6 Best Canister Filters for Turtles – Keep Their Tank Clean

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Last updatedLast updated: December 05, 2021
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What makes the best canister filter for turtles? Is it the filtration methods, flow rate, stages, or its size? The answer might differ from person to person based on their aquarium needs. However, you’ll later learn that all of the mentioned features play significant roles and can’t be neglected. One factor is not enough to answer the question, and that’s why we’ve prepared a detailed review for you.

We know finding the right canister filter for aquatic turtles is a difficult task. Fortunately, we’ve narrowed the whole process by selecting six filters that we’ve carefully researched. Our selection is based on features such as aquarium volume, flow rate, stages, dimensions, weight, and filtration methods. Note that the aquarium volume helps you decide on the flow rate. Dimensions should help you know whether it will fit where you want to put it. Stages and filtration methods, on the other hand, determine how clean and clear the water can be. We have an in-depth explanation of the features in our buying guide after the reviews. Be sure to go through them for a better understanding.

Top 6 Canister Filters For Turtles Review 2022

  • Aquariums volume: up to 100 gal
  • Flow rate: 265 gph
  • Stages: 3
  • Dimensions: 11.5 x 17 x 10 inches

More features: made for freshwater or marine environment; large capacity media baskets; 360-degree rotating valve taps

Whether you’re starting or have been in the aquarium game for years, the Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter could either change your experience or make you an enthusiast. First, it’s easily customizable to any media needs because of its large capacity. Second, the filter is quick and straightforward to prime thanks to its push-button primer. The third reason you’d need the filter is its spray bar, filter medium, tubing, and directional spout for customization.

Furthermore, the cascade includes quick lift alignment clamps, coarse sponge and floss pad, sturdy tip-proof base, and lift-up handles. The floss pad is instrumental for removing particulate matter while the course sponge ensures consistent bacterial growth. Note that you’ll have to buy media such as bio-sponge, bio-floss, and bio-rings separately.

Why is it special? The unit has a sturdy construction and an ergonomic design. It’s quick to put together the unit, and using it is easy. The handles on the filter baskets allow easy removal of the baskets. Large filters make it possible to set up different filtration options. Besides, the spray-bar and spout outlet allow you to customize your setup according to your interests. There were no leaks from anywhere, and that was impressive. We also liked how the suction cup holders hold the waterfall tubes.

What are the flaws? The manufacturer should consider making the filter silent. While its noise is tolerable, you cannot put the unit where you need tranquility. Also, too much water seems to be flowing through the sides. However, that’s not a deal-breaker since you could easily fix the problem using something like expanded polypropylene or its equivalent to wrapping it.

RELATED: 5 Best Canister Filters for 55-Gallon Tanks – Versatile and Effective

Aqueon QuietFlow Canister FilterPremium Pick

  • Aquariums volume: up to 55 gal
  • Flow rate: 200 gph
  • Stages: 3
  • Dimensions: 8.25 x 8.25 x 17.5 inches

More features: quick maintenance; multiple water return options

Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter is true to its name – the flow is whisper quiet. So, if you’re looking for a filter to put in your living room, then this is it. That said, the filter comes preloaded with mechanical, biological, and chemical media, so you don’t have to figure out how to do it. The media facilitates the efficient removal of waste and harmful toxins from water.

Moreover, you have two options at your disposal – a water director or traditional water return in a spray bar. Either way, the canister includes activated carbon, quick disconnect valves, pump locking heads, water input, and output connections, hoses, media, bio-balls, coarse foam, and cartridge bio-ceramic rings water polishing unit. What’s more, the unit has multiple water return options so that different aquarium habitats could fit.

What makes it special? Maintenance is super quick. A unique hang on the backwater polishing cuts down maintenance time – you don’t need to disassemble the canister housing to replace the media basket contents. Instead, replace the carbon cartridge, and that’s it. The best of it all is that no regular changes are necessary to the media baskets. It runs for a long period without maintenance, and still, cleaning is quick.

What cons did we find? So far, so good, we’ve not come across any major setback with the unit. However, when we first set it up, it was noisy, and we were almost pissed off before we figured out how to silent it. Several tilting sides to side and back and forth did the trick. Seems that only happens when it’s picking up because it runs without noise ever since.

  • Aquariums volume: up to 20-45 gal
  • Flow rate: not specified
  • Stages: not specified
  • Dimensions: 7.09 x 7.48 x 16.54 inches

More features: ergonomic design; dual locking clamps; requires fewer pumps; 25% quieter; energy efficient

Fluval 207 Perfomance Canister Filter has an almost perfect priming feature. Also, its pre-filter foam and three baskets for an extra-biological filter media is a big plus. All the filter media to get you started are inclusive. It boasts a new handle to allow easy removal of the main media stack. Together with the new handle is an improved system that doesn’t require many pumps to get engaged.

Its design is ergonomic, and the construction is robust. If you’ve been looking for an energy-efficient and flexible canister filter, then you better check the Fluval 207 out. Besides, it’s easier to use once put together. It also features a single action dual locking clamps quick and convenient release.

What makes it special? The unit provides consistent pressure and keeps the water crystal clear. We love how quiet it runs, you can’t tell whether it’s on or off. It’s super easy to change media and perform other maintenance. Easy setup allows quick disconnect of the filter without making a mess. The air plunger has a huge improvement from the previous models, making filling the canister a breeze – just a few pumps and you’re good to go.

What cons did we find? On the downside, the suction could be dangerous for your creatures if you don’t put something at the end of the tube. Also, the filter will not work if not set below the level of the water tank, and that’s limiting. The other thing we noted is that the input and output fittings are flimsy, making it hard to prevent them from being pulled to one side. However, you could use All Pond Solutions hoses and fittings to fix the problem.


Sunsun HW-304BBest Self-Priming Pumps

  • Aquariums volume: up to 150 gal
  • Flow rate: 525 gph
  • Stages: 5
  • Dimensions : 11 x 11 x 17 inches

More features: UV sterilizer for controlling algae; made for both freshwater and saltwater

If you’re interested in an excellent filter for a large tank, then look no further than the Sunsun HW-304B. Setting it up is utterly a breeze – it takes less than thirty minutes to have it ready. The unit boasts four flexible media trays allowing you to add media of your choice such as ceramic rings, activated carbons, and bio-balls.

Such flexibility is perfect for excellent chemical, biological and mechanical filtrations. What’s more, the canister comes with a built-in 9-Watt UV sterilizer that’s instrumental when it comes to eliminating bacteria and algae spores. The sterilizer is also useful for maintaining clear water. A self-priming pump is available; thus manual siphoning is not necessary. Note that you’ll purchase filter media separately for the unit.

Why is it special? It’s very easy to put the unit together. We also love the excellent water flow and how quiet it is regardless of its size. The trays are spacious for your media and do not wedge into the body. It primed almost immediately. The canister keeps water quality high for long periods so you don’t have to change it often. Avoid using the UV light during the first week so that you can build bacteria.

What are the flaws? While the tubes should be strong, you’ll find Sunsun to be stiffer than the standard ones hence hard to hook them up behind your tank. However, soaking them in hot water for around fifteen minutes makes them soft. Also, the return tube doesn’t swivel meaning it’s almost impossible to use a cover. All in all, these are minor setbacks that do not affect the functionality of the unit.


Finnex PX-360 Compact Canister Aquarium FilterPerfect for Smaller Tanks

  • Aquariums volume: up to 25 gal
  • Flow rate: 95 gph
  • Stages: not specified
  • Dimensions: 4.8 x 7.2 x 8.1 inches

More features: activated carbon floss pad; perfect for both aquatic and turtle aquariums; has a durable water intake strainer

Finnex PX-360 Compact Canister Aquarium Filter has been around for more than a decade now. It’s perfect for smaller tanks and lifts about 2ft high, so, be sure you’re comfortable that rate before you buy. Look elsewhere if you need something more.  However, it offers tight force filtration like that of a vacuum and keeps the tank clean and clear. Its operation is quiet and doesn’t require much time for maintenance.

The unit comes with a sponge, activated carbon floss pad, and ceramic rings thus ready for work. Other accessories include a spray bar, intake strainer, and filter hanger. Filtration chambers are quick to remove making it much easier to remove or add media. Media holding trays are also easily removable for quick maintenance.

Why is it special? Although the unit supports up to 2ft high, it keeps the water clean and clear. We like how it operates, super quiet, and efficient. Changing the filters is straightforward and doesn’t consume a lot of time. The filter looks sturdy and seems to hold pretty well. Also, it’s easy to use and maintenance is not difficult except accessing the impeller.

What are the flaws? You’re likely to replace the inflow and outflow pipes that come with the unit. What Finnex provides will give you a hard time when fitting them. Besides, the air keeps getting into the lines and that’s a big distraction. Note that accessing the impeller in the Finnex filter is hard – we think the manufacturer should provide clear instructions on how to reach it.

RELATED: 5 Best Nano Canister Filters – Keep Your Fish Tank Cleand and Healthy
  • Aquariums volume: not specified
  • Flow rate: 525 gph
  • Stages: 4
  • Dimensions: 11 x 11 x 18.5 inches

More features: built-in pump kit; comes with free media

The Polar Aurora 4-Stage External Canister Filter is one of the best external turtle tanks filters out there. It’s powerful, featuring four customizable media baskets and a UV bulb to take care of viruses and parasites. The 525 GPH flow rate makes it perfect for large tanks, it can run up to 200-gallons. Three filtration stages are available: chemical, mechanical, and biological.

Furthermore, the unit features a self-priming pump that eliminates the need for manual siphoning. Besides, maintenance is straightforward. A 9-Watt UV sterilizer ensures balanced growth of bacteria and algae spores. However, you should know when to use the sterilizer. The unit comes fully loaded and ready for use. Setting it up is a breeze, and using it is easy.

What makes it special? It’s a powerful filter with an excellent amount of flow. The value you get from it is great at a very affordable price. You can’t beat these prices. Also, no leaks at all, and the suction is incredible. Generally, it’s a great filter, and putting it together is quick.

What cons did we find? Opaque tubing encourages algae growth in the tubes thus needs frequent cleaning. Also, for reasons we don’t know, the suction seems to fluctuate from time to time. However, it’s amazing if you figure out how to deal with it.

Things to Consider

Finding the best turtle canister filter requires time and knowledge. Reading through reviews is not a sure way of finding what you want. You need a better guide to direct you, especially if you’re new to the aquarium hobby. We’ve put together a complete buying guide for you so that you not only make sound decisions but also save time scouring around.

Why do you need a canister filter for turtles?

Understanding why you need a canister filter and not any other filter for your turtles is crucial. So, if you’re just starting, you might want to read through the benefits below and, if possible, note them somewhere.

  • Effective filtration – canister filters offer high flow rates, thus cleansing the water multiple times every hour. Also, the availability of media baskets adding to filtration efficiency.
  • Canister filters are versatile – whether your aquarium is freshwater or saltwater tank, the filter is still suitable to do the job.
  • Eliminates ammonia – the biological filtration media in canister filters take care of ammonia, which is highly toxic to turtles.
  • You can use chemical filtration to maintain water quality.
  • Canister filters are straightforward to put together and use. Also, most of them are super easy to maintain.
  • The filters are quite – many people like canister filters because of the tranquility they offer.

Features to consider before you buy a canister filter for turtles

Crucial factors to remember when buying a canister filter include aquarium volume, flow rate, stages, dimensions, weight, and filtration methods. Read below to see why each feature is important and how they could affect your choices.

Aquarium volume

The first thing to consider is your aquarium volume. You’ll want to get a filter that won’t let you down, meaning its pumping power must be equal to your aquarium volume. Turtles require a large volume aquarium compared to smaller creatures such as fish.

The larger the aquarium, the stronger the filter should be so that it’s able to handle the volume of water you have. That means you must go large on the pumping power.

For instance, if you’re looking for the best canister filter for turtles 120 gallons, then your best fit is the Sunsun HW-304B. With a volume of up to 150 gallons, it will perfectly meet your needs. Fluval 207 Perfomance Canister Filter, on the other hand, could be the best canister filter for a 40-gallon turtle tank. The bottom line here is always to get a filter that’s convenient for your turtle tank.

Flow rate

The next essential element to consider is the flow rate of your desired filter. You must ensure that your filtration system can filter the entire water of your tank at least once every hour. However, getting a filter that can filter more than once every hour is the best deal. Flow rate is measured in gallons per hour (GPH), so, if you have a 50-gallon capacity tank, then the best filter should be able to filter at least 100 gallons or 150 gallons per hour.

The reason for getting a filter with a high flow rate is to ensure that your tank stays clean all the time. Here is a practical example from our list. The Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter has a flow rate of 200 GPH, that’s almost four times that of its maximum aquarium volume. If you get such a filter for a 50-gallon capacity tank, then your tank will remain clean throughout. It’s worth mentioning that the Polar Aurora 4-Stage External Canister Filter is a powerful filter, with a 525 GPH, thus an excellent choice for a large tank.


6 Best Canister Filters for Turtles - Keep Their Tank Clean

If you’re new to the aquarium game, understand that the number of stages plays a significant role in the canister filter. We highly recommend choosing a multi-stage filter. The reason for a multi-stage filter is simple – they’re always the best. Multiple stages hold media at the different levels hence provide better filtration. The most common number of stages in a canister filter is three. However, some such as the Sunsun HW-304B have up to five stages. Always try to use at least three stages for normal use. However, adding a fourth stage for activated charcoal and the fifth stage for crushed coral is perfect for short-term use. If you’d love to use a three-stage filter, then the Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter could be the best fit. Note that it’s always a good idea to have room for extra stages just in case you’ll need them.


Dimensions are often overlooked by many people then later complain about how the filter could not fit where they intended to place it. Do not confuse the filter’s size and tank’s volume. While there’s a recommended bare minimum size of a tank, what matters for a filter is its flow rate and not the size. However, be keen on its height, length, and width so that it fits perfectly where you want it to stay.

As a rule of thumb, canister filters usually stay somewhere invisible, either in a cabinet below the aquarium or behind it.
If you’re interested in a smaller filter due to your limited space, then the Finnex PX-360 Compact Canister Aquarium Filter could be a perfect choice. However, understand it has a low flow rate and can only work best for a 25-gallon aquarium. Check out the Polar Aurora 4-Stage External Canister Filter if you’re looking for something bigger.


Weight is not a common factor but needs consideration too. Mobility is the main reason you want to consider weight. However, you won’t be moving around with your aquarium tank together with the filter. That’s a very rare situation. You just want to be sure your filter won’t be of any problem any time you want to move it. Maybe the other reason you should consider the weight is based on where the filter will sit. So, for convenience purposes, get one with the right weight. We recommend inquiring from the manufacturer about weight if it’s something of concern to you.

Filtration methods

The last essential factor to consider is the filtration methods or systems. Three systems exist – mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration. It’s important to note that all three methods are crucial for a clean and healthy environment for your turtle. The mechanical filtration is important as it strains out solid particles such as poop, uneaten food, among other stuff—this where filter floss or fiberfill pillow stuffing comes handy. Biological filtration ensures the tank remains free of ammonia and nitrites. It encourages bacteria growth.

Biological filtration uses the same media as mechanical. However, using ceramic rings speeds the cycling and stabilizes bacteria colonies. A porous media with a large surface area is preferable than using more than one bio-filtration stage. The last system is chemical filtration. Note that the first two methods are what matters the most in a filter. Chemical filtration is not necessary once your tank is up and running with bacteria in it. However, you’ll need the chemical filtration if you notice odors in your tank. Aquarium charcoal is the best choice to use in your filter in such situations.


You’ve probably heard many people saying how cleaning a canister filter for turtles is a breeze. It’s true, but there are critical things to consider. The first thing to note is that the filters use electricity, and you must unplug it before working on it. Ensure your hands are dry before you touch that plug. Do not work on your filter anywhere close to food or the kitchen area. Use a special vacuum cleaner for the aquarium and not a regular vacuum cleaner. Always wear plastic gloves and avoid working on your filter if you have cuts or wounds. Do not forget to wash your hands with soap after cleaning the filter.

First things first – read your manual. The manual will help you to identify your parts and ensuring that everything you need is available. The next step is preparing your tank and ensuring that fill it to its maximum capacity. The third step is preparing your filter. Ensure you fill all the baskets with media. Install mechanical media as the first tray, followed by the biological media, then the chemical media. Now prepare your intake and output connectors following the provided instructions. The final step is to start your filter and observe what happens to your tank.

Our Verdict

You’re probably ready to shop for your first or a subsequent canister filter for turtles. Turtles are different from other aquarium creatures and therefore require quite special treatment. They produce more wastes, and that’s why canister filters are the best fit for them. If you’re looking to give your turtles the best environment so that they can thrive and enjoy their stay, do not consider other filters other than a canister. Canister filters are powerful and easy to install. If you’re looking for a powerful three-stage filter, then try our editor’s choice, the Penn Plax Aquarium Cascade Canister Filter. It has a perfect flow rate, large capacity media baskets, sturdy construction, and ergonomic design. Aqueon QuietFlow Canister Filter, on the other hand, is our premium pick. We love three things about it – it’s versatile, quick maintenance, and super quiet. Besides, it’s easy to put together and use. Polar Aurora 4-Stage External Canister Filter is our best value pick. You can’t beat its price and what it has to offer. Also, it has great suction power, and it’s excellent for large tanks. We hope you’re now ready to shop for the best canister filter for turtles.

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