Proper filtration for your aquarium is critical to providing a healthy home for your fish.

There are many types of filters are available on the market, and some would argue that canister systems provide the best filtration. Let us take a closer look at some of the best canister filters for various aquarium set up environments:

Winner
Fluval Canister Filter for Aquariums - 406 - 100 Gallon
Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter
Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 100 Gallons, Filters 265 GPH
Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter (400 Gal)
Hydor Professional External Canister Filter – Aquarium External Filter – Telescopic Intake Tubes, Easy Priming – EcoSystem in a Box – Biological, Mechanical, Chemical Filtration – 350 to 280 gph
Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g
Fluval Canister Filter for Aquariums - 406 - 100 Gallon
Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter
Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 100 Gallons, Filters 265 GPH
Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter (400 Gal)
Hydor Professional External Canister Filter – Aquarium External Filter – Telescopic Intake Tubes, Easy Priming – EcoSystem in a Box – Biological, Mechanical, Chemical Filtration – 350 to 280 gph
Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g
$199.99
$131.99
$69.24
$339.99
$194.85
$164.73
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Winner
Fluval Canister Filter for Aquariums - 406 - 100 Gallon
Fluval Canister Filter for Aquariums - 406 - 100 Gallon
$199.99
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Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter
Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter
$131.99
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Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 100 Gallons, Filters 265 GPH
Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 100 Gallons, Filters 265 GPH
$69.24
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Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter (400 Gal)
Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter (400 Gal)
$339.99
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Hydor Professional External Canister Filter – Aquarium External Filter – Telescopic Intake Tubes, Easy Priming – EcoSystem in a Box – Biological, Mechanical, Chemical Filtration – 350 to 280 gph
Hydor Professional External Canister Filter – Aquarium External Filter – Telescopic Intake Tubes, Easy Priming – EcoSystem in a Box – Biological, Mechanical, Chemical Filtration – 350 to 280 gph
$194.85
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Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g
Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g
$164.73
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Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Canister Filters

There are many filter designs available for aquarium keepers. The canister filter has many unique characteristics that make it stand out from other filter types.

What Is A Canister Filter?

A canister filter system sits outside of the fish tank. Aquarium water is drawn through a hose into the canister, which is pressurized. The water is forced through the media within the filter before being returned to the tank by hose to a spillway or a spray wand.

Different types of filter media can be used within most canister filters. Most devices make use of media trays to hold the media in place while the unit is filtering.

A canister type device can provide biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration, depending upon the type of media used.

What Is Biological, Chemical, And Mechanical Filtration?

There are three types of water filtration that these devices provide. Depending upon the product in question, a filter can provide one or more of the following filtering types.

Biological Filtration

Fish waste and food pollute the water column, and bacteria forms in a fish tank to combat it. Aquarium waste breaks down into ammonia which is toxic to your fish. Good bacteria forms that break this down into nitrites and then into nitrates.

A biological filter media is inert and will not alter the water column’s chemistry. It provides an ideal home for beneficial bacteria to grow colonies on. Many types of bio media are available for use in canister filters.

Chemical Filtration

Chemical filter media will alter the water column’s chemistry by leeching unwanted elements. The materials used for this type of filtration will usually work on a single chemical. In a canister filter, multiple chemical media can be mixed in a tray to offer protection against multiple chemicals.

Activated carbon and zeolite can leach a variety of pollutants from the water column. Resins are used to pull more specific chemicals from the aquarium. Phosphate removers are an example of materials used to target a single element in the fish tank.

Mechanical Filtration

This type of filter media removes particles of fish waste and other debris from the water. Mechanical filter media is placed before other types of media in the canister. This media will often house bacteria colonies and can act as a biological media as well.

Mechanical media is often purchased as a pad or sponge. Many hobbyists will use a filter wool inside of a canister filter. This type of mechanical media does not restrict water flow as much as a sponge or pad can.

What Advantages Do Canister Filters Offer?

One of the main advantages of this type of filter is its higher flow rate. Flow rate measures how many gallons of water that the unit filters each hour. Higher flow rates allow your tank to filter quickly and use less energy during the process.

Unlike other filters, a canister device can use all three types of filter media. These devices will often have multiple chambers or trays that can hold different types of materials. They are easier to setup than many types of filters.

The components break down easily, so cleaning is simple. Many users point out that canister filters run quietly when compared to other types. Finally, the pressurized water provides superior mechanical filtration.

What to Look For in a Canister Filter

Canister flow rate is the most important feature to look for. This rating is under optimal conditions with no media in place. Therefore, you will want to buy a filter that is rated for double or triple the gallons your tank holds.

This will compensate for media impeding water flow, as well as debris that will clog it during operation. Another feature to look for is hose width. A wider hose will allow more water to flow in and out of the canister as it works.

Multiple media trays and size can also determine a winner between similar models.

What Type Of Maintenance Do Canister Filters Need?

A canister filter will need to be cleaned to maintain optimal performance. The hoses and the pump must be cleaned periodically. This job is made easier with cleaning kits designed for this job.

The filter media that is used must be cleaned more often. Some of these materials cannot be cleaned and must be replaced.

The schedule will depend upon the media type, and the product manufacturer will often state a minimal schedule.

The Best Canister Filter Reviews

Cobalt Aquatics EXT Canister Filter

A modern canister design that can be placed nearly anywhere.

Cobalt Aquatics 26000 Ext Canister Filter
  • No priming; does not need gravity. Can sit below, beside or above your tank.
  • Ideal companion to the Cobalt Micro UV
  • 3 year warranty

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The filter measures 8 x 8 x 12.75-inches and weighs six pounds dry. The lack of a pump on the canister body allows it to be placed above, below, or beside an aquarium. It has a maximum flow rate of 210-gallons per hour, which is a good fit for a 55-gallon fish tank.

 This product comes with a lot of filter media included. 

The hose is 5/8-inch and should provide plenty of water flow into and out of the canister. A unique design is a valve that allows you to keep the pump operating after you disconnect the canister. The canister can hold 1.85-gallons of water.

 The external pump makes set up more complex than other canister filters.  The product feels sturdy and requires no priming when starting. It provides four layers of filtering that can aid in eliminating toxins in the water column. The plastic snap caps provide a quick disconnect that can make cleaning faster.

Pros
  • This canister does not require priming
  • The product is covered by a three year warranty
  • Very reasonable price point
Cons
  • The filter will not work on large tanks
  • The intake pump takes up room in the aquarium

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter, Cascade 1000

An easy to set up and operate aquarium filter system.

Sale
Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 100 Gallons, Filters 265 GPH
  • CASCADE CANISTER FILTER FOR FRESHWATER OR MARINE ENVIRONMENTS: the Cascade 1000 (CCF3UL) has 3 media baskets, works at 265 GPH, and is recommended for Aquariums up to 100 gallons. It measures 11.5 x 17 x 10 inches.
  • STATE OF THE ART FEATURES OF THE CASCADE 1000: flow valves that rotate 360 degrees for easy maneuvering in even the tightest aquarium cabinets large capacity media baskets allow aquarists to customize to their media needs push button primer allows for a quick and easy prime of the filter includes a spray bar, tubing, directional spout for customization, and filter medium.
  • USE ANY COMBINATION OF MEDIA: floss pad for removing particulate matter and a course sponge that provides abundant surface for promoting bacterial growth (to remove ammonia and nitrites) included free with purchase
  • SEE BELOW FOR DIAGRAM, THE CASCADE 1000 INCLUDES: Flow rate control cut-off valves two independent directional 360 degree rotating valve taps swimming pool – style hose clamps quick, easy, push button self-primer extra-large capacity stackable filter medium containers with lift-up handles floss pad and coarse sponge included, free with each canister filter easy lift alignment clamps that release vacuum suction sturdy tip-proof base
  • FILTER MEDIA OPTIONS BY CASCADE AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, SOLD SEPARATELY: see below for details, sold separately is media such as: bio-floss, bio-sponge, bio-rings, filt-a-pack pro-z, and filt-a-pack pro-carb-z.

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This model measures 11.5 x 13.5 x 9-inches and weighs 13.5-pounds in total. It is rated at 265-gallons per hour, which will work great for tanks up to 100-gallons in size. Penn Plax offers nine other sizes in their filter lines.

 This product is easy to set up and clean.  Four locking clamps provide a secure fit and help to prevent the canister from leaking. The base is designed to provide a wide footprint, a good feature that prevents the unit from tipping over. This model comes with three media baskets that provide options for media use.

Each valve cap is capable of rotating 360-degrees which keeps them facing the right direction no matter the canister’s location. The water flow can be adjusted through cut off valves. This feature is good for users who have aquariums that are under 100-gallons and provides extra versatility.

Pros
  • It includes a water injection button for easier priming
  • The product comes with a spray bar for water return
  • The hoses detach easily and quickly
Cons
  • Can be difficult to prime for starting

Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter

A high-end design and high water volume canister filter.

Sale
Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter (400 Gal)
  • Multi-Stage Filter that produces healthy aquarium water, freshwater or marine aquariums
  • Features Smart Pump Technology for optimal filter performance, efficiency and management
  • Self-starting filter-just add water and plug in. Head height (maximum): 3.3 m (10.8 feet)
  • For aquariums up to 400 gallons

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The FX6 measures 16 x 16 x 21-inches and weighs less than 20-pounds. It can be mounted up to 7.6-feet above the tank. It is rated for 538-gallons per hour filter circulation and a 925-gallon per hour pump rating.

It works with both fresh and salt-water aquariums.

This particular model can perform well for aquariums up to 400-gallons. Fluval offers five other canister sizes in their high-end line. The canister is capable of holding 11.5 liters of media, a feature that offers a lot of space.

The pump is controlled by electric circuitry that helps to provide optimal output during operation. This feature also provides efficient electrical consumption as well. Each basket comes with a subsidiary filtering sponge, which adds to leeching power of the media.

The valve levers are easy to operate and provide a 90-degree turn for quick water flow control.

Pros
  • This unit can move a large volume of water
  • It includes a monthly maintenance indicator
  • A drain hose allows drainage without disassembling the canister
Cons
  • Sand can clog the bottom filter
  • This filter comes at a higher price point

Hydor Professional External Canister Filter 350

A high-quality canister filter for use on 60-100 gallon tanks.

Hydor Professional External Canister Filter – Aquarium External Filter – Telescopic Intake Tubes, Easy Priming – EcoSystem in a Box – Biological, Mechanical, Chemical Filtration – 350 to 280 gph
  • The hydro professional 350 Aquarium External 280GPH Filter is a complete eco-system in a box
  • All the biological, mechanical and chemical filtration that any requires for a healthy and long-lived Aquatic experience
  • From the easy priming feature to the telescopic intake tubes, everything had been made easy
  • Country Of Origin: United States

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Hydor measure 10 x 8 x 19-inches and weighs 13.5-pounds dry. This model is one of five in the line offered by the manufacturer. It is rated at 280-gallons of flow per hour, a mark that makes a good choice for those who own 60-100 gallon aquariums.

 The baskets are universal in design and roomy as well!  Its square shape allows it to fit snuggly into a corner on the aquarium stand. The canister clamps are designed so that they do not open independently, which aids in providing a watertight seal. Although there is no carbon included, the unit does come with enough media to get the canister working.

 The plastic construction could be improved upon.  The media baskets fit snuggly while allowing for maximum water flow through their contents. This design feature prevents water that has been filtered from mixing with unfiltered water from the previous basket. It includes a spray bar that breaks down into several sections.

Pros
  • This filter is easy to assemble
  • It fills with water rapidly
  • The large primer button is easy to use
Cons
  • Replacement parts may be difficult to obtain
  • It does not include a lot of media for starting out

Eheim Filter 2217 Classic Wm

A reliable canister filter design with a proven track record.

Sale
Ehm Fltr 2217 Classic Wm 264g
  • Warranty: The filter has a 24 month guarantee.

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This well-known canister filter measures 15.8 x 11.1 x 8.3-inches and weighs 14.66 pounds when it isn’t loaded. It comes with a 264-gallon per hour rating, making it a good selection for fish tanks up to 160-gallons. The older is design is basic and allows this unit to be used with almost any aquarium.

 A 1/2-inch return hose helps to return clean water quickly to the tank.  An input hose measures 5/8-inch while the output hose measures 1/2-inch. These dimensions should provide ample water flow throughout the system. Multiple filters can be daisy-chained together to provide filtering for larger fish tanks.

 The older design does not offer the latest features found on modern canister filter builds.  The canister is energy efficient with a power rating of 20-watts. The ceramic axles and bearings used in the pump are reliable, with owners reporting continuous use over 20-years. This product comes with a two-year manufacturer guarantee.

Pros
  • This model has been used for over three decades
  • It moves water efficiently through the canister
Cons
  • The internal canister volume is smaller than other filters of this size
  • The design is a bit top heavy and may be more prone to tipping

Fluval 406 External Filter

A solid multi-stage canister filter for tanks up to 100-gallons.

Fluval Canister Filter for Aquariums - 406 - 100 Gallon
  • Multi stage filtration for healthy fresh & saltwater aquariums
  • Suitable for aquariums up to 100 gallons. Flow Rate: 1450 LPH (383 US GPH)
  • Sound dampening impeller design for a quieter operation. The Fluval 406 Canister Filter has a unique square shaped canister design that holds 35 to 50 percent more water than round canister filters of similar size allowing better water flow through a complex cleansing path that maximizes contact with the filtration media
  • Equipped with a clog proof intake strainer and a dual layer foam screen. To prevent water from dripping onto the receptacle or plug,a “drip loop” should be arranged by the user in the cord connecting appliance to a receptacle
  • Built with a patented Aqua stop Valve, multiple filtration baskets, and rim connector assemblies; 3 year warranty.Media Capacity: 8.5 L

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is one of four canister filters in Fluval’s 06 series. It measures 7.6 x 14.5 x 17.8-inches and weighs 10-pounds when dry. It is rated at 383-gallons per hour which is sufficient for aquariums up to 100-gallons.

 The engine provides consistent pressure throughout the canister.  The impeller design includes sound dampening that allows this unit to run more quietly than other filters of a similar build. The square shape allows it to hold 30-percent or more water than a cylinder canister of similar size. A strainer located near the intake helps to prevent clogs from larger debris that makes its way into the system.

 The unit will require that you only use sponges made by Fluval.  The AquaStop design allows the filter to switch off if the hoses become disconnected or if the filter becomes clogged. The fast start system allows a user to prime the unit quickly and is simple to use.

Pros
  • The unit provides an automatic safety shut-off
  • The unit is easy to prime
  • This product comes with a three year warranty
Cons
  • The canister holds a small volume of water for its rating
  • There are only two side-clamps that keep the unit sealed

The Winner…

As you can see, canister filters can provide all three filtration types for your fish tank. They offer some of the best mechanical filtrations due to the pressure they generate as water is forced through the filter media. Their ability to handle high volumes of water makes them ideal for medium and large tanks.

All of the products reviewed above provide these services. We do feel, however, that the Fluval 406 External Filter provides the best filter of the six. The multiple media baskets allow a user to stock a variety of media material, which allows them to set the exact filtration parameters needed for the aquarium.

The baskets are roomy and allow a large amount of material to be used. The square design provides more space for water, which makes the design more efficient than some of the other cylinder designs. The pump allows filtration for tanks up to 100-gallons, which is large enough for a new hobbyist to grow into over time.

It is easy to prime, which is not always the case with these filters. The automatic safety shut-off and warranty push this canister filter to the top!