DIY Aquatic Turtle Filter System – Yes, You Can Build It!

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people wishing to surrender their turtle to my rescue is the upkeep. They complain that the water gets dirty within days and they’re tired of cleaning it constantly. Then, when the exchange happens, I see the tiny little fish tank filter in the corner of the tank. Every time!

Commercially bought filtration systems are notoriously under powered for aquatic turtle species since they are rated for fish tanks. Turtles are often two to three times as dirty as fish. Therefore it’s recommended that you get a filter rated for at least twice the size of the tank you have. This can get expensive, especially if you have a 75 gallon or larger aquarium for your adult turtles.

When people hear that I run my rescue primarily out of my own apartment they cringe at the thought of the smell before they walk in and see upwards of a hundred turtles in crystal clear tanks and, would you believe, no smell!

I’ve decided to open the big book of turtle rescue secrets and show off my easy to build, wonderfully powerful, home made filter system I’ve been using for some time now.


First off here’s the shopping list:

(All of these prices are Canadian and are based on Ontario taxes)

Home Depot:

17L bucket $3.97

20L pail lid $2.97

Vinyl tubing, 1inch exterior diameter 3/4inch interior diameter  10 feet  $17.29

Vinyl tubing,1 1/4inch exterior diameter 1inch interior diameter $3.09/ft. You only need 1 foot.

Stainless steel hose clamp $0.81

Total before taxes $28.13

Total with taxes $31.78