Best Aquarium Canister Filter to Keep Your Fish Tank Healthy

Best Aquarium Canister Filter for Your Fish Tank

When you have a water tank of 40-gallon or above, you will benefit a lot from using the best aquarium canister filter. As the filter can be concealed and doesn't affect the appearance of the tank itself, it is also a popular choice for show tanks.

 Many people opt for a fish tank external filter and especially a canister filter because it relies heavily on the pump to push the water through the filter media, which in turn removes particulate matter quite effectively. The good thing is that you can create a custom filtration system by changing the volume and type of filter media.

 However, if you're looking for the best canister filter to ensure proper filtration process, here are some of the best options for you to consider.

Best Aquarium Canister Filter: Our Top Picks

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

BEST durable

  • Durable plastic
  • Impressive flow rate

Rated by: Amber

Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter


  • UV sterilizer for performance
  • A good flow rate
  • Quit easy to install

Rated by: Amber

Hydro Professional External Canister Filter

Best for locking

  • Impressive locking clamp system
  • Easy to clean
  • Quality priming system

Rated by: Amber

1. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Quick Summary

Rated by: Amber

With this filter, durability is not going to be an issue, as it is made of durable plastic. It is also capable of delivering excellent performance because of its impressive flow rate of around 312 gallons per hour. Setting up the filter is very simple as it takes less than 15 mins to do so.

Thanks to its capacity and impressive flow rate, you can use it on much bigger aquariums, which is up to 150-gallon size. So many users also like the addition of a spray bar that contributes to making aeration and movement of water simpler than ever. It also guarantees that all of your aquarium water is filtered in the least amount of time.

Moreover, the priming process is much easier for the user as this model comes with a pushdown button. Cleaning the aquarium is very easy, mainly because it comes with a product manual that you can refer to.

Overall, it's an excellent buy with amazing features, but the only minor glitch is that it is going to consume a lot more power (27 watts) as compared to many other similar models in the market.


  • It is made from durable plastic
  • It has an impressive flow rate
  • It is easy to use with a product manual


  • It consumes a lot more power than other models

2. Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter

Quick Summary

Rated by: Amber

With this model, you get a solid filter. This model contains an interconnected UV sterilizer of 9 watts that helps to keep your aquarium safe and clear. Moreover, the sterilizer's work is great because it kills micro-organisms such as algae microbes and other pathogens present in your tank's water and sand layer.

With a flow rate of about 370 GPH, you can be confident that this filter is a great one that will support your fish's environment. You can use this filter for tanks that are up to 175 gallons. Each model has a Prime Pump, which removes any need for mechanical funneling. By incorporating the Premium Activated Carbon, Ceramic Rings, and Bio-Balls from AquaTop, you can obtain outstanding filtering and crystal-clear aquarium water. The filter is very versatile and can even be used for tanks that have a lot of fishes in them.

Overall this aquarium is great. The installation is pretty simple and it also comes with a manual that makes the set up easier. However, one drawback is that it does not have much capacity in it. if it had more capacity, this filter would have been ideal for all tanks.


  • It comes with a UV sterilizer for better performance
  • It has a flow rate of up to 370GPH
  • It is easy to install it


  • The capacity could've been better

3. Hydro Professional External Canister Filter

Quick Summary

Rated by: Amber

This filter comes with a 4-locking clamp system that keeps it working for a longer time and supports the motor. Since all the points are sealed tightly, the user will not have to worry about any water leakage issues. It comes with a safety lock system that prevents any leakages. Setting up this filter is very easy, as it takes less than 30 mins to set it up, and it also comes with a setup manual.

Cleaning the filter is very simple since it can be opened and then cleaned from the inside. The flow rate is great, which is between 240 gallons per hour to 280 gallons per hour. With such a flow rate, it comes with a generous capacity. Unlike many other filters, with this filter, you will not have to worry about the noise, as it does not make any. In this model, you get three filtration trays that ensure that the water is clean. The filter comes with an incredible priming system.

While this filter is an amazing buy for all the aquarium lovers, the user might feel difficulty in finding its replacement parts in the market.


  • It has a 4-locking clamp system
  • It is easy to clean the filter
  • It has an impressive priming system


  • It is hard to find replacement parts

FAQ - A Buyer's Guide

What is the Best Canister Filter Media?

Going for the external filters for fish tank seems to be the popular choice these days, and that is exactly the reason why more people are turning to aquarium canister filters. The most important thing to understand about this external fish tank filter is that a change in media type will change the environment of your aquarium as well. And that is likely to be the case when you talk about salt and freshwater environments.

For canister aquarium filters, you can find different types of filter media, including biological, chemical, and mechanical filter media. Here's more about these media types used in an external filter for aquarium:

  • Mechanical Filter: The most important part of any canister aquarium filter is going to be mechanical filtration. It ensures that biological and chemical filtration process won't get hampered by large debris. The good thing is that if you maintain and clean it well, the mechanical filtration media stays reusable.
  • Chemical Filtration Media: In your canister filter, you will find chemical filtration media, which is actually activated carbon pads, mainly used to remove odors from your aquarium. The good thing is that activated carbon is capable of absorbing harmful chemicals as well, which leaves the water clearer. You can choose from different options considering your needs like granular ferric oxide chemical filters are great to remove phosphates, whereas poly-filter media may help prevent discoloration of water. Keep in mind that not using the right chemical media could remove helpful nutrients from your aquarium.
  • Biological Filtration Media: The media helps to create healthy bacteria colonies in your aquarium, which is important to keep your fish healthy. You can find different options to support the filtration process, like rock like biological media is quite popular because you can find it easily. But, sometimes, plastic bio-balls are favored, especially when you have a large filter with a good flow rate.

In order to make the best choice, you need to consider the water flow rate as well as the inhabitants of the aquarium. Going for a porous media is usually the best option in case you have large fish in your aquariums because it will allow for a good water flow rate. Similarly, you may want to avoid carbon and other chemical filters if you're only going to grow plants in your aquarium – the same should be the case with reef aquariums. Moreover, you should consider the needs of your plants or fish you have in your aquarium when choosing the media because it will directly affect the bacteria in the tank.

Is a Canister Filter Better?

It is true that canister aquarium filters are getting popular, but they may not be the best choice for all aquariums. However, if you're looking for a filter that is much more efficient as compared to disposable fish tank filters, canister filters make a great choice.

Something that makes canister filters better than many other similar products is that you can choose from various media types as per your unique needs. Moreover, the water will always be powered through the filter, which means it has a high probability of catching the waste. By changing media types, you will also be able to tackle different water problems, such as nitrates and ammonia.

Another great reason to choose a canister aquarium filter is the availability of the spray bar, which means that it can help spray the clean water back into the aquarium. It also reduces both current and splash and minimizes evaporation at the same time.

You will also benefit a great deal by using a canister filter if you have a large tank and need a powerful filter. Just be sure to consider your options and do your research to choose the best filter for your tank because you can make a wrong choice considering the information given by a participant in the Amazon who is concerned only about the affiliate advertising program designed to make money. Be sure to look for quality information and check the filters we've picked by linking to Amazon to make the best choice.

Can a Canister Filter Sit Next to the Tank?

For the best filtration results, you should avoid keeping your canister filter next to the tank. Keeping it lower than the tank will help provide the best results, but it also depends on the filter you choose and the direction of water flow in it, which could be center-out, bottom-to-top, outside-in, back-to-front, or even top-to-bottom. Therefore, selecting a filter considering where you'd place it makes all the difference.

It is worth mentioning that keeping the filter at the same level as the tank will create problems related to priming.  Once the filter is primed, gravity will lose its effect, so many would think it is okay to change the placement of the filter and keep it next to the tank. Yes, it's possible, but it may hamper the performance a little. You can certainly give it a shot and see if it works for you. If it doesn't, you can always return to the original setting to get the best filtration results.

What is the Best Canister Filter for a 75-Gallon Tank?

Choosing the best canister filter for your tank won't be an easy decision because so many factors can go into changing the outcome. For instance, you may need a different filter in case you have a large tank with 80% bioload. Similarly, the choice will be different if you're searching for the best filter for a fully stocked large aquarium.

Generally, you should be putting your money on a filter that is capable of filtering the water for at least 5 times per hour. Anything less than this is not suitable for your 75-gallon tank.  You'd need something even better and stronger if your tank contains large fish or even turtles that are carnivorous. In this situation, you need a filter that can turn the water for at least 7 times.

A filter with 350GPH is usually a good choice in case you have a heavily planted 75-gallon tank but with very small community fish in it. It should work just fine so long as you don't consider it overstocked. Still, you need to keep an eye on the nitration and ammonia levels and choose something better if the readings go up.

 In case you have a planted tank, you should put your money on a powerful canister filter, which is capable of moving around carbon dioxide while making sure no damage is done to your plants. Similarly, you need a powerful filter when you have larger predatory fish, such as cichlids, Oscars, or eels.

Understand that it is a good idea to scale your canister filter up a bit in case your 75-gallon tank contains a small turtle along with a community of cichlid. The reason is that turtles can make the whole environment look dirty, so you should be going for the extra-large version of canister filters to maintain a turtle-inhabited tank.  A filter that's capable of turning 400 gallons per hour should be the choice but opt for the ones with several filter media trays to help you use whatever pads you want.

It all boils down to the fact that a large 75-gallon tank needs a high quality canister filter, but be sure to consider the type of fish and plants you want to keep to make the best decision.

The Best Canister Filter for Your Aquarium

Using aquarium canister filters is a great idea because it requires little maintenance and lets you choose from various media types. Just be sure to consider what you want to keep in the tank and the needs of your preferred fish to pick a filter with the right capacity. One great option is to try AquaTop CF Series canister filter because it comes equipped with a UV sterilizer for optimum performance and is quite easy to install as well. 

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