Two Turtles Swimming Above Water Inside Aquarium

Top 4 Best Turtle Tank Filters (2020 In-Depth Buyer’s Guide)

Owning turtles is an incredibly rewarding experience, but their care needs can be a little confusing if you’re new to keeping them. An aquatic turtle requires a high-quality filter in their enclosure to keep them happy and healthy.

Although you might have heard stories of people successfully keeping turtles without a filter, this is definitely not recommended. Without proper filtration, your turtles’ tank will quickly become polluted, which can severely impact their health.

To help you select the right turtle tank filter, I’ve reviewed a list of products that will keep your aquarium water clean and sparkling.

After considering all the options our top picks were…

Review Summary

Best All-Rounder

Penn Plax Cascade 700 Aquarium Filter

The Penn Plax Cascade 700 has a flow rate of 185 gallons per hour, so it provides plenty of filtration for most standard turtle tanks.

Penn Plax Cascade 700 Aquarium Filter

This filter is my overall recommendation to use for the majority of aquatic turtles.

Capable of filtering 185 gallons of water per hour, the Penn Plax filter is an excellent choice for turtle tanks. It provides a 3-stage filtration system and you get two large filter media baskets and included filtration media. 

Best on a Budget

Fluval’s C2 power filter

At an incredibly affordable price, the Fluval C2 power filter is a great option for turtle owners who are on a budget. It has a GPH of 119, so it should be suitable for aquariums smaller than 29 gallons.

Fluval’s C2 power filter

If you’re looking for a good filter for your tank that’s affordable, this one is an ideal option.

Fluval’s C2 power filter is very budget-friendly without being poor-quality. It can filter filter up to 119 gallons of turtle tank water per hour and provided your aquarium with 5-stage filtration. 

Editor’s Choice

Fluval 206 Canister Filter

It’s exceptionally well-made and has a flow rate of 206 GPH. In terms of quality, I don’t think you can beat this filter for your turtle.

Fluval 206 Canister Filter

Out of all the filters I’ve reviewed, this one is my favorite. It’s high-quality but a little costlier as a result.

I think this filter is one of the best to use in your turtles’ tank. It is very well-designed, powerful, and has a GPH of 206. Installing and maintaining the filter isn’t too difficult either. 

Does a Turtle Tank Need a Filter?

All turtle tanks need a filter to maintain good water quality. Without a filter, your turtle’s tank will quickly become dirty and unclean, which can have disastrous consequences. A filter will help clean your turtle’s tank and remove excess food, debris, and waste.

As turtles are messy creatures, a filter is absolutely essential in their tank. 

Turtle On The Side of Aquarium Glass
Turtle On The Side of Aquarium Glass

Choosing the Right Size Size Filter

The number of gallons of water your turtle tank can hold needs to be taken into consideration before choosing the right filter for you. Obviously, for large turtle setups, you’re going to need to use a powerful filter with a high water flow rate.

In general, your filter should be able to clean at least four times the amount of water in your turtle tank…

In general, your filter should be able to clean at least four times the amount of water in your turtle tank. For example, if you have a 29-gallon tank, then the filter you use should have a water flow rate of a minimum of 119 gallons per hour (GPH). 

RECOMMENDATION

Ideally, for a turtle tank this size, I’d advise you use an even more powerful filter that can clean at least 150 gallons per hour.

Durability

As your turtle filter is essential for keeping your tank water clean, it’s best to use one that is durable and high-quality. The last thing you want is your filter malfunctioning or breaking on you.

Like I mentioned earlier, turtles make a lot of mess, so heavy-duty and long-lasting filters are advised. If your filter isn’t effectively cleaning your turtle tank, then the water will become foul very quickly. Poor water quality can make your turtles sick and impact their wellbeing. 

The Type of Motor

The motor in your turtle tank filter allows the unit to run and clean your tank. You should make sure that the filter you use has a reliable motor that doesn’t break or get clogged easily.

When a filter motor does get clogged or is working ineffectively, it won’t be able to clean your tank very efficiently.

The Maintenance of the Filter 

Conducting proper maintenance on your tank filter is vital for its longevity and effectiveness. You should regularly check how your filter is operating, such as when you feed your turtles. 

TIP

You also need to clean your filter frequently to improve its efficiency and prevent it from getting clogged. 

Pet Turtle Inside Aquarium
Pet Turtle Inside Aquarium

How Often Should I Clean My Filter?

Personally, I clean my turtle’s filter once a week. This involves wiping away any gunk or dirt that might have built inside the filter chamber and motor. Filters with clean filtration systems are much more effective.

TIP

Only use turtle tank water when cleaning your filter or filter media (don’t use tap water!).

How to Set up a Canister Filter for a Turtle Tank?

Setting up a canister filter can seem a little complicated, especially compared to other filter types. You get assembly instructions with most canister filters you purchase, to make installation a little simpler. If your canister filter didn’t get any instructions, then there are a plethora of installation videos online to assist you.

Typically, you want to place the filter around 4.5 inches to 8 inches below the water surface..

You should make sure your canister filter includes all the necessary parts for setup. Proper placement for your canister filter is key. Typically, you want to place the filter around 4.5 inches to 8 inches below the water surface. A lot of turtle owners and fishkeepers use an aquarium stand with a cabinet to store their canister filter in.

After this, you essentially just measure out all the parts to make sure they reach your turtle tank, and then slot them together. It’s a good idea to clean all the parts with water (without soap!) before installing the filter. 

Pet Turtle Held in Hand
Pet Turtle Held in Hand

What Type of Filter for a Turtle Tank?

I’d recommend using a canister filter in a turtle tank, especially in large setups. Canister filters are a lot more powerful than other types of filters, such as internal ones. A canister filter is much less likely to get clogged and will be able to keep up with the amount of waste your turtle produces.

You can use other types of filters in smaller turtle tanks, such as HOB filters. Just make sure they have an adequate GPH for the capacity of your tank.

Can You Use a Fish Filter for a Turtle Tank?

A lot of turtle owners use fish filters in their turtle tank. They’re perfectly fine, but filters targeted specifically for turtles might be more durable and hard-wearing. 

Turtles create a lot more waste than fish, so you need to make sure the filter you use is powerful enough for your turtle tank. 

Mechanical, Biological, and Chemical Filtration 

There are three types of filtration you should use in your turtle tank. Chemical filtration removes particulates from your turtle’s water using activated carbon, resin, or another type of absorbent. It’s ideal for eradicating foul odors and water discoloration.

Mechanical filtration removes uneaten food, debris, and waste products from your turtle tank. Biological filtration is the process of good bacteria converting toxins into less harmful forms. These two are especially important in your tank. See the video below to learn more about the different types of filtration.

Understanding Aquarium Filtration

Internal Filters, Canister Filters, HOB Filters, and Undergravel Filters

There are a lot of different types of filters available, each with their highlights and drawbacks. Here’s a brief rundown on some of the most common filters you’ll find. 

Internal Filters 

An Internal filter goes directly in your tank and draws water up through the base. This water is pushed through a sponge that traps waste and dirt. Normally, an internal filter needs an airline attached to its filter inlet. 

Air is pumped through the base of the filter by an air pump. This creates air bubbles that dissipate at the water surface to create water movement. 

NOTE

Internal filters are typically inexpensive, but they’re not the best choice for a large turtle tank setup. An internal filter could struggle to keep up with the amount of waste multiple turtles produce in a big enclosure. 

Canister Filters 

A canister filter is a popular choice for a lot of turtle owners due to their sheer power. These types of filters can be costly, but they’re a good investment for your turtle’s tank. 

Canister filters suck water up through a lift tube and push it into an external filter chamber via a pump. The water is then pressed through filter media before being deposited back into your turtle tank through another tube.

HOB (Hang-On-Back) Filters

Like the name suggests, a HOB filter is positioned on the back of your turtle tank. A siphon tube pulls up water, presses it through filter media, and then distributes it back into the aquarium. 

Undergravel Filters 

Some aquarists use undergravel filters in their fish tanks as they’re beneficial for live plants. However, undergravel filters are unsuitable for turtles. 

An undergravel filter goes underneath gravel, and gravel should never be used in turtle tanks. Turtles often mistake the rocks for bits of food and will attempt to eat them, which obviously isn’t healthy. Additionally, turtles enjoy digging through substrate, which could get clogged an undergravel filter. 

The Best Turtle Filters

Best All-Rounder

Penn Plax Cascade 700 Aquarium Filter

The Penn Plax Cascade 700 has a flow rate of 185 gallons per hour, so it provides plenty of filtration for most standard turtle tanks.

Penn Plax Cascade 700 Aquarium Filter

The Penn Plax Cascade 700 has a flow rate of 185 gallons per hour, so it provides plenty of filtration for most standard turtle tanks. It’s my overall recommendation for turtle owners as it’s high-quality and not overly expensive.

This turtle tank filter offers chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration…

This turtle tank filter offers chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration. It features two large filter media baskets that are already filled with media, which is handy as you don’t need to purchase them separately. However, these baskets don’t fit together too well due to their flimsiness. 

Installing and cleaning the aquarium filter isn’t too hard, but it can take some time. It includes a push-button and swimming-pool-style hose clamps to make setup and basic maintenance a bit easier. You can also adjust the water flow rate. 

I like that this turtle filter operates fairly quietly. It isn’t completely silent, but it definitely isn’t as noisy as some other canister filters. 

NOTE

Unfortunately, the tubes can leak a large amount of water when they are removed. To rectify this fault, it might be best to keep the filter stored inside a bucket. The included filter media also isn’t of the highest-quality.

Specs

Pros

  • Provides 3-stage filtration
  • Functions quietly
  • Huge filter media baskets
  • Water flow rate can be adjusted

Cons

  • Setup and cleaning can be time-consuming
  • Prone to leaking
  • Provided filter media isn’t the best quality

Best on a Budget

Fluval C2 Power Filter

At an incredibly affordable price, the Fluval C2 power filter is a great option for turtle owners who are on a budget. It has a GPH of 119, so it should be suitable for aquariums smaller than 29 gallons.

Fluval C2 Power Filter

At an incredibly affordable price, the Fluval C2 power filter is a great option for turtle owners who are on a budget. It has a GPH of 119, so it should be suitable for aquariums smaller than 29 gallons. 

It offers 5-stage filtration, which includes chemical, mechanical, and two stages of biological. Installing and maintaining the Fluval C2 power filter isn’t too hard as assembly instructions are included, but it can still be time-consuming. The impeller can also be a little frustrating to clean.

It offers 5-stage filtration, which includes chemical, mechanical, and two stages of biological…

This filter comes with a large supply of filter media, such as a poly/foam pad, activated carbon insert, and biological c-nodes. This is useful as you don’t need to purchase separate filter media.

You can adjust the flow rate of the filter, which is a nice feature. I also like that the filter media basket you get with it is large for extra storage of media.

NOTE

My biggest gripe with this filter is that it is fairly noisy during operation. If your turtle tank is located in your bedroom, then this might be an issue.

Specs

Pros

  • Offers 5-stage filtration
  • Includes filter media
  • Large media basket
  • Adjustable water flow rate

Cons

  • Can be a bit of a pain to clean and assemble
  • Operates loudly

Editor’s Choice

Fluval 206 Canister Filter

It’s exceptionally well-made and has a flow rate of 206 GPH. In terms of quality, I don’t think you can beat this filter for your turtle.

Fluval 206 Canister Filter

I really like the Fluval 206 canister filter for turtle tanks. It’s exceptionally well-made and has a flow rate of 206 GPH. In terms of quality, I don’t think you can beat this filter for your turtle.

The filter is easy to clean and setup as it features an instant self-prime and AquaStop valve. This valve allows you to stop the water flow without removing the hoses. The lift-lock clamps also make maintenance a breeze.

The filter is easy to clean and setup as it features an instant self-prime and AquaStop valve…

I like that the canister filter comes with multiple media baskets that are generous in size. This allows you to store extra medium in them, such as when you want to jump-start the cycling process in a new turtle tank. The unit already includes filter medium, which is a plus!

A couple of issues with this turtle tank filter are its gradual noisiness and tendency to leak. Over time, the filter can become loud during operation and be prone to leaking water.

Specs

Pros

  • Excellent quality
  • Multiple large media baskets filled with medium
  • Fairly easy to install and setup

Cons

  • Can be noisy over time
  • Prone to leaking

Polar Aurora External Aquarium Filter

This turtle filter from Polar Aurora has a 3-stage filtration system and a flow rate of 254 gallons per hour. For a 29-gallon turtle tank, filters with between 119 gallons per hour and 150 gallons per hour is adequate.

Polar Aurora External Aquarium Filter

This turtle filter from Polar Aurora has a 3-stage filtration system and a flow rate of 254 gallons per hour. For a 29-gallon turtle tank, filters with between 119 gallons per hour and 150 gallons per hour is adequate. The Polar Aurora canister filter offers even more than that, so it’s a good filter for large setups.

It features three media trays and an adjustable spray bar. The latter lets you adjust the output flow of the filter, which is something I would use in my turtle tank. I also like that the filter operates fairly silently.

NOTE

It shouldn’t take too long to get the filter up and running, but if you’re not used to installing a canister filter, then it might be a bit frustrating initially. It might be best to look up videos on how to setup a canister filter to help you get a rough idea on how they function. 

The biggest downfall of the Polar Aurora turtle tank filters are their durability. Due to their low price tag, they don’t typically last as long as some more expensive filters. They’re also prone to breaking down rather quickly. 

Specs

  • Filter Type: Canister
  • Size: 10” x 10” x 16”
  • Weight: Unknown:
  • GPH: 264

Pros

  • Fairly quiet
  • Adjustable water flow rate
  • Large media trays

Cons

  • Not as high-quality as some other filters

Conclusion

Here’s a quick recap of all our top picks…

Best All-Rounder

Out of all the filters I’ve reviewed, I think the Penn Plax Cascade 700 Aquarium Filter works the best for turtles.

Canister filters are recommended for turtles as they’re powerful, efficient, and durable, which are all aspects the Penn Plax embodies. 

Canister filters are recommended for turtles as they’re powerful, efficient, and durable…

It has a 3-stage filtration system and you get two big media baskets with it. These baskets are packed with media, so you don’t need to get any separate medium for your tank. I like that you can adjust the water flow rate and that cleaning the filter isn’t too difficult.

However, installing the filter can be a bit time-consuming and the medium baskets are a bit hard to put together. 

Unfortunately, the tubes can leak a large amount of water when they are removed. To rectify this fault, it might be best to keep the filter stored inside a bucket. The included filtration media also isn’t of the highest-quality.

Editor’s Choice

Personally, my favorite filter to use for turtles is the Fluval 206 Canister Filter. Fluval filters are very high-quality, and this one is no exception. It has a GPH of 206 and includes multiple media baskets filled with medium. My only gripes with the unit are its noisiness and tendency to leak.

Best on a Budget

On the opposite scale of the spectrum, the Fluval C2 Power Filter is a good budget-friendly option for your tank. It provides 5-stage filtration and has a GPH of 119. This is a little low for big setups, so I’d only advise using it for small tanks.

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