Best Canister Filters for Aquariums 2017

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A filter is the heart of an aquarium, an aquarium being a closed system, over time it accumulates debris and waste which get converted into various by-products that are harmful to fish and the overall health of the aquarium. That’s why we need to ‘filter’ out these harmful by-products. Confused with which is the Best Canister Filter for you, check out our canister filter reviews and recommendations.

Quick Recommendations


Fluval G Series Filter

Want the best equipment out there for carefree fish keeping? this is the filter for you. its smart, modern design with microprocessors that monitor the temperature, flow rate and water parameters, You have an all-in-one system that just works great.

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Eheim Classic External Canister

Tried and tested over the years, Eheim’s exceptional work in aquarium products brings you the Classic Eheim External Canister filter which is brilliant. Outlasting most of the competitors, this filter works like a pro and lets you enjoy your hobby.

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Canister Filter Comparison

We tested and reiewed some of the best canister filters out there and made sure you have an option that fits your requirement, your budget and gives you the best.

1. Fluval G Series Filter


This is the ultimate filter that you could own. It has everything.

The quality of the parts is impeccable. Long-lasting, high-quality parts that can be assembled fairly simply. This beast works silently and will not make any noises. The filtered water quality is impeccable making it the Best Canister Filter.

The internal thermometer is accurate, so no need for sticking in a thermometer in your aquarium because it works marvelously. Also, comes with a Flow Monitor built in that flashes the rate constantly, this coupled with water parameters, help you keep your tank spotless. Filter maintenance is a breeze as you are alerted when to do so. Maintenance is quite easy with a single lever allowing the entire assembly to be cleaned without actually taking out the hosing.

The media range is phenomenal and comes with a ‘Tri-Ex’ Cartridge that includes a nitrate, phosphate and carbon filter. Other media include a Phosphate Cartridge, a Nitrate Cartridge, Fluval’s Biological filter media etc. Thus have options for Mechanical, Chemical, and Bio Filtration media.

 This Filter is recommended for Freshwater, Saltwater, and Turtle Tanks and you will not be disappointed. 

The Fluval G Series lets you set the alerts for:

– Changing the media separately for Each Media type

– Flow Rate / Temperature / Conductivity Points out of range

The Fluval G Series is available in following two variants:

Product NameTank Capacity
Fluval G340-80 US Gal.
Fluval G680-160 Gal.

2. EHEIM Classic External Canister

Tried and tested, Durable.

For in styles for up to 40 US Gal. 66 US Gal. and 92 US gal.

You cannot go wrong with this one. Eheim is one of the pioneers and has been in the market for more than a decade. Rather this is the ‘Most trusted filter‘ you could opt for, and we can safely say this as this beast is Millionfold tried and tested by fish enthusiasts across the globe.

It is an easy-to-use filter with a simple assembly, however maybe a little tough for novices to set up because the instructions might not convey the best. But that’s something you can clearly overcome with tons of videos on setting up this brilliant, trustworthy equipment.

EHEIM Classic Canister External comes with all the basic features that one would expect from a Canister Filter. The filter comes packed with some relatively low power consumption electronics, starting from 5 watts for the EHEIM 150 to 65 watts for the 1500XL model. While running the filter operates rather quietly, only audible sound, is the sound of water from spray bar depending upon the placement.

EHEIM Substrat Pro a large surface area Bio-media and EHEIM Mech, as well as a sponge, a Carbon filter floss and a polishing pad, are included in the Media packaging. You could use other EHEIM media as per your tank’s needs.

This product is robust and durable and will outlast most of the competition. Overall a great filter at a great price and it makes our ‘Best Buy‘ Aquarium Filter with a low pricing and brilliant value.

 Recommended for Freshwater, Saltwater and Turtle Tanks 

EHEIM Classic Canister External is available in following variants:

Product NameTank Capacity
EHEIM classic 150
40 US Gal - 150 Litre
EHEIM classic 250
66 US Gal - 250 Litre
EHEIM classic 350
32 US Gal - 350 Litre
EHEIM classic 600
158 US Gal - 600 Litre
EHEIM classic 1500XL396 US Gal - 1500 Litre

3. Fluval External Filter 06 Series

Excellent Filtration and Reliable Brand.

Fluval is one of the Top brands for aquarium products, which includes Filters. The canister filters by Fluval are always exceptional and the quality of this filter is very noticeable even though its pricing is lesser than others.

With no compromise on the quality of the parts, this filter works great. Fluval has made enhancements with the motor hydraulic performance which in increasing the head pressure, increases flow rates. Undoubtedly Fluval Canister filters are quiet, but the Fluval 06 filters come with a Sound-dampening impeller design which helps in 8 to 15% quieter operation.

Fluval 06 filter comes with a Stronger lift-lock and Aqua-Stop valves for easy installation and improved security. Setting up the filter and Maintenance of the filter is very easy, and it comes with a manual to guide you through. The instruction manual is very descriptive and overall very helpful with the setup and maintenance of the filter. We also found priming much easier with the Fluval 06 filter, with the reengineered priming system the filter was up-and-running within seconds.

The filter comes stocked with the required media depending upon the sizes. The stock media consists of

  • Foam Pads
  • Polishing Pads
  • Bio Max
  • Bio Foam
  • Carbon

But can be replaced with any Fluval Media available depending upon your tank’s requirements.

Fluval 06 Series filter comes in following different sizes:

Product NameTank Capacity
Fluval 106 External Filter25 US Gal
Fluval 206 External Filter45 US Gal
Fluval 306 External Filter75 US Gal
Fluval 406 External Filter100 US Gal


4. Hydor Professional External Canister Filter

Quiet, Sturdy, Easy to use

Although Hydor being new to the market, the product lineup doesn’t fall short of the competition. Made with Quality material to last the filter works great, you’ll not be disappointed.

The best part of this filter is the fact that it’s the easiest to set up for professionals and beginners alike. Hydor Professional External Canister comes with a nice packaging with setup instructions and recommendations on the box as well in the manual inside. This filter is made of sturdy, reliable parts that make this a workhorse. The motor is well insulated and makes absolutely no sounds whatsoever.

The impeller is on a ceramic shaft which increases the life of the motor. One feature we liked about the filter is that it comes with a solid hose as well the rotating hose attachment.

The layout and size of the filter media baskets are amazing and gives enough room to add all that you want to make your filter your own. Comes with all filter media except for Carbon which you can buy easily. Efficiency is optimal and will have your aquarium water crystal clear in a matter of hours.

 Recommended for Freshwater, Saltwater and Turtle tanks  

Hydor Professional Canister is available in following sizes:

Product NameTank Capacity
Hydor Professional 15020-40 US Gal./ 80-150Litre
Hydor Professional 25040-75 US Gal./ 140-250 Litre
Hydor Professional 35060-100 US Gal./ 220-350 Litre
Hydor Professional 45075-125 US Gal./ 300-450 Litre
Hydor Professional 60090-150 US Gal. / 380-600Litre

5. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Heavy duty, Exceptional Value, Easy setup

The Penn Plax Cascade filter is the cheapest filter available in the market and one of the easiest filters to setup. You’ll have it up-and-running without any problems at all. Once that is done this filter works just great.

With a pushbutton priming, it is very easy to prime the filter. The Penn Plax Cascade has ergonomically designed baskets for easy removal and a well-built body. Flow rate shut-off valves adjust water flow and make it easy for maintenance. The filter has a very good base and the body is translucent which acts can act as an indicator for maintenance (Looking at the water inside).

Penn Plax Cascade Floss pads and Bio Sponges are easily available filter media. The large filter trays mean you can use more media and have longer time periods between replacement.

Apart from the very low humming sound, the filter operation is quiet and the flow rate is brilliant so whether you have monster fish, goldfish or turtles this filter will do its thing.

 Recommended for Freshwater, Saltwater and Turtle tanks.  

The Penn Plax Cascade is available in following 5 variants:

Product NameTank Capacity
Cascade 500up to 30 US Gal.
Cascade 700up to 65 US Gal.
Cascade 1000up to 100 US Gal.
Cascade 1200up to 150 US Gal.
Cascade 1500Up to 200 US Gal.

How does a Canister Filter work

As mentioned above an aquarium accumulates waste and debris over time which needs to be cleaned. A canister filter takes in the water from aquarium tank, media in the canister then filters it and sends it back to the aquarium.

Here’s a detailed explanation:

Step 1: Water intake

Unfiltered water is drawn from the aquarium through the inlet piping, straining the large debris through input strainer. Water then enters the filter and sent directly to the bottom of the filter in most of the filters.

Priming the Filter

To run the filter at full efficiency while starting the filter for the first time or starting it after the maintenance requires removing the air gaps. Most filters available today come with pushbutton priming or are Self-priming and do not require manual siphoning

Step 2: Media filters the Water

The water is drawn up using the motor from the bottom of the canister and it passes through various layers filtration media. The filtration media is usually a combination of Mechanical, Chemical, and Biological Media. Media is selected as per the requirements of the tank i.e. the type of flora and fauna and the kind of waste it generated.

Mechanical Filtration: Usually this is the first set of media used which catch the debris in water and help by removing it from the aquarium
Media Includes– Meshes, Nets, etc.

Biological Filtration: Beneficial Bacteria in an aquarium are bacteria that break down all nitrogenous wastes to ammonia then convert them to nitrites and then nitrates. Nitrates being the least harmful of all. These Bacteria are colonized in an aquarium during the ‘Aquarium Cycle’
Bacteria need a substrate to proliferate on and, in the filter ‘Sponges’ and other Media are used for the same.
Media includes– Seachem Matrix™, Bio Balls, Bio-Glass, Bio-foam, etc.

Chemical Filtration:  Using chemical media attracts pollutants like copper, chlorine, dissolved proteins, medications, or tap water impurities and traps them inside thus clearing the water.

Media includes– Activated carbon, phosphate removers etc

Step 3: Filtered water to Aquarium

Finally filtered and polished water is then sent back to the aquarium through the outlet pipes. You could either directly let the water in or use a spray bar.

Considerations to make before choosing a Filter –

  • Type of Aquarium (Freshwater/Saltwater etc.)
  • Tank Size and Filtration in GPH (Gallons per Hour)
  • Bioload

Type of Aquarium: First of all you’ve got to determine the filter based on the type of aquarium you’re gonna have/already have. Whether it’s a Freshwater aquarium, a planted aquarium, an aquarium with monster fish, Goldfish or a Turtle Tank this is especially important for the next criteria which are the bioload and types of waste and byproducts that will be produced.

Bioload, Waste and Byproducts: Bioload is the amount of waste that is going to be produced in your aquarium by the organisms, and other cycles that simultaneously work in your aquarium (eg. Nitrogen Cycle) Goldfish, turtles etc. Have a high bioload and it’s always best to have a filter that can counter this amount of waste.

Efficiency, Durability: filtration efficacy, flow rate and durability of the filter should be taken into consideration. Filtration efficiency is often calculated in GPH (Gallons per hour) it is the number of gallons of water that is turned over in an hour. Ideally, your tank should have ’10 times’ the filtration per gallon of water. So for example, if you have a 20-gallon tank, your filter should provide you with 200 GPH.

Tank Size: an important factor is the size of the aquarium. Most large saltwater or reef tanks would be better off with a sump, but you can also do with good filtration systems mentioned here. Doesn’t hurt if you buy a filter, one size greater than the capacity of your tank because of more the merrier.




So we’ve reviewed the best canister filters for you, remember the filter is the heart of the aquarium and pick yours well.
The best picks are in front of you and so are the other contenders that you can choose based on your requirements, budget etc.

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