Best HOB Filter: Marineland vs Aquaclear vs Fluval

In Aquarium Filtersby PaulK


Today I’m going to compare three very popular brands of Hang-on-the-Back (HOB) Power filters for your fish tank.

We’ll look at reliability, performance, ease of use, quietness, and other features for each brand.

Marineland Penguin Power Filter, 50 to 70-Gallon, 350 GPH

Marineland Penguin 350. Click photo for pricing info.

Penguin 100: 100 GPH, Up to 20 Gallon Tank, $14
Penguin 150: 150 GPH, Up to 30 Gallon Tank, $18
Penguin 200: 200 GPH, Up to 50 Gallon Tank, $35
Penguin 350: 350 GPH, Up to 70 Gallon Tank, $45

Very quiet out of the box, but as time goes on you may start to experience some noise.
Two chambers on the 350 that allow a good space for extra bio media and floss media for mechanical filtration.
Super reliable. They will last a long time, sometimes up to 9 years.
Great company with decent customer service.

Performance: These will keep your water very clear especially if you use a poly-fil filter and add extra bio media.

Noise: These units will make some noise from the water return or if you have an impeller issue. Make sure the water level is high and put a sponge fitting over the intake tube to prevent small gravel or sand getting in the filter system.

Issues: These units have one or two bio wheels that provide surface space for the bio media bacteria. The water that flows out of the filter unit turns the bio wheels. After some time, the bio-wheels get gunked up and stop turning. That shouldn’t be a problem if you are adding extra bio media in the chamber; which you should. Also, if you clean the pins and housing properly, they should start turning again.

Cost: least expensive

Ease of Use: Super easy to clean, maintain and change out filters. Replacement filters are reasonably priced as well.

Check out the latest price on the Marineland Penguin here.

AquaClear 50 Power Filter - 110 V, UL Listed (Includes AquaClear 50 Carbon, AquaClear 50 Foam & AquaClear 50 BioMax

Aquaclear 70. Click photo for pricing info.

Aquaclear 20: 5-20 gallon tank, 100 gph $23
Aquaclear 30: 10-30 gallon tank, 150 gph $23
Aquaclear 50: 20-50 gallon tank, 200 gph $37
Aquaclear 70: 40-70 gallon tank, 300 gph $45
Aquaclear 110: 60-110 gallon tank, 500 gph $80

Fairly large chamber to fit extra media. 179 sq. in.
Removable basket for filter media can get awkward to handle

Performance: Doesn’t perform quite as well as the Marineland series as far as water clarity goes.

Noise: Generally, the Aquaclear is comparable to the others in noise, but one problem with the Aquaclear is that the cover doesn’t fit real snug and therefore rattles somewhat. Also, the unit is designed for the basket to raise up when the filters need changing causing even more noise. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it is letting you know that you need to maintain it.

Cost: little more expensive

Ease of Use: One big problem with the Aquaclear is when you go to clean your tank and have to unplug the Aquaclear, it doesn’t start again when you go to plug it back in. That’s really annoying because you have to go and disassemble the unit to clean out the pump motor to get it to run again.

Check out the latest price on the Aquaclear here.

Fluval C3 Power Filter

Fluval C3. Click photo for pricing info.

Fluval C2: 10-30 gallon tank, 119 gph $30
Fluval C3: 20-50 gallon tank, 153 gph $38
Fluval C4: 40-70 gallon tank, 264 gph $55

Features: Ceramic heater core for efficient heat distribution. Cleaning indicator when polyfoam needs rinsing. Flow changer setting that actually works. Trickle tray for bio media. The trickle tray allows for more oxygen that help bacteria grow.

Performance: Overall they keep the aquarium water very clear. They are designed really well to flow the water through 5 stages of filtration. Because of this, you are not able to modify the unit too much. You can forgo the carbon filter and add some more bio media if you want, but that’s about it. Also, you have to make sure and put the mechanical filter in the correct way or you will have a major water back-up.

Noise: These units are quiet at first, but can get quite noisy after 6 months to a year.

Cost: Most expensive of the three

Ease of Use: Very easy to replace the filters. Cleaning the intake tube is sort of a hassle because the top U portion is hard to get at and clean out even with a small narrow brush.

Issues: Gunk and debris tend to build up on top of the trickle tray.

Check out the latest price on the Fluval here.


While they are all decent filters in their own way, I have to give the edge to Marineland. Their filters are real workhorses that do a great job at keeping the tank clear. Marineland filters last for a good long time and they’re cheaper than both the Aquaclear and Fluval. I have to say the bio-wheel is sort of gimmicky, but with the ability to add extra bio media, this shouldn’t be a factor. Check out the Marineland Penguin series here.

Let me know your experiences or if you have any added insight in the comment section below. is a participant in the Amazon Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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