Aquarists everywhere, if you love your fish and want them to have a healthy life underwater, you absolutely must invest in a filter system for your aquarium.
It is even more essential to have a sound filtration system when you have a small 5 gallon tank, where the water is more susceptible to chemical imbalances and gets dirty more quickly.
This list compiles the best filter for 5 gallon tank to make your filter buying experience as smooth as possible. All of these filters work great with small fish tanks and are bound to be a great addition to your aquarium.
Let us dive into what each filter has to offer!
Best Pick and Budget Pick
The best all-round filter has to be the AquaClear 20 Fish Tank Filter. It is packed with features that are best suited for the best filter for 5 gallon fish tank and could be the one you need for your aquarium.
The AquaClear 20, being a hang-on-back (HOB) filter, is extremely easy to set up and maintain. This takes up the least amount of space and has an adjustable flow, from 5 to 20 Gallons Per Hour, so that your fish stay comfortable according to your preference.
This filter has a combination of all the best features from the filters listed. Additionally, it features a patented re-filtration system which is more efficient in cleaning your aquarium. If you want the best of the best, then this filter is definitely the first to be recommended.
Tight on budget? Do not fret, the Aquapapa Corner Filter has got you covered. It may be the cheapest filter on this list, but it can do a great job to keep your tank clean.
It provides a multi-layer sponge system housing both physical and biochemical filtration to efficiently filter the water. The filter is also very quiet, ensuring a soothing experience as you appreciate your aquarium.
It is recommended to use a sponge over the input grill to lower the flow rate, since it may suck in fry. A filter is essential for your tank, so if you do not have the cash to spare for something a bit fancier, grab the Aquapapa Corner Filter!
Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Review
The filters reviewed here have unique features to help you keep your tank clean, you will indeed find what you were looking for in this list!
1. AquaClear 20 Fish Tank Filter
- Aquarium filtration system that offers superior contact time with filter media and energy efficient pump lowers...
- Quick and easy installation; we recommend that you clean aquarium filter every 2 weeks for maximum operation and...
The AquaClear 20 Fish Tank Filter comes at the top of the list owing to its versatility and efficiency as a power filter. It does an excellent job keeping the water clean due to its patented re-filtration system.
It can be installed swiftly and provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration methods with foam, carbon filter and BioMax media to ensure that your water is in the best condition possible.
Cleaning the filter should be done every two weeks to ensure that the filter stays in top shape. Moreover, the adjustable flow on this helps you figure out the sweet spot of current flow for the overall happiness of your fish.
The price of this product is justified when we see everything it brings to the table, the compact and elegant design, patented re-filtration system and reliability. All of it combined makes the AquaClear 20 the best filter for 5 gallon tank.
- Adjustable flow
- Significantly more filtration media is provided
- Has excellent build quality
- Re-filtration system ensures maximum filtration is done
- Attractive design
- A bit more pricey than other filters
- Recommended that it is cleaned twice each month
2. Aquapapa Corner Filter
- With multi-layer sponge filters, this corner filter combines physical and biochemical filtration for your fish and...
- Quiet filtering system. Especially good for breeding small fish. Efficiently remove toxic waste and maintain clean water...
A multi-layered design containing both mechanical and bio-chemical filtration makes the Aquapapa Corner Filter a worthy aquarium filter. Its small size is ideal for a short 5 gallon fish tank making it a good option as a filter.
Being a sponge filter means that the filter makes absolutely no sound. Combining that with its layers of white filter pad, black bio-sponge and ceramic rings help it to stand out from the rest with its unique features.
The filter requires buying an air pump and airline tubing, which is sold separately, upping the cost. However, this is still the best budget option for people looking to buying a filter.
It also is easy to clean and set up. To clean it, just rinse it with aquarium water. It is recommended that you use another sponge filter over the grilled filter if you are afraid that the grill may catch fry and trap them inside.
- Easy to maintain
- Quiet filtration system
- Helps increase the oxygen solubility
- Takes up little space inside the aquarium
- Implements 3 stage filtration methods: mechanical, chemical, biological
- Need to buy air pimp and tubing separately
- May require an extra sponge for safety.
3. Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter
- Efficiently cleans and filters water
- Easy to install using suction cups and/or hanging clips
The Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter is an excellent filter for its price, bringing superior value with all its features. It has a slightly higher flow rate, but that will not be an issue because the flow rate can be manually adjusted, with the option to change flow direction as well.
Fortunately, this filter does not require any priming. It has an auto-pump system which means it is easier to use it after setting it up once.
This also comes with a 3 step filtration system with mechanical, chemical, and biological filters and is extremely quiet, so having it in your bedroom will not disturb you or your fish from sleeping.
That being said, the Aqueon Quietflow is a bit more challenging to maintain and may benefit from the use of a more effective filtration media. Still, those are widely available and compatible with this filter.
The discreet design and practical features make this an excellent filter to choose for your tank.
- Adjustable flow with more options to customize
- There is almost zero noise
- Automatic pumping system
- No priming necessary
- Filter cartridges are widely available
- Difficult to change the filtration media
- It has a higher flow rate than the others on this list
5. Penn–Plax Cascade Hang–on Aquarium Filter
- QUIET & EFFICIENT: The Cascade 20 Mini Power Hang-On Filter quietly delivers crystal clear water throughout the...
- ACCOMMODATING: The adjustable flow knob allows for increased or decreased water flow at will, which is extremely helpful...
If you are looking for something that offers an excellent filtration system with activated carbon and Poly Fiber Floss, so your water stays clean always, the Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter is the one for you!
The flow rate of 20 GPH on this filter is ideal for a 5 gallon fish tank. It can significantly improve the marine life of your aquarium. The adjustable flow rate on this also helps maintain a steady current so that your fish stay happy and healthy.
Replacement filter cartridges are available, so it makes it easier to keep your filter clean. The filter also boasts a quiet experience while it is in motion, which means that it will always maintain the calmness of the aquarium.
It should be noted that although it has mechanical and chemical filtration, it does not include a biological filtration system, which is not essential but may cause issues if you plan on making saltwater aquariums.
- Wet/dry biological filtration
- Adjustable flow rate
- Filter cartridges are readily available
- Enough space to use your own filter media
- Can handle larger volumes of water
- A higher flow rate may improve its working capacity
- No biological filtration system provided
5. Penn–Plax Small World Aquarium Air Pump and Filter Kit
- GREAT FOR SMALLER SETUPS: The Small World Air Pump and Filter Kit is specifically designed for aquariums and tanks up to...
- AIR-TECH PUMP: This Kit comes standard with an Air-Tech AT2K0 pump. In addition to being quiet, efficient, and reliable,...
This is the second filter from the Penn-Plax brand, and even though this filter is small, it still packs a punch. The Small World Aquarium kit from Penn-Plax is a great kit that comes in a tiny package, so it leaves a lot of room for your fish to wiggle around in the tank.
The entire kit includes an air pump, filter, mounting bracket and some tubing, and it is effective in removing toxins and odour from your tank. It has a high-quality carbon cartridge for chemical filtration and a foam block filter for mechanical and biological filtration.
This filter comes at a low price compared to the others in this list and gets into the top 5 because of its high-value proposition. It also features a unique wet/dry biological filtration system that helps good bacteria to filter the water.
It could benefit from a higher flow rate than what it offers. Still, it is hardly a problem if you maintain your aquarium correctly. The filter is easy to set up and easy to maintain, making it an excellent choice for your tank.
- Unique Wet/Dry biological filtration system
- Small, takes minimal space
- Has a three-step filtration system
- Easy to maintain and change filters
- Safe to use with fry
- The flow rate may be a bit too weak
- May take some time to assemble the full kit
6. AZOO Mignon Filter 60
Another affordable choice for your fish tank would be the AZOO Aquarium Mignon filter. This filter is great for beginners since it is to set up and maintain.
The filter is great if you want to use it with it your 5 gallon tank and can handle filtering that amount of water with ease. It also comes packed with a sponge strainer to be attached to the inlet hose to save small fish from being sucked in mistakenly.
It also includes an adjustable flow control knob so you can keep the power of this filter to a level you prefer. Although it comes with its own sponge filters, you can still buy your own BioMax filters to greatly enhance the functional capability of this filter.
This filter also does not require an external pump making it a great value product. The AZOO Mignon Filter is an excellent choice for someone wanting a small but powerful aquarium filter.
- Compact design
- Can be easily maintained
- Works quietly
- Easy to set up
- Inlet strainer included
- Can produce too much of a strong current for fry
- BioMax filters may be bought to enhance the filter
7. Whisper in–Tank Filter
- UNIVERSAL DESIGN Tetra Whisper 20i Internal Filter is an all-in-one air pump and water filter system
- INTERNAL FILTER Mounts on the inside of your aquarium with clip (included)
The Whisper In-Tank filter is an internal filter that sits on the inside of your tank with the help of a clip to filter your aquarium water. This filter is an excellent choice for anyone wanting a quiet environment since the motor is underwater and cannot be heard.
Being one of the cheapest filters in this list, it lacks room inside it to add your own filtration media. Still, it already does a great job to filter the water so you may not need that. It contains a BioScrubber included which is an excellent feature for biological filtration.
This filter is easy to set up and has an easy maintenance process, so it is highly recommended for beginner aquarists.
The Whisper In-Tank filter does what it is supposed to do at a great price and would surely be an excellent addition to your tank.
- Has minimal noise
- Can filter very effectively
- BioScrubber included
- Very budget-friendly
- Can handle large tanks as well
- A bit on the larger side, taking up space inside the tank
- Limited room for extra filtration media
8. Hikari Bacto–Surge High–Density Foam Filter
- Works Well For Use In Freshwater Or Marine Applications
- Highly Porous Sponge Maximizes Bacterial Action
As the name suggests, this is a foam filter meaning that this filter works exceptionally quietly. The Hikari Bacto-Sure High-Density Foam Filter works exceedingly well for 5 gallon fish tanks, owing to its excellent filtration system.
It is equipped with a biological filter that helps remove toxins and chemicals in the water. The filter houses healthy bacteria that process waste and help keep the tank clean.
Having no pump means that the filter does not make any noise whatsoever. Cleaning the filter is recommended to be done every 10 days since it can get dirty fairly quickly.
Word of caution, use only aquarium water to clean this filter since the healthy bacteria may die if exposed to other types of water, incredibly hot water.
- Sponge ensures proper biological filtration
- Easy to set up
- No noise since there are no pumps
- Very easy to clean
- A little clunky and large for a small fish tank
- Might underperform when the tank gets too dirty
9. Marina Power Filter
The Marina Power Filter is another one of those filters that can be perfectly suitable for a small fish tank. It has many great features such as an adjustable flow knob, and it is self-priming, so you do not have to go through the process of priming it yourself.
It also comes with its own strainer sponge, protecting your baby dish from being sucked into the intake hose. Additionally, the motor is submerged underwater, so it does not make any noise. Still, the placement of the engine inside your tank may not be ideal since it takes up a lot of space.
Another thing to mention is that the Marina Power Filter may only be fitted with Marina’s in-house filters so you may lack variety in that department from third-party filter manufacturers.
All being said, this filter is still an excellent choice for beginners who want a good filter for a fair price.
- Included strainer sponge
- Flow is adjustable
- Slim and compact design
- The submerged motor provides no noise
- The motor takes up a lot of space inside the tank
- Filtration media not customizable to a degree
10. Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter
- Water filter for nano tanks and aquariums up to 10 gallons
- Created for use in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums
This filter is one for the big leagues, and beginners should typically stay away from this if they are shy of heart. The Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter possesses a range of features that make it an excellent aquarium filter for your 5 gallon tank.
Firstly, it does not take up space inside the tank as it sits outside it, using only two hoses to intake and output water. The filter also comes bundled with a spray bar along with a regular hose pipe, so that you can attach it when you feel like lowering the strength of the current inside your tank.
This tank is easy to set up and needs to be cleaned every 2 weeks, so you do not have to open up your filter often. To clean the filter, you simply need to pull the lid up and rinse it with water.
Due to being held by suction cups, the filter also makes significantly less noise compared to other canister filters. This filter, although a bit expensive, is one of the best at keeping your aquarium clean and tidy.
- Can accommodate a lot of filter media
- Extremely silent
- Comes packaged with an output nozzle and a spray bar
- Requires less maintenance once set up
- Easy to set up and clean
- Can benefit from more flow adjustment options
- More expensive since it is a canister filter
Buyer’s Guide for best 5 gallon fish tank filter:
To choose the best filter for 5 gallon tank boils down to your requirements and your personal preference in the end but there also some factors to take into consideration when buying one. These are filter type, space requirements, flow rate and ease of use.
Your tank may require various types of filtration methods to keep the water in its best condition possible.
Mechanical filtration physically traps the debris to keep your tank clean. Still, small fish like guppies may not favour the healthy flow rate it needs to work.
Chemical and biological filters help to keep the internal biosphere of your aquarium in balance. You can use one or both, but you should note that it is sometimes essential when the water you use has unwanted chemicals.
When buying a filter, you have to decide what type of filtration methods you need to include in your tank to ensure the best possible experience for you and your fish.
For small 5 gallon fish tanks, you would want a filter that uses the least amount of space so that your fish have a lot of room to swim freely.
All the filters listed in this review do not occupy much space, but it might be best to figure out what suits you the most.
When setting up your tank, you should keep in mind that some filters may take up more space than you would like them to so look up the dimensions of the filter before buying them.
For a small fish tank, it is generally recommended to have filters with lower flow rate since small fish tanks containing bettas, guppies or cherry shrimp can be affected by a strong current in the water.
Ensure that your fishes are comfortable with the filter you decide to install and watch out for strong currents that may pull your fish in and potentially injure them.
If you feel like your filter’s flow rate is too strong, you can always add a sponge to certain parts of your filter to help lessen the current which will protect your fish from any mishaps.
Ease of use
Obviously, you would want a filter that is easy to install as well as easy to maintain. Still, sometimes that also limits your options as to how much you can adjust your filter’s functionalities.
Hang-on-back filters are the easiest to work with but have the least versatility with regards to filtration media and flow rate adjustment.
Internal filters are also easy to set up but require more regular clean-ups.
Canister filters are the most difficult to set up and are not recommended for most beginner aquarists but can give a lot of value since it has the most options of filtration media and flow rate adjustment. However, these types of filters are also the most expensive.
1. How do I set up my filters?
The instruction manual is your best friend when it comes to setting up your filter, in general, hang-on-back filters are straightforward to set up. In contrast, internal filters and canister filters have a slightly complicated setup process.
2. How many times should I replace the filtration materials?
The replacement duration for each filtration media varies. For example, carbon filters typically need to be changed after a month, sponges after 2 months and biofilters after 3 months. However, this can vary, and it is best to consult the user manual.
3. Will there be a problem if I use a larger filter?
It usually is not a problem, but you should consider the space of your tank so that it does not fill up too much of the room. Some filters also have an option to adjust their water flow rate, making them a better choice over others.
4. Do I need to buy a full filter kit?
Most filters in this list come packaged with everything you need to properly set up a filtration system in your tank, but some may not. However, even if they miss some things like filtration media, they can still be your preferred choice.
5. Can I use these filters in a saltwater aquarium?
Small tanks have a more challenging time to maintain saltwater conditions, so it is not recommended to do that. However, these filters can still handle it provided you check your water parameters regularly.
6. What do I do if the current is too strong?
Attach a sponge to the hole of the filter to weaken the water flow. A few filters have the option to adjust the water flow rate.
7. Are the filters safe for baby fish/fry?
Some filters may have sponges included to decrease current and protect baby fish from being sucked in. You can also attach one yourself if it is not included.
8. What type of filter is the best filter for 5 gallon tank?
The best type of filter is the hang-on-back filters that are easy to install and have multiple levels of the filtration medium.
9. Is a sponge filter suitable for my tank?
Sponge filters can be great for tanks that house small fish such as bettas. They are safe for baby fish as well. However, they can clog up quickly, so make sure to clean them!
10. Where do I place my filter inside my tank?
It is a good idea to place your filter strategically so that it does not interfere with your fish. If you own a heater, you can set the filter next to it so that filtered water can reach your desired temperature at a faster rate.
I believe we have established that a filter is a vital part of your aquarium, which many of us tend to overlook. A filter will keep your fish happier and healthier along with making your life easier as an aquarist.
We have outlined the necessary features to look for in the best filter for 5 gallon tank. Therefore, it should be easy to make a purchase choice. So do not wait for your aquarium to get dirty again, get a filter to do the heavy lifting.
For the best all-round experience, you can choose the AquaClear 20 Fish Tank Filter. If you are tight on budget, the Aquapapa Corner Filter or the Whisper in-Tank Filter can also be a great choice. Good luck!