Penn Plax Cascade Series Canister Filter Review And Guide

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Penn Plax Cascade series include 5 models (Cascade 500, 700, 1000, 1200, 1500) used for different aquariums up to 200 gallons. They are the most popular external canister filters on the market today because of their powerful features and very affordable prices. This review will cover all powerful features of this series as well as provide you the method to set up and maintain the filters in the proper way.

Penn Plax Cascade Series Canister Filter Features

Keep Water Clean - High Flow Rates
  • sturdy construction
  • ergonomic design
  • easy set-up
  • quiet operation
  • Cascade 500 (FR: 115 GPH) for tanks up to 30 gal
  • Cascade 700 (FR: 185 GPH) for tanks up to 65 gal.
  • Cascade 1000 (FR: 265 GPH) for tanks up to 100 gal.
  • Cascade 1200 (FR: 315 GPH) for tanks up to 150 gal.
  • Cascade 1500 (FR: 350 GPH) for tanks up to 200 gal.

Penn Plax Cascade series canister filters efficiently provide powerful water flow and multi-stage external filtration system, which really get the job done. The filters are designed to be utilized on both fresh or salt water aquariums. Its color is cobalt blue and looks great next to any tank.


The flow rate is high enough to constantly keep the water circulated and filtered that ensures any toxic fish wastes are transferred. There are control valves for adjustment of the flow rate to perfectly fit your aquarium sizes and fish types. The control valves are also used for shutting off the water flow for maintenance easy without leak and mess.

Multi-Stage And Quiet Filtration

The product comes with start-up filter media, in addition to large filter trays. There are many baskets for containing filter media that makes it possible for the combining of multiple media delivering and multi-stage filtration. This is the combination of chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration that generates a fresh and healthy environment for aquarium creatures.


Note: The filter in the picture use my own filter materials, some aren’t available in the product

The large filter chambers, which enable you to utilize more media plus, are the most favorite feature of Cascade series. Whereby, the filter can accommodate a large amount of filter media for the better filtration and longer maintaining periods.

You can use the media come with the product or choose ones as you think best for your fish tank. You can use various media combinations, in order to accomplish a wide array of filtration as your needs. This includes bio-sponges, bio-floss, or activated carbon. The more media you use the cleaner your aquarium and the less maintenance you have to do.

Easy To Set Up And Maintain

Like Fluval 06 series canister filters, the installation of Penn Plax Cascade series canister filters is very simple, even easier because everything you need is accessible. Once installed, the filter works fast to keep your aquarium clean and clear. The filtering process will engage in about thirty minutes after installation and visible improvements can be noticeable less than a day.


The filter features a self-priming button on the lid for easy starting, just press the button several times until you get water flow from the intake tube going down into the filter. And then, the filter do its works to keep your aquarium clean and ideal for fish.

Moreover, Penn Plax Cascade series filters own some other wonderful features of Fluval 06 series make it easy for setup and maintenance.

  • There are two independent directional 360-degree rotational valve taps for worry free placement.
  • Swimming pool-style hose clamps make it easy to assemble as well as disassemble the filter for setup and maintenance easier.
  • Flow-rate control valves allow for adjustment of the flow rate or shutting it off for easy maintenance without leak and mess.
  • The directional returns aid in suspending waste matter which enables it to be taken in by the filter, and leaving nothing but clear, fresh water.
  • Easy-lift clamps make it easy to remove the cover for maintenance. Simply release the vacuum and remove the top for cleaning, changing filter media or additional maintenance.
  • Air-tight seal assures proper flow rate of the filter and allows for very quiet operation while it is working.
  • Mounted tip-proof rubber base keeps the filter in place.

Pros And Cons Of Penn Plax Cascade Series Filters

  • Very low price compared to other brands
  • Extra easy to set up and maintain
  • Can adjust or shut off water flow with control valves
  • Quick and easy to prime by pushing the button self-primer
  • Very quiet during operation
  • Large capacity for low maintenance
  • High quality, durable, tip-proof base
  • Loved and praised by a lot of hobbyists.
  • Some of the trays do not fit snug allowing some water to bypass the media. This can be easily solved by sticking filter floss into the side areas.
  • The motor and pumping parts of the Penn Plax are sealed, you can’t get inside to clean out any residual waste matter, algae, or whatever else happens to build up inside the unit.

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter Assembling Manual

  1. Prepare Filter

    ​Open lock clips. Remove motor unit. Remove filter baskets from filter case.

  2. Prepare Media baskets

    ​Filtration works from the bottom up. Use floss pad and carbon bag in bottom basket. Use floss pad and coarse sponge pad in top basket.

  3. Reassemble filter

    Place seal ring, connector and media basket cover over top basket. Slide media basket clips into slots on sides of top basket. Note that small opening on motor unit must align with holes on basket.

  4. Attach valves

    Attach valves to ports on motor unit. Attach valve with blue ring to “in” port. Attach valve with black ring to “out” port

  5. Position the filter

    Choose a location for the filter where it can be easily accessed for maintenance. Do not attach hoses yet! Note that hoses with valves will easily detach from motor to remain at aquarium during filter maintenance.

  6. Hose attachment

    Attach hose to intake tube. Use tube with blue hose ring. Attach intake tube extension and strainer. Use two suction cups to secure intake tube to aquarium wall.

  7. Exhaust hose assembly

    A spray bar or a directional spout as you want. All of these equipment help to break surface water to provide oxygen exchange for your aquarium. While the directional spout creates a forceful circulating flow in any direction, the spray bar evenly distributes filtered water across length of aquarium. If you prefer to position the directional spout or spray bar above water level, use the two extra elbow connectors to connect them.
Keep Water Clean - High Flow Rates
  • sturdy construction
  • ergonomic design
  • easy set-up
  • quiet operation

Affiliate links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Last update on 2022-09-11.

Top Editor's Choice on Penn Plax Cascade Canister Filter

Bestseller No. 5
Penn-Plax Cascade Pro-C Mixed Aquarium Canister Filter Media Bag – 8 Oz...
MEASUREMENTS: Overall = 8” x 4” / Size = 8 Oz / Quantity = 2-Pack
Bestseller No. 6
AQUANEAT Replacement Canister Filter Pads Compatible to Cascade 700/1000...
Generic pads for Cascade 700/1000 (CCF2UL/CCF3UL) replacement canister filter sponges; 12 pcs of white floss pads: Filter out fine particles providing crystal clear water
Bestseller No. 7
Penn-Plax Cascade 600 Filter Replacement Carbon Cartridges (2 Pack) –...
MEASUREMENTS: 4” (D) x 3” (D) x 3” (H) each.
Bestseller No. 9

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18 thoughts on “Penn Plax Cascade Series Canister Filter Review And Guide”

  1. Do I need to adjust the out and intake valves equally to slow the strong current for the fish? Even with the spray bar it is strong.i do not want to blow anything like gaskets.

    • Hi Nancy! Only adjust the outtake valve is enough. How many gallons is your tank? Which Cascade model do you use for the tank? I think you may use a model over rated for your tank volume.

  2. Sieu
    I have a Penn-Plax Cascade 700 filter for my 65 gallon aquarium. I’ve progressively found it harder and harder to detach and reattach my hose valve lock rings to my intake and exhaust ports on the canister when I remove the canister for cleaning and replacing filter media. Do you have any idea what I can do? On my last cleaning this week I could barely get the lock rings off the ports. I’ve been looking into a new filtration system due to this difficulty.

    • Hi Joel!
      I think your lock rings may be damaged making it hard to handle with them. As normal, this process is so very easy for other people who own Penn-Plax Cascade canister filters. You don’t need to change your current filter because you can find another Flow Control Valve Set for the filter on Amazon. I see some people have the same problem with you and they have solved it with the small replacement.
      Hope it help.

  3. I’m looking into purchasing a Penn Plax and I’m working with a 50 gallon fresh water tank. What size do you recommend, I’m thinking about the 100 gallon just to be on the safe side.

  4. I bought the cascade 1500 for my 70 gallon tank. After setting it up everything worked fine until the water bar made some squeaking sound as if it didn’t have enough force for it to flow smoothly. i kept pummping to get the air out but nothing worked. Then it just completely stopled working. Can anyone tell me what went wrong here?

  5. Hello, my name is Nancy Harris. I have a Cascade 1200 canister. It was used when I bought it. I had to order a motor gasket and a media basket joint seal. I now have those and when I tried to seal the canister, then I can’t get the locking clips to close properly. I am not sure what I am doing wrong. Thank for any help you can give me

    • Hi Robert,
      The Penn Plax Cascade 1000 with a flow rate of 265 GPH produces too strong water flow to stress your shrimps. I don’t know the output water flow after adjusting to the minimum flow rate and adding filter materials. Commonly, for freshwater species, you should ensure that the final flow rate isn’t higher than 4 times of your aquarium capacity (<=120 GPH for your tank).

  6. I have a Cascade Canister 1200. I has become more than a struggle to get it primed when I do the maintenance.
    Is it there any special sequence to start it after maintenance? I follow the sequence when disconnecting as advised in the instructions, but I wonder why it does not prime correctly. All seals are fine and there is water in the canister. Help, please.

    • Hi Luis!
      I also had problems of priming my filter in the past and I notice that the fast and easiest way to prime a pump is to fill it with water. The pump of the cascade canister 1200 filter is within the lid and you have to fill your canister with full of water for priming it. The fastest way, you should fill the canister with water as much as possible, then the intake hose siphons the water from your tank to fill the rest (the pump inside the lid) and it will start to work. Ensure that you shut off the intake valve before opening the canister filter for cleaning. This helps to keep the water inside the hose so that it will continue to siphon when you open the valve.

      If this also doesn’t work, open the output valve and discard the water inside the output hose when maintaining. This ensures that there is nothing preventing the siphoning process.

  7. Hi my name is Max and I just set up a Cascade Canister Filter 500 and when I turned it on the air bubbles were flowing into the tank but I can’t feel any suction through the strainer. The cables are fully on and I can blow water through the tubes. Do you know why this is happening?

    • Hi Max!
      Just ensure you prime the filter in the right way. Press the priming button several times until you get the first water flow from your tank into your filter and WAIT for the canister to be filled. Then plug it in and the pump will start to work. Anything else, check if the motor impeller inside the lid is working properly or not.


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