Best Canister Filter: Ultimate Aquarium Canister Filter Guide

One of the most important aspects to owning an aquarium is the planning process.  It cannot be overemphasized enough how paramount it is to research information on the various aspects of handling a tank with stuff in it.  These aspects include what parts that will eventually be placed in the tank, what kind of food to feed your fish, how much lighting is needed, or any of the other million things to consider.  Filtration is one of the biggest confusions for many beginners.  Aquarium filters are put into the water to remove detritus, chemicals, and any other toxic particles that may have found their way into the water.  The filter helps the water stay fresh and clean for anything that you decide to put into the aquarium.  Without a filter, aquariums will become dirty and contaminated, which will very likely cause health issues with anything living inside that tank.  There are a lot of different filtration products out there, but at or near the top of most experts and hobbyists’ lists are the use of canister filters. 

aquarium canister filter
Aquarium Canister Filter

Canister filters are described as external chamber filters that push aquarium water through itself by using a combination of gravity and a rotor.  All of the water in the tank flows into the canister filter, gets filtered by the filter media inside, and then is returned to the tank through an outlet.  Canister filters are one of the most popular filtration systems on the market today.  If you really want to make your aquarium a safe, healthy, and clean environment for your living creatures, then a canister filter should certainly be a consideration, especially if you are dealing with larger tanks. 

The canister filter system works by using three separate components: the cartridge, the motor, and the tubing.  The mechanism has a main chamber that is cylindrical in shape with the filtration medium and a pump inside.  Canister filters actually sit on the outside of the aquarium, which is great for giving slightly more room for your fish to swim.  From the inside of the filter, two small hoses connect the filter with the water; one of the hoses is for intake, while the other is for returning it back.  These hoses act as siphons, which means there is very little power needed for the water to flow.  The siphoning creates an uninterrupted flow of water through the filter and then gets redistributed back into the tank.  The water should flow freely and fairly quickly through the tubing.  Inside the main chamber, the water is forced by a pump that pressures the water to the other side of the chamber.  The water must pass through the filtration medium to get to the other side of the chamber.  Once in the second chamber, the water is again siphoned through the hose and back out into the aquarium. 

Some of the best canister filters filter very large tanks with ease and since they sit on the outside of the tank, they do not obstruct or get in the way of the beautiful aquatic environment.  These kinds of filters are well-known for keeping the aquarium water clean and free of dangerous elements that may affect the health and longevity of the creatures you put inside. 

Best Canister Filters

Now, there are a ton of varieties and variables out there and it might be exhausting having to look for all of these things while planning your aquarium.  Well, that’s what the internet is for.  This article aims to give you the best canister filters on the market right now and how they stack up against each other and hopefully after reading it, you will have a better understanding of canister filters and which type is best for you.

When considering the best canister filter for your aquarium, keep in mind several important factors.  For one, think about the size of your aquarium and the volume of water that will need to be filtered regularly.  Each canister filter has its own specifics and work better with certain tank sizes.  Secondly, what are you planning on putting inside?  Do you know what aquatic creatures are going in?  What about plants, lights, and decoration?  These are essential factors to know before choosing your canister filter.  Lastly, think about how much money you are willing to spend on a canister filter.  They are generally fairly high in price and offer different values of performance.  If you are willing to spring a little bit more money, you might be able to find top tier canister filters that will have even better performance. 

Below is a list of some of the best canister filters available on the market today.  We will look at the pros and cons of each of these models and how they differ, so that you can pick the best canister filter for your aquarium. 

Fluval Canister Filter

We start off with a brand Fluval, which has been in the aquarium game since 1975.  With shops all over the United States, Fluval has prided themselves on quality products and charitable proceeds.  Fluval has a wide variety of canister filters on sale now.  Listed below are some of the models available from Fluval.

Fluval FX6

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To start off, we have the Fluval FX6 Filter, which can handle any tank up to 400 gallons.  This is an extremely high-performance canister filter that can move through about 925 gallons of water per hour.  The Fluval FX6 is a self-starting mechanism that just needs water.  Just plug in the smart pump, add the water, plug in and everything will take care of itself.  The media baskets are easy to remove and eliminate any water-bypass, which makes the filtration much more efficient.  The canister filter is only 21 inches in height and is just shy of twenty pounds in weight.  The Fluval FX6 can hold about 1.5 gallons of media, which can be stacked to better suit your aquarium needs.  Overall, the FX6 is a fantastic canister filter that will sit very well under most aquariums.  While highly rated in suction power and ease to clean, the Fluval FX6 also boasts a quiet filter that can barely be heard.  However, this canister filter is more on the expensive side as many canister filters generally run a few hundred bucks.  Keep in mind that you are paying for what you get and with the Fluval FX6, you will be getting one of the best canister filters available.  This is one of the best canister filters for a 75-gallon tank or higher.


  • Handles large tanks with ease
  • Easy to clean and maintenance
  • Very quiet
  • Can be hidden from sight


  • Expensive
  • Has been known to leak when cleaning

Fluval FX4

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Fluval has a slightly different canister filter in the Fluval FX4.  This filter is similar to the FX6, but the major difference is that the FX6 is meant for bigger tanks up to 400 gallons large, while the FX4 is meant for smaller tanks up to 250 gallons or less.  The other major difference is that the FX6 has six distinct layers of filtration while the FX4 only has four layers of filtration.  This is not a disadvantage to the FX4, it is just made for smaller tanks.  The Fluval FX4 weighs less than the FX6 by about five pounds.  The Fluval FX4 pumps around 700 gallons of water per hour.  There is an indicator on both the FX4 and the FX6 that tells you when it is time for filter maintenance or a water change, which is very helpful.  The Fluval FX4 is a bit cheaper than the FX6, but not by much.  Both products have a little learning curve when removing and replacing the lid and hoses because the lid on both sides of the filters needs to be secured properly at all times.  It is not as easy as a filter with a quick-release mechanism.  The major factor in deciding between the two really comes down to the overall tank size.  If you have anything below 250 gallons, then the FX4 would be the better product. 


  • Very quiet
  • Easy to clean and maintenance
  • Stackable media baskets
  • Can be hidden from site


  • Slightly less money than the FX6, but still expensive
  • Has been known to leak when cleaning

Fluval 407

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While the FX6 and FX4 are quality products, they are rather pricey and may not be something that your average aquarium hobbyist is looking for in a canister filter.  Fluval also has the Fluval 07 Series canister filters that were made for more casual aquarium keepers.  This series of canister filters has gone through several changes and upgrades over the years.  Each of the 07 series filters comes with their own package of materials and parts.  While this canister filter is the most expensive of the 07 series, it is still considerably less than the FX6 or FX4 models.  The Fluval 407 also pumps an impressive 383 gallons per hour, which keeps the aquarium looking clean and healthy.  The Fluval 407 is easy to clean and stay very quiet while running.  It runs on an energy efficient, powerful motor that generates consistent pumping power to ensure that your water is getting filtered properly.  This version of the 07 series comes with a new pull out for all of the media baskets, which makes it easier for it to come out and go back in at once.  This is the sleeker and more robust version of the 07 series and is one of the best mid-range canister filters on the market.  Like most canister filters, it is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.  The Fluval 407 will work great with any tank up to 100 gallons. 


  • Most updated model
  • Quieter than previous versions
  • New canister design


  • Most expensive of the 07 series
  • Pumps have been known to leak

Fluval 307

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Now, each of the previous models that Fluval offers in the 07 series have slightly lower stats than the Fluval 407, but that does not necessarily indicate a disadvantage.  It really depends on what you are looking for in a canister filter and how big your tank size is going to be.  The Fluval 307 is priced lower than the 407 model by a fair margin.  One of the biggest differences between the 407 and 307 is the fact that the Fluval 307 is one of the best canister filters for 70-gallon tank and under.  This model also pumps around 303 gallons per hour to ensure the maximum efficiency of filtration.  Since it runs mainly on smaller tanks that the previous models mentioned, the suction power tends to remain efficient as long as you are utilizing the correct tank size for the correct canister filter.  It also has an ergonomic Aquastop valve that helps with a smoother operation of the filter.  If you are looking for a slightly cheaper model than the 407 that operates just as well then check out the Fluval 307.

Fluval 207

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The Fluval 207 is even cheaper than the other two models.  Each of the Fluval 07 series models have quickly risen to the top of the list of world’s best canister filters.  The major difference comes again in the tank size.  The Fluval 207 is an amazing canister filter for 40-gallon tank or lower.  It does seem to be a bit noisier than the higher models, but not so much that it would be a disturbance, as it is still very quiet.  The 207 boasts pumping power of about 206 gallons of water per hour and is made of long lasting materials to endure over time.  This model was the first of its kind to offer a fiber-reinforced priming handle to make start-ups effortless.  Another advantage is that this model is much more energy efficient as it only uses about 10 watts to operate the whole filter.  The unique design has also given Fluval the edge on vertical pre-filter orientation, which utilizes every single space inside and provides better mechanical filtration.  This is also one of the best canister filters because it comes with a bio-foam rippled surface area on its filters to prevent premature clogging and extend the life of the filter media.  This makes the filter long lasting and easy to handle. 


  • Earliest model with new design structure
  • Less expensive than later models
  • Uses less electricity


  • Made specifically for under 45 gallon tanks only
  • Significantly smaller basket volume

Fluval 107

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The very first version of the Fluval 07 series is the 107 that is the smallest and cheapest model of the 07 series.  While being the first of its kind, it still packs a powerful flow of water at 145 gallons per hour and uses less energy than the 307 or 407 at 10 watts.  The Fluval 07 comes with differentiating numbers of free media including the bio-foam max, bio-foam, bio-foam plus, carbon, and bio-max media.  However, the Fluval 107 does not come with the quick clear mechanical media like the other models have.  Using authentic media is essential to the proper function of the canister filter as unreliable media might cause irregularities and gaps that can reduce performance.  The Fluval 107 model is one of the best canister filters for 30 gallon tanks and smaller.  It also comes with an EZ-Lift media basket which creates no mess and can be lifted out with one finger.  All models of the 07 series also come with rubber feet that stabilizes the canister filter, protects it, and calms the vibration of the mechanism.  Overall, any of the 07 series could be considered one of the best canister filters, but it really depends on your tank size.  As you have learned about many of the different Fluval models, you can easily see why it has become so popular.  The company has been around for decades and continue to make quality canister filters for various sized tanks.


  • Cheapest version of model
  • Smallest size
  • Powerful pump action


  • Does not include some specific media
  • Only useful for tanks 30 gallons and under

Eheim Canister filter

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If you are looking for another great company selling canister filter, check out Eheim.  The Eheim canister filter model 2211 comes in different sizes up to 40, 66, and 92 gallon tanks.  It is equipped with filter sponges and filter media to keep aquarium water clean and healthy for things living inside.  The Eheim Classic 2211 has a large filter canister to ensure that it will last a long time.  Aside from a very small hum, the Eheim canister filter is extremely quiet.  It is also considered one of the most powerful aquarium filters on the market today.  This durable canister filter has been used in many public tanks and is quite affordable as it shows up on many websites at around a hundred dollars.  While the pump action remains strong, the pump action is not as strong as other brands.  The Eheim canister filter comes with a spray bar, an inlet pipe, a hose, and some installation accessories.  It also includes some filter media and valves.  Eheim is a well-respected company and offers quality canister filters for smaller tanks. 


  • Cost effective
  • Best for smaller tanks
  • Comes with authentic filter media


  • Quiet, but not silent
  • No so strong pump

Sunsun Canister Filter 

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Another quality canister filter lies in the Sunsun canister filter that includes a kit of filter media, ceramic rings, and a set of bio balls, filter pads, coarse pads, and media baskets.   This 5-stage canister filter works well with aquarium tanks up to 150 gallons of freshwater or salt water.  It also has a 9 Watt UV stabilizer that aids in the killing of algae spores and bacteria floating around in the water.  There is also no need for manual siphoning as this particular canister filter has a self-priming pump.  In total, the Sunsun Canister Filter is capable of handling up to 525 gallons per hour as it utilizes four flexible media trays.  The filter weighs about seventeen pounds and sits externally on the tank.  This powerful little canister filter outperforms a lot of other models for being at such a reasonable price.  If you are on a budget or just starting out, this canister filter could be a good start for getting your aquarium off the ground, as it works with most tank sizes.  However, this canister filter might be better used as a back-up or first-step canister filter as there have been some issues with parts with many customers.  Not to worry, as the Sunsun canister filter comes with a 180-day warranty.

Marineland Canister filter

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Next is the Marineland Magniflow canister filter, which comes available for tanks up to 30, 55, and 100 gallons for all types of water.  Weighing in at around nineteen pounds, this canister filter comes with a three stage filtration system with an easy and fast set up.  The smaller filter pumps about 220 gallons per hour, while the medium sized canister filter pumps about 360 gallons per hour, and the largest Marinelan canister filter available covers around 360 gallons of water per hour.  This makes it one of the most powerful canister filters out there.  There is an easy to remove lid for accessing the media baskets and authentic filter media for total mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration from the unit.  The Marineland canister filter comes with a quick-prime button that fills the filtering chamber with water for a self-priming startup.  It also includes a quick-release valve shut off that immediately blocks water flow any time you need to perform some spill-free maintenance.  Overall, this is an adequate canister filter for your aquarium. 


  • Comes in three different sizes
  • Easy to remove lid
  • Hassle free set up
  • Very quiet


  • Price for value
  • Has been known to leak

Oase Biomaster Canister Filter

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If money is not a concern for you and you are looking for a top-quality canister filter for your aquarium, then take a look at the Oase Biomaster canister filter.  The model comes in styles of Biomaster Thermo 250, 350, and 600.  Like most products, the higher the number, the higher the price.  At the same time, the 600 version can handle tanks up to 160 gallons, so there are advantages to going big.  This canister filter has a built-in heater which provides your tank with precise temperature levels.  Since it is a canister filter, it sits on the outside of the tank to allow your aquarium to have an unobstructed view.  The Oase Biomaster canister filter includes a four stage filtration that covers biological, mechanical, chemical, and pre-filtration processes that ensures that your aquarium water is clean and healthy for all living things.  It also features a Hel-X suspended filter media, which creates optimal surface area for any kind of beneficial bacterial growth.  This canister filter also has an easy-clean pre-filter module that can be removed from the rest of the filter.  This helps in reducing maintenance and increases filter efficiency.  The Oase Biomaster is the ideal canister filter for 70 gallons or lower and works with either freshwater or saltwater. 


  • Strong pumping action
  • Easy to clean and maintenance
  • Sponges and plastic bio media included


  • Filter and heater sometimes suck in air
  • A bit noisier than many filters

Penn Plax Cascade

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Another quality canister filter that sits at a reasonable price is the Penn-Plax Cascade canister filter.  This canister filter works for any tanks from thirty to 200 gallons of fresh or salt water, but is best suited for 100 gallons.  This canister filter comes in a large number of varieties, which varying number of media baskets.  Each of the options work best with different sized aquariums.  The Cascade 1000 model cycles an impressive 265 gallons per hour and has three large, stackable media baskets that allows hobbyists to customize their filtration.  The Penn Plax Cascade canister filter comes with three poly fiber floss pads, a bio-sponge, and a bag of activated carbon.  It also includes two valve taps, push-button primer, a flow-rate control valve, hose clamps, four easy lift alignment clamps, and a sturdy tip-proof base to prevent spills.  This canister filter is one of the best for physical, biological, and chemical filtration.  However, the mechanism does run a bit louder than many other canister filters.  Overall, this canister filter is pretty good when it comes to keeping your water clean and healthy, especially for the price. 


  • More reasonably priced
  • A lot of inclusions in the package
  • Comes in many different varieties


  • Loud motor
  • Water cannot exceed the top tray
  • Sucks in too much air

Aquatop Canister Filter

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The Aquatop canister filter is a reasonably priced canister filter that can handle anything between 90-125 gallon tanks.  It pumps around 370 gallons of water per hour and is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater.  While the Aquatop canister filter sacrificed a little bit of its pumping power than the previous models, there is almost no noise coming from the mechanism.  You can also put the hoses out in the sun for a little bit to soften them up so they are easier to place in optimal locations.  It also comes with a UV light that can keep algae build-up at bay.  The Aquatop canister filter series is a great canister filter for your aquarium as it keeps the water looking crystal clear by using an optional surface skimmer on the intake, a handle for easy lifting, and a color coded, quick disconnect valve.  All of these attributes make the Aquatop canister filter a great selection for your filtration needs.


  • Optional surface skimmer
  • Quick rinse ability
  • Easy to connect and disconnect


  • Issues with leakage
  • Not a good value for money

Aqueon Canister Filter

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The Aqueon canister filter is another quality canister filter that a bit lower in price, while still giving top tier service to your aquarium.  This is a great canister filter for 55-gallon tank and below.  It is designed for both freshwater and saltwater and includes the connections and outputs for a more traditional water return method.  This canister filter is preloaded with biological, chemical, and mechanical media to ensure that all of the waste from the water is removed.  The package includes many necessary items like quick disconnect valves, pump locking heads, coarse foam, boil ball, and bio-ceramic rings.  The Aqueon canister filter comes in three different versions, which has the 1-Count being the most expensive of the three, but it can also handle the most amount of water efficiently.  The other two versions are the 55-100 gallon tanks and the smaller canister filter for 55 gallon tanks and under.  Each of the versions is reasonably priced and comes with a lot of materials and parts to help you customize the canister filter to your aquarium.  It has a strong flow, but needs to be cleaned well in order to maintain the strength, which can be a bit time consuming.  This canister filter is very quiet and adaptable to any aquarium setup.  For a great value for your money, check out the Aqueon Quietflow canister filter.


  • Quiet
  • Adaptable to various tanks
  • Strong pumping power


  • Hard to clean hoses

UNS Delta Canister Filter

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The UNS (Ultum Nature System) Delta canister filter is another great option, specifically for people with smaller freshwater and marine aquariums.  It comes in four different models, which all vary in price and abilities.  The smaller Delta 30 is cheaper, but only handles aquariums up to sixteen gallons.  The larger Delta 120 model can handle up to 92 gallons, but is also the most expensive version.  There is also the Delta 60, which handles up to 27 gallons and the Delta 90, which can handle up to 66 gallons of water.  The UNS Delta canister filter is a quality filtration system that includes filter media, tubing, and inflow and outflow fittings for the device.  One major advantage of this canister filter is that even the highest priced model, the Delta 120, is still very reasonably priced for what you get from this canister filter.  The UNS Delta is one of the best canister filter packages to keep your aquarium water looking clear and healthy. 


  • Comes in variety of models
  • Can serve to hang on tank or below tank
  • Quiet


  • Some leakage possible
  • Only for tanks under 100 gallons

DIY Canister Filters

There are a lot of people out there that feel they can make things they need better on their own.  This is understandable given human’s need to create.  However, building a canister filter yourself is no easy task.  The canister filter holds two valves and a pump propeller that push water through filter media.  As an external filter, it is going to have to collect water, push it through the filter media, and then push it back out through the external valve.  While this might be an easy process for some, it would help to have some knowledge on how to build a canister filter.  Luckily, you live in a time when the internet exists.  There are countless websites and forums dedicated to making a DIY canister filter.  Many of these websites, like this DIY canister filter website or Mr. Keeper’s article on making your own canister filter, give you a breakdown of all the materials you will need including correct piping, valves, and filter material.  They will also teach you how to decide on which canister filter to make and how to prepare the materials to create a high quality canister filter.  Other articles like Aquatic Fishkeeping’s post about different kinds of DIY canister filters like using home water filters or converting plastic jar. 

Be sure you do enough research into the specifics of building a canister filter before getting started.  There are many specifics about canister filters that cannot be ignored and so it helps to learn from those who have built them already.  Some people choose to do it themselves because it is cheaper than most of the models of canister filters, while others build their own because they feel they can make a better and more efficient model themselves than what is on the market. There are a lot of different options when it comes to creating your own canister filter and by following these and other guides, you will have the tools and the knowledge to put together your own mechanism for your tank. 

Canister Filter with UV

You may have noticed that some of the models mentioned in this article utilized UV sterilizers.  Canister filters already work well on their own, but if the model has UV sterilizer, it has a bit of an advantage.  The UV sterilizer uses ultraviolet light to kill or damage most microorganisms.  Most traditional filters rely on you keeping an eye on the filter and physically removing the bacteria from the tank by changing or adapting the filters.  A UV light will prevent any bacteria from escaping and getting cycled through into your tank again, which will mean a healthy and clean aquarium for your living creatures.  Having a UV light will also lighten the cleaning load as well.  UV lights are paired with traditional filter medium; therefore, the UV light will allow you more time between cleaning your aquarium.  If you have an aquarium that is prone to algae build-up, or bacterial and parasitic diseases, then you might want to look into getting an additional UV filter for your tank, especially if you have a lot of living creatures inside. 

Canister Filter with Heater

Another additive that many DIY and market models include is the built-in heater.  This is particularly advantageous to those hobbyists that are looking to keep their aquarium free of anything that might upset the décor.  A canister filter with a water heater will have evenly heated water throughout the tank.  Anyone who is trying to keep their aquariums at a warmer temperature for whatever reasons would be smart to invest into a canister filter that has a heater included.  Most quality water heaters are more expensive, so it would help to have it in the canister filter.  However, it is important to note that the heater will work as well as the canister filter is maintained and cleaned.  Debris and gunk can build up over time on the canister filter, which may cause the heater to drop a few degrees.  You also need to keep a very close eye on the temperature of the tank as you do not want to risk overheating the water.  If you find a canister filter with a heater included, take a look at how the temperature is controlled.  Part of keeping an aquarium is making sure that each machine that you utilize is going to need some upkeep in order to stay working efficiently. 

How to setup a canister filter

If you are the do it yourself type or if you bought your canister filter from a store, you will need to set it up and make sure it is working correctly, especially before you add anything to the inside of the tank other than the water.  The canister filter for 20 gallon tanks is the same basic concept to canister filters with higher gallon capacity.  That being said, the first thing you will need to do is determine how big the tank will be for the canister filter to operate in.  Since the canister filter runs on water flow, it will also be paramount to be sure the hoses are taking in water on one side and pushing it out in the other.  While a lot of canister filters can handle larger tanks, the average hobbyist will use canister filters for smaller tanks, some being canister filters for 5 gallon tanks.

After determining the size of the tank and the model of the canister filter, make sure the valve is closed before removing the valves.  Remove the top of the canister filter, which will allow you to access the inside of the mechanism.  There also needs to be a solid connection between the canister parts to prevent leaks from entering the filter.  Now, you will be able to access the filter media.  This may differ depending on what model of canister filter you are using.  There are many different kinds of filtration that these devices can use. 

Types of canister filter media

There are three main types of filter media that hobbyists use. 

Mechanical filter media

Mechanical filter media is one of the main forms of filtration for tanks.  These come in forms of things like sponges that trap debris and filter it out of the water by holding it with the sponge’s surface area.  Another very popular forms of mechanical media are polyfill, which looks like a doll’s stuffing.  Polyfill is a finer type of filter media that does really well in filtering out any harmful particles in the tank. 

Biological filter media

Biological media is a different type of filtration media that is really one of the more important types of media.  This is because biological filter media builds and holds bacteria, which is key to the nitrogen cycle of the water.  This will allow beneficial bacteria to grow, while holding filtering out bad bacteria. This form takes the shape of bio balls, Seachem matrix, or ceramic rings.  Having a quality biological filtration system in place, your longevity and health of your living creatures will be improved. 

Chemical filter media 

The final type of filtration media used in canister filters is chemical filter media.  This comes in the form of Carbon and Chemi-pure.  This filtration method removes any organic compounds in the tank, while also helping with the smell of your aquarium.  Using chemical filtration will make your tank smell fresher and cleaner while pulling out any sort of organic material floating around.  It also reduces phosphates and algae, which keeps the aquarium looking clear.  Any filter media will also need to be changed every now and then. 

It is important to do your research about what your tank specifically needs so that you do not give your water the wrong treatment.  Whichever canister filter you are looking to buy, take a look at what filter media is being used and if it covers what your tank will need. 

Once you figure out your filtration system, you load it up into the canister filter, making sure that it is covering all the water that will come through it.  Put the canister top back onto the device and then connect the hoses to the canister lid.  Plug it in and the canister filter should be running.

How to Prime Canister Filters?

If you want your canister filter to work properly, you are going to have to make sure that it is primed the right way, otherwise the operations of your tank could be disturbed.  Doing this will also reduce the risk of clogs or blockages within the filter.  Priming a canister filter means to remove the air from it so that the priming pumps only water into your tank.  You can very easily burn out your motor quickly if you have air running through the tubing rather than water.  Internal canister filters remain in the water and therefore do not need priming, since air does not interfere with the filter at all.  External filters start with cleaning out the filter media. 

Once this is done, make sure that your canister filter is unplugged to avoid any electricity problems.  The pump needs to be able to bring water into the filtration system from the tank. So, lower the tank’s water below the input hose and drain the output hose into a different bucket.  There should be a bit of debris and material from your tank as you drain the hose out.  After the output hose is drained, attach a siphon to the end of it as tightly as possible.  Squeeze the siphon and you should hear a bubbling sound, which would be the sound of the water circulating inside the canister due to the gravity.  Once everything is in place, turn the canister filter on and wait a bit for the bubbling.  Check to make sure that the water is running smoothly and if it is, then you have successfully primed your canister filter.  This should be done once every three or four months to make sure the filter is efficiently running.

How to clean canister filter?

Keeping your canister filter clean is paramount to having it work efficiently.  You will need specific tools to clean the filter, like a toothbrush, scrub pads, towels, Q-tips, a high pressure hose, and a bathroom sink or bathtub to use.  When cleaning your canister filter, make sure that is unplugged before taking anything apart.  Turn off the filter and the shutoff valves to ensure that you will not spill.  Unscrew the tubes carefully as water might be trapped inside the motor housing.  This is where you take the rest of the filter to the sink or bathtub.  Remove the motor housing and prepare for water leaking out of various crevices.  Next, remove all the components like filter media and start cleaning all the items.  Scrub pads are great for removing unwanted algae and buildup.  Run the filter pads through some kind of high pressured faucet or hose to rinse them out.  Gently remove the impeller out the housing and clean the hole with the Q-tip.  Then, you will take out any biological media trays so that you can clean the canister itself.  After all parts are properly washed, reassemble everything and turn the shut off valves back on and refill the filter. Plug the mechanism back in and you should be good to go.

Generally speaking, you should be cleaning your canister filter every two or three months.  This is primarily based on the manufacturer’s instruction, the type of filter media being used, and the water’s overall condition.  You will need to keep up with a regular schedule of cleaning your canister filter to ensure that your tank is getting the most efficient treatment. 

If you maintain this schedule and take really good care of your canister filter, then there is no reason why you should not be able to get a solid ten years or more from your canister filter.  Just keep an eye on the motor and impeller assemble as that will also help with extending the lifespan of the filter. 

Are Canister Filters Worth It?

We have covered a wide variety of models for canister filters and looked in depth at the filter media available for it.  We looked at how to clean and care for your canister filter and what kind of functions and features are provided in each model. 

So, are canister filters worth buying?

Well, the answer is yes!  When it comes to water filtration, especially for larger tanks, canister filters are some of the best choices a person can make.  They have been in the hobbyist space for a long time and have been trusted to last a long time when properly cared for.  They circulate more water than most other filters and provide a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow upon.  While they might be a bit on the expensive side, it balances out considering how long these canister filters last.  Putting down a bit more money for a quality and long lasting product is well worth it.  Canister filters are also easy to access the insides and provide a powerful flow for the water.  It is mentioned several times throughout this article that tank size is of the utmost importance to whether or not a canister filter would be the right fit for you.  Smaller tanks do not really benefit from having large filter canisters as it creates an overkill flow rate.  Any smaller tank would benefit more from a HOB (hang on back) filter or even a sponge filter.  If you are a beginner, then you might want to start with something a little more novice for your filters.  Canister filters are a lot to maintain and you do not want to put yourself in a tough situation without doing the proper research first.  Furthermore, canister filters are known to be a bit leaky or messy and need consistent attention. 

As the final word, the canister filter is totally worth looking into for your aquarium. If you are planning on medium to larger tanks, then canister filters are the type that will keep that water looking crystal clear and healthy for your aquatic creatures.  Many of them stay out of the way of your décor and are mostly easy to clean. 

Are canister filters the best filters?

Well, they are certainly near the top of the list, that is for sure.  All of this really depends on the other variables of your tank.  What are you planning on putting inside?  Will you need a heater on your canister filter or perhaps a UV sterilizer?  For the advanced hobbyist, a canister filter would be the ideal choice for any tank’s well-being. 

If you are a beginner, then maybe the canister filter is a little much for what you are trying to do.  You may not need the intense powerful flow of the canister filter, especially if you are considering a tank that is smaller.  There are not a lot of options for canister filter for 5 gallon tanks.  Besides, there may be some better and easier options that would work just as well as a canister filter. 

Canvister Filter vs. Sump

Sump filters are hidden in the aquarium stand or cabinet close by.  It is a small container that collects water, filters it, and then pumps it through a powerhead back into the tank.  The biggest benefit in using a sump filter is that is insanely quiet.  The filter is hidden away so you do not really hear it.  If you have a tank that is in a really tight space, then a sump filter might be the way to go.  Compared to a canister filter, the sump filter has a higher degree of customization am dos more compact and discreet.  Sump filters are also way cheaper than canister filters.  However, canister filters are a bit easier to install, so think hard on which is right for you.

Canvister Filter vs. Hang on Back (HOB) Filter

Another type of filter to consider is an HOB (hang on back) filter.  The HOB filter sits on the (you guessed it) the back of the tank and sucks up water through a powered impeller.  This impeller pushes the water through the filtration medium and then falls back down into the tank.  The advantage of the HOB filter is that it is easy to hide away so as not to block décor in the tank.  They do not have any kind of plumbing customization that canister filter has and HOB filters tend to be a bit noisier than your average canister filter.  HOB filters are very easy to set up and are considerably cheaper than most models of canister filter. 

Canvister Filter vs. Sponge filter

Sponge filters are best for tanks with small or slow swimming fish in smaller tanks.  This is a great idea for anyone just starting out or working on a budget.  You would not use sponge filters in larger tanks as you would need to circulate much more water than a sponge could handle.  Sponge filters are placed just over the water’s intake, which makes the installation very easy.  One of the best aspects of sponge filters is that they work really well along with other filters that are being used.  While a canister filter might handle the majority of filtration, sponge filters can add just a little bit more clarity to your aquarium.

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