The scientific evidence of is there really a battle for survival between turtles

Turtles are often thought of as peaceful animals that don’t cause any trouble. However, research has shown that turtles are actually quite capable of engaging in conflict with one another. It may come as a surprise to some, but turtles can and do fight each other for various reasons including competing for resources and defending their territory. Understanding why turtles fight and the consequences of these fights is important in understanding turtle behavior and the overall health of turtle population. For many people, turtles are seen as gentle, peaceful animals. However, have you ever wondered if turtles fight each other? Surprisingly enough, there is a lot of research that suggests that turtles do actually fight one another. This article will discuss the reasons why turtles may fight and some examples of turtle behavior in the wild. We’ll also explore the potential consequences of these fights and look at possible solutions to help manage any conflicts.

What does research say about turtle fighting

Whenever I look at a turtle, their calm behavior never fails to impress me. But as you know, turtles are colorful in nature. They can be angry, friendly, aggressive, stressed and God knows what. Their interesting behavior often makes me think, “Do turtles bully each other?” Sometimes turtles do bully each other though they prefer living in peace and in their own space. A congested area, insufficient food, the disturbing environment can stress out the turtles. It sometimes leads to fighting and biting.

Read on to this article if you are curious to know about the interesting behavior of the turtles. Here I will try to elaborate on what makes a turtle angry and how you can calm your pet.

How Do Turtles Bully Each Other?

Some people may confuse the two terms, “Bullying” and “Fighting”. But both are different things. A turtle bullies another one by following it literally everywhere. Also, the dominant turtle will flutter its claw over another turtle’s head. In some cases, turtle bullying includes pushing another pet or climbing on the carapace forcefully.

The bullying behavior is mostly observed among adult turtles. Both the male and the female turtle can participate in this non-appreciative activity. The baby and young turtles do not bully each other.

Why Do Turtles Bully Each Other?

There is no exact reason why turtles bully each other. But professionals have pointed out a few causes that can lead to bullying in turtles. Such as:

  • Mental stress
  • Hunger
  • Mating behavior
  • Dominance
  • Incompatibility

Mental Stress

Like many other animals, turtles can experience anxiety and stress. When we humans live together, often the behavior of another person pisses us off. This is quite the same as the turtles.

When two or more turtles live together, they have to be comfortable with each other. Sometimes, one turtle can piss off another one. That can lead to the bullying part.

The enclosure environment can also stress out one turtle. For example, if the water temperature is not right or the water is filthy. One pet can channelize this irritation by bullying its tank mate.


An empty belly can be the reason why your turtles bully each other. Turtles are voracious animals due to their wild instinct. When you house multiple turtles, often the sharing of food becomes an issue. If one turtle gets a big share and another one is starving, this will be a problem. The hungry turtle will be stressed and pissed off. It will bully another pet out of hunger.

Mating Behavior

Mating is natural if you house both male and female turtles in the same enclosure. The male turtles usually try to attract the female one by swimming around her and pushing her head. The female partner can ignore the gestures. But the male turtles do not lose hope easily. When a male turtle is bullying the female tank mate, it can indicate that the male one wants to engage in coitus. This type of bullying behavior is more common during the mating season.


There is no doubt that turtles are peace-loving species. But sometimes, the strong and adult turtles want to exhibit their power over the weak or younger ones. Bullying can be a result of dominance.

The dominant behavior is mostly observed in adult males. The females and babies try to make peace with the tank mates.


While housing two turtles in the same enclosure, you always have to consider their compatibility. If you think any two turtles will make a great tank partner, then you are wrong. Sometimes, you might be lucky and your turtles will get along.

But there is a high chance that both turtles will try to dominate each other. This insecurity can lead to bullying and in worst cases, fighting. So yes, flexibility is another reason why turtles bully each other.

How To Stop Your Turtles From Bullying Each Other

Even though bullying is not a serious matter, it can be worse sometimes. As you do not know exactly why your turtles are bullying each other, solving the problem will be a little confusing. You may try keeping the turtles content, but who knows what is going on inside their little heads. Here are some tips that most turtles owners have found effective in case of turtle bullying:

  • Do not keep any lacking while decorating the enclosure.
  • Provide the turtles enough food so that no pet starves and gets pissed off.
  • Try housing males and females in different enclosures.
  • The baby and adult turtles should be housed in different tanks. It is because the adult turtles can try dominating the little ones.
  • If you find out two turtles are not compatible together, separate them immediately.
  • Sometimes UVA rays affect the turtle’s mental state. Make sure your UV bulb is working properly.
  • During the mating season, bullying behavior can occur more frequently. Take a decision if you want to breed your pets or not. If yes, then follow the breeding procedures and act accordingly.

Do Turtles Bite Each Other?

If you have been around turtles, or even have the slightest connection with them, you know turtles do not have teeth.. So, this can make you wonder how turtles bite each other. Or do turtles even bite?

Yes, turtles bite using their V-shaped beak. Actually, their beaks are sharp and they can easily get hold of another turtle, predator, or even human flesh with this honed jaw. According to the victims (sorry for this heavy word), turtle bite is quite painful. Want to experience it? Just angry a turtle, and you will get the idea.

Why Do Turtles Bite Each Other?

So many things can provoke a turtle to bite another buddy, predator, or even human. Here I am sharing the overall reasons that make a turtle bite:

  • Territorial dispute
  • Starvation
  • Insecurity
  • Mating
  • Dominance
  • Mental stress
  • Incompatibility

Territorial Disputes

Turtles require space to swim and move. I have mentioned earlier that turtles prefer staying in their own world without any disturbance. If you house multiple turtles in a congested space, no one gets the room.

Also, a small tank means a limited basking space. I don’t think I have to mention how important basking is for the turtles. If the pets do not get their space, this will lead to fighting and bullying.

In simple words, turtles know what they need and how to accomplish it. If they require more space, they will try to get it by involving in a fight. And what can be a better weapon than biting with the sharp beak?

These territorial disputes are more frequent in the wild. The biting and fighting are not only limited among the species. A turtle sometimes scares off other animals, like an alligator, crocodiles from entering the territory.


Food is the very basic need of turtles. In the wild, turtles do not get the chance of eating every day. So, the pet turtles have this wild instinct of eating voraciously whenever they get food. I have mentioned in my previous articles that turtles can eat even after they are full.

When you provide food to your pet turtles, both will eat the food. Sometimes, one eats more than its share. That keeps another pet hungry. An empty stomach can lead the turtle to bite and involve in different fights.


You know the hard shells help the turtle protect themselves from the attack of the predators. They also bite the opponent as the defense mechanism. In the wild, turtles have to survive all by themselves. Biting is the greatest weapon of these species. But when it comes to the captive situation, turtles can still bite out of insecurity. If you hold the turtle carelessly, it will panic the pet. As a result, the turtle may bite the owner. Again, if you continuously poke the turtle or try to scare it, you can get the painful bite of its sharp jaws.

So, biting is another weapon for the turtles. In the worst cases, the turtles can injure the opponent just with the bite.


Mating can be an intense process for all turtle species. In most turtles, it has been observed that the male partners bite the female one during the mating. Take red eared sliders as an example.

However, it is not obvious that the female turtles will always agree to the gesture. Sometimes, the female turtles bite the male one to oppose the mating process.


Like all animals, turtles try to exhibit dominance. Especially adult males always try to dominate the weak babies and female turtles. They do it to show their strength and their higher social status.

To show dominance, the turtles do different activities. For example, claiming the top position while stacking. Biting is another way for the strong and adult turtles to brag about their power.

Mental Stress

You can not expect your pet turtles to be in a good mood 24/7. The environment or the tank mate might ruin their chill state. Insufficient food, congested tank or basking space, filthy water, improper tank temperature are enough for the turtles to stay stressed.

Also, if the enclosure is in a crowded place or your guests try playing with the pets, they can get irritated. Again, when a tank mate bullies or nags another turtle, it will make the pet anxious. To exhibit irritation, stress, or anxiety, turtles bite each other.


I have already discussed this in the previous section. If your turtles are not compatible with each other, there will be lots of bullying and fighting. Turtle fighting includes pushing, biting, kicking, etc.

How To Stop Turtles From Biting Each Other?

I have already mentioned that turtle bites hurt. If an adult strong turtle bites a little one, it will get injuries. The wound can lead to rotting, fungal, or bacterial infection. So, as an owner, it is your duty to restrain your turtles from biting each other. Here are some ways to accomplish your goal:

  • Provide the turtles with a well decorated enclosure. Make sure it is spacious and the basking dock has enough room for all the pets. Also, the water should be clean and the temperature of the tank must be suitable for the pets.
  • Offer the pet turtles enough food. Keep an eye while feeding the turtles. Assure that each turtle is getting its rightful share.
  •  Place visual barriers inside the enclosure. This will help the weak turtles to hide and protect themselves from the bites of a strong competitor.
  • Do not house male and female turtles if they fight a lot.
  • Avoid housing adult and baby turtles together in a single enclosure. This will give the adult turtles a chance to exhibit their dominance.
  • If you find out your male turtle is nagging for a mate and the female one is avoiding the gesture by biting, separate them.
  • Place the tank in a quiet place. Do not let the children or guests disturb the pet.
  • While moving the pet, hold it properly. Do not hurt its feet or do not push its head with your fingers.
  • If two turtles do not get along, try raising them in separate enclosures.

Do Turtles Fight With Each Other?

By far, I think you get the real nature of the turtles. They can get aggressive at some point, which is totally healthy. The turtles bite or even fight each other out of stress or aggression. Can you imagine your pet turtle fight?

The turtles obviously do not fight by punching with their hands. Their fighting includes nipping, biting, pushing, or hitting on the shell. The fighting is not limited only among similar species. Turtles from different species can also get involved in a fight.

In my previous section, I elaborated on why turtles bite. A turtle will bite or nip the opponent. This is different from the time when a turtle bite during mating. The biting or nipping gets more severe in a fight.

Why Do Turtles Fight?

The peace loving turtles can turn into ferocious creatures while fighting. Ain’t you curious what makes a turtle fight? Here are the reasons:

1. Space

You already know that turtles require much room to move and swim. If you house multiple turtles in a congested tank, there will be fighting over the space.

This is not only applicable to the water area, but also for the docks. Basking is important for the turtles. If the basking space is crowded, there is a high possibility of a fight over the territory.

2. Mating

Male turtles start nipping or nagging around the female ones during the mating season. They do it just to grab the attention of the partners. Don’t you think female turtles do not have their opinions? They have the power to reject any mating partner. At first, the female turtles try ignoring the male gestures if they are not interested. But for the persistent males, the females may start a fight. And trust me, female turtles can give quite a fight when they have to.

3. Food

Food is one of the things that keep your turtles calm. Pet turtles do not prefer to stay on an empty stomach. They are voracious eaters and will continue eating even after they are full. So, insufficient food can cause fighting.

The turtles consider the food as their territory. If another tank mate eats more, there will be conflict while sharing food.

4. Water Quality

Water quality plays a significant role in a turtle’s life as they spend most of their time swimming. “What on earth water quality matters in a fight?” Well, it does.

If the water quality is low, the turtles will suffer from several diseases. It can be infectious or just cold diseases. So, in a sense, this affects the turtles’ mental stability. An irritated turtle often gets involved in fights.

5. Exhibit Power

You already know that turtles love showing power and dominance. The strong turtles dominate the weaker ones. Sometimes, two strong competitors get involved in a fight just to prove themselves worthy.

These types of fighting occur over territory or even while choosing mating partners. Especially, male turtles tend to exhibit their strength more than female ones.

6. Mismatch

When you house different turtle species together, there can be more fighting. Why? It is because each species has its tolerant limit. One can be more aggressive than the other one. For example, snapping or softshell turtles are pretty dangerous as tank mates. Putting the wrong tank mates can be the reason behind your turtles’ fight.

How To Stop The Turtles Fight?

You obviously do not want your tank to turn into a battleground. So, for the well being of the turtles, you should take steps to keep the turtles away from the fighting. What will reduce the fight? Try the following tips:

  • Housing multiple turtles is the main reason why turtles fight. If you have space and ability, try raising turtles in separate enclosures.
  • For multiple turtles, a big tank is a must. Make sure all the turtles get the room for swimming and moving.
  • Get a big basking dog for the turtles. Ensure that the basking station is spacious for the pets and they get the UV rays properly. For big docks, you can set up multiple UV lamps.
  • The better the water quality the healthier and happier the turtles are. Install a water filter inside the tank. Also, check the pH level and chlorine level regularly.
  • Provide the turtles with a sufficient balanced diet. If the turtles conflict a lot while feeding, separate them during this time. Strictly follow the feeding schedule of the turtles.
  • Plant small vegetation, place different sized rocks, or commercial visual barriers. This will save the weak turtles from getting hurt in the fight.
  • Do not house male and female turtles in the same enclosure. The male turtles often try to dominate the female ones, especially during mating season.
  • Male turtles are more aggressive and dominant in nature. Putting multiple male turtles in a single enclosure will be a big mess. Do not try this.
  • Mixing the turtles can be a bad decision. The adult ones try to bite or nip the young turtles. So, house turtles considering their age and sex.
  • Finally, the turtles should be able to choose their compatible tank mate. Try different pairings to get the perfect companions for your pet.

What Happens To The Turtle During A Fight?

In most cases, one party gets injured during the fighting. But when two strong turtles fight, the outcome is more severe. Turtles can get scratch, scrapes, or even deep wounds while fighting.

In rare cases, turtles can kill the opponent during the fight. So, always separate the turtles if you observe anything like this. Try calming the pet by leaving it alone for some time.

Frequently asked questions:

Pollution is a big survival challenge because people capture the Green Sea Turtle and sell or use their oil, cartilage, skin, shells and eggs. Pollution is another big problem that the Green Sea Turtle has to face. They misunderstand trash for food such as plastic bags as jellyfish.

They use their front flippers to move forward and upward, and their back flippers to steer left or right, much like rowboat paddles. Not only can they exert great bursts of speed to avoid predators, but they are also long distance swimmers, able to travel miles and miles without tiring

Bycatch (the accidental capture of non-target species in active fishing gear) is one of the greatest threats to sea turtles and many other marine species worldwide. Every year, fishing gear from gillnets, trawls, purse seine nets, longlines, traps and pots capture, injure and kill vast amounts of marine life.

To protect themselves from predators, turtles can pull their heads, legs, and tails into their shells. Box turtles have the additional ability to clamp their shells completely shut due to a hinge in the plastron. Because the shell is made of bone, very few predators can successfully consume an adult turtle.


In conclusion, do turtles fight each other? The answer is unknown, but it’s possible that they do. Captive turtles in zoos typically do not engage in combat, but wild populations are much more diverse. Further study is needed to see if turtles actually fight or not. Whether or not you think this behavior is cute or disturbing, one thing is for sure – turtle combat remains an enigma. So, yes. Turtles do bully, bite, or even fight. These harmless and slow moving creatures can be forceful depending on the situation. As a responsible owner, you must have an idea about the aggressive nature of the turtles. This will help you take immediate action.

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