The Best Aquarium Canister Filters for a Pristine Water Conditions in 2019 Reviewed

Many fish swimming in a planted aquarium
Quality filtration is vital when it comes to keeping a healthy aquarium.
Having a good water filter is like a breath of fresh air for your aquatic buddies, so you’ll want the best canister filter for the job.
We love our aquatic pets, and we’d like to keep their comfort and health levels at a maximum.
So investing in an efficient canister filter is a necessity.
That’s why I’m going to recommend the best canister filters at keeping a stable and healthy environment in your aquarium–check them out.

Canister Filter Buyer's Guide: What to Look For?

Let’s discuss some of the key features you should look out for when you’re buying a canister filter.

Tank Size vs. GPH

The first thing you have to consider is the size of your aquarium compared to the filters GPH.
GPH stands for gallons per hour; meaning how many times it will turn over your water every hour.
You will want to look for a canister filter than can turn over at least 4x the volume of water in your tank every hour.
For example, if you’ve got a 20-gallon tank you will need a canister filter that has a GPH of at least 80.
It’s never a bad idea to aim for more filtration, as all filters will lose some flow rate once stocked with media.
You’ll also want to take into consideration the type of fish you have in your tank. Especially if you’ve got fish that can get real dirty, *cough* Goldfish.

The Motor

Your filter’s going to be running 24 hours a day – 7 days a week. You’ll want a motor that’s durable and won’t raise any eyebrows when it comes to your electricity bill.
Best thing to do is look for a motor that comes with a UL approval rating.
There are two main types of motors you’ll have to look out for:
Epoxy-sealed motors are the most common used motor for canister filters. They’re mounted in the head with the impeller upside-down, which is great as it prevents moisture, dust, or debris from damaging the impeller.
The motor works by utilizing a magnetic coil that surrounds the impeller: causing it to spin – forcing the water through the filter.
Because they’re sealed, these motors tend to be quiet and need little maintenance.
The second style is the magnet-driven motor.
Again, this motor uses a magnetic coil to power the impeller. But, these motors are self-priming, so you don’t have the hassle of having to manually siphon the water.
The drawback, is they’re not completely sealed like the Epoxy-sealed motors – less protection from moisture and debris could impact how long it lasts.
Although, if you’re the type who’s good at staying on top of maintenance this shouldn’t be a big issue.

The Valves

Canister filters tend to have 2 valves: one to control the intake and one to control the output.
What you’ll want to look out for valves that can be completely closed.
This means the water will stay in the hoses and you can disassemble your filter for maintenance, without having to re-prime your filter.
Another great feature to look out for, is the ability to disconnect the intake and output hoses. When you’re able to do this, you can attach a gravel vacuum or adapter.
And use your filter to assist with water changes – eliminating the need fill up buckets of water.

Filtration Process & Media Trays

The best filters will have media trays for each filtering stage: mechanical, chemical, and biological.


When your canister filter uses all three filtering stages, you tend to see the best results.

Location, Location, Location

Canister filters can be quite large and not the easiest on the eye.


Check the canisters dimensions before you purchase it so you can be sure you have a place to store it.


They tend to run very quietly so you shouldn’t have any issues if you’re tank is located in your bedroom or where you watch TV.

Best Aquarium Canister Filters Reviewed

Let’s filter through the top picks.

1. Fluval External 206 Canister Filter Series

On the cutting edge of canister filters, you can pick up a Fluval 06 filter in a range of sizes:

  • Fluval 106: 95 GPH
  • Fluval 206: 121 GPH
  • Fluval 306: 206 GPH
  • Fluval 406: 245 GPH
The Fluval 06 series comes with some pretty awesome tech!
Its powerful motor is durable and will maintain a strong flow between maintenance.
Precise-engineered bearings and protective cover minimizes noise from the impeller. Protecting it from moisture and debris – making it very durable.
A great feature of these canisters is that they use the entire volume to separate each filtration stage. Resulting in greater efficiency and minimal mess-free maintenance.
The filter works wonderfully at absorbing debris and preventing clogged media.
Instant priming is always a neat feature. As you don’t have to experience the hassle of siphoning your tank water.
The AquaStop valve is easy to install and allows you to completely engage and disengage the flow rate or adjust between.
The Fluval 06 series is a strong and dependable filter for both fresh and saltwater aquariums. It’s very quiet and efficient at removing impurities.


  • Advanced motor technology: maintains a strong water flow
  • Multi-stage filtration
  • Runs quietly
  • Uses the entire canister volume to increase filtration
  • Quick-change media
  • Instant prime feature
  • Adjustable input/output heights
  • Comes with media
  • 3 year warranty


  • Shaky output nozzle; the water flow causes it to move around
  • List ItemInstallation instructions aren't very clear
  • Don't touch the impeller- throws it off balance and it loses parts easily

Summary: Featuring some of the most advanced features available on canister filters, Fluval are famous for producing reliable filtration.

Last update on 2019-11-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter

Eheim are famous for their German-engineered canister filters.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of German engineering – efficiency. And that’s exactly what you get with the Eheim Classic External Canister Filter.
Why’s it a classic? 
Because Eheim has been around for over 30 years! It’s lasted so long due to it being simple and efficient.
You don’t get the high-tech gear that comes with modern filters, but that’s no reason to overlook it.
Available for 40, 66, and 90-gallon tanks, the kit comes complete with Eheim mech and Substrat Pro media.
What I like most about this filter, is that it has no bypass. That means all the debris has to go through the media, resulting in super clear water.
It does mean it’s likely to become saturated and slow down the flow over time. But, if you’re good at staying on top of maintenance it shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Fixed Permo-elastic silicon seal rings on the pump head allow for easy and safe closing after cleaning. The silent motor and compact design mean you’ll be able to place it wherever you want – without it disturbing you.
If you decide to go with the Eheim filter, you’re in for a lifetime of dependability, quiet, and trouble-free service.


  • Battle tested proven design that has been around for a long time
  • Simple durable design that’s easy to operate
  • No media trays means greater water flow past filtration media
  • Holds a lot of filter media
  • Media is included in the kit
  • Quiet, compact, and efficient operation


  • No media trays can make cleaning more difficult
  • No self-priming feature
  • Famous for having useless instructions (can find plenty of easy-to-follow guides on Youtube)
  • Does not include activated carbon

Summary: A classic in the hobby, Eheim are famous for their simple but efficient filters. With no bypass, this filter is excellent at catching even the finest debris.

Last update on 2019-11-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3. SunSun Pro Canister Filter Kit

Not a huge name in the canister filter world, but it’s growing in popularity for good reason.


This powerful canister filter gives you a lot for your money and comes in a range of sizes:


  • HW-302B Pro Filtration Kit: 264GPH
  • HW-303B Pro Filtration Kit: 370GPH
  • HW-304B Pro Filtration Kit: 525gph
The kit includes 3 packs of extra white filter pads and 1 pack of blue coarse pads. 1 lb. of premium filter carbon, 1 lb. of ceramic rings and 40 pieces of bio balls.
What makes this filter stand out, is the fact that it comes with a built-in 9 watt UV sterilizer. Which helps to kill algae spores and bacteria; promoting crystal clear water.
The big blue self-priming pump works great, eliminating the need for manual siphoning. And the 4 flexible media trays let you achieve excellent mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.
It’s very easy to clean and maintain, but one thing you need to keep in mind when cleaning is the order of the trays, or you won’t be able to get the top back on.
My tip is to mark each tray with a sharpie so it’s easy to remember.
There’s a useful switch that will allow you to detach both intake and output hoses at the same time.
The switch will actually cut the water off, leaving it in both hoses. It’s useful because it will help with your siphon system when you restart it.
It’s important to know that this switch is not designed to control the flow rate. Keep it sealed or open.
The SunSun Pro stands up to the big names and offers you a lot for your money. You get a lot of power and it’s durable and the efficient motor runs at a whisper.


  • Excellent value for money and comes in a range of sizes
  • Kit includes a UV sterilizer that will kill algae spores and nasty bacteria
  • Self-priming pump
  • A lot of media storage
  • Close to silent
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Uses the 3-stage filtering process


  • Some of the plastic parts a little flimsy (they'll fall off before they break, so you'll just have to reattach them; not replace them)
  • UV sterilizer LED bulb lose power over time (however, running it for 24hr one day a week will see it's lifespan increased)

Summary: You may not have heard of this company before, but, don’t let that discourage you. The SunSun Pro canister filter provides a lot of filtration for a reasonable price.

Last update on 2019-11-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Fluval FX6 Canister Filter

This monster workhorse has a flow rate of 563 gallons per hour. And comes with the tech, power, and durability you’d expect from a high-performance filter.
An upgrade from the FX4, the FX6 has improved motor technology. Which provides a better performance while consuming 10% less electricity.
Precise-engineered bearings and protective cover minimizes noise from the impeller. Protecting it from moisture and debris; making it very durable.
The Smart Pump is self-priming, so it’s very easy to set up:
You only add water and plug it in. The pump will track your water flow–automatically adjusting to maintain a consistent flow rate and purge the canister of trapped air every 12 hours.
The FX6 uses a whopping 6 stages of filtration! Each basket has been precision-engineered to stop any water by-pass. Resulting in a more efficient filtration process.
It’s very easy to maintain, and if you’re the kind of person who isn’t the best at staying on top of maintenance. The monthly indicator dial will help you remember the exact date of your last maintenance and water change.
Fluval’s FX6 is a beast of a filter. It’s a top of the line filtration system that’s on the cutting edge of aqua tech. Durable and dependable, you’d be able to count on this filter for a very long time.
If you’re looking for a little less power, check out the Fluval FX4. Almost all the same features but with less power (265 GPH), and 4 stage filtering instead of 6.


  • Higher performance while using 10% less electricity
  • Very easy to set up with it’s self-priming Smart Pump
  • 6-stage filtration
  • Holds a lot of media (the kit includes media)
  • Durable and longlasting
  • Multi-directional output hose
  • Very, very quiet
  • Impeller is protect and the canister will automatically shut off if it’s compromised


  • Expensive (although the price is justified with the advanced technology)
  • Takes up a lot of space compared to the other filters

Summary: The ultimate powerhouse. Fluval’s FX6 canister filter is at the forefront of filtration technology. Providing outstanding power, whilst using 10% less electricity.

Last update on 2019-11-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Hydor Professional External Canister Filter

Last but my no means least, we have the Hydor Professional Canister filter. An efficient piece of kit, it comes in a variety of sizes:

  • 160 GPH
  • 200 GPH
  • 240 GPH
  • 260 GPH
  • 290 GPH
Easy to setup and simple to use. Push the self-priming button 3 times, and you’re ready to go! The motor’s durable and has a sound proofing feature that makes it run silent.
The rectangular shape allows for a very efficient filtering process. Holding a large volume of media, each tray is completely flush against the sides. This forces the water through the filtration media with no bypass.
The kit comes with all necessary media, excluding carbon. Depending on which size filter you pick, you’ll get room for 2-5 media trays allowing for the multistage filtration process.
Featuring ball-valve connections, they’re designed to reduce back pressure. And are effective in adjusting the water flow so you can get the perfect amount of output for your tank.
You’re able to shut off the flow when removing your filter for maintenance.
What’s cool about this filter is that it comes with an expandable spray bar. The four sections let you adjust the length and placement to get the best results for your tank.
The spray bar lets you spread out the water flow and have movement in more areas of your tank.


  • Efficient, powerful, and quiet
  • Simple to setup and use
  • Rectangular shape holds a large volume of media (media included)
  • Easy to prime
  • Expandable spray bar


  • Can be tough to find replacement parts and it’s a newer filter (Hydor’s customer services is very good though)
  • If you’re not careful, water can spill out when taking it apart for maintenance
  • Like most filters, the instruction manual isn’t the best (can find clear guide on YouTube)

Summary: Easy to set up and simple to use, the Hydor canister filter holds a large volume of media with almost no bypass.

It Filters Down to This...

There’s no such thing as too much filtration! The higher the GPH and the more filtration processes, the better filtration you will get – resulting in a healthier tank.


It’s not a great idea to buy cheap when it comes to filters, you want to buy efficiency.


This is the livelihood of your tank we’re talking about. You don’t want to take an unnecessary risk.

Christopher Adams

Hey there, my name is Christopher and I'm the creator and editor of this site. I've owned successful aquariums for the past 23 years. My mission is to educate, inform, and entertain on everything that's fish.

2 thoughts on “The Best Aquarium Canister Filters for a Pristine Water Conditions in 2019 Reviewed”

  1. Hi Christopher,

    Just checking if you have used/come across the SICCE EKO+ series – external canister filters before?

    Are they as good?

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