11 Best Canister Filters Of 2024 [Tested & Reviewed]

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Are you struggling to find a reliable Canister Filter?

In this blog, we share the best canister filters from German engineered big brands to budget friendly value brands.

With over 25 years of experience in the aquarium hobby, I’ve assisted countless clients, hobbyists, and readers like you find reliable equipment that lasts the test of time. I’ve personally tested these products in real world scenarios to determine the top external filters to buy.

The Top Picks

Editor’s Choice!
OASE Biomaster Thermo
  • Integrated Heater
  • Easy Maintenance
  • The Pro’s Choice
Budget Option
SunSun UV Canister Filter
  • Great Price
  • UV Sterilizer

Let’s look at my top 3 picks for those in a hurry. There is no doubt in my mind that the OASE Biomaster Thermo is the best canister filter you can buy today. It’s German-designed with an integrated heater. It is the easiest filter to maintain due to its quick release mechanical filtration section. The Fluval canister filter continues to be the best value buy with its solid name brand and reputation. For budgets, the SunSun offers a great price with a UV sterilizer that will combat green water in freshwater aquariums.

The Candidates – A Quick Comparison

There are many aquarium canister filters out on the market. The list below was handpicked by my years of experience in the hobby and through various client builds. Many have unique features and others have great brand names behind them. The great thing about the freshwater hobby is that it has been around for a long time, which has given the industry time to develop high-quality filtration products. I’m here to keep you from eating your money on a sub-par product. Canister filters are a pain to replace. It’s a purchase you should only need to do once for your aquarium!

Below is my list of the best canister filters in the industry:

ProductAverage ScoreNoiseEngineering QualityBrandFeaturesPrice
OASE Biomaster9.19.510.09.010.07.0
Fluval8.67.010.010.08.08.0
Sun Sun UV5.82.05.05.07.010.0
Fzone Canister5.43.05.05.08.06.0
SICCE Whale8.210.010.09.06.06.0
Eheim Classic7.66.010.010.05.07.0
Eheim Pro7.57.010.010.07.05.0
Fluval FX7.87.010.010.08.04.0
UNS Delta6.44.07.07.07.07.0
Marineland Mangiflow6.84.09.08.06.07.0
Penn Plex Cascade7.05.08.07.06.09.0

The 11 Top Selections In-Depth

  1. Oase Biomaster – Top pick
  2. Fluval Canister Filter – Reader’s Choice
  3. SunSun Pro Canister Filter – Best Budget
  4. FZone – ADA Clone
  5. SICCE Whale – Italian Made
  6. Eheim Classic – The O.G.
  7. Eheim Pro – German Made
  8. Fluval FX – Highest Flow Rate
  9. UNS Delta – Hang On Back
  10. Marineland Magniflow – Successor To Magnum 350
  11. Penn Plax Cascade – Family Owned Business

You have the top picks and the list of all the filters I’m reviewing. Let’s look into each one in-depth below – starting with my favorite from OASE.

1. OASE Indoor Aquatics Biomaster Thermo

Are you simply looking for the best canister filter for your hard-earned money? If so, OASE Indoor Aquatics canister filter is the very best you can find today, end of the story, full stop. Just go buy it now and stop reading…

OASE Indoor Aquatics is a brand that has been quietly getting buzz among planted tank hobbyists. It is a very high quality canister filter that is made by German Engineering. OASE itself has been around since 1949, but they haven’t been in the US that long, debuting in 1994. This is a high end canister filter with a unique feature as it is the only canister filter that can hold a heater inside the canister.

I also like the pre-filter in the Biomaster Thermo as it can be removed with no mess. It is foam based, making it longer lasting for the user and saving you money long term on mechanical filter media. There is also a flow regulator on the unit so you can adjust the water flow rate. It is easy to prime and the canister filter overall is very well designed.

The filtration process is exactly what we are looking for in an external canister filter. It flows correctly into the 1st mechanical stage and then to the other parts of the aquarium filter. This is a function I see with all top end aquarium canister filters and the Biomaster is no exception!

There is a standard BioMaster canister filter, but I feel that the Thermo model really stands out with its integrated heater. The heater fits right into the filter. This keeps your heater out of your display tank. This takes that ugly heater out of your display and keeps you with a proven heater technology versus an inline that can be hit or miss. The heaters themselves are of excellent quality and backed by 3 year warranties.

The product we tested was the OASE Biomaster 250. In our testing, it ended up being the second most silent canister filter that we tested. The pre-filter option is one of a kind and stands out among all others reviewed and tested. The media capacity is above average. Not amazing like the FX of Eheim pros, but still at the higher end. The specs of their entire line-up is in the table below:

SpecsBioMaster Thermo
250
BioMaster Thermo
350
BioMaster Thermo
600
BioMaster Thermo
850
Dimensions (in.)9.4 x 9.4 x 14.69.4 x 9.4 x 16.79.4 x 9.4 x 199.4 x 9.4 x 22
Dimensions (mm)240 x 240 x 370240 x 240 x 425240 x 240 x 480240 x 240 x 560
Rated voltage120V / 60 Hz
Power consumption, filter15 watts16 watts23 watts25 watts
Power cord length6 ft. (1.8 m)
Net weight9 lbs. (4 kg)10 lbs. (4.5 kg)11 lbs. (5 kg)12 lbs. (5.4 kg)
Maximum flow rate250 gph (900 l/h)300 gph (1100 l/h)350 gph (1250 l/h)400 gph (1500 l/h)
Maximum Head Height5.6 ft. (1.7 m)5.9 ft. (1.8 m)6.6 ft. (2 m)7.4 ft. (2.3 m)
Connection fits5/8″ ID (16 mm)
Tubing5/8 in. ID x 13 ft. (16/22 mm x 4 m)
Filter Volume1.2 gal (4.4 L)1.5 gal (5.6 L)1.8 gal (6.8 L)2.1 gal (6.8 L)
Pre-filter Volume0.11 gal (0.4 L)0.13 gal (0.5 L)0.16 gal (0.6 L)
Suitable for aquariums up to max.66 gal (250 L)90 gal (350 L)160 gal (600 L)225 gal (850 L)

It does have a high price tag, but it is superior to the high end Eheims and Fluvals of the world. The main downfall is they are hard to find in stores. It is worth purchasing this professional external canister filter online given its lack of availability locally.

Pros

  • Has a chamber to hold heaters
  • No Mess removal of mechanical filtration
  • Second quietest filter tested
  • German engineering

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Hard to find in stores

Score

  • Noise Level – 43 Decibels – 9.5/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 10/10
  • Brand Name – 9/10
  • Features – 10/10
  • Price – 7/10
  • Average Score – 9.1

2. Fluval

Best Value
Fluval Canister Filters

Our Subscriber's Choice

Top name brand, Italian made, and updated design. The next gen Fluval Canisters are a best buy!

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For those of us who have been in the aquarium business for a long term, we are very familiar with the Eheim vs. Fluval battle. Both of these manufacturers have been debated among the community as to who makes the best canister filters and for a very good reason.

The Fluval Canister Filters are quality Italian made units. I really wish I would hear more about Italian and German made equipment in the Reefing side of the hobby with all the Chinese manufactured equipment, but I guess the freshwater community gets all the good names. The Fluval series has the best quality for the price among all others on this list.

This was also the most well liked brand from our YouTube subscribers. Check out the results of the poll I took on my channel. Fluval is the clear brand favorite!

Survey Sample

The Fluval Canister Filter steps up with this new design that now comes with flex ribbed tubing versus the cheap vinyl you are used to seeing with canister filters. It brings water down into the chambers of the filter to ensure the first chamber filters first as it should and it has a nice check valve feature on the drain preventing a flood in the event of a power outage or motor failure. 

Like all the other high end external canister filters, the Fluval has great filter media capacity. The instant prime system allows for a quick start-up and the lift-lock clamps make it easy to access. All the 7 series models are shown below for reference:

MODEL
Item #
107
A440
207
A443
307
A446
407
A449
Aquarium Capacity*10-30 US Gal
(40-130 L)
20-45 US Gal
(60-220 L)
40-70 US Gal
(90-330 L)
50-100 US Gal
(150-500 L)
Pump Performance145 US Gal/h
(550 L/h)
206 US Gal/h
(780 L/h)
303 US Gal/h
(1150 L/h)
383 US Gal/h
(1450 L/h)
Vertical Pre-filter514 cm2803 cm2803 cm21074 cm2
Basket Volume1.2 L1.8 L3.1 L4.2 L
Total Chamber Volume2.0 L3.1 L4.5 L6.0 L
Canister Volume3.9 L5.3 L7.3 L9.2 L
Filter Circulation**95 US Gal/h
(360 L/h)
121 US Gal/h
(460 L/h)
206 US Gal/h
(780 L/h)
245 US Gal/h
(930 L/h)
Max Water Column Height1.45 m1.45 m1.75 m2.25 m
Wattage
(120V/60 Hz)
10 W10 W16 W23 W
Wattage
(230-240V/50Hz)
10 W10 W15 W20 W
Filter Dimensions
(L x W x H)
7.5 x 7 x 13.7”
(19 x 18 x 35 cm)
7.5 x 7 x 16.5”
(19 x 18 x 42 cm)
9.5 x 7 x 16.5”
(24 x 18 x 42 cm)
9.5 x 7 x 19.3”
(24 x 18 x 49 cm)

One thing to note is that while the Fluval has superior canister volume over the OASE, it isn’t as efficient with the spacing. Fluval uses a module system to separate out their filtration stages. This results in actually having less media volume than the OASE. It is also louder at 49 decibels over 43 for the OASE.

The main downfall I see with this unit is that it does not have valves so you cannot adjust the flow rate or easily drain it when maintaining. The flex hosing also keeps you from installing an inline heater unless you modify the plumbing. Fluval also debuted a new 407 Model in late 2019 so you can pick that model if you want the latest and greatest.

Pros

  • 3 year warranty
  • Italian engineering and quality
  • All black design makes it easier to hide pipes in the aquarium
  • Uses flex tubing instead of cheap vinyl

Cons

  • More on the pricey side
  • Flex hosing while high quality can be a pain to deal with
  • Spray bar excluded

Score

  • Noise Level – 49 Decibels – 7/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 10/10
  • Brand Name – 10/10
  • Features – 8/10
  • Price – 8/10
  • Average Score – 8.6

3. Sunsun Pro

Budget Option
SunSun Pro Canister Filter

Budget Option

Cheap, yet effective filtration unit. Equipped with a UV Sterilizer for added water clarity. Its price is hard to beat!

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If you are looking for a budget canister filter, the SunSun Pro Canister Filters are just what you are looking for. This canister filter provides a lot of generous features for the money. The main feature is the UV sterilizer that is included with the unit. This provides additional water clarity, algae control, and some parasite and bacterial control for your aquarium. It has your standard 3 stage filtration and the gallons per hour rating on these filters is surprisingly high compared to canister filters on this list.

The SunSun comes in two models rated at 265, 370, 525, and 793 gallons per hour. The product we tested at the 370 GPH model, which we felt was the most equivalent to the OASE 250 that was tested. On the sound test, it posted a 57 – the highest of all the filters tested.

The main thing we do not like with the sunsun pro canister filter is the build quality. The included canister filter media is pretty cheap and almost suspect on a more demanding system. The canister filter does not have a stage separating feature so you will have water going through the stages, and some users have reported issues with the motors. We also feel that the UV is underpowered, but we believe the purpose of it was really water clarity from the manufacturer.

It is despite its faults, extremely cheap. This makes it valuable for budget-conscious sellers and earns the budget option in our review roundup.

Pros

  • Cheap with lots of features for the price!
  • 5 stage filtration that comes with a UV Filter
  • High water flow rate

Cons

  • Loudest filter tested
  • UV is underpowered
  • Instructions are horrible!
  • Not adjustable

Score

  • Noise Level – 57 Decibels – 2/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 5/10
  • Brand Name – 5/10
  • Features – 7/10
  • Price – 10/10
  • Average Score – 5.8

4. FZone Stainless Steel

An ADA Filter Clone!
FZONE Stainless Steel Filter

An ADA Canister Filter clone without the ADA price! And amazing filter to consider for high en planted tanks. Extremely professional looking

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Replacing the Aqueon quietflow canister for this year, the Fzone’s new Stainless Steel Canister Filters give us a clone of ADA’s famous Super Jet stainless steel filters. If you have ever seen planted tank systems in Japan, you may have seen ADA Super Jets in action. These filters are very popular over there, but they command an extremely high price tag, more than doubling the price of the most expensive external canister filters on this list.

Fortunately, Fzone has created a clone of the SuperJet, and it’s a fraction of the price. I find it pretty genius of them to offer this same style of canister filter at a lower price point. Its price puts it in direct competition of the Fluvals, Eheims, and OASEs of the world.

There are a number of reasons why this canister filter stands out among all the others on the list. The main reason is the external water pump. It is powered by a DC pump and since it’s external, you can replace the pump without having to replace the entire unit or wait on shipping from the manufacturer to get another. Fzone allows you to select any DC pump of your choice, or you can go with one of theirs.

The next factor is these units are made of 304 stainless steel. Stainless steel is the look for professional aquascapes. It provides a professional look in your cabinet. The steel also makes the unit more durable than others. You should expect the body of the unit to last a lifetime.

This canister filter offers a good mix of features and value. Because the pump is mounted on the top, it gives the unit the maximum amount of filtration media capacity possible. Because you can select your own DC pump, the gallons per hour you can run through this filter are way higher than other canister filters you can purchase. Do you want an 800-gallon per hour canister filter? Easily done by mounting the right return pump. You’ll need to buy the larger units to achieve this due to the inlet pipe.

This filter has the highest potential when it comes to the media capacity of all the units tested. Only the Fluval FX comes close to it. Same with its gallons per hour, it’s the highest you can buy. We tested the 10L model and hooked up FZone’s recommended DC800 pump. We tested 55 Decibels on our sound app.

With the FJ Canister Canister, you have to purchase your quick disconnect valves if you want them. It’s literally an empty canister that gives you ultimate flexibility. It won’t have a self priming / push-button primer feature or a fancy heater compartment like the Biomaster. As a result, there is more DIY involved with it. While it is a completely beginner-friendly unit, the filter media capacity offered is second to none and it is extremely quiet.

If you are really set on an ADA style, this is the canister filter to buy. It’s not as functional or feature-rich as the Biomaster, but it looks amazing and it is very quiet to use. Oh yeah, it is also the only aquarium filter on this list where the filter body is backed by a lifetime warranty!

Pros

  • ADA style external canister filter without the price
  • External pump
  • Largest filter media capacity

Cons

  • Need to buy and cut all your filter media
  • Pump is not included – which makes this filter more expensive
  • Not as feature-rich as others

Score

  • Noise Level – 55 Decibels – 3/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 5/10
  • Brand Name – 5/10
  • Features – 8/10
  • Price – 6/10
  • Average Score – 5.4

5. SICCE Whale

I was super excited when SICCE announced it was entering the canister filter game. After all, most SICCE products have been reviewed very well on this site. The Whale is a very competent first attempt by SICCE. It doesn’t check all the boxes for me, but it’s a good sign that SICCE is figuring it out.

The main benefit of this canister filter is how the intake works. The intake brings water down to the bottom of the unit. The water then filters up. This keeps all the sections separate and maximizes each filtration stage.

The filter is designed for ease of use. The fittings are designed to suction or pressure fit. You also get Sicce’s filter media with the unit, which is actually pretty good. While most canister filters you would want to replace the filtration media with better, the media offered here is serviceable which can save you some money over other choices on this list.

For testing, the 350 model was used. We oversized a bit on this test compared to the OASE, yet despite that it scored the lowest sound rating at 39 decibels. This is the quiestest canister filter you can buy today!

Sicce Model Specs

These filters have competitive prices and are backed with SICCE’s long warranties (3 years). The priming system is also mounted on the intake, which makes it more accessible than other canister filters. It’s a great choice as a canister filter, just keep in mind that SICCE is running through some first-generation issues with their quality control.

Pros

  • SICCE name
  • 3 year warranty
  • The quietest canister filter tested
  • Good starting filter media

Cons

  • Not as feature-rich as the OASE
  • First-gen model

Score

  • Noise Level – 39 Decibels – 10/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 10/10
  • Brand Name – 9/10
  • Features – 6/10
  • Price – 6/10
  • Average Score – 8.2

6. Eheim Classic

Eheim Classic Canister Filters

Eheims are known for their incredible reliability. The classic model offers great features at a reasonable price

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The Eheim Classic Canister filter is a throwback to the original canister designs. It is an old, but proven design and with a brand name that backs it. Eheim is best known for its canister filters and pumps. Their quality engineering, design, and durability are unmatched in the industry. 

The Eheim Classic Canister filters offer a lower-priced option while getting the quality Eheim name. The Eheim Classic canister filter pumps are extra silent and extra energy-efficient, so much so that it is possible to run even the 600 model off a simple UPS for several hours during a power outage. That means you can run your entire filtration unit during a power outage – that’s a pretty stellar feature!

For this test, we used the 250 model and scored 50 decibels, this puts its noise level at average compared to all the other filters compared.

The main downfall with the Eheim Classic canister filter units is the design. It just looks ancient and ugly. It hasn’t been updated in years and the tubing is an algae green color. It doesn’t exactly hide well inside your aquarium.  It screams classic canister filter. It also only comes with the mechanical and biological media, meaning you have to purchase the chemical filtration media separately.

Pros

  • Canister filters are what Eheim is known for incredible durability
  • Above-average media capacity
  • They use very little power

Cons

  • Ugly looking Canister
  • Green tubing shows like a sore thumb in the tank
  • Hasn’t been updated in years

Score

  • Noise Level – 50 Decibels – 6/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 10/10
  • Brand Name – 10/10
  • Features – 5/10
  • Price – 7/10
  • Average Score – 7.6

7. Eheim Pro

Eheim Pro 4+ Canister Filter

A higher end version of the Eheim Classic. Designed for high bioloads and built to last a lifetime

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For those looking at a higher end upgrade to the Eheim Classic canister filter, the Eheim Pro Canister Filters answer the call. This square model provides extra media capacity and is suitable for larger aquariums.

The pro units come with a self-priming feature which allows for the unit to quickly and easily start. The also has the ability to control flow rate with its Xtender control function and also has the ability to redirect water flow from different chambers to extend media life. 

For testing, we used the 350 model, which is rated for 50-95 gallon tanks. It’s larger than our benchmark Oase, but still scored well in noise at 48 decibels. It’s not a bad filter and actually cheaper than the OASE 250!

Because of the high-quality bearings and ceramic axles on the pump, this is one of the quiet and durable canister filters. Eheims have withstood the test of time, with many hobbyists reporting Eheim canister filters operating 10+ years with no setbacks. They come with a price tag, but it is as one and done as you get with a filtration solution. You will not be disappointed in choosing Eheim!

Pros

  • Above-average media capacity
  • Sounded well on the sound test
  • Cheaper than OASE

Cons

  • Quiet operation
  • Hard to find
  • Expensive

Score

  • Noise Level – 48 Decibels – 7/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 10/10
  • Brand Name – 10/10
  • Features – 7/10
  • Price – 5/10
  • Average Score – 7.5

8. Fluval FX Series

Great For Large Tanks
Fluval FX Series

High flow, large filtration capacity, and quality plumbing - The FX series is designed for monster fish keepers

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The Fluval FX Series canister filters are a top-of-the-line canister filtration system for those with aquariums with high demands. The external canister filter is built to last with its Italian made design, external pump design, and high quality parts.

The FX Series filters are well known for their high flow rate, with the FX4 model having a water flow rate of over 700 gallons per hour while the FX6 pulls 925 gallons per hour. This power makes it ideal for larger fish that produce a ton of waste in the aquarium. The filteration media baskets and tray design give the FX the greatest capacity of all the aquarium canister filters on this list.

The canister filter also comes with a multi-functional utility valve drain that makes it possible to empty the canister for maintenance and also to drain water out of the aquarium seamlessly without having to bust out your siphon. It also has a gravel vac accessory so you can vacuum through the filter.

The largest model, the Fluval FX6, is rated up to 400 Gallons making this ideal for folks who keep large fish tanks. The twin output nozzles allow for customized flow rate and prevent surface scum from building at the top of the aquarium. Fluval really has thought of everything with this design.

Testing was tough with the FX. Because the smallest model is the FX4, it’s really comparing apples to oranges. Still, it posted a 48 decibel sound score, making it one of the quieter filters on the list! It has the second-highest media capacity of the bunch with only the FZone filter being able to best it.

The main drawback with this wonderful filter is the price tag. It is easily the most expensive canister filter on the list, but rightly so given the features and performance. I also do not like that provides carbon filter pads instead of actual activated carbon. The flex hosing also makes it more difficult to incorporate an inline heater (though in full disclosure you would need multiple heaters for a large tank anyway). The industrial-like design makes it time-consuming to maintain.

Pros

  • Built for larger systems – larger model goes up to 400 gallons
  • Second highest GPH
  • Second best media capacity
  • Italian built with external pump design – 3 year warranty
  • Flush valve and adjustable valves

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Annoying to take apart for maintenance
  • They are massive – won’t fit in a tight aquarium setup
  • No small models for smaller tanks

Score

  • Noise Level – 48 Decibels – 7/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 10/10
  • Brand Name – 10/10
  • Features – 8/10
  • Price – 4/10
  • Average Score – 7.8

9. UNS Delta

UNS is a new entry to our list, replacing the now-defunct Hydor canister filters. This is the only canister that can actually be mounted on the back of an aquarium (for the smaller models). The larger models are designed with planted tanks and aquascapes in mind.

The fact that you can hang this on the back gives you a lot of options if you are running a smaller tank. Not everyone wants to have a canister at the bottom of their cabinet or make not have room. This gives you the option of having the filter media capacity of a canister filter without the hassle of storing it. It is like owning the old Marineland Magnum HOBs, but the Delta is far superior with its filter media capacity and flexibility.

UNS offers a nice video to show you how to mount this unit on the back of your aquarium. Check it out below:

For our testing, we used the UNS 90 model rated up to 66 gallons. It posted a disappointing 52 decibels on the sound meter. This was sad given it has a higher media capacity than the OASE – thought not built as efficiently with their chambers as our German-built favorite.

If you are looking for a high quality canister filter for a smaller tank, this is a great pick up. It can mount on the back of the aquarium and the white parts blend very well in a planted tank. For the larger models, however, I feel the other options from manufacturers like OASE and Fluval are better options.

Pros

  • Can hang on the back of the tank
  • Great for smaller aquariums
  • White parts

Cons

  • One of the louder filters tested
  • Larger models not as good as other brands
  • May need to be tuned down for certain setups

Score

  • Noise Level – 52 Decibels – 4/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 7/10
  • Brand Name – 7/10
  • Features – 7/10
  • Price – 7/10
  • Average Score – 6.4

10. Marineland Mangiflow

Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter

The successor to the Magnum 350. It has the highest filtration capacity of any Marineland filter

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The Marineland Maniflow Canister Filters are the successor to the Magnum 350. For those of you who weren’t in the hobby before the Magnums were around, the Magnum was considered one of the more versatile canister filters. The main downfall of the old magnum was the lack of media space options with its limited filter media space.

The new Marineland Magniflows addresses the media space issue with this very well built external filter. The new magniflow have a stack and flow filter tray feature which keeps water flow from moving into the various stages prematurely. The canister lid is a quick latch on and off function with a better seal then the old mangums. What I really like is the quick release function which immediately shuts down water flow and separates the motor for quicker and less messy cleaning.

For our testing, we used the Magniflow 220 model. It scored a 55 on the decibel app, putting it below average on noise. Marineland does not post their filter capacity on their specs, but from what we could tell looking at the model in person, it holds less than the Fluval 7 series, and OASE.

Marineland also does a great job with the starting media that comes with it. They use foam for mechanical filtration, which is reusable and the bio-balls are a good mid-tier filtration media. The water polishing media is sizable and cheap to replace, but I would have liked it after the mechanical filtration to keep our chemical and biological media chambers cleaner.

Another thing I really miss is the diatom feature of the old magnum filters. The diatom filter option was great for water polishing, ich management, and removing dinoflagellates. That’s what made the Magnums so unique and it’s really an underrated filter feature. It’s a shame it could not be included.

Pros

  • 3 year warranty
  • Auto shut down feature makes for quick cleaning
  • Quiet and clean operation

Cons

  • I REALLY miss the diatom filter option on the old Magnum 350 filters
  • Filters only go up to 100 gallons
  • No valve switches to adjust the flow rate

Score

  • Noise Level – 55 Decibels – 4/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 9/10
  • Brand Name – 8/10
  • Features – 6/10
  • Price – 7/10
  • Average Score – 6.8

11. Penn Plax Cascade

Family Owned Business
Penn Plax Cascade

The Penn Plax Cascade is a competent and capable filter. Penn Plax is a family owned business. A great purchase option for those wanting to support an American business

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The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter is a filter with a lot of features with a great price attached to it. While I can talk about what the filter has, the big draw to me is the story of the Company itself.

Penn Plax is a family owned business operating since the 1950’s. Started up by an engineer turned pet store owner, he brought his family into the business who still operate the Company to this day. Their main product was fabricating their own mold plastics to create a business making plastic pet products. If you are familiar with licensed pet products from Disney, Penn Plax’s name is all over them. They are masters of licensed pet products. The story itself is very much in the spirit of American entrepreneurship and being part of a family of entrepreneurs they hold a special place in my heart.

Going back to the Penn Plax Cascade filter, you get a number of higher end features like flow rate control valves, hose clamps, and a nice rubber feet base to make the canister study and quiet. The Penn Plax Cascade canister uses simple filters like sponges, which cuts down on costs and provides flexible space to put whatever you want in there. The price for these units is very attractive and worth consideration.

For our test, we used the Cascade 1000 model which produces 250 gallons per hour. It scored a 51 decibel rating, which put it at the average for noise. Like the Marineland, Penn-Plax does not post their filter volume specs. Looking at these in person, they hold significantly less than the OASE and Fluval filters we rated at the top.

Pros

  • Family owned business
  • Price
  • Features

Cons

  • Cheap looking design
  • Filter media is not as readily available as bigger brands 

Score

  • Noise Level – 51 Decibels – 5/10
  • Manufacturer of Origin – 8/10
  • Brand Name – 7/10
  • Features – 6/10
  • Price – 9/10
  • Average Score – 7.0

Which Aquarium Filter is Best for Me?

You may be thinking about getting started on an aquarium and wonder to yourself what filtration system you need. This blog post is mostly going to cover the freshwater side of things as saltwater tanks have totally different criteria (though in the canister filter’s defense canister filters do make good filters for a fish-only saltwater tank).

Determining the best aquarium filter for you comes down to several factors:

  • What fish are you planning to keep?
  • How concerned are you about noise and aesthetics?
  • How large is your tank
  • What is your budget?

Canister filters are often considered the best aquarium filters for freshwater tanks because they offer superior mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration – often times at a reasonable price. They are also well suited for terrariums and turtle tanks since the intake can go down further than power filters.

Benefits of Using this Type

Choosing a canister filter over a hang-on back power filter has multiple upsides.

High Water Flow Rate

Depending on the canister filter you select, there are some models that have higher water flow rates than others, which make them great for tanks that need a lot of filtration flow like African Cichlid tanks.

Some also come equipped with spray bars or outlet tubing that you can run on the surface of the water, which eliminates surface scum and aerate your tank. This can eliminate the need for a noisy air pump1.

Flexible Filter Media Selection

Superior canister filters hold a large amount of filter media space. You have the freedom to add multiple types of filter media in a canister filter. Most people will go for carbon, but there are other media such as additional biological filtration media, Chemi-pure, phosphate removers, and ammonia remover. These are just several examples of chemical filtration media you can add to a canister filter!

Easy Setup Process and Cleaner Setup

Canister filters are pretty easy to set up and go into your aquarium cabinet making them easier to access when needing to maintain them. A well-designed canister filter system will have auto-off or drain options that allow the unit to be cleaned without causing a giant mess.

Cleaning used to be the Achilles heel of canister filters of old, but as you will see, many of the top-performing canister filters I have listed here have features that make cleaning and regular filter maintenance painless and easy to prime again (some you don’t even need to prime!).

Long Lasting

The High-quality canister filters offer long warranties and are expertly built in countries like Germany and Italy. Both countries are very well known for building quality and durable aquarium equipment that has stood the test of time with 1,000s of successful field results.

We do have a budget-built system listed that is made in China, but they were included because several hobbyists have reported good results and not everyone is on a bigger budget.

Quiet Operation

This is the big separator between hang on the back power filters and aquarium canister filters. The top-tier canister filters are very quiet and you avoid that annoying vibration noise from a hang on the back filter. If you need a quiet area or sleep light, a canister filter should be on the top of your list for consideration.

Clean Aquarium Presentation

Most people who keep aquariums, especially in high traffic areas like living rooms, restaurants, and family rooms don’t want filtration parts sticking out like a sore thumb. A canister filter hides your major piece of filtration in your cabinet and you can work in an inline heater system to heat the tank without putting a submersible heater in the tank. You also have the option of not having to run an air pump with the aeration a canister filter provides. There really isn’t anything much better in regards to hiding equipment aside from using an overflow and sump, which is a whole other topic and level of filtration spend/budget.

What We Looked For

Figuring out the best aquarium canister filter on the market is not a quick chore. There are lots of manufacturers out there from many different price points. To filter out the good from the bad here is what we used in our criteria. We have tested over 20 canister filters and a dozen different brands. We looked at the following criteria for each.

Manufacturer of Origin

This is my #1 criteria. Call me judgemental, but I’ve been in the aquarium industry for over 25 years. I know the best equipment on the planet is going to be made and designed in Germany, Italy, or Japan. I’m trying to keep you away from cheap Chinese-made products that might save you money, but will not last. A good canister will last beyond the life of the tank.

Brand Name

Canister filters are made by the best of the best and the longest standing in the industry. In the fish hobby, these would be brands like Fluval, OASE, and Eheim. Eheim filters have been known to last over 20 years. I’ve seen several operating in fish shops and they rarely redesign their models. Why fix something that isn’t broken?

Noise Level

Noise sucks. Noise and media capacity are the two main reasons why people will buy an aquarium canister filter over a hang-on-back filter. To test sound, we ran the units through a watering trough with media empty. It’s almost unfair to run these units with media in because all these units come with different stock media. I also know filters can get louder over time as the filters build up gunk. It’s best to measure with no media to get the best reading from the motors themselves. Scores were all rounded up to the nearest whole number.

Decibel X App Shot
App Used

To measure, we use Decibel X from the apple app store. You can download it yourself if you want to test out the noise levels of your equipment and tank. It comes in real handy! Here is how each model tested fared.

Features

Some canisters offer high gallons per hour, others are designed for their media capacity, and some are easier to maintain. I look at all the features to see what stands out

Price

Let’s face it, an aquarium canister filter is expensive. You want a quality aquarium filter, but you don’t want to spend an arm and leg

The Bottom Line

Our Top Pick
Oase Biomaster

The OASE Biomaster is a great premium canister filter and earns our top pick. With a heater compartment, you can keep your heater outside of your tank. The easy to remove mechanical filtration section makes maintenance simple. It’s a staple in every planted tank we setup.

How to Choose the Right One for Your Aquarium

We have listed a number of good canister filters to choose from. Now the question is which one would be right for you? Let’s talk about decision-making factors.

Size of Aquarium and Space

The size of your aquarium is a major factor in your decision. If you have a larger aquarium over 100 gallons, the Fluval FX and Eheim Pro series are strong considerations or even a multiple canister filter setup. You will want to measure the space you have in your aquarium cabinet to see if you can fit these inside.

Motor Adaptability and Durability

The motor is everything to a canister filter. If the motor breaks early, you are out of a filter. To us, the motor quality is the biggest factor in our purchase, which is why we lean on Italian and German built motors. You run the risk of getting a faulty motor purchasing a Chinese made pump and manufacturers who do not have a multi-year warranty on their canister filters should be seen as suspect. We believe the OASE, Eheim, Fluval, and Marineland, and Cobalt canister filters offer the most well built pumps of the bunch and they are all backed with 3 year warranties.

The next factor is adaptability. We want our canister filter to have the ability to adjust its flow with a ball valve. Some units on this list do not have ball valves and that does limit the ability to adjust your flow and quickly shut off your canister filter drain.  

Your Aquarium Budget

Everyone has a budget and what they are willing to spend. You should take all the factors we mentioned in this post to determine the best budget canister filter to buy. If you simply want the cheapest canister filter out there, the SunSun’s would be the best to go with while the OASE BioMasters are the best canister filters to go if you are operating on a higher end budget.

FAQ

We included this section here to answer some frequently asked questions about canister filters. See the responses below:

Which one works best for saltwater aquariums?

All of these filters can work in a saltwater aquarium, but we feel that canister filters are best in a fish only setup. This is for multiple reasons:

1) Live rock and Dry rock are far superior biological media providers in saltwater aquariums than a canister filter can provide and is natural.

2) In a reef aquarium, a canister filter’s biological media could lead to excessive nitrate production, which would result in more required water changes and non-idea parameters needed for corals.

3) Many saltwater aquariums are built off a reef ready system or a sump, which does not really fit well with a canister filter

There are other uses a canister would be great for in a saltwater tank, however. Using them as a filter media reactor or to feed water into a UV sterilizer from the display or additional flow would all be good uses for a canister filter.

What is the top one for freshwater aquariums?

The OASE Biomaster filters are top notch and their 4 year warranty is great piece of mind. The OASE Biomaster is the best canister filter on the market if you have no budget concerns. For the best value, the Fluval 407 filters the best for the price value. SunSun is the best budget canister on the list.

How often should you clean them?

It does depend on your bioload and the type of fish you have, but you will want to replace or clean your mechanical and chemical filtration media at least once per month. Additionally, it’s generally not recommended to clean all the media in a canister filter at once. You will want to clean the canister and motor at least every 3-6 months to keep it running well.

We do have a preference of running foam/sponges over consumable mechanical media like filter floss to save on monthly expenses and to hold more beneficial bacteria. 

How Long Do They Last?

Canister filters are the most durable filtration system available. I have seen Eheim Canister filters operation with zero issues for 20 years. Your canister filter will last depending on the quality and how often you maintain it. German and Italian made canister filters like Fluval, OASE, and Eheim has passed the test of time. They are the best brands when looking for a filter that will last a lifetime!

Which One Is The Most Powerful?

The Fluval FX5 is the most powerful canister filter from a capacity and gallons per hour perspective. There are other filters that are more suited for aquascapes like the OASE Biomaster, but the FX5 is the best when it comes to large fish-only systems.

Is A Sump Better?

Yes – a sump is considered the ultimate in flexibility and capacity for any aquarium. However, they aren’t always practical, especially for freshwater tanks. Freshwater fish tanks typically do not have a need for dosing pumps, auto top-off systems, and or the need for space for denitrifying fauna and scavengers. A Canister filter offers everything you need in a comprehensive package for a freshwater fish tank and many are very reliable.

So for freshwater, unless the fish tank is very large a canister filter is actually better than a sump. In saltwater, a sump is far and above better than a canister filter. Canister filters can become a nitrate-producing factory in an established reef tank.

Conclusion

We hope we were able to provide you with the information you need to make the best-informed purchase. There are good reasons for these canister filters to be listed as they represent the best available in the industry. They all have their place in an aquarium depending on your needs. 

If you have any questions, please leave a comment in the comment section. We’re happy to assist you in choosing the right canister filter for your aquarium setup. You can also follow us on our YouTube channel for unique videos!

Do you have a filter model that you think stands out as the best aquarium canister filter out there? Let us know! Thanks for reading :).

Also Read:

References:

  • Aquarium Components: Filtration, https://www.fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Recreation-and-Leisure/Aquarium-Fish/Aquarium-Components-Filtration
  • Aquarium Filter Media Tests, https://aquainfo.org/7-1-3-aquarium-filter-media-tests/
  • Aquarium Nitrification Revisited, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0023281
  • The Isolation and Study of Nitrifying Bacteria”, W. Gibbs, 1919

Aquarium Store Depot is dedicated to assisting aquarium enthusiasts of all expertise levels in finding the best products to enhance their aquarium care and maintenance. Our approach to reviewing aquarium equipment, accessories, and nutritional products is thorough and holistic, ensuring that we recommend only products that we personally use or have rigorously tested. You can read more about our product testing process here. To learn more about our team and mission, visit our ‘About Us‘ page.

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  • A detailed 5-point rating system for evaluating aquarium products
  • Emphasis on manufacturers specializing in aquarium related goods.
  • More than 25 years of experience in the field of aquarium keeping and aquatic life care.

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can contact us via email – [email protected]


19 COMMENTS

  1. Hi. I am in the process of setting up a Discus only tank ( Adult Discus ) with some tetras and Cory’s and a Siamese algae eater. My tank size ( custom built 12 mm crystal clear float glass ) is 120cm×60cm×70cm. It’s somewhat a tall tank because diamond are mid level swimmers. I will be keeping 12 Adult discus. My question is about the filtration aspect and the biomedia used. Since Discus requires pristine clean water what kind of Canister filter ( OR SUMP ? ) should i use. I have already talked with Oase..their filter the biomaster 800 suits my need accurately regarding filtration process. My tank gallon capacity is probably between 170-180 gallon. Oase is backing me up with 3+1 year warranty on their product.

    Reply
    • Hi Raja. For 180 gallons – I would consider a sump. I personally have never run a tank longer than 5 feet without it. It will also help keep the tank a lot more stable and allow you to storage your equipment outside of the aquarium. For the sump – I would consider putting matrix or biohome in it. OASE is a great canister filter. It’s my personal favorite and typically what I’ll install unless there is a bigger need for flow – in which case I’ll opt for a Fluval FX.

      Reply
  2. Hi! I must say that your article has got alot of infortmation and has been very halpful. I have a fish tank of size 4×1.5×3 with a cabinet having head height of 14 inches. I have been trying to figure out a canister that can take care of my 500 litre aquarium and can fit in that 14 inch height cabinet. Please recommend if you think of any.
    TIA

    Reply
    • Most canisters will be too tall for the head height. I would consider a hang on the back instead. Either that or consider placing the canister outside of the stand. 500 liters is a lot for a hang-on to handle.

      Reply
  3. I have read this article and it’s very helpful for me to improve fish cultivating. Canister Filters provide superior filtration ideal for larger or heavily-stocked aquariums. Suitable for use with freshwater or saltwater aquariums, canister filters maximize filtering capacity by taking advantage of their large filter body or “canister.” A canister filter can upgrade or supplement existing aquarium filtration.

    Reply
  4. I am in the process of setting up a 240 gallon peacock cichlid tank measuring 96x24x24. I currently have an Oase Biomaster 850 (thermo) and a Fluval FX 6. I see no need to try to re-invent the wheel and Im asking is this enough for a tank this size considering the fish I will be keeping? I also own a Seachem Tidal 110. I am also going to be considering the impact this will have on my electric bill running 4 sources as the Oase has a heater.

    Reply
    • Hi Joseph,

      It should be enough if you can up the biological. You may want to consider upgrading your biological filtration over time with SeaChem Matrix or Biohome Ultimate. For a tank that large, I usually just go with a sump. You can also up the biological filtration by using dry rock for reef tanks. The rocks will buffer the pH and up the hardness, both of which your cichlids will like.

      Reply
  5. Hi Mark.ci have a doubt. I have a fish tank with 850L holding capacity. According to you which filter setup should I move with for a fresh water tank?

    Reply
  6. Do any of these work if they are at the same level as the tank (meaning the tank is not on a stand, and the filter and the tank are both on the floor)? I’ve got a number of tanks that I keep on the floor that only have internal waterfall filters, but they are not powerful enough to keep them clean. Most canister filters need to be below the level of the aquarium to actually pump water, and this is not a feature mentioned at all in these reviews. I’m looking for one that actually works without having to be assisted by gravity. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Angie. I know Fluval and Eheim owners who have placed their canister above the aquarium and got it to work. It’s a bit of a pain to get them started, but if you can manage to do that, it should work. Priming is your major issue when you can get a siphon.

      Reply
    • Hi Wes,

      That is true, most Chinese imported products are not going to be UL rated (or ETL, which is the European equivalent). It’s a way for the manufacturer to save on costs and sell for a cheaper price. It is very dependent on your insurance policy if they will cover your home in the event of a malfunction and something that is a case by case basis. That being said, most insurance companies will likely cover you.

      However, that is not really my main concern. The main issue is the quality. Chinese products tend to focus on volume of sales versus quality. It’s why I prefer European made products like the OASE and Fluval. Their reliability and reputation speak for themselves. I just get a lot of people always asking me what’s the cheapest and best value and that’s the SunSun in most cases. There isn’t really another canister out there that really fits the bill. I am looking into another manufacturer that could push out the SunSun though. Stay tuned! 😉

      Reply
  7. Eheim classics i think is the best so far, i have an fx6 and i’m not totally satisfied with filtration quality, power is not all that matters, perhaps eheim classic 2260, is the best for big aquariums so far, huge bucket for medias, with a strong bomb

    Reply
  8. Hi Claire,

    I would say both are dead quiet. The OASE wins me over because of the quick release pre-filter and the integrated heater. I hate having heaters in my display tanks. It really takes away from the beauty. I want to run my aquarium without any cords in the tank and with a lily pipe setup it’s super easy to just remove the pipes and intake when you want to take videos, pictures, or just enjoy your aquascape. I’m an aquascape nut when it comes to freshwater tanks. The OASE is a dream filter for many aquascapers. It is my go to canister filter now.

    Reply

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