A water filter can make or break your aquarium. To keep your fish healthy and thriving, you are going to want to make sure you pick the best aquarium canister filter for your tank.
With two types of filters and three types of filtration methods, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind when choosing a canister filter. No need to worry though! We have done the research for you and reviewed 6 of the best canister filters on the market.
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Best Aquarium Canister Filter Reviews
Eheim Classic Canister Filter
The Eheim Classic canister filter can be used for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. They are among the most-used external filters on the market, and the company invented the worldâ€™s first aquarium suction filter in the 1960s.
Features include a spray bar, inlet pipe, hose, and installation accessories. A permo-elastic silicon sealing ring allows for easy closing after cleaning. In lieu of plastic clamps, this canister has stainless steel clips to lock the motorhead in place.
- Easy setup
- Consumes approximately 15 watts of power
- Comes with filter media
- No self-priming
- No media trays can make cleaning difficult
Fluval 07 Performance Canister Filter
The Fluval 07 series includes the following models:
- Fluval 107
- Fluval 207
- Fluval 307
- Fluval 407
The 07 series can be used for both freshwater and saltwater tanks. It is big on power and generates between 145-383 GPH depending on which model is selected. Boasting small energy consumption, the 107 and 207 models draw as little as 10 watts of electrical energy (equivalent to one LED lightbulb).
Equipped with aquastop valves, this canister is easy to clean with no leakage. Utilizing maximum space, the compact design includes all three filtration stages (mechanical, biological, and chemical).
- Small on energy consumption
- Extremely quiet
- Mechanical filters can be rinsed and reused
- 3-year warranty (plus 2 more years if register within 30 days)
- Does not accommodate in-line heaters
- Short hose length
Oase Biomaster Thermo Canister Filter
The Oase Biomaster Thermo Canister Filter is compatible with both fresh and saltwater aquariums. Integrated with a built-in-heater provides your tank with uniform temperature levels. Created for installation underneath the tank with included mounting, this filter comes in three size options.
The filter includes a 4-stage filtration system, including mechanical, biological, chemical, and pre-filtration, to provide the optimal water quality and clarity. Equipped with an EasyClean pre-filter module, it can be removed and cleaned separately from the unit.
Key features include adjustable flow control, diffuser and spray bar, self-priming function, and an HD carrying handle for simple moving and maintenance.
- Built-in heater
- 4-stage filtration system
- The heater can be unreliable
- Problems with air intake
Pen Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter
The Pen Plax can be used for both freshwater or saltwater aquariums. The filter comes in five size optionsâ€”these range from 30 gallons up to a 200-gallon tank.
The different models range from two to five media baskets. This allows for the use of any combination of media to customize your filter. With an easy-lift clamp, changing media is a breeze.
Top of the line features includes a 360-degree rotating flow valve, push-button primer, a spray bar, tubing, directions spout for customization, and the filter medium.
- Easy installation
- Comes with the filter medium
- Push-button primer
- Compact design
- Leaks when disassembling hoses
Polar Aurora Aquarium Filter
The Polar Aurora Aquarium Filter can be used for both fresh and saltwater aquariums. It comes in four size options ranging from 75-gallon fish tanks up to 200-gallon fish tanks.
Media tray options range from 3 to 4 trays capable of handling your choice of filtration media. Equipped with an adjustable spray bar allows you to adjust the output flow from the filter.
Features a self-priming pump eliminating having to manual siphon. The two larger size options also include a 9 watt light for controlling algae spores and bacteria.
- Easy installation
- Self-priming pump
- Intake is not adjustable
- Directions are in broken English, but still easy to figure out the installation
SunSun HW-3000 Canister Filter
The SunSun HW-3000 canister filter is compatible with both saltwater and freshwater tanks. It is compatible with tanks up to 100 gallons. Includes an adjustable flow rate up to 793 gallons per hour.
The HW-3000 comes with four filter media baskets to personalize the media filter. Features a 9 watt UV sterilizer for maintaining a crystal clear aquarium. This filter requires no priming to start.
- No priming required
- Quick set up
- UV light timer
- Control over the flow rate
- Filter media not included
- Flow seems lower than 793 GPH
Types of Filtration
The Hang on Back Filter (aka HOB Filter) is a power filter that hangs onto the sides or back of the aquarium. An inlet tube extends into the aquariumâ€™s water and sucks water up into the filter. The water is drawn inside the filterâ€™s body and flows through the filter media before being pushed back into the tank.
A HOB does an excellent job at filtering aquarium water, but it is not recommended for tanks over 100 gallons.
Canister filters are freestanding external filters shaped like a canister. They are usually stored off to the side or underneath a cabinet.
A canister filter has an inlet tube and an outlet tube. Water from the tank is drawn through the inlet tube, flows through the filter media, and then through the outlet tube back into the aquarium.
The inlet and outlet tube can be moved to different sides of the aquarium for maximum water flow. You can also add an in-line heater and a UV sterilizer to your canister filter.
Canister filters are highly recommended for tanks over 100 gallons but are being utilized more for smaller aquariums.
Most canister filters utilize three filtration methods: mechanical, biological, and chemical.
Mechanical filtration works by physically removing solid materials from the water. Particles include anything from leftover food, plant debris, and fish feces. The filter acts as a screen allowing water to pass through while trapping debris.
One point to note is that organic debris will continue to break down while trapped in the filter and release ammonia into the aquarium. It is important to manually remove this debris.
Biological filtration is a natural process through which nitrifying bacteria reduce the levels of toxicity, like ammonia, in your aquarium. Bio-filters help to expand the population of these good bacteria by providing space and aeration, allowing them to flourish.
Chemical filtration is used to remove noxious chemicals and dyes from the water keeping the water clear. It also helps to rid your aquarium of odor. Removal involves the injection of chemicals to remove these impurities within your tank.
Benefits of Filtration
Canister filters are considered to be more efficient than other types of fish tank filters. Since water flows through the filter, the media catches more waste. Different filtration media allow the filter to tackle different problems such as ammonia and nitrates.
The filtered water is returned to the tank reducing splash and evaporation, allowing for maximum water reuse.
High Flow Rates
Canister filters have better flow rates than other filters. This means the filtration process is faster, saving you both time and energy.
Easy Setup and Storage
Canister filters are considered to be the easiest to set up compared to other filters. They also can be stored to the side or in a cabinet since they do not attach directly to the tank.
Easy to Clean
Most canister filters are designed to be easily disassembled for cleaning of internal components. Canister filters should be cleaned every one to three months by following the user manual. Once cleaned, the filter is easy to reassemble for use with your aquarium.
Flexible Media Selection
Canister filters offer a large amount of filter media space, allowing you to add multiple types of media. Knowing how each media works and the amount of maintenance required is important before purchasing.
A major difference between hanging on back power filters and canister filters is the noise. Canister filters do not produce a lot of noise or vibration when operating. This makes them a great choice for not disrupting your household.
Strong Mechanical Filtration
One of the most critical components of any filter kit is mechanical filtration. You want a strong mechanical filtration to properly remove debris and particles from your fish tankâ€™s water. A canister filter offers this, providing an ideal environment for your aquarium.
How to Choose the Best Canister Filtration
There are a few things you will want to consider when trying to find the best canister filter for your aquarium.
Aquarium Size and Gallons Per Hour (GPH)
Most filters will give you a recommended tank size. Understanding the size of your tank and the filterâ€™s GPH is key. A good rule of thumb is to pick a canister filter that turns over at least 4x the volume of water in your tank per hour.
Filters can lose some flow rate over time, so it is best to go for a bigger size. Over-filtering will not hurt your fish, but under-filtering your aquarium can be detrimental.
With a filter that will be running 24 hours a day, you are going to want to select a motor that is durable and reliable. A motor with a UL approval rating means it has been tested to nationally recognized safety and sustainability standards.
Epoxy-sealed and magnet-driven are the two main types of motors. Both use a magnetic coil to power the impeller, but there are a few differences.
Epoxy-sealed motors are sealed, meaning they require less maintenance and are quieter when in operation. Magnetic-driven motors are self-priming, resulting in not having to manually siphon the water.
Canister filters have two valves. One valve is for controlling the intake while the other is for controlling the output. You will want to choose valves that can be completely closed, as this will allow you to disassemble your filter for maintenance without having to re-prime your filter.
If you are able to disconnect the intake and output hoses, you can attach a gravel vacuum or adaptor. This allows you to perform water changes without filling up buckets of water.
Ideally, you will want to pick a canister filter that includes media trays for the three filtering stages: mechanical, biological, and chemical.
Best Canister Filter Frequently Asked Questions
How does a canister filter work?
A canister filter removes water from an aquarium through an intake tube, the valve of a sieve. The water is then run through filter media, and the newly filtered water is pumped back into the fish tank.Â Â
How often should you clean your canister filter?
Most canister filters should be cleaned every one to three months. Some keys signs your filter needs to be cleaned include cloudy water, a bad odor, high levels of nitrate, the canister filter is clogged, or there is visible debris or solid particles.Â
Which is better: a canister filter or sump?
Canister filters and sumps offer different benefits. A canister filter is usually more affordable and offers easy installation. It is more flexible in filtering capabilities and has a reduced volume of water loss. In contrast, a sump allows the flexibility to custom build what you want. You do not have to shut a sump off for maintenance, and it offers a space to hide media, filters, and accessories from view.Â Â
How long can a canister filter be off?
A new or freshly cleaned filter will not post a hazard if turned off for a couple of hours. However, an aged filter can go toxic quickly (within an hour). When you turn the filter off bacteria will feed on the debris and consume all the oxygen in the canister. This will create an anaerobic environment. By consuming all the oxygen the bacteria create byproducts such as hydrogen sulfide. You do not want hydrogen sulfide flushed back into your tank. It is always a good idea to use the down time to clean your filter if it is turned off.
How often should I change the carbon in my filter?
Carbon stops working after a few weeks and is the one media you have to change out on a regular basis. Carbon can be good for cleaning the water after a chemical treatment, but many choose not to use carbon as it isn’t essential.
Can you clean an reuse fish tank filters?
Filter media does not need to be replaced unless it is physically falling apart. It is okay to rinse your filter pads in old tank water during water changes. You can also rinse your filter pads in clean dechlorinated water to prolong their lifespan.
How long do canister filters last?
Canister filters will last for 15 plus years as long as you take care of them. If you make sure to keep the motor and impellor assembly clean, you should get many good years out of your filter.
A quality filter for your aquarium is so important to keep your tank clean and for the survival of your fish. This is why you will want to invest in your filter and not choose solely based on price.
Remember to take into consideration the size of your aquarium and the GPH of the filter. The higher the GPH the better filtration will occur, ultimately leading to a healthier aquarium.
Looking for more gear for your aquarium? Head over to our Aquarium Gear section to see more reviews.