You’re here because you have a question weighing on your mind…
… A pressing question…
“Can betta fish live with goldfish?”
You may have heard “No way!”
But is that really true?
Well, keep reading to learn the answer!
Table of contents
- Story Time
- Things to Consider
- Housing & Care for a Lone Betta Fish
- Final Thoughts
The first time I encountered betta fish being kept together with goldfish was at a small local private fish store I frequented in my early years of fishkeeping.
Funny thing, I noticed they had a single male betta fish in almost every freshwater tank.
Including the goldfish (which were medium-sized fancies).
They were all getting along.
And each time I’d go there, the betta fish were just as happy and actively swimming around with their companions as ever.
The store owner explained that they normally wouldn’t fight unless there was another male betta.
So only 1 male betta per tank.
As I recall:
Sometimes he kept a few female bettas in the tanks with other fish instead of one male.
Fast-forward about 5 years…
And I later discovered it wasn’t just at that fish store that the combo was working fine.
Regular fishkeepers were finding success with it as well.
Like this guy:
I’ve had messages from folks who housed them together as well without issues, and even on a long-term basis.
So when the opportunity arose, I decided to do some testing.
My adult male betta had been living on his own for a while by himself.
I added a single fancy goldfish with short fins that was slightly bigger than he was.
- The betta was quite defensive at first, flaring and swimming cautiously around the goldfish while the goldfish was oblivious to his existence and continued to search for food.
- This continued for about 5-10 minutes, and eventually, the betta fish started to settle down.
- Next day the betta had built a bubble nest, which he hadn’t done for months.
- Something surprising happened – I noticed the betta fish ate his floating food at the top while the sinking food was eaten by the goldfish. This helped to keep the tank cleaner.
- Occasionally, the goldfish would nip at the trailing fins of the betta fish if they happened to go by his face. The goldfish initially seemed to think the betta fish’s fins were some water weed that might be edible. The betta seemed to learn to stay out of the way.
- No further aggression was observed between the two species as time went on.
Initially, I was concerned that the orange color of the goldfish would antagonize the betta fish…
… But he never attempted any hostile acts whatsoever.
Next, I tried a different combination.
I removed the fancy goldfish and introduced a young slim-bodied $0.35 comet goldfish.
This little fish was much faster but not as large as the fancy goldfish.
Long story short, these two co-habited just fine together also.
Now I decided to do a bigger experiment.
To my aquarium with 2 fancy goldfish (each about 3″), I introduced the betta fish.
Before adding him I made sure to put lots of plants in the tank.
This would give him lots of places to hide if he felt threatened.
I floated him in a cup and gradually added water from the tank to adjust him to the new water, which was a bit harder than his old water.
Some initial concerns would be that he would bother the goldfish…
… but he has proved to keep to himself.
The betta and the goldfish both actually seemed a bit afraid of each other initially, but now neither pay much attention to the others.
Betta gets his food in the back corner.
Goldies get theirs in the front.
So they all know where to eat.
The betta likes to spend a lot of time weaving in and out around the plants in the back. He likes to rest on a leaf to sleep during the day (lazy fellow!).
Sometimes he comes up front to check out the goldies and survey the tank.
Prince Lapis in his dominion:
It’s been about a year, and the betta is still doing great here.
The tank is always very peaceful and the betta has grown quite a bit since I first got him.
Lots of live plants offer hides for the betta to feel sheltered and secure.
It helps prevent the goldfish from chasing the betta out of boredom.
… I’ve concluded i’s a lot like keeping dogs and cats together.
Goldfish are like the hyper puppies and bettas are like the grumpy old cat.
Combining them CAN work under the right conditions.
Things to Consider
So this begs the question:
How do you do this?
And can the needs of both fish be met?
Does it always work out?
Very few things always work in the fishkeeping hobby 🙂
Not all betta fish do well with goldfish…
… And not all goldfish do well with betta fish.
They CAN live together, under the correct conditions.
And if they are compatible.
It can also depend on a few things.
A very large goldfish and a betta fish would not do well together.
This is because goldfish will eat anything that fits in their mouths, and can eat the betta fish (or seriously hurt him trying to).
But not all goldfish get big.
Smaller goldfish are better companions for betta fish – those that stay around the same size as the betta are best.
Bettas tend to be nippy.
This could mean issues for some fancy goldfish.
If the little goldfish’s fins are too long or if the fish can’t swim fast, it could get picked on.
To avoid this, a slightly larger fish could be more intimidating.
Small slim-bodied fish do well with bettas as they are fast.
For a while, my thinking was betta fish and goldfish wouldn’t work because goldfish would eventually outgrow the betta and eat it.
But it actually doesn’t have to.
Not all goldfish will grow large no matter what you do, and a goldfish that CAN grow large can also stay small in the right conditions.
Related Post: How Big Can Goldfish Get?
Some betta fish are very aggressive and may try to attack your goldfish.
They need to have the right personality to work out.
Most of the time it seems this isn’t an issue.
Both bettas and goldfish prefer water that has a lower current.
That’s a plus 🙂
Bettas do seem to prefer warmer water.
If you keep a little heater in the tank, you will often see them snuggled up to that.
Above 70 degrees is ideal.
Goldfish can also do well in warmer water and aren’t strictly cold-water fish.
What about the pH of the water?
You may have heard that betta fish need more acidic conditions than goldfish.
Truth be told:
Many betta breeders agree that as long as they are properly adjusted, they can do just fine at a higher pH and there are no harmful side effects of doing so.
Many people have found goldfish can do well at a lower pH when adjusted slowly.
See, if the goldfish grows to be its full size, betta could end up being snack.
This is because a goldfish eats any fish it can fit in its mouth.
(That includes their own young!)
So you don’t want to wake up one day and find that your beautiful little betta friend has become sushi.
In some cases…
… Trying to feed a betta without having its breakfast gobbled up by the goldfish might take some creativity.
Keeping betta fish living with goldfish in the same tank – with direct contact – is kind of like trying to keep a cat in a house full of big, hyper dogs.
But before the betta has a chance to grab its food, chances are a goldfish is gonna get to it first, and this can be VERY frustrating.
So trying to get your betta to eat – before the goldfish snarfs its food – AND ensure it gets separate food – is not a task for the fainthearted.
To overcome this, I prefer to use floating pellets for the betta and sinking pellets for the goldfish.
This ensures the feeding areas are distinct.
Each fish knows where to get the grub.
Housing & Care for a Lone Betta Fish
If you DON’T want to keep your betta fish with your goldfish…
Your betta fish’s container really should have a minimum water volume size of 2 gallons, which allows the fish to have sufficient swimming space to prevent muscle atrophy.
More is definitely better if you can.
For mine, I use this big 3-gallon plastic fishbowl.
A heater helps to keep the temperature stable in the mid to high seventies (I use this one).
Lots of plants are a really good idea, as in the wild betta fish live in densely planted areas with high levels of tannins in the water.
Keeping a soil-bottom substrate (such as by utilizing the Walstad method setup) as well as adding driftwood and Indian almond leaf also helps to replicate the natural blackwater conditions of a wild betta’s environment.
Indian almond leaf even helps protect against bad bacteria and fin rot.
Bettas do NOT like much current in the water.
A very tiny air stone is fine as long as it does not cause turbulent water.
The fish should never be blown around.
But if you have enough plants and light, it isn’t necessary anyway as the plants will oxygenate the water.
Don’t betta fish require softer water than what is recommended for goldfish?
Goldfish prefer a pH of around 7.4, give or take a bit.
They can also adapt to a wider range of pH, providing it is stable.
Betta fish also prefer a pH of around 7.4.
And while they do quite well in softer water (water with a lower GH and KH)…
… They can also adapt to living in water that is not as soft – or even hard – providing they are acclimated properly.
It has been proposed that keeping betta fish in harder water causes fin curling.
But other betta fish breeders believe that there is no relationship between fin curling and water hardness, but rather it is due to the genetics of the fish.
(Interestingly enough, many goldfish breeders believe that curled fins in goldfish are a result of genetics as well.)
There is no solid evidence that keeping the betta in water that is neutral or hard will harm the health or lifespan of the fish.
What seems to be much more important is consistency.
Constant fluctuations in water hardness are much more stressful to a fish than one that is stable, though it may be more to one end or the other of the scale.
Don’t betta fish need warmer water than what is recommended goldfish?
Mid 70’s to 80 degrees F seems to be a good range for betta fish.
And as mentioned before, goldfish are not necessarily cold-water fish.
They are less prone to disease in the 78-82 degrees F range.
So keeping the tank on the warmer side can be beneficial for both.
Read More: Goldfish Water Temperature
Keeping betta fish with goldfish obviously can be done.
It may not work for every situation.
What do you think?
Have you ever tried cohabiting these species?
Featured Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock