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Best Canister Filters for Aquariums: Our Top Picks 2023

Canister filters are some of the most efficient aquarium filters you can buy, but choosing the right one can be difficult. Right now, we’ll take a look at the top five best canister filters for aquariums out there. 

Best Canister Filters

Top 5 Best Canister Filters: Reviews

Let’s now take a quick look at each of the five top best aquarium canister filters.

1. Penn-Plax Cascade All-in-One Aquarium Canister Filter: Our Top Pick!

Penn-Plax Cascade All-in-One Aquarium Canister Filter – for Tanks Up to 100...
  • CASCADE 1000 CANISTER FILTER: Without effort, the Cascade 1000 Canister Filter quietly delivers...
  • STATE OF THE ART FEATURES: In addition to the push button primer that allows for a simple and quick...

What stands out here right off the bat is that this unit features three large-capacity media baskets. It also comes with triple fiber floss pads, one biological filtration sponge, and a bag of activated carbon.

As you might be able to tell, this filter performs all three major types of water filtration and allows for media customization as you see fit.

This unit also features a swimming pool-style hose clamp, dual independent valve traps, a push button timer, and flow rate control.

Keep in mind that this unit is designed for tanks up to 100 gallons in size, and it should be able to cycle roughly 265 gallons per hour. This should be more than enough for a tank of up to 100 gallons in size, plus the fact that you can increase or decrease the flow rate is quite beneficial as well.

Overall, the filter itself is also very easy to maintain, as it comes with a simple lid that provides you with access to the interior. It’s not the cheapest unit around, but you get what you pay for, and what you get here is quality.

Pros

  • Suitable for large tanks
  • Media included
  • Stackable and customizable media baskets
  • Super efficient
  • Easy to set up and maintain
  • Durable design

Cons

  • A bit expensive

If you need a powerful filter suitable for large tanks, this is it.


2. Fluval 207 Performance Canister Filter

Fluval 207 Perfomance Canister Filter - for Aquariums Up to 45 Gallons -...
  • Efficient Aquarium Canister Filter: Fluval eTEC technology delivers powerful pump performance and...
  • Reliable Aquarium Filter: Powerful motor generates constant pumping power and pressure; ensures...

Here we have a much smaller canister filter than the one we looked at above. This particular model is designed for aquariums up to 45 gallons in size. It has the ability to process roughly 206 gallons per hour, therefore processing a 45 gallon tank over four times per hour.

What stands out about this filter is that it is very energy efficient, using only as much energy as the single LED light bulb. Furthermore, this unit is also designed to be very quiet, about 25% quieter than most comparable models.

Although this filter does not come with the media included, it does come with a pre-filtration basket as well as three separate stackable media trays. This means that you can customize the exact type of media you put on the inside, therefore providing your aquarium with the exact type of filtration that it needs.

Overall, although this unit is fairly small, we think it is by far one of the best ones out there, albeit also a bit expensive. A big bonus is that it is very easy to maintain.

Pros

  • Ideal for small to medium tanks
  • Customizable media trays
  • Easy to maintain
  • High flow rate + adjustable
  • Quiet and energy efficient
  • Durable design

Cons

  • Media not included

If you’ve got a tank 45 gallons or smaller, this is one of the most efficient filters you can get for it.


3. Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Aquarium Filter

Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Aquarium Filter up to 55 Gallons
  • Multi-stage filtration that includes biological, chemical and mechanical
  • Easy access for quick routine maintenance with included hang on the back polishing unit

Here we have a filter rated for aquariums up to 55 gallons, as it can process over 200 gallons of water per hour. It is therefore quite efficient. It should be more than powerful enough to handle any tank up to 55 gallons.

What you get here are three stackable media baskets that already come complete with media, including carbon, coarse media foam, biological balls, and ceramic media. Together, these efficiently perform all three major types of water filtration required for any aquarium. However, you can customize the media as you see fit.

Changing the media is as simple as replacing the filter cartridges, therefore making life very simple for you. Furthermore, the interior of this unit is also very easy to access thanks to the simple yet secure lid.

Keep in mind that this is also a water polishing unit, which is yet another bonus. Technically speaking, the water polishing unit is separate from the filter, but it does come included with your purchase.

Pros

  • All 3 types of filtration
  • Water polishing
  • Customizable media
  • Easy to replace cartridges
  • Very efficient
  • Durable design

Cons

  • Quite loud

If you need a filter that also polishes the water, this is a great one to look at!


4. Fluval FX6 High Performance Aquarium Canister Filter

Fluval FX6 High Performance Aquarium Filter, Canister Filter for Aquariums up to...
  • Multi-stage filter pumps out 925 US Gal (3,500 L) of water per hour, Smart Pump advanced microchip...
  • Self-starting – just add water, plug in and Smart Pump will take over, trapped air auto-evacuated...

What we have here is an absolutely massive canister filter designed for tanks up to 400 gallons in size. It is able to process up to 925 gallons per hour, therefore making it by far one of the largest filters on the list today.

What is very convenient about this unit is that it is self-starting, as it comes with a smart pump, so you don’t have to prime it every time.

What’s also neat is that this unit allows you to perform water changes by taking advantage of the output and smart pump.

What you might also appreciate is that this filter comes with a variety of stackable media baskets, and the media comes included. It allows you to use up to 1.5 US gallons of media, which is an insane amount that should be able to clean any and all fish tanks.

All of the most important filtration media, including mechanical, chemical, and biological media, all comes included with your purchase. Thanks to the utility valve and hosing, the rubber feet, the click fit valves, the telescopic intake, and the twin output nozzles, this might just be the best unit on the list today.

Not very budget friendly

Pros

  • Ideal for huge tanks
  • Super efficient
  • Holds a lot of media
  • Media included + customizable
  • Self-starting
  • Durable
  • Easy to maintain

Cons

  • Quite large
  • Quite the investment

If you need an absolutely massive aquarium filter, this is a great investment to make.


5. OASE Indoor Aquatics Filtosmart 60 Canister Filter

OASE Indoor Aquatics Filtosmart 60, 1 Count (Pack of 1)
  • Two stage filtration of biological and mechanical filtration are integrated in this compact design
  • External filter operates quietly to circulate and filter your aquarium water

Here we have a relatively small aquarium filter that is designed for tanks up to 60 gallons in size, and it should be able to process at least twice that amount of water per hour. Something we really appreciate is that it has a compact design, so it doesn’t take up too much space outside of the tank.

It comes complete with a self-priming function so you never have to prime it yourself. It also features a diffuser and a spray bar to allow for greater water surface movement and additional oxygenation.

Something to keep in mind however is that this is just a two-stage filter, and it comes with biological and mechanical filtration included. That said, the media baskets on the inside are technically customizable, so you should be able to add your own chemical filtration media if you see fit.

Pros

  • Great price
  • Compact design
  • Quiet and efficient
  • Customizable media baskets
  • Easy to maintain

Cons

  • Does not include its own chemical filtration

If you’re looking for a small and affordable filter for your fish tank, this canister filter from Oase is certainly worth considering.


Canister Filters Buyers Guide: What To Look For

Let’s wrap things up by doing a quick buyers guide so you know exactly what to look out for when purchasing a canister filter.

Filtration Capabilities

Every aquarium needs a filter to perform all three major stages of water filtration. This includes mechanical filtration for the removal of physical debris, biological filtration for the removal of ammonia, and chemical filtration for the removal of other unwanted substances, odors, and colors.

Canister filters are very special, because they generally have media baskets on the inside that allow you to customize the type of media you put inside. Some also come with the media included. Always consider the types of filtration that the canister filter in question can perform, compared to the needs of your tank.

Size Rating and Flow Rate

You also need to pay attention to the size rating of the filter. Some filters are designed for tanks as small as 10 gallons whereas others can handle tanks as large as 1000 gallons, or even larger.

There’s not much sense in getting a filter that is rated for an aquarium many times the size of yours, although it’ll still work, but you can’t get a filter that is rated for an aquarium much smaller than yours, because it won’t be able to clean the water.

Freshwater aquarium filter on isolated white background

A good aquarium filter should also be able to process the entire water volume of an aquarium at least three times per hour, if not five times per hour or more. Therefore, the flow rate is also very important to pay attention to.

Additional Features

There’s a lot we could talk about with canister filters, but there are a few important additional features that you might want to look out for. First, some canister filters act as water pumps to make water changes much easier.

Some canister filters also come with adjustable outlet tubes and adjustable flow rate. You may also find a canister filter that features a self-priming function so you don’t have to prime it every time. These