Best Waterfall Filters for Aquariums and Fish Tanks

Greetings reader, Welcome to the special article on waterfall filters for aquariums!

Does not take up space in the tank
Greater filtration power
Simple and practical

It is inevitable to clean your fish tank. It is essential to keep it clean to avoid the health problems of your beloved aquatic pets. In addition, a clean aquarium can show off clean and crystal clear water, which is very attractive.

For this, it is necessary to have a good filtering system, and backpack filters for aquariums have gained a lot of followers in recent years. Many people opt for this type of filter since its installation is very simple, and it offers good performance.

Compared to internal aquarium filters, waterfall aquarium filters offer more capacity for filter media, and do not take up space inside the tank. And they are very simple to install, you just have to hang them from the back of the tank, and that’s it.

In this article we are going to focus on the well-known waterfall filters for aquariums, also called backpack filters. We are going to see all the details about the filters that hang from the tank and are typical for medium-sized aquariums. In addition, we do an in-depth analysis of the best waterfall filters on the market.

Comparative table of the best waterfall filters

It is assumed that we already know what the filter is for, and all its basic concepts, right? If you are not very clear, you can start by reading the aquarium guide for beginners on our blog where you will find all the basic concepts that must be mastered to keep an aquarium in good condition.

If you already know what this aquarium hobby is all about, but you have doubts about the types of filters that exist in the market, we invite you to see our article dedicated to filters for fish tanks. You will find a complete review of the types of filters used in the practice of aquarium hobby.

Best Waterfall Filters for Aquariums

The best backpack filter is the one that allows greater adaptability to the different characteristics of each aquarium. Here are the best backpack filters that we have selected for you.

HAGEN AquaClear

If you have been practicing aquarium for a while, surely the AquaClear filters are familiar to you. They have been on the market for quite some time, and for many they are a classic filter.

What’s more, many aquarium hobbyists consider this filter to be the best backpack filter for aquariums. And this is because they are quiet, efficient and very good.

The AquaClear brand belongs to HAGEN, which also produces the well-known fluval brand of filters. This is already a seal of guarantee and quality.

It is an efficient waterfall filter that promotes water circulation and offers easy maintenance. In addition, this model includes 3 filter materials: Foamex, Biomax and Activated Carbon.

If you want to know more about this Hagen filter, you can read our AquaClear review, where we do a complete analysis.


The SeaChem house offers its Tidal backpack filter model. These filters have been designed to provide high quality total filtration.

Among its many features, it should be noted that they come with a self- priming pump, a double water intake with a surface skimmer, adjustable flow rate, maintenance monitor and a self-cleaning impeller.

In addition, they are very easy to use, adapting to a wide variety of tank conditions.

In the following link you can see our review on the Seachem Tidal filter, a special with everything about one of the best backpack filters for aquariums.

EHEIM Liberty

The Liberty aquarium waterfall filters from the well-known Eheim house are a simple, economical and effective option to filter the aquarium. You just have to hang it on the side of the tank to start working.

This apparatus allows a three-stage filtration consisting of an absorbent filter, a mechanical filter and a biological filter. The Eheim Liberty filter comes with a large sponge for biological filtration, and a cellular foam cartridge to remove polluting particles.

The deposit of this filter allows you to play with the configuration of the filter materials to taste. It also has an adjustable flow rate to get the most out of this backpack filter. This is thanks to the red button that allows you to vary the power of the pump.

The suction tube is also adjustable to different depths, in order to determine the movement of the water within the circulation of the aquarium.

If you want to know more about this filter, stop by our review of the Eheim Liberty, where we see this waterfall filter in depth.

Fluval C Series

A trusted brand in the aquatic community. You can always trust Fluval for high-quality products with high-quality results.

Available for tanks from 38 to 265 litres, it uses an incredible 5-stage filtration process. With a large capacity for filter media, it does a fantastic job of cleaning up the smallest debris.

This does an excellent job of removing ammonia and nitrates, and creating an environment for bacteria to thrive.

Fluval C Series filters come with their patented re-filtration system. This system allows you to control the flow of water without compromising efficiency.

The motor is durable, very quiet, and the impeller is protected from debris that could damage it. It’s so easy to install and maintain, it even has a visual indicator that appears when it’s time to clean.

If you are interested in knowing more about this filter, stop by our review of the Fluval C Series, where we analyze this series of cascade filters.

Marina Slim

The unique compact design of the Marina Slim Cascade Filter takes up less space than standard size filters and adds a touch of elegance to your aquarium.

The filter comes equipped with an adjustable flow control so you can adjust the level of water flow in your tank. Its motor is submerged in water and runs very quietly.

Installation and commissioning is easy, with no priming required. Just plug it in and see how it works. Maintenance is fast, simple and comfortable.

It hangs from the aquarium and has a very slim profile which means the aquarium can be housed close to the wall.

It has a very silent operation that does not need priming to start, since the pump is inside the aquarium.

It also has a strainer-type sponge in the pump that prevents small fish and fry from being sucked into the filter system.

The Marina Slim waterfall filter comes with the necessary filter media in the form of cartridges. If you want to know more about this filtering system for the aquarium, you can see our review of the Marina Slim, where we see all the details of this line of filters.

The Cascade or Backpack Filter

These waterfall filters for aquariums are usually used in small and medium-sized tanks, since their capacity is not very large. They are not normally recommended for aquariums larger than 80 litres, although there are large models that can be used with tanks of up to 200 litres.

They have a water intake in the form of a rigid tube that is submerged in the water. The water rises through the suction tube thanks to the action of a pump that carries the dirty water from the aquarium to the filter container.

Then, inside the cascade filters for aquariums, the water goes through the different types of filtration used for purification from bottom to top, to finally fall back into the aquarium.

The exit of the water creates a waterfall, hence its other nickname, which favors the exchange of gases on the surface of the water. Keep in mind that in deeper aquariums, the water inlet must expand to catch the water from the lower part of the aquarium.

This type of filter appeared several decades ago, working with air and being excessively noisy, in addition to having an irregular flow. It has little to do with the models that are sold today. Modern filters have come a long way, improving filter performance with each new model.

Characteristics of the Backpack Filter

Filter Flow

The flow rate that a filter can provide is often the decisive factor in deciding one model or another. So depending on the size of the aquarium, you will have to look for a waterfall filter model for fish tanks that moves and cleans the volume of the aquarium a minimum of three times every hour.

The higher flow rate the filter has, the more quality water you are giving your fish. Even so, most models of waterfall filters for aquariums usually have the possibility of regulating the flow.

filtration materials

Mechanical loads such as sponge to retain solid particles. Biological loads such as ceramics to house the colony of nitrifying bacteria. And chemical loads such as activated carbon to clean the water of drug residues.

Now let’s see how the arrangement of filter materials is usually presented in this type of waterfall filter for fish tank.

Placement of the filter material

Like other filtration devices, aquarium cascade filters use filter materials to purify water. In general, they have more load capacity than internal filter models.

They are normally placed horizontally, separated by walls that direct the water through the filter. There are also models that place loads vertically.

To obtain greater performance from the filtering action of this type of device, it is best to place the filtering materials in the following way:

  • First you have to place the mechanical filter, that is, the sponge or perlon, to contain the solid particles suspended in the water. The ideal is to place several mechanical loads that go from greater to lesser porosity.
  • Putting this filter first facilitates maintenance, which must be carried out frequently to prevent it from becoming saturated.
  • After the mechanical loads, the biological material must be placed on which the colony of nitrifying bacteria settles. As we already know, these bacteria will convert ammonia into nitrites, and then these into nitrates.
  • Finally, after the mechanical and biological filters, chemical filters such as activated carbon can be placed.

The circulation of the water provided by the cascade filters for aquariums is not very high. This is because the water outlet is in the same place as the inlet. In addition, the outlet flow cannot be directed, and it has very little pressure.

maintenance of waterfall filter for fish tank

Luckily, maintaining these waterfall filters for aquariums is not complicated. You just have to clean the filter elements periodically with aquarium water, preventing them from becoming saturated.

Cleaning of the mechanical parts of the filter must also be carried out from time to time. In other words, performing maintenance on the pump, the small motor and the tank itself helps to maintain the maximum possible water flow.

If this device is not maintained, it will end up saturating the filter loads, and possibly causing a leak out of the aquarium.

Before we finish looking at the pros and cons of waterfall filters, we invite you to take a look at our special on the external aquarium filter. There you will find everything about this type of aquarium filter, and some reviews of the best canister filters.

Advantages of the aquarium backpack filter

  • First, it is an external filter that does not take up space inside the aquarium.
  • Afterwards, it is the type of filter whose maintenance is easier. It is very easy to clean without disturbing our aquarium inhabitants.
  • Also, it allows a selection of different types of filter loads, depending on the needs of the tank.
  • It is also very effective in oxygenating the aquarium water.
  • Finally, most models are usually self- priming.

Disadvantages of the waterfall filter for aquariums

  • First, this device has a very noticeable presence in the frame that makes up the aquarium, making it very difficult to hide its presence. In addition, you have to take into account the space it occupies outside the tank.
  • The water outlet of the backpack filter is usually located very close to the inlet.
  • If a blackout occurs, or the water evaporates excessively, the filter could lose its prime, and the small motor could burn out.
  • They tend to have a limited capacity for biological material compared to canister.
  • It happens frequently, that it is not compatible with the lid, nor with the lighting screen. Therefore, sometimes you have to study how to install everything without problems.

How to choose the right waterfall filter for your aquarium

flow rate

The specific needs of each aquarium will vary depending on the size of the tank. It is advisable to obtain a model that offers the highest flow so that the filtration can be carried out as quickly as possible.

filter media

Even if one model has more filter media than another, make sure it uses the best type and quality of media. It is useless to have a filter that does not purify the water in the fish tank.

Filter Maintenance

Cleaning and maintenance are unavoidable with any filter. What matters now is the amount of time and effort that will have to be devoted to maintenance.

Different models have different cleaning methods and instructions. Try to choose a model that is easy to clean and maintain.

Latest technology

This technology is intended to improve the filter’s functionality and make it more efficient than comparable models. Take your time to check the differences between the models before deciding which one to buy.


Not all brands offer the high level of filtration that all aquarists want today. Some brands are known within the filtration industry to be better than others.

They are well known brands such as Fluval, AquaClear, Eheim… and others of their level of quality.

Common questions about waterfall filters

How does the backpack filter work?

One thing you should always do is read the instructions. Not all models are «plug and play», that is, not all come ready to use.

In some models, the filter must be primed before it can be used. In most cases, you simply fill the reservoir with a little water before turning it on. With the model already prepared, it can be hung from the aquarium and turned on.

Here the operation is the same as that of other types of filters: it sucks water, passes it through the filter medium and returns the clean water through the outlet.

How to install a waterfall filter?

Setup varies from model to model, but it all comes down to hanging the filter on the back or side of the aquarium.

If a certain model needs to be assembled, then the manufacturer will provide all the necessary parts to assemble it. Usually, you start by mounting the filter material.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the installation sequence of the filter media.

The next step will be the installation of the mouth or inlet hose so that it can suck the water and take it to the filter medium. Then mount your filter to the back of the aquarium.

Before turning it on, make sure if the model needs to be primed, that is, filled with water. You should then be ready to turn it on and begin filtration.

Where to place the waterfall filter?

As its nickname “ backpack filter ” indicates, it hangs over the back or side of the tank.

How to clean the backpack filter?

Depending on the model, the cleaning process can be easy or difficult. Normally, it does not usually have any complications, but as we say it depends on the model.

However, there are some common methods that apply to all models:

Start by unplugging the filter to remove it from the aquarium for cleaning. Remove the top cover to remove the basket where the filter material is located.

Clean the different filter materials with water from the aquarium itself. Then check the other parts, like the motor and impeller, and clean them as specified by the manufacturer.

As for the engine, add a bit of lubricant to keep it running smoothly.

When you have it ready, you should put everything back as it was and place the filter back in the aquarium.

What media can we use in the cascade filter?

The filter media vary a lot depending on the model we are talking about. Some will have the bio-wheel, while others will have a combination of various mediums. It’s best to check the manufacturer’s guide to replacing or buying new media, and also read some reviews from other users.

How to make it quieter?

Most of the time, the cascade filter will become noisy when the impeller is in a poor operating state. In any case, it is best to remove the filter and look for another possible source of noise before replacing the impeller. It could be another simpler problem like tightening some screws and that’s it.

Conclusions about Cascade Filters

For many people, it is confusing with the number of models available in the market. Just focus on the most basic to make a proper decision.

All the models mentioned are from a reputable brand, which means that it should not be difficult to find the right model for your needs. The best thing is that these models are affordable, so you won’t have to spend a lot to get the best waterfall filter for your aquarium.

Publicaciones relacionadas

Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *

Botón volver arriba