The Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank of 2023

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The Quietest aquarium filters options

Do you own one or more 5 gallon tanks and need a filter? Are you looking for a list of the best filters for 5 gallon tanks to give you some more insight into the products you can find? Then this guide is made for you!

Filters are common equipment necessary for all aquariums; however, different aquarium sizes require different filters. You cannot expect a low flow rate filter to keep your 50 tank aquarium clean. Likewise, smaller aquariums will need a low flow rate filter not to disturb your fish’s and other species’ peace or harm them during the filtering process.

Below you will find a comprehensive guide on the filter types you can find and details to watch out for in your filter hunt. And, of course, we have tested multiple filters and brought together a list of the best filters for 5 gallon tanks that made the cut. Follow along for all the information!

  1. Best Overall: Tetra Whisper Internal Filter
  2. Best for Betta: Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter
  3. Best Budget: Marina I25 Internal Filter
  4. Best Canister Filter: Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter
  5. Best Sponge: AQUANEAT Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter
  6. Best HOB: AquaClear Fish Tank Filter
  7. Best for Planted Tank: Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO
  8. Best for Shrimp Tank: Pawfly 40 GPH Sponge Filter
The Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Options

Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Reviewed

A good 5 gallon aquarium filter is essential for keeping your small fishes happy. Read on for the best filters for 5 gallon tank to keep your water crystal clear.

The Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Options: Tetra Whisper Internal Filter

The best aquarium filter for 5 gallon tank is the Tetra Whisper Internal Filter. I am not a fan of internal filters, but this filter has blown me away with how clean it keeps the water! And I owe it all to the 3-stage filtration system that it has. The filter comes with its own filter media, containing all three media types: chemical, mechanical, and biological. 

The mechanical filter removes larger waste and debris, whereas the biological one breaks down different toxins. Lastly, the chemical filter does an amazing finishing job at removing any toxins left from the first two media. 

This filter was designed in a way that makes it anti-clog to prevent the waste from clogging it up. The smart design makes it less susceptible to breaking down. Finally, it also contains a dual-sided Bio-Bag mesh. The mesh easily catches debris and fish waste. I was impressed to see how this Bio-bag mesh absorbed discoloration and odors from the tank. 

At first, I was disappointed and annoyed at the constant loud noise from the filter. However, I have learned to look past this inconvenience because it keeps my tank clean and removes all toxins because of its 3 stage filtration system and its other features.

Product Specs

  • Type: Internal filter
  • Free media included: Yes
  • Flow rate: Not adjustable
  • Noise level: 26 dB


  • 3 stage filtration system
  • Anti-clog
  • Dual-sided Bio-Bag mesh against debris and waste


  • A bit loud

Get it on Amazon or at Chewy

The Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Options: Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter

5-gallon tanks are the ideal-sized aquariums for Bettas; hence, many Betta owners opt for them. If you are a Betta owner and need an aquarium filter that will keep the water clear and is also safe for your fish, my suggestion would be the Penn-Plax Cascade Hang-on Aquarium Filter.

I will admit that although the filter cleans the water well, some slight adjustments would make it work better. Personally, I have added some bio-foam to make it more efficient. This is not to say that the filter does not work properly without any changes. It does its job perfectly; however, if anybody is up for some customizing and even better filtration, consider adding your own filter matter to it.

Aside from some slight adjustments, I love everything about the Penn-Plax filter. It is a hang on back filter, so it does not take up space in small 5 gallon aquariums. The filter is as quiet as the product description claims; I barely ever hear it running! 

It has an adjustable flow, which makes it perfect even for somewhat larger tanks if you ever want to use it elsewhere. The cartridge that is included contains Activated carbon and Poly fiber floss. These two are the backbone of toxin removal, and they also remove odors and discoloration, some of the main issues of aquariums. 

Product Specs

  • Type: Hang on back filter
  • Free media included: Yes
  • Flow rate: Adjustable
  • Noise level: 20dB


  • Quiet
  • Adjustable flow rate
  • Activated carbon and Poly fiber floss to remove toxins, odors, discoloration


  • It would work better if customized

Read More: Penn Plax Cascade Review

The Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Options: Marina I25 Internal Filter

It is time for our budget recommendation! I know many low-priced products are not that great, but the Marina I25 Internal Filter is one of those rare gems. It is an internal filter (submerged underwater) and it does not make any noise; at most, you will hear bubbles if the room is quiet.

It comes with a Power cartridge, designed in such a way to allow for the water to move to the cartridge’s center, where the magic happens. Mechanical, biological, and chemical filter media are placed in the center. Hence, the water undergoes full filtration and comes out as clean as possible, without toxins and unwanted odors. Additionally, you can effortlessly change the cartridge if needed, and cleaning it is just as easy.

I should warn you that the flow rate is somewhat high, so it may pose some danger to your fish. Although I have had no such issues, I have precautions to prevent my fish from getting hurt. I placed an artificial plant in front of the filter, so my fish no longer goes near it. I would recommend you do the same if you decide to purchase the Marina I25 filter.

Product Specs

  • Type: Internal filter
  • Free media included: Yes
  • Flow rate: Not adjustable
  • Noise level: Less than 24dB


  • Quiet
  • Power cartridge with all types of filter media
  • The cartridge is easy to clean and change


  • The flow rate may be somewhat high 

The Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Options: Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter

I mentioned before that I love external filters, so I will tell you about my favorite canister filter for 5 gallon tank! Before I skip to the good parts, I should mention that placing this filter on the aquarium may be tricky because of its outflow hoses. Nevertheless, once you figure that out, there will be no other issues.

The Zoo Med Nano filter is small, making it ideal for 5 gallon tanks. It has a 3-stage filtration system. It includes mechanical, biological, and chemical filter media, which ensure that the water will be clear and odorless. 

The filter will also prevent any water discoloration. Additionally, I love how versatile this canister filter is. It is divided in the middle, giving you many options for any type of filtration. Despite being an external filter, this Zoo Med canister filter is quiet and will not vibrate. Lastly, it is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums, which is convenient.

Product Specs

  • Type: Canister filter
  • Free media included: Yes
  • Flow rate: Adjustable
  • Noise level: 24dB


  • 3-stage filtration
  • Media versatility
  • Quiet
  • Suitable for freshwater and saltwater aquariums


  • Somewhat difficult to place

Get it on Amazon or at Chewy

The Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Options: AQUANEAT Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter

Have you had bad experiences with internal filters and need a safe option to ensure your aquatic pets’ safety? I got you; the AQUANEAT Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter will ease your worries.

It is a sponge filter; hence, its surface is soft. It will not suck up your fish and other species; even if they bump into the filter, they will not be harmed. The air infusion chamber that the filter contains will create minute bubbles. These bubbles will make it easier for oxygen to dissolve, leading to better aeration, which is necessary for your fish to breathe properly. 

Another reason I like this sponge filter is because it is low-maintenance and easy to set up. It takes just a few minutes to connect it to the air pump and put it in the aquarium, and overall, it is easy to clean. Most importantly, it cleans the water well, traps any debris floating around in the tank, and breaks down harmful toxins.

This filter’s only downside is that it does not come with an air pump, so you would need to buy one separately; otherwise, it will not work.

Product Specs

  • Type: Sponge filter
  • Free media included: Yes
  • Flow rate: Not adjustable
  • Noise level: 24 dB


  • Safe for fish
  • Creates minute bubbles
  • Low-maintenance and easy to set up


  • An air pump is needed to work

The Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Options: AquaClear Fish Tank Filter

A reliable external filter that will thoroughly filtrate your water is the AquaClear fish tank filter. This Hang On Back filter may be somewhat big, but if you can look past its size, you will get a spotless aquarium because of its 3-stage filtration system. 

Like other alternatives in the list, this product also contains all media types. The filter preserves beneficial bacteria, which will break down toxins alongside the filter’s filtration system. Unlike other HOB filters, this one will not cause water to pass due to its media basket. I was surprised with how easy it was to clean but nonetheless pleased.

The only thing I do not like about the AquaClear HOB filter is that it is noisy. Otherwise, I would say the product has a great value for money.

Product Specs

  • Type: Hang on back filter
  • Free media included: Yes
  • Flow rate: Adjustable
  • Noise level: 27 dB


  • 3-stage filtration
  • Preserves beneficial bacteria
  • The media basket prevents by-passing
  • Easy to clean


  • Noisy

Read More: AquaClear Filter Review

Get it on Amazon or at Chewy

Best for Planted Tank
The Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank Options: Aqueon QuietFlow LED PRO

Aquatic plants need oxygen for their photosynthesis process. Hence, planted aquariums require a higher flow rate to keep the water oxygenated. The Aqueon QuietFlow filter will ensure that your plants have enough oxygen dissolved in the water to thrive.

Aside from having a high flow rate and helping with oxygen solubility, this product offers a 4-stage filtration system. And you can rest assured that your tank’s water will be crystal clear after it undergoes filtration. 

The filter is an auto-start, self-priming one, which restarts automatically after clean-ups or power cuts. Despite higher flow rates, the filter is not overpowering for smaller tanks, so it will not damage your plants. Lastly, the QuietFlow is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. 

Despite its name being “QuietFlow,” in my experience, the filter has been louder than I would have liked. Nevertheless, my aquatic plants have been doing amazing ever since I installed this filter on my planted aquarium, so I cannot complain.

Product Specs

  • Type: Hang on back filter
  • Free media included: Yes
  • Flow rate: Not adjustable
  • Noise level: 28 dB


  • 4 filtration stages
  • Auto-start, self-priming filter
  • Suitable for freshwater and saltwater
  • Not overpowering for smaller tanks


  • Not quite

Best for Shrimp Tank
Pawfly 40 GPH Sponge Filter

Small aquatic pets and shrimps can easily be sucked into filters. Sponge filters are the safest to use when you own shrimps. The Pawfly sponge filter is one of the best I have used in tanks for shrimps. 

Firstly, this filter is cheap and works well for its price! I was impressed that such an inexpensive product also contained an air pump. You should note that it is not the most durable product, but for as long as it lasts, it does its job fine. Most importantly, its spongy surface prevents any shrimp casualties. 

Aside from its durability, my other complaint is that this filter is too noisy despite its small size. However, the product is good for the money, so I recommend it for your 5 gallon shrimp tanks!

Product Specs

  • Type: Sponge filter
  • Free media included: No
  • Flow rate: Adjustable
  • Noise level: 26 dB


  • Contains an air pump
  • Safe for shrimps and other small aquatic pets
  • Inexpensive


  • Too noisy for its size
  • Not durable

Types of Aquarium Filters for 5 Gallon Tank

There an unlimited filters on the market, and each one has its own purpose. Here are the five most common types you will encounter during your aquarium filter for 5 gallon tank search.

Sponge Filter

Sponge filters are one of the most common ones. Their popularity stems from their low prices and ease of use. This filter is beginner friendly as it is easy to install, can be cleaned effortlessly, and the chances of you breaking it are low. That aside, the spongy surface provides the perfect place for beneficial bacteria to grow. 

I recommend this filter to anybody, especially those owning small aquatic pets or shrimp tanks. Due to their size, they are prone to be sucked up into larger filters. Meanwhile, sponge filters are generally gentle, thus, preventing any unwanted accidents.

HOB Filters

Another popular choice that is one of my favorites is the Hang On Back filter. I prefer this over several others as it is an external filter, meaning it will not cramp up my tanks’ already limited space. Additionally, I love how HOB filters have an air pump included. Hence, I do not need to spend extra cash to buy a separate air pump while using this type of filter. 

Hang On Back filters take little to no time to install as all you need is to plug it in and switch the power on.

Other reasons I prefer this filter over others are that usually, HOBs have at least a three-stage filtration system and offer adjustable flow rates.

Ttypes of aquarium filters

Canister Filters

Canister filters are another example of external filters. Unlike HOBs, these ones are more difficult to maintain and can be time-consuming. Nevertheless, most of them will offer three-stage filtration, which you can bet will keep your water clean. 

Since they come in large units, they can be somewhat loud, but that is a small price to pay for a clean and safe fish tank. Similar to HOBs filters, most canister filters will offer adjustable flow rates.

Undergravel Filters

Undergravel filters are ones placed beneath the substrate, on the bottom of the tank. Because the substrate sits on top, all the fish and food waste are drawn below towards the filters and provide excellent “food” for beneficial bacteria. 

These filters are great for growing colonies of beneficial bacteria; however, the waste remains stuck in the substrate and the filter’s plates because they do not have filter media. This makes the whole maintenance process more tedious than I would like it to be.

Internal Filters

Internal aquarium filters are the ones you can see submerged in the water. They are easy to install as they do not contain many pipes or hoses. However, they take up space in aquariums. So, if you decide to go for an internal filter, try to find one that is small to ensure that you will still have enough space for decorations and for your fish to roam freely.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank

Before purchasing the best filters for 5 gallon tank, you need a general idea about what to look for. Here are a couple of details I would suggest remembering.

Flow Rate

The first thing you should consider is the flow rate. I always prefer that my filters have an adjustable flow rate, whether a filter for a large or a small tank. If you do not want to deal with adjusting your filter’s flow rate or think it is unnecessary, you can go for one that has a constant flow rate. 

However, you need to get one with a low flow rate for your 5 gallon tank. Assuming the aquatic pets you put there are small fish like Bettas, shrimp, and other small animals, a high flow rate may harm them or make it difficult for them to swim. 

Noise Level

If you are one of the brave aquarists that do not mind the loud filters, you do not have to worry about this detail. However, if you cannot stand noisy filters or have children, you should check how loud the filter you want to purchase is. Many filters make little to no noise, so finding a close to silent one will not be a problem.

types of filter media

Filter Media Included

One of the most important factors for an aquarium to have clean water is filter media. These layers are what remove different kinds of waste, be it fish waste or other more harmful substances. 

Hence, the smart move is to always look for filters with the media included to avoid adding to your expenses by buying the media separately. Some filters will have different media types stacked, with some having all types of media included (chemical, mechanical, biological). 

These are generally the best options as they will ensure crystal clear and healthy water in every aspect. However, even filters that have only one media included in the packaging are better than ones with none money-wise. 

Ease Of Maintenance

Many aquarists find cleaning their aquariums, filters, and other equipment an enjoyable part of their hobby; however, not everyone has all the time in the world to waste on maintenance. 

Therefore, you must consider how much time you are willing to take from your day to clean and change your equipment. Some filters do not need a change often and will keep your aquarium clean from waste and harmful substances. In contrast, others may be more difficult to maintain in the long run. 

Price and Reliability

Of course, price is important as not everyone has the same budget, and some are willing to spend more than others. Usually, products that are priced higher will offer a higher quality filtration and also have filter media included. Nevertheless, you can find great products at a lower price. And trust me, price isn’t always a telltale sign of high-quality products.

You must ensure that the filter you purchase is reliable. Unfortunately, some products do not give the same results as described, while some will break down after a few weeks of usage. Take your time and see reviews of products from reliable sources and customers that own the filter. This will give you an idea of how good or bad the device truly is.

How We Choose the Best Filters for 5 Gallon Tank

Filters are one of the most important aquarium equipment to have; hence, a great amount of care goes towards choosing the perfect one that fits your aquarium and the aquatic pets that you own. 

Likewise, we put a lot of effort into picking the best products available for our list. Tanks up to 5 gallons are smaller than many other options, so the filters required for their size should have a low flow rate or an adjustable one. After testing many options from a longer list, we crossed out options with a dangerously high flow rate and caused damage to the fish. 

Although flow rate was the most important factor, we considered that filtration stages and filter media were among the factors that made the difference. Products with 3 or more filtration stages ensured a cleaner aquarium, as did the free filter media in some of the products. Lastly, we mostly included products that are easy to clean. 

Our Verdict 

Tetra Whisper is my absolute favorite; it has a 3-stage water filtration system, which leaves the tank and the water clear, odorless, and without any discoloration. The dual-sided Bio-bag mesh also contributes to the clear water by catching fish waste and debris. It is designed to be anti-clog, which I can testify is true as it has not clogged once. It is somewhat loud, but that does not stop the Tetra Whisper from being the best!

On the other hand, we have the Penn-Plax filter. As a Hang On Back filter, it will not take up any space in the already small aquarium. It is quiet and has an adjustable flow rate in case it is bothering your fish or if it needs to be higher for better water circulation and oxygen solubility. Indeed, a worthy contestant of being the runner-up!


Now you know more about choosing the best filters for 5 gallon tank, but you may still be looking for more information. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about 5 gallon aquarium filters.

Q: Can you use a 10 gallon filter in a 5 gallon tank?

Yes, you can use a 10 gallon filter in a 5 gallon tank. It will provide better filtration and circulation than a smaller filter. However, it may be too strong for some fish and may cause them stress. If possible, get a filter that is rated for a tank that is slightly larger than yours.

Q: How big of a filter do I need for a 5 gallon tank?

The size of the filter you need for your 5 gallon tank depends on the flow rate. For a 5 gallon tank, you will need a filter with a flow rate of 100 GPH or less.

Q: Do betta fish need a filter in a 5 gallon tank?

Yes, betta fish need a filter in a 5 gallon tank. Bettas are notorious for being messy eaters, and they produce a lot of waste. A filter is essential for them and will help keep the water clean and free of ammonia and other harmful toxins.

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I am Mario, a experienced fish keepr and the editor-in-chief of Epic Aquarium.

At Epic Aquarium, we take our commitment to providing comprehensive and unbiased reviews very seriously. Our team carefully reviews each product, and we only recommend the very best in terms of quality. We also consult with leading fish keeper experts to ensure that each article is based on the most reliable and up-to-date information available.

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