Top products you should consider
In case you’re prospecting the market for the best external canister filter yet you’ve already spent hours without reaching a conclusion, then we’re here to help. We’ve searched the internet for some of the latest models, compared their designs, features, and prices, and have created a list of what we think are the best filters out there. Dr. Fox recommends that you choose the Hydor Professional 350 C02301 for your aquarium. It comes with a sturdy design, high flow rate and all the filter media you need to get your aquarium started. Since it’s never a good idea to put ‘all eggs in one basket,’ we’ve come with a second recommendation in case the first runs out of stock: the Fluval 406 A217.
Dr. Fox Recommends – Comparison & Yearly Report
Hydor Professional 350 C02301 (B00D5WHC8S)
As the name implies, this filter has a professional-grade design that’s suited to both marine and freshwater aquariums. This highly-versatile external filter provides high performance with minimal maintenance requirements. Able to handle 100-gallon aquariums, the self-priming pump can reach a flow rate of 280 gallons per hour.
Thanks to the telescopic intake, you won’t have a mess of tubing to handle every time you need to change the position of the canister or to clean the filters. The Hydor Professional 350 will easily fit beside, below or in the back of your aquarium, thanks to its compact build and rectangular shape.
The motor benefits from the latest ceramic shafts which guarantee a long service life. The filtering chamber is large, able to accommodate various numbers and configurations of filter media so that you can provide your aquatic species with a healthy environment that’s free of debris and harmful chemicals.
Fluval 406 A217 (B005QRDCWA)
The Fluval 406 is a new-generation filter which benefits from some of the latest improvements in both motor and filter media technologies. Its powerful motor can easily manage any aquarium of up to 100 gallons, with a flow capacity of up to 383 gallons per hour.
The improved design can hold between 35 and 50 percent more volume compared to external filter canisters of the same size. In addition to a larger capacity, this filter also boasts a more efficient filtering system in which filter media get a lot more contact area with water, ensuring a thorough removal of any debris or chemical residues in the water. Thanks to the multiple filter baskets and filter media configurations, you can also ensure that replacing one specific filter won’t also remove the beneficial bacteria in charge of biological filtration.
This filter also uses the modern Aqua-Stop Valve system which allows you to disconnect tubes and remove the casing for swift and easy maintenance.
EHEIM Classic 66 2213371 (B0002AQXTA)
The EHEIM Classic 66 is a legendary external canister filter that benefits from an improved design and many new filter media additions. With a pump output capacity of 116 gallons, this device can ensure easy and efficient filtration for seawater and freshwater aquariums of up to 66 gallons.
The sealing ring which is fixed to the pump head is made of high-grade permo-elastic silicone, providing you with both easy access for maintenance and safe re-locking afterward. Another hallmark of this filter is the versatile filter media system, where you can alternate filter media such as sponges and activated carbon with combined filters, fine and coarse filter pads, etc. With the help of the filter media inserts, cleaning or replacing is a breeze.
The EHEIM Classic 66 is easy to set up, with the package including everything you will need for installation, from inlet pipe and hoses to spray bars, additional filter media to other accessories.
Aquaflow Technology AEF-302 (B01HF6BWT4)
With a compact design, the Aquaflow Technology AEF-302 is a highly-regarded external canister filter among aquarium enthusiasts. The powerful pump has a maximum output of 264 gallons per hour and is good enough for 75-gallon aquariums.
Despite its high performance, this small-sized model only uses 18 watts of power, able to save you quite a lot of money on electricity bills. Not only that, but since it measures only 9″ L x 9″ w x 15.5″ H, you don’t have to worry about finding a good place for it since it can easily fit anywhere.
This filter comes with 3 media trays that can be arranged according to needs as well as specific fish and plants requirement. You get all the filter media you can expect from a good external canister filter, from bio-balls and ceramic rings to activated carbon and fine filter pads to ensure that the water in the tank is kept clean and free of impurities or harmful substances.
Zoo Med Nano 10 976599 (B005DGHRU2)
Just as the name implies, the Zoo Med Nano 10 is an external canister filter suited to small tanks of up to 10 gallons. Boasting a capacity of 80 gallons per hour, the pump is powerful enough to filter the maximum-supported volume of a tank 8 times per hour, which is quite close to the 10x gold standard.
The Zoo Med Nano 10 is fitted with the usual filter media such as activated-carbon bags and biological filter media. These are enough for a starting kit to provide aquariums with the crystal-clear water needed for your freshwater or marine species to thrive.
This small filter also comes with a self-priming pump which eliminates the need to siphon it manually, you only need to press a button. With the included spray bar, the filter also ensures superior aeration and adequate supplies of oxygen for all your aquatic inhabitants.
Our comprehensive buying guide
Whether you’re considering your first aquarium or just looking to upgrade your filter, sifting through dozens of canister filter reviews is tedious work. There are so many models out there, each with its own specifications, accessories, and prices, that making a good choice is anything but easy.
The good news is that we’re here to help. We have studied models for both large and small aquariums, checked technical specs from flow rates to filter media, accessories and long-term performance to bring you the very best models. All you need to do is to go through this small guide which covers all the basics you’ll need to get started as well as check out our top recommendations.
Choose the right capacity
The first thing you need to look at when searching for the best canister filter is its capacity. The last thing you want is to get a smaller filter just for the bargain price and then realize that it’s not doing a good-enough job with filtering your large tank. There are large filters able to handle 100-gallon tanks, nano filters suited to aquariums of up to 10 gallons, as well as a plethora of intermediate-sized models.
The higher the flow rate, the better
In addition to maximum capacity, we recommend that you also consider flow rates. The more times per hour a model can filter a tank’s volume, the better. For smaller tanks, having a flow rate of 8 to 10 times their volume is a good idea, albeit not mandatory.
For larger tanks, a capacity to filter 3 to 5 times the entire volume of the tank is usually enough, especially since the higher flow rate recommendation also takes internal water motion, which is very important in a tank, in consideration. Most aquarists don’t rely on a filter pump alone for internal water motion – they also use skimmers and powerheads for that purpose.
Filter media and which ones to choose
Many filter starting kits come with activated carbon bags and filter pads. Unless you have a small aquarium and low filtering requirements, you will want to increase both the number and types of filters. You also want more ceramic rings, bio-balls and other biological filter media to ensure residual chemical such as ammonia and nitrates are filtered, as well as multiple layers to ensure a higher surface contact and easier replacement of filters without throwing away all beneficial bacteria.
Compromise is key to a great purchase
You also need to remember that not every model for sale that’s cheap is good, and the same applies the other way around. You can’t have everything you want in a filter in terms of performance and pay a small price for it unless it’s a small model. Consider the capacity of your tank, the features most important to you and the aquatic species you want to get and don’t forget to check out our recommended products.