Best HOB Filter for Saltwater

Unfortunately, you must clean your fish tank. Of course, you want your fish happy and healthy, and keeping them clean is part of that. Not to mention it will keep your water your clear. The solution? Hang on back filters, or HOB filters, are quite popular.

Many aquarium enthusiasts find themselves turning to HOB filters because of their easy installation and outstanding performance. It’s as easy as snapping them onto he back and letting them run. But, there are a lot of aspects to consider when you’re deciding which model to purchase

Value Section

Take into consideration how much waste and nitrogen your fish release into their environment. Even if you’re cleaning your tank manually every week, you’re not letting them thrive. Using a HOB filter can help your fish become livelier, in clearer water.

Finding a filter that delivers just the right amount of filtration seems like a daunting task. But, using a list to track the things that are most important to you makes the process easy. There are a few primary aspects to consider when deciding which is the best HOB filter for you and your tank.

  • Flow rate
  • Filter media
  • Maintenance
  • Technology
  • Budget

Although these 5 points can make up a great filter, it’s hard to find a filter that is successful on all front. You will probably make some sacrifices to accommodate your tank, personal preferences, or budget.

Flow Rate

Usually, if you’re using a HOB filter, you know that the flow rate will affect your tank. However, if you’re new to aquariums or even better, are building your first tank, then this is a new concept to you.

A flow rate is a rate at which water is returned to your tank. The flow rate can affect swim patterns or positively affect the stir of beneficial bacteria. If you have a high flow rate, then your filter will process more water in less time. The rate of filtration is a good indication of both power and efficiency.

Filter Media

The filtration media you choose will affect which impurities are removed. Now, more doesn’t always mean better. Most HOB filters use activated carbon or have multiple stages where you can utilize different types of filter media.


When you’re looking for a quality filter, you want a filter that is easy to clean and maintain. The HOB filters you choose will house the bulk of the waste in your tank. Each model has its method for cleaning.


A number of manufacturers have started trying to implement various forms of technology into their filters. The attempt is to impress prospective customers and claim that the filter is “enhanced.” Always consider what the technology is and if it’s necessary. The downside of technology is that sometimes it causes more problems than it’s worth.


There is a trick to set your budget with a filter; you have to consider both the initial cost of the filter and the filter replacements. Typically, well-known brands are more expensive, but they’re also more reliable, so you don’t have to replace them as often.

Setting a budget will also help in getting a filter that’s the appropriate size for your tank. If your budget is low and you’re looking for something to get you through the next year, you might look for more power. Rather than quality materials used in building the filter.

Use all 5 of these aspects when choosing a filter that’s right for you and your aquarium. We’ve evaluated them carefully when selecting the top 5 and can assure you they deliver in most, if not all categories.

Top 5 Best HOB Filters

We’ve gathered all the information we could find to help you find the best HOB filter for your tank. It’s not overly complicated, although many companies try to make it sound more complex than it actually is. If you are a new aquarium enthusiast, take a deep breath, and let’s get started.

1. Fluval C Power Filter

  • Great for 40-70-gallon tanks
  • Remarkable water flow
  • Cheap replacement filters
  • Easy to Clean

Fluval is a quality brand, and there’s no doubt that any product they put out is worth it. It uses a 5-stage system, so the result is very clean and clear water. The ingenuity in this filter is unmatched when compared to similarly sized filters. The Fluval C Power Filter uses a large surface area for effective and efficient filtering.

Part of this system’s appeal is the re-filtration process. It is a great choice for delicate fish because a standard power filter or HOB filter can leave delicate fish in harm’s way. Many aquarium enthusiasts enjoy the ability to control the water flow as well.

The carbon filter pads do need changing every 3 months or so. While this seems like a lot of filter changing, the filters are cheap and easy to replace. The only other downside is that cleaning the propeller is a bit of a pain because the crevices are small.

The Fluval C Power Filter is a high-quality HOB filter that can handle most aquariums you would find in a home. Fluval is also well-known for making the same model scaled to fit different size tanks. If this filter is in your budget, it’s worth it.

2. AquaClear Power Filter

  • Large filtration media
  • Very quiet

The 110-volt AquaClear Power Filter is the first choice for many longtime aquarium enthusiasts. It is a versatile product that meets the needs of many. It is a simple HOB filter that doesn’t use a ton of technology but instead they manufacture different models based on the same design to offer different flow rates.

The benefit of the different models for different flow rates concept is that you’re not left guessing with an adjustable flow rate. If you’re a beginner, this is a great filter for you.

The best features are how the water processes throughout the filter. The water passes over a recirculation grid that cycles it back into the filtration media multiple times. So instead of one time through which is the standard for most filters, this filter cleans your tank water multiple times.

AquaClear highlights the larger media capacity as a great feature. However, it’s the feature that leads to the most complaints. What happens is tank owners buy cheaper filtration media but use more of it believing it will have the same effect.

The AquaClear Power Filter is one of the best options on the market and would make a great addition to your aquarium setup. But please remember to purchase only high-quality filtration media because the internal workings are sensitive.

3. Marineland Emperor Pro Series

  • 400 gallon-per-hour flow rate
  • Holds twice the amount of filter cartridges compared to competing models
  • Filters up to 80-gallons

An unmatched flow rate makes this one of the best HOB filter choices available. It easily handles tanks of up to 80-gallons and reasonably populated. It also uses a bio wheel, and two pump design which allows your tank to receive more water per hour.

We liked a few features here. The two bio-wheels function well together delivering improved biological filtration. The flow rate is necessary for larger aquariums and smaller aquariums it’s an improvement to filtration.

This model clogs, regularly. Although the system doesn’t require weekly cleaning, it’s recommended to prevent clogging. As soon as you go a week without cleaning it, the spray bar is clogged,and the bio-wheels stop spinning.

The Marineland Emperor Pro series isn’t the best filter on the market. Instead, you can get a filter that requires less maintenance for the same price, but it won’t be as powerful. This filter is a great choice if you’re looking for power and filtration but don’t mind the constant cleaning.

4. Penn Plax Cascade HOB Aquarium Filter

  • External bio-falls for ammonia removal
  • Easy to replace carbon cartridge
  • Multiple sizes for various tank sizes

The Cascade HOB Is the top model form Penn Plax and aquarium enthusiasts everywhere love it. This HOB filter is super quiet and has a gentle but fast water flow of 300-gallons. A combination of the fast water flow rate and quietness is reason enough to consider this filter seriously.

The filtration capacity is exceptionally impressive. It has an adjustable flow know so you can cater to the needs of your tank and use slower speeds during feeding times.

Because of the adjustable rate and high filtration capacity it serves both freshwater and saltwater tanks well. Catering to delicate fish and maintaining a clean environment is easy using this filter.

The big downside to this filter is the construction. It’s unfortunate that such a great filter is made with such cheap materials. Instead of using quality materials and increasing the price to match, Penn Plax offers a moderately priced product for something that is prone to leaking and cracking.

The Penn Plax is a great filter but plans on replacing it within the first 3 years. But, the product itself has a lot of features that make it worth it. The flow rate is really fast and adjustable which is a big bonus to most aquarium enthusiasts. Not to mention it’s large size and internal sponge for building up beneficial bacteria.

5. Aqueon Quietflow 50 Filter

  • 250 GPM flow rate
  • 4 stage filtering
  • Self-primes
  • Light indicator for cartridge changes

Probably the most cost-effective filter on this list, it has a number of features which stand out from the HOB filters we’ve already seen. The Aqueon is self-priming which means it engages a cleaning cycle after any power interruption. It also has a light indicator for when it needs the cartridge changed. This filter is one that is using technology to reel in the new and unsuspecting aquarium enthusiasts.

Because of the high flow rate of 250 gallons per minute, its guaranteed that the oxygen is dissolved and reaches your fish sooner. A benefit that most people don’t consider when purchasing a HOB filter is more active fish. Instead of cleaning your tank once a week and relying on the natural cycle to break down oxygen and nitrogen the HOB filter facilitates the process.

As with the Penn Plax filter, this HOB filter is made with cheap materials. You can plan on replacing it within the first 3 years, but unlike the Penn Plax, it’s a less expensive purchase. Because the price it cheaper, it doesn’t seem that bad replacing it sooner than most HOB filters.

If you are looking for something to get you through the next couple of years, this is a great option. It doesn’t leak, is quiet, and thoroughly filters your water. This filter is an excellent choice for beginners as well because it’s easy to clean and replace the cartridges.

The Clear Winner…

The Fluval C Power Filter is one of the best HOB filters on the market. It uses a 5-stage filtration system that creates a cleaner environment for happier fish. Many people who use the Fluval C Power Filter state they plan on replacing it with the same model when it’s time comes to an end.

This filter is easy to clean, the filters are easy to change and cheap, and it doesn’t have a ton of technology getting in the way. It is suitable for medium to large tanks and filters 264 gallons per hour. The impressive water flows help ensure that your plants and fish are in the cleanest environment possible.

Installation is a breeze and unlike some of the other filter’s we see here there isn’t any complicated instructions needed to start filtering. Hopefully, this is all the information you need to choose the best HOB filter for you and your tank!

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