When it comes to aquarium power filters, how do you choose between two of the top names on the market, the Marineland Emperor Power Filter or the Hagen AquaClear Power Filter? Hopefully, this guide will help you choose the best power filter for your aquarium set-up.

Power Filter Comparison

Emperor 280
up to 50 gallons
280 GPH
AquaClear 20
5 – 20 gal
100 GPH
AquaClear 30
10 – 30 gal
150 GPH
AquaClear 50
20 – 50 gal
200 GPH
Emperor 400
up to 80 gallons
400 GPH
AquaClear 70
40 – 70 gal
300 GPH
AquaClear 110
60 – 110 gal
500 GPH


As you can see from the above table, the two Emperor Power Filters cover a wider range of aquarium sizes, while the AquaClear Power Filters are designed as multiple filters that fit a more specific aquarium size.

The Emperor 280 covers the same maximum aquarium size as the AquaClear 20, 30, and 50 combined. However, the Emperor 280 has a higher maximum output than the three AquaClear power filters. Maximum output is the water being filtered per hour, measured in gallons for the United States.

The Emperor 400 has a maximum aquarium size that falls in between two of the AquaClear power filters, the AquaClear 70 and 110. The maximum output of the Emperor 400 also falls in between the AquaClear 70 and 110 maxium outputs, as well.

How Do I Calculate the Maximum Output I Need?

Typically, Maximum Output is calculated by the aquarium size multiplied by how often the water needs to be “turned over.” For example, if you have a 50 gallon aquarium and are doing a Freshwater Fish-Only aquarium (which needs to be “turned over” 4 times an hour), you would multiply 50 by 4, resulting in a 200 gallon/hour Maximum Output.

Turnover rates in aquariums vary. However, here are a few general rules for turn over rate:

Type of Aquarium Turnover Rate/Hour
Freshwater Fish-Only 4
Freshwater Planted 2
Aquariums with Small Freshwater Fish or Bettas 2
Freshwater Aquariums with Large Fish (More Waste) 5-6
Saltwater Fish-Only 5-10+
Saltwater Reef 10-20+


If you are worried about your maximum output being affected by filter media, clogged filters, etc, you can adjust your maximum output by 1 or choose a filter with the next highest maximum output.

Should Maximum Output Affect My Power Filter Choice?

You would think that a higher maximum output would be a good thing, since your water is being filtered faster and would therefore be cleaner. However, the current created in your aquarium due to the high maximum output can be hard on your fish, depending on the size of your aquarium. If you were to put the Emperor 280 on a 10 gallon aquarium, the current created by the 280 gallons/hour output would not be enjoyable to your fish. If you were to put the Emperor 280 on an aquarium that is closer in size to 50 gallons, the current would not affect your fish. If you plan to heavily stock your aquarium, a higher maximum output isn’t a bad thing, especially if those fish are on the larger side.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line comes down to what size your aquarium is, what you plan to put in your aquarium, and the maximum output that you need to keep your fish comfortable. A 50 gallon freshwater fish aquarium with regular-sized fish should probably go with an AquaClear 50. However, that same 50 gallon freshwater fish aquarium with larger fish should probably go with an Emperor 280. On the other side of the spectrum, that 50 gallon aquarium being used as a saltwater aquarium could need either the Emperor 400 or AquaClear 110.

Do your math, figure out the specs on your aquarium, and you will be able to choose which power filter is the best choice for you!

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