One of the most common questions people have about owning pet turtles is, “Do they need friends?” In other words, “Can two turtles share the same tank?”
This is an important thing to know when you’re looking to add a second pet turtle to your family, or even if you already have two turtles and want to learn how to improve their environment.
So, can two turtles share a tank? The short answer to this is yes.
But there are things to keep in mind such as the species, size, sex, and age of both turtles, as well as the size of the tank and its equipment. Another thing to keep in mind is potential sickness which can spread from one turtle to the other.
Is It Safe To House Two Turtles In One Tank?
This depends highly on each turtle’s temperament, as well as the several things to keep in mind:
Species And Care Requirements
If you want to house two turtles in the same tank, you have to make sure they are the same species, or at least species compatible and have the same or very similar care requirements. You don’t want to house a Red Eared Slider with a Mata Mata, because those two species require completely different husbandry.
However, it may be possible to house two Red Eared Sliders together, or even a Painted with a Red Ear, because their care requirements are the same: a good protein pellet, leafy greens and veggies, with the occasional shrimp or fruit treat; a water temperature of between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and a basking area temperature of between 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, the chances of the two turtles being able to be housed together also highly depends on the other factors.
Size And Age
The size and age of both your turtles go hand-in-hand, and are extremely important when thinking about housing them together. If one turtle is much bigger than the other, there is a higher risk of aggression and fighting.
This can be fatal in cases of a fully-grown adult turtle attacking a yearling or juvenile turtle, or in the case of different species where one is much bigger than the other. If both of your turtles are around the same size and age, and are the same or similar species with the same or similar care requirements, it might be possible for them to be housed together.
There are, of course, other important factors to look at.
The gender of your turtles plays an important part in whether they can be housed together. It can be difficult to tell the sex of your turtles when they are hatchlings and juveniles, because male and female turtles look almost the same when they’re really young.
Once they are old enough to tell the difference, i.e. when they hit puberty, males are much more likely to become aggressive and fight each other than female turtles. This is because they instinctively fight for dominance.
So, it’s best not to house multiple male turtles in the same tank, but two female turtles can get along just fine. A male and female turtle housed together is most likely not a good idea just because of the possibility of mating.
You don’t want to breed captive pet turtles, leave that up to the professional breeders!
Tank Size And Equipment
Now that you know what to look for in individual turtles, you need to know about the supplies you need! The general rule of thumb for minimum water level requirement for just one turtle is, for every inch of shell length, you need ten gallons of water.
So, if your turtle has a four-inch long shell, he or she will need a minimum of a 40-gallon tank. If the turtle has a seven-inch long shell, he or she will need a minimum of a 75-gallon tank, and so on.
If there are two turtles of the same size going into the same tank, you will want to add at least half as much space for the second turtle. So, if every inch of one turtle needs at least 10 gallons of water, then every inch of the second turtle will need at least five gallons of water per inch of shell.
Of course, it is always better to go bigger than smaller, but this is the minimum guideline. Once you get the size of the tank figured out, you need to figure out the proper filter and water heater sizes.
Turtles are very messy creatures, so you want to make sure you have a great filter for them. You want to make sure you get a filter that has two to three times as much capacity as the size of your tank.
So, if you have a 75-gallon tank, you will want a filter that works for at least 150 gallons and even more for a second turtle. The bigger the filter, the less work you have to do in the long run.
Aquarium heaters are much simpler; they go by wattage, and each heater brand shows what watt heater is best for what size tank. The last thing to think about is basking areas.
Do you want one basking area or two? If you only want to use one basking area, make sure it is big enough for both turtles to be able to spread out completely in their own space if they wanted to.
Homemade basking areas are a great option when you want to make sure you get the right size for your tank. There is also always the option of having two basking areas on opposite sides of the tank, so each turtle can choose which one to go to.
It’s all about giving them both enough room to claim their own territories and be able to live with each other without fighting for dominance.
How Do Turtles Live With Each Other In The Wild?
In general, turtles are pretty solitary creatures. They don’t look for or have the need for “friends,” but they do have to share environments most of the time. In these cases, though, their habitats are so big that they can get away from each other no problem.
Large ponds and lakes provide plenty of space for multiple turtles to swim around and claim their own territories with no issue. You might see multiple turtles basking together on a log; while they might be piled close to one another and in some cases on top of each other, it is very easy for them to swim back into the water if they want or need to get away from one another.
It’s all about having enough territory.
What About Illnesses?
Sometimes, like humans, turtles can get sick. There are a wide range of illnesses turtles can have, but for the sake of this article we will be referring to things like respiratory infections, fungal infections, and parasites.
These types of illnesses are extremely contagious, so if one of your turtles has one, it is very likely that the other turtle will catch it too. This is important to keep in mind when housing two turtles together.
Make sure you have an exotic vet you can go to just in case, but to prevent these things from happening, you can quarantine both turtles when you first get them for a few weeks. If one of them shows any symptoms of illness, bring it to the vet as soon as possible, and treat it with whatever the vet gives you.
This will not transmit to the other turtle because they should be in another enclosure during the quarantine process. One way of preventing respiratory infection from occurring when you already have them housed together is to make sure the water, ambient, and basking temperatures are ideal and not too cold, because too cool temperatures can cause respiratory infections.
To prevent fungal infections, you just have to maintain a clean environment for them. This includes proper filtration and regular water changes.
To prevent parasites, you need to provide the proper diet and make sure to wash greens, veggies, and fruits thoroughly before feeding, as well as making sure the environment is clean.
Overall, once you have taken into account everything mentioned above, it all comes down to the temperaments of your individual turtles. Once you have everything checked off from this guide, you should be able to tell whether your two turtles would be able to get along together in one tank or not.
Sometimes, turtles just don’t get along, and that’s okay. You can keep them in separate tanks with no issue.
But sometimes, when you provide all the right things for a proper environment, it can work out! In addition to everything previously described, just keep an eye on your turtles and make sure they aren’t displaying any signs of aggression or dominance over one another.
If that does happen, separate them, but if not, they should be okay! We hope you found this to be a helpful guide.