Do Turtles Need Filters?

do turtles need filters

Turtles spend most of their time underwater, so it is essential to give them clean water. Turtles in natural habitats have a rich aquatic diversity which helps keep the water clean all the time. However, we have to take steps to make water clean for your turtle’s well-being in home aquariums.

Being a turtle owner, you might wonder if your turtle really requires a filter in its tank or it is just a common misconception among people. Clean water is equally important for aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles. The enclosure where turtles live should be clean and hygienic, so they do not grow any fungal infection.

This article will discuss why turtles need a filter in their tank and the consequences of not using one. Let’s dive deeper and know more about it in detail.

Related Article: How Long Can Turtles Live Without Food?

Do turtles like dirty water?

Turtles do not care if the water is clean or dirty. But dirty water could make your pet turtle sick. Turtles in the wild live in larger ponds along with other aquatic animals. This aquatic diversity makes water clean for turtles. Turtles living in dirty water are more likely to get a fungal infection or other shell diseases. 

Turtles of different species have different requirements. Some species of turtles are used to living in dirty water in the wild. Similarly, pet species like red-eared turtles are sensitive to water quality and could get severely infected if kept in dirty water for long. 

For turtle owners, it is important to provide them with a proper tank enclosure with clean water, a basking area, and proper arrangements for UV light.

Do turtles need filters?

Yes, pet turtles require a powerful water filter in their tank. Turtles are messy creatures, and they create a lot of waste in the water. If this waste is left unfiltered, it leads to producing ammonia and bacterias, which could harm your turtle’s health.

Many turtle owners come up with a plan of changing tank water regularly, but it is not going to be the easiest solution for cleaning up the water. Water filters are specially designed to remove waste from the water. It also helps remove bacteria and food particles from the tank.

Pet turtle species like red-eared sliders are known for creating bulky wastes. Selecting a sound filtration system eases your life by making water clean every day. However, filters are not a replacement for changing water. You should be changing tank water every once in a while.

Do outdoor turtles need a filter?

Turtles are pooping machines. They eat a lot and poop a lot. Turtles kept in aquariums or a large pond requires a sound filtration system to clean out the water. However, maintaining turtles in ponds is much easier. The bigger the pond, the less it requires maintenance.

Keeping turtles outdoors in a pond does require cleaning up the water and changing the water once in a while. A sound filtration system is very much needed for cleaning water regularly. You also need to clean your filter every week not to get choked. 

Turtles create a lot of waste which generates ammonia and nitrates. Like fish, turtles are also susceptible to these chemicals. To clean out the water, filters should be turned on every once in a few hours.

Can turtles live without a filter?

Turtles can live without a water filter. However, it is something you don’t want to do with your pet turtle. Thinking about why? Let me explain. 

Turtles in the wild are habitual in living in dirty water. But here is a catch. In a natural enclosure, turtles would not probably be the only creature living in the water. Several other aquatic animals and microorganisms would live in the same water body. This ecosystem works as a natural filter for removing harmful bacteria and chemicals from the water. 

But when we talk about pet turtles living in a tank, it lacks biodiversity. In this enclosure, the waste excreted by turtles resides in the tank. This waste releases ammonia and nitrate, which are extremely harmful to aquatic animals, including turtles. 

It is crucial to make water ammonia and nitrate-free; otherwise, it will impact your turtle’s overall health. One way to make water clean is to change it daily. But this is not very practical and takes a lot of time and effort. The simplest way is to use a water filter, which filters out waste and does chemical filtration. 

Do baby turtles need a filter? 

Baby turtles are susceptible to dirty water. Fortunately, they don’t create as much waste as adult turtles. Although a filter is recommended for baby turtles, manual filtration would be sufficient to make water clean if you don’t have a filter. 

Making the tank a little bigger would also effectively solve the filter problem. Larger tanks would help reduce ammonia spikes from the waste as it gets diluted in larger volumes. 

You should change the tank water at least once a week in either case. This will ensure proper hygiene and balance out the water’s pH level.   

Do red-eared turtles need a filter?

Red-eared sliders are small species of turtles. For baby red-eared turtles, a basic mechanical filter would be enough. However, I would suggest investing in a canister filter that does mechanical filtration and chemical and biological filtration. 

Red-eared sliders overgrow in a short period, and as they grow, they get messier. If your tank has one red-eared slider, any manual filter will do the job. But you ultimately have to install a powerful filter as they grow bigger or if you wish to keep more than two red-eared sliders in the same tank.

What kind of filter do turtles need?

Choosing the right filter for your turtle tank is very important. Filter plays a critical role in cleaning up the water, and so you should be careful while selecting the filter for the turtle tank.

There are two types of filters: internal filter and external canister filter. These filters could be classified into mechanical filtration, biological, and chemical filtration types.  

All good quality filters come with a combination of at least two or more filter types. 

Mechanical filters simply filter out the waste from the tank. It does not do anything beyond that. On the other hand, chemical filters add chemicals in the tank which break ammonia and nitrates into less harmful chemicals. 

Biological filters are another prevalent filter type. This adds bacteria and other living organisms to the tank. These bacterias eat up the waste and make water clean and ammonia-free. 

Depending on the tank size, turtle species, and the number of turtles in the tank, you can choose the right type of filter for your tank. While mechanical filters are great for a smaller tank, they should not be used for a larger tank with more than two turtles.  

Can I turn off my turtle filter at night?

Filters are essential for cleaning turtle tanks. It is recommended to keep the filter on, even during the night. Continuous filtration makes water clean and hygienic for turtles, so turning it off is not advisable. 


Turtles need a powerful filtration system in their tank. Baby turtles produce less waste, so they don’t need a powerful filter. In most cases, manual filtration is sufficient for them. Depending on the tank size, you must install a good quality filter if you have larger turtles. Filters remove waste from the water and do biological and chemical filtration.