Best Filter for Turtle Tanks (Reviews & Buyers Guide)

Estimated read time 14 min read

So, you’re thinking about getting a turtle pal. Awesome! Turtle’s are the best, but they’re not an animal you can just wing it with. It takes a lot of preparation to get your home ready for your new family member.

It can all be quite daunting, especially when you realize that, unlike the mutant ninjas, it’s gonna need more than just pizza and ass-kicking to survive…in fact, you should scribble pizza and ass-kicking off your list altogether.

One of the most important things you need after the tank itself is a filter, which is why we’ve put together a list of the five best filters for turtle tanks. Start with that, then have a leisurely read of our buyer’s guide and FAQ section, and you’ll be closer than ever to moving that little guy in.


Quick List Best Filter for Turtle Tanks

  1. Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter
  2. Marineland Penguin 350 BIO-Wheel Power Filter
  3. Polar Aurora External Aquarium Filter
  4. Tetra Decorative ReptoFilter
  5. Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter

Top Pick: Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter

Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 100 Gallons, Filters 265 GPH,Blue

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This filter has four large-capacity, stackable media baskets with lift-up handles, so you can get creative with combinations of media. Whatever you think will create the best environment for your turtle.

Two media options are included with the purchase: a sponge that acts as a great biological filter, making itself host to friendly bacteria that prevent the build-up of ammonia and nitrates, and a floss matt that will help in the removal of particulate matter.

Some of our favorite things about this filter are the flow valves. It has two independent valves that can be rotated a full 360 degrees, so you can move this thing around in your tank to find what set up your little friend prefers, and easily redirect the valves for maximum efficiency.

The valves also have an easy-release design, so you won’t have to fiddle for ages trying to remove them when the time comes to do a bit of canister maintenance.

Another really great feature is the push-button primer. Say goodbye to your little plastic cups, because with the simple push of a button, this thing primes itself, pulling in water to all the correct chambers, so all you have to do is turn on the motor and voila!

Working at 315 GPH and able to filter aquariums of up to 150 gallons of water, this is a great way to ensure your pet is going to be taking it easy in style and live a very happy, healthy life.

● 4 large media trays allow for 3 filtration types plus 1 extra
● Fully rotatable flow valves make relocating canister easy
● Valves are easy-release to help with the cleaning process
● Button activated primer will save time and effort
● Can filter up to 150 gallons, but larger capacity versions are available

● Quite Pricey

Second Pick: Marineland Penguin 350 BIO-Wheel Power Filter

Marineland PF0350B Penguin Power Filter, Upto 75 Gallons, 350 GPH

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This filter’s standout feature is the wet-dry biological bio-wheel that turns to expose all the helpful bacteria to a little bit of oxygen, which keeps them in prime condition to tackle the nasty build-ups of ammonia and nitrates.

The bio-wheel is designed to be self-cleaning, so you’ll never have to worry about clogs or buildups.

This filter has a three-stage filter system, meaning your water will be filtered mechanically, biologically, and chemically, ideal for larger aquatic pets such as turtles.

Maybe your turtle tank is in your bedroom, and you’re worried that a filter with a constantly surfacing and submerging feature would be a little bit too noisy for you. Well, this design comes with noise-reducing, two-piece vent covers, so you and your turtle will sleep like babies.

This innovative filter runs at an impressive 350 GPH and is suitable for tanks with up to 70 gallons of water. This is the largest size in a series, so you can choose a smaller model if need be.

● Patented bio-wheel technology enhances the quality of the water
● Bio-wheel is self-cleaning
● Relatively affordable depending on where you look
● Can filter 350 gallons per hour
● The quiet function won’t distract you or make it difficult to sleep near
● 3-stage filtration system ensures your turtle’s water is clean as can be

● Some customers reported the wheels stopping turning from time to time.

Third Pick: Polar Aurora External Aquarium Filter

Polar Aurora 3-Stage External Aquarium Filter 265gph with Builtin Pump Kit Canister

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This filter comes with three media trays that should be able to handle most kinds and sizes of media, so you can add custom mechanical, biological, and chemical levels to the filtration process.

This pump also has the self-priming button function that our top pick has, so there’s no need to worry about manual siphoning, and it also has similar directional flow valves to the Penn Plax filter. These features come together to make for a speedy and easy maintenance process.

Although external filters, especially ones as powerful as this, can be quite loud, this filter has an ultra-low noise motor, so you get all the benefits of a powerful external filter without the maddening downside. It’s all good.

Running at 264 GPH with a maximum filtration capacity of 75 gallons, and with most of the appointments of our top pick, this is one hell of a water filter, and it’s roughly half the price too.

This is the perfect filter for someone who’s able to invest a little more to really optimize their turtle’s living environment and keep them happy and healthy as can be.

● The self-priming pump makes set up easy
● Affordable for the features you get
● Directional flow valves with 360-degree turning potential
● 264 GPH and high 75-gallon maximum capacity
● Three media trays for the customizable filtration process
● Noise reduction motor keeps things ambient
● Easy to clean and maintain
● Compatible with Sunsun products

● Even with a quiet motor, it’ll probably a bit louder than an internal filter.

Fourth Pick: Tetra Decorative ReptoFilter

Tetra Decorative ReptoFilter, Terrarium Filtration, Keeps Water Clear

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This Tetra filter is designed to fit right into and enhance your turtle’s tank. The natural stone and waterfall design give the tank an organic look more akin to your turtle’s natural habitat, which will reduce stress for them and create a more interesting and aesthetically pleasing scene for you.

The unique design will only fit properly into the corners of your tank, which might be a problem if you already have a heavily decorated and planned out tank-space. However, if you still need to kit out your turtle’s crib with some cool rugged, natural features, this is definitely the one for you.

It has a three-stage filtration system that works really well to remove odors and remove waste. It’s easy to clean. The contained design keeps the filter and your turtle safe and separate, and the lid doubles as a basking platform for your little sunbathers.

This filter is perfect for shallow water filtration of about 4 to 6 inches and is designed specifically for turtles, newts, and frogs.

This one’s all about creating a premium natural-look environment giving your reptilian rascal the perfect backdrop for all their turtle shenanigans.

● Natural rock and waterfall design is good for your turtle and saves you money on decoration
● Three-stage filtration system cleans water and reduces odors
● Perfect for shallow water filtration
● Easy to clean
● Lid doubles as a basking platform
● Affordable

● Will only sit in the back corners of the tank.

Final Pick: Tetra Whisper In-Tank Filter

Tetra Whisper Internal Filter 10 To 20 Gallons, For aquariums, In-Tank Filtration With Air Pump

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This filter is a 2-in-1 design that functions as both a water filter and an air pump, which means that while it’s cleaning your tank using dual-sided mesh filters, it’s also oxygenating your water.

One of the features we really love about this filter is that it can be fitted to the inside of your tank using mountable suction cups included in the box. This means that you can place it out of the way towards the back of the tank and still have your tank pushed flush against a wall.

Even though air pump filters are known to be a little bit noisier than single-function water filters, due to its ‘whisper’ design and the submerged motor, excess of volume shouldn’t be a problem here.

This filter runs at 125 GBH and can filter a maximum of 30 gallons of water, but works really well in water as shallow as 2 inches, so it’s perfect if you’re starting and your little guy isn’t quite fully grown yet.

● Fits internally
● Quiet function even with air pump
● 2-in-1 design cleans and oxygenates the water
● Affordable
● Can filter anywhere between 2 inches and 30 gallons of water
● Dual-sided mesh filter excels at reducing waste in your tank

● Can’t filter quite as fast as some of the other picks
● Doesn’t specify how many filtration stages it uses

Best Filter For Turtle Tanks Buyers Guide


Coming up with a small budget will help narrow down your options. If you are looking to go as cheap as possible, make sure you research the product thoroughly as your pet’s health is at stake.


You may initially think that a turtle tank wouldn’t need as big of a filter as a large fish aquarium, but because of the extra waste turtles produce, you’re actually going to need a much larger system create an optimum environment for them to flourish.

Most filter capacities are measured with the intention of them filtering fish water, so realistically, unless you’re using a specialist filter that instructs you otherwise, you’re going to want to choose something with up to two to three times the capacity of your tank size.

So for your 100-gallon turtle palace, you should be looking at 2-300 gallon capacity filters. This is particularly important if you have more than one turtle. You may even need to splurge on two separate filters.


The next thing you need to consider is GPH or gallons per hour. This is the flowrate or speed at which your filter can process a specified amount of water per hour.

Because turtles are much larger than fish and produce more waste, you need a filter that can work really fast; otherwise, things can get quite ugly pretty quickly.

Ideally, you need a filter that can process your entire water volume in an hour or less. This will ensure your turtle is living in a sanitary environment.

Internal Vs. External


Due to the motor of an internal filter system being submerged, they generally run a little quieter, a neat feature, but they also tend to be a little more fiddly to maintain.

Internal filter systems are also handy in cramped spaces and won’t be as prominent in the room. If you don’t like the idea of a bulky object detracting from the look of the room, an internal system might be best.


External filtration systems tend to be easy to maintain, especially if they have a self-priming function and easy access media sections like those on our list. They also tend to be far more powerful, which, as we’ve discussed, is great for turtles and other larger reptiles.

Another bonus to external filters is that they normally have more media space, providing extra customizable filtration levels, giving you cleaner water.

As you’ve also seen from our list, you can get external filters with quiet motors.

Note – In regards to volume, pick something that suits you. Turtles are by no means deaf, but they don’t have particularly sensitive hearing, so no matter how much noise a filter makes, they either won’t notice or won’t care.

Types of Filtration

There are three types of filtration that, if used together, will ensure your tank water remains as pure as possible.

The filtration types are mechanical, biological, and chemical.

Mechanical filtration is the physical process of removing debris from the water, e.g., meshes and traps. This prevents waste from spoiling the water and keeps everything looking very clean; however, mechanical filtration does nothing to help stabilize water chemistry.

Note – A good water chemistry is a thing that’s actually going to keep your turtle healthy.

Biological filtration happens when the water passes through different media. Media in a filter is there to clean the water further and create helpful bacterias that oxygenate the ammonia in the tank, converting it into nitrates that plants can absorb.

Chemical filtration is similar to biological filtration. It’s specialized media that the water passes through that targets other harmful buildups that mechanical and biological filtration let pass. An example of a popular media used for chemical filtration is activated carbon, which reduces copper and chlorine levels, among other things.

Note – Biological and mechanical filtration is an absolute must. Chemical filtration isn’t strictly necessary, but it will make your water last longer and ultimately lead to healthier turtles.


It’s important to consider ease of maintenance when choosing a filter as you don’t want your water stagnating for long periods of time while you change your media and clean the canister.

Opt for one that makes this process as simple as possible with easy access media trays and mechanical filters.

If you do end up with one that takes time to clean, it might be worth buying a second filter to run while you clean the other.


Can I turn off my turtle’s filter at night?

No, you shouldn’t turn off your turtle’s filter at night. If you have an issue with the noise, look into getting a filter with a quiet motor.

How often should you clean your turtle tank?

You should add some clean water to your turtle’s tank every week to reduce levels of ammonia and nitrates, but you should only have to do a full tank and filter clean once every two to three weeks.

Is tap water okay for turtles?

You should never use tap water for your turtle’s swimming area or as their drink. Tap water often contains chlorine and fluoride, which can be harmful. A turtle needs dechlorinated water to swim in and should only drink filtered water.

Turtley Awesome

There you have it filter-finders! A varied selection of five of the best filters for your turtle tank around, a buyer’s guide to filter out any doubts, and an FAQ segment to douse any burning questions.

The filters on our list are all great highly-recommended products, but some are vastly different from each other. With the help of our buyer’s guide, it’s up to you to decide what will work best in your situation.

All that’s left for me to do is to resist the urge to make terrible sign-off puns like, you’re gonna have a shell of time, or don’t shell yourself short, or maybe even…No, sorry. I’ll stop myself now.

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