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filter for a 20 gallon, power or canister

68152 Views 22 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  Mike16T
Hi, finally setting up my 20 gallon, just got the stand built and finished and now I'm in the planning stages of the tank.

So, it will be a planted aquairum, of course, and I'm thinking I will go with a black Ecocomplete substrate. i think i'll need two 20 lbs bags. I want to have a pretty heavy planting.

Probably the most important factor is that I tend to run the bioload a 'wee' bit on the heavy side.

Just curious what the pros and cons of these two types are. My biggest fear of the canister (having little to no knowlege of them) is that if there is a leak, then there is a big mess. But i also want to do right by my fish too. Don't want to go crazy with the price but I'm also looking for something that will is built well and shouldn't break down or be a pain to maintain.

I used to run a Tetra Whisper 20 on this tank, they are relatively cheap systems but i felt it just barely kept up (and it wasn't always 'whisper' quiet).

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Oh, probably should have mentioned that the type of fish will be mainly platy.
If you tend to be on the heavy bioload side then you certainly want to have a filter than can keep up with it. You will want one on the larger side in my opinion. Canisters have their benefits (out of the tank and scalability to high flow levels). HOB can work fine and many have sponges for your nitrification bacteria to grow on them. I think a canister competes in the fact it can sustain a very large colony of bacteria but it also can be a pain to take them apart and clean them.
You can go either way really...just make sure its rated fro at least double if not triple your aquarium. Since you will have a heavy load. Someone on SNS is selling some Eihms canister filters (spl?) for a killer deal and those might work perfectly.
So I'm leaning now towards the power hang on back filter just for ease of maintenance. I was looking at a Marineland Emperor 280, I'm wondering though if that isn't a little overkill and if it won't be putting way too much turbulance into the tank. Not sure if i shouldn't go with a Penguin that is rated for a 50 gallon tank. I like that the Emperor has the ability to customize a little.
Any preferences between the penguin and emperor series?
Check into Hagen Aquaclear...around here they are considered some of the best HOBS on the market, basically bullet proof and you can stuff them with all sorts of filter material. I would look at the 30 or 50...the flow is adjustable so you can turn them down and keep from making a worldpool.


You can get em at petsmart too...and its cheaper then the penguin
I also recommend Aquaclear filters if you want a hob. They are quiet and reliable. The old penguin filters are nice, but I'm not a big fan of the newer ones. Mine became extremely noisy within a year, and no amount of cleaning or replacing parts changed a thing. The bio-wheel is great for biological filtration though.
Canister or Aquaclear.
The larger volume of a canister will actually add to the volume of the system, so if you are willing to deal with a canister, I would use perhaps an XP2 or similar.
Aquaclears are easy to clean, and relatively quiet. You will need a bit of space behind the tank. You sure could use an Aquaclear 50 on a 20 gallon. An AC 70 might be a bit much, though, unless you wanted a Hillstream Loach sort of tank.
The thicker mass of media in canisters and in the Aquaclear line make much better filters than the thin cartridge style of media that is common in most HOB filters.
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I really like the aquaclears and use a 30 on one of my 20L shrimp tanks although a 50 would be nice on this setup. I run diy co2 underneath the sponge and it absorbs into the water before it ever goes into the tank. I also ran a tube from the filter inlet underneath the substrate to the other side of the tank which is where I put the sponge on the inlet sort of like a river type setup just to make sure water is moving from one side of the tank to the other. It works well. I am getting ready to start up two more 10 gal shrimp tanks and will probably use the 30's. I may go with the aqueon as they are much less expensive but probably not.
There is no need to spend $100+ on a filter for a 20 gallon tank. An AC50 would work great, I used one on a 29 gallon for 5+ years and it still runs silently, now on a 10 gallon QT tank. Also it costs about 1/3 as much as a canister filter.

Eheim 2215. More expensive but less clutter in the tank, quieter and much much more efficient.
An AC50 uses 6 watts. One tube in the tank vs two, the filter itself will probably be blocked from view by the light fixture/tank hood. But the tank does need to be maintained at a minimum water level or it will make noise from the outflow.
There is no need to spend $100+ on a filter for a 20 gallon tank. An AC50 would work great, I used one on a 29 gallon for 5+ years and it still runs silently, now on a 10 gallon QT tank. Also it costs about 1/3 as much as a canister filter.

An AC50 uses 6 watts. One tube in the tank vs two, the filter itself will probably be blocked from view by the light fixture/tank hood. But the tank does need to be maintained at a minimum water level or it will make noise from the outflow.
I use to run power filters when I was sponsored by the bank of mom/dad. Then when I grew up and go serious about this hobby I switched to Rena and eheim filters. Trending more toward the eheim camp due to noise and superior filtering performance.

Op, if you want the BEST filter and best performance then an eheim 2215 will be the filter. If you want a filter that will do it's job for a good price them a hang on back power filter is the ticket for you.

Either way you really can't go wrong. has a good sell on whisper power filters that ends tomorrow. I just bought one and it works really well.

The whisper 40 is on sell for only $16, that would be more than enough for a 20 gallon, or run two 30's with the flow turned down a little for double the filtration, or one 60 with reduced flow.

I just ordered my first whisper filter, it works great so far, the price makes it better. If you get a noisey one, call up tetra and they will ship you parts needed to fix it. (the whisper I just received only has a slight motor hum if my head is right over it)

My aquaclear is nice, but they are really too full of themselves on the price they charge. You can reuse the bio bags, and put any media you want in them. If you get the bio 3 filter kit that website offers, you can make your own filter cartridges with the frames they give you (they also have them for penguin and emperor filters).

The adjustable flow also works better on the Whisper, the aquaclear still has a pretty hefty flow on the lowest setting which is a pain if you feed flake food.. (I have a AQ 70 on a 37 gallon aquarium)

Just thought I'd toss that out there, I have quite a few different HOB filters, they all work (even those new aqueon ones with the dinky bio media frame), it just comes down to how much money you want to fork out. You can use the cartridges until they fall apart as long as you remove the carbon once it expires. I got about 6 months out of a set of Emperor filter cartridges once.

Also remember, with HOB's, get one rated for twice your tank size. If you get one with adjustable flow, you can always slow it down a bit if it's too much for the fish.

Canister filters are nice, but they are harder to clean out (takes me a good 20+ minutes to clean out my 4 stage canister and get it running again, where as the cheaper HOB style you can pull out the cartridge and rinse it off if it looks full. It takes a canister a lot longer to get full, but that just means you leave all that crud in your water that much longer as well.
I have two generic canisters that are only sold on ebay that work great. Check out the "sunsun pimps" page on this forum. Thats the newest popular generic canister (runs about $50-$60 after shipping)

As far as penguin vs emperor goes, penguins are much quieter. They removed the adjustable flow from the emperors, so basically they are just louder penguins with a spray bar over the bio wheels and a media tray, (i believe the new penguins even have room for a optional media tray, but not positive. Even if not, there is still room behind the cartridge for a small media bag.

I'd jump on that whisper sale, you could buy two of those for the cost of one popular filter right now. (3 for the cost of a similar sized aquaclear). I received my order two days after ordering.

Out of the HOBs I have, the quietest is aquaclear (unless the lid decides to randomly rattle), then whisper, then penguin (faint water trickle noise from bio wheel, but not always), then tetratec (with the living filter chamber disabled), then aqueon quietflow (trickle noise and impeller hum), then emperors (trickle noise and slight motor hum and some times lid vibrations).
Also, the new emperors, penguins, and aqueon filters don't have the flow control. Aqueon filters have short intake tubes and the least versitile cartridges out of the lot, but are the easiest to use.

If you go with a aquaclear, buy a uncut blue bonded filter pad to put on top of the sponge (once you cut it to the size of your sponge, i sandwich mine between two sponges then top it off with biomax). They are good filters, but don't grab the smaller particles with the sponges alone. Those pads are more reusable than the poly fill stuff we use for water polishing. I've just replaced the first one i cut out after about 7 months of use. And with using the two sponges you can just rinse the first sponge and blue pad in the sink if you arent doing a water change, you still have the second sponge and bio max for the bacteria, not to mention the whole rest of your tank.

ok, playing on forums when I'm bored is a bad thing, I'll stop typing now. :icon_mrgr

Good luck with your new setup. :)
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just my 2 cents - I have a penguin and am changing over to an eheim. The impeller on the HOB unit is right at the bottom of the intake and so a lot of junk gets into the impeller. This makes it noisy. You can clean it and it does a pretty good job filtering but the noise is driving me crazy. I am running both together now to get the biologicals going in the eheim before I turn off the penguin.

other may have different experience with the pengiun but I wish I had gone to the canister first....
I use an Eheim 2075 with my 20gal, although it might seem a bit over the top if you are aiming for a good planted tank you`ll be needing about 10x the turnover e.g. 200gal/hr. Mine does roughly 317gal/hr but don`t forget that manufacturers specs are over the top and never the true value as you have to take gravity, kit and filter media into consideration so my 1250ltr/hr rated filter is actually more like 800ltr/hr when it comes out of the filter.

I love my Eheims, silent, powerfull, flexible and most of all they have never leaked on me. I had a Fluval 405 once, it leaked, i bought an Eheim 2224 and never looked back. Since then i grabbed an Eheim 2078, 2075 and a 2028, all have been running with zero issues. Maintenance wise they are easy as the pre-filter is on the top so you just need to remove one basket and voila all done with no mess etc.

Hope that helps.
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was just looking around and saw the Hang On Tank Magnum Pro System Canister Filter
and was curious if anyone had any experience with this?
Don't buy that. Ever. Ever. Ever.

I have gone through three, I hate them. They are loud, get air trapped in them and stop easily... I hate them as well as the regular magnum canister.

I am selling eheim ecco pro 200's right now if you want to buy one. It would be the perfect canister for this sized tank and comes with everything you need.

Please don't think I am biased because in am selling filters in swap and shop. Regardless of what you do, DONT get the h.o.t. Magnum!!! They are cheap crap.
hey guys, sorry to thread jack, although since the thread has been dead for a month not sure if I need to apologize, I was wondering if a fluval 205 would work for a 20 gal tank or if that is majorly too much filtration. I want to use pressurized CO2 so I don't want to have too much filtration so that the CO2 levels aren't depleted too quickly. Also, I already have a 205 lying around, so unless I really need to, I wasn't going to buy another filter.
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