13 Best Canister Filters

Are you confused about which canister filter to buy?

Are you unaware of the factors that decide which canister filter will be suitable for you?

If this is the case, you are at the right place.

Canister filters are crucial if you want to maintain healthy living conditions for your fish.

The fish need an environment, devoid of any debris or impurity and this is where a canister filter is valuable.

Let’s find out some of the best options available.

Contents show

The Best Canister Filters

ProductWater typeSize 
Hydor Professional External Canister FilterAll types of aquarium150 gallons
SunSun-China HW-304B External Canister FilterFreshwater and saltwater aquariums150 gallons
Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium FilterFreshwater and saltwater aquariums200 gallons
Fluval External FilterFreshwater and saltwater aquariums100 gallons
Marineland Multi-Stage Canister FilterFreshwater and saltwater Aquariums100 to 150 gallons

What is the purpose of the canister filter?

Canister filters are filters for the aquariums that are meant to remove any impurity from the tank.

Here is the thing:

The debris and microbes in the tank can be harmful to the fish.

Thus, these filters are required to get rid of all the impurities that can harm the aquatic life.

The filters remove the water from the tank via an intake tube and then run it in a pressurized canister through filter media.

The filtered water is then pumped back into the tank via a spray bar or spillway.

How Does A Canister Filter Work?

It is common for the aquarium to accumulate dirt and waste.

Remember: cleaning your aquarium thoroughly, is vital if you do not want the aquatic life to suffer.

This is where the use of a canister filter proves to be pivotal.

Let us go through the steps via which it performs its task of filtration.

Water Intake

The first step is removing the dirty water from the tank.

The canister uses an inlet piping to draw the unfiltered water from the tank.

The large debris is strained away via the input strainer.

The water then goes to the filter.

An important point that you need to remember: air gaps need to be removed if you want your filter to perform optimally.


Most filters available on the market are self-priming or are primed with a single button.

Manual siphoning is not required for many.

Filtration of water by media

Gravity plays a role: as the water enters the canister, it tends to collect at the bottom.

It is drawn up via a motor and is then made to pass through multiple layers of filtration media.

The layers of media are mechanical, chemical and biological.

The selection of media is made according to the tank.

The type of fish in the tank and the waste generated are some factors that are considered.

Mechanical filtration

The first set of media that the water is exposed to is usually mechanical.

It gets rid of debris from the water.


Meshes and nets.

Biological filtration

Some beneficial bacteria flourish in the tank.

These bacteria break down harmful nitrogenous waste to produce nitrates.

The bacteria need a substrate for proliferation, and biological media provide this.


Bio balls and bio glass.

Chemical filtration

Pollutants and other impurities such as chlorine are removed from the water by chemical filtration.


Phosphate removers and activated carbon.

Transfer of filtered water back to the aquarium

Once the process of filtration is complete, the water is sent back to the tank.

Outlet pipes are used for the purpose.

Some filters use spray bars while in others; the water is let directly in.

Canister Filters Detailed Product Reviews

1. Hydor Professional External Canister Filter


This can easily be counted among the best canister filters you will find on the market.

It is equipped with quite a lot of appealing features that ensure that optimal performance is offered.

This unit is capable of cleaning the environment of your aquarium, mechanically and biologically; thus ensuring that your aquatic life gets the best possible living conditions.


The manufacturers have made sure that you do not have to face any difficulty in using this canister filter.

Setting it up is a breeze:

It would not take up a lot of your time.

All you need to do is place all the bio pieces in the trays after washing them and put the trays in the filter.

Once the top is secured, the filter is placed under the tank. Cut the water tubes according to measurements and attach them to the filter.

The priming button is switched on following which the chamber fills up.

You can now use the canister filter to give your fish a pure and clean environment.

You will be impressed: operating at 345GPH, the filter is quite powerful, capable of producing a copious amount of water


  • Easy to set up and use
  • Does not produce a lot of noise
  • Quite powerful with impressive filtration ability


  • Cleaning the filter can sometimes be a tad bit messy

2. SunSun-China External Canister Filter


Suitable for tanks with a capacity of up to 150 gallons, this canister filter certainly offers excellent performance.

You will be pleased:

The unit has a flow rate of 525 GPH which ensures rapid results.

The SunSun Canister filter can withstand high-pressure water flow effectively; thus giving you the freedom to select your desired flow rate.

The canister filter is provided with a built-in 9-watt UV sterilizer.

Your fish gets crystal clear water to live in due to this sterilizer: it gets rid of all the bacteria and algae spores from the water.

Four flexible media trays also form part of the unit which you can use to acquire optimal filtration biologically, chemically and mechanically.

The water condition is not affected by the filter media.

The unit is convenient: A self-priming pump also forms part of it.

You do not have to worry about manual siphoning anymore.


  • Offers a relatively quiet operation
  • It does not take a long time to clean the water
  • Affordable


  • The manual guide does not contain clear instructions about using or cleaning the equipment

3. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter


Penn Plax enjoys a profound reputation in the market as they always offer durable canister filters.

This one is no exception.

This unit offers you a multi-stage filter, ensuring that no residue of dirt is left behind.

Once the canister filter is done, your tank will offer a clean and pure environment to the aquatic life like no other.

The filter can be used for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.

It is capable of handling higher capacity compared to many other options available.

It is even compatible with tanks with a capacity of 200 gallons.

Installation is quite simple.

All the necessary parts are provided

To make things clear; no additional purchases have to be made.

It is primer enabled; press the button, and the filter will be primed.

The filter also has flow rate control valves which ensure leakage does not occur during maintenance.

The filter trays are quite durable, and you do not have to worry about replacing them anytime soon.


It is unlikely that changing the media will be problematic; an easy-lift clamp makes it easier.


  • Setting it up is easy
  • The hose connections are secure and strong
  • Ample scope of using media owing to the presence of five trays
  • The flow rate is easy to adjust


  • The tray locks are somewhat weak.
  • The instructions for setting up the unit are not very clear.

4. Fluval External Filter


This model is worthy of being counted among the best canister filters owing to all the impressive features it is equipped with.

This model is worthy of being counted among the best canister filters owing to all the impressive features it is equipped with.

Suitable for all types of aquariums, including both saltwater and freshwater, the unit is capable of providing high-quality filtration.

An advanced motor forms part of it that ensures that the flow rate is maintained even when maintenance is being done.

What’s more;

Minimal vibrations and noise are produced during operations.

Since many fish do not like vibrations, you can use this canister filter without any inhibitions, making it quite a versatile option.

The unit performs its task via three stages of filtration, mechanical, chemical and biological.

It is also equipped with aqua-stop valves that allow you to stop the water flow without disconnecting the hose.

Thus, you do not have to worry about leakages or mess being created during maintenance.

You can use this Fluval external filter for tanks with 100 gallons capacity easily.

The lift lock clamps allow you to lock the motor housing securely.


  • Offers a quiet operation with minimal vibrations
  • Small and light in weight making handling easier.
  • Provided with a narrow design
  • The locking mechanism is quite simple.
  • The input-output heights are adjustable


  • The appearance is not very stylish
  • The instructions are not easy to understand
  • The priming is somewhat awkward

5. Marineland Multi-Stage Canister Filter for Aquariums



This model is the perfect option for all the hobbyists out there.

This model is the perfect option for all the hobbyists out there.

The best thing; it is available in four sizes. Thus, you can use this canister filter for medium to large sized aquariums easily.

It is particularly suitable for large tanks with a capacity of more than 74 gallons.

This multi-stage filter will ensure that your fish get a perfectly healthy environment that is devoid of all dirt and bacteria.

These canister filters are designed to undergo three stages of filtration, ensuring that the water is cleaned chemically, mechanically and biologically.

The model is also provided with bio-filter balls that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the water.

This is not all; there is no bypass. Thus, you can be sure that no residue of any impurity is left behind.

The three stages of filtration along with the absence of bypass ensure that your aquatic life gets the best environment possible.

Setting up the unit is easy and detailed instructions are provided for the same.

Maintenance will also not give you a difficult time.

Once you notice the water flow slowing down, you should take it as an indication that maintenance is required.


  • Impressive design with ease in handling ensured
  • Cleaning the tank is easy owing to the media trays
  • Detailed instructions make setting up easy
  • Remarkable performance with a production of clean sparkly water


  • The plastic plumping tends to feel a little flimsy.

6. Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter


The CF series by Aquatop is among the most preferred canisters available these days.

The CF series by Aquatop is among the most preferred canisters available these days.

The UV sterilizer that forms a part of these filters has contributed to this popularity significantly.

This model is provided with quite a solid and sturdy construction; some parts are made from plastic.

The UV sterilizer that is contains works to get rid of microorganisms including parasites, bacteria, and algae from the water.

And another thing:

Setting it up is easy for those who have worked with a canister filter before; newbies might find it a little complicated.

The unit has a flow rate of 370 GPH, and you can use the model for tanks with a capacity of up to 175 gallons.

It does not take long to clean the tank, ensuring that you get rapid results.

And we don’t stop there; it has a 4+1 Stage filtration system in place for providing the fish with clean and pure environment.


  • Offers a quiet operation
  • Sturdy model that provides durability
  • Easy to use with great results considering the price


  • There are no handles to the unit which makes handling it a bit difficult.
  • Switching off the filter pump is not an option. This can only be done by unplugging the unit.

7. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media


This EHEIM classic external canister filter can easily be called one of the most preferred ones available on the market currently.

The model is constructed with a solid and sturdy build. Thus, you can be sure it will last for a long time.

This filter comes as a relief for all those who did not approve of plastic clamps.

EHEIM makes use of stainless steel clips for locking the motor; thus ensuring that the motor is optimally secured.

You can fix the permo-elastic silicon sealing ring on the pump head to close it safely once you are done with the cleaning.

Setting up might be a bit difficult owing to unclear instructions.

If you are worried about your energy bills hitting the roof, this is just the right option for you.

As it turns out; it is energy efficient. Thus your overall power consumption remains within control.

The flow rate is impressive owing to which is considered among the most suitable options for goldfish tanks.

The filter can be used for tanks with varying capacities depending on the model you use.

It does not produce a lot of noise and is known to be quite versatile..


  • Secure sealing
  • Offers a quiet operation
  • Energy efficient
  • Versatile- can be used for a variety of marine life and tanks


  • The instructions are unclear making setting up somewhat tedious
  • Priming can be a bit difficult at times

8. Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter (400 Gal)


Fluval has acquired a profound reputation when it comes to providing optimal fish and aquarium care.

To top it; the brand has acquired the Hagen Aquatic Research Station certification.

Thus, you can be confident that their products will not let you down and this canister filter is no exception.

With this model, you can ensure that your fish get the perfect environment to live in.

This multi-stage filter ensures that the water is clean to perfection.

It is quite versatile, and thus you can use it for aquarium water, marine aquariums or freshwater.

Suitable for the capacity of up to 400 gallons, the filter uses smart pump technology to make sure that you get optimal efficiency and performance.

The model features a multi-directional output nozzle. You can adjust it as per the water flow you require to reach the different areas of the tank.

There is more: the unit is also provided with a precise-engineering bearing that reduces vibration and produces minimal noise.

Maintenance is quite easy as you can quickly stop the water flow turning the valve lever to 90-degree.

Thus, the hosing can be separated from the filter in a single step.

It is also designed to remind you of getting the maintenance done monthly to ensure that it does not slip your mind and your aquatic life does not have to suffer due to the same.


  • The capacity is vast, and the performance is quite impressive as it leaves the tank with sparkling clean water.
  • It is quite reliable. If you ensure proper maintenance, you will not have to look for an alternative anytime soon.
  • Offers a smooth and quiet operation


  • It is quite heavy which makes handling somewhat difficult
  • Expensive

9. Fluval Advanced Filtration System


No doubt about it; when it comes to aquarium care, you know that you can rely on Fluval.

This advanced filtration system by Fluval is another one of their long series of filters that offer superior performance.

This unit is highly powerful and can be used for both marines as well as freshwater environments.

With a capacity of 80 gallons, it is capable of filtering 185 gallons in a single hour.

The model has been designed to ensure that you do not have to face any difficulty while using it

It features a single button self-priming technology thereby ensuring that operating it is easy for you.

You can also acquire information about the temperature of water, conductivity and flow rate on the model.

What’s more; the silicon gasket that forms part of it makes sure that sealing is top-notch.


  • High durability is ensured with a hard shell
  • Locking lids are in place to ensure safety
  • Setting it up and maintaining it is quite feasible owing to the self-priming feature.
  • It features ample basket space to make things convenient.
  • The display is informational and easy to control and access
  • Does not take a lot of room in the tank


  • The system can be a bit loud for some
  • The display can be damaged owing to water
  • It is quite heavy making it difficult for some to handle it.

10. Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter


This is another one of the practical options you have when it comes to canister filters.

Offering you a quiet operating, the unit ensures that you do not face any difficulty using it owing to the self-priming feature that forms part of it.

This canister filter performs its task via four stages, mechanical, chemical, biological followed by polishing.

Thus, you can be sure that your fish will get an optimally clean and pure living environment.

Owing to the rigorous filtration processes, the unit ensures that no residue of any impurity is left behind.

On top of it; installing it is quite simple, and it is unlikely that you will face any problems in the job.

Quite a lot of accessories come with the product including an inline pump, elbow fitting and suction cup among other things.

Thus, it is clear that the manufacturers wish to make sure that the job is done to perfection.

Maintaining it is easy as the unit features a quick release valve.

Once you turn the valve to the left, it disconnects from the canister. Thus, a closed loop for water is created.

Thus, water circulation is not stopped during maintenance.


  • It is super quiet.
  • Maintenance is easy, and water circulation does not have to stop for the same
  • The media trays are large


  • The instructions are somewhat small which can be challenging to read for some.
  • There are no clamps to secure the hosing

11. API Filstar XP



If you want to make sure that your fish gets a clean and pure environment, this is another option that you can take a look at.

This unit offers quite a powerful performance to give your aquatic life the living condition they deserve.

It features self-priming along with the option of the quick disconnect.

Thus, the model can be stopped with ease safely when maintenance is required.

An anti-airlock system forms part of it to ensure that the filtration does not stop unexpectedly.

It is also provided with an anti-noise feature that prevents vibration and creates minimal sound.

The filter has been provided with a large capacity for media.

This is not it; the media along with strong flow rates make sure that the water is cleaned optimally.

As it turns out; the filter can be used for both saltwater and freshwater with ease.


  • Features a large media tray ensuring that no bacteria are left behind and optimal performance is provided.
  • Starting it up is easy owing to the self-priming feature; no manual siphoning is required.
  • Feasible maintenance owing to centralized control of the functions for removal of canister
  • Quiet operation with minimal vibration
  • Three stages of filtration that makes sure that no impurity is left behind.


  • The tubing is somewhat stiff making it difficult to place it into the valve.
  • Not enough media is provided, and thus you have to buy it.

12. AquaTop Forza Canister Filters with UV Sterilization



Forza canister filters have been received favorably in the market, and this is another model to the series which offers excellent performance.

Apart from the standard features, this model is also provided with a 13-watt UV bulb.

This Ultra-violet bulb ensures that microbes are killed to perfection.

Thus, you can be sure that your tank will get rid of algae, bacteria, fungi, and parasites with this filter.

Here is the best thing; The UV bulb is present inside the canister. Thus it does not take up a lot of space.

The unit also features four media baskets that can hold filter pads for fine particles and a pre-cut coarse filter.

You are provided with plastic bio-balls and ceramic rings with the filter, thereby ensuring that your tank is cleaned to its full potential.

The model is also equipped with the feature of automatic switch off for the UV sterilizer.

Wait, there is more; if the filter is tilted more than the limit of 30-degrees, the light is turned off automatically.

This prevents overheating.


  • Provided with a powerful UV system which ensures that the tank is appropriately disinfected
  • Does not produce a lot of noise
  • The UV bulb shuts off automatically
  • Change-outs are easy owing to the pre-cut filter pads that come with the unit.


  • The instructions are not very clear
  • It does not feature an open basket and is instead provided with a sealed activated carbon cartridge.

13. Polar Aurora 3-Stage External Canister Filter


This is another worthy contender of the list of the best external canister filters.

Suitable for fish tanks with a capacity of up to 75 gallons, the unit has a flow rate of about 265 GPH.

It features a 9-Watt UV sterilizer that leads to removal of bacteria, algae and other microbes from the water.

Thus, your fish get an optimally clean living environment to thrive.

Three media trays are provided with the unit.

Thus you can use the media you like. An adjustable spray bar also forms part of it.

You can adjust the output flow from the filter with ease.

Best of all; the model is provided with a self-priming pump.

Thus, no manual siphoning is required, making setting it up quite convenient.

It also features a single valve disconnect for easy maintenance.


  • Easy to set up and use
  • Affordable
  • Gets rid of all the impurities including the microbes owing to UV sterilization
  • Flexible media trays provided for optimal efficiency
  • Maintenance is feasible
  • Operates quietly


  • The instructions are not very clear
  • There is no option of switching the unit on or off.
  • It has to be plugged in to start.

Why should I use a canister filter?

Canister filters prove to be quite beneficial for your aquarium.

Offers better flow rates

Canister filters have better flow rates compared to other options.

Some even offer a flow rate of up to 320GPH.

Thus, the filtration of the tank takes less time and energy.

There is the best part: since they are energy efficient, they don’t cause your energy bills to hit the roof.

Easy setup

It is quite easy to set up canister filters.

This is in contrast to the complex processes that other filters require.

Follow the instructions: there is not a lot that you will need to do.

Easy maintenance

Cleaning the canister filters is relatively easier as long as you have the right tools.

Don’t be worried about cleaning or maintenance: These filters are designed to offer ease in disassembling.

The internal components are feasibly accessible

Most manufacturers offer detailed instructions about how maintenance should be done.

Once your filter is clean, you can place the parts back: The unit will be running again in no time.

Operates quietly

Vibrations and noise produced by filters can be quite distracting.

Here is the most appealing feature of Canister filters:

It operates quietly with minimal vibration.

Thus, your comfort does not have to be compromised for your fish to get healthy living conditions.

Optimal filtration

Filtration is done to remove any debris and unwanted particles from the water.

The debris that found its way to the water in the last couple of days has to be removed as well.

This is where Canister filters excel: they manage to get the job done to perfection.

The debris is removed from the water and is prevented from getting back to the tank.

Thus, the tank is optimally clean: your fish can now thrive in a pure environment.

It is vital to keep the filter clean to ensure that the debris is removed from the tank effectively.

Freedom of media selection

Most canister filters are quite flexible when it comes to media selection.

Thus, you can select any type of filtration media you like for the tank.

It is advisable to find out more about the different types of media and how they work before deciding on which of the filter media you want to buy.

What is the importance of filter media in the process of filtration?

If you want to make sure that your aquatic life gets a clean environment, it is essential to use the right media.

The thing is:

You would not want to head to the market frequently to get the filter media.

Thus, it needs to be washable and long-lasting.

It should be versatile so that it can be used in any aquarium.

It is vital to ensure that the media is not harmful to the fish.

It is also advisable to ensure that the filter media is affordable for you.

Biological Filter Media

Biological filter media should be used in all types of fish tanks.

The problem is:

Every fish tank contains waste products that can turn toxic.

The toxic waste can be harmful to the fish.

Biological filter media ensures that the fish are not affected owing to these elements.

The waste products are broken down from ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate by the media.

Nitrate is not harmful to the fish and is removed from the tank by filtration.

Mechanical Filter Media

Getting rid of the dirt and debris is crucial if you want to provide a clean environment for your fish.

The mechanical filter media functions as a strainer.

The dirt particles are caught by the media and thus removed from the water.

It is therefore only the clean water that passes through the mechanical media.

You will find mechanical filter media of varying quality.


The higher the quality, the more particles will be trapped by the media.

Chemical Filter Media

Removing toxins and harmful elements from the tank is essential.

It is worrisome:

Your fish might be exposed to some serious danger without you even realizing.

This is where chemical filter media proves to be helpful.

Using activated carbon, you can get rid of all the toxins from the water.

Here is an interesting tidbit: A cubic inch of a carbon filter is sufficient to clean about 2 gallons of water chemically.

How should I decide which canister filter to buy?

There are quite a lot of factors you need to pay heed to if you want to purchase the right canister filter.

The basic requirements

You need to keep in mind why you are purchasing the canister.

What are the features you want? Is versatility vital for you?

Will a particular canister filter be able to handle the flow rate you need?

Find the answers to these questions: you will find the best canister filter for your tank.

It is advisable to get a filter that offers a high flow rate.

And another thing:

This will save a lot of time and energy.


Nobody likes the idea of placing the filter in plain sight.

Those with a stand for aquarium can conceal it in the compartment.

You might have to look for other means to hide the tank for tall filters.

Decide beforehand: the placement of the filter will influence your decision of which one to buy.


You would not want your filter to be damaged within a short span.

Therefore, opt for a well-built option that will last for a long time.

Most filters are made from plastic: high quality of durable plastic will last for long.

The Motor

It is the motor that is responsible for pumping the water into the filter.

Thus, having a great motor is vital so that the water can easily be pumped in.

It is essential that the motor is reliable and efficient.

Maintenance should also be easy.

Some motors require frequent maintenance which can be troublesome.

The unit will have to be opened up often which might affect the performance of the filter.

The motor decides how much noise is produced by the filter.

Therefore keep it in mind: the canister filter you buy should have an easy to maintain and powerful motor that operates quietly.

Tank Size

All canister filters are not suitable for tanks of varying sizes.

Therefore, it is essential that the canister filter you select is suitable for your tank size.

Find out the tank size compatible with the filter: read the production description carefully.

You can then decide which canister filter will work better for your aquarium.


Brands with a profound reputation offer reliability.

The popular brands are the ones that have acquired the approval of users.

Purchase a canister filter of one of the well-known brands: there is less chance of being disappointed.


The budget you have in mind for the canister filter is crucial in your selection.

If you have a restricted budget, your choices will be limited.

It is advisable to get some idea of the price of various filters before deciding on a budget.

This will allow you to set a realistic limit for yourself.

It is also essential to consider the feature while deciding on the price.

A realistic budget is important: You would not want your money to be wasted on something that fails to perform.

How is a canister filter primed?

You might find the directions for priming the canister filter on the manufacturer’s manual.

However, there is one trick that can make things simpler for you.

  • Once the filter is assembled, submerge it in the tank before plugging it in.
  • Tilt the filter to a side so that the impeller is submerged before starting the suction.
  • Expunge the air: Hold the filter in this position for about a minute before tilting it upward
  • Your canister filter is now primed and ready for use.

How should I set the canister filter for my tank?

  • Assemble the filter properly first.
  • Mount the canister filter in its position.
  • Connect the pipes, both inflow and outflow ones and connect it to your aquarium.

Read the manual provided by the manufacturer for this.

  • Place the filter in its place: ensure that it is somewhere where you would not have to relocate it.

How often should I clean the canister filter?

This varies from model to model.

How often you use the filter also decides how frequently it should be cleaned.

If you want the performance not to be compromised:

Clean the filter it every three months.

How do I get rid of air from the canister filter?

Ensure that the sealing of all the joining parts is tight.

The area usually gets in from the space between the joining parts.

There might be a leak somewhere that sucks the air in.

Proper sealing will ensure that air bubbles do not form.

How should I layer media in the filter?

This is important: Make sure that you get the right media for your filter to get the desired results.

Usually, the mechanical media is placed in the first tray.

The layer of biological media followed next.

The third and fourth trays comprise the chemical media.

Other related questions

Is it suitable to use a canister filter for saltwater?

Yes. You can use canister filters for saltwater.

However, it is vital that the filter you use has a layer of biological media.

Otherwise, the harmful toxins will not be removed from the tank, and your fish will suffer.

Does a turtle tank need a filter?

Yes. The turtle tank does need filtration as the water can get dirty with time.

It is advisable to opt for a filter that is compatible with your tank size.

The high flow rate will be a better option since the turtles would then remain unaffected with the ongoing filtration.

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