The Unseen Dangers of Keeping Betta Fish and Turtles Together

Turtles and betta fish are both beloved aquatic creatures, but can they coexist in the same environment? Although turtles may appear gentle and serene creatures, some species of them are still predators, so the question arises: will turtles eat betta fish? In this article we discuss the interactions between turtles and betta fish, including if it is safe for them to be housed together.

Many people keep both betta fish and turtles in their home aquariums, believing that they are compatible species. However, what many do not realize is that there are a number of unseen dangers associated with keeping these two species together. It is important to understand the potential harm that can be caused in order to ensure the safety and health of these animals. As the popularity of keeping fish and other aquatic animals in tanks and aquariums increases, so do the number of unique combinations of species people attempt to house together. Unfortunately, many pet owners are unaware of the unseen dangers associated with housing betta fish and turtles together. In this article, we will go through the dangers of keeping betta fish and turtles together and we will discuss why it is important to be conscious about what creatures you keep in your tank, as some combinations can be deadly for one or both of the animals.

Can Betta Fish Live With Turtles? Tank Mates or Foes?

If you’re wondering whether betta fish can live with turtles, the simple answer is no. You cannot keep a betta fish and turtle together, even if it’s temporary. If you try to put a betta fish with any type of turtle species, the odds are that your fish won’t even last a week! Read on to find out why.

Can You Keep a Betta Fish and Turtle Together?

The reasons why you can’t keep a betta fish with a turtle include diet, space, and water parameters.


Most freshwater turtles that you see on the banks of ponds and lakes are omnivores; some species are strictly herbivores while others are carnivores. In general, most turtle species will eat both plant- and animal-based foods, but it’s essential to research the diet of the specific species before you buy them!

In the wild, turtles eat plant matter, algae, insects, various larvae, and fish. This diet does not change in the aquarium, and turtles need to be fed a variety of vegetables and algae-based foods as well as different types of worms, shrimp, and even eggs for protein. A very popular snack for turtles is feeder fish.

Instinctively, turtles have evolved to consider moving fish as food. Unfortunately, they are not able to distinguish between a meal and a tank mate, making it seem like an added betta is something to eat.  Many hobbyists even give their turtles guppies, minnows, and other inexpensive fish as a treat!

There is no true way to work around this as your turtle will always want to eat your betta if put together in the same aquarium. Even if your turtle species is small, it can still take chunks out of your fish. At the very least, turtles can nip at your betta’s fins and cause permanent damage.


Most turtle species are very active and can grow to a considerable size. This is in contrast to betta fish that reach a maximum size of about 3 inches (7.6 cm).The minimum tank size recommended for most turtlesis at least 50-100+ gallons (151.4-378.5+ L). Betta fish, on the other hand, need a mere 5-10 gallons (18.9 L) to thrive. If by some chance your betta fish does not get eaten by your turtle, it is very likely that he will at least feel intimidated and stressed, and may stay hidden out of sight.

Water Parameters

Don’t be fooled that some water parameters overlap between these two species.

Most turtles need a water temperature between 75-85° F (23.9-29.4° C) with betta fish fitting right in that range between 78-80 F. Turtles also need a hotter, raised area of the tank in order to bask as they are cold-blooded.

The problem arises with keeping water parameters in check. For the most part, turtles are fairly hardy and can escape poor water conditions. However, betta fish cannot. In addition to being very active, turtles are very messy. Not only do they create a lot of waste in the water, but they can kick up the substrate and bring in other bits of the substrate and organic matter from the raised area of the tank.

In general, turtles can handle much higher amounts of ammonia than betta fish. This does not mean that turtles will tolerate extraordinary levels of ammonia, but if something happens and there is an ammonia spike, you have slightly more time to correct the issue. This is in contrast to the betta fish, which will start to feel the effects of ammonia immediately. For both betta fish and turtles, the tank should always be pre-cycled with 0 ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrite, and manageable nitrates (<40 ppm nitrates).

However, if something is wrong with your water, you will probably see it reflected in your betta first instead of your turtle. Turtles can also temporarily withstand chlorine if it happens to enter the system whereas betta fish cannot.

Turtles and Bettas Require Different Filters

As we’ve said, turtles tend to be quite messy animals. They really need a powerful canister filter to deal with all the waste they produce, along with the debris they’ll stir up from the bottom of the tank. But remember strong filters produce strong currents.

On the other hand, bettas need slow-moving water to feel at home. They evolved in still or slow-moving pools and simply don’t have the physical setup to deal with strong currents.

A filter that is too powerful can cause your betta permanent stress or, in the worst case, may even suck your betta into the intake. A gentle sponge filter, therefore, is much more suitable for betta fish, but definitely not for turtles!

Bettas Are Slow-Moving Fish

While betta fish can be fairly active, and sometimes aggressive, you won’t see them darting around the tank like danios and rasboras!

Bettas tend to live a much more sedate pace of life. Their long fins are not designed for swimming quickly, and they tend to struggle even swimming against moderate water currents. This is a problem when matching a betta fish with a turtle because turtles will tend to quickly snap any fish that can’t get away in a hurry!

Although turtles can appear to be slow-moving, this is rather deceptive, and they can certainly move fast when snapping up their prey.

If you want to keep turtles with fish, you’ll need to choose a turtle that is relatively benign, and also fish that can swim quickly!

Turtle Species That Can Be Kept With Fish

Turtles that are better suited to living with fish include the Box turtle, Mud turtle, and Musk turtle. These species are either more vegetarian in their diet than most, or are less adept at hunting. Red-Eared Slider turtles, Painted turtles, and Cooters, on the other hand, tend to be better hunters and may enjoy snapping up fish regularly. Snapping turtles should never be kept with any kind of pet fish. These are highly carnivorous turtles and will make light work of even the largest or fastest of aquarium fish.

Fish Species That Can Be Kept With Turtles

Luckily, there are a few fish that can be kept with turtles in the same tank. Keep in mind that compatibility will still largely depend on the species of the turtle and the tank size. Keeping fish with turtles is always a bit of a gamble, and long-term compatibility is never guaranteed!

Tropical Community Aquarium

If you want to keep tropical fish species with your turtles, then you’re going to need to choose species that are fast and can escape from your turtle quickly.

Here are some of the better turtle tank mates:

  • Danios: Giant danios have a good chance of not being eaten due to their size and speed. Celestial Pearl danios is also pretty fast and should have a good chance of escaping from turtle attacks!
  • Several barb species such as Rosy barbs, Tiger barbs, and Denison barbs are fast movers and can quickly get themselves out of trouble.
  • Tetras: Neon Tetras are some of the most popular as they bring a lot of color to the aquarium but other fast-moving species such as Cardinal tetra and Black Phantom tetra may work as well.
  • White Cloud Mountain minnows: These fish are inexpensive and bring activity to the top of the tank. However, you might need to work at getting the water temperature compatible for them and your turtle.
  • Cichlids: Robust cichlids such as Oscars and Convict cichlids may also make compatible tankmates for more vegetarian species of turtle in a larger tank.

Fish To Avoid Pairing With Turtles in Aquariums

For the most part, there are more fish that you will want to avoid keeping with your turtle than those that are compatible!

Some of the most common mistakes include goldfish and plecos. While many people have tried keeping a goldfish in a turtle tank, there are several problems. Goldfish create an incredible amount of waste and are slow-moving fish. They prefer water to be less than 75 Fahrenheit and are easily eaten.

Plecos are another common choice to add to the turtle aquarium because they help cleanup algea. But when kept with turtles, plecos may suck onto the turtle shell, which shouldn’t normally be a problem, unless there is a size incompatibility. Imagine a foot-long pleco stuck onto a baby turtle’s shell! Not very comfortable for your turtle!

Plecos are also relatively slow-moving and a small one may be easily snapped up by an adult turtle. Livebearers like guppies, platies, and mollies are also occasionally recommended to share the same space as turtles, but be careful you understand the context correctly! These fish (especially guppies) are sometimes used as a ‘feeder fish’ – i.e. a fish to feed your turtle, rather than making good long-term tank mates!

In a pond ecosystem, there is more room for your fish to avoid your turtle, in which case goldfish and guppies may become suitable, but unless you’re thinking of going for an enormous 500-gallon+ aquarium, these species are best avoided.

Of course, betta fish are not on the list of approved turtle tank mates.

Keeping Fish Alongside Turtles Successfully

We’re not going to let you believe that keeping any kind of fish alongside a turtle is a simple matter.

Turtles like to eat fish, make a mess, and also have some different tank requirements to fish. But if you have some experience with both turtles and fish and really wanted to give it a try, here are some tips that could help.

Tank Size

The most important aspect to consider for keeping fish and turtles together successfully is the size of the tank!

Most turtle owners like to keep their pets in a tank that’s at least 80 gallons. If you want to keep fish as well, you should be thinking upwards of 100 gallons.You need to make sure that you have space for your fish to escape from menacing turtle attacks, as well as give your turtle enough room for a raised-landing area.

Hiding Places

As well as a big enough tank, you must make sure your fish have enough hiding places to stay out of harm’s way. Rocky caves, bits of driftwood, and dense aquatic plant foliage are all good places for your fish to hide from a hungry turtle.

Age of Turtle

We’ve already spoken about the different types of turtles, but your turtle’s hunting and dietary habits will also depend a lot on its age. Some common pet turtle species such as the Red Eared Slider turtle will eventually grow old enough to enjoy plenty of vegetable matter in their diet, but while they’re young and growing fast, they need significantly more protein. Since fish are such a rich source of protein, it means that younger turtles tend to be more dangerous to fish than older ones.

Keep Your Turtle Well Fed!

A well-fed turtle is less likely to try to hunt your pet fish than a hungry one! Pet turtles tend to be fed meaty foods such as tadpoles, worms, snails, slugs, grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Bettas usually attack scales, gills and tails and will respond if bitten by aggressive fin nippers, such as angel fish or red tail sharks. Goldfish should also be avoided, as well as fish that are larger than your betta or have similar fins

Yes, depending on your betta's personality, he or she can peacefully cohabitate with other fish and invertebrates. However, make sure their aquarium is at least 10 to 20 gallons with lots of cover and live plants or else the betta fish may become overly territorial.

Do not put any decor in your aquarium that contains or is made of metal. This will rust and seriously affect the water in your aquarium. ‍Do not use decorations or ornaments that are sharp. Some decorations can have sharp edges or protruding features that a betta could easily tear its fins or snag itself on

Betta fish are naturally territorial and should not be housed with any other betta fish because they will fight and injure each other, often resulting in death. They are unlikely to get lonely in their tank; however, if they are in a small tank, they may get bored.


In conclusion, keeping betta fish and turtles together can be a dangerous combination due to their size difference and potential health risks caused by water conditions. It is not recommended to house these two species together, as their natural habits and dietary needs are vastly different. While it may be tempting to keep both together in one tank for the sake of convenience and aesthetics, it is best to provide a safe living environment for your pets by keeping them in separate tanks.

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