The Best Filter For 50 Gallon Aquariums: Plus 55 Gallons Too!

If you own a 50 to 55 gallon tank, choosing a filter with a powerful flow rate and large media capacity is key. So let’s find the best filter for your 50 gallon aquarium!

By Andy Birks
Last updated on

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best filter for 50 gallon aquarium

A 50 to 55 gallon aquarium is great for setting up a good size community tank. But with more fish comes more waste, and choosing the best filter for a 50 gallon aquarium is key to keeping it clean and safe for your fish.

We assessed several different types of filters from leading brands and found the Aqua Clear 70 Power Fish Tank Filter to be the best filter for a 50 gallon aquarium overall. The powerful, but adjustable flow and large customizable media chamber are perfect for a tank this size.

But we’ve also assessed a range of other hang on back and canister filters that are all great picks for a 50 to 55 gallon aquarium. So you can concentrate on making the right choice for your tank.

Let’s take a look at the list!

  1. Best Overall: Aqua Clear 70 Power Fish Tank Filter
  2. Best For Value: Marineland Penguin 200 Power Filter
  3. Premium Canister: Fluval 307 Performance Canister Filter
  4. Best For Easy Maintenance: Fluval C4 Power Filter
  5. Best For Large Media Capacity: Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Filter
  6. Best For Budget: Tetra Whisper EX70 Power Filter
  7. Best Easy Bio-Filtration: AQUA-TECH Power Aquarium Filter

Best Filter For 50 Gallon Aquariums Reviewed

All the filters featured here have the power and flow rate needed for your 50 gallon aquarium, and some use easy-to-maintain cartridges while others have customizable media trays. So you’ll have all you need to find the best filter for your 50 gallon aquarium.

1. AquaClear 70 Fish Tank Filter

AquaClear 70 hang on back fish tank filter

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  • Filter Type: Hang On Back
  • Dimensions: 10.7 (w) x 6.2 (d) x 8.6 (h) inches
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 300 GPH, for 30 to 70 gallon tanks (other sizes available)
  • Filter Media: Fully customizable media basket, 3 stage filtration – foam for mechanical, carbon for chemical, and BioMax rings for biological filtration
  • Best For: Overall

AquaClear hang on back filters are fantastic for many sizes of fish tank and are one of the quietest aquarium filters available. With its 300 GPH flow rate the AquaClear 70 can cycle your 50 gallon aquarium around 6 times an hour, which is perfect to get your tank clean and toxin-free.

You can also adjust the flow rate down to 100 GPH, making it easy to balance filtration power with a lower current if you have delicate fish. And as the AquaClear has a ‘refiltration’ system up to 50% of your water recirculates in the filter at a lower flow, resulting in cleaner water.

The media basket is large, and you can easily customize it with your own media. This is often cheaper and more effective than filters that use cartridges. 

One point to note, which many owners echo, is that as this filter is powerful you should baffle the intake with a piece of filter sponge to avoid any fish accidentally getting caught. 

But overall the AquaClear gets great praise as a quiet, easy to maintain, and effective filter for a 50 gallon tank.

2. Marineland Penguin 200 Power Filter

Marineland Penguin 200 hang on back fish tank filter

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Filter Type: Hang On Back
  • Dimensions: 9.5 (w) x 6.25 (d) x 8.0 (h) inches
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 200 GPH, for 30 to 50 gallon tanks (other sizes available)
  • Filter Media: 3 stage filtration consisting of Rite-Size C cartridge (mechanical, chemical) and bio-wheel for wet/ dry biological filtration
  • Best For: Value

The Marineland Penguin 200 Bio-Wheel HOB filter is great value if you have a 50 gallon aquarium. Its 200 GPH flow rate will cycle all your water around 4 times an hour, which is the minimum amount you’d want but will still get your tank clean and clear.

If you have a 55 gallon aquarium, we’d recommend the Marineland Penguin 350 though. As it’s designed for 50 to 75 gallon tanks the higher 350 GPH flow rate is more than enough to give you crystal clear water.

This filter takes Marineland’s Rite Size C cartridge for mechanical and chemical filtration. And although the media bay is not customizable, it does have the advantage of the bio-wheel.

This bio-wheel constantly spins meaning your water contacts the air, so acting like a mini wet/ dry filter. This allows beneficial bacteria to colonize more quickly and efficiently. And more of these bacteria means better filtration for your tank.

Some owners report they’ve had problems with the bio-wheel making noise, but often this can be a case of making sure it’s properly located in its housing. And overall many owners praise the Marineland Penguin as being really easy to maintain at a great price.

3. Fluval 307 Performance Canister Filter

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Filter Type: Canister
  • Dimensions: 9.5 (w) x 7.0 (d) x 16.5 (h) inches
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 303 GPH, for 40 to 70 gallon tanks (other sizes available)
  • Filter Media: 4 customizable media baskets, includes 2 x Bio-Foam Max, 2 x BioFoam, 2 x BioFoam+, 2 x Carbon, 2 x Quick Clear particles, 2 x BioMax
  • Best For: Premium Canister

Fluval’s 07 Series external canisters are excellent filters, although they do come at a premium price. The 307 has a flow rate of 303 GPH, and can fully cycle all the water in your 50 gallon tank over 6 times an hour. This provides perfectly efficient filtration for a tank this size.

The large 0.9-gallon media basket has a vertical pre-filter for coarse mechanical media. The vertical position gives more surface area than most filters for removing incoming particles. So the rest of your media won’t get clogged, meaning you won’t need to clean it as often.

You can completely customize the media you use in the other 3 trays, although the 307 comes with a great selection of mechanical, chemical, and biological media. 

But it gives you the flexibility to add additional media to deal with specific problems. For example, you can add Fluval Clearmax to deal with an outbreak of algae in your tank.

A fantastic addition to this filter are the AquaStop valves which not only allow you to reduce the flow rate, but also let you disconnect the filter while leaving the tubes in the tank. This makes maintenance easy as you can remove the filter without water dripping from the tubes.

Owners praise this filter for being incredibly quiet, easy to set up and prime, and for leaving their water clear within just a few hours.

4. Fluval C4 Power Filter

Fluval C4 Hang On Back Fish Tank Filter

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Filter Type: Hang On Back
  • Dimensions: 8.25 (w) x 6.25 (d) x 8.5 (h) inches
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 264 GPH, for 40 to 70 gallon tanks (other sizes available)
  • Filter Media: 5 stage filtration consisting of mechanical foam, carbon for chemical filtration, ceramic node modules and bio-screen net for biological filtration
  • Best For: Easy Maintenance

The Fluval C4 is a versatile hang on back filter which has 5 stages of filtration. There are two foam filters, a chemical stage, and two bio media stages. 

This duplication means when it does come time to change your bio media, for example, you’ll retain more of your beneficial bacteria to colonize the new media. And this means you won’t lose efficiency in your biological filter.

The chemical chamber has a draw tab allowing easy removal of the chemical basket. And the coarse and fine mechanical foam pads slide out easily with their plastic media tray. There’s also a pop-up indicator showing when they need cleaning, making maintenance even easier.

At 264 GPH the C4 is powerful enough to cycle your 50 gallon tank over 5 times an hour, so is in the recommended range for filtration of a tank this size. And the flow is also adjustable, so you can slow it down if you have fish that prefer a gentler current.

Note that the C4 has an external motor that has to be primed manually, and some owners have reported it can be a little noisy. But overall many praise the C4 as an effective filter that’s easy to maintain too.

5. Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Filter

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Filter Type: Canister
  • Dimensions: 11.5 (w) x 10.0 (d) x 17.0 (h) inches
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 265 GPH, recommended for tanks up to 100 gallons (other sizes available)
  • Filter Media: 3 large media baskets, 3 poly-fiber floss pads, 1 coarse bio-sponge, and 1 bag of activated carbon
  • Best For: Large Media Capacity

Penn Plax produces the Cascade range of affordable canister filters in various sizes to suit different tanks. While they recommend the Cascade 1000 for tanks up to 100 gallons, we prefer it for a 50 gallon aquarium due to its power.

At 265 GPH it will cycle all of the water in your 50 gallon tank just over 5 times an hour, which falls within the range needed to filter a tank this size effectively. You can also reduce the flow by adjusting the intake and output valves, so you can control the current in your tank.

The Cascade 1000 has 3 large customizable media baskets which are perfect for a 50 gallon aquarium. You can use your own choice of media, for example, cut-to-size filter roll, which is more cost-effective. 

And the large baskets mean you can physically fit in more media. This is particularly useful when adding bio media, as more of it means more surface area for your beneficial bacteria. And this means better filtration and removal of ammonia and other toxins from your tank.

While some owners have reported issues with their water bypassing the media, most owners give the Cascade praise for its large, customizable media trays, efficient filtration, and its affordable price.

6. Tetra Whisper EX70 Power Filter

Tetra Whisper 70 Hang On Back Filter

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Filter Type: Hang On Back
  • Dimensions: 12.88 (w) x 6.31 (d) x 9.5 (h) inches
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 340 GPH, for 45 to 70 gallon tanks (other sizes available)
  • Filter Media: Whisper Carbon Filters containing fine and coarse mechanical pad with carbon, and bio-scrubber for biological filtration
  • Best For: Budget

The Tetra Whisper EX70 is a powerful hang on back filter that’s also great if you are on a budget. At 340 GPH it will cycle the water in your 55 gallon aquarium just over 6 times an hour, which is at the higher end of the range needed to keep it clean and toxin-free.

Do bear in mind that EX filters are not adjustable though, but the EX70 does give a perfect if strong flow rate for a 50 to 55 gallon aquarium.

This isn’t the best filter for customizing your media, but many owners report just how easy it is to maintain. You just replace the Tetra EX Carbon Filters once a month by lifting them from under the lid. And the bio scrubber containing your beneficial bacteria should never need replacing.

While some owners note that this filter can sometimes vibrate, this is often due to incorrect mounting. So make sure to follow the instructions and sit it correctly on your tank. In fact, the majority of owners praise this filter for being quiet and easy to maintain at a great price!

7. AQUA-TECH Power Aquarium Filter

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Filter Type: Hang On Back
  • Dimensions: 15.0 (w) x 5.5 (d) x 7.5 (h) inches
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 375 GPH, for 30 to 60 gallon tanks (other sizes available)
  • Filter Media: 3 stage filtration. Includes AQUA-Tech EZ-Change Filter Cartridge with poly-fiber pad for mechanical, activated carbon for chemical, and BIO-Fiber for biological filtration. Bio-Foam chamber for added biological filtration
  • Best For: Easy Bio-Filtration

Aqua-Tech’s Power Aquarium Filter is another powerful but affordable hang on back filter for your 50 to 55 gallon aquarium. Its 375 GPH flow rate can cycle all the water in your 50 gallon tank 7.5 times an hour, which is above what’s needed to keep it properly filtered.

It uses combined mechanical pads, with activated carbon in its AQUA-Tech EZ-Change Filter Cartridges. The cartridges also have a Bio-Tech grid to house beneficial bacteria. So while it’s not the easiest to customize, you do get all 3 filtration stages in one easy-to-change cartridge.

And the Aqua-Tech also houses a separate Bio-Foam chamber designed to never need replacing. So you get a permanent area for your beneficial bacteria, and you won’t lose them when you change the cartridges. So removal of ammonia from your tank remains efficient.

While this filter may not be the right choice if you want to customize your media, it receives plenty of praise from owners for being easy to maintain, quiet, and effective in keeping their larger tanks clean and clear.

What To Consider When Choosing A 50 Gallon Aquarium Filter

A 50 to 55 gallon aquarium is large enough to hold a range of fish, so choosing a filter that can deal effectively with a large bioload is important. Let’s look at what to consider.

Angelfish in fish tank

Types Of Filtration And Media

Most filters contain 3 main stages, mechanical, chemical, and biological. Let’s look at each and what to look for when it comes to choosing the best filter for a 50 gallon aquarium.

Mechanical Filtration

Usually the first stage in any filter, mechanical filtration is simply the use of media like filter sponge, floss, or pads to remove solid waste particles from your water. This also stops waste clogging up your chemical and biological media, making it less effective.

For a 50 to 55 gallon aquarium, look for filters that allow you to customize and add your own mechanical media as it can often be more cost-effective. For example, cut-to-fit filter roll can be shaped to fit many HOBs and canister filters and is cheaper than cartridges.

Chemical Filtration

This stage uses chemicals such as zeolite and activated carbon to remove toxins including ammonia, heavy metals, and other organics like phosphates from your water [1]. These substances usually come in the form of granules, often in easy to handle mesh filter bags.

Chemical media is generally most effective when your filter has a powerful flow rate, and contact with the water is maximized. Again, HOBs and canister filters are great for this if you have a 50 or 55 gallon tank and are powerful enough to deal with the large volume.

Biological Filtration

One of the most important stages, this uses biological filter media to provide the environment for beneficial bacteria to flourish. These nitrifying bacteria break down the ammonia your fish produce as waste, into nitrites and then less harmful nitrates as part of the nitrogen cycle.

Canister filters made for a 50 to 55 gallon aquarium can be highly effective as they tend to contain very large media baskets. So you can get plenty of ceramic rings or other bio media inside to give a larger surface area for more bacteria, leading to better filtration.

A Note On Filter Cartridges

If you own a nano tank with a small aquarium filter, cartridges can be an easy way of maintaining it. And indeed, as they are small units, many of these filters will only let you use cartridges in them.

But for a large 50 to 55 gallon aquarium it’s much better to choose a filter that you can customize. This will save you using expensive cartridges, but it also means you can vary your media as needed. For example, adding phosphate control media to tackle an algae outbreak [2].

How To Choose The Best Filter For A 50 Gallon Aquarium

Before you choose the best filter for your 50 gallon aquarium there are several factors to consider. Let’s look at them below.

orange and white goldfish in aquarium

Type Of Filter And Media

While you can find internal filters designed for a 50 to 55 gallon aquarium, they often need more frequent maintenance and tend to be more limited with the media you can use in them.

The best filter for a 50 gallon aquarium is either a hang on back (HOB) or canister filter. Both of these types tend to be the most flexible in terms of using your own media. And canisters for 50 gallon fish tanks tend to have large media baskets, so you can add more bio media for bacteria to colonize for example.

Adjustable Flow Rate

Canister filters and HOBs are also powerful so are perfect for a 50 to 55 gallon fish tank. In a tank this size you’ll need a flow rate of around 200 to 300 gallons per hour (GPH). The GPH is a measure of how many times an hour your filter can cycle all of the water in your aquarium.

A flow rate of 200 to 300 GPH will cycle all your water around 4 to 6 times an hour, which many aquarists agree will keep a 50 gallon freshwater tank clean and clear. But it’s also key to choose a filter with an adjustable flow rate so you can reduce the current.

Many canisters and HOB filters have this feature allowing you to balance power and filtration, with the ability to reduce the flow if it’s too strong for your fish.

Minimal Noise Levels

Given your filter needs to run 24/7, a noisy filter can not only be annoying for you but can also disturb your fish. And for a 50 to 55 gallon aquarium your filter is going to be a reasonable size, so it’s important to choose the quietest aquarium filter.

Canisters tend to be the quietest type of filter as they operate as external pressurized units, often with soundproofing in their casing. HOB filters are also very quiet, although as they return the water like a waterfall you do get the splashing sound into the tank.

Some people find this trickle calming to listen to, but if you do want to reduce it you can make sure the water level is topped up and your filter isn’t sitting too high in the tank.

Ease Of Maintenance

The best filter for a 50 gallon aquarium is one that will run efficiently without needing constant maintenance. While sponge filters are very easy to maintain by simply rinsing them out with aquarium water, they don’t have enough power to use as the primary filter for a 50 gallon tank.

Modern canister filters have features like stop valves, which means you can unclip your filter for cleaning while leaving the tubes in the tank. HOB filters tend to be the easiest to maintain as you can access the media from the top without needing to remove your filter.

Price And Reliability

Filters for a 50 gallon aquarium are generally going to be pricier than a small aquarium filter, but it does depend on the type. Canister filters are powerful and efficient and a great option for a 50 to 55 gallon aquarium, but they can be more expensive.

Internal filter prices can vary, but one thing to watch is if they take specific cartridges as those can be costly, so you may be paying more overall. But HOB filters strike a good balance of being powerful and reliable but at an affordable price.

Our Verdict

Some of the main factors when choosing the best filter for a 50 gallon aquarium are an adjustable but powerful flow rate, and a larger media capacity you can customize.

The AquaClear 70 Power Fish Tank Filter offers both of these at an affordable price and is also easy to maintain. 

Or if you have the budget, canister filters like the Fluval 307 Performance Canister Filter are a quiet and reliable alternative. 

But choose any filter on this list with the right flow rate and large media capacity and you’ll keep your 50 to 55 gallon aquarium clean for years to come!

FAQs

We’ve covered the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to finding the best filter for a 50 gallon aquarium. Take a look at them below!

What Is The Best Type Of Filter For A 50 To 55 Gallon Aquarium?

External canister filters or hang on backs (HOB) are the best filter for a 50 to 55 gallon aquarium as they are powerful, reliable, and easy to customize with your filter media.

What Size Flow Rate Should My 50 Gallon Aquarium Filter Have?

A filter for a 50 gallon aquarium should cycle all of your water 4 to 6 times an hour. So you’ll need a flow rate of 200 to 300 GPH, but higher is great too as long as it’s adjustable.

How Often Should I Maintain My Filter?

Visually check your filter weekly and remove any detritus. Internal and HOB filters should be maintained every few weeks. Canisters can be cleaned every 2 or 3 months.

How Often Do I Need To Do A Water Change In My 50 To 55 Gallon Aquarium?

A 50 to 55 gallon aquarium may need a 10 to 25% water change every few weeks. But if your water parameters stay in the right range you may not need them as frequently.

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AUTHOR
Andy Birks
Andy is the owner of Simply Aquarium and manages the team of experienced writers on the site. He loves helping fellow aquarists and introducing new people to the hobby!

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