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What Fish Can Live With Red-Eared Slider Turtles? (7 Compatible Tankmates)

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Red-eared sliders can live with fish, but these need to be either hardy with a defense mechanism, or small and agile. This allows the fish to avoid being eaten by the turtle. Good tankmates include guppies and plecos.

If you’re the proud owner of a red-eared slider turtle, then you’re likely always looking for new and interesting ways to keep your pet entertained and healthy. 

One question you may be asking yourself is what fish can live with red-eared sliders? 

Believe it or not, quite a few types of fish can live harmoniously with these turtles in a tank setting. 

Keep reading to learn more about seven different compatible tank mates for your red-eared slider.

What Fish Can Live With Red-Eared Sliders?

Some of the best fish to live with red-eared sliders include:

  • Plecostomus
  • Koi
  • Goldfish
  • Striped Raphael Catfish
  • Guppies
  • Cichlids
  • Tetras

Do Red Eared Sliders Eat Fish?

Yes, red-eared sliders do eat fish. They are opportunistic feeders and consume smaller fish if given a chance. Their diet consists of both plant and animal matter in the wild, including small fish.

Red-eared sliders’ captive diet often resembles their wild one, with the addition of pelleted commercial food. Feeder fish are commonly used as a food source for pet red-eared sliders as they take to them easily.

If you keep fish in with a slider, they eat them if given the chance. Choose tankmates wisely and provide plenty of places for the fish to hide.

If you are planning on keeping fish with your red-eared slider, it is important to choose species that can thrive in the same water conditions. They also need to tolerate the high waste output of a turtle.

Related: What Do Red-Eared Sliders Eat?

red eared slider feeding schedule
Image Source

7 Fish That Can Live With Red-Eared Sliders

1. Plecostomus

Image Source
SizeUp to 18 inches (45 cm)
Care levelEasy

The Plecostomus, or Pleco, is a popular choice for turtle tanks as they are hardy and help keep the tank clean.

Plecos are nocturnal bottom-dwellers that do best in tanks with plenty of hiding places. They are peaceful fish that get along well with most other tankmates.[1]

Plecos are omnivores and eat both plants and animals. In the wild, they often eat algae off of rocks and logs. In captivity, they should be given a diet of vegetables, pellets, and live or frozen food.

Red-eared sliders are also omnivores and consume plant matter. This diet can result in high levels of waste in the tank, impacting the water quality.

Plecos are scavengers and help clean up some of this waste.

2. Koi

Koi fish
SizeUp to 3 feet (91 cm)
Care levelEasy

Koi are a popular choice for ponds and aquariums. They are best suited for a large, outdoor pond. If this is the habitat your pet slider lives in, they can make a perfect pond-mate.

These hardy fish are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Koi are semi-aggressive and can be territorial, especially when it comes to feeding time. The koi may become intimidated in a tank with a red-eared slider and stop eating. For this reason, it is best to feed them separately.

Koi are omnivores and eat both plant and animal matter. In the wild, their diet consists of algae, small insects, and fish. In captivity, have a diet of pellets, vegetables, and live or frozen food.[2]

Like the red-eared slider, koi produce a lot of waste. A large, well-filtered pond is necessary to keep the water quality high.

3. Goldfish

SizeUp to 18 inches (45 cm)
Care levelEasy

Goldfish are a popular choice for aquariums and ponds. They come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.[3]

They are generally peaceful fish that get along well with other tankmates. However, they can be territorial when it comes to feeding time.

When young, they are the perfect snack size for a red-eared slider, so it’s common to lose a few when housed together. They are an inexpensive fish, so most owners don’t mind losing a few individuals to turtle predation.

As they grow, goldfish become too large to be eaten by most turtles.

4. Striped Raphael Catfish

Striped Raphael Catfish
SizeUp to 8 inches (20 cm)
Care levelModerate

The striped  Raphael catfish is a popular choice for turtle tanks. These bottom-dwelling fish are nocturnal and do best in tanks with plenty of hiding places.

They are ideal for keeping with red-eared sliders due to their natural defense. Small spines cover their body, making them unpalatable to most predators.[4]

Raphael catfish are carnivores and eat both live and frozen food. In the wild, their diet consists of small insects, crustaceans, and fish.

Like plecos, Raphael catfish are scavengers and help clean up some of the waste produced by a turtle.

5. Guppies

SizeUp to 2 inches (5 cm)
Care levelEasy

Guppies are a popular choice for aquariums and ponds due to their inexpensive cost and easy-care nature. 

Some of these small fish may become prey to your red-eared slider, but their reproductive abilities keep their population thriving despite some predation. They are live-bearing, so their eggs are not at risk of being eaten.[5]

They are quick and agile, able to keep out of a slow turtle’s grasp. These fish are cheap to buy and easy to source from most pet stores. 

Guppies are easy to care for. They are self-sustaining and can live in a wide range of water conditions.

These peaceful fish do best in groups and shoals together for protection.

6. Cichlids

SizeUp to 12 inches (30 cm)
Care levelEasy to Moderate

Cichlids are a type of fish that are popular in aquariums. They are known for their bright colors and interesting personalities. Cichlids are known to be aggressive[6], while red-eared sliders are more easy-going. 

In general, cichlids do not do well when living with other fish. They are known to fight with other fish, and they can even kill them.

There are some exceptions. Some species of cichlids get along well with red-eared sliders. These species include the blue acara, the Convict cichlid, and the electric blue crayfish.

7. Tetras

SizeUp to 2 inches (5 cm)
Care levelEasy

Tetras are intelligent and agile, able to evade the mouth of a hungry turtle with ease. You may lose a few fish due to their small size, but with proper vegetation cover, they can thrive in a tank with a red-eared slider.

Tetras are schooling fish, so it is best to keep them in groups of six or more.[7] They are peaceful fish that do well with other tankmates.

Tips For Keeping Fish With Red-Eared Sliders

You can do a few things to keep your fish safe when housing them with a red-eared slider.

  • Provide plenty of hiding places for the fish. Aquatic plants, rocks, PVC piping, and driftwood are great options. Red-eared sliders are less likely to prey on fish that can hide from them.
  • Ensure the tank is large enough to accommodate both the fish and the turtle. A larger tank provides more hiding places and gives the fish more space to avoid the turtle.
  • Feed your turtle regularly. A well-fed turtle is less likely to see fish as potential food.
  • Consider getting a juvenile red-eared slider. Younger turtles are more likely to eat fish than older turtles.
  • Don’t house expensive fish with your slider. You can take all the precautions above and still lose a fish to your turtle. It’s best to opt for cheap fish.
  • Don’t feed your slider fish. This encourages them to hunt their tankmates.

Final Thoughts

Red-eared sliders are not social in nature. Even when housed with other sliders, they tend to be solitary in nature. There are not many other species they can live in harmony with.

Housing fish with red-eared sliders is okay if you don’t mind the risk of losing some. These turtles are incredibly opportunistic feeders and eat any fish they can catch.

To increase the chances of your fish surviving, provide plenty of hiding places and make sure the tank is large enough to accommodate both the fish and the turtle.


Can Frogs Live With Red-Eared Sliders?

Frogs and turtles do not make good tankmates. This is because they have different care needs, and your turtle may eat the frog.

Can I Keep A Snake With My Red-Eared Slider?

No, you should not keep a snake with your red-eared slider. This is because snakes are predators, and your turtle is likely to be seen as food.

My Turtle Is Eating My Fish, What Should I Do?

If your turtle is eating your fish, you may need to remove the fish from the tank or get a larger tank. You should also consider feeding your turtle more often to reduce the chances of it seeing fish as food.

What’s The Best Cleaning Fish For a Turtle Tank?

There are a few different types of fish that can help clean a turtle tank. These include Plecostomus, Corydoras catfish, and Otocinclus catfish.

What Other Animals Can Live With Red-Eared Slider Turtles?

Other animals that can live with red-eared slider turtles include other turtles (other basking species) and invertebrates like snails and crayfish.

What Fish Do Red-Eared Sliders Not Eat?

Red-eared sliders are opportunistic feeders and eat any fish they can catch and fit in their mouths. It’s best to get fish that can evade the slider, are too big to eat, or have a defense mechanism (like spines).

About Sophie Herlihy (Zoologist)

Sophie Herlihy, a trained zoologist, is a lover of true misfit animals. With a specialty in insects, birds, and rodents, she helps the Misfit Animals craft factual and valuable informational pieces on various animals.

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