Best Canister Filters in 2020

To keep your fish healthy you need a clean tank so there is no better place to start with the canister filter. You’ll have to match the right product to the specs of your tank but once you know what you’re looking for there are plenty of options. The problem is, every product under the sun promises flow rate control and a one-button push primer like no other.

Out of all the important attributes, you want a reliable canister filter and to save you time researching we have compiled a list of the best available. Each one comes with a deserved reputation and there is something for different aquarium sizes so you and your fish can sleep easy knowing the water is clean and the tank is clear.

Here are our top 10 picks for the best Canister Filters:

#7 Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter for Aquariums

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This is a good entry-level canister filter as it has its limitations but it does have some impressive features. There is a multistage filtration system that you tend to find with the more reputable products so its good to see that this works to keep your tank clean via biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration. There is a limited 3-year warranty that protects your purchase and in the water polishing filter pads that work to remove fine debris, it helps to improve clarity. The canister lid is watertight to protect all the components and there is a valve block so when it comes to a little upkeep and maintenance, you can do it without spills. At 360 GPH it is fine to use with tanks of up to 100 gallons and is great value at the price.

Pros: Comes with a 3-year warranty
Fine for tanks of up to 100 gallons
Multistage filtration system

Cons: Can be a little loud for some people

#6 Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter

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Available in 3 different specs you can get 264, 370, or 525 GPH. The latter is fine to use with tanks of up to 175 gallons in size and features UV sterilizing technology. This helps to kill harmful bacteria and keep your tank disease free although not everyone thinks it works as well as some people claim. It has a lot of plastic parts which makes it feel less durable than it is but there are enough features to make this worth considering. Because it is extremely quiet it won’t stress your fish and has four media trays to filter in different stages. This gives you mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration to keep the water as clean as possible making it one of the best canister filters in its price range.

Pros: Fine for tanks of up to 175 gallons.
UV technology works to kill harmful bacteria

Cons: Not as durable as other brands

#5 EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

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This external canister filter looks simple but packs enough of a punch to make it a worthy consideration for anyone who needs to install a canister filter under their tank stand. Most people find installation simple enough and the benefit of it being compact is it is good for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of space outside the tank. Although it says it is fine for aquariums of around 92 gallons, it might be a tad ambitious and is better something a little smaller than that but with a flow rate of 164 GPH, it has enough behind it to make it a good addition to your home. It comes with everything you need to get started from the media to the hoses and is fine for both freshwater and saltwater tanks.

Pros: 164 GPH flow rate
Convenient size good for those with less room

Cons: Better in tanks of up to 70 gallons

#4 Fluval Canister Filter, FX6 Filter (400 Gal)

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With premium level canister filters comes a premium price tag but don’t let this put you off if you want clear water without any hassle. It features Fluvals smart pump technology that ensures the filter performances to a high level and it one of the most efficient filters on our list. It is a heavy-duty product making it capable of keeping tanks clean of around 250 – 400 gallons in size so when you use the self-starting system it will be good to go from the moment you plug it into your large tank. With quiet operation and clog-proof intake strainer, you know that small debris isn’t going to impact the performance anytime soon. Another smart feature is that it evacuates trapped air every 12 hours to ensure it remains efficient, there isn’t a lot they haven’t thought of.

Pros: Keeps tanks of 250 – 400 gallons clean
Clog-proof technology
Multistage filter

Cons: Not everyone needs such a large filter

#3 Fluval 207 Perfomance Canister Filter

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With a large filtration capacity, this is an impressive canister filter for at-home aquariums of up to 45 gallons. Compared to some of their previous models, the 207 Performance is 25% quieter so you won’t be distracted by any loud humming and can admire the crystal clear water. The clamps feature a quick-release system making it easy to install and remove and the center handle makes removing the media stack easy to remove. A lot of people seem to like the powerful motor that goes about its business without any fuss, making it perfect for fish who don’t get on well with strong vibrations in the water. To top it off, this canister filter is fine for both fresh and saltwater tanks.

Pros: 25% quieter than other models
Easy to install
Good for freshwater and saltwater tanks
Fine for tanks of up to 45 gallons

Cons: Some people need more power

#2 Hydor Professional External Canister Filter

Buy it on Amazon

This is a canister filter for the serious fish owner and calls itself a complete eco-system in a box for a reason. It makes all the right noises from the start with easy priming but it is the build quality that a lot of people seem to find impressive. A lot of canister filters tend to come to market and try to keep costs down on materials but this certainly has a sturdy construction and when you see it has a ceramic shaft you know it is built to last. It is also one of the easiest products on our list when it comes to set up but this is no coincidence, Hydor has worked on this with the telescopic intake and simple instructions. With its no noise, no vibration, and a large volume filter it is fine to use on marine aquariums, freshwater aquariums and aqua terrarriums.

Pros: Easy to set up
Very quiet motor with no vibrations
Variety of options but can get up to 150 gallon
Premium canister filter

Cons: Can be a bit pricey for some budgets

#1 Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter

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A lot of people consider this to be the premium canister filter and when you look under the hood, it is not surprising. With an impressive multi stage filter you know that all different types of are being removed to keep the water clean. The 1,500 works at 350 GPH so it is more than capable of dealing with tanks of up to 200 gallons. The flow valves rotate 360 degrees so even a tight aquarium can reap the benefits and because it has a push button primer it is easy to get this thing going. The filter trays used are big enough to cope with qa lot of wear and tear so you won’t have to worry about replacing them for a long time and if you need to change the media at any point, it is easy to get into and the instructions make any amendments simple.

Pros: Good for tanks up to 200 gallons so great for large aquariums
Works at 350 GPH
Flow valve rotates 360 degrees


More products also worth checking out:

Canister Filter Guide

The best way of ensuring you can enjoy your aquarium is by maintaining it properly, and this starts with the upkeep. A quality canister filter can make a massive difference and the better ones make life a lot easier than you thought possible. The first thing you need to do is make sure you know what to look for, otherwise, a cheap or unreliable canister filter can make life difficult for you and your fish.

To take the strain out of keeping your fish’s water clean and making sure you get the right one for your tank and water type, the following guide should help.

What To Look For In A Canister Filter

The Right Tank Size

Your aquarium size might put too much strain on the canister filter if it is too big for what it is capable of and on the flip side, it might be too small which comes with its problems. This is why it is important to get this right.

The motor in a canister filter is designed to clean the water within a certain amount so whether you are using a 20-liter tank, 65-liter, anything in between, below, and over, you should find one that is right for you.

The Motor

To get a decent water flow rate, the motor in your canister filter needs to be strong. To push a greater amount of water in less time is the name of the game and only the better products can do this reliably. A dependable product will ensure it lasts for a long time without letting you down so for something you don’t have to fix in a few months, always go for one with a good reputation.

Noise Reduction

Any motor that runs is going to create a little bit of noise but there is no reason why it should be a constant annoyance. Many products will be near-silent even when running but make sure this isn’t at the expense of the right amount of power needed to keep the water clean.

Brand Reputation

As with any product you buy for your aquarium, a lot of the better companies ensure more durability, reliability, and performance so it is a good place to start. The thing is, every brand has a handful of products in the niche and some are better than others so make sure you check the brand as well as the individual product before buying.

Water Type

Although there are plenty of canister filters that can be used in both saltwater and freshwater aquariums, there are others designed for specific needs. We’ve already discussed the tank size but some as designed for outside use and the likes of Turtle aquariums.

Easy To Use

A good canister filter should be able to be left to its own devices without much interference needed from the owner. However, some have adjustable settings that can either make things simple or difficult and then there is also installing the product.

To make sure you aren’t trying to work out how to use your new canister filter for too long, look for a product that has a reputation of being easy to set up.

Energy Efficient

Your energy bills are going to be at the mercy of the canister filter since it will require constant use. Even when idle you need to know it won’t waste electricity which increases your electric bills. Even the filters designed for larger tanks should do so efficiently.

Canister Filters and Stock Rate

You can have a small tank that doesn’t require a big motor from its canister filter, but if it is stocked up to the maximum, you might need to consider something a little more powerful. Because the more fish you have the greater the waste they produce, the canister filter is going to need to be up to the task.

The type of fish you have often determine how much waste they produce as well as considering how turtles will produce more than a lot of fish so choose one to suit your stock.

Should I Buy A Canister Filter With A Warranty?

For a lot of people, this is an important factor. Because there many intrictate parts make up a canister filter, it is always best to protect your purchase by finding a product that comes with a decent warranty.

Some brands are better than others when it comes to a warranty with plenty of them offering 3 years and move. Even if you just have a 1-year warranty, it should help you to buy with confidence.

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