The idea of putting fish in the turtle tank is one you should think through before doing it as a turtle owner. You want to ensure the two can leave calmly together without one eating or harassing the other.
So, can you put fish in a turtle tank? Absolutely! You can put fish in a turtle tank, and the two can live together in harmony, with only a few exceptions.
Find more details below about which fish and turtle species are compatible and helpful tips to observe when introducing fish to your turtle tank.
Can you put turtles and fish in the same tank?
You can put fish and turtles in the same tank. But there are many things you need to consider in advance to ensure peaceful coexistence. You also want to ensure you put the right species together as some fish can’t stay with some turtles (and vice versa).
You’ll need to make a few changes to your turtle aquarium to accommodate the two creatures.
These include increasing the tank size, upgrading the filter to handle the increased waste quantity, and adjusting the water pH and temperature (more details coming up later in this post—keep tuned in!)
HOWEVER, putting fish in turtle tanks does not always work. As you may already know, turtles are generally omnivores and like to feed on insects, clams, snails, crayfish, and small fish. Thus, they may see the new fish as prey and eat it.
Another reason it doesn’t always work is because the fish may require completely different environmental conditions than the turtle.
For instance, the goldfish may require a different temperature range than your aquatic pet turtle. The basking lamps placed in turtle aquariums may also not be conducive to fish.
If you have a territorial turtle species, e.g., the snapping turtle, that could be a problem too.
List of turtle species that can live with fish
One of the things to consider when planning to put fish in your tank is which species of turtle you have. Some species are more hostile and territorial to their tank mates, while others have shown the will to live with fish peacefully.
One such species of turtle that you can pair with fish is the red-eared slider turtle. You should consider the adults, as the baby turtles are mostly carnivorous to help with growth and development.
The west-painted turtle is another option to consider. Though they’re also omnivorous, they don’t hunt fish that are larger than them. The adults are mostly herbivorous, so your fish will be safer with them.
Other species to consider include the pink belly Sideneck turtle and mud and musk turtles (this particular species is not good at hunting fish and shows less interest in them).
Generally, you should go for a turtle species that won’t actively hunt the fish. You want to ensure the turtle isn’t on a fish diet. If you have a turtle used to eating live fish, it will most likely hunt and eat the fish you throw in its enclosure.
Here’s a video of a turtle hunting and eating live fish in their enclosure
List of fish that can live with turtles
Not all fish can live with turtles. This is mainly because turtles are omnivorous in nature and tend to hunt fish.
The ideal fish to put in the turtle enclosure should have certain characteristics that promote a high survival rate in the tank.
Here’s a list of fish you can put in your turtle tank:
- Plecos (suckermouth catfish)
- Pictus catfish
- Neon tetra
- Rosy barb
As you can see, there are a variety of fish species you can put in a turtle tank. One of the guidelines to help you decide which fish to put in the turtle enclosure is that the fish isn’t too aggressive and may end up hurting your turtle.
You should also consider bigger fish as they’re less likely to be eaten by your turtle. If you must go with the smaller fish, make sure they’re fast and active so they can easily avoid being caught by the turtles.
Above all, go for fish with similar temperature preferences, so they can live comfortably in the same enclosure.
Dangerous fish to avoid for Turtle tanks
When considering putting fish in a turtle tank, there are some fish species to stay away from. These include the gizzard shard, carp, feathered minnows, and rosy red minnows.
So, why should you avoid these fish? The problem with them is that your turtle may try to eat them, which will be bad for the fish and your pet turtle. All these fish species feature extremely sharp bones.
Turtles aren’t known to chew their food well, so they’ll likely swallow the bones as they are, and they might end up causing rapture of their internal tissues and organs. This can lead to significant blood loss and serious complications.
Also, some of these fish contain high thiaminase content. This enzyme is known to block Vitamin BI absorption—an essential vitamin for turtle’s survival.
Also read: Bugs In Turtle Tank
Turtle and fish aquarium setup considerations
Before you put that fish in your turtle aquarium, there are a few changes you might want to implement to cater to the two creatures. This is crucial as it ensures they live comfortably and peacefully in the same habitat.
Let’s discuss these changes below:
Get a bigger enclosure
If you plan to add fish to the turtle tank, you’ll need a large tank to ensure both the fish and turtle have enough room. We recommend a tank up to 5ft long and 80-gallon capacity.
However, the exact size of the tank will depend on the specific size of the fish and turtles you have. A turtle around 6 inches requires 30 gallons of water, while an 8-inch species requires 550-60 gallons.
As for the fish, you need a gallon of water for every inch of the fish. For instance, a 5-inch fish will require 7 gallons of water. Multiply this by the number of fish you plan to throw inside the tank to get a good idea of the ideal fish tank size.
Upgrade the filter
When you have aquatic turtles and fish in the same closet, you can rest assured that the amount of waste produced will be pretty high.
A submersible filter works great for the small tank and may not be an ideal option in this case. As such, you’d want to go for a canister filter for larger turtle tanks. This one is more powerful and efficient and will help ensure clean water in the enclosure.
Note that canister filters usually stay under the tank and don’t take up extra space inside your aquarium, so they don’t get in the way of your fish and turtles.
These filters also feature multi-stage filtration, which allows for all-around cleaning.
Adjust the water parameters
The water parameters for fish and turtles vary slightly. However, the difference isn’t big enough to make it impossible for the two creatures to stay in the same waters.
Key parameters to consider here include temperature and pH. Most aquatic turtles require a temperature of around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The optimum temperature for fish is 75 to 80 degrees.
As for the water pH, turtles will thrive in an alkaline medium of around 7.4 to 7.8 on the pH scale. Freshwater fish require 5.5 to 7 water pH, while saltwater species thrive in water with at least 8 pH or higher.
How to introduce the fish to your turtle tank?
Here are additional quick tips to help you safely introduce fish to your turtle enclosure:
Feed your pet turtle first!
A well-fed turtle is less likely to be unbothered by the entry of fish into its natural habitat. Consider feeding your turtle before you introduce that fish, so it doesn’t see it (the fish) as food.
Pair the fish with adult turtles
Adult turtles are more herbivorous than their young ones. This means the chances of your fish surviving are pretty high if you put it in the same enclosure with a mature turtle.
Observe your turtle’s reaction
Closely observe the interaction between the two creatures after you put the fish in. Does the turtle look unbothered by the new member? Or does it try to nip the fish?
If you see your turtle being bothered by the fish, we suggest getting the fish out and finding it a new home or even returning it as it may end up in the turtle’s belly.
Introduce hiding spots
You should also create plenty of spaces in the entire tank for the fish to hide and feel secure from the turtle. You can use various objects to create hiding spots, including PVC pipes, terracotta pots, natural or live plants, driftwood and rocks, etc.
You may want to avoid putting a goldish in the turtle tank as the turtle may nip at its fins and tails. However, a goldfish as large as a turtle may be ideal for putting in the tank. Examples include the comet and shubunkin goldfish. But don’t think about putting fancy goldfish species in the turtle aquarium.
The best fish you can put in your yellow-bellied turtles’ enclosure should be the same size as your turtle pet or larger. This will ensure your pet turtle doesn’t view them as a food source as food and eat them. The fish should also be fast and elusive, so the turtle doesn’t easily catch them. If you put small fish in your turtle aquarium, their survival chances will be pretty low.
Red-eared slider turtles are known to calmly live with various fish species, including goldfish, guppies, rosy-red minnows, koi fish, pictus catfish, stripped Raphael catfish, and common plecos. Generally, any large fish than a red-eared slider will be a good fish to put in their tank. A fast swimming fish will also make an ideal candidate.
Related: Turtle Shell Broken And Bleeding?
Fish and turtles can live together in the same enclosure. However, keep in mind that turtles are generally omnivorous and will always try to eat fish.
To increase the survival chances of your fish, we advise you to consider fish that are large in size compared to your turtle species and fast enough to escape the turtle hunts.
We have provided helpful tips in the above guide on some good fish species to consider and how to safely introduce them into your tank.
Make sure you follow our fish turtle aquarium setup tips to ensure the two creatures live comfortably inside the enclosure.