fbpx
Tankarium is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Best Quiet Aquarium Filter – Silence And Efficiency Combined

An intrusive rattling and humming sound in the background can ruin your enjoyment of your aquarium, especially if your tank is in a bedroom or home office. The culprit is usually a noisy mechanical filter.

But can you buy a silent fish tank filter, and if not, what’s the quietest aquarium filter you can get?

Read this guide to discover the quietest fish tank filters on the market today.

Quick Comparisons Of The 7 Best Quiet Aquarium Filter

IMAGE

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

BRAND

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter With Media

DETAILS

  • Filter type: Canister
  • Tank size: Various from 40 to 92 gallons
  • Flow rate: GPH according to model size

Pricing

Penn-Plax Aquarium Canister Filter

BRAND

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

DETAILS

  • Filter type: Canister
  • Tank size: Various
  • Flow rate: GPH according to model size
Marina Power Filter

BRAND

Marina Power Filter

DETAILS

  • Filter type: HOB/Power filter
  • Tank size: 20 gallons
  • Flow rate: 92 GPH
Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter

BRAND

Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter

DETAILS

  • Filter type: HOB/Power filter
  • Tank size: Various sizes 3 to 40 gallons
  • Flow rate: Varies according to model
AquaClear, Fish Tank Filter, 20 to 50 Gallons, 50v, A610

BRAND

AquaClear – Fish Tank Filter

DETAILS

  • Filter type: HOB/Power filter
  • Tank size: 70 to 110 gallons
  • Flow rate: Varies, depending on model
NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter, Adjustable Fish Tank Filter with Water Pump for Fish Tank

BRAND

NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter

DETAILS

  • Filter type: Internal filter
  • Tank size: 50 to 150 gallons
  • Flow rate: 320 to 400 GPH, depending on model
AQUANEAT Aquarium Air Driven Bio Corner Filter Sponge Fry Shrimp Fish Tank 40 Gallon

BRAND

Aquaneat Air Driven Bio Corner Filter

DETAILS

  • Filter type: Air-driven filter
  • Tank size: 40-gallon
  • Flow rate: Depends on the size of pump you choose

Types of Filter and Noise Level

Marina Power Filters

There are many different types of filters to choose from. But, whatever variety of filter you opt for, you need to pick one that provides the correct circulation rate for your tank.

For efficient filtration and safe, clean water for your fish, you need a filtration system that gives you a GPH of at least four times the volume of your tank. GPH stands for Gallons Per Hour and refers to the number of times that the water in the aquarium is passed through the filter. Check the product packaging for the GPH flow rate of the unit.

Now, let’s take a look at the different styles of filters and find out which are the quietest.

Air-Driven Filter

Air-driven filters are the most basic kind of filter, consisting of three components:

Sponge aquarium filter icon. Isometric of sponge aquarium filter
  • Sponge filter
  • Air pump
  • Plastic airline tubing

The air pump is located outside the aquarium and is connected to the underwater sponge filter inside the tank via the airline tubing.

The pump pushes air through the tubing into the sponge filter box. Air bubbles rise through the sponge via a suction process that effectively draws fish waste and other particulates from the water into the sponge. Here, nitrifying bacteria break the waste products down into nitrates as part of the ongoing nitrogen cycle.

The continual bubbling helps to agitate the water surface and improve oxygen levels, while the flow is gentle enough not to trouble fish fry and slow-moving fish.

Beautiful planted tropical freshwater aquarium with fishes. Aquascape.

Air-driven sponge filters have been a favorite of newbies and experienced fishkeepers for many years. Little can go wrong with these units, as they have few moving parts, and, to avoid the risk of power outages, you can buy a backup battery pack. There’s no expensive filter media to replace, maintenance is quick and simple, and these filters are pretty quiet, too.

Hang-On-Back (HOB) Filter

HOB filters are placed on the outside of the tank rather than taking up valuable space inside. Everything you need is contained within a three-stage, often customizable filter unit. All you do is plug the unit in, switch it on, and you’re done.

Maintenance of HOB filters is straightforward because the filter media and impeller are readily accessible, and you can usually adjust the intake and flow rate, too.

Overhead Filter Waterfall Effect

Although the filter motor itself is relatively quiet, HOBs usually return the water to the tank via a kind of waterfall effect. Many people find the white noise of trickling water quite relaxing, although some find it intrusive. You can mitigate the sound by keeping the water level in the tank up to the fill-line and making sure that the HOB unit is not positioned too high.

Many newer model HOBs have a “slide-in” water return mechanism, rather than a waterfall, and that tends to keep noise levels to a minimum.

Sometimes, HOB filters are described as power filters, although they are essentially the same style of external filtration system.

To read more about HOB filters, check out our article at this link.

Canister Filter

Canister filters are pressurized three-stage filtration systems that are placed external to the tank, usually in the tank cabinet. You can buy canister filters that come complete or in a modular form that needs a separate pump. Many hobbyists like the modular style, as that allows you to combine different forms of filtration within the unit.

Canister filters use a U-tube that pulls water into the system and returns water to the aquarium via a spray bar. Water is drawn through the unit’s various chambers and filter media before being returned to the aquarium.

In our experience, canister filters are generally the most powerful systems that offer pretty much silent running.

You can read more about canister filters in the detailed article at this link.

Undergravel Filter

The undergravel filter is a simple system that sits on the floor of your tank underneath the gravel. A separate external pump pulls the water through the substrate, carrying any floating particulate waste with it underneath the filter plate, where it’s processed by the nitrifying bacteria that live there. The cleaned water is then dragged up through two uptake pipes that are attached to the back corners of the filter plate before draining back down into the aquarium.

The main drawback of the undergravel filter system is that it contains no filter media, so all the waste products finish up underneath the filter plate or are caught in the substrate. Again, the sound of trickling water can be irritating to some people, and the pump may make an audible humming sound.

To maintain the undergravel filter, you initially only need to use an aquarium vacuum once a week to clean the substrate while you carry out a partial water change. However, to get rid of all the accumulated waste underneath the filter plate, you will need to strip down your tank completely. Although you really only need to do that once a year, it’s a big job that will disrupt your fish and may damage the colonies of bacteria that you’ve cultivated on the filter plate and substrate.

You can learn more about how undergravel filters work in the guide at this link.

What Filter Is Quietest?

When it comes to the quietest aquarium filters, external canister units are streets ahead of other styles. That’s because canister filters contain units that operate outside of the tank. The systems are essentially water-powered, so there’s much less internal noise and vibration.

The water is returned to the unit via a tube, which still agitates the water surface for good oxygenation of the water, which is important for the health of your fish, but without the splashing or trickling of a waterfall to listen to. Also, most new models have inbuilt sound-dampening technology that keeps noise levels to a bare minimum.

Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter isolated in white background

So, in summary, in my experience, canister filters provide you with the most powerful and quietest filtration that you can get.

Some manufacturers provide the approximate noise levels of their filter units shown in decibels on the packaging, although not all do.

Our Top 7 Super-Quiet Aquarium Filter Reviews

Now that you know what to look for in a quiet, efficient aquarium filter unit, check out our reviews of 7 of the best on the market today.

1. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media
  • Filter type: Canister
  • Tank size: Various from 40 to 92 gallons
  • Flow rate: GPH according to model size
  • Noise level: Super-quiet

The EHEIM Classic is a tried and tested filter that has been around for decades, having sold millions, and for good reason.

The unit has a canister chamber, inlet pipe, hoses, spray bar, filtration media, and all the installation accessories you need. All the materials and parts are high-quality, well-made, and sturdy.

The stainless-steel clips that fix the motor head to the canister are a refreshing change from the usual cheap plastic ones that you’ll find with almost every other manufacturer. That means the clips won’t snap. If these do get out of shape, it’s a simple job to bend them back with a set of pliers.

The Classic doesn’t come with media trays, and that can be a downside for some users, as you need to keep the media separate when you remove it for cleaning. That said, in units that have media trays, accumulated gunk causes the water to bypass the filtration media completely, rendering the filter useless.

Customizable Filtration

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

The filter’s simple bucket design has the intake at the bottom and the exhaust at the top. That means that the water from your aquarium has no option but to pass through the filtration media, even if you’ve neglected cleaning it for ages. So, despite a reduced flow rate, the filter will just carry on working to keep the water in your tank clear.

Also, because there are no media trays, you’re not restricted in the amount of filtration media you can fit in the canister unit.

On the downside, the EHEIM Classic can be difficult to prime. Whereas most modern canister filters are self-priming, the Classic requires manual siphoning. However, that is a simple process, and you don’t have to worry about the self-priming function failing.

Although it’s not the fanciest unit out there, this filter does a very efficient job, and the simple design makes it extremely durable, easy to clean, and ultra-reliable. There are reports of hobbyists who have used the same EHEIM Classic for 30 years, and the unit is still going strong!

Super-Quiet Running

The unit boasts almost silent running, even if you have two operating simultaneously and the power usage is minimal. You can buy pricier units than the Classic that have more bells and whistles and are perhaps easier on the eye, but when it comes to reliability, efficiency, and quiet operation, this one takes some beating.

PROS

  • Tried and tested design
  • Affordable
  • Several models available for different tank sizes
  • Long-lasting
  • Super-quiet, efficient operation 

CONS

  • No media trays
  • Not self-priming
  • Replacement parts can be pricey

2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn-Plax Aquarium Canister Filter
  • Filter type: Canister
  • Tank size: Various
  • Flow rate: GPH according to model size
  • Noise level: Super-quiet

The Penn Plax Cascade Canister filter system offers excellent durability and longevity, being well-made from high-quality plastic.

Setting up the unit is pretty straightforward, although the instructions provided aren’t very detailed. However, as long as you take the time to tighten all the hoses and rubber tubing, the unit should work fine. You may find that the hoses are a little tough to connect, but if you apply a bit of muscle, you’ll manage it, and you have the reassurance that the hoses are unlikely to split.

This is a surprisingly powerful filtration unit for the price, delivering a more than sufficient GPH flow rate for each model size. The included spray bar means that you can improve water aeration and increase circulation if you want to. Basically, your tank will be filtered extremely quickly and efficiently with this system.

The Penn Plax Cascade has three large filter media trays, providing plenty of scope for efficient filtration.

Excellent Design

Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Tubes

The design of this canister filter makes cleaning the unit very easy and hassle-free. To clean the unit, remove the intake valve and disconnect the hose. Unplug the filter from the mount and wash it in a bucket or sink. The filter comes with an instruction booklet that tells you how to disassemble the unit for cleaning, so you can refer to that if you get stuck.

The unit is self-priming via an easy push-down button, so there’s no messy siphoning to worry about. Some users have reported a few small issues with the priming mechanism, although that’s not unusual, and any problems are generally easily overcome.

The system comes with preloaded filter media baskets, including chemical and biological filter media, which you don’t get with other brands. The mechanical filter media provided includes a floss pad to remove floating particles, there’s activated carbon media to absorb toxins and other impurities from the water, and a sponge that provides plenty of surface area for bacterial colonies to grow on.

You also get four connectable spray bars and all the necessary hoses and other connection apparatus you need to get the unit up and running. If you decide to use the spray bars, you must ensure that all the holes are facing downward toward the tank bottom. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a picturesque fountain spraying water all over your room!

PROS

  • Comes with preloaded filter media for faster setup
  • Underpriced
  • Several models available for different tank sizes
  • Adjustable flow rate
  • Tip-proof base for safety
  • Super-quiet, efficient operation

CONS

  • Very small media trays can limit filtration efficiency
  • Difficult and fiddly to prime
  • Tubes not easy to connect without exerting some muscle power

3. Marina Power Filter

Marina Power Filter
  • Filter type: HOB/Power filter
  • Tank size: 20 gallons
  • Flow rate: 92 GPH
  • Noise level: Silent

The Marina Power Filter is elegantly designed and comes from the same stable as the engineers who are responsible for the Aquaclear range of filters produced by Canadian pet care company Hagen.

This slim, compact HOB filter is designed to not only look good but to provide unrivaled efficiency while occupying minimal space behind your tank. The filter’s clever design gives you the power of much larger, multi-stage filter units while using smaller, easy to use cartridges. This neat, space-saving HOB filter measures just 3.8 X 11.5 X 6.5 inches and weighs a featherweight of 1.8 pounds.

The Marina Power Filter is a hybrid of an internal filter and an external HOB filter. The motor for the filter is sited on the intake, and the filter media is outside. The motor is therefore submerged, so you don’t have to prime it every time you unplug it for cleaning or tank maintenance.

You can adjust the height of the filter to suit different water levels. There’s adjustable flow control, too, so you can control the strength and direction of the current in the tank. That’s a very handy feature if you have fish or invertebrates that don’t like a powerful flow, and it also means that you can lower the flow level when you feed your fish so that the food doesn’t get dragged all over the water surface away from your fish.

Silent Running

The filter is not merely quiet; it’s absolutely silent! You actually need to look closely for ripples on the water surface to tell if the unit is operating. So, the submerged filter design means that you don’t need to prime the unit, and it’s completely noiseless too. That’s a win-win!

The Marino Power Filter comes with four filter media cartridges; two Bio-Clear and two Bio-Carb. Both filters contain Cermitek ceramic filter media that’s porous to provide maximum area for colonies of nitrifying bacteria.

Overall, this is an excellent choice of filter for a 20-gallon tank, being compact and extremely quiet. Simply plug the unit in, and you’re good to go. Maintenance is quick and easy, the water flow is powerful, and the unit is very affordable, too.

PROS

  • Comes with four filter cartridges included
  • Slim, space-saving design
  • Several models available for different tank sizes
  • Adjustable flow rate and direction
  • Silent, efficient operation
  • Self-priming

CONS

  • HOB design might not suit if your tank is very close to a wall

4. Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter

Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter
  • Filter type: HOB/Power filter
  • Tank size: Various sizes 3 to 40 gallons
  • Flow rate: Varies according to model
  • Noise level: Very quiet

Aqueon’s Quietflow E range of filters are perfect for use in aquariums and semi-aquatic setups, too, where the water level is low.

The units are designed to be low-maintenance with top-loading filter media that’s quick and simple to replace and clean. Unlike other filter manufacturers, the Aqueon range caters to those with small and nano tanks, but there are also units to suit larger setups right up to 90 gallons.

Although these are not the very best HOB filters that you’ll find out there on the market, you do get what you pay for plus a little bit more. The main downside to this filter is that it doesn’t allow you to adjust the flow rate, so be sure to choose the right size of unit for your tank. If you pick a filter that’s too powerful, you’ll need to find some means of buffering the flow unless you have fish that need a habit with a very fast current.

The Quietflow filter uses a very good quality pump that attaches to the intake pipe, drawing water through the intake chamber. In comparison to other similar models, the pump is very quiet, and the addition of a diffuser grid reduces the noise levels even further by muffling the sound from the outlet waterfall.

Self-Priming

Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter

You don’t need to spend time priming the pump, as the auto-start pump kicks off the unit as soon as you plug it in and switch it on, regardless of whether the reservoir contains water or not.

The unit comes complete with a replaceable carbon filter cartridge, water diffuser grid, and a Bio Holster. The carbon filter is pretty thick, and the filter media does a reasonable job of removing debris. The Bio Holster that holds the filter media is a slotted plastic case that’s designed to enable beneficial bacteria to colonize its surface.

The diffuser grid provides more space for bacteria to grow and helps to oxygenate the water by passing water through small holes on its way to rejoin the main tank. The diffuser grid also reduces splashing and, in doing so, helps to muffle noise.

You’ll find this filter unit very easy to maintain and clean. Ideally, the filter should be cleaned each week, and the cartridge changed every three or four weeks. The unit is fitted with a handy LED indicator on top that flashes to remind you when the cartridge needs changing. The impeller is held inside the motor unit with a magnet. To clean the impeller, simply pull it out and drop it back into place when you’ve finished.

PROS

  • Self-priming, auto-start pump
  • Multi-stage filtration
  • Several models available for different tank sizes
  • Sound-dampening technology for super-quiet operation
  • Provides good aeration and filtration
  • Cartridge change reminder LED indicator
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Easy setup and maintenance

CONS

  • Flow rate is not adjustable
  • Bio Holster is too small to allow for additional ceramic media
  • Overall filter media capacity is small

5. AquaClear – Fish Tank Filter

AquaClear, Fish Tank Filter, 20 to 50 Gallons, 50v, A610
  • Filter type: HOB/Power filter
  • Tank size: 70 to 110 gallons
  • Flow rate: Varies, depending on model
  • Noise level: Very quiet

AquaClear has been producing best-selling HOB fish tank filters since 1978. The company’s enduring success is based on a simple design that features a basket container for the filter media, allowing you to customize your media as you wish.

The filter is made without multiple moving parts, meaning greater longevity, more consistent performance, and less energy use. Instead, the impeller floats in a magnetic field, producing less friction and wear. AquaClear’s patented flow control allows users to adjust the water flow to suit their specific setup. Flow control can be used to reduce flow through the unit by up to 66% without affecting the unit’s performance.

The unit provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. As you replace one type of filter media, the balance of the remainder keeps the biological filter working efficiently. The filter basket design allows for efficient water flow, as well as making the filter extremely efficient. Like most HOB filters, the water returns to the tank via a waterfall design, which some people do find a little noisy. The filter provides a powerful GPH rate that ensures total circulation through the media for clean, safe water for your fish.

One big plus point for this filter system is that you can completely customize the media to suit your setup requirements. The unit comes with BioMax, AquaClear foam, and activated carbon, and there’s an extensive line of additional media to choose from, too.

PROS

  • Multi-stage filtration
  • Several models available for different tank sizes
  • Quiet operation
  • Provides good aeration and filtration
  • Fully customizable filter media basket
  • Easy setup and maintenance
  • Powerful GPH flow rate

CONS

  • Waterfall effect may be too noisy for some people

6. NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter

NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter, Adjustable Fish Tank Filter with Water Pump for Fish Tank
  • Filter type: Internal filter
  • Tank size: 50 to 150 gallons
  • Flow rate: 320 to 400 GPH, depending on model
  • Noise level: Very quiet

The NO. 17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter comes in two different sizes, 12 and 14 watts, being suitable for use in large 50 to 150-gallon aquariums and providing a flow rate of 320 or 400 GPH, depending on which one you choose.

The pump is ultra-reliable and very quiet. You can also adjust the flow direction and rate, which is useful if you have sensitive fish that don’t appreciate a strong current in the tank.

This compact filter unit comes with a selection of filter media for three-stage filtration. Although it’s not customizable, the filtration media is easy to clean and replace when necessary. The high-quality pump is designed for super-quiet operation and doesn’t cause the irritating vibration and humming noise that some internal pumps do.

For your peace of mind, the unit comes with a 180-day guarantee.

High-Quality Materials

Like most filter units, this one is stated to be suitable for use in both freshwater and marine tanks. The pump housing is made using high-quality ABS plastic and resin for durability and longevity. To protect the impeller shaft from damage, it’s made of ceramic material that is alkaline, acid, and corrosion-resistant. The pump itself has an IP68 waterproof rating, so you can be confident that the unit won’t leak.

Assembly of the filtration unit is simple, and you don’t need tools for the job. The pump head and filter are both removable for cleaning, while the casing prevents harmful contaminants from getting into the pump. If you want to, you can remove the filtration media completely and use the unit simply as an underwater pump.

PROS

  • Multi-stage filtration
  • Powerful pump offering good GPH rate
  • Quiet operation
  • Easy setup and maintenance
  • Powerful GPH flow rate 

CONS

  • Takes up a lot of space inside the tank
  • Filter provides a relatively small surface area for bacteria
  • Filter flow attachments are not very effective

7. Aquaneat Air Driven Bio Corner Filter

AQUANEAT Aquarium Air Driven Bio Corner Filter Sponge Fry Shrimp Fish Tank 40 Gallon
  • Filter type: Air-driven filter
  • Tank size: 40-gallon
  • Flow rate: Depends on the size of pump you choose
  • Noise level: Fairly quiet

If you want a reasonably priced, easy to maintain internal filter that doesn’t make too much noise, you could do worse than choose this offering, the Aquaneat Bio Corner Filter.

Aquaneat makes a range of different air driven filters, although they all work along the same basic theme. The corner filter version consists of a wedge-shaped, clear plastic box that contains compartments where you put your filter media. The sponges, activated carbon, and ceramic media fit in quite neatly, and you can customize what you use if you want to.

The filter has a pipe that connects to a piece of airline and then to the pump. The pump is not included with the filter; you have to buy one separately. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as you can choose a pump that’s the correct size to give you the power and GPH flow rate that you need for your tank.

A Few Downsides

One drawback that some users have mentioned is that the unit is very lightweight, and it does tend to float away sometimes. You can get around that by sinking the base of the filter box into the substrate.

Also, the strainer is too small to accommodate a regular air stone. That means you need to substitute a small, white air diffuser instead. Alternatively, if you want extra oxygenation for your fish, you might need to use an air bubbler.

Cleaning the filter box is pretty straightforward. You simply disconnect the air line, remove the box from the tank, take off the lid, and empty out the dirty filter media inside. If you prefer the convenience of filter cartridges that you just slide out and replace for cleaning, then this system might not be for you.

Also, users report that there is often a large accumulation of debris and sludge stuck between the sides of the filter box and the glass, so you must remember to vacuum the area around and underneath the box once a week when you carry out a partial water change.

Small But Beautiful!

The unit is pretty small, measuring only 7.4 X 3.39 X 3.31 inches, and it works quite well. We think that this filter is best-suited to use in a tank with shrimp or fish fry that would otherwise be in danger of getting sucked into the filter outlet.

PROS

  • Multi-stage filtration
  • Easy to set up and maintain
  • Quiet operation, depending on the pump you choose
  • Inexpensive
  • Good for tanks containing fry and shrimp 

CONS

  • Takes up space inside the tank
  • Flow is not adjustable

In Conclusion

We hope that you enjoyed our guide to the best quiet aquarium filters.

We like the EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media. The unit is very well-made, so it will last for years, offering excellent value for money. As there are no media trays, you can totally customize what filter media you use. And, of course, this classic canister filter design is whisper-quiet.

We think that this is an excellent quality product from a well-established manufacturer that offers great value for money and gets the job done in virtual silence.

Alison Page has been an avid fish keeper for over 35 years and has owned many different species of freshwater tropical fish including bettas. Currently Alison has two large freshwater tanks. The first tank has two huge fancy goldfish who are almost ten years old and still looking as good as ever. In the other, she has a happy community of tiger barbs, green tiger barbs, corydoras catfish, platys, and mollies.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

shares