Are turtles better in pairs? | turtle owner (2023)

Many people like to imagine that their pets have similar human traits and needs. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it can lead to some misconceptions about what you need and don't need from a turtle. people need company; without them we feel alone and may even die. It makes sense that we want to make sure our turtles don't get lonely either.

But are turtles better in pairs?Turtles are relatively solitary by nature. They usually come together for breeding purposes but live alone most of their lives. Female turtles may protect their nests, but they do not protect or raise their young. This means that even very young turtles naturally live alone.

It's comforting to know that pet turtles are unlikely to be alone, but that doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't live with a friend. Below, I've unearthed some interesting facts about pet turtles and how they behave with and without a partner.

Do turtles need other turtle mates?

Turtles, like many other reptiles, did not evolve with an inherent need for companionship. They are perfectly happy in the wild. Pet turtles aren't too far off from their wild cousins, so they do well on their own.

However, some turtles can learn to live peacefully with other turtles. Some even seem to prefer spending time with other turtles. I once met a pair of turtles who grew up together. One fell ill and died after many years, leaving only his tank mate. The remaining tortoise, while physically healthy in all respects, had some subtle personality changes following the death of its mate.

Did the remaining turtle howl? Did you miss your friend?

We may never know the answer to that, but personally I think he missed his partner. It is unclear whether reptiles have the same capacity for emotions and feelings as humans. However, it was obvious to me that these two turtles shared some kind of bond, if only one of tolerance and intimacy.

That's evidence enough for me, but it's up to you to decide.

Should I get two turtles?

If, like me, you want to give your turtles the best chance at a happy life, you might be wondering if adding a buddy to the tank is a good idea. Even though tortoises were bred for a solitary life, your tortoise can actually be quite happy with a friend.

But before you buy an army of turtles to keep your tank friend company, keep these points in mind.

Male turtles can fight

Earlier I mentioned my friend's pet turtles that grew up together. An attentive reader might have noticed that both were men. Although these two men lived together in harmony for many years, they were not alone. There were actually four other turtles in this enclosure, all female. The male to female ratio was very good so the two males didn't have to fight.

Two males alone are likely to fight. If the enclosure is not big enough, they will certainly struggle a lot. Males can be territorial and this is not a behavior that can be trained or resolved on its own.

If you decide to get mates for your current tortoise, or if you want to have several baby tortoises at once, make sure you have two females. If you want a lot of turtles, consider buying one male and two or more females. Just make sure there are enough females to run for the boys and you'll be fine.

However, be prepared for bullies. Some male turtles are just mean to other males, regardless of male to female ratio. In this case, the aggressive male should be removed and placed alone in an enclosure. It's just not good company!

do not mix species

There are some parasites and organisms common to certain species or turtles that do not harm them. Still, the same organisms can be lethal to different species of turtles. It's best not to mix two or more species of turtle, even if you think yours is free of parasites and dangerous organisms.

Be generous with space

I like to think of turtles as my introverted friends. They like others enough to spend time with them sometimes, but need plenty of space to rest and recharge after contact. I know this because I am one of them: an introvert, not a turtle, much to my chagrin.

Basically, I get irritated when I spend a lot of time with other people. Turtles can be equals when it comes to socializing with other turtles.

Turtles are like introverts. If you plan to house them together, make sure each turtle has enough personal space. That means a really big case - go much bigger than suggested. It also means plenty of hiding places and plenty of places for them to retreat and catch their breath.

Don't force interactions

Turtles are not babies. You don't need to learn social skills to survive. You cannot pressure her to make friends. You should never force two (or more) turtles to interact with each other or spend a lot of time in close proximity. If they feel like being social, they'll do it on their own.

Forcing the turtles to interact is a recipe for disaster. Even friendly and social turtles can be incited to aggression by well-meaning people, forcing them to stay close to each other.

Let your turtles go about their business. Friendships, or at least tolerance, build slowly over time, even turtles.

Provide enough for everyone plus a few

Unless one of your turtles has issues with portion control, you should always provide enough food for each turtle in the tank. In fact, they provide more than enough to get around. You should have some leftovers that need to be removed after each feeding.

Why do you have to provide so much food?

Simply. Turtles can become aggressive if they feel there isn't enough food to move around. It is not very common to see food aggression in turtles, but it can happen. You don't want to line them up for a fight over dinner. It's a bad habit to break once it's ingrained.

Avoid this by providing your turtles with everything they need and enough to keep everyone happy.

adjust sizes

The playground bully was probably the tallest kid in the class. This also applies to the animal kingdom. While the biggest turtle in the tank doesn't necessarily have to be the attacker, the one who starts fights is likely to be the one who ends them.

Unfortunately, this will leave the smaller tortoise stressed, injured, or dead.

Avoid mixing turtles of different sizes. You probably won't be able to perfectly match your sizes. And when you bring two babies home, you can't always predict how fast they'll grow, but do your best to keep up.

look at the personalities

Anyone who has never had a pet turtle will probably scoff at this, but turtles have personalities! Some are friendly and playful, while others prefer to sit back and watch the world go by. Some love to be pampered and spend time with people, while others don't like to be bothered.

Just like humans, turtles have other personality types that they get along better with. For example, don't pair your boisterous, energetic turtle with a grumpy turtle. Try to match your personalities so that one doesn't bother the other.

accept that it might not work

They may do everything right, provide lots of space, lots of extra fur, and lots of food and water, but turtles just don't thrive. You have to accept that not all turtles can live with others.

Keep in mind that turtles evolved to be solitary and territorial creatures. If you try to force them to have company you can stress them out and that could end in disaster. Illness, stress, injury and even death can result if you try to force turtles to live together.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try if that's what you want and can handle the added responsibility. However, I am saying that you must be willing to fix a bad situation. Don't put two turtles together unless you're willing to immediately separate them if things don't work out.

Can I give my turtles time apart?

Definitive! If you choose to keep several turtles in separate enclosures, it is perfectly acceptable to give them time each week to explore a common, neutral play area together. However, keep an eye on them and never leave them unattended.

Some turtles will enjoy waving to a distant friend from another tank. Other turtles don't mind social time. Again, don't force interaction, but there's no reason not to give them a chance to meet up and have some social time on the other side of the park or backyard.

However, be prepared to separate them. If they seem stressed, upset or angry, take them back to their tanks. This can cause a time to fade over multiple exposures or they may never do well. You must be prepared for both possibilities.


Keeping turtles is a lot of fun and having multiple turtles adds to the fun factor. But tortoises that live in the same enclosure may not be a good match for your specific pets. If so, keep them in their own tanks and establish safe, supervised social times where they can get to know each other if they so choose.

Common questions

Can you keep two turtles together?Yes, but not all turtles will like it. Two men should never be left alone together. It's okay to have two women together. You can also make a mixed tank as long as there aren't too many males.

Do turtles need friends?No, turtles don't need friends. Some pet turtles may like having a companion, while others may not. Turtles are solitary by nature.

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Author: Saturnina Altenwerth DVM

Last Updated: 03/22/2023

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