DIY: How To Make Your Own Canister Filter 5

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DIY Canister Filter

One of the most important aspects of owning an aquarium is keeping the water as clean and healthy as possible, while keeping a good biological balance within the environment. Power filters do provide good filtration; however Canister Filters are essentially a better choice, as they allow for better mechanical and biological filtration than most power filters.

Making a DIY Canister Filter is fairly simple, and really doesn’t require too many materials.One of the perks of making your own filter is that, you will have a fully customizable filter in which you can use whatever medium you like inside of the filter for optimal filtration.

You will also be able to have a better quality filtration system than the more expensive already-put-together versions in which you could buy in the store.

Tutorial 1: Simple DIY Canister Filter

The last video we have is a DIY Canister Filter for a small Nano Aquarium. It’s simplicity and size makes it appealing even for the intimidated viewers, and it’s fairly easy to put together.

There isn’t too much maintenance required with this unit, and most of the unit can be put together with things you have laying around the house. You can build this unit for around $30 or less.

You Will Need:

  1. Igloo Thermos with Cap, about 11” tall, with hole drilled on bottom side for adapter
  2. Submersible Pump (output not specified)
  3. Activated carbon pellets
  4. Plastic ring of some sort to fit inside of canister to hold medium in place
  5. Filter sponge
  6. Sealant
  7. Gravel & Clay
  8. Ceramic tubes
  9. Inflow tube, punctured many times
  10. Adapter

How To:

Attach the submersible pump to the inside of the thermos cap. You will need to drill holes through the top to get the electrical wiring through. You will attach the pump to the lid with sealant. You should let the piece dry for 24 hours or more to ensure it is completely dry.

Inside of the canister, in the order to follow from bottom to top, place the following items:

  1. Inflow tube punctured with many holes across the bottom of canister, and connect to adapter installed on the bottom side of the canister
  2. Filter sponge
  3. Ceramic tubes (kept in red mesh housing)
  4. Gravel & clay
  5. Activated carbon
  6. Filter sponge

NOTE: Ensure you are leaving adequate room at the top of the canister for the pump to fit inside of the lid.

That’s all there is to creating your very own DIY Canister Filter from old household items like a thermos, which you may never have used again otherwise. It’s also extremely frugal, and a much better way to get the job done. It’s also gratifying knowing you are building your own filter as opposed to buying one.

Tutorial 2 : DIY Nano Canister Filter

In this video, you will learn how to make a DIY Nano Canister Filter for a Micro Aquarium. Micro or Nano aquariums can be extremely volatile when it comes to it’s water levels. So, if you’re making your own filter, it’s best to make sure that you’re doing it right. Learn how in this next video tutorial:

You Will Need:

  1. Plastic water bottle, 2 liter, square if you are able (Fiji brand water bottles are square)
  2. A small amount of airline tubing, enough to cut into 4 – 2” long pieces
  3. Soldering iron
  4. Aquarium safe silicone
  5. X-acto knife

How To:

  1. Cut off the top of the bottle with an X-acto knife. To find out how much of the bottle you will need to remove, first take the bottle and put it up against the side of your micro aquarium. Where the top of the aquarium is, cut the bottle 5 cm. above that to ensure there is adequate room for the tubing.
  2. After the bottle has been cut to size, use the soldering iron to create 4 holes big enough for the airline tubing to fit into. You may have to wiggle the iron around to create holes big enough. There should be 4 holes consecutively on one side of the bottle only.
  3. Take the tubing piece and cut into 4 pieces that are about 2” in length. After placing tube pieces, silicone them in place, using silicone on the front and back of the bottle. Ensure the tubing is pointing downward so the water can flow freely and also that the longest part of the tube is sticking out of the front of the filter.

Once you are finished with assembling the filter, you will need to fill it with media. This video recommends using aquarium wool in the bottom of the bottle/filter, and then ceramic pieces over the top of that. Also, when you hook up your water pump, it is recommended that you place a piece of sponge over the water intake tube to keep any large debris from flowing into the filter.

The wool used on the bottom of the filter is to keep the small pieces of debris trapped. The ceramic pieces allow a good bacterial environment to develop within the filter to keep the bacteria and pH of the tank regulated and working smoothly.

You will need to hook up a water pump to the filter by using airline tubing, into the filter water itself, and then into the tank. Remember to place the small piece of sponge over the intake tube in the tank.
That’s basically all there is to make this small micro aquarium DIY Canister Filter.

Tutorial 3: Small DIY Canister Filter

In this video, we learn how to make a small sized DIY Canister Filter that can be used to help remove sediment, and to clean larger debris from inside of the tank. No bio media is necessary as this particular filter is based on removing larger debris and is not generally to be used for any other purpose or for the long term. It’s simple and very cost effective to make at anywhere from $6-12.

You Will Need:

  1. Submersible Pump – cheap ones work perfectly fine; should be able to pump 200+ gal/hr
  2. A container to use as the actual canister with a tight fitting snap down lid. This container should have two holes drilled into it – one on the top of the lid off to the side, and the other should be on the bottom side of the container. The holes should be big enough to fit adapters with gaskets through, at approximately ½ inch in diameter.
  3. Two sets ½ in. pipe adapters with O-rings, both male and female
  4. ½ in piping with lots of holes drilled into it, you need two pieces – one should be the length of the container to fit across the bottom while screwed into the adapter

How To:

Take the lid off of your container, and screw the male end of the gasket inside and the female end on the outside of the container. Create some tension when you screw the pieces together by over- tightening by a little bit. This will create a water tight seal.

Attach one of the pipes with holes drilled into it to the adapter going across the bottom and ensure a snug fit.

Put blue and white mesh across the bottom pipes and then polyester fiber on top of that, fluffing polyester fiber as much as possible before placing into container. Make sure you put as much poly fiber as possible into the container, and then place another piece of blue and white mesh over the fiber. You want the mesh to be white side down.

Take the other piece of pipe you had drilled holes into, and attach through the hole in the top with the other gasket/adapter.

Snap the lid onto the container.

Attach tubing to the outside adapter and hook to the immersible pump.

Attach a small/short stub of tubing to the top.

And that’s all there is to building this easy and affordable DIY Canister Filter.

Tutorial 4 : Make Your Own Canister Filter

In this video, the King of DIY, Joey Mullen, talks about the ins and outs of how you can build your own DIY Canister Filter. Best part is, it is completely customizable and extremely affordable.

For a 3’ Canister Filter, which would be adequate for a 100-130 gallon aquarium would run you about $15.00 total, not including the cost of tubing or pump. 4” PVC is commonly available and fairly inexpensive.

You Will Need:

  1. 4” PVC Pipe
  2. PVC End cap
  3. Threaded male cap
  4. PVC Connectors
  5. Drill spade
  6. Sandpaper
  7. PVC Cement
  8. Silicone
  9. Filter Floss
  10. Sponge for media
  11. Pliable mesh material for media rings
  12. Ceramic media
  13. 2 rings of PVC cut from ends of piping, about 1” in diameter
  14. Ceramic media or K1 Kaldness

First, note that the PVC should not be taller than the tank itself. Taking proper measurements before actually purchasing the PVC will ensure you don’t have to cut the piping down after purchasing. Sizing of piping for the Canister Filter size is based on the gallon size of the tank itself. For instance:

  • 25 gallon tank = 1 Ft. PVC / Canister Filter
  • 75 gallon tank = 2 Ft. PVC/ Canister Filter
  • 100-130 gallon tank = 3 Ft. PVC/ Canister Filter

How To:

  1. Rinse all PVC pipes and items and wipe down with dry cloth. Use lukewarm water to rinse piping only. No cleaners.
  2. Use sandpaper inside of cap edges first before applying to PVC, as well as the edges of actual PVC piping to ensure a good bond with cement.
  3. Put cap on bottom end – you can decide which end you would like to be bottom end
  4. Find where you would like to install the PVC connectors on the piping – there should be one installed directly in the middle of the PVC above the endcap, and one installed on the actual endcap itself on the opposite end of the PVC. This should be done after doing a dry fit of the bottom cap to mark the spot in which you would do the installation.
  5. Drill hole with drill spade down into top of male twist cap.
  6. Drill hole into PVC pipe where you marked second hole above endcap. *Note: Canister filter, when standing up, will bring water through top and will flow down through bottom of filter.
  7. Remove gasket from PVC connector. Gasket will install on the inside of PVC pipe while connector sits on the outside of PVC and endcap. There should be no issues with installation of endcap gasket and connector, however for the PVC connector since the piping is circular, you will need to take your silicone and apply a layer around the hole, and then install the connector and gasket. This will be the only time you need to use your silicone. This will serve as a double gasket of sorts, and keep the piping sealed well.
  8. With the adapters in place, you will now go ahead and install the endcaps to both ends of PVC. To do this, you will take your PVC cement and paint along the inside of the endcaps, as well as the outside of the ends of the PVC. You only need to apply it where the endcap and PVC touch.
  9. Install the bottom endcap only, and push down tightly, and allow it to dry. The drying process usually takes approximately 24 hours. You can tell if it is dry by smelling outside of the pipe near where you spread the cement. If there is no odor, it is dry. Ensure male end goes next to the bottom output, and the female end has the adapter running through it.
  10. To fill the canister with media, which is the next step, is based on personal preference. Some people prefer using ceramic pieces, others prefer K1 Kaldness. You will need two types of medium to have an adequately running DIY Canister Filter. In this video, Joey uses mesh to hold and separate the media with the PVC rings, as well as one type of biological media and one type of mechanical media. He uses K1 Kaldness (a lot of it) to fill for the mechanical media, and black sponge and floss for the mechanical media.
  11. To begin adding media, you will first need to place the first piece of mesh around the PVC ring and fit it snugly inside of the piping. The first one should go all the way down to almost the very bottom of the piping, and the other ring covered with mesh should go almost at the top of the pipe. Do not install second ring until media has been placed on top of first ring.
  12. Fill pipe with K1 Kaldness or ceramic – whatever you prefer. Fill all the way up PVC pipe until about 3 inches from bottom of top. Then, you will need to place your sponge, floss, andring.
  13. Using your second PVC ring as a stencil, cut your floss and sponge to fit, and then wrap your PVC pipe in mesh and place the sponge and floss on top of the ring, and place within the PVC piping towards the top.
  14. After your canister is completely filled with media, install other endcap (the one which contains the gasket) and you will not need to cement or silicone this piece on. At this point, your canister is complete.

Now it’s time to hook up piping and a water pump. The Magdrive 7 costs about $70-80.00 and is well worth the expense. This is recommended for a 3’ size canister. You can also submerge the Magdrive in water, or leave it out of water. Magdrives are silent and reliable.

Essentially how the water pump will work is this: Water flows from aquarium to top of canister filter, flows through mechanical media, then the biological media, and causes a bubble at the bottom of the canister, causing the water to then be sucked back into the tank and the process repeats itself.

Maintenance is easy and simple. Simply disconnect the canister filter from the aquarium, use a ball valve to keep the flow of water off, and then take the return out of the water. Unscrew top cap, clean out mechanical media by simply rinsing with water. That’s really all there is to maintaining this DIY Canister Filter.

To connect to aquarium:

You will need valve hoses to hook to the water pump in order for your filter to do its job. They are fairly inexpensive. Place the hose onto the pump, held in place by stainless steel clamps only (always use stainless steel clamps with your aquarium) and the other hose will go over the top of gasket on top of the filter. You will then prime the filter by taking cap off of the top, filling with water, and then it should work normally. You can then turn your filter on, and water should run freely.

Have You Made Your Own Canister Filter?

Have you had a go at making your own canister filter with your aquarium setup? Share your experience below in the comments section below. We’d all love to hear it.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

5 thoughts on “DIY: How To Make Your Own Canister Filter

  1. Pingback: Best Canister Filter For 60 Gallon Aquarium | My Life as I know It

  2. Reply Mill Mar 15,2016 3:33 am

    Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! You talk so darn fast!!!!!

    So many questions, and HUGE interest on my part, but…what size of pump? Is it internal or external? How about noise or vibration (hate it). Can it run dry? How do you prevent the tank emptying in case of a failure in the canister? How do I add a thermometer? How do I build a system like a Lifegard Aquatics modular Compact System R440455 (I have limited space)? Would be nice to add a compartment for UV. Or, maybe forgo cansiter and go with sump? Your video doesn’t show the pump, how to assemble it, hoses, etc. I have a new 90 gallon tank, but cabinet below is limited space. I bought an API Filstar xp-xl; I hate it. Sucks air, is noisy, and flow is not what they advertise. I would like to build my own and your video was entertaining but too fast and I have to many questions!!! I don’t know where to start. Would like to add another filter system for a 90 gal aquarium, turning over about 4 to 7 times with mechanical and bio media. Need more data!! Step by step. Discussion! Where do I go from here, please?

  3. Reply Donovan Leeds May 10,2016 6:57 am

    I enjoyed watching the video. I was thinking of something similar using a 5 gal bucket with a submersible pump. The issue that comes to mind with that is separating media but I believe it would be fairly simple to use a firm plastic mesh to act as a stop between media stages. The next question is determining how large of an aquarium this will satisfy. I’ve always been of the mindset that you’re better off with overkill ie: filter capacity for 100 gal. on a 50 gal. aquarium.

  4. Reply Bianca May 6,2017 7:56 pm

    Can i use a small filter in my 52 liter tank and then later get a bigger one that is the correct size for my tank

  5. Reply Richard Ohle May 20,2018 2:50 pm

    Built a few using 6” PVC.
    I did not use an Oring.
    1 st mistake- to much flow
    2 nd – do not under estimate the amount of peassure created
    3 rd – use unions 😎

    About to do another one. This time I will use “silicone hoses” rather than PVC.
    Since I am ordering a custom tank and having a stand built, this filter will be a tad taller than the stand. I will have the tank drilled for the filter inlet and use flexible hoses for all but the filter return. That portion will be hard piped PVC attached to the cabinet. The toughest part is the noise or vibration from the pump. No need to go for 10 x of water. I am shooting for 4x 5 times. I use external pumps.

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