Fish tanks can be a beautiful addition to your home and are of course vital for your fish.
But they can also lead to a lot of work and stress. Fish tanks and their accessories are often expensive, can break in unexpected ways, and need regular maintenance.
Fish aren’t as much of a “set it and forget it” pet as non-fish owners think!
Tank filters are a great example of all of this: they are critical for the health of your fish and the cleanliness of your fish tank. They can also be quite expensive, and choosing the wrong filter can lead to all kinds of problems including:
- You scrambling to clean up a large leak in your tank (while working to keep water levels high enough for your fish)
- A lack of water flow and filtering (the whole point of the filter!)
- Unrelenting noise and rattling that’s distracting (maybe keeping you up at night?)
- A nightmare setup a project where you run into things like insufficient instructions or parts, or just a massively difficult and frustrating installation process
Don’t worry, though. We asked our veterinary advisor Dr. Chyrle Bonk, who is an expert in fish care, to review each and every major aquarium canister filter on the market so that we could bring you her personal recommendations.
Dr. Bonk selected the Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter as her top pick due to its three-size options, three-stage filtration, and versatility of use.
While this was Dr. Bonk’s top pick, we’ve also got you covered in this article with: her tips for choosing the right filter for your aquarium or fish tank, who may want to avoid buying a canister filter for their aquarium, and her personal picks for a number of specific use cases.
The 5 Best Aquarium Canister Filters
- Best Overall – Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter
- Best Budget – SunSun Pro Canister Filter
- Best for Small Aquariums – Fluval 07 Series Performance Canister Filter
- Best for Large Aquariums – Fluval High-Performance Aquarium Filter
- Best Quiet Canister Filter – Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter
Canister Filters Compared
Here are the top picks from our veterinarian. Compare the ratings and features of different models.
|Editor’s Picks||Brand||Rating||Capacity and Sizes||Fresh or Salt||Filtration Type|
|Best Overall||Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter||30, 55, 100 gallon||Both||3 Stage|
|Best Budget Buy||SunSun Pro Canister Kit||Up to 100 gallons||Both||4 Stage|
|Best for Small Aquariums||Fluval 07 Series Performance Canister Filter||95, 121, 206, to 245 gallons||Fresh||4 Chamber|
|Best for Large Aquariums||Fluval High Performance Aquarium Filter||250, 400 gallons||Both||3 Stage|
|Best Quiet Canister Filter||Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter||55, 55-100, 100-150 gallons||Both||4 Stage|
*Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 and based on reviews, feedback, and opinions of actual customers
In This Article
Who Should Buy an Aquarium Canister Filter
- Those who like to customize their media – Canister filters have a design that allows you to customize the media used for filtration. That lets you adjust the filtration based on the needs of your fish and the available water system. For example, you can pick a media that filters nitrates if you have nitrate-rich water.
- Those who focus on energy efficiency – Canister filters are an energy-efficient way to keep your aquarium clean.
- Those who want to maximize aquarium space – Canister filters sit outside of the aquarium, leaving more space for the fish and other wildlife inside. If you want to optimize aquarium space, a canister filter lets you do that.
Who Should Not Buy an Aquarium Canister Filter
- Those with limited space around the aquarium – Canister filters can be bulky, hogging space around the aquarium. If space is tight, you probably need an in-water filtration system.
- Budget-conscious – These types of filters tend to be expensive. If you’re on a budget, they could put you over fairly quickly.
Buying Guide: Research Tips From a Veterinarian
Canister filters are highly versatile and customizable to your specific aquarium setup, but they may also be a little confusing. In order to choose the best canister filter for your aquarium, you’ll want to look at a few things.
- Fish type – Some fish will have special requirements for space, water flow, and cleanliness. That will make certain canister filters better than others. Do some research or talk to an expert before choosing the setup for your specific types of fish.
- Aquarium size – How big is the aquarium? Be sure to choose a filter that is appropriately sized for your aquarium. Canister filters are generally designed for larger aquariums over 30 gallons.
- Budget – Aquarium sets quickly get pricey, and the filter is a big part of that. In order to get a high-quality, long-lasting canister filter, you’re going to have to lay down some cash. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good budget options out there.
- Ease of use – You don’t want a filter that needs a lot of tubes and pipes hooked together in a messy configuration. Keep it simple by choosing a filter that will seamlessly fit into your aquarium system.
- Cleaning ease – A complex cleaning process may prevent you from cleaning the filter as often or as thoroughly as is needed. Find one that comes apart easily, with filtration media that can be quickly removed, cleaned, or replaced.
- Durability – You don’t want to have to replace your canister filter frequently, so make sure you pick a durable model. Read reviews or talk to other experts to see how they feel about the longevity of the filter you’re considering before you buy.
- Flexibility – Different fish have different environmental needs. Some may require chemical filtration, while others may do better with biological. Others may need both! Choose a canister filter that allows you to mix and match filtration media with ease so that your fish get just what they need.
- Noise – Nobody wants a noisy filter, especially if your aquarium is in a high-traffic area or your bedroom. Choose a canister filter with less vibration and noise so that it won’t interrupt your dinner parties or a good night’s sleep.
Be sure you have the right tank for your fish. From Bettas to guppies, they need a home that mimics their natural habitat.
How Much Do They Cost
Between $50 and $250
Most aquarium canister filters cost between $50 to $250, but many fall outside of that range. Typically, the larger the filter, the higher the price. If you have a large aquarium, you’ll need an equally large filter to handle the water volume. High-efficiency filters and those with interchangeable media options tend to cost more, but the price largely reflects the size of the filter and the gallons per hour it filters.
Our Methodology: Why Trust Pet News Daily
As a veterinarian, I get asked questions about aquariums and filters quite often. I’ve spoken with fish owners and colleagues about the best options for home tanks. I chose filters that offer the versatility and filtration volume needed for aquariums of different sizes. Many let you pick the media, so you can customize the filter to the needs of your fish and the quality of your water. Make sure you get a filter that’s large enough for your tank and targets the impurities unique to your water source. – Dr. Chyrle Bonk
The Best Aquarium Canister Filter Reviews
Best Overall – Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter
The Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter provides three-stage filtration, where the water flows through various media layers. Those layers include mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration to remove the impurities and toxins that can harm your fish. The Magniflow also has a water polishing filter pad that removes finer particles.
This model contains features like stacking filter trays, quick priming, and a valve block that make cleaning and setup easier. Each gives the user extra control over the cleaning process with less mess. The Magniflow comes in three sizes, for aquariums up to 30, 55, or 100 gallons, working with fresh or saltwater aquariums.
However, a small number of units may develop leaks after a few months and may have trouble priming.
- 3-stage filtration
- Mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration included
- Quick priming feature
- Some units develop leaks
2. Best Budget – SunSun Pro Canister Filter
The SunSun Pro Canister Filter cleans enough water for aquariums up to 100 gallons and includes built-in UV sterilization to kill algae and bacteria. That allows it to kill a wide variety of potentially harmful substances in the tank water.
Three flexible media trays let you choose how you filter the water. For example, you can opt for activated carbon, bio-balls, or ceramic rings to put the right mix of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. The four-stage filtration moves up to 370 gallons of water per hour. Keep in mind that while the SunSun comes with media, it could use more ceramic rings upon arrival.
- 4-stage filtration
- Comes with filter media
- Built-in UV sterilizer kills algae and bacteria
- Needs more ceramic rings upon arrival
3. Best for Small Aquariums – Fluval 07 Series Performance Canister Filter
The Fluval 07 Series Performance Canister Filter cleans water in tanks up to 95 gallons. However, it does it with an incredibly quiet and efficient design that saves energy and money. This design also features vertical filters that easily lift out for cleaning or replacement.
The 07 Series lets you customize your media, too. The filter comes with several media types, but Fuval also offers a wide range of options sold separately for even more customization. You can also check out helpful setup and cleaning videos through Fuval to walk you through the process. Be aware that a small number of units may leak in the first few months of use.
- Wide range of media customization options
- Vertical filters
- Easy to follow cleaning videos available
- Small number of units leak within the first few months
4. Best for Large Aquariums – Fluval High-Performance Aquarium Filter
The Fluval High-Performance Aquarium Filter comes in two sizes, with the largest cleaning tanks up to 400 gallons. That means that the largest of Fluval’s high-performance line weighs in at 19 pounds and takes up some serious space around the aquarium. But it also offers excellent filtration, including Fluval’s wide range of media options from which to choose.
This model can be used in either fresh or saltwater tanks. It also easily starts with a self-starting filter that only requires adding water and power. Fluval’s design includes a utility valve that makes water changes simple and fast, too, while a pair of rubber feet reduce vibration and dampen noise. However, we’ve heard reports that Fluval has less than helpful customer service.
- Wide range of media customization options
- Self-starting design
- Rubber feet reduce vibration
- Poor customer service
5. Best Quiet Canister Filter – Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter
The Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter has nested basket filters to fit any of the four filtration options that come with the package. The filtration system runs “whisper” quiet, so it’s a great option for bedrooms or high-traffic areas.
The media options fit into the chemical, mechanical, and biological filter categories. Each filter basket holds a high volume of media for extra filtration. A spray bar prevents water from spraying out of the tank or creating too much of a current. It also has several water return options to customize the system to fit your setup. However, a (very) few units can develop leaks or arrive defective.
- Extremely quiet operation
- Filter baskets hold high quantities of media
- Customizable water return
- A few units develop leaks