Aquarium Filters Location Does Matter: Tips to Identify Placement

When it comes to having a clean fish tank the filter system is extremely important to extract the bacteria and waste that has negative consequences.

Best place to put a filter in a tank? Under gravel, filters are placed at the bottom of the tank under the substrate. Canister filters are placed on the floor or bottom of the tank stand. Hanging filters are hung at the backside of a tank. Internal filters are placed at an inside corner of the tank.

Each of the filter types has different methods of operation and placement. All of the filters perform the same objective that is to remove the excess foreign materials.

Filter TypePlacementEstimated Cost
Under GravelBottom of Tank$10 – $20 USD
InternalInside Tank$15 – $30 USD
HangingOutside Tank$20 – $50 USD
CanisterOn Floor or Under$50 – $300 USD

Under Gravel Filters

These types of filters are the oldest of all filters and are now the least popular of the filter options. Initially these types of filters were being used by many hobbyists due to the more advanced filter not being readily available. These filters are required to be placed at the bottom of the fish tank. The fish waste material and excess food particles are pulled down to the bottom of the tank.

The Cons:

Because of the placement of these filters they are a real pain to clean. The recommended cleaning for the under gravel filters is 1 to 2 months. When cleaning is done, all of the decorations and rocks will need to be removed.

The bottom substrate material must be altered so that the foreign material can be removed. This requires more siphoning off the excess material.

These filters will also provide issues with live plants. In many cases, the plant roots will wrap around the filter and cause big problems. These types of filters will take more oxygen out of the water that affects plant growth. Since their placement is on the bottom of the tank, they are not recommended in fish tanks that have plants.

The Pros:

One of the reasons for using these filters in non-planted tanks is the filter is invisible as they are under the gravel, rocks, and decorations.

A second reason they have often used is the cost. Of all the filter types these filters are the cheapest option.

The following is an example of an under gravel filter.

Internal Filters

These filter types are fully emerged and placed at the bottom corner of your fish tank. The filters suck in the water from the bottom and pull it through the embedded filter material.

Many hobbyists will use them for emergency backup since they are cheaper than a hanging or canister filter. They can be used in addition to the hanging or canister filter providing greater water clarity.

The Cons:

The internal filters take up a large amount of space in your fish tank. If you have a smaller tank this can be a big drawback. The visual aesthetics are negative as it is hard to hide these types of filters.

Another drawback is the do not produce enough surface agitation. Surface agitation will help promote gas exchange in your water. This will increase the rate at which oxygen (O2) dissolves in water. It also increases the rate at which carbon dioxide (CO2) is released from the water. These are key areas for the proper operation of a fish tank environment.

The Pros:

In most cases they will not clog and because of this they present a continuous water flow. This is important as you can trust that the filter will not stop when you are not around.

The internal filter is typically quiet running filters. Since the filters are submerged in the water they will shield the sound.

The following is an example of an internal filter.

Hanging Filters

The hanging filter is the most popular and one of the least expensive filtration systems for your fish tank. These are sometimes referred to as power filters. The placement can be hung anywhere on just about any type of tank. The options are abundant and they are readily available.

The most common location for these filters is hanging on the back of the fish tank. This will allow for them to be hidden when a background image or color is in place.

The Cons:

One drawback is that they can be noisy and not visually pleasing if there is not a background or decorations that will hide them.

They tend to get clogged with debris in their filter compound and require frequent cleaning.

Limited performance on larger tanks.

The Pros:

Hanging filters provide easy and flexible placement. They will work on just about any shapes of aquariums.

These filters can be ideal for beginner hobbyists with smaller tanks. Since there is less volume of water to circulate they provide adequate performance.

The following is an example of a hanging filter.

Canister Filters

The top choice in a filter is the canister filters. Because of the large amounts of water they circulate, the water is the clearest of all the filters. Bacteria growth is kept to a minimum and they are typically used by professional and more serious hobbies.

The Cons:

The major drawback is cost. These filters can go up to $300 in price depending on the tank gallons and features. Because of the benefits, many feel that the higher cost is worth it especially for fish tanks that are 55 gallons or larger.

The Pros:

As far as placement these types of filters can be hidden and are usually placed on the floor behind or within the fish tank stand. The hoses and power cords can be strategically placed to minimize visual exposure.

It provides the ability to customize the filter media. This gives flexibility to the type of filter material that you prefer based on your fish assets.

For Saltwater aquariums, it is a must to have a quality canister filter.

The following is an example of a canister filter.

Related Questions

What is the primary purpose of an aquarium filter? A filtration system provides required maintenance by removing contamination to the water that is introduced by fish waste and uneaten food.

How often should an aquarium filter be cleaned? At a minimum, it is recommended to change and/or clean the filter at least once every month. Clean carbon in the filter will keep the water from becoming cloudy.

Which filter keeps the aquarium the cleanest? The canister filter is the best for keeping your filter crystal clean. In some cases with very large takes, you can add an additional filter such as a hanging or internal filter to provide greater water clarity.

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