10 Best Canister Filters of 2020

Best Canister Filter

For a fish, living in dirty water is comparable to you living in an environment filled with smog and dirt. You get to breathe in harmful air, which is unfit for your health.

A canister filter is a component that filters out the harmful elements out of the water so that your fish can live comfortably, as you would in a clean environment.

However, there is a wide variety of canister filters in the market, which makes it a little difficult to get the best canister filter, especially if you do not know what exactly to look for. That said, this article looks at different canister filters from which you can pick the most suitable.

You can also read other product reviews of aquarium filterHOB filterfilter for turtle tank.

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​PRODUCT

​FEATURES

Fluval FX6

1. Fluval FX6 (Powerful Canister Filter)

  • Powerful pump; 563 GPH
  • Ideal for up to 400-gallon tanks
  • Multi-stage filtration with removable stacks
  • Adjustable water flow
Penn Plax CCF5UL

2. Penn Plax Cascade 1000 (Canister Filter with Rotating Valves)

  • 360º rotating flow valves with flow rate control
  • 265 GPH max flow rate
  • 3-stage filtration with 3 large filter baskets
  • Includes multiple accessories
MarineLand ML90751

3. MarineLand ML90751 (Easy-to-Maintain Canister Filter)

  • Easy-to-remove lid for quick maintenance
  • Tight seal gasket for leak-free use
  • 3 size options
  • 3-stage filtration system
Eheim 2213371

4. Eheim 2213371 (Easy-to-Monitor Canister Filter)

  • Green translucent casing for easy monitoring
  • Permo-elastic silicone sealing ring
  • 116 GPH
Finnex PX-360

5. Finnex PX-360 (Affordable Canister Filter)

  • Affordable
  • Compact size
  • Mounting hanger with a 2-inch lift
API Filstar XP

6. API Filstar XP (Self-Priming Canister Filter)

  • Self-priming with anti-airlock
  • Self-locking water shut-off
  • Durable heavy-gauge construction
  • Ideal for up to 175-gallon tanks
Marineland PCML530

7. Marineland PCML530 (No Bypass Canister Filter)

  • 3-stage filtration system with no bypass
  • 530 GPH flow rate
  • Available in 4 different sizes
Polar Aurora ​Canister Filter

8. Polar Aurora Canister Filter (Canister Filter with a UV Sterilizer)

  • Built-in 9-watt UV sterilizer
  • Self-priming with a strong seal
  • Low noise operation
  • 370 GPH
Fluval 106

9. Fluval 106 (Canister Filter with Aqua Stop Valves)

  • Patented aqua stop valves
  • Single motion lift lock clamps
  • 145 GPH
  • Available in 4 sizes
Cobalt Aquatics 26000

10. Cobalt Aquatics 26000 (Canister Filter with Bottom-Up Water Flow)

  • Bottom-up filtering design
  • Multi-stage filtration with 4 preloaded media chambers
  • Inline pump

PRODUCT

1. Fluval FX6

(Powerful Canister Filter)

Fluval FX6
  • Powerful pump; 563 GPH
  • Ideal for up to 400-gallon tanks
  • Multi-stage filtration with removable stacks
  • Adjustable water flow

2. Penn Plax Cascade 1000

(Canister Filter with Rotating Valves)

Penn Plax CCF5UL
  • 360º rotating flow valves with flow rate control
  • 265 GPH max flow rate
  • 3-stage filtration with 3 large filter baskets
  • Includes multiple accessories

3. MarineLand ML90751

(Easy-to-Maintain Canister Filter)

MarineLand ML90751
  • Easy-to-remove lid for quick maintenance
  • Tight seal gasket for leak-free use
  • 3 size options
  • 3-stage filtration system

4. Eheim 2213371

(Easy-to-Monitor Canister Filter)

Eheim 2213371
  • Green translucent casing for easy monitoring
  • Permo-elastic silicone sealing ring
  • 116 GPH

5. Finnex PX-360

(Affordable Canister Filter)

Finnex PX-360
  • Affordable
  • Compact size
  • Mounting hanger with a 2-inch lift

6. API Filstar XP

(Self-Priming Canister Filter)

API Filstar XP
  • Self-priming with anti-airlock
  • Self-locking water shut-off
  • Durable heavy-gauge construction
  • Ideal for up to 175-gallon tanks

7. Marineland PCML530

(No Bypass Canister Filter)

Marineland PCML530
  • 3-stage filtration system with no bypass
  • 530 GPH flow rate
  • Available in 4 different sizes

8. Polar Aurora Canister Filter

(Canister Filter with a UV Sterilizer)

Polar Aurora ​Canister Filter
  • Built-in 9-watt UV sterilizer
  • Self-priming with a strong seal
  • Low noise operation
  • 370 GPH

9. Fluval 106

(Canister Filter with Aqua Stop Valves)

Fluval 106
  • Patented aqua stop valves
  • Single motion lift lock clamps
  • 145 GPH
  • Available in 4 sizes

10. Cobalt Aquatics 26000

(Canister Filter with Bottom-Up Water Flow)

Cobalt Aquatics 26000
  • Bottom-up filtering design
  • Multi-stage filtration with 4 preloaded media chambers
  • Inline pump

1. Fluval FX6 – Powerful Canister Filter

Fluval FX6 Canister Filter
  • Tank Size: Up to 400 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 563 GPH
  • Filter System: Multi-stage

Fluval’s FX6 is a high capacity workhorse with a powerful pump that delivers water at the rate of 563 gallons per hour through its filtration system.

This pump is designed to evacuate the air in the system by itself so as to start operations without priming, and this makes it very convenient to use.

The unit features a removable stack of media baskets that can accommodate up to 6 stages of filtration. These baskets are designed to eliminate water bypass, ensuring that all the water goes through the available filtration media.

On efficiency, this product has an electronic circuit board that monitors the pump’s output and impeller speed to make sure that it is operating efficiently.

Other features include a clog-proof intake strainer, aquastop valves that allow you to cut off the water flow by turning the valve lever, a multi-directional output nozzle and monthly maintenance reminders.

This diversity in size and multiple features have made this the top rated canister filter in this list. However, it is very expensive. 

Pros:

  • Powerful pump with a flow rate of 563 GPH
  • Self-priming system
  • Clog-proof intake strainer
  • Multi-directional output nozzles
  • Adjustable water flow ​

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Quite large and heavy

2. Penn Plax Cascade 1000 – Canister Filter with Rotating Valves

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter
  • Tank Size: Up to 100 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 265 GPH
  • Filter System: 3-stage

This Cascade 1000 is ideal for tight spaces because it is equipped with 360º rotating flow valves, which allow you to position the unit in the most appropriate space.

These valves have flow control mechanisms that enable you to adjust the water flow rate, giving you more control over the filtration process.

The unit also has 3 large media baskets that can accommodate a large quantity of filtering media for more effective filtering.

Once installed, you have to prime the filter manually using a few button presses so that the pump can be able to suck the water from the tank. Even though this is a manual process, it is quite easy and the button is conveniently located above the unit for easy reach.

In terms of accessories, this unit comes with a spray bar that can be inserted into the tank instead of a directional sprout, which is also included. Input/ output plastic tubing and filter media are also included, giving you a complete package.

Pros:

  • 360º rotating flow valves
  • Adjustable water flow rate
  • 3 large media baskets
  • Comes with multiple accessories

Cons:

  • Requires manual priming
  • Fragile plastic tubing accessories

3. MarineLand ML90751 – Easy-to-Maintain Canister Filter

MarineLand Magniflow Canister Filter
  • Tank Size: Up to 100 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 360 GPH
  • Filter System: 3-stage

Setting it up this ML90751 is quite easy because it has an easy-to-remove lid that exposes the media baskets, which makes it easy to maintain.

Once done, the top sealing gasket ensures that the lid forms a tight seal with the rest of the canister, and this prevents any form of leakage.

Inside is a complete 3-stage filtering system, which is composed of a mechanical, chemical and biological filter in the form of a filter foam, black diamond carbon, and ceramic rings respectively.

These layers are stacked in a manner that forces water through, without any bypassing.

If this size is too big for your tank, this product is available in a 160 GPH 30-gallon option and a 220 GPH 55-gallon option. However, regardless of the size, this filter must be primed before use in order to fill the chamber with water for the pump to run.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up and maintain
  • Tight seal gasket keeps it from leaking
  • ​3-stage filtration system
  • Available in 3 size options

Cons:

  • Requires priming before use

4. Eheim 2213371 – Easy-to-Monitor Canister Filter

Eheim Classic External Canister Filter with Media
  • Tank Size: Up to 66 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 116 GPH
  • Filter System: 3-stage

Eheim’s 2213371 is characterized by a greenish translucent body, which enables you to monitor the filter sponges, carbon floss pad and ceramic rings on the inside easily. 

With these media, the canister has a 3-stage filtering system, which is very effective at purifying aquarium water. However, it requires manual priming before use so as to fill the volume of these filtering layers with water.

The unit’s pump head features a fixed permo-elastic silicon sealing ring that makes it easy and safe to close after cleaning.

When it comes to accessories, this product comes with a spray bar, an inlet plastic pipe, hose, filtering media and many others, making it convenient to use.

It is available in two other options, with the 40-gallon 79 GPH canister being the smaller option and the 92-gallon 163 GPH unit being the larger option.

Pros:

  • Translucent casing ​makes it easy to monitor the media
  • Fixed permo-elastic silicon sealing ring
  • Comes with multiple accessories
  • Available in 3 capacity options

Cons:

  • Requires manual priming
  • Fragile plastic pipes for accessories

5. Finnex PX-360 – Affordable Canister Filter

Finnex PX-360 Compact Canister Filter
  • Tank Size: Up to 25 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 95 GPH
  • Filter System: 3-stage

Finnex’s PX-360 is the best budget canister filter and this is primarily due to its small, compact size. However, this small size means that it is capable of handling only 95 gallons per hour because of its small motor, on a maximum 25-gallon fish tank.

Despite this compact design, the product features a 3-stage filter system and comes with the three filter media, namely a sponge, an activated carbon floss pad and ceramic rings to fill its media baskets.

The unit features a hanger that makes it possible to hang it on fish tank walls with a 2-inch lift to give you the flexibility of setting it up just how you like it.

Apart from the hanger, other accessories include a spray bar, strainer, and a durable water intake.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Features a hanger with a 2-inch lift
  • 3-stage filtration system
  • Comes with multiple accessories, including the filter media

Cons:

  • Slow flow rate
  • Only suitable for small fish tanks

6. API Filstar XP – Self-Priming Canister Filter

API Filstar XP Aquarium Canister Filter
  • Tank Size: Up to 175 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 350 GPH
  • Filter System: 3-stage

If you do not like the hand-pumping action required for manual priming, you should consider the API Filstar XP canister filter.

The product has a self-priming feature that makes the pump ready to start with only a cupful of water. Additionally, it has a patented anti-airlock system that prevents air from getting inside and thus, no need for priming every time before startup.

A water locking system automatically shuts off the water flow during maintenance, preventing water loss once you start opening it up. The filter can also be disengaged from the inlet/ outlet pipes without interfering with the airlock, and this eliminates the need to re-prime every time.

The XP is made using heavy-gauge, durable materials, and has a large rubber base that keeps its tall structure in place while also dampening vibrations for smooth and quiet operations. 

A 3-stage filtration system is responsible for the filtration and consists of 20 and 30 PPI pads for mechanical filtration, API’s bio-chem stars for biological filtration and API’s bio-chem zorb for chemical filtration.

Pros:

  • Self-priming
  • Anti-airlock system
  • Durable construction
  • Water locking system prevents water loss during maintenance

Cons:

  • Relatively large in size

7. Marineland PCML530 – No Bypass Canister Filter

Marineland Multi-Stage Canister Filter
  • Tank Size: Up to 150 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 530 GPH
  • Filter System: 3-stage

Marineland is one of the best canister filter brands in the market and their PCML530 has a no-bypass system that ensures all the water passes through the filtration media.

That said, filtration consists of a 3-stage system, which has a mechanical filter, a chemical filter for clearing out the bad odor and discolorations and a biological filter for removing toxic ammonia and nitrites.  

With this, you get a flow rate of 530 gallons per hour, which is pretty fast and this makes it one of the best aquarium canister filters on the market.

However, this does come at a high price but the unit is ideal for relatively large tanks of up to 150 gallons in capacity.

The filter is also available in less powerful 360 GPH 100 gallon, 220 GPH 55 gallon and 160 GPH 30-gallon options, which are cheaper and provide more options to fit the needs of a huge number of people.

Pros:

  • ​​3-stage filtration with no bypass
  • Quick 530 GPH flow rate
  • Can be used on large fish tanks (up to 150 gallons)
  • Available in 4 capacity options

Cons:

  • Expensive

8. Polar Aurora Canister Filter – Canister Filter with a UV Sterilizer

Polar Aurora 3-stage External Canister Filter (370 GPH)
  • Tank Size: Up to 100 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 370 GPH
  • Filter System: 3-stage

At first look, the Polar Aurora canister filter has a robot-like design that makes it look very futuristic. However, the product is very unique because it has a built-in 9 watt UV sterilizer that helps to kill algae and harmful bacteria. 

You also get a convenient self-priming pump that eliminates the task of manual suction of water before first use and 3 flexible media trays for holding activated carbon, bio-balls and cotton pads to handle the 3-step filtration process.

In terms of power, this Polar Aurora product is powered by a 35 Watt motor, giving it a flow rate of 370 GPH, with an operating limit of a 100-gallon aquarium.  

Other features include a strong seal for leak-free use, ultra low noise running for smooth, silent filtration and multiple accessories for quick setting up. However, the unit has a relatively high power consumption due to the UV sterilizer.

Pros:

  • 9 watt UV sterilizer
  • Self-priming
  • ​Strong, leak-free seal
  • ​Low noise operation

Cons:

  • ​Relatively high power consumption

9. Fluval 106 – Canister Filter with Aqua Stop Valves

Fluval 106 Canister Filter
  • Tank Size: Up to 25 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 145 GPH
  • Filter System: 3-stage

Building on the success of the Fluval 5 series filters, the Fluval 106 is designed to provide better filtration while requiring less and easy maintenance.

The filter features patented aqua stop valves that make it easy to disconnect hoses when doing maintenance on the canister itself. It also has single-motion lift-lock clamps for quick separation of the parts during cleaning.

For filtration, the unit features a 3-stage process that ensures you get an all-round filtration system for the good of your fish.

There are three more options available in this canister line up and these are the Fluval 206Fluval 306 and Fluval 406

As the naming convention suggests, the 206 is more powerful than the 106, with a flow rate of 206 GPH and can handle a tank size capacity of up to 45 gallons.

On the other hand, the 306 has a flow rate of 303 GPH, while the 406 delivers up to 383 GPH, which is pretty powerful. It is the largest and most powerful of the 3 options but the rest of the features remain the same.  

Pros:

  • Patented aqua stop valves for easy hose disconnection.
  • Single-motion lift-lock clamps.
  • Available in 4 capacity options
  • Easy to maintain

Cons:

  • Relatively slow flow rate.
  • Can only be used on a maximum 25-gallon fish tank

10. Cobalt Aquatics 26000 – Canister Filter with Bottom Up Water Flow

Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter
  • Tank Size: Up to 55 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 210 GPH
  • Filter System: Multi-stage

Cobalt Aquatics’ 26000 has a unique functional design that forces the water from the bottom of the canister to the top through the media chambers for very effective filtering.

The filter has 4 media chambers that come preloaded with filtering media in the following order.

First, the bottom chamber is filled with a sponge filter for mechanical filtration, an activated carbon layer on the chamber above the sponge for chemical filtration.

The third stage comes filled with ceramic rings that host bacteria for biological filtration and a final fine pad for polishing the water before going back to the aquarium.

This means you get a ready to use product straight out of the box, making this one of the best canister filters for 55-gallon tanks.

For convenience, this unit features an inline pump that can be placed inside the tank, eliminating the need for priming while also giving you the flexibility of placing the filter above, below or at level with the tank. 

Pros:

  • Bottom to top filtering design
  • 4 preloaded media chambers
  • M​ulti-stage filtration
  • Requires no priming due to the inline pump

Cons:

  • External pump adds some complexity when setting up
  • The pump consumes a noticeable space inside the tank

How to Buy the Best Canister Filter

How to Buy the Best Canister Filter

1. Saltwater or Freshwater

Although most canister filters are designed for both saltwater and freshwater (including all the products above), it is important to check this property before buying so that if you decide to convert your tank, you won’t have to buy another filter.

2. Motor

A motor is one of the most important components in a canister filter. As such, it should be powerful enough to push the water through the filtration media. However, there are some key things to consider about the pump.

First is the noise. Ideally, a silent motor like the one in Polar Aurora's ​Canister Filter​ is the best type because ​it doesn't interrupt the smooth ambiance caused by the subtle movements of the fish inside the tank.

Second, priming is usually associated with the canister filter itself but it is actually a way to clear out the air so that the pump can suck the water efficiently out of the tank.

A self-priming pump like the one in API's Filstar XP​ is better off since it reduces the manual priming work before startup.   

Efficiency is also a key factor to consider because power saving is important. Filters such as the Fluval FX6 feature an electronic circuit board that monitors the pump’s activity to ensure that it operates efficiently.

Therefore, you should take these three into consideration because they will help you buy a product featuring the best pumping system.   

3. Tank Size

As a general rule of thumb, you should buy a double or triple sized canister filter. This means that if you have a 50-gallon tank, you should get a 100 or a 150-gallon rated canister.

This is because a unit that is rated at 50 gallons means that at maximum output, it will be effective for such a tank.

However, several factors such as clogging cause the filters to have slower flow rates, making them less effective because they do not provide the max output.  

Therefore, you will need a higher tank size rating to cater to these factors.

4. Filter System

Normally, most people like the best of the best, which in this case means a canister with the highest number of filter stages. ​However, this comes at a cost.

Of course, such a system will be more expensive to buy but will also strain the pump because it will have to push the water through multiple layers.

The result of this in high energy consumption while producing a low water output.

Buying Advice: A 3-stage filtration system like in MarineLand's ML90751 is usually enough for the job but if you don’t mind spending a lot when buying and when paying your bills, the multi-stage Fluval FX6​ is best.  ​

5. Flow Rate

The higher the flow rate, the better since ​the filter ​will circulate the water ​faster. However, if your fish tank is small, it is not advisable to but a filter with a very fast flow rate because it will reach a point where you are recirculating clean water.

For instance, if you have a 25-gallon aquarium, you don’t need a 500 or even a 300 GPH filter. These rates are too fast and too expensive to run for a 25-gallon tank.

For such a case, a rate lower than 100 GPH will do and Finnex's PX-360 is the best option.

6. Valve

These units usually have 2 valves: one for the intake and one for the output.

The features that you should look for in the valves include adjustable water flow control, which basically means that you can adjust the amount of water that goes in to be filtered.

This also ​means that the valves can be completely closed during maintenance and thus, eliminates the need for priming since the water will remain in the intake pipes.

Rotating valves are also ideal to have because they enable you to set up the canister in any kind of orientation. Check out Penn Plax's Cascade 1000 for these features.

7. Easy to Clean

Maintenance is a key thing to consider. Ideally, removable media baskets and an easy to open top lid are the best features to look for so as to buy an easy to clean canister filter, with MarineLand's ML90751 being the ideal option.

How to Set up the Canister Filter

How to set up the Canister Filter

For you to set up a properly functioning filtration system, you need to follow these steps.

1. Ensure that you have everything in place

Unpack everything from the box and confirm that every component is there and not damaged.

2. Prep your tank

Make sure that your tank is placed on a high spot so that the filter can be placed below it. Ideally, a drop of about 8 – 20 inches is enough; it is neither too deep to strain the pump nor too shallow to interfere with the siphoning process.

If the filter has an inline pump, you can set it up above the tank, below or level but ensure that the pump is at the aquarium level.

However, you should check your filter’s guide to find the recommended installation position in relation to the tank’s position.

3. Prep the filter

A correctly set up canister filter should have the water flowing from the mechanical filter to the biological filter and finally to the chemical filter.

Therefore, during assembly, ensure that you arrange the media baskets in this order. From top to bottom, their order should depend on the water flow design in the unit.

4. Attach the intake and output pipes

Connect the intake hose to the strainer on one end then attach the other end to the filter intake valve. As a general rule, ensure that the strainer is at least 3 inches from the bottom of the tank.

Similarly, attach the output hose to the output nozzle then send it to the tank. However, this hose should only lie at least 1 inch below the water and should not go in too deep.

5. Start the filter

Run the filter to see if everything works. However, if it requires manual priming, first ensure that you do this before switching it on.

Conclusion

​In summary, having gone through the review above, it is quite clear that Fluval's FX6 is the best canister filter to use if you have a large ​aquarium while Finnex's PX-360 is the best option for small tanks. 

On the other hand​, if your fish are extremely sensitive to algae and bacteria, Polar Aurora's ​Canister is the ideal filter to use due to its UV sterilizer.


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