To have a cute yet prehistoric-looking turtle swimming across your home aquarium can be one of the coolest things. However, after some research you find out that these creatures are noticeably messy, potentially leading you to wonder what’s the best filter for an aquatic turtle-based tank. Could it be the powerful canister type? Or you could get away with an internal one? Did you know that your tank’s size plays a large role in the choice of a filter? Say your red-eared slider lives in a 55-gallon tank. You’ll need to take this into consideration in order to provide it with adequate filtration. No worries – I’ve put together some reviews and recommendations to help with that.
A quick overview table of the turtle filters reviewed in this post
Here’s a quick comparison chart of the turtle filters featured in this article:
|Model:||Recommended for:||Best Price:|
|1. Eheim Classic 22(xx) Series||20 to 30 gallon tanks||Amazon|
|2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter||20 to 45 gallon tanks||Amazon|
|3. Fluval 06 Series External Filters||30 to 55 gallon tanks||Amazon|
|4. Fluval FX Series Filters||75 to 125 gallon tanks||Amazon|
|5. API Filstar XP||30 to 55 gallon tanks||Amazon|
|6. Eheim 2260/2262 Aquarium Filter||125 to 150 gallon tanks||Amazon|
|7. XtremepowerUS Pond Pressurized Filter||200 or more gallon tanks||Amazon|
8 things a buyer should consider before purchasing a filter for their turtles
#1 WHAT TYPE of filter should you get and why is it the canister one?
To be honest, I’ve seen a few turtle tanks that ran successfully on HOB filters, but they were understocked and the turtles were very small juveniles.
Eventually, my friends did upgrade to a canister filtering system and all they say now is that they won’t ever go back to Hand-on-Back filters.
End of anecdote.
They are also external in nature and are placed beneath the tank, in your stand’s cabinet. Quite important if you appreciate your in-tank aesthetics.
A canister is also equipped with stronger impellers, currently providing the best filtration on the market.
I have a more detailed guide that lists the best aquarium canister filters out there which you can check out if you want to learn more.
It revolves more around fish, but I’ve taken into consideration lightly stocked turtle tanks as well there.
#2 The “8x Rule”
If you’ve ever owned a decently-sized fish tank you’d know how crucial filtration is for carnivorous aquatic inhabitants.
Imagine the messiest 10-inch long Oscar (it’s a type of semi-large aquarium fish, you can Google it) that feeds on live fish only and poops mad all over the aquarium.
Well, now multiply that by 2.
Turtles are extremely messy creatures.
It’s not unseen for turtle parents to compromise with their tank’s filtration, leading it to smelly, green water that has more of a swamp stench…
Disgusting, not to mention unhealthy.
For this reason, the hobby generally agreed upon the “8x rule”.
The rule states that if you’re owning a turtle, the filter that you have set up should turn the available quantity of water at least 8 times PER HOUR.
In the fishkeeping world the rule is set at 6, but for overstocked tanks or turtle inhabited tanks, it rises to 8 times (plus).
#3 WITH OR WITHOUT a basking place
Another thing that I never see taken under consideration in those other guides online is the setup of the tank’s owner.
In the turtle-keeping world, it’s generally considered a good idea to provide your pet with a basking area.
Turtles are coldblooded creatures and as such require their daily sunbath.
For turtle tanks there are 3 setups that influence the pick of appropriate filtration:
- An aquarium that’s filled with water to the top
- An aquarium that has a basking area inside and is only filled halfway through with water
- An aquarium that’s filled to the top with water and has a separate above-tank basking area
#4 Advertised GPH vs real GPH
Every aquarium filter that I’m about to list has its own GPH (gallons per hour) flow rate, as advertised.
Some will have 100 GPH, others will have 500+.
Now, let’s make a quick reference to the “8x Rule” from above.
It should be noted that the rule is only concerned with the ADVERTISED flow.
You see that a canister filter claims to turns 440 gallons of water per hour. You proceed by applying the 8x Rule and divide 440 by 8. You now know that this canister filter is suitable for your 55-gallon turtle tank.
So why’s the turnover number so high?
I mean 8 times seems crazy, right?
You’d be absolutely right…if the number was realistic.
Let’s take the Eheim 2262 for example.
This is the best filter for large turtle tanks in my opinion and I’ve explained that in my review below.
Its supposed pump output is 900 GPH.
Mind that this is not the same as the GPH rating of the filter itself.
It’s one of the strongest pumps for canister filters in the industry right now (Fluval FX6 claim the same pump output).
But doing some proper flowrate testing (link to a forum where some guy actually made the effort) you’ll see that the “real” GPH it can sustain is quite lower.
With everything being equal, after a year of not cleaning it, and a cartridge full of media pads the filter reaches a realistic water turnover of 329 GPH.
With this (real) number you can be sure that the turtles in your 150-gallon tank would have a nice and clean, healthy environment for themselves.
Full media trays, gunk, decor and even the architecture of the canister filter hinder its flow rate potential.
For this reason, we have agreed upon the 8x rule.
Though based and calculated on advertised flowrate, it makes sure that the real number of hourly water spinning will be enough to handle all the waste.
#5 Your tank’s SIZE
This section will be short.
Obviously, as different aquarium filters have different water cycling power.
To ease your pain from hours-long research on different systems and their respective GPH responding to your tank’s size I’ve added an additional recommendations section below.
There I’ve taken into consideration most anything a turtle pet parent would need to calculate when buying a filter for their tank.
I took the liberty to tailor a custom filter recommendation for all the tank sizes, different setups (with or without a basking area) and bioload relative to the particular filter’s flow rate.
Just make sure to check that out or an easier purchase.
#6 How QUIET the filter operates
Ok, not everyone can endure the splashing sound HOB filters make when working.
Canister filters (another major advantage of theirs, in my opinion) are currently the quietest of all other types available on the market.
It’s all in the technology they employ – everything is done via tubing and there’s no “air time” for the incoming water stream.
I crafted a separate guide reviewing the most quiet canisters on the market because I’m well aware that there are light sleepers among us. Most of the models listed here are included there.
As I’ve owned all of them during a certain point of my aquarium career I managed to somewhat analyze the sound they give off.
I share my findings there.
#7 Frequency of MAINTENANCE
Canister filters do require maintenance like every other type of water-filtering system.
However, when you nail it with a good choice (as I’d like to believe are my reviewed recommendations below) you’ll need minimum cleaning of the cartridges.
The more media the filter holds – the less frequent opening and changing it will require.
This is yet another reason I’ve only mentioned canisters in this guide.
It usually takes me from 10 to 20 minutes to clean out mine, which is not a lot by any means.
#8 Filtering media: the MORE – the BETTER
The second most important feature of the possibly best aquarium filter suitable for your turtle tank is the amount of media it can hold.
The power of the output pump would be nothing without a decent amount of mechanical, biological and chemical barriers for all the nasties that get circulated in the aquarium.
The canister filters I’m reviewing here provide immense space for filtering media.
Most of them will have more than one stage of filtration, expressed as multiple media trays.
This is perfect for messy aquarium inhabitants as it prolongs the contact time of water with the responding type of filter pad.
Some of the models below will come with their own pads and some will be delivered to you empty.
With turtles, you’ll want a huge amount of bio media so that the tank can remain cycled at all times by handling the copious amounts of ammonia and nitrite.
Another thing you’d want to pay attention to is the physical gunk that will build up in your filter.
If you’re smart about it you’ll want to research deeper into mechanical filtration and a certain solution will come up more than once.
It’s called a filter floss. You can visit the second link where I discuss the thing in detail.
It’s a super-duper inexpensive way to achieve crystal clear water and it will greatly aid you in the fight with turtle poop.
Reviewing and choosing the finest filter for your turtle tank
A turtle filter should best be equipped with a strong pump and plenty of space for mechanical and biological filtration. For this reason, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve only reviewed canister filtering systems below. Here are the very best filters for turtle tanks on the market:
1. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter – Long-term investment
Ever since their Geman manufacturers dropped them on the market the Eheim Classic canister filters have always had a solid reputation.
I guess the engineers in that country are not only famous for creating quality cars.
When you purchase an Eheim Classic filter you’re essentially claiming that you’re serious about your aquarium filtration.
Because these units will last you an eternity.
The only rivals in term of durability are probably Fluval, but more on that later.
Eheim still holds the first place though, at least in my humble opinion.
The architecture of the cartridge makes sense when it comes to everlasting filtration.
The impeller and the motor are well-built, ensuring thousands of hours of continuous work.
These filters are also super quiet.
I did list them at #1 in my “silent filters” reviews, to which I placed a link earlier in this article (under the noise section in the buyer’s guide).
This automatically makes the unit suitable for light sleepers.
Another thing I would like to mention about these filtration systems is that their architecture allows for the least reduction in flowrate after all media has been introduced in the trays.
This is very important, especially in turtle tanks.
By the way, Eheim also made sure that your electricity bills won’t skyrocket once you plug in their product.
I am unsure how they managed to pull that one off, given the advantages I listed above.
These canister filters have an optimized power consumption, which can be a dealbreaker in the long-run.
Combine that with their unseen durability (not even exaggerating here) and you have yourself a superb product.
The only disadvantage that’s worth discussing is their GPH.
The Eheim Classic Series are mainly targeting smaller tanks, and we all know how fast turtles can grow.
If you have smaller species of aquatic turtles then this filter is for you.
If you plan on upgrading in the near future I would suggest looking into a stronger filter.
In my custom recommendations guide further below, I explain this in detail.
Make sure to check that out so that you can confirm if this filter fits your turtle’s needs.
The manuals kind of suck, but soon I’ll link you to a YouTube guide on how to assemble the whole thing.
The motor’s only disadvantage is that it will not prime itself automatically (as other units on this list will).
And one last thing – I consider the Eheim Classic Series to be one of the easiest models of canister filters to maintain and clean. I’d rate them an overall no-brainer purchase for smaller turtle tanks.Advantages:
- Will last you a VERY long time
- Comes with all-purpose filter media when ordered online
- Permo-elastic sealing
- Tons of space for media
- Maintenance is easy and time-saving
- Fast and easy assembly
- Is super quiet
- Lower GPH for its price tag (but longer contact between water and filter media, thanks to the huge cartridge)
- Large cartridge
- No self-priming feature
- Useless setup manual (here’s a video for proper installation)
2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter – TOP rated
The first thing you’ll probably notice when browsing the Cascade Series in Amazon is the huge number of positive reviews.
I jokingly call this brand the People’s filter.
The people reviewing them, however, are not joking.
They are usually on sale with a huge discount and provide tons of filtration for the money.
You can read more about which tank size these units will best fit in my guide below the review section.
Anyway, by buying a Penn Plax you’re essentially paying for a strong pump, a lot of customization and a sturdy but somewhat unappealing design.
Aesthetics aside (you can just stick the filter in the cabinet beneath your tank) you’ll have tons of options to play around with.
Because of their customizable flow rate, it’s a smart move to get a larger-than-needed filter if you can currently afford it.
This way you’ll be able to upgrade tanks when your turtles outgrow them without worrying about a new filtration system.
Just turn down the flow rate of the filter until the time is right to turn it back to more gallons per hour.
Now let’s discuss the build.
These filters are not made of regular plastic.
The manufacturers made sure you’ll get a long-lasting product by using some kind of very sturdy plastic material.
I am not an expert in that field, but even my untrained eye (or hand) could tell that these won’t break in the foreseeable future after my purchase.
The valves that the Cascade uses are all the rage, by the way.
They can turn at 360 degrees, which is pretty convenient when you’re deciding on the filter’s place.
There are no spatial restrictions for that, which is seldom seen in the canister filter industry.
Another advantage here would be the staged filter media trays.
You can stuff whatever media you want in all the trays and the largest (1500 Series) model is equipped with 5 stages of filtration.
With turtles, you’d want to emphasize the biological and mechanical filtration.
By the way, if you order this filter through Amazon you’ll get an extra set of carbon media.
Anyway, with a Penn Plax filter, you get a self-priming button as a feature.
Not the easiest thing to press down, but it definitely eliminates the annoying priming issues.
The manufacturers made sure that the disassembly of the unit is novice-friendly, which makes the maintenance a breeze.
The instructions are spot on (unlike with Eheim’s products) and very easy to understand.
You’ll have a rather care-free time when installing this unit.
The operation is quiet by the industry standards and if you keep the canister inside of a cabinet you won’t ever hear it working.Advantages:
- Adjustable flow rate!
- Spray-bar is included in the delivery (less water disturbance from the incoming outlet)
- Between 2 and 5 stages of filtration, based on the model
- Self-priming feature
- Disassembly is fast and easy
- A special type of sturdy plastic
- Silent operation
- Novice-friendly instructions and installation
- BONUS carbon filter media in the package
- Around 90% of the circulated water passes through the trays (the high flow rate compensates for that though)
- Won’t last as long as other established brands
- The handle is not reliable
- Heavy cartridge
3. Fluval 06 External Filters – Quiet & Powerful
If you’re in need of a silent and sturdy canister filter for your turtle aquarium then the Fluval 06 Series are your friends.
Fluval rivals Eheim in terms of quietness and longevity.
But when it comes to middle-sized aquariums you’ll have to choose the Fluval, because of their powerful pumps.
Being manufactured by the best US parts the motors of these filters provide excellent filtration.
The GPH they can turn is ridiculously high for their price tag.
The company has patented its own sound-dampening technology which makes the 06 Series virtually silent.
The architecture and high-quality parts make sure that you have tons of filtering media space and a long-lasting unit.
In fact, I often recommend to friends looking up a second-hand deal on Amazon, because these filters run like brand new for years…
However, Fluval’s magnificence doesn’t stop here.
The engineers also came up with the Aquastop valves, which prevent the filter from leaking during cleaning maintenance.
A very convenient feature in my experience with canisters.
By the way, remember how I mentioned that a filter’s flow rate will get reduced when you stuff it with media?
Well, my observation is that the Fluval canisters get their GPH rate reduced the least upon media introduction (along with Eheim).
When you combine this with their monstrous pumps you get a very adequate filtration for messy aquarium inhabitants such as turtles.
Another thing I would like to point out with these units is the sealing.
A well-manufactured sealing is crucial for aquarium filtration products.
The brand is famous as one of the best when it comes to sealing. Leaks happen rarely and are mainly the result of human error.
Upon proper maintenance (which is not rocket science with these) you won’t ever find your Fluval leaking.
As I’ve pointed out in my general canister filter guide I can’t really find anything worth mentioning when it comes to disadvantages of the 06 series.
One thing that you should probably be prepared for is the way you’ll set this filter up.
If you’re new to canister filters it won’t be as easy, unless you have decent visual guidance.
It’s just that some of the actions are counterintuitive to a first-timer. I will link to a decent video on setting up a Fluval 06 below.Advantages:
- Aquastop technology of the valves, making it simple to clean the filter pads
- Soundless work of the motor thanks to its sound-dampening technology
- Extremely durable
- Really good GPH rates for the price
- US-manufactured parts & a quality build
- Impressive space for filter media
- Can be difficult to start and prime if you’re a first-time canister user (see this video, which solves the problem)
4. Fluval FX Series Filters – Premium high-end filtration
Fluval was just never satisfied with only making quality filters.
They want to dominate the market by manufacturing the best canister filter out there.
The FX series are their attempt at that.
And let me tell you, they did a pretty good job.
The FX series are equipped with something called a Smart Pump.
This thing will automatically prime the filter every 12 hours.
You won’t ever worry of trapped air hindering the filtration and making silly humming noises.
On top of that, the pumps housed in the FX series are one of the best on the market right now.
The FX6 turns 538 gallons of water per hour.
This automatically classifies it as one of the strongest canisters currently available.
This filter is recommended for large aquariums with more than one turtles in it.
You can find more on that below in my recommendations guide.
Anyway, these models come with the sound-dampening feature, which makes their operation super stealthy. You won’t hear a buzz from that filter, ever.
Speaking of ever, these units will last.
As in I’m yet to see one to stop working before the 5th year.
If you’re cash-smart and own a larger turtle tank then this filter is for you.
Speaking of cash, the filter is a bit pricey, compared to others on this list, but that’s fairly justified.
Buying one now will save you tons of cash in the future. And with bigger tanks with turtles in inside, filtration is not to be compromised with.
By the way, did I mention that you get 6 stages of filtration with the FX6?
Six physically huge stages of filtration that is.
You’ll be able to stuff all the media that you’ll ever need inside this monster.
This will reduce the need for cleaning to once every 4 to 6 months.
A huge convenience for the owner of messy turtles.
Still, whenever the time for maintenance comes, you’ll need to spend at least half an hour on it.
The disassembly is rather straight-forward, but because of the large cartridge size, it takes time.
The Fluval FX filter systems come with a built-in anti-clog feature.
This prolongs the expected life of the product to virtually forever.
Unless something breaks. Which won’t happen in the near future after your purchase, because of the high-quality parts used in the build of this unit.
The electricity bills for running such a device are impressively low.
The only con of this product is the higher initial investment.
But if you’re someone that has a 90+ gallon tank you were probably prepared for that anyway.
My overall rating for the FX series is an A+ and I’m trying to be objective here.
Well done, Fluval.Advantages:
- Smart Pump feature that primes the unit every 12 hours automatically
- One of the strongest pump output on the market right now
- Power consumption optimized – smaller electricity bills
- Has the most stages of filtration – 6 in total
- Built-in flow rate tracker, automatic flowrate adjustment when needed
- Self-protecting mechanism – will deactivate itself if it detects the potential for a leak
- Silent, despite the huge motor
- Is a long-term investment
- Additional tech features
- Multi-direction nozzle
- The higher price tag (definitely worth it for the provided quality though)
- LARGE cartridge (a decent aquarium stand will still be able to cover it)
- Can give you a hard time when installing it (unless you click here. This is a video with a very decent explanation on how to set this unit up)
5. API Filstar XP – The popular choice
The API Filtrar was once known as RENA XP Series but were later rebranded.
I think that’s worth pointing out as I still see forum users referring to them with their old name.
Anyway, why did I call them “the popular choice”?
Many aquatic turtle keepers I know and talked to online prefer to use these filters.
I’m talking almost 80% of the people.
Because these filters have most of the qualities of more expensive units while keeping the price reasonable.
If your budget is tighter, these are the perfect canister filters for your aquatic turtle tank.
The largest API Filstar from the XP series (xP-XL) has an advertised flow rate of 450 gallons per hour!
Not that impressive, compared to Fluval’s FX6, right?
Now, look at the price…
The Filstar canister filters have the strongest motors for this price bracket.
Which makes them ideal for larger turtle tanks.
However, power is not their only advantage.
Let’s talk built-in features.
These units have one of the best self-priming features on this list.
You don’t need to manually prime which, I think, is wonderful.
The API Filstar XP series also have their own anti-airlock system, that completely eliminates the need for re-priming, after opening the cartridge.
Special rubbers in the build eliminate vibrations caused from the strong motor and keep the filter in place during work.
The company makes its own patented filter pads with a unique filtering technology behind them.
The largest model has 4 stages of filtration.
The media trays are humongous.
The tubing is longer than with your usual canister filter, which allows more flexibility with positioning.
Okay, there are 2 main disadvantages that I would like to discuss.
What I don’t like about these models is their hard tubing.
It’s difficult to connect them the first time and if you don’t do it as I’m about to describe you’ll get a leak. Because the plastic is so rigid you’ll need to use hot water.
Another disadvantage I would like to talk about is sound. These filters are not the quietest among other aquarium canisters.
They are still considerably quieter than HOB filtration systems, but you’ll hear them work across the room.
If you’re easily irritated by background noises this is not the filter for you.
I would rate these filters at 8/10 because the tubing issue is easily avoidable and how irritated you are by the noise comes down to personal preference.
They’re an overall excellent purchase for aquatic turtle keepers.Advantages:
- Filter trays allow for custom-cut media
- Excellent performer for the price
- Top-notch self-priming feature
- Special quick-disconnect valves
- Anti-airlock system eliminates the need for re-priming
- Longer tubing
- Advanced-tech filter pads
- Difficult to set the tubing (I’ve described how to get around that above)
- A slightly louder operation, compared to others on this list
- No spray-bar included for such a strong flow output
- Leaks can occur upon improper setup of the tubing
6. Eheim 2260/2262 Aquarium Filter – The CHAMPION
The Eheim 2260/2262 is the absolute best aquarium canister filter out there.
They really stand undisputed, though they’re not new to the market.
From what I’ve seen they outperform even the FX6.
The difference between the 2260 and 2262 models is mainly the output, but they are pretty much similar so if you’re after these big boys, just buy whichever is available.
They turn over 630 gallons of water on an hourly basis.
I’ve seen people using them in ponds as well, which is quite interesting.
They are also the most reliable aquarium filtering system ever.
I am yet to see one of these break, and I know people using them from 10+ years.
So what’s the secret about the unbeatable long-term success of these filters?
My assumption is that it’s their sheer simplicity.
With an Eheim 2260, you get a huge cartridge that can hold 4.7 GALLONS of filter media.
With such a huge media basket you won’t need to change the filter pads for months to come.
The choice of media inside is completely up to you.
No need to buy special customized Eheim media.
I’ve seen people simply stuffing it with biofiltration and filter floss (check the section called “Filtering media: the more – the better” in the buyer’s guide above to learn more about polyester floss).
Apart from the cartridge, you have high-quality, durable hoses as an intake and output tubing.
And finally – the beast of a pump.
It’s heavy, quiet, very powerful and reliable.
Literally, all you could want for a 150+ gallon aquarium with aquatic turtles.
And that’s about it. Three high-end components that result in brand loyalty for everyone that has ever laid their hands upon this canister filter.
And yes, this unit is recommended if you’re in the large turtle aquarium game.
You can read more about which tank size it fits best in my recommendations guide below the reviews section.
It’s a very neat solution if you can’t afford the space or handiness to build your own sump.
The tank doesn’t contain turtles but has some monstrous arowanas and stingrays – a recipe for copious amounts of waste already.
Okay, I’m assuming that’s enough to persuade you into getting one of these if your aquarium’s size demands it. Let’s discuss the cons of this product.
First and foremost – the pricing.
This is the most expensive unit listed in this guide. The initial investment suits the financially liberated turtle owners.
However, if you’re on the lookout for a 150+ gallon canister filter for turtles you’re probably there already.
Consider this – this filter will virtually last you forever.
If you spread the price for each consecutive year you’ll be using this filter you’d see that it actually is the best long-term decision for your aquarium’s needs.
The pump consumes an insignificant amount of electricity for what it’s worth.
A real con I would like to mention is that the unit does not come with the Quick-Disconnect valves for the 1-inch intake hose.
These make the maintenance a ton easier and other Eheim Classic filters have them included in the price.
One would expect that at this price bracket you wouldn’t need to buy them separately.
The final con of this unit that I would like to discuss is that it’s heavy.
The cartridge is huge and as you can imagine, when it’s filled with water and used filter media it wouldn’t exactly count as light.
Keep that in mind for when you change the media.
That’s about it.
It’s a fantastic filter and you would never find yourself regretting your purchase.
I rate this product a solid 10/10.Advantages:
- Enormous power and gigantic GPH rate (630+)
- Holds almost 5 gallons of filter media
- You get to decide what media to put inside
- High-end parts and 0 chance of a leak
- Virtually immortal, compared to others
- Can be used on a pond as well
- Least reduction of flow rate with added media
- Higher initial investment (Though completely worth it in the long-run)
- Double-tap connectors not included
- Useless manuals ( Just follow this video‘s instructions instead)
- Heavy large cartridge
7. XtremepowerUS Pond Pressure Filter – For very large tanks
The XtremepowerUS Koi Pond Filter is a neat solution for very large domestic turtle tanks.
If you’re reading this section you probably have a 200+ gallon tank at your place.
Assuming you already clicked the Amazon link and checked the price you’re probably wondering why this device beats the others and comes at such a low price.
I mean, my previous recommendation was roughly 5 times the cash and has less GPH, right?
Not so fast.
Amazingly, once you’re done you won’t regret your purchase decision.
This pressure filter has its own backflush feature (used for cleaning).
It has plenty of space for filer pads and works like a beast.
In fact, if you plan on having other big fish (who are usually slow swimmers) in the tank then the incoming stream may be a bit too strong for them.
This can be avoided with a slight modification to the outlet by drilling a couple of holes to spread the pressure of incoming water.
The XtremepowerUS Pressurized Filter also has a built-in UV sterilizer, which can be very useful in turtle tanks.
Often the water becomes greenish, because of single-celled algae spores.
The UV sterilizer takes care of that.
However, I don’t recommend letting it work 24/7 as it does seem a bit unreliable and a replacement bulb is hard to come by for this model.
For such a large tank I’d definitely consider getting a separate UV sterilizer.
Whenever you clean the cartridge make sure that the rubber seal ring sits still at the bottom before closing the lid.
This eliminates the possibility of leaks.
This filter operates quietly, which is impressive for the GPH provided.
An overall smart purchase for a big home aquarium with turtle pets.Advantages:
- Can turn thousands of GPH
- A good replacement of a sump for larger tanks
- Very spacious cartridge for media
- Built-in 13 Watt UV sterilizer
- Backflush feature
- Can be used for ponds as well
- The price
- Requires a separate pump (I left a link to a suitable one above)
- Requires separate plumbing (look around your hardware store for vinyl hosing)
- Difficult to find replacement UV bulbs (run the lamp if needed, and not all the time)
- Disassembly takes time
- The manual is plain bad (the set up is still intuitive and easy despite the manual)
Which turtle filter is recommended for your tank’s size and setup?
Knowing all the strengths and weaknesses of each particular model and brand is one thing.
However, applying them in accordance with your aquarium’s size, livestock and setup is a whole different story.
In the below guide I’ve taken into consideration pretty much all setups and tank dimensions that a turtle habitat can have.
I’ve then combined that information with the pros and cons of every individual filter that got reviewed above. This allowed me to tailor specific recommendations and save you the hassle of further research. Here are the best water filter suggestions for every turtle tank’s size:
TOP turtle filter picks for a 20-gallon tank
The filters that would work best on a 20-gallon turtle tank are:
- Eheim Classic Canister Filter 2211 – if the tank is half-filled with water.
- Penn Plax Cascade 700 Series – if the aquarium is filled to the top.
To filter a 20-gallon turtle tank you’d want a water turnover of between 6 and 8 times.
This means a proper filtration unit should be able to maintain at least 120 GPH of flow rate.
This is the safest way to ensure you won’t end up with smelly, green, swamp-like water.
There are two options here – a tank with a basking area that’s half-full (has around 10 gallons of water) or one that has been filled to the top:
A good option to filter a half-full 20-gallon tank with a messy turtle in it would be the Eheim 2211, which has a maximum water turnover rate of around 60 gallons per hour.
Aside from having suitable power levels, it also runs very silently.
Plus, it’s a long-term investment as these filters are super durable.
I’m talking 5+ years here.
For a 20-gallon aquatic turtle tank that’s filled to the top you’d want a filter that has at least 160 GPH of turnover power:
A durable unit, that’s also easy to install and corresponds to those numbers is the Penn Plax Cascade 700.
Well, it actually has a maximum estimated flow rate of 185 gallons per hour, which is even better.
Though turning the water 9 times per hour may seem a little too much, with a tank of this size you’re faced with the “small tank syndrome”.
This is not a real term, and I just made it up for the sake of the argument, but let me explain.
TOP turtle filter picks for a 30-gallon tank
The best filters performing in a 30-gallon tank with turtles are:
- Eheim 2211 Classic Canister Filter – if the turtle aquarium is half-full of water.
- Fluval 206 External Canister – if the tank is completely filled with water.
To best filter out nasty gunk from a 30-gallon tank with turtles in it, you’d still want a canister filtration system.
In case you’ve provided your buddies with a nice warm place to bathe in UV light and did not fill your aquarium to the top you probably have around 10-15 gallons of water that you’d want to filtrate.
For such a setup my recommendation from above stands:
Use the Eheim 2211 filter.
It will be more than enough to turn the water over a healthy amount (4 to 6) of times per hour.
Again, you also benefit from the brand name, as Eheim are known for their durability and quiet workflow.
It will keep the water crystal clear easily.
If you are providing a full-blown underwater experience for your aquatic turtle pets I can recommend that you consider getting a Fluval 206 as your filter of choice.
It’s a canister that has a turnover of just above 200 gallons per hour, which effectively turns the water in the 30 gal tank about 7 times per hour.
It’s a very well-built high-end canister filter.
From a technical point of view, there are no flaws to it, really.
The only thing I’d consider a con with this Fluval product is the initial setup and priming, as it’s not very newbie-friendly.
TOP turtle filter picks for a 40-gallon tank
To optimally filter a 40-gallon tank for turtles you should get:
- Penn Plax Cascade 1200 canisters – for an aquarium that’s full of water.
- Penn Plax Cascade 700 canister – If the turtle’s tank has a basking area and is only half-full of water.
The best filter for a 40-gallon turtle tank that’s filled with water would have a GPH rate of at least 240 units.
I can recommend getting a Cascade 1000 or a Cascade 1200.
The first will spin the water for a maximum of 6 times per hour, but that’s with 0 decor and almost no filter media to slow the circulation down.
A much better option would be the 1200 one, which nets you around 315 GPH, or roughly 8 times of hourly water turnover.
Penn Plax is what I would call the People’s Aquarium Filter.
That’s because it’s been heavily used by beginners and advanced hobbyists alike.
Understandable, given the price to quality ratio.
The filter is affordable and provides championship filtration for the money, hence me recommending it for a turtle aquarium.
It’s not as durable as an Eheim or a Fluval, but it will last you and your turtles for the next couple of years anyway.
For a 40 gallon that has basking areas and is filled with water only halfway through I will have to go with Penn Plax again, but this time the 700 Series.
It will provide a healthy filtration of around 8-ish full water cycles per hour.
TOP turtle filter picks for a 55-gallon tank
The best filter choices for a 55-gallon turtle aquarium are as follows:
- Fluval 406 External Filter – for a tank that’s filled with water to the top.
- Fluval 206 External Filter – for a half-filled tank with a basking place.
Okay, if you’re planning to have a 55-gallon tank I can bet that you’ll have at least 2 middle-sized juvenile turtles in it.
Which is plenty of poop and waste.
To filter 55-gallons of turtle-polluted water the best way you’ll want to have a canister with a beast pump.
For a fully filled aquarium, this canister would probably be the Fluval 406.
This monstrous filter has an estimated flow rate of 383 US gallons per hour.
It will effectively turn the tank water around 7 times every single hour.
All that comes from the Fluval line is high-end quality and a bit pricier.
The price tag, however, is definitely justified as even a such-sized tank with 2 dirt-loving turtles inside won’t be enough to pollute the water with that canister filtering system.
The water will remain crystal clear and well-circulated, thanks to a powerful motor impeller, that also happen to work quietly.
You’ll get to play with various filter media, as the Fluval’s 406 has so much space for that.
Anyway, if your 55-gallon aquarium has a basking ramp of some sort and is not entirely full of water, I can recommend the Fluval 206.
That actually makes sense as this one has half the power of the 406.
Still, it has all the bells and whistles you’d ever want in a canister, plus of course – the durability.
Looking after long-living creatures such as turtles implies that the best ROI (return on investment) will be achieved by thinking in the long run.
TOP turtle filter picks for a 75-gallon tank
To best filtrate a 75-gallon tank with turtles consider one of the following filters:
- Fluval FX6 Canister Filter – For a tank that’s full of water.
- Penn Plax Cascade 1200 Series – For an aquarium with a place for basking, that’s only half-full of water.
There are very few filters out there that can handle a 75-gallon tank with turtles in it alone.
Especially if the tank is filled with water.
I can only think of 2.
I will mention one here and save the other for an upper bracket of tank filtration.
One filter that’s capable of filtering 75-gallons of turtle-waste rich water is the Fluval FX6.
With an estimation of 538 GPH flow rate this filter successfully executes the rule of the 8x water turnover.
And that’s not only on paper.
The FX6 is a high-end high-performance aquarium canister filter that is often used in overstocked 90 to 100-gallon fish tanks.
However, when it comes to our turtle buddies who consider “just everywhere” a toilet the introduction of this model makes sense in a smaller tank (75 gallons).
I can only assume that in such a setup you’ll be keeping one larger or a couple of smaller turtles which is a sure recipe for a poop party.
The Fluval FX6 comes at a higher price, but you’ll get what you pay for.
In that case, it would be a super strong SILENT motor impeller that’s durable, quality parts and hosing, and very very large space for media that you can stuff with biological filtration.
The filter is bulky so make sure your tank is on a stand.
Here’s a video of a fellow turtle keeper that has actually replaced 2 filters with a single FX6 and he’s housing 3 turtles and 2 pretty large goldfish in his 75-gallon.
Note how he’s saying that with its new one he only needs to clean once every 2 to 3 months compared to the monthly maintenance of his previous 2 units (insane difference in the required maintenance!).
Okay, but in case your aquarium doesn’t have an above-tank basking ramp and it’s only filled with water to the half or so?
You’d definitely get away with a smaller filter.
Say, your tank has only 35-40 gallons of water that need filtration.
In that case, you can get away with an API Filstrar XP-L (350 GPH) or a Penn Plax Cascade 1200 (315 GPH).
The Penn Plax is usually on sale on Amazon but when it’s not it’s more expensive between the two.
Though the XP-L has a higher flow rate you should know that thanks to its architecture only about 90% of the water passes through the filter media trays.
Also, it comes without sufficient media, which you’d need to buy separately.
The Penn Plax, again, filters about 90% of the water that travels through the cartridge.
It will, in my experience, last you a bit longer, making it a better candidate and it’s also considerably easier to clean than the Filstar.
However, when not on sale it costs notably more.
TOP turtle filter picks for a 90-gallon tank
See the best filter for a 90-gallon turtle tank below:
- Fluval FX6 Canister Filter – Primary filtration for a 90 gal turtle tank that’s filled with water.
- Penn Plax Cascade 700 – Secondary filter unit for a turtle tank that’s filled to the top.
- Penn Plax Cascade 1500 – For an aquarium that has a basking area and therefore is half-filled with water.
- Fluval 406 External Filter – For a tank that’s overstocked with turtles, but is half-full of water.
If you’re the future or present owner of a 90-gallon tank with turtles in it, that’s filled to the top with water then you’ll want an established water turnover of 700+ gallons per hour.
Unfortunately, there’s no way around this.
Turtles are dirty and in a such-sized tank, you’ll probably have more than one waste producer.
On to the filtering recommendations:
Filtering out such quantities of water is not an easy job. You’ll need at least 2 canister filters to properly filtrate your 90 gals.
You want to make sure that your turtles will have enough freedom to mess around.
I would recommend buying a Fluval FX6 as your primary filtration system and supplementing it with a secondary, weaker canister filter.
The FX6 will be able to handle around 75 gallons of water with its 538 GPH but you’ll need to enhance the overall performance with a filter that has a proclaimed GPH of around 200.
The secondary unit can be either a Cascade 700 (from Penn Plax) or a Fluval 206.
Both durable and strong enough, though the 206 is slightly better on everything than the Cascade.
Logically, the 206 is also pricier than the Cascade, so just let your budget decide here (always the easiest way to make a purchasing decision).
Okay, but what if you have a 90-gallon tank with a basking place for them turtle sunbaths?
Assuming you left around 50% of the 90 gals empty, you’d want to only filter around 45 gals of water.
Following the “8 times” rule for healthy water turnover in turtle-inhabited aquariums, you’d want around 360 GPH for this kind of setup.
Penn Plax’s Cascade 1500 to the rescue.
This device has 350 GPH according to its manufacturers, which will be slightly reduced by the way the water passes through the filter trays.
This will leave you with around 7 times of turnover per hour.
This may or may not be effective depending on how overstocked your tank is.
If you have just 2 turtles and some not-very-messy fish it will be enough.
However, if you have 3+ turtles, this alone is enough of a reason to scale to a…
It has an estimated flow rate of 380+ GPH, which may sound like an overkill, but it’s actually pretty reasonable given the livestock you already have in your tank.
The build of this canister filter ensures that 100% of the water passes through its media trays, unlike some other devices that supposedly have the “needed” GPH for this particular case, hence me recommending it.
TOP turtle filter picks for a 100-gallon tank
The best turtle-appropriate filters for a 100 gallon tank are:
- Fluval FX6 Canister Filter – acting as a primary filtration system for a fully filled tank.
- Penn Plax Cascade 1000 – acting as a supplementary filter for a tank that’s full of water.
- API Filstar XP-XL Aquarium Canister Filter – for a tank with a basking area for the turtles, that only has around 50 gallons of water.
Coming from my reasoning in the above section (which I would kindly recommend you read or at least skim through) you’d again need 2 canister filters for a 100-gallon turtle tank.
Assuming that the tank is full of water and has no basking area inside you’ll want an hourly water turnover of ~800 gallons of water.
Sounds a lot?
It’s actually just the right amount.
As your primary filtration canister unit, I want to recommend the Fluval FX6.
It’s a top-notch canister filter and it will take care of a large portion (around 540 gallons per hour) of the overall needed filtration for this setup.
However, a single unit won’t cut it and you’ll also need a supplementary filter.
Something that comes in mind is the Cascade 1000 (manufactured by Penn Plax).
It’s a middle-class canister that has gained huge popularity since it first came out.
The love of the fishkeeping community for it is absolutely justified.
This unit is built from sturdy plastic, is absolutely customizable, has 3 stages of filtration and it’s really easy to maintain.
It turns roughly 265 GPH of water (as advertised) and it’s probably the best secondary filter for a 100-gallon tank with turtles in it.
If your 100-gallon turtle tank is not filled all the way up with water (because you were kind enough to provide your turtles with a basking space) then you’d need a total of 400 GPH as means of filtration.
That’s assuming you have around 50 gallons of water available to the turtles.
In that case, a single API Filstar XP-XL (formerly known as Rena XP 4) would do.
It comes with a filtration power of 450 GPH and huge media trays which will be just enough for the purpose of filtering half-full 100-gallon turtle tank.
You’ve probably noticed that it’s 50 GPH above the 400 I was discussing earlier, but I am also taking into consideration the way this unit is built.
Not all of the water passes through the trays (around 90% does though), which is compensated by the stronger flow rate.
This brand is surprisingly popular among turtle keepers in online forums, so there’s plenty of “social proof” that it’s a quality choice for your setup (if you ever doubted my recommendations, that is).
TOP turtle filter picks for a 125-gallon tank:
The best filters for 125-gallon turtle aquariums are as follows:
- Fluval FX6 Canister Filter – Primary filtration unit for a tank that’s 90 to 100% filled with water.
- API Filstar XP-XL Aquarium Filter – Secondary filtration unit for 90 to 100% full of water tank.
- Fluval FX4 Canister Filter – for a turtle tank with a basking space, that’s 50% filled with water.
A competent approach to filtering 125-gallon tank with multiple turtles in it would be to aim for roughly 1000 GPH if the tank remains full of water at all times.
You can easily reach that with combining two strong canister filters.
I am recommending the Fluval FX6 as your main filtration system and the API Filstar XP-XL as a secondary one.
The two of them combined total around 1000 gallons per hour of water turnover, which falls within the healthy 8 times of hourly water spinning rule for a turtle tank.
Both are monstrous pump machines that will relentlessly work to keep the tank clean, even with the messiest turtles inside.
Though two huge filters may sound a little too much, it is hardly the case with turtle tanks, especially large ones.
These are not fish we’re talking here.
Also, it should be noted that if you’re having other monsters inside your 125 gallons (such as large carnivorous fish and whatnot) you’ll need even more filtration to be able to provide an adequate living environment for them.
Since it’s a common practice to stuff 125 gals with various monster fish and large super messy turtles they often end up overstocked.
The above canister filter combo is certainly a solid solution for such cases.
Making sure the water in your tank has been turned 8 times per hour and that it also passes through literal gallons of filtering media (the FX6 has a huge filter cartridge on its own!) is the best and safest approach for that setup.
Okay, but what if the tank is only 1/2 full of water because it has a nice sunbathing place for your turtle friends to enjoy?
In that case, we’re probably looking at filtering roughly 60 gallons of water.
Well, with that in mind a single Fluval FX4 will do an outstanding job at keeping the water of your turtle tank crystal clear.
TOP turtle filter picks for 150 to 200 gallon or larger tanks:
Best filters for a large 150, 200 or more gallon tank with turtles:
- Eheim 2260/2262 Aquarium Filter – Primary filtration for a large tank that’s 100% filled with water.
- API Filstar XP-XL Canister Filter – Secondary unit for a big turtle aquarium that’s filled to the top.
- Fluval FX6 External Filter – if the tank has a basking area and is only half-full of water.
- XtremepowerUS Pressurized Pond Filter – for VERY large turtle aquariums.
So far for larger tanks, I was recommending a combo of two canister filters – one primary and one secondary.
The primary always being the Fluval FX6, because of all the horsepower that it’s housing, plus the overall quality.
However, this is not the overall best canister filter.
If you have the buck to afford it you should be looking at another brand… Eheim.
That’s right Eheim has a filter that’s actually better than Fluval’s top performer.
It’s this one – the Eheim 2260 / 2262.
It’s also rated for aquariums of up to 400 gallons (same as the FX6) but the ratings are subjective and based on the manufacturer’s assumptions.
They rarely have anything to do with reality.
Numerous reports and also my personal observation on a couple of clients and friends of mine confirm that the Eheim 2262 is pretty much the best thing out there currently.
And it’s also the best canister to use on a large turtle tank of 150 gallons or more.
It can handle on its own 2/3 of the required GPH for a 150 gal tank with some very messy turtle pets in it.
Still, with a pump output of 900 GPH and an architecture that’s considerably improved compared to the FX6’s one, plus the more space for media (meaning longer contact of the water with the media), the Eheim crushes the competition.
Let’s not forget the level of customization you get with it.
Of course, it all comes with a price, but you already knew that.
The good thing is that it will probably last you 10 or more years with good maintenance, outliving its warranty by a multiple.
As a supplementary filter here I would still advise getting a Filstar XP-XL though, as in my above recommendation.
This one nets you around 450 GPH so the combination of both will give your turtle tank the needed hourly turnover for a well-sanitized aquarium home.
For a 150-gallon turtle tank that has basking areas and is halfway filled with water, a single Fluval FX6 will be enough.
For 200 gallon or larger turtle tanks, perhaps canister filters won’t be enough.
I’ve seen somebody pulling it off for his 200 gals with a single Eheim 2262, but the tank was somewhat understocked.
He only had 2 turtles in it and the rest of it was large fish, but still not near enough to fill the bioload capacity of a 200-gallon fish tank.
You could always get two of them and call it a day, but that’s not something everyone can afford.
A good idea here would be a DIY sump or a pressured pond filter.
For the latter, something like this comes to mind. So if you have a very large home tank with turtles and you don’t want to / can’t have a sump – there’s your cash-smart solution.
The model in that link also comes with a much-appreciated UV sterilizer.
Know that if you go for a pressurized pond filter you should buy the pump separately.
Use the 8x Rule to calculate the GPH.
For example, if you have a 300-gallon turtle tank you’d want a GPH of 2400 for the pump.
Sterilizing green and smelly turtle-inhabited water in an aquarium
If the tank where your turtles live already has the “green soup” type of water and smells like an unflushed potty then the problem is not in your filter.
This usually happens when there’s a microalgae bloom.
Even the greatest filter won’t be able to take care of that as these are live single-celled organisms that reproduce themselves.
They take advantage of the spare nutrients in the water, which causes them to aggressively multiply.
If the tank is already in that stage of contamination then you’d want to use a UV light sterilizer to clarify the aquarium water.
The UV light mercilessly bombards the DNA of the microalgae and prevents further multiplying.
But will this kill your beneficial bacteria as well?
In short – no.
For a longer, detailed explanation make sure to visit the link.
Over to you
Choosing a good water filter for your messy aquatic turtles can be a challenge.
Having to consider flow rates, tank dimensions and whatnot can be exhausting.
However, now you have all the information that you’d ever need to make the best choice.
What are you waiting for?
Give your turtle pets the nice and clean home they deserve and enjoy them growing happy and healthy.
Tell me in the comments what you chose or ask me a question if you need assistance.