Fish That Can Live With Turtles (Compatibility Guide)

Fish make awesome pets because they come in an array of different colors, shapes, and sizes, and are very easy to take care of. Turtles are unique, slow-moving pets that can live for decades.

Your aquarium would really come to life if you could house your fish and your turtles together.

But is that possible? Can fish and turtles live together?

Coming up next in this article, we will discuss everything you must know about the compatibility between turtles and fish and what you must do to house them in the same place.

Key Takeaway:

Fish and turtles can live together in the same tank as long as the fish are fast swimmers, large, non-aggressive, and have the same water temperature requirements as your turtle. Neon tetra fish, zebrafish, and yellow cichlids can live with some species of freshwater turtles.

Which species of freshwater turtles can live with fish? And how can you make your tank comfortable for both of these animals?

We’ll be answering these questions in the extended guide coming up next. Let’s dive right into it!

What Fish Can Live With Turtles?

There is nothing more wonderful than seeing a tank teeming with different types of animal life. We all dream of having a tank where fish and turtles can live together in peace, surrounded by aquatic plants, hiding spots, and decorative rocks.

fish live with turtles

But is this possible? What fish can live with turtles?

Many of them can! Let’s get to know some of them coming up next.

Tetra Fish

One of the most common fish species that are great for putting in a turtle tank is tetra fish. These small, freshwater fish come in an abundance of eye-catching colors.

Why are these small fish so good to house with turtles?

Here are a couple of reasons why neon tetra fish and turtles get along.

  • They are fast fish. These fish do not hang about; they love dashing around through the water. Your turtle will not be able to eat them because they will not be able to keep up with them.
  • They are small fish. Tetra fish usually grow to about 1.5 inches long. This means they are not too big and will not get in the turtle’s way. There will be plenty of space for both the turtle and the fish in the tank.
  • They are cheap. These small fish are easy to get hold of and are not expensive. This makes them a great, replaceable species to put in your turtle tank.


Another awesome fish species that can live with turtles is the zebrafish. It is native to India and Southern Asia and has 5 horizontal blue stripes on its side.

Why is it good to put this fish species in a turtle tank?

Here are a couple of reasons why zebrafish and turtles get along.

  • They are fast. Zebrafish are very fast. Although your pet turtle might fancy a zebrafish snack, it’ll find it very difficult to catch one.
  • They have short tails. We do not usually recommend keeping tropical fish in the same tank as a reptile like a turtle. But zebrafish, although tropical, have short tails that are unlikely to get in the way of the turtle.
  • They are easy to find. Zebrafish are not only cheap, but they are also really easy to find in pet stores. This makes them simple to replace.

Yellow Cichlids

Another tank mate that will be ideal for your turtle is a yellow cichlid. These are freshwater aquarium fish that are about 5 inches long.

Why do yellow cichlids and turtles make good tank mates?

Here are some of the reasons:

  • They are fast. These fish move about quickly and will not wind up in a turtle’s mouth.
  • They are not aggressive fish, but they stand their ground. A cichlid will not allow its tankmates to bully it. It is fast and will stand tall when confronted.

Koi Fish

Koi are massive fish that are members of the carp family. Domestic koi measure, on average, 12 to 15 inches long but Japanese and jumbo-sized koi are even larger.

Can koi live with turtles?

Keeping koi and turtles together is not impossible, but it does require some careful planning. Here’s what you will have to make sure of.

  • Get a good filter. Turtles make pond water very dirty quickly, but a good filter will keep the water clean for your koi and your turtles.
  • Put down a tough pond liner. Your turtles can live in a pond but because of their sharp claws, they often end up tearing through pond liners. Because of this, many turtle owners prefer to keep them in tanks. But for your koi and turtles to live together, you must keep them in a pond with a robust liner.

Other Fish

There are plenty of other species of fish that can live with turtles.

Why do they get on so well?

Here are some of the species and why they are great to house with turtles.

  • Tiger barbs. These critters move quickly through the water and will not allow themselves to become prey to turtles. They can live at the same temperatures as turtles.
  • Pictus catfish. These catfish are also fast-moving, and they are quite large; they average about three to five inches but can grow up to six inches long. Because of their big bodies, they are not desirable prey for a turtle.

Keeping Fish Species In a Turtle Tank

We have seen that many fish species can live with turtles without any problems. But there isn’t an exhaustive list of which fish can and cannot live with turtles.

So how will you decide which fish to put in your turtle tank?

Up next, we will consider the characteristics that make a fish species ideal for putting in a turtle tank.

Fast Swimming Fish

Fish that are slow swimmers are not good for putting in the same tank as turtles because turtles love to eat fish. The number of fish in the tank will soon diminish if they are not fast enough.

Fish can live with turtles as long as they are fast enough to get out of the way of the turtle's mouth when needed. Slow movers like betta fish will not last long in the same tank as your turtle.

Here are the names of some fast swimmers.

  • Tetra fish
  • Zebrafish
  • Yellow cichlids
  • Tiger barbs
  • Pictus catfish

No Aggressive Fish

Fish that are aggressive should never be in the same fish tank as your turtle. These types of fish often try to attack turtles especially when they are mating and feel more territorial.

Fish that are aggressive in nature have been known to eat a turtle’s eyes and make them blind. So, ensure the nature of the fish coincides with that of the turtle.

Fish Tank Size

The size of your tank must be sufficient for both the turtle and the fish to live together and have enough room to move about freely.

Different species of fish have varying minimal tank size requirements. Here are some of the sizes that are ideal for the fish we have considered in this article.

  • Tetra fish need a minimum fish tank size of 10 to 20 gallons on their own. They like to live in schools of 6 fish. You will need an even larger tank for your turtle and fish to live together.
  • Zebrafish must live in fish tanks that are at least 20 gallons. To add a turtle to the mix, you will need an even larger tank.
  • Cichlids are large fish that need more space to feel comfortable. 30 gallons is a suitable size for the slightly smaller ones but the larger fish will need up to 50 gallons of swimming space, not including the extra space you will need for the turtle.

Water Temperature

Fish can live with turtles as long as the water temperatures of both species are compatible. This is why turtles cannot live in the same aquarium as goldfish because they like a colder water temperature than turtles.

You must check the temperature requirements for the turtle and fish before you put them together.

Which Turtle Species Can Live With Fish?

A well-put-together fish tank can create an awesome display of aquatic life in your home.

turtle fish get along

But is it possible for you to put a turtle in your fish tank?

Yes, it is! It all depends on which species of turtle you choose and the type of fish in your tank. Up next, you’ll see a list of turtles that are compatible with fish.

Painted Turtle

Some turtle species are very fast and love to hunt fish. These types of turtles and fish cannot live together.

Can a painted turtle live with fish?

A painted turtle can live with a fish as long as the fish is very quick, large, or robust. The painted turtle is an opportunistic omnivore and will not pass on the opportunity to snap at the slow fish swimming near it.

What fish can live with painted turtles?

  • Oscar fish
  • Sunfish
  • Suckerfish

Red-Eared Slider

Some freshwater turtles make ideal tank mates for fish. The red-eared slider is an excellent example of a turtle species that gets on well with large fish.

Why can these turtles and fish live together peacefully?

Here are a couple of reasons why they get along.

  • Their diet as adults. Red-eared sliders are omnivorous but they become herbivores as they get older. They would prefer to eat greens when they get older and will do so as long as you feed them regularly.
  • Although the juveniles like to eat small fish, they will not eat large or fast fish.

Mud Turtles

Mud turtles are semi-terrestrial freshwater turtles that you will find in North and South America. It is not unusual for fish to live with turtles of this species.

Why do mud turtles and fish make good tank mates?

Here are some reasons.

  • They are not as interested in hunting as other species of turtles are. Fish can live with pet turtles without any issues.
  • They are not good hunters. In the wild, mud turtles will lie low in the mud and wait for their prey to slowly settle near them to catch them. However, since these muddy conditions do not exist in captivity, mud turtles do not usually hunt.
  • They eat anything. These turtles are not fussy eaters and a well-fed turtle will not harm the fish.

Musk Turtles

Musk turtles are small reptiles that fish live happily with. They average just 3 to 5 inches long.

Why can these turtles live peacefully with fish?

Here are a couple of reasons.

  • They are not good at hunting. Most turtles of this species are too slow to keep up with fast-moving fish.
  • They like it when their food settles at the bottom of the tank. Because these turtles cannot move quickly, they prefer meals that can settle at the bottom of the tank as they would in the wild. Fast-moving fish will not lie low in the way of these turtles.

Keeping Turtle Species In a Fish Tank

turtle fish tank

So far, we have seen that many turtle species can live with fish without any problems. However, not all turtles are suitable for introduction into the fish world.

How can you be sure which turtles live peacefully with fish and which don’t?

Up next we’ll consider some of the characteristics that make a certain turtle species ideal for keeping with fish.


A turtle and fish can live together in peace as long as your turtle has the right diet.

Many turtles are carnivorous and are used to eating feeder fish like rosy red minnows every day. You must not introduce fish into a carnivorous turtle’s tank as they will not survive.

Here are a couple of turtle species that eat fish and are not good tank buddies.

Juvenile vs Adult Turtles

Mature turtles are more likely to eat the fish in their enclosures than juvenile turtles are. For the two species to live together successfully, you must begin introducing the fish into the cage before the turtles get older.

Hiding Spots

If you have a large tank that is set up in the right way, your fish and turtles have the potential to be the very best tank mates.

Hiding spots are important not just for your fish to get away from your turtles but also for your turtles to catch a break from the fish. Hiding spots will give the animals the space they need from one another and help to prevent turtle attacks.

Make small caves for fish to hide in use PVC pipes or aquatic plants for turtles to hide under and between. Always ensure your aquatic plants are suitable for both animal species.

Turtle Tank Size

If your tank is the right size you will be able to add fish to your turtle’s habitat.

The ideal tank setup and size for your turtle will vary depending on its species. But here are some of the tank sizes for the turtle species we have concentrated on so far in this article.

  • The red-eared slider’s tank size requirements will change as it gets older. As a juvenile, a 20-gallon tank will be awesome for this turtle. When it becomes an adult its shell will grow larger and it will need a 40-gallon or perhaps even a 50-gallon tank (not including the extra space you will need for any other animal species).
  • The musk turtle is only small and does not need to live in a very big tank. 20 gallons is the minimum size for this species but you will need an even bigger tank to make room for fish too.
  • Painted turtles need a minimum tank size of 20 gallons. You must add 10 gallons to that for an additional turtle or other aquatic life.
  • The mud turtle has rather unique housing needs as it must have a 50-gallon tank with room to burrow on dry land and in the water. This tank must be even bigger to accommodate fish too.

Hearty Fishes in Turtle Tanks

You want your turtles and fish to live together in the same tank but fish look like easy meals for these reptiles. You no doubt wonder whether there are fish that can survive in a turtle’s tank.

Thanks to this article, we have seen that certain fish can live with turtles and get on rather well with them. These fish can swim quickly, are a fair size, and share water temperature requirements with turtles such as tetra fish, zebrafish, and yellow cichlids.

The turtles in the tank must be slow-moving, poor hunters.

Did you find this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we always strive to provide you with the best articles about turtles including how to house them and what to feed them. For more information on how to take care of other reptiles like snakes, lizards, and tortoises, check out our website.

Thanks for reading!

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