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5 Best Aquarium Canister Filters 2019

Want to keep your tank cleaner? Then what you need is canister filter!

Canister filters for your aquarium use an intake tube or valve to remove water from your fish tank. Running water through various filter media located within the canister cleaning your water. Your canister filter usually sits out of sight inside your aquarium cabinet. Keeping your water clean and hoses out of sight!

The canister filter then pumps the clean water back into the fish tank through a spillway or spray bar. Possibly the best options for cleaning your tank and keeping your fish happy.

But how do you choose the best one? That’s exactly what we are going to cover in this guide.

Fluval 406 Eheim Classic AquaTop CF500UV
Our Pick
Fluval Canister Filter for Aquariums  406  100 Gallon Buy From Amazon
Eheim Classic External Canister Filter 2215 Buy From Amazon Aquatop CF500UV 5Stage Canister Filter with UV 9W 525 gph Buy From Amazon
Fluval a trusted brand with many years of experience producing canister filters. Fluval 406 is perfect for mid to large size aquariums. Keep water polished and versatile with stackable filter media trays.Eheim is one of the original manufacturers of canister filters. A very trusted brand with a huge following of aquarium hobbyists. Versatile and a workhorse that will keep your tank clean.Aquatop is changing the canister filter game! This filter includes an internal UV light to kill off parasites, bacteria, and algae. Built-in technology to keep your tank from turning green and parasite free.
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Benefits of an Aquarium Canister Filter

There are major benefits to going with the canister filter over other types of filters. You get higher flow rates from the canister filter than you do with other types. Some canister filters can even pump up to 320 gallons per hour. Not only does this mean you can clean your fish tank faster, it also could save some money on energy bills.

Also, you have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to choosing the filter media. The canisters have separate layers of media, you can stack sponges, carbon, peat and ceramic rings. Giving you the ultimate flexibility to create the ideal filtration required by your fish and tank.

A canister filter is one of the easiest types to set up and they offer quiet filtration that is effective at removing small unwanted waste. Some filters are not able to remove the tiny debris that canister filters can because they are not powerful enough.

Top Five Best Canister Filters

Let's take a look at what we believe to be the top five canister filters currently on the market. Each of the canister filters is a little different. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, but they are all solid products and will do well for your fish tank. Let’s take a look at each of them in greater detail.

Fluval 406 External Filter

Fluval Canister Filter for Aquariums  406  100 Gallon

Fluval a trusted brand with many years of experience producing canister filters. Fluval 406 is perfect for mid to large size aquariums. Keep water polished and versatile with stackable filter media trays.

The external filter from Fluval is terrific because it offers some of the best features among canister units available. The [Fluval 406 canister filter](https://tropicalfish.io/article/98/fluval-406-cani... is perfect for all sorts of aquariums. Both freshwater, and saltwater, it has an advanced motor to make sure that the flow rate is maintained at all times.

Fluval filters are engineered to be quieter and run almost silently in the background. It also features a multistage filtration process that makes sure that it maximizes debris removal from the water. Possible filter combinations include the mechanical, chemical, and biological. The possible combinations remove a huge amount of debris and contaminants keeping your water polished.

Eheim Classic External Canister Filter

Eheim Classic External Canister Filter 2215

Eheim is one of the original manufacturers of canister filters. A very trusted brand with a huge following of aquarium hobbyists. Versatile and a workhorse that will keep your tank clean.

Eheim has been around a long time and they are a trusted and proven company. Eheim Classic External Canister Filter 2215 is a classic from Eheim and is possibly one of the top choices among aquarium owners today.

The Eheim 2215 could be one of the most solidly built models on the market, which means that it also could be the most durable. Listed as extremely energy efficient, the Eheim 2215 has an impressive flow rate. It has been rated as the best canister filtration system for aquarium fish tanks.

AquaTop CF500UV Canister Filter with UV

Aquatop CF500UV 5Stage Canister Filter with UV 9W 525 gph

Aquatop is changing the canister filter game! This filter includes an internal UV light to kill off parasites, bacteria, and algae. Built-in technology to keep your tank from turning green and parasite free.

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The [AquaTop CF500UV canister filter](https://tropicalfish.io/article/103/aquatop-cf500u... is one of the more popular filters on the market right now. That’s because it comes with an extremely useful feature that no other filtration system offers: a UV sterilizer. The UV sterilizer adds extra protection to your fish tank water in addition to all the filtration that a canister unit offers on its own.

The Aquatop CF filter eliminates microorganisms like algae, bacteria, and parasites. The process of setting up the filter is stated to be so easy that you will have it done in minutes. The flow rate on this canister filter is around 370 gallons per hour and you can use it for tanks of up to 175 gallons.

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn Plax Cascade 1200 GPH Canister Filter

Penn Plax offers a canister filter with stackable compartments sure to keep your tank gleaming. With a variety of filter medium available to meet just about any hobbyist needs.

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Penn Plax makes a multi-stage canister filter, perfect canister filter for large tank enthusiasts. Canister filters come in several different sizes, they are perfect for just about any size fish tank. There best used in larger fish tanks that are at least 75 gallons.

If you want to create a saltwater or reef fish community, then this could be the perfect filter for you. Because it is intended to be used in a tank that has a large number and variety of fish. With a multi-stage system that includes biological, chemical and mechanical filtration.

Hydor Professional External Canister Filter

Hydor Professional 250 External Canister Filter 4075 gal 225 GPH

Hydor is relatively new to the canister filter market. Handles biological, mechanical and chemical filtration for a healthy fish tank.

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The professional external canister from Hydor is one of the more exciting new offerings on the market. People are talking about this filter because of how it offers about every advantage out there that an external canister filter can offer. Strong and sturdy, durable enough to last for a long time. Powerful filtration that eliminates almost every contaminant from your water. Can be set up and running in about 30 minutes.

The nice thing about this canister filter is that it comes in different sizes. Making a grab for the smaller tank market, which is not normal for canister filters. You can get sizes that fit a 40-gallon up to 150-gallon tank.

How to Choose the Right Canister Filter

Choosing the right canister filter is important, it's the heart of your tank. Your canister filter needs to fit your fish tank size and fish needs, and that means that you need to ask yourself some questions about how you are going to set up your tank and what kind of features your fish tank and fish need. Let’s look at each of the factors that you should be considering.

Purpose: It is important you understand the purpose of your canister filter. This means that you need to understand the capabilities and the restrictions of the canister filter. Will your canister filter be able to handle the volume and flow for your fish tank size? Does it have the versatility that you need? Are there special features you require?

Adaptability: Adaptability is important because every fish tank is different and you have to keep in mind things like where the canister filter will be installed, whether it is going to look out of place on your fish tank and whether it is able to reach the maximum potential of filtration.

Durability: Durability also something that you should consider. You want your canister filter to last for a long time, because canister filters are little more expensive than other filters, and making sure that is going to last you for many years to come is important.

The Motor: The motor is important because it is the heart and soul of the canister filter, it pumps the water into the filter so that the filtration process can happen. You want to make sure that you get a great motor from a trusted company that is going to last for a long time and is extremely efficient.

Size of the Tank: Size of your tank is an important consideration. Most of the canister filters out there are intended for larger tanks that are at least 75 gallons. There are a few that are suitable for smaller tanks, you want to make sure that you do your research and carefully consider the size of your tank in comparison with your canister filter.

Brands: The brand that you choose is fairly important as well. Going with a brand that has a great reputation is important because you want to be able to rely on your canister filter and the reputation of the brand is a good indicator of reliability.

Budget: Your budget is also a consideration. Canister filters are more expensive than other types of filter systems, but they also could save you money on energy and are able to clean your fish tank more quickly and efficiently. You should consider the price of a canister filter, but you should also be aware that they can save you money so it is worth paying a little more.

How do Canister Filters Work

So, how do canister filters actually work? This is a pretty common question among people who have never used a canister filter. Understanding how canister filters work is important if you’re going to buy one because it not only helps you make a decision on choosing the right one, but it also makes ensures that you know how to use your canister filter and what is involved in having one.

There are a few different types of canister filters, but they work basically the same way. Some of them come with extra features like a UV sterilizer, and others have canister filter media included with them. Most canister filters allow you to choose your own canister media for filtration.

Canister filters are typically placed on the outside of your tank, usually with one piece inside the aquarium, intake, and outlet. Canister filters have inlet and outlet fittings which allow for the water to flow in and out of the filter. Generally, you can adjust these tubes so that they fit your fish tank perfectly.

Canister filters have a motor which propels the water into the canister to be filtered. Some models have mounted motors that use gravity as well as the motor to start the filtration process. Once the canister filter is filled with water, the internal pump forces the water out of the filter and back into the fish tank.

When the water is forced through the filter it passes through the filtration media. This is usually a multistage process that may include chemical filtration, bio media, and mechanical filtration. The filtration layers trap the debris and microorganisms; pushing the clean water back into the tank.

Canister filters are extremely effective because they are very powerful and push water through the filtration medium quickly, eliminating almost all of the debris and contaminants in your fish tank. They are simply one of the most effective types of fish tank filters on the market.

FAQ about Canister Filters

What is the best canister filter for saltwater aquariums? Which is the best for freshwater?

The canister filters that are listed here are perfect for both saltwater aquariums and freshwater aquariums. You do not have to find a specific canister filter for either saltwater or freshwater, although sump filtration is generally used for saltwater tanks.

How do you prime a canister filter?

Before you have the canister filter assembled, fill the canister with tank water then place the filter inlet and outlet in the tank and then plug it in. Then simply tilt the canister to one side and as the motor begins to prime and pulls water through the inlet tube. Hold it there for a minute and then tilted upward to expunge the air.

What is the canister filter setup process like?

Canister filters can be just as easy to set up like most other filter types out there. You can follow the instructions listed on the manual, but the setup process is usually extremely simple.

How often do canister filters have to be cleaned?

You should clean your canister filter about every three to six months, although the manufacturer’s instructions may be different. Also, the filter media you choose may have different clean times.

How do you get air out of a canister filter?

Make sure that all the joining parts are sealed in this should prevent any intake of air. The air gets in there mostly because there is a leak. Sometimes if you have a nearby bubbler, air can build up in the canister filter. A quick tip or leaning of the canister filter should allow built-up air to exit, a.k.a. burping the filter.

How to layer media?

The layered media varies from one canister filter to another. Generally, layering starts from back to front with the ceramic rings at first, then the core sponge than the bio media and then you have the filter wool pad. In the end, you can reconfigure the layers as you wish and dependent on your fish tank needs.


The bottom line is that canister filters provide much better filtering for your fish tank. However, you want to make sure that you have a large enough tank that is at least 75 gallons. Canister filters are very powerful and are not intended for smaller fish tanks. If you have a larger fish tank, a canister filter is going to make a huge difference worth the investment.

What canister filter do you use? Do you recommend any other canister filters? Join our [Tropical Fish Forum](https://tropicalfish.io/forum and get in on the discussions on the latest equipment and products.

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