Updated: 10th of December, 2019
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, and now you wonder what’s the best filter and most reliable media for your new aquatic turtle tank.
Could it be the external canister one, which is powerful and quiet? Or you could get away with an internal HOB filtering system?
Did you know that your tank’s size plays a large role when choosing aquarium water filters? Say your red-eared slider lives in a 55-gallon tank setup. You’ll need to take this into consideration in order to provide your pet with an adequate amount of water turnover to keep things healthy and clean.
I’ve put together some detailed recommendations to help with that.
So given all the personal circumstances, what’s the best and most efficient filter for aquatic turtle tanks and how to choose yours?
Top 7 Turtle Tank Filters
|Filter Model:||Recommended for:||Price Bracket:|
|1. Eheim Classic 22(xx) Series||20 to 30 gallon tanks||$|
|2. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter||20 to 45-gallon tanks||$|
|3. Fluval 06/07 Series External Filters||30 to 55-gallon tanks||$$|
|4. Fluval FX Series Filters||75 to 125-gallon tanks||$$$|
|5. API Filstar XP||30 to 55-gallon tanks||$$|
|6. Eheim 2260/2262 Aquarium Filter||125 to 150-gallon tanks||$$$$|
|7. XtremepowerUS Pond Pressurized Filter||200-gallon or larger tanks||$$|
A Beginner’s Guide on Aquarium Filters and Their Role in a Turtle Tank
For an educated decision you need to know how these units function and what is expected of them when it comes to messy aquatic pets. Here’s a comprehensive guide on getting the right filters for turtle aquariums:
1. The Superior Architecture of the Canister Types
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.
Here’s why canister filters are superior and a preferred choice for turtle tank filtration:
Canister aquarium filters are composed of relatively large cartridges that can hold a ton more filter media than a regular HOB. They are also external in nature and are placed beneath the tank, in your stand’s cabinet. This is quite important if you appreciate in-tank aesthetics. A canister filter is also equipped with stronger impellers and motors, providing the best aquarium filtration on the market, which makes them an ideal choice for a messy aquatic turtle.
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 “x8 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 (a semi-large aquarium fish) that feeds on live fish only and produces mad waste all over the aquarium.
Well, now multiply that by 2 and you’ll understand how turtles can be.
Aquatic turtles are extremely messy creatures and demand a severe level of aquarium water treatment. It’s not unseen for turtle parents to compromise with their tank’s filtration, which leads to smelly, green tank water that has more of a swamp stench. Aside from being disgusting, this is also quite unhealthy, because it gives way to various non-wanted microorganisms.
For this reason, the hobby generally agreed upon the “x8 rule”.
The rule states that if you’re owning an aquatic turtle pet, the aquarium filter that you have set up should turn the available quantity of water in the tank at least 8 times PER HOUR.
Though this sounds extreme at first, there’s a good reason for that:
In the fishkeeping world, the rule is set at 6, but for overstocked tanks or turtle inhabited tanks, it rises to 8 times (sometimes plus…).
3. With or Without a Basking Area for Heat and UVB Lamps
Another thing that I never see taken under consideration in those other guides online is the setup of the turtle 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 cold-blooded creatures and as such require their daily sunbath under special heat lamps and UVB light bulbs.
For turtle tanks there are 3 setups that influence the pick of an appropriate filtration unit:
- 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
Quick and obvious takeaway:
As you can see these are different quantities of water to be filtered. It’s one thing to filter a 100-gallon turtle tank that’s filled to the top. But you’ll need a completely different water filter for a 100-gallon tank that only has 50 gallons of water in it.
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+ GPH ratings.
Now, let’s make a quick reference to the “x8 Rule” from above.
It should be noted that the rule is only concerned with the ADVERTISED flow.
Let’s take a practical example:
You see that a canister filter claims to turn 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 for a 55-gallon aquarium, right?
You’d be absolutely right…if the number was realistic.
Here’s what you should know about advertised and real GPH ratings in aquarium filters:
When manufacturers measure the GPH potential of their water filters they do not include filtering media, livestock and decor in the test. This is done to artificially (though not untrue) increase the advertised flow rate.
Let’s take the Eheim 2262 for example.
This is the best filter for very large turtle tanks in my opinion and I’ve explained that in my review below.
The Eheim 2262 has a supposed pump output of 900 GPH.
Mind that this is not the same as the GPH rating of the filter itself, but rather its pump.
Anyway, It’s one of the strongest pumps for canister filters in the aquarium industry (only the 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 clean, and healthy environment for themselves.
Full media trays, accumulated gunk, aquarium decor and even the architecture of the canister filter reduce its flow rate potential. For this reason, we have agreed upon the x8 rule.
Though based and calculated on the advertised flow rate, it makes sure that the real number of hourly water spinning will be enough to handle all the turtle waste.
5. Size and Volume Are to be Considered
This section will be short.
Obviously, as different aquarium filters have different water cycling power.
The capacity of your turtle tank plays the most important part of your purchase decision for a water filter.
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 for each aquarium size in gallons 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 turtle tank sizes, different setups (with or without a basking area) and bioload relative to the filter’s flow rate.
Just make sure to check that out for an easier purchase decision.
6. How Quiet the Unit Operates
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.
I share my findings there.
7. Frequency of Maintenance
Aquarium canister filters do require maintenance like every other type of water-filtering system.
The more media the filter holds – the less frequent opening and changing it will require. This is yet another reason I only recommend canister filters for aquatic turtles.
It usually takes me from 10 to 20 minutes to clean out mine, which is not a lot by any means.
8. The More Space for Media – the Better
The second most important feature of the possibly best aquarium filter suitable for your aquatic turtle pet 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 an aquarium with turtles.
The canister water filters I’m reviewing here provide immense space for filtering media.
Most of them will have more than one stage of filtration, in the form of multiple media trays.
Some of the models below will come with their own pads and some will be delivered to you empty.
With aquatic turtles, you’ll want a huge amount of biological filtration so that the aquarium 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’s media.
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 aquarium water and it will greatly aid you in the fight with turtle waste.
What’s the Best Filter for a Hyginic Aquatic Turtle Container?
The best and most efficient turtle filter should be equipped with a strong pump and plenty of internal chambers for mechanical and biological filtration. For this reason, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve only reviewed canister types below. They are more robust, pump lots of water and are also more durable. That being said, here are the best filters for clean aquatic turtle tanks:
1. EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter – Long-term investment
Ever since their German 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 water filter you’re essentially claiming that you’re serious about your pet’s aquarium filtration.
One of the best reasons would be that this turtle filter will last you decades.
Eheim’s only rivals in terms of durability are probably the filters made by Fluval, but more on that later.
Eheim still holds the first place in longevity, at least in my humble opinion.
Anyway, the architecture of the cartridge makes sense when it comes to everlasting filtration, because the build is simple but efficient.
The impeller and the motor are well-built, ensuring thousands of hours of continuous work.
The Eheim water filters are also super quiet when working.
I did list them as #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 these units suitable for light sleepers who keep their turtle aquarium in the room where they sleep.
Another thing I would like to mention about these aquarium filtration systems is that their architecture allows for the least reduction in flow rate after all the media has been introduced in the trays.
This is very important, especially in turtle tanks, because they get polluted very quickly and timely water treatment is essential.
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 optimized power consumption, which can be a dealbreaker for aquatic turtle pet owners in the long-run.
Combine that with their unseen durability (not even exaggerating here) and you have yourself a one of the best water filters for a healthy and clean turtle tank.
The only disadvantage that’s worth discussing is their GPH rating.
The Eheim Classic Series are mainly targeting smaller turtle tanks, and we all know how fast turtles can grow.
If you have smaller aquatic turtle species then this water filter is for you.
If you plan on upgrading in the near future I would suggest looking into a stronger unit for your aquarium.
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 canister 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 among the easiest canister filters to maintain and clean. Given the nature of the pet in question, this may be one of the best qualities on a filter used for a messy aquatic turtle.
I’d rate the Eheim Classic as 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)
- 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.
To best describe it, I jokingly call this brand the People’s turtle filter.
The people reviewing the Cascade Series, however, are not joking when they evaluate their experiences.
These aquarium canister filter are usually on sale with a huge discount and provide tons of filtration for the money.
The filters come in a wide variety of sizes, which combined with their price point, makes them one of the best choices for maintaining a clean environment for aquatic pet turtles.
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 less for more. You get a strong pump, a lot of customization and a sturdy but somewhat unappealing design.
Aesthetics aside (you can just stick the canister 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 unit if you can currently afford it.
This way you’ll be able to upgrade turtle tanks when your pet turtles outgrow the available space without worrying about a new water filtration system.
If you do that you can just turn down the flow rate of the water 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 which contributes to the overall durability.
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 would not break in the foreseeable future after my purchase.
The valves that the Cascade canister filter use are all the rage, by the way.
They can turn at 360 degrees, which is pretty convenient when you’re deciding on the new unit’s place.
There are no spatial restrictions, 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, which I think is nice on itself.
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 manual priming.
The manufacturers made sure that the disassembly of the unit is novice-friendly, which makes the maintenance a breeze. As I said earlier, this is a great convenience when dealing with turtle tanks.
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.
I’d buy this canister filter for my turtle aquarium if I would take advantage of the customization and am on a tighter budget.
- 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
- Though durable, it won’t last as long as other established brands
- The handle is not reliable
- Heavy cartridge
3. Fluval 06 / 07 External Filters – Quiet & Powerful
If you’re in need of a silent and sturdy canister filter for your turtle aquarium then the Fluval 06 / 07 Series are your friends.
I did link to the 406 model to show you the huge amount of positive reviews on Amazon, however, you can still go for the newer 407 version.
The difference between X06 and the X07 Fluval canister filters is that the 07 has a little bit more space for media and is also quieter. Both are among the best if you’d like to have a quality-made water filter for your new turtle tank, but it’s obviously better to get the newer generation if you can afford it.
Anyway, Fluval rivals Eheim in terms of quietness and longevity.
However, when it comes to middle-sized turtle aquariums you’ll have to choose the Fluval, because of their powerful output pumps.
Being manufactured by the best US parts the motors of these canister filters provide an excellent level of filtration.
The realistic GPH a filter system, such as the Fluval 406, can turn is ridiculously high for its price tag.
The company has patented its own sound-dampening technology which makes the 06 / 07 Series virtually silent.
The architecture and high-quality parts make sure that you have tons of filter media space and a long-lasting unit.
In fact, I often recommend to friends looking up a second-hand deal on Amazon for their turtle tank, because these water filters run like brand new for years…
Anyway, Fluval’s magnificence doesn’t stop here. The engineers also came up with the Aquastop valves, which prevent the water filter from leaking during cleaning maintenance.
A very convenient feature in my experience with canister filter units.
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 an adequate and safe level of filtration for messy aquarium inhabitants such as aquatic turtles.
Another thing I would like to point out with these units is the sealing. A well-manufactured sealing is crucial for aquarium filters and Fluval actually provides one of the best. I have found that 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 / 07 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.
Anyway, I would purchase my a Fluval canister filter if I was willing to pay a bit more, but would also appreciate a sturdy build with quality parts and long-lasting hygiene in my turtle aquarium.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 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 so they ended up manufacturing what’s possibly the best canister filter for larger aquatic turtles out there.
Fluval’s FX canister filter 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 which is a technology that will automatically prime these aquarium filters every 12 hours.
You won’t ever worry about trapped air bubbles 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 canister-type filtration systems currently available, which makes them an ideal choice for large turtle tanks.
I recommend getting this unit for very large aquariums with more than one aquatic 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 water filter, ever.
Speaking of ever, these units will last you a long time, 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 the best for you.
It’s worth pointing out that the FX Fluval units, be it FX4 or FX6, are a bit pricey, compared to others on this list, but that’s fairly justified.
Buying one now will save you tons of money in the future. And with bigger turtle tanks, 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 that will give you more than enough biological filtration to never worry about ammonia or nitrites.
You’ll be able to stuff all the media that you’ll ever need inside this monster.
The enormous amount of space for filter media will reduce the need of cleaning to once every 4 to 6 months, even with 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 as well, which 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 canister filter.
Another advantage here would be that the electricity bills for running such a device are impressively low.
The only con of this product is the higher initial investment, as it’s not something that everyone can afford right out of their pocket.
But if you’re someone that has a 90+ gallon turtle 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. The FX6 and FX4 canister filters are one of if not the best choices for a decently stocked larger turtle tank.Advantages:
- Smart Pump feature that primes the unit every 12 hours automatically
- One of the strongest pump output on the market
- Power consumption optimized – smaller electricity bills
- Has the most stages of filtration – 6 in total
- Built-in flow rate tracker, automatic flow rate 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)
- Looks more complicated to install than it is (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”?
Almost 70% of the aquatic turtle keepers I know and talked to online prefer to use these filters.
Perhaps, this is because the API FILSTAR filters have most of the qualities of more expensive units while keeping the price reasonable.
If your budget is a bit tighter, but you still have a decently-sized turtle tank then this canister filter may be the best option for your aquatic turtles.
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, given the price difference.
I’ve found that the API Filstar units have the strongest motors for this price bracket, which makes them one of the best water filter choices for maintaining a larger turtle tank on a budget clean.
However, power is not their only advantage as they also stand out with many built-in features.
These units have one of the best self-priming on this list. You don’t really need to manually prime your new FILSTAR filter which is, I think, 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 by 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 and the media trays are humongous.
The tubing is longer than with your usual canister filter, which allows more flexibility with positioning.
Anyway, what I don’t like about these turtle filters is their hard tubing, because it’s somewhat difficult to connect them the first time of use. If you don’t do it as I’m about to describe you may get a leak.
The plastic is so rigid and because of that, you’ll need to use hot water during the setup.
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 a HOB water filter, but you’ll hear them work across the room.
If you’re easily irritated by background noises this is not the canister filter for you.
I would rate these filters at 8.5/10 because the tubing issue is easily avoidable and how irritated you are by the noise comes down to personal preference.
Anyway, the best thing about the API FILSTAR Series is that they are turtle-friendly filters and an overall excellent purchase for people who keep larger turtle aquariums on a budget.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
For many reasons I consider the Eheim 2260/2262 the absolute best aquarium canister filter for a large aquatic turtle out there
They really stand undisputed, though they’re not new to the market.
From what I’ve seen they outperform even the FX6 but do come with a higher price tag.
The difference between the Eheim 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 and I’ve actually seen people using them in ponds as well, which is quite interesting.
These turtle-friendly units are also the most reliable aquarium filtering systems ever, because of their longevity.
I am yet to see one of these to break and I know people using them from 10+ years.
So what’s the secret behind the unbeatable long-term success of these turtle 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. This allows for lots of biological and mechanical filtration in even a very large turtle tank.
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 as you don’t need to buy special customized Eheim media.
I’ve seen people simply stuffing it with biofiltration and filter floss which is honestly quite enough to maintain pristine water in an aquarium with multiple messy turtles.
Apart from the cartridge, you have high-quality, durable hoses as an intake and output tubing, which are doing a fantastic job at keeping leaks at bay.
And finally – you’ll end up with a beast of a pump that’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.
My experience has been that this unit is hotly 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.
Here’s an example video of a fellow aquarium owner that runs 2 of these on his 300-gallon fish tank.
The tank doesn’t contain turtles but has some monstrous arowanas and stingrays – a recipe for copious amounts of waste already, because of the carnivorous diet.
I’m assuming that’s enough to persuade you into getting one of these if your aquarium’s size demands it, but let’s also discuss the cons of this product.
First and foremost – the pricing. This is the most turtle water filter listed in this guide. The initial investment mostly suits the financially liberated turtle owners.
However, if you’re on the lookout for a 150+ gallon canister filter for a tank with more than one aquatic turtles you’re probably there already.
Consider this – the Eheim 2260 / 2262 will virtually last you forever.
If you spread the price for each consecutive year you’ll be using it you’d see that it actually is the best long-term decision for your turtle aquarium’s needs.
The pump consumes an insignificant amount of electricity for what it’s worth as well.
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 monstrous canister filter 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 pass as light. Keep that in mind for when you change the media.
Overall if you end up buying this your turtles will love it as It’s a fantastic filter and you would never find yourself regretting your purchase.
I rate the Eheim 2260/2262 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 turtle 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)
7. XtremepowerUS Pond Pressure Filter – For very large tanks
The XtremepowerUS is one of the best water filter solutions for very large domestic turtle tanks.
Keep reading this section if you plan to have a 200+ gallon turtle 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.
Not so fast.
If you’re new to pressurized pond filters you should know that there’s additional equipment to be bought.
You’d have to use your own tubing (the hardware store is your friend) and you’d also need a separate pond pump.
I can recommend this pump for your 200+ gallon turtle tank.
The combined price of the parts is still lower than most of the high-end canister filters on this list, but you need to be handy and put it together yourself.
Amazingly, once you’re done you won’t regret your purchase decision and there are a couple of reasons for that.
This pressure filter has its own backflush feature which is used for internal cleaning.
As with other decent turtle filters, the best thing about the XtremepowerUS is that 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 turtle 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 aquariums.
Often the water becomes greenish because of single-celled algae spores.
The UV sterilizer takes care of that, by irradiating them and preventing further multiplying.
However, I don’t recommend letting the filter’s water sterilizer work 24/7 as it does seem a bit unreliable and a replacement bulb is hard to come by for this model.
For a large turtle tank I’d definitely consider getting a separate UV sterilizer anyway.
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.
The XtremepowerUS turtle filter is an overall smart purchase for a big home aquarium with messy aquatic 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 for internal cleaning
- 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)
- The manual is plain bad (the set up is still intuitive and easy despite the manual)
Which filtration system to choose for your turtle aquarium’s size?
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’s the best filter according to a turtle tank’s gallon capacity:
1. Top filters for 20-gallon turtle tanks
The water 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 in the first place.
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 aquatic 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 argument, but let me explain.
In a smaller turtle tank, any imbalance in the water parameters can affect its inhabitants way faster than in larger volumes of water.
When it comes to keeping fish, I’d say that the small tank syndrome affects any tank below 10 gallons of water.
2. Top filters for 30-gallon turtle tanks
The best filters performing in a 30-gallon tank with turtles would be:
- 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 aquarium with aquatic 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 as it will be more than enough to turn the turtle tank’s water over a healthy amount of 4 to 6 times per hour.
Again, you also benefit from the brand name, as Eheim are known for their durability and quiet workflow.
This aquarium filter 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 or 207 as your filter of choice.
Both are 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.
The Fluval 206/207 is a very well-built high-end canister filter and 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.
3. Top filters for 40-gallon turtle tanks
To optimally filter a 40-gallon tank for aquatic turtles you could 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. For this reason, 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 being heavily used by beginners and advanced hobbyists alike.
This is understandable, given the price to quality ratio.
This water filter is affordable and provides champion-like 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 possibly last you and your aquarium turtles for the next couple of years.
For a 40 gallon that has basking areas and is filled with water only halfway through you may need to go with a Penn Plax canister filter again, but this time the 700 Series.
It will provide a healthy filtration of around 8-ish full water cycles per hour.
4. Top filters for 55-gallon turtle tanks
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.
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, who will generate plenty of waste.
To maintain 55-gallons of turtle-polluted water clean the best way you’ll want to have a canister filter with one beast of a pump.
For a fully filled aquarium, this canister would probably be the Fluval 406 or its 407 version as they have the same GPH turnover.
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.
It’s worth noting that 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 mess-loving turtles inside won’t be enough to pollute the aquarium with that water filter 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 Fluval’s 406 and 407 models have 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 and 207.
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 water filter, plus of course – the durability.
Looking after long-living creatures such as aquatic turtles implies that the best ROI (return on investment) will be achieved by thinking in the long run.
5. Top filters for 75-gallon turtle tanks
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 aquarium’s filled with water.
I can only think of 2, but 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 x8 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 messier reptile pet buddies who consider “just everywhere” a toilet the introduction of this model makes sense in a smaller 75-gallon turtle tank.
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 waste party.
The Fluval FX6 comes with a higher price, but you’ll get what you pay for.
In that case, it would be a super strong yet silent motor impeller that’s durable, quality parts and hosing. Along that you’ll also benefit from very large space for filter media that you can stuff with biological filtration.
The FX6 water filter is bulky so make sure your turtle 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 aquatic turtles and 2 pretty large goldfish in his 75-gallon aquarium.
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!).
But what should you buy in case your turtle aquarium doesn’t have an above-tank basking ramp and it’s only filled with water to the half or so?
Say, your turtle tank has only 35-40 gallons of water that need filtration.
In that case, you can get away with an API FILSTAR XP-L (350 GPH) or a Penn Plax Cascade 1200 with 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.
6. Top filters for 90-gallon turtle tanks
The best water filters for a 90-gallon turtle aquarium would be:
- Fluval FX6 Canister Filter – Primary filtration for a 90-gallon 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 a future or the 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 as turtles are dirty and in a such-sized tank, you’ll probably have more than one waste producer.
On to the turtle filter system 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-gallon turtle tank.
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 another 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 / 207.
Both durable and strong enough, though the 206 is slightly better on everything than the Cascade.
Logically, the 206 and its 207 alternative are also pricier than the Cascade, so just let your budget decide here.
Anyway, what if you have a 90-gallon turtle tank with a basking place for the pets’ sun baths?
Assuming you left around 50% of the 90 gallons empty, you’d want to only filter around 45 gallons of aquarium water volume.
Following the “times 8” 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 canister filter is what you would want to get here.
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+ aquatic turtles, this alone is enough of a reason to scale to a Fluval 406 or a 407 one.
They both have an estimated flow rate of 380+ GPH, which may sound like overkill, but it’s actually pretty reasonable given the livestock you already have in your turtle 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.
7. Top filters for 100-gallon turtle tanks
The best turtle-appropriate filters for a 100-gallon tank would be:
- 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 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 approximately 800 gallons.
Though it may sound a lot it’s actually just the right amount for this setup.
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, namely 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 to mind is the Cascade 1000, which is 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, however.
This unit is built from sturdy plastic, is absolutely customizable, has 3 stages of filtration and is 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 would do.
This canister filter comes with a turnover power of 450 GPH and huge media trays which will be just enough for the purpose of maintaining a half-full 100-gallon turtle tank clean.
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 as only around 90% does, 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.
8. Top filters for 125-gallon turtle tanks
The best canister filters for 125-gallon turtle aquariums would be 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 aquarium remains full of water at all times.
You can easily reach that by combining two strong canister filters.
I recommend considering the Fluval FX6 as your main filtration system and the API Filstar XP-XL as a secondary one.
The two of them combine a total of 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 aquatic turtles inside.
Though two huge filters may sound a little too much, it is hardly the case with turtle tanks, especially large ones.
Also, it should be noted that if you’re having other monsters inside of 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 gallon tanks 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 is the best and safest approach for that setup.
But what if the turtle tank is only 1/2 full of water because it has a nice sunbathing place for your pet 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 aquarium crystal clear.
9. Top filters for big 150 to 200-gallon turtle tanks
The best filters for a large 150, 200 or more gallon turtle tanks would be as follows:
- 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 turtle 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 strongest turtle filter.
If you have the bucks to afford it you should be looking at another brand, namely Eheim.
Eheim has a filter that’s actually better than Fluval’s top performer and it’s their 2260 / 2262 model.
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 with 150 gallons of volume or more.
It can handle on its own 2/3 of the required GPH for a 150-gallon turtle tank with some very messy creatures inside.
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 providing longer contact of the water with the media, the Eheim crushes the competition.
Let’s not forget the level of customization you get with but it all comes with a higher price tag.
The good thing is that the Eheim 2260 / 2262 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 home aquarium.
For a 150-gallon turtle tank that has a basking area 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 gallons with a single Eheim 2262, but the tank was somewhat understocked.
He only had 2 aquatic 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 aquarium.
You could always get two of these strong water filters and call it a day, but that’s not something everyone can afford.
A good idea here would be a DIY sump or a pressurized 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 or 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 x8 Rule to calculate the GPH.
For example, if you have a 300-gallon turtle aquarium you’d want a GPH of 2400 for the pump.
Sterilizing green and smelly aquarium water
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 the best 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 right choice.
What are you waiting for?
Give your turtle pets the nice and clean home tanks they deserve and enjoy watching them grow happy and healthy, knowing that you did provide them with the best possible filter.
Tell me in the comments what you end up choosing.