We are reader supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Also, as an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Having a betta fish in a community tank is tricky business. Of all the fish to have, they don’t always get along with their roommates and the potential for chaos to occur is high.
So, can betta fish live with other fish? Yes, they can house with other species. But, you have to take great care in what you select as a tank mate. This is because bettas are famous for having an aggressive and territorial demeanor. You also have to consider the gender and the individual temperament of the betta(s) in question.
Also, if their neighbors are small enough to fit in their mouths, they will eat them. Unfortunately, there’s no way to be certain which species they’ll be happy with and what others will instigate their aggression.
What Should You Avoid; Consider to Get Bettas to Live with Other Species?
Before you begin experimenting with various species to house with a betta, there are some preliminary concerns you should evaluate. You want to ensure you do the right thing for all your inhabitants. One bad move and it could spell disaster for your precious aquascape.
Avoid Housing Betta Males Together
The reason why betta fish have the name “Siamese Fighting Fish” is because of the males. They are very territorial and will attack another male that looks like it, especially when it feels threatened. The only time this might be possible is if their tank is large enough with plenty of plants and decorations to accommodate them.
In other words, your tank should be at least 150 gallons or more. Even then, there’s nothing to guarantee they won’t end up into a scuffle at some point in the future. And, they will fight to the death. The surviving victor often dies from his injuries within days of the brawl.
Avoid Brightly Colored Fish with Bettas
Other fish that have bright colors are not advisable as tank mates for betta fish. This will trigger their notorious aggression and they will fight with the fish. This means that whichever species you choose, they should be dull and drab looking. It’s the best way to avoid a betta perceiving their roomies as a threat.
Avoid Species with Flowing Fins; Tails
Along with bright colors, ensure the potential tank mate doesn’t have flowing fins and tails. You don’t want to put a fish in a betta-based community tank that the betta may potentially view as a threat. The males in particular, do not like other fish that look like them and it will provoke them to go on attack mode.
Avoid Species that Swim in the Same Areas as Betta Fish
Bettas like to swim, play and frolic in the middle parts of the tank with an occasional visit to the surface of the water. Therefore, get fish that like the lower portions of the tank. Bottom feeders like shrimp and catfish are best.
If you know your betta’s temperament, you might be able to get away with ones that like the topmost area of the tank. But this is only for those aquarists who have experience with and know their betta fish well.
Avoid Cramped Spaces
Having a big, roomy aquarium is one of the best ways to keep aggression down. If all you’re going to have is a male and female betta, then a 10-gallon tank or larger will be more than sufficient. However, if you want a community tank with more than only betta fish, you have to ensure it’s 20 gallons or more.
As a general rule of thumb, give enough space for the species you want to house with the betta and at least a 15-gallon girth for each betta in the tank.
In the event you do choose to have more than one male betta, make sure the tank has a long width and shallow depth. This will help keep the peace within your tank, give each their own section of territory and they won’t fight each other over resources, including spawning mates.
Avoid Introduction During Maturation or Elderly Years
To up your chances of a betta being happy with their tank mates, add the betta fish as young as possible. While they’re babies is best because they’ll accustom themselves to the environment. If you try to add other fish when a betta is fully mature, you may run into problems.
This is especially true if your betta has been on its own for a while. However, if it’s young enough and has been part of a community tank for most of its life, then they should be calm enough to introduce new friends into the aquascape.
Avoid Notorious Fin Nippers as Tank Mates
Certain fish species, such as goldfish, are notorious fin nippers. This is also true of tetras and barbs. They will mindlessly antagonize your betta, which will cause stress.
When a betta experiences prolonged and/or severe stress, it increases their risk of succumbing to parasites, infections and other diseases because of lowered immunity. Plus, consistently nipped fins can result in the betta contracting fin rot. You want to avert any kind of illness at all costs.
Provide Plenty of Plants; Décor
When there’s plenty of décor and plants available in an aquarium it truly helps reduce a betta’s penchant for aggression. Understand that this isn’t foolproof, but it will increase the chances of domestic bliss within the tank.
Providing plenty of hiding places will give bettas a good range of spaces where it can feel safe. Plus, it blocks other species from their vision. If you’re able to keep potential threats out of sight, they will stay out of mind for a betta. What’s more, decorations and plants will keep your betta entertained and stave off boredom.
There’s nothing worse than a bored, disinterested betta. The only thing that can result is an attack on other inhabitants within the tank. And yes, they’ll do this just for the fun of it.
Avoid Species with Varying Water Parameter Requirements
Because betta fish are very particular about water quality, you want to make sure that any other species you get will be happy in those parameters. Any misstep in this regard will result in all tank inhabitants getting sick and dying. Certainly, you don’t want that to occur.
The same is true of plants. Some green growing things cannot tolerate the conditions a betta prefers and vice versa. So, when researching, ensure you take plants into the equation as well.
Avoid Energetic Tank Mates
In terms of stressing out a betta fish, you want to ensure you avoid adding tank mates that are too boisterous or energetic. Another species that swims all over the tank will not only be annoying to the betta, but it does increase their chances of becoming too stressed.
As mentioned above, stress will cause a betta’s immunity to lower to a scary degree. This is because it leaves them open to a plethora of avoidable diseases.
Is It Better to Have Females than Males in a Community Tank?
More often than not, female bettas will be more tolerant than male ones. However, everything discussed so far will still apply. But, you can exercise a bit less caution in this regard. To illustrate, female bettas don’t mind boisterous neighbors and they do tend to appreciate the company of their own kind more than males.
Even though these tips will depend on the nature and temperament of the betta in question, it is possible to have several females. Actually, many aquarists prefer to keep two females per male.
However, it’s important to note at this point that you shouldn’t house female with male bettas unless you plan on breeding them. If so, then the tank mates you have should have similar breeding habits. This is the best way to avoid each species from eating their young or bothering each other during mating season.
Which Species Is Best for Betta Fish?
To test for how well a betta fish will tolerate other species in its tank, start with snails and shrimp. These are rather inexpensive and a great gauge for a betta’s reaction to other possible roommates. Use things like nerite snails or Amano shrimp. If the betta goes on the attack, chances are, they won’t like others either.
If you find that your betta doesn’t bother the shrimp or snail, then you can try any one of the following fish. Remember, add new inhabitants in increments. Do not add them all at once, even if it is more than one of the same species. It’s the only way to maintain a betta stays happy, peaceful and thriving.
One of the most peaceful creatures is the cardinal fish. Either gender is excellent for a female-dominant betta tank as long as they aren’t preparing for the mating season. However, even male bettas will avoid cardinal fish once they hit maturity.
When both betta and cardinal fishes become mature, you must closely observe your tank. This is because a male could kill an individual cardinal fish or the entire school of cardinal fish will mob, injure and/or kill the betta. So, if you want to house cardinal fish with a betta, ensure both species are mostly female with little to no betta males.
Because harlequin rasboras inhabit the same waters in the Amazon as betta fish, they make ideal tank mates for a home aquarium. They like the same water parameters, including temperature, depth and water quality. Plus, harlequin rasboras have a rather peaceful temperament.
These are ideal when you have a tank with a lone male betta. However, having enough space for both of them will be essential. Because, even though harlequin rasboras are friendly, they can become aggressive if they don’t have their own chunk of real estate.
Tetras are a good choice for a tank mate because they have the potential to offer the best of both worlds. This is especially true of neon tetras since they don’t need any special considerations or care when they spawn.
Also, they lean toward the peaceful side of things and it’s not uncommon for them to accept female bettas as part of their school. But, this means you have to keep the number of tetras you have at a minimum with a female betta that has a clearly good nature.
Otocinculus is a small fish with a sucker mouth and are famous bottom feeders that make excellent roommates for a tank with betta fish. In fact, these are highly suitable for those tanks with more than one male betta in the mix. You just have to ensure there’s plenty of décor and rocks along with live plants.
Another good practice is to ensure there’s enough hiding and resting places for the betta at the top of the tank. Floating plants are ideal in this situation so they have enough space to lounge. What’s more, your tank should be deep to accommodate both the betta and otocinclus.
This is because you can run into some problems with more shallow tanks. The otocinclus won’t often start a fight, but it will make sure to finish it. If any other fish invade their space, they will latch onto it with their sucker mouths and kill the fish.
For a female-dominant betta tank, platies are ideal. However, there’s a question of whether platies require some salt in their water once introduced to a new environment. Salt isn’t a good idea for bettas in most cases. However, captive-bred platies raised in freshwater shouldn’t require salt.
With a similar breeding pattern and colorful continence, swordtails are ideal. But this is true only in the case of female bettas. You truly will be taking a gamble if you house them with male bettas. Regardless, swordtails aren’t particularly aggressive since they prefer the company of their own species.
However, the biggest problem of housing swordtails with either gender of betta is salt. Female swordtails require it in order to release their fry into the water. Such brackish water quality may cause your betta to struggle, which will result in death.
How Can You Prevent Betta Aggression Against Other Species in the Tank?
The best way to prevent aggressive behavior against other species by betta fish is to invest in a tank divider. These are either glass or plastic with tiny holes throughout. You simply place it somewhere near the center within the tank. The betta will see the other fish, but they won’t be able to go on the attack.
However, a lot of this is going to rely on your sense of discernment. You have to find the right balance that will be good for all inhabitants of your tank and this can get quite tricky. If you’re trying to add a species that’s questionable to house with a betta, start with the tank divider so they can get used to the idea.
Once you think they’ll behave, remove the divider. But, monitor this initial introduction and play close attention for several days after. If aggression becomes eminent, you must replace the tank divider or put them into separate tanks.