If you have turtles in your tank, then it makes perfect sense if you’re looking for the best filter for turtle tank. That’s because if you need a filter for a fish tank, then you really need a filter for a turtle tank. Turtles are just so messy, even though you might think of them as cute lovable creatures, and forces you to be cleaning the water more often than you’d like. The mess they make are decidedly not cute and lovable at all, especially for your turtle tanks, which means you’ll definitely need filters for turtle tanks.
When you have messy turtle tanks, you must seriously consider filters with powerful pumps that can keep up with the mess turtles make on a constant basis. You have to account for the size of the tank as well. With these things in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more effective turtle tank filters you can use, so that you can have pretty much crystal clear water for long periods of time.
Top 10 Filter for Turtle Tank Comparison Chart
|Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter||40 gallons||350 gph||11.5 x 20.5 x 12 inches||✓||✓||✗ (though available separately)|
|Fluval Canister FX6 Filter||75 gallons||563 gph||15 x 15 x 20 inches||✓||✓||✓|
|EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media||30 gallons||164 gph||11 x 7.3 x 14.6 inches||✓||✓||✓|
|Hydor Professional External Canister Filter||40 gallons||345 gph||11 x 9 x 24 inches||✓||✓||✓|
|Fluval 06 Series External Filters||40 to 50 gallons||383 gph||7.6 x 14.5 x 17.8 inches||✓||✓||✓|
|Zoo Med 511 Turtle Clean Canister Filter||30 gallons||160 gph||12.5 x 7.6 x 7.4 inches||✓||✓||✓|
|SunSun-China HW-304B 5-Stage Filter||75 gallons||525 gph||11 x 11 x 17 inches||✓||✓||✓ (with UV)|
|Tetra 25905 Decorative Reptile Filter for Aquariums||4 to 6 inches of water||90 gph||8.8 x 12.8 x 10.6 inches||✓||✓||✓|
|Zoo Med Turtle Clean 15 External Canister Filter||15 gallons||79 gph||11 x 5.5 x 4.5 inches||✓||✓||✓|
|Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter||40 gallons||155 gph||3.8 x 1.8 x 10 inches||✓||✓||✓|
- 1 Best Filter for Turtle Tank Reviews
- 1.1 Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter
- 1.2 Fluval Canister FX6 Filter
- 1.3 EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media
- 1.4 Hydor Professional External Canister Filter
- 1.5 Fluval 06 Series External Filters
- 1.6 Zoo Med 511 Turtle Clean Canister Filter
- 1.7 SunSun-China HW-304B 5-Stage Filter
- 1.8 Tetra 25905 Decorative Reptile Filter for A Turtle Tank
- 1.9 Zoo Med Turtle Clean 15 External Canister Filter
- 1.10 Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter
- 2 How to set up canister filter for a turtle tank
- 3 Buying Guide: Factors to Consider
- 4 Turtle Tank Filter FAQs
- 4.1 Isn’t a 400-gph filter a bit of overkill for a turtle tank?
- 4.2 If I have to choose which filtration methods to use in my turtle tank filter, which methods should be the priority?
- 4.3 Is a HOB (hang on back) filter sufficient for a turtle tank?
- 4.4 What about using an undergravel tank filter?
- 4.5 Can I put some fish in my turtle tank?
- 5 Conclusion
- 6 Add Your Heading Text Here
Best Filter for Turtle Tank Reviews
The Penn Plax turtle tank canister filters are available in several versions, and since we’re dealing with turtle tanks we might as well focus on the most powerful version. That’s the Cascade 1500 with its 350 gph flow rate. That should suffice for a for a 40-gallon tank with a turtle or two.
The Penn Plax comes with a couple of free filter media to which you can add more. One is a floss pad which can deal with fine particulate matter, such as feces and uneaten food. With the Penn Plax you also have a coarse sponge with enough space for beneficial bacteria to grow to remove the ammonia from the tank water. But that’s not enough, since you also have a huge stackable container that you can line with extra filter media. With its 5 media baskets, you can’t say you don’t have enough filter media to use when it comes to the Penn Plax. This comes with a nice handle so putting in the media won’t be too troublesome.
This is quite easy to use, since you have a push-button primer along with 2 rotating valves that can independently turn 360 degrees. You can adjust the flow rate, and the setup is easier with the pool-style hose clamps, making the Penn Plax quite easy to use. The unit stays in place with the tip-proof rubber base. It also is quite a durable unit thanks to the hard plastic used in its construction.
You’re sure of the flow rate due to the airtight seal, which also reduces the noise. With the directional returns helping to suspend the waste, you’ll be sure of the Penn Plax, and that it is a worthwhile investment. Definitely one of the best filters for turtle tanks and helpful in keeping clean water.
Read full review of Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter
Now it’s understandable if you’re worried about the pump output of your filter, since turtles can really overwhelm weak filter pumps. That’s not really a problem with the Fluval FX6, which gives you an impressive pump output of 925 gallons and a filter circulation of 563 gph. This is the workhorse of the Fluval filter lineup.
This product is easy to use, as you just need to add water and then you can plug it in so that the Smart Pump comes into play. This is the advanced microchip technology that continuously monitors and optimizes the pump performance. It automatically evacuates trapped air every 12 hours to make sure your filter system is working efficiently at any time. The motor technology has been improved in the version, so the performance is better yet it consumes 10% less electricity than the previous version.
This has detachable, stackable media baskets that prevent water bypass, and it’s large enough to hold 1.5 gallons (or a little less than 6 liters) of media. Your purchase already includes samples of every type of filtration method—mechanical, biological, and even chemical.
This features Aqua-Stop valves equipped with the leak-proof Click-Fit attachment system. The valves are nicely set at a 45-degree angle so it’s easy to use, install, and rotate. The telescopic anti-clog strainer provides continuous water flow, while you can adjust the multidirectional output nozzles for your customized water flow rate.
This has rubberized feet, which sets it in place and which keeps the noise down. With the purge valve and drain hose, you can easily maintain this when you flush these canister filters. This comes with a 3-year warranty.
Read full review of Fluval FX6 Canister Filter
They’re not joking when they call this a classic. It’s meant for rather small tanks when you also have small turtles ranging just 4 to 6 inches. Those are just small enough to live in a 30-gallon tank. That’s the kind of tank that can do with the 164 gph flow rate of the Eheim Classic 350 external filter.
This comes with the EHEIM Mech & Substrat Pro media, which takes care of your mechanical and biological filtration. The canister design does allow quite a bit of flexibility as you’re able to set it up also for chemical and absorptive filtration. This flow rate is set for the ideal balance between long-term mechanical and biological filtration, water circulation, and oxygen enrichment.
This is easy enough to use and maintain. The pump head features a fixed permo-elastic silicon sealing ring that makes it easy and safe to close once you’re done with the cleaning. The setup is easy as well, as your purchase already comes with the various installation accessories you need. These include the spray bar and the inlet pipe.
Read full review of EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media
This is versatile enough that it is expressly meant for marine and freshwater aquariums, and even for your aqua terrarium. This is available in various sizes, and for your turtle tank you’re well-advised to go with the Hydro Professional 600. This comes with a 345 gph pump output flow rate and 290 gph filter circulation, so it can deal with a 40-gallon turtle tank.
This has lots of features that make it quite easier to use with fewer annoyances. It’s easy to prime, and you have fully adjustable in/out pipes and quick-release hose-tail taps. It’s easy enough to open, but you can also secure it with the safety locks on the sides. The 4-clamp locking system prevents water leaks, while it also supports the motor.
This allows for all types of filtration system methods: mechanical, biological, and chemical. This can offer up to 5 filter media trays. It’s also very quiet, which can be a bit discomfiting for newbies. You may have to come closer to hear it, so you can assure yourself that it’s actually working.
Read full review of Hydor Professional External Canister Filter
The largest of the Fluval 06 series is the 406, which comes with a 383-gph flow rate. While that may suffice for 100-gallon fish tanks, this should suit 40-gallon turtle tanks as well. This is the latest enhanced version, with an improved hydraulic performance for the motor. This enhancement means you don’t need to maintain it as often, the flow rates are higher, and so is the head pressure. The bearings have been precisely engineered to minimize the vibration of the impeller, and with the cover, this design reduces the noise.
Its features include the Aqua-Stop valves that make it much easier for you to connect the hoses. Startup is no trouble with the Instant Prime technology. Cleaning and maintenance also become easier due to the single-motion lift-lick clamps. You also have several removable filtration baskets which already feature the media for mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. The filter has a nice cubic design that holds up to 35% to 50% more water than the rounded canisters.
The multi-stage filtration system separates the filtration stages properly for minimal maintenance and better versatility. At the mechanical stage, you have large-capacity vertical twin foam prefilters that absorb more debris and while preventing the media from getting clogged too quickly.
Then you also have independent modules for chemical and biological filtration, which allows you to easily remove the filter media for cleaning and replacement without making too much of a mess. Fluval offers 10 different media options, so you can make sure your filter can keep up with your mess turtles.
Read full review of Fluval 06 Series External Filters
This may also be called the Turtle Clean 30. Either way, the name “Turtle Clean” does reassure you that it’s designed expressly for your turtle tank. The “30” in the model name does indicate that this is limited for use in 30-gallon tanks, as this only offers a 160-gph flow rate. This can also work with a 60-gallon tank if you only fill it with water halfway.
With this, you get highly efficient mechanical and biological filtration. Your purchase includes coarse and fine sponges, along with the ceramic media. You also get highly efficient customer service, and a quick call to them gave us the key to making this work.
With a small tank, all you really need to do is to change over 25% of the water once or twice a week. You’re also advised to not clean the filter at first because you want the filter to develop the beneficial bacteria you need to deal with the ammonia in the water. If you keep these tips in mind, the filter can work quite effectively and your maintenance will only require 15 minutes per week.
Read fill review of Zoo Med 511 Turtle Clean Canister Filter
Now if you have a larger tank reaching at least 100 gallons, you should consider this 525gph filter system. It offers 5 stages of filtration, with 4 flexible media trays in which you can put in the activated carbons, ceramic rings, and bio-balls that SunSun sells separately. The 5th stage here refers to the built in 9-Watt UV sterilizer which can kill algae spores and bacteria.
This is another filter specifically designed for turtles. If you didn’t get that from the “reptile filter”, you should realize this with the packaging showing pictures of turtles with frogs. This is actually a decorative filter, as it offers a natural stone design that can nicely blend in with other rocks and vegetation. It also offers a dramatic waterfall feature. Just keep in mind that this works best for low water levels of up to 4 to 6 inches.
This may be decorative, but it’s not just about looking good. This still offers a 3-stage filtration system that can work for turtle tanks up to 55 gallons of water. However, the pump output is just for 90 gallons per hour, so it’s not really meant for large bodies of tank water.
Read full review of Tetra 25905 Decorative Reptile Filter for Turtle Tank
This works for 10to 15 gallons of water, which also means it can work if you use a 30-gallon tank that you only fill halfway. This runs at about 79 gph, so it’s not really suitable for larger tanks.
Still, for smaller tanks it does quite well enough. It even gives you biological, mechanical filtration, and chemical filtration. With the strainer, ceramic media, and the carbon, you’re all set to make sure your tiny turtles live in a clean environment.
Read full review of Zoo Med Turtle Clean 15 External Canister Filter
Now this gives you a 3-stage filtration system that should be able to cope with your messy turtles. You have dense foam to filter out the debris, the lauded BioGrid media that deals with ammonia and nitrates, and the activated carbon that handles toxins and bad smells.
Installation is very simple as well. It is self-priming, plus the directional return pipe lets you choose between horizontal and vertical mounting. You can also adjust the flow rates, flow direction, and the flow height.
Just get the largest which is the AT 40, with its 2 large cartridges and 155 gph. This is a tough and durable filter, and it comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Read full review of Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter
How to set up canister filter for a turtle tank
Lots of industry experts recommend putting in a canister filter for a filter tank. They’re usually equipped with large cartridges that can hold more media. You can place them underneath the tank in the stand cabinet and out of sight. That certainly looks better. Their impellers are also generally powerful so you have very strong filtration system.
To set up canister filters, you best should look into your owner’s manual. Canister filters may have individual features that the manual instructions may address, which allows you to optimize the usage of their filtration system. However, these are the general steps you’ll probably take:
Look Over Your Components
Take every component out, and check that everything that’s supposed to be part of your purchase package is included. What you don’t want to do is to start setting up the canister filter only to find out later that a certain part is missing. Your package may also include filter media. Check the media to be sure they’re in good condition.
Position the Filter
Start by finding the best location for your filter. Generally, this is underneath the tank. The ideal position is between 8 inches up to 4.5 feet under the water level of the aquarium.
Then examine the tubing to make sure that you don’t have any loops or kinks. Check also that the hose can actually reach the tank without any hassle.
Prepare the Media for the Filter
Take out the media and categorize them, then prepare to set them up a layer at a time. After inserting the baskets, you may have a hole in the base of the filter. You can fix the base with a few old clay rings to diffuse any waste that may gather in that spot.
Put In the Mechanical Media
This should be in the first tray of your filter. That’s so the water is already cleared of waste and debris, or else these can clog up the biological filtration and chemical filtration layers.
Install the foam varieties in the tray. Start with the coarse, then the fine, and then the extra fine. You want to start filtering out the bigger particles first, so that the extra fine filter won’t have to deal with the bigger particles.
Put In the Biological Media
On the second plate, you can install the biological filtration media. This can consist of bio-balls and/or ceramic rings. It’s up to you if you want to keep the biological media in tehri canister filter sacks. Others just line the tray with the biological media.
Put In the Chemical Media
Hopefully you still have a 3rd and 4th tray which you can fill with whatever media you might want to put in. For some, this means putting in some activated carbon for chemical filtration. In general, chemical filtration media come in loose granules, so you’ll need a filter bag. Without that bag, those granules can just float and clog up your filter impeller.
Prepare the Intake
The intake is the part of the filter that draws water from the tank. In some canister filters, you may have a connector that joins with the tank, and this connector sets your hoses in place. If you have this, you should now attach the connector to the aquarium.
After that, connect the hose to the canister filter. Extricate the intake clasp and append the hose straight to the intake valve. You can then fix the clasp up again. Run the hosing to the aquarium, and cut the hose to the proper length so there’s no slack and no loops. Secure the hosing to the connector. After all that, the end of the hose should be attached to an intake tube coming down to the tank water.
Your manual should indicate how much of the tube should reach into the water. If this isn’t indicated, let the end of the tube reach at least 3 inches from the base of the aquarium.
Prepare the Output
This is somewhat similar to preparing the intake. You have to set up the fish tank connector, then attach the hose to the canister filter. Measure and cut to the right length, and then move the hose to the tank. The output nozzle should reach at least an inch into the water line. You don’t really need it to get down to the base of the aquarium.
Check Out the Filter
Make sure that everything’s properly attached and that everything’s in their proper place. The valves should be open so the filter can access the water and remove it from the tank.
Start the Filter
If everything’s okay, you can start the filter. For some canister filters, you may first have to have water in the canister before you begin. Other filters may also have an auto prime button. You can press that (maybe even a few times) to get things started.
Once it starts, monitor the operation to make sure everything is as it should be. If there are any rattling noises, some gunk may be blocking any of the filter parts. Check the water flow as well. If it’s too low, you may need to remove an obstruction in the tubing or you may have to tighten the hose connection.
Buying Guide: Factors to Consider
With so many turtle tank filter setup options, how exactly should you pick the most suitable for your needs? To make sure you’re not wasting your money and that your turtle lives in a reasonably clean environment, you should focus on the following considerations:
GPH (Filter Pump Water Flow Rate)
This stands for gallons per hour, which refers to the water flow rate that your filter pumps out. Basically, this is the amount of water that your filter can clean in an hour.
With messy turtles, you really need a high water flow gph rate for your tank. If you’re familiar with fish tanks, you may have heard some people tell you that your gph should be 4 times that of your turtle tank size in gallons. That is, if you have a 50-gallon tank you should have a filter pumping out 200 gallons per hour.
When your tank has a turtle, you better go with 8 times that of your turtle tank size in gallons. That 50-gallon tank with a turtle inside will now need a filter gph rate of 400 gallons per hour. That’s the minimum—if you can get a higher gph rate for your money then you should go with it.
Amount of Filtering Media
A turtle tank filter is basically a device that pumps in water so that it can be cleaned when it’s then pumped out. The water is cleaned by making it go through a series of filtering layers that can filter out certain types of debris and contaminant. When you have a turtle tank, you should go with a turtle tank setup that can accommodate as many filtering layers as possible to make sure your filter can keep up with the mess your turtle produces.
Filtering media types can be classified as mechanical, chemical, and biological. Mechanical filtration layers are basically physical traps for debris and particles. Chemical filtration involves creating a chemical reaction, so that a dangerous chemical in the water can be rendered harmless (or at least less harmful). Biological filtration involves the use of beneficial bacteria and other organisms (including fungi and plants) that transform toxins into less harmful substances. In general, this refers to how your helpful bacteria can turn toxic ammonia from waste into less harmful nitrate.
It doesn’t hurt if you have several layers of the same type of filtration media, such as several layers of mechanical filtration media. But it also can really help if you have several types (or better yet, all 3 types) of filtration media arrayed in your turtle tank filter setup.
It would be nice if you can just plug and play a turtle tank filter and not bother with maintenance. But you still have to clean your filter cartridges whenever you need to, and when necessary you have to replace them. That’s part of filter maintenance.
Obviously, you’ll need more time to clean a filter that accommodates a greater amount of filtration media. Still, if you have 2 filter options to choose from and they have the same number of media, you may want to choose the one that’s easier and faster to clean than the other.
What you should be looking for is a basic cabinet system for your filtration media. In this setup, you can easily take out filter, clean it, and then put it back in. Or you can take put a media and replace it with a new one. This is a no-hassle setup that should minimize the trouble you go through.
On the other hand, what you don’t want is a setup in which you have to disassemble the whole tank filtration system just so you can take out a dirty filter to clean or replace. You especially don’t want to fiddle around past the filter pump system.
Some filters are noisier than others, and if you’re like most tank owners you probably prefer a quieter filter. After all, for many people the point of having a fish or turtle tank is that it’s a very relaxing and soothing feeling to be in the same room with these aquatic creatures. But that effect is somewhat ruined when you have a very noisy filter. That’s especially true when your tank is in your bedroom and the ruckus keeps you from falling asleep easily.
How long will the filter last before you need to buy another unit? It may actually be more cost-effective to buy a more expensive filter setup that can last years rather than settle for a much cheaper tank filter that will last only a few months before something breaks down. You really don’t need the hassle, since owning a tank can already give you several problems already. You don’t need any more problems about the tank filter, especially if you want to relax.
You should then read turtle tank filter customer reviews to find out if a particular filter model is prone to breaking down. Be very wary if you encounter too many customer reviews complaining about parts that are defective or keep breaking down.
You should also take note of the length of the warranty period. A long warranty period indicates that the brand is quite confident about the durability and longevity of their turtle tank filter.
It would be nice if the tank filter manufacturer offers ample customer support to answer your questions and to replace defective filters quickly and with no hassle. Some brands offer quick responses to questions and will be very accommodating when you have defective units and components. That’s certainly better than late-responding or even virtually non-existent customer support that acts very hesitantly in replacing defective parts.
Turtle Tank Filter FAQs
Isn’t a 400-gph filter a bit of overkill for a turtle tank?
The answer to this question is a definite no. In fact, most people who ask this question are newbies to turtle tanks who aren’t familiar with just how messy turtles can be. These turtles are extremely messy, and having a gph rate 8 times the gallon of your turtle tank size. In fact, it’s actually better to regard it as a minimum so if you can get a higher gph rate for tank filter, so much the better.
In addition, the advertised gph rate indicated on tank filters aren’t completely accurate. It’s not that these manufacturers outright lie in their advertising. It’s just that if they say their tank filter pump output is 200 gph, this is only true at optimal conditions. That means the pump can actually filter through 200 gallons per hour, but without the filtering media, without the turtles and fish, and without any décor in the tank.
Once you factor in these additional tanks and filter components, you’ll find that the actual gph is much lower than the stated gph. One enterprising fellow made an effort to measure the actual flow of a filter supposed to reach 900 gph. It turned out that when you have the media and the tank creatures, the actual flow rate was less than 330 gph.
If I have to choose which filtration methods to use in my turtle tank filter, which methods should be the priority?
For most people, the most important filtration method is probably biological. This is the filtration media that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria which then function as ammonia oxidizers. In other words, the bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrate. Ammonia is quite toxic, and nitrate is comparatively less harmful. The plants in your tank can then take up the nitrate and filter it out of the water.
Mechanical filtration can be just as important. This layer strains out particulates and debris from the water. This means it can strain out the turtle feces in the water, and there’s a lot of that. In addition, it can also filter out uneaten food pieces as well as algae floating around in the water.
Compared to biological and mechanical filtration, chemical filtration isn’t as absolutely essential. Still, it’s nice to have to help keep the tank water clean. You can have activated carbon in your filter that can break down organic matter that has dissolved into the water. You can also have chemicals that can remove ammonia which has managed to get past your biological filtration layer.
Is a HOB (hang on back) filter sufficient for a turtle tank?
It may suffice for a smaller tank, but it’s not really ideal. A regular HOB filter isn’t usually large enough to hold enough filter media that can handle the mess a turtle can produce. Their impellers may also not be as strong as you’d want. They’re noisier too.
Strictly speaking, it’s possible to get by with a HOB filter for your turtle tank. It’s best if this type is only used for understocked tanks, and if you only have tiny juvenile turtles. If you have lots of adult turtles, the HOB filter may not be able to cope up.
What about using an undergravel tank filter?
It’s understandable that undergravel filters are popular for fish tanks because they’re very discreet. But for turtle tanks, undergravel filters simply won’t do. The simple reason is that these filters need to work with gravel, and gravel is just something you don’t want to find in a turtle tank.
You shouldn’t have gravel in your turtle tank for several reasons. One reason is that turtles aren’t very smart, and it’s common for them to think that gravel is food. They’ll try to eat the rocks and of course that’s detrimental to their health.
Turtles are also diggers. Put in some gravel to cover an undergravel filter, and the turtle digging will just clog up the filter instead. In addition, all that digging will just kick up all the bits of food and feces that your filter missed. These will then be placed back in the water and you’ll have a real mess to deal with.
Can I put some fish in my turtle tank?
You can, but you also have to be prepared to deal with a very long list of problems that may arise.
- Some fish can be very messy as well, and your turtle is already a problem when it comes to producing waste. Adding fish that also produces lots of waste can just overwhelm your tank filter.
- You can have space problems as well. Turtles can get up to 12 inches long, and adding fish can lead to territorial issues. That’s why most industry experts recommend that if you have to put in turtles with fish, you better have a tank that’s at least 80 gallons in size.
- Your turtle will most likely try to eat the fish, especially if they’re small enough and they aren’t fast swimmers. So you if you really want to try this, you may want to go with agile fish that can escape a turtle. You also may want to stick with inexpensive fish that you won’t mind getting eaten by the turtle.
- There are even fish (like the Oscar) that may end up biting your turtle.
If you’re a newbie to turtle tanks cleaning the water is a daunting task, so do yourself a favor and hold off with this move. You already have filtration problems to deal with, and you don’t really need to add a lot more problems to the list, so find yourself a high quality filtration system which gives you everything you need. We hope this list helps you find the best filtration systems that fit your needs!
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Rod Hanks is a 32 year blogger from the United States, helping readers find the best quality products and services. He holds a masters degree on Finance from University of Minnesota. When he is not working, Rod plays football, goes to the gym and plays video games Read more about him.