Remember, your canister filter is something that you do not want to go cheap on.
Our Top 10 Recommended Canister Filters
|Fluval 406 External Canister Filter||Fresh & Saltwater||100|
|Eheim Classic External Canister Filter 2215||Fresh Water||92|
|Fluval 206 External Filter||Fresh & Saltwater||45|
|API Filstar XP-M Canister Filter||Fresh & Saltwater||75|
|Emperor 400 Pro Series Bio-Wheel Power Filter||Fresh & Saltwater||80|
|Cascade 1000 Canister Filter||Fresh & Saltwater||100|
|AquaClear 110 Aquarium Power Filter||Fresh & Saltwater||110|
|Fluval G6||Fresh & Saltwater||160|
|Fluval G3||Fresh & Saltwater||80|
- Our Top 10 Recommended Canister Filters
- How Does It Work?
- Types Of Canister Filters
- Our Top 9 Recommended Canister Filters For 2018
- How Were These Filters Chosen?
- Buying A Canister Filter
- HOB vs. Canister Filter Types
- Video Demo: How To Set Up An External Filter
- DIY: Canister Filter Video Demo
- Making Your Final Decision
How Does It Work?
Canister filters work by channeling water out of your aquarium and through their body; this water is pushed through the filter media inside of the canister, and this effectively removes impurities from the water.
You have a couple of choices when it comes to the direction of liquid flow in your canister filter; there are top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, center-out, back-to-front and outside-in filters. The flow of water changes based on the brand or model that you choose, but they all work to effectively clean your water.
Different types of filter media will clean specific substances in your aquarium; you can buy filters that offer biological, mechanical or chemical filtration. One of the great things about canister filters is that you have slots for more than one type of media, so you can pick and choose what you filter out of your aquarium’s water.
Canister filters are sealed systems, so they use an electric pump to move water back into your aquarium after it is filtered. Most systems include this pump, but some inexpensive models require you to buy an external pump separately.
Types Of Canister Filters
Canister filters come in different shapes and sizes, and they can be used for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. The great thing about these filters is that they are very flexible; you can use different media types to create a custom filtration system for your aquarium.
You can add accessories like diatomic sleeves, sponges and extra rings for additional filtering, and these filters can be tweaked to be used in almost any environment. We have compiled information from all over the web and found the best fish tank filter for every situation, as well as best aquarium filters.
1. Fluval 406 External Canister Filter
- Advanced motor technology; maintains a strong water flow
- Runs quietly
- Uses the entire canister volume to increase filtration
- Quick-change media
- Instant prime feature
- Shaky output nozzle; the water flow causes it to move around
- The instructions could be clearer; the unit is easy to assemble, but the instructions make it seem difficult
The Fluval 406 uses Aqua-Stop valves to make hooking up hoses easier; you no longer have to muscle hoses onto the filter’s valves. It uses lift-lock clamps to make opening and cleaning the unit easy, and its multiple filtration baskets come stocked with chemical, biological and mechanical media; when this unit ships, it comes with everything you need to keep up a top-of-the-line aquarium.
Type: Freshwater or saltwater
Fluval 406 Product Details:
- 4 x 3.5 x 8 inches; weighs 10 pounds
- Can be used in a 24 to 40 gallon tank
- Three media stages
- Filters 155 gallons per hour
- Twin-foam filters absorb extra debris; prevent clogged media
- Lift lock clamps for easy maintenance
The Fluval 406 is a powerhouse filter that runs extremely quietly. If you have a large tank that needs to be filtered, you can depend on this unit’s multiple filtration levels to clean out biological and chemical impurities from your water. The manufacturers included lift lock clamps for easy maintenance, and the unit’s strong engine powers through 155 gallons of water per hour.
This is a great tank for both fresh and saltwater aquariums; it cleans out impurities, and it runs without making a sound. If you need a strong and dependable unit, then the Fluval 406 is perfect for your tank.
2. Eheim Classic External Canister Filter 2215
- Runs quietly
- This model has been around for over 30 years; it’s been tested by millions of consumers
- Holds a lot of filter media; media comes included with the unit
- Ships with two media separation plates, tubing and accessories to help you get started instantly
- Vague instructions; it’s easier to follow the included diagram when putting the unit together
- You need to cut tubing to attach safety valves at the intake and output ports; this is not mentioned in the instructions
The Eheim Classic ships with an elastic sealing ring, built-in pump, inlet pipe, hose and installation accessories. Eheim really delivers quality and dependability with this unit, and they have managed to keep it affordable. Affordability and dependability is why this unit is considered one of the best canister filters on the market today.
Type: Bottom-to-top fresh or saltwater filter
Eheim Product Details:
- Six month maintenance interval
- Powered by a high output 1262 pump; filters 164 gallons per hour
- Can filter up to a 92 gallon tank
- Two quick-release double tap valves included
- Ships with two coarse filter pads, three fine filter pads, three activated carbon pads and filter wadding
- Elastic silicon sealing ring for easy cleanup and maintenance
- Spray bar, inlet pipe, hoses and accessories included
The Eheim Classic is a reliable filter that will last you for years; it has a completely silent motor, and all the filter media fits tightly into the canister. We like this unit’s bottom-to-top flow rate, and there’s virtually no bypass of the filter media, so it produces excellent water quality. It’s a classic unit, and it always scores high on all canister filter reviews.
The Eheim Classic has proven itself to be the best, and we feel that this filter far exceeds our expectations. When you buy this filter, you can look forward to a lifetime of dependability, quiet and trouble-free service, and you can get this all at an affordable price.
3. Fluval 206 External Filter
- Quiet operation; sound dampening impeller
- Multi-stage filtration system
- Clog-proof intake strainer
- Durable casing; easy to open and maintain
- Multiple removable filtration baskets
- Superior water flow
- The output nozzle doesn’t have a height deflector or spray bar
- Output nozzle shakes from the flow of water, so you may need to anchor it to your tank if it bothers you
The unit’s improved hydraulic performance means that this filter has an excellent flow rate, and this flow produces cleaner and healthier water for your fish. The filter’s engine has a patented Bio-Foam Sound Dampening Impeller that reduce the unit’s sound output by up to 15 percent. The cover of the unit was designed to make this unit strong, and the user-friendly features make this unit a pleasure to use.
Type: Fresh or saltwater
Fluval 206 Product Details:
- 4 x 3 x 6 inch square unit
- Can be used in an aquarium up to 15 gallons
- Three media stages
- 65 gallon output
- Quick-change mechanical media
- Lift lock clamps
- Three-year warranty
When you get a hold of the Fluval 206, you immediately notice the high-quality materials that it is built out of; it’s a very solid unit, and it’s built to last. Water moves through the three media baskets in this unit, and you can put whatever type of filter media you want inside of them.
When you order this unit, you get everything that you need to get started; it ships with foam, ceramic bio-media and carbon pouches. We really like this unit; it’s well designed, quiet and it does a great job of filtering water.
4. API Filstar XP-M Canister Filter
- Powerful and easy to use; can be used in a tank up to 75 gallons
- API BIO-CHEM ZORB removes compounds better than carbon alone
- API BIO-CHEM STARS absorbs four times more bacteria than other filters
- Three-stage filtration system
- Self-priming; starts easily
- Self-locking water shutoff system; prevents flow during maintenance
- The canister takes some time to put together; if you’ve never had a canister filter before, you need to follow the directions closely
The design of this API unit makes it one of the best canister filters on the market; it’s built to be tough and reliable, and its solid construction guarantees trouble-free and quiet operation. If you need effective filtering, strong flow rates and easy maintenance, then the API Filstar is the filter for you.
Type: Fresh or saltwater filter
API Filstar XP-M Product Details:
- Measures 9 x 13.5 x 15 inches; weighs two pounds
- BIO-CHEM ZORB removes toxins with an exclusive resin-carbon blend
- Self-priming; no manual pumping or siphoning
- Anti-airlock system; canister can be removed without losing prime
- 300 gallons per hour water filtration
You really can’t go wrong with this filter; it’s aesthetically pleasing, and it cleans your aquarium water efficiently. It does this without making a sound. The filter’s quiet operation is amazing when you consider the fact that it goes through about 300 gallons of water per hour. If you need crystal clear water from an easy-to-maintain filter, then the API Filstar will be perfect for you.
We really think that this is one of the best filters on the market. We’re not exaggerating when we say that this filter doesn’t make any noise. It’s very easy to maintain and clean, and you can change the unit’s filter pads in about 10 minutes; we wholeheartedly recommend this canister filter.
5. Emperor 400 Pro Series Bio-Wheel
- Flow rate of 400 gallons per hour
- Can be used in tanks up to 80 gallons
- Two-pump design; doubles the flow and filtration of this unit
- The dual bio-wheel has 50 percent more surface area; this leads to more efficient filtration
- Runs fairly silently
- The unit needs to be primed manually; this takes some time, and other units do this automatically
- The motor runs a little louder than comparable units
If you need an effective filtration system that can properly support the bio-load created by your fish, then this unit is right up your alley. It works with saltwater and freshwater aquariums, and it lowers your tank’s ammonia and toxicity levels; it’s perfect for people who want to keep sensitive fish. The Emperor 400 delivers professional-grade filtration in a unit that is easy to use and maintain.
Type: Fresh or saltwater filter
Emperor 400 Product Details:
- Filters 400 gallons per hour; can be used in a tank up to 80 gallons
- Two-pump design for maximum water flow and filtration
- Three-stage filtration system
- Additional media slots; useful for extra filtration
- Superior water to media contact
- Easy assembly
We really like this filter; it’s very easy to setup, and it runs without much maintenance. We did notice that the engine runs a little louder than other units, but it’s still very quiet; we don’t think that it’s loud enough to cause a disturbance. This powerful unit uses a three-stage filtration system, and it can get through 400 gallons of water per hour. It comes with extra media slots and a two-pump design to guarantee that your water stays sparkling clean and clear.
If you have a large tank with sensitive fish, then this filter is perfect for your needs. It’s easy to put together, and the unit doesn’t need very much maintenance. It’s a high-quality unit that does wonders at filtering out biological and chemical impurities from your aquarium’s water.
6. Cascade 1000 Canister Filter
- Heavy-duty filtration
- Easy to prime with less than 10 pumps
- Simple setup; can be assembled in minutes
- Runs quiet
- Main canister can’t be opened; this can make cleaning it difficult
- You need to buy pouches to replace activated carbon; you can’t replace it yourself
The Cascade 1000 uses a floss pad and activated carbon to remove impurities from your aquarium, and its absorbent sponge gives your filter a large surface area for biological filtration; it promotes good bacteria growth to remove waste, food, nitrates and ammonia. This durable filter is made of high-quality materials, so it’s perfect for people who need a low-maintenance unit.
Type: Freshwater or saltwater
Cascade 1000 Product Details:
- Measures 17 x 10 x 11.5 inches; weighs 12 pounds
- Easy button primer; works with the push of a button
- 360 degree rotating valve caps
- Wide base; stays steady
- Flow rate valves; can adjust the water flow
The Cascade 1000 is a great filter; it’s easy to setup, and it has an easy priming mechanism that takes a couple of pumps to get going. This filter does a great job in tanks up to 100 gallons, and it always produces crystal clear water without making a bunch of noise. The pads inside of this unit make changing the filter media simple, and the unit works great for people who don’t like to spend a lot of time on maintenance.
This filter is great for both freshwater and saltwater tanks. The unit promotes good bacteria growth, and it filters out chemical and biological impurities. If you have a large tank with sensitive fish, then this unit will work perfectly for you.
7. AquaClear 110 Aquarium Power Filter
- Cycle Guard filtration system; it filters mechanical, biological and chemical impurities
- AquaClear foam insert for better filtration
- Easy maintenance
- The propeller needs to be cleaned when the unit is turned off; debris can settle on the propeller, and this causes it to stop running
The AquaClear filter system gives you the opportunity to stack filter media based on your preferences, and you never have to worry about overloading the media; the unit’s large chamber can handle it.
Type: Freshwater or saltwater filter
AquaClear 110 Features:
- Can be used in tanks up to 110 gallons
- 7.1 x 13.9 x 9.1 inches; weighs 4.5 pounds
- Patented filtration system; water has more contact with the filters, so it’s filtered more efficiently
- Energy-efficient pump; runs quietly
- Quick and easy installation
- AquaClear foam for extra filtration
- Activated carbon and BioMax Cycle offer continuous filtration
- Two-year warranty
This powerful and quiet filter saves you a lot of money in the long-run. You don’t have to buy specialized pads when replacing the filter media; the foam pad on this unit removes dirt from your water. You simply clean the sponge every couple of weeks, and you’ll never have to buy additional pads for this unit. This is one of the main reasons why this unit ranks so well in all canister filter reviews.
We like this unit’s output and efficiency, and it can be used in tanks that are up to 110 gallons; this durable unit lets you filter your water based on your preferences, and it comes in an affordable package that includes everything that you’ll need to get started with your tank.
8. Fluval G6 Canister Filter
- Three component drive system pump
- Fiberglass reinforced filter chamber
- HydroTech monitoring technology
- Aquastop maintenance system for easy cleaning
- Easy priming button
- The unit is expensive, but it’s cheap to maintain; you need to pay a lot for it upfront, but it ends up being cheaper than other units because of its low cost of operation
The Fluval’s HydroTech monitoring system uses an internal sensor to check filter performance, water parameters and cleaning intervals. This sensor does it all for you, so you know exactly what is going on inside of your aquarium at all times. This high-tech gadget is the future of canister filters.
Type: Saltwater and freshwater filter
Fluval G6 Specs:
- 10 x 9 x 13 inches; weighs 22 pounds
- Can be used in tanks up to 160 gallons
- 650 gallons per hour output pump; 265 gallons per hour filtration
- 3 basket media capacity
- Telescopic intake and strainer
If you’re spending a lot of money on your tank, then you might as well get this filter. The initial price may be a little high, but when you consider all the special features that come included with this unit, it really doesn’t cost that much. This unit will last you forever, so the price of it really isn’t that bad. If you want a top-of-the-line filter that utilizes the latest in technology, then you’ll love the Fluval G6.
This filter reminds us of a high-class luxury car. It has tons of features, and its internal computer system monitors your tank and water consistently. This makes taking care of your aquarium fun and easy, and it does it in an aesthetically pleasing way.
9. Fluval G3 Canister Filter
- Electronic monitoring system
- Three-component drive system
- Easy primer
- Looks stylish
- Lever canister clamps
- The filter media is a little small in this unit, so you may need to clean it more often than the G6
Type: Freshwater or saltwater
Fluval G3 Features:
- 10 x 9 x 10 inches; weighs 18.8 pounds
- Suitable for tanks up to 80 gallons
- 340 gallons per hour pump output
- 185 gallon per hour filtration
- One button self-priming function
- Water temperature, flow rate and conductivity displayed
This filter, much like the G6, is leading the pack when it comes to canister filter technology. We love the backlit display; it gives you a lot of insight into what is going on inside of your tank. This version is meant for smaller tanks, but it still has a powerful pump that quickly clears your water without making a sound.
We really like this unit. It looks cool, and it works very well. This filter looks great on your tank, and it uses technology to make taking care of your aquarium an easy task.
How Were These Filters Chosen?
We took a lot of time looking at many different canister filters to try to figure out which ones provided the best value. We looked at things like convenience, cost and durability, and then we took our top picks and looked at them even more closely. We really feel like the units that we reviewed here are the best on the market today; they offer great value, are easy to maintain and they’ll last you for years to come.
Buying A Canister Filter
When choosing your canister filter, you need to factor in the size of your tank, the type of fish you have, the size of your fish and the amount of time you want to spend on maintenance. Most people know that they need to consider the size of their tank and fish, but when reading canister filter reviews, they often forget about maintenance. Every filter need maintenance, but some need more than others.
You need to buy a filter that you can maintain properly; if you don’t, the system becomes ineffective, and your fish suffer. Therefore, we feel that maintenance is one of the most important factors to consider when buying your new filter.
The great thing about the best canister filters is that you can be rather lazy about maintaining them without many problems; the large water capacity and multiple filter media inside of them allow you to filter water more effectively, and they can be left alone for longer than other filter types.
HOB vs. Canister Filter Types
Check out this short video that describes the pros and cons of each filter type -- HOB and Canister.
Video Demo: How To Set Up An External Filter
DIY: Canister Filter Video Demo
Q:What’s the best canister filter for a saltwater aquarium?
A: All of the filters that we reviewed work well in saltwater environments, but when you use a canister filter in this type of aquarium, you need to be diligent about cleaning it. Make sure to clean the filter once every month; most people do it when they change the water in their tank.
Q: What’s the best canister filter for freshwater?
A: All of the filter tanks we reviewed work very well in freshwater environments. It’s hard to say which one is the best; they all offer pros and cons which make them better or worse for certain people. Make sure to read our canister filter reviews; they’ll help you figure out which filter fulfills your aquarium’s needs.
Q: Is there anything I should be aware of when it comes to canister filters?
A: If you maintain your canister filter properly, it’ll be one of the most efficient filters that you’ve ever had. When you use one of these canister filters, you have the option to change the filter media based on your needs and preferences; this gives you the ability to customize your tank, and it allows you to run your filter with less maintenance.
Canister filters are more efficient than power filters; water is forced through the filter media, and it never flows around it. This means that your water is always crystal clear, and you can be sure that you aren’t pumping harmful chemicals or biological agents back into your tank.
Q: What’s the best way to choose which canister filter will work for me?
A: We feel that knowing what you are buying is important when choosing your filter, and that’s why we recommend reading canister filter reviews that discuss the product you plan on purchasing. When you read canister filter reviews from real people, you can figure out a unit’s strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll know exactly what you are getting.
Everyone has different needs, and some units meet these needs better than others. If you’re smart about your canister filter choice, you’ll pick a unit that has the strengths that you need.
Making Your Final Decision
Canister filters are great for people who need performance from units that don’t take long to maintain. The best canister filters are flexible, and you can change the filter media to meet your needs.
Read our reviews about canister filters, and then figure out what style of unit will work the best in your unique aquarium setup. Look for versatility and reliability from your filter; when you do, you’ll find a canister filter that will last you a lifetime.