The 10 Best Canister Filters For Aquarium in 2023 (Reviews & Guide)

Every aquarist wants to keep their aquarium in top shape. You don’t want your fishes swimming around in dirty and discolored water, which is why many people use various types of products to keep their tanks clean.

One of the most popular aquarium products is canister filters. Canister filters are far better than your regular filters. They provide biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration.

The best aquarium filters maintain a steady water flow while cleaning the tank. Most canister filters work on saltwater, freshwater, and reef aquariums.

We have gathered the best canister filters for aquarium of 2020 and reviewed them for you. Without further ado, let’s jump right in!


Best Pick and Budget Pick  

Best Pick 

Our best pick for the aquarium canister filter is the Fluval FX6 series. Though it is more expensive than other filters, it provides top-notch service. The six-step filtration process will leave your aquarium water clear and clean of debris. It has a consistent 563 GPH water flow rate, which is higher than most filters.

It is an efficient product that works well on larger aquariums. It functions through an instant primer, which adjusts the water flow based as necessary. Moreover, it requires simple maintenance and has a monthly tracker reminder. It is one of the best canister filters for aquarium of 2020.


Budget Pick 

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money behind a new canister filter, consider checking out the Hydor Professional External canister filter series. It is a relatively new brand, and the plastic material is cheaper than standard.

However, it is just as capable as any classic filter.

There’s a wide array of filters available for different aquarium sizes. It creates very little noise due to the rubber base that keeps it stable and compact. This filter is great for starter aquarists, as it is easy to install and use. It provides a no bypass flow and a safety lock design.


Best Canister Filters for Aquarium Review

The products below cover a massive range of preferences and needs. Hopefully, by reading the reviews, you can find something perfect for your aquarium!


1. Fluval Fx6 Aquarium Canister Filter



The Fluval FX6 series has a great array of sizes for you to choose from. It is great for saltwater and freshwater aquariums. This filter has some of the best qualities you could want in a canister filter- durable, quiet, and highly effective.

It is one of the best canister filters for aquarium as it offers a high capacity efficiency. This product can easily handle tanks of 250-400 gallons. It consumes 10% less power than other filters as well.

This canister filter is filled with innovative technology. The motor is sturdy and long-lasting and maintains a consistent water flow during preservation. You don’t have to worry about noises coming from this device as it has a protective cover. The cover also shields against dampness, and aquarium remains.

Another great feature that you will surely like is the separation of filtration steps. There are six stages of filtration. These filters utilize the whole volume to do this, and this leads to a hassle-free cleaning process.

It is fantastic at preventing clogged remains from getting stuck as it has instant priming. The instant prime feature makes it a winner in our eyes. As soon as you turn on the filter, it begins the cleaning process. The pump has an automatic tracker to maintain the necessary water flow.

If you’re a novice aquarist, you can try this filter as it is easy to install. Its AquaStop valve has a straightforward set-up, and you can adjust the flow rate to your liking. It saves you time and worries since you don’t need to drain the aquarium beforehand.



  • Filtrates in six stages
  • Advanced motor sustains a good consistent water flow
  • Utilizes the entire canister while filtering
  • Free of white noises
  • An instant primer that automatically adjusts water flow



  • More expensive than other filters
  • Needs alteration for inflow heater


2. Hydor Professional External Canister Filter



Hydor may be relatively new in the canister filter area, but it has become increasingly popular. Their marine products are top-notch and budget-friendly. You can get the best service for a lower price, which makes this filter one of the best canister filters for aquarium.

This canister filter is ideal for freshwater and saltwater aquariums, aquatic turtles, and reef tanks, as this series has a great capacity range. There are filters available for 20 gallons to 150-gallon size. It will work excellently on your small and large tanks.

While the product is less costly than other canister filters, it offers unique and functional features. One concern of aquarium owners is children knocking something over the tank, so this filter has a safety lock design.

Despite the different quality of the plastic, the motor is strong and durable. It works as well as any standard plastic motor. It has added advantage of four rubber feet at the base for more stability. These rubber bases help to maintain a soundproof aquarium for your marine life.

This product is a no water bypass filter meaning there’s no fear of water entering the filter compartment. High-end canister filters posses this useful feature, and now you can get it for your aquarium easily. You can adjust the filter flow with the ball valve.

If you never used a canister filter before, consider buying this one. You have to start from somewhere, and this product’s easy install process will put you at ease. It can be done within thirty minutes. Just be sure to read the manual carefully.



  • Flat design for better storage
  • Adjustable ball valve to control flow
  • Regulating media trays
  • The spray bar is easy to expand
  • Quick prime



  • Difficult to find spare parts as the company is newer
  • 2-year warranty only


3. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter



The Eheim canister filters are a trusted product that has been around for decades. The classic and simple design with a green exterior has become the face of aquarium filters. Many consider it to be one of the best canister filters for aquarium. It has a wide range of capacity and highly functional.

You can find the perfect canister filter for 40 to 300-gallon tanks from this series. They are no water bypass filters meaning every fragment of waste will go through the media. This way, the aquarium water remains clear and clean. But you need to clean the filter routinely for maximum efficiency.

There are secure Permo-elastic silicon rings on the head of the pump. This way, your filter will close safely after you’ve cleaned it. The motor is soundproof, stable, and can be placed anywhere inside the tank according to your convenience.

This filter is not only cost-efficient but also capable. It can run on UPS for several hours if there is no electricity. If you live in an area with frequent power outages, consider using this power-efficient canister filter.

The canister filter set consists of biological and mechanical filtration media. It doesn’t come with chemical media, which needs to be bought separately. This filter can house several types of marine life. So, if your aquarium accommodates a slightly alternative marine environment, you should check this one out.

If you have goldfishes only, then this canister filter is a must for you. It has been rated as the best filter for goldfish aquariums. The flow rate is fantastic even though the power consumption is lower than the standard.



  • Highly durable filters
  • Low power usage
  • Soundless operation
  • Great water flow
  • Has considerable filter media



  • No media tray
  • The exterior design looks outdated


4. Polar Aurora Free Media External Canister 



If you need a canister filter for a large aquarium, this is one of the best options. You can use this filter for tanks up to 200 gallons. This filter is for fish tanks and is not designed for turtle aquariums.

The pump has a 525 GPH max flow rate and cleans water through several stages. The canister filter pack comes with all necessary items, such as four media draining trays, one media tray cover, two spray bars, and one UV light. The set also contains a carbon mesh bag. You don’t have to make any additional purchases.

The UV light feature is what makes this product one of the best canister filters for aquarium. This canister filter has a 4-stage filtration process, and the UV light is the last phase. It kills all harmful parasites, bacterias, and viruses to keep your aquarium water free from diseases. It is a nine-watt bulb.

The four media trays are quite flexible, and you can use several types of media. The activated carbon media bags, bio-balls, and ceramic rings in media mesh bags are all viable sources for brilliant filtration of all kinds.

This canister filter is highly advanced and has a great capacity for filtrating water. The aquarium water passes through more filter media in the first stage of filtration. Maintaining this filter is also simple.

However, since all canister filters are tested through underwater pressure to check for leakage, the new filters may be condensed. It will take 1-2 days before the water starts being clear. It’s because the filter screens out debris in the first few days. After that, the water will be clearer.



  • UV light cleans parasites
  • Four media trays
  • Comes with all parts
  • Fantastic for large aquariums
  • Fast filtration route



  • Not suitable for turtles
  • It takes 2 days to clear water initially.


5. Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter 1200



Penn Plax has been providing top quality pet products for a long time. Their canister filter has a multi-stage filtration process meaning the cleaning procedure is quite thorough. You can use this filter for both saltwater and freshwater tanks.

If you have a 150-gallon tank or something similar, this is a good option to consider. This filter works at 315 GPH. The installation process is quite easy, as well. The canister filter comes with all required parts, so you don’t have to splash out for installation.

One of the features that makes it one of the best canister filters for aquarium is the 360 rotating flow valves. It is easy to maneuver even in tight water tanks. You can customize the media trays according to your needs. There are four media trays with this model.

There’s a primer that starts working with just a push button. It is easy to operate and is highly efficient. This canister filter also has a spray bar, filter medium, and a steering jet that you can customize as well.

It comes with a floss pad that gets rid of difficult debris. You don’t have to worry about providing bacterial growth to eradicate nitrites and ammonia in the aquarium. The course sponge creates a sizable place for growth, and it comes with the canister filter pack.

The flow valves of this filter can be removed without a hassle. So, when you’re trying to clean the canister filter, you can just pop it out. This way, the water hose, input, and output can be kept inside the tank while you clean. You just have to lift the clamps to release the vacuum force.



  • Rotating easy to adjust ball valves
  • Customizable media trays
  • Good capacity
  • Provides generous bacterial growth
  • Cost-efficient



  • The design looks cheap.
  • Hard to find spare filter media


6. Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter 700



It is similar to the previous canister filter; however, this model is made for smaller aquariums. It has all the facilities of the Penn Plax canister filter series but for smaller tanks. If you own a small aquarium, you will know how difficult it is to find a good canister filter.

However, this one is perfect for aquariums up to 65 gallons with 185 GPH. You can get the benefits of a standard-sized filter but on a smaller scale. You don’t have to buy extra parts for installation as it comes with all necessary parts for set-up, and the process is quite straightforward.

Undoubtedly the fully rotating ball valve makes it one of the best canister filters for aquarium. The easy to move ball valve helps to keep the smallest water tanks in good shape. There are two media trays, but they can be customized to your needs.

There’s a quick push-button primer that is highly capable and functional. You can customize the steering fountain to your liking as well. The spray bar and filter medium are of great quality.

You can manage the media to fit your needs. The filter pack comes with a floss pad that eliminates certain debris and remnants. The course sponge offers ample space for bacterial growth in the water tank. So, there’s no need to worry about ammonia and nitrate concentration.

The rotating flow valves can be taken apart while cleaning. It saves you the trouble of removing the intake, output, and the water hose. To activate the vacuum power, you only have to lift the aligned clamps.



  • Customizable media baskets
  • Adjustable ball valves
  • Perfect for smaller aquariums
  • Creates an environment for sizable bacterial growth
  • Easy to install and clean



  • The design isn’t fashionable.
  • The replacement filter medium is difficult to find


7. SUNSUN Pro Canister Filter Kit 



If you’re looking for a long-lasting and premium canister filter that can also be used alongside other filters, this product is a viable choice. Using it with supplementary products leads to higher efficiency and a very clean tank water. It is perfect for aquariums up to 75 gallons.

This filter is capable of handling high pressurized water at a huge capacity. The main filter is durable, and you can choose the water flow according to your fishes’ needs. It has three media trays and comes with filter carbon. So, you don’t have to make extra purchases.

It comes with a prime, which is button operated. If you’re unsure of how canister filters work, you can try this one out. You only have to press the on button and attach it; this eliminates the need for tap priming.

The UV light is the last step of the multi-filtration procedure. Every aquarist aims for clean and disease-free aquarium water, which this filter guarantees. This filter also has the standard spray bar, vacuum cups, and extended water hoses.

This bright installed ultraviolet light makes this filter one of the best canister filters for aquarium you’ll come across. If any algae survive the canister filter, the 9-Watt UV light will wipe it out.; this ensures a thorough of your aquarium water. It will remain clean and clear.

Furthermore, the UV light decreases the chances of your fishes catching diseases. It eliminates the pathogenic bacteria population and parasites living in the tank water. However, if you keep an unclean tank, this functionality won’t be very effective.



  • Multi-stage filtration
  • UV light that kills unnecessary algae
  • Low chance of marine disease
  • Easy to set-up
  • Good flow rate



  • Can’t be adjusted
  • UV light power diminishes after a while (you need to run it for 24 hours once per week to extend life expectancy.)


8. Marineland C – Series Multi Stage Canister Filter


If you’re looking for a canister filter for your large tanks, the Marineland C-Series has a wide range of products for you. Their canister filters are designed for medium to very large sized water tanks, and you can find filters for 30-150-gallon tanks. They perform best in aquariums bigger than 75 gallons.

You can use these filters for ample sized marine life. If you want to make a reef or saltwater fish community, then look no further! This filter ensures clean and safe water for larger tanks so that your fishes can remain healthy and roam freely.

This product uses a 3-stage filtration method for effective screening and smooth water flow. It has biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration media. They come with bio-balls that create a healthy bacterial community and removes ammonia and other toxic materials.

Many consider it to be one of the best canister filters for aquarium because it has a no water bypass feature. Only clean water will be produced through this filter. The media openings prevent bad smell and stains. It also keeps out waste and stops water discoloration.

It has quite a straightforward set-up process. There’s not only a given manual but also a DVD with visual guidance. Routinely replace the carbon filter bags and polishing pads for better results.

You get to choose your media filtration combination to your liking. When the filter water flow becomes sluggish, then you need to clean the canister filter. It is also simple and easy as you need to remove the canister lid only. But, never remove the bio-balls or ceramic rings unless they are impaired.



  • Ideal for larger tanks
  • The perfect filter for reef fish community
  • 3-stage thorough cleaning
  • Comes with three types of filtration media
  • Easy to install and clean



  • Only for larger aquariums
  • Prone to creating microbubbles


9. SUNSUN Hang On External Canister Filter



This is a unique aquarium canister filter. It has a hang-on design, which makes it easy to use but also stable. This canister is made for smaller aquariums with no space to install a canister filter inside the tank. It is perfect for a maximum 120-liter aquarium system.

If you have a small marine or freshwater aquarium, this is a brilliant choice. It comes with all the required parts for installation. The set comes with all parts, media trays, and media add-ons, so you don’t have to buy other installation items. The filter is made of shock- and graze-resistant resin.

The set-up process is straightforward. You can do it within a few minutes just by following the manual. The filter needs to be installed at the aquarium sidewall or the backside. Ensure that the pump is inside the aquarium.

It cleans through a 3-stage filtration method, using which the canister filter eliminates all types of wastes and remnants and creates clean, clear tank water. The capacity for this pump is 500 LPH and operates on 6-Watt only.

The soundproof trait makes this filter one of the best canister filters for aquarium. It is relatively quieter than other canister filters. You can adjust the water flow to your liking, and it can be changed based on tank size as well.

There’s a surface absorber that collects the smallest debris and abrasive mud. You need to pay extra attention to the filter material and how it’s adjusting. Using Zeolite or other biological filter materials are a good choice. However, if your filter mechanism is disturbed by the material, you need to change it.



  • Easy to assemble
  • Ideal for small tanks
  • Comes with necessary items
  • Soundless operation
  • Adjustable water flow



  • The appearance doesn’t look stylish.
  • Can’t be used for standard tanks


10. Hydor Professional 450 External Canister Filter



This canister filter is slightly different from the rest of the Hydro series. Most of the features- durability, efficiency, quietness can be found in this product. It is the answer to the dilemma of larger than average aquarium owners. It is one of the best canister filters for aquarium.

Most filters cater to small, medium, or huge aquariums. This one, however, is perfect for slightly larger tanks. It is ideal for 300-450 liter tanks. If you have a tank that size, now you have a budget-friendly option.

There’s a safety lock design for protection against accidental knocked over items. It is an excellent trait to consider if you have children. This filter also has the no water bypass feature like all the products in the Hydro series. You don’t have to worry about water flowing the wrong way.

The expandable spray bar is an important attribute to have on your tank. You can adjust the placement and control the movement of water flow. Even though the filter motor is not made of expensive plastic, you won’t feel the difference.

There are rubber feet at the base that provide firmness and quietness.

It comes with four media trays, which are level with the sides. This results in a no bypass water flow. You only have to buy carbon as it comes with every other required item.

This canister filter is an excellent choice for new aquarium owners. Canister filters are important, but some are afraid of ruining the device due to inexperience. The easy set-up will help you if you’re facing this problem. You must always read the manual before you start.



  • Larger volume storage
  • Manageable water flow due to ball valves
  • Can adjust media chambers
  • Soundproof and stable
  • Flexible spray bar



  • Water can come out when cleaning the filter.
  • Hard to find replacement parts


Buyer’s Guide for the Best Canister Filters For Aquarium

There are several vital features you must consider when buying canister filters. Some attributes of the best canister filters are given below.


Canister Purpose 

The reason you want a canister filter in your aquarium is important. You have to buy according to your aquarium’s filtration need. If you want a new one, think about why you wanted to change the old one. Consider the deficiency in the last filter and where it lacked.

Then search for canister filters where those qualities are emphasized—some traits to look for- flow rate, capacity, flexibility, etc. Perhaps you already have a filter and want to add another one for more efficiency. In that case, you have to look for which filters work well with other filters alongside the necessary qualities.



This factor is crucial to consider while buying an aquarium canister filter. The main functional part of the filter is the motor. It pumps the water inside the filter and starts the filtration. Without a good motor, your filter is useless.

The motors of the best canister filters are reliable and capable. They need to be maintained routinely. Some require more attention than others. But, if your motor needs to be cleaned frequently, it would mean disrupting the tank environment often, which is not ideal.

The sound of the filter also depends on the motors. The ones which operate noisily should be avoided. Your aquarium marine community needs a quiet motor that can pump water seamlessly. Noisy motors will disturb their peace.

Epoxy-sealed motors are exceptional products. They are frequently used for canister filters due to their fantastic working capability. Since they are mounted on the impeller head, they shield the impeller from debris and other wastes. They are sealed, make very little noise, and are easily maintained.

Magnet-driven motors is another brilliant type of filter motor. They use a magnetic coil to activate the impeller just as the epoxy-sealed ones do. However, they are auto-priming pumps. So, there’s no hassle of manually handling it.

But these motors aren’t fully sealed like epoxy ones. Which means they aren’t as efficient at defending against debris. For this reason, they require more maintenance.



Many aquarists generally overlook this factor, but it is just as important as the motor. Your canister filter must have two valves- intake control valve and output control valve. Valves that be fully shut are what you’re looking for.

Closed off valves won’t let water get across the hose, and you can have a mess-free maintenance check. This way, you don’t have to change the filter prime. If you can detach the intake and output hoses, connect a gravel suction and converter.


Aquarium Size 

The size is a vital point to think about when you buy a canister filter. There are filters designed for certain sizes of aquariums. Not having the right fit will means your product won’t function properly.

Firstly, know your aquarium size and the water flow rate. Then you have to check which canister filters can accommodate your tank. Measure the space where you want to place the filter. The filters are always labeled according to their capacity, such as 20-gallon, 30-gallon, 150-gallon, 200-gallon, etc.

Aquariums over 100 gallons are usually considered large. Large aquariums need stronger canister filters; two good options are Fluval FX6 and Eheim. You can also check out the Marineland C series and Hydro Professional series.

For smaller aquariums, such as 20-gallon or 30-gallon, SUNSUN series has good filters. There are smaller versions of most canister filters that you can use.


Filter GPH 

You need to think about the filter’s GPH as well. GPH refers to gallons per hour. If a filter says it has 150 GPH, it means it will turn over 150-gallon water every hour.

An aquarium needs a canister filter that can turn over four times the entire tank water volume each hour. So, if you have a 40-gallon aquarium, you need to look for filters with a minimum of 120 GPH.

Having more GPH than that will be beneficial as well. More filtration will mean cleaner water. If you have fishes like guppy and goldfish, the aquarium requires weekly cleaning, so it’s better to have an efficient filter.



Long-lasting filters should always be a priority. The best canister filters for aquarium are the ones that can survive more than a few years. Since most canister filters are of plastic material, you should look for strong and sturdy plastic products. Those provide the best results.

The durability of the motor is vital. It drives the filter, so you need something that won’t break after a few months. Germany and Italy produced motors that are highly sought after due to this reason. Their practical pumps come with guaranteed 3-year warranties.



The adaptability of the filter is a good factor to think about. You want your filters to mesh in with the aquarium. This is why you need to locate the places you think it should stand and try to find filters based on that.

For example, tall filters require more camouflage than standard ones since they stand out from the aquarium environment. If your tank has a stand, you can try to hide it in one of the cabinets.

Adaptability is not just about appearance but about adjusting within the marine life well. Rotating and regulating ball valves is something you should look for. It makes your aquarium maintenance much easier. You can easily manage your water flow and turn it off whenever you need it.



This criterion is the real barrier you need to think above all. No matter which qualities you look for, it’s quite useless unless they are within or close to your set budget. The best canister filters for aquarium are not always super expensive. There are cheaper but functional options.

Don’t go over your budget by much when you find something you like. Try to look for various products, and you will surely find a filter that suits your needs within your budget. Remember, expensive doesn’t always mean better. You want cost-efficient filters, not costly ones.




1. Which canister filters are the best for saltwater aquariums?  

The above-reviewed filters are perfect for both saltwater and freshwater tanks. You need to check their capacity, GPH, durability, and choose which one suits you the best. There is no definite aquarium canister filter as it all comes down to preference.

In saltwater aquariums, it is better to use canister filters for fish only environments. Canister filter’s biological media could create disproportionate nitrate, which is harmful to corals. However, canister filters with good course sponges eliminate nitrate faster.


2. Which canister filters are the best for freshwater aquariums?  

Freshwater aquariums adjust better to canister filters than saltwater tanks. You can any use any standard functional canister filter. The best canister filters for aquarium can handle high capacity and filter quicker.


3. How to assemble a canister filter for an aquarium?

 First, gather all the parts and separate them into according groups. Assemble them as per manual instruction before setting up the entire filter. Connect the inflow and outflow hoses and attach the filter to your aquarium. Position the filter in a place where it won’t be bothered by fishes.


4. When should I clean my canister filter? 

Every filter differs on maintenance requirements. Some are more high-maintenance than others. Try to clean it every three months to keep it efficient. If you use the filter frequently or continuously, you should clean it more often.

The marine community and fish type also come into factor. Change your chemical and mechanical filtration once every month.


5. How should I prime my canister filter?

There are directions given on the manufacturer manual on priming the filter. You can follow a simple step as well. After you’ve set up the canister filter, immerse it into the aquarium water and plug it on.

Slant the canister slightly to dip the impeller underwater. Start the vacuum and hold it in that position for one minute. You have just primed your canister filter.


6. Can I release the air stuck on the canister filter? 

Air bubbles in the filter is not an ideal situation, and you need to remove it. First, check if all the attached parts are sealed or not. If there’s a leak, the air has come through that opening. Seal it properly to avoid air bubbles.


7. How to add media in the canister filter? 

Ensure if you have the correct media layer for your filter or not. Start layering with ceramic rings and then put the coarse sponge. Put the bio media over that, and on the top place, the filter wool pad.


8. Where should I place the purigen? 

We would suggest putting the purigen where the water output is. You can also place it near the ceramic rings water intake area.


9. What is the cost of maintaining canister filters? 

The best canister filters for aquarium is the cost-efficient ones. Managing a canister filter isn’t that pricey. Since the motors are small, it doesn’t put a dent on the electricity bill. However, there are canister filters which consume less power than the standard ones.


10. Should I buy a canister filter that comes with all items? 

This is another feature that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some brands come with all necessary set-up items, such as media trays, filter media, activated carbon, etc. There are fantastic canister filters in the market that don’t come with every required item.

Some won’t have chemical filter media, or some don’t consist of activated carbon. In the end, it depends on your preference. Since you have to buy media products frequently, you should consider such canister filters.



Those were the best canister filters for aquarium in a nutshell. Hopefully, you have now understood your preferences and how to buy the best aquarium filters. Some come with all the necessary parts, some don’t. Some filters require low maintenance, while some need to be cleaned frequently.

All the canister filters listed here are highly functional. Each caters to a different type of need. You just need to match your requirement with the features of the canister filters.

Don’t go over budget, though. We hope you have picked out which one suits your aquarium. Keep all your preferences and budget in mind while buying canister filters.

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