Aquatop CF Series Canister Filter Review

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It can be hard to trawl through the many, many canister filters that are out there to find the right one for you, and the hefty price slapped on most of them can certainly be off-putting.

This is where the AquaTop CF Series Canister Filter finds its strength; it’s much cheaper than a lot of name brands.

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But, and there is always a but, this does come at a price. Priming is difficult, there are issues with leaks – including into the protective case around the UV light, and less than stellar materials used in the canisters construction.

Even still, it’s a strong option with clear advantages. Depending on your needs, it could even be perfect.

Here we break down the good and the bad, so you can make the best buying decision.

AquaTop CF Series Canister Filter: The Details

Specs

  • Weight: 17.1 lbs. (product), 19.6 (shipping)
  • Dimensions: 18 x 12 x 11 inches
  • Filter Capacity: 175 gallons
  • Flow Rate: 525 gallons per hour
  • Media Stages: 4+1 stage filtration system
  • Self-Priming or Standard: Standard
  • Warranty: 180 days from purchase

Features

UV Light

For anyone who has tanks with bacteria or issues with managing algae – or you have quarantine tanks and want the best water quality possible on a budget – the addition of a 9 watt UV light inside the canister is a notable feature.

This light inside the AquaTop CF Series Filter kills bacteria and controls algae levels in the water.

This is a feature that doesn’t have to be used all the time but will be a bonus when you have a case of algae blooming or other icky buildups.

Price

Being an aquarist, whether casually or die-hard, can be an expensive hobby. Thankfully, while still a name brand, the AquaTop CF Series is on the cheaper side.

Canister filters are usually quite steep, but this is one that you can get – for a larger tank, up to 175 gallons – without putting too big of a dent in your savings.

For the price point, with shipping included, this is a massive bargain.

Priming Pump

The AquaTop wants to stop you from getting aquarium water in your mouth with it’s priming pump.

This pump is made to do away with the task of manual siphoning and make your life easier with the press of a button.

Quiet

It’s always nice when external filters are quiet.

We all know how noisy they can be, and it sucks, but the AquaTop is designed to be easy on the ears.

There are times when something goes wrong and this is no longer the case, but a large portion of the time these canisters are as quiet as a mouse.

Even if this isn’t the best canister filter, the fact that it is quiet is a point in its favour.

Internal Space

As you can mix and match media to your choice with many external filters, AquaTop has designed this canister in mind of aquarists who like that feature very much.

Alongside mechanical filters and the UV light, you can use biological, mechanical, or chemical media in any of the three media baskets available.

While some sponges are provided (one coarse and three fine), you do need to purchase any other media in addition to the filter.

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AquaTop CF Series Canister Filter Review

The Positives

Price

As mentioned above, this is an external filter that is far more affordable than most.

Unless you have a truly enormous tank, hitting 300+ gallons, or waste-heavy animals (like turtles or larger fish), this is a well-priced canister filter for its size.

Quiet

It is always annoying when your living room is constantly filled with a loud humming, rattling, or churning sound.

No need to worry with the AquaTop Canister Filter as its designed with quietness in mind, and it achieves that very well.

A good bonus for light sleepers or people who hate white noise.

UV Sterilizer

For anyone who struggles to control algae levels or bacteria in their tanks, the addition of a 9 watt UV sterilizer inside the canister is a great mark in the positive column.

This will really help keep potential outbreaks under wraps.

Easy Set-Up 

This canister comes with all the plumbing needed to get your new filter up and running.

The design is easy enough to navigate through fitting the pieces together so you can have your filter going in no time.

For newbies who have never attempted this type of set-up before, it’s a definite plus.

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Large Media Compartments

Alongside the typical mechanical filters are three large media compartments, which you can fill with any media of your choice.

The customizability here is fantastic, as anyone from aqua-scapers to turtle owners can use the AquaTop.

This is a great factor to consider when looking at this model.

Adjustable

Not everyone has the same tank or set-up as the other person, so when parts are made to be easily adjustable, it can make all the difference.

AquaTop makes their intake pipe adjustable in any direction to accommodate a variety of tank sizes and set-ups.

The in and out pipes can also be shut off, avoiding unnecessary water spills.

Good Flow

The AquaTop operates with a steady strong flow combined with a good suction intake. This makes it easy to keep your tank functioning and clean without too much worry.

Even if you manage to stir up your tank, all should be cleared up in just a couple of hours.

Here’s a video showing a time lapse filtering of the AquaTop Canister Filter.

Warranty

The AquaTop Filter comes with a warranty, and warranties are always great when delving into a new product.

Their warranty lats for 180 days and can be enough to get a preview of how the canister filter will play out.

However, those looking for a long lasting product with a warranty to back it, may have some issues with the length of this offer.

We’ll get more into that below.

The Negatives

Tricky Priming

Priming has two main issues.

One, for those tanks that are only half-filled, like turtle tanks, the low water level can make priming a very fiddly process.

And two, in general there have been difficulties when jump-starting the filter. It comes down to positioning, persistence, hose length, and sometimes pure luck, with getting your filter running.

This may be a big turn off for people new to canister filters.

Instructions

Another strike for people new to canister filters is the simplistic instruction manual that comes with the AquaTop.

While setting up your canister filter is fairly straightforward and easy, it can be frustrating if you do happen to get stuck without the proper directions.

For anyone who is accustomed to following guides and manuals and is unfamiliar with setting up such filters, this can be a deterrent.

Media Not Included

While the AquaTop has multiple media baskets available, you have to purchase the media yourself.

Depending on what your tank needs, this can swiftly add another $50+ to the price, but it allows you more freedom with customization.

Life

With a warranty that only lasts for 180 days, the lifespan on this filter is troubling (and this warranty only covers customers who buy from approved sellers).

There have been problems with parts breaking, wearing, and rattling straight out of the box. We should also note that these occur more prominently eight to twelve months after the fact.

For the most part, the biggest issue is leaks springing up, but there have been instances where the AquaTop will start making noises or parts will start to crack and wear visibly.

If you are looking for a long-lasting filter, the AquaTop is not the filter for you.

Labor Intensive Cleaning

Cleaning external filters can be an intensive process, depending on their design, and unfortunately the AquaTop is one that requires a good chunk of time to clean.

Lacking a purge valve and handles, just getting this filter from your aquarium to a sink can be hard, but the internals are tricky too; the media baskets can be a pain to remove.

All in all, basic maintenance can eat up time and patience, and should be left for those who have these virtues.

Electrical Hazards

This is a huge problem, considering how very wrong things could go.

Water getting anywhere near electricity is concerning, and that water has been known to sneak into the protective case around the UV light is doubly so.

All it takes is one exposed wire or crack in the plastic and you’ll get a nasty shock. The health hazard this presents is a big mark in the negatives section.

Material Quality

The ease and frequency with which cracks can appear in the plastic body of the canister snubs the quality of the materials used in construction.

This, combined with the issues above, is worrying.

Odd Media Basket Shapes

This isn’t the biggest issue for bio-balls or ceramic rings, but when it comes to sponges the peculiar shape of the media baskets makes replacing sponges a bit of a hurdle.

As you’ll see from the sponges that come with the AquaTop, they have been cut specifically to fit around the UV light – this means that all replacement sponges must be ordered from a specific line.

While not a deal-breaker point, it can still be an annoyance.

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Overall Verdict

Our AquaTop CF Series Canister Filter review has shown the good points; this filter is cheaper than most canister filters, comes equipped with a UV light to fight bacteria and algae, and has plenty of space for media.

That said, the negatives we’ve covered can easily outweigh the positives. Potentially, you could be dealing with electrical hazards, short lifespans, tricky priming, and all manner of issues that make maintenance time-intensive and frustrating.

If you don’t mind upping your budget, are new to external filters, or want a more reliable model, then the AquaTop is not for you.

However, if you’re looking for an affordable filter to perform the basics, then this is a choice to consider.

Where to Buy the AquaTop CF Series Canister Filter

The affordable price tag on the AquaTop Canister Filter makes this a popular option available in-store and online. To start, the AquaTop Filter is available at the following online retailers:

  • Drs Foster Smith (from $99)
  • Pet Mountain (from $134)
  • Walmart (from $119)

 

And of course, it’s available on Amazon.

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That’s all for our review on the AquaTop CF Series Canister Filter. Tempted to give it a try?

Staff Writer
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