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Goldfish are one of the easiest pets to keep. They’re cute, they love swimming around and keeping us entertained, and they don’t need to be taken our for walks every couple of hours. They make great pets for folks with kids or for folks who travel a lot, especially since they don’t have to eat every single day.

But a common misconception of this classic pet is that they don’t need anything more than a couple flakes of food and maybe a water change every few weeks.

In fact, these low-maintenance pets actually have a few needs that most of us just don’t think about at all. One of those needs is a filter system.

Best Goldfish Filter Quick-Find Table

Image Product
  • Very quiet while being very effective
  • Perfect for smaller aquariums and fish tanks
  • Nearly zero flow for still water settings
  • Very quiet while being very effective
  • Perfect for smaller aquariums and fish tanks
  • Nearly zero flow for still water settings
  • Basically no flow rate whatsoever
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Great for mid-sized aquariums up to 50-gallons
  • Basically no flow rate whatsoever
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Great for mid-sized aquariums up to 50-gallons
  • Self-priming for extremely easy setup and install
  • Very easy to maintain and clean
  • Adjustable flow rate
  • Self-priming for extremely easy setup and install
  • Very easy to maintain and clean
  • Adjustable flow rate

Do All Goldfish Need Filters?

The simple, straight-up answer is yes, all goldfish need filters in their fish tanks.

But aren’t goldfish a no-frills, no-fuss kind of fish? Can’t you keep them in a decorative goldfish bowl on your kid’s dresser, sprinkle in some flakes and forget about them otherwise?

I hear you. Goldfish are super easy to care for pets, which is why we get them for our kids a lot of times. But the reality is, goldfish aren’t as straight-forward as all that. They have actual needs that can’t be met with a “feed and go” attitude.

They’re still easy to care for, don’t get that wrong, please! But they do have some specific needs. Including filtered clean water.

The goldfish is hardy, but give him a simple fish bowl for a habitat and you’ll stunt his life span, because the aquarium water quality will suffer. A goldfish can stand such an existence for a year or two at best; but to reach his potential, he needs a filtered environment that can process the large amount of waste a goldfish produces.

3 goldfish with mouth open in aquarium

Why Goldfish Need Filters in Their Fish Tanks

Goldfish are those fun, google-eyed little pals that anybody can love. They’re easy to take care, fun to watch, and generally a pretty chill pet that doesn’t need a lot of attention.

But to keep your goldfish healthy and happy, they do have some needs, especially filtered water.

Water quality is an incredibly important aspect of your goldfish’s life. Without properly filtered, clean, chemical-free water, that goldfish is going to make his way to an early grave. This is, in fact, one of the big reasons these little darlings are so notoriously known to die quickly.

As a kid, I couldn’t keep goldfish alive. I gave them flakes and other junk food – that’s a different subject – and gave them “clean” tap water every few weeks. And, not surprisingly, they all died pretty young.

As a teenager, I was given a goldfish that was about 10 times larger than any other I’d had before. I named him George and did everything I could figure out how to do to keep him alive. He stayed with me for 2 years, thanks to learning about filtered water.

You see, that filtered water makes the goldfish tank water quality livable for fish. Fish breathe in that oxygen in the water, swim around in it all the time, and generally just “become” the water in which they live.

Chemicals aren’t natural for goldfish anymore than they are for humans. And tap water has chemicals in it that can kill the fish.

What the Fish Tank Filter Does

Goldfish tank filters clean out the crud in your goldfish tank.

They get rid of detritus that can kill the fish – i.e. fish waste and excess food that create ammonia, a deadly substance for fish – and work through and remove chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, nitrates, nitrites, and other deadly chemicals.

The right filter also encourages healthy bacteria to grow in the fish tank, which in turns kills off bad bacteria, ammonia, fungal infections, and other stuff that’s working to kill your goldfish.

In other words, you need a filter, period. Your fish can’t survive long without one.

How to Choose the Right Goldfish Tank Filter

All right, so now you know a filter is mandatory. But how do you find the right one?

There are a few specific things to look into to make sure the filter will work for your fish tank.

Capacity of Filter

A filter should be able to cycle through the volume of water in your fish tank 10 times per hour. So, if you have a 10-gallon goldfish tank, that means the filter needs to be able to cycle 100 gallons of water every hour or GPH.

High-Quality Materials and Make

You may be thinking the quick, easy, cheap option is your best bet, but you’ll save money in the long run if you purchase a high-quality filter instead.

It won’t break down as often as the cheaper ones, and you won’t need to replace it nearly as often, which saves you cash.

Trusted Brand Names

One of the easiest ways to know you’re getting a good filter is that the brand-name is trusted by other aquarists.

Beginner fishkeeping hobbyists should always look for reviews of brand names and companies to verify the filter they’re selecting is worth the price.

Filtration Media Type

Freshwater fish like goldfish aren’t as high maintenance as something like a marine tank with corals, so you don’t necessarily need all the types of filtration systems.

But you do need to make sure that you have at least mechanical and biological filtration going on in your aquarium.

The best filter media for goldfish will provide both, but you can supplement in some additional filtration – biological filtration – with additions like the right substrate and an undergravel filter that add in extra surfaces for your beneficial bacteria to grow, if needed.

goldfish in fish tank with black substrate

Types of Filters

As you shop on Amazon for the best filter for goldfish, keep in mind that there are several basic filter types.

There’s not really any one that’s better than another, but if you keep a small aquarium, you’ll probably go for a HOB or submersible type of filter for ease.

Reviews of the Best Goldfish Tank Filters

To help make sure you’re getting the best of the best in goldfish filters, we looked for high-quality, low-maintenance, no-fuss filters that meet the needs of your goldfish tanks with ease. We found filters that have all the requirements of a good goldfish filter.

  • Decent capacity for minimum fish tank size
  • High-quality materials
  • Trusted brands
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Comfortably priced for most folks
  • Easy to install
  • Lower water flow rates for more natural environment for your goldfish
Hikari Bacto-Surge High Density Foam Filter

Goldfish live naturally in near-stagnant ponds, lakes, and other still bodies of water. So in your aquarium, you want a low-flowing filter.

With that in mind, we’ve chosen the Hikari Bacto-Surge High-Density Foam Filter as the absolute best aquarium filter for goldfish.

The filter meets all our requirements and is very easy to use, install, maintain, all while providing great biological and mechanical filtration for a healthy goldfish tank.

  • Flow rate: Very low – almost zero
  • Tank size: 5 to 15 gallon tanks
  • Media type: Biological filtration, foam

What We Loved

The Hikari Bacto-Surge High-Density Foam Filter -also known as a sponge filter – is great for many types of aquariums – including betta tanks – but especially so for goldfish tanks.

The reason? It doesn’t create any kind of current that will disrupt the natural feeling environment for your little goldies. It doesn’t pump water – it just filters it. It just makes a nice, quiet little stream of bubbles while it works instead.

This is also a very quiet filter, which we especially love for goldfish tanks because these peaceful little guys are often kept in small spaces and spots where you need quiet – the office, the kids’ bedroom, the family room.

The filter is a submersible filter, so they’ve given it a weighted bottom to help keep it in place – which we love! Some filters don’t do that and tend to float around instead of staying put.

And finally – most importantly – we love that this filter does what it promises to do. It cleans up the aquarium – even planted aquariums and murky water – to provide your little goldy with a clean, healthy environment.

What We Didn’t Love

There was only really one potential issue we saw with the Hikari. It’s a little big – kind of chunky – for some aquariums.

It’s very quiet and unobtrusive otherwise, but if size is a huge matter, then, sadly, you’ll probably need to look at something else.

Our Verdict

All-in-all, the Hikari Bacto-Surge is just the flat-out best filter for goldfish you’re going to find.

It’s bargain-priced, works great, runs quietly, and has a very low flow rate for your little stagnant pond dwelling critters. It’s a little too big for the smallest tanks, however, which can be a nuisance.

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#2. The Penn Plax Under-Gravel Filter Premium

Penn Plax Undergravel Filter

For anyone looking for a really low maintenance filtration system option, the Penn Plax under gravel filter is your go-to.

This system offers you 4 filter plates for easy placement within your 40 to 50-gallon fish tanks and comes with clips that help you secure the filter in place without fussing around a long time.

It even has extra-large, 1-inch adjustable lift tubes for easier installation, maintenance, et cetera.

  • Flow rate: Next to zero
  • Tank size: 40 to 50 gallons
  • Media type: Biological & chemical filter, under gravel plate

What We Loved

First off, we love how easy this filter is to use. You place it properly under the gravel, and you let it run, and it pretty much does everything else from there, save changing its own cartridges.

We love that this filter is so easy to use and provides you with both the biological filtration you need – giving you loads and loads of surface for beneficial bacteria to grow – while also providing you with chemical filtration through use of carbon filter cartridges that remove odors, discolorations, and more through trapping the crud in porous sections of carbon.

We love the way under gravel filters don’t mess with your in-tank aesthetics. They’re practically invisible, in fact, which is phenonmenal.

Plus, the Penn Plax under gravel filter is basically effortless to setup and maintain, while being very affordable for most.

What We Didn’t Love

The only real complaints we’ve seen with this filter is that the tubing can sometimes be too short. It is important to make sure you’re getting the right size for your aquarium.

Our Verdict

Ultimately, the Penn Plax under gravel filter is a great option for anyone on a budget looking for a super low maintenance option. It’s easy to install, adjust flow control on, clean, and maintain.

You barely have to do anything with it once it’s installed. Just make sure you’re getting the right size for your aquarium to make sure it will actually meet your needs.

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#3. The Marina Slim S10 Power Filter

marina slim s10 filter for goldfish

For those who love a good HOB filter – hang on back – that will be easy to maintain, clean, install, and is self-priming, then look to the Marina Slim S10 Power Filter.

It comes from one of the most-trusted brands on the market, it’s compact and slim like the name suggests, and it works great for small goldfish tanks and aquariums, providing you with maximum biological filtration.

  • Flow rate: Low to moderate, adjustable
  • Tank size: Up to 10 gallons
  • Media type: Biological, ceramic

What We Loved

The Marina Slim S10 is best for small fish tanks up to 10-gallons.

It’s a great HOB filter that’s about as easy to install as any filter could be, and has an adjustable flow rate that makes it suitable for goldfish tanks that need low flow rates.

It is reasonably powerful, though, so you might need a baffle in that size tank.

The Marina Slim S10 is incredibly easy to maintain and clean, so your aquarium will be easy to keep safe for your little goldfish.

It provides tons of space for beneficial bacteria, as well, as it’s designed with ceramic rings with this growth in mind.

What We Didn’t Love

The one and only potential drawback of this filter is that it’s a little pricier than some of the competitors.

That – along with only providing biological filtration not mechanical as well – is why it doesn’t rank as highly for us in the best filter for goldfish category.

It’s just not as practical for folks on a tight budget.

Our Verdict

The Marina Slim S10 is one of the best biological filters you’ll find for your goldfish tank.

It’s easy to install, easy to keep clean, comes from a high-quality brand that’s well trusted among hobbyists of all levels, and it small and compact enough that it doesn’t take away from the aesthetics of your tank.

The only drawback can be the price for anyone on a super tight budget. Otherwise, it’s aces all the way.

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