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The Best Canister Filter: Our Top 5 Choose In 2020

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There is a fulfilling feeling that you get when taking care of your pets. Owning an aquarium is one of the therapeutic and sensational hobbies you can have. However, owning an aquarium comes with its sets of requirements.

You need to provide a safe environment for growth and development of your fish and other aquatic animals that you are keeping. Filters are, therefore, a crucial part of owning an aquarium. 

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Different types of Canister Filter

Different types of Canister Filter

There are different types of aquarium filters, i.e. canister filters, box filters, diatomic filters, sponge filters, and power filters, among many others. In this article, we are going to look at some of the best canister filters in the market and how you can get what best suits your needs.

What is a canister filter

They are aquarium filters that are used to clean up the aquarium’s water by removing toxic substances and detritus from the water. The water from the aquarium passes through the canister that contains different filtration stages to clean the water. These filtration stages may include mechanical, biological, and chemical.

What should you know before buying a canister filter

Canister filters installation is done outside the aquarium. It means when you are calculating the area to set up your aquarium, you also have to factor in the canister filter space.

Canisters filter require water to pass through to be cleaned. Different filtration stages are depending on what you are looking for. Some canisters have up to five filtration levels, although most of them have three filtration stages.

Canister filters require a water pump to push back the water into the aquarium once it’s filtered. While some of the canister filters may have an inbuilt water pump, other canister filters come separately with the water pumps.

Canister filters need to be cleaned regularly to remove the debris trapped in the filters. You may also need to change the filters after a certain period of time.

Canister filters are designed to handle a specific capacity. You will have to choose a canister filter that is intended for your aquarium’s water capacity. 

Benefits of using a canister filter

Different types of aquariums require specific types of filters. However, for the aquariums that are flexible canister filters can be an excellent addition to your aquarium. They have many advantages when compared to other filters that function under the same category. Here are some of the benefits of using canister filters:

  • High flow rates: Canister filter can filter a large amount of water capacity within a short time. It means you get to save energy used during the process and you save money.
  • Flexible media selection: There are different toxins and detritus in water, depending on your aquarium. Canister filters come with a wide range of filters that you can choose from. You are able to filter out the exact toxins and detritus that you want with selecting the appropriate filters.
  • Easy setup processes: Installing the filter is a vital stage because it determines how effective and efficient the filter will be. Canister filters are the easiest type of filters to setup. Although most of them come with a manufacture’s guide, its simplicity makes it easy to install. 
  • Easy to clean: Filters are meant to keep the water clean but they can a hazard if they are not cleaned regularly. Canister filters will not require a professional to come and do the cleaning. Its design allows it to be easily disassembled, cleaned, the assembled back. You can also easily replace the filters in the canister when you want.
  • Quiet operations: Most filters produce noise and vibrations that can be irritating to the aquatic animals and you. Canister filters are relatively silent to provide the serene environment for you and your marine animals.
  • Strong mechanical filtration: The accumulation of mechanical waste in your aquarium can be devastating to your fish or other animals in the aquarium. Most canister filters have strong mechanical filters to remove as much of mechanical waste as possible. 
  • Clean aquarium presentation: Canister filters are installed outside the aquarium. It, therefore, gives more room for your decoration and fish to play around in the tank. It can be installed at the back of the aquarium where it will be out of sight. 
  • Adds water volume to your tank: Filters installed outside the aquarium make the aquarium’s water susceptible to evaporation and spillage. Canister filters reduce the evaporation rate and have almost zero spillage when the filter is correctly installed.
  • Customized filtrations for your needs: Canister filters are flexible, and you can change the filters and put the ones you want anytime. You don’t have to buy a new filtration system if you adjust the aquarium contents. You can customize the filters to remove the unwanted water contents.
  • Remove from sight, so you don’t have to see it: When you have an aquarium, all you are interested in is not the mechanical operation but the beauty of the decoration and gliding of fish. Canister filters can be hidden during installation. 
  • Great accessories: Most canister filters come with inbuilt water pump and several filtration cartridges. Some of them come with bio bag filters which is an excellent addition to aquarium water filtration. 
Canister filter with UV sterilization unit

Canister filter with UV sterilization unit

Best canister filters for the money

#1
EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

3.7 of 5 Stars
#2
Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter 1500

3.9 of 5 Stars
#3
 Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g

Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g

4.4 of 5 Stars
#4
 Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter, 55 gallons

Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter, 55 gallons

4.2 of 5 Stars
#5
#5
 SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit with 9-watt UV Sterilizer

SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit with 9-watt UV Sterilizer

4 of 5 Stars

Canister Filters Aquarium Reviews

Having the best aquarium filter is essential. However, it can be a challenge to get the best canister filter in a market with hundreds of canister filters and convincing advertising.

We researched various canister filters and graded them in terms of filtration efficiency, longevity, ease of use, client's reviews, and style.

1. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

The Eheim classic external canister filter is one of the widely used aquarium filters in the market. It's designed to give maximum efficiency and durability. The canister filter uses stainless steel clips to replace the conventional plastic clamps to enhance its durability.


One of the fantastic features of this filter is the permo-elastic silicon sealing ring. It makes maintaining and cleaning the pump easy and efficient. The silicon seal rings make it safe to close.


The Eheim classic external canister filter comes with a three-filtration stage. It caters for the mechanical, chemical, and biological wastes in the aquarium's water. It also comes with filter sponges and filter media. However, the manual in the kit can be a bit hard to interpret, but the filter is simple to install.

Quality

Construction

Cost

Overall rating :  3.7 / 5

Pros

  • Its structure design is sturdy and compact.
  • It is super quiet.
  • The filter is effortless to install and maintain.
  • It comes with loose filter media and sponge filter.

Cons

  • Its manual is unfriendly.

2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter 1500

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn Plax has been in the industry for decades. It is one of the renowned brands when it comes to a canister filter. The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter 1500 comes with a multi-filtration system that takes care of the mechanical, chemical and biological wastes.


It comes with a wide range of filter although some of them don't come with the kit. One exciting feature is that you can use any desired combination of filters. This quiet fish tank filter is suitable for both marine and freshwater tanks. 


An air-tight seal guarantees this state of the art canister filter's flow rate. There are also flow rate valves that come in handy during maintenance. This cascade canister filter is suitable for up to 200-gallon tank. 

Quality

Construction

Cost

Overall rating :  4.2/ 5

Pros

  • It works well in both marine and freshwater aquariums.
  • It comes with a wide range of filters.
  • This canister filter is relatively quiet.
  • It comes with flow rate valves.

Cons

  • It might experience too much bypass.

3. Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g

 Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g

When you get a canister filter for 55-gallon tank that also works for 100 gallons, then you know you are trading on sweet grounds. The Eheim canister filter is suitable for 160-gallon aquariums, but its gentle flow makes it ideal for smaller tanks.


The hardware of the filter is designed to reduce any leaks and work efficiently. The mechanical and biological filtration is calculated to deliver the perfect balance for your aquarium's water. The filtration system consists of chemical, mechanical, biological and adsorptive filtration systems.


Since canister filters are installed outside the tank, this canister filter of dimensions 15.8 x 11.1 x 8.3 inches provides a compact size to fit on the tank without being seen is desired. The design of the filter will not require regular maintenance.

Quality

Construction

Cost

Overall rating :  4.4 / 5

Pros

  • It's easy to set up.
  • The multi-filtration system keeps the aquarium super clean.
  • Well-balanced filtration systems.
  • It has 3 to 6 months of maintenance intervals.

Cons

  • There are cases of leakage. 
  •  This canister filter is not as silent as advertised by the manufacturer.

4. Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter, 55 gallons

 Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter, 55 gallons

During our tests, the Aqueon canister filter was one of the filters that we were impressed with. This mini canister filter has a great flow rate of up to 200 gallons per hour. We focus on functionality and also saving money and this filter cuts across all the threshold we had set.


The tank is also designed for both marine and freshwater aquariums. The quick disconnect valves make it easy to maintain the filter without professional help.


The canister filter comes with preloaded mechanical, chemical, and biological media to clean your aquarium's water efficiently. The media baskets contain bio-ceramic rings, carbon, bio balls, and coarse form. These are great accessories to have in the kit. 

Quality

Construction

Cost

Overall rating :  4.2 / 5

Pros

  • It comes with a four-stage filtration system.
  • It is an easy setup filter.
  • This filter is quiet.
  • The flow rate is amazing.

Cons

  • The bio-ceramic rings are susceptible to breakage.
  • It requires regular maintenance.

5. SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit with 9-watt UV Sterilizer

 SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter Kit with 9-watt UV Sterilizer

All the SunSun canister filter models have one thing in common, and that's their efficiency. This SunSun canister filter is no different from its predecessors. The SunSun Hw304B 525GPH Pro Canister Filter comes with a 9-Watt UV sterilizer to help with keeping your aquarium clean and safe.


The UV sterilizer instantly eliminates algae cells while the filtration system takes care of the toxins and debris in the aquarium's water. The filter ensures that the water is odorless, clear, and improves color. 


This canister filter is ideal for 150-gallon aquariums. The maintenance urgency of the filter is reduced by self-priming pump. It eliminates the need of you performing manual siphoning. The filter can handle up to 525 gallons per hour which are pretty amazing. 

Quality

Construction

Cost

Overall rating :  4.0 / 5

Pros

  • It comes with a 9-Watt UV sterilizer to eliminate algae. 
  • It can handle up to 525 gallons an hour.
  • It comes with a four-phase filtration system.

Cons

  • It has some leaks under the latch.

How to choose a canister filter for aquarium

We have looked at some of the best canister filters in the market. However, they might not work for you the way you intend. Here are things you need to consider to choose the best canister filter for your aquarium:

Purpose of the canister filter

There are various types of aquariums with diverse needs. A canister filter for a turtle tank may not work as a canister filter for a reef tank. So, it is essential first to consider which type of aquarium you are going to keep, the volume, and the species that will go in your tank.


Some animals cannot survive high flow rate. So, the canister filter you choose should be able to serve the aquarium you have.

Adaptability and durability

The durability of the canister filter will be determined by the material used in designing the filter. More robust casings mean that the filter might last for longer. You also have to keep in mind how flexible the filter you get is in terms of installation and performance.


You may keep marine animals and the next time you want freshwater animals. Will you need to buy a new pump or will the one you choose still serve you?

The motor

The motors in a filter are responsible for pumping the water back to the tank. They come with different capacities, and the capacity is what will determine the volume it can handle, flow rate, and filter circulation rate. Choose a motor that will ideal for your tank’s size. Also, go for something that will not require regular maintenance and the spares are readily available.

Tank size

When choosing a canister filter for your aquarium, it is crucial to consider your aquarium’s size. The canister filters are usually designed to take a specific range of volume. So, if you have a bigger tank, they might not work as effectively as they should. Mini canister filters cannot work in large tanks.

Brands/servicing

There are various renowned brands in the industry, and that plays an essential role in the canister filter’s quality. Top brands usually deliver what they advertise because they have a reputation to uphold.Some brands can you refer as Fluval, EHEIM, Penn Plax, API, Hydor...


However, in case there is a fault in the filter, will the company cater for its repair? Top brands usually provide for servicing if the product is still under warranty. They can also maintain it if the warranty has expired at a small fee.

Filtration process

The canister filters come with different filtration processes and stages. You should also keep in mind that different types of aquariums have various wastes. The canister filter that you choose should be able to take care of the waste that your aquarium has.


There are types of fish that give more waste than others. Also, the more fish you have, the faster the waste accumulation rate will be. So, you need a canister filter that will keep up with the needs of your aquarium. 

Water flow/ Flow rate

The flow rate of the canister filter you choose is significant because it will determine how fast your aquarium’s water is cleaned. The recommended rate is four times the volume per hour. It means that your entire tank is cleaned four times each hour.

Your budget

Most people determine the money they are willing to spend on a canister filter before buying it. However, you have to consider the accessories that you will need, the maintenance cost, and availability of spare in case it spoils.

The three stages of aquarium filtration

Most canister filters in the market are designed to take care of chemical, biological, and mechanical wastes.

Mechanical filtration: It is responsible for removing large solid wastes and debris from the aquarium’s water. It uses mostly sleeves, floss, or filter pads to do this task.

Chemical filter media: This section of the filtration is tasked with removing unpleasant odor and discoloration of the aquarium’s water. Most chemical filter media are highly concentrated in carbon.

Biological filtration: The nitrite and ammonia toxins are eliminated in the biological filtration stage.

How does canister filter work

It is essential to know how the canister filter works so that you can pinpoint where the problem is when it malfunctions. There are different types of canister filters, but most of them are installed outside the tank. The filter is connected to the tank using inlet tubes that draw water from the tank to the filter and outlet tubes that take filtrated water back to the tank.

Most canister filters have inbuilt pumps that help the filter pump back the water that’s filtered to the tank. Inside the filter, there are filtration media that cleans the water, i.e. mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration media. The media work as we have discussed above.

These media need regular clean up as recommended by the manufacturer. After using the media for a certain period, you will need to replace them for maximum efficiency of the filter.

How to set up a canister filter

Making sure that your canister filter is set up correctly will ensure that it works effectively and efficiently. It means that before you start the setup, you should know all the components of the canister filter and where they are supposed to be installed.

Most canister filters come with a manufacturer’s manual, and that will help you identify the components.

1.

Prepare your aquarium: Find an ideal location for your canister filter. Ideally, the filter should be below your tank to give maximum benefit. Recommended positioning is between 8 inches and 4 ½ feet below your aquarium’s water level.

Make sure that your filters tube can comfortably be connected to your aquarium without stress.

2.

Prepare your filter: Open the motorhead and check if all the media containers are inside. Fill your filters depending on how many you have and categorize them according to the purpose.

3.

Install mechanical media: It should be the first one to be installed because it’s the one responsible for eliminating solid waste. It will also prevent solid waste and debris from clogging the other filters.

4.

Install biological media: Place the media next after mechanical media. You may have different forms of biological media, check the manufacturer’s guide on which should go where.

5.

Install chemical media: You have the freedom to install the chemical media the way you want and depending on the waste of your aquarium.

6.

Prepare the input: The intakes differ from one canister filter to another. Make sure that the hose drawing water from the aquarium is firmly connected to the filter and the tank. Ensure that there are no hoops and slacks.

7.

Prepare the output: Ensure that the tubes that pump the filtrated water back to the aquarium are firmly connected to the aquarium and the filter. Also, check the valves and ensure that they are installed correctly.

8.

You can then start your filter and carefully observe if there are any leakages. In case of any leaks, check the installation and the connectors.

Conclusion

You don’t have to stress anymore to get the best canister filter for your aquarium. In terms of functionality, durability, style, and efficiency the Eheim classic external canister filter cuts across these thresholds.

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

However, you are not limited to it as we have talked about factors to consider when choosing the best canister filter. With the information we have given you, we can now let you fly in the market knowing you are safe.

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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, visit my disclosure page.

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About the Author James

Hey, I'm James – An author of Happypetpets.If you're reading this, you must share the same interest as me – A fish lover. I fall in love with many types of fish species: Betta fish, Goldfish, Koi fish, Tilapia, Carp, Perch, and so much more. I enjoy great happiness moments with my fish family, from raising to creating a new better home for them.That's how I gained lots of experience in taking care of my adorable fish, and I'm ready to share with you all now.

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