The 10 Best Canister Filters

If you have an aquarium, you understand fully the importance of keeping the water as clean as possible. Not only is it aesthetically more pleasing, it is also better for the health of your fish. In order to maintain a pristine tank, you need to use the best canister filters.

We have detailed these products in the section below, but here is a quick breakdown of how they stack up against each other. Depending on what you are using your tank for largely indicates which features will be most important to you. Buying a filter is a personal experience, and there is no best product out of the whole list. Each one has pros and cons that will make it more attractive to some people above some others.

Best Canister Filters

A canister filter’s job is to pull up water from your aquarium and filter and clean it effectively. The best filters are the ones that are most efficient at accomplishing this task. We have outlined how the top ten canister filters stack up.

ProductReliabilityDurabilityEase Of Set UpVersatility
The Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter (400 Gal)
FairGreatGreatGreat
Fluval Advanced Filtration System
GreatGreatGreatFair
Hydor Professional 600 External Canister Filter
FairGreatFairGreat
MarineLand Multi-Stage Canister Filter for Aquariums
GreatGreatFairGreat
Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter
FairGreatGreatGreat
Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter
GreatFairGreatGreat
MarineLand Polishing Filter Pads for Canister Filters
GreatGreatGreatGreat
SunSun Modular Canister Filter
GreatGreatGreat
EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media
GreatGreatFairGreat
Cobalt Aquatics EXT Canister Filter
FairGreatGreatGreat

Buyer’s Guide

Everyone is different, and what you are looking for in a canister filter will not be the same as what someone else is looking for. Even so, there are a few questions that you need to think about when purchasing this type of equipment.

What Is Your Budget?

As much as we do not want money to be an issue, your budget largely factors into what type of canister filter you can afford. There are differently priced models so you should have an idea of what kind of budget you are working with before buying. Then, you can think about other qualities you would look for.

How Many Fish Do You Have?

It stands to reason that if you have more fish in your tank, you’ll need a more powerful filter.

Do You Have Fresh Or Saltwater Fish?

Some filters work with both fresh and salt water, but some do not. Make sure that the filter you’re purchasing works with the type of water you have.

How Big Is Your Tank?

Some filters do really well with small tanks and others can handle larger quantities of water. The size of your tank largely dictates what kind of filter you should buy.

How Much Time Do You Have To Devote To Cleaning The Filter?

Some canister filters are of the set it and forget it variety- but some require a lot of cleaning. Think about your schedule and how much time you would realistically- not ideally- have to clean the filter.

How Sophisticated Do You Need Your Filter To Be?

There are canister filters that encourage the growth of healthy bacteria, while others clean the water only. Think about what kind of eco-system you want in your tank.

How Much Space Do You Want To Devote To Your Canister Filter?

Canister filters come in all different sizes. Think about how much space you have for your canister filter.

Where Is Your Tank Located?

This might seem like a silly question, but it is actually very important! The location of your tank determines how necessary a quiet filter is.

Do You Have Other Types Of Animals In Your Tank?

Some other marine creatures, like turtles, require a specific type of filter. Make sure you are getting the proper one for your aquatic creatures.

Does Your Filter Need Additional Equipment?

Most filters come with everything you need, but some others might require a few additional items to work properly.

How Confident Are You With Installing The Filter?

This is a big one that many people overlook. If you feel like you would be proficient in installing a sophisticated filter, you might get a little break on price.

Have You Ever Used A Canister Filter Before?

Canister filters are different than sump filters. Do not assume that just because you know how to install one, you will know how to install the other.

How Much Tank Turnover Do You Need?

Tank turnover refers to how often the water passes through your filter and will impact how clean your overall water is.

Does Your Filter Have Filter Pads Incorporated Into It, Or Do You Need To Buy Them Separately?

Filter pads keep your water sparkling so they are really important to the proper function of your canister filter.

Are You Willing To Put Up With Leaks?

Most filters leak a little bit but some are leakier than others. How much leaking do you expect?

How Important Are Aestetics?

Canister filters are wonderfully diverse and can go anywhere on your tank. How do you want the overall appearance to look?

How Automated Does Your Filter Need To Be?

Is it set and forget it, or do you need to manually prime the filter?

How Much Are You Setting Aside For Replacement Parts?

Your filter might need parts replaced from time to time. How much are you willing to spend on replacement parts?

Will The Marine Life In Your Tank Be Evolving Over Time?

Here is another area where thinking ahead will save you headaches and money in the future. Right now your tank might be great for little fish, but will you be introducing other elements into it in the future?

Are you Relying On Anyone Else To Clean Your Tank?

If you are sharing tank cleaning duties with another person you need to consider how easy it is to clean your tank.

1. The Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter (400 Gal)

 

This filter is able to churn through large amounts of water and work efficiently to give you the clean aquarium that you want and need. If your tank is 400 gallons or less, this filter will work really well for you! Installation is extremely easy and it hooks up properly in just a few minutes, so you can get started with filtering your water right away! It also has a lot of longevity. You can use this filter all of the time for several months or even a year on end and experience very few problems with it. It is the ultimate set it and forget it filter. Your fish will be happy! It is also really quiet so you will not have to deal with any filtration sounds. Occasionally the filter might reset itself or experience some pump issues. Aside from that, it is a great piece of equipment!

PROS

  • This filter is extremely quiet and easy to set up.
  • It is good for any number of different sized tanks.

CONS

  • The filter may sometimes turn on and off, or have problems with the pump.

2. Fluval Advanced Filtration System

 

 

This filter always sells out fast- for a really good reason! It is a solid product that top aquarium aficionados know and love. You can use it in salt and fresh water, and it does very well in both. At $250, it is a bit of a splurge, but it is totally durable and you will not need to buy another filter for a good long time. If you want a filter that you can rely on completely, this is the one for you. It is easy to set up and runs like a dream once you have it going. The only downside is that the filter does not cut through large quantities of water. It is supposed to filter 80 gallons effectively, but it really only cleans about 60. For smaller tanks, this is a great product.

PROS

  • This filter is extremely reliable.
  • You can use this filter in both saltwater and fresh water.

CONS

  • This filter is not good for people with big tanks, as it can only filter about 60 gallons of water.

3. Hydor Professional 600 External Canister Filter, 90-150 gal, 345 GPH

 

 

Billed as an “eco system in a box”, this filter does not disappoint! They are a great investment for your aquarium and are totally diverse. You can use this filter with fish and other types of marine life, like turtles. The filter does not vibrate or make noise, which is good for both you and the fish. It is also completely watertight and you will not experience any pesky leaks. The set up is a breeze too! The only issue is that sometimes the filter comes with missing or broken parts. You might be excited to set up your brand new filter only to be disappointed and need to send it back. The manufacturer is very responsive and you will have your filter soon, but it can be a pain to jump through these types of hoops.

PROS

  • This filter is good for a diverse array of marine life.
  • The filter is quiet, watertight and easy to install.

CONS

  • People have sometimes reported these filters being broken or missing parts upon arrival.

4. MarineLand Multi-Stage Canister Filter for Aquariums, C-Series

 

This filter is known for being totally efficient and fitting in seamlessly with your aquarium. Your fish will love it and so will you! Your water will sparkle and shine when you use this product and it cleans very fast with few imperfections. The filter is also very easy to clean but can be tough to disassemble. The only real downside to this product is that it is a little difficult to get apart. Other than the very tight-fitting lid, you’ll love using this filter.

PROS

  • This filter is very effective at cleaning your tank quickly and with precision.
  • Using this filter is easy and it does not make a lot of noise when it is running.

CONS

  • The lid on this filter can be difficult to get off, making cleaning the filter itself a little bit of a challenge.

5. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

 

If you want a high-tech looking product that is both impressive looking and totally fucntional, you need to check out the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter. It is known for beign extremely durable and can stand up to most pressures, plus the casing is see-through so you can check out the filter working, as it is working! This is a huge plus for people who like to know that the filter is working properly. The filter baskets are a good size too, so you won’t worry about leaving any gunk in your tank during routine cleanings. The set up is really easy too. You will have your filter working within minutes and be ready to start cleaning your tank. No muss, no fuss. The only problem is that the filter itself can be a little leaky. It is not as watertight as would be desired, and this can cause a lot of frustration.

PROS

  • Made of partially see-through plastic so you can see your filter working as it is working.
  • It is easy to set up and really reliable. Your tank will be super clean with this filter.

CONS

  • This filter can be a little bit leaky, leading to frustration.

6. Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter (370 and 525 GPH with UV)

 

If you have a tank up to 175 gallons, this is a great filter option for you! It pumps 525 gallons an hour and gives you absolutely pristine results! In addition to the good craftsmanship, the customer service is really second to none. They are completely responsive and able to answer any requests. If the person that you are speaking with doesn’t know the answer, they will check for you. It is a great system! This filter is also good for tanks with a lot of fish in them. It works hard to give you crystal clear water and is quiet, easy to install and you can set and forget it! The only real problem with this filter is that it tends to be a little on the leaky side. Unfortunately, you might find a few spots of water in the morning. Other than that, it is a great option.

PROS

  • This filter is really easy to install and works well once you get it set up.
  • The filter is versatile and can be used for tanks with a lot of fish in them. It cleans the water beautifully.

CONS

  • This filter can sometimes be a little bit on the leaky side, which can be very frustrating.

7. MarineLand Polishing Filter Pads for Canister Filters, 2-Count

 

 

While this product is not technically a filter, you will definately need it if you want your filter and tank to sparkle and shine. It was so highly rated on Amazon that we absolutely needed to include it. If you have an aquarium, you really need these filter pads that are especially geared towards canister filters. These pads will polish up your filter really nicely and do not fall apart with extensive use. You can use them on both Marineland products and any additional filter that we mentioned on this list. The only downside to these filter pads is that they sometimes seem to strangely shrink. Most people have had absolutely no issues with this product, however! They are the MVP of this list; totally usable with any filter that you buy!

PROS

  • These filter pads are really durable and stand up to some heavy polishing.
  • Marineland is a well known brand so you can be sure that the product will be excellent.
  • You can use these filter pads on any of the products on this list.

CONS

  • Some people have reported that these filter pads sometimes shrink up for no reason.

8. SunSun Modular Canister Filter

 

 

This product consistently sells out on Amazon, so if you are hoping to get one of your very own, you have to act quickly and buy it when you see it available! Sleek, easy to use and super simple to install, the SunSun Modular Canister Filter is one of the best products that you can find on the market. It works quickly, efficiently and does not have any major kinds of hiccups so you can set and forget it with your tank. For novices, this is a really excellent product because there is no guesswork involved in setting it up and using it effectively. SunSun is a great brand that has a bit of a cult following because they make really solid products. They are really durable and can last for a long time if they are maintained properly. The only real downside to this product is that it can sometimes be a little leaky around the seal. That can cause some frustration, but it is easily remedied if you make sure the lid is clamped on properly.

PROS

  • This product is really good for novice fish tank owners because it is a set it and forget it kind of machine.
  • The filter will work properly for a long time if you do not abuse it.

CONS

  • This filter can sometimes be a little on the leaky side, so if you use it make sure the lid is on properly.

9. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

 

This filter is one of the premier products on the market. It is easy to use and is equipped with a waterproof seal that stops the dreaded leaks and makes running the filter an easy process that both you and your fish will enjoy! It is efficient, cleans very well and is able to handle large quantities of water with absolutely no problem. People who use this filter will enjoy crystal clear water without any headaches at all. It really is a product that sings and works especially well! The only real downside to this filter is that the instruction manual is a little bit difficult to understand. Setting up the filter will require a lot of patience and you should have some extra time on your hands before attempting to do anything. Beyond that, it is a perfect piece of equipment that will work well for you!

PROS

  • Unlike many other options on the market, this filter is totally watertight so you will not have to deal with any unpleasant leaks.
  • This filter can work through large quantities of water and keeps your aquarium sparkling clean.

CONS

  • If you are new to setting up a filter, this one might pose some difficulty as the instruction manual is a little bit challenging to read.

10. Cobalt Aquatics EXT Canister Filter

 

 

One of the coolest things about this filter is that you can set it up anywhere close to your tank. It does not need gravity to work properly. So, affix it above your tank, below or even on the side. Your water will filter perfectly each and every time! It is also reasonably priced in the filter world and does not take up a lot of space in the tank. It is easy to install, works right away and gives you a nice clean tank. The only real downside is that you might experience some problems with the pump. It does not seem as powerful as other filters, so if you have a huge tank or a bunch of fish, you might want to look at a different option on this list. Other than that, it is a perfect product!

PROS

  • This product is totally versatile and can be put anywhere in your tank.
  • This filter is really easy to install and to use.

CONS

  • The pump on this filter is not as strong as on some other models.

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