Many Betta owners often ask us questions like:
- What are the best Betta tank mates?
- What types of fish can live with Bettas?
- Are other fish compatible with Bettas?
- Can you put snails in with Bettas?
- Can you put shrimp in with Bettas?
- Can male and female Betta fish live together?
Given that we get these types of questions so often we decided to write an article about the 10 best Betta tank mates.
There’s a pretty common joke in the world of the Betta keepers. If you’re a Betta owner, then you’ll probably get this joke immediately.
QUESTION: "What are the best tank mates for a Betta?"
ANSWER: "A heater and a filter."
After all, there’s a reason that bettas are known as the Siamese Fighting Fish. Bettas come with a reputation for being aggressive and territorial. They are not known for being warm and friendly towards other fish. All Bettas share this common character trait even though there are many different types of Bettas.
Fortunately, we are happy to share that there are a variety of fish that can live with a Betta. This includes numerous other fish species and invertebrates. As long as you follow some common sense rules, the old joke about Betta fish doesn't have to be true. With some care you can keep some other things in your Betta tank besides just the heater and the filter.
In this article we’ll cover some of the common questions about what fish can live with Bettas. We will also look at 10 of the best Betta tank mates that you should consider for your aquarium.
Does your betta need a tank mate?
Don't worry if your Betta looks lonely in its tank. Bettas aren’t schooling or shoaling fish. Betta are solitary creatures. So if you’re keeping just one single Betta or even a small "Betta sorority" group in a big community tank, you don’t need to worry. You’re not depriving your Bettas of any natural socializing or buddies you might think they’re longing for.
You might be able to keep one male together with several females if you don’t want to keep just a sorority group. But remember that this is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. A male Betta might still kill, or try to kill, a female Betta in order to show his dominance.
You may even find though, that your females don’t like company either. Some thrive in a sorority tank and others just prefer to be on their own. Here’s a great short video that shows you how to put a female Betta sorority tank together.
You should always be prepared to adjust and make changes if your Bettas are chasing each other or if they look like they’re being aggressive or getting stressed.
However, there’s one important rule regarding Betta tank makes:
Never Put Two Male Bettas Together!
Two male Bettas will fight to the death if given the chance.
In their natural environment, one male Betta would eventually give up and swim away. However, in a small fish tank, there is nowhere to hide. This can result in stress, injuries, and even death for one or both of your male Betta fish. Thus, please do not put two male Bettas together!
However, Bettas can co-exist with some other fish or invertebrate species in their natural environment. This includes Loaches, Rasboras, Gouramis, and other fish in the Betta genus. While Bettas will still be territorial and chase those fish away sometimes, most of the time they can share their space with other non-threatening species and invertebrates.
What Fish are Not Compatible with bettas
There are certain kinds of fish that are not compatible with Bettas. Here’s a list of what NOT to add to your Betta tank:
Chinese algae eaters
These fish can also be very feisty and aggressive. As they get larger they will try to suck the slime coat off of a Betta.
Cichlids are known to be just as aggressive and keen for a fight as a Betta. A Betta and a Cichlid together will be very destructive. They don’t like the same water conditions either
Fancy Guppies look very similar to Bettas, especially if they’re colorful, so your Betta will see them as a threat and become defensive.
Goldfish are not good tank mates for Bettas as they like much colder water conditions.
Gouramis are similar to Bettas in many ways and they can become natural competitors as a result. This can lead to fights between the fish.
Large catfish like redtail catfish and iridescent sharks
These fish will grow too big too fast and they’ll soon begin to feast on your Bettas.
Mollies and swordtails
These fish will nip on your beautiful Bettas' fins. They also like a higher pH than Bettas.
These fish will also constantly nip at your Bettas.
Tiger Barbs can be feisty and like to suck on the slime coat of Bettas. Tiger Barbs also also can’t resist nipping at long fins and tails of Bettas.
Considerations for Good tank Mates for bettas
When you’re thinking about what other species may be compatible with your Betta tank, there are five key things to keep in mind:
1) Water Temperature
Bettas are tropical fish. They do best at a water temperature range between 75-80F. Any potential Betta tank mate needs to be happy in this temperature range as well. For some compatible species you might need to set your aquarium water temperature at the lower end of this range so that they can live together successfully.
When it comes to choosing tankmates, use your common sense. Do they like the same kind of water quality and pH? Do they like the same kinds of plants? What about lighting levels?
3) Activity and habits
Given that Bettas can enjoy chasing other fish around, you want to make sure that any potential tank mates are quick on their fins so that they can stay ahead of your feisty Betta. Or choose the opposite and pick a slow bottom dweller who isn’t going to present a temptation. You should also think about the fact that nippy species might try to nibble on your Betta’s beautiful tail and fins. Look for tank mates that are going to leave each other alone.
4) Swimming space
Don’t ignore the fact that your Bettas are territorial. They like to hang out where they like to hang out – sometimes at the top, sometimes on the bottom, and sometimes tucked into a plant or under a leaf. Don’t choose a tank mate who also has the same kind of territorial habits. Pick a species that isn’t going to compete for swimming space with your Betta.
5) Tank size
The minute you think about introducing other species into your Betta tank – or creating a community or sorority tank of Bettas – you need to consider tank size. It’s important not to try to cram everything in together. Even if you’re only adding invertebrates like snails or shrimps, everyone needs their own space. We recommend at least a 5 gallon tank for your Betta. If you're considering adding even more fish, check out this article for some of the guidelines around ideal fish-to-tank size ratios. In smaller tanks your Betta is probably better off on their own.
The 10 best tank mates for bettas
Now that you’ve read this far, it’s time to think about choosing some good tank mates for your Bettas. The following is our list of the top 10 best tank mates for Bettas. You can also check out this short video for some advice about how to choose the right Betta tank mates.
Fish That are compatible with bettas
By Fish-Hed (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Scientific name: Panaqolus maccus
The Clown Pleco is a peace-loving and submissive fish that will live well alongside your Betta. The Clown Pleco is a type of catfish and they aren’t interested in fighting. Also, as an armored catfish, a Betta isn’t going to pick a fight with one of these.
However, Clown Plecos can get rather large (up to 4") so it is recommend that you put them and your Betta in at least a 20 gallon tank (our top-pick on Amazon) to provide enough room for them.
Clown Plecos are bottom feeders and won’t try to grab your Betta’s food. They will also help keep the tank clean by eating algae. They do need driftwood in their diet, which you can buy on Amazon.
Scientific name: Poecilia reticulate
Feeder guppies are small, peaceful and plain-colored. They also have small fins. They’re so ordinary that your Betta won’t be interested at all!
Guppies eat different foods than Bettas and they’re very hardy. They can survive in practically any kind of water conditions or temperature. This makes them one of the more popular choices for community tanks.
Image By Billyhill (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Scientific name: Trigonostigma heteromorpha
Harlequin Rasboras are one of the most popular tank mates for Betta fish. They naturally co-exist with Bettas in the wild. They’re used to eating the same kind of food and living in the same type of vegetation and water conditions. This makes them an ideal Betta tank mate.
Rasboras are small and non-aggressive. They’re not interested in chomping down on your Betta’s fins or tail. Bettas also don’t see them as threatening. Part of the reason for this is because of their very different coloring and shape, which Betta can sense makes them not a competitor.
Rasboras come in a variety of styles including:
Rasboras like safety in numbers so you should consider adding 6-10 to your Betta tank. They will grow to around 2 inches in size and love to swim so make sure you have a tank that gives them plenty of room.
You can buy Rasboras on Amazon here but you're probably better off buying from your local store.
image By Vlad Butsky from San Jose, CA, USA - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link
Scientific name: Botiidae
Clown, Yoyo or Zebra Loaches are another fish you can keep in your Betta tank. However, beware that some types of Loaches can grow up to 16 inches long. If you buy Loaches for your Betta tank you need to have an aquarium that is big enough to house them comfortably.
Assuming your Betta tank is normal size, try to choose one of the smaller varieties of Loaches that only grow between 2-4 inches long.
Loaches are tropical fish that come from a similar part of the world as Bettas, so they can live happily in a community tank in the same kind of conditions.
As bottom dwellers, they’ll leave the upper part of the tank to your Bettas. Some Loaches can be slightly aggressive, so a good way of managing the dynamics in your aquarium is to have at least six Loaches alongside your Betta.
You can buy Live Loaches on Amazon here.
image By Birger A (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Scientific name: Corydoras pygmeaus
Pygmy Corydoras are another dully colored fish that your Betta will be happy to share their tank with. These fish are native to South America, but they do quite well in the same kind of water as Bettas, which makes them a good tank mate for Bettas.
You’ll need to take more care with your Pygmy Corydora’s diet as they don’t share much of the same protein sources as your Betta. Pygmy Corydoras prefer insect larva as their meal of choice. They’re also bottom feeders, which is good news for you and your Betta.
You can also choose among these varieties:
Consider adding 6-10 Pygmy Corydoras to your Betta tank. Be aware that these guys like a sandy substrate so that they can blend in easily as well as shade to hide in.
image By CHUCAO (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Tetras make a great tank mate for Bettas. These tiny fish are peaceful, so they won’t nip the flowing tails and fins of a Betta. They’re fast on their fins and they can easily zoom out of reach from a slower-moving Betta. Their short fins also mean the Bettas are less likely to target them as competition.
Tetras live in a school for safety so make sure you get at least 6 with 10 being the ideal number.
You’ll need at least a 10-gallon tank (our top pick on Amazon here) to house everyone comfortably. Make sure there are enough plants in the aquarium – both planted and floating – as tetras like to hide underneath them and in their leaves. You can select from any of the following Tetra Genus. However, you should choose them as a group. Do not mix them together unless you have a very large tank that can support more than one school of tetras in addition to your Betta.
You can buy Tetras from Amazon here.
Note: don’t choose Black Phantom Tetras as they’re well-known to be fin nippers.
White cloud mountain minnows
image CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Scientific name: Tanichthys albonubes
White Cloud Mountain Minnows often come in towards the top of the list for potential Betta tank mates. They’re peaceful, schooling fish, and nipping a Betta fin is the last thing they’d ever think of doing. White Clouds can be a little tricky to source, as they come from remote mountain regions in mainland China, but if you can find them then they’re a good option for your tank.
White clouds eat the same sort of food as Bettas, which will make your life easier. Bloodworms, fish food flakes and brine shrimp will all be happily eaten up. White Clouds do tend to prefer colder water in a temperature range of 60-75F, so you’ll need to set your heater so that it keeps the water at no more then 75F to ensure they can live together well. Keep an eye on the temperature so that it doesn’t get too hot or too cold for either species.
Invertebrates: shrimp and snails who make good tank mates for bettas
Ghost Shrimp are a great companion for your Betta. Also known as glass shrimp, they’re scavengers who’ll scoff any of your leftover Betta food, which will help keep the tank clean.
They’re translucent so your Betta won’t see them often, and certainly won’t think of them as competition. Speaking of food, some Bettas might see them as a food source of their own, so make sure there is somewhere in the tank they can hide safely! You might need to replace them regularly if your Betta starts eating them.
Think about keeping five in a 3-gallon tank and 12 in a 10-gallon tank. Keep an eye on the temperature, as they don’t live long above 80F. Ghost Shrip will live for around 1-1.5 years and they’ll love it if you pop a moss balls (available on Amazon) into the tank for them too.
image By MdE (page at dewiki | page at commons) (own photo) [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons
Mystery Snails are an excellent addition to many home aquariums including tanks with Bettas. Snails help keep your tank clean by feeding on algae and cleaning up bits of leftover food that your fish have missed.
Mystery snails are very calm and safe to have around plants. Their hard shell protect them from Bettas, but sometimes their tentacles can be appealing to Bettas to nibble on. Keep an eye on this and if you notice your Betta going in for a bite on a regular basis, you might need to think about moving the snails to an alternate tank.
This breed doesn’t reproduce on its own like some other kinds of snails, which means you don’t have to worry about being overrun by snails. They live for around 12 months and will grow to a maximum size of around 2 inches.
You can buy these guys from Amazon here.
Bonus tank mate: the African dwarf frog
image By Mwatro (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Neither a companion fish nor an invertebrate, the African Dwarf Frog can be an exotic addition to your Betta tank.
Afraican Dwarf Frogs are usually grey or brown in color and sometimes spotted. The African Dwarf Frogs are charmingly peaceful and easy to care for. They’re very active and they like to explore their surroundings, so make sure you have at least a 10-gallon tank for this amphibian friend. And be sure you have a lid so that they don’t escape.
African Dwarf Frogs come to the surface to take in air, and if you’re lucky you’ll see them shedding their skin every 1-2 weeks. Don't worry about a mess though because they eat it when they’re done! Watching them eat is kind of fun because they use their little webbed feet to get food into their mouths. Just make sure your greedy Betta doesn’t eat all their food first.
Male frogs are slightly smaller than females. They do like to have a buddy so consider getting a pair. They will live around 5 years on average.
So now you know the answer to whether or not you can keep other species of fish in your Betta tank. You Betta you can! All of the species mentioned make good tank mates for Bettas.
Despite their reputation as being fish that can only live by themselves, Bettas will often co-exist with other species including every fish, invertebrate and frog we’ve covered in this article – and many more.
Of course, you have to take care to ensure you have all the right conditions in place to support a harmonious community tank. It needs to be big enough, filtered in the right way, adequately planted, set at the right temperature and have the right kind of lighting levels to support all of the species inside. It may turn out that despite your best efforts, the Betta you have just don’t want to share their space with anyone else. If this happens, don’t worry.
Bettas are individual creatures, just like humans, and you can’t change their nature. If your Betta prefers a solitary environment, it’s best to change the situation so that they aren’t sharing their tank. Otherwise there will continue to be unnecessary stress, fighting, and injuries.
Have you kept Bettas in a community tank with other fish? What have been your most successful combinations? Tell us in the comments!