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Home > Fish > 10 Best Aquarium Canister Filters for Healthy Fish in 2024: Reviews & Top Picks

10 Best Aquarium Canister Filters for Healthy Fish in 2024: Reviews & Top Picks

aquarium with cichlids fish

Whether you’re a new aquarium owner or a well-seasoned one, you know—or are learning—how important it is to filter the water in your aquarium to keep fish healthy. However, you may not know which filter will work the best for your tank and fish. If you’re undecided about what to try, we’d recommend a canister filter, as these are one of the best filtering systems available for aquariums.

There are quite a few canister filters available, though, so it can be difficult to choose which is best for you. Hence, this list of top canister filter picks and reviews! A quick look here should give you plenty of information to make a well-informed decision about which canister filter will keep your fish the healthiest.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2024

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter
  • Large filter trays
  • Simple to set up
  • Meets a variety of filtration needs
  • Best Value
    Second place
    SunSun Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter SunSun Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter
  • Best value
  • Less mess
  • UV sterilizer
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Hydor Professional Aquarium Canister Filter Hydor Professional Aquarium Canister Filter
  • Powerful
  • Keeps water sparkling
  • Makes no noise or vibrations
  • Marineland Magniflow Canister Marineland Magniflow Canister
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Fast maintenance
  • Quick prime startup option
  • Eheim Classic Aquarium Canister Filter Eheim Classic Aquarium Canister Filter
  • Constant circulation of water
  • Promotes oxygen enrichment
  • Comes with everything you need
  • The 10 Best Aquarium Canister Filters for Healthy Fish

    1. Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter – Best Overall

    Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter

    Tank size: 30-gal, 65-gal, 150-gal, 200-gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Betta, goldfish, tropical freshwater, cichlid, marine fish

    When you want the best overall canister filter to keep your fish healthy, you need the Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter. This external filter meets various aquarium filtration needs, including biological, mechanical, and chemical. Pumps come with input/output tubing so you can begin filtration immediately, along with startup filter media and large filter trays. Because the trays are so large, you’ll be using more media, such as activated carbon, Bio-Sponges, and Bio-Floss, which is a plus. And with a button primer, flow-rate control valves, hose clamps, and a couple of 360-degree rotational valve taps, this canister filter is a breeze to set up and adjust to your preferences.

    The Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter promises you’ll begin seeing a difference in your tank’s water quality in just one day!

    Pros
    • Simple to set up
    • Meets a variety of filtration needs
    • Large filter trays
    Cons
    • Rare mention of suction not working properly
    • Occasional complaints about tubes being leaky or breaking

    2. SunSun Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter – Best Value

    SunSun HW-304B Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter

    Tank size: 150-gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Tropical freshwater, marine fish

    Sometimes you want a canister filter that’s the best for the money, making this filter by SunSun your best bet. While this filter is only for tanks that are 150 gallons, it’s designed to keep tanks of that size clean and clear. Featuring four removable trays that combine biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration elements, this filter works quickly and efficiently to get your aquarium’s water as clean as it can be. Plus, the SunSun contains a UV sterilizer to kill off algae and a spray bar to raise oxygen aeration levels.

    The SunSun makes life easier by taking up very little space in your tank and causing fewer messes with its drip-free shut-off tap!

    Pros
    • Best value
    • Less mess
    • UV sterilizer
    Cons
    • A few complaints about seals not working well
    • At least one person said there wasn’t enough media

    3. Hydor Professional Aquarium Canister Filter – Premium Choice

    Hydor Professional Aquarium Canister Filter

    Tank size: 40- to 70-gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Tropical freshwater, marine fish

    If you’ve been looking for a premium option canister filter for your aquarium, look no further! This external filter is created to make the most out of the space below any modern aquarium. Extremely versatile, the Hydor Professional Aquarium Canister Filter includes safety locks, telescopic intake, a high-capacity filtering chamber, and shaft motors made of ceramic. Plus, it is designed not to make noise or create vibrations. And with an integral priming system, this aquarium canister filter is easy to start—just press the button on the filter head, and you’re good to go!

    Pros
    • Makes no noise or vibrations
    • Powerful
    • Keeps water sparkling
    Cons
    • One person said it stopped working after a year
    • A few found the filter difficult to clean

    4. Marineland Magniflow Canister

    Marineland Magniflow 360 Canister

    Tank size: Up to 100 gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Tropical freshwater, marine fish

    The Marineland Magniflow offers a 3-stage filtration system to ensure your fish friends’ environment is always in wonderful shape and clean as can be. This canister filter is designed with both stack and flow filter trays that push water through multiple layers for the best chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration. The lid of the filter provides quick access to the media baskets, while the top gasket provides a super-strong seal to prevent any leakage. You can also do fast filter maintenance without a lot of mess with the help of a fast-release valve block that immediately stops the flow of water and separates the motor housing.

    Pros
    • Quick prime startup option
    • 3-stage filtration
    • Fast maintenance
    Cons
    • Complaints of filter draining water from tank
    • A few people found it noisy
    • Poor customer service

    5. Eheim Classic Aquarium Canister Filter

    Eheim Classic 2215 Aquarium Canister Filter

    Tank size: 95-gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Tropical freshwater

    When you’re ready to get your aquarium water squeaky clean, try out the Eheim Classic 2215 Aquarium Canister Filter! It provides a 2-stage purification (mechanical and biological) system for water that sparkles. Plus, it provides constant water circulation, as well as enriches your tank’s oxygen exchange. All of that in just one system! And you won’t need to worry about this filter leaking after it’s been cleaned. The pump head contains a permo-elastic silicone ring to guarantee the pump is safely closed.

    The Eheim Classic 2215 Aquarium Canister Filter comes with filter media, valves, inlet pipe, hose, spray bar, and installation equipment.

    Pros
    • Promotes oxygen enrichment
    • Constant circulation of water
    • Comes with everything you need
    Cons
    • Couple of complaints of filter breaking in a year or less
    • Some had difficulty setting filter up

    6. Fluval Performance Canister Filter

    Fluval 307 Performance Canister Filter

    Tank size: Up to 70 gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Tropical freshwater, marine fish

    Made with cutting-edge materials and design, the Fluval 307 Performance Canister Filter has a powerful motor that promises constant pressure and pumping power. The enlarged rubber feet offer more stabilization with less vibration, while the ergonomic AquaStop valves enable the whole operation to run more smoothly. Meanwhile, the single-action Lift-Lock motorhead provides for quick attachment and release, and the primer is set with a large handle that’s easy to grip for easy startup.

    This pump runs up to 25% more quietly than previous versions and saves you money by only using the energy equivalent of a single LED light bulb.

    Pros
    • Quiet pump, not noticeable
    • Energy-efficient
    • Strong motor
    Cons
    • Some complaints of filter breaking in under 6 months
    • Occasional reports of leakage
    • A few people had trouble setting up

    7. Polar Aurora External Aquarium Filter with Pump Kit Canister

    Polar Aurora 3-Stage External Aquarium Filter 265GPH with Builtin Pump Kit Canister

    Tank size: Up to 75 gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Tropical freshwater, marine fish

    Featuring a flow rate of 264 GPH, three media trays that can handle whichever filtration media you desire, and a price that won’t break the bank, this canister filter is a reasonably good deal. With the three media trays, you can add bio-balls, activated carbon, or ceramic rings to achieve optimal biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration. And if you want to adjust the output flow, you can use the adjustable spray bar that comes with the filter. The Polar Aurora is self-priming, so there’s no need for manual siphoning. Plus, maintenance is simple with the help of a single-valve disconnect!

    Pros
    • Three media trays
    • Self-priming
    • Adjustable spray bar
    Cons
    • Several complaints of filter being leaky
    • Doesn’t come with media
    • Some people reported filter completely stopped working in 6 months or less

    8. Finnex Compact Canister Aquarium Filter

    Finnex PX-360 Compact Canister Aquarium Filter

    Tank size: Up to 25 gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Tropical freshwater, marine fish, turtles

    If you have a smaller aquarium with fish or turtles, the Finnex PX-360 could make a great addition. This high-quality canister filter can be used as-is or can be tweaked into a HOB filter. It offers excellent water flow for smaller tanks and works with little to no noise, so there’s no annoyance. The Finnex PX-360 comes with media such as ceramic rings, an activated carbon floss pad, and a sponge. Plus, there are removable filtration chambers, so you can add and remove media as you like. It also includes accessories like a spray bar, spray nozzle, water intake strainer, and a filter hanger.

    Installation for this filter should be a breeze, as the product comes with highly detailed instructions!

    Pros
    • For smaller aquariums
    • Can be used with fish or turtles
    • Extremely quiet
    Cons
    • Several complaints that filter stopped working in 60 days or less
    • Some felt output flow was too low
    • A few had trouble with the set-up instructions

    9. Zoo Med Nano External Canister Filter

    Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter

    Tank size: Up to 10 gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Tropical freshwater, marine fish

    This excellent small aquarium canister filter works for aquariums and nano tanks up to 10 gallons. The Zoo Med Nano is designed to be simple for new aquarium owners to use—simple to prime and customize. This filter was also created with convenience in mind. Its design is compact, so it doesn’t take up too much room. Plus, it was made to run extra quietly with no vibration.

    With the Zoo Med Nano 10 External Canister Filter, you also get a mechanical filter sponge, carbon chemical filtration media, bio-ceramic filtration media, and a spray bar system for more aeration.

    Pros
    • For tiny tanks
    • Simple to use
    Cons
    • Requires daily maintenance
    • Water flow may become weak after a couple of months
    • Few complaints of bits and pieces falling off

    10. Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter

    Aqueon QuietFlow 155 400 Canister Filter

    Tank size: Up to 155 gal
    Aquarium type: Freshwater, saltwater
    Fish type: Tropical freshwater, marine fish

    And finally, we have the Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter! This canister filter is already loaded with a variety of biological, chemical, and mechanical media that will keep your aquarium water super clean by getting rid of wastes and toxins. The media types included are coarse foam, activated carbon, bio-balls, and bio-ceramic rings. This filter also comes with pump locking heads, water intake and output connections, quick disconnect valves, and hoses.

    Plus, this filter comes with a water polishing unit that hangs on the back for quick and easy maintenance. Instead of taking apart the canister to replace media, you can simply replace the carbon cartridge.

    Pros
    • Quick maintenance option
    • Comes with media
    Cons
    • May be noisy
    • Sometimes hard to prime
    • Handful of complaints about leaking

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    Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Canister Filter For Your Aquarium

    Benefits of Canister Filters

    Before getting into what to look for when purchasing a canister filter, it’s good to look at their benefits. This way, you can weigh the benefits of these against those of other types of filters.

    High Flow Rate

    Flow rate refers to how much water a filter can handle (i.e., gallons per hour or GPH). Canister filters provide some of the highest flow rates around, sometimes handling hundreds of gallons per hour. Why is this so good? Because when a filter processes more water in a shorter time, it means it’s continually cycling the tank. That means it’s getting rid of waste and toxins quicker, so it’s much better for your fish!

    Customizable Filtration

    Your tank system should go through three stages of filtration—biological, chemical, and mechanical—but not all filter systems will do all three. Most canister filters come with plenty of media trays, so you can achieve all the stages of filtration using whichever media you find works best for your tank.

    Easy Maintenance

    When it comes to maintenance, canister filters tend to be a breeze! For most of them, you’ll just have to disconnect the filter, open it, and clean it.

    Runs Quietly

    Canister filters tend to run quieter than other filters because everything is right there in a single canister. They also produce less vibration, so you don’t have as much rumbling. And these canisters can be stored below the tank, meaning they’re more insulated, which also reduces the sound produced.

    Highly Effective

    Finally, canister filters are highly effective at what they do. Because they incorporate all three stages of filtration and have a higher rate of flow, they can get rid of waste and toxins quickly and efficiently. That means your fish friends get immaculate water all the time.

    saltwater coral reef aquarium at home
    Image by: Vojce, Shutterstock

    What To Look for When Purchasing a Canister Filter

    Figuring out which canister filter is the right one for you can be a challenge, but if you look at these things, you’ll be better able to make a choice.

    Size Of Aquarium

    One of the most important aspects to look at in a canister filter is the size of the tank for which it’s designed. Many canister filters will be built for tanks up to 100 gallons (or more!), but some are created for much smaller tanks. You don’t want to get a canister filter for a tank smaller than your own, as it will be woefully underpowered.

    Media Options

    As we said previously, canister filters allow for multiple media options via the use of different media trays. Finding a canister filter with three or more media trays is likely your best option, as this will allow you to have media for biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration. And with more trays, you can customize the media to meet your exact needs.

    Noise

    While canister filters are designed to be quieter than other filters, that doesn’t always mean they’re totally silent. Consider where your aquarium is placed and how much noise you’re willing to put up with, then check out reviews from others to see just how loud or quiet a filter is. Some canister filters might even include decibel ratings, so check for that as well!

    Ease of Maintenance

    Aquariums can require a bit of maintenance, so finding a canister filter that makes maintenance easier will be helpful. Some of these filters will be super easy with shut-off valves and quick disconnects. Others will require taking the canister apart to clean and refill media.

    Image by: Sergii Figurnyi, Shutterstock

    Power Required

    Canister filters run 24/7, so it’s vital to know just how much power they’ll be drawing as they do. Some filters may provide a kilowatt-hour rating that tells you just how much energy it uses, but others will not, so you might have to do some research. You can also look for energy-efficient canister filters created to use less power as they work.

    Price

    Canister filters range in price, but for the most part, they are on the pricier side. You should be able to find a filter that fits your budget but shopping around and comparing filters to find the best price is advisable.

    Reviews

    Nothing will give you more information about a canister filter than reviews from other people who have used them. They’ll tell you the bad, the good, and the meh about a product so that you can make a better-informed decision.

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    Conclusion

    Getting the best overall canister filter to keep your aquarium nice and clean will be great for your fishy friends. Our recommendation for that is the Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter, as it comes with extra-large trays that can hold more media for better filtration. If you’re searching for the best canister filter for the money, our pick is the SunSun HW-304B Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter, as it’s well-priced, takes up little space, and has a UV sterilizer. Finally, if it’s a premium canister filter you’re after, you’ll want to look at the Hydor Professional Aquarium Canister Filter with its high-capacity filtering system.

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    Featured Image Credit: Frantisek Czanner, Shutterstock

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