Undergravel Filter vs Power Filter: Comparison | Aquascape Addiction

Undergravel Filter vs Power Filter: Comparison

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Our detailed comparison of Undergravel Filter vs Power Filters, we cover the pro's and cons of each in depth to help you decide on which is right for you.

Undergravel Filter vs Power Filter: Comparison

There are many different types of filters that you can get for you aquarium and people always argue about which filters are the best overall. Well, today we are here to compare two of the most popular aquarium filter types, the undergravel filter and the power filter.

You obviously want a filter that will do its job and won’t ruin your budget either. So, let’s get right it and start this undergravel filter vs power filter debate.

Undergravel Filter vs Power Filter – Main Differences

There are certain difference between the undergravel filter and the power filter, so let’s just talk about those real quick.

  • Power filters easily clip onto the back of your aquarium, whereas undergravel filters require you to take out the gravel before you can put it in the aquarium.

  • Undergravel filters tend to take up more room inside of the aquarium, this eating up valuable real estate.

  • Power filters tend to be much more powerful and effective at filtering aquarium water. They have the ability to handle large amounts of water per hour and larger sized aquariums.

  • Power filters usually require a lot more maintenance and replacement media than undergravel filters.

  • Undergravel filters usually do not engage in all 3 major types of filtration like power filters do.

  • A good undergravel filter tends to be much less expensive and easier to find.

  • Undergravel filters will work with pretty much any aquarium set up, whereas power filters have trouble working with aquariums that have hoods.

Undergravel Filter – Pros & Cons

This type of filter does have some very big benefits, but just like with everything else out there, it does have a few drawbacks too. Let’s talk about why undergravel filters are good and what makes them bad at the same time. (Here is a separate post on how they actually work).


  1. A big pro is that they have minimal or no moving parts. The less moving parts there are the less parts there are which can break.

  2. Your gravel or substrate works as the filter media. This means not having to buy any additional filter media.

  3. Undergravel filters are virtually invisible and out of the way, or in other words, they help retain the aesthetics of your aquarium.

  4. These filters are very easy to set up and install.

  5. Undergravel filtration helps produce and spur on various biological and chemical reactions that help to keep your aquarium water clean.

  6. Undergravel filters tend to build up beneficial bacteria and microbial life fairly fast, which is great in terms of biological filtration.

  7. Undergravel filters tend to be fairly inexpensive and easy to find.

  8. These things are very versatile and can be used with various power heads, special media types, and other accessories to suit the exact needs of your aquarium.


  1. You need to vacuum and clean the substrate regularly in order for these filters to be effective. These filters pull down waste through the gravel, which means that it needs to be cleaned often.

  2. Undergravel filters do not do well in aquariums that have fish or other creatures which like to dig or burrow into the substrate. Their tunnels will create water flow channels with increased flow, thus sucking all the water through those channels and not really cleaning it in the process. At the same time the circulation throughout the rest of the substrate will be greatly decreased due to these channels.

  3. If you don’t take good care of the filter and regularly vacuum the substrate, it might create noxious gasses, rotten egg smells, and dead spots in your aquarium.

  4. They need to be installed before you put the gravel in your tank. You cannot install an undergravel filter if you already have the substrate in place.

  5. Another problem with undergravel filters is that smaller fish can actually get stuck under the plates or the whole mechanism. Fish might get sucked down or they might just get stuck down there.

  6. Undergravel filters produce quite a bit of water circulation, which can be an issue for rooted plants that cannot handle too much water flow. It may damage the roots, leaves, stems, or just kill them outright.

What We Think Is A Good Undergravel Filter

In case you were wondering about a good undergravel filter, below is what feel is a good option option to keep in mind in case you end up choosing this filter type.

Lee’s Premium Undergravel Filter

Lee’s Premium Undergravel Filter is a decent option to go with. Something that many people like about this particular undergravel filter is that it has very large plates which cover a big surface area. This means that it does not require a large amount of smaller plates like many other undergravel filters do.

The filter plates used are made of extremely strong materials and are built to last for a long time to come. They will do especially well in salt water and marine aquariums. It features a multi-level plate design in order to create a high amount of even water flow. It also comes with the necessary power heads for sending the cleaned water back up to the surface, thus creating an efficient water filtration cycle.


  • Very easy to set up.
  • Efficient mechanical and biological filtration.
  • Creates a good filtration cycle.
  • Large plates – require less of them.
  • Durable plastic.


  • Will need multiple ones for larger aquariums.
  • The shape of your aquarium needs to coincide with the shape of this filter.

You can check the price on Amazon here.

Power Filter – Pros & Cons

Just like the undergravel filter, power filters have their own benefits and drawbacks, but of course they do differ from undergravel filters in terms of what they excel at and what the cons are.


  1. Power filters can easily handle large amounts of water. You do need to get the right size, but they do tend to be fairly efficient at their job.

  2. Most power filters come in the hang on back variety, which means that they do not take up any space inside of the aquarium. This is great if you have a smaller aquarium.

  3. Power filters usually engage in all 3 major types of filtration. They usually always engage in mechanical, biological, and mechanical filtration in order to maintain great water quality.

  4. Power filters tend to be very easy to use and install.

  5. This type of filter, because it usually hangs on the back of your aquarium, is very easy to clean thanks to quick and easy accessibility.

  6. These filters are also very easy to maintain in terms of their filter media.

  7. Power filters tend to not be all that expensive.

  8. Power filters can usually handle a lot more water volume than undergravel filters.


  1. These filters do require a fair bit of maintenance. You need to take them apart every now and again to clean the internal components.

  2. Most power filters are somewhat sensitive to being submerged in water. They will often break if submerged.

  3. Power filters will require you to change the media, or at least clean the media every so often in order to keep the filter running well.

  4. While they are fairly inexpensive, power filters do tend to cost more than most undergravel filters.

  5. Power filters require an open top and are not very compatible with various hoods. This means that they can allow the evaporation of water and even allow fish to jump out of the aquarium.

  6. Power filters, as opposed to what their name implies, are usually not as powerful as canister filters.

What We Think Is A Good Power Filter

If you would like to get yourself a power filter, below is an option that we particulary like;

Fluval C Power Filter

This particular power filter is a decent option if you have an aquarium between 40 and 70 gallons in size. This bad boy can turn around over 264 gallons per hour, which means that it can effectively filter the water in a 65 gallon aquarium over 4 times per hour. This is amazing and will definitely serve to keep the water in your aquarium crystal clear.

You will really like this filter thanks to the fact that it is a simple clip on filter. You can simply clip it right onto the back of your aquarium, turn it on, and it is good to go. This filter is also very easy to clean and maintain, as you can simply open it up to get to the internal components. Another thing that you might like about the Flucal C Power Filter is that it is fairly quiet. It won’t disturb you or your fish, which is a bonus in our eyes.

The best part about the Fluval C Power Filter is that it engages in total 5 stage filtration to help keep your water as clean as can be. The first 2 stages include a mechanical and poly foam pad filtration technique which effectively performs 2 stages of mechanical filtration at once.

The third stage is a chemical activated carbon filter which helps to remove lots of water impurities, colors, and odors. The fourth and fifth stage engage in biological filtration and include a bio screen and bio nodes to remove ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates from the water by introducing beneficial bacteria into the aquarium.


  • Easy to set up.
  • Maintenance is a breeze.
  • Fairly quiet.
  • Extremely powerful and efficient.
  • 5 stages of filtration.


  • Finding replacement filter pads is somewhat difficult.
  • Impeller can get noisy with prolonged use.

You can check the price on Amazon here.


At the end of the day, when it comes to the undergravel filter vs power filter debate, the answer remains somewhat vague. You see, both types of filters work really well in their own way. It just depends on what kind of set up you have. It is up to you to use the info we have provided you with in order to figure out which filter will work better for your particular setup.

We have also compared Power and Canister filters here.