Best HOB Filter: Top 7 Reviews

Looking for the best HOB filter? We have reviewed our top 7 picks, each researched and covered in detail to help you decide on the right option.

If you need a great aquarium filter to keep your water clean and keep the inhabitants happy and healthy, you may want to consider getting a HOB filter, also known as a hang on back aquarium filters. These filters are becoming increasingly popular with many people around the world, mainly because they do not take up space inside of the aquarium. Let’s get right to it and talk about everything there is to know about the HOB filter, followed by our top 7 picks including what we feel is the best HOB filter.

AquaClear Power Filter Our top pick 9.8/10
Fluval C4 Power Filter Very efficient 9.7/10
Marineland Penguin Power Filter Up to 350 gallons per hour 9.5/10

What Is A HOB Filter?

A HOB filter stands for a hang on back filter. Simply put, they are a fairly bulky filtration option for your fish tank which hangs off of the back side of your aquarium. These things may be a little chunky, but there are several good reason why people prefer them over other options. First of all, these things tend to be quite inexpensive, something that is always a bonus. Next, these things are very easy accessible thanks to being located on the outside of the aquarium, plus the filter media is also easily cleaned and changed.

Over the past few years the hang on back filter has become a very popular method, especially since new technology was developed to make them quieter than ever before. Remember to consider things like the type of filter media located in your hang on back filter, which can be a combination of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you need to consider the flow rate of the hang on back filter in question and compare that to how big your actual aquarium is.

What We Think is The Best HOB Filter

When it comes to hang on back aquarium filters, this one is one we feel is one of the best options (you can check the current price at Amazon here).

AquaClear Power Filter

This is a fantastic hang on back filter model to go with. This particular model is ideal for aquariums between 60 and 100 gallons in size, but keep in mind, there are several versions of this model which can accommodate smaller aquariums. This thing is pretty impressive because it is quite small and quiet, yet it has 7 times the filtration power of other comparable hang on back filters.

This makes for a really great hang on back filter because it comes complete with AquaClear Foam, Activated Carbon, BioMax, and Cycle Guard. This means that not only does the AquaClear HOB Power Filter do an amazing job with mechanical filtration, but it also does a stunning job when it comes to biological filtration.

This filter is a fantastic combination of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration, thus providing you with perfectly clean water every time. This thing cleans out waste and debris, it helps provide beneficial bacteria to your aquarium, and it also helps remove any impurities that should not be in the aquarium water.

Moreover, this particular filter is specially designed in order to allow for maximum water to filtration media contact for the clearest water that you have ever seen. This is actually a very powerful filter and can process 500 gallons of water per hour. A really neat part about this filter is that you can reduce or increase the flow rate to meet your specific needs.


  • Biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration.
  • Fairly quiet.
  • Quite compact.
  • Easy to set up and install.
  • Very powerful – process up to 500 gallons per hour.
  • Meant for larger aquariums.
  • Quite durable.


  • Motor could have a longer lifetime.

Check the price at Amazon

How To Set Up A HOB Filter

Setting up a hang on back filter is very easy and straightforward, which is actually a big reason why many people like them so much. First off, all of the materials you need to assemble the filter and get it running should be included in the packaging. You should never have to buy any extra components when you buy yourself a hang on back aquarium filter.

Start by reading the manufacturer’s instructions. Most of the time you will be required to assemble the filter media itself, which means installing the bio wheel in its proper place, and inserting the mechanical filtration media into its proper place. If you have a very advance filter that also uses chemical filtration, this is when it is time to assemble that. Always make sure to follow the instructions in the manual in terms of the proper sequence of filtration media installation, as doing this in the wrong order will not turn out too well.

Now it is time that you install the intake sump along with the proper tubing so that there will be an adequate flow of water delivered to the hang on back filtration unit. This is also when you will install the tubing that allows the freshly filtered water to travel back into the main aquarium. After you have done this, simply use the included parts to hang the filter off of the back of your aquarium as is meant. After this, just fill the filter with some water to give it a little kick start and turn it on.

How To Clean A HOB Filter

Cleaning a hang on back aquarium filter is also not very difficult. However, do keep in mind that different models vary in terms of their cleaning difficulty. Here we have a generalized set of instructions that should apply to cleaning most hang on back aquarium filters out there.

  • You need to unplug the filter and make sure there is no electricity running through it.
  • Remove the hang on back filter from the back of the tank for easy cleaning.
  • Take off the top lid so you can remove the filter basket where all of the filter media is located. The things which you are most likely to find here include biological media such as beads, a mechanical filtration sponge, and a carbon bag.
  • Use old aquarium water which has been freshly taken from the aquarium and put it in a bucket. Clean both the sponge and the beads in that used aquarium water. You want to use old aquarium water because it will help keep alive any beneficial bacteria on your filtration media.
  • If there is a carbon bag involved, it needs to be changed every 2 to 4 weeks depending on how many plants and animals are in your aquarium.
  • Add lubricant to the motor to ensure that it runs smoothly.
  • Check the impeller to see that it is still functioning correctly and in one piece. If it is damaged it may need replacement.
  • Reassemble the hang on back filter and put it back on the outside of your aquarium.

6 More Hang On Back Filters To Consider: Our Reviews

Of course not everybody has the same needs and the same tastes, which means that you might not be a huge fan of the AquaClear HOB filter that we chose as the number one HOB filter out there. Well, just in case you would like to look at a few more, here are 6 other fantastic options that you could go with.

1. Marineland Penguin Power Filter

This is a really great 3 stage hang on back filter option to go with. You will really like fact that it provides you with 100% water to filtration media contact for the utmost in clean water.

This thing features a bio wheel for growing beneficial bacteria and for removing poisonous ammonia and nitrites from the water, plus the bio wheel has a noise reducing cover so it is not too loud.

Moreover, this particular HOB filter also comes with a Rite-Size filtration cartridge that can be replaced, a cartridge which provides both mechanical and chemical filtration to remove waste, solid debris, odor, and discoloration from the water. You will like the fact that the cartridges are easily replaced for quick and efficient cleaning.

The Marineland Penguin Power Filter is very easy to clean, easy to set up, and better yet, this model can handle aquariums of up to 70 gallons in size and can process of 350 gallons every single hour. Also, this model comes with an easy to access vented lid for easy maintenance, something that everyone can appreciate.


  • Easy to install and maintain.
  • Can handle up to 350 gallons per hour.
  • Powerful 3 stage filtration.
  • Filter media included.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Fairly quiet.


  • Bio wheel does not move freely at times.

Check the price at Amazon

2. Fluval C Power Filter

Yet another fantastic hang on back filtration option to go with, this particular model actually engages in 5 separate stages of filtering to provide you with crystal clear water that is free of any impurities. On a side note, people really seem to like this particular filter because it is extremely easy to install and even easier to clean.

The first 2 stages of filtration consist of a multistage PolyFoam sponge which catches both larger and smaller debris for effective mechanical filtration. The third stage of filtration involves an activated carbon insert that helps remove odors, discoloration, and other impurities from the water. The final 2 stages of filtration then involve using a bio screen as well as bio C Nodes to remove ammonia, nitrites, and to allow beneficial bacteria to grow. Something that is pretty neat is that the Fluval C Power Filter comes with an indicator to inform you when the PolyFoam needs to be cleaned.

This is a fairly powerful filter that is ideal for aquariums up to 70 gallons in size, plus it can handle well over 250 gallons of water per hour. Moreover, something that makes this hang on back filter so effective is that you can reduce the flow rate to accommodate plants and fish that don’t like a strong current. Plus, when the flow rate is reduced, up to 50% of the water is re-filtered multiple times for some of the cleanest water that you have ever seen.


  • Easy to install.
  • Quick cleaning.
  • Impressive 5 stage filtration technique.
  • Reduce flow rate to re-filter water.
  • Tells you when PolyFoam needs cleaning.
  • Very effective and powerful.


  • Extremely loud.

Check the price at Amazon

3. EHEIM Liberty 200 Hang On Filter

This is a very simple yet effective hang on back filter option to go with. One of the best parts about it is that you only need to hang it on the back of your aquarium to install using a series of easy to use clips.

Moreover, this filtration unit engages in superior 3 stage filtration that consists of adsorptive, mechanical, and biological filtration. The EHEIM Liberty Hang On Filter comes with a large sponge for biological filtration as well as a cellular foam cartridge for the removal of pollutants. Something that is really neat about this filter is that it can accommodate various types of filter media. As long as the size of the cartridge in question fits the filter, it will be able to use it.

We like the fact that this hang on back aquarium filter also has an adjustable flow rate in order to accommodate your tank needs, plus it also allows for maximum water to filter media contact, especially when the flow rate is turned down. This is a cascade filter so it makes a waterfall-like effect when the clean water empties back into the tank. The EHEIM Liberty Hang On Back Filter is made for aquariums up to 50 gallons in size and can process well over 250 gallons per hour.


  • Very versatile – can use multiple filter media.
  • Advanced 3 stage filtration technique.
  • Convenient one piece design.
  • Cascading waterfall.
  • Very simple to install.
  • Adjustable flow rate.


  • Somewhat loud.

Check the price at Amazon

4. Marineland Emperor 400 Pro Series

This is a high capacity hang on back filter which is intended for aquariums of up to 80 gallons in size. This thing can actually process upwards of 400 gallons of aquarium water per hour, making it very efficient at its job.

What you will really like about this particular filter is that it features a great 2 pump design which provides for maximum water intake, water output, and optimal filtration. Moreover, this filter features a very simple design. Literally insert the filter media, hang the filter on the back of your tank, and plug it in.

Another thing you will like about the MarineLand Emperor 400 Pro Series is that it can hold twice as many filter cartridges as other filters of the same size, this providing for really powerful filtration. This thing comes with all of the mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration that you need from any filter. The extra-large spray bar driven bio-wheel is excellent for filtering out unwanted compounds and for growing beneficial bacteria as well.

The fact that this thing can hold so many different biological, chemical, and mechanical pieces of filtration media is very impressive indeed. Moreover, cleaning is made easy thanks to the fact that you can simply slide the cartridges out for quick rinsing.


  • Very high flow rate.
  • Can handle up to 400 gallons per hour.
  • Great dual pump system.
  • 3 stage filtration.
  • Spray bar powered bio-wheel.
  • 2 times more capacity for filtration cartridges.


  • Somewhat loud.
  • Flow rate is not adjustable.

Check the price at Amazon

5. API SuperClean Power Filter

This is a very simple yet highly effective hang on back filter option to go with. Keep in mind, this model is designed for fish tanks between 5 and 20 gallons in size, which means that while it is good for smaller aquariums, it will not be powerful enough for anything bigger.

This is a filter that comes with a wide variety of filtration media, but it is a small hob filter so it can’t fit too much media. Included is a Bio-Chem Zorb Cartridge that actively engages in chemical and biological filtration. This filter can handle a variety of standard size chemical, biological, and chemical filtration media, but it is quite small so it cannot handle them all at once.

All of that being said, while this is not the most powerful filter out there, it is still good enough for small aquariums, it is easy to install, easy to clean, and it is fairly quiet as well.


  • Quiet.
  • Small.
  • Effective.
  • Can handle a variety of media.
  • Good for tanks up to 20 gallons.


  • Cannot handle multiple media at once.

Check the price at Amazon

6. Aqueon Quietflow 50 Filter

Something that we really like about this particular hang on back filter is that it works in both salt and fresh water, something that not too many other filters out there can boast. Moreover, the Aqueon QuietFlow 50 filter is designed for aquariums up to 50 gallons in size and can process well over 300 gallons of water per hour.

What everyone can appreciate about this hang on back filter is that it utilizes 4 stages of filtration to provide you with crystal clear and clean water. The first stage consists of a dense floss to remove particles and debris. The second stage of filtration features activated carbon to remove toxins, odors, and colors.

The third stage is a bio-holster that removes nitrites and ammonia, plus it provides beneficial bacteria for the water. Finally, the fourth stage consists of a diffuser grid to remove additional toxins, plus it helps oxygenate the water as well.

Some other things that you will like about this model is that it features an internal pump with noise dampening features for a quiet and smooth operation. The special design of this model also eliminates leaks, plus it will start up automatically after power interruptions or cleaning.


  • Advanced 4 stage filtration.
  • Ideal for 50 gallon aquariums.
  • Easy to maintain.
  • Very quiet.
  • Easy to install.
  • No leaks.


  • May experience trouble with the impeller.

Check the price at Amazon

We have also covered some undergravel options here.

What Filter Media Should I Use In My HOB Filter?

When it comes to HOB filters, you want to have the right media contained within it in order to ensure that the water in your aquarium is as clean, clear, and habitable as humanly possible.

Let’s talk about the various media types that you should put in your HOB filter for the best possible results.

Mechanical Media

The first kind of media that you need is mechanical filtration media. This type of media removes all kinds of solid debris such as fish waste and uneaten food from the water.

This is necessary because fish waste and uneaten food creates toxic ammonia and other substances that cannot be present in a fish tank. There are 3 different mechanical media types to choose from. These include filter pads, foam blocks, and filter floss.

Biological Media

The second kind of media that you need in your HOB filter is biological filtration media. This stuff is very important because it helps break down and get rid of ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites present in the water.

Like we said before, these substances are all very dangerous to fish and therefore need to be removed as fast as they are created. There are bio-balls, foam bio blocks, bio-rings, and a couple of other types of biological media you can choose from.

Chemical Media

The third type of media that you need to have in your HOB filter is chemical filtration media. This stuff is very important because it helps remove all remaining excess chemicals and unwanted compounds from the water. It also helps to stop smells and discoloration from occurring.

The most common type of chemical filtration media is charcoal. There are also aluminum based phosphate absorbing medias, crushed coral, peat and peat granules, ammonia chips, and nitrate absorbing media too.

We would recommend doing a little more research on these in order to come to a final purchasing decision that will work best for you.

Should I Use Purigen In My Filter?

Purigen is a type of chemical filtration media and we would definitely recommend using it. This stuff is not too expensive, it is easy to use, and highly effective at its intended job. Purigen helps to absorb and remove ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites from the water.

It removes everything remaining in the water that the biological filtration has not managed to take care of. While Purigen is not 100% necessary, it is a useful type of filter media to have in your arsenal.

What To Look For In A HOB Filter

Before you go out and buy the first HOB filter that you see, you want to keep a few considerations in mind so you find the one that works best for you. So, what are the main factors to keep in mind before you select the right HOB aquarium filter for your tank.


The first thing to look out for is the size of the filter in comparison to the size of the tank. Simply put, you need the filter to be able to handle the volume of water in the tank. Ideally, the HOB filter you get should be able to process around 4 times the total water volume in the tank per hour.


You need the HOB filter to be able to engage in all 3 major types of filtration, the 3 types we discussed above. Most HOB filters have ample room for filtration media, so this should not be a problem.


You need the HOB filter you get to have a strong motor. Read some reviews on specific products to get an idea of how long the motor for the HOB filter in question will last.

A good thing to get is one that has a cover on the impeller to stop debris from getting lodged in the impeller.


HOB filters generally don’t require too much maintenance, less than other types of filters anyway. Generally speaking, tubes that are easy to disconnect, and easy off lid, and easy to access filtration media chamber are all ideal.

The best hang on back filter is one with a good motor, one that is easy to clean, and one that engages in all 3 major types of filtration.


Hang on back filters really are great options to go with for a variety of reasons. They definitely do a good job at filtering your aquarium water, plus they help save space on the inside of the aquarium too. Just remember to weigh your needs against the specs of the filters and you should have no trouble finding the one that is right for you. You might also like this post on Water Changers.

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