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Cheap Canister Filter – 4 Budget Filter Reviewed

Filtration is one of the most important things to get right in your tank. There are many means of providing effective filtration in your tank.

For example, bio balls, power filters and sponge filters will all provide a good degree of filtration.

But one of the most convenient and cost-effective solutions for filtration is a cheap canister filter.

These handy devices can be used in a great many circumstances, including in freshwater tanks, salt water tanks, and even reef tanks.

There are a great many advantages to this mode of filtration, and in this article, I will go through all of them.

I will also provide a comprehensive review of the best cheap canister filters on the market right now!

If you’ve been fretting about coming up with a good budget filtration system for your tank, then you can stop worrying, because all the answers are right here.

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Best Budget Canister Filter – Top 4 Review

Polar Aurora External Aquarium Filter with Built-in Pump Kit Canister

[amazon box=”B00SIQXYU6″]

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

This is a fantastic device to fill all your filtration needs. It has a number of strong points. For example, there is a really good selection of sizes and powers available.

This pump is available with feed rates from 265 gallons per hour to over 500 gallons power. That means this canister filter is likely to be suitable for all but the very largest of tanks..

The biggest difference between the 4 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 [amazon link=”B00SIQXYU6″ title=”Polar Aurora Filter” link_icon=”amazon” /] is a powerful device, and the strong pump will deliver high pressure clean water back to your tank, which also aids with good aeration of the tank.

Good aeration helps to elevate the levels of dissolved oxygen in the tank, which is necessary for your fish to thrive.

One of the biggest advantages of canister filters in general is that they are extremely versatile, and this one is no exception.

There are 3 easily accessed pull out trays where you can place any filtration media you like. For example, you could place activated carbon, ceramic rings, bio balls or more in these trays.

This tank is also mercifully easy to set up. For example, the pump is a self-priming pump, which negates the need for any manual siphon or other device to get it started.

The single valve disconnect also allows for very easy routing maintenance, which is bound to suit busy tank owners.


  • Flexibility allows you to furnish this tank with virtually any filtration medium you like
  • Good quality design and finish
  • Can provide double mechanical and biological filtration
  • Contender for the best budget canister filter


  • Instructions are poorly written.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

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

Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter for Aquariums, Fast Maintenance

[amazon box=”B010PLGHGE”]

The Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter has a similar design to the previous one, because it too features three distinct filtration stages to ensure your tank water is thoroughly cleaned of soluble and insoluble waste.

However, one major difference is that this design is smaller. For instance, this is only rated for tanks up to 100 gallons (depending on model), and the flow rates through the pump vary between 220 and 360 gallons per hour.

Hence, this cheap canister filter may be better suited for small setups. The multiple filtration stages in this product cater for every aspect of the water quality process.

For example, there is a water polishing stage to filter out fine debris, there is room for bio balls or ceramic rings to allow beneficial bacteria to grow and do their important work.

There is also a fine mesh mechanical filtration stage to collect any scraps that have accumulated in the water.

[amazon link=”B010PLGHGE” title=”Marineland” link_icon=”amazon” /] is a recognized and reputable manufacturer of filtration systems worldwide, so when you go to buy this product you can trust that you are investing in some quality.

What’s more, they offer a 3-year warranty for added peace of mind, which is always welcome.


  • Sleek Matt black finish
  • Trusted brand name
  • Can provide mechanical, biological, and even chemical filtration


  • Biggest version only suitable for tanks up to 100 gallons in volume
  • Slightly lower flow

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

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

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

[amazon box=”B0002DJ9GQ”]

The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter is also one of the best cheap canister filters available on the market right now. It performs the same tasks as many of the other appliances featured here, but it also has some unique selling points.

For example, this device is particularly aesthetically pleasing, featured a translucent blue covering and allowing you to see some of the inner workings of the pump.

Also of note is the sturdy anti-tip base which means it will remain upright under all conditions, and the handy self-primer button that takes the hardship out of setting up the pump.

Also, the flow valves in this product can rotate a full 360 degrees, which gives you great flexibility if your tank is in an awkward location.

The biggest version of this [amazon link=”B0002DJ9GQ” title=”Penn Plax Cascade Filter” link_icon=”amazon” /] is suitable for tanks of up to 200 gallons, but the flow rate offered is a bit lower. This might be better for some more placid fish, but it means that it will also take longer to re-balance your tank after it accumulates waste.

It is fair to say this is more of a cheap and cheerful canister filter, although it does offer some higher end features like the attractive appearance and the large capacity media baskets.


  • Flexibility allows you to furnish this tank with virtually any filtration medium you like
  • Affordable price
  • Very convenient due to the rotating inlet and outlet valves


  • Lower flow rate
  • Small model only allows for two stages of filtration instead of three

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “PetSolutions: Cascade Canister Filters”

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

[amazon box=”B0002AQXTA”]

As the name suggests this is a classic canister filter, with most of the features you would expect.

However, straight away you should note that the biggest version of this filter will only provide enough filtration capacity for a 92-gallon tank, so if you have a bigger set up you will have to look elsewhere. For more modest tanks however, this handy device really does the trick.

The [amazon link=”B0002AQXTA” title=”Eheim Classic Cabister Filter” link_icon=”amazon” /] comes equipped with two filtration media (the EHEIM Mechanical and Substrate Pro media) which should provide the required biological and mechanical filtration to really leave your tank glowingly clean and clear.

They come as filter sponges and loose material, so they are also versatile enough to be used in other systems if you need to.

One of the big advantages of this model is that it offers oxygen enrichment or aeration of your tank as it operates, which is sure to increase the longevity of your fish and really allow your tank to blossom.

There is also a silicon sealing ring fixed on the pump head which allows you to easily tank it on and off when you need to clean in. This offers everything you need a cheap canister filter to do.


  • Comes with replacement filtration media which should last you a long time at normal usage levels
  • Very Affordable price
  • Attractive design


  • Biggest model only suitable for tanks up to 92 gallons in volume
  • Only allows for two stages of filtration instead of three

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

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

How do canister filters work?

As a potential buyer of canister filters, it is important that you understand the basics of how they work. Canister filters are actually very simple devices.

They use a relatively low power electric pump to suck water through an inlet hose, and forces this water through a number of layers of different mechanical and biological filtration media.

These media do the important work of cleaning your water from visible and invisible impurities. The water then continues on its journey and is returned to the tank by means of the outlet hose.

Most cheap canister filters are inconspicuous and very quiet, which is just what you want from your filtration system.

What kind of filtration do they provide?

There are so many reasons why cheap canister filters are one of the best options on the market. They work so well because they provide both biological and mechanical filtration.

If you don’t know what that means, I will explain them both in turn.

Biological filtration

Firstly, biological filtration is the cultivation of bacteria colonies that actually have a positive impact in reducing the waste or detritus in your tank. Often people are wary of bacteria, because they assume all bacteria might be harmful to have in a fish tank, but that is patently untrue.

Many species of bacteria are an absolute must have to keep your tank clean and thriving. These bacteria help you out by taking in the ammonia and some other by products of fish waste, and reducing them to harmless substances.

Ammonia (which comes from quick waste) can be inherently harmful in high doses, so these bacteria really provide a vital service. The numerous bacteria colonies like to live on surfaces, so the confines of a canister filter are just perfect for them.

The inside of the canister has lots of surface area per unit volume, so bacteria will thrive there, and they will get a constant supply of waste products to devour as the water is recycled through the filter. This is one of the most important purposes of a cheap canister filter.

Mechanical filtration

The other service that a canister filter provides is mechanical filtration. This is simply a fancy way of saying that the filter picks up all the tiny, visible waste products as they are passed through the filter paper.

Thus, it captures this insoluble particulate waste, removing it from the water and improving the clarity of your water.

Not only will this capture fish waste, but it should also deal with any small debris that enters your tank from the outside.

Chemical filtration

The only form of filtration that a canister filter does not provide is chemical filtration. This may be necessary for the most grievous of tank conditions, such as when your tank is filled with mucky algae.

But generally chemical filtration is a last resort after all other avenues have been explored, because messing with the water chemistry can have unpredictable secondary effects on the health of your fish.

Activated carbon media can be inserted in some cheap canister filters, which provides a kind of chemical filtration, allowing chlorine to be removed and helping to get rid of unwanted odors from your tank water. Still, this is worth bearing in mind when purchasing your cheap canister filter.

How do you install and clean them?

Video: “How to Clean a Canister Filter”

Thankfully, for all you busy fish tank owners out there, cheap canister filters are easy to both install and clean.

To install, just follow the simple instructions provided by the manufacturer. Although it will vary from model to model, this usually just involves finding a power source, attaching the inlet and outlet hoses, installing the filtration media in the trays and pressing go!

With some models you may also have to prime the pump, but the instructions for this should also be easy to follow.

Cleaning is an even easier process. You should be easily able to disassemble the trays and take the filter media e.g. bio balls/ceramic rings out. Be sure to always handle biological filtration media with care as you don’t want to harm the hardworking bacteria.

When you are finished cleaning them/removing the visible gunk, simple place them back in the media trays. Regular servicing and maintenance is the only sure-fire way to make sure your filter stays at its optimum level.

What are the advantages of canister filters?

There are quite a lot of advantages to canister filters. For one thing, they can readily be installed out of site, unlike other filters which attach to the side of your tank. This can help improve the look of your setup and really transform your tank to the next level.

Also, the level of flexibility with these systems is unrivaled. It is incredibly easy to mix and match different filtration media. You can simply open up one of the trays (Most canister come with one or two), clean out the residue, and replace the internal medium.

This allows you the freedom to experiment with a wide variety of mechanical, biological or chemical filtration media, to see which gives you the best results.

Another plus is that they are very easy to clean, which means this routine maintenance job is only a 5-minute job instead of a painful hour-long task.

Possibly the biggest advantages of cheap canister filters, compared to other systems of comparable cost, is the high flow rates achieved.

This is certain to quickly push all the dirt, dust and debris that is in your tank water, through the strainers and filters, leaving the medium pristine and clear.

You simply cannot achieve these results with other systems, at the same modest price.

What to look for in a canister filter?

There are lots of things to look for when you go to purchase a canister filter. For example, you should look to buy from a reputable source and make sure that the build quality is high.

Also be sure to check that the model you are purchasing is rated for your size of tank, and that the flow rates are adequate for your type of fish.

It is also worth checking out what types of filtration media you can use with them. These are some examples of the pertinent questions to ask yourself before you click buy.

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Buying a cheap canister filter is one of the best long-term decisions you can make for your fish. Doing so will ensure their environment stays clean, clear and healthy for years to come, especially if you pair it with some efficient mechanical or biological filtration media.

This is a very important choice for any prospective fish tank owner.

Many of the models featured here have excellent features, such as self-priming pumps, multiple media slots, or high flow rates to name but a few.

However, you should be sure to check certain other criteria, like the maximum size of tank that the filter is rated for.

The models featured here also differ in the flow rates that they can achieve, the type and amount of filter media they can contain, and their appearance of course!

If you make an informed decision on which canister filter to buy, then it could be a very wise long-term investment.

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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