Can You Keep A Turtle Without A Filter?


Turtles often swim, but they also love to stay on land. Since filters are only used for the water, is it even required? In this post, let’s discuss how critical (or non-critical) a filter is to a Turtle tank setup.

Can Turtles Survive Without A Filter?

One determining factor to know whether you need a filter or not is the amount of waste that Turtles put in the water.

It is possible to keep a Turtle in a tank with no filter. However, you’d be burdened by constant water changes and cleaning since Turtles create a lot of waste.

Let’s start with the basics.

A filter is a device that cleans water in an aquarium. It helps to:

  • remove toxins like ammonia and nitrites that come from the buildup of Turtle waste and its uneaten food (biological filtration);
  • remove floating debris to make the water clear (mechanical filtration);
  • remove dissolved chemicals to make the water pure (chemical filtration);
  • aerate the water.

Filters use different kinds of media to get rid of these. There are sponges, filter floss, ceramic rings or balls, activated charcoal, plus more.

Among all the functions we mentioned, biological filtration is considered the most important to create a healthy environment for your pets.

Additionally, aeration is another important contribution from a filter. No Turtle can breathe underwater, but aeration is still important to create some water movement. This helps drive detritus, protein build-up, and slime into the filter so it can be, well, filtered.

And there are lots to be cleaned. If you think fish create much waste, then a Turtle makes several times more than that. This is because Turtles eat and poop in the water. And they’re such messy eaters!

Do I Need A Filter For My Turtle Tank?

Now that we know what a filter can do, we can conclude that having one makes life so much easier for a Turtle keeper. You can argue, though, that a filter only keeps the water clean.

Yes, turtles need filter to live a healthy life with clean environment . A tank with filter requires 3 times less water changes than the one without filter.

Along with food, a basking platform, sunlight, and the right water and dry air temperature, clean water is one of the most basic requirements of a Turtle when kept as a pet.

Can You Keep A Turtle Without A Filter?
Can You Keep A Turtle Without A Filter?

Just imagine, you would need to do 30% water changes every week even with a filter. Without one, you would have to triple that number or more depending on how many Sliders you have in the water. Otherwise, you’d have a foul-smelling tank with green water and a sick Turtle.

In short, a Turtle tank without a filter is a ton of extra maintenance work. This makes a filter very important in your setup.

How Long Can Turtles Go Without Filter?

We have determined that Turtles do need a filter. But it is possible to have a setup without one.

Without proper maintenance, care, and frequent water changes, your single Slider may only live healthily in a 55-gallon tank for a week or so before it manifests symptoms of sickness. That’s because it only takes that long before the water becomes too polluted for it to breathe properly.

Without a filter, the Turtle’s environment becomes dirty. You’d find yourself battling toxins, algae, muck, and bacteria in the water and eventually onto the dry platform. Too much of these can put your Turtle at risk for:

  • respiratory problems including excess mucus and wheezing;
  • skin infections like fungi and wounds;
  • shell rotting.

In short, having a filter makes your life easier and your Turtle healthier. Win-win, right?

Can I Use A Fish Tank Filter For A Turtle?

There are filters specifically made for Turtles and then there are those designed for fish.

A fish tank filter is a good fit for a Turtle aquarium as long as it has the right amount of power. Use a filter that’s rated at least 3 times the capacity of your tank to handle your Turtle’s waste properly.

For example, the usual size for a beginner Turtle tank is a 55-gallon minimum. It gives you enough space for it to swim plus set up a basking dock where the Turtle can stay above water when it wants to. This would require you to have a filter with a 150-gallon capacity or more.

For smaller tanks, some good hang-on back filters in the market are the Tetra Whisper and the Seachem Tidal 110. You can also look at external canister filters like the Fluval 107 or the Penn Plan Cascade 600.

How Often Should I Clean My Turtle Tank Without A Filter?

If you’re willing to take the risk, then be prepared for the work because you can’t compromise on water quality.

Without a filter, you will have to make daily water changes of 25% or more in your Turtle tank.

This is because you’ll have to remove the daily Turtle poo, pee, and rotting food that contaminates that stagnant water. If you start seeing a lot of algae or fungi on your Turtle’s shell, it’s an indication that you need to up your cleaning routine.

Which Filter Is Best For Turtle Tank?

You can use the fish tank filter you already have, but the best ones in the market are the ones made for your purpose.

The best filter we can recommend for a Turtle tank would be a canister filter specifically designed for a Turtle tank. They have extra-powered motors and more room for filter media for your messy Sliders. Plus, it’s more durable.

Is It Possible to Keep A Turtle Without A Filter?
Is It Possible to Keep A Turtle Without A Filter?

More filter media equates to less frequent cleaning for you. And a durable filter is a good investment as your Slider should provide you with 20 to 40 years of companionship.

If you have a smaller tank and a low water level, you can look at submersible Turtle filters like the JackSuper.

Turtles love being in groups. And since they grow to about a foot in diameter each, you may need a 125-gallon long if you have numerous Sliders to take care of. You have to give them around 5 times the space of their maximum size so they can live comfortably. Your filter size should be proportional to the size of your tank.

For this larger setup, consider using any canister filter from the Fluval FX Series or you can try the German-made Eheim 2262. We recommend canister filters because they have the right power to fit a Turtle’s needs. Of course, your budget and the filter’s fit to your tank have the most say in what you choose.

If you are interested in learning more about your fish behavior, check out the links below:

Those Are Our Unfiltered Recommendations

Using a filter is essential for a Turtle tank. We gave you a general guide on some filters based on experience and friends’ reviews, but how you make the setup work is ultimately up to you.

The bigger capacity of the filter, the better it is for your Turtle. If you’re looking at the long term, you’ll save more money on a durable and reliable canister filter that will stay powerful for years.

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