Can You Put Turtles & Fish In The Same Tank?

It is actually possible to keep pet turtles with fish in the same tank if only a few conditions are met. Normally turtles are not compatible with fishes as they’ll constantly try to hunt the fishes. So, if you want to keep both turtles and fish in the same tank, it is important to choose the size and type of fish that are safe from turtles.

In this article, I’ll try to show you how can you put turtles and fish in the same tank. Let’s get started.

Things to consider

Certain sizes and types of fishes are never safe in the same tank with a turtle. for example, guppies and goldfishes are never compatible with turtles. it is because these fishes are small in size and they produce a lot of waste. Putting such fishes along with a turtle will increase the load on your filter many times. It can also create a total disaster.

This thing also works in the other way around. Oscars are not compatible with turtles because your turtle can get hurt from the bites of Oscars. For housing in the same tank, you need to choose fishes that are not very small, peaceful in nature and not highly territorial.

Another important thing to consider when keeping turtles and fishes together is the space. Turtles can grow very large when they are adult. A typical water turtle like red-eared slider can reach 10 to 12 inches long size. So, you need to keep in mind that if the tank is too small, it will create territorial problems among the turtle and fishes. So, if you are planning to keep turtles and fishes together, try to go for at least an 80-gallon tank.

The next thing you need to ensure that if the filtration system can cope up with the extra wasting from the fishes. I love to use canister filters in my turtles’ tank. If you want to keep both turtles and fishes together, I’ll suggest getting something a bit more powerful like Aquatop CF500UV. It is a great canister filter that can actually cope up with the load of a turtle tank.

Without proper filtration, the tank water will start to get smelly and murky in no time. Also, it will get fairly toxic in no time. That’s why you should always invest in a good filtration system. Also, it is better to keep the tank water aerated all time. A cheap air stone with an air pump works best for this purpose.

The last thing to keep in mind is, turtles need some extra requirements in their tank such as a basking area, UVB light, heat light etc. you must provide these for the healthy growth of your turtle. Many owners often forget to provide these when they are keeping turtles and fishes together. Always remember, if you don’t meet the basic requirements of a turtle, you can soon find your turtle to be dead. 

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How to put a fish in a turtle tank?

Before putting fish in the turtle tank, you need to take some precautions. First, the turtle needs to be well fed all the time so it doesn’t feel the necessity of going after the fish. Turtles are omnivorous which means their diet should consist of both meat and vegetables.

If you plan to put fish in your turtle tank, never give your turtles feeder fishes. If a turtle is used to eat feeder fishes, then it will try to go after your priced fishes too. Here are the steps to put a fish in a turtle tank:

  • First, you need to choose the fish species. Not all fishes are compatible with turtles. fishes that are slow and have fancy tails such as guppies, goldfishes etc. are not safe from turtles. You need to choose a fish that is energetic and won’t fit inside the mouth of the turtle.
  • The quicker and speedier the fish is, the better. I like sucker fishes like Plecos for putting in my turtle tank. Plecos live on algae and they can grow up to 12 inches long, almost as same as the turtle. so, they are safe from turtles.
  • When choosing a fish, keep in mind that it is better if the fish is as same size if not larger than the turtle. the larger the fish, the better. Some large compatible fishes with turtles are giant gourami and cichlids.
  • If you are facing a hard time finding a suitable fish for your turtle tank, you can check other options. For example, if you want a fish that eats algae, a good alternative will be apple snails. Also, if the tank has enough hiding places, you can put ghost shrimps there. Ghost shrimps typically have a good survival rate in a turtle tank.
  • Before you introduce new fish in the turtle tank, keep in mind that to keep both the turtle and fish peacefully, you’ll need at least an 80-gallon tank.
  • Before introducing the new fish, feed the turtle properly. It is common sense that if the turtle is properly fed, it’ll not feel the necessity to go after the new fish. Also, the turtle won’t be shocked by the new tank mate.
  • It is better to introduce fish in the tank when the turtle is matured. Most water turtles like red-eared slider painted turtle, cooters etc. eat more vegetables as they get matured. So, a matured turtle will not consider a fish a potential meal like a juvenile turtle. Also, by observing the adult size of your turtle, you’ll know what size fish to introduce in the tank.
  • After introducing the fish in the tank, carefully observe the turtle’s behavior. If the turtle goes after the fish or tries to nip at its tail or fins, then you need to remove the fish immediately and find a new tank for it. On the other hand, if the turtle doesn’t show any aggressive response to the fish, then it might be safe.
  • Before introducing the fish inside the tank, you need to acclimate it with the tank water. Just float the fish bag on the tank water for 5-10 minutes. It will match the temperature of the tank water to the temperature of the water of the fish bag.
  • Now, slowly introduce some water of the fish tank to the fish bag every 5 minutes until the water volume has doubled in the fish bag. Now the fish is ready to be placed inside the tank.
  • Have lots of hiding places inside the tank. These hiding places will create a safe environment for the fish inside the tank. If the turtle decides to chase after the fish, the fish can hide safely in these hiding places. Hiding places are also a great decorative addition to turtle tank.
  • If you want to go in the DIY route, then flowering pots and PVC pipes will be the best option. Though these hiding places have no natural appeal, they are impenetrable by turtles. bushy plants also work great as hiding places.
  • However, use synthetic bushy plants as turtles will eat if the plant is real. You can also take large rocks and driftwoods from nature and use them as hiding places inside the tank. However, you do need to treat those with hot boiling water before placing inside the tank. Make sure that the rocks and the driftwoods are not too weighty for the tank or too light for the turtle.

What animals can live with turtles?

Often owners want to keep their turtles with other aquatic inhabitants. However, as turtles are highly territorial and aggressive, it can be quite difficult to find suitable tank mates for turtles. But, by following some strategies, you can actually keep your turtle with other suitable aquatic habitats.

Here are the strategies you should follow:

  • The first strategy is to ensure there is enough space for both the turtle and other habitats. In order to house both turtle and fish together, you’ll need at least an 80-gallon tank. A single red-eared slider needs about 55 gallons space whereas two red-eared sliders must need at least 100 gallons. The extra space really helps to keep the peace between territorial animals.
  • The second strategy is to have enough hiding place and visual barriers inside the tank. These hiding places provide a safe retreat for a submissive animal from a dominant one.
  • The last strategy is to ensure all the animals are well and properly fed. If the turtle is properly fed, it won’t feel the need to hunt other animals in the tank. Thus, peace will be maintained.

Here are some of the animals that can live with turtles:


Water turtles like painted turtles, sliders, cooters etc. can live together peacefully if they are same in size. In wild, it is often seen that different species of turtles are basking on top of one another peacefully. However, if the sizes don’t match, the larger ones can dominate the small turtles.

Even if the sizes match, some species don’t go well together most of the time such as the red-eared slider and the musk turtle. also keep in mind that, every turtle has different behavioral instincts and they can like or dislike each other for any random reasons.


No matter what fish you keep with turtle, your turtle will try to eat it. It is their natural instinct. Though, fishes that are the same size as the turtle can be safe from them such as large koi and Plecos. Sometimes, small agile fish like guppies can also cohabitate with turtles. I have also seen some owners keeping goldfish with turtles. however, I don’t personally recommend it as the turtle can nip on goldfish’s tails and fins.


It is not a good idea to keep invertebrates with turtles as they’ll definitely get eaten. Unless you have a lot of hiding places inside the tank, I wouldn’t recommend putting costly invertebrates with turtles. I have seen many owners having apple snails in their turtle tank. These snails are great at algae eating and keeping the tank clean. If the snail is small, it can potentially become a meal for the turtle. but in many cases, turtles do not tend to go after them very much.


Crustaceans such as ghost shrimps can live in the same tank with turtles. however, many turtles like to have them as snacks. So, unless you have enough hiding places inside the tank, I wouldn’t recommend keeping ghost shrimps with turtles. Even if you have plenty of hiding places, the turtle will eventually eat some of them sooner or later.

Terrible tank mates of turtles:

Some species of turtles can never be kept together. These species of turtles are even aggressive to turtles of their own species. Such turtles are common snapping turtles, alligator snapping turtles, soft shell turtles etc. there’ll definitely be a bloody fight if you keep these turtles together. Even, they can eat smaller turtles. Also do not keep any fish that have fancy tails or fins and can fit inside the mouth of the turtle.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I put goldfish and turtle together?

It is not recommended as the turtle can nip at the goldfish’s tail and fins. However, if the gold fish is as large as the turtle, then it might be safe. Also, I will discourage you to keep fancy goldfishes with turtles.

Can I put a moss ball in my turtle tank?

Sure, they are a great addition to any tank. They also help to keep the water clean.

Are turtle and lobster compatible?

No, they are not. Both are highly territorial aquatic inhabitants and can potentially harm each other.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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