Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review – 2021

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review by Aquarium Tales

The aquarium filter is the most crucial accessory for healthy and happy fish keeping. At some point, you will need an aquarium filter, so make sure you choose the right one.

In this article, I’ll provide you the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review. If you search for a good quality canister filter, this review will make your searching process more comfortable.

Canister filters are an excellent choice for planted aquariums and marine aquariums. At the same time, they are equally reliable for freshwater aquariums. But, canister type filter requires some expertise for setting and maintenance. 

So, it’s barely the right choice for beginners. But seasoned aquarists prefer canister filters for their higher efficiency and reliability, despite the high price.   

A canister filter is an external type filter having tubes that are submerged in the aquarium water. The pump draws up water through a lift tube. Then the water passes through the filter chamber, which is placed outside of the tank. Water passes through different types of filter media in the sealed canister. 

After filtration is done inside the canister chamber, the purified water is taken back to the tank via a pump. Thus a continuous circulation goes on in which the suction tube sucks impure tank water, and the discharge tube supplies filtrated water back to the tank.

The Penn Plax is a renowned band and created so many popular products for aquarium keepers. Their products come up with user-friendly features with excellent qualities. Penn-Plax Cascade series offers a heavy-duty multi-stage external filtration system, suitable for freshwater and saltwater aquariums from 30 gallons to 200 gallons.

I have given a detailed specification of each member of the series for your convenience. While you are choosing the right filter for your aquarium, size is the primary consideration. If your first preference matches this product, you can take a peek at my Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter review.

Penn Plax Cascade 500 canister filter is suitable for aquariums up to 30-gallon size. This unit consists of two media baskets and works at 115 GPH. It is useable both in freshwater and marine aquariums. The dimension of the item is 11.5 x 13.5 x 9 inches. 

Penn Plax Cascade 700 canister filter is suitable for aquariums up to 65-gallon size. Like the ‘Penn Plax Cascade 500’, this unit also consists of two media baskets but works at a higher flow rate of 185 GPH. It is useable both in freshwater and marine aquariums. The dimension of the item is 11.5 x 15 x 10 inches. 

Penn Plax Cascade 1000 canister filter is suitable for relatively larger aquariums from 65 to 100-gallon size. This unit consists of three media baskets and works at 265 GPH. This filter unit is popular to use in marine tanks but also is useable in freshwater aquariums. The dimension of the item is 11.5 x 17 x 10 inches. 

Penn Plax Cascade 1200 canister filter is suitable for aquariums up to 150-gallon size. This unit consists of four media baskets and works at 315 GPH. It is also useable both in freshwater and marine aquariums. This item is relatively larger in size with a dimension of 11.5 x 20.5 x 11 inches. 

Penn Plax Cascade 1500 canister filter is the largest-sized member of this series and suitable for aquariums up to 200-gallon size. This unit consists of five media baskets and works at 350 GPH. It is useable in large freshwater and marine aquariums. The dimension of the item is 11.5 x 20.5 x 12 inches. 

I’ve told you before that the Penn Plax canister filter is perfect for advanced users. This type of filter is relatively costly and makes an ideal combination with inline heaters in larger tanks. But I can assure you, Penn Plax Cascade filters are good-quality products. In this review article, I’ll focus on features that are user-friendly and really useful.  

State of the art is a unique and useful feature in which flow valves are rotatable by 360 degrees, and that allows easy maneuvering. This option makes the placement of the filter super easy even the aquarium cabinet is tight and compact. 

Flow control valves and a special type hose allow an effortless flow adjustment. While flow adjustment is an essential feature as some kinds of fish and floating aquatic plants cannot sustain in high water flow. A precise flow control option makes Penn Plax Cascade Canister filters useable in versatile conditions.

Sometimes air can be trapped inside the filter body, thus hampers the flow rate. Priming is the process by which you will allow water entrance and remove trapped air. In Penn Plax Cascade Canister filters, a push-button will enable you to do priming very quickly. You can remove trapped air with just a few presses.

This one provides another useful feature, you can use different types of filter media, single or in a combination, as per your requirement. For different aquariums, the need for filtration is not precisely the same, and they may vary depending on several factors.

Conditions and challenges are not always equal for all. In some aquariums, particulate matter is the primary concern to remove, while in others, eliminating toxic gas is the main challenge. In this filter unit, a floss pad is there to remove particulate matter, and a coarse sponge helps remove ammonia and nitrates by promoting bacteria growth.

The appropriate filter media can ensure aquarium water quality, which is your ultimate target. The large media tray not only allows you to use more media but also reduces filter replacement frequency. 

Noisy aquarium filter is a common complaint of aquarium users, and it is annoying, in fact! If the filter is loud, the continuous monotonous sound can be unpleasant. So a quiet aquarium filter is well-desired.

The Penn Plax Cascade Canister filters come up with a tip-proof rubber base that quietly keeps the unit in place. Airtight seals prevent sounds from coming out and ensure silent operation. 

Effective three-stage filtration is capable of delivering clear and healthy water. Three stages of filtration are mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration using bio-foss, activated carbon, and bio-sponges as filter media. The directional return feature can take maximum waste matters in, which enhances the filtration coverage and provides clear water.

penn plax canister filter internals principle

Penn Plax Cascade Canister filters provide larger filter trays that help for more extended periods between filter replacement; still, you have to clean and replace filter media regularly. Infrequent filter replacement promotes nitrate buildup, as trapped waste matters inside filter media can be a source of nitrate formation. 

But don’t worry about filter replacement, it is a simple task, and the user-friendly features of the Penn Plax Cascade Canister aquarium filter make it more comfortable. All you have to do, just follow step by step instructions provided by the manufacturer. For your convenience, I am giving you an idea of how you can replace the filter media of Penn Plax Cascade Filters. 

how to clean Penn Plax canister filter

The task is effortless and will take no more than five minutes. 

  1. Unplug electric power.
  2. Close intake valves.
  3. Disconnect hoses.
  4. Release the vacuum and remove the top with easy-lift clamps. 
  5. Take out used filter media.
  6. Place intake filter media.
  7. Press the push-button primer several times to ensure priming.
  8. Connect hoses and switch on the filter.


  • Useable for both in freshwater and saltwater aquariums
  • Beginner-friendly and simple to install
  • Three-stage filtration with directional return cover maximum dirt to filter out 
  • Attractive in look with a cobalt blue color
  • Adjustable flow rate makes it suitable for all kinds of fish and plants
  • Very quiet in operation
  • Reasonable price comparatively 


  • The push-button primer can sometimes malfunction, so some users faced difficulty making it smooth again after replacing the filter element, some users faced trouble with making it smooth again
  • Power consumption is a bit high

The ultimate pleasure in fishkeeping is to see your fish swimming smoothly, and the trick behind ensuring this charm is nothing but keeping them healthy. The best thing you can do for your fish is to provide them a healthy home. The filter plays the most important role in that. A filter in an aquarium is not a luxury; it’s a need.

You are keeping living beings in an aquarium, they produce biological waste, food leftover, and dead plant matters also produce waste. You cannot maintain a healthy aquarium without managing wastes. You can categorize aquarium waste roughly into two types. The first one is particulate matter, it is visible, and the second one is invisible, which is dissolved gas.

Particulate matters make aquarium water dirty, creating an unpleasant look. Dirty water not only hampers the visual look but also affects fish health. Mechanical filtration can filter out particles. Dissolved toxic gases are mainly ammonia and nitrate, and they are deadly for aquarium inhabitants. Chemical and biological filtration help reducing toxic gas.

So the filtration system’s selection should be wise so that it is capable of performing a balanced action to reduce all sorts of harmful byproducts.

Setting up a Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter is much easier than most beginners think. This filter comes up with beginner-friendly features with all necessary accessories. You will simply place the filter in a suitable location in the aquarium. The rubber base keeps the unit fixed in place.

The pool-style hose clamp is simple to use, and any inexperienced person can easily understand the mechanism. After placing the filter and connecting hoses, you have to do priming. Once priming is done, you simply power the filter up, and hopefully, you will see the result within 30 minutes.

This filter unit is incorporated with an ‘Easy Push Button Primer’ to make the priming process more manageable, eliminating the requirement of manual siphoning of water. The manufacturer recommends to press the button down for 5 to 10 minutes so that maximum trapped air gets out.

After starting the pump, some bubbles may come out as all the air is not removable by priming. The rest of the air will be pumped out, forming bubbles. If, after 2/3 minutes, bubble formation continues, you have to check for any loose connection.

There are two flow rate control cut-off valves at the top, one for both input and output lines. You can efficiently operate those valves to control the flow rate.

It is better to operate the suction valve for flow control as closing the discharge might put some load on the filter pump. During maintenance, you will use those as isolation valves to stop water from flowing.

Every product has its pros and cons, and it is very common that different users have different experiences with the same product. This is why I choose a product carefully to ensure that most of the users had a good experience with it.

My Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review article included major and minor details that a buyer should know before buying. I hope the review is useful for you, and it helps make your mind. The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter is one of the best canister filters on a low budget, without compromising the quality. So I will happily recommend it. 

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