The 5 Filter Types and Their Uses in Planted Tanks

Filtration is one of the most important things in your tank.

It can make or break your tank’s health and beauty, because poor filtration means poor plant growth and poor fish coloration.

That’s why it’s so critical as an Aquascaper to use the correct filter for your tank! Let’s take a look at the five types of filtration, examples of each, and what tanks you should be using with them.

Take a look at the guide we’ve written below!

We’ve gathered content from the best sources possible, including The Planted Tank forums, the Barr Report, and more.

Hanging Filters

Hanging filters are a cheap, simple, and easy way to get filtration for your tank. There are literally thousands of sizes and types that fit almost any aquarium.

However, most aquascapers today steer clear of them because they’re usually distracting and noisy, and detract from the beauty of a well-built tank.

Hanging filters also reduce the amount of CO2 in your water by agitating the surface, which increases the CO2 release from the water.

This is another reason why aquascapers with Planted Tanks generally don’t use them—CO2 can be quite expensive when you waste it.

Here’s the TL;DR:

  • Great Entry-Level Choice
  • Uses up your CO2 faster with surface agitation
  • Can be very effective
  • Some have noise issues, and can disturb you if it’s in your bedroom

Regardless, a good hanging filter from a good brand can be effective. Here are a few good choices for you you if you’re looking for hanging filter:

EHEIM Liberty FilterFluval C2 Power FilterAquaClear 50 Power Filter

Canister Filters

Canister filters are without a doubt the best choice for an Aquascape tank. They stay out of sight and are extremely effective at creating crystal-clear water.

Some of the best Aquarists in the world rely on this type of filter for their tanks.

One of the biggest benefits from a canister filter is the potential for customization available for your tank—you can create a custom filter media solution that’s based around what you’re looking for in your filter.

You can modify the amount of flow that’s coming out of the filter, and use attachments to control how that flow acts when it comes out.

Canister filters also have a significantly larger volume than most other filters, which allows for better filtration and beneficial bacteria growth. The simple fact is this: more stuff filtering usually means clearer water.

Here’s the TL;DR:

  • The choice many professional Aquascapers use
  • Reliable, extremely effective, and only priced in mid-range
  • Many models are nearly silent

Here are some good choices for canister filters (we actually use these ourselves at TAG):

EHEIM Classic 2213SunSun Multi-Stage Canister FilterAPI Filstar XPS Filter

Internal Filters

Internal filters sit inside the tank, and are completely submerged in the water. While these have lost popularity in the recent years with the advent of Aquascaping, they still have their uses in filtration.

These filters are usually air-driven with a pump, and are meant for small aquariums only, usually no more than 20 gallons.

Oddly enough, these are actually one of the most efficient filters, since it’s not taking the water out of the tank to filter it.

Here’s the TL;DR:

  • Some models can be effective in small tanks
  • Not meant for aquariums larger than 20 gallons
  • Introduces more equipment into the tank, which may not be appealing to some Aquascapers

If you’re looking for an internal filter, you’ll have great results with these brands:

EHEIM Aquaball Internal Filter 2210Fluval 4 Plus Internal Filter

Wet/Dry Filters

These filters have the maximum amount of beneficial bacteria growth. They take advantage of bacteria’s natural cleaning affects by fully exposing them to air, which means the bacteria is at its most effective in cleaning the water of any impure substances.

However, they’re not used very often because of their excessive time and maintenance demands. These are so in-depth that sometimes an actual separate tank is used with tons of plant growth and beneficial bacteria.

However intense the maintenance is, it’s worth it—these filters keep the water sparklingly clear.

If you’re looking for a wet/dry filter, you’ll have good results with something like this: a 3 Stage Wet/Dry Filter Kit.

Undergravel Filters

These are similar to internal filters in that they’re waning in popularity due to the increase in ‘aquascaped’ tanks. Nobody wants to completely rescape their tank every two months to clean the detritus that’s been trapped under the filter.

These are also not suitable for planted tanks, since the plants will likely wrap their roots around the filter great in the substrate.

However, it still has its uses in aquariums that aren’t planted. It’s out of the way, and provides ‘invisible’ cleaning throughout the tank.

Note that maintenance is extremely difficult with this type, and sometimes requires a complete rescape to fully clean the filter.

What have you Seen Success With?

When you’re using the correct filter, you’ll find that it’s much easier to keep your water clean, your plants will likely grow faster, and your fish will definitely be healthier. Filters are worth the investment.

What type of filter do you use for your tank? Have you had any bad experiences with a tank? Check out the comments on Facebook and join the conversation!

1 thought on “The 5 Filter Types and Their Uses in Planted Tanks”

  1. Great article and helped me decide which filter type to go with. I already had the idea to go with a canister, and this only helped to validate my ideas. Thanks!


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