Can Turtles And Tortoises Live Together? (Here’s Why They Can’t)

Image of a turtle and a tortoise

Turtles and tortoises can’t live together as they have different environmental needs, sometimes get aggressive toward each other, and even pass illnesses to each other. Their dietary needs also differ. Turtles being omnivores, need a plant and meat-based diet, whereas tortoises prefer a herbivore diet.

Let’s now see in detail why turtles and tortoises can’t live together. But first, let’s understand their similarities.

What Do Turtles And Tortoises Have In Common?

Turtles and tortoises are reptiles and part of the same order of animals known as Testudines.

Turtles are large species of freshwater and sea-dwelling chelonians.

On the other hand, tortoises are land-dwelling, mainly found in dry areas.

Since turtles and tortoises fall under the same family, certain things are common between them.

The most significant similarities between turtles and tortoises are mentioned below.

1. General Anatomy

Turtles and tortoises are both ectotherms, which means they are cold-blooded animals.

Therefore, they depend on the external environment to regulate their body temperature by sunbathing to stay warm.

Another similarity is that neither turtles nor tortoises have teeth.

Instead, their mouths have a hard and sharpened edge that they use to bite, crush fruits, and shear through the plant fibers.

Also, both turtles and tortoises lay eggs. They reproduce by laying several clutches of eggs into the sand.

After laying the eggs, the mother covers them by putting sand or soil on them to protect them from potential scavengers.

The mother doesn’t take care of the eggs. Once the hatchlings are born, they are self-sufficient to take care of themselves.

2. Shell

Shell is another common thing that’s shared by these two reptile types.

Both turtles and tortoises have shells that help them to safeguard themselves from predators.

The shell is made up of 2 pieces. The upper part of the shell is called Carapace, while the bottom part is called Plastron.

Both these parts of the shell are fused together on each side.

Also, the entire shell has numerous small bones that are covered by separate plates of keratin called Scutes.

3. Calcium Requirements

While the diets of turtles and tortoises vary, they have a common calcium intake requirement.

This is because turtles and tortoises need ample calcium intake for the healthy development of their shells and bones.

Turtles and tortoises also need various nutrients to stay healthy.

Since turtles are omnivores, they extract the essential nutrients from plants and animal meat.

On the other hand, tortoises prefer a herbivore diet.

Apart from diet, both turtles and tortoises bask in the sun to absorb the UVB rays for creating Vitamin D and converting it into Vitamin D3.

They can utilize the calcium from their daily diet only after the formation of Vitamin D3 in their respective bodies.

Alright! So by looking at the similarities, you may wonder why turtles and tortoises can’t live together. Let’s understand that now.

4 Reasons Why Turtles And Tortoises Can’t Live Together

Turtles and tortoises look similar but differ in many ways.

A lot of people have the misconception that turtles and tortoises are good companions. However, that’s not true.

Turtles and tortoises don’t have any relationship in the wild. Hence, housing them together in captivity will be unnatural.

There’s a risk that either of them can get stressed, sick, or injured if you put them together in the same enclosure.

Given below are some of the common reasons why turtles and tortoises can’t live together.

1. They need different environments.

One significant difference between turtles and tortoises is that the former are aquatic or semi-aquatic, whereas the latter are terrestrial.

As a result, the environmental needs for both these species are different.

Most of the turtles are semi-aquatic. They need both land and water for their survival.

While turtles can spend time on the land for basking, tortoises can’t live in water.

This is because tortoises are not equipped to swim and can easily drown even in shallow water.

Additionally, you can’t modify the environment to accommodate turtles and tortoises together, as it can adversely impact their health.

2. Their diets are different.

Another critical factor is that turtles are omnivores, whereas tortoises are herbivorous.

Turtles eat various foods such as worms, snails, slugs, fruits, leafy green vegetables, grasses, and flowers.

Besides, turtles also consume carrion (decaying flesh) when it’s available in their natural environment.

On the other hand, tortoises mainly consume grass, stems, leaves, weeds, fruits, and flowers in the wild.

So, feeding one with the other can lead to nutritional imbalance.

3. Both can pass dangerous illnesses to each other.

Turtles and tortoises have different immunity levels.

It’s because they build their immunities to the bacteria they get from their surroundings in their natural habitat.

In the wild, turtles and tortoises don’t often come in contact with each other.

Hence, neither turtles nor tortoises have the immunity to fight the bacteria that the other one transmits.

So if turtles and tortoises are housed together, there’s a high probability that either one or both will get infected.

Infection can easily pass through the water bowl, food, or feces.

4. They can become aggressive toward each other.

Turtles and tortoises can sometimes become aggressive toward each other.

However, this mainly happens when both of them are males.

Males tend to assert dominance over each other. They can compete for food, basking spot, or space to live.

The one which is smaller or weaker will go into submission. Also, their fights can lead to injury.

Since tortoises are solitary creatures in their natural habitat, keeping them along with turtles can stress them.

Excessive stress can be life-threatening for tortoises.

Can Box Turtles And Tortoises Live Together?

Box turtles and tortoises can’t live together because they belong to different families, although both of them are chelonians. Box turtles are members of the American pond turtle family (Emydidae), whereas tortoises are reptile species of the family Testudinidae of the order Testudines.

They aren’t closely related and hence can’t cohabitate.

Although both of these species have similar environmental requirements, the chances are that they may fight with each other as tortoises like to remain solitary.

Moreover, even if box turtles and tortoises get along, they can’t hybridize.

Another significant reason for not keeping them together is their varied dietary requirements.

Box turtles eat a diverse diet. Being omnivores, they eat plants and animal matter. Vegetation is a significant part of their diet.

Apart from vegetation, box turtles eat fruits such as apples and several types of berries.

In meat, they consume anything they can catch, primarily insects, millipedes, earthworms, and other invertebrates.

Some reports suggest that box turtles are primarily carnivores during the first five to six years of their life and become herbivores once they reach adulthood.

However, there’s no scientific basis for such a difference.

On the other hand, tortoises are primarily herbivores.

Their diet mainly consists of leafy greens, certain flowers, some fruits, grass, and weeds.

There are very few tortoise species that consume worms or insects in their natural habitat.

Another risk for housing box turtles and tortoises together is that they can be hosts for several parasitic worms and protozoans.

Although it’s not clear whether they can share diseases or not, the risk still remains.


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