7 Best Saltwater Aquarium Filters

Disclosure: I may earn a commission when you purchase through my affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. – read more

Do you have a saltwater aquarium, or you want to build a reef tank, but you do not know what filter to choose, because there is too much choice? In that case, you have come to the right place.

Here, I will give you some suggestions for your saltwater aquariums for filtering and compare and see which filters would be best for your saltwater aquarium.

Choosing the right gear can be quite an intimidating task, especially if you have never done it before. Thankfully, there are some good filters out there on the market that can do a good job of filtering the water to keep it clean and as fresh as possible.

We will take a look at some of the best filters on this list, and then you will be able to choose which one is the most important for you.

A lot of people, especially beginners, tend to neglect the importance of having a good and quality filtering system installed in their new tank, so they tend to go for the cheapest options available.

But that is often not the best choice, as some fish in your tank can be quite sensitive to dirty water and unfiltered water and may suffer from your choice.

This is why it is often advisable that new saltwater tank owners, especially beginners, spend a bit more time researching for a perfect filter for their tank – the size, the power, how much water can it filter, is it hard for cleaning and so on.

Best Filters for Reef Tanks

Below you will be able to find some of the best filter choices for saltwater aquariums on this list and hopefully, your choice will be made much easier. So let us get started with some of the best filters for saltwater aquariums.

1. Fluval External Filter

You can find all the details, the price and more on the link, provided above. For this specific Fluval external filter, there are more sizes for it: 106, 206, 306 and 406. We have chosen 206 as it is the standard size and it is also most often used by tank keepers.

This external filter will provide you with a multi-stage filtration system that will be effective and as good as any other filter out there. It is easy to set up, easy to use and more importantly, quite easy to clean the canister. The shape of this filter allows it to hold 35% more water than other filters that are of a round shape, so that is an advantage of this one.

The 206 version of the Fluval filter will be enough for a 40-gallon reef tank if you have one of that size or smaller. This filter is also convenient because it is quite silent and it uses a system that runs quietly. So the power, quality of the build, the big size of the canister and the silent operation makes this filter a great choice.


2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

The Penn Plax Cascade filter is also a good choice for you if you have a reef tank. It is a larger filter than the Fluval filter, and it is more suitable for larger tanks as well – to up to 100 gallons.

It has 3 media baskets, and it works at 265 GPH, so you can expect quite a good performance from this filter. As I wrote above, it is quite a powerful one and is suitable for larger filters, as well as smaller ones.

It has 2 flow valves that rotate in a 360-degree fashion, which enables the filter to work efficiently and clean everything in its way. It works in all three ways that are necessary – mechanical, biological and chemical. This filter offers a complete package and would make for a good choice for a beginner filter.

You can switch freely between modes – from a floss pad that provides the mechanical filtering, to a coarse sponge that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria.


3. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter

The EHEIM classic filter is one of those filter options that is an established brand in this area and it has been tested numerous times.

So judging from experiences of many people using this filter, it is a great one and you cannot go wrong with this choice. This is suitable for smaller as well as some larger tanks – to up to 66 gallons in size.

It provides a biomechanical cleaning process with a constant flow of oxygen to purify the water and make it fresher and more suitable for the living beings inside your reef tank.

It is a compact filter and it will not take too much space, if you are short on it – it also comes with a stand included in the package.

The filter is equipped with two inlet and two outlet valves, which makes it more efficient and it will promote the cleaning of the filter, which will make it easier for you to clean it and spend much less time on this aspect. The EHEIM classic external canister filter is a great, proven choice for a reef tank filter that you can try out.


4. Aqua Clear – Fish Tank Filter

This tank is a budget option for a reef tank filter, but it won’t compromise on the quality. This one is a bit smaller tank – suitable for tanks to up to 50 gallons, but it will do a great job of cleaning while also taking up significantly less space than some other filters on this list.

But if you do want a bigger one, there are also more sizes of this filter that you can choose from – there are smaller and larger ones as well.

The Aqua Clear offers easy installation and use, and you get a 2-year warranty with this one. This filter can provide efficient performance and a large filtration volume, which can be up to 7 times larger than of the similar filters in the same price range, which makes it a good budget option as far as reef tank filters go.

The filter also offers good biological filtering and enables the fish to enjoy filtered water that remains clean and without debris.


5. MarineLand Penguin 200 BIO-Wheel Power Filter

Another budget option for a reef tank filter, this one is suitable for tank sizes of 30 to 50 gallons, and it produces a certified flow rate of 200 GPH. It produces three-stage filtration – mechanical, biological and chemical filtration.

It has Rite-Size C size filter cartridges, which are known as being quite easy to change and use and you get more cartridges in the starter package.

The Bio-wheel filter system will take care of efficient biological filtration. This filter is quite a cheap option (at least compared to other items on this list), but it will not compromise on the quality of the filtration it provides.

You can be sure that the MarineLand Penguin filter will provide your tank with a quality filtration that will keep the water clean and the fish happy.


6. MarineLand Magnum Polishing Internal Canister Filter

The MarineLand has another product on this list, and this is the Magnum polishing internal canister filter.

This filter is a good option if you are looking for an efficient, yet quite a cheap filter that you can use for a reef tank. This filter uses two refillable chambers that you can customize and change at your own will.

The filter offers an efficient and quality three-stage filtration to keep the water clear of any unwanted debris and also to keep the water from yellowing and to provide it with some beneficial bacteria over time.

The filter filters 290 gallons of water per hour and is ideal for tanks of sizes to up to 97 gallons.

The price of the product, its capabilities and the fact that it does three-stage filtration efficiently make it a great choice for a reef tank of yours. It is also quick and easy to start it up, as it requires no priming and a quick set up to start it up.


7. NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Internal Filter

Last, but not least, is the no.17 submersible aquarium internal filter for a reef aquarium. This filter is a very cheap and simple product, but it also does much more than you would expect from a filter of this price.

It comes in many different variations – 132GPH version, 200GPH, and 320GPH. The filter offers 8W of power at your disposal, which means that it is perfect for smaller aquariums – 10 gallons to 50 gallons. In the package, there are 2 nozzles that you can choose from.

The adjustable 200GPH water pump is there to provide the best possible treatment for your water. The filter offers more filtration media – biological, chemical and mechanical, and is very friendly to all of the tank’s inhabitants.

But most importantly, you can rely on this filter for a very efficient cleaning process that will keep the water clean and consequently, the fish in the tank happy.

Consider this product for smaller tanks. You will also get a warranty for 180 days, so if anything should go wrong, you can always return it and get it repaired or a new one.


How to Choose a Filter for a Reef Tank?

So those filters are some of the best filters that you can get. But let’s get a bit more specific. What exactly do you have to look for when you are buying a filter for your tank? What are the specifications of the filter that will make it perfect for your needs? Let us take a look at some of the questions you need to ask yourself when choosing a filter.

Firstly, you need to know the size of the filter, and how powerful the filter is. This way, you will prevent the fish from suffering from a filtration that is too strong but also having too weak filtration which can cause the water to be poorly filtrated and full of debris. Make some research about the filter size.

Secondly, you need to know how much you are willing to spend on a filtration system. As you have seen, some are more expensive and some are a bit more on the budget side. You do, however, get almost the same quality with some of the budget filters as you get with the pricey ones, but if you do want to make sure that you will have a top-quality filtration system, then spending a bit more on it would not go a miss.

There are some other factors like personal preferences, the convenience and ease of use of the filters and how will it fit in the overall look of your tank.

How to Setup a Saltwater Aquarium Filter?

Before you start the filtration system, you need to take care of some of the important things first. Prior to putting the filter into the water, it is preferred that you take the filter pads out of the filter and rinse and clean them thoroughly first, to prevent any dirty stuff from getting into the water. Then clean the whole back of the aquarium, where your filter will be.

It is then time to install the filtration system and mount it onto the back wall of the tank. You want to set up with a 3-stage filtration:

  • Mechanical filtration is the filtration of the bigger particles and chunks of debris from the water. This is the first part of any filtration system and it will keep the debris out of the water and make sure that the water is clear of any unwanted particles.
  • Biological filtration is the second part, and this part we cannot actually see, but it is also very important. It clears the water of ammonia, which is disintegrated by the beneficial bacteria and transformed into nitrites, and later into nitrates. These are much less toxic than ammonia and nitrites.
  • Chemical filtration is the last part of filtration. You may think that this part is not as important, but it is actually just as, if not even more, important than the other two parts. With chemical filtration, the filter gets rid of some unwanted chemicals from the water, such as heavy metals, compounds, tannins, bad smells and more.

Make sure that you take care of all three steps of filtration to see the best possible filtration results.

Do You Need a Protein Skimmer for Reef Tank?

What is a protein skimmer? It is a water-cleaning system that gets rid of some unwanted chemicals that the filter does not get rid of. These organic elements are dissolved organic compounds, phenol oils and other yellowing agents that can make your water smelly and produce a yellowing effect.

If you want the best results and very clean water, then a protein skimmer is a must-have. It does take care of some very important things and gets rid of some unwanted chemicals that can actually harm your fish. So for a reef tank, it is advisable to get a protein skimmer and a filter as well.

So we have established that having a protein skimmer would be beneficial, but which protein skimmer to actually choose? This protein skimmer from Amazon could be the answer to this question. It is compact-sized and will not require too much space, and is a very effective protein skimmer that is also not too expensive. Consider it for your new protein skimmer.


To conclude, I hope that you have found a filter for your reef tank that will suit your needs best. We have shown you some of the best options for a reef tank filter, looked at their specifications and whether they are a good buy, and reviewed them briefly.

When you are choosing a filter for your tank, then there are some things you need to keep in mind. You want to check out the size of the filter, how powerful it is, will it fit your aquarium and of course if you like it or not.

Hopefully, you have learned a lot after reading this article and you are a step closer to choosing the ideal filter for your needs. Remember, it is better to spend a bit more on a quality filter rather than saving money and having the water badly filtered.

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.
Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *