Finding a good fish tank filter is essential to the health of any aquarium – but finding a 55-gallon fish tank filter that is both affordable and reliable can be an impossible task. There are so many on the market that shopping for one can take days and even then you might doubt your final decision.
To help you make the best choice for your tank, we’ve compiled a list of the best 55 gallon fish tank filters, answered the most frequently asked questions about filters, and written out a simple buying guide.
The Best Filters for 55 Gallon Tanks
1. Aqua Clear Fish Tank Filter
Available in a variety of sizes, Aqua Clear has a range of great filters. The Aqua Clear 70, which is for 40-70 gallon tanks, is the one we’re recommending first on our list.
The filter combines chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration via its multistage filtration system. It pushes water through a gentle waterfall that is both silent and undisruptive. Therefore, the filter is ideal for tanks with sensitive, weak-swimming fish or fry as well as large fish.
It cleans the water of waste and impurities while preserving beneficial bacteria. The unique refiltration system allows users to control the flow, with 50% of the water being filtered multiple times when it is reduced.
Set up is easy, taking only a few minutes and no hassle. Filter media can be replaced when necessary, as all the components are easy to find in pet specialty and supply stores. They can also be purchased online.
2. Hydor External Canister Filter
This 55 gal fish tank filter by Hydor is a great choice for tanks with all types of fish. The filter is a canister-style external filter that pumps out a surprising amount of power for its moderate size. It uses innovative filtering technology that removes excess nitrate and ammonia from the water, leaving it clean and clear.
The 250 model can be used on tanks that range in size from 40-75 gallons and in both fresh and saltwater aquariums. It also has a generous lifespan and can stand the test of time with its safety locks, large filter capacity, and ceramic shaft.
Related: check our article about best 75 gallon fish tank filters!
It is compact in size but does wonders for the cleanliness of even the busiest tanks while still maintaining its near-silent operation. When in use, the filter hardly makes a sound, just doing its job without a fuss. It is guaranteed not to be disruptive to nightshift workers or small children.
3. Marineland Magnum Polishing Filter
At only 10.5 inches in length and less than 3 pounds in weight, the Magnum Polishing Filter is the definition of “dynamite in a small package”. It makes use of two refillable chambers that can house carbon or another filtration substrate.
This particular filter is the most diverse model that Marineland has to offer, boasting three stages of filtration and additional water polishing. The first stage is mechanical, the removable floss sleeve trapping debris. Second is chemical, with the activated carbon removing odor and discoloration.
The third stage is biological, which makes use of beneficial bacteria to kill germs. Lastly, the water is polished until it is clear and clean. As a result, the polishing cartridge may lose its power – but no worries! It can be charged using diatomaceous earth.
Cleaning the cartridges and various substrates of the filtration system is a breeze, as all the parts can be either rinsed our thoroughly or removed and replaced. In addition, setup is quick and painless, letting you move to the best part of having a new tank – adding the fish! – more quickly.
Related: UV Sterilizers for Your Fish Tank
4. Fluval C4 Power Filter
The Fluval C4 filter can be used for tanks up to 70 gallons in size. It uses a unique 5-stage filtration system that gives users excellent results with little effort. It offers the maximum surface area and frequent run times, making it highly efficient.
Stage 1 and 2 use mechanical filtration and a polyfoam pad to trap particles and debris. Stage 3 uses chemical filtration, making use of the included activated carbon insert that is given along with the filter. This stage effectively removes odor, water discolorations, and other impurities.
Stage 4 filters the water through a bio-screen that further filters the water before allowing it to drip into the biological chamber and onto the C nodes. The C nodes are the final stage, lending the water beneficial bacteria before it is filtered back into the system.
On full speed, the filter can cycle through 264 gallons of water every 60 minutes, however, using the refiltration system means that 50% less water comes through.
One of the best features of the C4 is that it is quiet when in use, yet does its job as expected – with ease and reliability.
5. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter
Reliable and versatile, the Penn Plax Cascade 1000 filter has grown in popularity as the aquarium hobbyist community expands. With 3 media baskets and working at a speed of 265 GPH, it is ideal for use in aquariums that are as big as 100 gallons.
The filter’s flow valves can rotate 360 degrees, while a simple button ignites the start of the priming phase. This phase primes the filter before it starts to filter water, making it work more efficiently.
Moreover, the filter’s versatility extends to its filter media, with it being compatible with a wide array of filter media. Ultimately, this gives you the ability to use whichever media you choose and to find a go-to that you like.
The unusually large filter tray means that replacements are few and far between, making the use of this filter worry-free. The air-tight seal present on the filter ensures that it is quiet during operation and maintains the optimal flow rate at all times.
6. Aqueon QuietFlow LED Pro Filter
As its name suggests, the Aquean QuietFlow is a near-silent filter that is both practical and trusted by households around the country. The filter uses Aqueon’s special media pads and 4 stages of filtration to achieve clean, freshwater.
High flow rates of the filter ensure that more oxygen is dissolved, resulting in more active, healthy fish. The internal pump used helps to maintain a quiet, leak-free system that appeals to all users.
Moreover, the filter has a special feature that helps it start back up after a power disruption or cleaning. This automatic restart helps to make sure that the filter is always going when it should be and that fish are provided with clean water all the time.
When cartridges become clogged, the filter indicates that it’s time for a clean via an LED light. It does this by actively monitoring water levels. However, when cartridges eventually need to be replaced, Aqueon’s replacement cartridges are easy to come by and install.
7. Polar Aurora External Filter
The Polar Aurora external filter helps aquarists enhance the filtration of their tank through a 3- stage filtration system. It has a flow rate of 264 GPH, which makes it suitable for large tanks of either fresh or saltwater.
The filter has 3 large media trays that are generous in size and can be filled with a wide variety of media. Therefore, the filter can be used in accordance with mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration depending on which media you choose to use.
Priming is automatic within the filter, reducing the time you’ll spend manually siphoning water into the filter after a cleaning or power interruption. Alongside self-priming, the filter also offers a single-valve disconnection that makes cleaning a breeze.
8. Tetra Whisper EX70
A popular addition to the Tetra Whisper line, the Tetra Whisper EX70 is designed for 45-70 gallon tanks. It provides a multi-stage filtration process that purifies, cleanses and oxygenates fish tank water.
Right out of the box the filter is ready for setup, making it super convenient to use. When the carbon filter needs to be changed, you’ll be alerted via the included timestrips; these handy strips change from white to red when a change is necessary.
In addition, each filter comes with a filter cartridge carrier that not only protects your hands from dirty fish water but prevents the carbon cartridge from dripping.
To give extra oxygen to your fish, the filter keeps water flowing constantly in a manner that is efficient and also quiet. You’ll no longer have to worry about being kept up at night by a loud filter!
9. Marineland Penguin 350 Filter
The Marineland Penguin 350 can filter up to 350 GPH! As a result, it’s a great filter for 55 gallon tanks. The filter uses biological filtration and science to ensure clean, clear water that is ideal for all types of fish.
The filter uses 3 stages of filtration: mechanical, chemical, and biological. These are paired with customized filter cartridges to remove impurities, discoloration, and provide a good source of oxygen.
The biological filtration is thanks to BIO-Wheel technology that uses noise-reducing covers and intake strainers. While these parts are at work, the BIO-Wheel removes nitrate and ammonia. The water flow of the filter can be adjusted using the intake strainers.
10. Penn Plax Cascade Hang-On Filter
This external, hang-on filter is compact and makes good use of available space. It moves 300 gallons of water through it per hour and can be used in tanks ranging from 50 to 100 gallons. It is ideal for fresh and saltwater, adding versatility.
To make it even more versatile, the flow can be adjusted by the easy-twist knob and when the double-sided cartridges run out of media, they can be replaced by media from any pet store. The filter uses a gentle waterfall design that adds oxygen to the water while not disrupting the life within the tank with the harsh flow.
In operation, the filter is quiet and unnoticeable and during setup, the intake tube length can be adjusted alongside the flow rate.
The Best 55 Gallon Fish Tank Filter Buying Guide
When buying a 55 gal fish tank filter it’s important to take note of the filter’s size. In other words, no going into the store and choosing the cheapest filter because it’s easiest on your wallet! You need to pay attention to its size specifications.
Most filters will specify their size on the box. So, as long as you know how many gallons your fish tank is, you should be able to find a filter that matches with it.
In general, you’ll want your filter to cycle through the entire tank multiple times an hour.
Depending on your personal situation, you may or may not be able to handle a filter that makes noise. Many filters buzz, which can be annoying if you or someone in your home is sensitive to it.
Also, if your fish tank is located in a bedroom, the noise level could be a factor when deciding on one. This is mostly true because filters need to be on all the time – including throughout the night and into the early morning.
If you find that your filter is quiet and then starts suddenly making noise, double-check that it’s clean and not clogged. Sometimes a filter’s position needs to be adjusted, too.
A good flow rate is critical to the success and health of an aquarium. When considering the flow rate, you’ll want to consider how many elbows and sharp turns you will have in your filter tubing; every turn slows the flow rate by a few points.
This being said, a filter with a low flow rate and a few turns in the tubes will have a very slow end flow rate, which might not meet your tank’s needs.
Then again, though, too high of a flow rate can be bad for fish who are weak swimmers or are very small. For these fish, a high flow rate can cause stress and, ultimately, illness.
Hang on back filters are known for being bulky, while below-ground filters are, by all accounts, the most space-saving. In between are a number of others, with canister-style filters taking the cake for the largest filter. So, which do you choose?
The most popular is the hang on back variety. However, they do mean that you need to have a fair bit of space behind your tank. Canister filters are often so large that they need their own dedicated space, which is great – if you have that space, of course!
Before deciding on a filter, get a good idea of how much space you have.
What size filter do I need for a 55-gallon tank?
While there is no set standard, a good practice is to have a filter with a GPH of 8 to 10 times the volume of your fish tank. So, for example, a 55 gallon tank would have a filter that puts out 550 gallons per hour.
What is the best filter for 55-gallon aquarium?
Again, there are no set rules as to which filter is the best. It ultimately comes down to preference.
Using the buyer’s guide we’ve outlined above as well as our recommendations, finding the best aquarium filter for you should be no problem.
How many filters do I need for a 55-gallon tank?
One filter will usually be just fine for a 55-gallon tank. It will do its job and keep the tank sufficiently clean so long as it meats the GPH requirements.
However, to improve the health of your tank, even more, you could consider having two filters; one on either side, as 55-gallon tanks are quite long.
This would ensure that water circulates adequately through the tank.
Can I use a bigger filter for my aquarium?
If you have hardy fish who are strong swimmers, you should be able to get away with using a larger filter. This being said, if your fish are being blown around or exhausted trying to swim through the current your filter is putting out, it’s a good idea to downsize.
How much filter do I need for a 55-gallon cichlid tank?
Cichlids are relatively good swimmers. Due to this, they can handle a large filter. If your cichlid is housed with other fish, you’ll need more filtration.
How often should I change a filter cartridge?
How frequently you need to change your filter cartridge depends on the amount of waste in the tank, how much algae is floating around, and how many filters you have.
If you have more than one filter, a whole cartridge change may be required less often.
A good rule of thumb is to change the cartridge once a month, though.
What can I use to clean my filter?
Generally, hot water does the trick! Make sure you avoid using harsh chemicals, soaps, or other substances that could be toxic to your fish. Even if you think you rinsed it all off, there could be some lingering on the filter!
Should my filter make bubbles?
A filter that makes a few bubbles is a filter that’s doing its job. It’s when your filter starts to create an abundance of bubbles (covering the surface of the water, for example), that you have a problem.
This likely means your filter is clogged or that you need a whole new unit.
How to prevent fish from getting sucked into the filter?
If you have small fish, you can always cut a piece of a sponge and attach it to the intake hose of your filter. This way, the water gets through, but your fish remains safe.
If this is happening, you might also want to check that the filter isn’t too powerful for your fish. A sucked-up fish could be a sign of a weak swimmer who needs a gentle filter.
Can I turn my filter off at night?
It’s best to keep your 55-gallon fish tank filter on at all times. Although it can be noisy, it’s the best way to ensure that your fish are safe from ammonia and nitrate buildups.
It also guarantees that they get enough oxygen and aren’t struggling to breathe. Ouch!
Need more guides for fish tanks? Check our articles below!