Betta fish are predators in their aquatic kingdom. Often they are called Japanese fighting fish; that name bestowed because of their aggressive nature toward other fish. Because bettas are always ready to pick a fight, it is commonly suggested and encouraged that you keep only one fish in one tank and no more. However, betta fish don’t have to swim through life lonely forever. There are certain species of fish and other aquatic creatures that bettas will not try to turn into sushi. This guide to acceptable tank makes for your betta will attempt to steer you in a safe direction for choosing a roommate for your fishy.
There are a few key things to keep in mind that serve as a sort of checklist for qualifying betta tank buddies. The closer you keep to this overlying set of general rules, the less likely your betta will be in danger of harming the tank-mate, or having the tank-mate cause harm to the betta.
- Don’t choose a species that needs a larger tank by itself than you have.
- Make sure the tank-mate can live in the betta’s water conditions.
- You want to steer away from any species that is vibrantly colored.
- Species that are known for nipping at other fishes fins are an obvious “no”.
Although this may sound strange to people that have not had more than one betta fish, you want to keep its specific personality in mind as well. Each and every betta fish has characteristics that are different than another. This can mean that a certain species of tank mate may get along fine with one betta, and then terribly with another. Some betta fish will seem to be a bit on the aggressive side while others will appear to be calmer in general. Overly aggressive bettas should really be housed by themselves as you don’t want there to be an incident. Bettas that exhibit shy tendencies may get along better with any other type of friend.
You have to take into account that betta fish are in nature, solitary creatures. In the wild, they live alone. They’ll stake their claim on a certain area of water and protect/defend it as if their lives depend on it. Sometimes it does. Bettas also have the choice in the wild to pick and choose what is allowed inside their boundary zone.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t think about getting your betta fish a tank buddy. You just need to keep in mind what kind of personality your betta has and what natural instincts it will end up falling back on if the need arises. If your betta doesn’t seem to be in any sort of distress when presented with a new tankmate, and doesn’t instinctively try to consume its new friend, you should be in the clear. You certainly want to keep a close eye on your betta’s new living situation for a while.
This is going to be a pretty long list. It will be divided between species that can make the best tank mates for your betta, to ones that are relatively acceptable, to the ones you really shouldn’t consider. The list reads from top to bottom in order of the more recommended to the least. This tank-mate overview guide is a generalized guide for selecting different species to live with a betta. This is not a guide on each specific species. Remember that each species has its own unique care needed and you will need to research this before making your final selection. Also keep in mind that just because one of the species listed near the top is considered generally accepted in a betta fish community tank it doesn’t mean that your specific betta fish will get along fine with it. You need to be very observant of whatever situation you put your betta fish in. The final call on whether or not tank mates will be a good decision in your given situation remains only your own.
Betta than best friends
Snails start off this list because… well, they are snails! Snails come pre-equipped with body armor (called… a shell) that keeps them safe from betta fish having a mood swing. Bettas are often curious about, just about everything in and surrounding their tank. When betta fish get curious about something, they often act like toddlers and look to see what that strange object feels like in their mouth.
There are many common types of aquatic snails that you can usually find for sale in a well-stocked pet shop. Apple snails are one. Nerite are another. Apple snails tend to come with beautiful colors and markings. If given enough space and proper care, apple snails can reach softball size proportions. Wait, that was wrong of me. I should have said that they can reach Apple size proportions. Anyway, keep that in mind when considering your aquarium’s own size.
Nerite snails on the other hand, really only reach about an inch in size. Nerite snails work well as a sort of housekeeping service for betta fish in that they are scavengers. Algae is a main course for the nerite snail which works well for both the betta and the owner. Their shell patterns can vary and make for very interesting accessories in the tank.
If you are considering getting a snail for your betta tank, keep in mind that all snails are highly sensitive to copper. While this may not seem like a big concern to you at first, take note that there are medications for your betta that have copper as an ingredient. You do not want to heal your betta and harm your snail by proxy. The easy workaround to this is to medicate your betta in a separate hospital tank while leaving your snails in the main aquarium. Remembering that is the hardest part though.
Shrimp make for an interesting choice as tank mates for a betta. Interesting in concept because shrimp are generally considered a snack food for a hungry betta. None the less, there are certain shrimp that can coexist well with your fish.
Red Cherry shrimp are one of these types. Growing up to about an inch long, they are a bit out of digestible size for your feisty fishy. Although, he or she may try anyway, even if just out of curiosity.
Ghost shrimp are another type that survives fairly well in a betta’s aquarium. As their name implies, Ghost shrimp have translucent bodies. This is definitely fortunate for the Ghost shrimp as that constant camouflage makes them harder to spot by a overly ambitious betta fish.
Shrimp leave very little in terms of waste. Not only is that just very kind of them in general, it also means that this species is one that you can have a few more of sharing a tank. One thing to watch out for is that shrimp in general tend to enjoy breeding. If you were to start out with ten shrimp, after about a month you may have more shrimp than water in the betta tank. Some people see this as a profitable problem to have as you can certainly sell them if you find you have a market for them.
Shrimp not only leave very little waste behind, they also like to keep the aquarium as algae free as their stomachs can handle. The do a decent job for their size in keeping down the algae growth.
Overall, if you were to have to choose between one of the two types of shrimp mentioned, I’d recommend the Red Cherry shrimp. In either case though, you have to keep plenty of cover in the betta tank and ensure that the betta fish (read “predator” in this case) is well fed. If you don’t ensure that your betta has been fed properly, well, don’t go naming your shrimp and become attached.
African Dwarf Frogs
African Dwarf Frogs can make fine friends with betta fish. It’s not so much that they become friends as it is they really just ignore each other. The African Dwarf Frogs tend to do their thing, and the betta fish does its separate thing. Fighting (or eating) between the two rarely, if ever, breaks out.
These amphibious tank mates don’t tend to produce much waste. Because of this, your concern over elevating water parameters caused by the breakdown of excess waste is minimal.
Feeding time is really the main area of concern when you have African Dwarf Frogs and a betta in the same tank. It is either that betta fish are really fast swimmers, or that these frogs are really on the slow side of the kiddie pool, but either way the betta will be more likely to finish its food before the frog even finds its own. Betta fish don’t really care about whose food is whose and will tend to eat anything and everything presently edible. Just try to keep an eye out for your frog and make sure that it is getting fed as well.
Cories (Corydora Catfish / Corycats) are yet another fine tank-mate possibility. There are actually quite a few different types of Cories that you can choose from, but they all share something in common. They are bottom feeding fish. Betta fish tend to swim closer to the surface more often than not, and cories are always at the bottom. Because of this, fighting between the two species having to do with territorial disputes rarely happens.
Cories are a particularly peaceful species of fish in general. These mini catfish tend to do better in groups though. A 10 gallon betta aquarium could do fine with 3-4 Corycats. Anything less than ten gallons would be too small. So far, Cories are the only type of fish species on this tank mate guide. However, they are at the top of the list of fish species that can share a tank with your betta. They are very easy keepers and quite peaceful as well. These are both very good things to look for. Nobody wants a betta tank full of drama.
Also in the catfish family, and likewise do well in a tank shared with a betta, are the Otocinclus Catfish. Otos share many similar characteristics with corycats. Otos, however, are sometimes quite difficult to acclimate to the aquarium. This tends to be the case more often than not because they are not commonly bread and raised in an aquarium setting. Believe it or not, otos are often caught straight from the wild. Changes to the aquarium environment such as overall water condition or temperature may cause the otocinclus catfish to have a problem. A general rule of thumb with these fish is that if you can keep your otos alive for a week or two, they should see many more days to come.
These fish are also bottom feeding fish. They actually look like the bigger siblings of corycats. Because of their larger size, you would want to make sure that you have an adequately sized aquarium for them to stay and live healthy. Some types of loaches (the clown loach specifically) are known to grow as large as 16” in length. Loaches are, in temperament, very peaceful fish in general and can survive well in a tank shared with a betta fish. If you are considering adding a loach to your betta’s aquarium, I’d look into:
● hillsteam loaches
● khuli loaches
● zebra loaches
● dwarf loaches
White Cloud Mountain Minnows
These guys are pretty similar to the common neon tetra in terms of appearance and their overall size, but not quite as brightly colored and flashy. A convenient “feature” of the White Cloud Mountain Minnow is that they share similar taste for the temperature of the aquarium as a betta fish does. Well, actually, the like the temperature to be anywhere between 68°f-78°f. That’s pretty close to the 78°-80° target for betta fish.
Hardy would be a great word to describe these minnows. They are great eaters and acclimate well to their new environment. They are fairly easy keepers overall and, because of this, are a fine choice for a beginner looking to house more than a betta in a tank. These minnows tend to be fast breeders, so you need to keep an eye on the population.
These fish are not known to eat their young, but that just means more for your betta to indulge on. Having your betta overeat and suffer complications all due to his “guests” would make for an experience you probably do not want to have. Good tank mates overall, just keep an eye on them. You are keeping an eye on your betta anyway I am sure so this probably won’t be an added burden.
Runner up betta tank mates
These species just missed the blue ribbon list above by a small margin. Consider these species as decent tank buddies for your betta, but slightly less co-habitable than the ones listed above.
Starting off the runner up list is the Neon Tetra. We are starting here because they share almost all of the same characteristics with the White Cloud Mountain Minnow that was written about just above. The major difference, and the reason why they didn’t make the top list, is that Neon Tetras can be very brightly colored.
Betta fish are attracted to brightly colored and flashy things. In the case of betta fish, being “attracted to” means more of a “I will attack and eat you” kind of thing. Lucky for the neon tetra, they are surprisingly speedy little fish. They can, and do, outpace a hungry or threatened betta fish, but don’t always win that race.
If you don’t mind losing the occasional neon tetra or two by way of angry betta monster, then these fish are otherwise fine in the same aquarium. Neon Tetras like swimming in schools. Having a group of 5 or so in a ten gallon tank should be fine, and actually necessary for the tetras to stay healthy (and un-eaten). It would be in the tetra’s best interest if you were to provide plenty of places to escape and hide in as well.
There are a lot of people that really like the idea of their betta fish swimming alongside guppies. I personally am not one of these people. That won’t stop me from writing them in here in this list. If you find that you are one of these people, I’d suggest that you go with typical feeder guppies as opposed to wild guppies. These feeder guppies tend to be quite dull in color and therefore not subject to a betta fish’s more aggressive side. Fancy guppies will most likely not last very long sharing a tank with a betta. This is due to facy guppies having fancy colors.
One thing you really have to watch out for (if you can that is) is diseased guppies. Guppies are typically sold as feeder fish and often come pre-equipped with various transmittable diseases/conditions. I’m not really trying to pick on the humble guppy. All fish can carry something that is transmittable to your betta. Guppies, you just have to be a bit more careful. That being said, if you are sure that the guppies are “clean”, they should make for acceptable tank-mates for your betta fishy.
Yet another fish that shares characteristics with the Tetra, Rasboras can do really well sharing an aquarium with a betta fish. Rasboras are typically a more gentle fish in terms of peaceful living with a betta. A bit more peaceful than even the zippy little neon tetra. It’s not that the neon tetra written about up above is not peaceful as much as it is that tetras don’t seem to obey personal space very well. Rasboras tend to respect other fish’s personal “bubbles” and are less invasive overall. The coloring of the Rasbora is fairly dull, and that makes for fewer possible confrontations with your “king of the aquarium” betta fish.
It should be noted right from the start that we are not suggesting the “common” pleco. Common plecos can reach up to 2 feet long, and are not recommended for obvious reasons.
There are smaller species of plecos that work quite well sharing an aquarium with a betta fish. The mini me versions of the common pleco that generally get along fine sharing a betta tank are often the:
● Pit Bull Pleco
● Clown Pleco
● Rubber Lipped Pleco
● Bristlenosed Pleco
These plecos generally grow no larger than 5 inches. Even though that is considerably smaller than the 2 foot pleco mentioned above, you really wouldn’t want more than just one pleco in a 10 gallon betta tank.
Plecos can help keep the betta tank clean as they love to eat algae. They tend to keep their distance from the betta fish in the tank with them and are relatively non-invasive overall. I have seen aggressive behavior out of plecos before, but not often enough to write off the species as a whole. Plecos come conveniently equipped with some really tough armor too. Angry betta fish can’t really do too much damage to an accidentally intruding pleco.
Doable but not recommended
This next group of possibilities consists of species that can, in some cases, live alongside betta fish but are generally not recommended. As you will see coming up soon, in pretty much every case you will actually end up really not wanting to even try keeping these as tank-mates with a betta.
These live-baring fish are similar to platies in that they enjoy, or rather need, water that is relatively hard and keeps a high pH level. If you have done your homework on betta fish, you will instantly see why this poses a problem. Betta fish need pretty much just the opposite of this.
On top of this, mollies are known to be quite aggressive at times. Generally aggression from mollies occurs when there is not adequate space in the tank to divvy up territory between a betta and itself. Mollies can reach a good 3 inches if raised in a five gallon aquarium.
If you find yourself desperately needing to try and keep a mollie in the same tank as a betta, the lesser of two evils are the type with shorter tails. Mollies with Long, flashy tails are just begging a betta fish to fight.
If you read the description above about mollies, you will know that Platies like their water on the harder side with a high pH level. Platies are also notorious nippers of fins. Betta fish have fins. Betta fish have really pretty and long fins. Betta fish might not have pretty and long fins for long if you decide to go with Platies as companions.
Building upon the same needs as the other fish listed above (high pH levels and water on the alkaline side), Swordtails have one other contrasting need from betta fish. Swordtails live in the wild within fast moving waters. Betta fish like their environment relatively motionless as far as currents are concerned. Swordtails like their water world moving. Aside from environmental need differences between bettas and swordtails, betta fish would likely try to attack the swordtails very attractive fins.
Trying to hose fancy guppies in the same aquarium as your betta fish is risky business. Overall, it not recommended. But, that would be why these glamorous guppies are this far down on the list. If you have your heart set on making this happen anyway, and don’t mind disregarding all of the hard work that has gone into trying to dissuade you from this idea, there are a few things you need to make sure of.
Each and every betta fish has a different personality. There are ingrained instincts of course that you simply can’t get change in a betta, but their personalities do in fact vary. If you have determined that your betta has a very peaceful personality, then maybe fancy guppies won’t quite literally fall prey to the betta. If the fancy guppies are not flashy in appearance, as in they are not brightly colored or otherwise resemble a rival betta fish, then maybe the fancy guppies will not fall prey to the betta fish. If you have filled the aquarium with plenty of accessories that make for many good places for the guppies to hide, then maybe the fancy guppies won’t fall prey to the betta fish. If you have a low moral conscience and are willing to lose some/many/all of the fancy guppies and put your betta fish through stress, then… then that’s just on you then.
Yes, fancy guppies can be housed in the same aquarium as a betta fish. Many people have done it before and many will continue to do it for, probably ever to come. I’m just trying to say that it’s not going to work for everyone and may be overall not a situation you want to put your betta fish in.
Do you have a big aquarium? Big as in, you charge people $30 a ticket to come and look at your live sea-life and have to put on scuba gear to clean your tank? If so, than maybe a common pleco will work for you. In all seriousness, common plecos get big. Really big. You’d really need an aquarium in excess of 30 gallons to be able to house one properly. Actually, if you were really set on getting a common pleco to live your betta fish, you are doing this research backwards. I’d say that you need to be researching the possible tank mates for a common pleco. I’d bet betta fish wouldn’t be on that suggestion sheet.
The NOPE list – Don’t even try
Unless you are truly sadistic, don’t think about choosing any of the following as tank-mates for your betta fishy. Ok, maybe sadistic was too strong of a word. But you get the idea.
I debated putting the possibility of goldfish living with bettas at the top of this entire article seeing as it’s one of the most common questions I get about betta tank mate possibilities. It will have to live at the top of this section instead. Don’t do it.
Don’t house betta fish and goldfish in the same aquarium. It’s honestly a really, really bad idea. And for quite a few reasons to boot. Right off the bat, goldfish like living in cold water environments. They are not into tropical living as the betta fish doesn’t just prefer, but rather needs. Goldfish can live just fine in water temps in the 60°f range. Betta fish need the high 70°s to low 80°s to remain happy and healthy. Don’t do it.
No offense to the humble goldfish that can’t help itself, but goldfish are really messy! Like, disgustingly messy compared to a betta. Because of their excess bodily excretions, goldfish need larger aquariums to themselves just to remain healthy. Larger being, maybe a 20 gallon tank (not kidding). You will be fighting a battle against nitrates that cannot be won when you decide to house a betta fish and a goldfish together. Nitrates are bad for betta. Really bad. You can and will lose your betta fish quickly if he/she is subject to high aquarium nitrate levels. Don’t do it.
To combat the goldfish’s waste issue, you need to have a filtration system in place. This sounds fine at first, until you learn that you need a really powerful and fast flowing filtration system. These types of filters do not work for betta. These filtration systems cause super strong currents that will stress out or otherwise cause harm to your betta fish. Betta fish don’t like strong currents. Actually, bettas prefer to live in a body of water where barely any movement can be felt at all. Filtering your betta’s tank can be tricky in and of itself. Can goldfish live with betta fish? Don’t do it.
Cichlids are awesome fish to keep! Just not in the same aquarium as a betta fish. These guys suffer from a pretty aggressive mindset. What happens when you put an aggressive fish in with another aggressive fish? The people version of this would be like watching a fight in the octagon.
If the aggressive nature of the cichlid isn’t enough to dissuade you from housing one in a betta’s tank, learning that they have a hard time living in the same water conditions that betta needs may help you. Cichlids like living in waters that contain a high pH balance. Betta fish need to live in a low pH environment. If you haven’t noticed yet, these two needs are different.
Betta fish and gouramis don’t get along well living in the same tank. Gouramis are like, distant cousins of the betta fish. They share the same general family. Betta fish don’t get along with their relatives at all. Betta fish are really just problem children, aren’t they? In any case, you don’t want to house these two types of fish together. If betta’s tendency to get cranky at their relatives isn’t enough, gouramis are fairly aggressive fish themselves. You don’t want to put to aggressive natured fish in the same tank together. At least, good natured people wouldn’t want to put bad natured fish together.
I highly recommend that you get the experience of tiger barb ownership at least once in your life! These guys are highly entertaining fish. Just not in the same tank as a betta fish. I’m convinced that a tiger barbs sole purpose in life is to seek out and destroy the fins of a betta fish. And it’s like they try to do so in a time trial setting, getting the job of betta fin shredding over with as quickly as possible. Tigerbarbs and betta fish are not good tankmates. They are both aggressive little creatures that love picking fights with each other and, at least in this case, the betta fish will be the one that loses. Fast and pathetically.
Chinese Algae Eaters
Chinese algae eaters pretty much make for bad tank mates in any group housing situation. These fish suck… on other fish, literally. This is not something you want your betta to experience… being sucked on. Yes, these algae eaters do eat algae, but seem to really enjoy their off time pretending they are fish soul eaters. These Chinese algae eaters tend to be aggressive fish and their moodiness seems to get worse as they grow in size. Over time, your betta fish will lose its (apparently flavorful) slime coating to these fish. Bettas that lose their slime coat are then susceptible to disease. Chinese algae eaters and betta fish shouldn’t be kept in the same tank. I know that sucks. But that’s what I’m trying to help you avoid.
Other Betta Fish
The only time you should ever consider keeping more than one betta fish in an aquarium is when you want to start building a sorority tank. Sororities in the betta world are groups of female betta fish. Never do you want to house more than one male betta fish at a time in the same aquarium. They will take after their name and act as Siamese fighting fish. If you are interested in starting a sorority of female betta fish, it’s not as easy as just grouping a bunch together. You really need to do a bit of reading on the subject beforehand. But that is a betta guide for a betta time.