Do Catfish Eat Turtles?

Catfish and turtles aren’t the best of friends. Catfish tend to prey on baby turtles, while adult turtles see catfish as food. As a pet owner, you’ll want to keep them separate in your aquarium. In this guide, we’ll explain how both species can live together. 

Do Catfish Eat Turtles?

Catfish are bottom feeders who tend to eat at night. Common food includes mollusks, crustaceans, larvae, insects, insects, seeds, and fish. On some occasions, catfish will attack and kill turtles if they’re hibernating. 

Here is the clip of catfish eating a turtle.

Do Catfish Eat Baby Turtles?

Baby turtles are more vulnerable than their adult counterparts. If the catfish’s mouth is wide enough, they will consume a baby turtle within seconds. That is why you need to keep your baby turtle separated. 

Do Catfish Eat Snapping Turtles?

Unlike baby turtles, catfish are unable to eat snapping turtles. The turtle’s strong shell provides enough defense to keep the fish away. If anything, snapping turtles will chase after the catfish, as they’ll hunt them for food. 

Do Snapping Turtles Eat Catfish?

In the wild, turtles eat fish (including catfish) as a part of their diet. Catfish contains protein, which is essential to a turtle’s growth. Adult snapping turtles will attack and eat catfish if provoked. 

Can Catfish and Turtles Live Together?

Turtles and catfish can co-exist as long as they’re separated. Since both are aggressive towards each other, you’ll need a tank divider. Here are some things you’ll need to consider if you’re planning on housing a catfish and a turtle in one aquarium. 

Tank Size

Make sure you have a large tank to keep the fish and turtles in the same enclosure. This gives the turtle and the catfish enough room. We suggest getting an 80 gallon 5-foot long tank. Also, determine how much space an individual turtle or fish needs. That way, both can live together without attacking one another.

Here’s a guide on the right tank sizes for your turtles:

  • 30 gal of water – Turtles up to 6 inches
  • 55-60 gal of water – Turtles up to 8 inches
  • 70-130 gal of water – Turtles 8 inches or taller

Here’s a rule of thumb, you’ll need a gallon of water per inch of fish. For instance, if you have a catfish that’s 5-7 inches, your tank will need 35 gallons of water. 

Observe Your Turtle’s Reaction

Adult turtles are more likely to be herbivores. As a result, mature turtles will rarely attack any live fish because they eat more vegetables. Different turtle species achieve maturity at different times and sizes. As a pet owner, you need to research your turtle and know when they reach adulthood. 

Add Hiding Spots to the Tank

Give your catfish and turtle multiple hiding spots in the aquarium. This gives the catfish and the turtle space and distance from each other. A less stressed turtle is a healthier one. 

  • Hiding spots include PVC pipes and terracotta pipes. They are more practical but are less decorative. Alternatively, you can have commercially made hiding areas such as miniature sunken ships. 
  • In addition to these hiding spots, plants provide an ample amount of cover in your tank. You can use either synthetic or natural plants. Since turtles and catfish tend to eat plants, it’s better to get synthetic plants in your aquarium. 
  • Rocks and driftwood are great hiding spots for catfish. They add a natural appearance to the tank and beautify the enclosure. 

Adjust the pH and the Temperature

Catfish and turtles have a need when it comes to a tank’s pH and temperature levels. Fortunately, they have similar needs. 

Most turtles swim in 75-86°. For catfish, their optimum Temperature is between 75-80 degrees °F. Based on the aquarium’s pH level, turtles like an alkaline environment that’s 7.4 – 7.8 pH. The pH requirement for catfish will depend if they’re from saltwater or freshwater. 

Freshwater fish require a 5.5 – 7 pH level. Saltwater catfish need a pH of 8 or more. While you can keep catfish and turtles in the same tank, it’s impossible to do the same for saltwater and freshwater fish. 

Why Turtles and Catfish Don’t Get Along

  • The main reason lies in the turtle’s feeding habits. Freshwater turtles are omnivores, meaning that they eat snails, clams, and other aquatic fish. Because of this, turtles may view the catfish in your tank as prey. 
  • The turtles and catfish require different aquarium conditions. Basking lamps in the tank might not be suitable for catfish. Since turtles are solitary, they don’t make good tankmates with catfish. 
  • Some turtles, such as box turtles, are highly territorial. They will attack a catfish if they are within their vicinity. 


Catfish and turtles are aquatic rivals, but they can live together. Remember, turtles are omnivores and will eat fish when hungry. Make sure you have multiple hiding spots for the catfish. Regardless of this, remember that turtles are predatory and may still harass and hunt them. By keeping your tank large enough, you can ensure that your turtles and catfish can co-exist. 

Also read

Do Turtles Eat Cockroaches?

Do Alligators Eat Turtles?

Do Squirrels Eat Turtles?

Can Turtles Eat Neon Tetra?


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