12 Best Canister Filter for Fish Tank - 2020 Update Review

best canister filter review

Looking for the perfect canister filter to keep the fishes healthy and happy? Well, you have come to the right place. The aquarium is the home for the fishes. Just like you clean your home, the aquarium needs to be cleaned to let the fishes thrive. 

The filter will clean out all the unwanted food particles, dirt, or debris and create a sound environment so that the fishes can live a healthy life. Picking up the right canister filter is vital to create a healthy environment in the aquarium.

There is a gazillion of different canister filters in the market; however, their effectiveness isn’t the same. We have picked out the best canister filters in the market so that your aquatic pets can live a healthy and comfortable life in the aquarium.

Considerations to Choose the Best Canister Filter

The preference for the best canister filter generally varies from person to person. If you want to choose the best canister filter for your setup, consider and follow the factors we’re mentioning below:

Durability

The canister filter you’re buying must be well-built so that it’s able to guarantee you an excellent long-term service. Usually, almost all canister filters are made out of plastic. So, no matter which canister filter you’re buying, make sure that the plastic used to create the one you’re buying is secure and can ensure a longer life.

Purpose

When choosing the perfect canister filter for the tank, the most crucial factor you should consider is the filter’s purpose. This means that you must keep in mind the capabilities of the filter and your filtration needs.

Before you choose the filter, you should ask yourself questions such as whether the canister you want is capable enough to handle the flow, volume, and versatility you need, among other needs.

You can get the perfect canister filter for the tank by considering to purchase the one that features a higher flow rate. Canister filters with a higher flow rate can complete the entire filtration process within a short amount of time.

Adaptability

It’s also important to consider where you want to keep the canister filter located. If you have a stand for your aquarium, you can simply try hiding it in one of the cabinets’ compartments. However, if the filter’s tall, you might have to look at other ways to conceal or make it complement the fish tank.

The motors

The motors can help you pump the water into the filter so that you’re able to start the filtration process. Make sure that the canister filter you’re buying has great motors that can easily help pump the water.

You should also make sure that the filter you’re buying features motors that have the ability to be reliable based on efficiency and maintenance. There are some filters that feature more maintenance requiring motors. With these kinds of filters, you might have to open up the unit more often, which is always not a great thing for a canister filter.

Moreover, the motors also determine the operation of canister filters. Specifically speaking, motors can let you know whether the filter you’re buying will operate quietly or be making loud, obnoxious noises as soon as it’s turned on.

Tank size

The tank size is another major important factor you must keep in deep consideration when you’re out shopping for the best canister filter. Not all canister filters are suitable for various tank sizes.

So, no matter which canister filter has got your attention, you must read the product’s description. As a result, you’ll understand the size of the tank it can easily filter. Nearly all of them would be rated 10 gallons, 20-gallon, 29-gallon, 55-gallon, and even more.

However, if you find this piece of information missing from the product description, then you must contact the customer support team to help yourself out. They’ll be able to give you the information you require regarding which model of canister filters have the ability to filter tanks perfectly.

Brands

When it comes to the matter of brand names, it can be said undoubtedly that they definitely play a huge role, doesn’t matter whether small or large tanks. The brands that are reviewed in this article are very well in doing their job efficiently.

You can always remain sure that the products that are going to be delivered to you will work as advertised. Still, if you want to go for other brands, you should do a little research to see if their products are trustworthy; since some manufacturers will claim to offer you the best, only to leave you feeling disappointed.

Filtration process

Canister filters consist of 3 types of filtering stages: mechanical, chemical, and biological. Best canister filters usually feature media trays for each stage. So, if the one that you’re buying is capable of using all three of these stages, you’ll be able to provide yourself with the best results.

Budget

It’s very common for a person to set a budget which he’s willing to spend on a canister filter. However, the best budget canister filter to purchase should not only be based on your affordability but also be based on a number of important things.

So, before you set on a specific budget, you must take some time in order to inspect different prices and filters. When you start to compare different products, you might get surprised by how much you’ll get just for a low price.

If you want quick access to budget-friendly canister filters, you can try checking out online stores. They’re a great place to start, and they feature a variety of affordable, yet trustworthy canister filters.

Types of Media Canister Filters Use

Canister filters use a variety of filtration media. They usually have media trays, baskets, or chamber to provide the right type of filtration. 

Mechanical Media

The job of mechanical media is the simplest to conduct. Its purpose is to collect the waste and removing it from the system. The most common types of mechanical filter media are filter pads, filter floss, and foam block.

Among them, foam block is used in most of the canister filters in the market. Its reusable structure makes it highly cost-effective, and you can use it for a long time without the need for any replacement.

Chemical Media

There are many different types of chemical media used in the canister filter. However, the most common one is carbon. Carbon is highly effective in removing discoloration, odors, and harmful chemicals from the water.

This one is highly important if you have a reef tank or a planted tank. The other types of chemical media used in the filter are granular ferric oxide, ammonia chips, crushed coral, etc. 

Biological Media 

Biological media creates a bacterial colony in the tank that mimics the natural aquatic environment. They create a physical surface for the bacteria to thrive and grow. Some canister filters come with bio balls that work exceptionally well in large tanks. Many filters come with a rock-like bio-media that can be easily fit in the canister. You can also use a scoop of surface gravel as a biological media filter.

Smaller biological media are highly porous, and they have a greater surface area. They can accommodate a lot of bacteria, which may eventually clog up the pores. These media should be well harmonized with the mechanical media to ensure no clogging on the pores. 

Working Principle of a Canister Filter

A canister filter works by siphoning the water from the tank through an inlet and outlet tube. This unique motion ensures that the water can move quickly and freely. The direction of flow varies between brands and models. It can go from top to bottom, bottom to top, center out, and outside, depending on the filter model.

The filter is usually powered by an internal-motor or an in-tank pump that flows the water in the canister. As the water enters the main chamber, it’s forced through the pump that pushes the water to the other side of the chamber towards the filtration medium.

Our Top Picks of the Best Canister Filter

SunSun HW-302 265GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit

The SunSun HW-302 265GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit is a highly powerful canister filter. It will give you great value for your money. Although it’s not very well-known in the canister filter world, it’s still earning praise and popularity for good reasons.

This kit consists of 3 packs of extra white filter pads, 1 pack of blue coarse pads, 1 lb. of premium filter carbon, 1 lb. of premium ceramic rings, and 40 pieces of bio balls. What makes this filter so outstanding is the fact that it features a built-in 9 watt UV sterilizer.

This sterilizer is capable of promoting crystal clear water by killing algae spores and bacteria. It comes with a blue self-priming pimp that has the ability to eliminate the need for manual siphoning. Moreover, this unit is equipped with 4 flexible media trays. They can help you achieve excellent mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.

It also features a switch that enables you to detach both intake and output hoses at the same time. Actually, this switch will cut the water off, thereby leaving it in both hoses. It’s pretty much useful as it can help you with your system whenever you restart it. However, this switch doesn’t have the ability to control the flow rate. So, you must keep it sealed or open.

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Operates silently
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • A lot of media storage

Cons

  • Flimsy plastic parts

Polar Aurora External Canister Aquarium Filter

If you’re looking for a filter with a huge tank, then the Polar Aurora External Canister Filter is the product that you’re seeking. It comes with 200 gallons of fish tank, 9-volt UV sterilizer to keep the algae at bay, and at the same time, it’s fairly reasonable. The maximum flow rate is 525 gallons per hour.

The canister has four different kinds of media stages, such as chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration. These stages of media make the water go through many phases of filtration so that your fish gets the purest water. Also, it comes with ceramic rings, activated carbon, a coarse filter sponge, and bio balls. Therefore, you don’t have to buy it separately.

One of the best features is the 9-watt UV sterilizer bulb that helps to erase algae spores. It will also remove any other bacteria that may build up in your tank. The UV bulb also ensures your fish have the cleanest water possible, like the four media stages. Moreover, when you’re performing any maintenance on the filter, you’ll find the bulb very helpful.

Another cool feature is the O-ring. Though it may seem like a simple feature, it makes sure your filter doesn’t leak. Once you open the top of the filter, you’ll see the canister has an O-ring that goes around the circular opening.

Overall, with the huge capacity, it’s undoubtedly one of the best canister filters out there.

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Huge capacity
  • Reasonable price
  • Minimizes algae problems

Cons

  • Not powerful enough

Fluval FX6 Canister Filter

The Fluval FX6 Canister Filter comes from a reputable company, which is why it can be said that it’s an amazing filter. This filter features a flow rate of 563 GPH. It has an improved motor technology which can offer you better performance while consuming 10 percent less electricity.

The unit comes with precisely engineered bearings and a protective cover, which helps minimize the noise created by the impeller. The cover can also protect the unit from moisture and debris, thereby making it very durable.

The Smart Pump system this product feature is self-priming. Therefore, you’ll be able to set this up easily. You just need to add water and plug it in. Then, the pump will track your water flow by adjusting itself automatically. As a result, the canister will be purged of trapped air per 12 hours.

Moreover, this product uses 6 stages of the filtration process. Each basket of this product has been designed precisely. So, they can stop any water by-pass.

Besides, if you’re not very good at maintaining high-quality canister filters, you’ll be glad to know that this filter requires minimal maintenance. Thanks to the monthly indicator dial, you’ll be able to remember the exact date of your last maintenance and water change.

Pros

  • Ensures higher performance
  • Easy to set up
  • Durable
  • Long-lasting
  • Operates very quietly

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Takes up a lot of space

Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter

The Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter is created to provide you with quick support and a spill-free setup. The filter is suitable for both marine water and freshwater conditions. It can also effectively clean tanks sized up to 100 gallons.

It’s stacked with unique, user-friendly components. These components can help you keep your aquarium more effortless than before. It comes with a lid that is capable of creating a water-tight seal whenever you compress or lift up the filter for simple expulsion.

It comes with a Stack N’ Flow filter plate. This plate gives you the ability to apply various media layers to complete mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. Besides, you won’t have to experience any problem whenever you want to change or clean the media, as you can easily take off the plate.

This product features a fast-prime button. By pressing this button, you’ll be able to load the filter chamber with water for a quick, self-priming setup. It also features a specially designed valve. With this valve, you’ll have the ability to close down the water flow instantly, as well as separate the cover from the engine housing for spill-free upkeep.

Furthermore, the advanced components of this filter can offer you the tools you’d necessarily need in order to create a spotless, healthy aquatic condition that considerably features less exertion.

Pros

  • Quiet and clean operation
  • 3-year warranty
  • Well made
  • Easy to maintain

Cons

  • Confusing instructions

Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter

Finding the right canister filter can be a daunting task. The hefty price slapped on them can put off your interest. This is where the Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter comes in. It’s cheaper than a lot of other brand names out there.

If you’re someone who has problems managing algae or has tanks with bacteria, you’ll find the 9-watt UV light feature inside the canister very helpful. The light kills bacteria and maintains algae levels in the water. However, you don’t have to use this feature all the time. Only when you have a case of algae blooming.

It’s good to have an external filter that operates quietly. We all know how annoying it gets when the filter makes so much noise. The good news is the Aquatop is structured carefully to be easy on the ears.

Moreover, the canister is very easy to set up. The design is simple enough to navigate through fitting the pieces. So, you can have your fitting going in no time. Beginners who have never set up a canister before will definitely find it easy as a breeze. Also, the parts are built to be easily adjustable. They make their intake pipe adjustable in any direction to fit various tank sizes.

Overall, if you want a reliable model, then this filter isn’t for you. However, if you’re looking for cheaper filters that can do the basics, you can consider this one.

Pros

  • UV sterilizer
  • Quiet
  • Adjustable
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Electrical hazards

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter

The EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter is one of the most used external filters available on the market today. You can find it in three different sizes. You can fill this filter by using a huge range of different media, from cartridges to sponges and pads.

This product features a very solid build, which can highly assure you of its durability. With this filter, you won’t have to feel the necessity of buying a new filter for the next few months. It also features a long-lasting flexible silicone sealing ring in the pump head. This ring will give you the ability to remove and clean it thoroughly.

Most canister filters use plastic camps to lock the motor’s head. However, that’s not the case with this model as it uses small stainless-steel clips instead of plastic clamps. Thanks to these clips, it’s highly capable enough to lock the motor head to itself securely.

The manufacturer of this product has made it energy efficient. So, you don’t have to worry about how much power it consumes. Moreover, its flow rate is very impressive, which is why it has been rated the best canister filter for goldfish tanks. Lastly, since it can generate very few noise levels, it can thus expand its viability. Therefore, it’s able to accommodate various types of marine life.

Overall, the strong build quality is the reason why it’s one of the best canister filters out there.

Pros

  • Operates quietly
  • Simple, durable design
  • Greater water flow
  • Easy to maintain

Cons

  • Doesn’t include activated carbon

Fluval External Filter (06 Series)

The Fluval External Filter is one of the most popular choices among medium-sized tank owners. It can clean tanks from 12-70 gallons of size with the ultimate perfection. It has a multi-stage filtration system that effectively cleans both saltwater and freshwater aquariums.

It has a sleek black design with red highlights on top. The filter offers superior filtration capacity with a powerful flow rate. The filter has a super sturdy design that allows it to stay in an upright position.

The canister design allows it to hold about 50% more media than other filters of similar size. The media baskets have plenty of spaces inside that can hold different types of filters. The filter comes with some pre-packaged options such as “Fluval Bio-Foam” for biological and mechanical filtration. The carbon filter helps to remove the odor and discoloration of the water while enhancing the phosphate level of the water.

The setup procedure is quite simple and straightforward. If you have prior experience installing the canister filter yourself, you’ll ace it like a pro. The filter includes a detailed guideline to help you out with the process.

Some filters can get really annoying with their constant whizzing noise. However, you’ll face no such issue with this one. This one is surprisingly quiet, and as long as the filter is sealed properly, you will not have to worry about noise at all.

Pros

  • Suitable for medium to large aquariums
  • Multiple filtration medias
  • Quiet operation
  • Hold more filter
  • Effective in both saltwater and freshwater aquariums

Cons

  • Expensive

Penn-Plax Cascade 700 Canister Filters

The Penn-Plax Cascade 700 Canister Filters is an absolute powerhouse with incredible features and durability. If you have a large aquarium, then this one is a perfect choice for you as it can filter tanks up to 100 gallons.

The filter is made with highly durable plastic that lasts a long time. The cobalt blue color does stIt’s suitable for both freshwater and marine water environment. It performs a multi-stage filtration process that keeps the water squeaky clean.

Several media baskets allow the multi-stage filtration process. It can capably perform mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration to create a safe environment for the marine creatures. It also includes a flow rate control valve that comes in handy during the cleanup and maintenance procedures.

The installation process is easy as a breeze with this canister filter. You come with all the components you need to set it up. It has a swimming pool style hose clamps that make the assembling and maintenance procedures hassle-free.

The filtration process will start within 30 minutes after you set it up, and you can see visible changes in the tank water just within a day. Also, it has a quiet operation, making it a top choice if you’re to keep the tank in the bedroom. Thanks to its air-tight seal for the optimal flow rate and quiet operation.

Pros

  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Suitable for large tanks
  • Made with durable and sturdy material
  • High flow rate
  • Multi-stage filtration process

Cons

  • Consumes more power as it has 27 watts power rating

Hydor Professional External Canister Filter

If you’re looking for an external canister filter for your medium-sized aquarium, then the Hydor Professional External Canister Filter is a perfect choice. The stylish black look of the filter will blend well with the room décor.

It has a flow rate of 240-280 gallons per hour. The filter can clean out medium to large-sized tanks quickly with its superior flow rate. However, you can adjust the flow rate using the ball valve connected to the tubing on top housing. It comes with a 4-locking clam system that prevents water leakage as all the points are appropriately sealed.

There are three media trays in the filter with ceramic rings, filtering pads, and sponge. With the rotating spray bar and telescopic intake tube, you can customize the filter according to your needs. The three-stage filtration process will effectively clean out the water and create a safe environment for your aquatic pets.

The Hydor Professional is super simple to install. Even if you’re a novice, you’ll face no trouble as the filter comes with a detailed guideline to help you with the process. The inlet and outlet connector can swivel, which makes the mounting process super easy and quick.

This filter is exceptionally quiet, and you’ll hear no humming noise at all. You can keep it in the bedroom or the living room without being bothered about the noise.

Pros

  • Compact size
  • Different types of filter media
  • Excellent filter circulation up to 280 gallons per hour
  • Easy installation and cleanup process

Cons

  • No carbon filter for chemical filtration

Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter

The Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter is a highly efficient canister filter that works like a charm in both saltwater and freshwater tanks. The filter is designed for aquariums up to 155-gallons. It has a super high flow rate of 400 gallons per hour. It will clean out all the gunks and toxins from the water about 2.5 times in an hour.

The Quietflow is pre-loaded with mechanical, chemical, and biological filters to effectively clean out the wastes and impurities from the water. It includes activated carbon, bio balls, biochemical rings, and a coarse foam pad to conduct the filtration process. The multi-stage filtration process ensures the healthiest and cleanliest environment for the fishes.

One of the most prominent features of the Aqueon Quietflow is its hang on the backwater polishing unit. This makes the maintenance process super quick and easy to conduct. Unlike other canister filters, you don’t need to take out the entire canister to replace the media basket. You just need to replace the carbon cartridge in the polishing unit, and you’re done!

Also, the Aqueon Quietflow does justice to its name. Despite the highly efficient motor design, it has a smooth, quiet operation. The installation process is quick and straightforward, making it one of our top choices for the best canister filter out there.

Pros

  • Works well in both saltwater and freshwater tanks
  • High flow rate
  • Cleans quickly and effectively
  • The polishing unit allows easy maintenance
  • Multiple media filters

Cons

  • Not suitable for extra-large tanks

OASE Indoor Aquatics Biomaster Thermo

The OASE Indoor Aquatics Biomaster Thermo is an absolute powerhouse that is loaded with many innovative features. The filter is designed for medium-sized tanks, and it’s suitable for both freshwater and marine water environments.

This filter has a four-stage filtration process that filters out all the toxins from the water. The sealed filtration pathways ensure optimum filtration from the media and prevent any leakage as well. It has an adjustable flow control design that can be optimized on both inlet and outlet adapters for the filter.

It conducts biological, mechanical, chemical, and prefiltration processes to eliminate the traces of waste and impurities from the water. The Hel-x suspended filter media creates a sustainable environment for the bacterial growth that mimic the natural aquatic state.

It features an integrated heater that provides uniform temperature throughout the aquarium. It also comes with the unique EasyClean pre-filter module. This module can be removed separately from the filter, which reduces the maintenance required and increases the filter’s efficiency.

The sound dampening design of the OASE Indoor makes it a godsend for those looking for a whisper-quiet canister filter. You’ll get a 3-years warranty from the manufacturer that can be extended for another year when you register online. Sounds like a great deal, right?

Pros

  • Adjustable flow control
  • UL certified heater
  • Four-stage filtration process
  • 3-years manufacturer’s warranty
  • Simple maintenance procedure

Cons

  • Expensive

Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter 120Vac

Fluval never fails to amaze us with their incredible range of products, and the Fluval 407 is an absolute gem. If you own an earlier Fluval model, then this one will be a significant update to that. The filter has an outstanding design with large feet at the bottom to prevent vibration.

Fluval 407 features a highly powerful motor that’s suitable for medium to large-sized aquariums. The constant pumping power from the motor ensures optimum filtration with superior efficiency and performance.

It also comes with multiple filter media to effectively clean up the tank. The best part is, it comes loaded with all the bio-media and mechanical media to get you started right after getting the filter.

The setup procedure requires only some simple and quick steps. It features a large easy-grip handle that ensures effortless startup with just a few pumps. The maintenance procedure is simple and quick with this filter. It has a handle that goes from the bottom tray to the top one. This feature enables you to pull out all the media basket at a time.

The 07 series is featured to be 25% quieter than the previous models. The filter is super energy efficient, and it consumes little energy like a household energy bulb.

Pros

  • Quiet operation
  • Energy efficient
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Comes with all the filter media
  • Efficiently uses the spaces and positions the media

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a spray bar

Benefits of Using a Canister Filter

Whether you’re buying a brand-new aquarium or redoing the old one, a canister filter will come in handy in all situations. These filters are a great choice for saltwater tanks, freshwater tanks, and even the planted ones. The best canister filter will provide tons of conveniences so that the aquatic pets can live a healthy, happy life.

Effective Filtration

The prime concern about a filter is how effectively it can filter out the impurities. Canister filters are known to be very effective in terms of cleaning the ammonia from the water. Even 2 parts per million ammonia in the water can be extremely fatal for the fishes. Most canister filter contains biological filtration media that transform ammonia into nitrogen which is less harmful.

Some of the canister filters use activated carbon for the filtration process. Activated carbon can effectively clean out the impurities from water and leave the tank in a crystal clear condition. Also, the carbon can clean out the presence of chlorine from the tank water.

Versatility

One of the top reasons canister tanks are popular is due to their versatility. They work in a wide range of aquariums. Be it a saltwater aquarium or a freshwater one, the canister filter has got you covered. The filter also works great for turtle tanks despite the fact that turtles are a lot messier than fishes. They’re also suitable for planted tanks as they help to balance the carbon dioxide level.

Moreover, those who don’t like to put any equipment inside the aquarium, they may find a canister filter a handy one. Since there is some external type heater specially designed to put inline with the canister filter. The Hydor inline heater is such a heater, to be installed in the return line of the canister filter. So it doesn’t clutter inside of the fish tank.

You can choose the media

These types of filters give you the flexibility to choose a filter media according to the tank requirements. Different types of media work best in different aquatic environments. They will clean up the tank more efficiently and reduce the amount of ammonia and nitrate present in the water as well.

Easy Setup

Canister filters are comparatively easier to install than the other filtration systems. Generally, these filters have a simple installation process so that you can quickly get it out when you need to clean it.

Quiet

Another vital benefit of a canister filter is its quiet operation. If you’re constantly bothered by the power filters’ noise, then we recommend getting your hands on a canister filter. The constant whizzing noise by the filter can eventually get on the nerves and increase the stress level.

Even if you keep the tank in the bedroom, you’ll not be bothered as the canister filter makes very little noise. We don’t consider it to be inaudible; however, it’s much lower than the other filtration systems.

Conclusion

We love our aquatic pets, and that’s why quality filtration is necessary to keep a healthy aquarium. It’s like a breath of fresh air for your aquatic buddies. If you don’t have any clue regarding the importance of filters, then it’s obvious you need to have one. There are many options available in the market, so you may get confused about which one to buy.

Canister filters are widely popular among aquarium owners these days. The reason is that canister filters come with superior mechanical, chemical, biological filtration abilities. You can also use these filters for saltwater tanks, freshwater tanks, reef ranks, and many more.

So, we believe and hope that our review and buying guide will help you to choose the best canister filter for you. If you decide to go for a different model, then there’s no problem. Make sure you keep in mind the considerations of choosing the right model.

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Sujit Modak Aquarium Tales Owner
Sujit Modak

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my aquarium blog. Fishkeeping is my passion, and I started this fascinating hobby back in 2006. Besides my engineering profession, I deeply studied many fishkeeping topics since I started building my home aquarium. I researched effective aquarium filtration and lighting of planted aquariums. I am keeping 20+ species of freshwater and saltwater fish as my aquatic pet collection. I successfully experimented with a complex ecosystem inside the aquarium, biotope aquariums, aquaponics, etc. I would love to share some learnings from my hands-on experience of the last 14 years. Hopefully, my sharing will be somewhat helpful to make your aquarium journey awesome! 

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