5 Best Canister Filters For 55 Gallon Tanks Reviewed 2020

In this guide, I’ll help you understand how to choose a canister filter for your 55 gallon aquairum, review the top 5, and reveal what I consider the best canister filter for 55 gallon tanks.

Quick Overview: top Pick

After reviewing the top 5 choices, in my opinion the best canister for a 55 gallon tank is the Fluval 407

Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter 120Vac, 60Hz, 10.8 LB
Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter 120Vac, 60Hz, 10.8 LB

    Last update on 2020-06-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    Why Aquarium Filtration is So Important

    The Nitrogen Cycle

    The nitrogen cycle is one of the most important concepts to understand when it comes to keeping aquariums. 

    In a nutshell, it’s the natural process that breaks down toxic compounds that are produced when fish waste decomposes.

    Fish constantly put off urine and feces into the water around them. As those wastes break down, they produce harmful substances like ammonia (NH3) and nitrite (NO2 -1).

    Left alone, these waste products would build up and kill all the fish in the aquarium.

    Luckily, we have help on our side. There are beneficial bacteria that live in our filters that eat the harmful compounds and detoxify them, making the water safe for fish.

    Pro Tip: For more detailed information about the aquarium nitrogen cycle, please check out this article.

    Filters are where the majority of the nitrogen cycle in an aquarium takes place, so getting a good one is really important to your tank’s success.

    Biomedia 

    Biomedia is special filter media that is meant to house beneficial bacteria so that it can process fish waste.

    You need millions upon millions of beneficial bacteria to handle the ammonia produced by your fish. The inside of a filter just doesn’t have enough surface area for that many beneficial bacteria to grow.

    Biomedia increases surface area so there’s plenty of room for the bacteria to grow. 

    There are lots of different materials used to make biomedia, like unglazed ceramic, sintered glass or pieces of porous plastic.

    All of them create lots of little nooks and crannies that bacterial colonies can grow in.

    In my experience, you want to pack your filter with as much biomedia as possible.

    Why are Canister Filters Superior to Hang-on-the-Backs?

    Biomedia Capacity

    The biggest benefit of using a canister filter instead of a hang-on-the-back is that you can fit so much more biomedia into a canister filter.

    A canister has big trays that you can fill with different kinds of filter media. 

    You can easily get 10 times as much filter media into a canister as you can a hang-on-the-back, especially the hang-on-the-backs that rely on cartridges.

    Increase Flow

    Another thing that I really like about canister filters is that you can greatly increase the flow in your tank.

    You can place the intake hose at one end of the tank and then the outflow can be placed at the other end.

    This creates a current that runs from one end of the tank to the other. 

    Compare that to a hang-on-the-back where the intake and outflow are within inches of each other. This can lead to areas in the tank that are “dead spots” with no water flow.

    And some canisters have an outflow called a spray bar, basically a plastic tube with holes along its length, that diffuses the outflow along the bar and creates flow along the whole thing.

    Definitely, a canister filter is so much better for water flow, especially on a long tank like a 55 gallon.

    GPH

    How much water a filter pump can move is measured in gallons per hour (GPH). 

    One of the great things about canisters is their high GPH. The motors are much bigger than hang-on-the-backs and have a lot more power.

    Pro Tip: Generally, it’s recommended that your filter have a GPH that’s at least four times the capacity of your tank. So, for a 55 gallon tank you’d want a GPH of at least 220. But, a higher GPH is always better in my opinion.

    GPH is important because water needs to be pumped through the biomedia so bacteria can eliminate the waste products in it. Without enough water movement, the waste doesn’t get to the bacteria fast enough to keep up and clean the water.

    Aesthetics 

    The main body of a canister filter sits below the tank, hidden by the tank stand. I really like this because you can easily hide the intake and outflow.

    I really love it when you can disguise the equipment in a tank and make it all look more natural.

    55 Gallon Canister Filters Reviewed

    1. Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter (Top Pick)

    Key Features:

    • GPH: 383
    • Vertical pre-filter 
    • Mechanical, chemical and biological media included
    • 25% quieter than previous models
    • Easier maintenance

    The 407 is the most up-to-date canister available from Fluval, a company known for its high quality products in the aquarium industry.

    This filter includes a lot of improvements over the 406, including a more efficient and quieter impeller, larger feet at the bottom of the canister that prevent vibration and a new pre-filter designed to cut down on detritus in the media baskets.

    Fluval claims that they’ve made this canister so energy efficient that it only takes 10 watts to run it, the same as an LED light bulb. 

    There is a handle that sticks up from the bottom tray that goes all the way to the top tray. This lets you pull out all of the media baskets at once. 

    I like this a lot more than having to reach down into the gunky water to remove trays during maintenance.

    Fluval also redesigned the priming lever so that it’s easier to to belch air out of the system after maintenance.

    Another plus, the 407 comes with all of the mechanical and biomedia that you need to be up and running immediately. 

    I’ve got one little thing that I could nitpick about this filter. It does not come with a spray bar for some reason, only an outflow nozzle. 

    I just think that if you’re going to spend the money on a Fluval, they should throw in a spray bar in case you want one, instead of you having to buy an extra piece. 

    But, this is pretty small compared to how awesome this filter is overall.

    Pros

    • Quiet impeller
    • Highly energy efficient
    • Includes all filter media

    Cons

    • Doesn’t come with a spray bar
    • Doesn’t include a UV sterilizer
    Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter 120Vac, 60Hz, 10.8 LB
    Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter 120Vac, 60Hz, 10.8 LB

      Last update on 2020-06-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      2. Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter

      Key Features:

      • GPH: 360
      • Mechanical, chemical and two kinds of biological media included
      • 3 stage filtration
      • Hose quick release

      Sometimes, water can bypass filter media, flowing around it versus through it. This really cuts down on the efficiency of filtration. 

      The C360 is designed to prevent bypass and improve flow through the different stages of media.

      This filter features a quick release for the intake and outflow flow valves. This clamps off the hoses and lets you pull them off the top of the canister and keeps them from spilling water everywhere. 

      Pros

      • Prevents water bypassing media
      • Quick release for hoses

      Cons

      • Media baskets can’t be pulled out all at once
      • Doesn’t include a UV sterilizer
      Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter 220 GPH For aquariums, Easy Maintenance
      Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter 220 GPH For aquariums, Easy Maintenance

        Last update on 2020-06-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

        3. SunSun HW-404B Canister Filter with 9W Uv Sterilizer

        Key Features:

        • GPH: 525
        • Built in 9 watt UV sterilizer
        • 5 stage filtration
        • Only mechanical filter media included
        • Handle for removing top

        The HW-404B has a powerful motor capable of 525 GPH, great for more heavily stocked tanks.

        The stand out feature on this filter is the UV sterilizer. This really is a great add on since the UV light can kill things like algae spores, bacteria and even viruses floating in the water column. 

        The UV can also help keep your water crystal clear.

        I like that this model has a handle that will help you pull the top of the canister off. But, I don’t think you should try to use it to carry the whole unit when it’s filled with media and water. That’s way too much weight!

        One downfall for this unit is that you have to buy all the biomedia separately. But, I guess that does give you the opportunity to pick out exactly what you want and customize your system.

        Pros

        • UV sterilizer can help control algae and bacteria in the water column
        • High GPH
        • Handle to make removing lid easier

        Cons

        • Chemical and biomedia sold separately
        SunSun HW-404B 525 GPH 5-Stage External Canister Filter with 9W UV Sterilizer, White
        SunSun HW-404B 525 GPH 5-Stage External Canister Filter with 9W UV Sterilizer, White

          Last update on 2020-06-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

          4. Penn Plax Cascade 1200 Canister Filter

          Key Features:

          • GPH: 315
          • Large handle for removing lid
          • Flow valves can rotate 360 
          • Large priming button
          • Only mechanical filter media included
          • 30 inch (76 centimeters) spray bar

          The Cascade 1200 has a decent GPH of 315 and it features four large baskets that you can use to house your different media.

          I like that the top of the canister has a big handle that makes opening the canister for maintenance easier. The top also features a large priming button that should be easier to push than smaller ones. 

          I also really like the spray bar on this filter. It comes in 7 inch (18 centimeters) lengths so you can put together as much, or as little, as you want.

          You can really increase the flow in a long tank if you use the full 30 inches of bar.

          One bummer is that you will need to purchase your chemical and biomedia separately. Out of the box, you only get a coarse sponge and some filter floss.

          Pros

          • Rotating flow valves help in tight spaces
          • Deep media baskets
          • Customizable spray bar

          Cons

          • You have to buy chemical and biomedia separately
          • No UV sterilizer
          Sale
          Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 100 Gallons, Filters 265 GPH,Blue
          Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 100 Gallons, Filters 265 GPH,Blue

            Last update on 2020-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

            5. Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter

            Key Features:

            • Mechanical, chemical and biological media included
            • Hang-on-the-back unit for water polishing
            • Optional spray bar or directional outflow
            • Quick connect valves

            For this filter, I know that the company says that the 200 GPH model is sufficient for a 55 gallon, but I’d urge you to go with the 75 model that puts out 300 GPH. 200 GPH is just not enough turnover in my opinion.

            The Quietflow’s claim to fame is that it comes with an optional hang-on-the-back unit that’s meant to be a final “water polishing” stage that uses disposable cartridges with activated carbon.

            Aqueon states that using this hang-on-the-back unit will save you from doing extra maintenance on the main canister. The idea is that you don’t have to crack open the whole canister to replace the carbon once a month.

            I’m not so sure about this thing. It looks like a hang-on-the-back filter. So, if you’re trying to have incognito filtration, it kind of ruins that. 

            Also, you’re still going to need to crack open the canister at least once a month so you can clean out the mechanical filtration to clear out accumulated gunk. So I don’t know how much maintenance this will really save you.

            A spray bar and directional outflow are included in the box, so you can use those instead if you would prefer.

            I do like that this filter has quick connect flow valves so you can easily take them off the top of the canister when you’re servicing it.

            Pros

            • Multiple options for outflow
            • Quick connect flow valves

            Cons

            • Hang-on-the-back unit is a bit gimmicky
            Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter 200 GPH, For Up to 55 Gallon Aquariums
            Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter 200 GPH, For Up to 55 Gallon Aquariums

              Last update on 2020-06-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

              Which One is Best?

              All of these are great canister filters that would be an excellent choice for a 55 gallon tank.

              But, if I had to choose, I’d hands down go with the Fluval. I think it has the best mix of features.

              The 383 GPH is more than enough for a 55 gallon and I like that they’ve done so much to make this even more quiet than previous models.

              I also have a lot of faith in Fluval. I’ve always found their products to be the highest quality and thoughtfully made.

              I like that it’s so easy to pull out all of the media. And the large vertical mechanical media means there’s more room for biomedia in the baskets.

              So there you go, it’s Fluval for the win in my book.

              Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter 120Vac, 60Hz, 10.8 LB
              Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter 120Vac, 60Hz, 10.8 LB

                Last update on 2020-06-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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