How to Install a Fish Tank Hang-On Filter

Updated February 21, 2017

Fish tank hang-on filters are one of the most popular type of filtration devices for all types of aquariums. Since they can be purchased with everything you need included in one box, they are easy to install. A correctly installed fish tank hang-on filter keeps your pet fish's habitat sparkling clear and healthy.

Purchase a hang-on fish tank filter that is appropriately rated for the gallon capacity of your aquarium. Most commercial filters state right on the box how many gallons they can handle filtering.

Unpack the hang-on filter and arrange all the included parts. There should be a plastic filter box, plastic tubes and a small motor attached to a power cord. A filter medium cartridge will also be included.

Position the hang-on aquarium filter on the back or one of the sides of the fish tank. This should ideally be somewhere both accessible and less visible than other parts of the aquarium. The filter should not obstruct the view of the fish or tank decorations. If necessary, use a sharp tool to cut a piece out of a plastic aquarium cover so that the hang-on filter can fit easily.

Attach the plastic tube provided in the box, or a separately purchased tube, to the water intake tube on the hang-on fish tank filter. Ideally, the end of this tube should come within a few inches of the bottom of your fish tank. This facilitates the mixing and filtration of all the water in the aquarium and not just that in the top level. The end of the tube should consist of a mesh or slotted attachment to prevent fish and large waste from being sucked up.

Connect the tube assembly to the plastic device that forms a U-bend with the filter motor on one end. This bent piece sits securely over the edge of the hang-on fish tank filter. Push the motor gently into position and extend the plastic intake tube far enough into the fish tank.

Slide the premade filter cartridge into the filter box in the correct position. If no premade filter cartridge is provided, you will have a fuzzy white fabric sleeve, a plastic form and a small bag of activated charcoal. Rinse everything before using. Then dump the charcoal into the fabric bag and slide this onto the plastic form. There may be a clip to close at the top before inserting this assembly into the hang-on filter box.

Prime the hang-on aquarium filter by filling it up with water from the fish tank. Plug the filter into a nearby electrical socket while continuing to pour water into the filter box slowly to maintain the fill level. This will keep the pump primed, and the water will begin to flow up the intake tube into the filter within a matter of seconds. Your hang-on fish tank filter is now installed and working to keep your aquarium clean.

Things You'll Need

  • Electric outlet
  • Filter media
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