Best Filter For Turtle Tanks | 2022 Reviews

Turtles are peace-loving and silent aquatic reptiles that live for a long time. They need a healthy and balanced environment so that they can thrive. The tank that you keep your turtles in must have an excellent filter to guarantee that water circulates continuously.

It can be a difficult or confusing task to choose a filter that matches up to your turtle aquarium if you do not know about turtle filters and their habitats. In this post, we offer loads of information on how to choose the best filter for turtle tanks.

This post may contain affiliate links that could result in a commission to this website
(at no additional cost to you). See our Disclosures Page.

Best Filter For Turtle Tanks Reviewed

Fluval 407 Performance Canister Filter

The latest 07 Series is the 7th incarnation in the last 40 years of Fluval’s top-selling canister filters. This newest edition combines the reliability and power that many expect from one of the leaders in aquatic-filtration. It also includes various performance upgrades, which makes it more robust, up to 25% quieter, flexible, easier-to-use, and more energy-efficient.


  • Easy to diagnose, maintain, and set-up
  • The filter is a lot more quieter when compared to previous models
  • The medium bio-foam at the bottom is slightly thinner, allowing for the placing of your polishing pads
  • These units are quieter and sturdier than the previous model


  • The directions are not easy to follow
  • The 407 filter-casket is made from plastic that can easily break during shipping

Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter

The Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter is one of the heavy-duty external filtration systems made for aquariums of up to 100 gallons that pumps 265 GPH (gallons per hour). This canister filter delivers powerful biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration, resulting in clear water for both marine and fresh aquariums.

This filter comes with a floss pad that effectively removes finer particulate matter, and the activated-carbon media helps to remove impurities and toxins from the water. This leaves a healthier and cleaner environment for aquatic life and fish.

This robust aquarium filter comes equipped with fast-disconnect tubing connectors used to control the flow rate of the filter. To guarantee a water-tight and secure fit, this tank filter uses 4 locking clamps and a motorhead that comes with a built-in O-ring.


  • Swimming-pool style rotating-valves that come with reliable flow controls
  • Push-button primer for an easy and quick set-up
  • Flow valves are easy to remove to maintain the canister
  • 3 big media baskets that are easy to customize to match up to the requirements of any aquarist


  • Runs loud
  • The space between the canister and media trays is a bit excessive

Polar Aurora 265GPH / 266GPH / 370GPH / 525GPH External Aquarium Filter

This external aquarium filter features 3-stage, large capacity filters. These canister filters offer increased media-storing capacity, which means the water in the aquarium contacts the filter media even more during the first pass.

The high-performance, advanced features ensure excellent water quality along with easy and quick filter maintenance. The Polar Aurora also effectively removes debris and organic film from the surface of the water.


  • Self-priming convenient pump that easily eliminates having to manually siphon
  • 3 media trays more than capable of dealing with the filtration media of your choosing
  • The flexible media trays can accommodate other types of media like SunSun’s activated carbon, bio-balls, or ceramic rings to achieve exceptional biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration
  • The canister filter uses a high water-pressure driven by a powerful pump that forces the water through dense filter-media


  • The hoses are bulky and heavy
  • The instructions can seem a bit confusing

SunSun HW-3000 Canister Filter

The SunSun HW-3000 comes with an LCD-display, enhancing the experience of the user. With this LCD-display, you can easily adjust the pump flow, and this canister filter does not require priming in order to start. All that is required is to fill the outtake and intake tubes with water from the tank, plug the power in, and the water will start to move.

The HW-3000 also comes with 4 filter media baskets that are a breeze to clean. These media baskets allow you to customize and add the filter media that you want. The canister filters all go through a water-pressurize test before the products are boxed to guarantee no leaks.


  • You can use this filter in both saltwater and freshwater aquariums
  • LCD-display allows you to adjust the pump’s flow rate and how long you want to use the UV light
  • A flow rate of up to 793 gallons-per-hour (can be adjusted)
  • Has 4 filter media baskets


  • The push-buttons need to be pushed hard
  • When choosing the higher flow rates, it can become very loud

Tetra Decorative ReptoFilter

This decorative filter is the perfect addition to enhance your existing turtle habitat. Aesthetically pleasing and functional, the stone design will blend easily with other vegetation and rocks in the surrounding environment. The ReptoFilter creates a stunning waterfall feature that removes odors and keeps the water clear.

The ReptoFilter provides a beautiful basking area that you can use for turtles, frogs, and newts in aquariums that do not exceed 55 gallons. Features include 3-stage Whisper filtration that uses easy-to-replace Bio Bags that keeps the water odor-free and clear. The intake holes are large to prevent clogging, while the locking-cover provides an ideal area to bask and keeps animals away from the filtration areas.


  • Combination waterfall and filter that uses 3-stage Tetra filtration technology that removes odors and keeps the water clear
  • The realistic and visually-appealing natural-stone appearance easily blends with other vegetation and rocks
  • A dual-function lid helps to keep animals out while offering a basking area for smaller aquatic animals
  • Easy to clean and set-up


  • Crud and sediment can build up between the glass and the back part of the rocks
  • The filters can clog up pretty quickly

Zoo Med Turtle Clean Filter

The Zoo Med Turtle Clean Filter is the ideal filter for a turtle tank. This is a filter that works up to 60 gallons (filled with 30 gallons maximum water). It offers a well-balanced combination of biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration with a sponge, activated charcoal, and bacteria-absorbing ceramic media.

The Zoo Med turtle filter features an adjustable flow control system, easy-to-open filter head, and a compact design for saving space. It filters water efficiently at a rate of 160 gallons per hour (GPH).

This filter is a breeze to setup from the easy install instruction videos provided by Zoo Med. Finally, it runs smoothly and quietly making it a perfect addition to your household.


  • Has a mechanical, chemical, and biological filtering system
  • Utilizes sponge, activated carbon, and bacteria-absorbing ceramic media
  • Has an aerating spraybar and adjustable flow control system
  • Filters at a rate of 160 GPH


  • Clamps can be hard to get on and off
  • It is hard to clean the hoses

Types of Turtle Tank Filters

There are 4 basic types of filters that can be used for both turtle and fish tanks.

Canister Filters

The canister filters are widely regarded as the best filter type for turtle tanks. They typically mount underneath a tank in a stand or cabinet, which means they won’t be occupying any space inside your tank. Canister filters offer great filtration, yet they can become expensive for large-capacity models.

HOB (Hang On Back) Filters

HOB filters, which are short for hang-on-back filters, hang over the back part of your tank. This type of filter will usually not work in turtle tanks unless your tank comes with a filter-cutout. This is due to the level of water in turtle tanks that are typically kept a few inches from the top part of the tank to stop the turtles from escaping.

Since the water requires a certain level, many HOB filters are not suitable when the water level drops below the level of the filter. If the water level is too low, the pump won’t be able to siphon water into your filter.

If you want to use a HOB filter in your turtle tank, then the tank needs a filter cut-out, or you need an above-tank basking area where the water can be filled to a higher level.

Internal Filters

Submersible or internal filters usually attach with suction cups to the inside of the tank. These filters are limited as they house a small amount of media. Internal filters require more maintenance than external filters. They can be great for smaller tanks or to help filter dead spots in larger aquariums.

UGF’s (Undergravel Filters)

The undergravel filter or UGF causes disagreement when it comes to fish and turtle enthusiasts. Some keepers do not like them, while others love them.

The traditional UGF works by forcing the water through gravel. It does this by drawing the water up the vertical tubes with the use of aquarium powerheads. The original idea involved using gravel as the medium for healthy bacteria to thrive and to then draw the water through the gravel.

The idea seemed great at the time, but in some cases, the leftovers and waste draw down deep inside the gravel. This can cause things to clog up, and the decaying leftovers can increase bad bacteria levels, nitrates, and ammonia.

How To Choose A Filter For Your Turtle

There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing the best filter for your turtle tank. We have outlined below the main things you will want to consider.

The Flow Rate And The Size Of The Tank

Since turtles are messier and produce more waste than fish, you are going to want to choose a powerful filter. While all filters come with manufacturer recommended tank sizes you will want a filter that is rated for two to three times more filter capacity than the size of your aquarium.

The second consideration is the flow rate of the filter. This is measured in gallons per hour (GPH). To provide a clean and healthy environment for your turtles, make sure you filter can overturn your entire tank once per hour.

Filtration Medium

Filters for turtle and fish tanks provide 3 types of filtration. These include:

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical filtration strains out solid debris such as uneaten food and dirt. This usually includes aquarium filter-floss, a sponge, or another type of media inside a filter. This filtration system traps these particles and strains them out.

If the filter is using bulk filter floss instead of a cartridge or a custom-fit pad, we suggest using polyester-fiberfill pillow-stuffing. It is similar, but far less expensive.

Many people that own turtle tanks prefer fiberfill-pillow stuffing or filter floss over sponges as the 1st stage of turtle tank filters, but some of the turtle owners disagree. One of the main reasons why turtle keepers prefer filter floss has to do with throwing the used floss away between cleanings.

Trying to remove turtle waste out of filter sponges is a messy and yucky job. However, some people do advocate that the sponges provide improved bio-filtration. But you may want to consider using floss as your pre-filter as it effectively strains out larger particles and waste. You can then use subsequent stages for your bio-filtration.

Biological Filtration

Biological filtration is offered by the “friendly” bacterias that grow and thrive on filter media. They often use similar media to mechanical filters, such as filter floss or a sponge. However, using specialized media like ceramic rings, Seachem Matrix, or other types of biological-filtration media usually results in quicker cycling along with bacteria colonies that are more stable.

The “friendly” bacteria will also help to keep your tank cleaner by consuming ammonia, turtle waste, and nitrites. Many filters allow for using 2 or more bio-filtration stages.

One of the best bio-media options would be Seachem Matrix. It is very porous and offers a far bigger surface area (per unit of volume) for anaerobic and aerobic denitrifying bacteria when compared to other types of bio-media. Once fully-cycled (can take up to several months), it will reduce nitrate creep. This helps to lower how frequently you need to change the water in the tank.

You can also use Seachem Matrix as a bottom-layer or as your tank substrate for other substrates like Flourite. This product lasts for a very long time, which can offset what you have to pay up-front.

Another option is the ceramic rings if you can only use a single bio-media due to the surface area and porosity. The ceramic rings will last for several years and only requires a quick rinse until it starts to wear away.

Chemical Filtration

Chemical filtration is usually offered by ammonia-filtering media and activated charcoal. In many cases, you won’t need this type of media if your tank has been set-up and the right bacteria has been established.

However, if the tank is emitting odors, use aquarium- charcoal in the filter to remove things that are causing the water to smell. If the water in your tank has high levels of ammonia, try Ammo Carb or one of the other similar products to provide a temporary, quick fix.

Easy To Maintain

Filter maintenance is a necessity for any aquarium owner, especially when it comes to turtles. Choosing a filter that is easy to maintain and clean will make a world of difference in the viability of your tank. Be sure to read reviews and look for how-to videos on maintenance procedures for any filter you are considering.

Turtle Tank Filter Frequently Asked Questions

Do turtle tanks need a filter?

Yes. Turtles are messy and without a filter it wouldn’t take long for your turtle tank to become extremely dirty. Like fish, turtles need a clean and healthy living environment. A filter helps clean out debris and waste to keep your tank thriving.

Can you use a fish tank filter for a turtle tank?

Yes, but there are some things to keep in mind. Turtles are messier than fish and produce more waste. You will want to make sure you invest in a powerful filter for your tank. Steer clear of filters made for small tanks.

Why should I stay away from undergravel filters?

Undergravel filters and turtles do not mix well. To operate properly, undergravel filters need a gravel substrate at the bottom of the tank. Gravel is not a good combination with turtles because, (a) they mistake gravel for food and try to eat them, (b) turtles like to dig, and (c) gravel can collect unfiltered debris and waste.

Can I turn my turtle tank filter off at night?

You should not turn off your aquarium filter at night. Your tank is home to colonies of bacteria that help turn toxic chemicals in the water into safe chemicals. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eYour filter is vital to this process because, (a) the filter is where these colonies thrive, and (b) the filter aerates water providing oxygen to these colonies including your tank’s inhabitants. Another reason not to turn your filter off at night is depending on the last time you cleaned it, your filter could push debris and waste back into your tank when you turn it back on.

Final Thoughts

Turtles are peaceful creatures that require a healthy and balanced environment so that they can thrive. By now, we are sure that you have a better idea about what type of filter to choose for your turtle tank.

With so many options to choose from, the best filter for you is going to depend on many factors. Remember to consider flow rate, size of your aquarium, and the filtration media to find the perfect filter for your needs.

Looking for more gear for your aquarium? Head over to our Aquarium Gear section to see more reviews.

Keep up with the latest aquarium tips and insights!
Follow us on Pinterest:

Best filter for turtle tanks

Similar Posts