5 Best Filters for Turtle Tanks

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Picking out a good filter for your turtle tank can be tough, especially if you’ve never had a turtle before. Well, it is an essential item that you’ll need in order to keep your aquarium water fresh, clean, and safe for your turtles to live in.

You need to find out exactly how many gallons of water your tank holds and purchase the filter accordingly. If you have an 80 gallon tank, but the filter you want is only able to clean up to 40, a second filter will be needed. Or, you can keep looking for one that can withstand a little more grime.

Either way, it’s important to keep your turtle’s water clean so that they don’t become ill or distressed. Algae growing on your turtle’s shell is a sure sign the tank is too dirty and needs to be emptied and scrubbed out. Don’t forget to clean your filter too!

Is Your Aquarium Clean?

The color of your aquarium water is always a good indicator of how clean it is, but it’s not the only factor to take into consideration. Some people like to keep driftwood for their turtles, and the natural color of the bark will leak into the water along with any algae that make have accompanied it.

So if your aquarium has a light tint, that’s okay; pay more attention to the clarity of the water, and the level of visible particles. Clean water won’t be murky or have too much debris floating around.

Types of Filter Media

What type of media you get refers to the material that is used to catch algae and debris as they pass through the filter. This can be made from sponges, sand, charcoal or a mixture of different media. Check the instructions listed on your filter and make sure you know which ones will work best.

Top 5 Turtle Tank Filters to Consider

1. Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter


  • Valves provide 360-degree rotation
  • Includes clamps and hose pump
  • Well designed and durable

With the ability to filter up to 100 gallons of water, the Penn Plax filter is the perfect tool for a freshwater aquarium. The flow valves can rotate to any angle to make hooking it up and taking it apart for cleaning purposes.

Once you’ve set it up in your turtle tank, you can expect to see a visible difference in your turtle tank within 24 hours. This is all in thanks to not 1, but 3 different media baskets for the advanced aquarium owner. The swimming pool style hoses provide an air-tight seal with clamps to prevent malfunction.

Best of all, the Penn Plax filter can be primed with just the push of a button for added convenience.

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2. Fluval U4 Underwater Filter

Fluval U4 Underwater Filter


  • Can be mounted vertically or horizontally
  • Doesn’t blow fish across the tank if caught in the current

If you’re used to the relatively unattractive look that most filters have, you’ll be very pleased with the slim and polished look of the Fluval U4 Underwater Filter. This gentle device creates a softer current that is much more forgiving on fish, allowing them to swim freely nearby and rest on top of it.

The only real problem that many people have run into is that the compartment for the gunk and debris isn’t very useful. Dirt is able to make its way into other compartments, which becomes a bit of a hassle to clean out.

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3. Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter

Tetra Whisper Ex Silent Multi Stage Power Filter


  • Color-changing Timestrip included
  • Free TetraCare
  • Noticeable difference within 24 hours

Beginner aquarium and fish owners will love how easy it is to set up and use this filter! Coming in sizes medium to large, the Tetra Whisper can percolate up to 70 gallons of water at its biggest size. The advanced filtration device comes with a built-in Timestrip that goes from white to red when a cartridge needs to be replaced.

Not every aquarium filter you buy is going to come with a warranty, but the Tetra Whisper provides its own form of product “insurance,” and it’s completely free with your purchase. In order to qualify though, follow the instructions that come with the box and sign up with an account. If you don’t, you may not be protected when or if something goes wrong with the product!

The biggest complaints that have arisen with this filter is that several have been delivered dead on arrival, or completely stopped working within a few months of use. The company is working to fix the issue, but this is why it’s important to sign up for the care account; if you’re unable to return it to Amazon or the store you can always contact the business itself.

Aside from that, the Tetra Whisper is quiet, and it keeps your fish happy. If it does start to make some noise, just pull the pump out, reinsert it, and the problem should be fixed from there!

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4. Ovation 1000 Submersible Power Jet Filter

Ovation 1000 Submersible Power Jet Filter


  • Little to no assembly required
  • Easy to open and replace media

At an 80-gallon capacity, the Ovation has a built-in dual filter feature for better efficiency and cleaner water. Being relatively silent, this aquarium filter circulates water evenly, and doesn’t harm turtles or fish. It has been noted that some turtles actually enjoy the water flow so much that they tend to play with the nozzle, so you may have to reposition it every now and then.

The current is able to rotate through 265 gallons per hour, so you should see a major difference as soon as you turn it on!

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5. Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter


  • Suction cups for mounting
  • More flexibility in placement possibilities
  • Light blue cartridge lets you know when it needs to be changed

The Aqueon Quietflow is much smaller than most other filters and fits in the palm of your hand. The suction cups included for mounting make it unique, none of the brands above include this feature! Set it up horizontally or vertically, either way you’ll have a quiet, steady current that keeps your aquarium free of bacteria and algae.

The Aqueon does have its cons though, and the charcoal media that is included with the filter tends to clog easily. To keep this from happening, take your filter apart, clean the sponges, and add fresh media every few weeks. This can be a little inconvenient, but it ensures that your Aqueon lasts longer.

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Keep Yourself and the Filter Clean

Once you’ve found a filter that you feel is appropriate for your tank and installed it, wash your hands thoroughly. While turtles make wonderful, fascinating pets, they are carriers for the disease

Salmonella. Anytime you handle your turtle or change out your filter media, it’s extremely important to scrub your arms, wrists, and underneath your fingernails. Use hand sanitizer afterward if you’re able to; this may seem like overkill, but it greatly reduces the risk of contracting Salmonella and spreading it to your loved ones. Interestingly enough, turtles themselves don’t get sick from Salmonella.

Aquarium filters pick up all the bacteria and yucky stuff that floats through the water, the last thing you want is to walk around with it all over your hands!

Signs You Aren’t Cleaning the Filter Enough

Aside from the obvious changes in the water, you may notice that your turtle isn’t behaving normally. They may eat quite a bit less than usual, appear lethargic, and they could have a hard, dried mucus or discharge coming out from their noses. In very serious cases their shell may begin to rot, but the aquarium would have to be exceptionally dirty for your pet’s health to deteriorate to this extent.

Other Things That Affect Your Aquarium Filter

Filters can only do so much, and it’s up to you to ensure your turtle receives the hygiene care that it needs. At least once or twice a month, make sure you take everything out, scrub down the inside walls of your aquarium, and clean out their food bowls to prevent bacteria buildup.

Experienced owners recommend that turtles are fed outside of their habitat. By doing so, the water stays cleaner, and leftover pieces of food don’t clog up the filter. You’ll also need to monitor the Ph levels, chlorine, ammonia, and nitrates that exist within the water. Abnormal Ph readings could be an indicator for the presence of mold. The Ph for turtle tanks should remain anywhere from 0.6 to 0.9, anything lower than 0.6 could hurt your turtle’s eyes. Ph levels can be raised by adding mediums to your filter like crushed coral and small amounts of baking soda.

Snails are also an all-natural cleaner that eat algae and keep glass clear, consider adding them to your tank. It may seem like a silly suggestion, but you’ll save money on filter cartridge replacements and water stays cleaner for longer periods. If you can provide a safe place for them to hide, shrimp are extremely helpful in keeping the tank clean, and your turtle healthy!

Written by Chloe Weaver

Chloe is a kennel technician with 15+ years of experience working with canines. She has volunteered with several rescues including the SPCA and Houston Pets Alive and is attending school to become a Veterinarian in the future. Her passion for animal welfare has led her to freelance writing in hopes of helping to educate others on the issue.

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