Can You Keep Turtles and Fish Together

Can You Keep Turtles and Fish Together in the Same Tank?

Can you keep turtles and fish together in the same tank? 

I am sure that at some point you’ve had that thought on your mind. I know, I had. At first sight, it seemed like a good idea. I mean, what could go wrong? Fish and turtles live together in the wild. Most of the time, they share the same habitat, too. 

However, it’s not that simple to balance those conditions in home aquariums. And, I’ll explain why. In this article, we’ll answer the question: Can fish and turtles live in the same tank? 

In addition, we’ll cover topics such as types of fish that can live with turtles, do turtles eat fish, and what other animals can be tank mates to your turtle. But, before we dive into the subject in more detail, let’s first answer the question in just one sentence. 

Can you keep fish and turtles together in the same tank? Turtles and fish can live in the same tank, however, some conditions must be met. In order to be successful you need to provide a bigger tank, choose wisely the type of fish, and last but not the least, introduce the fish at the right time. 

Otherwise, unless those conditions are not met, you are just looking for trouble.

Now, let’s cover this topic in more detail. 

Let’s get started! 

Do Turtles Eat Fish?

Turtles eat fish. In the wild, it’s their primary source of food. In captivity, turtles mostly eat commercially prepared food, however, some owners occasionally feed their turtles with feeder fish. 

How to put a fish in a turtle tank? 

Before you put fish in your turtle tank you need to set up the perfect conditions. What do I mean, when I say perfect conditions?

1. Make sure that your tank is big enough, preferably at least 100 gallons

Bigger tanks are easier to maintain, and as we know, aquatic turtles are very messy animals. A bigger tank will serve another purpose, too. The bigger the tank is, the more space the fish will have. More space means less aggression over territory. 

2. You must set up the tank in a way it provides a lot of hiding places

It’s necessary for the fish to hide, reproduce and feel secure, to some extent. Even with hiding places, you’ll witness certain casualties. After all, you’re keeping turtles with fish. 

3. Consider the amount of excess it’s produced in your tank, a high-quality filtration system is mandatory

Keeping fish combined with turtles will result in producing a lot of waste. Always keep that in mind. You don’t want to end up with lots of dead fish, or dead turtles. 

Now, that you know all the essentials, it’s time to introduce the fish. There are a lot of ways, but the best-case scenario is to introduce fish in a tank with a fully mature turtle. As they get older, turtles don’t need as much protein as they used to. Their diet is mainly based on vegetables. Every fish you’ll introduce in the tank will most likely survive because your turtle won’t be interested in it. However, if you keep young turtles, you need to be careful. 

Feed the turtle well before you introduce the fish at the tank. You’ll increase their chance to survive, to explore and find their place in the tank. 

What type of fish can live with turtles? 

Not all types of fish are compatible with turtles. 

To have a high survival rate in a turtle tank, a fish must possess certain characteristics. 

First, it must be fast. Only fish that are quick enough can survive in a tank with a turtle that likes to hunt, such as the red-eared slider turtle, a common and popular pet turtle. 

Second, it must be a smaller fish. It may seem illogical, but hear me out. Bigger fish are easier targets for turtles. Even if they can’t eat them, they will harm them at least, which eventually will lead to their death. Smaller fish are agile and quick enough to escape or to hide somewhere in the tank. 

Considering these characteristics, the best type of fish to start with will be some small school of tetras. They are fairly inexpensive, easy and available to find in most local fish stores. 

Other fish you can possibly put in your turtle tank are small types of African cichlids, such as yellow labs. However, I wouldn’t personally do it. 

African cichlids are mostly known for their aggressiveness, however, they are known for their speed, as well. I’ve personally kept African cichlids, and red-eared slider turtles on many occasions, but never in the same tank. I have never wanted to experiment with the lives of those fish. 

Another option is to put guppies in your tank, however, I would not consider it as a good practice. Guppies can be easily eaten by the turtle, but on the other hand, they reproduce so fast, that you might not even notice that some of them are missing. 


Can betta fish live with turtles? 

Keeping betta fish with turtles is a bad idea. Betta fish are delicate fish with very long fins. Even if your turtle is not hungry, or has never eaten a fish, it may still nip it. Keeping betta fish with a turtle is a disaster waiting to happen. 

Can turtles live with tropical fish? 

Turtles are not compatible with tropical fish. Even if you think your turtle is small and won’t cause any damage, it will eventually grow. Turtles can’t be trusted with tropical fish and you should avoid keeping them together. 

Can turtles live with goldfish? 

Turtles and goldfish are never a good mix up. Even if your turtle doesn’t eat the goldfish, it will certainly harm it. Goldfish are slow and clumsy fish, putting them in a tank with turtles will most likely end with the death of the fish. 

What fish can live with red-eared slider turtles? 

Fish and red-eared slider turtles should not live together. Fish are one of the favorite foods of red-eared sliders, so keeping them together would be a mistake. 

Can turtles live with cichlids? 

Turtles and cichlids can’t live together. Cichlids are fast and aggressive fish species, however, they are still no match for aquatic turtles. Keeping cichlids and turtles is a disaster waiting to happen. 

Can turtles live with koi fish? 

Turtles and koi fish can live together if they live in a pond that has enough space for both species. In addition, the koi fish must be large enough so the turtles can’t eat them. 

Can algae eaters live with turtles?

Algae eaters can’t live with turtles because there isn’t a guarantee they won’t eat them. However, some types of algae eaters, such as the common pleco, may live with turtles when they reach a certain size. 

Can turtles live with guppies?

Turtles can’t live with guppies because they’ll certainly try to eat them. Guppies are one of their favorite foods. 

Final Thoughts 

As you have seen, turtles and fish can live together in the same tank. However, in my opinion, that’s not a good idea. Why you may ask.

Because most turtles will never stop pursuing the fish in your aquarium. If you look at the big picture, there are only two scenarios in this situation. Either the turtle will catch and eat the fish, or the fish will get stressed out and die by itself. Either way, it’s not an ideal scenario. 

Yes, I know that they can cohabit in the same aquarium if the tank is big enough. But, the real question is? How many of us can afford that big tank? If you can afford that and provide hiding spots and enough space for both species, then yes, go for it. If not, stay on the safe side, and keep only fish, or turtles, whatever your preference is. 

We are wrapping this article out and I am curious about what you think about this. 

Can fish and turtles live together? What’s your personal opinion? Let’s discuss this with you in the comment section.

1 thought on “Can You Keep Turtles and Fish Together in the Same Tank?”

  1. I have a 30 gallon tank that’s basically a square. I think it’s deep enough for both. Had angels, neons & a betta. Have a castle & other ornaments for fish to hide & am considering a small painted turtle…unless they do better with a companion. Then I’d fear they’d tag team the fish LOL. I can satisfy my fish fix with a beautiful betta in a large glass vase & focus on the turtles. I just want them to be happy. Do they like company? If so, how many turtles 🐢 would be happy in such a tank? Sorry for all the questions. Last turtle I had was in a bowl with a plastic palm tree when I was 5.

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