Best Filter For Red Eared Slider Tank: Top Picks

Red eared sliders are the most popular type of aquatic turtles to be sold as pets. It’s easy to see why- they’re cute, friendly, and with proper care can live a pretty long life. The main problem with these guys is that, like all turtles, they poop a lot. Like, a LOT. Waste management is probably the biggest challenge of turtle ownership, since they require large tanks and cleaning them out regularly can be exhausting. You can help alleviate this by establishing a nitrogen cycle in your tank to help break down waste, but realistically you’re going to need a supercharged filter. When looking for the best filter for your red eared slider tank, you need to take a few factors into consideration.

Cleaning Capacity

Pay careful attention to how many gallons the filter is rated to clean. Because of the ridiculous amount of waste turtles produce compared to other aquatic animals, filters are usually not able to meet the gallon rating on the box. For example, a filter rated for a 100 gallon fish tank is only going to be good for a 50 gallon tank with turtles. As a rule, you want to get a filter rated for double the capacity of your tank. If you don’t, I’m afraid you’re going to be in for a lot of cleaning to avoid a very smelly tank.

Since the generally accepted minimum size for a turtle tank is 55 gallons, you’ll at the least need a filter rated for 100-110 gallons.

Multi Stage Filtering

Multi stage filters are exactly what they sounds like, filters with multiple components for different types of cleaning. For your red eared slider’s tank filter you’re going to want a filter that provides both biological and mechanical filtering. Chemical filtering is an extra option in some filters, but is more of a want than a need.

  • Biological Filtering – This is the spongy part or “media” of your filter. When your tank has an established nitrogen cycle, good bacteria build up in this part of the filter and convert harmful ammonia into less harmful nitrate (learn more about these chemicals at Water Chemistry). This is essential for keeping harmful chemical levels down to the point where they can be managed with just 25% weekly water changes.
  • Mechanical Filtering – While biological filters handle your water chemistry, mechanical filters handle your water aesthetics. Solid waste, gunk, leftover or decaying food, etc. get sucked in and filtered out so your water looks nice and clean.
  • Chemical Filtering – The first two types of filtering are required, but chemical filtering is more of a luxury. These essentially exist to make water look extra clear by using chemical filters to break down extra organic material. They also suck ammonia out of the water, but this has the potential to mess with your nitrogen cycle so use with caution.

Filter Type

There are a lot of types of filter out there: internal filter, hang on the tank filters, undergravel filters, the list goes on. Ignore all these, as a turtle owner what you are looking for is a canister filter. Each of the other filters provides some function, but they are more suited to fish or other animals and cannot keep up with a red eared slider’s waste output.

Best Filter For Red Eared Slider Tank - How a canister filter works

Canister filters are external units that go next to your tank, with intake and output tubes that connect to your tank. They provide the biological and mechanical filtration that you need, and some have room for other media options so you can customize them. They are much more powerful than other filter options, and having one of these working in your tank should reduce cleaning duties considerably. Plus, you get to give your turtle the best and healthiest environment possible. Everybody wins!

Canister Filter Options

Hydor Professional External Canister Filter
  • Comes in multiple sizes for tanks of all capacities
  • Meets biological and mechanical filtration requirements, with option for chemical filtration
  • Sleek and attractive design compared to other canister filters
  • Quiet motor

This canister filter was our definite favorite. They have an easy-to-follow video showing you how to set up the filter in your tank, and excellent reviews on customer service. The design is sleek and modern, it almost looks like a computer modem. It’s high-powered and packs enough punch to get your turtle tank super clean and keep it that way.

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Fluval External Filter
  • Comes in multiple sizes for tanks of all capacities
  • Meets biological and mechanical filtration requirements, with option for chemical filtration
  • Quiet motor
  • 3 year warranty and excellent customer service

This canister was a close second. It doesn’t look as pretty and it’s slightly more expensive, but it’s got an amazing 3 year warranty and a great customer service record. Like the Hydor model, it’s high-powered and has dampening on the motor to keep it quiet in operation. As a turtle owner, this meets all your needs for a squeaky clean tank!

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