The Best Canister Filter for Turtle Tanks

All aquarium lovers know the joy of having a tank filled with all your favorite creatures. However, owners of aquatic turtle tanks know that there is an added level of challenge when it comes to giving these friendly reptiles a good home.

You need to make sure the tank is large, you need to change the water frequently, you need to keep the water moving, clean up debris, monitor chemical levels, and you need a good canister filter to get all of that accomplished.


While it can be tempting to grab the first filter you see in a web search, there are certain factors to consider when searching for the best turtle tank container. Turtles are a bit different from fish (being reptiles) and as such have different requirements for their care.


They are both aquatic and closely related on the tree of life, so you could actually find many that are similar between the two. Both are cold-blooded creatures, both hunt for food in their natural habitats, and both lay eggs to reproduce.

So where is the difference that requires a slightly different approach when it comes to turtle care? Most of the time, the terrapins you get for your tank will be larger.

They will produce a lot more waste material and other byproducts that you need to clean up to keep their habitat healthy (there are some helpful fact sheets on the web if you’re looking for detailed information on caring for these amazing pets).

This means you have to buy a bigger tank (they will need more space to move around). You’ll need to cover that tank with plants, some «worker fish» that will help the water quality but won’t prey on your turtles, and lots of extras that will keep the water clean, most notably the bowl filter.


The general rule is this: the more powerful the filter, the better it will be for your turtles. There are some nuances to this, of course, but keep in mind that your turtles are probably big and are always recycling their own waste in the water.

Also, you probably have other things in your tank besides turtles (plants, small fish, etc.) All of this is contained in one large tank that holds a minimum of 50 gallons of water (even more if you have multiple turtles).

That water can become stagnant if not moved, which is a sure way to decrease water quality. Circulating the water helps distribute oxygen and good bacteria evenly around the tank, discourages the growth of harmful bacteria, keeps the water temperature regular, and slows algae growth.

To make a long story short, a weak filter will not be able to handle the sheer volume of water you have and provide all of those essential benefits, so if you have turtles in your tank, you need to go big.

With smaller water-dwelling creatures, you can sometimes get away with an underpowered filter to save money or to avoid lugging the thing around. With turtles, however, this option is foolhardy. Energy is a non-negotiable component of a turtle tank filter.

However, there are other factors that you will need to have besides the pumping power. A powerful filter won’t do you any good if it can’t hold enough of the right kind of filter media. You want to make sure that any filter you decide to go with has either a large center chamber or several large trays to accommodate a large amount of filtration.

You’ll also need to make sure you can customize the types of media you use in the filter, as your turtles will need very particular water chemistry to stay healthy, and you need to be able to adjust your parameters to achieve these. levels.

The best filters allow you to set your own amounts of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration, and don’t keep you locked into specific levels. Also, if the water goes through the filter media, there is no point in having the filter. Any filter you get for your turtles should have no bypass features to ensure the water is getting clean.

Turtles have additional needs that, when met, can help them live happier, healthier lives. Some of these needs may be met by additional features contained in particular canister filters, so when making your decision, consider whether the filter comes with a UV filter and spray bar.

The UV filter will further limit algae growth and help purify the tank water. A spray bar can help aerate the water in the tank, making sure your turtles have easy access to oxygen and aren’t assailed by harmful bacteria trying to take over their environment.


When looking for a tank, some personal preferences and circumstances will also influence your choice. Your budget, how much space you have for an external filter, your level of proficiency in using filters, and how much patience you have for lengthy cleaning processes will all play a role in what you ultimately decide. Remember to keep all of this in mind when looking at different canister filters.



  • Weight: 30.5 pounds
  • Warranty: 1 year warranty

This is the most powerful “C-series” line from the Marineland tank filter manufacturer. This filter can handle tanks between 100 and 150 gallons, with a maximum flow rate of 530GPH. The unit measures 18.25″ x 13.5″ x 21.5″, placing it securely on the largest size bracket. Marineland hails this model as «high performance» and «easy to use.» They even included a handy DVD instruction guide to help newcomers to the world of canister filters set up the C-530 for the first time.

The C-530 includes many of the prized filter qualities a turtle tank owner would want, including 3-stage filtration that takes place in large “stack-n-flo” filter pans. The design is one of many “bypass-free” varieties, ensuring that the water passes through each stage of filtration and is exceptionally clean at the end.

This unit accepts a wide range of filter media and comes packaged with some of Marineland’s own designs, including Bio-Filter balls for biological filtration and promotion of beneficial bacteria, carbon filter bags for chemical water cleaning, and various filter foams and floss pads. also for mechanical water filtration.

The quick prime button and quick release valve allow users to turn this filter on quickly and shut off the water flow as soon as the hoses are uncoupled (reducing instances of spills). This filter is quick to assemble and disassemble, making it a great option for those who don’t want to spend forever cleaning.


  • without bypass
  • Large storage capacity
  • Stacked Filter Pans



  • Weight: 16 pounds
  • Warranty: 6 month warranty

This is Aquatop’s largest filter, a generously sized 4-1 filter that not only incorporates chemical, biological and mechanical filtration, but also a powerful UV sterilizer. It is suitable for tanks up to 175 gallons and has a maximum flow rate of 525 gph. This filter measures 18″ x 12″ x 11″ which makes it a nice size, but not a behemoth like other power can filters out there. At 16 pounds, its weight is significant, but not too much for most tank owners to handle.

Filtration is handled in the CF500’s four stacked media trays, which slowly push water in from the bottom up and then redistribute it back into your tank. The water also passes through the filter’s 9-watt UV sterilizer, which also removes impurities.

The CF500 comes equipped with some important media: fine white filter pads and blue filter sponges, but other forms of filtration must be purchased separately. The filter is compatible with activated carbon, ceramic rings and bio-balls, all of which are also sold by AquaTop.

This filter also has a priming pump feature (no more manual siphoning) and easy connect hoses to help newcomers. Not a bad choice if you’re looking for a solid turtle tank filter.


  • 4 filter trays
  • Includes UV filter
  • extremely quiet


  • You have to buy additional media to get started.


  • Weight: 16.3 pounds
  • Warranty: 6 month warranty

Professional Series filters have more punch than Eheim’s popular “Classic” canister filters. This model can handle tanks up to 320 gallons, with a flow rate of 450 gph. It is a large filter, with an overall size of 12.5″ x 12.5″ x 20.5″. Total media capacity is also significant, totaling 3.5 gallons. The adjustable flow control on this filter allows you to get the perfect level of circulation in your tank and evenly distribute water and oxygen.

Filtration takes place in large centrally located tanks, which include a coarse and fine foam pad, and Eheim brand Ehfisubstrat Pro and Ehfimech media. However, the media can be customized if you prefer a different configuration. Filter basket breakdown is 0.5 mechanical gallons, 2 biological gallons, and 1 chemical gallon.

The Eheim Professional 3 includes a safety adapter / hose guard, to prevent accidental leaks and eliminate cases of leaks and spills when trying to clean the unit. It also prevents water from running out of the filter when trying to move it, meaning no mess on the way to the sink for cleaning. The locking clips included with this filter help maintain a sealed environment during filtration and ensure the filter works properly during regular use.


  • It has a high flow
  • media lasts a long time
  • Easy to set up and maintain
  • It looks good, so it can be left on display.


  • Replacement filtration is quite expensive
  • Instructions included are not great


  • Weight: 13.2 pounds
  • Warranty: 2 years warranty.

Filstar Heavy Duty Extra Large XP Filter, designed with some high performance and convenience features. The XP-XL is suitable for tanks up to 265 gallons and has a maximum flow rate of 450 gph. It measures 9.5″ x 8.5″ x 17″, making it more compact than other models on the market. Combined with a light weight of 13.2 pounds, you have a filter that is easy to store and move.

The main features of the XP-XL are its bypass-free construction and four large media baskets. The four-basket design supports the use of additional biological filtration media for a higher level of bacterial growth and ammonia removal from your tank water. The starter kit includes coarse and fine filter foams, a microfiltration pad, and Bio-Chem Zorb filter bags for organic waste removal.

This filter was built to optimize the user experience. It has height-adjustable inlet and outlet nozzles, easy-access flow control, and an anti-overheat design to prevent motor damage if the filter becomes clogged. Combined with the quick disconnect system and the anti-airlock self-priming system (eliminates the need to re-prime the filter), this makes for a very easy to use device that even beginners can operate with confidence.


  • Easy to use
  • Compact
  • High capacity
  • flexible storage


  • Gaskets don’t always stay in place

penn plax CASCADE 1500

  • Weight: 15 pounds
  • Warranty: 3 year warranty

The most powerful of all the Cascade units, the Cascade 1500 offers many of the same ease-of-use features as its siblings, but with more punch. The Cascade 1500 has a maximum capacity of 200 gallons, with a maximum flow rate of 350 gph. The unit measures 20.5″ x 12″ x 11″ and weighs 15 pounds, which puts it in the mid-range for size and weight.

Filtration is similar to other models of power cartridge filters. The vertical design sends water through the media trays and comes out clean at the other end. It is hermetically sealed so the flow rate remains high, even when pumping large amounts of water through fully filled trays. The trays can be customized with various media bags, allowing you to achieve the delicate balance you need for your turtles.

One feature I found especially useful was the 360-degree rotational valve system. Sometimes I have trouble getting the filters in a place where they are out of the way but can still reach the tank. Rotary valves made this a non-issue. You can place your filter anywhere and still get hoses to the tank without worry.


  • rotary valves
  • easy setup
  • works fast


  • Not a “bypass-free” system


Selecting a filter for turtle tanks can be difficult as power is such an important feature. Most users want to balance power with other factors, and in that regard, the Aquatop CF500 takes the cake. It’s medium in size and fits in most spaces, has excellent power, exceptional capacity for custom filter media, and includes a powerful UV sterilizer to help keep tank water cleaner.

You won’t have to break the bank to enjoy this filter and its features, and while it doesn’t come with a ton of filtration media, you’ll probably want to mix and match anyway, so it’s not. that big inconvenience. The Aquato CF500 is an excellent high powered canister filter that can be easily recommended to owners of tanks with multiple aquatic turtles.

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