Best Filter for 55 Gallon Aquarium

Aquariums come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but 55 gallons is one of the most popular aquarium sizes. 

55 gallons is an excellent mid-range size for an aquarium, offering enough space for multiple fish and marine animals of various types whilst not being so large as to require excessive maintenance. 

However, 55 gallons is still a lot of water, and therefore, you’ll need to make sure that you have a suitable filter to ensure that the water is kept thoroughly and consistently clean. 

If you’re considering purchasing, or have already purchased, a 55-gallon aquarium, and you’re not sure which filter to pair it with, we’re here to help! 

We’ve compiled a list of the 5 best filters for 55-gallon aquariums, so you can keep your marine creatures healthy and happy in a clean and spacious environment. 

Our complementary buyers guide and FAQ section will provide extra guidance in terms of factors to consider when choosing your ideal filter. 

MarineLand Penguin 350 Bio-Wheel Power Filter 

  • 350 GPH
  • 3-Stage Filtration
  • Cartridge contains premium-activated carbon
  • Ribbed back design for carbon to water contact
  • BIO-Wheel technology for biological filtration
  • Includes noise-reducing cover 
  • Includes intake strainer

OUR TOP PICK

MarineLand’s Penguin 350 BIO-Wheel Power Filter tops our list due to the incorporation of advanced engineering and innovation in its design. 

This filter is suitable for aquarium sizes ranging from 50 to 75 gallons and operates at a flow rate of 350 GPH (gallons per hour). 

This is a high GPH which surpasses the general recommendation of 4 to 6  full tank filtrations per hour for a 55-gallon tank, meaning that your aquarium will always be cleaned to a high standard. 

The Penguin BIO-Wheel filter uses 3-stage filtration to clean your aquarium’s water to the highest possible standard. 

At the first stage, the mechanical filtration system uses Penguin Rite-Size filter cartridges to filter out dirt and other debris with the help of their ribbed-back design, which maximizes water to carbon contact. 

This Black Diamond premium-activated carbon is used during the second stage of filtration (chemical filtration) to remove odors, impurities, and any water discoloration. 

Finally, MarineLand’s BIO-Wheel filtration technology removes toxic substances such as ammonia and nitrite whilst stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria for biological filtration. 

This filter includes a two-piece vented cover for noise reduction and an adjustable mid-level intake strainer. 

Pros

  • Operates at 350 GPH 
  • Uses 3-stage filtration 
  • Ribbed-back cartridge design maximizes carbon to water contact
  • Black Diamond premium-activated carbon for chemical filtration
  • BIO-Wheel technology removes toxic substances and grows helpful bacteria for biological filtration
  • Includes noise-reducing cover and intake strainer

Cons

  • May run loudly despite the noise-reducing cover 

EDITORS CHOICE

Next on our list is Aqua-Tech’s Power Aquarium Filter in the 30-60 gallon size option. 

The 30-60 gallon size operates at a GPH of 330.

Like the MarineLand model, this filter uses an advanced 3-step filtration system that covers mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. 

At the first stage, the ribbed-back filter cartridge floss filters out dirt and debris whilst maintaining maximum carbon to water contact. 

During the second stage of filtration, the carbon eliminates odors, impurities, and discoloration. 

The third stage of filtration uses a Bio-Tech Biological Grid removes toxic ammonia and nitrite. The design of this grid is a big selling point because it does not get clogged up, which means maintenance requirements are reduced.

This filter includes one Aqua-Tech EZ-Change #3 filter cartridge to get you started.

Pros

  • Operates at 330 GPH
  • 3-step filtration system
  • Ribbed-back cartridge design maximizes water to carbon contact
  • Activated carbon removes odors, impurities, and discoloration
  • Bio-Tech Grid removes ammonia and nitrite 
  • Includes Aqua-Tech EZ-Change #3 filter cartridge

Cons

  • Reports of loud noise during operation

BEST VALUE

Aqua Clear’s 40 - 70-gallon fish tank filter is a highly effective filter for 55-gallon aquariums. 

Using a CycleGuard multi-stage filtration system, this filter provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration for optimal water cleanliness. 

The filter’s Aqua Clear foam insert helps to filter out dirt and debris. Moreover, the porous surface of the foam insert provides an ideal breeding ground for beneficial bacteria. 

Aqua Clear’s activated carbon filter inserts have large surface areas for maximum carbon to water contact, which helps to absorb any impurities in the water.

The BioMax filter inserts provide biological filtration through BioMax ceramic rings, which are porous for the cultivation of beneficial bacteria. 

Because this filter doesn’t rely on cartridges, there’s no risk of disposing of beneficial bacteria during cartridge changing. 

This filter incorporates a re-filtration system which allows the flow rate to be adjusted if necessary and enables the re-filtration of up to 50% of the aquarium’s water when operating at a reduced flow rate.

The energy-efficient pump, meanwhile, reduces operating costs and makes this filter an affordable and efficient option. 

Pros

  • Multi-stage filtration 
  • Aqua Clear foam insert for dirt and debris filtering
  • Activated carbon filter inserts absorb impurities
  • Porous BioMax ceramic rings for beneficial bacteria cultivation 
  • Adjustable flow rate 
  • Energy-efficient pump 
  • Cartridgeless

Cons

  • Reports of impeller misalignment 

RUNNER UP

The Cascade 1000 Canister Filter from Penn-Plax is an extremely versatile piece of aquarium equipment that will keep your 55-gallon tank looking great from the outside and feeling great for your animals. 

This filter operates at 265 GPH, which means it will filter an entire 55-gallon tank about 4.8 times per hour.

The Cascade 1000 comprises 3 separate media baskets, the contents of which can be customized according to the individual needs of your animals. 

This filter comes with filter media included. This media includes a floss pad insert for mechanical filtration and a sponge insert for promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria needed for biological filtration. 

However, should you wish to change the media used in your filter, the Cascade 1000 is compatible with a variety of other Cascade filter media, including bio-floss, bio-rings, bio-sponge, which can be purchased separately. 

The design of this aquarium filter allows for 360° flow valve rotation and easy filter priming through the push-button primer control. 

Moreover, the lift-up handles of the filter media baskets make for easy handling while the swimming-pool style, easy-lift hose clamps release vacuum suction. 

This filter also includes a spray bar and tubing for easy customization. 

Pros

  • Highly customizable 
  • Includes mechanical and biological filter media 
  • 360° flow valve rotation
  • Easy filter priming 
  • Easy-lift basket handles and hose clamps 
  • Includes spray bar and tubing for customization

Cons

  • Some customers find that the water bypass is too much

RUNNER UP

Last but certainly not least, Tetra’s Whisper 45 - 70-gallon EX Multi-Stage Power filter provides silent but highly effective water filtration for 55-gallon aquariums. 

The multi-stage filtration system uses multiple floss densities to filter out dirt and debris while the carbon removes impurities, odor, and discoloration. The Bio-Scrubber then removes toxic ammonia and nitrite. 

This filter is designed to keep your water constantly flowing for maximum oxygenation. 

Tetra’s Timestrip technology indicates when the carbon filter needs changing through white-to-red color changes. A Timestrip comes free with the purchase of the filter and can be activated with the push of a button.

The filter cartridge carrier included stops unwanted dripping and helps to keep your hands clean during filter changes.

Additionally, if, by any chance, you happen to also be looking for a terrarium filter, Tetra’s Whisper filter is also suitable for use in turtle tanks. 

Pros

  • Multi-stage filtration 
  • Quiet operation
  • Constant water flow for maximum oxygenation
  • Includes Timestrip to indicate when filter change is required 
  • Includes filter cartridge carrier 
  • Also suitable for use in turtle tanks

Cons

  • Reported concerns surrounding durability 

Best Filter for 55 Gallon Aquarium Buying Guide

Flow Rate

The flow rate of your aquarium filter is a vitally important factor to consider because it will determine whether your aquarium’s water is being sufficiently filtered. 

Some aquarium experts recommend a flow rate of at least 4 times the size of your tank, while others recommend 6 times the size. To be safe, you should check the GPH of your desired filter against both of these recommendations. 

For a 55-gallon aquarium, therefore, you should aim for a filtration flow rate of 220 GPH at the very least, ideally closer to 330 GPH for maximum cleanliness. 

Stages of Filtration

There are 3 different types of filtration involved in keeping aquarium water clean: mechanical, chemical, and biological. 

To keep your aquarium’s water as clean as possible, it is advisable to purchase a filter that encompasses all 3 of these filtration methods, although the chemical state of filtration is optional. 

Floss or foam are ideal materials for mechanical filtration of dirt and debris. 

Activated charcoal executes chemical filtration effectively through charcoal to water contact that helps to absorb impurities and reduce discoloration. 

Porous filter inserts help to provide ideal conditions for beneficial bacteria growth, which enables the biological filtration of toxic substances such as ammonia and nitrite.

Included Filtration Media

Whether your aquarium filter is reliant on cartridges or not, the inclusion of filtration media with the purchase of your filter is an extremely useful factor. 

If your filter relies on cartridges for water filtration, one or more included cartridges can facilitate set-up and ensure that you don’t have to make separate purchases before you can start using your filter. 

Similarly, the inclusion of any other required filtration media, such as foam inserts, bio rings, and other features, ensures that your filter can be assembled straight out of the box for easy installation.

Customizability

Aquariums, as we’ve already mentioned, come in different shapes ad sizes. Additionally, of course, the animals housed within aquariums vary from owner to owner. 

This means that, when it comes to filtration, one size or design doesn’t necessarily fit all.

For this reason, the customizability of an aquarium filter should be taken into consideration before purchase. 

Features such as rotatable valves, changeable filter media, and adjustable flow rate are all extremely useful for this purpose. These features ensure that certain aspects of your water filter can be adjusted to meet the specific needs of your aquarium’s inhabitants at any point. 

Customizability is especially important if you anticipate adding new animals to your aquarium or altering its layout.

Additional Features

The inclusion of additional features with the purchase of an aquarium filter can make it easier for you to start using your new filter straight away upon arrival. 

A Timestrip or other similar indicator can help you to determine when your cartridge needs changing. This will be beneficial to you because it takes the guesswork out of filter maintenance. It will also benefit the inhabitants of your aquarium by ensuring they are never left in inadequately filtered water for too long. 

On a related note, the inclusion of a filter cartridge carrier can be extremely useful, as this will help to prevent excess dripping and keep your hands clean during cartridge changes. 

Additional features such as extra tubing and a spray bar can help with customization if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need a filter in my aquarium?

Given that aquarium filters aren’t exactly cheap pieces of equipment, many potential aquarium owners find themselves asking whether a filtration system is really necessary. 

However, as a responsible fish or marine animal owner, it is vital that you keep your animals in the cleanest possible environment. 

For fish and other water-dwelling animals, being kept in contaminated water is essentially the equivalent of humans being forced to breathe contaminated air - unpleasant at best, and dangerous at worst. 

Whilst filters are not strictly essential in an aquarium, and chemical filtration is optional in most cases, all aquariums require mechanical and biological filtration to remove debris and toxic substances.

It is technically possible to filter dirt and debris out of the water manually yourself, but with a 55-gallon aquarium, this will be a laborious task and you are unlikely to be able to execute this process as well as a filter. 

Additionally, without a filter, toxic ammonia and nitrite will accumulate in the water and potentially cause harm to your animals. 

Therefore, we and the vast majority of aquarium experts highly recommend purchasing a filter for your aquarium in order to provide adequate mechanical and biological filtration.