Get The Best Aquarium Canister Filters For Your Fish

Having an aquarium at home can be the best experience ever. After all, fish owners around the world can say that their aquarium is the centerpiece in their home. It is relaxing, soothing and it is a great hobby. However, with every tank comes a certain responsibility. Keeping it clean and safe for your fish is the number one priority of all aquarium owners – beginners or not. It can be hard to keep your fish from dying, and most of the times the obvious problem is the filter. Although there is a great variety of tank filters, I’ve combined a list of the most common and safe aquarium filters.

If you really care for your fish and the quality of the water in your tank, I suggest getting nothing but the best aquarium canister filters. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you should get professional aqua-shop equipment, but still, you should get a good quality unit that can handle the job. So, here is a list of aquarium canister filters that will not disappoint you:

Penn Plax Cascade 1500

Even if you are a fresh tank owner, you must have stumbled upon the Cascade brand. It is a brand that offers some of the best aquarium equipment on the market. This manufacturer has all types of aquarium equipment – for both marine and freshwater aquariums. All of their filters are top-notch and it is almost impossible to find a negative review for them. Basically, they are known for offering powerful, three-stage filtration and easy-to-set-up filters. Once you try a Cascade filter, I doubt that you’ll ever look for a different brand again.

The Penn Plax canister filter is a powerful unit, suitable for tanks with max of 200 gallons capacity. It handles around 350 GPH (gallons per hour) which is a very good volume of water flow for keeping your fish clean and healthy. The design of this filter is based on filtration systems found in swimming pools with rotating valves and the flow controls. The Penn Plax features 5 large media compartments that can easily be customized to meet your specific needs.

What I really like about this unit is that it is extremely easy to install. We know that when it comes to aquariums, most of the things sound terrifying to beginner tank owners. From nitrates and nitrites, to maintaining flora and bacteria in the tank, it seems so complicated. However, if you set up your tank with the Penn Plax, will make the job so much easier. It has all the accessories that will keep your tank water clearer and maintain it like this. Also, it features a quick push-button primer makes start-ups easy and two independent directional 360-degree rotating valve.


  • Very easy setup
  • Professional features available
  • Comes with full set of accessories
  • The filtration can be enhanced using activated carbon


  • Can handle aquariums of 200 gallons maximum

Hydor External Canister Filter

Another way to go at maintaining a crystal clear tank and happy fish is the Hydor External Canister Filter. The Hydor filter is great for those who want a professional unit. As a professional filter, it has a water rotation of 320 GPH and can easily create a safe eco-system out of a tank.

With the Hydor external canister filter you’ll never have to worry about the stats in your tank. It has all the chemical, mechanical and biological filtration features for any tank. It features an amazing priming tech and has telescopic intake tubes preventing the debris damaging the filter. All in all, it is a great filter, very quiet and perfect for a living room aquarium.

The impeller that pumps the water, rotates on a ceramic shaft. This ceramic shaft makes the water pump to operate smoothly and quietly. The long hoses are great for placing the filter wherever you want, regardless of your aquarium setup is. The filter also has a spray bar attachment. The spray bar tube has a few holes which spray water across the surface of the water. If you need to increase the aeration, this is the filter to do so. The intake and spray bar tubing and fittings are mounted inside the aquarium with suction cups.


  • Very quiet operation
  • Filters 320 gallons per hour
  • Complete biological, chemical and mechanical filtration
  • Good overal performance


  • A bit tricky to install

Fluval External Filter

The next filter on our list of the best aquarium canister filters is the Fluval External Filter. This filter offers a multi-stage filtration for freshwater and saltwater aquariums. It ensures a healthy living environment for all types of fish, and it can be used for aquariums of up to 100 gallons. It has an incredible flow rate of 383 gallons per hour, which is 1450 liters of water per hour. It is simply a professional filter that you can easily use at home to keep your fish health and your aquarium in top notch condition.

In addition, this filter has a sound dampening impeller design for a quiet operation. The Fluval 406 Canister Filter has a special square-shaped canister design which makes it stand out from the crowd. The unit can hold 35 to 50% more water than the round ones with the same size. However, the nicest thing is that it allows a better water flow through a complex cleansing path that maximizes contact with the filtration media.

You will also love the clog-proof intake strainer and dual layer foam screen. This prevents damage from drip-loop (water dripping on a plug from the cord), this is a well designed filter. It cleans water easily, and it is suitable for different types of aquariums. However, know that if you have a smaller planted aquarium, you might damage the plants with too much aeration from this filter.  The media capacity is 8.5 L, and it has a patented Aquastop valve. Finally, multiple filtration baskets ensure that the water gets filtered properly.


  • Can be used for commercial purposes
  • Super-powerful and effective
  • Multi-stage filtration system
  • Very quiet operation
  • Can be found in various sizes and capacities


  • Not suitable for smaller aquariums

Fluval FX Series Canister Filter

Regardless of which one you choose, the Fluval FX6 or Fluval FX4, you won’t be disappointed. It is not a coincidence that these filters found their way not once, but twice on this list with the best aquarium canister filters. They are simply effective and worth their money. The canister filters from Fluval are innovative and offer a modern design. If you really care for your aquarium and want to make a wise investment, I suggest considering their basket-in-a-basket design.

It might seem like this is not a ground-breaking filtering design , but it actually is. There is a similarity between other filters with round media baskets stack on top of one another. Still, the Fluval FX baskets have an outer basket and an inner basket. Basically, multiple baskets stack and nest together adding to an overall great performance. The filtration media is made of FX pads that capture large debris and ensure a professional filtration. If you know your tanks, you’d know that proper filtration can make or break an aquarium.  

Smart Pump technology automatically prime the canister filter. Together with the smart digital pump monitoring system, the unit adjusts the pump speed to maintain a consistent flow rate and even purge the canister of trapped air every 12 hours. The FX4 is suitable for 250 gallon tanks and has a flow rate of 450 gallons per hour. On the other hand, the FX6 is good for 400 gallon tanks, and has flow rate of 563 GPH.


  • Handy Aquastop feature
  • Smart pump technology with air purge feature
  • Great flow rate
  • FX pads on the filtration media
  • Unique design


  • Not very quiet
  • Maintenance can be somewhat difficult due to the unique design

Eheim Classic External Canister Filter

Eheim filters and tank equipment units have been on the market for quite some time. It is almost safe to say that EHEIM is a reputable brand. They engineer their filters and other units in Germany and they really have value into consideration during the manufacturing process. The Classic series is a favorite. It is an entry-level filter and it is very easy to use.

This filter has only basic features, which is what makes it great for beginners. It won’t confuse you with complex installation or maintenance, so it is a nice way to start your first tank. Note that the Eheim Classic canister filters don’t have separate media baskets. Their filtration material can be found in the canisters unit. Still, it is nice to find a basic filter for a reasonable price that can do everything a beginner needs for his aquarium. It traps debris through the loose filter media, and it has a foam pad on top of the mesh, keeping it in place.

If you are just starting up a tank, you’d be thankful that the Classic canister line also comes with Eheim SubstratPro. This is a loose biological media that nitrifies the bacteria in your tank.  Although the unit doesn’t have an activated carbon option out of the box, you can purchase it separately if you need it in your filtering system. However, this is a minor investment. The filter has two piece valves that disconnect easily. This is convenient as you can clean your tank without any fuss. This filter can be found for 40, 66, and 92 gallon-tanks.


  • High quality construction
  • Reliable and durable
  • Quiet operation
  • Reputable manufacturer


  • Not a lot of sizes and types to choose from
  • Doesn’t come with activated carbon option

SunSun 5-Stage Canister Filter

The last but not least on our list of the best aquarium canister filters is the Sunsun 5-Stage canister filter. This unit features uses not one or two, but 5 different and varying stages of filtration. They hold the filtration materials like activated carbon, biological filtration media and foam pads. However, you will need to buy some more filter media separately. If you want biological filtering and the activated carbon, you’d have to purchase those separately.

Its cool design provides with a self-priming button which is a great option. You need to press the priming button to fill the canister with water. Then, plug it in and the filter begins pumping immediately. Also, with this filter, you won’t need to do siphon priming either.

But, what makes this filter unique is the built-in 9-watt UV light. This one effectively kills suspended algae that you might bring from the aqua shop with you. Whenever the light is on, it kills algae cells and keeps your tank algae-free. This UV light can also protect your fish from a lot of diseases caused by parasites and bacteria. We all know how cool an aquarium LED light can look in our tank, and if you are currently looking for one, don’t miss our article on aquarium LED lights.


  • Quiet operation
  • Rated for up to 75 gallons
  • Easy to find replacement parts
  • Self-priming
  • Uses UV light to reduce algae and pathogens


  • No activated carbon media

Wrapping it up

And that was your entire and complete rundown of the best aquarium canister filters. We, personally, think these filters are versatile, with high performance and rather affordable in their class and range. I hope you found the information you were looking for. Thank you so much for reading along and we will see you around soon with more aquarium product reviews.