Best HOB (Hang On Back) Filters – Top Picks in 2021

Updated on January 15, 2021 by

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A few words to begin with

Acquiring one of the best HOB (hang on back) filters for your aquarium is essential for your fish to stay healthy and thrive. As we all love our beautiful fish, we must care about their health by making sure the water is properly filtered and any harmful waste is removed. All fish keepers are aware that fish produce harmful waste in the tank as well, and there’s a need to tidy the tank accordingly.

Knowing precisely the fish species we house is of great help. That can influence greatly when deciding what kind of filters we want to install in our aquarium. Fortunately, there are plenty of aquarium filters out there, offering supreme performance.

Filters come in different sizes and shapes. Getting a suitable filter for our finned buddies ensures they will maintain a good condition. Using a filter, the water will stay clear, the fish will be delighted and so will we.

We reviewed in this article some of the best aquarium HOB filters that we trust. We consider those reliable, functional and of superior quality.

What is a HOB filter?

The HOB term refers to the hang-on-the-back filtration system that is convenient and easy to install and setup. Their maintenance is also not much of a hassle.

Taking care of a tropical aquarium is not easy. The waste and debris result in a toxic build-up of ammonia and nitrates that is harmful to our fish. Draining all the aquarium water in one go and replacing it can be very harmful. The nitrogen cycle will get destroyed and the colony of beneficial bacteria gets wiped out.

Thus, a tank filter alone keeps the tank clean and ensures healthy and happy fish.
A wide variety of filters are available, the HOB ones being among the most popular filtration systems.

For alternative filtration options, you might take a look at our related articles about best canister filters, or best internal filters.

Best HOB (Hang On Back) Filters Compared

ImageProductFeaturesCheck Price
Best Overall HOB Filter
MarineLand Penguin PRO 375 HOB Filter
MarineLand Penguin PRO 375 HOB Filter

For Tanks: Up to 75 Gallons
Flow Rate: 375 GPH
For: Freshwater & Saltwater

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Best Silent HOB Filter
SeaChem Large HOB Filter
SeaChem Large HOB Filter

For Tanks: Up to 75 Gallons
Flow Rate: 350 GPH
For: Freshwater & Saltwater

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Runner Up HOB Filter
AquaMaxx Hang On Back Power Filter
AquaMaxx Hang On Back Power Filter

For Tanks: Up to 30 Gallons
Flow Rate: 110 GPH
For: Freshwater & Saltwater

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Efficient HOB Filter
AquaClear Aquarium HOB Filter
AquaClear Aquarium HOB Filter

For Tanks: Up to 110 Gallons
Flow Rate: 350 GPH
For: Freshwater & Saltwater

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5-Stage HOB Filter
Fluval C4 Power Filter
Fluval C4 Power Filter

For Tanks: Up to 70 Gallons
Flow Rate: 264 GPH
For: Freshwater & Saltwater

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Easy Maintenance
Marineland Penguin Power Filter
Marineland Penguin Power Filter

For Tanks: Up to 75 Gallons
Flow Rate: 350 GPH
For: Freshwater & Saltwater

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Best Design HOB Filter
Penn-Plax Cascade HOB Filter
Penn-Plax Cascade HOB Filter

For Tanks: Up to 100 Gallons
Flow Rate: 300 GPH
For: Freshwater & Saltwater

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Best Price HOB Filter
Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO HOB Filter
Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO HOB Filter

For Tanks: Up to 75 Gallons
Flow Rate: 400 GPH
For: Freshwater & Saltwater

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Best Seller HOB Filter
Tetra Whisper HOB Filter
Tetra Whisper HOB Filter

For Tanks: Up to 70 Gallons
Flow Rate: 400 GPH
For: Freshwater

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Powerful HOB Filter
Marineland Emperor 400 Pro HOB Filter
Marineland Emperor 400 Pro HOB Filter

For Tanks: Up to 80 Gallons
Flow Rate: 400 GPH
For: Freshwater & Saltwater

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How to choose the best HOB filters?

Looking for a HOB filter means as well a good understanding of its basic principles. Getting one becomes difficult if one does not know the mechanism or the HOB filter parts. Here are a few factors to concentrate on before purchasing a HOB filter.

Filtration media

The filtration media refers to the cartridges’ contents that retain the water impurities following three filtration stages namely, chemical, biological, and mechanical. A greater number of filtration media does not necessarily mean a better filtration.

The biological filtration is the key element to a good filtration. However, there are a variety of media such as bio-balls, ceramic rings, purigen, etc.

Flow rate

The flow rate is related directly to filtration. With a higher flow rate, the filtration process is faster. The aquarium size is proportional to the filter quality and its flow rate. The thumb rule says for instance, that a fish tank of 10 gallons should be equipped with a filter that has a flow rate of 60 gallons/hour.

An important point to consider is that if the filter’s flow rate is faster than it should, then the water will not have enough contact with the biological filter media. This will also keep the bacteria colony deprived of its necessary nutrition.

Filter maintenance

A HOB filter needs way less care and maintenance compared to traditional filters. The instructions of maintenance also vary with each filter model. Understanding the type of media and the way the filter works should be of great help during maintenance.

Filters that need frequent maintenance for instance should be avoided. The HOB filter is an excellent choice and so it is ideal to look for a suitable filter model that is also easy to maintain and clean.

Motor

The aquarium filter models feature a removable motor that facilitates the actual cleaning process. Fortunately, the newer models come with an incorporated motor so the hassle of removing and maintaining the motor is greatly reduced. The motors have a cover for the impeller for obvious safety reasons.

Filtration chamber capacity

Placing filter media as desired means the right space is properly filled within the HOB filter chamber. Some by default come with their recommended media in the cartridges. If not, providing the filter with its required media is a must.

1. MarineLand Penguin – Overall Best HOB Filter

Our Top Pick
MarineLand Penguin PRO - Overall Best HOB Filter

Marineland Penguin Pro aquarium filter is convenient, reliable, and useful for any fish tank of up to 90 gallons of water. Just like its relative the Emperor, comes with the patented bio-wheel technology offering wet/dry biological filtration.

The delivered filtration is in three stages: mechanical, chemical, and biological to maintain a clean aquatic environment.

Easy installation:

The Marineland Penguin aquarium filter installation is far from being complex but is also not the easiest compared to other products. There is a need to follow the manual of the product strictly and you will have the HOB filter ready to start operating in no time. 

Excellent cleaning system:

The cleaning system follows three phases. It keeps the aquarium clean and assures thorough cleaning. It helps in reducing the nitrites and ammonia levels, removes harmful residues and wastes that pollute the tank water.

Impressive features:

The Marineland HOB filters have powerful impressive features. Both style and performance are their strengths. It is suitable for freshwater and saltwater. It has an ultra-quiet decoupled motor to filter while keeping the noise levels extremely low.

PROs
  • Cleans the tank simply exceptionally
  • Suitable for both fresh and saltwater tanks
  • Chemical, biological and mechanical filtration
CONs
  • Sometimes generates a grinding noise

2. Seachem Tidal – Most Quiet HOB Filters

Up to 75 Gallons
SeaChem Large Aquarium Filter - Most Quiet HOB Filters

The Seachem HOB filter has an effective design and it is the most silent HOB filter that uses a mechanical filter sponge to do all the hard work and filter the water.

It works very well as a saltwater and freshwater tank filter.

The Seachem HOB filter is very easy to set up, and it removes the contaminants by sweeping them into the filter.

It comes in 3 options for tanks of up to 55, 75, or 110 gallons. The middle option, for instance, facilitates a nice flow rate of 350 gallons per hour.

Supreme quality:

The hang-on-back filters from Seachem are of supreme quality that will change our perception regarding HOB filters. This model features a surface skimmer which enables the water to pass twice through the filter.

Next level features:

The filter reveals unique features such as adjustable flow control, a self-cleaning impeller and a self-priming pump.

Versatility:

The Seachem filter provides effective and performant filtration. Since it comes with a much convenient self-cleaning impeller, rules out the hassle of removing the motor and its impeller for maintenance sessions.

PROs
  • Self-cleaning impeller
  • Ideal as freshwater and saltwater HOB filter
  • Adjustable flow to control water
CONs
  • Small filter media chamber

3. AquaClear Filters – Energy-Efficient HOB Filters

Up to 110 Gallons
AquaClear Power Filter - Energy-Efficient HOB Filters

The fish tank HOB filter featuring a CycleGuard system is no other than the AquaClear aquarium filter.

It eliminates more solid waste, ensuring a clean tank.

It also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria colonies. It boasts to be the best HOB filter for a budget offering a distinct design ensuring filtration for large volume tanks.

Unique design:

AquaClear has a unique design and works really hard towards making a perfectly clean fish tank. The media size of the AquaClear filter is considerably larger than the one belonging to similar filters within the same category. Its filtration capacity is simply incredible.

Multi stage filtration:

The CycleGuard system of the AquaClear power filter removes impurities and contaminants of all sorts. This includes eliminating dangerous chemicals, algae, and the use of the activated carbon system is much more efficient.

The system uses three-stage filtering to drive water in the fish tank through the filtration process. During this process, the filtration system keeps the bacteria colonies unharmed. This is because the filter media facilitates the growth of such good bacteria that are required for the chemical balance in our fish tanks.

Versatility:

The AquaClear Power Filter comes packed with the best features that a powerful HOB filter can provide. Its amazing filtration system is powered by a high-quality motor which is very energy efficient so operational costs are not significant.

PROs
  • Easy to use and install
  • Large media
  • An optimal level of biological filtration
CONs
  • The smaller models can be a bit difficult to clean

4. Fluval C – Best HOB Filter for Reef Tanks

Small & Effective HOB Filter
Fluval C4 Power Filter - 5 Stages Filtration HOB Filter

The Fluval HOB filters offer the highest filtration performance.

It is a premium quality brand that is our budget pick for a small aquarium, prominent for its impressive filtration capacity, strong water flow, powerful motor, and multi-stage filtering process.

Technology and build:

The HOB filter of the Fluval filter features a re-filtration patented system and a powerful motor. The water flow rate is controlled and re-filtration of the water process is done multiple times through the filtration chamber.
This process removes contaminants efficiently to 99%, thereby making this HOB filter the top choice.

Five stage filtration:

The filtration system is powerful. A five-stage filtration process determines an effective removal of all pathogens and contaminants, ensuring good fish health, proving that Fluval C HOB filter is among the best aquarium filters. Fluval is a well known brand among aquarists and it can facilitate a thorough filtration process due to its large surface media.

Performance:

The Fluval C makes use of a multi stage filtration system. It filters up to 264 gallons of water per hour. The biggest plus point of this model is that it filters water in huge volumes using its innovative technologies.

This explains its solid performance while it keeps the water in contact with the media for longer periods.

PROs
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Adjustable filter rate flow
  • Affordable price
CONs
  • Frequent replacement of the foam pads

5. MarineLand 350 – Easiest to Maintain HOB Filter

Up to 75 Gallons
Marineland PF0350B - Easiest to Maintain HOB Filter

The Marineland HOB filter deals with water filtration in three stages. The construction base is solid offering improved durability.

The filtration stages include chemical, mechanical, and biological media. The ease of customization ensures reliability, as the easiest to maintain hob filter, and offers better performance.

Ease of customization:

Marineland users are enjoying a big-time from this ease of customization. The HOB filter takes in more water to filter and eliminates efficiently the chemical residues and harmful bacteria from the water.

Durability:

This is a significant feature when it comes to HOB filters. This particular HOB filter is widely known for its durability. This is a high-end quality filter offering a long-lasting mechanism and appearance. The Marineland filters are of high-end quality, never disappointing any aquarium enthusiast.

Ease of use:

While we can all recognize a few complicated and concerning aspects of our hobby, the Marineland Penguin Power Filter and its ease of installation clear out some of these concerns. It offers such an easy installation so that everyone can manage it without an issue. Providing extended water contact with the media, the water is always crystal clear.

PROs
  • Made of durable materials
  • Filtration in 3 stages
  • 100% water – media contact
CONs
  • Needs regular maintenance

6. Penn Plax Cascade – Best Marine HOB Filter

Up to 100 Gallons
Penn-Plax Cascade - Best Marine HOB Filter

Penn Plax Cascade offers an impressive 300 gallons/hr filtration rate. It maintains a healthy, spotless ecosystem for our fish and their entire ecosystem.

It removes discoloration, contaminants, and toxins, using its efficient bio-falls-quad filtration system.

Plenty of fresh and saltwater enthusiasts label the Penn Plax Cascade as the best HOB aquarium filter.

Materials:

The Penn Plax filter comes with a great media that has incredible filtration capacities, delivering 300 gallons of clean water back to the tank every hour. The Penn Plax Cascade ensures crystal clear water and quiet operation.

Biological filtration:

The outstanding feature coming with the Penn Plax filter is its capacity of filtering nitrates and ammonia. It is efficient and unique due to the filtration bio-fall-quad system. The filtration system helps in efficiently filtering the saltwater, for instance, making it our favorite saltwater HOB filter.

Carbon cartridge:

The important ingredient is the activated carbon that helps in removing toxins and harmful chemicals.

PROs
  • Outstanding filtration capacity
  • Internal sponge for bacteria colonization
  • Perfect for both fresh and saltwater tanks
CONs
  • The filter is a little bit too short

7. Aqueon QuietFlow – Most Durable HOB Filter

Up to 90 Gallons
Aqueon QuietFlow PRO - Most Durable HOB Filter

The Aqueon QuietFlow is prominent for its durability in the HOB filters industry.
The Aqueon HOB filters are user friendly and show improved filtration and efficiency.

The HOB filter is undoubtedly a top-notch one, overall being the best on all the levels ranking it in our top among the finest aquarium HOB filters.

Simple maintenance:

Aqueon QuietFlow is relatively effortless to maintain. This filter material is positioned in a favorable way such that removing and cleaning the media is extremely easy.

Filtration:

The Aqueon QuietFlow has an excellent brand reputation. This aquarium HOB filter is reliable and is of high capacity handling very large aquariums smoothly. It delivers crystal clear water through its multi-stage filtration process.

LED Indicator:

The led indicator is an awesome smart accessory adding great value to this already top class HOB filter. The led indicator will inform you if the clogged cartridges have to be replaced just by flashing the indicator. Thus, one is always assured of never skipping any maintenance dates.

PROs
  • Durable and very quiet
  • Suitable for both fresh and saltwater tanks
  • Four-stage filtration system
CONs
  • The impeller bushings are not of the highest quality
  • The media can retain too much water
  • The entire filter is a bit too heavy

8. Tetra Whisper EX – Bestseller HOB filter

Up to 70 Gallons
Tetra Whisper HOB Filter - Bestseller HOB filter

The Tetra Whisper EX HOB filter is a matchless aquarium filter. It is user friendly and a ready to go plug and play filter. There is no need to tinker any part.

It has time strips, patented carbon fitters, and various materials of construction ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of the model to be the bestseller aquarium HOB filter.

Intuitive:

The Tetra Whisper Filter accurately informs when there’s a need to change the cartridges. The alert is through the time strips that turn red. Its operation is relatively quiet.

Materials:

It ensures effortless cleaning as it has two patented carbon filters. The two filter plates are beneficial for bacterial growth. The various high end material combinations help the HOB filter operate perfectly making sure our tanks are healthy and their ecosystems clean.

User friendly:

We mentioned a few lines above, that the Tetra Whisper EX HOB filter is simply a plug and play device and that’s completely accurate. Everything comes assembled and one has only to hang the filter to the tank and have it plugged and started.

The design is compact and easy to fit on the back of the aquarium.

PROs
  • Suitable for 45 to 70-gallon tanks
  • Operates silently
  • Easy to set up
CONs
  • Cartridges require frequent replacement

9. MarineLand Emperor – High Flow Rate HOB Filter

Up to 400 GPH Flow
Marineland Emperor 400 Pro - High GPH Flow Rate HOB Filter

Another outstanding Marineland quality filter is the Marineland Emperor Bio-Wheel. It is very effective and one of the best HOB filters currently on the market, capable of removing food residue, chemical substances, waste, and lots more with maximum efficiency.

This filter unit is incredibly powerful and capable to handle 400 gallons per hour flow rate.

It easily transforms the polluted water into a suitable and crystal clear water, perfect for our fish and their ecosystem.

Intake Tube:

There is a long intake tube that is suitable for aquariums of any type. It features two intake sections, one at the bottom and one in the center. The special filter pads and the bio wheels rotation, ensure the best water filtration.

Bio-Wheels:

The bio wheels are perfectly placed in the cycle such that these models help the beneficial bacteria growth which is essential to maintain a healthy ecosystem. The bio wheels promote the filtration process, but also they expose the beneficial bacteria to the air as they rotate, providing oxygen for the so much needed bacteria.

Filtration:

The brilliant MarineLand Emperor HOB filter is recommended to filter tanks of up to 80 gallons. Although it provides a flow rate of up to 400 gallons per hour, the filter keeps the water pressure flow rate stable and balanced, so that the aquarium does not have to experience agitated waters.

PROs
  • Long intake tube
  • High durability
  • Quiet during operation
CONs
  • Non adjustable flow rate

Frequently asked questions

What are the benefits of using HOB filters?

The benefits of the HOB filters include:

– Minimal maintenance
– Rarely requires media replacement
– Easy to clean in case the intake tube gets clogged

Are canister filters better than HOB filters?

Typically, HOB filters are cheaper in most cases compared to similar canister filters. This is mainly due to the fact that canister filters can do a better job at cleaning, but they also take more space.

To conclude

As discussed above, looking and purchasing the best functional and reliable HOB filter should help in maintaining crystal clear tank water and also a healthy ecosystem for the plants and various fish to thrive. 

With these products briefly reviewed in the article, we aim to ease any burden you might feel when looking for the best HOB filter. These HOB (hang-on-the-back) filter systems are the prominent filtering aquarium solutions.

However, if we were to make a final pick, we would choose the Marineland Penguin PRO Power Filter as it is specially designed to deliver up to 450 gallons per hour. It comes in various options, which should be of great help, depending on the capacity of the tank for which you’re seeking a HOB filter.

This model removes harmful chemicals and debris, following a three-stage filtration, being at the same time perfectly suitable for both fresh and saltwater.