What can I put in a tank with a snapping turtle?

Keeping snapping turtles as unique pets comes with the challenge of selecting appropriate tankmates who can safely share their domain.

Given snappers’ ancient nature and aggressive attitudes, the answer lies in choosing faster schooling fish, armored bottom-dwelling species, and docile turtle types and avoiding notoriously aggressive fish that may nip and stress out your turtle.

In this post, we’ll explore suitable tankmates in detail, as well as habitat considerations like tank size, basking areas, water parameters, diet, and more to keep your prehistoric pal happy and healthy in captivity. Read on for tips on building the ideal snapper habitat from substrate to canopy!

Suitable Tankmates

When housing a common snapping turtle, it’s essential to avoid fish and other species that can nibble at their skin, pull at their flesh, or outright attack them. Slow-moving fish are generally better options, but we’ll explore specifics below:

Schooling Fish

Schooling fish like danios, white cloud mountain minnows, and some barbs or tetras can work with snappers when kept in large enough numbers.

Their quick movement and tendency to school tightly makes it challenging for a turtle to single one out. Just be sure any fish you select are large enough not to be outright swallowed by an ambitious snapper!

Armored Bottom Dwellers

Armored catfish and pleco species that spend their time scavenging along the tank bottom tend to fare better with snappers than slow swimmers that hang out at the water’s surface. Their armored plates and bottom-hugging behavior help protect them from an investigative turtle.

Avoid Nippy Species

Avoid housing snappers with notoriously nippy fish like cichlids, oscars, or common goldfish. These species are likely to nip and pick at a resting turtle’s flesh, causing injuries and stress. Better to keep them safely apart.

Other Turtles?

Cohabitating snappers with other turtles is generally not recommended. Over time, even peaceful species may harass each other. And housing multiple male snappers together often ends disastrously due to their territorial nature. If you insist on a multi-turtle tank, choose a vast aquarium and species with docile temperaments.

In short, select fast-moving schooling fish, armored bottom dwellers, or small turtle species for the best success. And always provide hiding spots so your snapper feels secure.

Good Tankmate ExamplesBad Tankmate Examples
Zebra Danios Corydoras Catfish Hillstream Loaches Other Small, Docile TurtlesGoldfish Cichlids Guppies Aggressive Turtles

Tank Setup and Accessories

While suitable tankmates are critical, providing a proper habitat setup is equally essential for a snapping turtle’s health and temperament. Below, we’ll explore tank size, accessories, and maintenance must-haves:

Tank Size

As snapping turtles grow to over a foot long, nothing shy of a 100-150 gallon stock tank will suffice for adults.

Baby and juvenile specimens can start in a 55-75 gallon tank but be prepared to size up. Maximizing swimming space is key while providing ample basking area.

Proper Filtration

Turtles are incredibly messy! A high-quality canister filter tailored to 2-3x your tank size helps handle the bio load. Pair this with solid water circulation and weekly partial water changes.

Basking Platform

Every snapper needs a completely dry basking platform under a focused basking lamp to regulate their body temperature.

This can be a basic dock, ramp, or floating platform. Just be sure it allows the turtle to leave the water entirely.

Substrate and Decor

Bare-bottomed tanks are most accessible to keep clean, but small-grained sand substrates work too. Add cleaned rocks, logs, and live/artificial plants to provide visual barriers and a sense of security.

Routine Cleaning

Plan on 25% weekly water changes to remove waste, along with swapping filter media monthly. Use a gravel vacuum to siphon debris from the substrate with each water change. Keep the tank surroundings spotless.

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Essential Snapping Turtle Tank Equipment

Canister Filter
– Fluval FX4/FX6
– Eheim Classic
Submersible Heater
– 100w-300w
– With guard
Basking Lamp
– Zoomed Powersun
– ZooMed Reptisun
Tank Lid
– Mesh or solid
– Moisture resistant

Preparing this tank setup ahead of acquiring your snapper helps ensure you can meet its habitat needs from day one!

Feeding Your Snapping Turtle

While habitat considerations are crucial, so is providing a balanced, nutrient-rich diet for snappers to thrive. Here, we’ll break down their dietary necessities and feeding best practices:

Dietary Needs

Snapping turtles are omnivorous, meaning they consume both plant and animal matter. Offering this variety is critical, even if your particular turtle has solid preferences for meaty foods!

Food Types

Prepared turtle diets, feeder fish/insects, fruits, veggies, and frozen/thawed foods are all excellent snapper meal options. Canned dog/cat foods can occasionally supplement, but avoid mammal meats as staples.


Dust foods with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements 2-3 times a week for healthy shell growth. Use an occasional multivitamin, too.

Feeding Frequency

Juvenile snappers should be fed daily, while adult snappers do best with meals every 2-3 days. This better matches their natural feeding patterns.

Amount To Feed

Offer as many finely chopped or bite-sized foods as your particular snapper will consume in 10-15 minutes, 1-2 times daily. Feeding separately from tankmates prevents competition. Remove uneaten foods promptly.

Final Tips!

Maintain a set feeding schedule and location in the tank. Observe your turtle’s appetite and body condition, adjusting amounts accordingly to maintain a rounded shell and healthy appearance.

Water Parameters

Managing water quality metrics like temperature, pH, and others helps recreate snapping turtles’ natural freshwater ecosystems. Here’s what to aim for:

ParameterIdeal Range
Temperature78°-82° F (25.5°-27.7°C)
KH100-150 ppm
GH100-150 ppm

Test water parameters weekly to catch fluctuations and make adjustments promptly. Invest in a liquid test kit for accuracy. Significant deviations from target ranges cause undue stress.

Perform regular partial water changes using dechlorinator to remove built-up organics. Changing 10-25% weekly helps maintain balance, along with replacing.

Health and Safety Considerations

While prolonged underwater brumation is natural snapper behavior, watch for signs of illness if your turtle is lethargic on land, too. Monitor for:

Appearance Changes

Puffy eyes, wheezing, shell abnormalities, or eating issues indicate trouble. A healthy snapper rests peacefully without signs of respiratory distress.


Bites, scrapes, or cracks in the shell require immediate attention to avoid infection. Apply topical treatments only under a vet’s advisement.

Tank Checks

Scan for uneaten foods causing foul water. Ensure basking access hasn’t been blocked, and the heater/filter works properly. Tackle water testing at the first hint of trouble.

Handling Care

Always support a snapper’s body fully when lifting out of water. Keep fingers clear of the head and jaws by grasping the rear shell edge firmly. Never pick up hatchlings by their tails.

By routinely inspecting your turtle and fine-tuning husbandry, you can enjoy a long-lived, thriving pet snapper! Reach out to an exotic vet for health-related concerns.


In closing, snapping turtles can become tremendously rewarding aquarium inhabitants when responsibly cared for in the long term. Key considerations include:

  • Selecting suitable tankmates
  • Outfitting an adequately sized tank
  • Maintaining clean water quality
  • Providing both dry and submerged areas
  • Formulating a wholesome, varied diet

While snappers aren’t the most straightforward pets, their ancient allure captivates those drawn to unique cold-blooded companions.

With an attentive focus on habitat setup, nutrition, tank maintenance, and wellness checks, your snapper can thrive for decades in captivity as an intriguing underwater attraction.

Approach snapper ownership as you would any long-term pet commitment. Their potential 30+ year lifespans mean selecting this ancient reptile includes signing up for a slow-paced journey together, much like keeping a tortoise!

But the chance to regularly interact with and observe such a primordial creature makes it worthwhile for the adequately prepared turtle devotee.

Here are some frequently asked questions about what to put in a tank with a snapping turtle:

Can I keep snapping turtles with fish like goldfish or guppies?

No, small, slow-moving fish that spend time at the water’s surface like goldfish and guppies are not suitable tankmates for snapping turtles. They risk being eaten or nipped at leading to health issues. Stick to fast schooling fish or bottom dwellers instead.

What is the minimum tank size for an adult snapping turtle?

An absolute minimum of a 100-gallon stock tank is recommended for an adult snapping turtle. Bigger is always better, so aim for 150+ gallons to allow ample swimming room along with dry basking areas. Overcrowding causes stress.

Is it OK to house snapping turtles together?

Generally keeping multiple snapping turtles together is not advisable due to their solitary and territorial natures. While young turtles may temporarily shoal, adults become aggressive especially when confronted with limited basking space. Only attempt cohabitation in a very large tank with ample sight breaks and basking areas.

My name is Shayan Mondal, and I am a passionate turtle owner and enthusiast who enjoys sharing my knowledge and experience with fellow turtle lovers. As a proud owner of several turtle species, I understand the importance of proper care, habitat setup, and nutrition for these delightful creatures. This website regularly updates the latest insights into turtle health, diet, and conservation efforts.

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