Semi-Aquatic turtles make fascinating and fun pets, so it’s no wonder that many turtle owners want to keep more than one.
African Sideneck Turtles and Red Eared Sliders (RES) are popular turtles to keep as pets, so you may be wondering if they can live together.
Many experts do not recommend mixing species in one tank because it can increase aggression and stress, and also spread illnesses.
There have been instances of African Sidenecks and RES living together successfully. But you should always consider space, species compatibility, and costs before committing to owning two turtles.
Read more to learn about both species, the risks of mixing them, and the requirements for possible cohabitation.
African Sideneck Turtles Overview
Natural Habitat and Characteristics
West African Sidenecks are naturally found throughout West Africa and the Congo. They are semi-aquatic, living in freshwater ponds, rivers, and even mudholes.
They’re solitary creatures in the wild. However they are often spotted basking together. They are also known to bury themselves in mud during dry seasons to escape the heat. They can live up to 20 years in the wild.
Pros and Cons of an African Sideneck as a pet
- Great pets for beginners
- Adapt easily to environment
- Have calm and curious personalities
- Cute and fun to observe
- It’s harder to find captive-bred turtles
- They’re messy eaters
- Can easily grow obese
- Require a lot of space
Red-Eared Sliders Overview
Natural Habitat and Characteristics
RES are originally found in lakes, creeks, and streams around the Mississippi River in central parts of the United States to the Gulf of Mexico.
They’re active turtles and will spend most of their lives in water. Also, RES are strong swimmers, which helps them catch food.
During the day, they’re found basking in groups on rocks or logs. But they’ll slide off into the water if they feel threatened. Like African Sidenecks, they can live up to 20 years in the wild.
Pros and Cons of Red-Eared Sliders as a pet
- Many hobbyists believe they’re intelligent
- Easier to find as captive-bred
- Have beautiful markings and coloring
- They’re active swimmers and fun to observe
- Better pets for experienced owners
- Illegal to own in some areas because they’re invasive
- Sometimes show aggression
- Require a lot of space
African Sideneck Turtles vs Red-Eared Sliders
- African Sidenecks cannot pull their necks entirely into their bodies. Instead, they curve their necks to the side when withdrawing.
- They have semi-webbed feet with sharp nails, which help them rip food apart. African Sidenecks can grow up to 11 inches. Females grow larger than males, but males have thicker tails.
- They have dark brown shells and have a brown or olive green color on the head.
- Unlike the African Sideneck, a RES can retract its entire neck into its shell when threatened.
- Also, they have fully webbed feet, which makes them strong swimmers.
- They can grow to 12 inches, and in some cases, up to 15. Female RES are also larger than males.
- RES shells are yellow or green, and they usually have yellow markings. Additionally, they are known for the red stripe behind their eyes.
- African Sidenecks are docile, with a calm deposition. They’re Funny and curious turtles.
- They are not an aggressive species but can show aggression if competition over food or limited space exists.
- RES are active, friendly turtles. They often recognize their owners and swim up to them when approached.
- They’re more social than African Sidenecks. However, they are fine living alone.
- RES are tame but can be aggressive. However, they show aggression more in the wild than in captivity.
African Sidenecks and RES need a large enclosure, so they have plenty of space to swim, hide, and bask.
Adult African Sidenecks need at least a 75-gallon tank, while adult RES need a larger tank that is at least 100 gallons.
Both turtles need heated UVA and UVB lighting to regulate body heat and metabolize food. They also both need the water temperature to stay between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
For basking areas, African Sidenecks need temperatures between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and RES prefer between 85 and 95 degrees.
Substrate is not needed for either species and leaving it out makes the tank easier to clean.
African Sidenecks and RES are both omnivores. They thrive on a varied diet. Both enjoy proteins like pinkies, insects, and worms. They also like vegetables and fruits like leafy greens and berries.
Adult African Sidenecks tend to prefer proteins, while RES adults prefer vegetables.
Both turtles also benefit from commercial pellets and nutritional supplements.
African Sideneck Turtles and Red-Eared Sliders Compatibility
Potential risks of cohabitation
Many experts agree you should not mix turtle species for their safety. There are a number of risks when mixing species.
First, turtles can spread parasites and diseases. Not all turtles have the same ability to fight off every disease. This can lead to death.
With more turtles in the tank, high ammonia levels and excess waste in the water can also cause sickness.
Additionally, intermixing species can cause bullying and aggression, especially if there is a significant size difference. Aggression can also occur if there is competition over space or food.
Prolonged aggression can cause stress. Stress in turtles can easily become chronic, which can lead to many illnesses or death.
Finally, it is important to consider the costs and time constraints. Housing two turtles can become expensive and time-consuming.
Impacts of different characteristics
These turtles have some similar characteristics, which could help them cohabitate. But they also have notable differences.
They can both live successfully with other turtles, but RES are more social. However, they can also be more aggressive.
And even though they’re similar in size, a RES will most likely grow larger than an African Sideneck. This could lead to bullying if the turtles are not closely monitored.
Additionally, RES are more active than African Sidenecks. If the RES disturbs the African Sideneck when it’s resting, it could cause fighting or stress.
Also, slight differences in temperature requirements could make one turtle uncomfortable or ill.
Housing multiple turtles
If you do decide to house these turtles together, there are important factors to consider. Ensuring proper care may allow your turtles to be successful tank mates.
Quarantine your turtles
To prevent the spread of disease and parasites, it’s vital you quarantine new turtles for at least 30 days.
Quarantining will also help turtles acclimate to their new environment, which reduces stress.
Provide the optimal living environment
You’ll need a tank between 175 and 200 gallons, which is big enough to house two adult RES.
In addition to providing a large enclosure, you’ll need to provide multiple basking areas and hiding places.
You should also use a thermal heater, appropriate lighting, and thermometers to ensure you’re keeping water and basking areas at the necessary temperatures.
With two or more turtles in one tank, you’ll also need a strong filtration system to keep the water clean.
Consider the age and size of your turtles
Getting turtles that are similar in age and size can help prevent bullying or fighting. This will reduce stress and help your turtles cohabitate peacefully
It’s also important to consider the lifespan of your turtles when thinking about cohabitation.
In captivity, African Sideneck turtles can live more than 50 years, and RES can live between 20 and 30 years.
Consider the sex of your turtles
Housing all males together could lead to fighting, especially during mating season, because males can become agitated without a female.
Keeping all females together, or a female with a male, will reduce instances of aggression. If you don’t want to breed your turtles, keeping all females is best.
Keep in mind, you may need to separate males and females during mating season.
It is important to watch for signs of illness, aggression, or stress.
Monitor for bullying behavior like nipping or chasing. Also, to identify stress or illness, look for bubbles around the nose, excessive time inside the shell, or loss of appetite.
You can also avoid aggression and stress by feeding turtles separately.
Additionally, always have an extra tank to remove injured, sick, or aggressive turtles.
It’s important to remember that not all turtles will get along even if you meet all care requirements.
Though many experts don’t recommend mixing turtle species, there have been instances when African Sidenecks and RES have lived together.
With the proper care, it may be possible for you to keep these two species together. But you must monitor your turtles consistently to ensure they are healthy and getting along.
However, remember that even with all the necessary care, your turtles may not get along. It would be best to prepare to separate them for the safety and happiness of all your turtles.