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Top Five Beginner Hang On The Back Filters & Refugiums

Updated 2024

The Berlin Method has long been a traditional approach to maintaining a saltwater aquarium, relying on a sump, protein skimmer, and ample live rock for filtration. However, having a sump is not mandatory for achieving decent filtration. You can actually save money by opting for an affordable glass aquarium and employing a Hang-On-Back (HOB) filter.

In this post, I’ll recommend three different types of HOB filters:

1. Power Filter: This is the standard HOB filter that utilizes a small utility pump to draw water from the tank into the filter. Various filter media are placed inside, allowing water to pass through before being returned to the tank.

2. Power Filter with Protein Skimmer: A beefed-up version of the standard HOB filter. By adding a protein skimmer, you can more effectively clean your water column.

3. Refugium: For high-nutrient systems with abundant livestock, a refugium with macroalgae can be set up. It provides a habitat for copepods and amphipods while aiding in phosphate and nitrate export through algae growth.

Though I’ve personally used the Penn Plax Cascade 300 and still rely on it for my 40-gallon breeder tank, the order of preference in this post is somewhat flexible. Each item listed offers unique features, and the best choice will ultimately depend on your specific needs and requirements!

5. CPR Aquatic AquaFuge 2 HOB Refugium w/Light

Looking to enhance your tank’s ecosystem? Refugiums are the answer! They’re like green powerhouses, cultivating algae to tackle those pesky nutrients and providing a cozy haven for micro fauna.

Meet the AquaFuge2, your go-to hang-on-back refugium. Available in three different sizes, it’s a breeze to set up and use. Plus, its revamped black acrylic backing and clever baffle system ensure that algae and substrate stay put in the refugium, not your display tank.

But wait, there’s more! Refugiums aren’t just for nutrient control. They’re also perfect for introducing new fish or corals to your setup, offering a safe spot to feed and adapt to their new environment.

Here are the specs:
– Water Capacity: 3.6 gallons
– Dimensions (excluding light): 19″ L X 4.5″ W X 12″ T
– 11 Watt LED Light (light only measures 18.5″ x 1.25″ x .5″)
– Comes with NEW LED Lighting
– Features a New Style Outlet
– Includes a powerhead

Upgrade your tank with the AquaFuge2 and watch your aquatic world thrive! 🌿🐠

4. AquaReady HF-M Complete Filtration System

This innovative system offers a convenient hang-on-back design, complete with an efficient built-in protein skimmer and a user-friendly drop-in media cartridge. With a spacious and customizable filtration chamber, it provides ample room to tailor your filtration setup to your specific needs. Additionally, it includes practical features like three probe holders, three dosing tube holders, and cord/tubing management cut-outs for a neat and organized aquarium setup.

But how does it integrate into your aquarium system? Designed to cater to saltwater tanks ranging from 20 to 60 gallons, this system is compatible with tanks with a minimum length of 18″ and a glass/rim thickness of up to 0.75″.

Curious about its benefits for your aquarium? Let’s delve into its functionality: The water undergoes a thorough purification process, starting with the protein skimmer, which effectively removes organic molecules. It then passes through the biological filtration media, fostering the growth of beneficial bacteria. Finally, before returning to your tank, the water receives a final polish in a customizable third chamber with your choice of filtration media.

Take a closer look at the specifications:
– Main Body Dimensions: 16.75″L x 3.25″W x 12.75″H
– Inlet Distance: 5.5″ from back to front
– Outlet Distance: 6.5″ from back to front
– Compatible with Tank Rims up to 0.75″ thick
– Included Pump: Shark 1.0
– Power Consumption: 11 Watts

3. AquaReady HOB-R Hang On The Back Refugium

Designed with simplicity in mind, the AquaReady Hang-On-Back Refugium offers an easy-to-install solution for supporting the growth of macroalgae, improving water quality, and fostering microfauna populations. Equipped with a reliable Sicce return pump, a baffle housing for media integration, a spacious viewing panel for algae monitoring, and an outlet sponge to minimize microbubbles, this refugium provides a sanctuary for your aquarium’s ecosystem.

How does it integrate into your setup? The Hang-On-Back Refugium is specifically tailored for tanks of 20 gallons or larger, with a minimum length of 17″ and glass/rim thickness up to 0.75″.

So, how does it benefit your aquarium? By hosting macroalgae, the refugium aids in nitrate and phosphate control, competes with nuisance algae, and supports your filtration system in maintaining clean water. Additionally, it serves as a habitat for beneficial invertebrates like copepods and amphipods, which help in managing uneaten food and detritus, contributing to a balanced ecosystem.

If you want to grow macroalgae you will need a light, and I highly recommend this one from Tunze

– Main Body Dimensions: 16.75″L x 3.25″W x 12.75″H
– Inlet Distance: 5.5″ from back to front
– Outlet Distance: 6.5″ from back to front
– Compatible with Tank Rims up to 0.75″ thick
– Included Pump: Sicce Nano (110 GPH)
– Power Consumption: 2.8 Watts

2. Seachem Tidal HOB Power Filter

The TIDAL hang-on filters are designed to offer efficient filtration for your aquarium without the need for complex plumbing setups. While overflow and sump systems have their benefits, they may not always be practical due to space limitations or the size of the aquarium. In situations where quick setup and minimal equipment are necessary, such as hospital or quarantine tanks, hang-on-back filters provide a straightforward solution.

These filters are easy to set up – simply hang them on any open side of your aquarium. They contribute to better water flow, encourage gas exchange, and help remove suspended detritus. The adjustable intake depth allows you to customize water motion, while the inclusion of pre-seeded bio-media provides instant biological filtration, reducing the accumulation of harmful substances. Additionally, the generous media basket area accommodates chemical filtration media like activated carbon, making these filters versatile options for small to medium-sized aquariums.

Key Features:
– Versatile media basket for mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration needs
– Adjustable flow for customizable filtration
– Built-in maintenance monitor for easy upkeep
– Surface-skimmer inlet for efficient debris removal
– Quick and straightforward setup without the need for plumbing

1. Penn Plax Cascade HOB Power Filter

While the Penn Plax Cascade HOB power filter might not be the top-rated option on the market, it offers incredible value for its $50 price point. I personally use the Cascade 300, designed for 55-100-gallon aquariums, on my 40-gallon breeder tank, and it performs admirably, providing a slight overpowered advantage that I find beneficial.

Available in various sizes, the Cascade series provides a straightforward setup with a basic utility pump, a removable plastic baffle, and a simple black sponge. I usually use filter floss in the rear chamber, occasionally adding a mesh bag filled with activated carbon.

This is just a less expensive option, and it has worked well for me.