Mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration systems are essential for your aquariums. While those three setups are stacked separately, another convenient method is present in the form of canister filters.
Although a bit expensive, canister filters accommodate all three types of filtration in a single device. Typically, they’re higher in capacity, customizable, and more space efficient.
Canister filters also can handle bigger aquariums than other stand-alone filters, which are limited by the least capable filter present in the assembly.
Table of Contents
Top 10 Best Aquarium Canister Filters
A premium aquarium canister filter solution, the Fluval FX6 can pump a max of 925 GPH. Designed for aquariums up to 400 Gal, this is one of the best aquarium canister filter money can buy. The pricing of the model is also at par with the extraordinary features offered.
- Smart pump microchip technology
A proprietary smart pump microchip is enabled in this canister filter to manage and optimize pump performance according to the tank parameters.
- Self-starting and air auto-evacuation
The pump auto-starts wherever it’s plugged in, and the unit is submerged. Every 12 hours, built-up air is evacuated to ensure maximum efficiency.
- Easy drainage
Again, the smart pump drains all the water whenever the output hose is attached to allow easy maintenance and movement.
- Stackable media baskets
Stackable in-built baskets keep different types of media separated from each other and filter the water serially—avoiding mechanical build-up in chemical or biological compartments.
- Well-built and has a lot of room for media.
- Easy to drain and maintain. No mess cleaning and media replacement.
- Minimal noise during the night.
- Super high capacity and easily fits under aquariums.
- A few users have reported a faulty unit motor rotor jam issue.
- Customer support leaves a lot to desire, especially when you spend this lot on the filter.
Best all-around aquarium canister filter for saltwater and freshwater tanks.
Created to cater to up to 100 gallons of aquariums through a 383 GPH pump, Fluval 407 is an energy-efficient beast. It also is durable enough to handle both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. However, at this price point, they should’ve included a UV light sterilizer.
- Fluval eTEC technology
Proprietary eTEC technology from Fluval ensures powerful pump performance, smoother operations, and reduced power consumption.
- Powerful, quiet operation
As per the claim, Fluval 407 is 25% quieter than their previous generation canister filters. While the unit is significantly quieter, there is no way to verify the metric.
- Energy efficiency
With only 23W power consumption, the model is equivalent to powering a single LED light bulb. You can expect it to run throughout the year without making any significant dent in your pocket.
- Suitable for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums
Non-corrosive and durable material is used to manufacture the canister, pump, and sealers to support both saltwater and freshwater operations.
- Low noise level
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Great suction power and high-efficiency
- Tough to assemble the canister filter.
- O-rings often leak after a few months of usage. Replacements are available.
- For several users, the pump stopped working after a few months.
With 350 GPH water flow and up to 200-gallon support, Penn-Plax Cascade 1500 is suitable for larger tanks and ponds. The unit also supports both saltwater and freshwater aquariums. In addition to offering “state of the art” features, this unit has 5 stackable media baskets to offer maximum filtration.
- Push button primer
Priming is the process of siphoning water to the pump to optimize its performance. Most powerful pumps require priming before initial use. Cascade 1500 offers a push-button primer that makes the process seamless and quick.
- 360° independent valve taps
For easy rotation and custom fitting, 360° independent valve taps are introduced in this model. The valves rotate on their axis to offer easy maneuvering.
- 5-stage filtration
You can customize your filtration approach with 5 media baskets to establish any type of media combination. 5 Poly fiber floss pads, 1 coarse bio-sponge, and 1 bag of activated carbon already come with the filter as standard.
- Very cost-effective.
- Easy to set up.
- Parts are easily available online.
- More than adequate filter buckets.
- The unit may be a little too loud due to the spray bar.
- The intake bar doesn’t take adequate water and forms air bubbles.
- Water leaking issues are prevalent.
- The impeller shaft is made from plastic rather than stainless steel.
Supporting 100-gallon aquariums with its powerful 360 GPH flow rate, the Marineland Magniflow aquarium canister filter is one of the best all-around products out there. In addition to convenient setup and maintenance, this model offers quick priming with a single button.
- Designed for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums
Magniflow is designed to operate on both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. Thanks to its lubricated O-rings and corrosion-free chambers, it lasts long even in direct exposure to salt water.
- Spill-free maintenance
A valve-block mechanism is offered in the unit to block water flow to the media housing for quick spill-free maintenance.
- 4-Stage filtration
While the official product page mentions 3-stages of filtration, a water polishing layer with a filter pad can be included in the mechanical stage to remove fine debris.
- 3-year warranty
Marineland comes with a 3-year original warrant on the unit and pump. However, a lack of adequate customer service can leave you high and dry.
- Price is pretty cost-effective.
- Flow rate is adequate for 100-gallon tanks.
- The chambers are quite spacious and easy to maintain.
- The filter itself is pretty quiet with some modifications.
- Instructions are confusing and hard to follow.
- The impeller rattles in a few cases. However, it could be a shipping issue.
- Continues purging air even if all seals are checked and tightened.
- Customer service isn’t satisfactory.
Fitted with different return fixtures, including a traditional water director, spray bar, and hang-on-the-back polishing unit, Aquein QuietFlow is suitable for filtering both saltwater and freshwater habitats. With three filter sizes available to serve up to 150 gallons, this is one of the most versatile canister filters on the market.
- Multi-stage filtration
Multi-stage filtration ensures all-around sterilization of biological, mechanical, and chemical elements. Moreover, the huge chambers are perfect to store any adequate amount of filter media.
- Multiple water return options
Depending on your choice of habitat, either choose from traditional options like spray bar and water director or choose the hang-on-the-back polishing unit. These options ensure that the fish are kept stress-free and healthy.
- Quick disconnect valves for easy disassembly
QuietFlow comes with quick disconnect valves to easily disassemble the media housing for maintenance and replacement.
- Suitable for 150-gallon tanks
This heavy-duty best aquarium canister filter can support up to 150-gallon tanks with ease. Just make sure to replace the filter media at regular intervals.
- Easy to set up. The only challenging part of setting up the canister filter is to connect the hang on the back polishing unit.
- Huge filtration chambers make maintenance intervals longer.
- Water flow is as good as advertised and is adequate to support 150-gallon aquariums.
- Filter often leaks from the joints.
- The impeller is noisy.
- Air bubbles are frequently generated—decreasing efficiency.
Equipped with 396-793 GPH adjustable flow, the SunSun HW-3000 is capable of cycling even the largest of aquariums. The cost associated with the canister filter is also suitable for most hobbyist operations. However, it is a bit noisy, and the high flow rate may prove to be deceiving.
- 5-stage canister filter
A total of 5 filter chambers allow you to customize filter media to any combination you like. According to your preference, you can either stack them all up or leave a few empty for better water flow.
- UV sterilization
Apart from the media baskets, a UV sterilization option is also offered with the unit. However, you have to install the light after installing the canister filter.
- LCD controls
Critical metrics are available to see in an LCD-based display. You can adjust the flow rate through the controls available beside the screen.
- No-priming requirement
In comparison to the other best aquarium canister filters, you don’t need to prime the pumps before starting this unit. As per our tests, the self-priming method works pretty well.
- The product design is spot-on. The chambers, pump setup, and priming are bliss.
- The unit isn’t noisy, but the noise can be further decreased with a few modifications.
- Easy to clean and maintain.
- LCD DIsplay for better visualization.
- Flow rate is a bit disappointing for larger aquariums. Not as advertised.
- Poor structure often ends up leaking the canister.
- Air suction and decreased efficiency are common issues with this unit.
Available in 4 convenient variations, the durable Polar Aurora Canister Filter range is pretty cost-effective and reliable. Suitable for 200-gallon tanks, the 525 GPH model is easy to install and has a very low noise level. Moreover, it has great suction power and output efficiency.
- 4 media trays
Stacked vertically, the 4 vertical media trays offer versatility and convenience to use any kind of filter media combination. The trays also are pretty easy to clean and maintain after usage.
- Self-priming pump
You don’t have to prime Polar Aurora to optimize the flow rate. The auto-priming technology works mostly well.
- UV sterilization
A 9W UV sterilization functionality is offered in this model to remove bacteria,
- One-button air extraction
- Easy to maintain and rinse media.
- Very cost-effective with the 265GPH model costing the lowest.
- Comes with media included. However, you should consider getting your preferred media whenever possible.
- A few users have reported that the top tabs that hold the hose assembly are pretty brittle.
- The pump and impeller may overheat and cause a rattling noise.
- The top O-rings are somewhat loose and may cause leakage.
Supported by adequate suction power, lower noise level, and cost-effectiveness, the SunSun HW-704B can filter aquariums up to 150 gallons. With its 525 GPH motor pumping water through the 5 levels of filtration and UV sterilization, you can be certain that your fish will be happier.
- 4-stage filtration
Mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration requirements are fulfilled through the 4 huge media baskets available to you. You can customize your choice of media without worrying about running out of space.
- Additional UV sterilization
The 5th stage of filtration is UV sterilization. A 9W UV bulb is used to facilitate this step. UV prevents a wide range of bacterial and viral infections caused in your fish.
- Large media baskets
Media baskets in HW-704B are pretty huge. Filling them up with appropriate media should last you a long time without maintenance or replacement.
- Spray bar outlet
The outlet tube of the unit is fitted with a spray bar to increase dissolved oxygen levels in the water. You may also use the traditional outlet if preferred.
- Silent motor. Doesn’t rattle or make noises while running.
- Lots of room for filter media. The filter also is pretty large to cycle your whole aquarium.
- Build quality is pretty good with strong jets.
- Plenty of media are included in the package.
- A few users have reported static shock and the necessity of grounding it.
- Leaking issues are prevalent.
- UV light isn’t reliable to work long-term.
Available in 3 variations ranging from 265 GPH to 525 GPH, Flexzion is the best aquarium canister filter in terms of convenience and simplicity. Perfect for living rooms and offices, the filter is quiet, silent, and efficient in delivering crystal-clear water.
- 3-stage media filtration
The necessary stages of filtration levels are provided by the model. It includes 3 media trays that are meant to be filled with mechanical, biological, and chemical filter media.
- Suitable for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums
Durably manufactured with corrosion and abrasion in mind, Flexzion is capable of handling both saltwater and freshwater fish tanks.
- Air evacuation button
For manual priming and to occasionally evacuate water out of the system. A dedicated button is provided in the unit.
- Single valve disconnect
The Flexzion allows you to disconnect the filter from the rest of the system. It makes cleaning and maintaining the filter easier and more convenient.
- Easy setup but the instructions aren’t quite clear.
- The pre-packaged hose isn’t of good quality. We recommend using a more durable hose to avoid contamination.
- Noise isn’t unbearable, but existent.
- Pretty noisy for indoor aquariums.
- UV light issues (not turning on) are present.
- Leaking issues are present.
With a flow rate of 164 GPH, the Eheim Classic 2215 is recommended for tanks up to 95 gallons. Its simple yet efficient design removes all the clutter and allows a beginner enthusiast to get started with aquarium filtration. The huge single chamber allows flexibility in media management for optimal conditions.
You can read our article on EHEIM Classic Canister Filter 2213 by The Aquarium Guide.
- Permo-elastic silicone sealer
The permo-elastic silicone sealing ring on the pump head offers safe and secure sealing after cleaning and closing. In comparison to O-rings, this is much more secure and leak-proof.
- Included sponge and filter media
The package includes the necessary sponge and bio-filter media to get started. However, you may also choose your preferred set of media for better filtration.
- Easy single-chamber maintenance
This classic design allows you to clean the filter easily and conveniently. While the single-chamber design limits your customizability, it shines in the department of rinsing and maintaining.
- The flow rate is pretty adequate, but you may need to use filter floss.
- Filtration and pumping are pretty silent.
- Large chamber to hold media.
- Simple, quick no-hassle setup.
- Priming often fails. Keep siphoning the unit until an optimum flow is achieved.
- No media baskets are present. You have to use media bags or let them loose.
- Intake tubes may leak due to cracks. Consider using more durable materials.
Aquarium Canister Filters Buying Guide
In this day and market, limiting your choice to only these 10 best aquarium canister filters is tragic. While we’ve tried to incorporate only the best, many other online and offline choices are capable of similar or better performance.
In this section, we’ve tried to guide you through the components that make the best of canister filters.
Supported tank size
Most canister filters indicate the supported tank size on their product page and label. But, many beginner aquarium enthusiasts don’t know how to calculate the tank size in gallons or liters.
By multiplying tank width, height, and depth, you can determine the volume of it. In the US, a gallon is equal to 231 cubic inches. And 1 foot = 12 inches.
In liters, 3.785 liters = 1 gallon. And 1 liter = 1 cubic cm.
Flow rate and adjustability
Flow rate and adjustability are usually mentioned on the product. In most cases, they also are pretty accurate in practice. However, a higher flow rate isn’t always desired as different types of filter media require different flow rates to function optimally.
In the case of canister filters, you should seek a slower flow rate that isn’t disruptable by the filter media. Typically, biological and chemical media works better in a slow-moving flow that keeps them suspended in the chamber.
Ease of maintenance
Except for a few, the best aquarium canister filters come with 3-5 media baskets which are stackable and easily removable. How easily replaceable they might be, without a dedicated setup like a cut-off valve or drainage hose, poop water spilling remains a major issue.
Do consider checking a few videos and the product details before committing.
As no manufacturer would like to mention the noise levels, you have to fall back on reviews to comprehend the same. A few elements that may contribute to the overall noise level are:
- Impeller noise
- Air bubbles
- Loose parts
- Water flow noise
- Motor noise
Durability and build quality
Canister filters aren’t cheap and should work for years before they might need replacing. Whenever buying a canister filter, ensure that durability and build quality aren’t mentioned in the reviews negatively. A few things that often cause leaking are:
- Sealing clamps
- Hose connections
- Valve or shut-off mechanism
- Cracks in the body and hose
Budget and cost-effectiveness
Given the wide range of prices, your budget should also be a considerable factor when it comes to buying the best aquarium canister filters. Determine if the features offered by the models are at par with the pricing offered.
Check out everything about these ‘5 Filter Types And Their Uses In Planted Tanks‘
Through our testing, the Fluval FX6 High-Performance Aquarium Filter is the best all-around aquarium canister filter on the market.
Canister filters from Fluval, Marineland, and Eheim are most commonly used for larger aquariums.
The Fluval FX6 and Marineland Magniflow are more stable than most canister filters.
The Bottom Line
We’ve given you a brief overview of the 10 best aquarium canister filters. Hopefully, you’ll now be able to find the right match without giving in to the promotional jumble presented by the companies.
In our opinion, the Fluval FX6 High-Performance Aquarium Filter is the best canister filter due to its durability, filtration capacity, and smart features.