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Best Cleaning Fish for Turtle Tank

The most read article I have ever written was on the topic of Turtles and fish coexisting in the same habitat. Since writing the article in 2019, it has received over 150,000 unique page views! I often update the article as I learn new information to ensure that the article is up to date. But for today’s topic, I dive into a related topic that deserves a full article all to itself: What is the best cleaning fish for a Turtle Tank?

What to keep in mind?

When considering the best cleaning fish for a turtle tank, you must first make sure the fish is compatible with your turtle. The characteristics to look for include:

  • Fish that won’t outgrow the tank (If you have fish and Turtles in a tank, I recommend at least an 80 gallon tank)
  • Fish that aren’t aggressive
  • Fish that are fast
  • Fish that eat algae (we want them to clean after all!)

Best Cleaning Fish for Turtle Tank

With that criteria in mind, the top algae eater fish that help clean a turtle tank are Bristlenose Plecos and Chinese algae eaters.

Bristlenose Plecos for cleaning a turtle tank

Bristlenose Plecos with turtles

Plecos are a great fish that can coexist with a turtle and help keep the tank clean. They are peaceful by nature, consume a lot of algae, and are fast with tough skin so that they should be safe from becoming a turtle snack!

That being said, there are a couple things you should keep in mind. The larger the Pleco the better, as your turtle is more likely to eat smaller ones.

Additionally, you should make sure your Pleco has plenty of hiding places within the tank. Ideally, your turtle should not be able to access these spots.

Lastly, it is better to introduce Plecos to your turtle while they are younger. Bigger turtles might be more inclined to eat the Pleco for a snack.

What do Plecos need in a tank?

Temperature: Must be between 74 – 80 degrees fahrenheit 

PH: 6.5 to 7.8

Plants: They are nocturnal and appreciate a variety of plants to hide in and escape the light. Heavily vegetated plants are great. Plants that are great for Plecos and turtles include Java fern, Hornwort, and Anubias.

Tank mates: While mating, males can sometimes be aggressive towards each other. For this reason, I would recommend only one male or a male and female. Additionally, you should ensure each Pleco has at least 10 gallons of water to itself. If you add too many Plecos, they will almost certainly outgrow your tank.

Chinese algae eaters for cleaning a turtle tank

Chinese algae eaters with turtles

Chinese algae eaters can be territorial with other fish but should be fine companions for a turtle and are a fine option for keeping a turtle tank clean.

It is fine to pair it with a turtle as it is fast enough to escape any danger, however, I would avoid adding any additional fish as they can often be aggressive, especially as they get older (I have never heard of a Chinese algae eater being aggressive with a turtle.)

If you add a Chinese algae eater, remember to not manually remove the algae you see on the sides of the tank as this is their main source of food. 

Also, you should make sure that your Chinese algae eater has a lot of hiding spots.

What do Chinese algae eaters need in a tank?

Temperature: Must be between 75 – 82 degrees fahrenheit 

PH: 6.0 to 8.3

Plants: Not too picky but make sure you have some plants or hideouts for them to hide in and explore. 

Tank mates: Because they can be aggressive towards other fish, they are not well suited for multiple fish if you hope to have a peaceful tank. They are a great match to be the only fish in a turtle tank, but look elsewhere if you want multiple species to live with your turtle. 

A reminder about fish living with your turtle:

You must always be careful when introducing fish to your turtle tank. For beginners, I recommend avoiding adding the fish unless you are confident that they will be compatible.

Making a wrong decision can be dangerous for both your fish and your turtle. I know a lot of people think algae eaters are the answer to keeping their turtle tank clean. However, there are plenty of other aspects that have way more impact on your tank’s cleanliness.

To learn more, check out my article that goes into detail on the best way to clean a turtle tank.

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