Bettas are aggressive, but there is 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.
What to Consider?
In the wild, Betta splendens lives alongside other B. splendens, loaches, rasboras, gouramis, and other fish in the genus Betta.
They are indeed territorial fish, wild B. splendens will drive other fish out of their territory during the breeding season. But they seldom do any damage or kill anything. Damage is minimal, if there is any at all.
But captive bred bettas are not like their wild cousins. Originally bred for aggression, Thai breeders eventually started to breed for color.
However, this aggression was never bred out of them so what we have now is a hyper-aggressive colorful version of their wild cousins.
Keeping that in mind, we ask ourselves can a pet store betta be kept with other fish? The answer is not a simple yes or no!
It heavily depends on the personality of the fish. Females, typically being less aggressive, can usually be kept with peaceful community fish. But males are a bit more tricky.
Many bettas will live with a few select fish fine, but others are too aggressive and will attack everyone! And some are so submissive they get attacked by others. So it can be a bit of a challenge choosing the right tank mate.
Personally, I prefer to keep my bettas alone. It is important to keep in mind that they in no way require a tank mate!
But if the tank is big enough, meets the needs of the fish you want to add, and the fish you want to add are compatible then there is usually no harm in giving him room mates!
Another thing to consider is what his tank mates will need. A school of large tetras couldn’t possibly fit in a 5 gallon, so only consider tank mates if the tank is 10 gallons or larger, filtered, and heated.
Best Tank Mates for Bettas
Experienced betta keepers and breeders generally agree that the following fish animals can live in peace with a betta:
1. White Cloud Mountain Minnows
White Clouds (Tanichthys albonubes) are a small minnow found in select few mountainous regions of China. They are schooling (needing groups of at least 6), peaceful, and never known to nip the fins of bettas.
Their diet is similar- being micropredators- they enjoy brine shrimp, bloodworms, and fish flakes. Because they have no long fins they are not likely to be attack by a betta in a case of mistaken identity.
Their only drawback is the fact that they prefer cooler water- 60-75F while bettas enjoy warmer water- 75-80F. So a tank kept at 75F should be safe for both fish, but care must be taken to ensure it does not get too hot or too cold.
They can fit in tanks as small as 10 gallons and tolerate the same pH range as bettas. (6.0-7.5)
2. Clown Pleco
Clown plecos (Panaqolus maccus) are an excellent alternative to larger plecos like commons or sailfin plecos that are much more commonly sold.
They are a peaceful algae eater who require driftwood in their diet and do a great job keeping algae at bay. Being an armored catfish, a betta is sure to leave one of these fish alone.
Because of their adult size of 4″ they require a 20 gallon tank or larger but pose none of the temperature issues that White Clouds do.
These are a perfect algae eater for a larger betta tank and tolerate a wide range of pH. (6.0-8.0) but will only breed in softer water.
3. Pigmy Corydora
There are several species of pygmy corydora, so we’ll focus on the smallest known as Corydoras pygmaeus. All pygmy corys are found in South American waterways and feed on insect larvae and adults they hunt in the sand.
Like other coryodras, they are schooling and should be in groups of 6 or more. A school of 6-10 will easily fit into a 10 gallon, given that these fish only get about an inch long!
Because they are bottom feeders bettas tend to ignore them, and they are not brightly colored and do not attract a bettas attention. Because of this they make a great tank mate, especially for smaller tanks. They appreciate acidic water but tolerate a pH of up to 7.0.
4. Ember Tetras
Ember tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae) are very small peaceful tetras that live in the lower Amazon basin in slow moving backwater habitats which means they prefer slightly shallow water to the fast moving current of the center of the Amazon River.
They are another tiny fish, only getting about half an inch long. 6-10 could easily fit in a 10 gallon with a betta as they are small, too fast to catch, and not nippy fish. It is unlikely that a betta will have a problem with them!
They also like acidic water, preferring a pH of 6.0-6.5.
Neon tetras and black tetras too 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.
5. Harlequin Rasboras
Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) are at the top of the list for good reason! These relatively small rasboras are native to many of the same water as wild Bettas, meaning they live with each other naturally!
They are not brightly colored to attract unwanted attention from a betta, not known to nip at the fins of other fish, and love the same quality of water that bettas do.
Soft, acidic water is best and the addition of Indian Almond Leaves is always appreciated.
A school of 6-8 could live with a betta in a 10 gallon without issue.
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:
- Fancy guppies
- Fancy-fin goldfish
- 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 (and its tank mates) a place to hide in case someone gets “nippy.” You must consider the water temperature too. Read here about water temperature for Bettas.
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.
I am entering my 5th year as a betta host. I am most amazed at the difference in their personalities. My first was a fairly large blue betta. Having read a bit before doing this, I brought him home to entertain me over coffee in the morning…..having decorated 2 different bowls for 1 1/2-2 gallons, colorful gravel, fake ferns, rocks, etc., I decided to add neons and a gold snail. 1st betta was happy with his 4-5 neons and snail, lived for 1 1/2 years. I have cats and a parrot, so a watch glass top was necessary to keep cat paws out and the parrot from whatever else. (He confined himself to watching. All lived together, no fish diseases, well fed, pleasure to watch.
Betta #1 died. #2 brought home (blue, smoewhat smaller. Chaos. Within 1/2 hr, neons got rescued and transferred. Betta and snail……Snails are smarter than one would think. Got tired of betta harassment. Slammed his door on a small chunk of betta tail fin. For 2 beta2 and snail co-habited……gold snail passed away after 2 years, got 2 lg trap-door snails. Betta at passed on at 2 1/2 yrs. Round 3 is just starting. Same 2 trap-door snails and their 2 young-uns, new small red betta, 1 neon. A week in, betta likes watching snails, neon intact, ready to add a few more neons. Likes keeping an eye on the neon, who is lonely without buds, but fish store was down to one neon. Buds coming to make neon happy.
I am overjoyed that Redfish is OK with the neon….livens my coffee time. Snails pleased that Redfish will not be a pain in the butt.
The bowl change system is this…..2 bowls. #1 shows hint of less sparkle, horde gets scooped into bowl 2, which has been sitting clean for 1-2 days. Bowl 1 gets water dumped, fresh running water, fake fern gravel, etc. get 5 exchanges with lots of swirling and swishig of cool tap….all dumped. Hot water at max temp in, bowl sits until cool. More swishing to get all dbris out,dump, then, arrange gravel, fake plant, rocks, run in cool water, top with plastic wrap, sit 1-2 days (chlorine exits), transfer horde to clean bowl. Light comes from Chandelier over diningroom table…..room reasonably warm to keep parrot happy. Life goes on and I have coffee entertainment. Watchglass resting on wood skewers keeps cat paws out, parrot gets to view fish while walking on table.
Urban small scale bliss. Betta, neons, snails, parrot, 3 cats. All good.
Hi, Ianey! Isn’t having a betta tank in the kitchen great? I have 2 for just such times. And their personalities really are so great, everyone is different.
However, I am a bit concerned about your set up. The neons especially! They need tanks 10 gallons or larger, and schools of 6+. I know you said you are getting more but to add more to that water volume would be overstocking, which poses a lot of dangers. Especially for a sensitive fish like a neon. When a tank is overstocked, they make too much waste for the tank to handle. High waste levels mean a much higher risk of illness or death. I see that you’re doing very frequent water changes to try and make up for this, and while this does sort of solve the waste problem now you have a stress problem. And stress, just like waste, increases the likelihood of illness and death.
Small bowls like that are also difficult to heat. I know some places, like in Florida, don’t need heaters most of the year but most of the time you do! Bettas are tropical (native to Thailand) and need their water kept at 78-80F. I would put a floating thermometer in there and see what the temperature is, I bet it’s a lot colder than you think! Once again, cold temperatures increase chances of getting sick and usually cause lethargy and a slow metabolism in bettas.
I understand you’ve had them live for a while, and that’s great, but it’s really a testament to how hardy bettas are! Trust me, if you get him a 10 gallon with a filter and a heater, he’ll be a whole other fish. Plus your neons will do better! Just make sure to cycle the tank first. And I bet your bettas will start to last more into the 3-4 year range. My first two “kitchen fish” were in filtered, heated, planted 2 gallons. They both lasted 4 years! Now I have two that have replaced them who are 1 and a half and are going strong!
Every betta is different, but I have had success keeping one with neon tetras, cardinal tetras, Rummynose tetras, cory cats, and guppies in a 30 gallon tank. The betta charged the male guppies a little at first, but he stopped after a few minutes. I would never keep one in a bowl again after seeing how much they like to swim and how vibrant their colors are at 78 degrees.
That’s excellent, they do so much better in larger cycled heated aquariums, don’t they? Personality varies with bettas, so some males will kill fancy guppies but others, like yours, won’t! I’m glad it worked out.
I’ve never had bad experience with bettas and other fish. They can go well with any fish that is friendly/non-aggressive. We’ve always gone best with neon tetras and corydoras.
I wouldn’t recommend keeping a betta in a small fish tank either. They need space, they enjoy swimming like every other fish!
This is true, they really do best in tanks that are 5 gallons or larger!
What do you think of Chinese algae eaters as a companion for a Betta ?
I love that they are hardy and great tank cleaners.
I have 2 Betta’s that are very aggressive but seem to do well with the Algae eaters if there is more then one .
How long do you think the overly aggressive types will live ? I’ve usually have less aggressive .
I have a red CrownTail that is higly aggressive. I hope he doesn’t get too stressed from this behavior.
Any thoughts? Thank you
I keep a corydora in my 5 gallon tank. The Betta very rarely gets aggressive with him. My betta is territorial around one certain area of the tank (his little house) but the corydora is so fast he can’t even tell where he went so he just looks confused for a second and moves on. I have seen them sitting at the bottom of the tank together peacefully though (to my surprise). My corydora also isn’t as active as others so that’s a good thing too. He’s very easy to miss and prefers to hang around plants most of the time. The corydora is very active when food falls to the bottom and I will see him swooping around the bottom every now and then, but he mostly hangs out around the plants while the beta swims around the top and kind of wraps himself around the top of the plants. I was worried at first that he was scared or getting bullied, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I would highly recommend a corydora if you want to add another life to your tank.
Hi I have a female betta in a 5 gallon I’m thinking of moving her to a 20 gallon with some tank mates could I put a school of corydoras in there?
Also Tom Hughes corydoras should be in a school of at least 5
I might try corydoras for my betta in the 10 G, but he’s extremely grouchy and likes bullying everything that moves, so we’ll see. There’s still a 20 G I’m looking to stock so if anything happens I’ll just move them there hopefully.