Finding A Silent Aquarium Filter

Penn Plax Canister Fluval External Aqueon Quiet Flow Aquaclear Powerfilter
Filtration Excellent Excellent Low Average
Tank Size 30-200 Gal 25-100 Gal 5-40 Gal 5-110 Gal
Noise Level Silent Silent Very Low Low-Very Low
Longevity 4+ Years
3 Year Warranty
4+ Years
3 Year Warranty
3+ Years
Lifetime Warranty
2+ years
2 Year Warranty
Price Medium/High High Low Medium

With our second largest aquarium being in the bedroom, finding a silent aquarium filter was an important task. Luckily we also had plenty of aquariums to outfit after moving. This gave us the opportunity to try out a couple of the most quiet aquarium filters out there.

The requirement we had were simple. Keep the tank clean without keeping us up at night. With me being a light sleeper whose woken up by a single phone vibration we had to be picky. Here’s a quick rundown on our opinions, with each filter being in the bedroom for at least three nights.

Note: Every filter here has been proven to create crystal clear water when used correctly. Make sure you have the correct size for your tank and you will almost forget you have a filter with the noise these silent aquarium filters produce.

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter

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Cost: Med/High | Filtration: Excellent

Size: 30-200 Gallon | Warranty: 3 Years

This is the filter we ultimately kept in the bedroom. It may look like a vacuum but it’s one powerful filter that runs dead silent. It’s even one of the cheapest canister filters available. It has a three year warranty and often outlives this by a few years. Overall this is a canister filter that is sold well below the price that it should be.


The tubes are easy to work with and its nozzles swivel making for a stress free set-up. Additionally the Penn Plax canister filter comes with a long spray bar attachment which reduces the returning waters pressure. While nice the attachment made the water return a bit louder, so we kept the normal output.

Remember where you place the filter is important. As our bedroom tank is on a stand with an open back cabinet underneath it we placed the canister filter there. This combined with the rubber base of the filter creates a completely silent environment. You also will not want the filter to be in a common walkway, as the tubes are easy to catch on with your hands or anything you are carrying.

When setting up the filter you simply push the tubing into place before turning the nozzles to tighten them into place. Then place the tubes into the tank where ever you like. I took advantage of this filter and had it replace the return pump in my sump by placing the intake in the sump and the out put in the display tank. You may then choose whichever attachments you like.

With the tubes in place you will need to prime it. To do so simply push down the circular plunger on the top of the canister filter. You will have to do this a couple times before the filter can take off on its own. You will then notice the filter begins to fill with water. Once it is full you may plug in the filter to start it. This will likely create a lot of bubbles at first before the filter is completely filled with water.


First you will need to shut off the intake. This is done by turning the valve to the side on the blue handle. This will stop the filter from bringing in any new water. Meanwhile the output tube will still be pumping water from the filter into the tank. Let this happen for awhile until the filter is out of water. This will prevent the filter from dripping any water once opened. Once all the water is drained shut off the output tube in the same manner before unplugging the filter.

Now you can open the filter by first lifting the side clamps off of the filter and then pulling up the top of the filter. You can use the carrying handle to do this. Then you can take the filter to the sink if you’d like, however I don’t like the extra fuss of moving the wires so I just bring a bucket to the room. Again I use the above shown filter media, which makes changing the media quick, easy and cheap.

Each tray comes out easily and has its own carrying handle. The top will be covered by a tray held in place by a rubber gasket. Simply pull this out and you will be able to open the basket and replace your filter media.

Once you have finished changing the media simply put everything back into place and reattach the tubes. Remember to align the circular hole with the rubber gasket with the filters impeller. Make sure the tubes are screwed in tight before restarting the siphon with the priming plunger.

Fluval External Filter

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Cost: High | Filtration: Excellent

Size: 25-100 Gallons | Warranty: 3 Years

The Fluval canister filter is the king of silent aquarium filters without destroying the bank. While suited to larger aquariums, the sound proof design on the canister allows for placement in any room without the fear of noise. When we first started the canister filter it sputtered a bit before settling into complete silence. I had to lift the out put hose out of the water to ensure it was still moving water and sure enough it was spraying like a garden hose.

Placing the Filter in our large aquarium stand hides the bulky box from view, which leaves only a dead silent aquarium running. In fact with all electronics off we can even hear the fish splashing when they come to the top for food. You may be surprised the first time you hear clown fish mouths at the water surface. They make a little popping noise which we never could have noticed using our old equipment.

The filter itself is incredibly easy to set up, as you can use the priming lever to get it going in just a few seconds. This works a lot like old fashion bellows. Once the water is moving it sputters a bit until it gets a normal water flow going. This process can be a bit noisy, however it’s short lived. Additionally the tubing is ribbed, eliminating kinks that come with normal tubing. This was great for our tank as the provided tubes were much longer than we needed. The tubes coiled with ease and stayed in place. Compared to our more ridged plastic tubing for the sumps return pump, which had to be cut to the perfect size to prevent curving and moving the pump, the ribbed tubing was a much needed feature.

When working on maintenance the filter also includes its aquastop feature. This stops all water movement allowing you to clean the filter without detaching it or emptying the water.

Overall the pump is silent as we needed, reasonably priced for a canister filter and very easy to use. If your tank is a 10 gallon tank this may be a bit too powerful for you.

Aqueon Quiet Flow Internal Filter

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Cost: Low | Filtration: Medium

Size: 5-40 Gallons | Warranty: Lifetime

This filter is the go to for new aquarists and those seeking a quiet but effective internal filter for smaller tanks. IT features a flow control slider, easy to change filters and an adjustable output nozzle. The suction cups that mount this filter are fairly strong and will not fall off even after several years of use.

The nozzle on the side of the filters outlet allows you to adjust water flow, lowering the volume further at night time while increasing the power during daytime. While both settings are quiet enough to go unnoticed, just telling my little girl about the feature was enough for her say she couldn’t hear it without even changing the setting. That’s psychology for you.

Suction cups on the back of the filter allow you to position the filter wherever you’d like inside the tank. We personally prefer as low as possible while still allowing her pleco space to run underneath the bottom. The more water between you and the surface the quieter it gets. This also helps the filter draw debris from the bottom of the tank before it has time to decompose into the gravel. If however you have plenty of low plants or need additionally surface agitation you can place the spout at or above the water surface. This will make the filter a bit more noisy but can help aerate the water.

Changing the filter media takes only a minute or two. simply pull apart the filter and take the bottom half of the filter out of the tank. Rinse off the filters grate while removing the filter media. You may either rinse or replace the filter media depending on how old it is and if you have a replacement ready. To save a bit of money we replaced the cartridge with our own filter media. The water is still as clean as when we first got the filter and avoiding the cartridges saves us a lot of money.

If you also want to use your own filter media I’d suggest these poly pads found on amazon. They’re extremely cheap and absolutely huge.

That’s a quarter too, not a penny

Overall this is a great, low cost yet silent filter that every aquarist should try at least once. The lifetime warranty ensures that this filter will last, even if you get out of the hobby for awhile.

AquaClear Power Filter

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Cost: Medium | Filtration: Med/High

Size: 5-110 Gallons | Warranty: 2 Years

A waterfall filter being silent? Yes way. Thanks to the deep, low hanging output on the AquaClear power filter, water can simply slide into the tank without making a loud splash. Think of this model more as a hang on back canister filter.

Note: make sure you have enough space to fit this filter on your tank. We had to have some friends help us move our 50 gallon away from the wall so that we could install this filter. While it did fit before we moved the tank, the filter was pressed against the wall. This created a fairly loud bussing noise, as the motor is not meant to be held to the wall.

The low hanging output will only work however when the tank is filled with water. After a fair amount of the water has evaporated the waterfall noise will return. The only issue we found here was when trying to use this filter in our star polyp tank. The water flow was directed towards the surface of the water, creating a fair amount of waves. Combining this with a high water level gave us a bit of a splash effect. Since then we have adjusted our power head to stop this, leaving us with a now silent power filter.

When we ordered our first of these filters we were hit with a loud buzzing noise. Upon reading negative reviews we found that some filters are shipped with bad motors. Inconvenient but the replacement was free. So while this can be a problem, it only makes you wait for a replacement at the worst case scenario. Still make sure you keep your old filter just in case this happens. You don’t want your tank to be without a filter for too long.

To clean you simply pull off the top of the filter, running or not won’t make a difference, and remove the filter media tray. Do it yourselfers can create their own filter media trays, but the replacements are cheap enough that the time spent making one isn’t really worth it in my opinion. Keep in mind if you do not turn the filter off that it will refill itself with water, taking up the space that the filter tray had previously occupied. You will need to slowly place the tray back into the filter to avoid spilling any water over the top of the filter.

In short this filter is stronger than internal filters and silent when tank water levels are close to their max. When the water level falls a small waterfall effect occurs, but never will you hear the dreaded hum of a motor.

What To Avoid For A Silent Aquarium Filter
  • Loud Crashing Waterfalls
  • Poor Filtration
  • Massive Internal Filters

While hobbyists do seek out the most silent aquarium filters, we have also taken extra precaution to show you only filters that will actually do their main job of keeping your tank crystal clear. If you were fine with dirty water you could skip the noise and filter entirely, but we know clear water is just too beautiful to pass on. Likewise having a giant piece of machinery can be extremely distracting and take away from the tanks beauty.

Looking for more tank quieting options? Check out my page on quiet aquarium powerheads or read about my new quiet aquarium water pumps page.

3 thoughts on “Finding A Silent Aquarium Filter”

  1. I have an Aquaclear 50 filter that has always made a buzzing sound. I was told it was normal but it’s all I hear when I walk into the room. After reading this page i realize I got a bad motor. How do I get a replacement motor for it? Thanks

    • Hey Irene, sorry for the late reply. It depends how long you have had the filter. I would first contact Hagen, the owner of the Aquaclear brand and ask them about a replacement part. You can find their information at

      I would post their info here but I wouldn’t want them to change their info, leaving the info bad here.

      If they will not give you a replacement motor you can find the part on Amazon. It costs about 2/3rds of what the filter costs, but seeing as that is the only mechanical part it doesn’t sound unreasonable.

      I hope this helps you out!

  2. I wanted to thank you for these recommendations. I finally graduated from noisy and ineffectual Marineland Biowheel filters to the Penn Plax Canister you recommended. My tank has been MUCH quieter and MUCH cleaner ever since. I’ve added a Python for (somewhat) easier water changes and now use a spreadsheet to track all of my water chemical levels as well. Starting to find a reasonable balance between negligent and overly obsessed. 🙂

    I returned to this page (so glad I bookmarked it) because now my air pump has gotten so noisy that it’s driving me insane. I’m about to delve into your recommendations on that, as you knocked it out of the park last time. I love our little hobby and it’s really hard to appreciate the serenity of a tank when all you’re hearing is BUZZZZZ…. Thanks so much for doing the research and sharing the results with the rest of us.

    Cheers ~


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