Best Filter For Turtle Tanks That Keeps Water Clean

Turtles are adorable to put it simply. They’re fascinating creatures that are great to keep as a pet and long-term companion. Turtles are even better pets, though, when they have a neat and clean tank with all of the important features.

One of the most important features that you can get your turtle tank is a high-quality, effective filter. Proper filtration through a quality filter ensures that the water in your turtle’s tank is clean and safe for them to live in. This clean environment will help your turtle live a long and healthy life.




Penn-Plax​Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter

An external filter that features 3-stage filtration with an overall quiet yet effective operation.

EheimClassic External Canister Filter With Media

One of the most popular and long-standing filters, the Eheim has a sturdy construction that effectively filters lots of water.

MarinelandBio-Wheel Emporer 400 Aquarium Power Filter

This filter is extremely affordable but still filters 400 gallons per hour effectively while being easy to clean and maintain.

Hydor​Professional External Canister Filter

Quiet and easy to set up, this filter comes with a lot of accessories and is commonly referred to as a workhorse.

Fluval​External Filter

Multi-stage filtration that’s suitable for both fresh and saltwater aquariums and has a high flow rate with effective filtering.

Does A Turtle Tank Need A Filter?

Turtles may be very different from other creatures that live in a tank, but they share some similarities, too. One of the most prominent and obvious similarities is that turtles need a clean environment to live in. As far as a “clean environment” goes, clean water is easily the most important aspect.

Turtles are messy creatures, peeing and pooping much more than an average fish does. This messiness can quickly result in tank water that is dirty, cloudy, and generally unsafe to be in. Because of this, proper filtration and cleanliness is important in ensuring that your turtle is living in a safe and healthy environment.

As far as filter specifics go, the requirements aren’t too strict. In fact, you don’t even need a turtle tank-specific filter! Essentially all filters do the same thing. Instead, you’ll just need to make sure that the filter is big enough and strong enough to meet the extreme demands of a turtle tank.

How To Keep A Turtle Tank Clean

Proper tank maintenance is essential if you want to keep your turtle happy and healthy. As you may have guessed at this point, a huge portion of turtle tank maintenance takes place in the filtration of the water. Choosing one of the best filters for turtle tanks is a huge step towards keeping your turtle’s tank in top shape.

Another important factor to consider is the size of your turtle’s tank. Getting an adequately-sized tank is one of the best ways that you can make cleaning your turtle’s tank easier. A large tank will get dirty slower, and it’s also much better for your turtle’s health! If you’re unsure of how large your turtle’s tank should be, base it off of your turtle’s size. For every centimeter of upper shell length, there should be 15.2 liters of water.

Additionally, cleaning up leftovers in your turtle’s tank is a great way to keep it clean. Remove any leftover food from the tank after feeding time since food can quickly decay and pollute the water in the tank.

You may even opt to feed your turtle in a separate tank to separate their eating and living spaces. This solution is costly since you’ll need to purchase another tank, but it removes a huge source of the mess.

Turtle Tank Filter FAQs

  • How do I set up a canister filter in my turtle tank?
  • Unfortunately, there isn’t one single tutorial that can be used for setting up a water filter. Each filter is different in its own way, and setup differs depending on size and functionality. Fortunately, though, every filter comes with a guide from the manufacturer to help you set it up properly. In general, you’ll want to make sure that everything is attached properly and securely to prevent leakage.
  • What type of filter should I use in my turtle tank?
  • The type of filter that you should choose for your turtle tank depends on several different factors. Some of these factors include tank size, flow rate needed, and overall functionality needed. Really, any of the filters listed above and below would make a great addition to your turtle tank – the big determining factor would just be the size of your tank.
  • Can I use a fish filter for my turtle tank?
  • Absolutely! There’s not much of a difference between turtle tank filters and fish tank filters. The only difference is that turtle tank filters are more heavy duty in their functionality due to turtles producing more waste than fish. Therefore, if you opt to purchase a fish filter for your turtle tank, make sure that the flow rate is high enough to adequately clean the tank.
  • How often should I clean my turtle tank filter?
  • Once again, there isn’t a clear answer to this question. Every filter is different and requires different levels of maintenance to keep performing at its best. Therefore, make sure that you stick to the cleaning schedule highlighted by the manufacturer of the filter that you choose. If you wait too long to clean your filter, then your turtle’s tank can become toxic and damaging to your turtle.

What Defines The Best Filter For Turtle Tanks?

There are several things that you need to consider when looking for the best turtle tank filter. Some factors determine whether a filter is any good in the first place, while others determine if the filter is a good fit for your specific setup.

  • Tank size – Tank size is an important factor to consider when looking for filters. A larger tank generally requires a more powerful filter in order to handle the larger volume of water. Generally, manufacturers of filters will provide a range for the amount of water that a particular filter can handle. 
  • Durability – You obviously don’t want to spend a lot of money on a filter that’s going to break within a couple of months. Ensuring that the filter you’re buying can endure the abuse it’s going to go through is essential. Not only is the build quality important, but so is the type of aquarium that the filter is used in. Saltwater aquariums require a much more durable filter due to the salt accumulation.
  • Flow rate – The flow rate has to do with the overall efficiency of a filter. The higher the flow rate, the faster that a filter cleans the water. When the water is filtered at a fast rate, this gives waste less time to build up and pollute the water. While a faster flow rate is generally always better, it’s much more necessary in large tanks.
  • Maintenance – Although your filter is built to clean your turtle’s tank, it still requires cleaning itself. Therefore, your filter should be built to make maintenance and cleaning very easy. A filter that is easy to take apart and reassemble makes the maintenance process so much easier for you.
  • Brand – While brand isn’t everything, it can definitely be a factor to consider in your search for the best filter. More established brands have the time and money to perfect their products and also have more to lose if they produce a bad product.

What Is The Best Filter For Turtle Tanks?

Not all tank filters are created equal. That’s why we’ve analyzed dozens of filters to determine what the best filter for turtle tanks is. To find the best filters, we’ve taken into consideration the quality of the filter, its effectiveness, and the satisfaction of turtle owners that purchased it.

Remember, different tank setups have different requirements, so take that into consideration when looking at these filters. Your turtle tank may require a different filter than our top rated choice.

our #1 rated



Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter



Our Rating

The Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter is an all-around great filter for your turtle thank. This filter is meant to be used outside of the tank, making it very durable and removing the possibility of something going wrong while submerged in water. By using several types of filter medium inside the one canister, this filter takes care of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration easily.

The pump also comes with large filter trays and added filter media to allow for immediately usage of your filter. While the filter is easy to use, it’s also very easy to adjust with its push-button primer, two 360 degree rotational valve taps, hose clamps, and flow-rate control valves. The quiet operation and overall strong functionality makes it a great choice for any turtle tank.Most turtle owners are very pleased with this filter and its functionality. One thing to note, and this applies to all the filters listed here, is that you should generally always get the most powerful pump that you can afford. The owners that did get a pump that’s powerful enough to handle a turtle’s waste get the function out of it that they want. It’s very easy to assemble when following the instructions and the performance of it can’t be beat for the price.A couple of owners have noted their products were sub-par, either leaking or not performing very well. The quality issues are most likely due to defective products which are easily taken care of by customer service. Poor performance could be a mixture of a defective product and a pump that’s too weak for their particular tank. Regardless, these owners are in the small minority, and most have no problem with this filter.


  • Mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration
  • Options for several different tank sizes
  • Filters both fresh and salt water
  • 150 gallon model filters 315 gallons per hour


  • Occasional quality issues
  • More powerful pumps needed for smaller tanks

our #2 rated


Classic External Canister Filter With Media



Our Rating

Eheim filters are commonly referred to as filters that are “not fancy but definitely work” – especially this classic filter. Overall, this filter has a very solid and sturdy construction, which is definitely an important characteristic. The clamps on this model are made of stainless steel, and this design feature ensures that you can lock the motor head in place without the clamps snapping. Setup and mounting of this filter is very simple, too, with plenty of tutorials available online for beginners that get stuck. Although a lot of filters have trouble living up to their claimed flow rate, this Eheim filter has no problem handling up to 300 gallons an hour and doing so in an efficient way.Most aquarium owners love this filter to no end. Reviews of the filter frequently point out how simple it is to upkeep, with accessibility being a breeze and replacement pads being cheap and easy to install. Additionally, it’s whisper-quiet with a very impressive flow rate.There is a very nice lack of complaints with this tank filter. There are some quality issues that a couple of owners have to deal with, but it’s well-built for the most part. Additionally, some owners note that the flow rate slows down over time, but this is largely due to them not properly cleaning out the tubes, resulting in gunk buildup.


  • Runs extremely silent
  • No complaints of leakage
  • Effectively filters lots of water


  • A couple of general quality issues

our #3 rated

Small Pet Select

Bio-Wheel Emporer 400 Aquarium Power Filter



Our Rating

Marineland has been creating effective filters for many years, and this Bio-Wheel Emporer 400 is one of those long-standing filters. To provide your tank with clean water, this filter offers three-stage filtration for both saltwater and freshwater tanks. The filter cartridge captures debris and removes odors and discoloration through mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. The rotating Bio-Wheel works to ensure that this filter has a high flow rate, filtering 400 gallons per hour for aquariums up to 80 gallons. The dual-impeller design and efficient flow cleans the water better than other filters at this price point.Most turtle owners find that this filter keeps their tank very clean very easily. When this filter is set up properly (it does take some care to do it properly), it performs excellently. It’s large enough to handle larger tanks, yet remains easy to maintain and clean to help it last for years. Owners also note that it feels solidly-built and runs quietly.One issue with this filter is that it is a bit too large for some people, making it tough to fit on smaller tanks. It’s 17″ long so make sure that your tank can accommodate that before purchasing. Additionally, the filter does have a couple of caveats that need to be dealt with in order for it to run smoothly. These issues have to do with the general design of the filter, but this review by a customer on Amazon goes into extreme detail on how to deal with any hiccups that occur.


  • Excellent value
  • Mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration
  • Filters 400 gallons per hour
  • Easy to clean and maintain


  • Some design caveats
  • Pretty large for some tanks

our #4 rated


Professional External Canister Filter



Our Rating

Hydor has created another external canister filter, and it’s another very solid choice for turtle tank filtration. There are several different sizes and subsequent flow rates available so that you can choose the one that best suits your needs. The filter for 60-100 gallon tanks filters 280 gallons per hour through biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration. Not only is it great at filtering the water, but it runs very quiet, comes with lots of accessories, and is also very easy to keep clean and maintained. The simple setup and immediate effectiveness has made this filter a guardian of many turtle tanks for a number of years.Most turtle owners love this filter for their tank. It’s commonly reported that the filter is very easy to setup and starts filtering the water immediately and effectively. It’s also extremely quiet – one of the most quiet filters available on the market. When maintained well, this filter is reportedly a workhorse and does an incredible job at removing waste from a tank.If owners have problems with this filter, there’s a good chance that the problem lies in the attachment. There are very few complaints about the quality of the actual filtration, but the attachments aren’t very high quality. Some intake tubes have snapped off, and other tubes cause leaks. Most owners don’t have these issues, but it is a problem that exists and persists.


  • Runs very quiet
  • Comes with lots of accessories
  • Very easy to put together and get running


  • Quality of the accessories is sub-par

our #5 rated


External Filter



Our Rating

Fluval’s external filter is right up there with a bunch of the brands in terms of effectiveness. This filter offers multi-stage filtration that’s suitable for both fresh and saltwater aquariums, with the largest filter being suitable for aquariums up to 100 gallons. The intake strainer is designed to be clog-proof, and it also features a dual layer foam screen. Sound-wise, this filter is very quiet while still being efficient in its function. It also comes with a patented Aquastop Valve, several filtration baskets, and rim connector assemblies.This filter is notably good at filtering water. Many owners state that it moves water quickly and quietly. It’s also very easy to set up and get working immediately, which is a plus. Additionally, the adjustable flow rate is used by a lot of owners to help it fit their tank’s needs a lot better.The effectiveness of this filter is generally always very good when setup and maintained properly. However, like the other filters, the general quality of this filter isn’t the best. Some of the units arrived to customers cracked, while others simply wouldn’t work at all. Fortunately, Fluval offers a 3 year warranty to deal with this issue.


  • Runs silently
  • Very effective at filtering water
  • High water flow rate


  • Lower quality construction

Our Choice

All of the filters that we have reviewed are more than suitable for keeping a wide variety of turtle tanks clean and healthy. With the numerous different options available, along with the unique perks that each filter brings, you should be able to find the perfect filter to match you and your turtle’s needs.After analyzing all of the filters available on the market, we’ve determined that the best filter for turtle tanks is the Penn-Plax Cascade Aquarium Canister Filter.This Penn-Plax filter is one of the most popular filters on the market and has made thousands of turtle tanks very clean. The impressive flow rate, good quality, and effectiveness of the filtration makes it an excellent choice for your turtle’s tank.

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