Do guppies make good tankmates for betta fish?
There’s no doubt that a school of brightly colored guppies flitting around your tank makes a beautiful display that perfectly complements your betta’s spectacular looks. But are guppies and bettas a marriage made in heaven or a potential nightmare?
On the face of it, guppies are peaceful fish that should get along fine with your betta unless he’s especially aggressive. However, there are many considerations to consider, not just temperament.
Let’s find out more in our in-depth guide to keeping guppies with your betta fish.
What Are Guppies?
Guppies are a great species for the beginner fish-keeper to have in their tank.
There are almost 300 species of guppy, but you’ll see one in many hobbyists’ fish tanks: the Poecilia reticulata, or Common guppy.
Guppies are also known as “Millions fish,” due to their incredibly fast breeding rate, and “rainbow fish” because of the wonderfully diverse range of colors you can find.
In addition to being popular pet fish, guppies have played an important role in freshwaters in Asia, where they have been used to control malaria-carrying mosquitos.
Guppies typically live from one to three years, given the right tank conditions.
What Do Guppies Look Like?
Guppies come in various colors and sizes and have diversely shaped tails.
Male guppies are easily identifiable by their colorful tails, stripes, splashes, and spots.
Females are generally larger-bodied with smaller tails and less flashy colors. Male guppies measure between 0.6 and 1.4 inches in length, whereas females are around 1.2 to 2.4 inches long.
Guppies have iridophores. That is, cells without color but which reflect light, creating a beautiful iridescent effect. Some male guppies are solid-colored, while others have patterned bodies.
Body Patterns in Male Guppies:
- Snakeskin: chain-link patterns and rosettes
- Cobra: rosettes with vertical barring
- Tuxedo: back and front half in two different colors
Tail Patterns and Colors:
Male guppies have gloriously colored tails that ripple as they swim, creating a stunning effect.
- Lace: fine, web-like pattern
- Grass: tiny dots that resemble grass
- Mosaic: interconnected, irregular spots
- Leopard: spots resembling leopard spots
The Tail Shapes:
If your guppies breed, you could finish up with a new variety!
Guppy and Betta’s Behavior
Guppies are peaceful fish that make a great addition to any community tank. These little dynamos are almost hyperactive, continually darting around the tank.
Guppies are prolific breeders, and you will often notice the males pursuing the females, wiggling their fins in an attempt to win a mate.
Guppies mostly inhabit the midwaters of the tank, occasionally venturing upward, whereas your betta lives mainly at the surface or upper area of the setup.
Betta fish are fiercely territorial, so the fact that guppies generally gravitate to a different area of the tank makes for a harmonious relationship.
That said, if you have a particularly aggressive betta fish, you may find that he regards any fish with a flashy, brightly colored appearance as a threat.
So, the male guppies’ brightly colored, flowing tails could trigger your betta to attack them.
Does Fish Gender Matter?
Yes. The genders of your bettas and your guppies matter, and pairing your fish by species and gender can help create a peaceful tank.
For example, male and female bettas get along fine with female guppies, who are much duller than their male counterparts and lack extravagant tails.
So, what about female bettas and male guppies?
Female bettas tend not to have the males’ aggressive streak and are generally peaceable. However, male guppies do mistake female bettas for guppies.
And that can lead to disquiet in the tank if the bettas take offense to being the object of the guppies’ attentions.
Female bettas and guppies get along fine together unless you have a particularly aggressive female betta.
What To Do if Things Go Wrong
No matter what precautions you take, there’s no real surefire way of telling how your betta will react when introducing new fish to your collection.
Always quarantine new fish for at least a week before putting them into your main tank. A quarantine tank is a small tank with the same water conditions and planting as your main display tank.
The idea of quarantine is to allow the fish to settle down while you watch them and see if they show any signs of sickness. If any fish fall sick, you can treat them in the quarantine tank rather than risk introducing disease to your existing community.
The quarantine tank can also be used in an emergency if your betta and guppies start fighting. Alternatively, you could place a glass or plastic tank divider into your main tank to separate the fish.
Sometimes, things settle down after a few days into a peaceful, harmonious relationship, and you can remove the divider.
Do Betta Fish Eat Guppies?
Fortunately, fully grown guppies are too big for betta fish to eat. Nevertheless, guppies reproduce quickly, and betta fish will not hesitate to eat guppy fry (baby guppies).
If you want to breed your guppies, make sure you do so in a different tank, or you may accidentally be giving your betta a morbid treat.
Also, keep in mind that male bettas can be extremely aggressive. Your betta could get territorial and kill his guppy tankmates, even if he does not plan on eating them.
Make sure you get to know your betta’s temperament before adding tankmates or introducing him to a new tank and always introduce new fish slowly (see above).
You can also choose a semi-aggressive breed of betta fish, like the Delta betta or the Halfmoon betta, or opt for a female betta instead.
Guppy and Betta Habitat and Tank Conditions
Guppies are susceptible to stress, so providing them with ideal tank conditions is vital for a healthy community.
First, you must have a large enough tank to comfortably accommodate your betta and a small school of guppies. Overstocking your tank is a sure way of stressing your fish, potentially leading to disease and even mortality.
As a rule of thumb, your tank should be at least 10 gallons, preferably larger.
You should allow one gallon of water per fish in your tank. However, if you are housing guppies and a betta, it’s advisable to provide them with a bit more room.
So, you could have a 10-gallon tank for one male betta and three guppies. With every additional five gallons, you could add three more guppies.
When buying guppies, you want one male for every two females. Male guppies can become extremely attentive to their females when breeding. So it’s best to have more ladies than boys to prevent the girls from becoming stressed by the males’ attention.
Although guppies don’t tend to leap out of the water, bettas can and do jump. Jumping from puddle to puddle is a natural behavior that bettas use in the wild during the dry season, enabling them to change location in search of food, new territory, or a mate.
For that reason, always choose a tank with a lid or cover the top with fine-gauge wire to prevent escape attempts.
How Many Bettas Can I Keep With My Guppies?
For best results, keep one betta with a school of guppies. Introducing another betta could trigger your fish’s aggressive tendencies and result in a tank-wide massacre.
Even having two female bettas in the same tank is bad because the school of guppies and the betta sorority could end up fighting for space.
Remember, domesticated bettas are aggressive, territorial, and mostly solitary creatures. In the best-case scenario, your betta will not have to interact with your guppies at all.
That’s why tank size is so important (see above), and bigger is always better!
Water temperature and pH
Guppies do best in water that’s kept between 750 and 820 Fahrenheit. Bettas need a water temperature of 780, which is fine for guppies too.
Place the heater at one end of the tank close to the pump so that the heat is distributed evenly throughout the tank.
Your thermometer needs to be at the opposite end of the tank, enabling you to check that the water is at a consistent temperature throughout.
Guppies can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, although their ideal pH is between 7.0 and 7.2. Betta fish need a pH level of 7.0 to thrive and remain healthy. So, both species are compatible in that regard.
Both bettas and guppies need clean water, ideally with an ammonia level of 0ppm (parts per million), a nitrite level of 0ppm, and a nitrate level of a maximum of 20ppm, preferably less. You’ll need to get a testing kit to monitor the pH levels in your tank.
Betta fish don’t tolerate fast-flowing currents in their tank, so choose a filter that can be adjusted to a low flow rate.
Remember to carry out partial water changes of around 25% every week to keep your tank water free from nitrates and ammonia.
Tank Decoration and Planting
Guppies enjoy a well-planted tank with lots of rocks, substrate, and live plants. Choose a black substrate that will show off the bright colors of your betta and guppies and highlight the bright green of your collection of live plants.
Be sure to include hiding places for your fish. Bettas sometimes like to hide away, especially if they’re stressed by being moved to a new tank or introduced to new tankmates. However, guppies generally stay out in the open unless they feel stressed or sickly.
Failure to offer live plants and hiding places could make your betta stressed and aggressive. A lack of live plants could also negatively impact your guppies’ diet.
Feeding Your Guppies and Betta
Like bettas, guppies are omnivores, feeding on animal and plant matter, including algae. Both species enjoy freeze-dried foods, such as mosquito larvae, bloodworms, and species-specific foods.
Choose a fish food that is high in protein and contains minimal fillers. You can check that by looking at the list of ingredients on the packaging. Look for high-quality guppy food with proteins, including meat products, listed first.
You should feed your fish once or twice a day, bar one. A fasting day is important, enabling your fish to digest any food left in their digestive tract thoroughly.
This helps to prevent problems such as bloating, swim bladder issues, and constipation.
Offer your fish only enough food to be cleared in a minute or so. Any uneaten food should be removed from the tank so that it doesn’t decompose and release harmful chemicals into the water.
Can Guppies Eat Betta Food?
Yes, guppies can eat betta food, but they need more plant matter in their diet than bettas do. Experienced fish keepers recommend feeding guppies first, using veggie flakes and pellets, then introducing betta food.
This way, the guppies do not steal the betta’s food, which can trigger fights, and both species of fish get their dietary needs met.
While guppies can eat betta food, bettas should not eat guppy food. Luckily, they tend to ignore veggie-based food anyways.
At the end of the day, bettas and guppies have similar diets, but betta fish are primarily carnivorous and need more protein, and guppies are true omnivores who need both plant and protein matter.
Remember, live plants help with everything from feeding to breeding.
Can You Breed Guppies?
Guppies readily breed if tank conditions are good and they have plenty to eat.
Guppies are ovoviviparous. That means that the female fish grow eggs inside their bodies. The baby fish inside the eggs use the egg sac for nourishment.
Once the egg sac has been absorbed, the female guppy gives birth to live fry. As birth becomes imminent, you can sometimes see the tiny fry moving around inside their mother.
The gestation period for guppies is typically between 21 and 30 days. Once the fry arrives, a few may survive, although most will probably become lunch for the other occupants in your tank, including your betta!
You can give the fry their best chance of surviving until they become too big to be eaten by providing lots of dense plant cover at the bottom of your tank, where the babies can take shelter.
What Diseases Affect Guppies and Bettas?
Guppies and bettas are generally reasonably healthy, although a few diseases can affect both.
Both species have long, flowing tails. Although that’s one of the most appealing features of guppies and bettas, their appealing plumage can make them vulnerable to fungal infections.
Ich, pronounced “ick,” is a common disease that affects both guppies and bettas, usually following periods of stress.
That’s why the disease is so common in newly purchased fish or when new specimens are introduced into an existing community. Stress lowers the fish’s immune system, leaving the animal vulnerable to attack by the Ich parasite.
Ich is more commonly known as “white spot disease,” thanks to the characteristic tiny white dots that appear over the fins, tail, and bodies of infected fish.
Also, you’ll see affected fish flicking or rubbing their bodies on the tank floor, plants, and decorations to relieve the itching caused by the condition.
Ich is a protozoan disease caused by the parasite ichthyophthiriasis multifiliis. Fortunately, it is easy to cure simply by using a suitable soluble medication you add to your tank.
You can buy Ich treatments at all good pet and aquarium stores. With the correct treatment, Ich usually clears up within a week or so.
Guppies and bettas are often affected by a condition called fin rot.
You might notice that your fish’s tail appears to have been torn. However, unless you’ve witnessed your fish nipping each other, it’s most likely that your fish has fin rot.
Fin rot is caused by certain types of gram-negative bacteria, including pseudomonas fluorescens, Aeromonas, and Vibrio. All these organisms attack the membranes of the fish’s fins, leaving them torn and ragged.
Affected animals are then left susceptible to secondary fungal diseases.
The primary source of fin rot is the fish’s living environment conditions. Overgrowth of bacteria is more common in habitats where the water quality is very poor. Overfeeding your fish can contribute to poor water quality.
Also, overcrowding can cause stress, leading to a higher risk of disease. Fighting and living with aggressive tankmates cause stress. This can lower the fish’s immune system, making them susceptible to contracting diseases such as fin rot.
Although you can buy medication that will treat fin rot, the best way to prevent the disease from affecting your fish is to keep the tank clean, maintain the water quality, and ensure that there’s plenty of space for each fish.
So, provided that your male betta is not too aggressive, you can add some guppies to your community tank environment. You could also slowly introduce a male or female betta to your existing school of guppies.
Guppies and bettas share similar preferences for water and tank conditions and eat a similar diet. As long as they have enough space, they should leave each other alone and coexist peacefully.
If your betta shows signs of aggression towards the guppies, you may need to remove him, using your quarantine tank to keep the parties separate.
Alternatively, you could use a glass or plastic tank divider to keep the warring factions apart until peace returns to your tank.
Remember that your betta should not be in a guppy tank during birth and breeding (unless you want to feed him guppy fry) — and that bettas are aggressive, territorial animals who could attack and kill your guppies at any sign of stress or trouble.
Introducing tankmates to your betta tank is always risky, and it takes a lot of experience to get it right.