If you are looking to own both turtles and fish, then naturally you are going to want to know if you can house them within the same tank. They appear to live side by side in the ocean, but do the same rules and principles apply to an enclosed space?
So, can turtles live with fish? Some species of turtles can live with fish in the same tank. Those better suited include: painted, red-eared, mud, musk, and pink-belly turtles, along with older turtles with lower protein requirements.
Turtles can certainly live with other turtles, but the topic of fish is a bit more complex.
It also will take quite a bit of planning and preparation.
First and foremost, you will need to own or purchase a sufficiently large tank, strategically set it up, and you will need to introduce your turtle and fish together slowly.
Let’s now explore this subject in more detail so you can understand how to approach it and what is going to be possible.
Tank Requirements Of Pet Turtles
Turtles have very specific tank needs, that must be suitable for them before you can ever consider adding fish.
You must be aware that many turtles grow to be quite large, often too large for most of the smaller aquariums you find on the market.
This is why you may see suggestions to move them to live in an open pond. Here, they can also absorb much-needed UV rays from the sun.
Failing this, you will need to provide a sufficiently large tank with enough space for them to maneuver and some form of UV lamp and lighting.
When you first bring your turtle home, you will likely keep it in a tray for the first eight months.
In the tray, water temperatures are easy to conduct and it’s easier for the turtle to find food. You must put calcium blocks in the tray, they help support healthy growth for the turtle.
You must monitor the PH levels of the water, as too much acidity can make your turtle sick.
With adult turtles, they need UV light 8-10 hours a day. Turtles are happiest in temperatures of 25 degrees, and they need dry areas to bask.
Can Turtles Live In An Aquarium With Fish?
It is possible for turtles to live in an aquarium with fish, but it needs careful planning and consideration.
Generally, it is riskier for the fish so you must make sure to keep your fish safe.
This is especially true if you have an aquarium of fish already and want to place your new turtle in with them.
Let’s look at the best 4 ways to increase your chances of success:
Select The Right Fish
The right fish must meet certain criteria.
Fish must have short fins, be active swimmers, and be intelligent with good instincts. They must be able to quickly evade a turtle and sufficiently sizes.
Strategically Scape The Aquarium
An empty tank with just turtles and fish will end in carnage. Even the right fish won’t last very long in such an open and empty tank.
You must provide hiding places for the fish, and break the turtle’s line of sight. The tank needs lots of decorations, plants, and driftwood. Large rocks and hideouts work particularly well.
If the turtle chases the fish, they have somewhere to hide. Make sure that there aren’t too many decorations in the tank, as there must be sufficient space in which to swim.
Get A Large Aquarium
The bigger the aquarium the better. It will mean less contact between the turtles and the fish.
Everyone will have more space, and it’s less likely that the fish will become turtle food.
A general recognized rule is that you should provide 10 gallons of water for every 1 inch of turtle shell, per turtle.
- LARGE ENVIRONMENT: Larger environments can house more fish or a greater variety of fish. Maintains water temperature. Essential for tropical fishkeeping
- KIT INCLUDES: one 55 gallon tank, EasyBalance Plus, TetraMin, AquaSafe, 6” fish net, 200W heater, WPF 60 Filter, Stick on digital thermometer, 24” Tetra hinged hood x 2, 2 plant multipacks and a boxwood plant, TetraCare brochure and instruction sheet
- LED LIGHTING: Included lighting adds the natural daylight effect to your aquarium, giving you illuminated viewing of the entire space
- ACTUAL TANK DIMENSIONS: 48.25" L x 12.80" W x 20.90" H
- WEIGHT: This aquarium tank weighs approximately 79 lb by itself. With water, total tank weight can reach 521 lb.
Introduction Of The Turtle/Fish
You must be very careful about how you introduce the turtle to the fish or vice versa.
First, you must make sure that your turtle isn’t hungry. Feed your turtle/ turtles lots of treats on the day of the introduction.
You should also acclimatize your fish to the tank water.
You can do this outside of the tank, by filling a bucket with the tank water, and allowing the fish to swim in it for a few minutes. You then need to decant the water with the fish bank into the tank.
You can also remove the turtle/ turtles and let the fish swim in there for a while.
After you have acclimatized your fish, you must monitor them very closely. If a turtle becomes too aggressive with the fish, take the turtle out, and try to reintroduce them again, after they cool off.
After a few days, your turtle/ turtles should lose interest in the fish.
Some species of turtle are better at coexisting with fish than others; it’s worth noting that you should never keep any type of snapping turtle in the same tank that you are also keeping fish in.
Some ideal species of turtle include:
- Painted Turtles
- Red Eared Sliders
- Mud Turtles
- Musk Turtles
- Pink Belly Sideneck Turtles
What Kind Of Fish Can Live With A Turtle?
As stated above, your fish must have the right criteria to survive.
Fish with short fins are less appealing to turtles as fish with long fins.
A fish doesn’t necessarily have to be fast, it does, however, have to be very active. This is because fish that like to relax too much are easy prey for turtles.
So active fish, that are constantly swimming, will offer less attacking opportunities to a bored and peckish turtle.
Your fish must be intelligent and have good survival instincts.
Let’s see what fish make ideal tank-mates for your turtle.
- Guppies – They are active swimmers, so, this makes it a challenge for any turtle to catch them.
- Neon Tetras – They are known to be lightning-quick swimmers, they also look great in any aquarium.
- Shubunkin And Comet Goldfish – They are considered to be the best species of goldfish to keep in a tank with a turtle because of their speed.
- Suckerfish – Because suckerfish are quite large, they can live safely among turtles of a smaller or similar size.
- Pictus Catfish – They thrive in larger tanks and are fast, active swimmers.
Do Turtles Eat Fish?
Turtles can and naturally do eat fish. Most turtles are insatiable eaters and are frequently on the lookout for food and fish is a common food source for them in the wild. This is why you need to be so careful when housing fish and turtles together.
Among their varied nutritional requirements, turtles do need animal-based protein, which is why you often see “feeder fish” at pet and bait stores.
Feeder Fish can be used but you need to be careful for a number of reasons.
Firstly, not all feeder fish sources are as healthy as others, and secondly, if you want to house your turtles and fish together, it’s not a good idea to be feeding it at all!
You do not want to be promoting this behavior.
Nonetheless, turtles who consume feeder fish do best with: guppies, minnows, bass, bluegills and crappies.
Some owners throw live fish in the tank for their turtle to eat and they will add more as needed.
Again, if you are looking to house your fish/turtles together, this would not be advised.
If you are keeping your turtles and fish apart, then feeding live fish to your turtle is a great way to promote natural feeding behaviors.
It encourages your pet to exercise for his food – supporting natural eating habits. If you do this, you should avoid certain fish such as mackerel, smelt, and other oily fish because their high-fat content can lead to vitamin E deficiencies.
You must also be careful not to give your turtle a predominantly fish-based diet, the reason being, that it may lead to a vitamin B1 deficiency, so, you must give them a varied diet.
Aside from eating live fish, depending on their size, turtles can also eat amphibians such as frogs and tadpoles. They also like snails, slugs, earthworms, mealworms, grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects.
It’s worth noting that you must not feed amphibians or fish caught in the wild, always buy them at a pet store or a bait store, this is to avoid unwanted parasites that may harm your much-loved pet turtle.
If you are looking to place your turtle and fish within the same tank, it can be done!
However, it will take some planning in advance. You will need to ensure that certain criteria are met. So in summary here they are:
- You need a sufficiently large aquarium tank
- The aquarium tank must have plenty of hiding spaces and areas to divert away from your turtle
- You should seek out a turtle species that is less inclined to eat fish, and opt for fish that are active, intelligent and frequently on the move.
- Stay away from housing turtles and tropical fish together, and any fish that can cause harm to your turtle.
Looking to learn more about turtles? My following guides may be of interest:
- Do Turtles Smell? [Expectations For New Pet Turtle Owners]
- Should I Let My Turtle Walk Around? [What About Outside?]
- How Long Can Turtles Go Without Eating? [Owners Guide]
- Do Turtles Get Attached To Their Owners? [Can You Bond?]
- Do Turtles Have Tongues? [Information You Need To Know ]
- Do Pet Turtles Bite? [What Owners Should Be Aware Of]
- Can Turtles Sleep Underwater? [I Couldn’t Believe This Either]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.