Can Turtles Live With Fish? Everything You Need To Know!

Can turtles live with fish? Yes, some fish can live with your pet turtle. Provide the right environment and arm yourself with all the right information and you can successfully keep fish and turtles together in the same tank.
Can Turtle Live With Fish
Can Turtles Live With Fish?

With that in mind I’ve put together this can you put turtles and fish in the same tank guide to give you the best chance of your pet turtle having some fishy tank mates.

Things To Consider

Now you know that you can keep fish and turtles in the same tank, there are a few things to consider when setting up your turtle tank.

Tank Size

It goes without saying, the bigger the tank the better.

Turtles need a lot of swimming space and if you’re adding fish to the tank, they’ll need to have their own space too.

The general rule of thumb is 10 gallons of water per 1″ of turtle carapace length per turtle when it’s fully grown.

How To Measure Turtle Carapace Length
How To Measure Turtle Carapace Length

The red-eared slider is the most popular choice for a pet turtle so check out my best tank for red eared slider post for some great turtle tank options.

Aquascaping

You need to provide places for your fish to hide from the turtle. The less time your turtle can spend looking at your fish, the less likely your fish will become your turtle’s next meal.

Aquarium Hideout Caves are ideal items to add to your turtle tank and provide your fish with a safe place to hang out.

You can also use plants to break up your turtle’s line of sight. I wouldn’t rely on plants alone for hiding places as turtles may eat the plants, so provide your fish with plenty of places to chill out.

Plants will boost your tank’s filtration by removing toxins from the water. 

I have listed some great options in my best plants for turtle tank post.

Filtration

Turtles are messy pets which makes a heavy-duty water filter a must-have item, if you don’t have a high-quality filter any fish you add will not survive very long.

Fish are much more sensitive to water toxins than turtles so it’s essential you keep your turtle tank nitrogen cycle in check and the water very clean.

When it comes to turtle tank filtration. I always recommend choosing a canister filter as they clean the water much better than a HOB filter or submersible filter.

Water Heater

Turtles, like the fish I’m going to recommend as tank mates, need their tank water to be warm, so you will need a water heater unless you live somewhere that’s warm year round.

Most tropical fish like water between 75°-80° F, whereas a turtle likes water between 75°-86° F. Setting your water at 75°-80° keeps both the fish and turtle happy.

Check out my best turtle tank heater post for a list of the most reliable turtle-safe heaters.

Water Parameters

You should keep your water parameters consistent and aim for:

  • pH Level 7.4-7.5
  • Ammonia 0ppm
  • Nitrite 0ppm
  • Nitrate below 40ppm

I’ve always found the API Freshwater Master Test Kit to be ultra-reliable for testing my water parameters.

Will My Turtle Eat My Fish?

That all depends on what species of turtle you have, and the turtle as an individual.

Some turtles are naturally very good hunters and will actively hunt and eat your fish. Other turtles aren’t so good at hunting and will leave your fish alone.

The only way you’ll find out for sure is to add the fish and see what happens.

Top Tip: Ask the breeder you buy your turtle from what they’ve been feeding it on. If the turtle is used to being fed live fish then you’re going to have problems keeping fish with your turtle.

Choose The Right Turtle Species

To have any chance of successfully keeping a fish and turtle aquarium, you need to pick a species of turtle that won’t actively hunt your fish, or wait until your turtle is fully grown, when they eat a more herbivorous diet.

I’ll go over some of the most popular choices of pet turtles and their compatibility with fish.

1. African Sideneck Turtle

African Sideneck Turtle
African Sideneck Turtle

The super cute and always smiling African sideneck turtle is a popular choice amongst turtle enthusiasts.

Growing to approx 7-12 inches you’ll need a minimum tank size of 75 gallons+.

Like the vast majority of aquatic pet turtles, they require a more carnivorous diet when they are juvenile to young adults, and then eat a more herbivorous diet once they’ve reached full size.

I don’t recommend adding fish with an African sideneck until it’s fully grown.

2. Mud And Musk Turtles

Mud Turtle (left) Musk Turtle (right)
Mud Turtle (left) Musk Turtle (right)

Mud and Musk turtles are the best option if you’re wanting to house a turtle and fish in the same tank.

They grow to around 4-6 inches, so they need a minimum tank size of around 40 gallons.

Mud and Musk turtles aren’t interested in hunting fish, nor are they any good at it! In the wild, they rely on keeping still and ambushing a fish if it gets too close.

3. Red Eared Slider

Red Eared Slider
Red Eared Slider

Next up is the red eared slider, which is one of the most popular pet turtles. 

RES’s grow to approximately 8-12 inches, so you need to provide a large tank of 75 gallons+.

Has your RES grown to its full size yet? If you just answered “no” then don’t add fish to your tank yet. 

Only put fish in with a fully grown RES or you’ll more than likely have a massacre on your hands as they are great hunters.

Juvenile to early adult red eared sliders require a lot of protein in their diet to help them grow so they eat a more carnivorous diet.

Once they reach full size and they don’t need as much protein they eat a more herbivorous diet.

4. Western Painted Turtle

Western Painted Turtle
Western Painted Turtle

Another popular choice of pet turtle is the western painted turtle.

Western painted turtles grow to around 6-10 inches, so a tank size of 60 gallons+ is needed.

Like the red-eared slider, wait until the turtle is an adult before you add any fish to the tank as they don’t need to eat as much protein once they’re fully grown.

5. Yellow Bellied Slider

Yellow Bellied Slider
Yellow Bellied Slider

The yellow-bellied slider grows to approx 6-10 inches, so needs a tank size of 60 gallons+.

Being a slider turtle there’s more chance it will hunt fish as a juvenile to early adult due to the extra protein required in its diet.

Once they are an adult, they require a more herbivorous diet so are less likely to make a tasty snack out of any fish in their tank.

Choose The Right Type Of Fish

You need to take into consideration a few things when choosing the best fish for a turtle tank and there are some must-have characteristics to look for when choosing a fish that is suitable to live with turtles.

Short Finned Fish

Short-finned fish are faster swimming so they can get away from the turtle if it comes near them. 

Shorter fins are far less attractive for turtles.

Long-finned fish such as bettas swim too slow and attract the turtle’s attention way too much.

Highly Active Fish

Fish that swim around a lot are much less likely to be eaten by a turtle as they never give the turtle chance to lock their focus on them for any length of time.

Fish that don’t move too much are going to give your turtle something to focus on and make a meal out of.

Aggressive And/Or Smart Fish

More aggressive fish like convict cichlids work great because they’ll stand up to the turtle if it gets too close.

Just be wary of having male and female convicts in the same tank as their aggression increases a lot when they’re breeding and they could injure your turtle.

A fish needs to be smart enough to know not to confront the turtle, and know to move if the turtle is approaching.

Some fish’s automatic defense strategy is to stay still and hope the predator doesn’t see them. If you choose a fish that does this, it’s going to end up as a tasty snack for your turtle pretty quickly!

What Kind Of Fish Can Live With A Turtle?

Convict Cichlid (top left) Honey Gourami (top right) Neon Tetra (center left) Rainbow Shark (right center) Tiger Barb (bottom left) Zebra Danio (bottom right)
Convict Cichlid (top left) Honey Gourami (top right) Neon Tetra (center left) Rainbow Shark (right center) Tiger Barb (bottom left) Zebra Danio (bottom right)

There are a few fish that meet the criteria for being a potential good turtle tank mate.

✅ Some of the best options are:

  • Convict cichlid
  • Honey gourami
  • Rainbow shark
  • Tetras
  • Tiger barb
  • Zebra danios

Top Tip: If this is your first time adding fish in with your turtle, choose lower-priced fish that you won’t be too bothered about being eaten by your turtle.
Don’t waste money on expensive fish until you know your turtle will be good at sharing its home with them.

Fish To Avoid Adding To A Turtle Tank

Slow Swimming or Long Finned Fish

Slow swimming and/or long-finned fish are much more likely to be eaten by a turtle.

Guppies are often used as feeder fish and turtles seem to have a real taste for them!

❌ Avoid:

Fish That Will Prey On Or Injure Turtles

There are some fish that will prey on your turtle, injure or even kill it.

❌ Avoid:

  • Electric eel
  • Large Catfish
  • Piranha

Introducing Fish To A Turtle Tank

When it’s time to introduce your fish to the tank, following these steps will give you the best chance of your turtle and fish living together successfully.

1. Make sure you have provided some hiding places for your fish, so they can escape your turtle.

2. Adult slider turtles are far less likely to eat your fish than juveniles due to having a more herbivorous diet. If your slider hasn’t reached its full size, wait until it has before adding fish.

3. Feed your turtle before you add the fish. If your turtle’s hungry and you add a few fish into the tank, be prepared for your turtle to think it’s dinner time.

4. Watch your turtle’s reaction when the fish are added. If it swims up and starts nipping away at them you’ll more than likely need to remove the fish.

Can Turtles Live With Fish FAQ

Here are a few frequently asked questions.

Can Turtles Live With Goldfish?

No, turtles and goldfish shouldn’t be tank mates.

Goldfish are cold water fish, so the tank would be too warm for them to thrive. Some varieties have long-flowing fins and are slow swimming.

What Cleaner Fish Can Live With Turtles?

Plecos are the best choice of algae eater for a turtle tank, but you need to choose a pleco that’s around the same size as your turtle to stop it from being a tasty snack.

What Fish Can Live With Red-Eared Slider Turtles?

Tetra’s, danios, and tiger barbs are all good choices of tank mates for a mature red-eared slider. If your RES isn’t fully grown yet I don’t recommend keeping fish with it.

Can Betta Fish Live With Turtles?

No, bettas are long-finned and slow swimming fish. The long flowing fins will attract your turtle’s attention way too much and the slow swimming betta will become an easy meal.

Final Thoughts On Can Turtles Live With Fish…?

Now you know turtles can live with fish, but as you’ve seen there are a lot of things to take into account and there are no guarantees any fish you add will survive, so it’s up to you if you want to risk it.

Check out my turtle’s section for in-depth product reviews and tips on keeping your pet turtles happy and healthy.