When you’ve got just one male betta fish the temptation is there to find it some betta tank mates to give them some company.
Another option is to try and put them into a community tank so that they won’t be lonely. You also need to remember though that male betta fish are fiercely aggressive and fight often, so you’re wary about which fish make for betta tank mates to decrease the chances that one of your precious fish could be hurt or killed.
Choosing the right tankmates for your Betta
Your Betta is Not Lonely
The first thing that you must accept is that your betta fish is not lonely. Betta fish are not shoaling fish. A betta fish is also not something like a puppy, kitten, or a person. People tend to attach their own human emotions to their pets, including fish. The truth is that your betta fish has his own thoughts and feelings and he’s not particularly concerned about making friends.
You need to accept this from the start so that you can avoid making mistakes based on your own personal feelings. There’s a good chance that your betta fish doesn’t share those feelings and isn’t concerned about finding a friend.
Before choosing a betta tank mate you also need to read up about betta behavior. Whether your efforts succeed or not depend on how your betta behaves and its temperament. While all male betta fish are generally aggressive some are more or less aggressive than others. You should also invest in a second home like a bowl or a tank just in case your betta and his tank mate don’t get along and you need to separate them quickly.
To be honest the best reaction that your betta can have to another fish is tolerance and indifference. Of course the worst reaction possible is aggression. It’s much better for your betta for him to be alone in a tank than to share a tank with another fish that stresses him out all the time. Look at how your betta fish reacts around other fish and make a choice based on how he acts rather than on how you feel.
Remember that the health and wellbeing of your fish should always be your main concern. You are a responsible fish owner after all. Being a responsible fish owner means deciding if your betta needs tank mates or not and then deciding which fish make for a good betta tank mate.
Choosing the right betta tank mates
Putting Other Fish in Your Betta Tank
If you have a betta fish and are thinking about putting some extra fish in his tank you first need to look at the tank itself. It has to be the right size. At the very least your betta fish tank needs to be 10 gallons before you can even consider adding additional fish. We reviewed one of our favourite community tanks when writing about how to care for a betta fish.
If your betta fish tank is less than 10 gallons then it’s much better to leave them be. Even if you’ve got the correct heat and filtration equipment it won’t matter if there isn’t enough room. Another solid piece of advice is that it is better to introduce your betta to another tank, rather than introduce another fish to his tank. The reason for this is that it makes your betta less likely to be aggressive because he feels his territory is being infringed on.
If you have a betta fish that you keep in a small tank or a bowl and you’ve been thinking about getting him a tank mate now is the chance to give him more space too. Get yourself a 10 gallon tank, cycle it, establish it, and let the other fish live there first. Then you can introduce your betta fish and make him the star of the tank.
Which Fish Make Good Betta Tank Mates?
You should be careful about betta tank mates when you’re using a 10-gallon tank. In this case critters would be a better option than fish as a critter is much less likely to trigger aggression in your betta fish.
Even if you go with critters you should still pay attention to your betta. See how they respond and separate them if you need to. While the critters that we’ve listed below can be considered safe, that doesn’t mean your betta won’t attack them. Keep an eye on both of them and always be ready with a backup plan just in case.
Here are some critters that make for good betta tank mates
Apple snails have their own natural armor. A betta fish might decide to try and pick on them but an apple snail can just retreat and hide in their shell. You should be able to safely keep one of these in a 10-gallon tank with your betta fish. Apple snails primarily eat algae wafers.
African Dwarf Frogs
An African Dwarf Frog will just float along the surface of the water. They thrive in the same low filtration environment that the betta fish does to. Putting a few of these in with your betta fish creates an interesting tank indeed. Just make sure your tank has a secure lid and that your betta isn’t picking on them.
Ghost shrimp are pretty fun to watch but your betta could easily feel that they are lunch. Ghost shrimp are also scavengers so they will even help clean the tank for you. They also don’t produce much waste themselves. You should be able to safely keep a small school of five in a betta fish tank.
Putting Your Betta in a Community Tank
You can put a betta fish in a community tank but the conditions have to be right. The good news is that in the right circumstances your betta could have a much better quality of life as part of a community tank than he would on his own.
A community tank is often much larger than a single tank and the water is healthier too. As such your betta will be in a better environment if kept in a community tank with betta tank mates. One common misconception about betta fish is that they like small spaces. Your betta will definitely appreciate and enjoy the extra swimming space. Even if it takes time to get used to his betta tank mates.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t hazards. There is the danger that your betta fish poses a risk to the other fish of course. He could become aggressive and try and attack them. While this is a possibility it shouldn’t be your main concern.
The truth is that your betta is in more danger than the other fish. Betta fish have long, flowing fins that other, seemingly docile fish, may nip and pick on. You shouldn’t put your betta in a tank with other fish without first carefully considering what could happen. We’ve put together a quick checklist to help you do just that. A little preparation goes a long way.
Checklist for Betta Tank Mates
- Remember to introduce your betta to an already established community. This way he will be less territorial.
- Avoid putting the betta fish in a tank with fin-nippers. Fish such as barbs, tetras, and neons will be unable to resist nipping at a betta.
- Other fish besides bettas are aggressive. There are several reasons for a fish to be considered as being semi-aggressive. Don’t forget to consider the aggressiveness of other fish.
- Don’t place your betta with another anabantid. Gourami in particular make for terrible tank mates as they can set each other off. There could also be conflicts with a juvenile climbing perch. This is because they can grow big enough to eat your betta.
- Avoid putting your betta in a tank where there are fish that look like him. Avoid placing your betta with long finned fish. This includes fancy guppies and lyre-tail mollies. This is because it can make the betta think another betta male is in the tank with him.
- Try to create a serene tank. Betta fish are not fans of fast-moving currents and they prefer the slow lane. Bettas really aren’t strong swimmers. They could also perceive another fish speeding around them as a threat.
- Create lots of hiding spots. There should be hiding spots even in a single-specimen tank. Sometimes your betta will want to just get away from the world. Hiding spots are even more important when you keep your betta in a community tank.
- This is a bit of obvious advice but never, ever, put more than one betta fish in the same aquarium. The only time you could do this is if the tank has a partition to separate them.
Are Goldfish Good Betta Tank Mates?
Some people feel that goldfish are obvious betta tank mates. They both live in bowls after all. Learn more about goldfish care though, and you’ll quickly see what a mistake this could be.
One key problem with combining bettas and goldfish is that goldfish prefer slightly colder water. When fish aren’t in the right temperature they get stressed out. Keeping a fish in a constant state of stress is a pretty inhumane thing for a caring fish keeper to do.
Goldfish are also known to quickly pollute water. It takes a lot of filtration to keep a goldfish. Bettas need low filtration and they could also be stressed out by the waste.
A goldfish will also grow too big to stay in your typical betta tank. A betta fish could easily spend its life in a 10-gallon tank. Goldfish will almost always outgrow a 10-gallon tank and need extra room though.
The threat of conflict between the two is still present too. Goldfish may be generally docile but they are also brightly colored with flowing fins. This could possibly trick the betta into thinking another betta is in the tank. If that happens your betta will become aggressive and likely attack the goldfish.
This is why we don’t advise keeping betta and goldfish in the same time. Goldfish do best when they are kept in a tank that meets their needs with other goldfish. It’s a common misconception that goldfish belong in bowls. Put them in a tank and don’t make them betta tank mates.
Goldfish do not make good Betta tank mates
Don’t Forget Your Backup Plan!
In the end whether your betta tank mates plan succeeds or not depends on the betta and the other fish. You could follow our advice to the letter and find that your betta still attacks their tank mates. You can prepare all you want but your betta might just be too aggressive to tolerate even another critter.
You should always put together a backup plan. Have an idea of what you are going to do if your betta fish doesn’t get on with his tank mate. Buy an additional bowl that you can quickly transfer your betta into if trouble starts.
You shouldn’t be too worried if he just flares at a passing fish every so often isn’t cause for concern. You should remove him from the tank if he’s always itching for a fight though.
There are a few reasons your betta might be hiding in a corner. It could be that he’s getting picked on and there are no other hiding spots for him. Look at his fins and take him out of the tank if he looks harassed or hurt.
If you’re planning on giving your betta a tank mate then do it when you’ve got the time to keep an eye on the situation for a few days. It’s bad to just drop him in the water with his betta tank mates and hope for the best. Keep a careful eye on things until you’re sure he and his betta tank mates are safe.
We hope that you always have your betta fish in a safe environment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a community tank, a 10-gallon tank with some tank mates, or on his own. What matters is that he is safe and happy.
What Betta tank mates do you have? Share your tips, experiences and comments below.