The Quietest Aquarium Filter For Your Tank: Canister, HOB Or Internal

A noisy filter can spoil the enjoyment of your aquarium and disturb your fish. So read our guide to help find the quietest aquarium filter for you and your aquatic pets!

By Julie Millis
Last updated on

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quietest aquarium filter

Choosing a filter with the right capacity and flow rate for the size of your tank is critical in helping ensure your water stays clean and your fish are healthy. But finding the quietest aquarium filter is key too if you want to enjoy your tank without any annoying background noise!

We reviewed and assessed the quietest aquarium filters on the market over several weeks, and found that Fluval 07 Series Canister Filters are some of the quietest available.

And while it’s true that canister filters are generally the most quiet, we’ve also reviewed several super quiet alternatives such as hang on back filters to give you options for any scenario.

So keep reading to find the quietest aquarium filter for your tank!

  1. Quietest Overall: Fluval 07 Series Canister Filter
  2. Quietest HOB Filter: AquaClear Hang On Back Filter
  3. Quiet Internal Filter: NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Filter
  4. Quiet Budget Canister: Penn Plax Cascade Series
  5. Quiet Budget HOB: Tetra Whisper EX Power Filter
  6. Quiet Small Internal: Aqueon Quietflow E Series Internal
  7. Alternative Quiet Canister: Eheim Classic Canister 150/ 250/ 350 Filter Series

Quietest Aquarium Filter Picks Reviewed

We spent many combined hours assessing some of the best filters across a range of types to find the quietest aquarium filter, whilst providing excellent filtration for various tank sizes. 

Note that while we’ve given an indication on noise levels, they are approximate and can be somewhat subjective. So we’ve also added an equivalent comparison for each level. A refrigerator hum, for example, to help bring the sound to life [1].

1. Fluval 07 Series Canister Filter

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Filter Type: Canister
  • Noise Level: Approx. 25 dB (size dependent), equivalent to a ticking watch
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 145 GPH to 383 GPH, for tanks from 10 up to 100 gallons (across size range)
  • Filter Media: Fully customizable media baskets, available media includes Bio-Foam Max, BioFoam, BioFoam+, Carbon, and mechanical Quick Clear particles
  • Best For: Quietest Overall

Canister filters are ultra-quiet, and we chose the Fluval 07 Series as our pick for the quietest aquarium filter overall. Depending on the size, it can be only around 20 to 25 dB – equivalent to a ticking watch. And if you keep it in a cabinet you won’t hear it with the door shut.

The filter has large rubber feet which help to dampen vibration, and sound dampening supports on the shaft connected to the motor to further help reduce noise. You may notice a tiny hum after initial priming, but give it 2 to 4 days to fully remove any air and this should stop. 

Fluval 07 Series filters have a priming button making them really easy to start up and expel any air. They are also powerful and you can add plenty of filter media – a great choice if you have a mid-size 55 gallon tank that’s heavily stocked and you want quiet filtration.

2. AquaClear Hang On Back Filter

AquaClear 20 Hang On Back Filter

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Filter Type: Hang On Back
  • Noise Level: Approx. 30 dB (size dependent), equivalent to a soft whisper
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 100 GPH to 500 GPH, for tanks from 5 up to 110 gallons (across size range)
  • Filter Media: Fully customizable media baskets, 3 stage filtration – foam for mechanical, carbon for chemical, and BioMax rings for biological filtration
  • Best For: Quietest HOB Filter

AquaClear are some of the quietest HOB filters given their power. There are five models, for 5 gallon tanks up to 110 gallons with 100 to 500 GPH flow rates. Whilst the larger filters are slightly louder, they average around 30 dBequivalent to a soft whisper.

One of the reasons the unit runs this quiet is because the impeller floats within a magnetic field to reduce friction and noise. These filters have a large capacity which you can customize with your own media to provide 3 stage filtration and crystal clear water.

But do note that while the motor is incredibly quiet, because it’s a HOB filter the water is returned as a cascade. Whilst this creates the tricking sound of a waterfall it’s down to whether you find this a relaxing sound or whether you’d prefer another filter type such as a canister.

3. NO.17 Submersible Aquarium Filter

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Filter Type: Internal
  • Noise Level: Approx. 30 dB, equivalent to a soft whisper
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 132 GPH to 400 GPH, for tanks from under 10 up to 150 – 200 gallons (across size range)
  • Filter Media: Multiple filter sponge inserts for mechanical and biological filtration
  • Best For: Quiet Internal Filter

The NO.17 Submersible Filter is a very powerful yet virtually silent unit, which only generates about 30 dBequivalent to soft whisper. And because it sits fully submerged in your tank, in reality you’ll hardly hear it.

It does produce some sound though in the form of plenty of bubbles. But this is fantastic for providing good aeration in your tank to keep your fish healthy.  And even the smallest 132 GPH model can cycle a 10 gallon tank over 13 times – twice what is needed to keep it crystal clear.

Yet the flow rate is also adjustable and you can change the direction of the output nozzle. So if you have fish that are more sensitive to current you can customize it for them. The pump head and filter can also be taken apart easily for cleaning.

It’s worth noting that while the filter only contains sponge inserts for mechanical and some biological filtration, it is possible to remove one and replace with your own biological media to further help beneficial bacteria flourish and reduce ammonia and other toxins.

Overall this filter receives great praise from owners for being powerful yet very quiet while in operation and really easy to use and maintain too!

4. Penn Plax Cascade Series

Penn Plax Cascade 500 Canister Filter

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Filter Type: Canister
  • Noise Level: Approx. 40 to 45 dB (size dependent), equivalent to a refrigerator hum
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 115 GPH to 350 GPH, for tanks from under 30 up to 200 gallons (across size range)
  • Filter Media: Fully customizable media baskets for 3 stage filtration, available media includes Poly Fiber Floss Pads, Coarse Bio-Sponge, and Activated Carbon Bags
  • Best For: Quiet Budget Canister

Another incredibly quiet canister filter, yet a cheaper option than the Fluval, is the Penn Plax Cascade Series. There are a range of models for tanks under 30 gallons all the way to 200 gallons, but on average they only produce around 40 to 45 dBlike a refrigerator hum.

The Cascade canisters have large filter baskets you can customize with media. And coupled with the excellent flow rate (115 GPH for the 500 model, which can cycle a 20 gallon aquarium just under 6 times an hour) it means you can keep a heavily populated tank clean and clear.

Many owners note that setting up the unit is easy, although the instructions could be more detailed. They also praise the simple push-button primer, and whilst some have noticed noise during priming if you leave it a few days to complete fully it will settle down.

5. Tetra Whisper EX Power Filter

Tetra Whisper EX20 Hang On Back Filter

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Filter Type: Hang On Back
  • Noise Level: Approx. 35 to 40 dB (size dependent), equivalent to a refrigerator hum
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 110 GPH to 340 GPH, for tanks from 10 up to 70 gallons (across size range)
  • Filter Media: 3 stage filtration provided by Bio Scrubber (biological) and Tetra EX Carbon Filters (mechanical and chemical)
  • Best For: Quiet Budget HOB

If you want a quiet yet affordable HOB filter the Tetra Whisper EX range is well worth considering. They come in models for tanks from 10 up to 70 gallons, and on average only produce the noise similar to a whisper or a refrigerator humabout 35 to 40 dB.

Many owners praise the Whisper EX for being incredibly easy to maintain. You simply replace the Tetra EX Carbon Filters once a month, and they’re easy to access with the hinged cover. A Bio Scrubber layer provides biological filtration and is designed to never need replacing.

It’s worth noting that these filters are not adjustable, so make sure you get one with the correct flow rate for your tank. But overall they are a fantastic option for the price, and provide quiet filtration while being easy to maintain!

6. Aqueon Quietflow E Series Internal

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Filter Type: Internal
  • Noise Level: Approx. 25 dB, equivalent to a ticking watch
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 25 GPH to 290 GPH, for tanks from 1 up to 40 gallons (across size range)
  • Filter Media: 3 stage filtration – coarse media sponge, carbon cartridges and Bioholster provides mechanical, chemical and biological filtration
  • Best For: Quiet Small Internal Filter

Aqueon Quietflow E Series filters are internal, as although they hang on the edge of your aquarium they sit on the inside. They are available in a range of sizes for tanks up to 40 gallons, but we prefer the smaller E10 version for 10 gallon tanks or less.

The Aqueon Filter Cartridges are great for the smaller filter. Their activated carbon and dense floss is very effective in getting your water clear and toxin free in a small tank. But for larger tanks we prefer filters that allow you to customize the media for greater control.

At around just 25 dB, the E10 is ultra-quiet. You do get a waterfall from the output, but as the unit sits low in the water it’s only a slight trickle. It has a diffuser grid over the output too, which helps oxygenate the water and dampen the sound.

Overall this is a great option for a small fish tank, and many owners give it praise for its simple operation and ultra-quiet running.

7. Eheim Classic Canister 150/ 250/ 350 Filter Series

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Filter Type: Canister
  • Noise Level: Approx. 30 dB (size dependent), equivalent to a soft whisper
  • Flow Rate & Aquarium Capacity: 79 GPH to 164 GPH, for tanks from up to 10 to approx 30 gallons (across size range)
  • Filter Media: Single large, fully customizable media bucket, includes Eheim Substrat Pro large surface area biomedia, Eheim Mech coarse filter media, sponge carbon filter floss
  • Best For: Alternative Quiet Canister

The ‘Classic’ Canisters from Eheim are a range of super quiet external filters, with the 150, 250 and 350 models producing about 30 dBequivalent to a soft whisper. They are for tanks around 10 to 30 gallons, but you can get the Classic 600 for 45 to 50 gallon tanks too.

Eheim gives an ‘up to’ and ‘best for’ tank size guide when it comes to flow rates, and we use the latter here as it’s much more realistic. So for example, the Classic 350 has a 164 GPH flow rate and will cycle a 30 gallon tank just under 6 times an hour.

The Classic has a single large filter media bucket meaning you can easily customize it with your choice of media. Eheim includes Substrat Pro with the filter, an excellent small spherical biomedia with plenty of surface area for bacteria to colonize and remove toxins from your tank.

These filters have been around for years, and many owners give plenty of praise for their quality against leaks, quiet operation, and ease of maintenance.

Which Type Is The Quietest Aquarium Filter?

You’ll generally find external canister filters are the quietest aquarium filter available, followed by hang on back filters. But let’s take a look at the various types and how they compare with each other.

orange fish with bubbles

Canister Filters

These are generally the quietest aquarium filter type, and are external so don’t take up room inside. Whilst they are available as small aquarium filters, they are especially good for larger tanks as they can be powerful and deal with a high bioload.

As canisters operate as an external pressurized unit, this makes them incredibly quiet, and many models have sound proofing to further reduce noise. Because they are water, rather than air driven, you don’t get the vibration you can get with air pumps.

And as they draw water from the tank using a tube, and return it via a tube or spray bar, you don’t get the same splashing sound you can get with some other filters.

Internal Filters

An internal filter is a good option as a small aquarium filter for a nano tank. Although they are air driven, which can sometimes mean more vibration, smaller filters are actually very quiet when they sit submerged in water.

They can also be very compact, making them great for smaller tanks such as 5 gallons. But it can mean they aren’t that powerful and can’t hold as much filter media. While you can get larger internal filters for bigger tanks, we’d really only recommend them for smaller aquariums.

Hang On Back (HOB) Filters

When it comes to noise, hang on back filters can be some of the quietest aquarium filters out there. Because they are water driven, it helps make the HOB filter’s motor one of the quietest types when running.

But as they sit on the edge of the tank, whilst it’s great from the perspective that they don’t take up room inside, it does mean they cascade water back in like a waterfall. You can reduce this sound by ensuring your filter is not sitting too high, and keeping the water level topped up.

Many people find the sound of running water relaxing, so with this type it really comes down to your own perspective on what makes a quiet filter.

Air-Driven Filters

Air driven or sponge filters consist of an air pump that sits outside your tank and pushes air via a tube into the filter. As the air moves through it draws waste into the sponge, where beneficial bacteria break it down. The air bubbles up to the surface helping to oxygenate your tank.

Whilst the continuous bubbling obviously creates a sound, it can be quite relaxing depending on your perspective. But it’s the external air pump that actually creates the noise with these filters. Some small air pumps can make a slight hum, but others can be louder.

Undergravel Filters

Another simple system is the undergravel filter which sits underneath your substrate. It uses an external pump to draw water down and relies on beneficial bacteria present in your substrate and around the filter plate to remove ammonia and toxins.

Similar to an air filter, it’s really the external pump that generates the noise with this set up. Because undergravel filters are only powerful enough for smaller tanks, it generally means the pump is quite small but it will still create a continuous hum or buzzing noise.

How To Choose The Quietest Aquarium Filter For Your Tank

There are a number of factors to consider in addition to noise level when looking for the quietest aquarium filter for your needs. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

Aquarium Size And Filter Type

While looking for the quietest aquarium filter, you’ll still need to find one that’s suitable for the size of your tank. Thankfully, several manufacturers produce many different sizes of the same model. So you can get the quietest filters, like HOBs or canisters, for different tank sizes.

There are many set ups you could choose, but generally internal filters are good for smaller tanks up to around 20 gallons. And as they are quite compact, they can be relatively quiet. 

HOB filters work well for many tanks from around 10 to 100 gallons, and are virtually silent apart from the trickling sound of the water return. And whilst canisters, arguably the quietest aquarium filter, are perfect for large tanks they can be used as small aquarium filters too.

Water Flow Rate

Although we mentioned the size of your tank, it’s actually the flow rate which manufacturers use to determine which size of aquarium a filter is for. The flow rate is how many times your filter can cycle all the water in your tank, and is usually measured in gallons per hour (GPH).

Although there’s often debate, most freshwater aquarists recommend your filter should be able to cycle all your tank’s water at least 4 to 6 times an hour. But it’s important to note this is a minimum level, and just a guide. It’s actually always good to over filter your water if you can.

So for a 20 gallon aquarium you’ll want a filter with a rate of at least 80 to 120 GPH. But you’ll tend to find most manufacturers will provide a more powerful filter for the reasons above. And very often the flow rate is adjustable.

spotted cihlid fish in aquarium

Filtration Stages

Whilst it has less bearing on how quiet your filter is, it’s important to consider the stages your filter has and the media used. 

Many filters are ‘3 stage’ and so contain three types of filter media to clean your tank’s water:

  • Mechanical Filtration: Often a layer of sponge, foam or filter floss, the mechanical layer removes large debris and small physical particles. You should generally check and remove any debris once a week.
  • Biological Filtration: This is usually porous ceramic rings, or sponge material which allows beneficial bacteria to colonize. These bacteria break down ammonia and other toxins as part of the natural nitrogen cycle in your tank.
  • Chemical Filtration: Filter media or pads containing activated carbon, or sometimes zeolite, further filter ammonia and toxins from your water. Often this media will need changing around every month.

Make sure you test your tank’s water using a test kit on at least a weekly basis, and that your water parameters stay at the right levels. Along with performing regular water changes, maintaining your filter correctly is key to achieving this.

Noise Protection

The level of shielding to dampen noise produced by your filter’s motor will vary depending on the type. For example, the reason canisters run so quietly is they sit as a separate unit from the tank and often have noise dampening as part of the casing.

Internal filters and HOBs also have a level of noise damping to a degree. Because the motor usually sits submerged within the water it can naturally help to make it quieter. Although on the other hand, there can be some vibration with internal filters.

Self-Priming And Ease Of Use

Another consideration, not necessarily about how quiet your filter is, but that is nonetheless important is ease of use. For example, HOB filters are very quiet and also very easy to set up and access to maintain the media.

While canisters are perhaps the quietest aquarium filter, they do take a little more initial setting up. Having said that, many models today can be unclipped and accessed fairly easily, and with features like stop valves it means you can easily disconnect them from the tank for cleaning.

If you do choose a HOB filter, or particularly a canister, look for a self-priming feature. A self-priming filter will automatically clear air from the tubes to make sure the water flows properly. This is particularly important if it needs to restart after a power outage.

Price and Budget

Whilst canister filters are some of the quietest aquariums filters out there, they are expensive. If you have a 30 gallon fish tank or above they can be a great buy. And while you can get canisters for smaller aquariums, they are by no means essential if your budget doesn’t allow.

In many cases, and for a wide range of tanks, HOB filters can be a great choice for a quiet aquarium filter but also one that won’t cost too much. And there is a wide choice of fantastic HOB filters for smaller 5 gallon aquariums up to large 100 gallon tanks.

How to Quieten A Noisy Fish Tank Filter

If your existing filter is a little noisy, there’s actually a number of things you can try, depending on the type you own, before looking for a new one:

  • Keep your water level topped off: If you own a HOB filter, keeping your water level topped up and your filter positioned low to the water line can help reduce the splashing noise from the water return.
  • Remove debris: Check your filter weekly and pull out any obvious debris. Any grime blocking the impeller can lead to rattling or other noises, and in some cases could cause it to seize up. 
  • Clean your impeller: Once you’ve cleaned your impeller well, you can also apply vaseline to help it run smoother and quieter in its housing.
  • Muffle the intake: In some cases, using filter sponge to muffle the intake can help dampen noise caused by water flow. It’s often a good idea to do this anyway as it stops fish with delicate fins getting trapped in your filter.
  • Wait for priming to finish: Sometimes when a canister filter has finished priming there can still be tiny air bubbles present inside which can cause a humming noise. Just give your filter an extra 2 to 4 days and it should settle down itself.

Our Verdict

In short, external canisters are the quietest aquarium filter you can use with your tank, and are great for a mid-size or large aquariums if you need to deal with a lot of waste.

We found the Fluval 07 Series to be the quietest overall with plenty of noise dampening features. Although the Penn Plax Cascade is a close contender too and great if you are looking for a great value canister.

But remember there are plenty of alternatives in our list, with hang on back filters like the AquaClear providing super quiet filtration too. So whatever your needs we’re confident you’ll find the quietest aquarium filter for you!

FAQs

If you’re looking for the quietest aquarium filter, here the answers to some of the top frequently asked questions which may help!

Which Style Is The Quietest Aquarium Filter?

Whilst one of the most expensive, canister filters are usually the quietest as they are driven by water and operate as a sealed unit outside the tank, so vibration is minimal.

How Often Should I Clean My Aquarium Filter?

You should generally check your filter and remove obvious debris once a week. Cartridges or mechanical media should be changed monthly on average. Bio media can last several months.

How Can I Make My Aquarium Filter Quieter?

There are a number of possible things you can try depending on the type you have. One common thing to do is ensure you clean out debris on a weekly basis to stop any rattling.

Can I Turn Off My Aquarium Filter At Night?

Whilst turning off your filter may help you sleep at night, it’s not a good idea for your tank or your fish. Your filter should run 24/ 7 to keep your water clean as well as oxygenated.

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AUTHOR
Julie Millis
Julie has worked in aquatics for over 15 years. She is passionate about freshwater and saltwater tanks. Julie loves helping with all your fish-keeping questions!

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