Best Hang on Back Filter in 2024 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

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Hang on Back filters, also known as HOB filters are a great choice for small to medium sized aquariums. This filter type is very popular among beginner as well experienced fish keepers for good reason. Hang on back filters are easy to maintain and are cost effective.

Want to know which is the best hang on back filter on the market? In this article I will review five hang on back filters, which are the best choice for aquariums.

Best Hang on Back Filter for Aquariums

Here is the list of the top five hang on back filters for 2024, which will keep your aquarium clean and help maintain a healthy colony of beneficial bacteria:

HOB Filter Max Tank Size Max Flow Rate Product Price
1. Marineland Penguin Power Filter 70 Gallons 350 GPH
2. Aqueon QuiteFlow LED PRO 75 Gallons 400 GPH
3. Aqua Clear HOB 70 Gallons 500 GPH
4. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on-Back 100 Gallons 300 GPH
5. Tetra Whisper Power Filter 60 Gallons 330 GPH

Reviews of Best Hang on Back Filters

To give you a more comprehensive review of these HOB filters, I’ve tried out them myself for shorter or longer periods. Bellow you can find more details of these five hang-on-back filters.

1. Marineland Penguin Power Filter

The Marineland Penguin Power filter is a great product that’s cheap and easy to maintain!

It was a great decision to try out the Penguin Power filter. I can say that this hang on back filter is even better than most canister filters because of ease of maintenance and performance.

After spending a ton of time researching and asking for advice from other aquarium owners, I decided on using the Marineland Penguin Power Filter for a while as my primary filter.

I was concerned that it might be going overboard for my aquarium, but I couldn’t be happier with the purchase. I am impressed by how well it oxygenates the water and the overall performance.

And I have not experienced any of the noise issues some users have been complaining about. So far, it is working perfectly fine and quietly. In fact, it is much quieter than most other filters I’ve used.

Some users reported that this filter is not suitable for tanks that have sand substrate. The fine sand can easily get into the filter and damage the impeller.

Though, this can be fixed easily, by placing a sponge on the filter intake. If you do so, please remember to clean this sponge at least once a week, when you do water change, because it can clough up and can affect the filter’s performance.

This filter cleaned cloudy water in my tank within a couple of hours. I was amazed by its performance. My tank is now much cleaner and I can finally see the fish in their full color.

I can tell the filter is efficient because it is filtering out more than 300 gallons of water every hour. It provides good mechanical and biological filtration.

The best thing I love about this filter is the maintenance. It is very easy to maintain and clean. It takes about 5 minutes to clean the mechanical filter. The bio-wheels can be replaced very easily too.

Another point I would like to mention is that the intake guard is quite secure to avoid latching or tearing delicate fins (for instance the fins of a betta fish).

Even the flow rate is adjustable, so you can set the flow rate as you want. It also starts back automatically after being powered off, which is a common problem with most other HOB filters.


  • Easy to clean, don’t need to stop the filter just pull the cartridge and rinse it in aquarium water
  • It is a pretty quiet filter considering the amount of water it moves
  • Creates a good water surface agitation and oxygenates the water very well
  • Removes even the finest particles from the water, resulting in crystal clear water


  • Some users reported that this filter is not suitable for tanks with sand substrate, because can suck up the fine particles and break the impeller
  • Some users report that the outflow water creates splashing / bubbling noise
  • It can get quite expensive to replace cartridges


2. Aqueon QuiteFlow LED PRO

The Aqueon, QuietFlow LED Pro is amazing hang-on-back filter that I highly recommend. It features a patented 4-stage advanced filtration system, which includes chemical, mechanical, dry/wet components and biological.

The in-built LED cartridge indicates when the filter needs to be cleaned.

Aqueon QueitFlow is highly efficient and effective and can be used used on both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. It is built in such a manner to ensure increased levels of oxygen, crystal clear water and of course more active and healthier fish.

The Aqueon QuietFlow LED Pro aquarium filter boasts of a great internal pump design. Since the pump is submerged in the aquarium, the priming during setup, after cleaning or during power interruptions is not needed.

The internal pump that is inbuilt allows silent operation, fewer chances of leakage, continuous rate of flow and a thinner profile.

The smallest version of this pump features 100gph flow rate, making it efficient for use on aquariums of up to 10 gallons size. The biggest version has a 400gph flow rate and is suitable for up to 75 gallons fish tanks.

The filter provides a 4-stage filtration. The first grid is for mechanical and chemical filtration. This filter grid will help filter out debris and toxins and coloration from the water. The biological grid is designed to provide a huge surface are for the beneficial bacteria, which get rid of ammonia and nitrites.

The dry/wet grid is designed to break up the water surface and ensure good oxygenation.

The Aqueon QueitFlow LED PRO has proved to be amazing and highly versatile filter. I have used this equipment myself and I can comfortably say it is a good deal.


  • This filter is very simple to set up and have self-priming as well
  • It has a very good flow rate and can create strong water movement, but does not suck up fish or snails
  • It can clean cloudy water in just a few hours
  • The filter box is quite big, which gives the option to place additional filter material in it


  • Some users report that the impeller can be become loud after some time
  • Some users report that the LED indicator is not accurate
  • Can get expensive to replace cartridges


3. Aqua Clear HOB Filter

The Aqua Clear filter has proved to be a really good hang-on filter. The models available assure a good filtration for varied aquarium sizes (5-110 US gallons). The filter is uniquely designed to enhance more media volume and a long media-water contact time.

The AquaClear Filter extracts water from the aquarium and passes it through the intake tube straight to the motor where it is then pumped out by the impeller. The “U” tube at the intake directs water to the filter foam which catches debris and particles.

At the bottom of the filter box is a foam insert that helps to get rid of the debris and offers good water distribution through the other filter media. This foam also helps in biological filtration, because of the porous structure.

On top of the foam it the carbon insert, which provides chemical filtration. The activated carbon offers a huge surface area for the absorption of toxins and harmful chemicals. Activated Carbon Filter’ Insert helps in removing out unwanted impurities, odors, and discoloration which forms crystal clear aquarium.

On the top is the AquaClear BioMax insert. The BioMax is actually a bag of porous ceramic rings, which offers a huge surface are for beneficial bacteria. The bacteria help in the removal of nitrites and ammonia.

The AquaClear HOB filter is really good filter. I can comfortably say that is really efficient in keeping your aquarium clean.


  • The filter housing has a lot of extra space where you can place additional filter media
  • It is very is to maintain, just remove the filter media, rinse it in aquarium water and place it back
  • Even though it moves a lot of water, the filter is very quiet
  • It has an adjustable flow rate


  • It needs to be primed before starting or after power outage
  • Some users report that it has to be cleaned frequently to maintain a good water flow
  • Some users report that the filter just suddenly stops and won't start again


4. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-on-Back

The Penn Plax Cascade Filter is ergonomically built to offer more comprehensive filtration. It is a filter I have used for the longest time in my aquarium and has never disappointed me.

It delivers 300 gph, making the cascade become the most appropriate for aquariums of 100 gallons in size. With the robust built and good filtration power, it can comfortably manage filtering aquarium efficiently.

The Penn Plax Cascade filter boasts of complex Bio-Falls Quad system, which ensures the tank remains healthy and clean. It comes with polyfiber floss cartridge that helps in trapping the fine particles.

On the other hand the activated carbon cartridge helps to get rid of harmful chemicals, toxins, discoloration, and other chemicals.

It also has an internal sponge that provides a great surface are for colonization of essential anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria are responsible for getting rid of nitrites and ammonia.

The dry/wet external BioFalls cartridge assures more anaerobic bacteria for more ammonia and nitrite removal at the same time greatly improves the exchange of the oxygen in the water.

The adjustable flow knob allows regulation of filtration during the time for feeding or as required.

The hang-on filter is capable of silently filtering out up to 300 gallons every hour. The manufacturer claims that the Cascade 300 is suitable for aquariums from 55 to 100 gallons in size. On this, I would go on the lower end.

The Pen Plax Cascade is suitable for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums.

During my extended use of this filter, I’ve never experienced any problems. So, I would recommend it to other fish keepers too.


  • The filter housing has enough space for additional filter sponges
  • Adjustable flow rate, which enables you to set the flow as you want
  • The BioFalls cartridge creates a “cascade” and provides a really good water oxygenation
  • The maintenance is very simple, just rinse the sponge cartridge in aquarium water and place is back


  • Some users report that the filter slows down overtime
  • It can become noisy after some time
  • It can become expensive to replace original filter cartridges


5. Tetra Whisper Power Filter

I’ve been using the Tetra Whisper Power filter for a while. I have never faced any problems with this filter. It works quietly and filters efficiently.

This is a filter whose parts are easy to replace and affordable to buy. The parts last many years, so you don’t need to replace them very often.

I recommend getting a filter whose specification is double the size of your tank.

Being a hang on back filter, I love that the main components are located outside the tank, rather than inside.

The performance is very good for an external filter of this size. The filter tube comes with an extender, which makes it suitable for larger aquariums too.

This filter provides 3-stage filtration. The first stage is the mechanical filtration, which catches debris, fish waste and fine particles.

The second stage is the chemical filtration, which is done through the activated carbon media. This removes discoloration and chemicals from the water

The thirds stage is the biological filtration, which is provided through the BioFoam filter media. This helps in the cultivation of aerobic bacteria, which convert ammonia and nitrites in less harmful nitrates.

To keep the performance of this filter at good level rinses the filter cartridge often.

Compared to the other filters, this might be a bit noisier, but is not that bad. There is an audible trickle but that is to be expected from a filter that keeps so much water moving.

The hum is definitely not a deal-breaker for this filter. You need to maintain the water level at least a few inches above the filter for it to work properly.

The lid might need to be pushed with some force to fit snugly in the grooves. The flow adjustment knob is a great feature.

The Tetra Whisper power filter operates smoothly and is very easy to maintain. It does a great job of keeping the water clean and oxygenated. The filter pipe and impeller need to be cleaned periodically.

It is great deal in my opinion.


  • The filter box has a lot of extra space for additional filter media
  • It is very effective in cleaning the water, making it crystal clear (even on goldfish tanks)
  • Setup is very easy as well the maintenance of the filter
  • The intake tube is adjustable, makes it easy to set the right length for different height tanks


  • Some users report that the motor died after few weeks
  • Some users report that the impeller can get noisy
  • The filtering capacity can decrease as the filter media gets dirty



Hang on Back Filter Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding hang on back filters:

How to Reduce Noise on Hang-on-Back Filter?

Some hang on back filters can get very noisy, due to decreasing water level. When the water level decreases in the tank, the splashing noise created by the outflow water will become louder.

This can be fixed easily, by maintaining a constant level of water in your fish tank.

Noise can also come from the impeller or from the motor. In this case you should stop the filter and clean the impeller. Many users report that their filter become noisy after some time. This is due to debris which subsides on the impeller and makes it vibrating.

How to Reduce Maintenance Cost of HOB Filters?

As mentioned above, some hang-on-back filters come with cartridges. This makes them easy to maintain, because you will need to replace the old cartridge with a new one.

However, overtime it can be very expensive to buy new cartridges when the old ones clog up.

Just simply remove the original cartridges and replace them with sponges and a bag of ceramic rings. This will save you a ton of money.

Make sure, that you place the filter media in the right order, so the biological media can last longer. The unfiltered water should hit the sponge first and then the ceramic rings.

When Use a Hang-on-Back Filter?

Hang on back filters are very popular because it can be used on small tanks. Unlike internal filters, HOB filters will not take up space in your tank.

You should use a HOB filter in tanks, where you want to adjust flow rate, or provide a good water oxygenation without using an air stone.

Hang on back filters are often used on betta fish tanks and goldfish tanks. You should opt for this type of filter, if you are keeping fish that don’t like strong current.

When Not to Use a HOB Filter?

Although most manufacturers say, that their HOB filter can be suitable for aquariums of up to 100 gallons in size, I don’t recommend using a hang on back filter on fish tanks which are bigger than 50 gallons.

You should not use a HOB filter as primary filtration on larger tanks.

Where Can You Buy a Good Hang on Back Filter?

In this article I’ve reviewed multiple good hang on back filters, which can be purchased from Amazon. Click here to search for other hang on back filters on Amazon.

Can You Use Hang on Back Filter for Planted Aquariums?

HOB filters can be used on any type of aquarium, including planted tanks. Some filters are suitable for marine aquariums as well.

When using a hang on back filter in a planted tank, use a sponge pre-filter on the intake to prevent leaves to be sucked up into the impeller.

Is a Hang on Back Filter Good for Shrimp Tank?

Hang on filters are suitable for shrimp tanks as well.

However, you should place a sponge on the intake to avoid any shrimp to be sucked up into the filter.

I recommend using a fine sponge, whose pours are smaller than 1 mm. This way you can prevent baby shrimp get into the filter.

How to Setup a Filter Media in a HOB Filter Correctly?

When setting up a hang on back filter, you should always follow the instructions from the user manual.

Usually the setup is quite simple:

  • Assemble the filter housing and place it on your tank
  • Unbox the cartridges and rinse them in aquarium water
  • Place the cartridges in the right slots
  • Some filters need to be primed, so pay attention to this detail
  • After the filter is primed, plug it in, and you are ready to go

How to Maintain and Clean a Hang on Back Filter?

Most HOB filters are very easy to clean. In order to avoid any problem, I recommend unplugging your filter every time you maintain it.

If you are using original cartridges, you just need to rinse them in aquarium water or replace them if they are clog up.

If you are using your own filter media, just rinse the sponge in aquarium water, dump the heavy debris out from the filter and place the media back. You don’t need to rinse the biological media.

In order to keep the beneficial bacteria colony alive, don’t expose the biological media to air for too long.

How to Clean Intake Tube for HOB Filters?

The intake tube doesn’t need to be cleaned very often. Though, if you want to clean it, you can use cleaning brushes.

You can a purchase a set of nylon brushes from Amazon, which is suitable for pipes of different sizes.

How to Clean the Impeller of a Hang on Back Filter?

Time to time, the impeller should also be cleaned. When the flow starts to decrease or the filter starts to get noisy, you will know it is time to clean the impeller.

Unplug the filter and place the filter media into aquarium water. Disassemble the filter and remove the impeller.

Clean the impeller with a soft brush to remove any debris from it. Be gentle and don’t break the blades.

Can You Place Plants in a HOB Filter?

Yes, you actually can place really common household plants in a hang on back filter. Plants such as pothos (devil’s ivy), pace lily, spider plant or any other plant that can survive in high humidity are the most used.

Using fast growing plants in a HOB filter is really beneficial for your aquarium. Plants can remove lots of nitrates and nutrients from the water and can help clean the water.

You can buy these plants in your local store or from Amazon too.

If you place plants in your hang on filter, make sure you provide them with good light, because otherwise they will die or will not be able to do their cleaning job.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
Questions and Answers

I was doing some research, because I wanted to buy a HOB filter for my new fish tank. I already have a tank, which is filtered by an AquaClear filter. I’m very satisfied with this filter, but I thought will try out something new. After reading your article, I decided to stick with the AquaClear brand, so I will go ahead an purchase another one. Thanks for the great info! Very cool website.

    Hey Frank, AquaClear is a great choice! I like it very much too, because you can customize it as you wish with your own filter media.

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