Fish Tank Filter Comparison

Whether you are getting ready to purchase your very first aquarium or you are in the market for an upgrade, one product that you should be taking a close look at would be a fish tank filter. You might not know it by going to your local pet store, but there are dozens of different filters available, and it is worth learning about these products before making your purchase.

When you look online, you will see that there are fish tank filters for very small tanks, very large tanks, and everything in between. There are filters that have been designed to be particularly powerful, particularly quiet, and extremely energy efficient. In addition, there are many other options such as the types of media that are used in filtration, where and how the filter is situated in regards to your tank, and how the filter is maintained and cleaned.  To learn more about the different types of filter click here.

What Should You Look for In A Fish Tank Filter?

Here are just a few of the things that you should keep in mind when shopping for a fish tank filter if you want to find a product that is right for both you and the fish or animals in your aquarium:

  1. Tank size
  2. Water volume
  3. Saltwater or freshwater
  4. Self-priming
  5. Cleaning and maintenance
  6. Flow rate
  7. Guarantee
  8. Installation
  9. Spare parts
  10. Brand reputation

While most people who are shopping for a fish tank filter will probably just look at the tank size rating, some of these other factors may be equally important. For instance, if you have a saltwater tank, not all external canister filters will be appropriate. If you have a very large aquarium, then a filter that is both self priming and has a high flow rate will be important.

We have reviewed some of the most popular external canister filters that are available on the market today, ranging from small filters for small tanks to much larger, technologically advanced filters for extremely large tanks. You should be able to find one that fits your particular needs.

Great Quality for The Money:  Hydor Professional External Canister Filter

This is a very popular external canister filter that is considered to be “professional” grade and is designed for tanks between 20 and 150 gallons. It processes up to 280 gallons of water per hour but the one selling point of this filter that you may find surprising is that it is extremely quiet.

The Hydor Professional External Canister Filter has a number of features that are commonly only found on much more expensive filters, including self priming capability, and easy to clean and translucent canister, and all of the equipment that you will need in order to get started. This includes tubing, media, and attachments.

See our latest Hydor review here.

In addition to this filter being known for its ability to process a large quantity of water, its unique filtration system is also ideal for the cleanest, clearest, and odor free water possible.

Beginners Friendly: Marineland Magniflow Canister

When you own a small fish tank, it can be difficult justifying making the purchase of an expensive filter. After all, changing the water out entirely may seem like an easier option. However, the Marineland Magniflow Canister is an extremely affordable and easy to use external canister filter that can make your life a lot easier.

This Magniflow 360 filter is designed for aquariums of 100 gallons, with a Magniflow 220 and Magniflow 160 smaller model ideal for up to 30 gallons – all provide the high quality three stage filtration that is vital for a clean and healthy tank. The Magniflow 160 is small enough (just around 10 pounds) for a small tank, yet it has a great deal of power and a number of high quality features, too.

One of the biggest selling points of this particular tank is that it is known for being particular watertight. It has an easy to remove lid which makes cleaning and maintenance very easy. Also, it has a self priming feature that most aquarium owners would tell you is absolutely vital. By simply closing the lid and pressing the self priming button, you can get the water flow going in a matter of seconds. You would use this after cleaning the filters or should your filter experience some type of power interruption.

The Marineland Magniflow Canister comes with the three different types of media that you will need for filtration, all of the tubing as well as attachments.

This extremely affordable and easy to use canister filter is ideal for newcomers to aquariums, those who have never used a filter pump before, as well as small tank owners who are looking for a better option to filtration.

Best for Turtle Tanks: Zoo Med 511 Turtle Clean

It goes without saying that turtle tanks can get pretty disgusting very quickly. It is not unusual for turtle owners to find themselves completely emptying their tank on a weekly basis just to keep the odor under control and their turtles healthy. However, an external canister filter such as the Zoo Med 511 Turtle Clean may be a much better option.

This external filter is designed for turtle tanks that are 60 gallons or less, though the maximum water volume should be 30 gallons. Because turtles eat more than fish and therefore produce a great deal more waste, it is important to have a filter that has abnormally large filtration chambers such as this.

The Zoo Med 511 Turtle Clean’s primary selling point is that the carbon media chamber within the filter has been designed to be significantly larger than the other two chambers, primarily as a way to absorb the ammonia in the tank that causes odor. Most fish tank filters do not have this feature.

Another benefit of this filter is that the filtration media is housed within a translucent chamber so that you can see just how much waste is being trapped and also identify when it is time for a cleaning.

Weighing in at under 5 pounds, this turtle tank filter is easy to install, easy to clean, and can certainly reduce the amount of time that you spend cleaning your turtle tank.

Energy-Saving: EHEIM Ecco Pro

As is the case with automobiles, not everyone is in the market for a car with the most horsepower.  Some people are more interested in saving energy or getting more for their buck and that is why the EHEIM Ecco Pro is such a popular filter. This German-made external canister filter is lightweight, easy to install, and operates on just 9 watts.

There are 3 models for aquariums from 60 litres up to 300 litres, these are the Ecco Pro 120, 200 and 300 models.

They use the typical three stage filtration system found in most canister filters – biological, mechanical, and chemical – and all of the filtration media necessary to get started is included, too.

In addition to being energy-efficient, this particular filter is also known for being extremely easy when it comes to cleaning and maintaining. It has built-in shut-off taps located where the tubing is connected to the filter so that you can turn off the flow of water simply by turning the taps. Then, all you need to do is remove the top of the filter and rinse out or replace the media.

The filtration baskets located in the canister are somewhat larger than your average filter for this size tank which can increase the amount of time between cleanings. When you also consider that this filter has a reputation for being extremely quiet, it is an affordable and popular choice for smaller tanks.  See our latest review here.

Best for Small Tanks: Finnex PX – 360 Compact Canister Aquarium Filter

Owners of extremely small aquariums, such as those that are 25 gallons or less, often do not think of external canister filters as an option. After all, it seems pretty easy to simply monitor the water visually and replace it if necessary. However, the Finnex PX – 360 Canister Aquarium Filter can really eliminate a lot of work and worry and result in a fresher, cleaner tank with healthier fish.

Because this filter is designed for extremely small tanks, it doesn’t need to be that big. It weighs just over 3 pounds and is small enough to be attached directly to the tank by using the included hardware. What is somewhat surprising is that it is capable of processing water at 95 gallons per hour, which is pretty impressive.

Not only do you get all of the hardware including tubing and attachments with your purchase, but the Finnex PX – 360 also comes with chemical, biological, and mechanical media for filtration, a water intake strainer, and a spray bar to disseminate the clean water. Utilizing a spray bar in a small fish tank is essential so that your fish and plants are not disturbed by the powerful inflow of water.

This self priming canister filter also makes cleaning and maintenance easy, and you may find that this small investment and up saving you an enormous amount of time.

Best Budget Choice:  SunSun Canister Filter

Finding a high quality canister filter for a larger fish tank at an affordable price can be pretty difficult, but the SunSun Canister Filter should certainly be able to meet your needs. This filter has different model sizes designed for fish tanks from 75 gallons up to 200 gallons and are capable of processing between 265 to 525 gallons per hour.

When you first see this filter, you may think that it is somewhat bulky, but the reality is that it carries a lot of filtration power which results in clean, odor free water. The large canister contains three media trays which hold biological, chemical, and mechanical media – all of which is included. You will also get an adjustable spray bar, tubing, and the valves necessary for rapid and leak-free maintenance.

This filter is appropriate for both saltwater and freshwater tanks and comes with a unique 9-watt UV sterilizer. This addition helps to reduce excess algae and the harmful bacteria that traditional filter media does not catch. The result is that you should see a significant difference in the clarity and freshness of your water.  See our latest review here.

The self-priming function of the SunSun Canister Filter makes cleaning even easier and is also helpful should your filter be subject to some type of power interruption. In short, this extremely affordable filter has all of the features that you would expect in one that is twice this price.

Simply the Best: Fluval Fx6 and Fluval Fx4

When it comes to high-powered, high quality external canister filters for extremely large tanks, nothing is going to beat the Fluval Fx6 and Fluval Fx4. These are two extremely popular filters and are considered to be “best in breed” in spite of their fairly affordable cost.  See our latest review here.

The Fluval Fx6 is designed for large tanks up to 400 gallons, and the Fluval Fx4 has all of the same features yet is designed for aquariums of 250 gallons or less. Both of these filters have numerous levels of filtration, though the Fluval Fx6 has six levels and the Fluval Fx4 has five.

The Fluval Fx6 and Fluval Fx4 are both sturdy and fairly heavy products, but that also means that they are able to process large volumes of water (925 gallons and 700 gallons respectively). The media baskets within the canisters are extremely large and although that means that they will require a great deal of media, they also have the ability to filter out more waste and manage algae and bacterial growth better than smaller filters.

In addition to high-powered filtration, both of these products will provide you with up-to-the-minute information on the health of your tank’s water and will even give you a heads up when it is time to perform cleaning and maintenance. They both have self priming features, automatic excess air evacuation, and a water purge valve that makes emptying or filling your tank very easy.

Maintaining the health and cleanliness of a large aquarium can be very difficult, particularly for newcomers, but these two external canister filters can certainly make a big difference. Not only do they have the power to keep your tank’s water clean, but they are reliable, quiet, and easy to operate.

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