Best Nano Aquarium Filters: The Guide to Nano Tank Filters


Filtration is an essential part of any aquarium setup and nano aquariums are no different. In fact, for nano aquariums, having an efficient filtration system is even more important than in larger tanks.

Due to the smaller size, nano aquariums require more frequent maintenance than larger tanks. A smaller environment mean that you will need to monitor the water quality more carefully. Something that may be insignificant in a larger tank may have a potentially devastating effect on a nano tank. Therefore, having a good nano aquarium filter is a great way to help maintain good water quality, even in a small aquarium.

In this article we will explore what a filter does, what to look for in a filter, and the best filters for nano aquariums.

Nano Aquarium Filters

Purpose of Filtration in Nano Aquariums

If you are new to fishkeeping, you may be wondering whether a filtration system is really required in an aquarium. The answer is yes, especially for nano aquariums.

You may have noticed that fish can thrive in natural lakes and ponds without a filtration system. However, that is because there are many natural processes that occur in a larger environment that help maintain the appropriate water parameters. However, in a smaller environment, a filtration system is required to help mimic these processes that occur in nature.

Aquarium filters play an important role in maintaining good water quality in nano tanks. In creates water flow, which oxygenates the entire aquarium. The aerobic environment that it creates enables beneficial bacteria to thrive, which will keep the level of ammonia and nitrites at a safe level. Of course, an aerobic environment is important for the fish to breathe as well, since they do need a constant supply of oxygen.

Since water quality imbalances and oxygen level fluctuations can occur much more rapidly in a nano aquarium, the filtration system that help regulate these fluctuation is important.

Types of Nano Aquarium Filters

Sponge Filters

Sponge filters are one of the most basic type of filter that you can use for your nano aquarium. It consists of three components: a sponge that sits inside the tank, an air pump that sits outside the tank, and some airline tubing to connect them.

The pump pushes the air through the tubing towards the sponge in the tank. Once the air is released from the airline tubing, the air bubble rises up towards the water surface. This movement draws the water through the sponge material, which filters the water in the aquarium.

The mechanism is simple, but they are reliable and it works. Therefore, they are used by both beginners and experienced fish-keepers. Sponge filters are great options for nano aquariums, especially if you are on a budget.

Canister Filters

Canister filters, also known as external filters, are fantastic options for nano aquariums. There are many advantages to using canister filters for nano aquariums.

First, they can be installed out of sight. They can be placed underneath a nano tank, hidden inside an aquarium cabinet. They can be connected with a few tubes, and installed in a way that is discrete. If you are trying to setup your nano aquarium as a display tank, canister filters may be the option for you.

Another advantage to canister filters is that they are highly customizable. Typically, canister filters will come with a filtration media that is provided by the manufacturer. However, you can add your own customized mix of filtration media as well. Many canister filters come with the option to customize the flow rate as well. This would be a good option to have if you do not want strong water flow in your small nano tank.

While canister filters are great, keep in mind that they typically come with a higher price tag than most other types of aquarium filters.

Power Filters

Power filters, also known as hang on back (HOB) filters, are great for nano aquariums. These type of filters sit on the edge of the tank, and combines many features in a small package. Basic components of a power filter consists of an intake that pulls water into the filter, a filter chamber that holds the filtration media, and the output that returns the water back into the tank. The filtration media is often provided by the filter manufacturer in the form of a filter cartridge. However, the filter media can usually be customized as well. Since it sits right on the edge of the tank, they are easily accessible, making it very easy to monitor and maintain.

Power filters are one of the most common type of aquarium filters used. They are offered by many different manufacturers, and they are available in many different sizes. A power filter with a low flow rate would make a good option for nano aquariums. They are often much less expensive than canister filters, but it provide similar filtration capabilities. This makes power filters the best option for most nano tanks.

Internal Filters

Internal filters are very similar to hang on back (HOB) power filters, except it sits inside the aquarium. Just like HOB power filters, they has an intake, filter chamber, and an output. While it does operates similarly, internal filters are not recommended for most nano aquariums for one simple reason. Internal filters take up precious space inside the tank. In a nano tank, space inside the tank is very limited, and it should be used to its full capacity.

Flow Rate of Nano Aquarium Filters

Flow rate is important to consider when setting up a filtration system in nano aquariums. High flow rate is good because it indicates that the aquarium water is being well filtered. However, in a nano aquarium, the flow rate could easily become overwhelming for the fish and plants inside the tank. Therefore, in a nano aquarium, it is important to find the filter with the right flow rate. Flow rate is measured in gallons per hour (GPH). This means that a filter with 100 GPH has the ability to move 100 gallons of water through its system every hour.

Turnover rate is used in order to measure the filter capacity in relation to the aquarium volume. The rule of thumb is to have a turnover rate of 5-10 times in order to maintain good water quality. For example, if you install a filter with 100 GPH on a 10 gallon aquarium, you have a turnover rate of 10 times.

Keep in mind that turnover rate of 5-10 times is not always required. If you are not stocking your tank with fish to its maximum capacity, or you have lots of plants, you may not need as much turnover rate.

Nano aquariums can be easily overwhelmed when the flow rate is too high. In addition, many nano aquarium fish are known to dislike strong water flow. Betta fish is an example of fish that prefer calm waters. However, if you need the flow rate to meet your tanks’ filtration needs, consider using a baffle to dampen the strong water flow. Another option is to equip the filter output with a spray bar.

Best Filters for a Nano Aquarium

Best Sponge Filter for Nano Aquariums

Sponge filters are great because it provides both biological and mechanical filtration. In addition to this, the Aquaneat sponge filter also happens to features an air infusion chamber. This chamber produces tiny bubbles which helps increase oxygen solubility. The Aquaneat sponge filter is reasonably priced, and it comes in various sizes. For nano aquariums, choose the smaller sponge filters that they offer.

This is a classic sponge filter with a simple design. However, it does come with a check valve, which is important to stop water from rushing up the air tube and destroying your pump in the event of a power failure. It is a reliable filter that is suitable for both beginners and experienced fish keepers. Considering the price, this is the best nano aquarium filters on a budget.

Best Power Filter for Nano Aquariums

The best power filter for nano aquariums is the Aquatop FORZA 5-15. This nano aquarium filter has a flow rate of 45 GPH, it is suitable for aquariums up to 15 gallons. Since it has an adjustable flow rate, it is great for fish that prefer slow moving waters such as betta fish. While it comes in a small package, this power filter has the ability to filter mechanically, chemically, and biologically. While the manufacturer does include filter cartridges, it can be replaced with customized filtration media as well. The fact that this filter is powered with only 2 watts, and it operates very quietly is another benefit. Considering the reasonable price and good filtering capacity, this will be the best nano aquariums for most people.

Best External Canister Filter for Nano Aquariums

The Fluval 107 Performance Canister Filter is the best canister filter for nano aquariums. Fluval Aquatics manufactures one of the best aquarium canister filters. Most canister filters that Fluval manufactures are designed for larger aquariums. In fact, the Fluval 107 is rated for up to a 30 gallon aquarium, with a flow rate of 95 GPH. If your nano aquarium is around 10 gallons, this would be the perfect canister filter for your tank. If you nano aquarium is under 5 gallons, this filter may have more filter power than your tank needs. If the flow rate is too strong, simply adjust the output rate. Considering the superior filtering capacity and the fact that it can be installed out of sight, this is the best nano aquarium filter for display tanks. However, keep in mind that this is the most expensive filter on this list.

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