Do Turtles Need A Filter

Do Turtles Need A Filter?- Why Do They Need Them?

Aquatic turtles spend a lot of time in the water. That means they eat and defecate in the water. So, for turtles to live healthily, they require clean water in their tanks. 

So, do turtles need a filter? Yes, they do. Turtles poop much more than other fish, so their water gets filthy faster. If you don’t want to keep changing your tank water, you should invest in a filter. Without a filter, the water becomes filthy and could harm your turtle’s health.

If you notice the water in the tank has an odor and is cloudy, you must change the water. Keep reading to learn more, including the importance of a tank filter.

Do Turtles Need A Filter?


Turtles need a filter in their aquariums. They are untidy animals that produce a great deal of excrement. Therefore, keeping good water quality will be difficult without a strong filter. 

A filter is important because it eliminates waste products such as ammonia. Ammonia and nitrites are not physically seen in the water. So you might think the water is clean because it is clear and has no build-up. 

Toxins such as ammonia can be hazardous if they accumulate to high levels and ruin the water quality.

Using a proper testing kit, you can measure the tank’s ammonia and nitrate levels. The testing kit has guidelines on how much of the toxins are hazardous to your pet turtle. If the levels are too high, you do a complete water change. 

Do Turtles Need A Filter

Also, dirty water will lead to the presence of toxic germs. You can utilize a fish tank filter if you can not access the filters made for turtle tanks.

Turtle tanks require much more powerful tanks. Get a filter with twice or thrice as much pump power for the water you have in the tank. Pump power is also termed as gallons per hour(gph)

For example, if you have a 50-gallons water tank, utilize a fish tank filter rated for 100-150 gallons of water. This will ensure the filter has enough power to pull in debris in the water.

Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s directions and guidelines. It is critical to ensure that your pet turtle does not become entangled in a filter intake due to its pump power, or it will drown. 

Also, ensure that the outflow rate is not too high, or your pet turtle will not be able to swim against the current. Your turtle filter should have the following characteristics;

Mechanical filtration

This filtration involves the water going through the filtration media. Any floating debris, such as uneaten food, is filtered from the water.

Mechanical filtration

Biological filtration

Here, the bacteria break down the ammonia and nitrites in the water. The larger the filter, the more bacteria there will be. Some of the good bacteria will break down ammonia into nitrites. Then the toxic nitrites will be broken down by other bacteria into nitrates. 

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Chemical filtration

Chemicals such as activated charcoal and resins absorb contaminants and toxins in the water.

Flow rate

A filter should have a reasonable flow rate, which aerates the water. Aerated water helps the bacteria to thrive, which enables the water to be free of ammonia and other toxins. Aeration also helps with water movement into the filter, preventing slime build-up.

What is a filter?

A water or aquarium filter is a device that cleans water in the turtle tank. It has filter media that traps dirt and helps in nurturing beneficial bacteria. The water passes through the filtration media, which cleans the water. The bacteria break down the turtle’s waste in the tank. 

Turtle Tank Filter

There are many types of filters, and each filter comes with its media. Some filters, like the canister filters, come with empty containers so that you can put the media of your choice. When placing the filter media, ensure you do not put a lot that will hinder water flow.

Also read: Can You Potty Train a Turtle?

Why Do Turtles Need A Filter?

Why Do Turtles Need A Filter

Here are some of the benefits of having a water filter:

  • A water filter saves you time and energy. You will not have to clean the cage weekly with a water filter. You can go up to a month without cleaning it.
  • Filters also eliminate toxic chemicals like ammonia which we cannot see with our naked eyes.
  • A filter keeps solid waste from clogging the tank, which could build slime. This way, filters preserve the water quality for a more extended period.
  • Filters also aerate and oxygenate the water, which helps the beneficial bacteria work better.

How Often Should You Clean A Turtle Filter?

To keep your filter in good working order, you should clean the filter every two or three months. When debris begins to accumulate in the tank, or the filter flow diminishes, you have to perform a complete water change and clean the water filter.

When cleaning the water filter, turn off the filter, extract the filter media and clean the filter. Studies show that you should try using water with no chlorine to wash your filter. 

Chlorinated water may kill the bacteria in the biological media. A simple way of dechlorinating water is using water additives that neutralize the chlorine. Ensure you replace the media if it is ineffective and change the tank’s water.

How Often Should You Clean A Turtle Filter

When should you perform a complete water change? You should completely change the water once you test it and find it has high levels of toxins, e.g., ammonia. 

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To prevent such high build-ups of toxins, ensure you perform a partial water change every week. A partial water change means removing 25%-50% of the tank’s water. 

Ensure you replace the filter medium every week. Do not use your mouth to siphon the water from the tank when hanging the water. Why? Because turtles are carriers of salmonella, which is hazardous to human beings.

Can Turtles Live Without A Filter?

Yes, they can if you are willing to try to clean your turtle tank every day or every two days. With a water filter, you should change the water once a week. However, you will have to change the water daily without a filter.

If you do not change the water daily, your pet turtle will risk living in a tank full of dirty water. This can lead to the turtle’s shell having algae and severe health issues.

Can Turtles Live Without A Filter

A red-eared slider can only survive in an unclean tank for less than a week. This is because turtles excrete a lot, contaminating the water faster. Toxins such as bacteria and slime build up, causing the turtle to become very ill.

Related Questions

Pet owners raise numerous questions on the matter of water filters. Below are the most frequently asked questions and their answers.

1. Do baby turtles need a filter?

Yes, baby turtles need a filter. Baby turtles poop less than adult turtles but still need a filter. You can use a small filter with a sponge as the filter media. As they become bigger, you can change the filter to a more powerful one.

2. Do snapping turtles need a filter?

Snapping turtles are enormous, so they eat a lot and poop more. So, having a water filter helps the turtle live in clean, pure water. Use a more robust filter that has mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration.


Having a filter is better than not having one. Clean water ensures the turtle is healthy and also has clean water to drink. Filters not only clean the water, but they also aerate it and provide the good bacteria with a place to thrive in.

If you prefer not to have a filter, ensure you clean the tank daily. I hope this article has helped you with all your questions regarding, “do turtles need a filter?”

Do Turtles Need A Filter

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