How To Choose The Best Aquarium Canister Filters?

Canister filters are one of the most popular filters for medium to large-sized aquaria and are suitable for both freshwater and marine aquaria. That is why we are comparing the best aquarium canister filters to buy in 2022.

External canister filters sit underneath the aquarium, they draw water from the aquarium by gravity feed and return it with a magnetic impellor-driven pump. The body of the canister filter is simply an empty container that can be filled with the filter media of your choice, although most canisters now come complete with media. Many canisters, particularly modern types, have a series of baskets to hold the various filter media.

The Best Aquarium Canister Filters

Filtration media can be tailored to the needs of the tank, but commonly canisters use a mix of biological and mechanical media, and often all three types of filtration are combined. A canister may have, for example, a layer of biological filter media, a layer of carbon for chemical filtration, and a layer of sponge for mechanical filtration. Since canisters force water to flow through the media without by-passing it, they provide very good contact between the water and the media, resulting in very efficient filtration.

1- Best Fluval FX High-Performance Canister External Aquarium Filter

Moves a lot of water; Rock-solid construction. – it’s an absolute tank! very quiet considering how much water passes through it an hour. Very easy to maintain, trays pull out easily for cleaning and swapping media, etc, draining is a breeze

2- The Best Aquarium Quiet Flow Canister Filter

Powerful filter – Very quiet. Suction power is still the same as day one, powerful. Very easy to clean. This gave back a lot of room in the aquarium compared to the back-hanging filter. It dramatically reduced the maintenance required. And it is far quieter than my previous “whisper” product.
The quality of the product seems high and cleaned the canister once. Easy.

3- Best Marine land Magniflow Canister Filter for Aquariums, Fast Maintenance

Great filtration choice – Amazing filter! Quiet. Powerful. Efficient. Pulled all the tannins out of 55 in a day! Easy to assemble. Easy to clean and one of the Best Aquarium Canister Filters. Don’t forget to install the o ring on the underside of the blacktop.

Ideally, the water should flow through the filter media from coarsest (biological) to finest (mechanical). This way any solid particles will be trapped away from, and will not restrict, the biological filtration, and the filter will generally run longer between servicing. Usually, water flows from the bottom to the top of the canister, but a few have the opposite design. A canister can be set up purely for one type of filtration, eg completely filled with carbon, sponge, or biological media. If a canister is to be used primarily as a biological filter, it is still a good idea to include some mechanical filter media to prevent the biological media from becoming clogged.

Cleaning and Servicing of The Best Aquarium Canister Filter

The cleaning and servicing of the best aquarium canister filters are a little more complicated than that of other filters, however, it generally does not need to be done as often, and modern canisters make the process much easier than with older-style models. How often a canister filter needs to be cleaned will depend on how it is set up and the load on the tank. If chemical filter media are used, these will need to be replaced after 1 to 2 months in most cases, although some will last around 3 months. However, if these are not used, a canister may run for many months without attention.

The water turn-over provided by a canister will decrease as the mechanical filter media becomes clogged, when the flow is visibly reduced it is time to clean the canister. On average this should be done every 4 to 6 months, but maybe longer or shorter depending on the media used and a load of fish waste. Canisters that use very fine filter media will remove solid wastes more efficiently but will need to be cleaned more often than those using coarser filtration media. Where there is a greater load of fish on the tank, the filter will also need to be cleaned more often.

Modern canisters offer many features that make cleaning easier. For example, a shut-off may be present which cuts off the water flow from the hoses so that these can be removed from the filter body without spillage. Leaving the hoses full of water while the filter body is cleaned. It also saves restarting the siphon action that is needed to fill the canister). Quick release clips and integrated O-ring make disassembly and re-assembly quick and easy.

All the seals on a canister should be regularly checked. A faulty seal can cause water to escape from the canister, and water can then siphon freely out of the tank. Putting a pinhole on both tubes just under the water level will prevent the water from draining. Beyond this point, this is a sensible precaution to take.

Although the canister may only need to be serviced every few months, partial water changes should still be performed every 2 – 3 weeks.

The best aquarium canister filters offer the best flexibility in terms of tailoring the filtration to the needs of the tank, and, if set up correctly, can provide excellent biological filtration. In fact, marine tanks, are generally the best filtration system. The only exception is in reef tanks where corals are primarily or exclusively kept. Where the fish load is low or nil, less biological filtration is needed and so a canister may not be needed. Some reef aquariums utilize natural organisms in the live rock and sand in addition to protein skimming and do away with “traditional” filtration. However, canisters are sometimes still used purely for mechanical and chemical filtration. Also to provide a degree of biological filtration where a mix of fish and corals are kept.

The initial cost of canisters is relatively high when compared with internal or overflow filters. Although new models are now cheaper than at any time in the past. Because of the expense, they are most popular on larger tanks and marine tanks, but they are suitable for medium-sized tanks also.

Getting the most out of this filter system:

Choose a suitable model for the size of your tank and the number of fish . Remember that good filtration requires turning your tank volume over two to three times an hour. Take into account the fact that water flow will reduce over time. Buying a canister with greater water turnover or more media volume will mean it can run longer between services.

Choose media to suit the needs of your fish. For example, use more mechanical media where messy fish are kept, and more biological media for small fish and marine fish. Remember that chemical media is not essential. It will be beneficial if replaced regularly. But if left too long in the canister can leach toxins back into the tank.

Clean around the impeller every 2-3 months to ensure it runs smoothly, and replace the impellor if necessary.


Problem: Filter does not run, IE. the impellor is not turning

Possible causes & remedies:
1. Check power supply, make sure filter is plugged in and turned on at the power
2. Impellor may be jammed: gentle shaking will sometimes start the filter, but the impellor or impellor well may need to be cleaned.
3. Faulty/worn impellor or broken shaft: check the condition of the impellor and shaft and replace if needed.
4. Burnt-out motor or broken wiring: these cannot be repaired, you will need to replace the filter.

Problem: Impellor turns but little or no water movement occurs

Possible causes & remedies:
1. Clogged filter media may be restricting water flow: rinse media in aquarium water, replace the fine poly pad if needed
2. Restriction of water intake or hoses: clean any debris from the intake, flush out hoses, or clean with a flexible brush
3. Air blocks in canister: tip the canister on its side or rock side-to-side to dislodge air blockages
4. Faulty/worn impellor: Check the impellor, ensure the fan is fixed to the impellor, and replace the impellor if needed.

Problem: Filter produces excessive noise

Possible causes & remedies:
1. Clogged filter media or intake causing flow restriction and back pressure. Clean media in aquarium water, replace the fine poly pad if needed, and remove debris that is clogging the intake.
2. Faulty/worn impellor or shaft: check the condition of the impellor and shaft and replace them if needed.
3. Air blocks in canister: tip the canister on its side or rock side-to-side to dislodge air blockages

Problem: The filter is running properly, but the aquarium does not stay clean

Possible causes & remedies:
1. Old or clogged media: Rinse the media in water from the aquarium, and replace fine poly pad or other mechanical media as needed.
2. Brand new media not seeded with bacteria, media cleaned of good bacteria: When the filter is brand new, good bacteria will not be present and the filter will not work as well. Good bacteria help to break down wastes and to trap fine particles. If you clean the media with chlorinated tap water or detergents, or if the media is allowed to dry out, or is deprived of oxygen this will kill off the good bacteria and lead to decreased filter performance. You can add cultures of good bacteria to help these establish (or re-establish) in the filter.
3. Not enough filtration for tank load. If the filter is not an appropriate model for the tank size, if the tank is overcrowded or stocked with very messy species, or if the tank is overfed, the filtration may not be adequate, even if the filter is running properly. Increase frequency of maintenance, reduce the load on the tank or upgrade filtration.

Problem: Water leaks from hoses, taps, or canister head

Possible causes & remedies:
1. Loose connections: check that taps and fitting are all properly connected, taps are screwed or clipped in properly, and are not cross-threaded. Make sure the head is seated properly on the canister body.
2. Worn or improperly sealed O-rings: check the condition of o-rings, lubricate or replace them if worn
3. Cracked canister body or connections: Replace the damaged components. Many of you will be aware that we recommend a large number of Via Aqua canisters as these offer a great design, great performance, and reliability for a very good price.

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