquarium filter for large tanks has been long and arduous, but we finally found it – you guessed it: Penn Plax Cascade 1500 Canister Filter.
The Penn Plax Cascade filter is a necessary tool for experts and advanced fish tank owners. It’s great to use with inline heaters that larger tanks need, but this type of filter costs more money than the other types available.
If you choose a power filter, then think about the AquaClear Fish Tank Filter.
In fact, this product is powerful enough to keep a large tank clean while also being gentle on fish (and plants!). So, your aquatic friends won’t be buffeted around by strong currents because of its soft-water design!
I hope this guide helped you find something great too!
Read Filter Review for Other Tank Size: