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6 Best Aquarium Canister Filter (2023 Reviews)

Without your supervision, life can get difficult inside an aquarium. An aquarium is a closed system. This means that waste and debris will eventually build up making the life of fish unbearable.

The best aquarium canister filter provides users with good mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration features that remove all the debris, waste, and toxins from your aquarium.

These filters are becoming so popular because they will keep the water clear and clean; maintaining the health of your pet fish. A canister filter is what you need in order to maintain your freshwater, saltwater, coral reef or even turtle tanks.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about canister filters, and we’ll also review some of the best aquarium canister filter on the market.

Check our best aquarium canister filter reviews, their features, pros, and cons so you can choose the most suitable one.

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1. Polar Aurora Canister Filter Kits 

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This filters are sold under different brand names like Polar Aurora, Sunsun or Flexzion, beside of the brand name they are all alike.

Polar Aurora offers aquarists three different versions to cater to their needs. The flow rate is 264 GPH (up to 75gallon), 370 GPH (up to 100gallon), and 525 GPH (up to 200gallon), so you can pick the right one depending on the size of the tank.

The biggest difference between the versions is (beside of the higher pump power) that the 266 GPH, the 370 GPH and 525 GPH versions are coming with an integrated UV-Sterilizer and the 525 GPH has a fourth filter stage.

The pro kit contains for every version at least 3 white/1 blue filter pads and 3 media baskets. You’ll receive 1 pound of premium filter carbon, 1 pound of ceramic rings and 1 set of bio balls.

You’ll need to soak the tubes in hot water for several minutes before setting up the filter.

You should make sure that the water level is above the height adjustment joint, otherwise, the filter will suck air and become extremely noisy. If you use this filter with a half-full tank, it will be a little bit inconvenient as it might disturb your fish because of the mechanical noise.

Without regular cleaning, you might start experiencing a few problems with the filter. If the flow rate starts to decrease then you’re not cleaning the filter as scheduled. It might also be time to replace the filter media.

Understanding the instructions is a bit challenging so you’ll spend more time on setup and maintenance. Unless you set it upright, it might start leaking.

Filter doesn’t require manual siphoning

Thanks to the UV sterilizer, all the harmful bacteria and algae spores will be killed to promote crystal clear water. The 9-watt sterilizer is enough to keep your tank healthy.

The filter doesn’t require manual siphoning because of the self-priming pump.The hoses tend to stretch over time, so you might need to trim them a little after using the filter for a while.

This is an expensive canister filter and it’s also quite heavy. It doesn’t come with easy instructions, although it’s highly customizable, allowing you to add the needed filters. If the power suddenly goes off, the filter might leak. You shouldn’t use the UV filter all the time, as it might affect the durability of the plastic baskets, which prevents proper filtration.


  • Available in 3 different sizes.
  • Different filter media.
  • Self-priming pump.
  • Doesn’t need manual siphoning.
  • UV sterilizer to kill bacteria and algae spores


  • Instructions are poorly written.
  • Can be extremely noisy if you don’t set it up.
  • UV filter can damage the plastic baskets.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “How to Set Up a Sunsun Canister Filter”

2. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

[amazon box=”B0002AQXTA”]

This filter is built for maximum efficiency, regardless of the size of your tank. It’s available for 40, 66, and 92-gallon tanks so you can easily pick the right one depending on your needs.

Unlike other filters, this one doesn’t have a by-pass which means that all the water has to pass through the filters for a super-clean result. Moreover, it won’t clog or slow down the filtration cycle, as long as you follow the recommended maintenance schedule.

It features Permo-elastic silicone sealing ring on the pump head which allows for safe closing. It comes equipped with all the filter media that you’ll need to keep your tank clean, including the HEIM’s mech and Substrat Pro media. This means that the filter is good value for money because you won’t have to buy separate filters, although it’s still more expensive than other models on the market.

Without UV Sterilizer

In spite of the price of this filter, it doesn’t have a UV sterilizer. It might not be the right one to pick if you have a heavily contaminated tank. The flow rate is rather low at 79 gallons per hour so it will take more time than other filters on the market.

Designing this filter guarantees that the mechanical and biological filtration process can be achieved in a single step. However, if you have a bigger tank, this might not be the right one for you.

This is a compact canister filter that weighs 8 pounds so it doesn’t take much space unlike other models on the market. However, if you’re on a tight budget looking for a filter for your 55-gallon tank, then you can find more affordable options.


  • Compact and lightweight canister filter.
  • Permo-elastic silicone seal ring on the pump head.
  • Comes with filter media.
  • Fast and potent mechanical and biological filtration.


  • Not suitable for bigger tanks.
  • Doesn’t have a UV sterilizer.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “EHEIM Classic 150 – quick overview and initial setup | External Filter”

3. API Filstar XP

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This canister filter is more expensive than other models on the market. It’s available in 4 different sizes. Whether you have a 45-gallon, 75-gallon or 175-gallon tank, you’ll find the right one for you.

As a matter of fact, the M size provides a flow of 300 GPH and works for a 75-gallon tank. With the help of the BIO-CHEM ZORB®, it will remove the compounds that carbon doesn’t remove.

Thanks to the design of the filter, you’ll be able to enjoy powerful and fast filtration to get rid of all the impurities and debris in your tank. It has self-priming and quick-disconnect features to facilitate maintenance and cleanup.

Anti-airlock feature

The anti-airlock feature prevents the sudden stopping of the filtration process. The anti-noise feature guarantees that you can enjoy crystal clear water while minimizing the vibration effects on the cabinet or the floor for the best performance.

If you’re looking for a potent filter that combines a high flow rate with a large capacity for filter media, then this is the right one to choose. It will remove toxic compounds, bad smells, and chemicals 3 times more efficiently than carbon filters alone.

Versatility is a big plus because you can customize the filtration stages to cater to the special needs of your freshwater or saltwater tank. The internal dividers and the baskets allow you to add and remove filters depending on the condition of your tank. Each basket will hold up to 4 filter media.

Priming takes a few seconds so setting up this filter doesn’t take much time. However, it’s not as quiet as other models on the market.


  • Flexible filtration system to suit your tank.
  • Available in 4 different sizes.
  • High water flow rate with minimum vibration.
  • Removes colors and smells.


  • More expensive than other models.
  • Not as quiet as other filters.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “PetSolutions: API FilStar XP Aquarium Canister Filters”

4. Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter for Aquariums

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The Marineland Magniflow canister is the right filtration system for a hassle-free and spill-free setup. It combines powerful mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration to improve the conditions in your freshwater or saltwater tank. It features user-friendly parts that are super easy to assemble so it’s a good choice for first-timers and less experienced aquarists.

This filter is available in 3 different sizes, so you can choose the right one for your tank. The smallest one works for small tanks up to 30 gallons, the medium one works for medium-sized tanks up to 55 gallons, and the biggest one works for larger tanks up to 100 gallons. The flow rate is 160 GPH, 220 GPH, and 360 GPG respectively. This is not the fastest filter on the market and will take some time before it filters all the water in your tank.

Designed for easier maintenance

Achieving a perfect seal is guaranteed thanks to the canister lids. These are designed for easier maintenance to grant you access to the media baskets. The polishing filter pads remove all the debris and particles from the water to keep it clean and clear. The foam pads screen out the dirt for proper mechanical filtration.

In the second stage, you’ll have the biological filter media. The bio-balls and ceramic rings provide a large multifaceted surface to help the useful bacteria grow in the tank. In the final stage, the black diamond carbon removes all the dissolved toxins, chemicals, bad odors, and colors.

Combining several filter media helps you maintain the clarity of the water. Although the filter is a bit pricey, it’s good value for money because it comes ready for use.

It’s not as versatile as other models on the market, but you can later remove some of these filters to install the ones you need. The filter weighs around 21 pounds and the hoses should be kept straight because twisting them might cause them to get loose.


  • Durable canister filter with installed filter media.
  • Comes in 3 different sizes.
  • Good value for money.
  • Easy maintenance.


  • Not as versatile as other models on the market.
  • Heavyweight filter with a low flow rate.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “Marineland Magniflow Unboxing & Product Review | Big Al’s”

5. Fluval External Filter

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Fluval offers a line of canister filters. There are 4 different sizes available so you can choose the right one for your tank. The biggest one is suitable for up to 100 gallon tanks with a flow rate of 383 GPH. It’s not the fastest canister filter on the market, but it offers more options to amateur and experienced aquarists.

Thanks to the square design of this filter, it will hold up to 50% more water than other round filters of the same size. This maximizes the contact of your tank water with filter media to guarantee thorough cleaning and filtration.

Quieter than other filters on the market

Quiet operation is an excellent feature that will make this filter very popular. The sound-reduction technology makes it 8% to 15% quieter than other filters on the market. It won’t disturb your fish compared to other filters on the market.

This canister filter also features a clog-proof intake strainer and a dual-layer foam screen to block all impurities and debris. To prevent accidental dripping, you should install a drip loop. This should be bought separately; otherwise, using this filter will be messy.

Cleaning this filter is super easy thanks to the aqua-stop valves and single-motion lift-lock. The hoses can be easily disconnected for fast and easy cleaning. You can install filter media to the removable baskets for more control over the filtration process.

The improved hydraulic motor reduces maintenance frequency, guaranteeing that your filter will work with no issues. It weighs around 10 pounds but it produces microbubbles that can make the water look a bit cloudy. Priming this filter for the first time can be a bit tricky.


  • Durable canister filter available in four different sizes.
  • Square design that holds 50% more than round filters of the same size.
  • Noise reduction technology.
  • Hoses can be easily disconnected for fast cleaning.
  • Contender for the best aquarium canister filter


  • Priming this filter can be a bit tricky.
  • Produces microbubbles that make the water a bit cloudy.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “Fluval 06 Series Aquarium Canister Filter Overview & Setup”

6. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

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There are 10 different versions of this filter to suit all aquarists. The 1000 elite model handles up to 100 gallons of water, so it’s a good choice for big-sized tanks. It features large filter media trays that allow you to customize the filtration process to remove all impurities from the tank.

Priming this filter is straightforward thanks to the easy-to-push priming button. The filter also features two 360-degree rotating taps. These allow you to fit the canister filter in the tightest aquarium setup. The valves resemble the ones you can find in swimming pools to provide more potent filtration and can be easily removed for faster and better maintenance.

You’ll receive a spray bar, directional spout for full customization, and tubing for intuitive setup. The 100-gallon filter has a flow rate of 265 GPH so it’s not as fast as other models on the market. It’s compatible with several types of filters offered by Penn Plax but there are only 3 stages of filtration available. If your tank is heavily contaminated, you might need another filtration system.

Not as bulky as other models on the market

It weighs around 16 pounds so it’s not as bulky as other models on the market. This canister filter is good value for money because it comes with all the filters that you can use to clean the water in the tank.

Setting up and priming this filter is straight forward, even if you’re not a professional although it doesn’t come with clear instructions. After changing the filters, you won’t have to worry about priming it as it will get back to work fast.

The filter media aren’t that impressive so they don’t last for long. Regular cleaning will prolong the life of the filters.


  • Canister filter available in different models.
  • Large filter media trays.
  • Two 360-degree rotating taps to fit in tight spots.
  • Fast setting up and priming.


  • Filter media don’t last for long.
  • Slow flow rate.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “PetSolutions: Cascade Canister Filters”

What is a Canister Filter?

This is a special filter that works for larger tanks. It’s so versatile that you can use it with different types of aquariums to keep your fish and marine animals healthy.

The canister filter is rather big, sitting beside, behind or under the tank. It features 2 hoses; one to draw water and waste out of the tank, and the other to feed the tank with clean water after all the waste has been removed.

Canister filters are more powerful than other types like sponge filters, power filters, and internal filters. These types can be placed inside the tank. Canister filters are suitable for several purposes so they can be installed in freshwater, saltwater, and reef aquariums.

However, they’re more expensive than other models. They’re more suitable for medium to large-sized tanks but some models can also work if you have a 20-gallon or 55-gallon tank.

Benefits of Using a Canister Filter

There are several types of filters that you can install to keep your tank healthy and debris-free. However, most aquarists are looking for a canister filter to make sure that they’re creating the perfect environment for their fish. So, why are canister filters so popular? Here are some of their benefits.

Higher Flow

Compared to other types of filters, canister filters will clean the water in the tank at a higher rate. This means the process will take less time and energy. Before you know it, the water in your tank will be free of debris and toxins that can affect the health of your fish.

Suitable for Hobbyists

If this is your first time keeping fish in a tank, then you need to invest in a reliable canister filter. This will clean the water properly so you don’t have to worry about the health of your fish. As a result, maintaining the condition of your aquarium gets easier.

Setting up the canister filter is straightforward compared to other types of filters. You should follow the instructions of the manufacturer to make sure that it’s installed properly. Although canister filters are larger than other filters, you can easily use one, even if you’ve never installed a filter before.

Customizable Filter Media

This type of filter will feature two to four filters media. All of them can be customized depending on the toxins and wastes you’re most concerned about.

Allow Bacteria to Grow

Because of the high water flow and big biological filter media, your useful bacteria will have space to establish their colonies. These bacteria can break down toxic waste in the tank and change some chemical compounds to non-toxic substances.

Quiet Operation

Although this filter will clean the water fast, it’s rather quiet. This means that your fish won’t be disturbed or distressed because of the noise.

How Does a Canister Filter Work?

The main idea is to let the water in the aquarium pass through different filter media. These filters are designed to capture specific impurities that you want to get rid of. After that, the filter allows clean water to flow back into the aquarium. This process is called a cycle.

The filter media are placed inside the body or canister of the filter. Water flows into the canister by the power of gravity and is cleaned as it passes through different filters.

At the top of the filter, there’s a pump that pumps back the clean filtered water into the tank. The pump is sealed to prevent the leakage of unclean water into the tank.

How to Choose the Best Aquarium Canister Filter ?

Fish need filtration support to keep their tanks clean and healthy. Unlike other pets, fish are unable to clean themselves or their homes.

Although canister filters are bulky, they can be installed to maintain any saltwater or freshwater tank. They’re very potent are removing different types of debris and pollutants to guarantee the health of your fish. When you’re shopping for the best aquarium canister filter, there are a few things that you should take into consideration.


Most canister filters are large. They’re not stored inside the tank, but they’re either kept under, behind or beside it. You should make sure that you have enough space to install the canister filter before buying it.

Some canister filters are tall and cylindrical, while others are rectangular. All filters don’t have sharp edges to guarantee that the water won’t leak to maintain the way the canister filter is working.

Flow Rate

This is specified by the manufacturer and refers to the amount of water that the filter can pump. The number is mentioned as GPH or gallons per hour.

In order to pick the right flow rate, you should pick something that is at least three or four times the size of the tank. This means that you’ll be able to clean and filter the whole tank three or four times per hour. Some tank manufacturers will recommend a suitable rate to filter your 20-gallon or 55-gallon tank.

Filtration Stages

Your canister filter will typically have three types of filtration stages; mechanical, biological, and chemical. Installing all three types of filters is essential to get rid of all the impurities and toxins that can jeopardize the quality of the water in your aquarium.

Filter Media Types

If you have a larger canister filter, you’ll probably have a basket that carries loose filter media. Some canisters will hold the filters inside a cartridge.

Loose media are easier and more practical to replace. They also allow you to customize the filtration process depending on the status of the tank.

Easy to Clean

Most filters are quite easy to clean. Even a beginner can disassemble a canister filter on his own to make sure that it performs well. However, you should make sure that your filter comes with an easy-to-understand manual so you can put it back after cleaning it.

Types of Filter Media for Canister Filters


A filter media is anything that you’ll install to your canister filter to change the quality of water. This is probably the most important thing that you should think about when you’re looking for the best aquarium canister filter for your fish tank. Here are the main types of filter media.

Mechanical Media

Mechanical filter media are placed before any other types of filters in the canister. These are meant to catch the larger particles of debris and pollutants to prevent the clogging of other parts in the canister filter.

These filters should be installed to freshwater and saltwater tanks to keep the water clear. They will remove sand from new gravel, as well as single-celled algae which cause the water to turn green.

These filters can’t remove the dissolved chemicals or toxins, but will significantly improve the quality and clarity of the water in the tank. They can catch pieces of sponge, food remains, decomposed plant parts, floss, and other objects that will affect the cleanliness of the water. Mechanical filters should be replaced often to make sure that they’re doing their job properly.

Dual Purpose Media

These will serve as mechanical and biological media. Most dual purpose filters are made of different types of sponge. Depending on the coarseness of the sponge, the filter will be able to block biological and mechanical impurities.

The coarsest material should be placed first in line, followed by the less coarse one. You should clean the sponge frequently to make sure that it’s good enough to block the waste.

Biological Media

These filter media are designed to maintain the oxygen flow in the tank to keep the healthy bacteria under control. These filters should be placed after the mechanical filters so they don’t get clogged. Otherwise, the bacteria colonies in the tank won’t have access to the oxygen, allowing the toxin levels to increase.

Biological filtration guarantees that your tank will be the right environment for healthy bacteria to grow. It will remove the bad smell and guarantee that fish will always stay healthy.

These bacteria are responsible for getting rid of ammonia and nitrites and converting these toxic substances to nitrates that don’t harm the fish. There are several types of biological media including gravel, sponges, pads, ceramic rings, stars, and sand. Some of them can also be used as mechanical filters in your aquarium.

Chemical Media

These should be placed at the bottom of the filter, right after the biological media. These filters are able to remove dissolved toxins and chemicals in the tank to make sure that the fish are living in a healthy ecosystem. Activated carbon, ferric hydroxide, and resins are among the materials used in chemical media.

Chemical filtration is the last step because it removes the toxins that you can’t see. Mechanical filtration removes the particles that make the water unclear, but chemical filtration removes dissolved chemicals and salts that can make your fish sick.

If the chemical media is placed at the topmost, it will be clogged with particles and pollutants which affects its performance to dissolve the toxic waste in the aquarium. It shouldn’t also be placed before the biological media. If this happens, most of the bacteria will be trapped in the chemical filter and won’t be able to make it to the biological media.

You as the tank owner, have the option to alter the order and number of filters based on the needs of your tank. You must pick high-quality filter media that don’t need to be changed after a few cycles.

Although this is the last stage in a filtration system, it’s probably the most crucial one. If you don’t plan on installing a chemical filter, you shouldn’t get an aquarium because the fish will die.

How to Maintain the Aquarium Filter Media?

Video: “Canister Cleaning & Filter Media Tips”

Without proper cleaning and scheduled replacements, the filter media might be doing your fish more harm than good. Choosing the right types of filters isn’t enough, as you should also know how to keep them clean and functioning. Here are a few tips to help you maintain your filter media.

  • The more fish you’re keeping in the tank, the more frequently you’ll have to clean the filters. This makes sense because more fish will produce more waste.
  • Smaller tanks require more frequent cleaning and replacements than larger tanks. This is because the large volume of water per fish will dilute the toxins, decreasing their percentage in the water.
  • Use an aquarium testing kit or testing strips regularly. These will notify you of any change in the pH, nitrite, ammonia, and nitrate levels.
  • Keep an eye on the water flow. If you feel that the water isn’t flowing properly, the filters are probably clogged and need to be cleaned or replaced.
  • Cleaning the mechanical media and some of the biological filter media using tap water can damage them. Tap water contains chlorine which can lower the quality of your filter media. The best way is to immerse the filters in a bucket filled with tank water to give them a rinse.
  • Replace the filters when needed. Some filter media can’t be cleaned. Carbon filters lose their filtration properties over time and should be replaced. If the mechanical filter is allowing particles to pass through, then it’s time to change it.

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Wrap Up

If you’ve never used a canister filter, then you’re missing out on proper filtration. The Fluval External Filter is an excellent choice. Thanks to the square design of this filter, it will hold up to 50% more water than other round filters of the same size, which maximizes the contact of your tank water with filter media and create the healthiest habitat for your fish. Clearly a contender for the best aquarium canister filter.

Without the right canister filter, your fish are doomed. Installing the best aquarium canister filter guarantees that they will live healthily for a long time.

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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