The undergravel filter is the best kind of filter to start in your journey as an aquarist. Being one of the first types of filters on the market, the undergravel filter is the go-to choice for many people starting with keeping an aquarium.
Sitting at the bottom of your tank, this filter pulls down water with the help of an air pump, or powerhead, passing the water through grated plates to catch any debris that might fill the tank. This is one of the essential filters and is usually set up when you first get your tank.
These filters are generally used for small to medium-sized tanks. If you are looking for the best undergravel filter, look no further than this list of filters that are sure to meet your needs.
Best Pick & Budget Pick
A few features make the best undergravel filter stand out, and all of them can be found in Lee’s Premium Undergravel Filter. This filter checks all the boxes with regards to building quality, usability, and design.
This filter can handle any water due to the superior quality of plastic used for the filter plates, which also means that it can support gravel weight with minimal bending. It is good to note that this filter also comes with activated carbon cartridges, facilitating chemical filtration if needed.
Even though the plates are fixed in length, unlike other undergravel filters, the larger plate size means that it has a larger surface to filter water through it, making it a better filtration system than others. If needed, you can buy two for larger tanks, which can work great as well.
You will not have to worry about not having enough filters since this undergravel filter is versatile and can be used with aerators, powerheads, and canister filters. Buy the Lee’s Premium Undergravel Filter to get the best undergravel filter of 2021.
More often than not, you would like to purchase the best product you can get for the money you have available in hand. For this reason, the Penn Plax Premium Under Gravel Filter System is an excellent choice for budget hunters who want an excellent undergravel filter.
The Penn Plax Premium Under Gravel Filter System gives you an excellent bang for the buck with activated carbon cartridges, substantial airline tubes, and air stones included with the package. It works wonders even though it is priced lower than the other filters on the list.
Given that it is a low budget filter, the filter plates are of slightly lower quality, and the plates must be connected with care. However, this has no longevity issues and is proven to be a durable filter when handled with care.
So, suppose you do not want to spend a lot of cash. In that case, this filter will be a fantastic choice and fulfill all your needs since it can do mechanical, biological as well as chemical filtration to keep your aquarium crystal clear.
Top 7 Best Undergravel Filters Review
The filters reviewed here have distinctive properties, so it was challenging to rank them. However, this list will surely assist you in finding your preferred choice.
1. Lee’s Premium Undergravel Filter
- The larger plate sizes reduce the number of plates required
- The added strength of the UGF plates makes this filter most preferred by saltwater aquarists
Lee’s Premium Undergravel filter is a prime example of a product that has it all. It features larger plates that are well equipped to filter more volumes of water, leading to a cleaner tank. As the name suggests, this is a first-class filter, so it is built with premium materials leading to more durability and better build quality.
Both saltwater and freshwater aquariums can be used along with this filter owing to its versatility. It can be paired with an aerator canister filter inlet or a powerhead so that you can customize it according to your needs and requirements.
To add to that, this product also boasts a multi-level plate design that can support gravel without splitting and house more bacteria for efficient biological filtration. Since it comes included with carbon cartridges, it means that this filter is capable of mechanical, chemical as well as biological filtration.
Make sure you have the accurate size when buying this product. Even though it lacks customizability in size with large filter plates, it sure makes it up with efficiency and usability. Lee’s Premium Undergravel filter tops our list and would surely be an excellent addition to your tank.
- Strong plastic filter plates
- Activated carbon cartridges included
- Riser tubes included
- Can be used with various types of filters and inlets
- Sleek and discreet design
- A bit more pricey than other filters
- Filter tube is a bit smaller than usual.
2. Penn Plax Premium Under Gravel Filter System
- Undergravel filter system includes 4 filter plates (each measuring 11.5" X 11.5") with extra large 1 inch adjustable...
- Filter is suitable for most 40 and 50 gallon aquariums. Clips to hold each section securely together are included.
When you think of the undergravel filter that provides the most value, the Penn Plax Premium Under Gravel Filter System comes to mind. This filter comes with filter plates that can be clipped on to fit the size of your tank, making it more customizable with regards to the size.
With its sleek design, it can safely hide underneath the gravel in your tank and give you excellent viewing experience. It is also very accessible in terms of setting it up and maintaining it.
If you worry about chemical filtration with an undergravel filter, it would be good to know that this product comes with activated carbon cartridges included with it. Therefore, you can rest assured that harmful chemicals will not build up in your tank and harm your fish.
The clips on the filter plates might be a bit flimsy, but no problems will not arise if it is handled with care during the setup phase. Saltwater, as well as freshwater tanks, can be accommodated with this filter.
This filter can keep your tank effortlessly clean and maintain your fish healthy at the same time. Given that it is also a budget option, the Penn Plax Premium Under Gravel Filter System should be the one sitting underneath your tank.
- Easy to maintain and operate
- Customizable size due to clip-on filter plates
- Comes bundled with carbon cartridges
- Sleek and discreet design
- Can handle saltwater and freshwater tanks both
- Clips on the filter plates are flimsy
- Tube pieces are a bit too thin.
3. Lee’s Original Undergravel Filter
- Made of special quality plastic which resists splitting and cracking
- Also has optional flow-thru set-up for use with a power head
If you are searching for an undergravel filter that does everything that you could ask for, ensuring a clean tank and a happy environment, then look no further than Lee’s Original Undergravel Filter. This filter comes in many sizes to accommodate your tank’s needs.
This filter is straightforward to set up and is recommended for beginner aquarists. An optional flow-through setup is included that can be fitted with a powerhead, providing you with more water flow if needed. Also, the filter plates are robust and can handle coarse gravel exceptionally.
Included with the kit are two adjustable uplift columns, airline tubing, and air stones, so it must be said that this filter gives excellent value for money. However, you will need to buy an air pump or powerhead to get it up and to run. The tubes are wider so it can take up some space in the tank.
The Lee’s Original Undergravel Filter is a great overall filter and can be trusted to be the cleaner of your tank. It can be used for marine or brackish tanks, so you will not need to worry about that as well. Once you fit it, you will not need to look back at it often.
- Comes in a range of sizes
- Airline tubing, uplift columns, and air stones included
- Uplift columns can be adjusted
- Easy installation
- Filter cartridges are widely available
- Air pump not included
- Tubes can take up some space in the tank
4. Aquarium Equip Under Gravel Filter
- Caring Guide: At least 1~2 inches of washed gravel should be placed on top of the filter plate before water is added.
- The Flow Under gravel Filter is a biological filtration system for fresh or saltwater aquariums.
One of the filters that work best for smaller tanks is the Aquarium Equip Under Gravel Filter. This is one of those filters that novice aquarists can buy and set up very easily. With this in your tank, you will have no problems with keeping your tank clean since it provides substantial mechanical and biological filtration.
Aquarium Equip is a brand that is made for novice aquarists, and therefore, it thrives within smaller tanks. This filter is also suitable to be used with a multi-filter setup where you may have a canister filter; therefore, the lack of a chemical filtration system will not be noticed.
As well as others in this list, this product is entirely hidden underneath the gravel in your aquarium and therefore does not steal from the beauty of your tank. The filter plates, however, have narrow openings, which might impede water flow, but it also means that the current will be softer on your fish.
This filter is the one to go for if you have just started with your aquarium and want to care for your betta or guppy. It is also one of the cheaper filters on this list. So, what are you waiting for?
- Easy process of installation
- Best for beginner aquarists
- Designed to be hidden and unseen
- Flow rate is suitable for small fish
- Provides excellent mechanical and biological filtrations
- No chemical filtration system
- Filter plate openings are a bit narrow.
5. Aquarium Equip ISTA Under Gravel Filter
- Circulate the water under gravel layer in order to reduce the corruption of gravel.
- The gravel bed provides tremendous surface area for Nitrobacteria and keeps your water crystal clear.
The Aquarium Equip ISTA Under Gravel Filter should be your choice if you have a small 5 gallon tank. It features a robust design that can last you a long time and handle any weight you put on it.
It is also lovely on the eyes with white colour, so it enhances the overall look and feel of your tank. The filter comes with a rising tube with adjustable height. Each of the filter plates can be connected to the rise tube with an option to install air stones.
Unfortunately, activated carbon cartridges are not provided, so there is no option for chemical filtration with this product. A multi-filter setup may be the ideal choice for you if you need chemical filtration.
This is an affordable filter that can be used and maintained easily with your small tank. So, get this for your small tank if you need a filter right now.
- Can be fitted with HOB filters or powerhead
- Uplift tubes can be shortened
- Elegant design
- Suitable for both saltwater and freshwater tanks
- Quieter operation than the other filters
- No kind of pump is included with this kit
- Must use multi-filter setup if chemical filtration is needed
6. XMHF Aquarium Fish Tank Undergravel Plastic Filter
- Product Name: Aquarium Under Gravel Filter 28 Pieces
- Material : Plastic;Each Size : 140 x 70 x 12mm/5.5" x 2.8" x 0.5"(L*W*T)
With regards to customizability, the XMHF Aquarium Fish Tank Undergravel Plastic Filter is as good as it gets. This filter includes 28 pieces of filter boards that you can fit in and customize according to your needs and, of course, your tank size. It is, therefore, more tedious to set up, but it still gives great value to you and is easier to maintain.
This filter set includes the filter boards, uprise tube, air hose line, and an air stone to cater to all your needs. It can be used with an air pump, powerhead, or the inlet hose of a canister filter, so it is very versatile in that department.
Common to some filters in this list, this also does not come with a carbon filter, so it cannot perform chemical filtration. Even if it was not your primary filter, it could work exceptionally well to keep your tank clean by getting rid of debris.
All in all, this filter will work for you excellent and can be used with larger tanks. However, keep in mind this is one of the pricey filters on this list. If you want a luxurious undergravel filter, buy this and be happy.
- Customizable to a great degree
- Includes an uprise tube, air hose line, and air stones
- Can be used with air pumps, powerheads, or canister filter inlets
- Easy to maintain
- Can work with large tanks
- More expensive than others on this list
- No carbon filter included, so no chemical filtration.
7. Imagitarium Undergravel Filter
- Works freshwater and saltwater tanks
- Compatible with 10-gallon size tanks
The Imagitarium Undergravel Filter is one of those filters that are priced low but still has a lot to give in terms of features. It is a reliable filter that is made with good quality plastic and can withstand a substantial amount of weight and gravel.
It is compatible with various chemical filtration media like Filt-a-Carb and Ammonia-X, which makes it more versatile since it can provide mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration all at the same time. Moreover, it is easy to install, and once it is set up, it is easy to maintain.
This filter is more suited towards small to medium-sized aquariums, so it will not work with large aquariums as well as it should. It also does not include any air pump along with it.
This filtration system comes with two slatted filter plates and two uplift tubes, so it reduces your hassle to buy them separately. So, this is a terrific choice for anyone wanting versatility with their filter usage.
- Durable plastic used to make the filter boards
- Works well with freshwater and saltwater tanks
- Compatible with like Filt-a-Carb and Ammonia-X
- Easy to set up
- Comes with two uplift tubes
- Air pump not included with the set
- Cannot accommodate large aquariums
Buyer’s Guide for Best Undergravel Filter:
To choose the best undergravel filter means you have to keep in mind a lot of things. This buying guide is here to make things easier for you so that when you do choose your filter, it is according to your needs. Here are the things you need to factor in when you buy an undergravel filter:
When looking for an undergravel filter, you have to keep in mind if the filter has a fixed dimension or something you can change and customize. Sometimes you may not want to fill the whole space of your tank so that you may remove a few filter plates.
But all filters do not have an option to detach plates, so it is better to know this beforehand. Almost all options on this list have some customizability to offer.
Ease of setup
While starting your aquarium from scratch, it is relatively easy to set up your undergravel filter. Still, if you happen to be adding a new undergravel filter to your existing aquarium, it can become a hassle.
To mitigate this, opt-in for a filter that has a more straightforward installation process, and you will not have to worry about wasting hours on only setting up your filter.
Ease of maintenance
After setting up maintenance comes into question. Some filters are easier to maintain because they have fewer parts to take care of, while others have numerous detachable parts. If you feel like you are not the type of person who would like to clean their filter all the time, buy one that is easier to maintain.
Regular cleaning of your aquarium can also help you to maintain your filter in the long run since debris like fish food will not clog up.
Some filters only work for smaller tanks and can only span up to a portion of your tank. Using two sets of those filters is an option, but it is not ideal. Therefore, first, measure your tank and then choose the filter that may be right for you.
Some filters come with customizable options, so you can look into them if you are unsure of what to buy. You can always use the few extra filter plates later when you upgrade.
A few filters on the list provided can work with air pumps, powerheads, and other filtration setups, but it is not a feature that is available for all. Along with that, some filters use a reverse-flow filtration system that pushes water up through the filter from underneath. You should keep in mind that each has its benefits.
The powerhead can bring a stronger water flow for the filter but can hamper the movement of the fish. The reverse-flow filtration system can be useful if you want a weaker current in your water, but this would mean that your aquarium water is being cleaned at a slower rate. So, we should factor these in.
One thing some people might is that the gravel should be a size where it is not too big that it slows down water flow and not too small that it just clogs up the filter plates of the undergravel filter.
When you choose a filter, make sure to measure the gaps between the filter plate openings and then select the gravel that you are going to put over your filter plates. Failing to do this may clog up your filters that are quite tiresome to fix, and you will have money wasted on the wrong type of gravel bought.
1. How do I set up my filters?
When first setting up your filter, just set up your filter on the base of your tank and attach the plates according to your tank size. After that, attach the air inlet pipe, the air pump, and put your gravel over the filter. Then you may set up your aquarium as you wish.
2. How many times should I clean the filter?
It is recommended to clean your filters once every three weeks, but you should still try to maintain a clean tank as debris might clog up your filters.
3. Will there be a problem if I use a filter that is too small?
The size of your filter should be according to what you need in your tank. If a small filter works for you, it might be useful since it works quietly and does not disturb the water current.
4. Do I need to buy a full filter kit?
Some filters come bundled with everything you need; others do not. It may be useful to have everything in one set, but it limits your options.
5. Can I use these filters in a saltwater aquarium?
All the filters on the list can be used with a saltwater aquarium, but if it is too small, then it is not recommended.
6. What substrate should I use over my filter?
Obviously, you should use gravel but adding some bacteria and fertilizers will help keep the ecosystem of your tank in check.
7. Can I use sand over my undergravel filter?
This is a big NO. You should never use sand over your undergravel filters since it will clog up the filters very quickly.
8. Can I use any size of gravel?
It is best to use a size of gravel that sits well on your gravel without getting stuck inside the filter plates and also those which allow substantial water flow.
9. Can I use this with a canister filter?
Some of the filters listed can be used with canister filters and can be a great way to keep your tank clean efficiently. Check the manual to see if it is compatible to be used with a canister filter.
10. This does not include chemical filtration; is it a problem?
Not having chemical filtration is not a problem unless your tank essentially needs it. Factors to consider are the type of fish and water in your tank.
Undergravel filters can undoubtedly work well for medium-sized tanks. Still, if you couple it with another filtration system, it can do wonders for your tank and keep it exceptionally clean with a minimal amount of time wasted on cleaning your tank frequently.
The filters reviewed here have various features, so go through them carefully and select the one which piques your interest the most. Rest assured, whatever you pick, your tank will stay clean, and you will stay happy.
The undergravel filter is the oldest type of filter, meaning you cannot go wrong with it. In 2020, Lee’s Premium Undergravel filter comes out on top as the best undergravel filter, so it is an excellent choice if you cannot decide immediately. Praying that your aquarium stays clean!