When it comes to aquarium filtration, many of us don’t have much time to worry about fancy high-maintenance filters. That`s why most of us have selected Hang on back filters (HOB) for our aquariums.

However, we usually look for the easiest, simplest method to keep our fish happy and healthy. So let’s see some cool hacks to make our filters super efficient and easier to use.

Replace Disposable cartridges with Reusable Filter Media

Hack number one is about filter media. If your hang-on back filter comes with disposable cartridges, you can replace them with reusable filter media.

Filter media for Hang on back filter
Filter media for Hang on back filter

Usually, the companies give you disposable cartridges that should be replaced every month as they can keep making money. But instead, you can use reusable filter media, such as bio sponges and ceramic rings. 

By doing so, you can customize the mechanical, chemical, or bio-filtration as per your requirement. Read our aquarium filter guide to dive deep into different types of filtration. 

Simply, most of us only consider mechanical and biofiltration. So you can use bio sponges or bio rings, which would act as both mechanical filtration and biofiltration.  They strain out particles that are in the water while housing a lot of beneficial bacteria.

If you need chemical filtration too, use a packet of activated carbon. They are used to remove medications or tenants from the water. Activated carbon is not reusable and you should replace them accordingly.

Cover the Filter Intake with a Prefilter Sponge

Pre filter sponge for hang on back filter
Pre-filter for hang-on back filter

Hack number two is to cover the filter intake. Most of the hang-on-back filters come with a porous cover at the inlet tube. But still, it can suck up your baby fish, plant leaves, or other debris and end up ruining your motor.

As a solution, you can cover it with a prefilter sponge. It not only protects your motor from getting burned up but also provides additional mechanical and biological filtration.

But make sure that you clean this sponge timely with your other filter media. Otherwise, it will get clogged up and reduce the filter efficiency. Just take that sponge off, squeeze it in water and switch it back. 

Grow Some Plants Inside the Filter

Live plants are great for absorbing toxic substances dissolved in the water such as Nitrates. But in some cases, you may not be able to keep live plants with your fish. Because some fish will unroot these plants away.

So if you still want to use live plants to purify your water from toxic nitrogen waste, you might consider growing plants in your filter.

Planted filter box of Aquarium
Planted filter box

This would require you to remove the lid of your hang-on back filter. Basically, you can try something like a pothole plant. Just cut off a little leaf and stick the stem part into the water. Then it will start growing roots, which is really cool.

As well as you can use meshed plastic cups to grow your plants inside the filter. So that way it’s easier to remove during cleaning, and you can trim off the roots if they get too long.

Actually, there are some hang-on-back filters that are specially designed to grow small plants.

Minimize Vibration Noises

Hack number four is to minimize vibration noises. Most of the modern hang-on-back filters have minimized these vibration noises. But if it is still noisy, you can try this hack.

Normally, vibration noises occur due to rubbing your filter against the tank rim. To minimize this noise, you can simply use a thin layer of sponge in between the tank and filter. Also, you can use rubber bands to prevent your filter from rubbing against the tank wall.

Hang on Back Filter Flow Controlling

If your filter has a too strong current coming out from it, even in the lowest setting, there are several ways to baffle it. 

Some people cut a water bottle in half and place it over the output of the filter. But it looks like a piece of trash and isn’t very pretty. So instead, you can buy a soap dish with a suction cup.

Then just place it right under the output flow of the filter and it will make the flow controlled. Some people like to put marble or even grow some moss in it. Because it helps to dampen the noise even more.

hang on back filter flow controlling
Hang on back filter flow controlling

A place to Hide your Heater (Hang on Back Filter with the Heater)

Hack number six is using your filter box to hide the aquarium heater. But this would depend on the size of your filter and your aquarium heater. Basically, they’re small flat heaters that could fit inside the filter box. 

Placing your heater inside the filter will help to distribute the heat in the aquarium more evenly while preventing any fish from getting stuck behind.

Use a WiFi Controlled Switch

When you’re doing water changes, you may want to turn off your filter to prevent pump dry runs. However, most of the filters can only be turned off by plugging them off and it can be hard to reach around the back of the tank to find where the outlet is.

As a solution, you can use a WiFi switch to operate your filter through your phone. Also, it allows you to check your phone to see whether the power is on and is running your filter. As well as if your hang-on-back filter has the self-priming ability, you can use WiFi switches to turn your filter on and off at any time, anywhere.

Make a Ring for Floating Plants

Ring for plants
Add a Ring for plants

If you have ever kept floating plants in your tank, you should have experienced how plants are pushed down by the waterfall of your hang-on back filter.

As a solution, you can use a ring formed using an air line tube to mark a border for plants. You can simply attach the ring to the tank wall using a suction cup. So then the waterfall would basically pour into the ring and it would prevent any of the floating plants from getting inside the ring.

Hang on Back Filter with Surface Skimmer

The last hack is to put a surface skimmer outflow box around the intake of your filter, which is pretty cool. Especially in saltwater aquariums, if you have kind of oily scum on the water surface, you can suck and clear it out using surface skimmers.

Adding Surface skimmer to hang on back filter
Adding a Surface skimmer

You can simply cut the intake pipe accordingly and connect the surface skimmer with a T joint that fits the tube. Then the water surface will get sucked in through the slits and pulled in through with the filter intake. Finally filters out through your filter media. 

As well as there are some filter brands like Hygger that produce hang-on-back filters with inbuilt surface skimmers.


Hang-on-back filters are known as good filters for beginner fish keepers. So with these simple hacks, you can further modify your hang-on back filter to get the best out of it. It will increase not only the filter efficiency but also the lifetime of your filter.

As usual, there are premade hang-on back filters with all of these modifications. You can simply purchase on Amazon. 

Best Hang on the Back Aquarium Filters


I am Prasanjaya who is an aquarium hobbyist for nearly a decade. I wish to help fishkeepers to get accurate and helpful information regarding every aspect of fishkeeping.

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