A canister filter is an essential component of a nano aquarium setup. It’s the key to keeping your tank healthy for whatever lives inside it. It’s a standalone ecosystem, and a consensus on the size of these aquariums doesn’t exist. The word “nano” comes from the Greek word “nanos,” which means “a dwarf.” This is referencing your tank’s smaller size. We’ve seen these filters marketed for 10 gallons and under and as high as 30 gallons, so we included products within these ranges.
Our guide includes everything you need to know about buying the best nano canister filter. We’ve also added reviews of some of the best nano filters available to help you make an informed choice. A filter is an essential purchase that plays a direct role in the well-being of your pets, so it’s worthwhile to research your options to find the right fit.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2024
|Zoo Med Nano External Canister Filter
|Fluval Aquarium Nano Underwater Filter
|SunSun HW-603B Aquarium Canister Filter
|OASE Indoor Aquatics Filtosmart 60 External Fish Filter
|hygger Aquarium Corner Filter
The 5 Best Nano Canister Filters – Reviews & Top Picks
1. Zoo Med Nano External Canister Filter– Best Overall
|5 inches L x 5.5 inches W x 3.5 inches H
The Zoo Med Nano External Canister Filter ticks off many boxes we like in these products, starting with its three-stage operation. It’s quiet with an adjustable flow rate to match your tank’s conditions. It’s available in models suitable for 10- or 30-gallon tanks. It’s also our pick for the best overall nano canister filter. It gets the job done at a decent rate of 80 gallons per hour (GPH).
The filter has a compact size, which is fitting for a nano setup. You get everything you need to install it out of the box. You can use it for fish or reptiles needing an aquatic environment. It’s a bit pricey, but you should weigh it against the convenience it offers.
2. Fluval Aquarium Nano Underwater Filter – Best Value
|Biological and mechanical filtration
|3 inches L x 2.3 inches W x 4.3 inches H
|Up to 100
The Fluval Aquarium Nano Underwater Filter is a barebones model that can handle the job for tanks up to 20 gallons. It provides biological and mechanical filtration with its design. It has a compact footprint at an affordable price as well. The spray bar is adjustable to fit your aquarium setup, and it’s our pick for the best nano canister filter for the money.
It sits under the water, as the name implies, so it takes up some space because of this design. However, it’s easy to hide behind some plants so that it won’t detract from the tank’s aesthetic value.
3. SunSun HW-603B Aquarium Canister Filter – Premium Choice
|5 inches L x 6.5 inches W x 11 inches H
The SunSun HW-603B Aquarium Canister Filter operates through siphon action without a pump. It is virtually silent as it runs, with just the pleasing sound of the water flow. You can use it on tanks up to 20 gallons for freshwater or marine setups. The design allows you to customize it for your needs for all three stages with the extra space inside it.
The product includes the filter with the necessary hoses and connectors. You’ll spend more on extras to adjust it to your specifications, though. While beneficial, it adds to your final cost for the product.
4. OASE Indoor Aquatics Filtosmart 60 External Fish Filter
|9 inches L x 3.5 inches W x 6.5 inches H
The OASE Indoor Aquatics Filtosmart 60 External Fish Filter is a two-stage filter that concentrates on biological and mechanical filtration. The design allows for plenty of surface agitation for gas exchange. It’s also quiet. While it doesn’t handle chemical filtration, it manages other tasks well and is easy to use. The product can take on tanks up to 20 gallons, although it’s best with smaller ones.
The filter is pricey for what you get. However, it’s a solid performer, even if you have to make some modifications to make it work for your aquarium. Did we mention how quiet it is?
5. hygger Aquarium Corner Filter
|13 inches L x 3.82 inches W x 2.68 inches H
The hygger Aquarium Corner Filter has an excellent design that optimizes the space by using the corner of the tank. The water flow is decent and agitates the surface for gas exchanges. It’s easy to assemble and install. We also like the quiet operation that compliments the water flow. We reviewed the model for 5- to 15 gallon-tanks this time, but the manufacturer covers its bases with products offered above and below this range.
It’s a three-stage filter, which we prefer for these items. You can adjust the water flow to meet the needs of your aquarium. The media is reusable, making it an excellent value for the price. The downside is that your initial purchase doesn’t include the foam filter and cartridge, which is a major bummer for an otherwise excellent product.
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting the Best Nano Canister Filters
Fishkeeping has unique challenges. Your tank must replicate the environment of the species inside and maintain stable conditions. Many fish live in large bodies of water where things stay the same or change relatively slowly. That means whatever swims in those waters isn’t well-adapted to spikes and ebbs in the water chemistry. A filter is essential to help maintain the water in an aquarium within acceptable levels.
The filter’s role in the nitrogen cycle is vital. Animal waste contains ammonia, which is toxic to aquatic life. A filter provides a framework for biological filtration. Beneficial bacteria convert the toxins to what is essentially plant food through two stages: from nitrites to nitrates. Another component is chemical filtration, which often uses activated charcoal to take this process one step further.
Finally, mechanical filtration removes suspended material that could end up as toxic waste if not removed. The best nano filters handle these three stages for optimal water quality. Things to consider when comparison shopping include the following:
- Gallons per hour (GPH)
Several types of filters exist. Our guide concentrates on canisters specifically. These products move water through the device using a pump. External models hang outside of the tank and don’t impinge on the valuable real estate inside the aquarium. After all, we are talking about a nano environment—space is at a premium. The other factor to consider is the stages.
We discussed the various kinds of filtration and their role in water quality. The ideal filter will handle all three. The advantage is stability. A decent product prevents sudden changes that could stress fish and other aquatic wildlife. We also view three-stage filters as a convenience. They do much of the work for you; your only real job is to replace the cartridge when needed.
Size is an essential consideration with nano filters. After all, that’s the selling point with these tanks—they’re space savers. If it’s a deal-breaker, we strongly urge you to measure before you start shopping. Ensure there’s some room for air circulation and easy access when you have to do maintenance. While thinking about the size, keep power access in mind as well, like having nearby outlets or needing to buy a power strip.
Manufacturers design nano filters to conserve space. However, they may have some heft even with this consideration. Even a large product isn’t going to tip a tank. An empty 10-gallon aquarium weighs roughly 11 pounds and 91 pounds when filled, not including the stuff inside of it. Nevertheless, we suggest glancing at the weight of the filter. Remember, that figure is without water inside it.
Gallons Per Hour (GPH)
The gallons per hour (GPH) gives you a decent comparison parameter. The rule of thumb is that a filter should cycle at least 5 GPH for every gallon of water. That means at least 50 GPH for a 10-gallon tank and 150 GPH for a 30-gallon aquarium. Remember that you’re dealing with a relatively small amount of water. Conditions can change quickly, even after overfeeding your fish just once.
A planted tank adds stability to water conditions as long as their needs are met. Bi-monthly water changes are also part of your tank’s maintenance. A nano filter is your right-hand man that does the job between this task.
After completing our reviews, The Zoo Med Nano External Canister Filter came out on top of our list. It’s convenient to use while taking care of all your tank’s filtration needs. The Fluval Aquarium Nano Underwater Filter is small but mighty, with an adjustable spray bar to optimize its operation. It’s also the best nano canister filter for the money. However, you can’t go wrong with any of the above options so long as they’re the right match for your specific aquarium size and setup.