Hang-on filters are popular because of their ease of use and relatively low cost. However, they are only suitable for small aquariums as their filter capacities are far beneath other filters, such as cannister filters. Even among such aquariums which are suitable for hang on filters, the majority will still struggle to provide efficient filtration over the long haul.
How great a hang-on filter performs, is dependent on two fundamentals;
1. How the flow of water is guided
2. How well the filter media performs
In our review on the Eheim Liberty hang-on filter, we mentioned if Eheim does a rethink and redesign of their Liberty filtration media, they will secure the crown of hang-on filters comfortably. The Liberty filters are by far, the best constructed and quality-assured, hang-on filters available today.
Many hang-on filters today have sacrificed filtration capabilities to design requirements. It is always nice to have a sleeker, slimmer filter, but physics will always dictate that such filters will not be as effective as their bigger counterparts when using the same filter media setup. The AquaClear is of the traditional hang-on design, providing more filtering space as compared to slimmer filters such as the GEX Slim Filters.
When it comes to filtration capability however, the AquaClear is the best that we have experienced from a hang-on. The reason why it filters better than the rest of the competition can be greatly attributed to the way its filter compartment is designed. The AquaClear’s filter compartment takes a page from canister filters and follows the same mechanical, biological and chemical filtration stages.
The AquaClear comes complete with its own filter media that allows for three stage filtration and it is easy to substitute it with third party media, unlike Eheim’s Liberty, which requires modifications to do so. Such flexibility is most welcomed and makes a good filter, superb. The ability to use filtration media like Seachem’s Matrix, Purigen and Eheim’s Substrat Pro greatly increase the filtration capabilities of the AquaClear.
The water flow within the AquaClear is genius. No other hang-on filter that we know of directs the flow of water like it. Because of the position of the impeller found in hang-on filters, most will direct the flow of water into the filter compartment close to the halfway mark, which in our view handicaps filtration as there is no clear flow from the bottom to the top, ensuring filtration is flawed by bypassing some of the filtration media.
The AquaClear’s impeller is found at the same location as other hang-on filters. How it achieves a clean flow of water from the bottom of the filter compartment to the top is through the ingenious use of a plastic barrier which prevents water from flowing directly into the compartment and forcing it to flow from the bottom instead. As such, setting up the filtration media in a mechanical, biological and chemical filtration actually works.
Another great attribute that the AquaClear posses is that it runs silently and this is an important aspect. Small tanks which the AquaClear was designed to operate on will most likely be found on desks, bedrooms and offices. More often than not, these areas will require or benefit from an aquarium that is silent.
The only area that the AquaClear that is not perfect, is its build quality. Although it uses high quality plastics that easily best or equal the majority of hang-on filters in the market, it is not Eheim’s quality. Handling Eheim’s Liberty and its filter cartridges are always a joy, with the quality of plastics being the very best.
With our AquaClear, we didn’t use the chemical and biological media provided and in their place, used Seachem’s Matrix, which is fast becoming our biological media of choice. In this setup, our AquaClear 20, the smallest of the AquaClear series, easily filtered [TAG]‘s 15 litres betta tank.
When comparing all other hang-on filters to the AquaClear, the AquaClear filters better because of its ability to move water in a fashion similar to cannister filters. The ability to also use third party filter media just sweetens the deal. We can already imagine using Purigen in these filters and get a filtration ability that far exceeds anything else.
If you are in the market for a hang-on filter, the AquaClear is the best there is now.