Can You Put Turtles & Fish In The Same Tank?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Yes, turtles and fish can share a tank, but it requires careful planning. Turtles can be aggressive and might see fish as food. Ensure the tank is large enough for both turtles and fish, with proper filtration and separate areas for each to thrive. Choose fish species that are known to live peacefully with turtles.

Secondly, you need to make sure that your turtle is well-fed so that it doesn’t try to eat the fish.

Thirdly, you need to provide enough space so that the turtles and fish don’t have to stay too close to one another.

Lastly, the tank should be equipped with proper filtration and aeration to maintain water quality. 

In this article, I’ll try to show you if & how can you put turtles and fish in the same tank.

Let’s get started.

key takeaways

  • Turtle can eat fish in the tank if the fish are too small, posing risks to the fish population.
  • Certain types of turtles like red-eared sliders are opportunistic eaters and may nip at fish fins or eat small fish.
  • Larger fish species can nip at a turtle’s limbs or tail while defending their territory in the tank.
  • Overcrowding the tank puts stress on all inhabitants including turtle and fish.
  • Different habitat and temperature preferences between turtle and fish can be challenging to accommodate in one tank.
  • Aggressive fish may harass and chase turtle in the tank, impacting turtle’s health and well-being.
  • High-activity fish produce a lot of waste which can lower water quality and stress turtle in an enclosed tank environment.
  • Setting up a properly sized tank, with separate spaces and hiding areas for turtle and different fish species can work for a combined tank if monitored closely.

Things to consider When Putting Turtle & Fish In Same Tank

Compatibility of Fish and Turtles:

  • Avoid Small Fish: Guppies and goldfish are not compatible with turtles due to their small size and high waste production.
  • Avoid Aggressive Fish: Fish like Oscars can harm turtles with their bites.

Tank Size and Space:

  • Turtle Growth: Consider the adult size of turtles; for example, a red-eared slider can reach 10 to 12 inches.
  • Minimum Tank Size: For cohabitation, a minimum of an 80-gallon tank is recommended to prevent territorial issues.

Filtration System:

  • Importance of Filtration: Ensure the filtration system can handle the extra waste from fish.
  • Suggested Filter: Canister filters like the Aquatop CF500UV are recommended.
  • Water Quality: Proper filtration prevents water from becoming smelly, murky, and toxic.
  • Aeration: Keep tank water aerated using an air stone and air pump.

Turtle Requirements:

Additional Needs: Turtles require a basking area, UVB light, and heat light for healthy growth.

Neglect Consequences: Failing to meet these needs can lead to the turtle’s death.

musk turtle swimming
Owner: Richard Litt

Goldfish make poor tankmates for turtles as their long flowing fins are tempting for turtles to bite at. However, some hardier barb or danio fish species may tolerate being housed with smaller turtle species if given plenty of space.

How to put a fish in a turtle tank?

Precautions Before Introduction:

  • Keep the turtle well-fed with a diet of meat and vegetables to reduce the likelihood of it preying on fish.

Avoid Feeder Fish:

  • Do not feed turtles with feeder fish, as this can prompt them to attack other fish in the tank.

Choosing the Right Fish Species:

  • Select fish that are energetic and too large to fit in the turtle’s mouth.
  • Avoid slow-moving or fancy-tailed fish like guppies and goldfish.
  • Suitable species include Plecos, which are fast, algae-eating, and can grow as large as turtles.
  • Other compatible fish options are giant gourami and cichlids.

Alternative Options:

  • Consider apple snails for algae-eating or ghost shrimps for tanks with ample hiding places.

Tank Size Requirement:

  • Ensure the tank is at least 80 gallons to accommodate both the turtle and fish peacefully.

Feeding Before Introduction:

  • Feed the turtle well before introducing new fish to minimize aggression.

Introduce Fish to Mature Turtles:

  • Mature turtles, such as red-eared sliders, painted turtles, and cooters, are more likely to eat vegetables and less likely to view fish as food.
  • Observing the adult size of your turtle will guide you in choosing the appropriate size of fish to introduce.

What animals can live with turtles?

Creating a harmonious aquatic world that houses both turtles and other aquatic creatures, as experienced reptile hobbyist Bradfield Johnson notes, is a delicate balance.

The key, he suggests, is ensuring an ample, spacious environment – think an 80-gallon tank for a duo of red-eared sliders.

This space isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity for peacekeeping among territorial beings.

Moreover, strategically placed hiding spots and visual barriers are crucial. These nooks offer sanctuary for the more submissive creatures, preventing conflict.

Above all, Johnson emphasizes the importance of a well-fed turtle; a satisfied turtle is less likely to see its tankmates as snacks, maintaining a peaceful coexistence.

His experience underlines a cardinal rule: in a shared habitat, ample space and thoughtful feeding are paramount for a tranquil cohabitation.

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:

1st Strategy: Ensuring A Spacious Habitat

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.

Tank Mates For Mississippi Map Turtle

2nd Strategy: Lots of Hiding Spaces

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.

3rd Strategy: Happily Fed Tankmates

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:

Compatible Animals With TurtlesDetails
TurtlesWater turtles like painted turtles, sliders, cooters etc. can live together peacefully if they are same in size. However, some species don’t go well together like red-eared slider and musk turtle.
FishesLarge fishes like koi and plecos can be safe. Small agile fish like guppies may also work but turtles may nip tails/fins of goldfish.
InvertebratesNot recommended as turtles will eat them unless there are lots of hiding places. Apple snails sometimes tolerated but young ones may be eaten.
CrustaceansGhost shrimps can potentially live with turtles if there are plenty of hiding places but turtles will likely eat some.


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.

Good Tank Mates For TurtlesBad Tank Mates For Turtles
Koi FishShrimps
Neon TetrasGoldfish
Comet GoldfishAny fish with fancy large tails
Fishes with agile swimming speedSlow moving fishes that are easy to catch


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 For turtle tank

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.

Here are some of the worst tankmates for turtles in a table format:

Terrible Tankmate For TurtlesReason
Small fishWill likely be eaten by the turtle.
GoldfishTurtles may nip at their fins and tails.
CrabsWill be seen as food by most turtles.
ShrimpWhile some shrimp like ghost shrimp may work with adequate hiding spots, turtles will often eat them.
Fingerlings or fry of other fishToo small and will be preyed upon.
Young snailsBabies or juveniles risk being eaten though apple snails sometimes tolerated.
Other aquatic reptiles or amphibiansMay outcompete turtles for food or pose health risks.
two snapping turtles in tank
Owner: Josh Kelley

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put goldfish and turtle together?

Goldfish and turtles can live together under certain conditions. However, I don’t recommend keeping turtle with goldfish as in most cases the outcome will be bad.

The water temperature should be around 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit for turtles, which is warmer than the ideal temperature of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit for goldfish.

They also need a wide and open space like a pond or pool to live together peacefully. However, it is difficult for them to live in a small place, and a very large tank is required to accommodate one turtle and a few goldfish.

Slim-bodied goldfish species can grow to a similar size, while even Fancy goldfish varieties can reach 8 inches long, so a small tank can lead to conflict and poor water quality.

Can I put a moss ball in my turtle tank?

You can put a moss ball in your turtle tank.

Moss balls, also known as Marimo balls, are popular pet turtle tank accessories that can help keep the water clean and provide a place for the turtles to hide.

They are safe for turtles and can be placed in an area that receives medium indirect light. Moss balls need a source of sunlight, so a window or artificial lighting are great places to keep them within your aquarium. 

Are turtle and lobster compatible?

Turtles and lobsters are not compatible tank mates. Turtles are likely to eat lobsters because they are carnivorous and enjoy eating shrimp, which lobsters are similar to.

Additionally, lobsters can be aggressive and territorial, which can cause stress and harm to turtles. It is not recommended to keep them together in the same tank.

do turtles eat fish?

Most turtles are omnivores and eat fish as a part of their diet. However, the extent to which they eat fish varies depending on the species and habitat. Some turtles, such as the red-eared slider, are known to be voracious fish eaters, while others may eat fish occasionally. 

what fish can live with turtles?

Some of the recommended fish species that can live with turtles include tetras, zebra fish, African cichlids, tiger barbs, large Koi, and bristlenose plecos.

These fish are larger than a turtle’s mouth, can tolerate similar water temperature ranges, and have a peaceful temperament.

It is also important to provide enough space, hiding spots, and decorations in the tank so that the fish can rest and feel safe.

What fish keep turtle tank clean?

There are several fish species that can help keep a turtle tank clean by eating leftover food and debris. Some of the recommended fish species include plecos, catfish, and mollies.

  • Plecos are known to be effective algae eaters and can coexist with turtles peacefully.
  • Catfish can help keep the tank clean by eating uneaten food and other debris.
  • Mollies are known to eat algae and are peaceful tankmates for turtles.

However, it is important to note that these fish should not be solely relied upon for maintaining water quality in the tank, and proper filtration and regular water changes are still necessary.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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