Can a Goldfish and a Turtle Live Together?

The internet is full of strange bedfellow stories and pictures. A classic features a white tiger cub whose parents tragically died and was taken under the wing of a loving chimpanzee. Seeing images and video of the two frollicking in the park like old chums is one of the most uplifting things the internet currently curates. 

But when you mix two animals together in your own home, you can put one or both of them in jeopardy of seriously harming or even killing one another. You’ve heard stories of friends who introduced the wrong species of fish in a tank, only to find the next morning they’d eaten all the other occupants. Ignorance breeds tragedy. 

Fortunately some pets, like the monkey and the tiger, can enjoy a happy existence together without ever bringing any harm to either party. One such combination are turtles and goldfish, which seem unlikely, but if kept properly, can create a perfect environment for some adorable, DIY pictures of your own. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the best practices for keeping goldfish and turtles in the same environment safely. 

Just to be clear

Yes turtles and goldfish can live together in peace. 

The Best Environment for Your Goldfish and Turtle To Thrive

Wherever you choose to keep your goldfish and turtle, it’s important they both have a wide open space to move and swim in. They will treasure their independence from one another. 

To get a proper sense of how much space you’ll need to consider the size of your turtle. For every inch of shell they have, you should add ten gallons of water. Goldfish will obviously require even further accommodation.

So what you’re likely in the market for a tank of 100 to 150 gallons at least, depending on the size of your turtle. 


If you have less space to work with, you can compensate by making their two environments entirely different, either by including a pond or a full aquarium.

Whatever you choose, it’s critical that they don’t live in tap water.

You absolutely must add a filter for the water in which they swim. 

It’s also important to keep a close eye on how they interact, so keep the tank nearby where you spend most of your time.

Especially in the early days, if you’re uncertain of how they’ll treat each other. If they appear to fight or you get the sense that something’s not right, it’s best to separate them.

The creatures can live together in part because they do naturally, but naturally they live in a community. There’s no telling how they’ll interact when they’re put alone with one another. 

What Kind of Turtles Can Live With Fish?

Turtles and fish can live together, but this is not true across the board. There are certain species of turtle that will instantly consider them food. 

Red bellied turtles commonly live well with fish. This is part because they are shy creatures, not terribly interested in hunting and don’t really like interacting with other animals. They should be watched, as it takes time for them to adjust to other pets. 

But once they become accustomed to one another, they can even become good friends and share their food. 

One other kind of turtle that lives well with goldfish is the Peninsula Cooter.

They are also used to living in a community that has rules about eating other animals, though they should be watched more closely, because miscommunication is common in animals. 

There are a few other species that live well with goldfish, all of which come with the same standard warning. 

Filtering Is Critical

We briefly mentioned the importance of a filter in your tank. The filter is absolutely crucial in eliminating waste, and you need one powerful enough to handle what your turtle and fish excrete. 

For this, the best option is a canister-filtration system. Not only are they the strongest available, the multiple levels of filtration that the water goes through combine chemical, mechanical and biological filters to really give the water the thorough filtering it requires. 

You need a fish filter, obviously. However, when you have both a turtle and fish, the waste the turtle produces is often too strong for the fish to survive. Turtles tend to live in relatively filthy environments without any harm to their health. 

Fish can’t live like that. So you need a strong filter to bring balance to the two environments. 

It’s also important to:

  • Check your tank’s pH levels regularly. You want to keep the level between 6 and 9, and should always ensure the chlorine and ammonia levels are at zero or very nearly there. 
  • Make sure you aerate the water. This keeps oxygen levels in the water healthy, allowing good bacteria to live. 

But Don’t Turtles Eat Goldfish?

In the wild, many species of turtles do eat fish. Red-eared sliders often subsist on various kinds of fish as well as aquatic plant life. Most aquatic species of turtles have fish as a regular part of their diet. 

But this is not true of all turtles. Box turtles, for instance, rarely eat fish. 

Fish Like To Hide

All animals like their privacy to a certain degree. A fish that’s constantly moving around the tank, afraid of another occupant, is going to be very stressed and probably not going to live very long. 

One way to mitigate this is to offer a few places for the fish to swim off to for some privacy. There are a number of household items, as well as things you can buy at the pet store, that your fish will love, including:

  • Turned-over flower pots
  • PVC pipes
  • Pieces of driftwood
  • Large rocks
  • Commercial hideouts

Fish and turtles can easily live together in perfect harmony most of the time, provided the turtle is the right species. And you’re sure to get a kick of all the nature photographs you’ll be able to take in your own home of your fish/turtle community, where all seems happy and even food is shared. 

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