The Best Turtle Tank Filter (February 2023 Reviews)


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If you keep turtles, a turtle tank filter is a must-have purchase. It not only helps to keep the water clean and clear, eliminating the need for frequent water changes, but it also provides a healthier habitat that allows these popular reptiles to thrive.

Our vet advisor Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, reviewed dozens of the best turtle tank filters and chose the Penn-Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter as her top pick. With quiet operation and a range of great features, this high-quality filter delivers crystal-clear water throughout your aquarium. Read how she chose the top 5.

Our Vet’s Top Pick

Penn-Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter

For the best in turtle tank filters, look no further than the Penn-Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter.

While this was Dr. Coates’s top choice, she also offers a series of her top tips for what to look for in choosing the best turtle tank filters, a section on who should avoid purchasing them altogether, and she personally selected the best filter for a variety of specific use cases.

The 5 Best Turtle Tank Filters

  1. Best OverallPenn-Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter
  2. Best BudgetTetraFauna Decorative ReptoFilter
  3. Best QuietAqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter
  4. Best EasyZoo Med Turtle Clean 15 External Canister Filter
  5. Best Heavy-DutyFluval FX4 High-Performance Aquarium Filter

Turtle Tank Filters Compared

Here are the top picks from our veterinarian. Compare the ratings and features of different models.

Editor’s Picks Brand Rating External or Internal Aquarium Size Weight
Best Overall Penn-Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter 4.3 Internal Up to 50 Gallons 2.23 Pounds
Best Budget Buy TetraFauna Decorative ReptoFilter 4.4 Internal Up to 55 Gallons 2 Pounds
Best Quiet Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter 4.1 Internal Up to 10 Gallons 9.6 Ounces
Best Easy Zoo Med Turtle Clean 15 External Canister Filter 4.2 External Up to 15 Gallons 2.16 Pounds
Best Heavy Duty Fluval FX4 High Performance Aquarium Filter 4.6 External Up to 250 Gallons 14.17 Pounds

*Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 and based on reviews, feedback, and opinions of actual customers

Who Should Buy a Turtle Tank Filter

  • Anyone who keeps pet aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles – A turtle tank filter is a great addition to any aquarium that houses turtles. These reptiles need clean water to thrive, and a filter makes that easier to achieve by reducing the number of necessary water changes over time.
  • Turtle keepers who want to remove contaminants – Turtles are sensitive to contaminants and toxins in the environment, which is why it’s important for their habitat to be as clean as possible.
  • Turtle keepers who want to reduce odors – Dirty water can cause unpleasant smells in an aquarium. A tank filter purifies the water, reducing the presence of contaminants and minimizing odors.

Who Should Not Buy a Turtle Tank Filter

  • People who don’t keep aquatic or semi-aquatic pet turtles – Terrestrial turtles don’t require deep water to swim in so a filter is probably not necessary. Although a turtle tank filter can be used for other types of aquariums, most are best suited to the unique needs of pet turtles.
  • Turtle keepers on a tight budget – A turtle tank filter is an investment, with some options on the market costing several hundred dollars. So, if you’re short on cash, you may want to hold off on this purchase until you’re better equipped financially. Just know you’ll have to replace the water in your turtle’s tank more frequently.

Buying Guide: Research Tips From a Veterinarian

Picking the right turtle tank filter is important for your pet’s health. Here are some tips and best practices to consider when purchasing a filter that will keep your aquarium safe and clean. Be sure to do adequate research on the product you’re considering purchasing to look for key features. It’s also a good idea to talk to any friends and family who keep turtles to learn what types of tank filters have worked well for them.

Make sure to closely read product descriptions to avoid unpleasant surprises. Looking at customer reviews posted on trusted sources can give you an idea of how satisfied turtle keepers are with their purchase. Your veterinarian and other turtle experts can also point to any features that might be ideal based on the number of turtles you have, their size, and your tank setup.

  1. Choose a filter with three-stage filtration – All of the turtle tank filters recommended here have three-stage filtration – mechanical, chemical, and biological – to keep the water in the tank as clean as possible.
  2. Avoid under-gravel filters or hang-on filters – These types of filters are far better suited to the unique needs of fish than turtles, so avoid them if you’re shopping for a new turtle tank filter.
  3. Carefully consider tank volume – The tank volumes noted by manufacturers are usually for fish tanks. Turtles are much dirtier than fish, so it’s a good idea to stay well below the filter’s upper limits. This is especially true if your tank houses more than one turtle.
  4. Internal vs. external filters – Turtle tank filters fall into two main categories: internal and external. Internal filters sit inside the tank. They’re quiet, easy to set up, and are less prone to leaks than external filters. However, they’re less effective and more difficult to clean than external filters, which sit outside the tank.
  5. Consider your turtles’ needs – Turtles are extremely sensitive to contaminants in the water, so it’s important to choose a tank filter that reduces these types of pollutants. If in doubt, speak to a veterinarian or turtle expert about which filter would best suit your turtles’ specific needs.

New to turtles? Check out this guide on taking care of a pet turtle.

How Much Do They Cost?

Between $15 and $400

For most turtle tank filters, you can expect to pay between $15 and $400 and still get a quality product. At the lower end of this price range, expect to see products with fewer features and less capacity. These are suitable for small tanks that house one or just a few turtles. As the price increases, you’ll see more advanced filtration, more tank capacity, and other useful features.

Our Methodology: Why Trust Pet News Daily

I’ve evaluated these turtle tank filters based on my professional experience as a veterinarian combined with product feature considerations. The quality of each tank filter was determined by considering factors such as the technology used, the sophistication of the filtration system, and reviews from turtle keepers. You want a reliable turtle tank filter that will keep your tank clean without breaking the bank! – Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

The Best Turtle Tank Filter Reviews

1. Best Overall – Penn-Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter

Our Vet’s Top Pick

Penn-Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter

For the best in turtle tank filters, look no further than the Penn-Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter.

The Penn-Plax Cascade 600 Submersible Aquarium Filter is an excellent filter for turtle tanks ranging from 20-50 gallons. It runs quietly and has a small profile that allows it to be easily hidden behind your tank decorations. Key features include a pump head with adjustable and directional water flow and an activated carbon cartridge that helps remove any impurities from your tank’s water.

This turtle tank filter is reasonably priced and has received many positive reviews. It’s a good option for turtle keepers with smaller tanks who are looking for a reliable internal filter that can be placed vertically or horizontally and won’t take up too much space.

  • Space-saving design
  • Good reputation and reviews
  • Adjustable and directional water flow
  • Not ideal for larger tanks
  • Can be difficult to clean

2. Best Budget – TetraFauna Decorative ReptoFilter

Best Budget Buy

TetraFauna Decorative ReptoFilter

This affordable decorative filter is specially designed with reptiles in mind.

If you’re looking for a functional turtle tank filter that won’t break the bank, check out the TetraFauna Decorative ReptoFilter. The filter is very inexpensive and can save you money by doubling as a tank decoration. It includes an internal filter that’s suitable for up to 55 gallons and features 3-stage Tetra filtration technology.

The water return on this turtle tank filter is designed as a waterfall, which adds interest to your tank. The realistic rock design also gives your turtles a safe place to bask. This filter is specially designed for turtle tanks with low water levels and is quiet and easy to clean. It’s also very easy to set up in your tank.

  • Filter hidden within a plastic rock, which can be used for basking
  • Adds interest to your tank
  • Designed for tanks with low water levels
  • Some reviewers say the filtration holes are too large
  • Takes up quite a lot of space

3. Best Quiet – Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

Best Quiet

Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter

A quiet, adjustable internal turtle tank filter.

The Aqueon Quietflow Internal Power Filter is a great option if you’re looking for a quiet, discreet filter for your turtle tank. It can be oriented in either a horizontal or vertical position so it can fit into a variety of tank sizes and water levels.

The direction of the water flow on this filter is also adjustable which is a great feature if you want to maximize water flow in your turtle tank. Overall, it’s a simple, easy-to-use filter that’s ideal for smaller turtle tanks.

  • Very quiet internal filter
  • Fully submersible in either the vertical or horizontal position
  • Adjustable water flow
  • Could be sturdier
  • Some reviewers say it’s unreliable

4. Best Easy – Zoo Med Turtle Clean 15 External Canister Filter

Best Easy

Zoo Med Turtle Clean 15 External Canister Filter

This small, convenient turtle tank filter is easy to use and clean.

If you have a small turtle habitat, the Zoo Med Turtle Clean 15 External Canister Filter is a great addition to your tank. It offers efficient filtration in a compact size with a transparent viewing case that makes it easy to see when it’s time to replace or wash filter media.

This external canister filter is a good option for anyone who wants a turtle tank filter that’s easy to clean and maintain. And since it comes with a 1-year warranty, you can rest assured that you’ll be covered in the unlikely event of any problems. Overall, this filter offers a perfect combination of value and performance, and most reviewers are happy with their purchase.

  • Small in size and easy to use and clean
  • Also available in a 50-gallon size
  • Transparent viewing case to monitor when filter media needs replacing
  • Only suitable for small tanks
  • Hoses are quite short, limiting placement

5. Best Heavy-Duty – Fluval FX4 High-Performance Aquarium Filter

Best Heavy Duty

Fluval FX4 High-Performance Aquarium Filter

A large capacity canister filter with a variety of advanced features.

If you’re a serious turtle keeper who’s in the market for an extremely reliable and feature-rich filter, the Fluval FX4 High-Performance Aquarium Filter should be at the top of your shopping list. With advanced features like microchip technology that monitors pump performance and a large capacity canister, the Fluval FX4 is a great choice for those looking for a filter that will last.

Reviews for this turtle tank filter are overwhelmingly positive, with many reviewers praising its high-quality construction, large capacity, easy installation and maintenance, and durable performance. Dozens of reviewers specifically stated that they’ve used their Fluval FX4 for years without problems, making it well worth its price.

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Large capacity canister filter
  • Advanced features and technology
  • Much more expensive than most other models
  • May be too advanced for beginners

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a turtle live in a tank without a filter?

While turtles can live in a tank without a filter, and some people do this because it is cheaper and easier, there are several reasons why they shouldn’t. The most important of these is that turtles need clean water to stay healthy.1 Not having a filter often results in filthy water, which means that your turtle might get sick or even die.
Do turtles need a special filter?

Turtles produce a lot of waste and a filter is necessary to keep the water clean. These reptiles are often kept in tanks with regular filters, but they need a filter that is more efficient than those used for fish. Some filters are specially designed for turtles. This article reviews the best turtle tank filters on the market, both internal and external, to help you find the right one for your pet.
Are sponge filters good for turtle tanks?

No. Sponge filters are designed for just a few gallons of water. They are also not very powerful, so it would be nearly impossible to keep the water clean enough in a tank with a turtle.
Can I use a fish filter for a turtle?

This really depends on the type of fish filter that you are using. Some filters are powerful enough to be used in a tank with turtles, while others simply will not work. Check the capacity of the filter that you are considering buying and ask an expert for help if you aren’t sure.

Article Sources

Pet News Daily uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Virata J. How to Pick the Right Turtle Tank Filter and Tank. Published November 26, 2018. Accessed January 30, 2022.
Dr. Jennifer Coates
Dr. Jennifer Coates was valedictorian of her graduating class at the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and has practiced in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is also the author of numerous articles and books including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian.