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10 Best Canister Filters – Reviews and Buying Guide

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 basically a component that filters out the harmful elements out of the water so that your fish can live comfortable, as you would in a clean environment.

However, with an increasing number of people owning fish tanks, there has been a surge in the variety of canister filters to satisfy this huge number of people.

This means that it might be a little difficult to get the best canister filter, especially if you do not know what exactly to look for.

This article explains the features of different canister filters, with a view of helping you find the most suitable one for your tank.

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

Product Name

Image

​Features/Benefits

Rating

Current Price

1. Fluval FX6 Canister Filter


Fluval FX6 Canister Filter

Expensive, high capacity canister filter with a powerful pump and 6 filtration stages. Also available in multiple smaller versions

4.8

2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Manual primed canister filter with 3 large media baskets and rotating flow valves

4.4

3. Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter

Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter

Uniquely designed bottom-to-top canister filter with 4 media chambers and an inline pump

4.5

4. MarineLand Magniflow Canister Filter

MarineLand Magniflow Canister Filter

Powerful 360 GPH filter with a 3-stage filtration system, which is easy to set up

4.3

5. Eheim Classic External Canister Filter with Media

Eheim Classic External Canister Filter with Media

Greenish, translucent canister filter with a 3-stage filter system and a fixed permo-elastic silicon sealing ring on the pump head

4.1

6. Finnex PX-360 Compact Canister Filter

Finnex PX-360 Compact Canister Filter

Affordable, small-sized canister filter with a 2-inch lift and a complete set of accessories

4.0

7. API Filstar XP Aquarium Canister Filter

API Filstar XP Aquarium Canister Filter

Self-priming canister filter that is easy to maintain and has a heavy duty construction

4.0

8. Marineland Multi-Stage Canister Filter

Marineland Multi-Stage Canister Filter

High capacity canister filter that is costly and features a 3-stage filtration system

4.2

9. Polar Aurora 3-stage External Canister Filter (370 GPH)

Polar Aurora 3-stage External Canister Filter (370 GPH)

Robot-like self-priming pump that is available in a 370 GPH 100-gallon option and a 265 GPH 75-gallon option with a 9 watt UV sterilizer and a 35-watt motor.

4.0

10. Fluval 106 Canister Filter

Fluval 106 Canister Filter

Small, easy to maintain canister filter with patented aqua stop valves and a flow rate of 145 GPH but is available in larger 206 and 306 options with more powerful features

3.9

1. Fluval FX6 Canister Filter

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

Fluval’s FX6 is the most expensive canister filter in this review but it 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, a quiet motor, monthly maintenance reminders, and multiple size options.

This diversity in size and multiple features have made this the top rated canister filter in this list because it is worth the money.

Pros:

  • Self-priming system
  • Powerful, quiet pump
  • Operates efficiently due to its electronic circuit board
  • Clog-proof intake strainer
  • Multi-directional output nozzles
  • Adjustable water flow using Aquastop valves
  • Monthly maintenance reminders

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Quite large and heavy

2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

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

Penn Plax’s Cascade canister is also available in a wide range of options, with some being smaller while others are larger versions as compared to this filter.

Focusing on the Cascade 1000, it features 3 large media baskets that can accommodate a large quantity of filtering media for more effective filtering.

If you have a very tight space for your aquarium, this canister features revolving flow valves that can rotate 360º, enabling 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.

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:

  • 3 large media baskets
  • 360º rotating flow valves
  • Adjustable water flow rate.
  • Available in multiple size options
  • Comes with multiple accessories

Cons:

  • Requires manual priming
  • Fragile plastic tubing accessories

3. Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter

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:

  • 4 preloaded media chambers
  • Mechanical, biological and chemical filtration plus water polishing
  • Requires no priming due to the inline pump
  • Bottom to top filtering design.
  • The filter can be placed above, below or at level with the tank

Cons:

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

4. MarineLand Magniflow Canister Filter

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

This product is a powerfully designed 360 GPH canister filter that can be used to clean up to 100-gallon fish tanks.

Inside, it features a complete 3-stage filtering system, composing 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.

Setting it up is a breeze. It has an easy-to-remove lid that exposes the media baskets, making 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.

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:

  • Complete 3-stage filtration system
  • Fast flow rate
  • Easy to set up
  • Tight seal gasket keeps it from leaking
  • Available in 3 size options

Cons:

  • Requires priming before use

5. Eheim Classic External Canister Filter with Media

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

Eheim’s classic external canister has a greenish translucent body that enables you to see the filter sponges, carbon floss pad and ceramic rings on the inside.

This means that it only 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 but it is reasonably priced to compensate for this.

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:

  • Affordable
  • Fixed permo-elastic silicon sealing ring
  • Comes with multiple accessories
  • 3-stage filtration system
  • Available in 3 capacity options

Cons:

  • Requires manual priming
  • Fragile plastic pipes for accessories

6. Finnex PX-360 Compact 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
  • Small and compact
  • 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

7. API Filstar XP Aquarium 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
  • 3-stage filtration system
  • Water locking system prevents water loss during maintenance

Cons:

  • Relatively large in size

8. Marineland Multi-Stage Canister Filter

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

It is hard to go wrong with a Marineland product and this multi-stage canister filter is all about speed.

The pump in it pushes the water through its filter system at a rate of 530 gallons per hour, which is pretty fast and makes it one of the best aquarium canister filters on the market.

However, this does come at a high price and the machinery required to achieve this high performance makes it big and heavy. This high speed though and a maximum rating of a 150-gallon fish tank, make it well worth the money.

The unit 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.

Functionally, this multi-stage canister actually has a 3-stage filtration system comprising of a mechanical filter for clearing out the debris, a chemical filter for clearing out the bad odor and discolorations and a biological filter for removing toxic ammonia and nitrites.  

Pros:

  • Quick flow rate
  • 3-stage filtration system
  • Available in 4 capacity options
  • Can be used on large fish tanks (up to 150 gallons).

Cons:

  • Quite big and heavy
  • Expensive

9. Polar Aurora 3-stage External Canister Filter (370 GPH)

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.

The unit is black and white in color and has a convenient self-priming pump that eliminates the task of manual suction of water before first use.

For filtration, this unit has 3 flexible media trays for inserting the filtration media, which include activated carbon, bio-balls and cotton pads to handle the 3-step filtration process.

Other than this, the filter has a built-in 9 watt UV sterilizer that helps to kill algae and harmful bacteria, and this sort of adds another filter system stage.

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.  

If you want a smaller version of this 370 GPH Polar Aurora filter, there is a 265 GPH version that features a less powerful motor and is smaller in size. It is also designed to handle a smaller tank size, with a capacity of up to 75 gallons. However, all the other features are very similar.  

Pros:

  • Self-priming
  • 3-stage filtration process
  • 9 watt UV sterilizer
  • Available in 2 size options
  • The powerful motor gives it a fast flow rate

Cons:

  • UV light is very fragile and might break easily
  • UV lighting makes the unit consume more power

10. Fluval 106 Canister Filter

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 two more option available in this canister line up and these are the Fluval 206 and Fluval 306.

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. It is a mid-size option between the 106 and 306.

On the other hand, the 306 has a flow rate of 303 GPH, which is pretty powerful and can handle a tank size that has a capacity of up to 70 gallons. 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.
  • 3-stage filtration system
  • Available in 3 capacity options
  • Easy to maintain

Cons:

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

How to Buy the Best Canister Filters

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 is the best type because you wouldn’t want an irritating noise running the otherwise 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 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. Well, this might mean better filtration but it comes at a cost.

Of course, such a system will be more expensive to buy but also, it will 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 is usually enough for the job but if you don’t mind spending a lot when buying and when paying your bills, a multi-stage canister will do.

5. Flow Rate

The higher the flow rate, the better since it will filter and circulate the water more quickly through the tank’s volume.

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.

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 probably 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.

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.

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

There is a lot that goes on during the filtration process in canister filters. As such, it is essential to understand the inner workings of these products so that you don’t mess up your fish’s environment.

Going through this article will give you some deep insights into this subject, enabling you to understand what the particular features mean and how they are beneficial to you.