100 Gallon Fish Tank

Top 5 Best 100-Gallon Aquarium Filter (2020 Review)

Whether you already own a 100-gallon aquarium are thinking of upgrading to one, a fish tank filter is a key piece of equipment for maintaining optimal water quality for your fish.

Finding a suitable filter for your aquarium can be a bit overwhelming, especially as there are so many different styles and types.

To save you a bit of time and worry, I’ve reviewed an assortment of 100-gallon fish tank filters.

After considering all the options our top picks were…

Review Summary

Best All-Rounder

Polar Aurora External Canister Filter

With a water flow rate of 525 GPH, Polar Aurora’s canister filter is plenty powerful enough for a 100-gallon tank.

Polar Aurora External Canister Filter

This filter is my overall recommendation for most 100-gallon tanks.

The Polar Aurora external canister is my top pick for the majority of 100-gallon aquariums. It has a water flow rate of 525 GPH, four media trays, and a built-in 9-watt UV sterilizer to help with algae and bacterial growth. 

Best on a Budget

Aqueon QuietFlow LED Pro Aquarium Power Filter

This power filter by Aqueon has a water flow of 400 GPH, so it’s a suitable selection for a 100-gallon aquarium. Despite being the cheapest filter, I’ve reviewed, it’s decent quality and offers 3-stage filtration.

Aqueon QuietFlow LED Pro Aquarium Power Filter

This filter is the least expensive option out of all the filters I’ve looked at. 

This filter is an affordable and adequate option for a 100-gallon tank. It provides 3-stage filtration and has a water flow rate of 400 GPH. It might not be as high-quality as some of the other filters I’ve reviewed, but it works fairly well for the price. 

Editor’s Choice

Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter

The Fluval 407 offers excellent filtration for your aquarium. It has an impressive water flow rate of 700 GPH and is a worthwhile investment for a large tank.

Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter

Although pricey, this filter is extremely high-quality. 

Fluval’s 407 canister filter is my favorite product that I’ve reviewed. It’s built to last, quiet, and has a water flow rate of 700 GPH. Although this might seem like overkill for a 100-gallon tank, more filtration is better than less filtration.

Types of Filters

Certain types of filters are more beneficial for specific tanks and fish species, but they are all designed to clean your aquarium water. Make sure the filter you pick is powerful enough for the volume of your tank.

Undergravel Filters

This type of filter is placed under your substrate. It sucks up water via uplift tubes and is paired with a powerhead or an airstone and air pump.

TIP

Undergravel filters can often cause detritus and hydrogen sulfide to build-up, so thorough cleaning of your substrate is crucial. 

Wet/Dry Filters

A wet/dry filter (also known as trickle filter) pushes tank water through a drip plate or rotating arm, which is then pressed through biological material in the filter chamber. Afterwards, the water is pumped back into the aquarium directly or via a sump.

TIP

Wet/dry filters are most suited to saltwater aquariums and tanks with a lot of aeration.

Canister Filters

For tanks over 40 gallons, canister filters are a popular choice. They are normally a little more expensive than other types of filters. 

Canister filters pull up water via a lift tube and pump it into an external filter chamber. The water is pressed through filter media and drove back into the aquarium through a tube.

Photo of an Internal Filter
Photo of an Internal Filter

Internal Filters

An internal filter is a common selection in aquariums under 20 gallons. They are positioned directly in your tank water. 

Typically, internal filters are used with an airline and air pump. The airline is attached to the filter inlet and the air pump pushes air through the bottom of the filter. This forms bubbles that dissipate at the water surface, creating water movement to aid with filtration.

Hang On Back/Power Filters

A hang on back (HOB)/power filter goes on the back of your aquarium. They draw up water through a siphon tube and push it through filter media in the filter chamber.

Air-Driven/Sponge Filters

This type of filter pulls up water through a sponge that is powered by an air pump, power head, or a second filter.

They provide gentle filtration, which makes them a good choice in tanks with small fish, invertebrates, fry (baby fish), or sick fish…

They provide gentle filtration, which makes them a good choice in tanks with small fish, invertebrates, fry (baby fish), or sick fish. The only downside with this filter is that it doesn’t offer chemical filtration.

Fish Swimming Inside Aquarium
Fish Swimming Inside Aquarium

Which Type of Filter is Best for a 100-gallon?

I think a canister filter works best in a 100-gallon aquarium. Other types of filters, such a sponge filters and internal filters, might not be powerful enough in a tank this large.

Bear in mind that canister filters can be a bit pricey, especially ones targeted or 100-gallon aquariums. If you’re on a budget, then a hang on back/power filter is another suitable option.

Some aquarists use two power filters in especially big tanks to make sure their aquarium is getting enough filtration.

3 Way Filtering Function

Chemical Filtration

Chemical filtration eradicates particulates from your aquarium water via activated carbon, resin, or another type of absorbent. 

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filtration removes particles like excess food, debris, and waste products from your tank.

Biological Filtration

Biological filtration happens when beneficial bacteria found in all parts of your tank (usually on filter media) convert ammonia into nitrite and nitrite into nitrate.

Which is Best for a 100-gallon Tank?

Chemical filtration is optional, but mechanical and biological filtration are vital in a 100-gallon tank. If your aquarium suffers from bad smells or discoloration, then chemical filtration can help eliminate these problems.

Water Flow Rate

To clean your tank water to a high standard, your filter needs an appropriate water flow rate for the volume of your aquarium.

Your filter should be capable of cleaning at least four times the volume of your aquarium per hour…

Your filter should be capable of cleaning at least four times the volume of your aquarium per hour. For example, a filter for a 100-gallon tank needs to have a water flow rate of at least 400 GPH (gallons per hour).

Opened Canister Filter
Opened Canister Filter

Maintenance and Filter Media Replacement

Cleaning your filter is important for increasing its longevity and improving its performance. A clogged or dirty filter won’t be able to perform to its full potential, which could impact the health of your fish.

As a rule, you should aim to clean your filter every four weeks…

As a rule, you should aim to clean your filter every four weeks. This means taking it apart and giving filter media baskets, tubes, media, etc., a good wipe to remove any dirt or gunk that might have developed. Use tank water when cleaning your filter and media (never tap water!).

Replacing Filter Media

Filter media needs to be replaced at some point, but most types don’t need changing too frequently. Media like ceramic rings, plastic bio balls, and coarse sponges don’t usually need replacing until they are falling apart. Filter floss, on the other hand, needs changing around every 5 days or when it is dirty.

Personally, I swap out my bio-filter media (ceramic rings) around once a year, my filter floss every 5 days, and my activated carbon every three weeks. 

If you decide to use activated carbon in your aquarium, then you’ll need to replace it after two to four weeks as it deactivates quickly. 

NOTE

Before changing your bio filter media, it’s vital that you seed your new one. Just pop your new filter media next to your old media for at least two weeks. This gives time for beneficial bacteria to grow on your new filter media, so your tank doesn’t crash when you throw out your old media.

100 Gallon Fish Tank Filter Reviews

Best All-Rounder

Polar Aurora External Canister Filter

With a water flow rate of 525 GPH, Polar Aurora’s canister filter is plenty powerful enough for a 100-gallon tank.

Polar Aurora External Canister Filter

With a water flow rate of 525 GPH, Polar Aurora’s canister filter is plenty powerful enough for a 100-gallon tank. It comes with four media trays that are equipped with all the necessary filter media you need, including ceramic rings, bio-balls, and a coarse sponge.

With a water flow rate of 525 GPH, Polar Aurora’s canister filter is plenty powerful enough for a 100-gallon tank…

Even though the filter provides you with 3-stage filtration, the trays are large enough to store additional filter media.

You also get an adjustable spray bar with the filter so you can change the output flow from the filter. If you require a slower or faster current in your aquarium, this is a handy feature.

What I like the most about the Polar Aurora canister filter is that it is equipped with a 9-watt UV sterilizer to help reduce algae and bacterial growth. I always get a lot of algae inside my filter, so my tank could definitely benefit from a feature like this. 

Installing and cleaning the filter is made a lot simpler due to its self-priming and single-valve disconnect pump…

Installing and cleaning the filter is made a lot simpler due to its self-priming and single-valve disconnect pump. However, maintenance with this filter can still be a little time-consuming.

For the most part, the filter operates quietly. It is not entirely silent, but definitely doesn’t make a huge amount of noise like some other canister filters.

RECOMMENDATION

The manufacturer states that this filter is suitable for aquariums up to 200 gallons, though I’d advise only using it for tanks up to 130 gallons. 

Specs

  • Filter Type: Canister
  • Size: 12” x 12” x 19”
  • Weight: 19.6 lbs (with packaging)
  • Recommended Tank Size: Up to 130 gallons

Pros

  • 3-stage filtration
  • Large media trays and adjustable spray bar
  • Operates quietly
  • Comes with a UV sterilizer

Cons

  • Maintenance can be little time-consuming

Best on a Budget

Aqueon QuietFlow LED Pro Aquarium Power Filter

This power filter by Aqueon has a water flow of 400 GPH, so it’s a suitable selection for a 100-gallon aquarium. Despite being the cheapest filter, I’ve reviewed, it’s decent quality and offers 3-stage filtration.

Aqueon QuietFlow LED Pro Aquarium Power Filter

This power filter by Aqueon has a water flow of 400 GPH, so it’s a suitable selection for a 100-gallon aquarium. Despite being the cheapest filter, I’ve reviewed, it’s decent quality and offers 3-stage filtration.

The filter uses cartridges, so there isn’t a lot of room for separate filter media. This isn’t a huge problem, unless you want to store extra filter media to use in a new aquarium. 

When the cartridges need replacing, an LED indicator light flashes…

When the cartridges need replacing, an LED indicator light flashes. Although a nice feature, I’ve found that manufacturers exaggerate how often filter cartridges need replacing.

The filter is self-priming, which means it automatically starts back up after you’ve finished cleaning it or when power is interrupted. 

Maintenance is swift and easy with this filter, as is installing it. Canister filters can often be a hassle to assemble, so I appreciate how simple the Aqueon power filter is to set up.

Maintenance is swift and easy with this filter, as is installing it…

However, this filter creates a bit of noise during operation and does not come with an adjustable water flow rate. If you’re looking for a silent filter, this one might not be for you. 

As an owner of a Honey gourami, a species who prefers gentle currents, I wish the filter came with an option to decrease (or increase it, for fish who prefer a faster flow) the water flow rate. 

If your fish don’t require a slow or fast water flow, then this feature isn’t a huge negative and shouldn’t dissuade from using the filter.

Specs

Pros

  • 3-stage filtration
  • Easy to install and clean
  • LED indicator flashes when cartridges need replacing

Cons

  • Water flow cannot be adjusted
  • Can be a little noisy

Editor’s Choice

Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter

The Fluval 407 offers excellent filtration for your aquarium. It has an impressive water flow rate of 700 GPH and is a worthwhile investment for a large tank.

Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter

The Fluval 407 offers excellent filtration for your aquarium. It has an impressive water flow rate of 700 GPH and is a worthwhile investment for a large tank.

It has an impressive water flow rate of 700 GPH and is a worthwhile investment for a large tank…

You get four large filter media chambers, which are already stocked with media for convenience. Due to how big these chambers are, there is a lot of room for extra filter media, too.

Compared to previous filters in the series, the Fluval 407 is 25% less quiet and is more energy efficient. Overall, this filter does not produce a high level of noise.

It features new ergonomic AquaStop valves to prevent hoses disconnecting instantly during maintenance. The priming handle and single action dual locking clamps have also been improved to make cleaning simpler.

It features new ergonomic AquaStop valves to prevent hoses disconnecting instantly during maintenance…

Although maintenance is made a bit easier with these new features, it can still be a bit fiddly to assemble and take down to clean. 

Design wise, the Fluval 407 is exceptionally well-made. All the necessary parts fit together with ease, and you can tell the filter is built to last. My only gripe would be that the accessories and hoses are not as high-quality in comparison.

Specs

Pros

  • Extremely high-quality
  • Operates quietly
  • Large filter media chambers
  • 3-stage filtration

Cons

  • Maintenance can be a little fiddly
  • Hoses and accessories are not the best quality

MarineLand Magniflow Canister Filter

The MarineLand Magniflow canister filter has a water flow rate of 360 GPH, so it’s best used with a second filter. It features large media baskets, a plethora of filter media, and 3-stage filtration.

MarineLand Magniflow Canister Filter

The MarineLand Magniflow canister filter has a water flow rate of 360 GPH, so it’s best used with a second filter. It features large media baskets, a plethora of filter media, and 3-stage filtration.

It features large media baskets, a plethora of filter media, and 3-stage filtration…

Some of the filter media it includes are a polishing filter pad, bio-filter balls, ceramic, rings, filter foam, and activated carbon.This is really convenient as you don’t need to purchase a separate filter.

The big filter media baskets also enables you to add extra media, which is useful for if you want to set up a new aquarium to jumpstart the cycling process.

For the most part, the filter is not overly loud in operation, which is a plus! If you have an aquarium stand with a cabinet, then you can place the filter inside it to reduce the noise further.

A downside with the filter is the flimsy material it’s made of. This is quite visible with the plastic input and output tubes, which can cause the filter to leak air and water.

NOTE

Another negative with the filter is that it can be a hassle to clean and install. The provided instructions included are a little unclear and provide all the information necessary for set-up.

Specs

Pros

  • 3-stage filtration
  • Large media baskets
  • Comes with a lot of filter media
  • Not too noisy in operation

Cons

  • Needs to be paired with a second filter
  • Difficult to install and clean
  • Flimsy material makes it prone to leaking air and water

Penn Plax Cascade 1500 Aquarium Filter

This Penn Plax Cascade 1500 filter has a water flow rate of 350 GPH. It should be used with an existing model or with an additional filter to provide enough filtration for a 100-gallon tank.

Penn Plax Cascade 1500 Aquarium Filter

This Penn Plax Cascade 1500 filter has a water flow rate of 350 GPH. It should be used with an existing model or with an additional filter to provide enough filtration for a 100-gallon tank. 

It should be used with an existing model or with an additional filter to provide enough filtration for a 100-gallon tank… 

I really like how big the filter media baskets are. They are stocked with a coarse sponge and floss pad, but there is plenty of room to add more filter media.

This filter does not come with any chemical filtration, so you would need to purchase separately. This type of filtration is optional, so it isn’t a huge concern.

In operation, the filter is relatively quiet…

In operation, the filter is relatively quiet. If your tank is located in your bedroom, then the Penn Plax 1500 might be a good choice for you. The water flow rate can be adjusted, which is ideal for species of fish who prefer slower of faster currents.

Despite being fairly easy to set up and clean, the filter has a couple of maintenance problems. The first issue is that the filter can take a long time to clean. The second is its ill-fitting tubes, which can leak water when they are disconnected.

Personally, I’d keep the filter in a bucket during maintenance (or ideally, all the time) to save your floors.

Specs

  • Filter Type: Canister
  • Size: 20.5” x 12” x 11”
  • Weight: 15 lbs
  • Water Flow Rate: 350 GPH

Pros

  • Comes with filter media
  • Big filter media baskets
  • Operates quietly
  • Adjustable water flow rate

Cons

  • Needs to be paired with another filter
  • Setup and cleaning can be time-consuming
  • Prone to leaking when tubes are disconnected

After considering all the options our top picks were…

Best All-Rounder

Overall, I think the Polar Aurora External Canister Filter is the best choice for a 100-gallon tank due to its affordability and quality. It has a water flow rate of 525 GPH, which is plenty for an aquarium of this capacity.

I like that the filter operates quietly and includes four trays stocked with filter media, with ample room for extra media. The 9-watt UV sterilizer is also a nice bonus. My only complaint with the filter is that cleaning and installing it can be a bit time-consuming. 

Best on a Budget

For fishkeepers on a budget, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Aqueon QuietFlow LED Pro Aquarium Power Filter. It’s very inexpensive but provides enough filtration for your tank with a water flow rate of 400 GPH. 

The highlight of the filter is its easy maintenance, whereas the downsides are its minor nosiness and non-adjustable water flow rate.

Editor’s Choice

If you can afford to spend a little more money, then my favorite 100-gallon filter is the Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter. In addition to being extremely high-quality, it has a water flow rate of 700 GPH. The filter operates quietly and comes with large media chambers.

If none of these three filters seem right for your 100-gallon tank, then the other two might be a better fit, especially if you’re looking for a good second filter to work alongside your existing one.

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