Canister filters are considered the best method of water filtration in Aquascapes. They're out of sight, quiet, and efficient. Let's find out if the SunSun HW 302 is worthy of being used in an Aquascape.
This filter's gotten a ton of coverage, plus overall great reviews online, so we decided to take a deeper look into whether the SunSun HW302 actually holds up to the ratings it's getting online. Let's take a look:
It's surprisingly well-built
For starters, this filter is nearly silent. That can't be understated. For those with some cheaper filters, you know how valuable this is. The only way to tell the HW 302 is on is to touch it. It's that quiet. If you're placing your canister filter in an aquarium cabinet, you'll likely forget it's even running.
Apart from the spray bar and intake included, the overall filter is made of a rugged plastic that seems to take stress well enough. The seals and tubing included are of great quality, and seem to hold up over time. We've had ours for nearly one year, and haven't had any sort of leaking issue. I'd be comfortable comparing its build quality to any Marineland or JBJ filter in its price range.
The latching system to attach the head to the casing is nearly fool-proof. You could probably do it a minute or so without the instructions, which is good—because the downside to this canister filter is that the instructions suck. Really bad.
Does it filter as well as more expensive options?
Surprisingly—yes. I have to admit, I wasn't sure whether it'd compare to the Marineland Or JBJ filters, but after we used them for a few months with the water staying crystal-clear the entire time, I was sold. Use the money saved to the replace the intake tube and spray bar, and you'll have a system that's just as good as those with much higher price points.
It's got great flow if you take care to consider the amount of media you're placing inside. (Don't stuff it full, and you're fine—just like any other canister filter.) After placing the intake/outake in the same locations as some other test filters we've used, we didn't have any dead spots, and it didn't require any special considerations.
There's not much that varies from most other canister filters in this regard. This SunSun canister filter includes media baskets for customization of filter media, and they're relatively easy to work with. (The filter baskets on the SunSun might be a little stiff, but nothing too challenging.)
Overall, we're quite happy with the SunSun filter after maintaining it for nearly a year. (We did make some filter material changes, including adding carbon and filter floss; however that's because of our desire for crystal-clear water.)
The hoses included with the SunSun canister filter were well-made, and connected securely to the filter with a satisfying 'click' of the valves. The shut-off valve for the filter actually worked, and prevented even the slightest leaking around the connections while it was being serviced.
A great benefit to the quick-release shutoff is that one switch closes both the intake and outake hoses. This isn't necessarily true of some other canister filters, and for that we're very happy with how they've structured the HW 302.
Priming the HW 302
Many filters work great, but are stubborn to prime. This SunSun filter was relatively easy to get going, and didn't have any flow issues once we got it started. (Plus, it's a big blue button; who doesn't want to press a button like that?) The button-priming is a feature that's often seen on mid-range to high-end filters, but it's nice that a reasonably price filter has this functionality, as well.
The Surface Skimmer...
One puzzling aspect of this filter is the included surface skimmer. It was way too short to reach the water surface. If you're using a rimless tank (which you likely are, since you're reading about Aquascapes!) you might get it working, but traditional tanks will likely have no use of the HW 302 skimmer, especially in the realm of aquascaping; protein build-up usually isn't an issue. Not the biggest deal in the world, but we thought we'd mention it. (You can also consider buying a protein skimmer separately, we have reviewed the top 10 here).
Installing the Filter
Surprisingly, it's not a challenge to put the SunSun HW 302 filter together. Even though the instructions we quite a hilarious case of 'Engrish', there wasn't anything in the filter that would give even a basic aquarist any issues. As long as you've got some patience to assemble the filter without the instructions, you shouldn't have too much trouble.
We have also covered some HOB filters here, that you might like.
Let's talk about this for a moment... These instructions are horrible. There's not much to worry about if you've ever seen a filter before, but the principle of the matter is this: when you start trying to build a Sunsun canister filter, you won't be able to makes heads or tails of the instructions. Most of us know the basic functions of a filter, and we didn't have too many issues putting everything together, but it would be worth it for SunSun to get their act together about is.
Luckily, the filter is pretty self explanatory, so if you're worried about whether or not to pick another filter or not, I'll say this:
The price difference in this filter and any comparable competitor is well-worth the hilarity in the instructions.
Considering other canister filters in this category, the SunSun HW 302 is a steal. If you're worried about quality—stop worrying. We were as well, but after using it for nearly a year, we'd definitely buy it again should the need ever arise.
You can get one with free shipping over on Amazon:
The SunSun Brand
The company is based out of China, and was founded in 1985. While most products that come from China might be thought of as cheap or easily breakable, the SunSun canister filter defies that expectation. From what we've encountered in our office, their products are well-built for their price, and simply do what they're supposed to.