Should I Keep a Fish or a Turtle as a Pet?

My kids are always asking for a new pet as if the cat, rabbit, chickens, and goat aren’t enough pets already! Hamsters, guinea pigs, cats, and puppies are usually on their list of pets they think they have to have to live a happy and fulfilled life.

And I’ve been steering them towards animals that require a little less commitment and time – this busy mom just isn’t ready to tackle housetraining a new puppy right now! So now they ask me, “Mom, how about a lizard? What about a turtle or a fish?”

If you’re a parent – or someone who wants an easy-to-care-for pet, you might be asking some of the same questions that I am… should I keep a fish or a turtle as a pet?

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of keeping fish and turtles as pets. We’ll go over each one so you can come up with an easy decision. Lastly, we’ll tackle the bigger question: what about both? Should you keep a fish and a turtle together as pets? Let’s dive in and take a look.

If you want a pet that is easy to care for, a goldfish will be your easiest choice since you can start with just a bowl of water and some fish flakes.

However, if you want a pet that is a little bit more interesting, you might want a turtle! Of course, a turtle needs more space than a fish, has a more complicated diet, and needs a heat lamp, as well. But if you can easily provide these things for your pet, you might just love having a turtle!

The Pros and Cons of Keeping Fish as Pets


Growing up, I loved keeping fish as pets. I had everything from goldfish, to mollies, to guppies and more. I spent hours picking out fish at the local pet store, carefully driving them home, and integrating them into the tank.

At first, I started with the easiest fish to keep – goldfish – and eventually moved on to cichlids, which have more complex needs.

The Pros

A fish tank setup can be as simple or as extravagant as you like.

I started raising fish with the proverbial goldfish bowl. Just two little fish in a tiny little bowl. Eventually, I graduated to a large tank and all kinds of fancy fish. So fish can be as easy as you want – or as complicated, if you like salt water, tropical fish!

Some fish are very inexpensive.

For example, it can be very affordable if you just want to raise some guppies, a few neon tetras, or other popular fish. Fish don’t eat a lot, so a couple of fish and fish flakes won’t be a significant investment.

You might even be able to find a friend whose mollies or goldfish had babies and get them for free. All they need is a large bowl or tank, and you have an easy pet. Compared to the cost of feeding and raising a dog or cat, that’s very inexpensive!

Daily care of fish is generally easy.

To be honest, taking care of some goldfish or other simple fish is very easy. Just sprinkle a few flakes on top of the water, and they’ll be pretty content. Changing out their water is pretty easy, too.

You don’t have to walk, bathe, or take them to the vet. You don’t need fancy tank decorations either, just a few spots where the fish can hide if they choose.

You don’t need a pet sitter for fish.

If you’re going away on vacation, you don’t really need a pet sitter for typical fish. You can give them a slow-release feeder, and they should be fine for a weekend and even a couple of weeks, as long as the water in the tank doesn’t evaporate.

Fish don’t need a lot of space.

Most small aquariums don’t take up that much room, so a fish might be a great choice if your space is tight! Many people follow the 1 inch of fish per 1 gallon of water rule, but it can get a little more complicated than that.

Fishlab has a lot of information on how to figure out how many fish you can keep in your tank.

You can find tanks in all kinds of shapes and sizes, too, so you’ll be able to find some kind of tank to fit your space.

Fish are relaxing.

Watching fish swim is very relaxing. They’re peaceful, quiet, and surprisingly soothing. They may even help you lower your stress levels!


You have to clean the tank.

The one thing I always hated was cleaning out the fish tank. And the more fish you have, the dirtier and grosser it can get.

Cleaning out the fish poop was never high on my priority list, and I routinely begged my dad to clean the tank for me because I couldn’t stand the thought of sticking my hand in the dirty tank.

You have to transfer out the fish, clean out all the poop and leftover food, and put in fresh new water along with some of the old water.

It’s a little complicated when you have a big tank, but it’s pretty easy if you just have a couple of little fish. You can even use an aquarium vacuum to get out the dirt if you choose.

Fish can get sick.

There are a number of diseases and parasites that fish can get, and sadly, it can wipe out your entire tank. Fish antibiotics are available for some kinds of health issues, but they can be expensive.

Some fish have very specific needs.

I hate to say that I killed a few very expensive fish when I accidentally got the tank temperature wrong. Some fish are cold-water fish, but some fish need warm water! And if you get it wrong, your fish could die.

I was pretty heartbroken when I realized that it was my mistake that led to their demise. So you need to do your research, so you know what your fish need. And you can’t mix fish together that have very different needs, either.

Fish can attack each other.

If your fish don’t get fed enough, or if you have certain kinds of fish together, they may fight or eat each other. Large fish will often eat smaller ones, or adult fish will eat baby fish.

It’s a sad day to wake up and realize all your baby fish have disappeared! Beta fish are easy to care for, but they need to be kept alone. Just one fish per tank, or they will kill each other.

Accidents can happen.

I once had a fish that would routinely get stuck in the filter. I would have to turn off the filter, open it up, and ‘fish’ him back out to return him to the tank.

Unfortunately, he became badly injured by the filter and died. Another time, I was raising newts in my tank. They escaped from the tank and died while I was away on vacation. Even with fish, accidents can happen, and it’s always sad. No one wants to see their fish die for any reason.

If you love fish and want a pet that doesn’t need a lot of daily care, then a fish might be just right for you! On the other hand, if the ick factor of cleaning the tank or of handling accidents bothers you, you might want some other kind of a pet.

The Pros and Cons of Keeping a Turtle as a Pet


I’ve always wanted a turtle as a pet, too, and so do my kids. But turtles are a different level of commitment than a fish. Their care is a little more complicated, and they definitely need more space.


Turtles don’t need to be walked or housetrained.

Obviously, your turtle doesn’t need to go for regular walks. You won’t have to teach it to potty outside, either, making it a lot easier than a puppy! They don’t need much affection or attention, either.

Turtles can be left alone for a few days.

If you need to go away for a weekend, you don’t need to find a pet sitter. Most turtles can be left alone in their tanks for a few days while you are gone.

Turtles don’t need to be fed frequently.

Do you often forget to feed your pet? No worries – an adult turtle only needs to be fed every other day or so, and they can go longer if they have to. Baby turtles need to be fed daily, though.

Turtles are fun to watch.

Turtles do make fun pets to watch as they swim, hunt, and explore their enclosure. You’ll learn more about nature as you care for your pet turtle.


Turtles don’t like to snuggle.

So if you’re looking for a playful or interactive pet, a turtle probably isn’t the best choice. Most turtles just do their own turtle thing – eat, sleep, poop, and swim. They won’t be your Netflix pal or go for long walks, but they are fascinating to watch!

Turtles need a lot of space.

According to Reptiles Magazine, a small species of turtle (around 4 to 6 inches long) needs at least 30 gallons of tank space. Bigger turtles need much more! Do you have enough room for a tank that size?

Turtles are a long-term commitment.

If you’re a commitment-phobe, a turtle might not be for you. These critters can live anywhere from 20 to 25 years, with some living even longer than that! Who will take care of the turtle when your child grows up? How long will you want to take care of this pet?

Turtles have complex dietary needs.

Most fish have simple food needs – just the flakes! But turtles have a more complicated diet, according to WebMD Pets. In fact, they need both meat and fresh vegetables in their diet.

Turtles also enjoy live foods, such as crickets and small fish. This isn’t an easy task for everyone, especially if you’re squeamish! The older they get, the more they will need fresh, chopped veggies, too.

Turtles need heat.

Most pet turtles will need a heat lamp or a heat rock and a light. They also need water, which means you have to be very careful about mixing water and electricity near each other. You’ll need to be able to take care of your turtle if the power goes out, too.

Turtles are expensive.

The cost of setting up the enclosure, purchasing a turtle, and feeding it can be a lot. They need a large enclosure, a filter, a heater, and of course, their complex diet. This can add up quickly and doesn’t even include the cost of the turtle since you can’t really keep a wild turtle as a pet.

Turtles can carry salmonella.

You won’t automatically catch salmonella from your turtle, but it can happen. So you need to take precautions and always wash your hands after feeding and caring for your turtle. And you really need to be careful if you have small children – it might not be the right pet for your family if you do.

Vet care can be complicated.

Not all vets will treat reptiles, so you need to make sure that you have a vet that can take care of your turtle if problems should arise.

Turtles don’t need as much care as a puppy, but they aren’t as snuggly and interactive, either. But if you don’t mind making sure your turtle has heat, light, food, and enough room, they might make a great pet for you! They are intelligent, and they are relaxing and fun to watch and enjoy.

Both fish and turtles make great pets, although turtles need a little more extensive care than a typical fish. But what if you just can’t decide which one? My kids want both fish and turtles as pets, but I don’t have the space for multiple tanks in my home.

Should You Keep a Fish and turtle Together as a Pet?

You can keep fish and turtles together as pets under certain conditions. However, it does make their care a little bit more complicated because turtles might see your fish as their next meal!

A cute little goldfish is simply no match for a hungry turtle! But you’ll also be rewarded with lovely pets to watch and enjoy.

If you do want to keep fish and turtles together as pets, you’ll need extra space in your enclosure to accommodate them all. You’ll need lots of places for the fish to hide from the turtle, too, so they can sleep safely without becoming a snack.

It also helps if you have smaller species of turtle with some larger, faster fish. Tetras and zebrafish are probably some of the best fish to house with your turtle, according to turtleholic.com.

This way, the turtle will be less tempted by a fish dinner! Some turtles are more prone to eating fish – such as red-eared sliders than other types.

Of course, you’ll still need to be prepared for the possibility that your turtle will be determined to dine on your favorite fish. But if you don’t mind the risk, you certainly can keep turtles and fish together. They are both fun and easy pets that are great to watch and enjoy!

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