Choosing the correct filter for your new turtle tank can feel like a daunting task when you start out. How do you know where to begin, what kind of filter to choose from, and why do you need a filter in the first place?

In this post we will look at the different kinds of filters available and more specifically the best canister filters for a turtle tank. Allowing you to keep your tank and pet turtle (or turtles) in the healthiest condition.

We’ll look at 5 of the best canister filters in more detail to help you with choosing the right canister filter for your own turtle tank setup:

Winner
Fluval 106 External Filter
Cascade CCF4UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 150 Gallons, Filters 315 GPH
EHEIM Classic Canister Filter 2213, Classic 250 - PetOverstock
Great Value
SUN 4-Stage Aquarium External Canister Filter with 9 Watt UV Sterilizer 264GPH (HW402B with Pro Filter Kits)
Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter For aquariums, Easy Maintenance
Fluval 106 External Filter
Cascade CCF4UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 150 Gallons, Filters 315 GPH
EHEIM Classic Canister Filter 2213, Classic 250 - PetOverstock
SUN 4-Stage Aquarium External Canister Filter with 9 Watt UV Sterilizer 264GPH (HW402B with Pro Filter Kits)
Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter For aquariums, Easy Maintenance
-
-
Price not available
$89.82
$86.01
Price not available
$95.54
Winner
Fluval 106 External Filter
Fluval 106 External Filter
-
Price not available
Cascade CCF4UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 150 Gallons, Filters 315 GPH
Cascade CCF4UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 150 Gallons, Filters 315 GPH
$89.82
EHEIM Classic Canister Filter 2213, Classic 250 - PetOverstock
EHEIM Classic Canister Filter 2213, Classic 250 - PetOverstock
$86.01
Great Value
SUN 4-Stage Aquarium External Canister Filter with 9 Watt UV Sterilizer 264GPH (HW402B with Pro Filter Kits)
SUN 4-Stage Aquarium External Canister Filter with 9 Watt UV Sterilizer 264GPH (HW402B with Pro Filter Kits)
-
Price not available
Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter For aquariums, Easy Maintenance
Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter For aquariums, Easy Maintenance
$95.54

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Do turtle tanks need a filter?

The short answer is yes! Turtles, much like the fish in a regular aquarium, eat food, and excrete waste into the water around them.

This waste and other debris from turtles as well as the plants and algae can soon build up, causing a change in the pH of the water and a build up of toxins (such as ammonia and nitrites) and bacterial growth that will eventually poison and kill the aquarium inhabitants.

To prevent the water from turning stale and toxic (and your tank from smelling really bad), you need to introduce some kind of filter that will remove this waste from the water and keep the aquarium and creatures happy and healthy.

Since turtles excrete more waste products than fish do, a good filtration system is imperative for a healthy and odor-free aquarium.

Do I have to use a filter designed for turtles or can I just use a filter designed for fish?

Turtle specific filters have been designed with turtles (and their poo production level) in mind, factoring in that they excrete more waste than fish do, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t still use a regular fish filter inside your tank, provided that you get one that filters more water per hour compared to the size of your tank.

For example, you can use a regular fish filter, but it would need to be rated to filter 80 to 120 gallons for a 40 gallon tank, since a 40 gallon rated filter would simply not be enough to clear the water of all the turtle waste.

What kinds of filter are there, and how do I know what kind of filtration I need for my turtle tank?

There are essentially 3 main kinds of tank filtration: mechanical, biological, and chemical.

Mechanical filtration is the older fashioned way where you have some kind of mesh or material which catches the debris in the fibers of the net or more typically a sponge. The biggest disadvantage is that the sponge needs to be cleaned at regular intervals, and with all that turtle poo it can end up as a bit of a yucky job!

Biological filtration involves the introduction of friendly bacteria to your tank, usually on some kind of medium like a plate or ring which you place inside your tank. The friendly bacteria then feeds on the waste in the tank (the turtle poo, ammonia, and nitrites), keeping the tank and turtles clean and healthy in the process. This type of filtration can be used in conjunction with a mechanical filter, but the major downside is that this type of filtration costs more to set up and may be over budget.

Chemical filtration is fairly easy to set up and works quickly to improve the water conditions inside your aquarium. It involves the placement of a medium inside the tank, for example activated charcoal or crushed coral. Again, this isn’t the cheapest option, but it can be a life saver in an emergency when you need to fix the pH and ammonia levels in your tank very fast.

Do I have to have an interior filter or can I have one on the outside of my turtle tank?

There are four main options for your turtle tank, your filter can be; an internal filter, a canister filter, a hang-on-back filter (HOB), or an under gravel (UGF) filter.

Internal filters for turtles

Internal filters are the ones the you put inside your tank and submerge under the water and are generally of the mechanical filter (sponge type).

They usually attach to the side of the tank through plastic suckers that you press on to the interior glass wall.

The biggest disadvantage of the internal filter with your turtle tank is that turtles poo so much, that the sponge inside the filter needs to be cleaned very often, especially if you have more than one turtle.

External filters for turtles

Canister filters are what we will be dealing with in this post, and are essentially external filters that live in a cupboard or space underneath the tank itself.

They usually filter the water in stages (the more filter stages the better), and are the best kind of filter for a turtle tank, for reasons we will discover shortly.

Hang-on-Back filters for Turtles

As the name suggests, hang on the back of your turtle tank. They are not recommended for turtle tanks because they usually sit at the top of the internal glass wall on the tank, and since turtle tanks don’t have water right to the top of the wall, the filters can’t work properly (though there are a few that work and some turtle keepers do use them). These kinds of filters tend to struggle with the sheer amount of waste produced by a turtle compared to a fish and are just not designed to filter the water as quickly as is needed.

Under Gravel Filters for Turtles

Under gravel are the most controversial of the filter types as far as turtle aquariums are concerned.

Turtle aquarium keepers either love them or hate them. This kind of filter is usually in the form of a plastic tray which lies on the floor of the tank, underneath the gravel.

The main advantage with this type of filter is that it is hidden from view and is therefore less unsightly or obstructive than an internal filter. Under gravel filters work by drawing the water downwards, using the gravel as a kind of mechanical medium for collecting debris, and then filtering the water.

This is all well and good for a regular fish tank, but can quickly become messy and covered in slime and debris in a turtle tank.

The way around this issue is to reverse the flow of water, so that instead of the water being pulled downwards towards the gravel, it is instead blasted upwards away from the gravel, thus keeping the gravel slightly cleaner with less chance of the filter becoming clogged up with turtle poo and other tank debris.

Which ever filter option you use, remember to keep yourself safe when cleaning your tank by switching off electricity, and taking care not to ingest bacteria from the turtle poo and tank debris. wash your hands, clothes, and the surrounding area thoroughly and if you are cleaning your filter in a kitchen or bathroom sink then take care not to transfer harmful bacteria.

You can use more than one filter or filtration method if preferred and budget allows.

What are the benefits of using a Canister filter for your pet turtle?

Canister filters are the most popular kind of filter for turtle tank enthusiasts. This is for a number of reasons:

1. Mounting. Canister filters live underneath the tank, often inside a cupboard or hidden from view by your tank stand, this frees up space within your aquarium and is visually more pleasing to the eye.

2. Filtration. Canister filters offer the best filtration of all methods, and you can have more than more filter or combine them with other filtration methods if preferred. This is the biggest benefit, especially when you have more than one turtle per tank.

3. Stages of filtration and multiple medium options. One of the biggest advantages of the canister filter is that you can have three or more stages of filtration.

For example, your stage one filtration might be a sponge for mechanical filtration, but stage two might include activated charcoal, crushed coral, or peat for chemical filtration, and you have the option to replace or use each medium as required.

This is a great way to keep your tank at optimal health by making tweaks as and when needed, for example, if you have introduced a new turtle to the tank, or have been away on holiday and the ammonia or pH level has changed and needs a faster fix.

How to Choose a Suitable Canister Filter for your Turtle Tank

Keeping in mind that turtles produce more waste than fish, a good rule of thumb is to purchase a filter that can filter double or even triple the volume of water in your tank. If you have a 55-gallon capacity tank, look for a filter that can filter 110 gallons.

Next, choose a multi stage filter, the more stages the better. This includes a mechanical filtration medium, such as a sponge, mesh, or net.

This medium will accumulate the physical debris such as turtle poo and uneaten food or other waste. Turtle poo contains ammonia which will be broken down to produce nitrite – this is toxic to your turtles but can be broken down into the less harmful nitrate by the addition of a biological filtration medium such as friendly bacteria which will eat the waste and turn it into nitrate. This nitrate is less harmful for your turtle but will still need to be cleaned away.

If you want your turtle tank to look really crisp and clean, it is well worth investing in a chemical filter medium such as peat or activated charcoal which again helps with the ammonia levels of the water.

As financially appealing as it might seem to purchase a fish filter or smaller filter, it will certainly cost you more in the long run if you have to keep replacing your turtles. The filter is probably the most expensive part of your turtle tank setup, so invest wisely.

One thing to watch for when purchasing your canister filter is that it comes with a warranty, that way you will have peace of mind that the filter can be replaced if needed. Check the warranty closely to make sure that it covers the whole filter, not just parts of it, like the motor. Many filters come with a warranty that lasts for several years.

And finally, some filters come with a self-priming option, which vacuums up any excess air in the tank, at regular intervals, or has a button that you can push as needed.

Other features you might be interested in include adjustable water valve flows, and easy stacking trays for your different filtration mediums. Do as much research as you can and don’t be put off by the cost as the filter could save you money and heartache in the long run.

The Best Canister Filters for Turtle Tanks Reviews

Fluval External Filter

A trusted brand with a three-year warranty and range of sizes available.

Fluval 106 External Filter
  • Multi-stage filtration for healthy fresh & saltwater aquariums
  • Suitable for aquariums up to 25 gallons. Sound dampening impeller design for a quieter operation
  • Equipped with a clog-proof intake strainer and a dual layer foam screen
  • Built with a patented Aquastop Valve, multiple filtration baskets, and rim connector assemblies
  • 3 year warranty

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Fluval canister filter is probably one of the best-known brands in the industry and for good reason. Available in a wide range of sizes, suitable for small tank hobby aquariums, right up to large, commercial aquariums.

They offer a large range of mediums, all of which are widely available from places like Amazon, garden centers, and aquatic shops worldwide.

Each canister filter comes with a 3-year warranty, and extra features such as aquas top valves for controlling the flow of water in the tank and quick change mechanical media making it less hassle to change the filtration medium. The precision engineered motor helps to reduce vibration and noise from the motor, thus creating a less intrusive tank.

Pros
  • Trusted brand
  • Readily available
  • Wide range of sizes available
  • 3 year warranty
  • Extra functions thus more control over things like flow rate
Cons
  • On the pricier side of canister filters and mediums

Penn Plax Cascade Canister Aquarium Filter Review

Large filter trays and easy to set up for the beginner.

Sale
Cascade CCF4UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 150 Gallons, Filters 315 GPH
  • CASCADE CANISTER FILTER FOR FRESHWATER OR MARINE ENVIRONMENTS: the Cascade 1200 (CCF4UL) has 4 media baskets, works at 315 GPH, and is recommended for Aquariums up to 150 gallons. It measures 11.5 x 20.5 x 11 inches
  • STATE OF THE ART FEATURES OF THE CASCADE 1200: flow valves that rotate 360 degrees for easy maneuvering in even the tightest aquarium cabinets large capacity media baskets allow aquarists to customize to their media needs push button primer allows for a quick and easy prime of the filter includes a spray bar, tubing, directional spout for customization, and filter medium
  • USE ANY COMBINATION OF MEDIA: floss pad for removing particulate matter and a course sponge that provides abundant surface for promoting bacterial growth (to remove ammonia and nitrites) included free with purchase
  • SEE BELOW FOR DIAGRAM, THE CASCADE 1200 INCLUDES: Flow rate control cut-off valves two independent directional 360 degree rotating valve taps swimming pool – style hose clamps quick, easy, push button self-primer extra-large capacity stackable filter medium containers with lift-up handles floss pad and coarse sponge included, free with each canister filter easy lift alignment clamps that release vacuum suction sturdy tip-proof base
  • FILTER MEDIA OPTIONS BY CASCADE AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, SOLD SEPARATELY: see below for details, sold separately is media such as: bio-floss, bio-sponge, bio-rings, filt-a-pack pro-z, and filt-a-pack pro-carb-z

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Penn Plax brand is another major player within the turtle tank industry and like the Fluval brand it is available in a number of sizes.

One of the nice features is that the filter stages can be modified to suit the owner’s personal preferences and the set up as a whole is fairly straightforward – ideal for a new turtle enthusiast.

All of the accessories are included so there are no nasty surprises or extra expenses when you get your new filter home and start to unbox it.

Pros
  • Wide variety of sizes
  • Easy to install
  • Can be adapted to suit personal preferences
  • 3 year warranty
Cons
  • On the pricier side of canister filters and mediums

EHEIM Classic External Canister Filter with Media Review

Less options available than some of the pricier brands but still an excellent and more budget friendly canister filter.

Sale
EHEIM Classic Canister Filter 2213, Classic 250 - PetOverstock
  • Permo-elastic silicon sealing ring fixed on the pump head for easy and safe closing after cleaning
  • Equipped with filter sponges and/or loose filter media
  • Accessories included: spray bar, inlet pipe, hose and installation accessories
  • Comes complete with filter media (EHEIM Mech & Substrat Pro) and valves
  • Permo-elastic silicon sealing ring fixed on the pump head for easy and safe closing after cleaning

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This canister filter might not have as many options as you would find on the Fluval or Penn Plax brands, but it is still an excellent filter, and slightly less expensive too. It doesn’t have as many size options available, but for the average turtle tank set up that shouldn’t pose to much of an issue.

It is a great option for someone just gettings started.

Pros
  • Comes with filtration media
  • Reliable and easy to use
  • Less expensive than other brands
Cons
  • Not as many sizes available as other brands
  • Two year warranty is good however other brands have three

SunSun HW402B 4-Stage Aquarium External Canister Filter w/ 9-watt UV Sterilizer 264GPH

A popular, budget friendly option amongst turtles owners.

SUN 4-Stage Aquarium External Canister Filter with 9 Watt UV Sterilizer 264GPH (HW402B with Pro Filter Kits)
  • Good for up to 75 gallon fish tanks
  • Dimension: 9" L x 9" w x 15.5" h
  • Flow rate: 265 gph (1000l/hr.)
  • Built in 9 watt UV sterilizer for controlling algae spores/bacteria and promoting clear water
  • Capable of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you are on a limited budget or just starting out then the SunSun canister filter makes for a nice entry level filter and this is partly why it is so popular amongst turtle enthusiasts.

Pros
  • Effective filter with stage options
  • Comes with a selection of filter mediums
  • Range of models and sizes available
Cons
  • Not as high a quality as the bigger brands

Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter for Aquariums Review

A quiet, multi-stage, easy to set up and popular with turtle tank owners.

Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter For aquariums, Easy Maintenance
  • 3-STAGE FILTRATION: Water flows through media layers to filter water and ensure a clean aquatic environment.
  • VERSATILE: For freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
  • EASY MAINTENANCE: Valve block for quick release to shut down water flow – separates from housing for quick, spill-free maintenance.
  • THREE SIZES AVAILABLE: Comes in 220 GPH, 360 GPH and 360 GPH sizes.

Last update on 2020-02-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

A quiet running filter, that comes with filter mediums and is a little more budget friendly than some of the bigger brands.

There is a good reason why this is a very popular option amongst turtle tank owners and comes with a manufacturers warranty.

Pros
  • Comes with medium options
  • Ideal for turtle tank
  • Easy to set up
Cons
  • Ensure gasket ring is connected tightly or it can leak

The Winner

Whilst you can set up your turtle tank with a regular fish filter (provided it is of a higher rating) and you can use more than one filter at a time, it is preferable to choose a canister filter that is fit for purpose.

A wise investment of your cash now, that will save you a lot of misery and wasted money in the long run. The more stages to your canister filter, the better, especially where you can make modifications and come up with a balance of mechanical, chemical, and biological mediums perfectly suited for the needs and inhabitants of your aquarium.

For this reason, the Fluval is the winner of our roundup even though it is more expensive than some of its competitors.

The 3 year warranty, ease of set up, and multi stage filter options make it a clear winner and it is readily available worldwide, in numerous sizes to suit the beginner right up to the commercial aquarium owner.

If you really can’t stretch the budget and don’t mind the lack of a warranty or follow up of customer service, then the SunSun is a good alternative and a popular option amongst turtle enthusiasts.