10 Best Filters For Turtle Tanks: Comprehensive Buying Guide & Review List

Turtles are great pets to have, but they’re one of the messier reptiles out there meaning a good filter is required to maintain a healthy habitat.

When choosing a filter for your turtle, there are so many options out there, and knowing which one is the best for you and your pet can be difficult.

This is why I’ve put together this comprehensive review guide of the 10 best turtle filters for different tank sizes and setups to help you make an informed choice to keep your turtle happy and thriving.

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Why Do Turtles Need A Filter?

Turtles like the Common Musk Turtle are messy reptiles so a high-quality filter is needed to ensure a healthy habitat.

When it comes to food, they eat a lot which means in turn, they defecate a lot and if this isn’t kept in check by routine clean-ups and filtration systems it could quickly cause health concerns for your pet.

The aesthetic aspect of your tank will deteriorate quickly to replicate that of a swamp without a filter. It’s essential to maintain frequent cleaning to upkeep the water chemistry.

How To Choose The Right Filter

There are an awful lot of filtration filters on the market and this can be overwhelming for first-time turtle owners. I’m going to break down the 4 key features you need when selecting your filtration system.

Filter Capacity & Gallons Per Hour

As turtles eat a lot and produce a lot of waste, they require powerful filters to keep a healthy living environment. You can add other aquatic plants and fish to help keep the tank clean, but without a filter, the state of the tank will deteriorate.

The filter you purchase needs to have a capacity level of 2-3 times the size of your turtle tank, for example, if your tank is 40 gallons you’ll need a filter that offers 80-120 gallons of capacity. If you have found a turtle-specific filter, read the manufacturer’s guidance. 

The flow rate of your filters is measured in gallons per hour (GPH). At the minimum, your filter needs to be able to cycle through the entire water volume of your tank once every hour.

3-Stage Filtration System

When setting up your filter with media, it’s important to ensure it provides mechanical, biological, and, chemical filtration stages. Each of these performs different tasks to clean and remove waste whilst also maintaining water chemistry.

The mechanical filtration stage can be achieved by using sponges, this will filter out any feces, food waste, and algae buildup.

Biological filtration can be achieved by adding microbacter to the filter, this will assist in converting the ammonia from the water that your turtle has produced through their urine into nitrate, and then be utilized by the live aquatic plants in the tank.

Please note: Nitrate can be harmful to your turtle, this is why regular water changes and cleaning are still required even when a filter is present.

Chemical filtration isn’t as important as mechanical or biological media, however, I still recommend it as it strengthens the process. For example, activated carbon will break down organic matter the mechanical media may have missed, and adding in ammonia removers will help break down the ammonia levels.

Easy Maintenance

You could have the best filter in the world, but you’ll still need to clean the tank, and filter media. So you’ll want to choose a filter that provides the 3 stages of filtration whilst simultaneously offering a simple maintenance routine.

Filters offering section shelves are a great asset to maintenance, the process is as simple as removing the shelf, discarding the old media, and then adding in the new media. 

The only section of the filter this doesn’t apply to is the mechanical stage, all you’ll need to do is wash the sponge with tank water and place it back into the shelf.

Some turtle keepers like having a secondary filter they’ll leave running whilst cleaning out the primary filter to help prevent ammonia buildup.

10 Best Filters For Turtles

#1 AMOSIJOY 265GPH 3-Stage Canister Filter

The AMOSIJOY is an external canister, offering 3-stage filtration and a GPH level of 265. Now this being said, it comes in 6 different size options, it ranges from 55 GPH – 660GPH, this provides the opportunity for multiple turtles to be housed together.

The installation of media is a breeze because of its three easily-removed shelves to add and customize media, they lock in place with clips making a secure structure.

It also includes a 9W UV sterilizing bulb, which is a great bonus to help remove algae, unwanted bacteria growth, and discoloration of water.

Pros

  • Variety of GPH options 55 GPH – 660 GPH
  • Customizable media trays
  • UV sterilizing bulb

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Can take up space beneath your tank

#2 Penn-Plax Cascade Filter

The Penn-Plax cascade filter is a fully submersible filter, its GPH rating allows it to cycle through 175 gallons per hour.

Its capacity for tank sizes states it’s capable of filtering a 50-gallon tank, meaning this will only be suitable for a turtle tank at 20 gallons or low-water level tanks. The suction cups allow this filter to be fitted vertically or horizontally depending on your tank’s size and shape, making setup a breeze.

The water flow is fully adjustable with a simple switch, this can be utilized for convenience when feeding or for personal preference on how your tank is set up.

This filter isn’t as good as more robust canister filters like the AMOSIJOY, however, it still packs a punch with its 3-stage filtering systems and affordable price.

Pros

  • Horizontal & Vertical fitting options
  • Affordable price
  • 3 stage filtering

Cons

  • Only suitable for small tanks
  • Louder than you’d expect from a submerged filter

#3 Hygger 150GPH Turtle Filter

The HYGGER is a great filter for low water level tanks, as the name suggests it offers 150GPH and is only suitable for smaller turtle tanks at only 25 gallons. This is why I suggest only using it with low water levels.

It offers a great 3-stage filtration system and a simple assembly process, this makes cleaning and replacing media easy and fast. 

The main issue I found with this filter is the suction cups provided aren’t strong enough to hold it against the tank. I recommend buying suction cups separately instead of using the ones provided.

Pros

  • Easy assembly
  • Good value for money
  • 3-stage filtration

Cons

  • Only for smaller and low water level tanks
  • Poor suction cup power

#4 Fluval G3 Filter

The Fluval G3 is an external small and compact filter, offering an LCD screen on the front allowing you to monitor water temperatures, and flow rates and can even input a maintenance schedule for you to follow.

There are 2 fully customizable filter trays within the filter, meaning you’re able to make this advanced filtration system 3-stages with ease. 

Another great thing we’ve found with this filter is the double walling inside makes it one of the quieter filters on the market.

It comes in two different size options, the G3 and G6;

  • Fluval G3 – 80-gallon capacity and 185 GPH
  • Fluval G6 – 160-gallon capacity and 265 GPH

Depending on the size of your aquarium, between these two options you can be assured the Fluval advanced filtration system has you covered.

Pros

  • Two size options have your tank requirements covered
  • LCD screen monitoring flow rate, water temperatures, and maintenance schedules
  • Quiet
  • Customizable filter trays

Cons

  • Expensive

#5 EHEIM Classic Filter

The EHEIM Classic is another high-capacity external canister filter, it’s suitable for turtle tanks at 45 gallons and under. It has a GPH rating of 165 gallons, providing an excellent flow rate for the size of the tank and continuous water flow.

There are a few downsides we’ve found with this filter, it only comes with 2-stage filtering, leaving out the chemical filtering stage, unfortunately. 

The setup can be a more complex design for beginner turtle keepers, however, EHEIM provides a well-detailed instruction manual to help combat this.

The maintenance schedule is required more frequently, I recommend it at least once a week, because the mechanical filter is a very fine polishing pad and can clog regularly, in my experience I found swapping this out for a coarse filter instead.

Pros

  • All filter media and tubes included
  • Well-detailed instruction manual
  • Strong design
  • 165 GPH

Cons

  • Only 2-stage filtration
  • Complex setup
  • Needs regular maintenance if using the fine polishing pad

#6 Penn-Plax Cascade 300 Hanging Filter

The Penn-Plax Cascade 300 is one of the best hanging filters we’ve come across, although it’s small in size it packs a punch. 

It has a capacity of 100 gallons making it great for 50-gallon tanks and under, with a 300 GPH rating being concerned with water flow will not be a problem with this filter.

The hanging aspect of this filter makes it sturdy and very difficult for your turtle to knock it over, unlike filters using suction cups to hold them in place.

It’s one of the quieter filters out there, meaning if you have your tank in a busy area in your home it won’t be distracting to you or prevent sleeping.

For such a great price, you can’t really go wrong with this filter.

Pros

  • 300 GPH
  • Great for larger turtle tanks
  • Good value for money
  • Quiet
  • Hard to be knocked over by adventurous turtles

Cons

  • Regular maintenance required
  • Hard to customize with own media

#7 Tetra Whisper EX 70 Filter

The Tetra Whisper does exactly what the name suggests, it’s incredibly quiet when operating, and even though it’s small and compact, it gives out an impressive 240 GPH. 

It’s rated for tanks at 70 gallons, however, as we know by now we need to half this for turtles. It’s also stated by the manufacturer for the best effect when used in a turtle tank is to have the water level always above the minimum which is about 3-4 from the top of the tank.

I’d recommend having a turtle topper in your tank to provide a place for your turtle to rest comfortably as the water level is so high.

It comes with 3-stage filtration, easily removable cartridges, and a strong water flow, the only downside I find is the water flow is not adjustable.

Pros

  • 240 GPH
  • Affordable
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Time strip coloration to know when cartridges need changing
  • 3 years manufacturer warranty

Cons

  • Needs a high water level
  • Turtle toppers required
  • Non-adjustable water flow

#8 Fluval FX6 Filter

The Fluval FX6 is a round impressive filter, it has a 400-gallon water filtration capacity with a whopping 925 GPH, these numbers will definitely be able to handle the mess your turtle so lovingly likes to make.

It comes with easy access and maintenance, the unit is clamped down making it an airtight system, and easily opened by releasing the clamps. 

The vertical media trays inside are easily removed and easy to customize with the media of your choice to make the best filtration system for your turtle.

This filter comes with smart pump technology, after being on for 12 hours it will turn itself off for a brief period of time to allow air bubbles to escape the system. This process ensures the system is operating at optimum levels at all times.

Of course, having all these benefits will come with some negatives, for example, it’s a big unit that will take up a lot of space beneath your tank and is expensive.

Pros

  • 400-gallon filtration
  • 925 GPH
  • Customizable media trays
  • Smart pump technology
  • Airtight

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Big unit

#9 Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

The Aqueon Quietflow is a fully submersible, compact, and virtually silent filter, and is one of the best I’ve been able to find, especially for its discrete and compact sizing.

It offers 3-stage filtration, utilizing activated carbon to leave a clean tank as it’s removing all dissolved organic matter.

The Aqueon doesn’t require any priming before use, however, I recommend testing in a different container to check water flow power as the default before using the adjustable outflow nozzle can cause quite the current.

Because this tank is so small, it’ll only really be suitable for a 20-gallon turtle tank, but due to its small size, this does mean you’re able to double up these filters for twice the power and not take up too much space if you wanted.

Pros

  • 3-stage filtration
  • 155 GPH
  • Virtually silent
  • Adjustable outflow nozzle
  • Takes up little space in the tank
  • Can be fitted vertically and horizontally

Cons

  • Only suitable for small tanks
  • Expensive

#10 Fluval C4 Power Filter

This Fluval C4 filter is an external filter that hangs on the outside of the tank with only the intake tube on the inside, this creates optimal space for your turtle whilst simultaneously keeping the tank clean.

Fluval has gone the extra mile when it comes to filtration with this filter, they claim 5-stage filtration, however, all this means is they’ve doubled up on the mechanical and biological stages which improves the water quality, but is still just a 3-stage filtration system with extra steps.

This filter is suitable for 35-gallon tanks and under, which is a good size for a single turtle. Anymore and a larger tank and filter are required.

Because this is an external filter, the only negative is the fact it protrudes around 4 inches of the tank’s initial size, so when thinking of placing your tank keep this in mind.

Pros

  • 265 GPH
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Good for single-housed turtles

Cons

  • Potentially noisy due to being fitted externally
  • Protrudes around 4 inches off the tank

10 Best Turtle Filters 2024

  • #1 AMOSIJOY 265GPH 3-Stage Canister Filter
  • #2 Penn-Plax Cascade Filter
  • #3 Hygger 150GPH Turtle Filter
  • #4 Fluval G3 Filter
  • #5 EHEIM Classic Filter
  • #6 Penn-Plax Cascade 300 Hanging Filter
  • #7 Tetra Whisper EX 70 Filter
  • #8 Fluval FX6 Filter
  • #9 Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter
  • #10 Fluval C4 Power Filter

Summary

In this article, I have reviewed 10 of the best filters for turtle tanks of different sizes and setups. 

Remember the importance of having a high-quality filter to maintain a healthy habitat for turtles, given their messy nature, and the impact it can have on water quality and the overall health of the turtles.

It’s important when choosing the right filter, to consider factors like filter capacity, gallons per hour (GPH), and a 3-stage filtration system (mechanical, biological, and chemical). Also the significance of easy maintenance, such as removable shelves and simple media replacement.

I’m aiming to help turtle owners make an informed choice when selecting a filter for their turtle tank, considering the specific needs of their turtles and the tank setup.