Are My Turtles Fighting or Playing? (& How to Stop It)

Turtles are just so adorable and fun to watch, whether they are eating, swimming, digging, or basking under the sun.

But how can you say when they are playing? Or do they really play?

How about fighting? With the calm demeanor of turtles, are they capable of attacking others?


Signs Your Turtles Are Playing

Your turtles are playing if they are engaging themselves with the toys and other objects that you put inside their tank. They can push or move these objects and do some climbing or digging.

You might be always thrilled to go to pet stores to buy new toys for your turtles or search for new stuff that you can put in their aquarium.

Whenever you place the new trinkets that you bought in your pets’ place, you are feeling happy and fulfilled.

Yet, at one point, you suddenly ask yourself if your turtles will be pleased as well with what you got for them? Are they really playing with all those toys that you keep on getting or are just going to be decors?

Yes, turtles are solitary animals, but that does not mean they have boring personalities. They are actually very active and love to play!

Your turtles are playing if they are making themselves busy with the things around them.

They might be tripping empty shells or pushing some toy boat or ping-pong ball along the water. These are some ways for them to have fun.

If you are a first-time turtle owner, it might worry you if you will see your turtles digging. Don’t be as this is very natural for them.

They simply love plowing substrate and burrowing themselves. This makes them feel closer to nature!

During their active time, you can see your turtles climbing on sticks or rocks inside their enclosure.

They can be walking persistently in the obstacle maze that you personally made, expecting their favorite treats at the end. Seeing this will make your heart happy, for sure! And, you can undoubtedly conclude that your turtles are indeed playing.

Signs Your Turtles Are Fighting

Your turtles are fighting if they are attacking and biting each other. Likewise, you will notice behavioral changes in the turtles that have been battling such as being upset, aggressive, or terrified. They may lose appetite and have wounds or scratches as well.

Not everyone can easily distinguish whether the turtles living together in a tank are having fun or actually harming each other.

You should be a keen observer as some potential signs of aggressiveness might show off even if your turtles have spent quite some time together already.

The real noticeable sign of fighting between your pets is the attacking and biting scenario.

If one of your turtles suddenly tries chasing others, then something is wrong.

The fighting turtles will come at each other and will try to show their dominance.

The aggressive turtle might even do some unusual arm motion indicating that it is up for a fight! The dominant turtle will flatter its hands to its opponents.

They will hit and nip and will not just simply stop until they get satisfied. Even though the less assertive turtle gives up already, the dominant one will continue to chase that is why it is important to set up a large tank.

Interestingly, you should not quickly jump to a conclusion as the biting behavior can also indicate mating.

As part of courting, male turtles are giving gentle bites to females’ neck, tail, and feet to see if these gals are up for some love. Males might be a little aggressive but have no intention to hurt.

Now, if the aggression leads to harmful bites, then it is no longer a mating ritual. There is a fight going on already!

If you suspect that your turtles have been fighting but do not really catch them in the act, you can observe their behavior and physical condition.

If turtles get into a terrible fight, they are usually not eating and prefer to stay in a corner. These are, perhaps, the bullied ones that were not able to defend their territories. They may show defensiveness and fearfulness as well.

Since fighting involves attacking each other, you might want to check if your turtles have wounds, scratches, or even damaged shells. Because of their shells, the injuries are limited to the head, neck, legs, and tail. 

Reasons Turtles Fight

Turtles fight because they are naturally solitary and prefer to be alone so territorial disputes happen. They also become violent if they are competing over food, are living in a tiny space, due to mating routine, when they reach maturity, or their species simply have aggressive characteristics.

The first major reason why turtles fight is because of their nature as solitary animals. They can perfectly live apart from others and would still be active and happy.

With this nature, your turtles living together can experience territorial disputes. They will fight for their space in the enclosure or simply want to show dominance.

This can highly take place if they have a cramped enclosure. The tiny space can stress them out plus the fact that they are living so close to each other, which they do not prefer.

Your turtles also battle over food so make sure you are feeding them sufficient meals. You might just find one day that your small turtles became an instant meal for your huge turtles!

Observe how much food each of them consumes, especially if they are of different species. Shortage of food can make them aggressive as their instinct is primarily after survival.

Another explanation why your turtles fight is due to mating routines.

Male turtles will usually manifest their dominance through fighting other turtles as a way to impress female turtles.

This might be a piece of new knowledge to you but usually, turtles are becoming aggressive once they reach maturity.

Interestingly, younger turtles do not usually exhibit a hostile type of behavior compared to the older ones. You can put these babies in a similar tank but should be watchful of their actions as they grow up.

Lastly, some turtles simply cannot avoid fights as their species are naturally antagonistic.

What To Do If Your Turtles Are Fighting?

If your turtles are fighting, you must stop them and separate them right away. Look for the reasons why they are attacking each other.

Turtles are quiet creatures that you might not ever think of getting themselves involved in a grapple!

They may be peaceful to watch, but they can be very aggressive if they need to.

When you see your turtles fighting, you must promptly stop and separate them as they might seriously hurt one another.

A turtle’s bite causes a wound that can be infected; thus, you must carefully check your turtles that are involved in the aggression as they might be injured.

It would be so dreadful seeing your turtles biting each other.

There is a great chance that your small turtle will get severely injured or even die with the bite of large turtles.

That is why it is not recommended to put turtles of different sizes in one tank. They might do well with each other at first, but you never know when they will be triggered to entrap others.

Should I Let My Turtles Fight?

No. You should not let your turtles fight as they will end up hurting each other badly. The disastrous attack could also affect your turtles’ behavior unfavorably.

If it is your first time seeing your turtles attack and bite each other, you should put an end to their competition right away.

True enough, they are calm and harmless creatures, but they will fight with each other as if there is no tomorrow if they are put on the spot!

As small as they can be, your turtles can be highly aggressive with each other. Their hostile instinct will be triggered as they compete for territories, dominance, food, and mating partners.

Aside from the serious injuries that your turtles can get, their behavior can change as well.

The threatened ones can show defensiveness, acting fearful, and lose their energetic personality.

How To Stop Turtles Fight?

To stop your turtles from fighting each other, they should be satisfied with their living conditions so they will not get stressed out. Contentment means having a large home, adequate food, clean water, entertaining toys, vast basking space, and not putting multiple male turtles together.

Your heart might still be aching whenever you see a turtle alone in its tank, though you know that living solo is really what it desires.

Most of the turtles simply want to live peacefully on their own. Thus, sharing a space with others will usually turn out to be terrible!

So, what can you do to effectively prevent fights between your turtles without hurting them?

Well, it is not usually recommended to put two adult turtles in a similar living space.

There is no exception even if they are of the same size or breed. You cannot really predict when your pets will show hostility towards each other. 

If you have no choice and need to keep several turtles in the same tank, you should ensure that their place will have everything they need for healthy growth. You must also keep an eye on their behaviors at all times.

The tank of your turtles should be big enough which can accommodate the standard gallons of water for every inch of each turtle inside it. If the tank is too small, your turtles will be uncomfortable, stressed, and will start to fight each other.

Another reason for fighting is food. If your turtles are starving, they will definitely compete for food following their instinct of survival.

You should ensure that you will provide sufficient food for all of your turtles to sustain their healthy living.

Clean water is a must as well! Turtles love to swim and play in the water. Some even spend most of their life under the water.

If the water is dirty, their anxiety level will increase, and fight other turtles as a means to release their frustration.

To maintain good quality water in your tank, you should regularly change the water and use water filters.

Toys are also a great distraction and a means of entertainment for your turtles. If they are busy and having fun, they will care less about the other turtles around them.

A large basking area is very important as well. Basking under the sun is essential for your turtles’ growth and health.

Never have a tiny space that cannot accommodate all your turtles to bask at the same time. Count your turtles and measure their sizes to make sure they can all fit on the basking area.

You should also avoid putting males in the same enclosure. Although female turtles can fight too, male turtles are way aggressive, territorial, and dominant.

The best and most effective way to prevent your turtles from fighting is to simply separate them and put them in different tanks.

This way, you can ensure that there is no way for them to hurt each other even without your watch.


JalJeev Editorial Staff. (2020, June 27). How hard is a turtle shell? Can bullets or animals break it? JalJeev.

Stimers, P. (2020, June 5). Do turtles fight? What you need to know . ReptileUP – Facts and Tips About Reptiles.