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Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review: Features, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Professional veterinary specialist with 10 years of experience. - Alisa Moor

publication time: 14:23

To keep aquarium fish you need not just a water tank and fish, but also a range of professional tools and accessories. One of the mandatory accessories is an aquarium filter. With an impressive diversity of filters available, external options (those installed outside the water tank) remain the most popular ones. Choosing the best canister aquarium filter one needs to consider multiple characteristics: capacity, ease of use, the quality of filtration, and others.

Penn Plax cascade canister aquarium filter is one of the most popular external filter options. It is versatile, well-made, and relatively inexpensive. In this review, we’ll try to single out its strong and weak points.

Table of Contents:

What is Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter and How It Works
Popular Canister Aquarium Filters: a Comparative Chart
Unboxing & Supply Package
1. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review
How to Set up the Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Filter
How to Prime the Cascade 1000
The Bottom Line

What is Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter and How It Works

Like any canister filter, Pann Plax is designed for the filtration of aquarium water. It can be used in both saltwater and freshwater tanks, which makes it versatile and convenient. The unit consists of two through five stackable trays (depending on the modification) for the filtering media, such as activated charcoal, sponge, zeolite, and others. The Cascade option comes in three modifications: 500, 700, 1000, 1200, and 1500. Our object of interest is the Cascade 1000 option designed to handle up to 100 gallons of water.
The mechanism of action of the filter is pretty simple. There are two tubes included: with the help of the input tube the unit intakes water from the aquarium. The purified water is released back to the water tank via the output tube. The latter features a removable bar with several small holes located about 1 inch from each other. It acts as a sprayer, which allows to distribute the clean water evenly around the aquarium.

Popular Canister Aquarium Filters: a Comparative Chart




Tank size (gallons)


Filtration media included

Pump power


Noise level


Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

BUY NOW AMAZON 100 256 Yes, one set

28.5 W

Both Low 3 years

Fluval External Filter


100 383 + 25 W Both


3 years

Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter for Aquariums

BUY NOW AMAZON 100 360 +

35 W

Both Medium 3 years

Filter Aquarium Tank Polar Aurora




55 W

Both Low N/A

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media

BUY NOW AMAZON 66 79.25 + 15 W Both Low 1 month
Hydor Professional External Canister Filter BUY NOW AMAZON 100 280 + N/A Both Medium 2 years

SunSun HW-302 3-Stage External Canister Aquarium Filter 264GPH

SunSun HW-302 3-Stage External Canister Aquarium Filter BUY NOW AMAZON 75 264


18 W

Both Low N/A

Unboxing & Supply Package

The filter is supplied disassembled. The supply package of the Cascade 1000 includes three filtering media trays, the tubing, a directional spout, a dedicated spray bar for an even water distribution, and one set of filtering media. The latter includes one floss pad and one coarse sponge. This basic set is sufficient for approximately one month, after which you’ll need to change the media.

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review

Penn Plax is a well-established brand, which offers products of high quality. This canister filter is made of sturdy plastic – durable and easy to maintain. The unit features two rotating taps for easy tubing attachment. The stackable trays can be filled with various types of filtering media. There are two shut-off valves responsible for flow control. Priming the filter is very easy, thanks to the dedicated button.

What we think

The filter does its job well: it is definitely the kind of aquarium accessories that are worthy of investment. We love its quiet operating – this is one of the crucial characteristics of a home aquarium filter. The trays are large and convenient; various types of media don’t mix up. The rotating taps are marvelous. The only small complaint is the high price of the native replaceable filtering media. That said, you may use a variety of media types instead.


  • high-grade durable materials;
  • easy to assemble;
  • convenient stackable trays;
  • quiet operating;
  • 360-degree rotating valves.


  • the manual is not too detailed;
  • the native replaceable filters are expensive.

How to Set up the Penn Plax Cascade 1000 Canister Filter

Setting up and adjusting of the Penn Plax Cascade takes around 30 minutes. Fill the trays with the filtering media and stack them as recommended. Then shut the canister and attach the tubing. Mount the loose ends of both tubes inside the aquarium. Finally, place the canister outside the aquarium, making sure that the hoses are not twisted or strained. Double-check all the fittings to make sure they don’t leak air.

How to Prime the Cascade 1000

Priming is an essential part of setting up a canister aquarium filter. You shouldn’t switch on the device right after the assembly without filling the canister with water. This procedure is called priming. Luckily, in the case with the Cascade 1000, you don’t have to do it manually. There is a dedicated “prime” button on its lid. As soon as the unit is assembled and mounted, press the button for 3-5 minutes to let the water in.
After the priming, try to launch the filter. At first, you may see bubbles in the water. There’s nothing to worry about – it’s just the remaining air. If the bubbles don’t fade out in 3-4 minutes or get stronger, switch off the device and check all the hoses, spouts, and fittings once again. Chances are there is an air leak.

The Bottom Line

A canister filter is an essential piece of aquarium equipment. It lets keep the water clean and pure all the time. Penn Plax is a reliable and trusted supplier of external canister filters. Its Cascade 1000 option is large enough to purify up to 100 gallons of salt or fresh water. It is a quiet, convenient, and easy to maintain unit, which is loved by thousands of fish keepers for its excellent functionality, good capacity, and durability. Despite some minor downsides, it is a very good canister aquarium filter, which is definitely worthy of considering.


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