Best Filter For A 10 Gallon Tank & Small Aquariums

Finding The Right Aquarium Filter For A 10 Gallon Tank And Small Aquariums

In this article, we’ll help you find a good filter for your 10-gallon fish tank, share a few tips and tricks to help you find the right filter for your specific needs.

We decided to take a closer look at some of the best filters for a 10 gallon tank or smaller to find the best models out there. Of the many models we’ve seen, these are the best 10 gallon aquarium filters to buy in 2021:

  1. Best 10 Gallon Aquarium Filter Overall: Aquaclear Hang On Back
  2. Best Small Aquarium Filter: Whisper In-Tank Filter
  3. Best Filter For A Nano Tank: Zoo Med Nano
  4. Best Quiet Filter For A 10 Gallon Tank: Aqueon Quietflow

Keeping fish is fun. But it’s also a responsibility. Your fish need to be fed, the fish tank needs to be set up just right, and the water needs to be cleaned.

Leftover fish feed and waste produced by the fish shouldn’t accumulate in the tank; otherwise, the water will get too dirty for your fish to keep healthy.

There is some manual cleaning involved in maintaining a fish tank, but the bulk of cleaning responsibility falls on the filter. The filter is one of the more critical elements of the setup since it is directly related to the health and well-being of the fish.

When selecting a filter for a 10-gallon aquarium, I typically like to think of what fish I’ll be stocking in this 10-gallon tank.

For example, will it be densely planted or heavily stocked?

All of this matters when selecting the right filter. A densely planted tank won’t need much filtration as your plants will help filter the water.

However, a heavily stocked tank may require you to select a filter that is rated for a 2o or even a 30-gallon tank depending on what you keep.

set up a 10-gallon tank with lots of plants, six glowlight tetra a few shrimp. For this tank, I used an Aquaclear 20, and the water always looks great.

In the end, give some thought to what the aquarium will be used for.

Next, let’s take a quick look at eight filters that would be great for a 10-gallon tank.

Quick Picks: Top 5 Choices For Best Filter For A 10 Gallon Tank

Now let’s get into all the reviews.


Best Filter for a 10 Gallon Tank—Our Top Picks for 2019

Here are 8 of the best filters you can choose for your small 10-gallon fish tank:

1. Aqua Clear – Hang On Back Fish Tank Filter *TOP PICK*

This beautifully designed, small, and powerful filter is our first pick. It’s ideal for 10-gallon or smaller fish tanks and can be used for tanks of up to 20 gallons. It’s a Hang-on-back (HoB) by design end thanks to its transparent design, blends in easily with the fish tank. The filter provides all three necessary filtration layers: mechanical, chemical, and biological.

The pump in this filter has a flow rate of 100 gph (gallons per hour). So all the water in your 10-gallon fish tank will go through the filter ten times an hour, which is way over the recommended four times an hour cycle.


  • Reasonably priced for such a powerful filter.
  • A re-filtration feature allows the filter to operate on a lower flow rate. And that is without compromising filtration efficiency. Perfect for fish and plants that prefer minimal or gentle currents.
  • Easy to install and comes with a two-year warranty


  • Susceptible to swallow sand in shallow tanks with sand substrate.
  • In some cases, the unit became noisy after about a month of operation.

2. Sunsun Tech’n’Toy HW-603B 106 GPH 3-Stage External Canister Filter

Sunsun Tech'n'Toy HW-603B 106 GPH 3-Stage External Canister Filter

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The HW-603B is a canister filter for tanks up to 20-gallon in size. The design and body are not too ugly to sit beside your fish tank. The pump has a flow rate of 106 gph – more than enough cycles to keep smaller tanks clean since small tanks tend to get dirty faster than larger tanks.

3-stage filtration includes mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. The tank design allows you to place additional filtration media above and beneath the existing filtration area, which comes in handy if you want to increase the cycle between filtration media cleaning and replacement.


  • Whisper-quiet operation, if installed correctly.
  • The flow is gentle enough for most fish that prefer slower currents.
  • Additional filter media space.


  • Relatively costly.
  • The filter is hard to clean.
  • Prone to leaks if not cleaned frequently.

3. Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter

Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter, up to 10 Gallons

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Zoo Med Nano 10 is specially designed for 10-gallon or smaller fish tanks. The filter can be used for both fresh-water and salt-water tank setups. The filter is efficient and easy to install. Color and design allow it to blend in instead of standing out when sitting beside the tank.

The filter takes care of all three filtration requirements, and the pump produced a gentle current in the tank, so the fish don’t get disturbed. Anti-vibration brushings allow a quiet operation.


  • Easy to prime for new users.
  • Cleaning and replacing the filters is effortless.
  • Whisper quiet operations make it perfect for bedroom fish tanks.


  • It requires frequent cleaning.
  • Pricy, compared to its peers.

4. Whisper In-Tank Filter with BioScrubber

Whisper In-Tank Filter 10i with BioScrubber for 3 - 10 gallon aquariums (25816)

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Our first in-tank filter of the list, the Whisper In-Tank filter, is minimally designed. A water-dipped motor makes the filter quieter than outside filters. The filter is very inexpensive compared to other filters of similar capacity. The filter uses the company’s patented Bio-Bag filtration cartridge to take care of all three levels of filtration.

The filter also creates a little waterfall in the tank, which gives it a pleasing look. It also works well with minimally filled turtle tanks.


  • Very low-priced.
  • Easy to install, maintain, and clean.
  • Hushed operation.


  • Since it’s in the fish tank, it looks obtrusive to the overall fish tank design.
  • In some cases, the suction near the bottom is strong enough to suck in and hurt the fish.

5. Marina Power Filter (S 10)

Marina S10 Power Filter

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The S 10 provides a combination of Hang-on-Back and In-Tank design, with the motor of the filter dipped inside the tank. The filter focuses on the biological filtration in your tank and comes with two filter cartridges. Thus increasing the area for your beneficial bacteria.

Adjustable flow control is handy if you want to increase or decrease the strength of current according to the fish you have. The tank also doesn’t need to be primed at the time of installation. It self-primes after being plugged in.


  • It doesn’t need to be frequently cleaned.
  • Very low-priced relative to specs.
  • Easy to maintain and filters are very easy to replace.


  • Some consumers find the pump not sufficiently robust for 10-gallon tanks.
  • After some time, the filter pump starts to develop noise.

6. Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter (AT-10)

Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter, 10 Gallon,

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Another completely dipped-in filter, the AT-10 has a flow rate of 57 gph. For a 10-gallon tank, that’s more than five cycles an hour. The three-stage filtration uses the patented BioGrid technology for the bio-filtration of the tank. The filtration cartridge is small and easily replaceable.

As a submerged filter, the AT 10 is small enough not to look too unobtrusive. The operation is quiet, and the flow rate is adjustable. The tank can be installed either vertically or horizontally, which is helpful if you want to hide it in your planted fish tank.


  • The filter cartridge can be easily cleaned.
  • Housing is strong enough to handle bumps and scraps from turtles.
  • The filter is known for a long life if cartridges are correctly replaced.


  • The design doesn’t allow for much flexibility and adding extra filters yourself.
  • Develops noise if you don’t clean it up frequently.

7. Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters

Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO Aquarium Power Filters, Size 75-400GPH

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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 fish tank 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 can be easily used with 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.
  • 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.

8. Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin 75 Power Filter, 10-Gallon

Marineland Bio-Wheel Penguin 75 Power Filter, 10-Gallon

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Closing the list is another pure Hang-on-back filter, the MarineLand Bio-Wheel Penguin. The filter is excellent for 10-gallon tanks. With a 75 gph flow rate, the water gets enough rotation and contact with filter media.

The three-stage filtration keeps the tank sufficiently clean and allows for incredible beneficial bacterial growth. The Filtration cartridge is easy to install and replace, and the Bio-wheel technology also aids in the filtration process.


  • The operation is quiet.
  • The filter is very cheap.
  • Easy for novice fish keepers to install and maintain.


  • No adjustable flow controller. Fish that prefer gentler flows might suffer from the strong current.
  • Some found the filter not reliable for long periods.

What’s Considered A Small Fish Tank?

In my opinion, small fish tanks are anything under 20 gallons.

Anything under 5 gallons would be a nano tank, but for this article, I won’t distinguish between the two.

With that in mind, when talking about small fish tanks, filtration becomes a significant challenge, and the smaller the tank, the more critical filtration becomes.

This is why you need a small fish tank filter that can fit in a tank 10 gallons or less but still provides you with top quality filtration to ensure your tank remains healthy and clean.

To help you find a filter for your small 10-gallon tank or if you need a great Betta filter we provide the following suggestions;

Choosing The Right Filter For You: What You Need To Know

Most fish filters are designed to be comprehensive and easy to use in several fish tank setups. That said, there are still some factors you need to understand before choosing the perfect filter for your 10-gallon or smaller fish tanks.

Capacity and Filtration Flow Rate

The first thing to know before getting a filter for your fish tank is to know how big the aquarium will be. Smaller tanks tend to get dirtier faster than larger tanks. And even though a 10-gallon fish tank isn’t tiny, it’s a little starter tank. Depending on the biomass, it will get dirty quite quickly and therefore requires a decent filter.

That said, using a mighty filter for too small a tank is also not advisable. A lot of filters come without an adjustable flow rate, and a strong flow rate is not suitable for the tiny fish in your small tank.

The filtration flow rate is also an important consideration. It is recommended that the flow rate is at least four times your fish tank capacity. For example, a filter for a 5-gallon fish tank should have a flow rate of at least 20 gph (gallons per hour). GPH means how many gallons of water will go through the filtration material in an hour.

Filtration Media

You should understand the type of filtration media a filter uses to keep the water clean. Three filtration and filtration media types are:

1. Mechanical Filtration

The most straightforward and first layer of filtration, water is forced through a filtration layer that is designed to trap particles and debris suspended in the water. Mechanical filters need to be cleaned/changed regularly. They are usually graded in microns, with microns reflecting the size of particles these filters can catch.

2. Biological Filtration

Usually, the second layer of filtration. The biological filtration supports the nitrogen cycle of the tank. Fish waste and food in the water produce ammonia. This ammonia is harmful to the fish. Thankfully, a natural beneficial bacteria in a healthy fish tank helps break this ammonia into nitrite, which is also bad for the fish. Another type of beneficial bacteria helps convert this nitrite into nitrate, which is less toxic for the fish. A biological filter is a medium or material that allows these beneficial bacteria to thrive.

3. Chemical Filtration

The third layer of filtration. Chemical filtration is responsible for eliminating or neutralizing unwanted chemicals or chemicals that are harmful to your fish and plants, like activated carbon, which is the most common chemical filter. It keeps the water crystal clear and increases light penetration.

Most filtration cartridges or filtration units for fish tanks have all three filtration layers. It is essential to know the type of filtration medium used, and how often to replace it.

Types Of Filters You Can Use In Your 10 Gallon Tank

When it comes to the build, there are a few types of filters, each with its own merits.

1. Hang-on-back Filters

One of the most common types of filters used is a hang-on-back type filter. This kind of filter usually has a body that is entirely out of the way and hangs on the backside wall of the fish tank. A siphon or tube inserted in the water. The tube sucks the water, runs it through three-stage filtration, and sends it back to the tank via an output stream.

These filters are unobtrusive, efficient, and provide the right balance of all three filtration types. They are also usually easy to clean and manage. Hang-on-back filters are also called power filters.

2. Canister Filters

As the name suggests, these filters often resemble a canister in shape and are installed outside the fish tank. The core of these filters is a pressurized canister containing filter media. The water is sucked in, rushed through the media, and then pumped back into the water.

They require less maintenance then Hang-on-back filters but are also less efficient in the biological filtration of the water.

3. Internal Filters

These filters are completely submerged in water, and they are great for small tanks. They can’t be used with tanks over 20 gallons. These filters are usually attached to a wall with suction cups and do an excellent job of cleaning water by running it through all three filtration steps.

Internal filters are relatively cheap, but they are hard to clean up. The sometimes also require an air inlet to produce current and aerate the water.

Apart from these, most common types, under gravel filter and wet/dry filters, are also available in the market.

Maintenance & Filter Media Replacement

Maintenance is perhaps the most important thing to know and understand before choosing a filter. How effectively a filter cleans your water depends a lot on how well you clean and maintain your filter. Depending upon your fish and other biomass, make a cleaning and media replacement schedule for your filter and stick to it.

How About Getting A Kit With A Filter?

If you are looking for a kit that comes with a filter, most starter kits come with everything included that is relatively cheap and easy to set up.

Here is a great kit that comes with a filter

A word of caution when purchasing a kit!

The filters provided typically are just enough filtration for the tank. As a general rule, I usually like to use a filter that is rated for a slightly larger tank than the tank I have.

As an example;

If I have a 10-gallon tank, I would prefer a filter rated for 20 gallons, which ensure the filter can handle the tank and provide a little more filtration.

The more filtration is better!

What Is The Best Filter For A Small 10 Gallon Fish Tank?

Our recommended small aquarium filter is the Aqua Clear Power Filter, and in our opinion, it’s the best filter for a small fish tank for many reasons;

  • 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.
Aqua Clear – Fish Tank Filter – 5 to 20 Gallons – 110v
  • Refiltration system that offers superior contact time with filter media and energy efficient pump lowers operating costs
  • Quick and easy installation
  • Filtration volume is up to 7 times larger than comparable filters
  • Comes equipped with AquaClear Foam, Activated Carbon and BioMax and Cycle Guard for continuous biological filtration and superior water quality
  • 2 year warranty; Ideal for aquariums up to 20 gallons

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And lastly, the flow rate is excellent but not too strong 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 clear.

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 tremendous 10-gallon fish tank filter and would keep the water crystal clear and well filtered.

Final Thoughts

The right filtration is essential for the biomass of your fish tank, especially your fish. Without proper filtration, the fish will be stressed, sick, and more liable to die early. Make sure the filter you choose is sufficient for your fish tank, has proper filtration media, and a reasonable flow rate according to your fish.

For a 10-gallon fish tank, we would go with Aqua Clear – Fish tank filter as the best overall filter. It’s efficient, reasonably priced, and reliable.

For our top budget pick, Tetra Whisper In-tank Filter 10i for best performance and value per price.

Whatever you choose, make sure to maintain and clean it properly. Even the best filters might not do its job carefully if it’s not kept clean properly.

Best Filter For A 10 Gallon Tank & Small Aquariums

Jack Dempsey
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