The Fish Guru

Keeping Your Aquarium Clean: A Complete Guide to HOB Filters

Introduction to HOB Filters

Aquariums offer a window into the underwater world, but they can also be a breeding ground for bacteria and other contaminants. That’s where HOB filters come in.

HOB stands for Hang-On-Back, and these external filters are the perfect solution to keep your aquarium water clean and clear. In this article, well be diving deep into what HOB filters are, how they function, and reviewing the top five HOB filters on the market.

Functionality of HOB Filters

HOB filters come equipped with various filter mechanisms, which work together to remove debris, leftover food, and other waste materials from your aquarium. The water intake is the first component of the filter mechanism, which pumps water up from the aquarium through an intake tube.

The filtration materials used in the HOB filter then trap and remove the contaminants. Lastly, the filtered water is returned to the aquarium via waterfall method.

Regulating the flow of water is also critical, which is why many HOB filters have adjustable flow rate features in their design. This can be done by using an adjustable flow knob, which allows you to increase or decrease the water flow of the filter.

Maintenance is also an important aspect to consider when choosing an HOB filter. Regularly replacing the filter media and cleaning the filter components are paramount so that the filter can continue doing its job effectively.

5 Best HOB Filters Reviewed

1. Cascade Hang-On Power Filters

The Cascade Hang-On Power Filter is a reliable HOB filter that comes in various flow rates to suit your aquarium’s needs.

With a four-stage filtration system, it offers mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. The self-leveling case ensures that the HOB remains level, ensuring the flow rate remains consistent.

The adjustable flow rate feature allows you to fine-tune the filter’s performance, making it easy to maintain. Additionally, its lightweight design and quiet operation make it a practical and unobtrusive choice.

2. AquaClear Power Filter

The award-winning AquaClear Power Filter is a HOB filter that offers four filtration stages, including foam, activated carbon, bio-max, and cycle-guard.

The filter media is easily replaceable, with no need to remove the filter itself. The internal pump also contributes to its quiet operation, ensuring your aquarium remains peaceful.

The LED light indicator lets you know when it’s time for routine maintenance, making it easy for you to keep your filter running optimally. 3.

Marineland Penguin Power Filter

The Marineland Penguin Power Filter is perfect for different aquarium sizes, as it comes in various models that indicate its flow rate. It has an adjustable flow rate feature, allowing you to fine-tune it according to your aquarium’s requirements, and the adjustable intake tube ensures it will work well with differently sized aquariums.

It provides easy maintenance, with quick and easy cartridge changes, which requires no tooling. 4.

Tetra Whisper Power Filter

The Tetra Whisper Power Filter is an HOB filter equipped with timestrip technology, allowing you to monitor the filter’s life. It features a patented carbon filter carrier, enabling you to quickly replace the filter cartridge without exposing your hands to contaminated media.

Its submerged motor assists with reducing noise, and it’s suitable for different aquarium sizes. 5.

Fluval Power Filter

The Fluval Power Filter comes with a five-stage filtration system and provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. The foam pad efficiently cleans the water’s surface, and the chemical carbon insert removes any contaminants.

The bio-screen and biological c-nodes provide a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow, ensuring the water remains clean and healthy. Its different sizes suit various aquarium sizes, making it a versatile choice.


HOB filters are a critical component of any aquarium, and choosing the right one can make all the difference. As we have seen with the five filters described above, various designs and features cater to different aquarium needs.

Be mindful of the filter mechanism, flow rate regulation features, and maintenance requirements of the HOB filter, before making your selection. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with valuable insights to help you make the best choice for your aquarium.

3) How to Choose the Right HOB Filter

HOB Filters come in different sizes, shapes, and designs, making it challenging to choose the right one. Here are some essential elements to consider when choosing the right HOB filter:

Required Flow

One of the critical factors to consider is the flow rate of the HOB filter. Water circulation is critical to keep the water in the aquarium clean and healthy for fish.

Experienced fish keepers suggest that the water flow should be four times the aquarium’s water volume. For instance, an aquarium that holds 50 gallons of water should have a water flow rate of 200 gallons per hour (GPH).

A higher flow rate increases the HOB filter’s capacity to remove pollutants and maintain high-quality water.

Media Type

Filter media plays a critical role in the filtration process and, therefore, must be selected wisely. There are various media types, including sponge, ceramic rings, bio-media, activated carbon, and many others.

Sponges are helpful in removing floating debris, but they are not recommended as a primary filtration media. Ceramic rings provide a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow, which helps in removing toxins from the water.

Bio-media provides a surface for beneficial bacteria to colonize, ensuring efficient biological filtration. Lastly, activated carbon helps to remove odor and discoloration, making the water clear and free of pollutants.

Size of the Tank

The HOB filter’s output capability should reflect the size of your aquarium – a filter that’s too small won’t work correctly while one that’s too large may cause havoc in the tank. Under-filtered tanks can lead to chemically imbalanced water that can cause damage to fish and other aquatic animals.

Suppose your aquarium’s size is relatively large or complex, and you keep a variety of aquatic creatures and fish; in that case, you must purchase a filter that has a higher output capability.

4) How to Set Up and Maintain a HOB Filter

Once you select the right HOB filter, you need to set it up and maintain it properly to ensure it works effectively. Here are some steps to consider:


Tank Size and Filter Size – First, ensure that the filter is the right size for your aquarium, matching the flow rate requirements we discussed earlier. The appropriate filter size should be able to filter out five times the tank’s volume in an hour.

Placement – Proper placement of the HOB filter is essential. Position the filter to ensure that the intake tube is submerged and not exposed to the air.

Place the HOB filter near the edge of the tank, close to the middle section, for best results.

Colored Coverings – The HOB filter comes with a colored covering that complements the aquarium dcor.

The covers provide visual appeal and prevent any direct reflection of light on the fish. Priming – Priming the HOB filter is necessary, and it helps to remove any air trapped in the filter mechanism.

You can accomplish this by filling the filter chamber with water then plugging it in.


Cleaning – The HOB filter requires cleaning every one to two weeks. Begin by unplugging and disassembling the filter components.

Be cautious when handling the sponges, and use aquarium water to rinse them. Do not use tap water, as it contains chlorine, which can kill the beneficial bacteria present in the filter media.

Once you have cleaned the sponge, rinse the other filter media using aquarium water. Filter Media Replacement – Replace the filter media every three to four weeks, depending on your aquarium’s bio-load.

Regular replacement ensures filtration efficiency, which is essential in maintaining high-quality water. Frequency of Cleaning – Depending on your aquarium’s bio-load, you should clean the HOB filter every one to two weeks, ensure the filter media is replaced every three to four weeks, and conduct a deep clean every month.

In conclusion, choosing the right HOB filter is essential in ensuring that fish and other aquatic creatures in the aquarium remain healthy and happy. Consider elements like flow rate, filter media, and aquarium size when choosing the ideal filter.

Proper setup and regular maintenance are essential in ensuring the filter works effectively, which helps maintain a clean and healthy aquarium.

5) FAQs

Why would you need a HOB filter? HOB filters are essential in maintaining healthy water conditions in aquariums.

They are an affordable and effective solution to keep water clean and clear. Moreover, HOB filters are cheap and easy to replace parts, making them an ideal choice for those on a budget.

Finally, they’re also easy to clean, making for a low maintenance aquatic environment. Can you use a HOB filter for a saltwater tank?

Yes, you can use HOB filters in saltwater tanks. There are specific filters designed to support filtration in saltwater tanks.

These filters have various types of media to cater to the specific needs of saltwater environments. When choosing a filter media for a saltwater tank, you must consider the appropriate media type, such as bio-media and activated carbon.

Canister filter vs. HOB filter

Both canister filters and HOB filters are popular types of aquarium filters, but they differ in their designs, filtration efficiency, and impact on the aquarium’s aesthetic value.

Canister filters are larger and contain more filter media, making them more efficient in filtering water. They are ideal for larger aquariums as they have a higher flow rate and can effectively manage high bio-load.

Additionally, canister filters are generally more expensive than HOB filters. HOB filters are smaller than canister filters and are designed to cater to mid-range aquarium sizes.

They are highly versatile, and you can easily replace the filter media, making them an affordable option. Finally, HOB filters are more user-friendly due to their ease of installation and simple maintenance procedures.

6) Summary

HOB filters are a popular choice for small to mid-range aquarium owners. They are affordable, easy to install, and low-maintenance, making them an ideal choice for those on a budget.

These filters have built-in functionality such as adjustable sliders and interchangeable chutes which make them a user-friendly solution in maintaining healthy water conditions. When selecting a HOB filter, it’s essential to consider the intended use, the quality of the brand, and price, to ensure that it meets your aquarium’s specific needs.

For instance, suppose you’re looking to buy a HOB filter for a small aquarium and are on a budget. In that case, the Cascade Hang-On Power Filter is an excellent option to consider.

In summary, whether you’re looking for affordability, quality, or brand name, there is a HOB filter that can meet your needs and give you peace of mind in maintaining your aquatic environment. In conclusion, HOB filters are essential for maintaining a clean and healthy aquarium environment.

When choosing the right HOB filter, it’s important to consider the flow rate, media type, and aquarium size. Proper setup and regular maintenance, including cleaning the filter components and replacing filter media, are necessary to ensure the filter works efficiently.

HOB filters are affordable, easy to install, and low-maintenance, making them an ideal choice for small to mid-range aquariums. Overall, selecting the right HOB filter is the key to ensuring that your aquatic environment remains healthy, and the information provided in this article can be useful in helping you make an informed decision.

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