Best Aquarium Filter for Large Tanks

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Aquariums act as a home to aquatic plants, fish, and other marine animals. These fish tanks can be as small as a regular-sized fish bowl sitting on the desktop, to tanks that are much, much larger. A reputable, effective filter for your fish tank is absolutely vital with any size, but even more so in a larger tank. The question is, what is the best aquarium filter for large tanks? Here’s what you should look for.

Bottom line? Sunsun Pro Canister Filter is our favorite. Pick it up on Amazon.

The filter in your tank serves a very important purpose. It is what keeps the water clean by filtering out everything from fish excrement to leftover food particles. You want something that will not only filter your tank’s water in a reliable, thorough manner, but you also want a product that functions efficiently and with minimal noise.

While there are a number of different filter types available for your large aquarium, canister filters are by far one of the best options for quality and convenience.

Quick Navigation: Best Aquarium Filter for Large Tanks

ProductOur ScoreCost
EHIEM Classic External Canister FilterA-Amazon Price
Fluval External FilterAAmazon Price
Hydor Professional External Canister FilterB-Amazon Price
MarineLand Magnum Polishing Internal Canister FilterBAmazon Price
Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium FilterB+Amazon Price
Sunsun Pro Canister Filter KitA+Amazon Price

What is a Canister Filter?

A canister filter works by sucking the water from your aquarium into an intake valve, depositing it into a pressurized canister where it is run through one or more filter medias. Canister filters are able to provide chemical, biological and mechanical depending upon the filter media you choose:

  • Chemical Filtration removes toxins from the water and regulates carbon levels.
  • Biological Filtration removes microorganisms and bacteria, such as would occur from excreted waste, decayed aquatic plants or expired fish.
  • Mechanical Filtration strains the water to remove debris and particles in the water.

Canister filters are great in that they are so adaptable. If your aquarium is experiencing an issue that is affecting the water quality, you can change the filter media within the canister to specifically address your problem. For day to day use, most consumers find best results with using a carbon filter.

Why are Canister Filters Ideal for Larger Fish Tanks?

Simply put, canister filters can treat your aquarium’s water in a fast, effective fashion. The fact that you can treat a larger portion of water through all three filter medias at one time is incredibly convenient and provides more peace of mind to the owner.

A canister filter filters an enormous amount of waste and stagnant material out of your aquarium. Larger fish tanks by definition will contain more fish, and in some instances, aquatic plants. Canister filters have the ability to process a larger amount of waste within the water than some of their counterparts, leading to optimal conditions within the aquarium.

Canister Filters vs Power Filters

There are two main types of aquarium filters for large tanks – canister filters or power filters. While we are familiar by now with canister filters, power filters differ. Power filters tend to mount on the back of the tank. They are usually included with many aquarium purchases, and they are favored because they are easy to install, use and maintain.

Some power filters are available in a totally submergible style, but these are generally not considered effective for larger tanks. Compared to power filters, canister filters do require a bit more work. The set up is not as easy, and they require routine maintenance in order to perform optimally. They can be a bit overwhelming for those who are novices to large aquariums, and they are also quite a bit more expensive as well.

There are, however, so many benefits to canister filters. These benefits, make the canister filter well worth the money you will spend on it, as well as the time and effort you will spend initially learning about it and maintaining it thereafter.

What Are the Benefits of a Canister Filter?

Canister Filters Clean Better

While other aquarium filters address only one kind of filtrations, canister filters allow you immediate access to all three forms. By using a canister filter, you can be sure that the fish in your tank are protected from toxins and bacteria, as well as anything else in the water that might harm them.

Plus, the access to multiple filtration medias simply means that the water is cleaned better and left in close to good as new condition. Water is treated on three levels rather than just one, so you know that your tank is as healthy as possible.

Canister Filters are Larger

Canister filters are generally large in size, which allows for superior water quality since far more water can be treated at a time. Some are even large enough to contain all three filter medias, so you don’t ever need to think about which one you should be using.

Canister Filters are Quieter

Canister filters are far quieter than their counterparts, so you will be able to visually enjoy your aquarium without a constant buzzing noise in the background.

Canister Filters are Safer for Your Fish

Power filters sometimes run the risk of fish loss. While it is not overly common, some power filters have a tendency to trap fish, which can prove to be fatal. In canister filters, the actual filter is just a small tube, which cuts fish loss down to almost zero. Likewise, the canister filters are hidden and out of the way of the actual tank, which increases aesthetic appeal.

What Should You Look for in Canister Filters for a Large Tank?

High Quality

If you are looking to purchase a canister filter for your large tank, you want to look for an option that allows you to filter your water with the best results for your money. Look for something that treats a large amount of water quickly, as well as something that allows you to work with all three filtration medias.

High Flow Rate

One of the biggest qualities you want in a canister filter for your large tank is a high flow rate. This is what we are talking about when we refer to the amount of water that can be effectively treated in an hour’s time. The bigger the tank, the higher the flow rate needed.

When you are looking at the choices available in canister filters, you must be able to ensure that the flow rate is adequate for your tank’s size. When in doubt, a higher flow rate is always better, as there really is no such thing as too much filtration.

Quiet Operation and Compact Design

You also want to look for a canister filter that is discreet, quiet and easy to set up and maintain. Larger tanks obviously take up more room in your home, so you want your canister filter to be as compact as possible so it can be stored out of sight and out of the way.

Below is a sampling of the best aquarium filters for large tanks.

What Is the Best Aquarium Filter for Large Tanks?

EHIEM Classic External Canister Filter Review

The EHIEM’s canister filter is able to effectively filter one hundred and sixty-four gallons per hour, which makes it perfect for fish tanks that hold up to ninety-five gallons of water.

Its chamber design allows you to customize the water in your tank however you want. With three stage filtration, you can be sure that your tank’s water is left clean and free from biological, mechanical and chemical residue. The flow rate of this canister filter is specifically designed to optimize circulation and enrich the tank with oxygen, which keeps your fish happy and healthy.

Relatively small in size, you can easily store the canister filter in your aquarium cabinet and access it quickly for cleaning and maintenance. As an added bonus, there is a silicone sealing ring located on the pump head that protects against leaking and ensures that the valve is closed after each cleaning.

This product is manufactured by Eheim, a company based in Germany that produces aquarium filters along with other aquatic accessories. With each purchase, you get the canister filter along with filter sponges, a spray bar and inlet pipe.


  • Three stage filtration
  • Optimal flow rate
  • Compact and sturdy
  • Silicone sealing ring


  • A little challenging to initially assemble
  • Instructions are vague and confusing

Suitable for both saltwater and freshwater aquariums, this canister filter ensures high water quality while allowing you to easily customize your tank’s environment.

Fluval External Filter Review

The Fluval canister filter can effectively handle three hundred and eighty-three gallons per hour, making it appropriate for aquariums holding up to one hundred gallons of water.

Specifically designed with a sound dampener, you will barely even know its there. The filter is shaped like a square instead of a circle, which means it can hold up to fifty percent more water than other designs. This also means that your tank’s water has maximum flow and that direct contact with filter media is kept to a minimum.

There is also an intake that prevents against clogging, and a two-layer foam screen that guards against accidental water damage. The multiple filtration baskets allow for three-stage filtration, and you can easily customize your media to produce the exact results you want.

This product is manufactured by Fluval Aquatics, one of the leading names in home aquarium products. Each purchase includes the canister filter along with assembly instructions, a clog-proof intake strainer, and an instant prime system.


  • Extremely quiet
  • Clog proof intake strainer
  • Three stage filtration
  • Instant prime system


  • Parts are expensive to replace

If you enjoy having a large fish tank but want a canister filter from a reliable brand that is both quiet and easy to customize, this is a good option. On top of that, the specialized design allows for the best possible environment for your freshwater or saltwater aquarium.

Hydor Professional External Canister Filter Review

Touting itself as an ecosystem in a box, the Hydor Professional canister filter treats up to two hundred and eighty gallons of water per hour, which means it works with tanks up to one hundred gallons.

It is designed to be simple to use and maintain with also being highly effective, as the three-stage filtration makes sure that the environment in your aquarium is as healthy as possible. The intake tubes are very small in size, making them almost invisible. Likewise, this canister has an easy priming feature that is meant to allow you to simply set it up and go.

This product is manufactured by Hydor, a company that has home bases in Italy and in Sacramento, California. It works to help people discover a passion for aquariums and creates all kinds of filters and accessories to enhance the experience. Each purchase includes an activated charcoal sponge for filtration along with a limited warranty.


  • Simple to use and maintain
  • Three stage filtration
  • Unobtrusive intake valves
  • Easy priming


  • Small leaks may develop in the tubes

If you are looking for a canister filter that provides optimal results in regards to filtering your tank’s water (marine or fresh) but are intimidated by the setup or maintenance process, this is one that you should consider.

MarineLand Magnum Polishing Internal Canister Filter Review

Designed for aquariums that can hold up to ninety-seven pounds, the MarineLand Magnum canister filter can filter two hundred and ninety gallons per hour. This means your water is kept as fresh as possible through constant cycling.

It has dual chambers that offer spectacular three-stage filtration along with a micron cartridge that allows for even more pristine water polishing. As you are able to sink the motor into the water, noise is kept to a minimum. Setting up the filter is easy as well, with no need for priming before use.

This product is manufactured by MarineLand, a Virginia based company that prides itself on best advising those who keep aquariums and fish as a hobby. Their filters are not only durable and reliable, but they are also backed by time-limited warranty.

Each purchase includes one canister filter with two different chambers, black diamond carbon and interchangeable medias, which you can use depending upon your needs.


  • Three-stage everyday filtration
  • Polishing method included
  • Easy setup
  • No need for priming


  • Some consumers complained about a slight rattling noise

This is an excellent canister filter for large tanks primarily for its impressive filtration capabilities. Not only is the water continually cycled to remove all three forms of tank build-up, but you also have the option of switching to the polishing method for close to perfect results.

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review

The Pen Plax Cascade is able to filter up to two hundred and sixty-five gallons per hour, an ideal choice for tanks up to one hundred gallons.

It has flow valves that are unique to Cascade aquarium filters. These valves rotate a full three hundred and sixty degrees, which means that you can easily use this filter even in the tightest spaces. The valves can also be taken off for cleaning and maintenance without having to move your hoses or anything else.

The filter also has three large media baskets which are easily taken in and out. That way, you are able to customize your fish tank and do exactly what you want with it. Plus, set up and priming is literally as easy as pushing a button.

This product is manufactured by Penn Plax, a company which began in Brooklyn, New York in 1956. Today, Penn Plax has expanded to become a huge business which prides itself on providing high-quality products for pets of all kinds, such as dogs, cats, reptiles, and fish. It comes with everything you need to get started, including a spray bar, tubing, and filter media.


  • Easy to use and maintain
  • Three stage filtrations
  • Simple push-button priming
  • Three-year warranty


  • Some consumers found it to be a bit noisy

These canister filters are available for freshwater and marine aquariums up to two hundred gallons, so be sure to select the product that is right for you. Each Cascade canister filter also comes with the security of a three-year warranty and money back guarantee.

Sunsun Pro Canister Filter Kit Review

The Sunsun Pro canister filter is capable of filtering up to five hundred and twenty-five gallons of water per hour, which is a fitting solution for tanks up to one hundred and fifty gallons.

It has flexible media baskets and a range of options for filtration. You can select a standard carbon media, or use Sunsun’s custom ceramic rings and bio balls to achieve mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. The ceramic rings are there for allowing good bacteria to flourish, while the bio balls increase dissolved oxygen levels. This gives you the exact environment in your aquarium that you are looking for and you can rest assured that your water is as clean as possible.

There is also a built-in 9-watt UV sterilizer, so you don’t have to worry about things like algae and bacteria polluting your tank’s water. The self-priming pump makes set up relatively easy as well.

This product is manufactured by Sunsun, a company based in India which was established in the mid-1980s. It specializes in fountains, air pumps, water pumps and of course, water filtration systems. Each product comes with five media baskets and five filter pads along with the UV sterilizer. One pound of activated carbon is included as a media option, as are the ceramic rings and bio balls.


  • Includes ceramic rings and bio balls
  • Five stage filtration
  • Has a UV sterilizer for added protection


  • Can be difficult to reassemble after the first cleaning

This is a great canister filter for larger aquariums (freshwater or saltwater) because it provides a wide range of media options. The bio balls and ceramic rings are an excellent addition, as they provide an element of filtration to your aquarium that is exclusive to Sunsun products.

In Conclusion

a canister filter really is the best choice for large size aquariums. They provide you with the opportunity to alter your filter media to customize the water in your tank to be exactly how you want it to be. Likewise, most canister filters are extremely reliable, so they are worth the initial monetary investment.

Sunsun Pro Canister Filter is, in our opinion, the best aquarium filter for large tanks.

When you are looking to purchase a canister filter, be sure to pay close attention to specifics, as you want to get a filter that is capable of handling your tank’s size. When in doubt, more filtration is better than less, so keep this in mind as you are perusing your selections.

About the author

Li-ran B.

Li-ran has been taking care of fish since he was a young kid and considers himself a self-proclaimed aquatic hobbyist at heart. What started as a simple childhood curiosity quickly turned into a full-fledged passion. Currently, his new obsessions are nano aquariums and glowing fish tank decorations.