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When my son told me he wanted to start a Gourami tank, I knew we were going to spend some time researching the best 55 gallon aquarium filter.
Here’s the deal…
Gouramis have some of the most brilliant colors and patterns when it comes to freshwater tropical fish. While they don’t have long lifespans, the best 55 gallon fish tank filter can change depending on where the fishes are in their lifespan.
Ultimately, we went with the Fluval Aquarium Power Filter because it is easy to adjust the water flow, and because it has room to spare in terms of capacity.
When the water flow is too slow, it increases the risk of illness in fish that need faster moving water. If the water movement is too slow, their gills don’t cleanse properly.
Lack of sufficient water flow can also kill off everything in the tank if an ammonia surge occurs.
By contrast, when the water flow is too fast, it can cause injuries or kill fish that aren’t able to keep up with the accelerated current.
One of the things I like most about the Fluval Aquarium Power Filter is that you can adjust the water flow without sacrificing filtration. When combined with the telescoping inlet, this is the best 55 gallon fish tank filter for controlling water flow at each depth range of the tank.
Has duplicate filter cartridge compartments meaning you don’t have to change all the media at once.
Easy to preserve the biofilter.
Additional filter compartments also mean you can use the alternate compartments for custom media.
If water hardness is a problem, you can try replacing one of the floss cartridges with a water hardness pad.
If the water flow becomes too slow because of the difference in media, you can increase the flow adjustment on the unit to compensate.
Cartridges are all easy to locate and gain access to.
Clogs easily. If you plan to keep Goldfish or creatures that produce a lot of waste, you may need to rinse the cartridges more often or change them out.
The motor can be a bit noisy.
The Fluval Aquarium Power Filter is ideal because its output can be scaled back to accommodate fragile or young fish. Since it has more media compartments than other filters of this size, you can try media alternatives that better suit the needs of your tank.
2. Aqua-Tech Power Aquarium Filter – Best for Biofilter
I am obsessed with the biofilter in my aquariums. That’s because this filter is the most important thing when it comes to having a healthy tank. Even though those good bacteria are invisible, aquatic creatures can’t live without them.
When looking for the best filter for a 55 gallon tank, I always consider the impact on the biofilter. This Aqua-Tech Power Aquarium Filter model has a media compartment that is just for housing the biofilter.
Since the media in this area never gets changed, it becomes the most hassle-free way to preserve the biofilter when changing out other media.
Has two separate, roomy filter compartments. You can always swap out one of the filter pads for a water softening pillow or nitrate reducer if needed.
Lesser need to stagger filter media changes because there is a grid in place that preserves biofilter.
You can also sneak in a nylon stocking with activated carbon, zeolites, or other media as needed.
Divided output leads to increased water surface disruption.
Two points of water re-entry also create gentler water flow around the outlets.
Little chance to rinse and reuse cartridges because floss and activated carbon are all fused into one cartridge.
If you medicate the tank, you may also lose the biofilter established in the grid.
No chance to re-establish the biofilter with old floss if needed.
The Aqua-Tech Power Aquarium Filter is an excellent choice for new aquariums where stabilizing the biofilter is a priority. It is also very useful for established tanks where you may need to use alternative media to manage longer-term water chemistry changes.
3. Hikari Bacto-Surge Foam Filter – Best for Fragile Creatures
Bottom-feeding fish and other scavengers are essential if you expect to create a healthy habitat in a 55 gallon tank.
No amount of filtration can take the place of creatures like Cories, shrimp, and snails that scavenge for uneaten food or algae. Shrimp and some other useful creatures require very gentle water flow in the tank.
Because 55-gallon tanks are also less stressful to the inhabitants, there is a very good chance that some fish will have offspring. HOB, canister, and other robust filters can easily suck fry into the filter media and kill them.
Finally, every fish species has a different lifespan. Where my angelfish routinely live well over the 10-year average, my bettas don’t live much past 2 ½ years.
As fish approach the upper limit of their lifespan, they have a harder time navigating water currents.
In all these cases, you may need to install a sponge filter. Hikari Bacto-Surge is the gentlest filter you can find. They produce very little water flow but still provide a good growing media for the biofilter.
The gentlest filter on the market. It is the best filter for 55 gallon aquariums where you might house shrimp or several generations of fish.
Sponges usually don’t need to be changed as often as media in other filter designs. It is common for these sponges to last 6 months or more.
Included airstone assists with breaking water surface tension to improve oxygen levels in the tank.
Can use the small-sized sponge for 55 gallon tank with juvenile fish.
Upgrading to a larger sponge, later on, is cheap and easy to do.
Must purchase an outside pump to attach to the sponge unit.
Does not contain a chamber where you can add other media such as activated carbon or zeolites.
Weak water flow also translates to very weak filtration.
You may need a corner filter to supplement
Over the years, sponge filters tend to be ones that I hate to love. I’ve often found that keeping one on hand is essential, like the Hikari Bacto-Surge High-Density Foam Filter, especially as inhabitants of my tanks approach the geriatric age.
Even though HOB filters are very popular and work pretty well, I’ve always looked upon them as a necessary evil.
I don’t like being stuck with just one or two choices of filter media.
Over the years, I’ve come across many water chemistry situations that were better corrected using chemicals or filtration rather than water changes.
Since the filter is the main mover of water in the aquarium, it is usually essential for specialized media to go in the filter.
One of the things I like most about the Aqueon Quiet Flow is the baskets where the floss cartridges it. As narrow as the baskets look, there is still enough room to add a nylon stocking of zeolites or other small media.
The filter has roomy compartments that allow you to add some custom media.
Outlet sits right in the water. This increases the amount of surface disruption as the water returns to the tank after filtration.
Diffuser grid helps break up water flowing back into the tank so that more oxygen gets in.
Water flows back into the tank is a bit gentler than in other HOB filters.
LED indicator is set to work with proprietary media. It may read as clogged if you use alternatives.
LED indicator may misread for other reasons. If you change the media too soon, it can damage the biofilter.
The intake tube is not adjustable. This can cause problems if you want to set the inlet to a specific height as a part of ensuring different water flow rates based on tank depth.
The Aqueon Quiet Flow is a good choice if want to combine custom media with a HOB filter. This also makes it more budget-friendly than some other options.
5. SeaChem – Large Aquarium Filter – Best for Adjusting
Most people will tell you that freshwater tanks do not need a skimmer.
These people obviously don’t realize that some fish take great joy in digging around in the substrate.
I’ve kept many mischievous Fantails and Cichlids over the years, and can safely say they absolutely know they are wreaking havoc!
But that habit does more than uproot plants.
It also causes all kinds of micro-particles to get into the water.
Unless you have some kind of skimmer, all that excess waste can easily lead to water-based algae blooms if other circumstances are right. It can also lead to very murky, unappealing-looking water.
This is why the Seachem HOB is the best aquarium filter for a 55 gallon tank housing fish that disrupt the substrate.
Best aquarium filter for 55 gallon tanks with fish or other creatures that dig in the substrate.
Lower intake can be adjusted to the best depth for your tank.
Skimmer input can also be regulated to help control the rate of water flow in the tank.
Easy customization of filter media.
Has aquarium heater clip located to the side of the filter, promoting more even temperatures through the tank.
Water may completely pass the filter area
impeller prone to becoming clogged
Having a surface skimmer is important if the fish in your tank are prone to making a mess out of the substrate or other parts of the tank where debris is likely to collect. This filter is also ideal if you need to make adjustments to water flow speed in the upper and lower regions of the tank.
Just about every veteran aquarium keeper has a secret formula for the “best filtration media”.
Perhaps thebiggest secret of all is that once we find media we like, we don’t change it very often, if ever.
Learning how to choose and set up DIY filter media can save you a lot of money and keep your tank healthier than expected. For example, this video will give you a lot of ideas about perfectly good materials you can buy in dollar stores or other discount locations.
The Lifespan of the Fish and Potential for Offspring
When you read a 55-gallon fish tank filter review, it is important to realize that not all fish are the same.
Some live longer lives and are accustomed to fast-moving water. Others have shorter lifespans, but might be more inclined to breed when they live in bigger aquariums.
It is very important to consider both the long and short-term needs of the inhabitants of your tank. Even aquatic creatures accustomed to fast-moving waters may need gentler currents as they approach their senior years.
By the same token, if you expect to raise fry to adult, you will need to make a lot more adjustments to the water flow as they mature.
Filter Capacity vs. Live Plants and Scavengers
Decades ago, there was no internet available for me to read a 55 gallon fish tank filter review. Instead, I had to learn by word of mouth.
I also had to learn about basic tank care and set it up the same way. Eventually, I came to recognize the fact that live plants and mechanical filtration can’t take each other’s place.
By this, I mean live plants and scavengers are essential for ensuring a cycle of life in the tank supports good health.
They cannot take the place of a filter when it comes to making sure the flow of water in the tank is correct for all the inhabitants.
Filter Output and Bubbles
Fish and air simply don’t mix. This isn’t just about their gills. It’s about their swim bladders.
Juvenile fish, hungry fish, and just plain nosey fish will try to swallow air bubbles.
If they swallow enough bubbles, the air can get into their swim bladder. This, in turn, can lead to erratic swimming and the inability to maintain position within the tank.
Along with feeding fish below the surface of the water, you need to keep an eye on filter output. If the filter produces soda-sized bubbles, your fish may wind up with a serious swim bladder disorder.
Filtration and Community Fish Psychology
Extra-large filters, tons of plants, and plenty of scavengers don’t mean you can overstock the tank.
Fish tend to be emotional and evocative creatures.
They can and will become aggressive and stressed if they have too many tankmates.
Some species may even become overly aggressive if too many members of one gender are in the tank. These problems cannot be solved by filtration or live plants. They can only be managed with a tank of the proper size.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How many filter cartridges are needed for a 55 gallon aquarium?
This depends on the style of the filter. A HOB may have 3 or more cartridges, while a sponge filter has only the main sponge and, depending on the model, an airstone.
Can I use a smaller capacity filter for my 50 gallon fish tank?
What other people might consider the best 50 gallon aquarium filter may not be the best for your setup.
For example, you may be looking to filter a hospital tank or one that is understocked.
In these and other instances, the best 50-gallon fish tank filter may be a lower capacity model that produces a gentler water current. Just keep in mind you may have to rinse out the media more often.
What are the things to consider before buying a filter for a 55-gallon tank?
The most important thing you need to consider is what each species of aquatic creature needs in terms of water flow.
It is also important to understand how each species in the ecosystem will impact each other, and how the filter may compensate. A filter with a skimmer can help reduce the impact on water quality generated by fish that root in the substrate.
Unfortunately, the filter won’t stop the plant roots from being disrupted.
I’ve come to have an appreciation for different filter styles based on the special needs of each tank. The Fluval Aquarium Power Filter is a clear winner when you aren’t sure what your tank will need as time goes by. It is easy to adjust for both beginners and experienced aquarists.
As you consider the information in this review, I hope that you gain the confidence to choose the best filter for a tank.
Last Updated: January 11, 2022
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