Getting my first canister filter... need input

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I need a quiet canister filter for a 55 gallon and am on a limited budget. Should I get a:

  • Penn Plax Cascade 750 @ $55 + ship

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Marineland HOT Magnum 250 @ $65 (no ship)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Marineland Magnum 350 @ $67 + ship

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Fluval 304 @ $75 + ship

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters


Aquarium Advice FINatic
Mar 30, 2004
Raleigh NC
Hi all,
My Marineland Penguin 170 HOB (now called 200) has basically completely died. The water BARELY drips out of it anymore. I have cleaned it top to bottom with no results. It's only about 2 years old, and my Whisper 30 which is about 4 years old on my other tank is still flowing like new. Well anyways, it's time for me to get a new filter, and I have decided to go with a canister instead of a HOB.

It is currently going to be in a 30 gallon tank, but will be going into a 55 in a matter of months. It is brackish, and I have sand as my substrate (yes I had a sponge covering the intake on my HOB to protect it from sand... no sand was ever found in the impellar or in the filter) The tank only has 1 black-fin shark (columbian catfish) and a common pleco, so the tank being dirty really isn't a huge issue. In fact the water is still even staying clear with my penguin barely functioning. I don't have a lot of money to spend, and I really was considering just spending the $25 on a new penguin 200, but I figured I would "spend a little more" and get a better filter. One that will still work great when I move the two fish to the 55, and one that hopefully won't die in only 2 years! I was hoping (and would really like) to only spend about $60, but I don't want to just buy a cheap one and then end up having to spend more a few months down the road. So I would like to keep it in the $60-$80 range.

The important things to me is that it comes with everything I need to get it running right out of the box, and that the output into the tank is some sort of directional jet/stream so I can use it to create current for the black-fin. It is also VERY important to me that this thing is quiet. It is going to be in my bedroom practically right next to my head when I'm laying in bed. It just needs to be as quiet (or quieter) than the trickling of a HOB filter.

I have been looking at the following, rated cheapest to most expensive:

1) Penn Plax Cascade 700 for $55. I know nothing about this brand. It claims it's good up to 65 gallons, but big al's doesn't give me any stats on it. I also can't tell if it comes with everything I need.;category_id=1711;pcid1=2885;pcid2=

2) Marineland Magnum 350 for $67. Rated at 350 gph. Seems to come with all I need. Has a good review on AA, but I worry because of how quick my marinland penguin died... but this is a completely different product so maybe I shouldn't worry about that.;category_id=1711;pcid1=2885;pcid2=

3) Fluval 304 for $75. It seems to include everything. Rated for up to 70 gallons according to big al. I can't find any reviews on AA, although all reviews for the 404 say good things.;category_id=1711;pcid1=2885;pcid2=

4) RENA filstar xp2 for $80. Rated up to 75 gallons. Reviews on AA range from so quiet you can't even hear it, to so loud you can hear it in every room of the house.;category_id=1711;pcid1=2885;pcid2=

Finally) My LFS has a HOT magnum 300 (by marineland) for $68. This isn't as good of a deal as online places, but when you factor in that I won't have to pay shipping, it is. Again it's marineland so I don't know if I'm trusting this brand right now. I can't find any reviews on AA, so I don't know how loud it is or anything. (EDIT: I had originally posted this as a 250 for $65, but I just checked and it was actually a 300 for $68. Sorry! I can't change it in the poll).

I put a poll at the top, so you guys/gals can vote that way, but any input would be great too. Like I said, my goal is to not spend a lot of money, but I also don't want to end up with a piece of junk or something that won't do what I need it to. Thanks a lot!!

Rena, but I'm biased, it's the only one I've ever owned besides a second-hand magnum 330 (before the 350 came out). My air pump on my other tank makes much more noise than my xp1, not sure about an xp2.
I love the Cascade line. But I may be biased since I own 3 of them and have never had an issue with any of them. They are flexible in regards to media, have a carry handle, and are simple to setup, not to mention take apart. Plus, the hoses don't look so industrialized as some of the others do. They are black, so they are easily hidden.
BTW- If you plan on upgrading to a 55 gal tank, I would go with the Cascade 1000 over the 700.
I've got the XP2 on my 55 Gal and I LOVE it. Not a sound out of that thing . . . just my air pump is all I hear (which is supposed to support up to 7 air stones, however mine seems to be struggling with 4 through a gang valve).

Easy set up and install . . . .easy prime . . .plug it in, you get the initial WOOSH of water through it and then silence from then on . . . .highly recommend it for both performance and lack of noise.
Yea, I was actually considering one of the magnum's for diatom filtering. Can anyone give me opinions on their magnums? How loud they are, and how long they have been using them?

So far it seems in the poll people are leaning towards the Fluval.

Thanks everyone!

My magnum was the most horrible, leaky, noisy piece of crap I ever owned. But, like I said, it was an old 330 and past its prime anyway.
lol. Thanks shawmutt.

Now my next question is that most people are still selling fluval x04, but on petsmart's website they are selling x05's. Are these brand new, or have they been around a while? Should I expect the x04's to go down in price soon? Is there any actual advantage to the x05's?

Thanks as always.

That is the newest from's a giant and from what I've seen and heard from those lucky enough to have and (and have a tank big enough to need them), they are just as good or better the than traditional Fluvals. Of course, I'm a Fluval user so I may be a little biased as well.
i personally don't like fluvals ... more of a personal choice when i see them stacked up side by side when comparing them to Rena Filstars or even better Ehiems.

Filstars and Ehiem filters are my personal choices
It's looking like $85 (incl ship) for the fluval 304 from big al's, or $85 (incl ship) for the rena xp2. My lfs also has the xp2 on sale for $99, but I might as well save the $15+ and buy it online.

I am definitely leaning towards the xp2. Thanks for all the input!

flipz said:
Yea, I was actually considering one of the magnum's for diatom filtering. Can anyone give me opinions on their magnums? How loud they are, and how long they have been using them?

So far it seems in the poll people are leaning towards the Fluval.

Thanks everyone!


I have a HOT magnum that with the bio-wheel. It is a great filter... quiet and does a good job.... i voted for that too by the way.
Well I just ordered the xp2 from Foster and Smith, it will be here in 5 business days!

That means I'm one step closer to upgrading to the 55 gal. :D

You should be happy with your choice. I just hooked up an XP3 to my 50 gal and that thing is sweet action. I definitely recommend using the spray bar when you get it. Good luck.
Would anyone have an interest in me taking step-by-step pictures of setting up the filter? I have read about a lot of people saying it's many many parts and that setup was difficult. I love doing that kind of thing (and to be honest, part of my reason for ordering the rena over the fluval is that so many people complained about how hard it was to put together. lol).

I just wonder if it's hard enough that people would actually want me to make some sort of setup diagram, or if it's just that it's annoying to people to have to build so much of it... ?

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