The Best Aquarium Canister Filter Reviews in 2020

Just as you would want your dog only breathing in healthy, clean air, you want your fish to reside in clean, healthy water. Since they live there 100% of the time, you want to make sure that your fish’s water in their aquarium home stays as clean as possible.

Having clean water for your fish not only helps them live in the most comfortable way possible, but it also helps to prevent them from getting any diseases or even risking death. But having to constantly change your fish’s water after every time that it looks dirty can be a tedious and annoying process.

Because of that, you may find it beneficial to purchase a canister filter for your aquarium. Canister filters are able to filter their water 24/7 so that they’re comfortable, healthy, and happy. And when you have happy fish, you have a happy life! Here is some information that you may find helpful about aquarium canister filters as well as the best aquarium canister filter on the market.

How Aquarium Canister Filters Work

Aquarium canisters function by removing the water from the fish tank through either a tube or a valve. After that, the water is then forced through a filter that’s encased in a pressurized canister, which then pushes the filtered water back into the fish tank either by spilling it or spraying it back in.

These canister filters also differ from the rest because they are installed outside of the fish tank, rather than other filters that are placed inside of the water in the tank. Additionally, aquarium canister filters are able to provide the most effective benefits when filtering water in tanks because they’re able to filter the water mechanically, biologically, and chemically.

The best aquarium canister filter is able to mechanically filter water by removing physically waste from the water. Canister filters usually have either bio-balls or filter pads for this process. On the other hand, canister filters are able to biologically filter the water because they help good bacteria collect in order to help the water maintain the water’s ammonia and nitrite levels.

Lastly, canister filters are able to chemically filter your aquarium’s water because they help to maintain the chemical balances of the water. They do so by either using activated carbon, phosphate covers, Ion exchange resins, or synthetic polymers (1).

Other Types of Aquarium Canister Filters

Sponge filters

These types of filters are classified as the filters that offer the most basic features, and they’re typically only made for breeding or nursery tanks. They involve an air pump that pushes water through a sponge material, and they provide the most basic level of filtration possible.

Power filters

Power filters are able to hang on the backside of the aquarium, and they can filter the water by sucking the water through a siphon tube. After the water goes through the tube, the water then passes through a filter pad in order to go through a mechanical filtration.

Undergravel filters

Fish thanks are able to have their water filtered through the gravel on the bottom of their tan using undergravel filters. These filters are able to pull water through the gravel and up into tubes with an air pump. Given that they pull water through the gravel, these filters offer limited biological filtration and no chemical filtration.

Internal filters

Internal filters are able to filter fish tanks that hold less than 20 gallons of water. More specifically, they use suction cups in order to stick to the sides of the fish tank, so they’re more compact and great for smaller tanks rather than large aquariums (2).

Why Aquarium Canister Filters Are the Most Beneficial Filters

Out of each of the other types of filters for the water in your fish tank, the canister filters are the best and most recommended for your aquarium for many reasons. For one, they’re the only filter that’s able to provide all types of filtration processes for tanks in larger sizes. More specifically, canister filters are able to provide mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration for large aquariums, since they contain pressurized canisters.

Not only that, but canister filters are also able to offer customizable filtration, since they involve the most amount of steps in the filtration process. They can also be hidden practically anywhere while still effectively filtering the water in your aquarium, since they can fit in the back of the tank successfully.

Things to Consider Before Purchasing Your Canister Filter

Tank size

You should consider the size of your tank so that you can purchase a canister filter that’s able to filter the entirety of the water inside the tank. More specifically, you will need a canister filter that’s able to filter and keep up with the entire volume of water in the tank faster than the fish and other organisms in your tank dirty it up.

To choose the canister filter that’s the right size for your aquarium, you should consider the filter’s GPH, which is the amount of water per hour that it’s able to filter. You’ll typically want a canister filter that’s capable of filtering at least four times the tank’s volume every hour. It’s always better to choose a canister filter that cleans more water per hour than one that’s not large enough.

Type of fish

It’s also important for you to consider what type fish you have, since some fish species are capable of making tanks dirtier than others. You should also consider what type of organisms you have in the tank overall as well as the number of organisms that you have in the tank, since you’ll need a canister filter that’s able to accommodate for all of the dirty water in the tank.


Canister filters all come with different-sized motors, which affects the amount of power that the filter has to use for filtering all of the water in the tank. For instance, each different motor size is able to provide varying results regarding the noise level of the machine, the amount of energy that it uses, as well as the durability of the motor.

More specifically, there are generally two main types of motors for canister filters, including either epoxy-sealed motors or magnet-driven motors. Epoxy-sealed motors involve a mounted head as well as a impeller that operates upside down. They prevent moisture, dust, and debris from negatively affecting both the tank as well as the canister filter. They operate by a magnetic coil that surrounds that impeller, forcing the water to rush through the filter. They’re often the most quiet motor and require little maintenance.

On the other hand, magnet-driven motors are self-priming and they’re not sealed. Since they don’t contain sealing, these motors provide less protection from damage and debris. Not only that, but these types of motors typically require more maintenance than other motors. Overall, consider purchasing a motor that’s able to provide enough power to effectively filter the water throughout your whole aquarium.


Aquariums are most popularly known among the public for their beauty and phenomenal appearance. Because of that, you wouldn’t want to purchase and install a canister filter that is too large, bulky, and takes away from the beauty of the whole aquarium. To avoid this problem, you should consider purchasing a canister filter that’s able to filter the whole tank properly, but also without compromising the overall appearance of the fish tank.


You’re recommended to consider the functioning of the valves included in the canister filter. More specifically, more canister filters come with two valves, one that’s responsible for controlling the intake of the water and one that’s responsible for controlling the water’s output.

Because of that, you should consider purchasing a canister filter that’s able to completely close and trap the water inside the hose. This allows for maximized filtering, and it also gives you the ability to maintain the filter without having to re-prime it (3).

Best Aquarium Canister Filter Reviews

1. Fluval External Filter for Aquariums

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You should check out this canister aquarium filter because it has the ability to operate extremely quietly while requiring little maintenance. Not only that, but this canister filter comes with patented Aqua-Stop valves that help you to disconnect the hoses easily. More specifically, this filter comes with life-lock clamps that help maximize the cleaning process and allow for easy cleaning.

Furthermore, this aquarium canister filter has a shape and design that allows for up to 50% more water containment than other filters are able to do. In addition to that, this canister filter is able to enhance the water filtration performance and has a sound-dampening impeller design that’s able to allow for extremely quiet operation.


  • Square design holds up to 50% more water than other filters
  • Comes with strong lift-lock clamps for easy maintenance
  • Includes a sound-dampening impeller design for quiet functioning


  • More expensive than some other filters

2. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

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This canister filter is highly recommended for you to consider because it comes with a perm-elastic silicon sealing ring that’s attached to the pump head. This construction gives you the ability to safely close the pump after you’re done cleaning it. Not only that, but this filter comes with filter sponges as well as loose filter media that you can choose from for your convenience.

In addition to each of these beneficial features, this canister filter comes with all of the necessary accessories in order to operate the filter, including a spray bar, inlet pipe, hosing, and even the tools required for assembly.


  • Constructed using permo-elastic silicon sealing for ensured safety
  • Eliminates the need for you to purchase additional accessories for assembly
  • Gives you the option to choose either sponges or loose filter media for filtration


  • Some previous customers complain that sometimes the priming doesn’t work

3. Fluval Aquarium Canister Filter

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You should consider purchasing this canister filter because it’s able to filter aquariums that have up to 400 gallons of water, which is larger than most other filter’s capabilities. In addition to that, this canister filter involves water filtering through multiple different stages in order to effectively clean all of the water in the tank.

Moreover, this canister filter comes with a purge valve that includes a drain, which is highly beneficial for when you’re cleaning and maintaining the tank. There is also an anti-clog strainer that adds for maximized water filtration.


  • Involves multiple stages for maximized water filtration
  • Comes with an anti-clog strainer
  • Can filter water in tanks up to 400 gallons large


  • Expensive

4. SunSun 3-Stage External Canister Aquarium Filter

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The SunSun External Canister Aquarium Filter is highly recommended for you to purchase because it uses high pressure from a powered pump in order to force the water in the fish tank through the filter. This filter also includes a dense filter media that is able to effectively remove dust, debris, and other negative contaminants from the fish tank.

Furthermore, this canister filter comes with three media trays as well as an adjustable spray bar that gives you the ability to spray the filtered water in whichever direction you want. There is also a self-priming pump that eliminates the need for you to siphon the water manually. Lastly, this filter offers quiet operation that allows you to place the aquarium in your office, bedroom, or the living room.


  • Affordable
  • Uses high pressure in order to force water through the filtration process
  • Comes with 3 media trays


  • Made with a plastic material which may compromise the filter’s durability

5. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

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You’re advised to purchase the Penn Plax Cascade filter because it has three media baskets and it able to operate at 265 GPH, which gives you the maximum amount of filtration possible. Not only that, but this filter has flow valves that are capable of rotating 360 degrees, which helps you customize the aquarium in order to prevent you from seeing the filter.

Furthermore, this canister filter comes with a floss pad that’s able to effectively remove the particulate matter. And it even comes with a sponge that’s able to promote good bacteria growth, which removes the excess nitrites and ammonia from the water.


  • Includes a floss pad as well as a sponge
  • Able to filter 265 GPH
  • Easy operation, since it can prime itself with the push of a button


  • Previous customers complain that it’s not very durable


Overall, each of these canister filters give you the ability to maintain a clean aquarium for your fish to remain happy, healthy, and comfortable. Not only that, but these filters are also affordable, easy to use, and are capable of preventing your fish from retracting a disease, infection, or other harmful illness.

Since it can be difficult to choose the best product for your needs from this list, you are most recommended to purchase product #4: SunSun 3-Stage External Canister Aquarium Filter. This filter is able to offer the best benefits while being available at an affordable price.

More specifically, this canister filter comes with three media trays for maximum filtration, a self-priming pump, and it even offers double filtration, since there is also a gravel filter as well. Given these benefits, you should consider purchasing this aquarium canister filter on the market.

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