Welcome to the best aquarium filter reviews and buying guide 2018

setting up filtration

A good aquarium filter is extremely important, I like to think of the fish tank filter as the heart of the aquarium. Keeping it clean and healthy is so very important. The residents will thrive and live a happy life as long as their home is clean and tidy which means buying the best aquarium filter you can.

Choosing the right
fish tank filter to take care of any water impurities and also keeping a check on the nitrogen cycle so any food and fish waste is filtered out to keep the tank as healthy as possible.

Also, the pump noise is a big consideration as a noisy filter can spoil the tranquil effect you get from having an aquarium full of life.

So which fish tank filter is the right filter for you? Well, we've compiled together a list of the best aquarium filters that are available, with the pros and cons of each model to help you choose the right filter for your aquarium.

Best Canister filter comparison table

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Product

Rating

best fluval filter
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    Aqua stop valves.
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    383 gph
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    Instant prime
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    Quiet operation
fluval external filter
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    Filter foam pads screen out dirt and debris.
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    Quick prime button
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    Quiet operation
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    360 gph
fluval 406 external canister filter
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    Can handle 200 gallon tanks
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    350 gph
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    Instant prime
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    360 deg rotational valve attachment
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    very quiet
fluval 406 external filter

Fluval Canister Filter FX6 400 Gallon Filter

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    Can handle 400 gallon tanks
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    563 gph
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    smart self prime system
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    Multi-directional output nozzle
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    Built with a monthly maintenance reminder
fluval 406 filter
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    Quick disconnect couplings
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    UV Sterilisation
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    Can filter up to 200 gallon aquariums
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    525 gph
fluval external canister filter

SunSun HW-704B  5-Stage External Canister Filter with 9W UV Steriliser

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    Adjustable spray bar
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    UV Sterilisation
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    Can filter up to 150 gallon aquariums
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    525 gph
fluval fish tank filter
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    Advanced Hydro-Tech LCD screen monitor
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    265 gph
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    Can filter up to 160 gallon aquariums
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    Measures temperature and flow rate
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    On-board maintenance schedule
fluval aquarium filters
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    Adjustable telescopic spray bar
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    345 gph
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    Easy priming system
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    4 media basket

Mechanical Filtration

In this case the filter will be packed With filter floss to extract particles of suspended solids and act as a pre-filter for reverse-flow systems and trickle filters To achieve a good through flow of water and extended media life, it is important to pack all materials fairly lightly. Depending on how heavily stocked the tank is, the filter media will need replacing every one to two weeks.

Chemical Filtration 

The canister filter should be packed with an adsorbative medium such as activated carbon or specific removal resin. This may act entirely independently or as a pre-filter to an ultra-Violet sterilizer, in which case the packing should include some filter floss just before the water return. The chemical medium should be contained in a nylon mesh bag specially made for the purpose, but if this is not available then it may be placed between two pieces of filter floss. If this latter method is used, then the filter floss will have to be changed once a week to prevent clogging and a restriction in water flow; some filters allow for packing in self-contained modules. Replace the filter medium every two . months in the case of carbon but follow manufacturer’s instructions with respect to resins and other filtration substances.

Biological Filtration

The filter should be packed with a porous material that is also fairly coarse and allows a good water flow. If flow is restricted in any way, the bacteria will begin to die. Encase the biological media in a nylon bag to prevent it being drawn into the pump motor impeller. As this type of filter must be disturbed as little as possible, it is not advisable to mix it with other media that requires regular attention, such as filter floss if the filter is large enough and stocking levels are kept reasonably low, it is possible to use a canister filter as the sole means of biological filtration, and to dispense with the undergravel media, gaining the tank valuable extra water volume.

This is not, however, to be recommended to the inexperienced unless under expert advice. It is vitally important that canister filters are packed fairly loosely and maintained properly to ensure that the correct amount of water reaches the pump impeller. If the impeller runs dry, irreparable damage can occur, or at the very least you will have clattenng, noisy units.

Canister filter location

Always make sure canister filters are sited below the aquarium and not on the same level or above. This enables the syphon to work correctly. In an ideal world, the top of the canister should be just below the bottom of the tank the greater the distance below, the less water will be pumped due to back pressure. Equally, never use more hose than is absolutely necessary as increased back-pressure will reduce water flow and put an unnecessary strain on the pump. Friction will also cause much the same effect.

Maintenance

Clean inlet strainers and outlets once a week, or more often if required. All tubing should be cleared of obstructive algae and debris with a proprietary hose brush every three months. Lastly, do not underestimate the usefulness of the coarse pre-filter pad or ceramic pieces. These not only extract larger pieces of debris but also enable the pump to draw the water through the various media much more effectively. Never be tempted to dispense with the pre-filter stage to make. Space for other media.

Best Canister filter reviews 2018

When looking for a new fish tank filter, you will come across many models from different manufacturers. So trying to find the right one for your aquarium can seem like an ordeal.

It's worth thinking will you be looking to upgrade your tank size in the future? so a canister filter that seems too much filtration for the size of your tank you have right now might not seem such a bad idea if you do decide in the future to go up in aquarium size

I've listed the most popular filters that have the best reviews that are full of excellent features.

Fluval 406 Canister Aquarium Filter

aquarium filtration systems

pros

  • Aqua stop valves
  • Quick change mechanical media
  • Instant prime
  • Quiet operation

cons

  • Some don't like the clear filter tubes

The Fluval 406 aquarium filter provides a complete filtration system. For aquariums, up to 400 litres or 100 US gallons, this filtration system uses 3 stage media.

The media is layered inside the canister to give a mechanical, chemical and biological filtration. with the filtration being customizable. with flow rate adjust-ability to suit the tank and the needs of the fish you are keeping.

The mechanical stage uses a vertical twin foam pre-filters which absorbs more physical debris to prevent clogged media.

The Chemical and Biological stage has independent media modules which allow easy and mess-free access for media removal.

The design of this Fluval aquarium filter is user-friendly with aqua stop valves makes it easy to disconnect the hoses without worrying about any messy spills. when you need to do any maintenance and cleaning. This filter is very quiet.

The impressive high flow rate of 383gph gallons per hour with the option to adjust the flow rate depending on tank size. After initial startup and priming, the self-priming system takes care of itself so you don't have to worry about priming the filter again after any maintenance.

The aqua stop system is very effective at preventing any messy situations when you need to disconnect the filter for maintenance/cleaning. check out the review on the fluval 406 filter


Marineland Magniflow Canister aquarium filter

best freshwater aquarium filter

pros

  • Aqua stop valves
  • Quick change mechanical media
  • Instant prime
  • Quiet operation
  • 360 gph

cons

  • No UV sterilisation

This best aquarium filter from marineland offers filtration for the larger tanks of up to 100 gallons so will fill most tanks needs on filtration.

The design of this filter uses a polishing filter pad that polishes the water to remove fine filter debris and the Biofilter balls with the ceramic rings provides a multifaceted surface area for the growth of bio spires.

The foam filter pads screen out any dirt and debris. The multi-stage filter will handle both freshwater and marine aquariums with ease. The filter can be upgraded which is extremely useful and make this filtration system future proof.

There is a gasket in the lid that has to be fitted correctly otherwise the lid can leak which means it's not seated correctly.


Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

best aquarium filter 2017

Pros

  • Can handle 200 gallon tanks
  • 350 gph
  • Instant prime
  • 360 deg rotational valve attachment
  • very quiet

Cons

  • Base can be brittle

The Penn Cascade 1500 aquarium filter can handle tanks up to 200 gallons which are a good choice if you're looking to upgrade in size in the near future. it's always best to buy a filter that is bigger than your current tank size so you can upgrade without having to also upgrade your filter.

The flow of the Penn is 350 gph (gallons per hour) which will always ensure your aquarium is being filtered to maximum effect. With the benefit of using many different types of media, with mechanical, chemical and bio full filtration.

The quick push-start primer makes getting the filter up and running a lot easier without having to worry about trapped air in the system.

With the 360-degree rotational valve attachment taps make placement of the filter a lot easier as your not restricted on which way the filter has to be with the inlet and outlet pipes being rotational.


Fluval Canister Filter FX6 400 Gallon Filter

best aquarium canister filter

Pros

  • Can handle 400 gallon tanks
  • 563 gph
  • smart self prime system
  • Multi-directional output nozzle
  • Built with a monthly maintenance reminder

Cons

  • Pricey compared to others

The Fluval FX6 is a thing of beauty. They call it the next generation of filtration and I can see why, with all the additional features it packs however, it does come at a price.

The Fluval boasts being capable of filtering 400-gallon tanks which should be good enough for most of us! with an impressive 563gph of filtering, with 1.5 gallons stack of media in the basket trays in an impressive 21" tall canister.

It features a multi-directional adjustable nozzle that sends the filtered water to all corners of your aquarium this can help in making sure any debris in the bottom of the tank is agitated and filtered.

Self-priming system of the FX6 makes setting up the filter a breeze, it's all automated just plug in and wait for it the fill up the canister from your tank, It will pause for 2 mins while it evacuates any air in the system, once it is happy that all the system is air free it will then start the filtering process.

Another great feature is the clog-proof intake that is designed to siphon water efficiently but also stops any large debris entering the filter to make it a clog-free system. check out the detailed review on the FX6


Pingkay 5-stage Canister Filter with 9-watt UV Sterilizer

Pros

  • Quick disconnect couplings
  • UV Sterilisation
  • Can filter up to 200 gallon aquariums
  • 525 gph

Cons

  • Flow adjusted with adaptor lever

The Pingkay 5 stage canister aquarium filter is a nice compact unit that also features a UV sterilizer to control algae spores and bacteria. This 5 stage aquarium filter can filter up to 200-gallon tanks, with an impressive 525gph.

The pre-filter holds the coarse dirt to stop it entering the main filter which prolongs the lifetime of the biological filter material.

The quick disconnect couplings make it easy to disconnect the hoses without having to empty the canister filter.

It comes with a flow adjust via an adaptor lever so you can get the right flow for your aquarium


SunSun HW-704B  5-Stage External Canister Filter with 9W UV Sterilizer

fish aquarium filters

Pros

  • Adjustable spray bar
  • UV Sterilisation
  • Can filter up to 150 gallon aquariums
  • 525 gph

Cons

  • Filter media not included

The SunSun 5 stage aquarium filter can filter up to 150 gallon tanks with ease. With an impressive 525gph.

The four media trays can be used with ceramic rings, activated carbons and bio-balls to have an excellent mechanical, chemical and biological filtration system, to cover all aquarium needs.

The SunSun is packed with some nice features for its price, including an adjustable spray bar to control the output flow and increase oxygen levels in the aquarium.

With the self-priming pump takes out the effort to get the filter started and not having to worry about syphoning to get the filter started.

Works well for fresh and saltwater aquariums and is nice and quiet in operation. read more on our review on the HW-704B.


Fluval G6 Advanced Filtration System​​​​

quiet aquarium filter

Pros

  • Advanced Hydro-Tech LCD screen monitor
  • 265 gph
  • Can filter up to 160 gallon aquariums
  • Measures temperature and flow rate
  • On-board maintenance schedule

Cons

  • not the cheapest aquarium filter

The Fluval G6 advanced filtration system is one of the most advanced filters available. The first impression when you first see it is you've bought a printer and not a filter!

The technology inside this filter is cutting edge and also how they've designed it to make it very user friendly and intuitive.

This G6 model can filter up to 160 gallon tanks quit easily with a 265-gph, they also do a G3 model that is a smaller capacity that can filter up to 80 gallons. but also have the exact same features as the G6.

The features of the G6 is the full system monitoring that monitors flow rate, water temperature, conductivity and a maintenance scheduler.

filtration is with the cartridges there are two filter cartridges with media trays underneath. The mechanical filter cartridge is a pleated cartridge so you can take filtration down to a very fine degree.

The aqua stop valve system that fluval use is one of the easier to use it just clips in to top of the filter with a quick release lever to remove it. 

The one step priming function is just a one push of the button on top of the filter and that's all that's needed to get it primed and ready to use.

With the on-board real time monitoring if the filter senses any problems with flow rate or anything else it will give you a warning on the LCD screen. Also on the screen you can look at the flow rate and temperature in depth to see how the filter is performing.

The design of the filter uses a double wall insulation means any noise or vibration isn't transmitted outside to make it an extremely quiet filter.  For a more detailed review check our Fluval G6 advanced filter review.


Hydor Professional aquarium Canister Filter

aquarium filter system

Pros

  • Adjustable telescopic spray bar
  • 345 gph
  • Can filter up to 150 gallon aquariums
  • Easy priming system
  • 4 media basket

Cons

  • Expensive compared to similar models

The Hydor professional aquarium filter claims to the the complete eco-system straight out the box. The 600 model can filter up to 150 gallon aquariums with a 345gph which is a little lower than some of the same size. it has four media basket

Some of the features it comes with is a spray bar even though it doesn't seem to say so in the product description but all the models do come with one which is telescopic.

The easy to use integrated priming one click button which primes the pump ready for use.

It boats a ceramic shaft for longevity of the life of the pump.


Types of Fish Tank Filters

Here are the different types of fish tank filters you can expect to find on the market.

Power filters

Power filters are very popular filters across all aquarium hobbyists.  With their easy fitting hang on the back design, they will provide filtration for almost all tanks.  These are super easy to set up and offer biological, mechanical and chemical filtration.  With replaceable cartridges maintenance becomes a quick and easy process.

Air-driven internal filter

These filters tend to be smaller and as a result are ideal for smaller aquariums.  Do not be fooled by their size though as they are still durable and well built.  They are still effective and will deliver all that you ask of them to keep your aquarium clean and healthy.

Under gravel filters

These filters are designed to be kept underneath the gravel at the bottom of your aquarium.  Creating biological filtration due to the water moving through the gravel which is where the good bacteria is broken down in your tank.  Chemical filtration is also possible as some filters offer replaceable cartridges, which through activated carbon provide a dual function.

Canister filters

Canister filters can take longer to set up due to their more complex filter media contained within the overall canister.  However, this is a small price to pay for the benefits you will receive for using this filter.  This filter provides biological, mechanical and chemical filtration and has the multiple filters contained in one place as a result.  This does mean that the filter itself can be of a larger size compared to other filters but the convenience is well worth it.

Wet and Dry filters

Specifically designed as a biological filter which increases the beneficial bacteria in your tank.  Biological filtration concentrates on breaking down waste products in the tank.  Wet and Dry filters are named as such because they operate by using both air and water.  In particular, this type of filter is especially effective in saltwater aquariums.

So which is the right aquarium filter for you?

Making the right decision when choosing the right filter is difficult.  I have tried to list some areas for consideration below.

Tank Size and flow rate

Because your filter is powered via a pump you do not want to spend money on a filter that is too powerful for your tank. (unless you might be thinking of upgraded sometime soon)  It is therefore very important that you understand what the manufacturers recommended tank size is for the filter you are buying that this is suitable for your tank specifically.  This is why the size of your tank should be your first choice as the majority of your equipment will then be factored by this.

Linked to this will also be your water flow rate.  Each filter will process water at a rate of gallons per hour.  This is a very key consideration linked to the size of your tank and one aspect to consider when choosing your filter.  Each filter will declare its rating so be sure to double check this before making your purchase.

Filter Manufacturers

Filtration technologies vary between manufacturers.  Do not always go on the features listed on the box!  Invest time in researching filters.  Once you have decided which filter you require, read reviews and properly understand the good and bad points of each branded filter type.  Do not always assume that you get what you pay for, though this is partly true for most aquarium equipment.

Checking ratings on the packaging to help you understand which manufacturers maintain a higher level of performance helps your decision.  Manufacturers do maintain a similar quality across all of their equipment.  If you find a particular piece of equipment that you trust, then other items from the same manufacturer are highly likely to perform to the same standard.

Some recommended brands would be Marineland And Fluval, However, some smaller brands like SunSun have brought out some good products.

Decisions by using Reviews for filters

I would also recommend consulting reviews when making your decision on what filter to purchase.  There are some considerations when reading through pages and pages of reviews though.

People tend to be quicker to highlight the bad points than the good so take these types of reviews lightly.  Use the reviews to learn more about filters and you should end up with a general overview of any one type of filter.  If there is a complete dominant market winner then this will be made obvious on review pages.

What is more likely is that some filters are better in particular areas than others.  Only you will know which aspects are most important to you and you can concentrate on these factors as you read through the reviews.

Conclusion

The world of filters is ever changing and it is always worthwhile keeping up to date with the latest technologies.  You will have a unique set of criteria for your fish tank.  These criteria will determine which direction you decide to go with your purchase.

If you are new to keeping fish you may wish to go for a filter that is more straightforward to install and maintain. Whereas, a more experienced hobbyist will have a more specific list of requirements to meet.