If you have an aquarium then one of the most important things you need is a good quality filter.
This will keep your fish, reptiles, or amphibians healthy and happy and will make it much easier for you to keep the aquarium clean.
There are lots of different types of aquarium filters that you can buy, but one of the most popular types is a canister filter.
If you are considering getting a canister filter for your aquarium then you might find that you are overwhelmed with the choices available to you.
There are so many canister filters on the market that sifting through them to find the best ones can be quite a challenge.
We have made this easier for you by putting together this list of the best canister filters for your aquarium.
We have also included some information on canister filters and aquarium care, some frequently asked questions, and a buyer’s guide.
Keep reading to find out more and to find your ideal canister filter for your aquarium.
FZONE Stainless Steel Filter Canister
Fluval Performance Filter Range
Polar Aurora External Aquarium Filter
MarineLand Magniflow Canister Filter
Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter
SunSun Pro Canister Filter
Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter
AMOSIJOY Ultra Quiet Canister Filter
What Is A Canister Filter?
Canister filters take water out of the aquarium via a tube.
The water is then taken through a pressurized canister that contains a series of filters. This is where all of the impurities are removed from the water.
The filtered water is then sent back into the aquarium, usually through a spray bar or spillway.
The direction that the water flows through the canister filter will depend on the filter that you choose.
It could flow from the bottom of the filter upwards, it could flow down through the filter, or some filters push the water from one side to the other.
Most canister filters offer three types of filtration – chemical, biological and mechanical, but this will depend on which product you choose to buy.
The clean water is then sent back into the aquarium using a water pump.
Like most filters, canister filters do require some maintenance to keep them running smoothly and operating efficiently.
You will need to rinse it out regularly, and change the filter or cartridge as often as the product manufacturer recommends.
The pump will also need to be cleaned now and again.
Now that you know more about canister filters, what they are, and how they work, it is time to take a look at the best canister filters that you can buy for your aquarium.
This canister filter comes in two sizes – 4.5 liters or 10 liters. This makes it suitable for larger or smaller aquariums.
It is an external filter which means it sits next to your tank with tubes running from the filter to the water.
It is made from high-grade stainless steel which is 3mm thick and rust-resistant, so you can be sure that this filter is very durable.
It is also very sleek in appearance, with a cylindrical shape and a shiny metal exterior.
The cylinder part of the filter is 13 inches tall and 5.1 inches wide.
The overall height of the filter with the tubing on the top is 15.7inches. It has quick-release clips which make it easy to assemble and disassemble.
The water pump and the pump base are sold separately, but it is very easy to attach the pump to the filter once you have purchased it.
- Size – there are two different sizes to choose from which makes this product versatile
- External – the filter is external which means it doesn’t take up space inside the aquarium.
- High-grade stainless steel construction – the filter is made from durable stainless steel which is resistant to rust and has a smart, shiny appearance.
- Pump – The water pump is not included with the filter and has to be purchased separately.
The Fluval performance range of canister filters is incredibly popular and are best sellers both online and in pet stores.
There are four different models in the series – 107, 207, 307, and 407- which range in price from just over $100 to just over $200.
This means that you can choose the model that will best fit in with your price range.
Fluval is known for making filters that have great suction and power, are easy to clean, simple to assemble, and operate at low noise levels. This is everything you need from an aquarium filter.
All of the models feature an ergonomic design and a useful center handle. They offer an efficient filtration system with a carbon filter and three different types of biofoam.
The filters come with the filter basket, the pre-filter basket, and all of the hoses and outputs that you need to set up the tubing.
The Fluval range all have vertical pre-filters, a fast-start primer pump, an aqua stop valve, a raised lip, easy-lift baskets, and lift-and-lock clamps for quick release.
The models vary in terms of power output and energy efficiency.
The 107 and 207 only use as much electrical energy as a 10-watt LED light bulb. You can choose which model suits your needs best based on whether you prioritize power or energy efficiency.
- Different models – You can choose a model that suits your needs and also fits into your budget whilst still benefiting from the Fluval brand features.
- Ergonomic Design – All of the models are ergonomically designed to be easy to use and have a center handle.
- Easy-Lift Baskets – The Easy-Lift basket design makes it simple to lift out the basket and access the filter.
- Quick Release Clamps – The lift and lock clamps are quick release which is useful when you are trying to have a look inside the filter and disassemble it for cleaning.
- Vertical Pre-filters – Fluval is one of the only brands to offer vertical pre-filters.
- Filtration – These filters offer impressive filtration with both a carbon filter and three different types of biofoam.
- Leaking – Some customers have experienced issues with the Fluval filters leaking
- Air Bubbles – Some customers have found that the filter gets blocked by air bubbles
- O ring – some customers have had to replace the O-ring after several months.
This canister filter comes in four different models based on how much water it can clean per hour – 265 gallons per hour. 266 gallons per hour, 370 gallons per hour, and 525 gallons per hour.
It is suitable for aquariums up to 75 gallons in size.
There are three different filtration trays, so by the time the water has run through the system, it will be well filtered and free from impurities.
One of the great features of this canister filter is that you can adjust the flow rate of the water being pumped back into the aquarium.
This means that if you have fish that prefer slow-moving water, you can ensure that the pump is not too powerful for them.
This filter is easy to use and easy to clean.
It performs well but also operates at a low noise level so you won’t find it distracting if you are trying to work or sleep in the same room as the aquarium.
The hoses and piping are included but there is no water pump included so this will need to be purchased separately.
- Capacity – This filter can be used for aquariums up to 75 gallons in size which is better than a lot of other filters
- Power – Depending on which model you choose the filter can process between 265 and 525 gallons of water per hour.
- Filtration – It has three filtration trays which means that the water will be very clean.
- Adjustable flow rate – you can change the flow rate of the water to make sure that it is suitable for the inhabitants of the tank.
- Easy to clean – this filter is really easy to clean and easy maintenance means that the filter will last you even longer.
- Noise level – the filter is efficient but nice and quiet so it won’t distract you or be a disturbance.
- Pump – The water pump is not included so you will need to purchase this separately and ensure that you have all of the necessary connecting parts.
This particular canister filter comes in three different sizes – 30 gallons, 55 gallons, and 100 gallons.
They vary in price but all come in at less than $200, so they are budget-friendly.
It is really easy to set up this filter and the watertight lid gives you quick access to the filter for cleaning and cartridge changes.
The filter rate is 220 gallons per hour and it offers three-stage filtration for the cleanest water.
The foam pads offer mechanical filtration, the black diamond premium activated carbon offers chemical filtration, and the bio-filter balls offer biological filtration that neutralizes ammonia and bacteria.
There is also an additional fourth stage that polishes the water and removes fine debris.
MarineLand began making products for commercial tanks and aquariums that were used by restaurants and grocery stores.
They then branched out into domestic aquarium and tank products.
They have years and years of experience and research behind them which makes their products stand out compared to other products on the market.
- Sizes – There are three sizes to choose from up to 100 gallons which are great for people with larger aquariums.
- Affordable – Even the largest size is under $200 which makes this a very affordable option
- Watertight lid – the lid of the filter is watertight to prevent leakage but also gives you easy access to the filter for cleaning.
- Filter rate – this canister filter has an impressive filter rate of 220 gallons per hour.
- Three stage filtration – This filter has biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration along with water polishing for the cleanest water.
- Trusted brand – MarineLand is a long established and trusted brand with years of research behind them.
- Air bubbles – some customers have had issues with air bubbles getting trapped in the filter
- Leaking – some customers have found that the filter can leak sometimes
You can use this filter for aquariums from 30 gallons up to 200 gallons. It can cycle through 115 gallons of water per hour and can be used in freshwater or saltwater tanks.
The valves are rotatable which makes it easy to set up the filter even if you don’t have a lot of space to work with.
The two filtration baskets are large and efficient and the aerating spray bar evenly distributes the water throughout the tank once it is clean.
This canister filter has a triple filtration system with one bio sponge for biological filtration, one activated carbon bag for chemical filtration, and two floss pads for mechanical filtration.
Penn-Plax has been running since 1956 so is a well-established and trusted company. This filter is a good size, measuring 11.5 inches by 9 inches by 13.5 inches.
- Cycle rate – this filter has a cycle rate of 115 gallons of water per hour
- Rotatable valves – The valves are rotatable which makes it much easier to set up the canister filter.
- Triple filtration – This filter benefits from biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration
- Trusted brand – Penn-Plax is a well established and trusted brand
- Pump – The water pump is not included and needs to be purchased separately
- Quality – Some customers have complained about the quality of some of the plastic components in this filter
This filter measures 9 inches by 9 inches by 18 inches and weighs only 12 pounds.
It has a sleek white design and can be used for aquariums up to 75 gallons in size.
It cycles through 264 gallons of water per hour. Three filtration trays are very flexible and do a great job of cleaning the water.
The carbon-ceramic rings offer chemical filtration and the bio balls provide biological filtration.
This is a very reasonably priced filter so it is great for people who are on a budget. It operates very quietly which means you can keep it in any room.
- Size – You can use this filter for tanks up to 75 gallons in size.
- Cycle rate – This filter has a cycle rate of up to 264 gallons per hour.
- Three filtration trays – The water will be nice and clean once it has gone through the three filtration trays with biological and chemical filtration.
- Price – This filter is reasonably priced which is great if you are on a budget.
- Noise – This filter runs very quietly so as not to cause a disturbance.
- Performance – Some people found this filter performed well for fish tanks but not so well for amphibians and turtle tanks
- Leaking – Some customers found that the filter leaked occasionally
There are three sizes available for this canister filter – up to 55 gallons, 55 to 100 gallons, and 100 to 150 gallons. It can be used for freshwater or saltwater aquariums.
It is really easy to access the filter parts which makes cleaning simple and fast, with quick disconnect valves and pump locking heads.
Coarse foam provides mechanical filtration, bio balls provide biological filtration, and activated carbon provides chemical filtration.
There is also a fourth stage where the water is polished with a polishing pad, ensuring the water is really clean.
You can choose how the water is reintroduced into the aquarium – either by a spray bar or a traditional water director.
There is also an accessory you can hang off the water polisher to reintroduce the water.
- Size – you can choose which size filter you want to ensure that it is suitable for your aquarium size.
- Versatility – You can use this filter for saltwater or freshwater tanks
- Easy to clean – The parts of the filter that need to be cleaned for maintenance are really easy to access which makes it much easier for you
- Triple filtration – this filter offers biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration
- Water re-introduction – There are three choices when it comes to the clean water coming back into the aquarium.
- Air bubbles – Some customers have found that air bubbles are getting trapped in the filter and reducing the efficiency
- Durability – There are a few parts of the filter that some customers have reported cracking or breaking within 6 months
You can use this filter for aquariums up to 30 gallons in size whether it is for fish, turtles, amphibians, freshwater, or saltwater.
The filter measures 12.2 inches by 7.1 inches by 6.9 inches which is a great size. The vent valve and flow regulating handle help to mitigate the issue of trapped air bubbles in the filter.
One of the best features of this filter is that it operates very quietly which gives you more options when it comes to choosing a room to keep the aquarium in.
It offers both biological and chemical filtration which leaves the water clean and healthy.
- Versatile – The filter can be used for freshwater or saltwater aquariums
- Flow regulation – The flow regulation helps to prevent trapped air bubbles in the filter
- Low noise levels – This filter operates quietly which is ideal for an office aquarium or a bedroom aquarium.
- Pressure – Some customers find issues with the water pressure which allows bacteria to build up.
- Power – Some people found that the motor lost power after a few months
Now that you know which canister filters are the best, it is time to narrow down your choice and decide which one is going to suit your needs.
But how do you know which filter to buy? We have put together some advice to help you figure out which product you should pick.
The first thing you need to decide when you are choosing a canister filter is what your budget is.
There are lots of things you need to buy when setting up an aquarium, and a canister filter is only one of them.
You will need the tank itself, and depending on what you are keeping in your tank you may also need a substrate level for the bottom of the tank, decoration or foliage, a water heater, a water pump, a heat lamp, or UVB lamp and much more.
You will need to consider the ongoing cost of running the filter as well.
Internal Or External
Once you have figured out your budget you will need to decide whether you want an internal filter or an external filter.
Internal filters sit inside the tank and are often submerged in the water. This is useful as it takes up less space in your room.
The downside is that they take up space in the tank which means there is less space for the fish or animals to move around.
External filters sit next to the tank and are connected to the water via a system of tubes. These are often easier to clean and maintain as they are not submerged in the water.
The other benefit is that they don’t take up any space in the tank. However, they can take up quite a lot of space in the room where you keep the tank, so keep this in mind.
You should think about which room you are keeping the aquarium in and consider the noise level of the filter.
Canister filters use a water pump to put the clean water back in the aquarium, and they also use a motor to suck up the dirty water into the filter.
This can get quite noisy if you don’t choose the right product.
This may not matter if you are keeping the aquarium in a communal area of the house which is noisy- like a family room or a living room.
However, if you are keeping the aquarium in an office or a bedroom then it could become very distracting.
Different canister tanks will provide various levels of power suction. This is the rate at which they can suck up dirty water from the aquarium and then pump clean water back into the aquarium.
Filters with greater power can perform more efficiently overall, however, they also use up more electricity. This leads us to energy efficiency.
If you want a powerful canister filter then you might have to sacrifice energy efficiency.
The most powerful filters use more electricity and tend to be less energy efficient.
It does depend on the brand and the model of canister filter that you choose, and you should be able to find a good balance between power and energy efficiency.
Another thing you need to consider is the water flow. As the clean water is pumped back into the aquarium, this will create a flow of water through the tank.
Certain species of fish do not like fast-flowing water as their natural habitat is in a gentle river or a still lake.
If the water flow in the aquarium is too powerful then this could make them stressed and unhappy and ultimately lead to illness and possibly even death.
If the water flow is too powerful then you can try placing an ornament or a plant in front of the filter to slow it down.
If the water flow is not fast enough then you might need an additional water pump to create the right conditions for your fish.
You must check the capacity of whatever filter you choose.
There is no point in buying a canister or filter that is designed for a 40-gallon aquarium if you have a 50-gallon aquarium, as it will not be able to do a good job.
Alternatively, if you have a small aquarium then you could be wasting money if you buy a canister filter that is designed for a large aquarium.
Different canister filters offer different benefits in terms of design features, and you need to decide which ones are most important to you.
Some have quick-release clasps to disassemble the filter for cleaning very fast. Others have easy lift baskets which make it simple to lift the filter out and clean it.
You need to think about which design features are going to make your life easier when it comes to maintaining the filter.
The whole point of having a filter is to keep the water in the tank nice and clean and free from impurities and to make it much easier for you to keep the tank clean.
This means that the filtration system itself is arguably the most important factor to consider when you are choosing a canister filter.
The best canister filters offer a triple filtration system – chemical filtration, biological filtration, and mechanical filtration.
Whichever filter you choose, make sure it is going to be good enough to meet your needs.
If In Doubt – Ask About!
If you have considered all of the above points and you are still struggling to choose which canister filter to buy, then you should ask around and speak to other aquarium keepers.
They will be able to let you know about their experiences with different canister filters and give you their recommendations.
This is more reliable than asking a member of staff in a pet store, as the store will be trying to sell the most expensive products and may try and convince you to spend more than your budget even if the product is not right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are Canister Filters Important?
When you keep an aquarium, it is very important that you keep it clean. The tank must be cleaned periodically to remove grime and bacteria from the surfaces.
However, using a filter will reduce the frequency that you need to clean the tank, as it removes impurities from the water.
This includes fecal matter, ammonia, bacteria, and other contaminants. This creates a much healthier environment for the tank inhabitants, reducing the risk of illness and infection.
How Do Canister Filters Work?
Canister filters take the dirty water out of the aquarium through a tube and send it through a pressurized canister which contains a series of filters.
The filters clean the water, then the water is re-introduced into the aquarium using a water pump.
What Direction Does The Water Flow In?
The direction of the water flow depends on the canister filter that you buy. It might flow down through the filter, or it could be pulled upwards from the bottom.
Some filters draw the water in on one side and push it out on the other, so the water moves from side to side.
How Do You Maintain A Canister Filter?
All types of aquarium filters require some kind of maintenance to keep them working properly.
Canister filters are fairly easy to maintain compared to some other types of filters. You will need to rinse it out regularly, and now and then you will need to clean the water pump.
You should follow the guidance from the manufacturer and change the filter or cartridge as often as they recommend.
What Do You Need To Go With The Canister Filter?
When you buy a canister filter, you need to check that it comes with all of the necessary accessories. Sometimes the water pump is sold separately, and sometimes the tubing or hoses are also sold separately.
Before you install the canister filter, check that you have all of the necessary parts.
You might want to keep a few spare cartridges or filter sponges handy as well, so you don’t need to worry about ordering one when the time comes to service the filter.
Canister filters are a very important part of setting up an aquarium. They help to keep the water clean and create a safe and healthy environment for the inhabitants of the tank.
They also make it much easier for you to clean the tank when the time comes, as there is less of a build-up of dirt and bacteria.
When you are choosing which canister filter to buy, you must consider all of the relevant factors.
You need to think about your budget, the design of the product, the performance of the filter, the compromise between power and energy efficiency, the water flow that the filter creates in the aquarium, and the capacity of water that the filter is able to handle.
This list of the best canister filters should make it much easier for you to find the product for you and your aquarium.
Make sure that you read all of the instructions carefully before you set up your new canister filter, and check that you have all of the necessary parts and accessories.
Remember that whichever canister filter you choose will need to be maintained. You will need to clean the pump and rinse the filter.
Periodically, you will need to change the filter sponges or cartridge out for a new one. This will make the filter last longer and continue to work efficiently.