CAN YOU KEEP OTHER FISH WITH YOUR BETTA?

Written by Katherine Barrington Updated December 09, 2015
The betta fish is an incredibly popular species that has a reputation for being aggressive. In this article you will learn whether or not you can keep other fish with your betta.
If you know anything about the aquarium hobby you are probably familiar with the betta fish, more commonly known as the Siamese fighting fish. These fish are known for their bright colors and long, flowing fins. They are also known for something else – for fighting to the death with other betta fish if they are kept in the same tank.
 
You have probably heard that it is never a good idea to keep two betta fish in a tank together – especially if they are both male. But can you keep other fish with your betta? In this article you will learn the basics about betta fish including tips for keeping them with other species.

Basics About Betta Fish

The betta fish is known by the scientific name Betta splendens and it belongs to the same family as the gourami. These fish are native to various parts of Asia including Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam where they can be found living in the standing water habitats of rice patties, floodplains, and canals. This species has been selectively bred to create a wide variety of bright colors and patterns, not to mention unique tail shapes. These are the features that make the betta such a popular species.

Betta fish typically grow to about 3 inches in length, though their fins and tails can be much longer. In the wild, the betta fish exhibits a dull gray, brown, or green coloration which is extremely different from the bright colors seen in the captive betta fish. These fish feed on crustaceans, mosquito larvae and various zooplankton in the wild but, in captivity, they will accept a wide variety of commercial, live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods. This species prefers warmer tank waters around 73°F to 80°F and they prefer a neutral pH around 7.0.

In terms of tank size requirements for betta fish, there is a great deal of misconception out there. Betta fish are frequently sold in small plastic containers and, in pet stores, they are placed next two tiny one- and two-gallon tanks. This combination of factors leads ill-informed hobbyists to believe that the betta fish can and should be kept in small tank environments. In reality, the betta fish needs just as much space as any other species so it should not be kept in a tank smaller than 5 gallons in capacity. These fish also need adequate filtration to maintain high water quality and a tank heater to maintain a stable tank temperature.


Potential Tank Mates for the Betta

In the wild, the betta fish has been known to live alongside other bettas as well as various species of rasbora, gourami, and loach. It is important to note, however, that betta fish are highly territorial so even in the wild they will not hesitate to fight for their territory. This can become a problem in the home aquarium where space is limited – this is why you frequently hear that keeping bettas with any other fish is a bad idea. If you go about it the right way and choose your tank mates carefully, however, you may have success in keeping your better with other fish.

One thing to keep in mind is that female betta fish are much less territorial and less aggressive than males so, if you plan to keep a better fish with other fish, you might want to make it a female. Some of the best betta tank mates you should consider include harlequin rasboras, pygmy corydoras, white cloud mountain minnows, and clown Plecostomus. If you don’t want to risk keeping your betta fish with other fish, you might want to consider freshwater snails like the apple snail as an option. Apple snails can grow up to 6 inches in diameter and they come in a variety of colors. These snails make great additions to the freshwater tank because they are natural scavengers – they will help to remove accumulated detritus from the bottom of your tank. The tank requirements for apple snails should mesh well with those of the betta fish.

Harlequin rasboras are a fairly small species, growing up to 2 inches in length, and they do not have a tendency for fin-nipping. These fish have some coloration on their fins but, for the most part, they are not brightly colored enough that your betta fish will view them as a threat. Pygmy corydoras catfish are a bottom-dwelling species so they should not activate your betta’s territorial aggressive since they inhabit different levels of the tank. Pygmy corydoras do best in schools and they are small enough that you can keep several in a smaller tank. White cloud mountain minnows are another smaller fish that tends to be very peaceful. The only thing to be mindful of with this species is that they prefer cooler tank temperatures. Clown Plecostomus are another bottom-dwelling species that can get along with bettas as long as they have enough space. This species is less aggressive than other plecos and your betta fish will most likely leave it alone.

These are just a few of the tank mates you might try with your betta fish – there are others that might work. Just be very careful when selecting fish to keep with your betta and make sure that your tank is properly arranged to facilitate a harmonious relationship.


Tips for Maintaining Harmony in Your Tank

Choosing your betta tank mates wisely is the key to success but there are several other things you can do to help ensure harmony in your tank. For one thing, make sure that your tank is large enough to accommodate several different species of fish – a 5-gallon tank is sufficient for one betta fish but it will be much too small if you add other fish. If you plan to keep multiple fish in one tank, your best bet is to go with a tank no smaller than 20 gallons in capacity. Remember, bigger is always better when it comes to choosing a tank size.

In addition to thinking about the size of your tank, you also want to be mindful of the tank equipment and decorations you choose. All fish need high water quality in order to thrive so you will need to outfit your tank with a quality filtration system. If the water quality in your tank falters it will cause your fish to become stressed and this could lead to further problems. You also want to invest in an aquarium heater to help maintain a stable temperature in your tank. When choosing the fish for your tank, be sure to select species that have similar requirements for tank temperature.

Finally, in addition to using caution when stocking your tank and selecting equipment, you also need to be mindful of how you decorate your tank. Remember, male betta fish are highly territorial so you don’t want to decorate your tank in a way that makes your betta fish feel threatened. Use large décor items and live plants to break up sightlines in the tank and to create multiple “territories”. Your betta fish will likely choose one and defend it, leaving the others for the other fish in your tank. You also need to include some caves or other hiding places where your other fish can hide in the event that your betta becomes aggressive.

Cultivating a thriving community tank that includes a betta fish can be challenging, so do not take the task lightly. By using the tips provided in this article you can achieve a harmonious relationship among your fish, even if it includes a betta fish. 

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