AquaMaxx HOB Filter With Protein Skimmer

Our Favorite 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

New company name, same item.  Previously offered from AquaMaxx, AquaReady is a new Aperture brand that will include a lot of the old line-up from AquaMaxx, and a whole bunch of new things as well.  

AquaMaxx is like your Amazon Basics.  Good products, lower price. I don’t use this system currently, although I have it.  It’s well made but I doubt the protein skimmer will do a heck of a lot.  But, it has a clear back to it perfect for a refugium light, so a small skimmer with a refugium… now we’re talking!

It also has probe holders and connectors for dosing, which is certainly a nice touch.  It’s big though, so meant for tanks at least 20 gallons in size.

Check out 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

I own this, and I use this.  It is hanging on my IM 40 FOWLR tank which I’m staring at right now and realizing I need to scrape the glass!  It’s simple, and works well.  I run an Eco Chic light on the top, and than an IM refugium light sticking off of the clear panel on the back.  I made an assembly video for this HOB refugium, and I’ll link it below.

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

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: Sicce Nano (110 GPH)
– Power Consumption: 2.8 Watts

2. Seachem Tidal HOB Power Filter

I own this and I use it in my quarantine tank.  I mean there’s just not much to talk about.  It does its job by sucking water in, running it through a sponge and whatever media you put in there, and that’s it. Yeah, it does have a surface protein skimmer which will help remove that glossy protein that can cover the surface of a tank.  But this little filter is just so much more expensive than the filter below, that I can’t rely justify the price. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I like Seachem, I like this product, but I would happily pay half price for the Penn Plax Cascade below!

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.

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