API Filstar XPL Review (Rena XP3)

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.

Specifications:

  • 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)
  • Instructions

Review:

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.

Rena XP3 - API XPL - Canister Latches

Undo the latches on the lid of the canister

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.

Rena XP3 - API XPL - Impeller Removed

Impeller removed from drive shaft

Media:

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.

Clean media back in their baskets

Media baskets and empty canister

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.

Rena XP3 - API XPL - Media Baskets

Put Bio media into a media bag to make cleaning easier!

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!

Rise out dirty filter pads in the sink

Fine filter pad halfway through cleaning, reuse until it falls apart or loses shape on you.

Plumbing:

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.

API XPL Rena XP3 Canister Filter Tubing

Canister Filter Tubing and Quick Disconnect

Noise:

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:

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.

Conclusion:

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.

API Filstar XP-L Canister Filter


New From: $159.97 USD In Stock

2 thoughts on “API Filstar XPL Review (Rena XP3)

  1. Question; Now that it has been a couple of years since your review, I would like a follow up. I read that while rated for larger aquariums, when loaded the head pressure was lower than Eheim (which isn’t good, anyway), and much lower than a Magnum — the suggestion being maybe the other units have better flow rates even though rated for smaller tanks. I would be curious to know if you have tested head pressure/flow or even your visual thoughts on it. Does it provide sufficient water movement, or would I need to add powerheads to a similar sized tank. I also wondered if you add a sponge prefilter to the intake side (supposedly better than an HOB unit for bacterial and filtering), allowing you to add more bio material for nitrification, etc (rather than filtration) to the canister. After several changes/cleaning — how easy is it to clean? I read reviews on others out there that said the other brands were horrible to clean. Are you still pleased with this, or is there something you like better?

    • Hello!

      First all, apologies for the late reply, usually get an e-mail if anyone comments.

      Now for your questions. I haven’t tested the flow rate. Really don’t have any way to do so and can’t say that I feel like unhooking things to time how long it takes to fill a bucket elevated at the same height as the tank :)

      The reason I’m not concerned is that I have a freshwater aquarium and the fish I keep (most freshwater fish actually) do not come from environments with strong flow. Strong flows can actually cause stress on many fish. I also use live plants in my aquarium which handle the nitrate cycle. So for me, the filter is only to keep the water clear looking than anything else.

      I will say though that even without live plants, you don’t need to be concerned with adding stuff for biological filtration. The vast majority of the bacteria in a freshwater tank are located throughout the tank on the walls, decorations, and substrate. The importance of bacteria in the filter is really only important in a brand new tank that hasn’t established itself yet. When I clean my filter, I use tap water (with chlorine) and despite what that does to the bacteria in the filter pads, I never have any readings of Ammonia or Nitrite in my tanks.

      I’m still using this filter to this date without any issues. The only thing I’ve noticed is that the baskets have deformed under the water pressure over time. So the bottom of the baskets kind of have an inverted bowl shape. It hasn’t affected anything, to my knowledge, so I haven’t considered it a problem.

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