Two of the most easily recognizable fish in the freshwater aquarium trade, angelfish, and betta fish are favorite centerpieces for freshwater systems. Both species feature beautiful colorations and displays of finnage and they look spectacular against a backdrop of dense vegetation. But can these two ornate fish live together in the same tank?
Unfortunately, no, angelfish should not be kept with betta fish. In this guide, we’ll explain why these two species don’t work together and provide some better alternate tank mates for each.
Freshwater angelfish are part of the cichlid family (Cichlidae) but have wider bodies and much calmer demeanors than their relatives. There are currently three different known species of angelfish, Pterophyllum altum, Pterophyllum leopoldi, and Pterophyllum scalare, with P. scalare being the most widely available in the aquarium trade.
Angelfish can be found throughout most of South America, in Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and several other countries. There, they are mostly found in various rivers and waterways with slow-moving to stand-still conditions. The water is often dimly lit with plenty of overhanging and submerged vegetation for the fish to find shelter.
Since these fish have become so popular in the aquarium trade, it is rare to find a wild-caught angelfish; this has led to an assortment of available colors and fin-types.
Angelfish are very easy to identify due to their widebodies and draping finnage. Because they have been bred in the aquarium trade for decades, they come in an assortment of colors, making them a perfect centerpiece for larger and taller aquariums.
Angelfish can grow to be 6-8 inches (15.2-20.3 cm) in both height and length. They’re especially appealing to beginner hobbyists as they’re usually sold when they’re just a couple inches long and come in a variety of whites, blacks, oranges, reds, and yellows. Unfortunately, angelfish can be pretty aggressive and are best kept in a species-specific tank setup.
Angelfish tank requirements
Angelfish can get large and can get to be very territorial; some hobbyists think that they can sometimes get even more aggressive than betta fish! Just one angelfish will require a 20 gallon (75.7 L) aquarium with no other fish in the tank. In order to have more, at least a 55 gallon (208.2 L) aquarium is strongly recommended; it is also important to consider that they need more headroom than other species of fish and a taller tank is better than a longer tank.
Due to their delicate fins, it is best to create a natural environment where your fish can’t easily get injured by sharp decorations; smoothed rocks, driftwood, and live plants will fill out the tank and give your fish areas to hide. Water flow should also be minimal as angelfish stay pretty stationary within the water column and could be easily pushed around, leading to possible injury.
Angelfish are relatively hardy and do best in average water conditions. Since they come from South America, they need to be kept in tropical water temperatures, between 75-84° F (23.9-28.9° C). pH should be relatively neutral, around 6.0-7.5.
Keeping angelfish with betta fish
While angelfish can grow to be large fish, both female and male betta fish stay relatively small. Bettas have similar water parameter requirements and thrive in water temperatures between 78-80° F (25.6-26.7° C) while pH should stay between 6.5-7.5; however, their minimum aquarium size is 5 gallons (18.9 L), which is considerably smaller than that of angelfish. But just because their preferred water parameters and tank requirements match does not mean that these two species can be housed together in one aquarium.
Can you keep betta fish with angelfish?
In short, no. Angelfish are not compatible with female or male betta fish no matter the setup. The problem isn’t that their ideal tank conditions vary from each other, but more so with their aggressive temperaments.
Bettas have been bred for decades in order to achieve the most impressive colors and best fighting skills, earning them the name Siamese fighting fish; historically, male betta fish were used to fight for monetary gain, which even became a popular sport among royalty.
When threatened, bettas flare their gills and fins in order to look bigger and more intimidating to their opponent. These warning signs are usually proceeded by nipping at fins and bodies until the other fish backs away. These fights have been known to last for considerable amounts of time and often result in the death of one or more betta fish.
Even when kept alone, bettas can regularly be seen trying to fight their own reflections in the aquarium glass. They are middle- and top-water column swimmers and easily become aggressive towards any fish that enters their territory.
While angelfish are beautiful, it is important to keep in mind that they are related to cichlids, a species known for its aggressiveness, and for having to be kept in a species-specific tank. Naturally, angelfish have a level of aggression themselves though they are generally peaceful otherwise.
One of the biggest problems with finding appropriate tank mates for angelfish is that they are opportunistic feeders; angelfish will quickly try to eat anything that they can fit into their mouths. Angelfish also become especially aggressive when pairing up with other angelfish, putting the fish around them, as well as their own species, at risk of being injured.
For other reasons, angelfish have been known to be territorial and won’t hesitate to chase after and nip at other fish; if this is happening, make sure that all water parameters are where they are supposed to be and adjust accordingly if needed. Angelfish keep towards the middle- and upper-water column and might feel threatened by more active fish that use the same space; remember that just one angelfish needs 20 gallons (75.7 L) to itself.
As bettas also prefer these regions of the tank, betta fish can be seen as an intruder or vice versa. Either way, some fin-nipping is almost guaranteed to happen between the two species. Because of the variable temperaments of both fish, we do not recommend keeping betta fish and angelfish together in the same tank; there are some much better options in regards to tank mates for each species.
What fish can live with bettas?
While it’s usually best to keep your betta fish in a tank of its own, many hobbyists have had success introducing invertebrates and even other fish into their betta tank. It is important to note that we never suggest attempting a betta sorority as female bettas can be just as aggressive as male bettas.
Some of our other favorite tank mates for betta fish include:
One of the best options for a betta tank is snails. Snails are great members of the clean-up crew and will help keep the surfaces in your tank free from algae and detritus. They have the tendency to reproduce quickly and overtake systems, but with careful planning and moderation, snail populations can easily be monitored. We recommend nerite snails (Neritina natalensis) as they need brackish water conditions to reproduce and won’t quickly takeover your betta fish tank.
Note: Bettas are carnivorous by nature and may not hesitate to pick at a smaller snail.
Shrimp is another great option for small betta tanks that might not allow for more fish to be added to the aquarium; however, the aquarium should be densely planted and/or full of crevices where your shrimp can quickly retreat. They also act as part of the clean-up crew and will help keep biofilm from accumulating on surfaces in the tank. They come in an assortment of colors and all have different personalities.
Note: Some bettas won’t hesitate to eat smaller shrimp, so make sure to always monitor their interactions.
African dwarf frogs
One tank mate you may have never thought about for your betta is an African dwarf frog (Hymenochirus sp.). Most hobbyists have found that their frogs leave their betta alone and that their betta leaves their frogs alone, allowing them to safely live together. The only time you might need to be more cautious with this pairing is during feeding times as one of them might outcompete the other for food.
If you’re looking for fish that can live with bettas, some members of Corydoras might work depending on the size of your tank. In general, in order to keep betta fish with other fish, at least a 10 gallon (37.9 L) tank is recommended; for the smallest Corydoras, pygmy cories, 15 gallons (56.8 L) is even better. It is also important to keep in mind that cory catfish do better in cooler water temperatures and will need to be monitored closely to keep both your Corydoras and betta fish happy.
What fish can live with angelfish?
Angelfish have widely been regarding as being a suitable species for a community tank. However, their mature size, opportunistic appetite, and potential aggression make them more compatible with some species over others. Again, female bettas should not be housed with angelfish due to them having similar aggression levels as male bettas.
Here are some suggestions for an angelfish tank:
Because angelfish need a much larger tank than betta fish, you will have a lot more options for Corydoras sp.; it is best to choose a species that can comfortably school and move together in the given size of the aquarium. Again, Corydoras need lower water temperatures than most typical community fish, which can lead to some incompatible pairings in terms of preferred water conditions.
Dwarf gouramis are colorful additions that can usually hold their ground against slightly more aggressive fish. They grow to about 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) and typically stay around the middle- and upper water column. They can become slightly more aggressive if gender pairings are uneven, but will do well with angelfish as their preferred water conditions and overall demeanor match.
Rainbowfish are a little more active than most community fish, though most hobbyists haven’t had any problems with their rainbowfish overwhelming their angelfish as long as the tank size is large enough for both. Also, make sure to keep an eye on your fish during feeding times as rainbowfish could outcompete your angelfish. Some compatible rainbowfish species are dwarf rainbowfish (Melanotaenia praecox) and Celebes rainbowfish (Marosatherina ladigesi).
Remember that rainbowfish need to be kept in schools of at least 6 and will need to be in a larger tank if kept with angelfish.
Platies are one of the most common community tank fish to come by as they truly do get along with most aquarium species. Since platies might shy away from angelfish, it is best to keep them in a tank with plenty of vegetation and other decorations. It is also important to keep in mind that a pair of platies will most likely reproduce; it is very likely that this fry will be eaten by the angelfish if left in the display aquarium, so make sure to remove the fish before spawning or remove the fry as soon as possible to a separate tank.
Rasboras are a little less active than rainbowfish, but still large enough to evade the appetite of your angelfish. These fish will also need to be kept in schools and should be given a decent amount of room to freely swim around. Most hobbyists have had success with harlequin rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) and blackline rasboras (Rasbora borapetensis).
If you have concerns about your angelfish going after smaller rasboras, try to get fish that are already a decent size and that won’t be seen as a quick snack. Also, try to get as big of a school as your aquarium can accommodate as they find safety in numbers.
If you’re looking to fill out the bottom of your larger tank, a bristlenose pleco (Ancistrus sp.) can be a fun addition. Species of this genus stay relatively small, only growing to about 6 inches (15.2 cm), though they should still be given a larger tank so that there are enough natural algae and biofilm to graze on. Some hobbyists have experienced their bristlenose pleco munching on aquarium plants, but if blanched vegetables are supplemented regularly, there should be no problem.
Angelfish are not compatible with betta fish even though they have overlapping recommended tank conditions. Betta fish have been bred to fight similar-looking species and/or fish that invade their territory while angelfish have been known to eat smaller fish and defend their own space within the tank. These behaviors are also problematic as both angelfish and betta fish stay within the middle and upper regions of the aquarium.
There are many other tank mate options for both betta fish and angelfish, which can make for a more natural and symbiotic mini-ecosystem. Still, each individual fish will display different characteristics which will then further determine which other fish can be kept in the system.
If you have any questions about angelfish or betta fish, why angelfish can’t be kept with betta fish, or have had your own experience with either of these species, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!