Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter Review

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Tank Size Filtration
Noise Level Longevity Price
30-200 Gallons 3-5 Low 3-5 Years Medium-Low

The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter is a the perfect balance between performance and price. It can easily handle large aquariums, run silently without creating any noise. Unlike many other canister filters, Penn Plax keeps the price relatively low. While this does make the casing more fragile than other filters, it should not be an issue unless you treat the filter roughly.


To start you should select a spot for the canister filter. I highly suggest you pick somewhere that is not too difficult to access. When cleaning it is best to pick up and move the filter. The canister filter will have two tubes coming from the top of it, both of which can be rotated 360&deg. The included tubes are ribbed, making it difficult to kink and easy to place.

Their are two outlets on the top of the filter. The blue one is the intake valve while the black is the output. Each tube will attach to the outlet with a bit of force before turning and tightening the included nozzles. There will then be a control valve you can use to stop the flow. You will be using this for cleaning and maintenance.

With both tubes in place and well tightened you can place the tubes into the tank. The filter comes with several attachments for the tubes, including a spray bar and directional output for the return tube. The spray bar will make the waters return a bit more noisy, so you may want to avoid this for silent operation. The intake should use a standard grate intake, ensuring no fish or large objects are sucked into the filter.

With the tubes in place you can begin priming the pump. To do this you will simply be pressing the large button on the top of the filter multiple times. I find this works best when done quickly. Push the button down until you hear the water draining into the filter. Watch the water fill up the filter, waiting until the filter is just about full of water. At this point you may plug in the canister filter to start the motor. The water will then be returned to the tank and your filter should run without issue from here on out. When it starts it may produce a lot of bubbles, as the tube is full of air and not water. For this reason I kept the output tube high in the tank, which made sure no bubbles were trapped underneath the live rock that lie deeper in the tank.


To start cleaning you will need to shut off the intake valve. This is done by simply turning the valve on the blue intake valve. Once the intake is shut you can watch the output carry the rest of the water out of the filter. Once the filter has been emptied shut the valve before turning off the filter. This will prevent any reverse siphons while you clean out the filter. Now you may shut off the filter and unscrew the two nozzles from the filter. Be sure to take the whole nozzle and not just the tube. Unplugging just the tube and not the nozzle will undo the seal and allow water through the tubes. You should be disconnecting everything up to the blue and black valves that are attached directly to the filters body.

With the filter disconnected from the tank you may carry it to a sink or tub to clean it. The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter has a carrying handle on it, making this rather easy. Be sure to set down the filter gently, as the footing can chip without too much force.

You can open the filter by lifting the side clamps from the filter, followed by the top of the filter. This will give you access to the filter media trays, each of which can be removed. Each tray has its own carrying handle. The top tray should be held in place by a rubber gasket, which you can remove by hand. Do not lose this as it must be reattached for the filter to work properly. Change or clean your filter media and baskets and put them back into place. Re assemble the pump in reverse order and you should be done cleaning. To restart the pump simply follow the set up process a second time.

Warranty & Lifetime

While this may be one of the lowest cost canister filters out there, the Penn Plax Canister filter is covered by a strong three year warranty. Simply call or email Penn Plax and they should help you with any issue you may have. They are fast and friendly, however the emails can take a day or two depending on the time and day of the week.

The pumps are unlikely to break down completely, with the main component you need to worry about being the impeller. However unlike many other filters the impeller in canister filters rarely becomes damaged, allowing the filter to run for many years without issue. Should the impeller break it can easily be replaced either by warranty or a small separate purchase.

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