Are all canister essentially the same?
Rena, Fluval, Eheim, Marineland, SunSun, etc. I have paralysis from analysis, I'm analyzing every canister filter page out there to get the best one for the money and I can't tell. Are they essentially the same filtering ability, that's the most important part. A $60 SunSun is tempting but not if it's junk and will be need to be replaced soon.
Honestly the value of a filter is usually in the quality of the parts not the different measurables (GPH, tank size rating, etc.) There are three things I look at when buying a canister. The first is the GPH, I don't really care that it is a specific number like 3xtank volume, but I do like to see what each filter GPH rating is. Then I look at the design, how it channels the water through the filter. A great example of this is the Rena filter, if you look at the design it is easy to see that water does not bypass the filter media. The design of the sun sun on the other hand allows water to go around the media relatively easily. The last thing I look at is online reviews. Sometimes you have to look at a number of reviews on different sites to get an idea what are the pros and cons of each filter.
I recently bought an Ehiem 2217 for a planted tank. After reading a lot of reviews online I decide it was worth the money for 3 reasons. One, In my planted tank I am not really worried about a very high GPH (actually I prefer lower so the plants are not disturbed) two, there is absolutely no bypass of the filter media and the last reason was the longevity and wide availability of replacement parts for Ehiem filters. I know guys, both online and IRL, that have been running their Ehiem classic for 10 years straight. If you plan on being in the hobby for a long time, buying a filter that regularly is still working 10 years after purchase is worth the extra 50 bucks.
I guess the short answer is no they do not have the same filtering ability, but it's really up to you how much you want to research each filter before purchasing.
My 2217 is on a 55 gallon, were I doing it again I would probably go with the 2215 instead. I have to lower the flow right now or it knocks my fish around a bit. I went with the higher flow rate because I have plecos in the tank and they make a bit of a mess. Depending on the fish you are going to have in the tank I would either go with a 2215 or a 2217 for your tank.
Just a quick bit about the ehiem classic series. The filter has had the same design for over 15 years, that means it doesn't have a self priming pump. Just recently they added the quick disconnects to it. If you are in the US they are almost always cheapest at Big Als Fish, Reptiles, Dog & Cat, Bird & Other Pet Products & Supplies When looking at The filter listing always make sure they come with media. I have seen places that have very low prices on ehiems but when you read the fine print it says that the media is sold separately. Buying media separately can add $30-40 to the cost.
After reading some reviews it looks like the Eheim comes with one large basket and not individual basket for media. Is that true and does that make the cleaning/changing of media more difficult?
I use one Ehiem 2217 on 80 gal planted tank and filter comes with biomedia that goes in bottom ,followed by two or three blue coarse pads,one fine filtering pad and carbon pad which I threw away.
I have since left biomedia in bottom and bought a couple more blue coarse pads and canister now has five total of the blue coarse pads with biomedia at bottom.
Was no basket that came with my 2217but plastic tray, that goes on very top of pads between them and lid to canister.
The Ehiem classics do not have media baskets. I think it is just as easy, if not easier to clean than my cascade canister. The course media goes in the bottom, then the blue course pad, then the bio media and then the fine filter pad goes on top. They sell a bag for the biomedia so it is easier to remove, you can find them for <$10 on amazon.
I would stick to Fluval, Rena, or Eheim. Honestly the "06" models of the Fluvals are excellent, they really bumped up the quality from the previous "05" version.
I wouldn't be too concerned about GPH, especially in a planted tank. I have a Fluval 206 on my 55 gallon, and I was looking at other canisters to add to it because I keep Piranhas and Cichlids in there. I decided to go with an Aquaclear 110 HOB filter just because I wanted some extra surface agitation to create more oxygen, however if I was going to be doing canister filter, after getting paralysis from analysis I would have gotten the Fluval 306 to add to it.
However the Rena xp3 was tempting especially because you can get a killer deal on it online, for like $110-115 or something.
I have 12 canisters, from 5 brands. 4 are sunsuns, of all sizes, and they are terrific. You can't beat the price and they hold a TON of media. I also have 4 XPs of all sizes - they are my favorites, but they are expensive. I have a couple of fluvals (05 series) that are okay.
Yes, they are all the same, but they have different bells and whistles. The bottom line is results - 0 ppm is 0 ppm. No matter what you choose, it will be a vast improvement over HOB filtration :)
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