10 Best Aquarium Filter Media Reviewed and Rated in 2021

To provide a safer and healthier habitat for your fish one of the most essential things you will need is the best aquarium filter media. When you use the best filter media your fish, aquatic plants and any other pet in your aquarium will be able to thrive and be happier.

That may stand in your way maybe the fact that there are several filter media Brands on the market. This can make decision-making very difficult. I will leave you 10 of the best filter media out there and guide you on the important factors and key information you need to know. By the end of the article, you will be able to select the right filter media for your aquarium.

We have provided you with honest reviews of quality aquarium filter media that work well. Check their features, pros and cons so that you can choose the right one.

If you are looking for an affordable high-quality filter media which will last you for long then you need to try the floor for external power filter. It is easy to clean and maintain and you don’t have to keep replacing it often because you can reuse it. Its reusable feature is what will allow you to use it for a very long time.

What I like

Conveniently keeps the filter from clogging by catching the large particles quickly thanks to its hexagonal shape. Ceramic surface area is large enough to allow the growth of beneficial bacteria. Most importantly the filter media can be easily cleaned and reused. This eliminates the need for constant filter media replacement. To top it all it is of high quality and it comes at an affordable price.

What I don’t like

I noticed that the package isn’t sealed off well on arrival. Also, this filter media is not so porous like other filter media Brands.

  • Comes at an affordable price
  • Quickly remove solid waste
  • Prevents the filter from clogging
  • You don't have to often replace this filter media
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • The package isn't sealed well
  • Not porous enough

This Marineland filter media comes in small pebbles and it is designed to be very efficient. It will work on all your aquarium problems including chemical toxins, foul odour, discolourations among other impurities. The most impressive thing is that it comes at an affordable price and still performs like most expensive filter media Brands.

What I like

It is from Marineland which is a reputable brand. In case you want smaller pebbles for your filter you can Crush them in a coffee grinder. It will reduce numerous blemishes, discolouration and foul odour. Can also be used with most types of tank filters. On top of that, it is quick, reliable and comes at a reasonable price.

What I don’t like

After a few months of use, this filter media will begin to form a cloud. You will also need to use it in powder form when there are issues while using mechanical Media.

  • It is affordable
  • Capable of reducing impurities
  • Activated carbon for chemical filtration
  • Leaves water clear and clean
  • Works with most types of aquarium filters
  • Tends to form a cloud after months of using

Aqua-Flo is one of those brands that makes some of the best aquarium accessories which have been appreciated and loved by many customers. The Aqua Flo 12 inch filter media is made to be suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums as well as ponds. It will not be posing any risk to the aquarium or pond creatures inside. This is because the filter media is not made from in the chemicals.

What I like

It is less demanding via maintenance and using it is very easy. It is a long roll which can keep you going for a very long time. On top of that, it is made of 100% polyester which doesn’t contain any chemicals. This means it is safe for your pond or aquarium. Furthermore, it comes at an affordable price.

What I don’t like

The material used to make it is very thin and flimsy. Also, it doesn’t have a reliable return policy. Some customers even said the process was too long and stressing.

  • Doesn't contain chemicals
  • Ideal for both aquariums and ponds
  • Comes at a reasonable price
  • Long roll easily cut to fitting size
  • Made in the USA
  • It is very durable can last for a very long time
  • Thin and flimsy material
  • Unreliable return policy

If you are looking for a great filter media kit then you need to try this one from CNZ. This kit comes with everything you will need to make your aquarium water chemically balanced and clean at all times. The package includes activated carbon, ceramic rings, and bio balls.

What I like

The porous ceramic Rings which age biological filtration. Also, the bio-balls which support the growth of good bacteria that help to control and eliminate high ammonia and nitrate levels. This filter media kit comes with all the three stages of filtration will remove odor, organic pollutants, and toxic compounds among other impurities. It can also help to increase oxygen levels.

What I don’t like

The activated carbon comes when it is Dusty and this can cause a black cloud when you do not rinse it first. This can also make the cleaning the tank very difficult.

  • Ceramic Media for biofiltration
  • Filters water to leave it naturally clear and clean
  • Removes impurities and hazardous compounds
  • Improves oxygen levels in the tank
  • Dusty the active carbon
  • Turns water black when first added

Fluval is one of those trusted brands that most aquarium owners look up to when they need aquarium accessories. Fluval bio max filter media is one of their popular products. It is highly recommended for aquarium owners looking to give their aquarium pets a clean and healthy environment.

What I like

Centre hole which helps to reduce water limit. This filter media also offers great biological filtration. The beneficial bacteria can help to control ammonia and nitrate levels in the aquarium. I also like that this filter media will clean water and it won’t change the chemical balance of water.

What I don’t like

The filter media tends to crumble faster than other ceramic filter media. Also, it requires proper maintenance.

  • Ensures proper biological filtration
  • Allows beneficial bacteria to grow
  • Will not affect the chemical composition of water
  • Comes from A reputable brand
  • Can be got in different sizes
  • Tends to crumble quickly

If you are looking for a good filter media blend then the Marineland diamond blend might be what you need. It is a mixture of Zeolite and activated carbon which makes it a double threat. It is a great option if you are looking to have a filter media that can work fast and one that will last you for a long time.

What I like

It will remove ammonia from the aquarium thanks to the Zeolite mineral and activated carbon. It will also absorb impurities and any harmful toxins. It is extremely reliable and will effortlessly clear and clean your aquarium water. I also like that it can be got in different sizes which can fit in your aquarium filter size.

What I don’t like

You will have to frequently replace the water in your aquarium when using this filter media because it can be hazardous. With that said you must also be cautious as you use it.

  • For use in freshwater aquariums
  • Blend of zeolite and activated carbon
  • Removes ammonia and other impurities
  • Comes in different sizes
  • Can be hazardous and harmful when inhaled
  • You will have to frequently change the water

Aquaclear bio max filter media is capable of providing ample space for beneficial bacteria to grow and form a stronghold. These work together to control nitrate and ammonia levels in the aquarium. This Filter media is specially made for use with the aquaclear 110 power filter. It will also work to improve biological filtration efficiency by up to 30%.

What I like

Aquaclear bio max filter media comes with a lifetime guarantee to cover all the non-replaceable parts. Also, the fact that it offers all three common stages of filtration makes it a better option. It offers space for beneficial bacteria to grow and former colonies. On top of that it can eliminate and control ammonia and nitrate levels in the aquarium.

What I don’t like

You can only use it if you have the aquaclear 110 power filter. Your aquarium must also not be having more than 20 gallons of water. This filter media may also allow algae accumulation.

  • Controls ammonia and nitrate levels
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Increases the beneficial bacteria in the aquarium
  • Ideal for the aquaclear 110 power filter
  • Improves biological filtration efficiency by 30%
  • Can lead to algae accumulation
  • Only works on small size aquariums

Are you looking for a filter media that will take your biological and mechanical filtration to another level? The Aqua papa fits that description. This filter media is ideal for both aquariums and fish ponds. It will also work well in saltwater and freshwater aquariums.

What I like

Is filter media can be washed and reused for up to 16 times before cutting a fresh piece. It is also easy to maintain and it can last you for a very long time. Also it is capable of providing both mechanical as well as biological filtration. This will leave your aquarium clean and Crystal Clear.

What I don’t like

Only minor setback I saw on this filter is that it won’t absorb but rather collect and block particles. This is because it is not a true sponge.

  • Easy to maintain and clean
  • It can work for up to 16 times
  • It is durable
  • Comes at an affordable price
  • Capable of biological and mechanical filtration
  • Not a true sponge

Biohome ultimate filter media is one of the best that you will get on the market. This filter media comes free from toxic chemicals meaning it won’t pose a threat to your aquarium pets. It is also interchangeable which only means you can get to use it in both marine and freshwater aquariums.

What I like

It can encourage the growth of bacteria until they form a stronghold. These will eliminate nitrate and ammonia levels from the aquarium. You can also use it in a HOB, sump, canister filters as well as drip systems. It is also extremely versatile as you can choose to use it as a substrate.

What I don’t like

This filter media doesn’t come with starter bacteria. This means that it will take some time for the bacteria to grow. With the absence of these beneficial bacteria, it won’t be able to control ammonia and nitrate levels immediately. Also, it is a great filter media but it comes at a high price.

  • It is versatile
  • Provides efficient mechanical filtration
  • Ideal for canister pump and HOB filters
  • Doesn't come with the good bacteria
  • Comes at a higher price

This filter media is a great water Polisher that will leave your aquarium water clean and super clear. It is designed for both freshwater and marine aquariums. If you are in need of a filter media that will help you keep your aquarium water balanced then this one who will do the job well. Your fish will get a good healthy and well-balanced environment.

What I like

The purigen absorbent that ensures an unparalleled pace of removing organic waste. It also provides ultimate filtration which will leave your aquarium water clean and Crystal Clear. The filter media is also capable of eliminating the rise of ammonia and nitrate levels in the aquarium.

What I don’t like

When it is used for long it gets exhausted and it will begin to form a cloud in the water.

  • Ideal for marine and freshwater aquariums
  • Provides a clean, clear and well-balanced environment
  • Removes organic wastes at a very fast pace
  • It is also super absorbent
  • Darkens when overused

Buying Guide

To help you pick the right filter, we have included some important tips that you should consider. They include the following:

Type of filter

The type of filter you have will determine the filter media you will buy. Some filters have got limited space so you have to buy a filter media which will have a good size that can fit inside your filter.

What you want to filter

Most aquarium owners deal with different kinds of impurities in their aquariums. Some filter media are capable of removing all the impurities while others cannot. This is because some of all the 3 filtration stages while others offer 1 or only two. When choosing a filter media make sure it will be able to get rid of all the impurities that are in your aquarium.

Price and brand

There are several brands out there of filter media. While some may be reliable others are not. I recommend you go for a filter media from a reputable brand to guarantee reliability and Performance. Also, go for one that is affordable but also of good quality. Make sure it will handle all of your needs efficiently.

Types of Filter Media

There are three main types of filter media. They include the following.

Mechanical filter media

This is the first filtration stage and it is well water will first go through. This is because it is where the large particles are removed. These particles may include food, small plant leaves, detritus and visible debris. This type of filter media usually features ceramic Rings or dense mesh. These materials allow water to flow through while blocking the particles from getting into the filtered water.

Chemical Filter media

This filtration stage is where the invisible impurities are removed from the water. This can be foul odour, medication, chemicals among others. The most common chemical filter media are Zeolite and activated carbon.

Biological filter media

For this stage to take place you will need bio balls or ceramic rings. This supports the growth of beneficial bacteria into the filter. Once beneficial bacteria grow naturally it can then be able to control the ammonia and nitrate levels in the aquarium.

When Should I Change My Aquarium Filter Media?

I strongly suggest that you change your active carbon filter media at least once in 3 weeks. This will ensure that it can continue performing accordingly. Remember that you cannot reuse your carbon filter media simply because it has got chemical properties which will degrade as you use it. You cannot wash it and placed it back into the filter instead you’ll have to just replace it.

For the case of mechanical filter media, it does not have a specific lifespan. You can choose to use it until you see it falling apart. Like I said before it only filters large particles so it will still continue to work even if it’s not in great shape. What to tell that it requires changing is if you find that some particles are going through it.

For biological filter media, this can be tricky because the bio balls or ceramic Rings are the beneficial bacteria from their colonies. This means if you keep replacing them then you are throwing away the bacteria. The best way to go about this is by changing at least a third of them at a time when you say that they are falling apart. Replace the 1/3 you have removed with new ones and let the bacteria grow fast on them before removing another 1/3.


Q: How should I organize my filter media?

A: You can do so by placing the mechanical filter media on top followed by the chemical filter media and then lastly the biological filter media. This way you will have proper water filtration.

Q: Can gravel act as a filter media?

A: Yes, it can. But this will depend on the diameter of the gravel. You can choose to turn it into a biological filter media. It should have several inches so that it can have a large surface area where beneficial bacteria can grow.


I have come to the end of this best aquarium filter media review. All of the filter media I have reviewed will work accordingly to provide your fish, sea creatures and aquatic plants are healthy, clean and safe environment. I recommend the CNZ aquarium filter media kits if you are new and just starting out. This filter media kit has got all the three filtration stages so it will provide you with everything you need.

The rest are also great filter media and most of them come at an affordable price. Give you a fish the home they deserve by buying one of the above filter media.

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