Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review

We independently research our recommended products. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our links.

Fish owners all know the particular joys of owning fish, and all share the same lament about the hobby; keeping the fish tank clean.

Loving your scaly friends is easy, but we could do without the fish smell. And something tells us the people working at Penn Plax Cascade are aware of this shared issue.

At least that’s our conclusion after meeting the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter. Made for small to medium aquariums, this filter promises a visible improvement in your tank almost overnight.

best canister filter

With such a large claim, of course we’re going to be intrigued. Crystal clear water is vital in making sure our pets are healthy and filled with energy. In return, we get to admire them flitting about in the water.

So with visible and fast results, plenty of media space, and a smooth hum, could we find anything at all to deter us from this filter?

Our biggest letdown was the fact that it’s only suitable for aquariums up to 65 gallons, which rules out the fish lovers with larger aspirations.

Those who are new to canister filters, or keeping fish in general, might experience some difficulty in installing it without some splashing.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty so you can decide if it’s right for you.

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter: The Details


  • Weight: 12.2 pounds
  • Dimensions: 11.5 x 15 x 10 inches
  • Filter Capacity: Aquariums up to 65 gallons, both fresh and salt water. This filter is recommended for small and medium tanks, but commercial fish tanks are out of luck.
  • Flow Rate: 185 GPH
  • Media Stages: Mechanical, chemical and biological filters can all be used, depending on your needs.
  • Self-Priming or Standard: Self-primer.
  • Warranty: 3-year guarantee


Large Media Baskets

Large media baskets are amazing for many reasons, and these are beneficial to both you and your aquatic friends.

First of all, with a larger basket, you don’t have to switch out your filters as often, meaning you can leave your pets undisturbed and the bacteria count optimal for longer. And thanks to their size, you can experiment more with possible media combinations.

Every fish owner develops a preference, so you can start experimenting to discover your own premium filter method too.

penn plax cascade canister filter review

High Compatibility

If a company can do one thing to make life hard on customers, it’s making an A-grade product and then make it incompatible with other brands.

The Penn Plax Cascade line has escaped this affliction. If you already have a preferred medium brand, you don’t need to change just to suit your new filter.

If you’re new to owning an aquarium, you can start out using the house brand before branching out and dipping your toes in new waters.

360 Degree Flow Valves

Want to have a cool new filter, but don’t feel like placing it in the dead center of your aquarium?

With 360 degree flow valves, you can place the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter in a quiet corner of the aquarium and still get the maximum filtration.

Quick Push-Button Primer

Setting up an aquarium used to be a tedious job that required solid knowledge of the process beforehand – maybe even roping an experienced friend into the job.

But while you shouldn’t be keeping fish without some basic research, the push-button primer does save you quite a headache.

Follow the manual and you’ll have your filter running in no time.

No Tip Base

This might seem like a small feature, but it definitely adds to the quality of the filter. Imagine not having to worry about your filter falling over – at all?

Well, now you don’t have to.


We all love to accessorize. That’s why we get all the cool decorations to put in the tank.

Penn Plax knows we love extras, and they’ve played along. With this product, you also get a spray bar, filter media, tubing, and a directional spout.

All of this is sure to make you (and your fish or turtles) a happy camper.

cheap canister filter

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review

The Positives

Flow Rate Control

If the water is being pumped too heavily, you’ll risk splashing more on the ground than you keep in the tank every time you change media.

If the flow isn’t heavy enough, you’ll end up with the wrong kind of bacteria growth and murky water.

The swivelling flow valves are all you need to adjust the flow rate to your exact specifications. Don’t just accept a stagnant flow when it could be as dynamic as your aquarium requires.

penn plax canister review


If you’re looking for a good and cheap canister filter, then you’re at the right address.

You won’t have to worry about spending a fortune to get your tank in tip-top shape. This is great news for those on a budget, or for those just starting out in the aquatic world.

Spending a lot of money on aquarium necessities can be a deterrent when starting a new hobby, or wanting a new pet, but you won’t have to sacrifice too much with this filter.

There are even buyers who bought more than one of the Penn Plax Canister filters for a bigger aquarium, because it’s cheaper than buying one larger filter from a different brand.


Fish are fun because they don’t bark, whine, or, in general, make any noise. So the last thing you need is to be reminded of your beautiful pets by a screeching filter that’s straining to keep your water clean.

From the moment you plug in the Penn Plax Cascade Canister filter, it runs smooth and you’ll hardly notice it’s there.

This means your tank won’t be the centre of attention when you have guests over, and those with sensitive ears can relax.

Hard Plastic

Nothing is worse than placing machinery in an aquarium near your pets and then fearing it will break down. This could result in dirty water at best or even injured pets at worst.

Flimsy plastic cannot be accepted in these circumstances. The hard plastic design of the Penn Plax Cascade might be… well, plastic, but its sturdy build gives us confidence that it’s built to last.

Here’s a video showing what the Penn Plax Cascade canister filter looks like out of the box – including how to clean it.

Fast Results

Some filters require a ‘settling’ period, taking some time before your tank is super clean – not with the Penn Plax Canister Filter.

This filter works fast so you’ll have a crystal clear tank in no time!

Not only is it fast, but it’s also powerful, efficiently removing gunk and unwanted substances from deep within your tank.

Fast Shipping

Speaking of fast, you won’t have to wait for weeks, stalking your courier while you impatiently wait for your new canister filter to arrive.

The Penn Plax Canister Filter arrives surprisingly quickly to your door, so you can start getting your tank cleaner, and your pets happier.


The Negatives

One Size… Does Not Fit All

The Penn Plax Cascade might be compatible with all filters of any brand, but that doesn’t mean they will fit easily.

Most aquarium owners expressed a concern that this might mean the media aren’t used to their full potential.

The canister still manages to filter perfectly, but some people have taken to stuffing the sides with harmless materials all the same.

Intimidating for Beginners

There’s tubing and water involved, along with trying to figure out just what kind of settings you actually need. Of course this is intimidating for beginners, so we recommend taking it slow and following the manual.

Trying to cut corners will only result in more delays, so it’s best to perhaps consult an online video or two if it really doesn’t go your way.


Included with your purchase of the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter is a 3 year warranty.

While it’s comforting to know that you have a warranty at all, it won’t be so comforting when you actually need to use it.

While you won’t need to foot the entire cost of the canister filter should you need to send it in for repairs, customers have reported that Penn Plax has asked them to pay for shipping, as well as the cost of repairs – something a warranty should already cover.

Customer Service

On a similar note, customers have also reported the lack of help provided from the Penn Plax customer service, not only in relation to warranty.

Customers have noted that when attempting to contact customer service, it seems as if they are never available to answer questions or concerns.

For those looking for a little extra support, this may be something to think about. Though if you’re great at troubleshooting your own problems, this won’t be a concern.

Overall Verdict

The Penn Plax Canister Aquarium filter is easily one of the best aquarium filters on the market.

With its only real downsides being the smaller size and small issues with the fitting of media, this is an excellent filter for those who keep both fish and turtles.

If you are really enthusiastic about the filter and have a larger tank, the price is friendly enough for you to purchase two for one tank without breaking the bank.

This filter will be best loved by those who own smaller tanks, and while set-up might seem intimidating for beginners, this isn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence for the canisters.

Considering that this cheap option also allows you to experiment with all available media regardless of the price, beginners get a very good deal out of this.

You can learn the ropes at your own pace while mixing and matching until you’ve found a combination that is perfect for you – and your aquatic friends.

Where to Buy the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

The performance of the Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter has made waves in the aquatic world and has become a trusted, affordable product that suits a number of aquariums.

Penn Plax is known for creating innovative, high quality products that are built to last, so it’s no surprise that this filter isn’t a challenge to find both in-store and online.

To start, check out the following online retailers.

And of course, you can also find it on Amazon.

penn plax cascade canister filter review

That’s it for our Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter review. Tempted to give it a go?

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Rated
  • Quality of Filtration
  • Build Quality
  • Accessories
  • Ease of Use
  • Value for Money

FCG Verdict

The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter is a top choice for those looking for an affordable filter that really performs.

Considering the pros definitely outweigh the cons, this filter will suit fish and turtle owners with a small tank – though buying two for a bigger tank won’t be an issue thanks to its affordable price.

>>> Check current price on Amazon.

Leave a Comment