Can bettas live with other bettas?

February 23, 2017
Tankmates for Bettas and Betta

If you already have a Betta fish and you want to add another fish or two to his tank, the first thing you need think about is tank size. I'm going to give you some advice here that you might not like to hear:

If you currently have your Betta fish in a tank smaller than 10 gallons, please do not add any more fish to his tank.

Here's a second piece of advice that will help improve your chance of success. You might not like this one either:

It is far better to add a Betta to an established aquarium than to add other creatures in with him in his environment.

In other words, if you plan to have tankmates for your Betta fish you should establish the tank first, then add your Betta. This reduces the possibility of aggression where your Betta may feel like his territory is invaded by other fish.

If you have your Betta in a small tank or bowl and you want tankmates for him, this is the perfect opportunity to upgrade his living situation by putting together a 10-gallon tank where he is the star. But don't add him in there until the tank is cycled, established and the other animals are in residence.

What Fish Can Live With Betta?

If you're planning a 10-gallon tank you need to be very careful about his tankmates. It's a good idea to consider critters instead of fish, as they are much less likely to provoke aggression in your Betta.

You still need to pay very close attention to your Betta's interaction with these other animals, and if things go bad get him, or them, out of there. For reasons known only to him, your Betta may decide he doesn't like the look of any of the critters listed below and constantly be on the attack. Watch closely, and always have a backup plan!

Some critters to consider:

  • Apple Snails: These guys come with their own armor. Some Betta fish might try to pick on them, but they can retreat into their shells in defense. One of these guys in a 10-gallon with your Betta is fine. Feed it algae wafers.
  • African Dwarf Frogs: They'll float along the top of the water, and like Betta they can get along in a low-flow filtration environment. A couple of them with your Betta makes for an interesting tank. Make sure you have a secure lid on your tank, and watch for Betta picking on them at the surface.
  • Ghost Shrimp: These busy little guys are fun to watch, but be careful Betta doesn't think they are lunch. They're scavengers so they'll help keep the tank tidy, and they don't produce a lot of waste. You can have a little school of five of them with your Betta.

Betta in a Community Tank

Betta fish can live in community tanks, under the right circumstances. In fact, under the best of circumstances your Betta will have far better quality of life in a community tank than he would have in a tank by himself.

Because community tanks are usually larger and healthier, your Betta is generally in a better environment than in a small tank. And, even though there is a widespread misconception that Betta prefer small spaces, he will appreciate the extra swimming room.

There are hazards as well. You might think the danger is to your other fish, and if you turn your back Betta will work them over like Rocky punching his way through a meat locker. That can happen for sure.

However, more often it is the Betta who is in danger. Because of his long, flowing fins he can be picked on and nipped at by other fish, even some who seem otherwise docile.

If you intend to keep a Betta fish with other fish you need to realize what you are getting yourself, and him, into. There are a few precautions you can take when stocking your tank to keep the dust-ups to a minimum. Here's a quick checklist:

Can Betta Live With Goldfish?

It may seem like a no-brainer that Betta and Goldfish would make great tankmates. Both are often kept in bowls, after all. But if you take the time to learn more about Goldfish care you’ll see there are some very good reasons that this is a bad idea.

For one thing, Goldfish prefer water temperatures slightly cooler than Bettas. This means one fish or the other will be under stress at all times, and that’s not a humane way to go about fish keeping.

Secondly, Goldfish pollute the water very quickly. They require heavy filtration, and the amount of waste they produce would be stressful for Betta.

Goldfish grow much too large for the typical Betta tank. Where a Betta fish will thrive in a 10-gallon tank, all varieties of Goldfish will quickly outgrow such a setup.

There is also the danger of conflict between the two. While Goldfish are generally docile, they are colorful and often have flowing fins, which has the potential to provoke aggression in a male Betta.

For these reasons, it is not advisable to consider Betta and Goldfish as tankmates. Goldfish are best kept with others of their kind, in a habitant assembled specifically for their needs. Just like Betta, Goldfish do not belong in bowls.

Have a Backup Plan!

Ultimately, your success with Betta tankmates will come down to the temperament of your Betta, and that of your other fish. Even if you follow all of the suggestions in this article there is still a possibility your Betta will not get along in a community tank, or tolerate any other fish or critter in his environment.

Never attempt to keep your Betta with other fish without a backup plan in case it doesn't work out. Have a small tank or bowl handy that you can whisk him into should trouble start.

A little flaring at a passing fish now and then isn't a problem, but if he's constantly looking for a fight he needs to come out for his own good.

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