Will My Turtle Eat My Fish?


You might already have a fish, or you might already have a Turtle. Or maybe you’re just contemplating starting a tank where you’ll put both. Is it possible? Is it even a good idea? Let’s all find out.

Will Turtles Eat Fish?

Turtles are always a danger to fish especially when the fish are smaller. This is why it’s a risk putting these two together in one tank. If you don’t like losing fish, don’t keep them with Turtles at all.

The safest way to keep either one safe is to have separate tanks for each. But that doesn’t mean keeping them in one tank is impossible. It is, and you can become successful at it by following a few tips and guidelines.

Just bear in mind that you may always lose some fish in the likelihood that your Turtle wakes up one day and decides to eat a few of them.

Why Is My Turtle Eating My Fish?

This is the risk of having both fish and a Turtle in one tank.

Fish are naturally a part of a Turtle’s diet whether in the tank or as a pet. In lakes or streams, Turtles eat whatever’s available to them including fish like Bluegill, Crappie, and Guppies.

Omnivorous Turtles, or those that eat both plants and animals, eat a variety of available food in the wild. Their diet mainly consists of worms, snails, insects (grasshoppers, crickets), and plants (veggies, some fruits).

Carnivorous Turtles have more protein in their diet.

In the absence of said food, they may turn to eat smaller fish. But this is not an everyday occurrence as juvenile to adult Turtles in the wild don’t even feed every day. So in an aquarium, most seasoned hobbyists give their Turtles feeder fish about twice a month and only as a treat.

What Happens If A Turtle Eats A Fish?

Fish are a good source of calcium for Turtles as long as they are eaten whole, including the bones.

Will My Turtle Eat My Fish?
Will My Turtle Eat My Fish?

Not only do Turtles get calcium from fish, but live feeder fish give Turtles a taste of hunting for their food. That’s why feeder fish shouldn’t be very bony as the Turtle might choke on it. The live fish are given only occasionally as the high thiamine content might cancel the calcium that the Turtle consumes.

Both nutrients are important to Turtles and must be part of their diet. But too many feeder fish and the Turtle might get sick because of thiamine deficiency. But given in sparse amounts, feeder fish should be fine for your Turtle.

What Fish Are Good For Turtle Tanks?

Bear in mind that while it is possible to be keeping fish with your Turtle, you have to choose the species as some aren’t good tank mates (and food) for your Turtle at all.

There are many varieties of fish you can keep with Turtles, but they:

  • shouldnt have long fins that Turtles like to chase (no Bettas, no Lyretail Guppies, no Angelfish)
  • have to be fast and smart (Tetras, Danios, Livebearers, Rasboras)
  • should have an active and semi-aggressive attitude (Tiger Barbs, Yellow Cichlids)
  • should be healthy to eat for Turtles (no Minnows, no Goldfish)

Let’s discuss these guidelines.

Fish that should be kept with Turtles shouldn’t have long fins that might entice a Turtle to bite or eat it. Besides, long-finned fish are slower than shorter-finned ones, so it makes sense to avoid fish with overly long fins like Bettas, Lyretail varieties, or Angelfish.

The short fins help these fish escape when needed as they can swim fast. Good examples of these are Tetras, Danios, and other livebearers like regular Guppies and Swordtails.

Not only do they have to swim fast, but they should also be smart and active enough to keep away from the Turtle. They should know when to dart and hide to avoid getting eaten. Fish that are constantly moving, such as Danios, are great examples.

So it also makes sense for these fish to be a little more aggressive than your mere docile freshwater swimmer. It helps if they can hold their own against a Turtle. Just make sure it’s not too big or aggressive, or it might fight with your Turtle. There have been reports of large Cichlids pecking out their Turtle tankmate’s eyes.

So if you like Cichlids, choose a smaller variety such as the yellow ones for better temperament. That also means you need a large tank to keep both species. And with the large space, there is less aggression on either side.

We also warned you not to feed your Turtle Minnows or Goldfish. That’s because regular consumption of Thiaminase-containing fish can lead to Vitamin B1 deficiency. This type of reptile illness leads to a compromised immune system, muscle problems, and/or pyramiding (a condition when there are more pyramids on a Turtle’s shell than normal).

Turtles with a thiamine deficiency should be taken to a vet for evaluation to be given proper supplements.

Guide To Keeping Fish With A Turtle

The best way to tackle this endeavor is to plan.

Will My Turtle Eat My Fish?
What happens if a Turtle eats a fish?

Tip #1: Create a good setup for both the Turtle and the fish

Don’t forget to consider the needs of both including the basking space for the Turtle and the right water parameters that fit both. You might be worried about your fish getting eaten but they might not survive your current setup anyway.

A heavy-duty filter is a requirement to take care of the waste that these creatures will produce.

Scaping your tank correctly is another key to making this setup work. There should be enough plants, driftwood, and ornaments in there to break the Turtle’s line of sight. This would help your smart fish hide from the Turtle when needed.

But don’t overdo it. Keep wide open spaces where your pets can swim freely.

Also, your tank size matters: the bigger, the better! Otherwise, there would be territorial fights between these species. Tank size is important also because your Turtle will grow big over time. So put your Turtle’s adult size plus fish space requirements into consideration before buying your tank.

Tip #2: Make sure that both species are well-fed

Turtles will always look to fish if they’re too hungry. As we mentioned, fish is not a Turtle’s first choice, but a starving Turtle won’t be picky.

Note, however, that being well-fed doesn’t mean being overfed. Overfeeding your Turtle (or your fish) will open up an avenue of problems that would complicate your setup. Don’t go down that road.

Tip #3: Keep schooling fish in a school

If you’ve chosen a schooling fish like Tiger Barbs, Neon Tetras, or Harlequin Rasboras, then by all means keep them in a school. Buy at least 6 of them so they’ll be livelier and smarter. If you choose livebearers, it’s also an advantage to keep them in a complete group so they can keep producing more fish in place of those that get eaten.

Tip #4: Observe how your Turtle and fish react to each other’s presence

Look out for signs of stress, especially on your fish. Scared pets are unhealthy pets.

If you already have the Turtle, feed it first before introducing fish. This will make the Turtle less interested in the newcomers.

But if you already have fish, then choose a Turtle breed that isn’t aggressive with them. Read up on particular species but keep an eye out when you introduce them into the tank.

Conclusion

We hope you found the right fish friend for your Turtle. Keep in mind the risks and do your best to make sure both species are healthy. If you’re determined but nervous, start with inexpensive fish so your heart doesn’t break (so much) when you lose some.

Let us know what you learn from this experience. There is always room for risk-takers in this hobby.

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