Can You Keep A Turtle In A Fish Tank?

Can You Keep A Turtle In A Fish Tank?

August 30, 2018

Can You Keep A Turtle In A Fish Tank?

Turtles are amazing creatures. They seem to have slow-paced and straightforward lives, so in this time while many of us live on caffeine and crazy deadlines, it’s no wonder that we want to watch turtles do what they do best.

You may be thinking fish could add that extra activity you're looking for in your turtle tank or vise versa, a turtle would look awesome in your fish tank. Depending how this question is worded can change the answer.

Keeping Turtles In A Fish Tank

If you ask "can I keep a turtle in a fish tank?" the immediate answer is probably not, at least without making some modifications. Red-eared sliders and related species don't live entirely underwater and if they don't have a basking area to rest they will eventually drown. Its not as simple as dropping a turtle in an aquarium alongside other fish. 

Keeping Fish In A Turtle Tank

However, if your tank is already set up for your pet turtle, and you ask "can I keep fish in a turtle tank?" you'll receive a different answer. As long as you know all of your turtles requirements, there is a possibility that you could add fish to your tank. Some species of terrapin love to chase fish, eventually becoming a meal. Choose the wrong one and you'll be sure to wake up one morning with a few less fish in your tank. Other turtles will get along well with fish, this could be because they have a hard time catching them, or because they are simply uninterested.



So, Do Fish And Turtles Mix?

It is possible to add fish to your tank, specifically for some kinds of turtles. Is it a good idea?  That will depend on what your desired outcome is. Consider these issues:

  • Turtles will require a space that is large enough to stay healthy, so in some cases, you will need a very large space (30-gallon minimum.) You shouldn't consider adding fish to your tank until you're sure your pet turtle has enough space to live comfortably.
  • Medium to large turtles need a 55-125 gallon tank. Don't cram fish with your turtle if it doesn't have space, it'll only stress the fish and turtles in the tank.
  • Turtles can be very messy eaters. If the turtles feed off of the fish you should be prepared for a filthy tank. A turtle aquarium isn’t very easy to maintain for beauty as turtles will destroy common decorations. If you want a pretty tank, you will have to replace décor often, clean the tank constantly and use the best filtration systems available. 
  • The fish you add to your tank should be faster than the turtles, this can discourage the turtles from always chasing them. If the turtles do chase, at least you've given them a fun form of exercise.
  • If the fish aren't faster, having fish of the same size helps deter the turtles from nipping.

Consider your reasons for wanting to keep fish with turtles before you move forward, even if you don’t mind the issues listed above. 

  • Healthy wild turtles should never be taken from their natural environment and forced to live in confinement. If there is no reason to remove a turtle from the wild, surely you wouldn’t want to deprive one of a normal life. If you did this you may also be coming back to your tank only to realize your wild turtle has eaten all of your fish.
  • Remember that if you adopt a turtle that was raised in captivity and things become too difficult, you cannot just release the turtle into the wild. Captive turtles haven’t been exposed to the illnesses and parasites that wild turtles are. They may not know how to function in the wild. They are not accustomed to finding and eating foods on their own. If you release a turtle it is probably a death sentence. Don't purchase a turtle only to decide you aren't going to want it a week later.
  • The fish aren't the only ones at risk. Some types of fish can be very vicious and injure your turtle. Your injured turtle can be a challenge to cure, depending on the severity. Regular veterinarians often have little experience with most turtle species. Unless you are a veterinarian with training in turtle medicine, you will have to pay for constant treatment. You will have all the challenges of owning a healthy turtle alongside the task of keeping a sick turtle alive and making it well.

In Short

If you already own a pet turtle, and you are aware of its requirements, adding a school of fish for some added life in your tank may be just fine. Its a good idea to test and check up on the turtles and the fish to make sure they are getting along.

However, adding a turtle to your tank which is intended for fish is not ok, without first making adjustments. Turtles simply have requirements that you may not already have in your fish tank. 

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