When people are asked what comes to mind when they hear that you keep fish as pets, they probably conjure memories of Jeff’s dead fish tank from the Netflix crime drama series Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story
The secret to having a beautiful 55-gallon fish tank with crystal clear water, like in the postcard-perfect aquariums you’ve seen on the reality show Tanked (just for fun), is to have a proper filter system.
But many different types of filters out there are rather underwhelming.
That’s why we’ve gone ahead and put together a list of the 7 best 55 gallon fish tank filter, so you can choose the right one now.
What is the Best Filter for a 55 Gallon Fish Tank?
What type of filter is best for a 55 gallons aquarium? From my first-hand experience working with some 55 gallon fish tanks, I would recommend using a Wet/Dry sump, a big powerful canister filter, or two small HOB filters (or sponge filter) – one on each side.
I prefer Wet/Dry (sump) filtration as it offers both mechanical and biological filtration in one unit. It works extremely well in large saltwater aquariums that need heavy biological filtration. However, store-bought models can be a bit pricey, and the homemade versions require some technical knowledge and skill to set up.
Probably the safest, effortless, and budget-friendly option is to get a powerful canister filter or two HOB or DIYed sponge filters. I recommend getting one HOB filter for each side of your 55 gallon fish tank.
If you have only one HOB or sponge filter on the end of your 55-gallon aquarium (dimensions: 48″ x 13″ x 21″), you will get a lot of water circulation on one side, as well as create “dead spots” on the other side, and this is where problems can occur, such as algae growth, white fuzz, and cloudy water.
Putting two filters on each side will evenly distribute the water currents and give your 55-gallon fish tank a more balanced look while providing adequate filtration and aeration.
What Size Filter Do I Need for a 55 gallon Fish Tank?
A proper flow rate is critical for your aquarium’s filter to work its best. But what size filter should you get? Many aquarists will recommend a filter that can turn over the entire volume of your aquarium four times per hour.
Be aware almost all aquarium filters’ GPH rating (gallons per hour) is not the actual flow rate because it’s measured with the filter media basket being empty.
Personally, I would shoot for 7- 10 times for heavily stocked fish aquariums and 4-7 times for lightly stocking levels.
For example, an overstocked African cichlid tank with a high bioload would need a canister filter that moves at least 400 gallons per hour. For lightly stocked community aquariums, 220 gallons per hour is the minimum. Two Aquaclear 70 HOB filters work great for 55-gallon low tech planted tanks.
Always go for a higher flow rate if many options are available. For example, if the filter has two GPH options – 200 or 250, go for the latter. It will make your aquarium cleaner and healthier, especially for those heavily stocked Malawi aquariums and reef tanks with filter feeders.
Try to get the canister and HOB filters with similar water flow rates (GPH), where the sum of both filters’ flow rates is around 400 GPH or more, depending on your stocking levels.
Best Canister Filters for 55 gallon Fish Tank
Canister filters are your aquarium’s first line of defense to keep the water crystal clear and free of fish waste and other debris. They have been on the market since the 70s and have become a must-have for large freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
As my lima shovelnose catfish can confirm (I’ve had him for over 18 years), over the years, I’ve spent too much time in my fish room tinkering with all different types and brands of canister filters, and I have to say, not all of them are created equal.
Some get louder over time, and some are an absolute pain to maintain. I’ve even had one that exploded on me (don’t worry, nobody was hurt). After years of trial and error, I have a better idea of what to look for in a quality canister filter.
|Model||Fluval 407||SunSun HW304B||Eheim Classic 600|
|Dimensions (inch)||9.5 x 7 x 19.3||11 x 11 x 17||11 x 8 x 16|
|Dimensions (cm)||24 x 18 x 49||28 x 28 x 43||28 x 20 x 41|
|Pump Performance||383 US Gal/h|
|528 US Gal/h|
|264 US Gal/h|
Best Performance: Fluval 407
- Fluval eTEC (Efficient Technology) construction employs cutting-edge design, materials & manufacturing...
- Powerful motor generates constant pumping power and pressure that endures over time and re-engineered,...
- Energy-efficient – some 07 series filters draw as little energy as a single household LED lightbulb
- Ergonomic AquaStop valves with raised lip for smoother operation; single action dual Lift-Lock motorhead...
- The Fluval 407 Cannister Filter is suitable for freshwater and saltwater aquariums up to 100 gallons (500...
For those who want to set up an overstocked Malawi aquarium that requires an efficient canister filter, the Fluval 407 is an excellent choice.
The 07 series is re-designed and re-engineered with some intuitive features that make it much easier to use and power than the older 05 and 06 series. My favorite new features are the new locking lever and the new impeller cover.
In their previous generation, the old locking lever would sometimes pop up after you locked it. The new locking lever locks it directly onto the top of the filter, making it much more secure.
As for the new impeller cover, the algae cleaning magnet piece on the gasket is gone. It now has only one tab, making replacing the impeller much easier.
The only thing I absolutely don’t like is the intake and output. It’s somewhat cheaply built and black in color, so you can’t see if there’s any gunk buildup until you have to do a maintenance cleaning. Despite that, the large intake may catch your shrimp or small fish. A pre-filter sponge is required.
Best Budget: SunSun HW304B
- HW-304B Pro Filtration Kit, Good for up to 150 gallon aquariums
- Flow rate: 525 GPH (2000L/Hr)
- Dimension: 11" L X 11" W X 17" H
- Pro Kit Includes Canister Filter w/9 Watt UV, 4 White Filter Pads, 1 Blue Coarse Pad, 4 Media Baskets
- Includes 1lb of Premium Filter Carbon, 1lb of Ceramic Rings and 1 Set of Bio Balls
Are you just starting out and on a budget? The SunSun HW-304B is just what you are looking for. The SunSun also comes in two other models that can be used for a 55 gallon fish tank, the HW-404B and the HW-704B.
These models are all relatively the same. The minimal difference between these models:
The 404B is two inches taller than the 304B and has a carry handle on the lid to help carry it around. Additionally, the plunger is smaller in size. During use, I found the 404B was quieter than the 303B model.
The 704B is the newer model, and it’s a bit larger than the 404B, but to be honest, there isn’t much of a difference between the two. They’re both cheap and boast the same flows.
I have had several 304B and 404B, and I like their prices. I got my first one for a cheap price of $65 on eBay. But you get what your pay for – these filters are not well-built.
I always recommend 304B because it pumps more water if you find a good deal. Also, the UV light is probably just a marketing technique, and I ran it without turning it on to prevent it from destroying the trays, but they still became thinned out. So don’t forget to get extra trays off eBay, just in case.
Ah, I nearly forgot- these models come with a spray bar and inbuilt skimmer that could be useful.
Author notes: Both Aquatop and SunSun filters come from the same Chinese company; Aquatop’s quality control is slightly higher, though their products reflect that in pricing.
Best Value: Eheim Classic 600 Canister Filter 2217
- An incredibly effective and efficient canister filter that allows for unmatched flexibility regarding...
Chances are if you’ve been in the hobby for a while, you’ve heard of Eheim filters. They are manufactured in Germany and have earned a reputation for being high-quality and reliable. I know a lot of old-school fishkeepers that will never use anything but an Eheim due to their impeccable standards and quality control.
The German-made Eheim Classic 600 (2217) is a great all-around performer that will do a great job keeping your 55 gallon aquarium clean. The design is simple and classic – a green-colored bucket with two holes in it. Everything is specifically engineered to maximize filtration capacity.
With Eheim, you won’t have to fret about the lower quality of plastic like with Fluval 407 or SunSun. All their materials are top tier and will last for an extended period of time. The only part that needs replacement eventually is the impeller, though it’s not very costly to replace.
The simple design makes it a breeze to clean and keep up. Also, you’ll barely notice the filter is running because of its good sealing rings.
I’m a big fan of Eheim canister filters. In my experience, the Eheim Classics series have some real downsides:
- They are difficult to prime during maintenance. You will need to fill the canister with water before attaching the tubing.
- The impeller shaft is brittle.
- If the sealing rings are scratched, it will become noisy.
Alternative: Marineland Magniflow C-360
- 3-STAGE FILTRATION: Water flows through media layers to filter water and ensure a clean aquatic...
- VERSATILE: For freshwater and saltwater aquariums
- FAST SETUP: Water-tight canister lid lifts up for easy removal
- EASY MAINTENANCE: Valve block for quick release to shut down water flow – separates from housing for...
- THREE SIZES AVAILABLE: Comes in 220 GPH, 360 GPH and 360 GPH sizes
Marineland C Series filters are alternatives to SunSun filters, but they cost more. They also don’t have the UV sterilizer or the built-in surface skimmer.
The Marineland Magniflow C-360 that I picked up from a yard sale is the only one I have experience with.
My favorite part of this unit is its no-bypass design – it forces all the water to go through the filter media trays and not around them. This means more water is being filtered, and there is less chance for detritus to build up.
The stronger outflow of water coming in full force can be felt through the pressure in the outflow tube.
I’ve got this running alongside an Eheim Pro 4 on my 125 gallon SA Cichlid tank. The former is almost silent, whereas I can hear the C-360 running in comparison.
Speaking of cleaning, the c-360 requires a bit more attention when it comes to maintenance. The O-rings and gasket need to be replaced frequently. I don’t use carbon in my filter because I think it’s a waste of money – your call.
Another thing I hope they change in the future iterations of this product is its tubing. It’s so heavy and hard to bend and route, making the whole system a pain to set up.
Best HOB Filters for 55 gallon Fish Tank
Sometimes you don’t need a canister filter. Two good quality HOB (hang on back) filters can do a great job keeping your 55 gallon aquarium clean. Here are my top three picks for the best HOB filters for 55 gallon fish tanks:
AquaClear 70‘s HOB Filter
- Aquarium filtration system that offers superior contact time with filter media and energy efficient pump...
- Quick and easy installation; we recommend that you clean aquarium filter every 2 weeks for maximum...
- Provides optimal mechanical; chemical; and biological filtration
- Comes equipped with AquaClear Foam; Activated Carbon Filter and BioMax and Cycle Guard for superior water...
- Filtration volume is up to 7 times larger than comparable fish tank filters
Want a super versatile and reliable hang-on filter that does an excellent job cleaning a 55 gallon aquarium while being very quiet and not making any rattle? Look no further, the AquaClear 70 is the filter for you!
I have been using AquaClear 70’s filters for years, and I constantly get compliments on how crystal clear my water is – that’s pretty impressive.
There are a number of reasons why this unit has been in the hobby for a long time, and has been for a good reason.
Firstly, it has a large media basket that you can pack and put media in there. It comes with foam, carbon, Biomax, and Cycle Guard. I remove the carbon and put another sponge in because I don’t think it’s necessary, but that’s up to you.
I also appreciate the flow rate control because it lets me reduce the flow rate by up to 50% to match the needs of my aquarium inhabitants without sacrificing filtering quality.
Last but not least, the sponges and bio media last for many years, so there is no ongoing cost for replacement.
- 5-stage clip-on power filter designed for freshwater and saltwater aquariums between 40 and 70 gallons
- Two mechanical stages trap large and fine debris, foams easily slide out for quick cleaning
- Chemical stage with activated carbon effectively removes toxins
- Biological stage features Bio-Screen pad, blocks debris and provides massive surface area for beneficial...
- Biological Trickle Chamber super charged for fast and efficient nitrification when loaded with Fluval...
The battle between AquaClear 70s and Fluval C4 has been going on for years. Actually, both AquaClear and Fluval are owned by the Hagen Group now . The Fluval C series and AquaClear’s line are basically the same filters, except the former has made some improvements.
Both AquaClear 70’s and Fluval C4 have the following:
- Compact bottom-up design.
- The separate media compartments let you fully customize your content, and you don’t even have to power down the devices when servicing them.
- It also has a flow control feature that allows you to adjust the water flow.
Fluval C4 does have a few improvements:
- An adjustable intake tube makes it easier to customize the intake in length and flow rate based on your aquarium set-up.
- The updated media basket design makes it simpler to clean and scrub the filter
- The thickness of the C4 measures 3.12″ vs. 3.5″ for the AquaClear 70s.
It’s worth noting that the AquaClear 70’s is rated for 300 gallons per hour, while the Fluval C4 has an advertised flow rate of 264 gallons per hour. Again, this is based on an empty media basket.
The AquaClear 70’s and Fluval C4 are both great products, but the priming can be a bit of a hassle. You must manually fill it up with water every time it stops and restarts. The self-prime feature doesn’t work unless the tank is already almost full; otherwise it will just make noise.
They also need regular cleanings to prevent any drop in performance. Additionally, you should cover the intake with a sponge to prevent your fish fry or shrimp from getting sucked in.
SeaChem Tidal 55
- Hang on Filter for Aquariums up to 55 Gallons
- For Freshwater or Saltwater tanks.
- 3 Year Warranty
The SeaChem Tidal has a loyal fan base in the aquarium community simply because it’s designed to address the priming issues of the Fluval C series and AquaClear’s line. That’s why I add it to this list.
The SeaChem Tidal 55 is self-priming because its motor is located in the tank, so you don’t have to worry about a power outage or need a restart.
It also has a wide range of flow settings that allow you to adjust water output. Plus, it features dual water intake with a surface skimmer. This can help improve water quality by removing floating plant leaves; however, the skimmer cannot be turned off – this might pose a problem for shrimp or fry.
Besides this, I have other gripes about the Tidal.
- The skimmer suction being stronger than the intake tube suction causes more water to be drawn in, lowering the filter’s effectiveness. Also, it often clogs with floating plants, causing issues.
- It has a large but restricted media basket. If you want to reduce bypass, don’t fill the media basket with too much media.
- Because of its excessive bypass, you have to use the dial to turn down the flow rate for it actually to filter. Obviously, its actual filter rate is lower than what is stated on the box. Not to mention the nagging indicator pops up even if you just cleaned it an hour ago for the same reason.
I am not a big fan of Tidal 55 because it does a terrible job of keeping my aquarium water crystal clear. If you hate the priming issues of Fluval C4 or AquaClear 70, you can fix  the excessive bypass with a bit more effort.
Undergravel Filter for 55 gallon Fish Tank
With these new power HOB filters and canisters, the old holdover of undergravel filtering has fallen to the wayside. Nowadays, an undergravel filter (UGF) can only be helpful in aquaponic systems by maintaining a better aesthetic, and nobody uses them much anymore in their fish tanks for three crucial reasons:
- Massive amounts of debris and fish waste can build up under the tray where you can’t see it.
- The only way to clean it fully is to break down the aquarium completely. Not worth it!
- Lack of mechanical filtration and can’t produce enough water flow.
So, should I use an undergravel filter for my 55 gallon aquarium? I would say no. Being a responsible aquarist, water quality, and your fish’s health should be your top priority.
If you’re set on using an undergravel filter, it’s best to use it in small, breeding, and hospital tanks.
A Few Common Questions
I have also heard a few questions in the community over the years.
Can I Use a 50 gallon Filter on a 55 gallon tank?
I’ve seen people use a 50 gallon filter on their 55 gallon tank before, and it works just fine. There’s no need to upgrade to a bigger filter unless you have a lot of fish or are planning on adding more in the future.
How Much Does a 55 gallon Fish Tank Filter Cost?
The cost of a 55 gallon fish tank filter varies depending on the brand, type, and features. Generally, you can expect to pay between $50 and $300.
How Long Does it Take a 55 gallon Filter to Clean a Fish Tank?
Still, it depends on the type, brand, and GPH of your filter, as well as your stocking levels.
What’s the Best 55 gallon Fish Tank Filter?
The golden question. And the answer, like most things in the aquarium world, depends on many factors.
There’s no one size fits all solution here. Consider the following:
- What type of fish do you keep?
- Where is your 55 gallon fish tank located?
- What is your budget?
- How much maintenance are you willing to do?
- Do you have space for a canister filter or sump pump?
Once you have the answers to these questions, pick the solution that best fits your needs.
- List of Hagen companies [Hagen]
- Testing Time: Fixing the Seachem Tidals Bypass [AquariumCoop]
- What to Know About Undergravel Filters [TheSprucePets]