Bettas are aggressive, but there are a wide variety of fish and aquatic animals that are known to be good “betta tank mates” or aquarium companions for betta fish.
Can a betta really peacefully coexist with other fish?
The answer is yes – if the fish, frog or snail is the right kind of tank mate. Here are a few to try, a few to avoid, and some advice about setting up and decorating a betta tank that will house other animals.
Best Tank Mates for Bettas
Experienced betta keepers and breeders generally agree that the following fish animals can live in peace with a betta:
Neon tetras and black tetras are small, short-finned fish that are known to be good companion fish for bettas. However, they need to be bought in schools of about 10 – so a betta / tetra setup requires a bigger tank.
The clown pleco or starlight bristlenose pleco is a good fish to have in the tank with the betta. However, the pleco (more correctly, plecostomus) is a much larger fish so it needs at least a 10-gallon tank.
Like the tetras, these are small fish that need to be bought in a school.
Other Betta Mates
African dwarf frog – Not to be confused with the “African clawed frog,” which is a different breed altogether, the African dwarf frog (often referred to as ADF on fish forums and websites) is a very small frog that is about the same size as an adult male betta. The animals may have to be separated at feeding time, however, because they eat different foods. (And bettas will eat everything in sight.)
Apple snail / mystery snail – Apple snails and mystery snails, which are either the same or a very similar species of aquarium snails, are good tankmates for bettas – although there is some anecdotal evidence that more aggressive bettas may nip at the snail’s antennae.
Pygmy cory catfish – Very small catfish (they only grow to about 2 cm) that are nice little bottom dwellers.
Otocinclus, or “oto” fish – Also known as “ottos” or even “dwarf suckermouth catfish,” these fish are not aggressive.
Those are generally agreed to be the best tankmates for bettas – now for the worst!
Worst Betta Companions
Though the above fish, snails and frogs can usually get along fine with bettas, there are some fish that should never be put in the same tank as a betta fish. And it’s usually because they look too much like a male betta. Fish to avoid include:
Ghost shrimp (although some recommend them as betta companions, they often get eaten!)
The guppies, mollies and fancy-fin goldfish just look so much like bettas that the average betta can’t resist a nip, and the barbs can be too aggressive.
Setting Up a Betta Community Tank
The first thing to consider when establishing an aquarium that a betta will share with other fish and animals is the size. The rule of thumb is to have a gallon per inch of fish – so a school of danios or tetras might require more tank than the beginner bargained for. A snail or frog might be a better choice for tanks under 5 gallons.
Next, make sure that there is aquarium decor – such as plants, driftwood, rocks or caves – that give the betta (or its tank mates!) a place to hide in case someone gets “nippy.”
It’s important to proceed with caution and monitor the betta and its new tankmates as they grow accustomed to each other, but in a big enough aquarium, bettas can peacefully coexist with other animals.