What exactly are trickle filters?

Trickle filters are biological waste filtration systems. Many large aquarium owners use them to eliminate biological waste from their fish tanks. The filters are also gradually becoming popular with small aquarium owners. There are many types of trickle filters on the market. The best ones filter and eliminate biological waste excellently. 

It is estimated that about 80 percent of the people who start aquariums quit before the end of two years. Why? Because aquarium maintenance (read: water changes) is a lot of hard work. However, what many of those who quit do not know is that by setting up a quality trickle filter, they can spend less time doing tank maintenance and more time enjoying spending time with their pet fish and doing other things.

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How do they work?

Trickle filters for small tanks are located above the tanks. They contain a tower of filter media through which aquarium water is supposed to flow or trickle to be cleaned. For aquarium water to get to the top of the filter, it needs to be pumped. Therefore, if you want to set up a trickle filter, you need to buy it plus a submersible pump. 

Once the water gets to the top of the filter, it flows downward by gravity through the filter media that traps biological waste. At the bottom of the filter, the cleaned water will trickle back into the fish tank. 

If you set up a trickle filter, you will need to maintain it once in a while but it will largely reduce the amount of work you have to do to maintain your aquarium. 

What are their benefits?

Trickle filters have many benefits. First, they are powerful biological waste filters. In other words, they will make sure your fish tank is devoid of biological waste. Second, they return highly oxygenated water. This is because all trickle filters have spray bars on top that spray the pumped water onto the media. This spraying aerates and oxygenates the water making it healthier for your fish when it gets back to the tank.

Third, they usually have aerial plants growing on the top filter because of the fish waste. These plants often improve their aesthetic quality and make them even more powerful filters. Fourth, they reduce the amount of tank maintenance that needs to be done. When you set up a decent trickle filter, you will no longer need to do so many water changes. This is because the water will be cleaner and also devoid of nitrates (which will be absorbed by the roots of the growing plants). 

So as revealed by the statements above, trickle filters are very beneficial. If you can buy one right now you should do it. It will help you to improve the environment in your aquarium and cut down the amount of work you have to do to maintain it. 

What not to expect from trickle filters?

There is no doubt that trickle filters are very efficient biological filters. They are more efficient biological waste filters than conventional filters and sponge filters. 

However, you should note that they are neither chemical nor mechanical filters. So they do not provide any significant chemical or mechanical filtration. 

The 9 best trickle filters on the market

Now that you understand the basics of trickle filters, it is time to reveal the best trickle filters currently available on the market and their pros and cons. If you purchase and set up any of these trickle filters correctly, they will eliminate biological waste and reduce your tank maintenance. 

  1. WUPYI Aquarium External Trickle Filter System

This 6-drawer WUPYI aquarium trickle filter is one of the best trickle filters available on the market! It is one of the best because it is easy to set up and to maintain. 

The filter system has a loop design pipe that sprays water from multiple points onto the filter media. This fine spraying ensures that the water is well-oxygenated when it gets back to the tank. And we all know that this is very beneficial for fish. 

As mentioned above, this filter system is easy to set up and easy to maintain. If you like fixing things or doing DIY projects then it should take you only about ten to fifteen minutes to set this filter system up. But remember, it does come with filter media or the pump, so these are things you will need to buy to set up a filtration system with this WUPYI filter box. 

You will find it very easy to maintain this box because it is made in such a way that cleaning it is very easy. Changing the filter material is also a breeze. 

The one thing you may not like about this product is that it is foreign-made. 

Pros 

  • It is a great quality aquarium filter
  • It is a cheap but efficient aquarium filter
  • It makes water crystal clear 
  • It oxygenates water 
  • It is easy to clean and maintain 
  • It has got a tough base

Cons 

  • It is a foreign-made product

Despite being a foreign-made product, this trickle filter is of great quality and it does the job pretty efficiently. It is something any serious aquarist would love to own. 

  1. WUPYI Aquarium External Hanging Water Purifier/ Trickle Filter

This trickle filter is also made by WUPYI like the trickle filter above. Like the filter above, it is also a high-quality filter that is easy to set up and to maintain. 

The main difference between this and the other WUPYI filter is that this filter will have the filter material arranged horizontally. In my opinion, this arrangement has more aesthetic value than the arrangement on the other WUPYI filter box. 

This WUPYI filter is multifunctional – it purifies water and makes it crystal clear and it also oxygenates the water. 

Based on its size, it is a great quality product for fish tanks measuring around 20 gallons. 

The only thing you may not like about it is that it is imported. 

Pros 

  • It is a great quality filter system
  • It is an attractive filter system
  • It is multifunctional 
  • It “trickles” water slowly and better

Cons 

  • It is an imported filter system

Despite being an imported trickle filtration box, it is a great quality and multifunctional filter box. Therefore, the fact that that it is imported should not be a deal-breaker for you if you like its other features.

  1. AE SHOP Aquarium Canister Fish Tank Filter 

This is one of the most popular and one of the best-rated trickle filter systems available online!

The thing that stands out the most about it is how fast it works. It can make your hazy aquarium water crystal clear within 24 hours. So saying that it is efficient would be a gross understatement. It is very efficient.

It is a three-layer chemical, biological, and physical filter that eliminates waste and purifies water. It also oxygenates water making it healthier for fish. 

With it, you will no longer need to change water frequently. So it will save you time.

And when it gets dirty, you can easily clean it and change the media inside it.

The only thing that you may not like about it is that while some Amazon images indicate that it comes with a pump, this is not true. It does not come with a pump.

Pros 

  • It is a very efficient aquarium filter 
  • It saves time as it eliminates the need to frequently change water
  • It is easy to clean 
  • It works best for 70, 65, 60, and 55-gallon fish tanks

Cons

  • It does not come with a pump or the filter materials

Even though this filter does not come with a pump or filter materials, it is still a good filter box. In fact, it is one of the most efficient ones out there for bigger home aquariums.

  1. RanBB 18-Drawer Aquarium External Filter Box

This is a massive trickle filter box that is superb for big home aquariums. 

The thing I love the most about it is that it has a special looping design spraying tube. The tube has multiple perforations that spread water more evenly over filter media. This ensures better filtration and eliminates more waste than what is eliminated by typical trickle filters.

When set up correctly, this filter box can significantly reduce your tank maintenance. This is because it will be efficiently eliminating biological waste and cleaning the tank. You will only need to change the water once in a while. 

This trickle filter box has a strong base that does not deform easily even when the tank is full of filter material and water.

Pros 

  • It is a great biological filter for big tanks around 80 to 100 gallons
  • It is efficient and easy to clean
  • It reduces the need for frequent water changes
  • It is shipped from either New Jersey or California

Cons

  • It does not come with a pump or filter media

Like most trickle filters on the market, this one too does not come with a pump or the needed filter material. However, when you buy these things and set them up, you will love how good this machine works.

  1. AE SHOP Aquarium Canister Fish Tank Filter

This AE SHOP aquarium filter is just like the one I reviewed earlier but with only one major difference. The difference is in size. This AE SHOP aquarium filter is smaller than the other one. This is deliberate because it is designed for filtering waste in smaller 35, 30, and 25-gallon fish tanks as opposed to the other one which is designed for filtering waste in bigger 70, 65, 60, and 55-gallon fish tanks. 

So if you have a smaller fish tank, this is the trickle filter you should go for. Like the other AE SHOP trickle filter, this one is capable of eliminating waste and oxygenating your aquarium water. 

It is also similarly easy to clean and to maintain. 

This filter’s only downside is that it is black in color. So you do not get to see what’s inside. 

Pros 

  • It is a great small fish tank filter system
  • It works efficiently 
  • It purifies water and adds oxygen
  • It is easy to clean and maintain

Cons

  • It is black in color 

The fact that this machine is black in color means you do not get to see the filtration process. Many people do not like this. However, some people actually do because they do not get to see the filter material getting dirty over time. 

  1. Petsdelite Black, 1 Unit: Upper Filter Aquarium Trickling Filter Box

This is a cheap but decent filtration box. When filled with filter material, it is capable of removing biological waste very efficiently.

Like most other trickle filters it also aerates and oxygenates water. So using it can be beneficial for your fish in two ways – it can remove waste and it can make the water healthier for it by adding oxygen. 

This unit, however, does not come with filter material. It also does not come with a pump. 

Nevertheless, it has the ten days returnable label on Amazon, which means two things. First, it means that the company behind it are confident that you will like it because they have made a great product. Second, it means that the product will very likely impress you.

Pros 

  • It is an efficient fish tank filter
  • It purifies and oxygenates water
  • It is cheap but great quality 

Cons

  • It does not come with a pump or with filter material

Although this filter does not come with a pump or filter material, it is a decent device that works well if set up correctly.

  1. Spritool Aquarium Fish Tank Filter

This is frankly one of the best fish tank trickle filters available online and one of the best-rated on Amazon. 

It is very easy to assemble and very easy to maintain. Once you install it and connect it to a pump, you will not need to do much to clean it or maintain it. You also won’t need to do much water changing because it will make sure your fish tank water is clean and healthy at all times. 

The best thing about this Spirtool filter is the fact that it cleans water in different ways. First, it removes the biological waste through the filter material. Second, it encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria that also remove other harmful compounds from the water. Lastly, it cleans water by replenishing depleted oxygen levels as the water is sprayed in the air and not directly on the filter media. In short, it is a proper filter that can really clean your aquarium water if you install it properly.

Pros 

  • It is a brilliant trickle filter that works great
  • It cleans water in different ways
  • It oxygenates water 
  • It is easy to install and to maintain
  • It is perfect for tanks of the length between 40 and 66 centimeters

Cons 

  • It does not come with a pump or filter media

This is a great fish tank trickle filter that is easy to install and does not require a lot of work to maintain. Like most trickle filters sold online, it does not come with a pump or a filter media. However, it comes with 

  1. Eshopps WD-75CS Wet Dry Filter

This Eshopps wet dry filter is highly-rated by experienced aquarists and those who have used it. It is pricey but also one of the most complete trickle filters available online. 

By complete, I do not mean it comes with a pump. You still have to buy a pump separately. By complete I mean it comes with filter material (bio-balls). The majority of trickle filters do not come with filter material or materials. You have to buy it or them separately. 

When water is sprayed on top of the bio-balls (the filter material), it trickles down by gravity. As it trickles down, the biological waste gets trapped by the balls. This is how this filter does its work. 

And with time the trapped biological waste will decay and this will lead to the formation of beneficial bacteria colonies on the bio balls. The bacteria will breakdown the nitrite and the ammonia in the water, which are harmful to fish. 

So this filter is capable of removing both biological and nitrogen waste products. 

The only thing you may not like about it is that it is a bit pricey. 

Pros 

  • It is an efficient wet dry filter
  • It is perfect for many types of tanks from as little as 10 gallons to 75 gallons
  • It breaks down harmful nitrogen waste products
  • It comes with an overflow box
  • It comes with its own filter material 
  • It can be used to filter both salt and freshwater fish tanks 

Cons 

  • It is a bit pricey

Even though this trickle filter is a bit pricey, it is worth every cent of the cost price. This is because it is capable of eliminating both biological and nitrogenous waste products from fish tank water. 

  1. Pro Clear Aquatic Systems Premier Wet/Dry Filter

This is one of the most powerful trickle filters available on the market! It is perfect for eliminating biological waste from both saltwater and freshwater. It also provides brilliant mechanical filtration. So it is both a biological and a mechanical filter. 

The product comes assembled already so assembling it is nothing you have to worry about. It also comes with its bio-filter balls. So you do not need to spend more money on bio-filter balls or filter media to get this filter working. 

Once you’ve set this filter, you really do not need to do much else. It will clean your tank for like forever. And the water will look so much cleaner than before. 

Once you’ve set this filler, you also do not have to worry about overflow. This is because it comes with 2 overflow boxes to prevent overflow. 

The filter is designed for big fish tanks but it can work even with ones as small as 50 gallons. 

The one thing you will probably not like about it is its cost. It is a very expensive filter.  

Pros 

  • It is a great filter for many set ups 
  • It provides both biological and mechanical filtration
  • It works with medium and large fish tanks 
  • It is strong and durable 
  • It comes with filtering bio-balls
  • It comes pretty much assembled 

Cons

  • It is a pretty expensive trickle filter

Although this trickle filter aka wet dry filter is pretty expensive, it is well worth the price. This is because it is a powerful machine that will clean your fish tank water and make it very clear and healthy for your fish. There is nothing quite like it on the market right now for home aquariums. 

Conclusion 

As you have seen in this article, trickle filters work. They provide biological filtration and are better than conventional filters. So if you want to clear the water in your fish tank and to conveniently eliminate biological waste without doing frequent water changes, you should strongly consider getting a trickle filter. The list of nine trickle filters above has the best trickle filters aka wet-dry filters currently available on the market. In my opinion, out of the nine, the best one is the AE SHOP Aquarium Canister Fish Tank Filter. This is because it is cheap, efficient, easy to maintain, and durable.