Hello and thank you for reading my review on the API Filstar XPL Canister Filter. This filter was formerly known as the Rena XP3 Canister Filter but has recently been re-branded under the API name. There are some differences though, but only in the accessories the filter comes with.
- Flow Rate: 350 Gallons per hour (GPH) / 1350 Liters per hour (LPH)
- Loaded Flow Rate: 187 Gallons per hour (GPH) / 706 Liters per hour (LPH)
- Aquarium Size: Up to 175 Gallons (660 Liters)
- Power: 28 Watts
Included in box:
- XPL Canister Filter with 3 media baskets
- Two 59″ lengths of flexible tubing
- Intake tubing with suction cups
- Output nozzle with suction cups
- One 30 ppi foam square
- One 20 ppi foam square
- One fine filter pad
- Five Bio-Chem Stars
- One bag of Bio-Chem Zorb (Activated Carbon)
My first impressions when opening the box were very positive. Everything was clean, in good shape, with no visible damage. The clamps holding the lid down come off easily and smoothly. The media baskets all fit together snugly yet still remain easy to remove.
Inspecting the impeller I was extremely pleased to see that it has a stainless steel shaft rather than plastic. That was a problem I had with my previous filter that had a plastic shaft and broke easily. This is important because you must remove the impeller periodically to clean both it and the housing.
The API Filstar XPL contains three media baskets, all are the same size and all three come with a divider that can separate the top and bottom of each basket. This is useful if you want to keep different media types separated from each other, for example a filter pad separated from your bio media. Best of all, the media baskets are just a standard square shape! No tubes going through it, no odd cutouts, just nice open squares! That makes me happy because I can cut to size my own media, no need to buy specially sized media! This will save you money.
The package includes two black foam filters of different densities (one coarse, one medium), one fine filter pad (white), 5 of API’s Bio-Chem Stars, and a bag of API’s Bio-Chem Zorb which is just a fancy name for activated carbon. This is a decent selection of media to start with, but you will want to buy more. If you have a planted aquarium you may wish to add some pre-filter media (chunks of ceramic rings that catch large debris like plant leaves), some more fine pads, and you can ditch the activated carbon and bio stars. If you don’t have live plants, you’ll want to increase the number of bio stars (or equivalent like bio rings). I really recommend also getting a media bag to hold the bio media, it makes it much easier to remove and clean.
If you are worried about media replacement costs, you should know that only the activated carbon needs to be continuously replaced. Everything else can just be washed and reused until they physically fall apart or they lose their shape allowing water to bypass them. If you do not have live plants, be sure to wash your media in old tank water!
This is the one area I was not happy with on the API Filstar XPL, and really my only major complaint. The fittings you are suppose to slide the tubing over is incredibly tight! You will most likely have to use some aquarium safe grease to get these puppies on. In addition, the included hose clamps are plastic, and a bit too small. However, that said, I actually am not using them… the hoses fit so tightly onto the fittings that it doesn’t leak without them. However, to be on the safe size you may consider getting more traditional metal hose clamps. Just be extremely careful not to over tighten them as the fittings are plastic!
The other issue I have is the included hoses are small on my 125 gallon 6-foot tank. They just barely reach to the canister located directly center and below the tank. Depending on the height of your stand, you may need to buy your own tubing if you also have a 6-foot tank. On 5-foot and 4-foot tanks you should be okay.
The API Filstar XPL is slightly louder than my old canister filter, however it is still quieter than hang on back (HOB) filters and far quieter than air driven sponge filters. The 125 gallon aquarium that I use this filter with is located in my bedroom so noise is an important factor for me. While I can definitely hear it, it isn’t loud enough to become a problem and both myself and my wife are able to sleep right through it as just white noise.
Priming this filter is actually really easy compared to the cheap knock off this replaced. The cheaper filter had a priming button on it, which served as a manual water pump that you would keep pressing until water began to flow into the filter. It never really worked well though, resulting in a lot of pumping before the thing would fill with water. With the API Filstar XPL however there is a cap on the intake tubing that you can unscrew allowing you to pour water directly into the intake tubing. Once you fill the tubing, you put the cap back on, then lock down the quick release on the canister (and thus opening the water values). The water falling into the canister from the intake tube creates a suction from the aquarium that fills up the canister. Once filled, you plug it in and it will start pumping.
The API Filstar XPL is really actually a great filter for its price. Fluval does not offer anything for a 125 gallon aquarium that is appropriate (their highest standard filter is only 90g, and the FX5 is for 400 gallons!) and Eheim is more the double the cost and has been getting some pretty bad reviews in their newest models. Most of the alternatives are knock off brands which I tried before getting this filter, and ultimately I ended up wasting my money going with one of them.
The only thing keeping this from being the absolute best filter in my book is the difficulty in getting the plumping connected up, and the lack of a spray bar for the output. As of yet you can not buy a spray bar, but you can still find older Rena XP3 accessory trays out there for sale that do include a spray bar.