Equipment, Filters & media, Reviews

The 6 Best 5-Gallon Fish Tank Filters (2024 Expert Picks)

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by Jason Matthews

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Updated:

Our Top Picks 

Best for Budget: AquaClear, Fish Tank Filter

The Aquaclear Fish Tank Filter provides a budget-friendly way to keep your aquarium clean. With this filter, the water will look clearer, and you’ll be able to see your fish in high definition!

Best for Functionality: Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter

The Marineland Penguin 75 is an optimal pick if you want a high-quality filter for your 5-gallon tank, filtering water up to 15 times per hour, which is far more than the minimum amount needed.

Best Internal Filter: Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

The Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter is an excellent, budget-friendly option for an internal filter that also works as quietly as your room heater.


Many people think that filtration systems are only necessary for big fish tanks. But even if you have a small, 5-gallon aquarium, it’s essential to use a nano tank filter to maintain water quality. If you don’t, fish waste and other impurities will pollute the water and potentially poison your fish over time.

A wide array of filters is available for purchase, making it tough to decide which is best for you and your fish. To help narrow down the options, we’ve compiled a list of the six best 5-gallon aquarium filters on the market today.

With one of these filters, you can rest easy knowing that your fish tank will always have clean, healthy water. Not only will your fish thank you, but so will your wallet – these filters are all affordable options. Stay connected with us to explore the top-of-the-line filters!

The 6 Best Filters for Your 5-Gallon Tank

1. AquaClear, Fish Tank Filter

aquaclear 5-20 gallon filter

★★★★★

AquaClear, Fish Tank Filter

  • Size: 5-20 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 100 GPH

Affiliate links / Images from Walmart

The Aquaclear Fish Tank filter is an affordable way to keep your tank clean. The water will be crystal clear, and you’ll feel like you’re seeing your fish in high definition! This product is compact (5.0 x 4.0 x 6.25 inches), so it takes up less room on the back of any standard-sized 5-gallon tank giving your fish more room to swim around.

Not only does this filter have three stages of filtration, but it also features refiltration. This enables you to clean not only your tank 6 times an hour but also select a lower flow rate that recirculates up to 50% of the water inside the filter for even better results.

Product Specifications 

  • Size: 5-20 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 100 GPH
  • 3-stage filtration media
  • Dimensions: 5.0 (w) x 4.0 (d) x 6.25 (h) inches

Pros 

  • Very easy to use
  • Adjustable flow & refiltration
  • 7 times larger than comparable fish tank filters
  • Lifetime Guarantee on all non-replaceable parts 

Cons 

  • Costs slightly more than other filters

2. Marina Power Filter

Marina Power Filter

★★★★★

Marina Power Filter

  • Size: up to 10 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 55 GPH

Affiliate links / Images from Walmart

At only 2 inches protruding from the wall, the Marina S10 hang-on back filter will save you space. Its 55 GPH flow rate keeps your 5-gallon tank clean by cycling it up to 11 times per hour while also maintaining peak water quality. The current created by the filter is adjustable, making it ideal for fish with delicate fins.

This filter is adjustable, so you can easily use it for a 5-gallon tank. With this model, you’ll need to use the marina’s filter cartridges, but you can customize it to a certain degree by adding your own filter media.

Product Specifications 

  • Size: up to 10 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 55 GPH
  • Two filter cartridges
  • Dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 3.70 (d) x 7.30 (h) inches

Pros 

  • Self-priming
  • Easy to clean
  • Adjustable flow control
  • Quiet operation

Cons 

  • The motor takes up so much space

3. Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

★★★★★

Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

  • Size: up to 10 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 57 GPH
  • 3-stage filtration

Affiliate links / Images from Walmart

Suppose you’re looking for an excellent internal filter option that won’t break the bank and also happens to double as a silent room heater. In that case, I recommend checking out the Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter. It comes in black to help it blend into most tank backgrounds but is still visible even though it’s internal.

The flow rate is adjustable, meaning you can keep it low to create a slow current so your fish won’t have trouble swimming through. You also get to choose the flow direction thanks to the extendable and rotational outflow tube – giving you ultimate control over your 5-10-gallon tank.

Product Specifications 

  • Size: up to 10 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 57 GPH
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Fully submersible
  • Dimensions: 2.75 (w) x 1.5 (d) x 5.38 (h) inches

Pros 

  • Reasonably priced filter
  • Adjustable flow
  • The extendable and rotational outflow tube
  • Quiet operation

Cons 

  • Replacing the filter media can be difficult
  • The provided filter cartridges aren’t very good

4. Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter

marineland penguin bio-wheel

★★★★★

Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter

  • Size: up to 10 gallons
  • BioWheel technology
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 75 GPH

Affiliate links / Images from Walmart

The Marineland Penguin 75 is optimal if you want a high-quality filter for your 5-gallon tank but are working with a budget. This pump filters your water up to 15 times per hour, which is far more than the minimum amount needed and will save you money in the long run. Not only that, but it produces clean water as well!

Marineland’s Rite-Size A cartridge provides both mechanical and chemical filtration and can be easily lifted out for easy maintenance. The spinning bio-wheel comes in contact with the air and water, allowing beneficial bacteria to colonize rapidly. This provides great biological filtration.

Product Specifications 

  • Size: up to 10 gallons
  • BioWheel technology
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 75 GPH
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 5.0 (d) x 7.56 (h) inches

Pros 

  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to clean
  • Convenient penguin Rite size “a” cartridge

Cons 

  • Flow is not adjustable

5. Penn-Plax Cascade 20 Power Filter

Penn-Plax Cascade 20 Power Filter

★★★★★

Penn-Plax Cascade 20 Power Filter

  • Size: up to 07 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 20 GPH
  • 3-stage filtration

Affiliate links / Images from Walmart

The Penn Plax Cascade hang-on filter efficiently filters tanks that are up to 7 gallons. You will need to replace the cartridge less frequently, every 6 – 12 weeks, compared to other models of filters on the market. This particular filter comes with biological, mechanical, and chemical filter media.

In addition to the filter media that it comes with, you can also customize your tank by adding your own personal touches! The flow rate is adjustable so that you can ensure your fish is comfortable and not being pushed around by a strong current. You can even turn the tank into a mini paradise!

Product Specifications 

  • Size: up to 07 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 20 GPH
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Dimensions: 3. 75 (w) x 3 (d) x 4. 5 (h) inches

Pros 

  • Adjustable flow knob
  • Wet/Dry biological filtration
  • Disposable, double-sided media cartridges 
  • Sufficient space to use your own filter media

Cons 

  • The color is not very pleasant
  • The flow rate at 20GPH is unimpressive

6. Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter with BioScrubbe

tetra whisper in-tank filter

★★★★★

Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter with BioScrubbe

  • Size: up to 10 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 80 GPH
  • 3-stage filtration

Affiliate links / Images from Walmart

Another option you might want to consider is the Tetra Whisper in-Tank Filter. Although it’s made for 10-gallon tanks, it can also be used in 5-gallon tanks because of its 80 GPH flow rate. The large size of the filter can be an eyesore, but it’s whisper-quiet.

This filter will cycle all your water slightly more than five times per hour–the optimal range needed to keep your fish safe from toxins! This product only takes up a tiny amount of space, so it can go in any corner without taking away too much swimming room for your little fishies!

Product Specifications 

  • Size: up to 10 gallons
  • Filter type: Hang On Back
  • Flow rate: up to 80 GPH
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 4 (d) x 8 (h) inches

Pros 

  • Easy to change Whisper Bio bags
  • Convenient design
  • The filter is nice and quiet
  • Economic

Cons 

  • The filter is quite large.

How to Pick the Best Aquarium Filter For Your tank

It can be tricky to decide which filter to buy for your fish tank when so many different products are on the market. Keep these factors in mind to ensure you’re happy with your purchase. By doing so, you’ll hopefully end up exceeding all of your expectations for the new filter.

Space and  Size of Aquarium

Be sure to select a filter that corresponds with the size of your fish tank. 5-gallon fish tanks come in all sorts of styles and shapes, such as

  • Some are standard rectangular prisms of around 21 x 14 x 18 inches.
  • Some have a taller, thinner portrait shape.
  • Some have a peninsula style with longer widths and shallower depth back to front.

When picking a filter for your 5-gallon tank, don’t just go for the one that physically fits. It’s essential also to make sure there’s space for decorations and that your fish have enough room to swim around. HOBs and canisters are great options since most of the unit sits outside the tank. Smaller sponges and internal filters can work well too.

Filter Flow Rate

The speed at which your filter cleans all the water in your tank is called the flow rate. It’s calculated by gallons per hour (GPH) and means how many times an hour all the water in your tank cycles through the filter.

The flow rate you need varies depending on the type of fish you want to keep. Choose a filter with an adjustable flow or redirection feature so that your fish can live happily ever after in their little kingdoms.

The average minimum flow rate should be 4 to 5 gallons per hour to maintain a quality freshwater tank. However, note that more flow is always better. So for a standard 5-gallon aquarium, look for an external filter with at least a 20 to 25 GPH flow rate.

Additionally, the best 5-gallon aquarium filters will have an adjustable flow; this allows you to regulate the current according to your fish’s needs. Many canisters, HOBs, and internal filters on the market include this feature.

3-Stage Filtration Media 

It is more difficult to maintain water quality in a small aquarium, so the best option for your 5-gallon tank filters is to use 3-stage filtration media such as

  • Mechanical – for debris
  • Chemical – for chemicals
  • Biological – for bacteria

Smaller filters will typically utilize cartridges that have all 3 forms of filtration included; however, they can be pricey.

A regular sponge filter might do for your 5-gallon fish tank if it only hosts one fish. But remember, such filters come with just a mechanical and biological stage–which makes them more suitable for tanks housing fewer fish.

Minimal Noise Impact

Nobody wants a filter that creates a lot of noise–it can disrupt the tranquility of your fish tank. Many small filters are usually quiet such as

  • Canister filters are often one of the more silent types of aquarium filters because an external unit is water-driven rather than air, lessening vibrations.
  • HOBs and small internal filters can also be very quiet when their motor and impeller are submerged in water.
  • Sponge filters are slightly less expensive; the vibration from the external air pump may make them louder than other types.

Easy Keep-Up

When you have a 5-gallon aquarium, space is limited, so it’s more important to choose a filter that’s easy to take care of.

  • Internal filters – You will need to clean them regularly, and you may have to take them out of the tank to do so.
  • The HOB filter – It’s easy to maintain because the media and impeller are both accessible from the top.
  • Cartridges – you can either use easy-to-replace ones or customize them with your own media.

Conclusion 

You have a few different filter options that will work with your 5-gallon tank, but the best pick for you ultimately depends on what you can afford and which features are most important to you. However, an essential factor to remember is the filter’s flow rate. Make sure that the filter you’re considering has enough specified flow rate to be used with a 5-gallon tank before making any purchase decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Often Do You Change the Filter in a 5-Gallon Fish Tank?

Remember to switch out the filter media for new ones every three to four weeks at most, and give the filter housing a rinse while you’re at it. If there’s any algae or debris in the intake tube, clean that too.

What Size Filter Do You Need for a 5 Gallon Tank?

Depending on the type of fish you want to keep, the flow rate will differ. To have a freshwater tank that is high quality, the average minimum flow rate should be 4-5 gallons per hour. For example, if you have a 5-gallon aquarium, look for an external filter with at least a 20-25 GPH flow rate.

Should a Filter Be at the Top or Bottom of a Tank?

Most filters come with suction cups to attach them outside of the tank. If your model does not have these, make sure that the filter is installed below the water level—this way, air bubbles can rise and properly filter the media while drawing water through it.

About

Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

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