AquaClear 70 Power Filter Unboxed, Tested, & Reviewed (2024)

AquaClear have been a mainstay in the aquarium industry since 1978. Known for producing consistent, simple basket style hang-on-back filters that are built to last, I was excited to get my hands on one and put it through its paces.

In this guide, I share with you my test results, review the AquaClear HOB filter, and see how it compares to similar aquarium filters in this category.

At the end of this review, you’ll know if this is the right filter for you.

AquaClear 70 Power Filter Review Overview

Aquaclear 70 total review score chart

We tested five different filters in a head-to-head challenge to see which were the best.

This filter tied for second. It’s simple, reliable and I highly recommend it. I’ve used AquaClear filters of various sizes for years. I’m running them on two of my five tanks right now.

The AquaClear 70 has a large biomedia capacity and comes with high quality filter media. Everything you need to get started is already included.

Maintenance is fairly simple, you just have to pull the media out of the back of the filter. Make sure to have a bucket handy so you can prevent drips as you walk through the house.

Again, this is not the fanciest of the five filters, but it is a reliable workhorse that I would recommend to anybody.

AquaClear 70 Power Filter, Fish Tank Filter for 40- to 70-Gallon Aquariums, Black
AquaClear 70 Power Filter, Fish Tank Filter for 40- to 70-Gallon Aquariums, Black

    Last update on 2024-07-03 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    See our review guide on the best HOB filters reviewed & compared

    How I Test Hang-On-Back Filters

    We bought five different brands of hang-on-the-back filter so we could perform a head-to-head challenge that compared their pump strength and rated their features.

    The filters we tested:

    These are five of the most common hang-on-the-back filters on the market and we were thrilled to get our hands on them and really do a comparison. 

    To see our article comparing all five filters, please see our review round-up article for the best HOB filters

    GPH Testing

    For the GPH tests, we set up a sturdy storage tote filled with water.

    We attached the hang-on-the-back filters one at a time. We made sure to get them primed and that they were set for maximum flow.

    Then, we placed a 4 gallon (15 liter) container under the outflow of each filter. We timed how long it took for the 4 gallon container to fill with water.

    To be fair, we tested each filter four times. Two times with the filter completely empty and two times with all of the included filter media installed.

    Then we got to do math, yay! OK not really. Well, we did do math, but I don’t know that we enjoyed it all that much. 

    Here’s how we calculated everything. First, we converted all of the times to seconds because that made it all a whole lot easier.

    We averaged the two times for the filter running empty, and then separately, the two times with the media installed. 

    Then we took those averages and divided them by 4, that gave us the gallons per second. Last, we divided by 3,600, the number of seconds in an hour, by the gallons per second. That gave us the gallons per hour.

    Here’s an example of the process if the recorded times were 01:00 and 1:15.

    That would be 60 and 75 seconds, respectively.

    (60+75) ÷ 2 = 67.5 average time

    67.5 ÷ 4 = 16.88 gallons per second

    3600 ÷ 16.88 = 213.27 gallons per hour

    So, here is an overall comparison of all five filters:

    Hang on back filters gph with and without media comparison bar chart

    Overall, the AquaClear came in third when it came to GPH. But, as you can see, it held its own in the middle of the pack.

    The Marineland Penguin 375 blew the doors off of it’s competitors as far as GPH went, but I think the AquaClear outclasses the Marineland when it comes to features. 

    All of this GPH testing was done on new, super clean filters. As time goes by, filters can get clogged up with gunk, which reduces their GPH.

    Feature Testing

    We looked at the following features on each of the five filters:

    • Biomedia capacity – is there plenty of room to add biomedia?
    • Priming – can the filter prime itself? Or do you have to fill the back of the filter with water in order for it to start? Is it difficult to get the filter primed?
    • Filter media – does the filter come with all the filter media you need to get started? Or do you have to buy things separately? Is the filter media high quality?
    • Maintenance – is maintaining the filter each month difficult and/or messy?

    AquaClear 70 HOB Power Filter Review

    What’s in the Box?

    AquaClear hang-on-back-filter unboxed

    The contents of the box are pretty simple, there’s the filter itself, a large reusable sponge for mechanical filtration, a mesh bag of ceramic biomedia and a mesh bag of activated carbon.

    I love the quality of this media. The sponge and bag of ceramic biomedia are great and hold up really well over time.

    I’ve always liked the look of this filter. The outside is this grayish smoke-tinged clear plastic.

    You get an additional lift tube that you can add on to extend the length and let it go deeper into the tank.

    So, when we consider the features I discussed earlier, here’s how we felt about this filter:

    Biomedia Capacity

    AquaClear HOB filter biomedia capacity

    This filter has one of the largest spaces for biomedia in the industry. I’ve run moderately stocked tanks on just the biomedia that’s included.

    And, if you skip the activated carbon, you can double the amount of biomedia in the back of the filter. 

    It’s really great.


    My one complaint about this filter is the priming. It’s not awful, but it could be better. 

    This filter has an external motor, meaning the motor sits outside the tank instead of inside it. So, it can’t start pumping water unless it’s been primed, meaning the reservoir at the back of the filter is filled all the way with water.

    Make sure the reservoir is full when you’re trying to start this thing up, whether it’s the first time or after a water change. If the filter isn’t primed, the motor will keep running and can even burn itself out.

    Usually, you can just fill it up with water, plug it in and it starts chugging away. 

    But, every once in a while, it gets stupid after a water change and you have to fiddle with it to get it going again. If this happens, I would recommend taking the motor off and cleaning the impeller well. See more about this under the maintenance section below.

    Filter Media

    AquaClear filter media

    All the filter media you need to get started is included:

    • Reusable sponge for mechanical filtration
    • Ceramic media for biological filtration
    • Activated carbon for chemical filtration

    Personally, I don’t use activated carbon. But it’s there for anyone who does want to use it with this filter. You can buy replacement bags of carbon to switch out each month.

    The reusable sponge is great for catching any floating debris from the water column and is also a great place for beneficial bacteria to grow.

    The ceramic biomedia is also excellent. 

    Many times, I’ve run tanks using just the sponge and ceramic biomedia, some of them for years. You really do get super high quality media with this filter, it’s great. 

    The manufacturer recommends that you replace the sponge and ceramic media every 6 months but I couldn’t disagree more. Neither of these media needs to be replaced unless they are falling apart. They are usually good for the life of the filter, if not longer.


    Overall, maintenance on this filter isn’t bad at all. Inside the reservoir is this two-sided basket thingy with two handles that you hook your fingers into. You pull both handles up at the same time and it lifts out all of the filter media. 

    It can be a little awkward because the basket only has two sides and it drips a lot. I usually just put the media straight into a small bucket. 

    You just rinse the sponge and biomedia with dechlorinated water and replace the carbon with a new bag, if you so desire. 

    The lift tube and strainer are all one part, so you can’t detach the strainer. This can make getting the lift tube clean a little more difficult, but I still prefer it this way. 

    Many filters have issues with the strainer constantly coming off, like on the Tetra Whisper EX. Since it’s all one piece on the AquaClear, it can’t just fall off.  

    I would recommend taking the motor off once a month so you can clean out the impeller well. It’s easy to do, the whole thing just twists off the back of the filter, easy, peasy.

     The impeller itself just pulls right out. You can get the gunk out with Q-Tips or a narrow bottle brush and then rinse it out in the sink.

    All this maintenance takes about 20 minutes each month and really is not bad at all.

    Pros and Cons


    • Large biomedia capacity
    • Comes with all the filter media you need to get started
    • Excellent GPH 
    • Easily made shrimp safe
    • Simple maintenance


    • Requires priming to start
    • Can be finicky about starting after water changes

    AquaClear 70 Power Filter, Fish Tank Filter for 40- to 70-Gallon Aquariums, Black
    AquaClear 70 Power Filter, Fish Tank Filter for 40- to 70-Gallon Aquariums, Black

      Last update on 2024-07-03 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      How Does it Compare To Other HOB Filters?

      Over score comparison bar chart for hang-on-back filters

      In the overall head-to-head challenge, I did rank the Seachem Tidal higher while the Fluval C4 tied with the AquaClear for second.

      But, don’t count the AquaClear out! It is a reliable little workhorse that does a great job.

      I find it vastly superior to filters that rely on cartridges, like the Marineland and Tetra filters.

      If you are looking for a filter for your shrimp tank, all it takes is installing a sponge pre-filter on the lift tube and you’re ready to go. It’s much simpler to do with an AquaClear than with a Seachem Tidal since the AquaClear doesn’t have a surface skimmer.

      I will admit that the Seachem Tidal has more room for biomedia since its reservoir is so huge. But, I think the AquaClear does a much better job of catching plant leaves and other detritus out of the water column.

      The AquaClear, Seachem and Fluval filters all include high quality filter media. The Marineland and Tetra utilize filter cartridges, which I consider to be low quality filter media.

      The Fluval has a really innovative design that is fancier than the AquaClear 70. But, I know from experience that the AquaClear is simple and reliable. 

      I’ve used this kind of filter for years with great success. I’m not saying the Fluval isn’t great, but I know for a fact that this filter can take a beating and just keep going.

      Final Verdict

      As I said earlier, my biggest complaint about this filter is that you have to prime it. It can be a little touchy sometimes when it comes to starting up after power outages or water changes, but usually taking the motor off and cleaning the impeller well will get it going again.

      I love the filter media included with this. You can run a tank for years on the sponge and ceramic media alone.

      Maintenance is simple. I just wish that the media basket had four sides to make it a little less precarious. 

      You can really pack in some serious biomedia into the reservoir on this filter. It’s great. I even put extra in there to get it seasoned for starting new tanks.

      Overall, I think this is a great filter and I highly recommend it for beginners and veterans alike.

      I hope you find this article helpful.

      I wish you and your fish the very best!

      AquaClear 70 Power Filter, Fish Tank Filter for 40- to 70-Gallon Aquariums, Black
      AquaClear 70 Power Filter, Fish Tank Filter for 40- to 70-Gallon Aquariums, Black

        Last update on 2024-07-03 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

        Katherine Morgan
        Katherine Morgan

        Hey, there! I'm Katherine from Northwest Florida. An aquarium specialist, I've kept tanks for over two decades, enjoy experimenting with low-tech planted setups and an avid South American cichlid enthusiast.


        1. The fast way to prime an AquaClear filters is to fill it with water and turn it to the LOW setting. That seems to help it extract air from the tube much faster. You don’t have to have water in the tube. Once the flow gets going on LOW, you can set it to HIGH and it extracts the rest of the air. Takes about 20 seconds.

        2. Thank you so, so much for your very informative article! I didn’t realize I already had a great filter (Aquaclear 50 for a 24 gal tank) bought about 10 years ago. After another power outage, could not get the pump primed. Ready to call it quits until I read your article. Took the entire assembly apart and, as you recommended (and I remembered!), cleaned the intake propellor …. amazing little pump kicked in once plugged in again! Thoroughly cleaned entire pump and it is working great now! Calendar is marked for a once-a-month big clean. Thank you for your suggestion of just using sponge and ceramics – even for the life of the filter. (Have found the replacement schedule a bit heavy on the bank account). Will try doubling up the ceramics once this last charcoal filter is finished! Thanks again! Have now bookmarked your site.

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