There’s something about a showy, flowy tail that attracts many aquarists. It’s mesmerizing to watch them rippling in the current, or fluttering as the fish makes a sudden turn or dive. That’s part of the reason why fish like ornamental goldfish, guppies, and bettas are so popular.
And what’s better than one pretty tail? More pretty tails, of course!
A tank teeming with beautiful fish is a glorious sight. But, if you’ve chosen a dramatic betta for your tank, is it even possible to add to the fun?
In this article, we’ll explore the feasibility and desirability of keeping a betta in a community tank, recommending for you the best betta tank mates.
No fish tales here – just straight facts. And fish tails.
Table of contents
- Do Betta Fish NEED Tank Mates?
- Can You Keep 2 or More Bettas Together?
- Bettas are Territorial
- Bettas Need Peace and Quiet
- Can You Keep Bettas With Other Fish?
- Tank Mates Must Have Similar Needs to Betta
- What to Look for In the Best Tank Mates for Betta Fish
- The 15 Best Betta Tank Mates Are:
- 1. Tetra
- 2. Ember Tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae)
- 3. Silver Tip Tetra (Hasemania nana)
- 4. Harlequin Rasbora (Trignostigma heteromorpha)
- 5. Fire Rasbora (Rasborides vaterifloris)
- 6. Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus cirrhosus)
- 7. Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras spp.)
- 8. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
- 9. Feeder Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)
- 10. White Cloud Minnows (Tanichthys albonubes)
- 11. Ghost Shrimp (Palaemontes sp.)
- 12. Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina denticulate sinensis)
- 13. Nerite (Zebra) Snails (Neritina natalensis)
- 14. African Dwarf Frog (Hymenochirus curtipes)
- 15. Clown Pleco (Panaque maccus)
- What Fish Should Not Be Kept With A Betta?
- The Last Word on Betta Tank Mates
Do Betta Fish NEED Tank Mates?
Bettas are almost invariably displayed in stores in small cups or tanks, and they are always alone. From this one might conclude they don’t want or need company. And you would be correct in this conclusion.
Bettas are not schooling fish, nor do they pair with mates. They prefer to have their own space at all times unless it’s a male ready to mate and a suitable female is present. Outside of that situation, betta are perfectly content to live the bachelor (or bachelorette) life.
What your betta may enjoy in terms of socialization is contact with you, it’s keeper. But, that’s for another article.
Can You Keep 2 or More Bettas Together?
The answer to this question is no. And yes. I’ll explain.
Bettas are Territorial
Male bettas like to stake out their turf, and they will not suffer other males to enter. They are highly territorial and can be extremely aggressive. It’s this tendency that led to the once popular pastime of Siamese fighting fish battles.
Keeping two males in the same tank is asking for trouble. Even if you keep them physically separated in a divided tank or adjoining containers, you’ll stress them out as they try to get at each other through the partition.
This same behavior may be applied to any female that wanders by, as well. Unless that female is ready and willing to mate, your male betta won’t want her around and will likely become aggressive towards her. Even after mating, the female is no longer welcome and may be in danger if she stays in the vicinity.
Female betta are not territorial, but they will establish a hierarchy if there’s a bunch of them occupying the same space. Once organized in this way, a group will remain peaceful and stable.
Saying it’s possible, however, isn’t the same as saying it’s desirable or necessary. Your female bettas are also perfectly happy to live alone and don’t seek or require the company of others of their kind.
Bettas Need Peace and Quiet
Bettas are easily agitated and would prefer just to relax and enjoy their space. A betta that can live in peace without fear of threat to his territory will be vibrant and beautiful.
If stressed by aggressors, lack of space for hiding and resting, or even loud noises that cause vibrations through the tank, your betta won’t be able to flourish.
Can You Keep Bettas With Other Fish?
If you really want to keep a betta with other fish, it can be done – just not with other bettas!
There are many community fish you can choose from to round out your tank gang so you can enjoy a dynamic and ever-changing aquarium experience. It’s essential, however, to choose the right fish.
Tank Mates Must Have Similar Needs to Betta
As is the case when you’re selecting any fish to share an environment, it’s essential that they all have similar requirements for thriving in a tank.
This means similar preferred temperature range, pH level, and tolerance of other fish. Eating the same food is not a requirement.
What to Look for In the Best Tank Mates for Betta Fish
Shortly, we’ll give you a list of some of the best choices for a betta tank mate. But, if you prefer to choose your own, here’s a checklist of characteristics your new fish should have.
Betta Tank Mate Checklist
Qualities to look for include:
The 15 Best Betta Tank Mates Are:
This is a blanket term that covers a variety of common aquarium fishes. Some tetras are suitable for cohabitation with bettas – others, not so much.
The neon tetra is a very popular fish thanks to its bright colors. This same feature makes them unpopular with bettas. Bettas can become aggressive with neons and may chase them around the tank.
Tetras are very quick, and will almost certainly elude the betta. Still, it’s a stressful situation for everyone involved, so we advise against creating it.
Here are some tetra varieties we do recommend for life with a betta:
2. Ember Tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae)
Ember tetras are attractive little fish, with a rusty reddish-orange hue. They are schooling fish, so it’s best to have several of them at any given time. Embers are omnivores, so be sure to offer both meat and vegetation at feeding time. Feeding twice a day will be sufficient, and they’ll grab whatever sinks down to the middle of the tank.
They’re docile fish, and they like to hide, so make sure there are caves and plants for shelter. Since they’re river fish, an environment of rocks, plants, and driftwood would be suitable. Keep in mind they also like open spaces for swimming.
You shouldn’t see any interactions with your betta, Ember tetras being naturally passive. They mix well with other community fish. If you’re having trouble finding them, you can also keep an eye out for Fire Tetras – they’re the same thing.
3. Silver Tip Tetra (Hasemania nana)
Another South American river fish, they get their name from the bright flecks at the tips of their fins and tail. They are shoaling fish, so you’ll want to have several at a time so they feel safe. Silver Tips are known to be slightly aggressive, so you won’t want smaller fish included in their community or very large fish.
An ideal environment includes a lot of plants for hiding, but also open spaces for schooling. When it’s time to eat, provide both meat and vegetation. Flakes are fine, but supplement them with proteins like bloodworms and brine shrimp. Silver Tip Tetras are mid-level feeders.
Keep an eye on their color. At night, the bright copper color will fade to silver, but it all comes back when they get moving in the morning. Well cared for fish will be brightly colored, but if they’re stressed, they’ll start to fade during the day, too.
And here are some really fun non-tetras you can try!
4. Harlequin Rasbora (Trignostigma heteromorpha)
A chunky body with bright color makes these fish very attractive to look at. It’s a schooling fish, so choose several specimens for maximum impact and comfort. It’s best to keep them away from large fish because their shimmer makes them appealing targets for predators.
They are peaceful creatures, and will not nip at your betta’s tail. Dense vegetation and low light simulate their natural habitat, but they do like a bit of open space, too.
You’ll find Harlequin Rasboras will eat almost anything you offer them, but we always recommend a varied diet for health and interest. Be aware that a healthy specimen may live as long as six years.
5. Fire Rasbora (Rasborides vaterifloris)
The Fire Rasbora, sometimes seen as “orange-finned barb”, “pearly rasbora” or one of several other names, is not a common aquarium fish. They don’t transport well, and healthy specimens may be hard to find.
They are an attractive gold color, with the males much more vibrant than females. As with many small fish, they are best suited to living in groups of 5 or more, and they prefer water with minimal current.
Provide plenty of plant cover, as these are shy, non-aggressive fish. Larger fish may pick on them, so keep them with fish of similar size. They certainly won’t pester your betta.
They like live and frozen protein like daphnia and bloodworms, but will also take flakes or small pellets. Feeding is done mid-tank or down to the bottom where they may eat some detritus.
6. Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus cirrhosus)
This peaceful bottom-dweller is a lot of fun to keep and is quite striking in appearance. They’re covered in small spots, have spiky snouts, and large fins.
As with other plecos, they need their own space, so only very large tanks should have more than one Bristlenose. Make sure to provide a cave or other hollow spot for hiding and resting. They may dig in the substrate, but don’t usually bury themselves.
Their job is to clean up algae, which they do by feeding on it wherever it grows: rocks, decorations, the walls – anywhere. They will also nibble on any driftwood you use as décor. You’ll also want to provide algae chips (most tanks aren’t “dirty” enough to sustain them with naturally occurring food) and fresh veg like cucumbers and zucchini.
Bristlenose plecos seem to get along with most other docile fish, or leastwise they ignore them. They’re great for “layering” fish; betta at the top, schooling fish in the middle, pleco at the bottom. But don’t be surprised if you don’t see much of them during the day. Bristlenoses are nocturnal fish, and become more active when the lights are low.
7. Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras spp.)
There are many different species of corydoras. So many, in fact, a lot of them just have numbers instead of names. They differ in appearance, but all have pretty much the same characteristics. Just choose healthy specimens whose appearance catches your eye.
As with all catfish, they are bottom dwellers and feeders. They eat algae and whatever else drifts to the bottom. You should offer good algae chips, too, to keep them healthy and happy. Some species may also enjoy live or frozen protein. Keep an eye on them to see what they prefer.
Unlike plecos, Cory catfish are schooling fish, so you’ll want to pick up several at once. They are very peaceful, and will not pester each other, or your betta. Since they live at the bottom, they may not bump into your betta very often, although they will sometimes dart to the surface for a gulp of oxygen. This kind of behavior makes them very entertaining to watch.
8. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
The Kuhli loach is often mistaken for an eel, and it’s easy to see why. These long, slender, frisky fishes do seem to slither about, but they are from entirely separate families.
Kuhlis are yellowy-pink with dark stripes and light-colored bellies. They live at the bottom and love to burrow in the sand, or smooth stones. If you have enough space, you can keep a group of three or more kuhli loaches together. They are very active, but not aggressive, making them excellent community fish.
They’ll eat almost anything, but sinking pellets and live foods are best. Feeding is best done in the evening when the lights are dim, as this is when they eat in the wild. Since they are also natural hiders, make sure there are caves and other nooks for them to slink into. Just make sure all surfaces are smooth, so they don’t scratch their delicate bodies.
Kuhli loaches are strong swimmers and can easily jump out of a tank if the lid isn’t completely sealed. Be sure the lid is tight and covers every opening to avoid an unpleasant surprise on the floor.
9. Feeder Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)
Guppies are incredibly popular, especially with beginner aquarists, and it’s no wonder! They are quite hardy, breed without effort, and can be very showy with large tails and pretty colors.
They are generally peaceful, but you may occasionally witness moderately aggressive behavior. They are small enough that your betta won’t see them as a threat, however.
You can pretty much have as many guppies as you want, provided you have enough space. In fact, if you have males and females together, you’ll soon have more guppies than you probably want. If you want them to breed, make sure to isolate fry ASAP, or just about everything in the tank will eat them.
Guppies will eat most food you offer including flakes and live or freeze-dried food.
10. White Cloud Minnows (Tanichthys albonubes)
Sometimes called Chinese danios, White Cloud minnows are fun and easy fish to keep. They sport a nifty racing stripe down each side, and they tend to dart around and be very active. Kept in a school (as they prefer), they put on a great display.
They are omnivorous fish, so they’ll eat pretty much anything you have on hand. They’re also not fussy about where they eat or swim, and can be found at every level of the tank. Like guppies, they breed readily, though they lay eggs rather than give live birth.
White Cloud minnows are peaceful and make good community fish. They don’t get aggressive and are probably too fast to be caught by any would-be predators. If you choose them for your betta tank, be mindful of their unusually low water temperature requirements. You’ll need to keep the tank at the low end of what’s suitable for your betta.
11. Ghost Shrimp (Palaemontes sp.)
Also called glass shrimp, these fascinating creatures are nearly see-through and are just one of many recommended shrimp compatible with betta fish. As you’d expect, they spend their days crawling around the bottom of the tank, and they’ll scavenge a meal wherever they can find one. Try sinking pellets, but don’t expect them to go for algae wafers.
If your tank is large enough, you can have more than one. If crowded, however, they may become aggressive toward others of the same species. Males and females will breed without any effort on your part, but you’ll have to remove the pregnant female to another tank or else the eggs or babies will become snacks for your fish.
Large fish will also prey on adult ghost shrimp so don’t include shrimp in a community tank with the big boys. They like to burrow and build their own nests, so choose sand or small gravel for substrate. If you went with marbles, shrimp are not a good choice for betta mates.
Ghost shrimp are active little creatures, though they won’t stray far from home. They are a fun alternative to fish, and really liven up a tank
12. Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina denticulate sinensis)
Another fun alternative to more fish, Red Cherry Shrimp are colorful, active additions to any community tank. They tend to stick to the bottom, far away from your betta. Give them some plants to climb, however, and they’ll go exploring.
They like to eat algae and other naturally occurring organics growing on driftwood and rocks, plus you can toss them sinking pellets for variety. Red Cherry shrimp breed easily, but don’t expect the babies to last long if they aren’t removed from the tank.
Red Cherry shrimp are peaceful, and won’t harm other fish or each other. Big fish will prey on them, but you don’t want big fish with your betta, anyway.
13. Nerite (Zebra) Snails (Neritina natalensis)
Just one of several varieties of nerite snails, Zebra snails are easily identified by their bold stripes. Many aquarists house snails just to keep the algae levels down, but they’re also interesting to watch, especially as they slide up and down the walls, and are perfect to live with betta fish.
They are non-aggressive, which isn’t too surprising, and once they’ve grown past the baby stage, nothing is likely to prey on them. As said above, they eat algae, so you shouldn’t introduce them to a new tank. Wait until algae have a chance to accumulate so they’ll have a ready source of food from day one.
Zebra snails aren’t fast, of course, but they do get around. It’s important to keep the lid closed to prevent them from escaping the tank.
You can keep many snails at once, and they won’t bother each other. In fact, having multiple snails may keep them from breeding – they seem to know when the local population is sufficient.
14. African Dwarf Frog (Hymenochirus curtipes)
Adding these fully aquatic African dwarf frogs to your aquarium is a lot of fun, and they are entirely suitable betta fish tank mates. They tend to stick to the bottom of the tank, and they aren’t aggressive. They will, however, eat small fish, so they aren’t suitable for anyone who wants to hang on to fry.
They’ll eat sinking pellets, shrimp, and bloodworms, so they’re great for cleaning up anything top- and mid-feeders miss. They aren’t fast moving, but they are fun to watch. Kids especially love them!
Don’t be too surprised if your frogs seem to be missing; African Dwarf frogs are very small, and they like to hide in caves and holes. Make sure their habitat has plenty of hiding places.
15. Clown Pleco (Panaque maccus)
While they aren’t flashy, Clown plecos are a lot of fun to have in an aquarium. They grow to a moderate size but will look like giants compared to small, schooling fish like tetras. While they spend a lot of time just hanging around, they also can be quite active when they’re feeding. Don’t worry, though; they are no threat to your betta at all.
Since they’re bottom feeders that’s usually where you’ll find them, nibbling away at algae and driftwood. They’ll also feed on the sides of the aquarium, allowing for great photo ops!
Supplement their diet with algae chips and fresh vegetables. They are best suited to sand or gravel bottoms since they will burrow on occasion. You should also provide a cave or other enclosed shelter for hiding and sleeping.
Clown plecos are good at cleaning up an aquarium, so you may be tempted to have more than one. That’s fine, but only if you have a very large tank. For each additional pleco, you’ll need at least an extra 10 gallons.
They are territorial fish, and each one will need room to establish his (or her; they’re hard to tell apart, and the females behave the same way) turf.
What Fish Should Not Be Kept With A Betta?
Now that you have an idea of what fish you can keep with a betta, here’s a list of some fish you absolutely should not include in your community.
Reasons for their exclusion run from being too aggressive, too colorful, or too similar in appearance (and hence looking like a threat), to simply requiring too different a habitat to thrive.
Here they are, in no particular order:
- Neon tetra (but you already knew that!)
- Tiger Barbs
The Last Word on Betta Tank Mates
Now that you know who can and who cannot live with betta, we hope you’re inspired to go forth and create a happy, healthy environment for your aquatic companions.
On the flip side of the same coin, if you’ve learned that your betta is perfectly happy to have just you for company, that’s great, too!
Got any questions for us, or anything you’d like to add to the conversation? Drop us a line in the comments below, we’ll do our best to respond.
Thanks for reading, and happy fish keeping!
Featured Image Credit: Marko25, Shutterstock