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Finding the best HOB filter can be tough, especially for some beginners that may not understand what HOB stands for.
HOB means Hang on Back aquarium filter.
Acronyms can be funny, but they can also be confusing!
Below we hope to clear up some of the confusion with HOB filters and provide you with the right information so you can get a good hang on filter for your aquarium.
- Quick Picks: Our Top 3 The Best Aquarium Power Filter
- Best Hang On Back Filter Comparison Chart
- Reviews Of The 6 Best Power Filter Models
- Best Hang On Back Filter For Saltwater
- HOB Filters – What Are They?
- HOB Filter Setup Instructions
- HOB Cleaning Instructions
- Our Top HOB Filter Recommendation
- Frequently Asked Questions About HOB Filters
First, let’s start with our list of the best:
Quick Picks: Our Top 3 The Best Aquarium Power Filter
You can also compare all the filters listed above using our FREE comparison tool.
Best Hang On Back Filter Comparison Chart
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Reviews Of The 6 Best Power Filter Models
We reviewed the following HOB Filter Brands including:
Then ranked them based on the benefits noted above. You can click the links below to see the full reviews for all HOB Filter Models and types;
- AquaClear 70 Power Filter Review
- Seachem Tidal
- Fluval C4 Power Filter Review
- Marineland Emperor 400 Pro Series Bio-Wheel Power Filter Review
- Tetra Whisper Power Filter Review
- Aqueon QuietFlow
1. Best Fluval Hang On Back Filter
The C4 combines the greater volume for media capacity and higher flow rate of a canister filter with the lower price and easier cleaning of a HOB aquarium filter to give you the best of both worlds.
The Fluval has some features we love. For example, instead of the standard 3-stage filtration (Mechanical, Biological, chemical), The C-4 provides 5-stages for optimal filtration to remove any unwanted debris, waste, ammonia, and everything else.
It’s also super easy to use and easy to clean.
The C-series is available in size for all aquariums and a step up from the first AquaClear line of filters by Hagen, which Fluval also owns.
While both are great filters, if you have a couple of extra dollars to spend, the C4 is a better choice than the AquaClear for most people.
If you’re in the market for a filter for your 40-70 gallon aquariums, the Fluval C4 Power Filter should be at the top of your list.
Here are a few cool features of the C4;
- The 5-stage filtration system that does a fantastic job keeping your water clean and clear.
- It’s a HOB filter that works much like a canister filter.
- Great media capacity & easy to custom fit custom media due to the large and easy-to-access compartments.
- The modular compartments make dismantling this filter for scrubbing and changing out media incredibly simple.
2. AquaClear Power Filter
If you’re looking for a hang on back filter for planted aquarium, then the Aquaclear power filter is a no-brainer.
It’s one of my most favorite filters that I’m sure you will love, and it does a fantastic job keeping the water in your aquarium super clean. Also, this filter requires very little maintenance.
Its design has an excellent reputation that is backed up by its efficiency, durability, and overall quality. The clear water you’ll have in your aquarium after installing this filter will speak for itself.
If you have a few more dollars to spend, you could also consider the Fluval C-Series, Hagen’s other line of high-quality hang-on-back filters.
The C-Series offers a few cool features like maximum filtration and some additional features and upgrades over the AquaClear filters. But you really can’t go wrong with the AquaClear 70 Power Filter.
Here are a few of the pros for the AquaClear;
- Highly recommended because they’re quiet, efficient, reliable, and affordable.
- Uses a bottom-up design usually only found in canister filters, so all your water passes through the filter media.
- Great media capacity & easy to custom fit custom media due to the large and easy-to-access compartment.
- It comes with AquaClear Foam, Activated Carbon, BioMax, and Cycle Guard. All of this media provides three stages of filtration (mechanical, chemical, and biological).
3. Seachem Laboratories Tidal Power Filter
Made in Italy, the Seachem filter is excellent for your freshwater or saltwater tanks for a few reasons. First off, it comes with a built-in surface skimmer and a self-priming pump, so you don’t have to fill the canister with water before you turn it on each time.
The Tidal filter is also extremely quiet for a hang on the back filter, so have no worries if you feel like using it in your bedroom or child’s room.
The filter has many adjustable features like being able to decide whether you want to pull water-primarily from the intake tube or the surface skimmer or even both. Add to this that the flow can easily be adjusted by simply moving a dial. You might have the perfect filter for any tank.
Another option not found on many other filters is the option to have your heater clip right on to the side of this filter using built-in heater clips. This will ensure that your tank temperature is always perfect as the warmer water is pulled up the intake tube then evenly distributed through the filter and into the tank.
Maintenance is also made easy with a little blue indicator located at the top of the filter that will pop up when it’s time to change out your filter media.
The 55-gallon model is perfect for the average aquarist and can be used on tanks up to 55 gallons as it will move approximately 250 gallons per hour and uses a maximum of 6 watts while the media capacity holds 1.2 L.
A few pros for this filter are;
- Uppermost blue pegged integrated maintenance alert feature
- Built-in self-priming pump; thus no priming is required
- Features a high capacity 1.2 L filter basket for optimal filtration
- This super silent model is ideal for up to 55-gallon aquariums
- Includes adjustable upper flow rate and lower intake knobs
One problem I have with the filter is the media canister, while it can hold a lot of media; it is a separate piece that is filled with media and can be removed. While this is great for maintenance, it provides the water with a way to by-pass the filter media completely. So while you may have more media than most other HOB filters, I question how much water is being moved through the filter media.
4. Marineland Penguin Power Filter Pro Series Bio-Wheel
Crystal clear water and healthy fish are a hallmark of this Marineland Penguin Power Filter. The high gallons per hour, efficient filtration, and dual Bio-wheels combine to make this one of the best filters on the market.
It’s Marineland is another one of my most favorite and will ensure you always have crystal clear water. Also, this filter requires very little maintenance.
If you’re looking for efficiency, high water flow, and the best in beneficial bacteria & biological filtration, then you should choose the Marineland Emperor 400 Pro Series Bio-Wheel Power Filter.
5. Tetra Whisper Power Filter
If you’re on a budget, need a reliable backup filter, or are just getting into the fishkeeping hobby, then choose the Tetra Whisper HOB Filter as your choice as it’s one of the quietest filters.
It may not have all the features of some of the more expensive filters out there, like adjustable output and control, but it’s reliable, it works, and it’s easy to clean and maintain.
Because of its reliable performance and low price, the Whisper power filter may be the quietest HOB filter for those needing a quality filter that doesn’t cost a whole lot.
6. Aqueon Quietflow LED Pro
This filter takes the filtration to another level. Its five-stage filtration adds another mechanical and biological filter in the mix for extra clean and clear aquarium water. The unit is self-priming, so its plug and play operation makes it easier to install.
The filter comes with a cartridge change indicator that makes it easier to maintain. The flow rate of the filter is also an impressive 100 gph. The filter is suitable for a 20-gallon tank. If the pump is submersed the right way, the filter is very quiet.
- Reasonably priced.
- It comes with a lot of replacement filters.
- Easy maintenance
- Cartridge replacement indicator is fantastic for people who don’t keep to a strict cleaning schedule.
- Have to keep checking the water level; if it gets low from a certain point, the filter will not work correctly.
- Some consumers found the quality got deteriorated in recent models.
Best Hang On Back Filter For Saltwater
The Cascade HOB is one of the best selling filters from Penn Plax. The filter is quiet and gentle but has enough flow to move enough water for most tank sizes.
Some pros include;
- External bio-falls for ammonia removal
- Easy to replace carbon cartridge
- Multiple sizes for various tank sizes
This filter has an adjustable flow so you can adjust the strength of the flow for your specific tank needs, which is why it can be used for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. The capacity for the filter media is also one of the best in class.
One issue with this filter is the material it is made with. The plastics appear to be somewhat brittle and likely to break easily if impacted or dropped. That said, the price of this filter is below average, so I guess you get what you pay for.
Overall the Penn Plax is an excellent filter for a saltwater tank, and it comes with a lot of features that make it worth the price, even though you may need to replace it every few years. With its adjustable flow rate and ample media space for sponges and beneficial bacteria, this would be a suitable filter for any saltwater tank.
HOB Filters – What Are They?
As we mentioned above, the hang on back (HOB) aquarium filter is simply a filter that is hung off the backside of your aquarium.
So why would anyone want to have a sizeable bulky filter in plain sight hanging off the back of their aquariums?
Well, for a few reasons;
- They are easily accessible.
- The filter media can quickly be removed/replaced.
- Easy maintenance.
- They are inexpensive.
- They provide great filtration.
Plus, over the years, technology has improved a great deal, and many hob filters are very quiet when compared to earlier versions.
It is excellent if you have any aquariums setup in quiet places like a bedroom.
However, it’s important to note one downfall of the hang on back filter, which is that the good bacteria colony is removed every time the cartridge is replaced.
Regardless of this one disadvantage, HOB filters are still an excellent choice for a superior filtration system.
If you’re looking for a new hob filter, or this is your first, We hope to give you peace of mind.
HOB Filter Setup Instructions
Here is an excellent video from Big Al’s that shows precisely how to setup the Marineland Emperor 400 HOB Filter, which happens to be our top-rated hob aquarium filter.
HOB Cleaning Instructions
Cleaning your hob filter is simple and listed the general steps below. However, this excellent forum post over at Aquaria Central goes into detail and provides some excellent tips for beginners.
Here are the steps;
Step 1. Unplug the filter and remove it from the back of your aquarium.
Step 2. Remove lid and take out the filter basket or cartridges that contain your filter media. This will typically be a sponge, carbon bag (charcoal), and some form of biological media (beads).
Step 3. Clean your beads and sponge in some of your old aquarium water placed in a bucket if you do this during a water change, and it simplifies things.
Do not use tap water to clean the sponge/beads as it will kill off any beneficial bacteria that have built up in your media.
Step 4. Replace your carbon bag every three weeks.
Step 5. Then remove the filter intake stem, clean the inside with a cleaning brush to remove algae. Do the same to the intake tube. This will keep your pipes clear to maximize water flow, which is key to your filtration.
Step 6. Then remove the motor and clean the impeller with a brush, replace it and add lubricant to reseal the gasket of the engine.
Step 7. Then reassemble and set up the filter and hang it back on the back of your aquarium and fill the cartridge up with your aquarium water using a cup, then plug it in.
If you do this at least once a month, when you do your monthly water change, it will ensure your aquariums will be healthy and clean for years to come.
Our Top HOB Filter Recommendation
Based on its low price, its ability to filter 400 gallons per hour our top pick Goes To AquaClear
Our recommended small aquarium filter is the Aqua Clear Power Filter, and in our opinion, it’s the best HOB for your aquarium.
- It’s straightforward to assemble, clean, and use.
- It’s very affordable
- It’s customizable
- It’s one of the quietest filters I’ve used.
And lastly, the flow rate is excellent but suitable for a small tank, which is excellent for your little fish and invertebrates you’ll likely keep in a smaller tank. Also, I’ve had great results with this filter, and it keeps the water super clean.
Here a picture of my 10-gallon planted tank where I’m using the Aqua Clear 20, and the water always looks fantastic.
You can see that the only modification I’ve made to it is the pre-filter sponge that I’ve placed on the intake. The intake filter helps keep larger debris from getting into the filter, allowing me to extend the time between cleanings; it also provides an excellent place for good bacteria to grow.
The Aqua Clear 20 will change the water in a 10-gallon tank ten times every hour, which is ideal. So it would be a large 10-gallon fish tank filter and would keep the water crystal clear and well filtered.
We hope you like our recommendations, and we were able to help you choose the right filter for your tank.
Frequently Asked Questions About HOB Filters
Are HOB Filters Good?
Hang on back filters are one of the most popular filters used by hobbyists and experts alike. Their popularity is because of how easy they art to set up and maintain as well how versatile they are and can be used on most aquariums.
Most hob filters will provide all three stages of filtration (Mechanical, biological, and chemical) to keep your aquariums water clean and clear. When it comes to Maintenance, these filters can be cleaned and set up in less than an hour.
Are Canister Filters Better Than HOB?
This depends on what the needs are for your aquarium. Below I have listed a few pros for each filter to help you decide what you need.
- Cleans more water per hour.
- More room for mechanical, biological and chemical media.
- Can filter larger aquariums
- More affordable
- It provides mechanical, biological, and chemical media.
- Great for average size aquariums
- Easy maintenance
- Easy to clean
Can I Use a HOB Filter For Saltwater?
Yes, Hang on back filters are suitable for a saltwater tank. Most will recommend that you use a sump tank, which, to be honest, is just a larger hob filter. The trick is to ensure that you have enough live rock in the canister and that you have plenty of flow moving through the filter and the tank.
Also keep in mind that when using a HOB filter on your saltwater tank that you don’t use the same biological, mechanical and chemical media that was included, the media provided with a HOB filter is meant for a freshwater tank, and the chemical media provided could kill off the live rock saltwater aquariums.
How Do HOB Filters Work?
HOB filters suck water up the intake tube, which releases water into the box/canister. Then the water is moved through the filter media.
Once the water has passed through the media, it spills over the overflow and back into the aquarium.
How To Make a HOB Filter Quieter?
Most HOB filters are pretty quiet, and the noise is typically caused by water splashing back into the aquarium.
The easiest way to prevent this is to keep the water level high enough, so the water doesn’t splash. Or, add some filter floss to slow the water flow as it enters your aquarium.
If your filter sounds like it’s having trouble siphoning water into the canister, ensure that you set up your filter correctly, and all your tubes are tight and again ensure the water level is high enough.
Lastly, if it sounds like your motor/impeller is making noise ensure the chamber is free and clear of debris.
How To Modify Your Hang On Filter?
One of the best modifications you can make to your HOB filter is to add a small sponge to the intake tube.
This will not only act as an excellent place for beneficial bacteria to grow. Both the prefilter will stop any large debris from entering your filter.
This will lessen the load on your filter media as well as lengthen the time between filter cleanings but keep in mind this can slow down the gallons per hour that your filter will process.
Sometimes a lot of the clean water flows out goes straight back into the intake tube…So basically, the HOB will continually refilter the same small amount of water while leaving the rest of the aquarium water uncirculated and dirty.
Here’s the solution: Instructables.com
How To Start a HOB Filter?
Most HOB filters are straightforward to start and only require you to plug them in.
That said, you should always ensure that the water level in your aquarium is high enough and that you prefill the box/canister with water, which will help prime the pump.
How Often To Clean a HOB Filter?
In most cases changing your filter should be done monthly. However, this all depends on how stocked the aquarium is and how small/big your aquarium is.
A heavily stocked goldfish aquarium with only one filter may need to be cleaned every two weeks. Compared to a 5 gallon Betta aquarium that may only need to be cleaned monthly.