What Fish Breeds Can Live With Turtles? Should You Put Fish In Turtle Tank?

Keeping pet turtles and fish together can be problematic and is generally not advised. This is primarily due to the risk of predatory behavior from the turtle, differing environmental needs, potential disease transmission, and increased stress for both animals.

If you still choose to house turtles and fish together, ensure the aquarium is spacious, with hiding spots for fish. Regularly monitor their behavior and health, and opt for larger, faster fish to decrease the chances of them becoming prey. Ultimately, while it is technically possible for pet turtles and fish to cohabitate under very specific conditions, the associated risks often outweigh the benefits, making it a setup that requires careful consideration and meticulous management.

Can Turtles and Fish Live Together?

turtle in fish tank

In general, pet turtles and fish can cohabitate under specific conditions, but it’s not typically recommended. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Predatory behavior: Many species of turtles are omnivores and are known to eat small fish. Even if the turtle and fish seem to coexist peacefully at first, the turtle may eventually attempt to eat the fish, especially if it’s a species that tends to be aggressive or if it’s not receiving adequate nutrition from its regular diet.
  2. Different environmental needs: Turtles and fish often require different living conditions. For example, turtles need a place to bask out of water, while fish need the entire habitat to be filled with water. The water temperature and quality parameters like pH, hardness, and ammonia levels might also need to be different for different species.
  3. Disease transmission: Turtles can carry and transmit diseases, like salmonella, to fish, and fish can transmit diseases to turtles. This risk can increase when they’re kept in the same habitat.
  4. Stress: Fish can become stressed if they are continually pursued or disturbed by a turtle. Stress can make fish more susceptible to illness and reduce their lifespan.

If you decide to keep turtles and fish together despite these risks, be sure to provide ample space, hideouts for fish, and monitor the tank closely to intervene if issues arise.

The decision point for most turtle owners is whether to create a community environment where both turtles and fish can thrive in a single aquarium or whether starting and maintaining a second tank would be a better idea.

Room and Environment for Each

Fish and turtles share the same environment but need vastly different things. A fish, for instance, needs to be submerged in water to live, whereas a turtle needs water to hydrate, loves to spend lots of time underwater, but also needs dry land to sun, breathe and, when necessary, warm itself.

The reality of what each needs to live dictates your tank, aquarium, or outside habitat. A mutual living space must provide fish with enough water to live and breathe and turtles with dry land to hang out before submerging in water. Maintaining fish and turtles in the same space can be tricky unless your aquarium, tank, or outside habitat is large enough for that type of setting.

Do Turtles Eat Fish?

turtle in fish tank
Should you put fish in turtle tank?

It depends on the turtle and its age. Some turtles do best on a carnivorous diet. Younger turtles are more prone to hunt and eat their food. One strategy is to keep your turtles well-fed until your fish are fully grown. Another is to only introduce new fish to fully grown turtles because the adult turtle tends to prefer plant life as food.

Most turtles are omnivorous. They will eat pretty much anything they can fit into their mouths. That can include fish if they can catch the fish or if the fish are very young. Some turtles will opt for fish if no vegetation is available, and others prefer fish as a diet staple. Turtles that are carnivores will also go after small insects, worms, and occasionally, dead animals they find on the bottom of a pond, lake, river, or aquarium space.

If you buy a turtle breed known for preferring meat as its diet, you will not magically turn it into an herbivore. Don’t attempt to have turtles and fish cohabitating in this case.

Can Turtles Live With Fish?

For the most part, yes. The conflicts will happen with younger turtles that view smaller fish as food. Apart from the occasional hungry turtle looking to eat fish, most turtles are very compliant and will get along with fish well.

Another challenge that can arise is if your space is too small for both to coexist comfortably. Ensure that your tank or living space has enough room for fish to move around and turtles to swim and sun. Overcrowding can lead to an environment that is not healthy for fish or turtles.

Planning for living space means also planning for your pets’ size when they reach full maturity. What works for small fish and turtles might not work for adults. Consult your local pet store or research how big your fish will grow and how large your turtles will get. At least, if you know the sizes each will attain, you can plan on building your space to accommodate both species.

Can Fish Live With Turtles?

fish in turtle tank

Yes. You must be sure that your turtles are old enough to be introduced to fish because turtles that are too young are small and weak. They can very quickly become food for the fish. You can address that in two ways:

  • Only introduce fish to adult turtles
  • Buy smaller fish that are herbivores

Another concern is living space. Both fish and turtles need room to move around. Turtles also need room and places to sun. Fish need places to hide and also places to hover when the water becomes too hot to move comfortably. Balancing enough space for turtles and fish to be happy and healthy can be tricky.

You are not recommended to put carnivorous fish in with young turtles or any turtle used to eating fish in with fish. In both cases, you are opening the door for fish to dine on young turtle meat or your fish to become dinner for a turtle. It is also not advisable to put carnivorous fish in with carnivorous turtles, no matter what size either is.

Can Goldfish Live With Turtles?

Most people confuse goldfish with Koi, and the two are different species.

Goldfish are a crossbreed with Prussian carp, while Koi are selectively bred fish from common carp. Goldfish and turtles can live together and even become companions, but if you plan on raising goldfish and turtles together, you need an open aquatic space that lets each roam freely.

Can You Put A Turtle in a Fish Tank?

You cannot put a turtle in a fish tank and expect it to live comfortably unless there is a place for it to leave the water entirely. Turtles like to get out of the water and sometimes need to do so. Sunning for a turtle, for example, is not just enjoyable for the turtle. Often, it is a way for the cold-blooded turtle to warm up sufficiently to move freely and feed.

Turtles also need air to survive. While some turtles can stay underwater for hours, most must come up for a gulp of air every 45 minutes or so or once an hour. If your tank has no place for the turtle to come up for air, your turtle will drown. You also want to avoid a space that requires your turtle to be perpetually in between taking a gulp of air and submerging.

What Fish Breeds Work Best With Turtles?

If you decide to try and house turtles and fish together, it’s important to choose fish species that are larger and quicker, reducing the chance that they will be easy prey for the turtles.

Here are a few species that might be more successful in a shared habitat with turtles:


Tetras are beautiful and hardy. They will eat anything and will come in at about 2 inches when fully matured. Your turtles should be fully grown before putting them in with tetras. Also, if you have a lot of tetras, your turtle may end up eating a few.


Koi can grow to be large, so an outside environment is best. You can generally put Koi in with all but very young turtles. Make sure you have enough room for turtles and Koi to move and coexist because both can grow quite a bit.

Suckermouth Catfish

Another “outside” fish, particularly if you want to raise them with turtles, is the suckermouth catfish. Suckermouths can grow up to almost 2 feet long and have bony scutes that protect them against bites, in this case from turtles.

These fish also do a good job of keeping the living space clean because they will eat just about anything. Their appetite is also why you should not put them in with very young turtles.


Guppies are tiny and really fast. Most turtles cannot catch them unless they are old and sick. Guppies also pose no threat to turtles, so cohabitation is extremely easy. Additionally, because guppies are fairly hardy, you do not have to worry about frequent die-offs or perpetually cleaning their living space.

Rosy Barb

Rosy Barb fish will grow to about 6 inches through maturity. Very colorful and sleek, The Rosy Barb is a fast swimmer who can escape most predators. Rosy Barb fish are excellent companion fish for mud and musk turtles.

How to Make the Introduction

At a minimum, the turtle tank or living space needs to be about 5 feet long, hold around 80 gallons of water, provide hiding spaces for the fish and be deep enough that other predators cannot target either.

If possible, keep the turtle well-fed until your fish is fully acclimated and mature. An adult fish is large, and their size reduces its chances of becoming fish food. Also, a well-fed turtle will not be a grouch, so it will be less likely to view new visitors as a threat.

Fish In Turtle Tank

Turtles and fish can thrive together if you plan their living space, conditions of meeting, and overall living environment correctly. Do so, and you will have a fun environment to observe these two amazing types of animals as they learn to live together.

If nothing else, the fish will stop the turtle from becoming bored and lonely and may even become a type of turtle toy. If you’ve introduced your turtle to fish (or vice versa) let us know how it went in the comment section below.

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