Can Turtles Live with Fish? (Detailed Guide)

Some turtle owners add tank mates to their turtle tanks to keep them company. It can be another turtle, reptile, or fish. Having a turtle and a fish in the same tank looks great. Although it may not last for a long time if the turtle ends up eating the fish.

Turtles may or may not be able to live with fish in the same enclosure. Mixing them sometimes doesn’t work. Some turtles are carnivores in nature. They hunt fish for food in the wild. It means that they are not a good match to become each other’s tank mates.

However, there are some species of fish as well as some turtle species that can coexist together. If you want to have a turtle and a fish in the same tank, it’s still possible. All you have to do is to learn more about different species of turtles and fish.

It may sound complicated but it’s not. If it’s your first time mixing a turtle and a fish together, keep on reading. We have created this article for you to have a better idea about this. At the end of this article, you will be an expert in mixing these species.

Can Turtles Live with Fish?

It’s a little tricky to answer this question but the answer is both yes and no. No, because some turtle species are natural fish hunters. You can’t just add a random fish species into the turtle tank. Not unless you will be fine when the turtle makes it as a snack.

However, it can be a yes if you will choose a turtle species that is compatible with a specific fish before mixing them up. If your existing turtle is not a fish hunter, you can just find a fish to give it a new tank mate. But before putting the fish in the tank, make sure that it has perfect conditions.

Preparing the Turtle Tank

  • Size of the Turtle Tank

Before adding a fish to the turtle tank, make sure that it’s big enough for both of them. The ideal tank size should be around 100 gallons. It will provide more room for both of them. That will help the turtle not to be too territorial and avoid attacking the fish.

  • Set Up Hiding Places

Set up the turtle tank that provides a lot of hiding places for the fish. They need to have hiding places to feel more secure. It will also help them to reproduce if you have a pair. That will avoid the turtle catching them if it suddenly feels like hunting.

  • Get a Strong Filter

Keeping more than one aquatic animal in the tank means more waste. Get a high-quality filtration system to avoid the need to change the water frequently. Dirty water is fatal for both turtles and fish. It’s essential to help them survive in captivity. It will also lessen the hassle of cleaning the tank.

  • Introduce the Fish

Once you already have the necessary setup for the tank, it’s time to introduce the fish. But make sure to feed the turtle first to increase the chance of survival. It will also give the fish enough time to settle. A fully matured turtle is ideal since they don’t need much protein like younger ones.

What Fish Can Live with Turtles in a Tank?

Although you can add fish in a turtle tank, not all fish species can be mixed with turtles. You have to find a compatible fish so that it will not end up as food. The fish must have specific characteristics. It will help them to survive better in a turtle tank.

For the fish to survive in a turtle tank, it has to be fast. Some turtles like to hunt so the fish must be quick to escape. The faster the fish swims, the better chances of it surviving the turtle tank. It’s best to choose a type of fish with this characteristic.

Smaller fish may have more chances of survival than bigger ones. Big fish can be an easy target for turtles since they can see them right away. When the turtle attacks them, it can lead to death. Smaller fish are quicker and can hide easily when a turtle tries to hunt them.

Can Betta Fish Live with Turtles?

It’s a bad idea to mix betta fish with a turtle. They have very long fins which makes them delicate and a good target. You can’t mix a betta fish and a turtle even if it’s only temporary. The reason why is because of diet, space, and water parameters.

  • Diet

Most turtles that you can find in ponds and lakes are omnivores. Some are herbivores or carnivores by nature. Generally, turtles eat both plants and animals which includes fish, insects, and more. Turtle diet in an aquarium remains the same. They need to be fed vegetables, algae-based foods, shrimp, fish, and even eggs.

  • Space

Some turtles can grow huge and they are very active. Betta fish can only reach a maximum of 3 inches. They are also relaxed swimmers that make them easy prey for turtles. Turtles need at least 40 to 100 gallons tank while betta fish inky needs 5 gallons. They can also be uncomfortable with too much water.

  • Water Parameters

Turtles need a water temperature of 75-85 F (23.9-29.4 C). While betta fish need to have 78-80 F (25.6-26.7 C). Turtles need to have a hotter tank and a basking area since they are cold-blooded. The water parameters will not be suitable for the betta fish and they can’t escape from it.

What Fish Can Live with Red-Eared Slider Turtles?

Red-eared slider turtles have specific and complex needs. It’s difficult to find a tank mate for this turtle species. Turtles have a heavy bioload and they also like eating their tank mates. Fish is a part of their diet which makes it difficult to find a tank mate for them.

1. Striped Raphael Catfish

It’s a type of catfish and an opportunistic omnivore. They display an inquisitive yet peaceful personality. Although they eat smaller tank mates so make sure your turtle is bigger than this. It can grow between 6 to 9 inches in length. This will make a good companion for your turtle.

However, the striped Raphael catfish have small spines. They also have sharp pectoral and dorsal fins. It makes it hard to eat so it’s a good tank mate for a red slider turtle. This fish can survive since the turtle will not attempt to eat it because of its spines.

2. Common Plecostomus

It’s usually sold from pet shops so it’s easy to find. This fish can grow into a massive size. A temperature-controlled pond or 150 gallons of turtle tank is recommended. The common pleco can live peacefully with the red-eared slider turtle. You don’t have to worry about it getting eaten or attacked.

This fish is herbivorous primarily but they also eat meaty foods. As juveniles, they are known to be peaceful. However, they will become territorial as they age. It will cause them to be a little aggressive. They have armored bodies that will avoid being consumed by turtles.

3. Pictus Catfish

It’s a small type of catfish and it stays that way. Large turtles can eat them because of their size. Although the chance of getting eaten is low since they are bottom dwellers. They usually stay at the bottom of the tank to scavenge food. Turtles may not even notice them.

Pictus catfish are cute and also active. It will be a good tank mate for the red-eared slider. They are peaceful creatures so there will be no fight for territory. This fish needs to have at least a 50-gallon tank. The bigger the tank will be better for them.

4. Koi Fish

Koi fish are pond fish that need to have at least 50 gallons of water. They are not aquarium fish but if you have a huge turtle tank, that will do. 150 gallons of water will be better for them to thrive. The depth of water should be between 2 to 3 feet.

This fish will be a good pond mate for the red-eared sliders. Although sometimes, turtles may nip their fins. Koi fish can also be territorial especially during feeding or breeding. But still, koi fish and red-eared slider turtles can live peacefully. It has a better survival rate being with a turtle.

5. Slim Bodied Goldfish

Goldfish can grow huge as they mature. They are not always at risk to get eaten because of their adult size. It’s also more common and inexpensive than other fish species. Even if the turtle ended up eating the goldfish, it’s not going to be a big loss because they’re affordable.

Goldfish can swim quickly in case the turtle attempts an attack. They are peaceful types of fish and they are pleasing to the eyes. It’s not recommended to have a fancy type of goldfish in a turtle tank. This type of goldfish is slow and delicate which makes it easy to get eaten.

6. Rosy Red Minnows

It’s a petite type of fish that is usually sold as feeder fish. They are inexpensive and always available. It makes them an excellent fish for the turtle tank. They reproduce fast and they will keep on breeding. They are cute and can swim quickly to avoid getting eaten by the turtle.

The rosy red minnows are peaceful fish species. But males can be aggressive and protective of their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the males will be peaceful again. This fish species may be small but they can easily escape the turtle. They can hide on the plants on the tank and not be seen.

7. Guppies

It’s a low-maintenance type of fish and they can reproduce quickly. You can keep male and female guppies and let them reproduce. Turtles will not be able to eat all the adult guppies before the new fry is born. They will keep on reproducing at a rapid rate.

Guppies can be overwhelming because of this. They also swim fast and stay away from the turtle’s way to avoid getting eaten. Although you may lose some guppies, you may not even notice it anymore. More guppies will be born and the turtle may not find them appealing to eat anymore.

Read Also About > Can Frogs and Turtles Live Together? (Full Guide)

Types of Turtles That Can Live With Fish

Turtles and fish are not the best tank mates. But some turtles can coexist with fish. If you want to have this combination, make sure to choose a turtle that will not hurt the fish. There are some turtle species that you can consider mixing with aquarium fish.

Make sure to check if the turtle was fed feeder fish first. If the turtle’s diet includes fish, it will turn into a disaster if you mix them. Turtles will see them as food if they are regularly fed with fish feeders. It will be hard to add fish to their tank without it being eaten right away.

1. Red Eared Slider Turtle

It’s a common type of turtle that is sold as a pet. They are omnivorous which means they eat plants and animals. But as juveniles, they are carnivorous. As they mature and become adults, they will turn into herbivores. The best time to give them a tank mate is when they are no longer carnivorous.

Males are smaller and can reach between 5 to 9 inches when they become adults. Females can grow bigger and reach 12 to 13 inches. Adult red-eared sliders can live peacefully with large fishes. Their diet includes kale, parsley, carrot tops, collard green, dark romaine leaves, and other vegetables and turtle pellets.

2. Painted Turtle

The next turtle species is the painted turtle. Similar to other freshwater turtles, they are also omnivorous. It can reach between 4 to 10 inches as an adult. They feed on crustaceans, aquatic insects, and small fishes. It doesn’t hunt fish of similar size as them. So, large fish will be a good tank mate for them.

The young painted turtles are carnivorous and become herbivores in adulthood. An adult turtle is a good option if you want to add fish to its tank. They eat turtle pellets, crickets, mealworms, earthworms, as well as dark leafy vegetables. Choose fish of the same size as them to avoid them from eating it.

3. Pink Belly Sideneck Turtle

This turtle species can cohabitate with fish easily. It grows from 5 to 10 inches and like the other turtles, it’s also omnivorous. The pink belly sideneck turtle feeds on plant matter, small fish, insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. Large fish with a similar size is its ideal tank mate but small fish will end up as food.

The pink belly sideneck turtle will not hunt fish the same size as them. Therefore it’s best to choose a fish of a similar size or bigger. That way, they can cohabitate in the tank without attacking the fish. The fish and this turtle will be able to share the tank without any problems.

4. Mud and Musk Turtles

These turtle species are considered to be the best to have fish as their tank mates. Both mud and musk turtles are not interested in hunting fish. They are not good at it so they may not even try. Adding fish to its tank is safe and they can coexist without any issues.

When they are in the wild, these turtles are considered ambush predators. They normally hide in the muddy bottom of slow-moving water. It will wait for prey to ambush and make a surprise attack. But it’s not possible to do so in tanks so the fish will be safe from them.

Recommended Fishes for the Turtle Tank

Now that you know which turtle species are best at coexisting with fish, it’s time to find out the best fish for the turtle tank. These fish species are the best match for turtles. They possess different characteristics that will help them survive in the turtle tank.

1. Plecos

Plecos or also known as the suckermouth catfish belong to the armored catfish family. They are also known as hypertonus plecostomus, hypostomus punctatus, pterygoplichthys pardalis, pterygoplichthys multiradiatus. It’s a good choice if you want to have fish in a turtle tank.

The suckermouth catfish can grow huge which is up to 20 inches. They are fast and have armor-like scutes covering the upper parts of the head and their body. It also comes with different colors and patterns which makes them attractive. They have a good chance of survival even in a turtle tank.

2. Koi

Koi is another fish species that you can put in a turtle tank. It’s the colored variety of this species that belongs to the carp family. Due to its attractive appearance, it’s a popular part of the decoration in ponds as well as water gardens. This will make the turtle tank more attractive.

Popular colors of koi include cream, white, black, blue, red, orange, and yellow. They can grow huge and can reach several feet. Koi fish are strong swimmers as well so they can thrive in a turtle tank. As long as the right condition has been met, koi is a good tank mate for turtles.

3. Pictus Catfish

Also known as Pimelodus pictus, it’s another fish that can live with turtles. They are quick and fast swimmers which is necessary for escape. It can grow up to 5 inches when it reaches adulthood. Turtles will have a hard time catching them. They belong to the catfish family Pimelodidae.

4. Neon Tetra

The neon tetra, also known as Paracheirodon innesi, is a popular species for turtle tanks. They have bright colors and they are fast so turtles can’t catch them. It remains small and can only reach 1.5 inches in length. However, they will destroy the plants on the tank if not fed properly,

5. Guppy

Guppies have different breeds and they are colorful with large bushy tails. They are small types of fish that grow from 0.6 to 2.5 inches. Female guppies are bigger than their male counterparts. They are fast and quick which makes it hard for turtles to catch them.

6. Rosy Barb

Pethia conchonius or also known as rosy barb can go well with turtles. They can grow up to 6 inches upon maturity. Rosy barbs are also fast swimmers. Turtles will not be able to catch them. They can survive in a turtle tank because of their quick movements. It also adds color to the aquarium.


1. Can Tropical Fish Live With Turtles?

Tropical fish are not the best tank mate for turtles. Turtles will see them as food and hunt them. They are not compatible to coexist in one tank. Turtles can also grow fast and end up damaging the aquarium.

2. Can Algae Eaters Live With Turtles?

Algae eaters should not live with turtles since they will end up eaten. But there are other types of algae eaters like the common pleco. It’s possible for them to live with turtles once they grow and reach a certain size.

3. Can Frogs Live With Turtles?

In the wild, turtles feed on frogs and vice versa. Whoever is smaller will become the food of the bigger animal. They are both predators so they should not live together, especially in a tank. They consider each other competition even if they are the same size.

4. Can Crabs Live With Turtles?

Turtles feed on crabs, crustaceans, small fish, and more. They can’t live together or the crab will end up the next meal. But if the turtle is smaller than the crab, the crab will attack the turtle.

5. Can a Turtle Live With Another Turtle?

Yes, as long as they are of the same species they can cohabitate. But if you put an adult turtle with a juvenile, it might cause a problem. Make sure to have all adults or all juvenile turtles to avoid having issues within the tank.

Recent Posts