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How to Clean Canister Filter? Step by Step Guide

Do you clean your aquarium regularly? You need to clean it from time to time to make sure it is functioning properly.

Most aquarium owners tend to use a canister filter to make sure their aquarium remains clean. A clean water tank is vital for healthy fish in your aquarium.

However, you must not forget that the canister filter needs to be cleaned as well. It takes care of an important part of aquarium maintenance and reduces a lot of hassle. If it stops functioning, it will be difficult to maintain harmony in your aquarium. The life of the aquarium fishes is at stake.

At first, let us understand what is a canister filter and how it functions. Once we know that we will know how to clean the canister filter properly.

What is a canister filter?

A canister filter is used to clean a water tank. It looks like a cylinder standing in the water. There is a rotor inside the filter that draws water into the filter.

Inside the filter, there are several filtration media. As the water passes through each layer of filter, impurities are removed and the freshwater is released into the tank.

How does a canister filter work?

The canister filter is an external filter placed outside the aquarium. Hence many are confused about how the filter works. The water from the tanks flows into the filter by siphoning. The clean water returns to the tanks in the same way. This process does not need any pump.

After water enters the canister, there is a pump that pushes it through the layer of filters. The freshwater from the tank comes out where it is siphoned again back to the water tank.

How the water flows through the filter varies with different models. There are top to bottom, center to out, back to front and many types of filter out there.

The filtration is said to be a biological, chemical, and mechanical process. Of course, it depends on the type of filter you are using. The water passes through each filter with the help of a pump.

All canister filters come with a pump that helps it to draw the water through the system. Since the filter is completely sealed, there is no natural flow of water. Once passed through the filter the water is returned to the fish tank again.

How to clean a canister filter?

Video: “How to Clean a Canister Filter”

Now that you understand what is a canister filter and how it works, let us get down to the cleaning.

1Schedule canister cleaning time with your regular water changing the time of the aquarium. You will need the water from the aquarium for cleaning the canister filter.
2Close of all the connections of the canister filter. Disconnect the filter from the water tank.
3Take it to a place where you can wash it. Remember that dirty water will flow everywhere in the room. Keep that in mind before choosing a suitable location for cleaning. Open the connections and let the water flow.
4Now you need to separate the lid of the filter from the body. You need to look for the screws that hold them together. If you can’t find them, look for instructions printed on its body. Then open the screws one after another.

After the screws are opened, remove the lid carefully. When removed you should see media baskets which it the outermost layer of the filter. While you are taking the lid off, you need to be cautious.

The media could easily fall off the basket you rush while opening. That way, there will be extra cleaning duties for you other than the canister.

6Now remove the basket along with the media from the canister. You will see that multiple buskets are attached together with rods. Open the rods and separate each basket from one another.

Once the baskets are removed, the canister is empty. You will see some debris left inside the canister. Clean it with a showerhead or aquarium water. Rinse with water thoroughly and get the particles out of the canister.

8If there is any pad or foam inside the cylinder, remove them. Place them on the basin. Some canisters may not have foam inside. Put the empty baskets in the basin as well.

Wash the basket and the foams thoroughly. Both of the objects should be visibly clean. You will notice the blackness fading away as they are rinsed with water. Continue this until they appear brighter and all the dark spots fade away completely.

10Once cleaned put the foams back into the filter. Place the baskets connected with rods as it was when you opened them. Put all things together as it was before so that it resembles as it was when you opened it.
11As you have screwed back the lid of the canister back in place, fill it up with water. In some canister filters, this step is not necessary. However, filling up water is important for canister filters.

Now connect the filter with the water tank again. Keep the connection locked until you are done with connecting the aquarium and canister filter.

Unlock the connections and check the water tank. See if bubbles are coming out from the outlet and inlet of the pipe. After all the bubbles come out from the filter, you can turn the filter on.


Wait for a while and see if the water is forcing out of the outlet pipe. This shows that the filter is connected back properly after cleaning. If this step is ok, then you can rest assured that your filter is clean.

These are some simple steps of cleaning the canister filter. There are various filters for the fish tank. Most of them are cleaned in the same way.

14While you are at it, remember that the tubes and pump of the canister filter also need cleaning. But you don’t need to clean them as often as the aquarium or the filter itself. Mark out time in a few months to clean the rest of the parts.

How often you should clean a canister filter?

For your aquarium, you have to clean it once a week to keep the environment healthy for your fishes. However, you are using a canister filter that constantly cleans the water. It filters and releases clean water back to the tank. Hence it needs to be cleaned less frequently.

By using a canister filter with your fish tank, you need to clean the water once in three months. That is off course if you wash the filter thoroughly by opening up each part. Additionally, you need to replace the filter media inside the canister.

You need to develop a plan for cleaning the canister filter, and your fish tank. Develop a schedule accordingly. Some factors affect how often you need to clean the canister filter. Read them out and make your own routine for cleaning.

What are the factors that affect the frequency of cleaning the canister filter?

The canister filter should be cleaned at regular intervals. If it is not then it will contaminate the water of the fish tank. Two factors determine how often you need to clean your canister filter.

The livestock of your aquarium

If there are too many fish in your aquarium then, there is more waste. So, more cleaning is needed to maintain a tank with more fish.

The types of filter used

Similarly, the number of filter media, what type of media is used also affects how often you need to clean the canister filter.

Choose your favorite filter

As you already know the canister filter consists of a few filter media inside the cylinder. There are different types of filters available in the market. You can mix-match your own filter media combination to keep the aquarium clean.

There are biological, mechanical, and chemical filters available. If you want to look for the offers, then contact the manufacturer to find out the varieties of filters you can use. You can also find out the benefits of each type of filter and decide which one you want.

You already know that there are baskets inside the canister filter. If it was from a different company, there may be cartridges, media bags and many other. Here you can personalize the filter and make sure your fishes are in good health.

Keep your aquarium clean

After reading this article, you should understand how to clean canister filter easily. Regular maintenance can help the aquatic life in your fish tank. You should be careful about cleaning the canister.

If you fail to clean it at the right time, it could contaminate the water in your aquarium. When there is an imbalance in the purity of water, you fishes will get sick and there is a threat to its life.

For an aquarium owner, this can be a terrible experience. You can’t help you fishes to heal unless you have cleaned the water first. Hence maintaining the canister filter is vital for all water life fans.

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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