Do Painted Turtles Eat Fish? Can They Live Together?

do painted turtles eat fish - painted turtle and fish

Painted Turtles are omnivores and will eat many different types of food. This includes live food, fruits, and vegetation. However, does the live food include eating fish? In this article, we’ll answer the question, do painted turtles eat fish and more? First, we’ll share a brief overview of the Painted Turtle and share some fish Painted Turtles can and cannot eat. In addition, we’ll discuss some problems that might arise while feeding fish to your turtle.

do painted turtles eat fish - painted turtle and fish

Finally, we’ll share a quick list of food that you can give your Painted Turtle so that they thrive.

What Are Painted Turtles?

Painted Turtles are a type of aquatic turtle native to North America. They have a unique look about them. For instance, their bottom shell is flat, with their top shell being long, smooth, and oval.

Also, they reside mostly in ponds and have webbed feet to help them swim around. They enjoy freshwater with soft, sandy bottoms. In addition, Painted Turtles prefer a basking spot with plenty of aquatic vegetation to munch on. 

They can grow three to ten inches long, weighing about 300 to 500 grams. Painted Turtles have an average lifespan of about 20 to 30 years.

Painted Turtles are social creatures and don’t mind the company of other Painted Turtles or humans if in captivity. They’re also diurnal, so they’re most active during the day.

However, they hibernate in the colder months and become more inactive between October and March.

Finally, Painted Turtles are omnivores. They enjoy eating live food and vegetation like aquatic plants or algae. Live food includes aquatic insects and even fish. 

Check out this video: Do Turtles Eat Fish? Unraveling the Aquatic Mystery

Do Painted Turtles Eat Fish?

Believe it or not, many types of fish Painted Turtles can and will eat. However, like most turtles, Painted Turtles won’t know if a certain fish is good or bad for them. So, if it moves and they can catch it, the turtle will eat it.

On the other hand, Painted Turtles tend to go for smaller fish that are easier to catch and won’t put up too much of a fight. 

For example, here are some fish that are safe for your Painted Turtles to eat:

  • Bass
  • Bluegills
  • Crappies
  • Guppies
  • Killifish
  • Platies

These fish are all small enough and native to ponds, lakes, and other bodies of fresh water. So, they’re easy for wild turtles to catch and eat.

On the other hand, there are some types of fish that you should not feed your Painted Turtle. For instance, they shouldn’t eat the following fish:

  • Carp
  • Goldfish
  • Gizzard Shad
  • Feathered Minnows
  • Rosy Red Minnows

For a quick look to see which fish are safe for your Painted Turtle, take a look at the chart below.

Fish Safe For Painted Turtles To EatFish Not Safe For Painted Turtles To Eat
CrappyGizzard Shad
GuppyFeathered Minnows
KillifishRosy Red Minnows

Can Baby Painted Turtles Eat Fish?

Yes, baby Painted Turtles do eat fish. In fact, their diet is richer in animal protein than adults. They’ll add vegetation to their diet as they get older.

However, while baby Painted Turtles are still growing, most of their diet will be small fish and other live food since it will help them grow and develop.

Painted Turtles And Fish – When Can Problems Happen?

Even though feeding fish to your Painted Turtle allows them animal protein, there are some drawbacks.

First, never catch fish from the wild and feed them to your Painted Turtle. These fish might carry parasites and other bad bacteria that could make your turtle sick. Buying feeder fish from a reliable pet store is a better option.

However, even feeder fish can have problems.

For example, feeder fish might cause throat or internal blockages due to their spiny bones. In addition, some fish species are too fatty for Painted Turtles to consume (especially often). Also, if eaten too often, some feeder fish will cause a thiamine deficiency in your turtle. 

What Fish Can Live With Painted Turtles?

Since Painted Turtles are aquatic animals and social creatures, can you have certain fish live with them? The answer is yes, you can.

Of course, you don’t want to add any fish that your Painted Turtle will be tempted to eat (or add fish that’s unsafe for your turtle to eat, just in case). So, let’s take a look at some fish tank mates that will be ideal for your Painted Turtle.

First, Zebras and Tetras are great choices. These fish are small, but they’re fast swimmers. So, if your Painted Turtle is tempted, they won’t bother giving chase.

Sucker fish are another option. Unfortunately, they tend to stick to the bottom of the tank while Painted Turtles enjoy swimming near the top.

In addition, these bottom feeders or algae eaters will help keep your tank clean. So, it’s a win-win for all.

Yellow Cichlids are also a good choice. These fish are fast, so your Painted Turtle won’t give chase. Also, they’re aggressive, so they’ll be able to stand up for themselves.

However, you don’t want to add too many Yellow Cichlids, or they might attack your Painted Turtle. Then your turtle might end up getting hurt.

Overall, you want to ensure that the fish and the Painted Turtle have similar habitats. For example, they should both be fresh water and need similar water temperatures.

Otherwise, your fish or turtle will get sick and be unhappy in their home.

With that said, here are some fish that you should avoid putting in your Painted Turtle’s tank:

  • Goldfish
  • Koi fish
  • Tropical fish

What Should Your Painted Turtle Eat?

Painted Turtles should eat a varied diet of live food, fruits, and vegetables. In addition, they’re omnivores and will need a diet that’s rich in calcium. With all of these foods combined, they can get the nutrients they need to thrive.

When it comes to vegetation, Painted Turtles can eat vegetables like land turtles. However, they’re used to aquatic vegetation. So, some options are as follows:

  • Duckweed
  • Water Lilies
  • Red-leaf Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Anacharis

In addition, they need plenty of protein from live animals. So, you can feed them the following:

  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Feeder fish
  • Ghost Shrimp

Fruits are not part of their staple diet in the wild. So, they won’t appreciate it much in captivity. However, fruit can be given sparingly if you add a little extra flavor to their meal.

Be mindful that fruit does not float to the water’s surface and will break down and dissolve quickly under the water. So if your Painted Turtle doesn’t see it right away or doesn’t eat it, the water quality will quickly go down.

So, if you decide to add some fruit to your Painted Turtle’s diet, leave a little bit on their basking log. Then, if they don’t eat it within an hour or two, take it out and throw it away.

Some fruit you can give as an occasional treat may be shredded apple pieces, cut-up melon, or cut-up berries.


Overall, Painted Turtles can eat fish, but you’ll want to be careful about which fish you choose to feed them.

Fish is a great snack for them, allowing them to get plenty of protein. However, they should be fed in moderation and always supervised.

Want to know more about what turtles eat? Read our full guide to what painted turtles eat here, whether they eat mealworms here and find all our turtle guides here. You can also find out what eats painted turtles here. Or if box turtles can eat grapes here.

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