Housing multiple turtles in one tank is a bit tricky. Turtles aren’t social creatures, so they don’t necessarily like sharing their space and are typically happier alone. Male turtles, especially, don’t like being together and will be more aggressive if forced to cohabitate. Turtles also need a lot more space and more care than normal if they are housed together. So, can it be done? Let’s talk it out.
Can you put two turtles in the same tank?
The short answer: yes, but with conditions. Usually, turtles of the same species can live together as long as they have a sufficiently large tank, and there is only one male in it. To keep your turtles happy and healthy, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before putting them in the same enclosure.
It’s never a good idea to keep male turtles together. While they are young, male turtles are generally fine and may even socialize with each other. However, as they mature and hit the equivalent of turtle puberty, they will want to show dominance and likely fight and be aggressive. Avoid housing male turtles together, or chances are you’ll end up with a seriously injured shell baby.
One male with one or more females is a better way to go when considering putting two turtles together. The male may nip at and harass the female during mating season, and if she isn’t interested, she will turn her shell to him. He will usually leave her alone after that, but this isn’t always the case. The male may get pushy. In these situations, you would need to separate them.
If you have multiple females in the enclosure, it may make it easier and take the stress off the females, as the male is less likely to harass a specific one all the time. Always provide different basking areas to offer them their own space (we all need alone time!).
Keeping multiple female turtles in one tank is ideal if you need to house more than one turtle in the same enclosure. Female turtles are the least aggressive and will usually stick to themselves.
But remember, turtles aren’t social creatures, and sometimes pairings just don’t work out.
Tank Size and Features
Turtles need a large space, to begin with, so when you have more than one in a single tank, you must make sure there is plenty of room for each to have their own space to move around in and retreat to. Even the smallest turtle needs a 20-gallon tank, and that’s only the recommended size for a hatchling.
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Experts recommend a tank size of 10-gallons for every inch of your turtle (for instance, an 8-inch-long turtle would need an 80-gallon tank).
They also recommend the enclosure be 4-5x the turtle in length, 2-3x in width, and 3-4x in-depth (so for an 8-inch turtle, you would need a tank that is at least 32x16x24 inches).
It’s essential to give each turtle enough space to be alone. Since turtles aren’t social creatures, they don’t necessarily like to share, so having a community basking dock isn’t the best idea. Try having two basking docks on opposite ends of the tank or one large dock with a divider so the turtles can’t see each other. We don’t like sharing a room; it shouldn’t be a surprise that turtles don’t want to share one either.
Keep the water clean
More than one turtle in a tank will dirty it up much faster. Anything that stresses the turtles will make them more likely to fight, so if you are housing multiple turtles, it’s important to maintain the proper water quality.
We all know that cleaning turtle tanks is no fun, but a good filter can help. Use a larger filter (or multiple) and do more frequent water changes than you usually would with a single turtle.
Can different species live together?
Some turtle species can live together in harmony. Still, as with other turtles, it’s a hit-and-miss type of situation.
Red-eared sliders, for instance, typically do fine with other turtle species that require the same housing requirement, but they don’t like it and may get agitated when they have to share their space. Box turtles and other semiaquatic to terrestrial species tend to cohabitate decently.
Each turtle species has its own “niche,” which is a term that describes the species’ diet, activity, habitat preference, sleeping patterns, and a few other factors. Turtles with different diets, sleep patterns, or habitat preferences (for example, one likes to stay in the water most of the time, and the other prefers to bask on a rock) can live together with less competition and use the space more efficiently.
The shared space needs to be appropriate for both species, which is not always possible. Many turtle species have different diets and climate needs. It’s important to ensure these conditions are met to keep each turtle healthy.
However, while different turtle species may have the same habitat requirements and get along fine in the same enclosure, their health systems may not always be compatible. Some species are vulnerable to health issues that others aren’t and can easily transmit diseases to other species. Housing two species together can put both of their quality of life at risk. It’s best to keep different species separate.
Which species of turtle do not cohabitate well?
Some turtles cannot be housed with other turtle species. They are aggressive in nature and see any other living thing as either food or a threat. Large or predatory species such as alligator snapping turtles, common snapping turtles, and softshell turtles will attack any other living creature in their enclosure. Keep these grumps in their own space.
Age and size of turtles
You may be wondering if it’s okay to mix sizes and ages of turtles. The answer is: ehhh, not really. It’s best to avoid mixing sizes as larger turtles can be aggressive with small turtles. The bigger turtles tend to bully the smaller ones and take their food. If you must keep two turtles together, make sure they are about the same size.
In the end…
So, can you keep two turtles in one tank? The truth is yes, but you shouldn’t. Turtles are happier by themselves. If they must be kept with other turtles, they have a better chance of staying healthy if they are housed with their own species, in a large enclosure, with plenty of areas for them to be alone.