5 Things You Should Know About Canister Filters
1. What Is A Canister Filter?
A canister filter is a type of aquarium filter that uses an intake tube that pulls water from the fish tank and runs it through filter media that is held in a pressurized canister, hence the name “canister filter.”
The water moves through the filter media and is then pumped back into the aquarium.
If you have a large community aquarium, large tank or care for fish that produce a lot of waste like Goldfish, then canister filters might be what you’re looking for as they provide the best mechanical, biological and chemical filtration.
Canister filters have the ability to filter much larger amounts of water than most of the other hand on back (HOB) power filters. This is because the body of the canister holds extra filter media to provide the extra cleaning power.
Most canister filters will allow for three media baskets inside for the mechanical, biological and chemical filtration noted above.
In my opinion, a canister filter is a far superior way to filter your water.
The downside is that most canister filters are expensive so you need to think of them as an investment and do your research before buying and make an educated purchase.
To help you with your decision I have highlighted some of the main benefits of Canister Filters:
- Canister Filters typically add an extra gallon of water (depending on the filter) to your aquarium volume, and that is never a bad thing.
- Canisters filters are basically little sump pumps, the water is sucked into the canister and pushed through the canister and back into the aquarium. This ensures 100% of the water passes through all three stages of filtration.
- Canister Filters have more control over the water flow as it is pushed back into the tank. As an example, the water intake is on one side of the aquarium and the outflow is on the other side. This ensures that water is always being circulated. HOB power filters release water very close to the intake which leaves little flow for some areas of the tank.
- Most canister filters are very quiet, typically no noise at all. If your canister is noisy then something might be wrong – check the manual.
- Canister Filters usually come with (glass lily pipes) clear lines so you don’t see any large tubes or boxes in or on your aquarium.
- The canister can be hidden from view with a large variety of intake/outflow arrangement available.
- Canister Filters are very low maintenance and don’t need to be cleaned as often, maybe every 3-6 months.
2. Why Use A Canister Filter?
There are so many reasons you should upgrade to a canister filter, but in my opinion there are two main benefits that make them a superior choice.
- They add more water volume to the tank which means it’s easier to keep your water parameters stable and much harder for toxins to build up quickly.
- They can hold a large quantity of filter media that you can customize to suit your needs.
3. How Do Canister Filters Work?
Alright so without getting too technical I’ll try to be as brief as possible.
Basically, water is sucked into the intake hose, tube and down into the filter.
Once in the body of the canister, the water is pushed through a large sponge that catches large dirty debris.
Depending on the brand or model of canister filter you are using the direction of the water flow can vary.
It can be pumped from bottom to top, back to front, top to bottom, center out or outside in.
After the sponge, the water then goes through the pre-filter media before it moves on to the other media stages you are using.
Typically, after the pre-filter media, the water is then passed through the activated charcoal, then maybe zeolite and then maybe a water polisher.
By pushing the water through the different media types it allows for the chemical, biological and mechanical filtration.
After the water has passed through all the media types it is pumped back into the tank.
4. Types Of Canister Filters?
There are many different types and brands of canister filters and most can be used for both freshwater and salt applications.
Below we have highlighted some of the best canister filter brands and models found online.
For each canister filter, we provide you with a brief overview of the filter, the pros/cons, details, specifications, our review, and conclusion.
5. Watch This Video: Canister Filter vs Hang On Back (HOB) Power Filters.
Best Canister Filter For Aquarium Reviews
The #1 Rated Canister Filter: The Fluval FX4 & FX6.
Click the image below to read our detailed review of this awesome canister filter and find out why it’s one of the best available today.
Canister Filter Review: Eheim Canister Filters
Made in Germany, Eheim prides themselves on using the best materials and precise engineering to guarantee the highest quality filters.
EHEIM canister filters are definitely one of the most consistent, reliable and long-lasting filters on the market.
EHEIM has many different models available but the most popular models are the EHEIM 2217 canister filter and the EHEIM 2213 canister filter.
The EHEIM 2217 & 2213 canister filter is part of the “classic” series canister filters by EHEIM.
These filters have one of the best track records around. These high-efficiency filters seem to run forever with minimal effort and maintenance. They have been precisely calibrated to provide the best long-term filtration resulting in optimum water conditions for your aquarium.
EHEIM Classic Pros:
- Keeps water crystal clean and is very quiet.
- The Classic Series of EHEIM canister filters have stood the test of time as one of the best canister filters for the past 30 years.
- Very low maintenance.
- Ability to hold many different types of filter media.
- Comes with media, separation plates, tubes, and all the accessories to get you set up right away.
EHEIM Classic Cons:
- The instructions are pretty useless, use the diagrams or just check out this short YouTube videos on setting up the pump for the first time.
Type Of Filtration:
Bottom to top. Freshwater or saltwater filter.
EHEIM Classic Details:
- Pump head has a fixed Permo-elastic silicon sealing ring fixed to allow for easy and safe closing after cleaning
- Can be equipped with either sponge and/or loose filter media.
- Comes with a spray bar, inlet pipe, hose as well as complete filter media and valves.
The EHEIM classic canister filter is tried and tested and operates at a high level of efficiency perfect for large systems.
The compact size allows for easy storage keeping it out of sight and out of mind.
With a proven record of more than 30 years, you know you are getting a filter that will provide you with a lifetime of dependability.
Canister Filter Review: Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter
Penn-Plax started in 1956 in a Brooklyn pet shop owned by a husband and wife. Since then Penn-Plax continues to be a leader selling their Cascade canister filters in over 4000 stores in the U.S and in over 44 countries world-wide.
Penn-Plax has many different models of canister filters available but the most popular models are the Cascade 1000 canister filter and the Cascade 700 canister filter.
The Cascade 1000 canister filter can handle aquariums up to 100 gallons and the Cascade 700 canister filter can handle up to 65 gallons.
Altogether the Penn-Plax Cascade canister filter series can provide you with heavy-duty filtration from 30-200 gallon aquariums.
Cascade filters are made of high-quality materials and provide superior filtration. The Cascade 1000, for example, can move more than 265 gallons of water per hour, providing you with ultimate filtration at an affordable price.
Cascade Canister Filters Pros:
- High quality, durable, tip-proof base.
- Flow rate cut-off valves allow for easy adjustment of water flow
- Quick easy push-button self-primer
- Very quiet
- Price is very low compared to Fluval or other brands
Cascade Canister Filters Cons:
- Priming is easy, you just need to push about 5-10 pumps to get out all the air.
- Some of the trays do not fit snug, allowing some water to bypass the media. This can be easily solved by sticking filter floss into the side areas.
Type Of Filtration: Freshwater and Saltwater aquariums.
Cascade 1000 Details:
- Push button primer
- 360-degree rotating taps
- Easy maintenance
- 110V Filter
When it comes to filters the Cascade is at the top of our list with the other brands like the EHEIM but the Penn-Plax Cascade 1000 is definitely performs the best for its price, making it the best performing canister filter for the price.
The Cascade 1000 does a great job keeping a 100-gallon aquarium clear as crystal. It’s slightly noisier than the EHEIM but once concealed in a cabinet it’s hardly disturbing enough to fault.
If you want a reasonably priced filter that performs just as good as the higher priced models than the Cascade 1000 & Cascade 700 canister filters are the way to go.
The Top Canister Filter Questions: FAQ
Why Should I Use A Canister?
Canister filters provide you with all three stages of filtration (mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration) and can be used for saltwater tank, freshwater tanks, reef tanks, or even turtle tanks.
Can I Use A Canister Filter For A Saltwater Tank?
Yes, However, there are many in the saltwater community that would disagree. Many believe that canister filters become “Nitrate Factories” or they are “not good for saltwater” this is simply not true.
Canister filters are great mechanical filters, promote better flow and also allows chemical filtration. To produce nitrates you need nitrogen and ammonia and since the ammonia and nitrogen are produced by fish waste and uneaten food, it’s simply a result of lazy keepers and not enough water changes.
What’s The Best Canister Filter For Freshwater?
As noted above we recommend either the EHEIM Classic Canister Filter or the Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter brands with enough capacity for your size of aquarium.
What’s The Best Way To Choose Which Canister Filter Will Work For Me? (Tips For Choosing A Canister Filter)
ALWAYS, go for more filtration rather than less.
As an example, if you have 30-gallon aquarium select a filter that is rated for 40 or 50 gallons. This will ensure you have more than enough filtration for the size of your aquarium and will cut down on required cleanings.
Are you new or a die-hard hobbyist? Think about how long you are planning on keeping your aquarium. If you going long-term than get something that is more of an investment then a temporary cost.
What type of fish do you have? Goldfish produce substantially more waste than other fish. With that in mind, a larger filter with a higher flow rate would allow you to filter more water quickly.
Don’t let the price of canisters scare you away. Canister filters will save you more money over time.
Most canister filters will allow for bulk filter media whereas (HOB) power filters typically require a specific brand. You will save money on purchasing in bulk whenever you can.
What Maintenance Does a Canister Filter Require?
This short video will give you an idea of a typical canister filter cleaning. Note: with canister filters, you really only need to do this every 3-6 months depending on the size and fish load of your aquarium.
How To Make A Canister Filter For Fish Tank?
Though I have never done this, here is a great video showing a DIY Canister Filter set up.