Best Canister Filter Reviews – Top 10 Filters, Guide, FAQs & More

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You’ll agree with us when we say that buying a canister that’s appropriate for your particular aquarium can be quite a hassle. 

That’s why we decided to put all the best-selling canister filters out there to the test in order to find out which ones are really worth your money. 

In our post today, we’ll look into what makes a canister filter great and why you should opt for a canister filter over other types of filters.

Top Pick

This multi-stage filter is ideal for both freshwater and saltwater environments. You’ll find that it requires very little maintenance over time.

Runner Up

You’ll be amazed at the amount of value you’ll be able to get from this filter. It’s got an attractive design that’s very intuitive to use.

Also Great

This state-of-the-art filter is something that will give you more than your money’s worth. It’s packed with a ton of features as well.

After judging the cleaning properties of dozens of canister filters, we’ve chosen these three as the best of the best. 

Now, let’s get into some detailed discussion of the top 10 best canister filters.

Best Canister Filters - Top 10 Reviews

1. Overall Best Canister Filter - Fluval Canister Filter Review

Fluval is a household name when it comes to aquatic products and they’ve really left everyone else in the dust with this canister filter. 

It’s incredibly built with a body that feels sturdy but is also easy to handle and compact. You’ll find that it assembles quite easily in no time. 

It comes with a number of additional accessories that make cleaning and maintaining it a lot easier such as a strainer that you can use to free up anything that’s clogging it. 

You’ll notice it has rubberized feet that help pad its sound. It operates very quietly so it doesn’t disturb you or your fish.

Features of Fluval Canister Filter – Best Canister Filter

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 400 gallons
  2. Smart Pump Technology
  3. Self-starting
  4. Multi-stage filtration process
  5. Comes with an anti-clog strainer
  • Requires little to no maintenance
  • Strong and effective
  • Extremely quiet
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Comes with a 3-year warranty
  • Instructions may be hard to follow

If you’re looking for a long-lasting effective filter that comes with everything you want, this product is definitely for you. It has a ton of features that make operating it a lot easier for you.

2. Best Inexpensive Canister Filter - SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit Review

The amount of value you get from this product is tremendous. It comes with all the filtration processes that its competitors have plus a UV sterilizer bulb which helps eliminate algae and spores inside your aquarium. 

You would think that with the added feature of a UV sterilizer bulb, this canister filter would have a hefty price tag but it’s actually the most inexpensive canister filter on this list. 

It comes with a bunch of accessories including bags to store your filtration media in. 

The pump is self-priming so you don’t have to go through the hassle of manual siphoning while setting it up.

Features of SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 150 gallons
  2. Flow rate: 525 gallons per hour
  3. 4 Media Trays
  4. Self-priming pump
  5. Includes filter pads and media baskets
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Silent operation
  • Affordable
  • The UV sterilizer’s bulb tends to dim over time

If you’re looking for a canister filter that provides effective filtration at a reasonable price, this product is for you. It has an elegant design that looks great on any aquarium and it works quietly.

3. Best Heavy-Duty Canister Filter - Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter Review

The Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister filter is a piece of equipment we were impressed with as soon as we saw it. Its appearance made us think it was going to be very difficult to lift and handle but it comes with a fold-up handle which makes it very easy to pick it up and place it anywhere. 

The filter cleans aquariums up to 200 gallons without breaking a sweat. It also has smaller variants that can be installed onto smaller aquariums of yours. 

The spray bar is high-quality and even has a directional spout.

Features of Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 200 gallons
  2. Flow rate: 350 gallons per hour
  3. 360-degree rotating flow valves
  4. Push-button primer
  5. Large capacity media baskets
  • Fast filtration
  • Lightweight
  • Long-lasting
  • Comes with a spray-bar
  • Silent operation
  • Consumes more power than its competitors

If you have a crowded aquarium that requires a filter that can handle a lot of waste at once, this product is ideal for you. Not only does it clean your aquarium effectively, it does it quicker than others.

4. Best Quiet Canister Filter - Fluval External Filter Review

We’ve worked with and tested quiet canister filters before but the Fluval External Filter absolutely blew us away with its performance.

When we initially plugged it in and turned it on, we thought it wasn’t functioning properly. We were wrong though. It was operating quietly, effectively, and it had our aquarium clean and our water crystal clear in no time.

It’s designed to be securely mounted on the exterior of your aquarium. 

It features a dual-layered foam screen that prevents any type of clogging or build-up from occurring inside the aquarium.

Features of Fluval External Filter

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 100 gallons
  2. Noise dampening technology
  3. Instant priming
  4. Lift-lock clamps
  5. Aqua-stop valve
  • Sturdy
  • Lift-lock clamps make for easy cleaning and maintenance
  • Aqua-stop valve prevents back-siphoning
  • Comes with a 3-year warranty
  • Works very quietly
  • Quite bulky

If you’re annoyed easily by the sounds that different aquarium equipment tends to make, this product was made for you. It features a lovely design that aims to provide you with the cleanest of aquariums without disturbing you in the slightest.

5. Best Canister Filter with Easy Priming - Hydor Professional External Canister Filter Review

The Hydor Professional External Canister Filter makes the worst part of installing a canister filter extremely easy: the priming. 

Priming can be quite difficult even for fishkeepers who’ve been using filters for years. This product features an easy priming feature that makes this grueling task go by in no time. 

The filter is also very well-made and will last you a long time. It also operates very quietly and it was able to clean our aquarium and turn our water crystal clear within a matter of minutes. 

The intake tubes are also quite thick and sturdy so they are able to handle water flow extremely well. You won’t find any of your tubes dislodging while using this filter.

Features of Hydor Professional External Canister Filter

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 150 gallons
  2. Flow rate: 345 gallons per hour
  3. Easy priming feature
  4. Telescopic intake tubes
  5. Weight: 18 pounds
  • Easy to install
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Comes with long and thick tubing
  • Works silently
  • Durable
  • Expensive

If you don’t want to go through too much trouble or hassle while setting up your filter, this product is made for you. It’s beautifully designed and features effective filtration along with hefty valves.

6. Best Low-Maintenance Canister Filter - EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter Review

The EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter comes with all the filtration media, tubing and sponges you need in order to immediately set it up. It’s designed so that it takes you no time to mount it onto your aquarium. 

The opening features an elastic ring that ensures you can safely and easily open and close it while cleaning and maintenance. 

It even comes with installation accessories that make your job easier while you’re mounting it to your aquarium. It’s extremely lightweight and easy to handle as well. 

You’ll find that it takes a long time for this filter to get dirty. It can go up to 3 to 4 months before having to be cleaned.

Features of EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 92 gallons
  2. Comes with filter media and sponges
  3. Comes with spray bar and all the necessary tubing
  4. Flow rate: 164 gallons per hour
  5. Weight: 6 pounds
  • Effective
  • Well-built
  • Quiet
  • Lightweight
  • Budget-friendly
  • Appearance isn’t too appealing

If you don’t want to put in too much time and/or effort in cleaning and maintaining your canister filter, we suggest you opt for this product. It’s extremely effective at what it does and it takes a long time to get dirty or clogged.

7. Best Odor-Removing Canister Filter - Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter Review

This product goes above and beyond the duties of a canister filter. Not only does it keep your aquarium clean and healthy for your fish. It also works to remove any foul odors inside it so you’re left with a fresh-smelling aquarium. It contains black diamond carbon which helps it achieve this. 

It’s vacuum-sealed not only to prevent any kind of spillage but also to prevent any suction of air into the filter which could result in air bubbles. 

You’ll find that it operates very quietly and tends to create currents in the aquarium that aren’t big enough to disturb the fish but are just enough to stimulate activity and make them excited.

Features of Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 100 gallons
  2. Contains black diamond carbon
  3. Spill-free
  4. Flow rate: 360 gallons per hour
  5. Weight: 19.62 pounds
  • Easy to mount
  • Easy to maintain
  • Works silently
  • Well-made
  • Removes odors 
  • Tubing comes loose quite easily

If you’re having trouble keeping your aquarium smelling good and fresh, this product is perfect for you. It even has a built-in polishing filter pad which helps in the removal of fine debris.

8. Best Canister Filter with UV Sterilizer - Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter Review

We’ve previously mentioned a filter that also has a built-in UV sterilizer in this list however, as we also mentioned, the UV sterilizer in that filter tends to get dim over time. The UV sterilizer in this product works consistently for long periods of time and it does not even take up that much electricity in order to do its job effectively.

It’s relatively lightweight as well and has a beautiful contemporary design. You won’t mind having this mounted on the exterior of your aquarium as it looks absolutely wonderful no matter what type of aquarium you have.

Features of Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter 

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 175 gallons
  2. Flow rate: 525 gallons per hour
  3. 9-watt UV Sterilizer
  4. Dimensions: 18 inches by 12 inches by 11 inches
  5. Weight: 16 pounds
  • Intake tube has an adjustable height
  • Incredible flow rate
  • Low energy consumption
  • Durable
  • Elegant design
  • Produces air bubbles during the first few days

If you’re having serious algae problems and really want a filter that consistently addresses this problem, this is the product you should opt for. It has a very high flow rate and it’s intake tube is adjustable as well.

9. Best High-Capacity Canister Filter - API Filstar XP Review

The API Filstar XP won our hearts with its elegant design that made it so easy and pleasant to use. It features easy disconnect clumps which help you assemble and disassemble it in no time at all. It also comes in very handy during cleaning. 

You’ll find that it works very efficiently and not only keeps the water crystal clear but also removes any odors or unnatural colors that may be floating around in your aquarium due to contamination, etc. 

With all of these features and its heavy-set appearance, you may expect it to be loud but it actually works very silently to the point where your fish won’t even notice its presence. 

Features of API Filstar XP

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 265 gallons
  2. Flow rate: 450 gallons per hour
  3. Self-priming
  4. Quick-disconnect
  5. Removes colors and odors
  • Ample space for filtration media
  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to maintain
  • Very sturdy
  • Lightweight for its size
  • Tubing is stiff and takes time to become flexible

If you’re looking to keep your aquarium consistently clean and free from unnatural colors and smells, this product is ideal for you. It provides more than enough space for customizable media and it’s very easy to handle.

10. Best Saltwater Canister Filter - Eheim Pro 4+ 600 Filter Review

Manufacturing canister filters for saltwater aquariums can be tricky business which is why you have to search far and wide when you’re buying one. Most canister filters available in the market which claim to be appropriate for saltwater environments tend to not work as effectively in them. 

We tested this product for months and we’re here to tell you that it’s definitely not one of them. It features a sleek and effective design that keeps the saltwater in your aquarium hygienic and clean. 

Its insides are specifically designed to prevent salt buildup so you don’t have any trouble during cleaning and maintenance.

Features of Eheim Pro 4+ 600 Filter

  1. Appropriate for aquariums up to 160 gallons
  2. Comes with filter pads
  3. Installation accessories included
  4. Flow rate: 330 gallons per hour
  5. Dimensions: 14 inches by 10 inches by 10 inches
  • Sleek, modern design
  • Sturdy
  • Lightweight
  • Easy assembly
  • Easy maintenance
  • Quite expensive

If you have a saltwater aquarium and are looking for a strong canister filter for it, this product is definitely for you. It takes no time to assemble and it’s very lightweight.

best canister filter

Buyers’ Guide

What are some aspects to think about when buying a canister filter? 

Buying a canister filter can get confusing. This is because the way they work often seems complex to the average fishkeepers and many aren’t able to properly estimate what size filter would be appropriate for their aquariums. There are some aspects you can observe and look towards which can help you make your decision about which canister filter to get. Some of these aspects are: 

  • Goal of the Canister Filter

You have to think about what the ultimate goal of your canister filter is. Obviously, we know that the main goal is filtration but what we mean is that you need to think about what type of species populate your aquarium and what type of filtration would be most essential for your aquarium to thrive. 

Will your aquarium produce a lot of debris that will need to be filtered through mechanical filtration? Will it produce noxious gases or chemicals that will need to be neutralized through chemical filtration? Will there be a lot of bacteria inside your aquarium that will need to be eliminated through biological filtration?

These are all questions you need to ask yourself before you go out and purchase a canister filter for yourself.

  • Durability 

A canister filter is a piece of equipment that will constantly be running and thus, you definitely need to have one that’s made of high-quality materials that are able to stand up to the test of time. 

Many canister filters get clogged up and stop working after a few months. Others start developing rust and some have components that break down which then need replacement.

We recommend looking at online reviews for the canister filter you’re intending on buying in order to make sure it doesn’t have a tendency to break down over time. 

  • Aquarium Size

This one is quite obvious but it’s very important to state because you should definitely buy a filter that’s made for whatever size aquarium you have. 

Most people are privy to the fact that you shouldn’t get a small canister filter for a large aquarium because it wouldn’t be effective but you should also not get a large canister filter for a small aquarium. Don’t listen to the people that say there’s no such thing as too much filtration. While it’s true that a large filter will definitely keep a small aquarium clean, the problem that could develop with this type of setup is that the filter would create currents that are too strong for the fish inside the aquarium. This would cause stress-related diseases in your fish and in extreme cases, your fish could even be swept up into the filter which would be fatal for them.

What are some advantages of a canister filter over other types of filters?

Some advantages of using a Canister Filter are:

  • Canister filters normally have much higher flow rates than regular filters. This means the entire filtration process takes a lot less time and the filter itself works much more efficiently. 
  • Canister filters often have a vast selection of filtration media you can choose from. It gives you the liberty to customize your filter according to your filtration needs. 
  • Canister filters are particularly easy to set up as compared to most other types of filters such as under-gravel filters.
  • Canister filters often come muffled and padded which causes them to operate extremely silently. 

How do canister filters work?

It’s very important to at least be acquainted with how your canister filter works because this will allow you to make an informed decision on which one you want to buy and will also be helpful during maintenance and cleaning.

Canister filters are mounted to the exterior of your aquarium with an inlet tube and an outlet tube. These allow the water to flow in and out of your canister filter. Once your filter is mounted and filled with water, the water passes through the different membranes in your canister filter and then the water is propelled into your aquarium. These membranes do the job of mechanical, chemical and biological filtration of your water so that the water that finally enters your aquarium is pure and healthy for your fish.

How do I set up my canister filter?

Setting up a canister filter is fairly easier than most other filters since it’s mounted to the exterior of aquariums. Most canister filters come with an instruction manual that you can follow to easily install it onto your aquarium.

The important thing to keep in mind is to assemble your canister filter entirely before you mount it onto your aquarium (except for the inlet and outlet pipes). Once your canister is mounted, you can connect these pipes to start the flow of water. 

What are some tips for maintaining a canister filter?

Here are some tips for maintaining a canister filter: 

  • If you have a spare toothbrush, you can utilize it to clean the insides of your canister filter. It’s a very effective and cheap way to do some effective cleaning. 
  • Experimenting with filtration media can be a good idea to find what’s most appropriate for the type of aquarium you have. We encourage you to find media that most effectively clean your aquarium and also lasts for the longest time. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I prime my canister filter?

Most canister filters come with instructions on how to prime them but in case yours doesn’t. Here’s an efficient way to do it: 

  • Assemble your canister filter, submerge it in your aquarium and plug it in. 
  • Tilt the filter to one side in order to submerge the impeller so suction starts. 
  • Hold it in this position for one minute and then tilt it upwards to expel any air. Your canister filter should be primed now.

How frequently should I clean my canister filter?

Canister filters can go a long while before they need to be cleaned as compared to other types of filters. You should start checking if your canister filter needs to be cleaned after every two months, just to be safe. Normally, canister filters need to be cleaned every three to four months.

What’s an effective way to get air out of my canister filter?

This usually happens because of improper sealing of your canister filter. Submerge it in your aquarium and observe where the air bubbles are being produced. Once you’ve identified the place where the air is being sucked in, properly seal it. This will prevent any air from being trapped in your canister filter in the future.

How do I layer media in my canister filter?

First of all, you should ensure you have the appropriate filtration media for your canister filter. In general, layering starts from back to front first with ceramic rings, then the coarse sponge, then the bio media and a filter wool pad on top.

Where should I place my canister filter?

We all know that canister filters are placed on the exterior of your aquarium. The important thing you should keep in mind is to have your canister filter below the water level in your aquarium. Having the canister filter above the water level would cause problems for the impeller.

Can a strong filter kill my fish

Yes. As we’ve discussed briefly above, having a filter that’s too big or strong for your aquarium is a big no-no and this is mainly because the currents and suction that a big filter creates in a smaller aquarium may be too much for smaller fish to handle. Fish getting sucked into a filter and dying is not unheard of. Even if that’s not the case, the currents that a strong filter creates might also be very stress-inducing for your fish. 

Should I turn my canister filter off at night? 

No. A canister filter (or any aquarium filter for that matter) is not a piece of equipment that should ever be turned off. It needs to be running constantly in your aquarium in order to be effective. Your fish aren’t going to just stop creating waste at night and your filter needs to be active at that time in order to address that.

Can I use a canister filter with a sump? 

Yes, you can definitely use it with a sump with the canister filter acting as a return pump. You need to be very careful though; We suggest making arrangements for a power backup if you’re going to do this because a power failure could result in your canister filter back-siphoning which would introduce contaminated water to your aquarium.

How long can fish survive without a filter? 

Technically, the beneficial nitrifying bacteria start dying off within 30 minutes of your filter being turned off inside your aquarium. You can go up to 24 hours without a filter without fearing for the safety of your fish but we highly recommend that you get a filter for your aquarium before that.

Can I have more than one filter on my aquarium? 

You can if you want but you should be very careful with the strength of the filters you’re installing into your aquarium as this could lead to the same problems that we described for a larger filter in a smaller aquarium. We recommend just getting a single appropriately sized filter for your aquarium as it’s easier to estimate how strong of a filter you need when it’s just one.

Final Verdict

Having a decent filter for your aquarium is essential to its successful setup and to the health of the aquatic life inside it. 

After months of experimentation, we decided to go with the Fluval Canister Filter as the best of the bunch. It’s appropriate for a versatile size of aquariums and it does its job wonderfully without creating too much noise. 

This brings us to the end of our post for the best canister filters. 

Let us know what canister filter you’re using to keep your aquarium clean.

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