HOB/Power Filters: Can They Be Used On Saltwater Aquariums?

Hang on back filters are quite popular with fish and aquarium lovers. This is because they can provide the necessary filtration and are very easy to attach and utilize. However, people mainly use them with freshwater aquariums, so how beneficial are they when used with saltwater? Would they be completely useless? Absolutely not! You can use a hang on back filter for saltwater aquariums, and we’ll be delving into all the necessary information you’ll need, to get your saltwater tank up and running with a HOB power filter.

Before we head into everything about HOB filters and using saltwater, let’s look into what they exactly are!

From the name itself, you can guess that HOB power filters are filters that stick off the back of tanks, and you would be right! They operate by pulling in water from the tank, with the help of a tube, and routing the water through the filter.

The water passes through filter media placed inside the mechanism, and cleans the water of debris and toxins that you do not want in it. What is great about filter media is that you can change them based on what you prefer or better yet, what your aquarium is more suited towards. 

If you’re looking to build nano aquariums, then HOB filters are also quite useful for them, as they help to create Refugiums; an acronym for an area focused on growing marine fauna and microalgae.

Types of Filtration For Your Saltwater Aquariums

HOB filters do provide some filtration to your aquarium, but with something so convenient and easily placed, you should know that it comes with the disadvantage of not being able to control all the necessary filtration required for your aquatic land. Let’s look into the 3 different types of filtration that you need in your aquatic ecology!

Mechanical Filtration

Over the course of your tank’s lifespan, you will see a constant buildup of debris and gunk in the tank. This is natural, but the problem can be easily dealt with if you have a mechanical filtration process set in place. A few examples of things that can easily help you with mechanical filtration are; filter sponges, protein skimmer, filter floss, etc., or their combinations.

Chemical Filtration

There are also various substances present in your tank that are not visible to the naked eye. These need to be dealt with as well. This is where chemical filtration comes in, and it can be achieved by a few different materials; activated carbon, bio-pellets, purigen, etc., or a combination of them.

Biological Filtration

With providing a sustainable and healthy environment for your aquatic plants and fish to grow, comes the need of providing their environment with a steady growth of beneficial bacteria. As such, biological filtration is where this comes into play, as this media provides a surface area for this bacteria to grow and reproduce. Some examples are; sand, ceramic rings, bio-balls, filter sponges, etc., or a combination of them.

Additional Filtration

While these filtration stages and media are necessary for any saltwater aquarium with a HOB filter, these just are not enough. Contrary to freshwater aquariums, saltwater ones require a more thorough cleaning in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem. So, instead of referring to the HOB filter as the entire filtration system, you’ll need a few other components to ensure it is complete.


You will need a few rocks in your saltwater aquarium in order to provide a growing area for the nitrifying bacteria that makes it into live rocks. It can be your biological filter itself, or a part of it, based on what you have set up.


The concept of having sand in these aquariums is the same as rocks. They will nurture the nitrifying bacteria in your tank, and will become a part of the biological filtration in it.

Protein Skimmer

While there are a few different types of substances for mechanical filtration, we feel as though protein skimmers are the best for mechanical filtration when it comes to saltwater aquariums.

Factors To Consider For Saltwater Aquariums With HOB Power Filters

Now that you know the basics of what to look out for when using a HOB power filter with your saltwater aquarium, let us give you a few factors to consider when you’re thinking of some choices to make!

Sponge Media

Sponges are great for being used in tanks and aquariums. They easily take in most of the debris created in these aquatic ecosystems and hold onto them. However, in time these start to break down and produce dangerous toxins such as nitrates and phosphates. As such, you’ll want to make sure to change out your used sponges and replace them with new ones always. Since this is quite hard to maintain in saltwater aquariums, sponges are very sparsely used.

Ceramic Rings Media

Unlike sponges, ceramic rings can be washed and reused. However, they should not be washed under just any type of water. You need to wash it in saltwater, in order to ensure that the chemical integrity and living space of the beneficial bacteria is not harmed.

Cleaning and Maintenance

One detriment of using a HOB power filter with saltwater aquariums, is the frequency with which you will need to clean it. Since the load of food going into a saltwater aquarium is naturally higher than freshwater, it can end up using up the media in your filter quite easily.

This will end up requiring you to clean the filter every few days, which can become very frustrating. However, if you are still determined to use a HOB filter, we recommend you schedule a cleaning and maintenance period every week!

Tank Size

You will want to ensure that you have the correct measurements laid out when you are trying to buy a HOB filter for your saltwater aquarium. All in all, the mechanical filtration such as protein skimmer can end up taking quite a bit of space with your HOB. On top of that, you need to take the HOB’s size into account as well. With a proper idea of all these measurements, make sure to buy a tank that correctly adds up to the size you want and need.


Q. Can you use any filter in a saltwater tank?

You can use mostly any sort of filtration in your saltwater aquarium. However, it is key that you add some live rocks and live sand in there as well. This will help maintain the integrity of the aquarium for a longer time.

Q. What kind of filter do I need for a saltwater tank?

There isn’t any one answer for what kind of filter you need to have, but for a saltwater aquarium, a sump filter is the best choice to go with!

Q. Is a saltwater tank hard to maintain?

No! Previously, it was hard to understand how to maintain these tanks. However, with the newer technology and understanding today, it is quite easy to do so.

The Takeaway

Now that you have had a full rundown on HOB power filters for your saltwater aquariums, what will your choice be? Hopefully we have managed to answer all the questions you had regarding this topic, and that you will be able to maintain a very healthy saltwater aquarium of your choice.

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