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Keeping Two Turtles Together

Discussion in 'Keeping Turtles Indoors (Aquariums)' started by Craig, Nov 21, 2016.

  1. Craig

    Craig Owner/Administrator/Public Officer
    Staff Member

    Aug 8, 2001
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    So You're Thinking About Keeping Two Turtles Together?

    Firstly, AFT recommends keeping 1 turtle by itself or at least 4 or more in a large tank than can accommodate them comfortably with room to grow.

    Do Turtles Need Friends?
    The answer is no they don't. They do not get lonely, they do not need the company or "friendship" of another turtle. They simply tolerate other turtles from time to time, but that toleration can be very short lived with dire consequences that can cost you a lot of money. Please don't feel that because humans get lonely that turtles also get lonely. This is incorrect and what is called anthropomorphising behaviour. It is when we give animals human-like traits.

    But They Live Together In The Wild And Mine Are Best Mates!
    In the wild, freshwater turtles are solitary animals, seeking food and generally living by themselves until mating time. Other than at breeding times, they see other turtles as competition for food and good hiding spots.

    Contradictory to this rule in the wild are Mary River turtles that I have witnessed living in groups of up to 200 in deep parts of the river, which included adults all the way down to juveniles 12cm and larger. My research on the Mary River proved that this was the normal case with this particular species in the wild ONLY. Living in such large groups afforded the smaller ones protection, but more importantly, prevented them from forming their own territory that they would defend with the utmost aggression like most other species of Australian freshwater turtles. During the mating season large male Mary River turtles will viciously attack any other males and chase them away from the area with the utmost aggression, often inflicting very severe wounds. On one particular occasion I was standing in the middle of the Mary River and was struck in the chest by two adult male Mary River turtles, completely oblivious to my presence with one thing on their minds, one was to attack and the other was to escape. The following photo is one of the adult male Mary River turtles that ran into me full force:
    Craig holding male MRT in River.jpg

    This is NOT the Case when Keeping ANY Species Indoors in a Turtle Tank.

    Your tank is not like the natural environment of that of a freshwater turtle. A turtle tank is a closed system as opposed to an open system in the wild.
    Being in such a small area, a turtle will defend its territory even with a turtle that it has grown up with all its life!
    It doesn't matter if they are from the same clutch, same sex, are the same species or different species, any other turtle is competition for food and space and as your turtles grow larger, this is how they see each other. It may not happen for years, or even decades, but one day it may happen and it is up to you to provide the best and safest possible environment you can for them whilst you have the responsibility of caring for them.
    Apart from the physical damage from biting and fighting, this aggressive and often bullying behaviour causes undue stress which can also have adverse effects on your turtle's health. Stress can lower a turtle's immunity making them more susceptible to diseases, especially infections from bites and scratches. Some examples of diseases that can be caused are skin infections, septicaemia, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and respiratory infections that a strong, healthy turtle's immune system would normally be able to cope with.

    Prevention is Better than Cure!

    It is much better to follow the Golden Rule, Prevention is better than Cure. Don't wait until something happens, it may be very costly considering the cost of vet fees, antibiotics, topical creams etc. etc.

    Please have a read of a small number of the links to horror stories below:


    If you would like to see more stories of keepers having problems with one turtle biting the other, fighting turtles or bullying behaviour please do a search for: Aggressive Turtles

    If That's Not Enough To Convince You Please See the Photos Below of a Number of Instances of the Damage Inflicted by Two Turtles Being Housed Together :

    My apologies for the quality of some of these photos.



    The below bite wound was so severe and large that it required stitches, however it was left partially open to allow the wound to drain.
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  2. Harry Desai

    Harry Desai Hatchling Turtle

    Jun 25, 2017
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    Very informative article.
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