The 10 Best Aquarium Canister Filters

  • By:

    Casey Fenn
    Casey Fenn

    Author: Casey Fenn

    Casey Fenn has 3+ years of experience in writing content. He lives in western North Carolina with his wife, four children, and an assortment of farm animals — including a dog, twenty chickens, a handful of quail, and one milk cow. Casey specializes to write articles in Dog Care, Cat Care, and Tips for Aquarium Owners.

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  • Updated on: 02/18/2021

There are many kinds of models on the market; to choose the most suitable aquarium model, you need to know about the types of filtration and the most popular types. Each filter has its advantages and disadvantages.

best canister filters for aquarium

Filters are created specifically for processing these bacteria. Thus, a filter’s water purification allows for maintaining optimal living conditions for fish in the aquarium’s closed ecosystem.

Our TOP-3 Rated Aquarium Canister Filters

The chart below is our choice on our the best 3 picks:

Products

Benefits

Links

Our #1 Rated
penn plax cascade canister filter

1. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter

  • Sturdy external filter that can be used with saltwater or freshwater tanks up to 100 gallons (0.38 m³).

  • Handy 360-degree rotating flow valves for the tightest fits.

  • Take advantage of extra-large stackable media trays that accept a variety of options, including bio-floss, bio-sponge, bio-rings, and more.

  • Push-button primer and user-friendly design make it easy to set up, run, and maintain.

Our #2 Rated
fluval fx6 canister filter

2. Fluval FX6 Canister Filter

  • Powerful 925GPH pump enables this filter to be used in tanks up to 400 gallons (1.51 m³).

  • Advanced monitoring system maintains peak pump performance at all times.

  • Includes top-quality media that provides consistent mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.

  • Automation systems make it a snap to start and maintain.

Our #3 Rated
aqueon quietflow canister filter 200 gph

3. Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter

  • Offers a 200GPH pump that's perfect for 55 gallon (0.21 m³) or fewer tanks.

  • Includes three media baskets and preloaded media, including carbon, coarse foam, bio balls, and bio-ceramic rings.

  • Choose between traditional water return options (spray bar or water director) or a one-of-a-kind water polishing unit that hooks to the back of the aquarium.

*Ratings are formed by the Author of the article and based on own research and customer reviews.

Fish Tank Canister Filters Reviews

1. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter

penn plax cascade canister filter
Our #1 Rated

Penn Plax Cascade filters are known for being one of the top brands globally, and this product is no different. It offers everything you could want out of a quality system, including large capacity media trays that can easily be swapped out and cleaned, a simple primer button, 360-degree valves for hard to reach places, and numerous accessories.

And perhaps the best thing of all is that they offer these features in five different models that can be used in 30 gallons (0.11 m³), 65 gallons (0.25 m³), 100 gallons (0.38 m³), 150 gallons (0.57 m³), and 200-gallon tanks, respectively.

Pros

Cons

  1. This is a sturdy external filter that can easily be used in marine or freshwater tanks up to 100 gallons (0.38 m³).
  2. The extra-large, stackable media trays give you the ability to use numerous media, including bio-floss, bio-sponge, bio-rings, and more.
  3. It includes 360-degree valves and a push-button primer, making it one of the most convenient brands.
  4. No matter the size of your tank.
  1. None

2. Fluval FX6 Canister Filter

fluval fx6 canister filter
Our #2 Rated

If you’re looking for a true powerhouse, you’ve found it. This model is a professional grade filter that includes all the bells and whistles you’d expect from an MSRP product.

And not only does it use the latest technology to offer self-starting action, a smart pump, and extra-large media trays, it can be used with tanks up to 400 gallons (1.51 m³)! If you want the best of the best (and are willing to pay for it), you can’t go wrong with the Fluval FX6.

Pros

Cons

  • Includes an incredible 925GPH pump that will allow you to effectively filter water in tanks up to 400 gallons (1.51 m³)!
  • Offers high-capacity (1.5 gallons (5.68 l)) media trays that can be customized to your needs and desires, giving you the exact filtration you want.
  • Fluval offers several other less-powerful units that include many of the features of this one.
  • None

3. Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter

aqueon quietflow canister filter 200 gph
Our #3 Rated

Whether you’re looking for a high-quality filter to use in a marine aquarium or a freshwater tank, this product is a great option. It comes preloaded with filtration media that will filter your water biologically, chemically, and mechanically, eliminating waste, harmful bacteria, and toxins. And it will do it all with little more than a low hum.

Pros

Cons

  • This filtration system includes a 200GPH pump that works perfectly with 55-gallon tanks (and less).
  • You won’t have to worry about finding filtration media when you purchase this tank. It comes preloaded with several media that will get you up and running right out of the box.
  • Some water return options are available, including traditional methods as well as a water polishing unit that hooks to the back of your tank.
  • Aqueon offers several other, more powerful options if you have a 75-gallon tank or a 100-150 gallon (0.57 m³) aquarium.
  • Fluval offers several other less-powerful units that include many of the features of this one.

4. Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter

marineland magniflow canister filter

Over the past several years, Marineland has built a reputation for building some of the best aquarium canister filters out there.

This product is a great example why. It offers one of the best seals you’ll find on any filter and includes a number of features that make setup and maintenance a simple affair. And since it’s backed by a limited 3-year warranty, you can make this purchase without the danger of buyer’s remorse.

Key Features:

  • Includes unique Black Diamond Carbon system that eliminates bad odors and water discoloration/impurities.
  • Three tray filtration system that offers comprehensive filtration, biologically, chemically, and mechanically.
  • Offers bio-filter balls and ceramic rings to boost bio spire growth.

Pros

Cons

  • Includes a unique Black Diamond Carbon system that eliminates foul odors, impurities, and water discoloration.
  • This is a three-tray filtration system that provides comprehensive biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration.
  • When you purchase this model, you’ll get bio-filter balls and ceramic rings to encourage the growth of beneficial bio-spires.
  • It’s a relatively small unit that includes the features you want at a price you can afford
  • Several consumers have complained about leaks over time.

5. Eheim Classic 250 External Aquarium Canister Filter

eheim classic 250 external aquarium canister filter

The Eheim Classic 250 External Aquarium Canister Filter is named well. It provides that classic and dependable Eheim filtration without the bells and whistles that more expensive units offer. But that’s not a knock on this unit at all.

Sometimes, you don’t need another “smart” feature, you just want something that will give you the biological and mechanical filtration you need while keeping your tank water circulating. And that’s what this unit offers. It gets the job done. So, if that’s what you’re looking for… you’ve found it.

Key Features:

  • Offers high-quality mechanical and biological filtration along with continual water circulation and oxygen enrichment.
  • Includes everything you need to get started, right out of the box — including media, valves, hoses, and more.
  • Permo-elastic silicone ring ensures the pump headed is always sealed correctly after cleaning.

Pros

Cons

  • This unit offers high-quality mechanical and biological filtration along with continual water circulation and oxygen enrichment.
  • It includes everything you need to get started, right out of the box — including media, valves, hoses, and more.
  • It features a permo-elastic silicone ring that ensures the pump headed is always sealed correctly after cleaning.
  • Eheim offers this unit in 40 gallon (0.15 m³), 66 gallon (0.25 m³), and 92 gallon (0.35 m³) models.
  • Some users have had issues with units with broken shafts, clips, etc., right out of the box.
  • Some consumers have complained about leaks.

6. Aquatop Forza Canister Filter with UV Sterilization

aquatop forza canister filter with uv sterilization

Aquatop consistently offers innovative, high-quality products that seldom disappoint. The Aquatop Forza Canister Filter with UV Sterilization is no exception. This unit includes the mechanical and biological media you’ll need to get started right out of the box.

And you can use their patented carbon canister cartridges to get top-notch chemical filtration as well. If you’re looking for crystal clear water, you don’t need to look any further. This unit will offer everything you’ve been searching for and more.

Key Features:

  • Take advantage of this filter’s advanced integrated systems, which offer complete mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration.
  • Use the unique UV sterilization system that eliminates unhealthy bacteria and algae.
  • User-friendly design makes it easy to get up and to run — right out of the box.
  • Includes several helpful accessories, such as a surface skimmer, convenient lift handle, quick, color-coded disconnect valve, and more.

Pros

Cons

  • This product offers advanced integrated systems that provide complete mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration.
  • Take advantage of this unit’s user-friendly design that makes it easy to get up and to run — right out of the box.
  • It includes several helpful accessories, such as a surface skimmer, convenient lift handle, quick, color-coded disconnect valve, and more.
  • It uses a specialized UV sterilization bulb that purifies water even better than traditional methods.
  • Some users have complained that it doesn’t reach the advertised 495GPH water flow.
  • Some units were shipped with bad UV lights that have had to be replaced.

7. SunSun HW-603B Aquarium Canister Filter

sunsun hw-603b aquarium canister filter

If you’re looking for a canister filter that’s built for smaller tanks (up to 20 gallons (75.71 l)), this is one of the best fish tank canister filters on the market. It can be used in both marine and freshwater tanks and offers comprehensive mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. And since it includes everything you’ll need to get started, you can hook it up and get it running immediately.

Key Features:

  • 106GPH pump makes this the perfect canister filtration system for saltwater and freshwater tanks up to 20 gallons (75.71 l).
  • Can be used alone or as a prefilter with another
  • Includes extra space to add mechanical, biological, and chemical filtering media.
  • User-friendly design makes this easy to get up and to run — and no manual siphoning is needed!

Pros

Cons

  • Several users have complained about the strength of the pump not being up to par.
  • Several users have complained about the strength of the pump not being up to par.
  • This filter’s 106GPH pump makes it the perfect system for saltwater and freshwater tanks up to 20 gallons (75.71 l).
  • It can be used alone or in a larger tank as a prefilter.
  • Its user-friendly design makes this an easy product to get up and running quickly — and there’s no manual siphoning needed!
  • Several users have complained about the strength of the pump not being up to par.

8. Fluval 106 External Canister Filter

fluval 106 external canister filter

Over the past several years, Fluval has gained quite the reputation for creating high-quality canister filters that offer great filtration, minimal maintenance, and a quieter operation than many of their competitors.

All of those things (and more) describe this model. Not only is it a powerful system that can be used with tanks up to 30 gallons (0.11 m³), it’s 15% quieter than its predecessor. It may be small, but it’s highly effective.

Key Features:

  • Simple design makes this one of the easiest filters to set up and maintain.
  • Up to 15% quieter than its predecessor, the Fluval 305.
  • Will effectively clean saltwater and freshwater tanks up to 25 gallons.
  • Clog-proof intake strainer and dual-layer foam screen minimize the maintenance frequency.

Pros

Cons

  • Its simple design makes this one of the easiest on the market to set up and maintain.
  • It’s up to 15% quieter than its predecessor, the Fluval 305.
  • A clog-proof intake strainer and dual layer foam screen minimize maintenance frequency.
  • Some users have complained that it isn’t quite powerful enough to maintain a 30 gallon (0.11 m³) tank — even when it’s just housing goldfish.
  • Some consumers have complained about leaks.

9. Marineland Multi-Stage C-530 Aquarium Canister Filter

marineland multi stage c 530 aquarium canister filter

Marineland’s Multi-Stage C-530 Aquarium Canister Filter is a prime example of why they’ve become one of the leading brands creating aquarium filtration systems today. This three-stage system offers biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration that will keep your water looking clean and smelling fresh.

And the fact that there’s no bypass option means it can only put out filtered freshwater. If you want to keep your fish feeling healthy, there’s no better way than with this unit.

Key Features:

  • Offers comprehensive biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration with an advanced three-stage system.
  • Includes bio-filter balls that are designed to remove ammonia and nitrites while cultivating healthy bacteria growth.
  • Does not have a bypass option, so only clean water will ever return into your tank.
  • Powerful 530GPH pump is specially designed for tanks up to 150 gallons (0.57 m³).

Pros

Cons

  • This unit offers comprehensive biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration with an advanced three-stage system.
  • It includes bio-filter balls that are designed to remove ammonia and nitrites while cultivating healthy bacteria growth.
  • Take advantage of this unit’s powerful 530GPH pump specially designed for tanks up to 150 gallons (0.57 m³).
  • The water-tight canister lid can easily be removed, making cleaning and maintenance less of a chore.
  • Some consumers have complained about this unit sucking in air, creating issues with the unit functioning properly.
  • A handful of users has complained about the unit being exceptionally loud and getting hot.

10. Polar Aurora 4-Stage External Canister Filter

polar aurora 4 stage external canister filter

For years, Polar Aurora canister filters have been seen as a brand that consumers can trust. They’re known for offering high capacity media storage, powerful pumps, and innovations that go above and beyond the competition. And this 4-stage filter puts all of those qualities on display, making it one of the best on the market.

If you’re looking for an external filter that is highly effective and budget-friendly, look no further than this product. It’s top-quality at a reasonable price.

Key Features:

  • 525GPH pump allows it to be effectively used for tanks up to 200 gallons (0.76 m³).
  • Includes four media trays for maximum mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.
  • Built-in UV sterilizer keeps algae and unhealthy bacteria at bay.
  • Simple design makes it easy to use and maintain.

Pros

Cons

  • It includes a 525GPH pump that allows it to be effectively used solo with tanks up to 200 gallons (0.76 m³).
  • A built-in UV sterilizer ensures that your tank’s water remains free from unhealthy bacteria, algae, and other unwelcome microscopic organisms.
  • Enjoy comprehensive filtration — including mechanical, chemical, and biological — thanks to its high-capacity, customizable media storage trays.
  • If this unit is too much, you can find similar units for 75-gallon tanks and 100-gallon aquariums.
  • Some consumers have complained about this unit being too loud.
  • Parts are constructed from relatively thin plastic, which has been known to become brittle and break over time.

READ MORE: TOP Rated Fish Tanks

Types of Aquarium Filters

Electric

Have many modifications that can solve any problem in both amateur and professional/commercial aquariums. This group’s advantages include high performance, versatility (can provide all types of filtration), and a wide range of applications (available for all kinds of aquariums). They are divided into internal and external; i.e., they are located inside the aquarium or outside.

Air

Have a simple design, low cost, and low energy consumption; however, they perform poorly and are not recommended for large aquariums. These filters are located exclusively inside aquariums.

Main Filtration Methods

Mechanical filtration

Water is cleaned from stable suspensions (mud from the new soil, fish excrement, pieces of dead leaves, uneaten food remnants, etc.) using porous materials. The quality criterion for mechanical filtration is water transparency.

Biological Filtration

Water is purified from toxic nitrogen compounds (ammonia, ammonium, nitrites) during a fish’s life. Hazardous substances are processed by useful bacteria that naturally inhabit the filter materials or select carriers provided in the filtration system.

Chemical Filtration

Purifies water from organic compounds, such as ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide. Cleaning is based on a chemical reaction between organic compounds and special fillers (activated carbon, zeolite, phosphate scavengers) in the filter material. 

It is worth noting that even the most detailed filters (electric or air) carry out two types of filtration — mechanical and biological. More expensive filters can perform three filtration methods at once.

READ MORE: How to Take Care of a Freshwater Fish Tank

FAQs

best aquarium canister filtersSource: puertoricoanimalunite.org

👉 How does a canister filter work?

Canister filters work by pumping water out of your aquarium, into a canister, and through various filtration media. Once the water has been filtered, it’s routed through another hose back into the tank. Since canister filters are generally more extensive and more powerful than internal, they’re often stored in the stand underneath the aquarium to minimize noise and save space. Pumping water through an external filter offers several benefits, including…

  • Removing particulate matter and debris more effectively.
  • Requiring less of a mess to clean and maintain.
  • Working with larger tanks, even up to and beyond 125-gallon aquariums.
  • Offering greater flexibility allows you to mix and match various kinds of filtration media, enabling you to achieve comprehensive chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration.

🐟 How to set up a canister filter for an aquarium?

A canister filter is a great option, no matter how large or small your aquarium is. Whether you have a 20-gallon tank with a handful of goldfish or a 100-gallon aquarium housing a family of turtles, you can take advantage of the many benefits of a canister filter. And one of the best things about them is that they’re so easy to set up!

Once you’ve got your tank and filter unboxed and ready for setup, you’ll want to begin by getting everything situated where you’ll want it to stay. The last thing you’ll want to do is get everything set up and filled with water, only to realize that you really wanted to have it on the other side of your bedroom. Once you’ve got everything in its proper place, you’ll need to remove any media baskets from your filter and ensure that they are filled with the kind of media you want to use. Generally, you’ll need to install any mechanical media in the first try, biological media in the second tray, and chemical media in the third (and fourth, if it’s available) tray.

After your media’s been properly installed, you’ll want to follow the instructions for preparing the intake hose according to your filter’s instructions. Then, you’ll prepare the output. Both of these processes should be similar to each other.

Once everything is in place, you’ll need to turn your filter on and prime it if necessary. Before long, you should see water running through the filter and back into the aquarium. Keep an eye on it for several hours to ensure no mechanical or other issues arise. It’s normal for it to slightly rattle or make other noises when it’s getting started; however, these should die down after it gets going.

💡 How to prime a canister filter?

The way to prime is generally going to vary depending on your filtration system’s brand and model. However, priming most modern canister filters is as simple as holding down or repeatedly pushing the priming button.

If this doesn’t work, there are several workarounds, depending on your system. For example, you may want to take the intake hose out of the tank and pour some water down it into the filter. This may be enough to get the pump working hard enough to begin pulling water from the tank after you replace the hose. If you can’t seem to get it to prime, you may want to look at the manual that came with your filter or call the manufacturer’s helpline.

🐡 How often does a Canister Filter need to be cleaned?

Your canister filter keeps the water in your tank fresh and clean. If it gets dirty or clogged up, your fish’s water will inevitably begin to stagnate and even stink. So, cleaning and maintaining your canister filter is a necessity for the health of your fish and the cleanliness of your home. But how often should you clean it?

It’s good to get in the habit of cleaning at least once every six to eight weeks. However, you should also be on the lookout for signs that you may need to clean it sooner. For example…

  • Has the water in your aquarium become cloudy or started giving off a foul odor?
  • Have you tested your water and found that it’s high in nitrates?
  • Do you find your canister filter getting clogged more and more often?
  • Do you see particulate matter and other debris floating throughout the water?

If you can answer “Yes” to any of the above questions, there’s a good chance that you should clean your filter, even if you haven’t reached the six-week mark.

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1 comments

George Whiteon December 29, 2020

May I start by saying that we have had so many problems with our fish tank filters! Cheapest is definitely not best! Our last two stopped working within weeks. While looking for a new canister filter with a heater included, I stumbled across this article and it has been so helpful, so thank you! I also choosing the best one with a UV sterilizer thanks to your recommendations.

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