If you’re asking yourself these kinds of questions, like – What are the best tank mates for bettas? Can you put snails in with bettas? Are other fish compatible with bettas? What kind of fish can live with a betta? Can male and female betta fish live together? – then you’ve come to the right place.
There’s a pretty common joke in the world of the betta hobby aquarist. If you’re a betta owner, then you’ll get this joke immediately (although it might make you groan, so sorry in advance).
It goes like this:
“What are the best tank mates for a betta?”
“A heater and a filter.”
There’s a reason that bettas are known as Siamese fighting fish. Bettas come with a reputation for being aggressive and territorial, and they’re not known for being warm and friendly towards many other fish.
Well, we’re happy to tell you that it is actually possible to have other species in your fishtank along with your beautiful bettas. This includes both fish species and invertebrates.
As long as you follow some rules of common sense, you can probably keep some other things in your betta tank apart from just the heater and the filter.
In this article we’ll cover some of the common questions about fish that can live with bettas. We’ll also look at 10 of the more successful tank mates that you can consider for your betta fish.
- Should you put other species in with your betta fish?
- Are there fish that really shouldn’t be paired with bettas?
- What should you think about when you’re considering tank mates for your bettas?
- 10 of the best tank mate options for betta fish
- Fish species you can pair with your betta
- Clown PlecoBy Fish-Hed (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Feeder guppies Image by H. Krisp – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link>
- Harlequin rasborasImage By Billyhill (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Loaches image By Vlad Butsky from San Jose, CA, USA – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link
- Pygmy Corydoraimage By Birger A (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Tetras image By CHUCAO (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- White cloud mountain minnowsimage CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
- Invertebrates: shrimp and snails who make good tank mates for your betta
- Fish species you can pair with your betta
Should you put other species in with your betta fish?
Do you worry that your betta looks lonely in their tank? You can rest easy.
Bettas aren’t schooling or shoaling fish. They’re solitary creatures.
So if you’re keeping just one single betta or even a small sorority group in a big community tank, you don’t need to worry. You’re not depriving your bettas of any natural socialising 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:
Never Put Two Male Bettas Together!
Two male bettas will fight each other.
In their natural environment, one would eventually give up and swim away. But in a tank? There’s nowhere to hide. This can mean stress, injuries and even death. It’s not fair on either of the bettas to put them in a situation where they feel compelled to defend themselves.
But bettas do also co-exist with some other native species in their natural environment.
This includes other betta splendens, loaches, rasboras, gouramis, and other fish in the Betta genus.
Sure, they’re territorial, so they’ll chase those other fish away during their breeding season. But the rest of the time they can share their space with other non-threatening species as well as invertebrates.
Are there fish that really shouldn’t be paired with bettas?
There are certain kinds of fish that you should keep away from your betta tank. Here’s a list of what NOT to add:
Chinese algae eaters
can be feisty and quite like to suck on the slime coat of a betta
are too keen for a fight, and they don’t like the same water conditions anyway
look very similar to bettas, especially if they’re colourful – so your betta will see them as competition and start a ruckus
aren’t good tank mates – they need their water to be much colder
are similar to bettas in many ways and they’re natural opponents. They’ll get into bust-ups with your bettas
Large catfish like redtail catfish and iridescent sharks
will grow too big and they’ll feast on your bettas
Mollies and swordtails
will nip on your beautiful bettas, and they like a higher pH
will nip, nip, nip at your bettas
can be feisty and quite like to suck on the slime coat of a bettaalso can’t resist nipping at long fins and tails, and they quite like to pick fights with bettas.
What should you think about when you’re considering tank mates for your bettas?
When you’re thinking about what other species you might introduce to your betta tank, there are five key things to keep in mind:
Bettas are tropical fish, and they do best at a temperature range between 75-80F.
Any potential tank mate needs to be happy in this temperature range as well.
For some tank mate options, you might need to set your aquarium temperature at the lower end of the scale 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
As 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 the cheeky betta. Or choose the opposite, and pick a slow bottom dweller who isn’t going to present a temptation.
Also, think about the fact that nippy species might try to nibble on your betta’s beautiful tail and fins.
Look out for tank mate options 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, sometimes tucked into a plant or under a leaf.
Don’t choose a tank mate who also has the same kind of 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. Check this article for some of the guidelines around ideal fish-to-tank ratios.
In smaller tanks your betta is probably better off on their own.
10 of the best tank mate options for betta fish
So you’ve done all the reading, you’ve considered the five key issues, you know what breeds to avoid and it’s time to think about choosing some tank mates for your betta.
Here’s a list of 10 of the top fish and invertebrates you can think about to help populate your aquarium.
You can also check out this short video for some advice about how to choose the right tank mates for betta fish.
Fish species you can pair with your betta
Scientific name: Panaqolus maccus
The clown pleco is a peace-loving and submissive fish that will live well alongside your betta is the clown pleco. A type of catfish, plecos aren’t interested in fighting. They also grow to a large size and that means a betta is much less likely to see them as competition.
As an armored catfish, a betta isn’t going to pick a fight with one of these.
Because of their large size – clown plecos can grow to 4 inches – they need lots of space for swimming, so consider a tank of at least 20 gallons for them to be really happy.
Clown plecos are bottom feeders who won’t try to grab your betta’s food, and they help to keep the tank clean by eating algae as well. They need driftwood in their diet.
Scientific name: Poecilia reticulate
Feeder guppies are small, peaceful and plain-colored. They’ve got small fins. They’re so ordinary that your betta won’t be interested at all!
Guppies eat different foods to bettas and they’re very hardy – they can survive in practically any kind of water or temperature. This makes them one of the more popular choices for community tanks.
Scientific name: Trigonostigma heteromorpha
Harlequin rasboras are one of the most popular tank mates for betta fish, because they naturally co-exist with bettas in their native habitat. They’re used to the same kind of food, vegetation and water conditions, so they can be an ideal partner.
Rasboras are small and non-aggressive. They’re not interested in chomping down on your betta’s fins or tail, and bettas don’t see them as threatening at all. Part of the reason for this is because of their very different coloring and shape – betta fish can sense they’re not competitors, so they’ll leave them alone.
You can also choose these varieties:
Rasboras like safety in numbers, so consider adding 6-10 to your betta tank and you should be well on your way to a happy, harmonious aquarium. They’ll grow to around 2 inches in size and they love to swim, so make sure you have a tank that gives them plenty of room.
Scientific name: Botiidae
Clown, yoyo or zebra loaches are another fish you can keep in your betta tank.
But beware! Some types of loaches can grow up to 16 inches long – so you need to have an aquarium that is big enough to house them comfortably.
If you haven’t got a tank the size of a – well, a tank – try to choose the smaller varieties 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.
Scientific name: Corydoras pygmeaus
Pygmy corydoras are another dully colored fish that your betta will probably 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, and they’re often a good choice for tankmates that are normally aggressive.
You’ll need to take more care with your pygmy corydora’s diet, as they don’t share much of the same protein sources. Pygmy corydoras prefer insect larvae as their meal of choice, and they’re bottom feeders – which is good news for you and your betta, as they won’t compete for the same food.
You can also choose these varieties:
Consider 6-10 pygmy corydoras in addition to one betta. These guys like a sandy substrate so that they can blend in easily, and some shade to hide in.
Tetras are a great choice for your betta tankmates. These tiny fish are peaceful, so they won’t nip flowing tails and fins. 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. Make sure you get at least 6 at a time, with 10 being an ideal number.
You’ll need at least a 10-gallon tank 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 tankmates from any of the following tetra genus. Choose them as a group, and don’t mix them together unless you have a whopping great tank that can support more than one school of tetras in addition to your bettas.
Note: don’t choose Black Phantom Tetras as they’re well-known to be fin nippers.
Scientific name: Tanichthys albonubes
White cloud mountain minnows often come in towards the top of the list for potential betta tankmates. 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 in 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 your betta
Ghost shrimp are a great companion for your bettas. Also known as glass shrimp, they’re scavengers who’ll scoff any of your leftover betta food so they also help to 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.
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. They live for around 1-1.5 years and they’ll love it if you pop a moss ball into the tank for them too.
Mystery snails can be an excellent addition to many home aquariums including tanks with bettas. Snails help to 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 they are safe to have around plants. Their hard shell will protect them from betta nips, but sometimes their tentacles can be appealing to bettas – so it’s good to give them places to hide. Keep an eye on this and if you notice your betta going in for a nip 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 snail babies at regular intervals. They live for around 12 months and will grow to a maximum size of around 2 inches.
Neither a companion fish nor an invertebrate, the African dwarf frog can be an exotic addition to your betta tank.
Usually grey or brown in color, but sometimes spotted, 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 too, so that they don’t escape.
African dwarf frogs will come to the surface to take in air, and if you’re lucky you’ll see them shedding their skin every 1-2 weeks and 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 and they quite 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 you can keep other species in your betta tank.
You betta you can!
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 the species inside.
It may turn out that despite your best efforts, the bettas 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. It’s better to change the situation so they aren’t sharing, because ongoing stress and fighting will just cause ongoing issues 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!