- Top 11 Best HOB Filters You Can Buy
- 1. Grech Hang-On Back Filter
- 2. Aquatop Hang On Back Aquarium Filter
- 3. AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter
- 4. Fluval C Power Filter
- 5. Penn Plax Aquamarine Cascade Hob Filter
- 6. Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Filters
- 7. Marineland Penguin Power Filter
- 8. MarineLand Emperor Filter Systems
- 9. Seachem Tidal Power Aquarium Filter
- 10. Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter
- 11. AZOO Mignon Filter
- Where to Install The Filter
- How to Assemble The Power Filter
- How to Start a HOB Filter
- How to Maintain Your HOB Filter
- When to Change The Filter Cartridge
- Our Suggested Picks for Best HOB Filter
Searching for the perfect filter for your aquarium setup can be a draining task. It seems like a new product emerges on shelves every week, promising the best filtration.
Hang-on back (HOB) filters are proper for aquariums of all types. They can sort out waste and toxins such as nitrites and ammonia, as well as oxygenate the water with the return flow to the tank.
HOB filters turn out to be a good option for developing your aquarium’s colony of beneficial bacteria. Bacteria will grow in both filter media and filter housing.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the best HOB filters for your fish tank. Now have a look and come up with your most favorite option.
Top 11 Best HOB Filters You Can Buy
The Grech HOB filter is available in two sizes, including 10-30 gallons and 25-50 gallons. It comprises a built-in UV sterilizer that can help impede algae growth. Besides, it comes with a surface skimmer that will push oil and pollutants from the water’s surface.
The filtration system includes biological, chemical, mechanical, and UV filtration. It consists of a completely replaceable and customizable filter sponge, activated carbon, and ceramic rings. Notably, the filter media is customizable, so you can replace the included media with whatever you love to use.
Moreover, the filter insert area stays out of the back, making it easier for you to clean and maintain.
- Three-stage filtration with a UV sterilizer and skimmer
- Waterfall output
- Quiet operation
- Easy to clean and customize
- Extendable intake
- Primming required
- The UV light might be hard to replace.
The HOB filter from Aquatop has three different sizes, up to 15 gallons, 25 gallons, and 40 gallons. It is packed with a bio-sponge, filter cartridge, UV sterilizer, and built-in surface skimmer. As the biggest option only reaches up to 40 gallons, more than one filter will be needed for larger aquariums.
The Aquatop filter involves a three-stage filtration process. The bio sponge and cartridge are made of filter floss and activated carbon and are replaceable as well.
It is possible to extend the intake on this filter and the output is similar to a waterfall. A sponge is required over the intake for breeding aquariums and shrimp tanks. Plus, a baffle is required to protect small fish and inverts.
- Sleek, appealing design
- Three-stage filtration
- Come in three sizes
- Easy to set up
- Replaceable filter cartridges
- Suitable for freshwater and saltwater tanks
- Somewhat expensive
- Priming required
- Intake cover and baffle required for fry and shrimp
The AquaClear CycleGuard Power filter is well known for its efficient multi-stage filtration, appealing design, and adjustable flow rate. This filter is constructed from grey-tinted clear plastic, making it simple to track the filter media.
This HOB filter has 4 different sizes, including up to 20 gallons, 20-50 gallons, 30-70 gallons, and 60-110 gallons.
The unit provides three-stage filtration, a sponge for mechanical filtration, ceramic rings for biological filtration, and an activated carbon pack for chemical filtration. In addition, the filter insert area lifts out of the unit, helping you clean and customize with ease.
Moreover, the filter includes a gentle, waterfall-like output with controllable flow via a simple-to-use switch mechanism. The filter intake is also extendable, suitable for aquariums of all heights.
The filter is suggested for overstocked tanks and aquariums with heavy bioloads, like goldfish aquariums. Plus, with an intake cover, you can use the filter for breeder and shrimp tanks.
- Adjustable flow
- Four size options
- Easy to clean and customize
- Extendable intake
- Replaceable filter media
- Three-stage filtration
- Primming needed
- An intake cover is required for breeder and shrimp tanks
Another HOB filter we want to introduce to you is the Fluval C aquarium power filter. It has a capacity for 10 to 70 gallons of water, with a canister filter and a heavy filtration capacity of 264 gallons every hour.
This dominates any quad filtration system with a program set up to implement a 5-stage filtration system. The system involves a filtration process of high-grade biological media for clean water and an adjustable flow rate.
Additionally, the water intake tube is a telescope and the re-filtration system is great for your water quality. Plus, the hob filter cartridges system clips on the aquarium, which facilitates usage and maintenance.
- Special filter pad comprises polyester, foam pad, bio screen, carbon filters, and c nodes.
- Low noise levels
- Filtration rate of 264 gallons per hour
- Quite challenging to clean the small parts of the filter
- Might get clogged up sometimes
The Penn Plax Cascade offers both hob filters and canister filters as a filter media unit. The hob filter is built with a quad filtration system and a bio-wheel. Its sizes range from as low as 20 gallons up to 300 gallons.
This filter unit makes use of an activated carbon cartridge to preserve beneficial bacteria and eliminate waste and toxins from the water. Its bio-wheel design also keeps your aquarium at prime oxygenation levels with the filtration media.
What’s more, an adjustable flow knob allows you to control the filtration speed, so feeding times will not be interrupted by filtration.
This model can work for both freshwater and saltwater setups.
- Biological filtration keeps useful bacteria and gets rid of waste.
- Activated carbon power filter media mitigates discoloration and odors.
- Knob to control the flow rate for feeding time
- Bigger sizes should be enhanced with filter floss or an LED indicator system.
- It might be difficult to reboot after a power cut.
This HOB filter designed by Aqueon brings you a four-stage filtration process that ensures a clean and safe environment for your fish.
These filtration stages involve transferring the tank water through mechanical, biological, and chemical filters, and a wet/ dry diffuser grid.
With healthy flow rates, you can always be assured that the dissolved oxygen will reach the fish in no time.
In addition, the unit includes an incredible internal pump, which significantly reduces the noise of operation, mitigates the causes of leaks, and will restart automatically in case of a power blackout.
- Used for both freshwater and saltwater tanks
- Four-stage filtration system
- A higher flow rate generates more oxygen
- Not made of high-quality material
The Marineland HOB filter has a strong construction base for enhanced durability. It filters your water tank through three filtration stages (mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration media).
This HOB filter has a large surface area, which helps take in more water for filtration. The system will effectively dispose of detrimental bacteria, chemical residues from an enormous amount of water by increasing contact time with media.
Moreover, the unit is filled with a Rite-Size filter cartridge and does a good job of removing debris and dirt.
The remarkable feature of the filter is a built-in alarm that will warn you of the water level. If the water level declines too low and affects the survival of your inhabitants, the alarm will go off to inform you.
- Durable construction
- Robust filtration
- Rite-Site cartridges
- 100% water to media contact
- Regular maintenance required
- The bio-wheel seems to be fragile.
Another quality filter option from MarineLand – the MarineLand Emperor Filter is an excellent model, flushing out chemical substances, waste, food residue, etc. With a powerful flow rate of up to 400 GPH, this HOB filter can change any type of contaminated water into a safe environment for your beloved fish.
The filter can handle an 80-gallon tank. It can facilitate a huge amount of media in the grey media baskets. With such a strong flow rate, the water pressure is kept stable, so your fish won’t be frightened.
The dual bio wheels included in this unit helps in the growth of beneficial bacteria. Moreover, these wheels enhance the filtration process.
This HOB filter is equipped with a long intake tube, so it can fit any type of fish tank. It offers two intake sections – one in the middle of the tube and the other at the bottom. There are also special filter pads that make filtering the water even more effective.
- Powerful three-stage filtration
- Two bio wheels for a healthy ecosystem
- Durable and efficient
- Quiet operation
- Additional filter pad slots
- Spray bars might be clogged easily.
- The flow rate cannot be adjusted.
The HOB filter market has been crowded for some time, so it’s good to see Seachem launching a brand new line of the filter. The Tidal series features some superior, modern tweaks to a design.
By adding a second intake valve to the waterline, the Tidal series can clear the surface of organic debris. These proteins can slow down the exchange of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases.
The filter allows you to flexibly adjust the flow, in terms of overall output and between the telescoping pipe and the surface.
While the majority of the media covered in HOB filters is of average quality, the Tidal is built with Seachem Matrix that is one of the best biomedia options.
Seachem Matrix includes micropores small enough for the bacteria that consume nitrate and turn it into nitrogen to live in. Other biomedia mostly can only transform ammonia into nitrate, which then accumulates until you implement a water change.
When your filtration media gets clogged with debris and bacteria expansion, water flow begins to get blocked. Usually, you will see water bypassing the media instead of flowing through it for processing. Fortunately, the Tidal HOB filters contain an indicator that informs you when water is bypassing, beckoning it’s time for a cleansing.
- Surface and deep water intake options
- Full flow customization
- Self-primming pump
- Average sized biomedia compartment
- A lot of features are unavailable on the smallest unit (Tidal 35)
The Tetra Whisper IQ HOB filter line really impresses users in how well they deal with noise.
Every unit comprises a soft SoundShield barrier that separates the motor from the rest of the unit. Combined with the compact, dense polymer design, vibrations are completely removed. This is the ideal model for bedrooms or other noise-sensitive spaces.
The filter brings you two different filter cartridge styles, including a standard design with cotton gloss and activated carbon and one containing Stay Clean tablets.
These tablets leverage slow-release agents that gradually connect to floating particles. That makes them big enough to be sorted out by the filter or sink to the bottom of the tank. This smart mechanism boosts water clarity, particularly in aquariums with plenty of organic debris, like planted tanks.
What’s more, the flow rate is easy to adjust, allowing for more surface agitation if necessary. You can also decrease it for slow-swimming fish like bettas or to prevent bothering floating plants.
- Perfectly designed to dampen noise
- Affordable price
- Stay Clear tablets for better water clarity
- Much less space for bio media
This is a petite HOB filter that is recommended for up to 3.5 gallons. It utilizes mechanical and biological filtration and provides replaceable sponges.
The AZOO Mignon Filter consists of a prefilter sponge and adjustable flow, making it an ideal option for the betta, shrimp, and breeder tanks. It is made to work quietly and with minimal vibration.
The filter needs to fill with tank water before running to prevent burning out the motor. Additionally, it features an automatic water recovery system that ensures the pump will automatically restart after a power blackout.
- Two-stage filtration
- Include a prefilter sponge
- Adjustable flow
- One size is available only
- Used for tanks up to 3.5 gallons only
- Need to be filled with tank water before working
Where to Install The Filter
As the name indicates, HOB filters hang on the top edge of the tank. Most aquarists put the filter on the back of the fish tank, keeping the filter out of sight.
It’s essential to ensure there is enough room behind the tank for the filter to fit. Some filter designs are bigger than others and need more space between the wall and the aquarium.
If you’re keeping a plastic tank hood and light, you might need to trim away your plastic to make room for the filter. Most tank hoods have unique cut-out areas on the back of the light. These are made to easily snap off a section of plastic, so the filter will fit the aquarium.
Another popular design utilizes a removable plastic filler strip. You just need to mark the filter strip, trim it with scissors and slip it back in place. Now your filter will stay on the back of the tank.
If you use an open-top tank, you can put the filter anywhere on the tank.
How to Assemble The Power Filter
HOB filters vary from very simple to very complicated designs.
Read the manual to know the components of the filter. Check the parts list to ensure you have everything you need before beginning the installation. That lets you return the filter immediately if something is missing.
Your filter may get a leveling tab on the bottom of the filter box. The tab enables you to adjust the tilt of the filter. If the filter is tilting backward, it might cause water to splash over the filter box’s back.
Ensure the pump and impeller are seated precisely. Gradually you will need to clean these, so it’s a great idea to take a close look before the installation.
Check the routing of the power cord. You want to create a drip loop, as mentioned in the setup instruction. The drip loop prevents water from going down the power cord and into the outlet. If water flows down to the outlet, it will lead to a short and trip the breaker, even start a fire. Carefully check your filter manual to find out how to generate a drip loop.
How to Start a HOB Filter
When assembled and put on the tank, add water to the filter box until it overflows into the tank. Your aquarium should be full of water, to the top of it.
Adding water to the filter is called priming (Some filter units are self-priming and don’t require to be filled with water at start-up). Then, plug in the power cord. The filter will likely make a short grinding noise when the impeller begins. This is normal.
You also might hear whooshing sounds and see many bubbles pour into the tank. This occurs when the filter flushes air out of the system. Besides, the pump may create a little bit of noise when it breaks in. This can last for an hour or more.
Now it’s time to look inside the filter box and check how the water passes through the system. You’ll find how water goes to the filter via the uplift tube, flows through the pump, and runs back to the tank by gravity.
After that, you slip the filter cartridge into the filter. Check how water goes through the cartridge and into the tank. When the filter becomes dirty, it will be more difficult for water to go through. This will make the water level in the filter box increase.
This is the reason why it is so crucial to ensure the filter is level and not tilting backward. If it is tilted backward, the water might slosh over the back, damping the floor and causing damage.
How to Maintain Your HOB Filter
It requires regular maintenance to keep your filter working at peak effectiveness. It doesn’t matter whether it is a tiny HOB for a nano aquarium or a large multi-cartridge system for a huge tank.
Whenever you feed your fish, ensure the intake screen is clear of debris like plant leaves and algae. A clogged intake screen will not let water enter the filter. However, never start the filter without the screen. Your fish might get sucked into the filter and be killed. Even a big fish can get trapped against the pump’s suction.
If the intake screen is absent, snails and other debris might jam the impeller and block the impeller from turning. Gradually the filter will form a layer of biological slime on the magnet and impeller. The slime will generate drag on the impeller and decrease effectiveness.
Every six months, you should remove the impeller and cleanse it with a small brush. Some aquarists leverage this as a chance to scrub out the whole filter. Bring the filter to the sink and disassemble the uplift tube and intake screen. Clean each surface with a paper town or small brush.
It might be difficult to clean the uplift tube. One way is to push a piece of paper towel across the tube with a pencil. You also can use a particular uplift tube brush if you find it hard to use the paper towel.
When to Change The Filter Cartridge
The most widely-used type of HOB filter is the filter cartridge. The cartridge includes porous polyester material adhered to a rigid plastic frame. The frame helps keep the polyester material in great shape and prevents it from collapsing under the pressure triggered by flowing water. A lot of cartridges contain activated carbon inside.
New ones are porous and might not capture much debris. However, a biofilm coats the fibers and narrows the spaces in between the poly fibers. This helps the cartridge better trap fine bits of particulate matter. This effectiveness-enhancing coating is called “filter cake” in the industrial water filtration aspect.
A “mature” filter can catch tiny particles that go through a fresh filter cartridge. The new cartridge takes about one week to become mature.
Nevertheless, the cartridge might become clogged after 30 to 45 days. Water cannot go through it, so it bypasses the cartridge and runs back to the aquarium.
HOB filters are invented to let water bypass if a cartridge gets clogged. If the cartridge has activated carbon, it will work for about three to four weeks as maximum. If you want your fish tank to stay clean and clear, it’s a must to change the cartridge every month or even sooner if it is too dirty.
Our Suggested Picks for Best HOB Filter
|1||Grech Hang-On Back Filter||$||Buy on Amazon!|
|2||Aquatop Hang On Back Aquarium Filter||$$||Buy on Amazon!|
|3||AquaClear CycleGuard Power Filter||$||Buy on Amazon!|
|4||Fluval C Power Filter||$||Buy on Amazon!|
|5||Penn Plax Aquamarine Cascade Hob Filter||$||Buy on Amazon!|
|6||Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Filters||$||Buy on Amazon!|
|7||Marineland Penguin Power Filter||$||Buy on Amazon!|
|8||MarineLand Emperor Filter Systems||$$||Buy on Amazon!|
|9||Seachem Tidal Power Aquarium Filter||$||Buy on Amazon!|
|10||Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter||$||Buy on Amazon!|
|11||AZOO Mignon Filter||$||Buy on Amazon!|
When it comes to picking a HOB filter, we’ve got you covered. We’ve shown you a hand-picked list of HOB filter solutions, and we hope that you can select something here that meets your filtration requirements.
Your stunning fish deserve a stable and healthy environment, and you deserve to happily watch your aquarium without worrying about the water quality as well as the overall ecosystem.
So which HOB filter is your last choice? We would love to hear from you.