Best Aquarium Canister Filter – Top 5 Reviews, Buyers’ Guide & FAQs Upd.

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A canister filter can be a powerful piece of equipment to have for your aquarium but you’ll agree with us when we say that choosing the right canister filter can be very difficult. 

Luckily for you, we’ve gone and tested all the popular aquarium canister filters available on the market to bring you this extensive list. 

In today’s post, we’ll rate all the popular canister filters out there and help you determine what filter is best suited for you.

Top Pick

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use filter that boasts powerful performance, this is the product for you. It has an adjustable flow rate with a built-in ultraviolet light.

Runner Up

Coming with 5 different large filter media and rotating valves, this filter is highly customizable. Get this if you’re the kind of aquarist who likes to experiment with his equipment.

Also Great

This is the best if you’re having trouble keeping your tank clean. It’s a complete staple diet that produces less waste and does not cloud the water. Can prove to be the best choice for you.

After months of testing and experimenting with all sorts of filters, we’ve determined these three to be the best of the best. 

Now, let’s get into the reviews of the best 5 aquarium canister filters.

Best Aquarium Canister Filter - Top 5 Reviews

1. All-Around Best Aquarium Canister Filter - SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit Review

The SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit is the perfect canister filter with an elegant design that is suited for aquariums up to 150 gallons. 

We had a smaller tank and were worried that the canister filter would be too powerful and would create too strong a current in our aquarium but we were pleasantly surprised to see that the flow rate is adjustable. We were easily able to adjust it according to our aquarium and it worked like a charm. 

One unique feature of this filter is that it has a built-in ultraviolet light. This ultraviolet light helps discourage the growth of algae inside the tank. Any algae that the canister filter’s filtration process misses out on, the ultraviolet light will eliminate. 

Features of SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit – Best Aquarium Canister Filter

  1. Works for aquariums up to 150 gallons
  2. Built-in ultraviolet light
  3. Adjustable filter flow rate
  4. Three-stage filtration process
  5. Comes with filter media
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to clean
  • Quiet operation
  • Helps prevent algae
  • Self-priming pump
  • Small plastic moving parts are a little flimsy

If you’re looking for the ultimate package that gives you the best possible clean water while also preventing algae, this is ideal for you. The built-in ultraviolet light coupled with its easy-to-clean design makes it a great choice for fish-keepers.

2. Best Easy-to-Use Aquarium Canister Filter - Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review

With a capacity to effectively clean aquariums as large as 200 gallons, the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter is a heavy-duty multi-stage filter that won’t disappoint you. 

It is multi-purpose and we tested it both in our saltwater and freshwater aquariums. It worked like a charm in both of them without any reduction in water quality or effectiveness in cleaning. 

Changing the filter media inside the filter was easy as pie due to its easy-lift clamp feature. This also made cleaning and maintenance of the filter completely hassle-free.

Features of Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

  1. Operating capacity up to 200 gallons
  2. Easy-clamp feature for easy filter media changing
  3. Filter flow-rate control valves 
  4. Filter media included
  5. Comes with a spray bar
  • Easy to clean
  • Quiet operation
  • Easy to set up due to self-primer button
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Built-in handle for easy handling and placement
  • Expensive

If you have an extremely dirty tank with some extremely messy fish, you might want to invest in this filter. It has a powerful motor that is able to clean large aquariums with ease and it is easy to use.

3. Best Clog-Proof Aquarium Canister Filter - Fluval External Filter Review

The Fluval External Filter has a simplistic design that has a great focus on performance. 

Its exterior may look simple but inside, they’ve planned it out in such a way that it works extremely effectively and quietly due to its precise bearings. It’s built in a way so that it minimizes vibrations and prevents any noise. 

We roughly timed how long it took for all our filters to clean the fish tank completely after they first started running and this filter was among the ones who cleaned our aquarium water the fastest. 

Features of Fluval External Filter

  1. Works for aquariums up to 100 gallons
  2. Simple design
  3. Lift-lock clamps for secure mounting
  4. Clog-proof strainer
  5. Comes with multiple filtration baskets
  • Prevents leakage
  • Cleaning not particularly required very regularly
  • 3-year warranty
  • Easy to set up
  • Highly customizable
  • Prevents clogging
  • Current produced may be too strong for tanks lower than 10 gallons

If you’re looking for a filter that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself and does the job effectively, you’ve just found it. You don’t have to clean it very often and it’s very simple to mount and get started.

4. Best Budget Aquarium Canister Filter - EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media Review

We were worried when we first held this canister filter in our hands because it was extremely lightweight as compared to its competitors. Now, being lightweight is generally a good thing but in the case of filters, this could mean that the material is flimsy and might deteriorate quickly. 

We are pleasantly surprised to inform you the EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter has been working smoothly in one of our aquariums for several months now and it has shown zero signs of any debilitation. 

Features of EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

  1. Cleans aquariums up to 92 gallons
  2. Comes with filter media and sponges
  3. Built-in Silicone sealing ring
  4. Made from lightweight, strong plastic
  5. Extra accessories: Spray bar, inlet pipe, installation accessories
  • Extremely silent
  • Easy to install
  • Easy to maintain
  • Prevents leaks
  • Low energy consumption
  • Inexpensive
  • Ugly color pallette and presentation
  • Does not have an instant primer

If you’re worried about sticking too much weight onto your aquarium and don’t have a lot to spend, this product is perfect for you. Don’t be fooled by its lightweight appearance, it’s a very sturdy piece of equipment that works effectively and will last you a long time.

5. Best Low Maintenance Aquarium Canister Filter - API Filstar XP Review

The API Filstar XP is a filter we were excited to try out as it boasted about being able to clean aquariums as large as 265 gallons at a reasonable price. 

We tested this claim out and indeed, we were more than satisfied with the results. The filter gave us crystal clear tank water with extremely happy fish in a matter of an hour after the filter was plugged in. 

Despite its powerful performance, it’s still relatively lightweight and we were easily able to mount it onto our aquarium without too much heavy lifting. It has a self-primer feature which makes it easy to install and get started.

Features of API Filstar XP

  1. Operating capacity up to 265 gallons
  2. Comes with patented filtration media
  3. Three-stage filtration process
  4. Anti-airlock system
  5. Self-priming feature that needs only a cup of water
  • Prevents trapping of air
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to maintain and clean
  • Does not require manual siphoning to start
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Not as quiet as its competitors
  • Flimsy exterior

If you’re looking for a filter that you can just plug in and forget about it for an extended period of time, this is it. Its unique design helps it stay clean for long periods of time and the anti-airlock feature removes the need to re-prime.

best aquarium canister filter

Buyers’ Guide

What are the Benefits of a Canister Filter over other Types of Filters? 

An aquarium canister filter has a great focus on mechanical filtration. Not to say and it doesn’t provide the other two filtration processes (chemical and biological), it does. However, if you have an aquarium that has a lot of problems with large floating matter such as detritus, leftover food or small pebbles from the gravel, you might want to invest in this kind of a filter than the other types. 

Furthermore, canister filters are external filters so they are easy to observe and monitor to judge when they need to be cleaned. Also, when they do need to be cleaned, you can do so easily without disturbing your little aquatic pets or causing them any stress. 

What Should I Look for when buying an Aquarium Canister Filter? 

There are a number of factors that will help you determine what aquarium canister filter is best suited for you. These factors are: 

  • Aquarium Size 

The size of your aquarium is perhaps the most important thing you should think about when going out to buy your canister filter.

Too small of a canister filter would be fatal for your fish because it would not be able to clean the tank water at an effective rate. Too big of a filter would cause too strong of a current inside your aquarium which would stress your aquatic pets out. 

If you’re unsure of the size of the filter that is appropriate for your aquarium size, we recommend getting a bigger filter that has an adjustable flow rate. 

  • Weight and Durability 

Of course, it goes without saying that you want a filter that will last you a long time. However, it is important that the filter is made of material that isn’t too heavy. 

Having a sturdy filter should not come at the expense of it weighing a ton as it will be difficult for you to set up and who knows, your aquarium might not be capable of holding its weight. 

Most aquarium canister filters are made from plastic. Just make sure it’s strong, hard plastic that doesn’t weigh too much.

  • Filter Media 

You should consider how much filter media the filter you’re getting is able to hold. The beauty of filter media is that you’re able to customize and use different filter media and mix and match according to your aquarium’s needs. So, the more slots your filter has to accommodate different media, the more customizability options you’ll have.

How does a Canister Filter work? 

This is a common question among fish-keepers and we encourage this kind of inquisitiveness as it is important for you to know how your filter works as this will help you out in setting it up and in its maintenance in the future. 

As you will notice, a canister filter is placed outside the fish tank with a couple of tubes sticking into it. One tube works as inlet while the other is the outlet to help the water flow in and out of the aquarium. These valves are usually very long and customizable so you don’t have too much trouble setting them up. 

The aquarium canister filter has a pump that helps push the water into the filter where it passes through a series of membranes that trap any dirt, gravel, micro-organisms and toxins inside the water and only let the clean, pure water pass through. This clean water is then passed back into your aquarium.

How do I Set Up my Canister Filter? 

Unlike other filters, canister filters usually come completely disassembled in their shipping boxes. 

You have to completely assemble them before you even thinking about bringing them anywhere near your aquarium. Follow the brand instructions carefully and once you’ve completely assembled the filter, you can connect the inflow and outflow valves to it and then place them inside your fish tank. 

Double-check to make sure you’ve assembled your filter correctly and all the valves are securely connected and then, turn your filter on. 

We recommend not adding fish as soon as you’ve set up your filter and turned it on. Let your filter run in an empty aquarium for a few days. This will help establish the nitrogen cycle and encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria within the aquarium. 

Will Running a Canister Filter for my Aquarium cost me more in Electricity Bills than a Regular Filter? 

In short, no. Most aquarium canister filters have small motors that don’t take up too much power. They consume about as much power as a normal filter would. In fact, some aquarium canister filters even boast a low energy consumption feature which allows them to utilize power more effectively. 

Where should I put Purigen in my Aquarium Canister Filter?

It’s generally a good idea to either put Purigen near the place where your tank water exits the canister filter or before it enters the ceramic rings of your filter.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the best way to prime a Canister Filter? 

Most good aquarium canister filters these days come with a self-priming feature that saves you the hassle of having to manually prime it or siphon water into it initially. 

If you have a canister filter that doesn’t have a self-priming feature, here’s a quick and easy way to prime it: 

Once you have assembled it completely, submerge the filter into your fish tank and plug it in. Tilt the filter onto one side in order to completely submerge the impeller and to start suction. Hold it in this position for about a minute and then tilt it upwards to expel any trapped air. Your canister filter should be primed now. 

How often should I clean my Canister Filter? 

Maintenance and cleaning needs of your aquarium filter can vary greatly from filter to filter. Some canister filters are specifically designed to be less needy. They are made to be clog-free and slippery in order to prevent any waste/dirt build-up inside them so they require to be cleaned a lot less. However, not all canister filters are built like that and some can be quite needy. 

As a general rule of thumb, you should disassemble, check and clean your canister filter every three months in order to maximise its effectiveness.

I keep getting air in my Canister Filter. How do I fix this?

This happens when there is a leak in the canister filter that is sucking up air and causing air bubbles. Unplug your canister filter and properly assess it to make sure it isn’t damaged or there aren’t any cracks in its body. Secondly, check to see if all the parts are properly attached to each other and nothing is loose. 

If you do happen to spot a crack or any damage in the body of your filter, we suggest getting some water-proof sealant in order to seal the crack. This will prevent any build-up of air or air bubbles in the future.

Is it a good idea to layer Media in a Canister Filter? If so, how do I do it? 

Yes. It’s the customizability options in the filter media that makes aquarium filters so great. Just be sure you’re using filter media that will be effective in your aquarium and it’s the media that your aquarium really needs. 

Generally, the layering starts from back to front with ceramic rings first, then the coarse sponge, the biological filtration media after that and the filter wool pad at the end.

How do I ensure I don’t damage the Canister Filter when I’m cleaning it? 

The key to not damaging anything is to disassemble your canister filter completely and cleaning all of the individual parts separately. The things that are most prone to being damaged are the very small flimsy parts. If you disassemble the filter and clean these parts individually with care, they’re less likely to break apart. 

Be sure to clean them with water that is dechlorinated as chlorine inside water might kill all the beneficial bacteria inside the filter.

Final Verdict

A filter is one of the most essential pieces of equipment you need when setting up a home for your little aquatic pets. It’s the thing that keeps your pets’ home clean and breathable. Hence, it’s extremely important that you make the right choice when it comes to a filter for your aquarium. 

Coming to the end, we’ve decided to go with the SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit as our pick for the best aquarium canister filter. It is as quiet as it is powerful and it requires little to no effort from the owner in order to be effective. 

And with that, we’ve reached the end of our post for the best aquarium canister filters. 

Let us know in the comments what filter you’re using for your aquarium.

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