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what fish can live with red eared slider turtles

What Fish Can Live with Red Eared Slider Turtles?

So, you have decided not to keep your red-eared slider lonely anymore. A wise decision since loneliness might frustrate the red eared slider despite its fondness for solitude. Instead, it is better to provide a playmate (read tank mate) to these beautiful creatures.

Although different animals such as lobsters, snails, and other crustaceans go well with these turtles, some fish species will work best.  Hence, many people ask us, “What fish can live with red eared slider turtles?”

Ideally speaking, we need to find the turtle’s compatibility to live with the fish at first. Later, we will discuss what fish species are suitable for living with these cute and slow-moving buddies.

Can Turtle and Fish Live Together?

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Many people are afraid of the fact that turtles will feed on the small fish species in the tank. While it is not a rare scene, you can still find a way to keep turtles and fish in the same aquarium.

So, here’s a short answer-

Turtles and fish can live happily in the same tank if everything goes well.

Here, ‘if everything’ is an essential consideration since it brings a lot of facts together. You must put the tick sign on a hell of a LOT OF THINGS rightly and still need to be a bit lucky.

So, what are these ‘if everything’ factors?

  1. You have to choose the fish species that will live with the same water parameter as red eared sliders. Hence, the fish species should thrive in 75°-80° water temperatures and 5.5-6.5 pH levels mostly.
  2. Next, the fish shouldn’t be territorial. Otherwise, it might get engaged in a brutal fight with the turtle itself. That’s why you should never keep red eared slider and betta fish together. The Japanese betta is known for its territorial behavior and wouldn’t think twice to attack the turtle if need be.
  3. You must provide a lot of hiding space for the fish. It is essential since most aquarium fish would like to hide it most of the time. Also, it is crucial for their sleeping since, likewise, turtles, fish can’t climb the basking spot for resting.

So, when you ensure all these prerequisites keep turtles and fishes together, will all aquarium fish live with a turtle?

To look for this answer, keep reading the article.

What Fish Can Live with Red Eared Slider Turtles?

Red eared sliders are known for their docile habitat and would rarely attack other residents around them, including the fish. But you would still find it hard to keep a fish safely with the turtle. It implies that not all fish species are compatible with the red eared sliders.

It is partly because most fishes won’t match the water parameter and filtration system for red eared sliders properly. Also, some fishes are too aggressive and oversized to be put together with the red eared sliders.

Hence, we talked with fish and turtle owners and found the following fishes suitable for residing happily with the red eared sliders. These include-

  1. Tetra fish
  2. Zebrafish
  3. Koi fish

If you haven’t kept fish and turtles together previously, I recommend you try your luck with tetras or zebrafish. Both zebra and tetra are school fish. So, you will have to choose at least four to six fishes to keep with the turtle.

Also, these fish species are smart, so they will not confront the turtle. Both species will grow around 1-inch to 2-inch in the tank, so you won’t have to be concerned about adding extra space for them in the tank.

Moreover, both tetra and zebrafish are speedy, so, turtles won’t catch them, even if it wants to taste their flesh. These fishes are freshwater fish and are quite hardy as well.

Furthermore, both fish types come at relatively low pricing and are available at ease too. You might find the neon tetra (the most common aquarium tetra species) in the nearby local fish store.  The introduction of these fishes in the tank with the turtle will allow you to check the red-eared slider reaction cautiously. Also, it lets you check the water condition for the next step.

If you find that the school of tetra or zebrafish is doing fine with the turtle, you might consider introducing it to the koi fishes as well. Nonetheless, it is suggested that you choose small koi fish since large ones will need large space too.

How About Cichlids?

Cichlids, especially yellow cichlids, are a popular fish species for the community tank. You will be glad to know that the yellow cichlids go really well with the red-eared sliders too. The fish species originally came from Africa and developed greatly into incredible aquarium species.

It is a feisty fish with a stunningly vibrant color presentation that you simply can’t ignore. It thrives in the aquarium at ease. Also, it gets a bit bigger, often surpassing a 4-inch length. So, you will have to get a bigger tan when you want to keep cichlids with the red eared sliders.

Also, note that other cichlid subspecies might not get well with the turtles. The list includes-

  1. Wolf cichlids
  2. Red Devil cichlids

Also, note that cichlids are incredibly territorial during their mating time. Hence, only add a couple of these fish to a turtle tank. If you add a full group of adult cichlids with the turtle, they will soon turn the table.

These adults are so aggressive that they might injure the red-eared slider easily, the last thing you won’t want to see.

Fishes That You Must Not Keep with Red Eared Slider

We now know which fishes go well with the turtle. But what are the fishes incompatible with the turtles? The shortlist includes-

  1. Electric eels
  2. Catfish
  3. Piranha

Piranha is infamous for its carnivorous attitude and won’t think twice to attack the turtles when essential. Also, electric eels might injure the turtle with its electricity.


So, here’s the summary of what fish can live with red eared slider turtles-

You can keep zebra and tetra fish with the red eared sliders at ease. They will be the best tank mate for the slow-mover. Also, you can introduce the yellow cichlids and koi fishes later with the turtles. But make sure you have the right water parameter and space for both the turtle and fishes before introducing them to one another.

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