Maintaining multiple turtle tanks can be a bit challenging, especially when you are a busy personality. So, questions like, “Can two turtles share a tank?” may pop up in your head. A few years back, I decided to raise two red eared sliders in a single enclosure.
During that period, I discovered all the pros and cons of raising multiple turtles in one tank, practically. So, can you house two turtles in a single tank?
You can house two turtles in a single tank. To successfully raise two turtles in one enclosure, you should consider the turtle’s species, gender, age, health along with the tank’s size, and equipment arrangement.
In the following article, I will discuss how you can raise two turtles in a single tank without facing much hassle. Also, I will discuss the pros and cons of this arrangement, the alternative ways, and what species of turtles live together well.
Can You House Two Turtles In A Tank?
The experienced turtle keepers follow a motto. “The less is more.” It means you should not crowd your turtle tank with multiple creatures.
See, turtles are not social creatures like us humans. They prefer solitary and no companions to live a great healthy life. So, if you question,” Do turtles need friends?” the answer is no. A turtle in captivity can spend its entire life alone in the enclosure.
Though the turtles are not the best kind of friends, they are not violent to humans, other turtles, or animals for no reason. Hence, with proper adjustments, you can raise multiple turtles in one tank. Even some turtle species make good tankmates with fishes and other aquatic creatures.
Pros And Cons Of Housing Two Turtles In One Enclosure
Turtles seem to be innocent and calm animals. Right? Then what is the problem in housing more than one turtle in a single tank?
I have mentioned that turtles are harmless unless something stresses them out. Housing multiple turtles without following proper guidelines often evoke the turtles to act weird. On the other hand, if the two turtles get along, it will work in your favor.
Take a quick look at the table of pros and cons of housing two turtles in a single tank:
|Time Management Expenditure Saving||Fights Aggression For Mating Bully Risk of Illness Care Difficulty|
So, raising two turtles in a single enclosure has both pros and cons. Let’s study each side one by one.
1. Time Management
You know turtle tanks require regular cleaning and water replacing facilities. Handling two running tanks can be difficult and time-consuming. So, when you put two turtles into a single tank, you have less cleaning responsibility than before.
2. Expenditure Saving
Turtle tank setup might cost someone $300 to $750. The rate depends on the quality of the products. Organizing two different tanks for each pet turtle will double the expense. By choosing the right pair, you can easily cut some costs here.
If you put two turtles in a single enclosure, chances are there will be lots of fights. Their solitary nature is not alone responsible for the disputes. Turtles get onto each other because of territory, space, food, basking area, and stress.
When you house two turtles in one tank, both the turtles start competing with one another. In a fight of two healthy turtles, each party will give its best to win. So, the consequence seems pretty bad.
Both the turtles have the risk of getting injured. Shell cracks, scratches, and skin wounds can be severe.
2. Aggression For Mating
Some experts find it a great idea to put male and female turtles in one enclosure. To some extent, it is, but there are a few drawbacks.
It is true that turtles do not prefer friends. But during the breeding season, the case is quite the opposite. The male turtles often act desperate for mating in contact with the female ones.
This desperation often leads to a fight in the tank. Well, the aggression for mating is quite different from the usual. Do you know the turtles actually have a courtship ritual?
Before mating, the male turtle swims around the female one. The male nips the female turtle’s neck, feet, or tail to find out if she is interested. In case of a no, the female turtle withdraws her body into the shell or totally ignores the male one. Then the partner snarls at her and leaves the place.
The nipping or snarling can appear like a fight, but in most cases, it is not. However, while basking, the desperate male turtle may try to mate with the female by mounting her from the back. At that moment, the female turtle may become aggressive, fight off the male turtle, and make him leave.
Sometimes, the male turtle can get really aggressive for mating. At that moment, the male will act hostile towards the female turtle. Sexual aggression can be pretty violent in turtles.
You may or may not have seen a bully in your life. But you do not want your turtle to turn into one. Right?
The fact is, your innocent and peace loving little pet can be a real bully. Bullying happens when you house a weak and a strong, a big and a small, or an adult and a young male turtle in the same tank. The healthy, strong, adult male turtles try to dominate the weak, female, and young ones.
A turtle bully because of,
- Territorial dispute
- Sexual aggression
- Incompatibility, etc.
The dominating turtle does not want to share its food, space, or territory with the small, weak, or any other turtle. To scare off the opponent, the fit turtle uses bullying as a weapon.
The strong turtle usually bullies the weak one by following it everywhere and fanning the claw in front of it. The strong turtle may bite, nip, or kick as a part of aggressive bullying. If you do not respond to this controlling behavior, one of your turtles will be wounded.
For getting an insight into the turtle’s bullying behavior, check this article.
4. Risk of Illness
Turtles can be vulnerable to diseases. A slight lack of care is enough to make a turtle sick. For example, a drop or rise in temperature, dirty water, dock, or substrate, When you house two turtles in a single tank, the risk of sickness increases. Why?
It is because most diseases of a turtle are heavily contagious. The common illnesses of turtles are respiratory infection, bacterial/fungal infection, shell rot, white patches on the shell, skin allergy, mouth rot, eye infection, ear infection, parasites, etc.
All the diseases mentioned above are transmittable. So, when one turtle falls sick, most probably the other one will also suffer.
5. Care Difficulty
Professionals believe that turtles of two different species can become good tankmates. But it is hard to provide both the species the amount of care they need. You know each turtle species grows up in distinct environments, climates, and temperatures.
For example, the basking and water temperature requirement is different for each turtle kind. No species ever will be able to reside in a tank that is not geared to its demands. So, caring will be challenging when you put two different species in a single tank.
Consider the risks of injury, aggression, sickness, before taking any final decision.
How To Successfully House Two Turtles In A Single Tank
Examine the risks closely and discuss with the experienced turtle owners/vets. If you are ready to take your chances, this part of the article will be your key.
You know multiple turtles in one terrarium will be more likely to get involved in a mess. So, you have to eliminate all the possible reasons that would make the pets stressed and fight. Here is how you can house two turtle species successfully in one tank:
1. Choose The Species Wisely
Selecting the right species will increase your chance of success. The general rule says turtles usually do not like to live with their own species. So, it is best to mix the species while putting them together. The sexual aggression of the turtles will also be within tolerable limits. But for some turtle species, housing their own kinds in a single enclosure is the better option to avoid any fights.
For housing two turtles successfully in a single tank, choose two turtles that live in two different areas of the enclosure. For example, select one of the basking turtles and another one from the bottom walker family. However, turtles of the same types can also live together, e.g., painted turtles and red eared sliders.
Housing two different types of turtles that inhabit distinct areas will benefit you. For example, imagine you have put a basking turtle and a bottom walker in the same tank. The basking turtle will swim and spend the most time at the dock.
On the contrary, the bottom walker will swim, stay at the bottom of the tank, and occasionally come to the platform for basking. Ensure resting places for the bottom walkers as they do not swim much. So, there is less chance of fights over territory.
Again, putting two turtles of the same group offers other advantages. Like, the care sheet for both the turtles might be close. Also, the suitable tank and water temperature for the same types do not vary much.
Besides, you have to consider the temperament of the turtle species. Red eared sliders, painted turtles, softshell turtles, snapping turtles, etc., get angry more often. Housing two aggressive turtles in the same tank will turn the enclosure into a battlefield.
2. The Pair Should Be Compatible
The experienced turtle keepers suggest that male turtles are more aggressive than female ones. Hence, avoid housing two male turtles in the same tank at any cost.
The young turtles may live together without creating any trouble until they reach their sexual maturity. You can put two hatchlings or young turtles in the same enclosure. But separate them as soon as they grow into adults.
The pair of an adult and a young turtle is not so good either. You know adult turtles are stronger and bigger than young ones. So, they try dominating or bullying the weak turtles. In aggression, the young turtles may get severely injured.
Female turtles, on the other hand, can live together peacefully. They do not get involved in fights or bullying very often. Housing two female turtles or a young and a female turtle will be a good idea.
According to the experts, the most successful pair is of a male and a female turtle. As the female turtle acts passively in any fights, there is a lesser risk of injury or damage.
No matter which pair you choose to house together, observe their compatibility. As per my opinion, this is the key to house two turtles successfully. I have seen owners raising adult cooters, map turtles, and softshell turtles in the same tank peacefully. So, if your pair gets along, you have nothing to worry about.
You can try different pairings to find the perfect one. However, there is no guarantee two turtles will live in tranquility all the time. With the growing age, their behavior towards each other may change.
3. The Enclosure Should Be Big Enough
Turtles hate congested space. It stresses them out and forces them to act aggressively. When you house two turtles in one enclosure, you have to give top priority to the tank size. The rules suggest multiplying the carapace length of the turtle by 10 gallons. The output is the minimum tank size requirement for raising one adult turtle.
When you add another turtle, you need to multiply the second turtle’s carapace length by 5 gallons. Do the summation, and you will have the minimum required enclosure size for housing two turtles. If you can afford a bigger tank, that will be much better for both pets.
One more thing, if you are planning to raise two young or juvenile pets, do the calculations keeping their adult size in mind. The depth of the tank should be suitable for both species. Bottom walkers or the hatchlings do not do so well in deep water.
Large space lessens the chance of fight over territory or bullying. If you can not afford a big tank with the minimum requirement, you should postpone your plan.
4. Visual Barriers Are Mandatory
You know the turtles’ behavior is quite unpredictable. You may watch them play at one moment, and the other minute, the turtles are getting on each other’s nerves. And you do not want your lovely, adorable pets to fight and get injured.
Well, you can not control the aggression or mood of a turtle. But you can minimize the damage by building visual barriers in the tank. You have to plant trees, rocks, and other hiding places at the bottom of the tank. So, when the dominating turtle picks up a fight, the weak turtle can hide and protect itself.
5. Large Or Separate Basking Dock For Each Turtle
I have already mentioned that turtles do not prefer sharing their basking docks. The strong turtle in your tank will fight the weak one to scare it off the platform. If the other turtle gets scared, it will avoid basking at all. You know basking is important for the turtle’s body to function correctly.
You can solve the fights by building a large basking platform for both your turtles. Or you can provide separate basking areas in different spots of the tank. This way, there will be no fighting over the basking station.
For one large basking dock, you may require more than one heating lamp and UV light. You need to set up individual UV and heating bulbs for separate stations.
6. Water Quality Needs Extra Attention
Do you know tank hygiene affects the turtle’s mental health? Experts suggest that filthy water in the tank can stress out a turtle. It may lead the pet to act aggressively towards its tankmate. So, you have to ensure clean and hygienic water in the enclosure.
Turtles can make the tank water filthy with food scraps and poop. A tank filter is the best option to clean the water. For a big size enclosure, you will have to go for a more powerful water filter.
Water filters serve quality service by keeping the water clean. But you can not just depend on the device all the time. You have to replace 25% of the tank water every once a week. Do a whole tank clean up and change the water once or twice a month.
If the water is high in nitrate, chlorine, or pH, use licensed solutions. The pH, nitrate, or chlorine can irritate your turtles’ eyes.
7. Do Not Starve Your Turtles
The turtles most often fight over food. You know turtles have a wild instinct of survival. They can fight for meals if necessary. The fights over food get more aggressive if your turtles think the meal is not enough. Or sometimes, they will get in a dispute even after a full belly.
There are several ways of solving this issue. For example, use different spots or containers to feed the turtle. Or feed the pets daily by dividing the food quantity. Besides, ensuring an ideal diet is mandatory.
Do you need a diet schedule for turtles? Click here to get detailed care. For the ideal diet chart of different species, follow these articles, box turtle, softshell turtle, map turtle, red eared slider, painted turtle.
8. Proper Health Care
Raising two turtles of the same or different species increases the risk of sickness. If one of your turtles falls ill to any contagious disease, most probably the other one will suffer too. You need to be very conscious of the pets’ health.
Quarantine the turtles if any of them exhibit symptoms of the disease. Besides, continue the regular checkups under an experienced vet.
No one can guarantee the successful housing of two turtles in a single tank. With the tips above, you will be able to keep the chaos in the enclosure to the minimum. If you get the slightest hint of fight or bully in the tank, separate the turtles immediately. Also, discuss with your vet before putting two turtles in the same enclosure.
Which Turtle Species Live Together Well?
Turtles do not prefer living with their own species or kind. But with adequate space and proper arrangements, they may live peacefully. It means you can house more than one turtle of the same species in the same tank.
Apart from this scenario, here are some other ideas you can follow while housing more than one turtle in one enclosure:
- Basking turtles, such as red eared sliders, map turtles, painted turtles, cooters, etc., may get along. Both red eared sliders and painted turtles are aggressive. So, you can not totally ignore the probability of a fight.
- One mud turtle and one musk turtle may share the same tank if there is enough space. Both species are territorial and can be involved in brutal fights with each other.
- The basking turtles get along with the bottom walkers, such as mud and musk turtles. I have discussed the benefits of putting these kinds together. The pair of a red eared slider and a mud turtle, or a map turtle and a musk turtle can be successfully raised in the same tank.
- Softshell turtles become vulnerable in the presence of other species due to their soft shells. The hard shell turtles may give them a scratch, which will lead to shell rot and so on. This is why usually pairing a softshell turtle with its own species will be the best option. Try avoiding the young adult and two adult male turtles pairing. However, some turtle owners have successfully raised a softshell turtle with map turtles, cooters, musk turtles, red eared sliders, and painted turtles.
- The snapping turtles are bulky in size and aggressive in nature. They react aggressively for the tiniest thing possible. The experts suggest not to put two snapping turtles or snapping turtles with any other species in the same tank. The young ones may get along, but there is no chance for the adult snapping turtles to live together.
This was about the semi aquatic and aquatic turtles. What about the box turtles? Can you house two box turtles in the same habitat?
Like most other turtle species, box turtles do not enjoy companionship either. But yet, you can take the risk. Generally, the immature baby box turtles get along, and there are no fights. But as they grow young, they will start bullying each other.
You can not house two adult male box turtles in the same habitat. Similarly, young-adult or male-female pairings are not a good idea. However, two adult female box turtles might live together in the same enclosure peacefully.
How Do Turtles Live Together In The Wild?
Turtles enjoy solitary and do not need friends. Doesn’t it make you wonder how the turtles manage to live with other species in the wild? Well, it is all about the large and adequate space.
The lakes and ponds are big enough for all the creatures living in. So, there is no territory issue. Even you will find the wild turtles basking together on the log. Sometimes the turtles stack onto each other while basking due to congested space. They can dive back into the water in case of emergence.
So, in the wild, turtles have enough territory to ignore the other turtle. Also, they can get away if another turtle initiates bullying or fights. Still, turtle fighting is not impossible in the wild. The male and female turtles often act aggressively during the breeding season.
Do Turtles Kill Each Other?
Housing two turtles include the risk of aggressive turtle fights. Some beginners express their concerns about whether the dominant turtle might end up killing the weak one or not.
Turtles have undoubtedly strong and sharp jaws. Still, turtles do not kill each other. However, you can not ignore the damage a turtle fight can cause.
I have read and witnessed several cases of turtle fights. Shell cracking, shell deformation, and biting off the tail or leg are common scenarios. Turtle fights can be brutal. This is why I advise not to house more than one turtle in a tank.
You can house two turtles in the same tank with adequate space and other arrangements. Follow the tips mentioned above to avoid any unwanted circumstances. Try not to put multiple turtles in one tank if you can. Separate the turtles immediately if there is any fighting or risk of illness.
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