what fish can live with turtles

If you are considering putting turtles and fish in the same tank, it’s important that you know what you’re doing. In today’s article, I will discuss if turtles and fish can live together, and also explore which fish can live with turtles. I will go into detail on how to make the best turtle and fish aquarium setup.

Can turtles live with fish?

Yes, turtles and fish can live together. However, you must have the right aquarium setup to keep them both alive and healthy.

While turtles do have a natural instinct to hunt and eat fish, if you get the right species of fish and the right tank setup, there is a good chance your turtle and fish and peacefully coexist.

Now let’s talk about some of the best fish that can live with turtles.

What fish can live with turtles?

The best species of fish that can live with turtles are Danios, Livebearers, Tiger Barbs, Plecos, and Cichlids.


can zebra fish live with turtles

Zebrafish, also known as Danios, are a great species to live with turtles. For starters, they are very fast swimmers which allow them to avoid a hungry turtle. They can also grow up to 2-3 inches, which might be larger than your turtle’s mouth.

Zebrafish are also a pretty hardy fish and are not extremely sensitive to water conditions. They can also thrive in water temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees fahrenheight, which is ideal for a turtle.

Even if your turtle does eat a couple of your zebrafish, they are extremely cheap so it won’t break the bank to buy a few more.


Livebearers refer to a range of fish species including guppies, mollies, and platies. They are a great species of fish for your turtle tank for a couple reasons:

  • They can reproduce like crazy, which can help them repopulate even if your turtle does eat a few. They also give live birth opposed to laying eggs, which increases the chances that they baby fish survive.
  • Despite their small size, Livebearers are extremely fast and can usually outswim any turtle.
  • Most livebearers prefer a water temperature between 74 and 78 degrees fahrenheight, which is a healthy range for a turtle.
  • Livebearers are also know for their vibrant colors, which can certainly add to the aesthetic of your tank.

Tiger Barbs

can tiger barbs live with turtles

I have had good luck so far with adding tiger barbs to my turtle tank. They are extremely quick, so my turtle stands no chance in catching up to them. Tiger Barbs are a tropical fish and can withstand water temperatures up to 82 degrees, which is very compatible with a turtle.

These fish do prefer to live in schools, so I suggest getting at least 4. The only downside with tiger barbs is that they can sometimes be aggressive with other fish. However, as long as you have a big enough tank they shouldn’t cause too many problems.


pleco and turtle

Bristlenose plecos are algae eaters that can peacefully co-exist with your turtle. They are a very hardy species and can survive a wide range of tank conditions. They prefer to be kept in temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees fahrenheight. Plecos can grow up to 6 inches, which also will probably be too big for your turtle to eat.

They are very easy to take care of because you don’t have to feed them. This is because they feed on uneaten food and algae that is already in your tank. This means they can also keep your turtle tank clean. If you are interested in a fish that can help clean your tank, you should check out the best cleaning fish for turtle tanks.

The only downside with plecos is that they can poop a lot.


can African cichlids live with turtles

Cichlids can also live with turtles. They require water temperatures between 76 and 82 degrees fahrenheight, which is very ideal for turtles. While these fish can live with turtles, they are pretty aggressive so I wouldn’t recommend putting other fish in the tank with them.

Cichlids in general are very territorial, and can become very aggressive, particularly when they are mating. For this reason, if you do decide to add a few yellow cichlids to your tank, I would recommend only adding a few. A group of fully-grown, aggressive cichlids can easily turn the tables on your turtle and injure it.

Since Cichlids can grow quite large, it’s important that they live in a very large tank with enough room to swim and avoid the turtle.

I also suggest that you don’t add more than five cichlids to the same tank, as they might get aggressive toward each other.

While the above species are good choices, there are certainly other types of fish that can live with your turtle. It’s just important that you know the basic requirements.

If you are looking for a feeder fish your turtle, you should watch my video below.

What type of fish can live with turtles?

turtle in fish tank

The key is to find fish that have similar habitat requirements, fast, and have the right temperament.

Habitat requirements: When deciding on a fish for your turtle tank, you must ensure that the fish can withstand the conditions of your turtle tank. The most important aspect is temperature. You will need a fish that can comfortably live in a water temperature between 75 and 85 degrees fahrenheight. To achieve this temperature, you will likely need a turtle tank heater. You will also want a fish that can generally withstand hardy water conditions since turtles can produce a lot of waste.

Fast: Another requirement for a fish that lives with a turtle is that it must be fast. Specifically, it must be faster than the turtle. You want your fish to easily be able to escape if your turtle decides to chase after it.

Temperament: While there isn’t a specific requirement, it is best to go with fish that are friendly or slightly aggressive. You don’t want a fish that is too friendly, because it might not be smart enough to recognize the threat that the turtle presents. On the flip side, you don’t want a very aggressive fish that might try to fight against the turtle. There have been some cases of aggressive fish eating the eyes of turtles and making them blind.

Even if you have the perfect aquarium setup and the right species of fish, there is still a good chance that your turtle will eat some of your fish. For this reason, you should never put fish in a turtle tank that you are not okay with dying.

For this reason, I also suggest that you don’t put expensive fish in your turtle tank, since it can be costly if you turtle starts to eat them.

Can goldfish live with turtles?

goldfish with turtle

This is a tricky question. While goldfish can live with turtles, it is not recommended for a couple reasons.

The main reason is that most goldfish prefer a colder water temperature that is less than 75 degrees fahrenheight. This means that the water in a turtle tank will probably be too warm for them.

Secondly, goldfish are extremely bony fish. This can be dangerous because if your turtle does decide to eat the goldfish, it can cause digestive issues for your turtles.

While it’s not recommended to keep goldfish with turtles, it is not an absolute no. I had a goldfish with my turtle for a couple months, and they coexisted peacefully. My goldfish was quite large, so I think my turtle thought it was too big to eat.

I kept my water temperature at a steady 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which seemed to be okay for my goldfish. Also, since goldfish can withstand pretty hardy conditions, it was totally okay with the water quality.

That being said, my goldfish died after a couple months, and my turtle did eat it. I’m not sure if the goldfish died of natural causes and then the turtle ate the carcass, or if the turtle just chased it down.

Now that you know why type of fish can live with turtles, let’s talk about how to setup a turtle and fish aquarium.

Turtle and fish aquarium setup

When it comes to setting up your aquarium for your turtle and fish, the main things you should focus on our size, decorations, and filtration.


can turtles live with fish

If you plan to put fish in your turtle tank, it is very important that you have a large turtle tank. You need to give your fish plenty of space to swim around and avoid your turtle. If they are living together in a small space, your turtle will be much more inclined to eat the fish.

Aside from the actual size of your tank, you should also make sure that you fill up the majority of the tank with water. This will give your turtle and fish more room to swim around, and it will help limit their interactions.


If you plan on having your fish and turtle live together, you must fill your tank up with plenty of decorations and hiding spots for your fish. This can be a range of plants (real or fake), driftwood, and really any other type of decoration that can provide cover for your fish.

Your fish will become very stressed if they live in an empty tank with only water. They will have to spend their entire life evading the turtle. Giving them hiding spots lets them rest and feel safe.


While turtles already require a strong filtration setup, it’s even more important when you add fish. This is because fish will create additional waste. For this reason, you need to make sure that your filter can keep up with the additional waste produced by the fish.

When filters don’t clean adequately, it can cause stress for both your fish and turtles.

If you are in the market for a filter, you should check out my guide on the best filter for a turtle tank.

Fish and turtle tank

There’s a couple more things you should keep in mind if you plan on putting fish in your turtle tank. For one, you should make sure that your turtle is always well fed. A hungry turtle is way more likely to chase after a fish compared to a full turtle.

Also, you need to accept the reality that your turtle will most likely eat some of your fish. Even if you have the perfect species and aquarium setup, you turtle will likely get a few of the fish. Only put fish in your turtle tank that you are willing to lose.

If your fish are able to coexist with your turtle, it can produce a lot of benefits. For one, it will give your tank a much more realistic touch. It can also help keep both your fish and turtle active.  

I also suggest that you add fish to your turtle tank while your turtle is still young. Younger turtles will be less inclined to eat fish compared to adult turtles.