Best Filter for a Fry Tank

Fry are very vulnerable. To give them the best chance to survive and thrive in your aquarium, we need a filter that does not suck them up or harm them in any way. We believe there are three options to choose from that do this. Another option is to modify your existing filter if you don’t use any of the recommended filters. The recommendations we make here are as much for fish fry as they are for shrimp fry.

What is the best filter for a fry tank? The three best aquarium filters that are the best for fry are a sponge filter, an under gravel filter, and a Matten filter, These filters are the best because the cannot such up your fry. The standard canister filters and sumps will kill your fry, but you can make them fry proof.

Sponge Filter

Sponge Filter
Sponge Filter

A sponge filter is, in my opinion, the number one choice for a freight tank. The sponge filter has a large enough surface to provide excellent filtration for your tank. The filter does not have an inlet where it can suck fry into, and usually, the outlet of the sponge filter is not strong enough to harm your fry either. One significant advantage of a sponge filter is that that has a lot of surface area for your fly to graze on. Small particles and biofilm, you’ll be on the sponges. A lot of fry will be able to feast on them.

hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter, Comes with 2 Spare Sponges (S)Opens in a new tab.

Click the image above to see the item on Amazon.

Under Gravel Filter

With an Under gravel filter, you can have a low profile filter option for your aquarium. It does not have a big sponge or a larger inlet; It filters the water through the gravel. The only thing you will see in your aquarium is the outlet pipe. Because the water is filtered through the gravel, There’s no way the fry to get sucked into the filter.

Penn Plax Premium Under Gravel Filter System - for 40-55 Gallon Fish Tanks & Aquariums, Blue (CFU55)Opens in a new tab.

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Matten Filter

Mattenfilters are also an excellent option for your fry aquarium. Just like the previous two options, the way it is built, the Mattenfilter prevents any fry from getting sucked into the filter. Like the sponge filter, the Mattenfilter has a large surface area for your fry to graze on.


Modifying a Hang On Back Filter

Modifying a Hang On Back filter for fry is the same as all the following filters we discuss below. The goal of changing a filter for fry is to prevent the fry from entering the filter intake. The easiest way to do this is by sliding a sponge filter over the filter intake. For Hang ON Back filters, this modification is enough to make your filter fry proof.

For canister and Sumps, this is a good start but those filters have generally more suction power, a sponge on the intake might not be enough to spare your little fry.

Modifying a canister filter for fry

Canister filters are also filters that are very popular and a hobby. A lot of bigger aquariums have them. Because they are used often for bigger aquariums if they have a strong pump in them which means a lot of strong water flow. Your freight a very vulnerable and may find the strong water flow of the output of the canister filter too strong for them. If you have the option you might want to lower the power off the pump so the water flow isn’t that strong. Or you can fit another outlet that disperses the water flow. 

Maybe an even larger problem is the intake of a canister filter.

SunSun Hw302 265GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit, white - 9 Piece SetOpens in a new tab.

Click the image above to see the item on Amazon.

Especially in the beginning when they are just born, your small fry are not strong enough to cope with the strong suction of the intake. You can easily make sure they don’t fit in the filter intake. The two most common solutions for this are simple to do, you can put a mesh over the inlet, or better yet a sponge to fit over the inlet. Adde bonus to choosing a sponge is the added filtration and the extra surface area for biofilm to grow on. Most pet shops that sell aquarium filters will have these inlet meshes and pre-filter sponges usually for sale.

Modifying a Sump Filter for Fry

Sumps will have the same inlet problems that the canister filters will have. They have a big inlet where fry can be sucked into and a strong current from the outlet, which will be too strong for your fry. They will get exhausted from that. Depending on the inlet of your sump, a mesh or sponge might be fit on them.

sump filter
Sump Filter


When you have fish fry or little shrimplets, the main concern regarding filtration is the power of the water flow and the risk of the filter sucking up your fry. The first three filter options in the article, sponge filter, Mattenfilter, and the under gravel filter, are no risk to your fry. That being said, you can always modify the filtration you have if it’s not one of those three to make them “fry save.”

Related questions

Does fry need a cycled tank? Fry need a cycled aquarium. Fry are more fragile than adults, and they are more sensitive to changes in the water, such as the build-up of ammonia in an uncycled aquarium.

What is the best filter for a shrimp tank? Adult shrimp are a bit more adept in fighting the strong water flow of some filters, but the two best filters for shrimp have to be the sponge filter or the Mattenfilter. The slow water flow and the large surface area they have where your shrimp can graze makes them the best choice. 

Here we have a more in-depth article explaining what filter to choose.


My name is Jaap, and I am a passionate shrimp and fish enthusiast. I rediscovered my love for this hobby with my son and want to share our knowledge and tips with you on this aquarium blog. We cover topics such as setting up and maintaining an aquarium, feeding and breeding your shrimp and fish, and creating the perfect environment for them to thrive.

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