Polar Aurora Free Media 265GPH / 370GPH / 525GPH External Aquarium Filter with Builtin Pump Kit Canister (370GPH)View on Amazon
- BrandPolar Aurora
Cascade CCF2UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 65 Gallons, Filters 185 GPHView on Amazon
- BrandPolar Aurora
Last update on 2021-11-28 / Affiliate links / Images, Product Titles, and Product Highlights from Amazon Product Advertising API
Filters are the necessary evil of aquariums. While hobbyists and aquarium enthusiasts can talk in-depth about which type of filter is best, some have already decided they’re set on a canister filter. So, which canister filter is best for your tank? Well, everything you need to find out is right here!
Like most aspects of building your aquarium, not all filters are made equal. We’ve found the best canister filters on the market that cover a wide range of budgets and needs. See which one is best for you, but first read through this evaluation on what makes a high-value filter!
- Large Media Capacity: Canister filters are designed to hold filter media in larger quantities than other kinds of filters.
- Better Mechanical Filtration: Because they can hold larger quantities of filter media, they provide better mechanical filtration, they also have enough room for biological filtration.
- Higher Flow Rate: With flow rates of 100 gallons per hour and higher, canister filters for fish tanks provide faster filtration to make sure that your water is always clean and crystal clear.
- Quiet Operation: One of the major reasons why you cannot hear the sound of a canister filter is that they can basically be kept in cabinets. Nevertheless, the motor also plays a vital role in making the system function as quietly as possible.
- Easy to Maintain, Access, and Clean: Because this system is outside of the aquarium, it is much easier to access. If you want to clean and maintain, all you have to do is to shut it down. After cleaning, you can just hook it back up.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Canister Filter
At first, canister filters were too complicated, expensive, and too large to use at home. Nevertheless, as time goes on, manufacturers have looked for better ways to improve the product, making it easy to install and set up, customizable, and affordable. Here are some things you should consider before getting a canister filter.
- Storage: When opting for a canister filter, make sure you have enough space to store it. Ensure your cabinet or stand has sufficient room to fit the filter.
- Tank Size: When choosing a canister filter, make sure you choose the one that is rated for the size of your tank. All filters contain this information on the packaging, review, or box. So make sure you lookout for the rating of the filter and ensure it matches the size of your tank before buying. If you don’t find a filter for your exact tank size, some filters have a range (for example, 60 to 90 gallons), if your tank size falls within that range, then you can go for it.
- The Motor: When looking for a canister filter for planted tanks, you need to put the motor into consideration. You need to go for a canister filter with an energy-efficient motor. The filter will be functioning all day long, so you do not want something that will increase your bill.
Frequently Asked Questions
While we’re all focused on staying within a budget, there is also the need for a clean tank and properly filtered water. The best value for your dollar depends on these few things:
- Whether your tank is salt or freshwater
- How large your tank is
- What type of habitat you’re building
- How much space you have to house a filter
These raise a lot of questions, but not to worry, they are all easily answered! The best value you’re going to get is by selecting one filter that fits all of your needs seamlessly.
1. Is your tank salt or freshwater?
With a canister filter, this isn’t a make or break. Some work exceptionally well for saltwater with the right media types.
But, overall the canister filter’s diversity comes out here. Many saltwater aquarium owners will use two filters. A standard power filter for running all the time and an additional canister filter that runs occasionally.
Overall, it’s your choice and there are many options out there beneficial for either.
2. How large is your tank?
Canister filters are well-known for being large. This means that you’re probably not going to get a lot of use out of having specifically a canister filter for a small tank. We recommend evaluating canister filters for tanks of at least 55 gallons or more.
You can control the flow rate of canister filters if you’re worried about your tank's flow being disrupted in a smaller environment.
3. Why are the type of habitat you building?
There are options available for using a canister filter for tropical tanks, reef tanks, turtle tanks, and any other type of tank you could come across.
However, when you’re specifically handling turtles you’re going to be looking at filters branded for turtle tanks.
4. How much space you have to house your filter…
This is usually where people see a canister filter and decide to go with something else instead. Canister filters range in size but most are about one foot wide, by one foot in length, and one foot tall.
If you don’t have a cupboard or storage space under or near your tank a canister filter can be visually unappealing. There are smaller options out there but they aren’t as powerful and they aren’t most people’s first choice.
5. How does a canister filter work?
Canister filters look complicated but in truth, they’re really simple. There are three simple steps that all canister filters follow:
- Dirty aquarium water is sucked into the filter from an intake valve or tube.
- The water is processed through media compartments. Most canister filters have three media compartments where you can choose what is put into place.
- Clean water is returned to the tank.
Because the entire system is sealed, these filters have to rely on a pump. The motors are usually low in electric use and can run efficiently.
6. What is the purpose of having a Canister filter instead of another type of aquarium filter?
Large tanks are where canister filters can really shine. They can quickly process a large volume of water, and the multiple media compartments mean you can customize your filtration.
People often utilize the different media compartments to deliver high-impact biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration for their tank.
Many aquarium enthusiasts also enjoy using a canister filter because they require a little more hands-on work. If you really enjoy working with your aquarium, a canister filter might be one of your top choices.
Besides choosing the right filter for the best value several other concerns scare people off from a canister filter. The biggest concerns with a canister filter that beginners have are:
- Complicated setup
These seem like big issues but they’re really simple. All the steps from setup to cleaning (maintaining your filter) are laid out here. Taking the time to read through can put your mind at ease in choosing the right filter for your tank!
7. How to set up a canister filter?
If you’re new to canister filters, we recommend taking a few approaches to read instructions. Odds are when you get your canister filter the instructions will be incomplete and confusing.
This is a common complaint!
As each is a little different YouTube can be a great help to assist with having someone fill in the gaps of instructions.
But here is what everyone needs when setting up a canister filter:
- Canister filter body
- Intake assembly
- Output assembly
- Media trays (sometimes baskets)
- Hose clamps
- Hose clips
- Ceramic Rings
- Media bags
- Foam (inserts)
- Activated carbon
Most, if not all, of the items listed above, should be included in the canister filter kit. If anything is missing, it’s probably the hoses which can sometimes be a good thing.
Hoses that come with kits can be really stiff. Although you want thick tubing it should be easy to move.
After you’ve identified all of your pieces be sure your tank is filled to the maximum water level. Then you’ll want to insert your media into each compartment or basket.
What order does the filter media go in during setup?
It’s recommended to have your mechanical media first so that your biological and chemical Media aren’t worn down as quickly.
This way the larger debris is caught and eliminated quickly.
Afterward, your next layer should be a biological factor. Using bio-balls, BioHome, or ceramic rings you’re maintaining as much of your chemical media as possible.
Finally, you use your chemical media. Activated carbon is the most popular choice and should be placed in a filter bag.
Input, Output, and Starting Up
Your final steps are really dependent on your filter’s setup instructions. This is the part where your hoses or valves come into play.
Some skim across the top of the aquarium’s surface while others rest under the gravel to limit water disruption.
Once you have your hoses or valves set up you’re ready to power up and watch your tank become clearer!
8. How to clean a canister filter
The health of your fish is definitely of the highest importance! While you know you’re going to be using a canister filter, but maybe not which one yet, you’ve probably worried about the cleaning process.
Canister filters, unlike power filters, are large containers made up of very small spaces that need cleaning.
You’ll need these items:
- Bottlebrush scrub (with a smaller end is best!)
- Scrub pad
- Q-tips/cotton swabs
Then follow these easy steps:
Step One: Kill the Power
That’s right, don’t just shut it off. Unplug it from the power source and quickly check your seals to make sure that nothing is leaking.
Step Two: Check Your Valves
Flip all of your valves into the “off” position. If you forget this step you will definitely need more towels!
Small leaks, especially in your valves, can best be found right before cleaning. This is part of the maintenance in ensuring the life of your filter.
Step Three: Removing tubes or hoses
Pull your pipes out by twisting the lock until it is loose. You’ll see some water here but not much.
Sometimes it can be a little concerning how much pressure can be needed to remove the hoses. Remember that hoses are replaceable and some valve systems are easier to use than others.
Step Four: Move to a Good Water Source and Pull out the Motor
Unless you’re already near a hose, bring your filter over to a sink or outside near a hose. Then unlock your canister and pull apart the housing.
Pull out all of your compartments or baskets and lay them to the side for now. This is a great time to check that all of your media is handling the pressure and needs of your tank well.
Step Five: The Actual Cleaning
That’s right everything up until now has been prep. But, now that you can get into your baskets and the bottom of your filter you can use the high pressure from your sink and a scrub pad to get the bulk of debris out.
To clean the delicate parts like the impeller you’ll want to gently go over them with the bottle brush or a toothbrush. Cleaning the small part is a big preventative measure that can extend the life of your motor.
Go over the smaller compartments such as the impeller hole and connector holes. A lot of gunk pools up in these areas and it’s best to clean them with a q-tip.
Afterward, clean the biological media basket. There is some fear that you’ll lose the beneficial bacteria but you can always place the media in a bucket of aquarium water as long as you discard the water after.
Finally, ensure that your canister is clean by going over all parts of it first with high-pressure water and then wiping it clean with a towel.
Step six: Reassembly!
To get your filter going again it’s not quite as difficult as your first setup. You restore all of your media, place the compartments back, and are sure your valves are back in their “on” position. Then get your filter going.
The Fluval 06 Series external filter is the clear winner from this list. Although it comes in price heavy it meets all the requirements that an aquarium owner would have.
This versatility makes it an option for any type of habitat, and the fluctuation in size makes it scalable to your tank without changing models. It’s quiet and although it is bulky the solid black design means that even if it is dirty it not an eyesore.
One aspect that makes the Fluval 06 Series canister filter really stand out from the competition was its ease of maintenance. The valves, and lift handles make cleaning less of a mess and handling it easier.
In comparison to its competition here, the Fluval isn’t one of the smallest but it is a reasonable size of 7.6 inches long by 14.5 inches wide and 16.2 inches high.
Fluval has more information on their 06 canister series here! While the Fluval 06 Series is our choice it’s always recommended to choose a filter that works best for your tank, habitat and is powerful for the size of your aquarium.