The Betta, or Siamese fighting fish, is one of the most popular fish in the aquarium hobby.
Their aggressive behavior has been selectively bred for, hence the name “fighting fish”.
Most Betta fish are typically kept on their own in a 5 gallon aquarium, but can they be kept with other fish?
In this article we explain in-depth the criteria for the perfect betta tank mates. We will discuss more than 50 tank mates that can be kept with male Bettas, female Bettas and sororities.
Keep reading to find out more…
Betta Fish Tank Mates Overview (101)
Betta fish (Betta splendens) can be highly territorial and aggressive in small spaces but in larger tanks this can change.
Because of their aggressive nature, these fish should not be housed with slow moving species with large fins that could easily be mistaken for a Betta too. Betta males and females should only be housed together when ready to breed.
You should never keep a single fish in the same tank as a Siamese fighting fish as they will constantly bully the same individual.
Instead, we recommend keeping Betta fish with species that shoal and look to keep them in a group of at least 5. This makes picking on the same fish impossible as they are all tightly packed into a shoal.
We also advise against keeping any large or fin nipping fish that may turn the tables and harm your Betta. Predatory species should also be avoided.
It is also important that any tank mates you choose are peaceful by nature and do not show any territorial and aggressive behaviors.
When setting up an aquarium to house both Bettas and other species, it is best to add the other fish first to allow them to establish their set territories for a few weeks prior to adding the Betta.
A second aquarium should always be kept ready, in case anything does go wrong.
Throughout this article we will share with you the best Betta tank mates for all different types of tank setups.
Best Tank Mates for Bettas
In this section we will suggest the best tank mate options for Bettas and why they are the best choice for your tank.
These fish are the best choice for your Betta aquarium:
- Neon Tetra: They are a peaceful, shoaling species which only grow to around 1 inch in length so do not require a lot of room in the aquarium.
- Black Neon Tetra: Like the regular Neon Tetra, this fish is the same species which exhibits a different coloration and will add variety to your aquarium.
- Rummy-nose Tetra: Like most of the Tetras on this list, they are a shoaling species which are still relatively small, growing to around 2 inches in length.
- Ember Tetra: They are a calm tempered, shoaling fish which grow to be only one inch in length and do not take up very much of the tank’s territory, making them ideal.
- Cardinal Tetra: Very similar to the Neon Tetra, but they grow to a slightly larger size of 2 inches.
- Diamond Tetra: A hardy, active and social species which are not known to nip fins.
- Glowlight Tetra: A Peaceful, shoaling species. They are only small, growing to around 2 inches in length.
- Silver Tip Tetra: They grow to just over an inch in length and are an active and shoaling species.
- Harlequin Rasbora: These are arguably the best tank mates for male Bettas. They are found inhabiting the same waters as Bettas in the wild, and grow to around 2 inches in length.
- Fire Rasbora: A social yet peaceful species that should be kept in groups of 8 or more.
- Endlers: This is a small shoaling species growing to a size of around 1 inch depending on gender.
- Female Guppy: Notice female here. Not male or long-finned Guppies as they are slow moving with brightly colored, long fins.
- Celestial Pearl Danio: Small shoaling species growing to just under an inch.
- Cory Catfish: Bottom dwelling fish which do best in community tanks.
- Otocinclus Catfish: Found in the bottom region of the tank or sat on the side of logs. Not very active in the water column and should not invade the Betta’s territory.
- Kuhli Loach: Usually more active at night when Bettas are asleep. Will do a great job of hovering up left over food and keeping the tank clean.
- Pleco: Bottom dwelling species recommended for larger aquariums.
- Glass Catfish: Transparent fish that are not bright. They grow to around 5 inches so would only be recommended for larger tank sizes.
- White Cloud Mountain Minnow: Hardy and social shoaling species who stay in the upper and middle layers of the tank.
- Platy (Short-finned): Social shoaling species which grow to around 2 inches in length.
- Short-fin Molly: Very peaceful and shoaling species that live in the upper levels of the tank.
Female Betta Tank Mates
Female Bettas are typically less aggressive and territorial than their male counterparts. This allows for more freedom when choosing their tank mates.
With females, you don’t really need to worry about the coloration of the tank mates – this means you can keep more brightly colored fish in the aquarium with them.
With females being less territorial than males, they are not as worried about other fish invading their space. This allows for more fish to be kept in the tank as well as slightly larger fish.
However, this will depend on each fish’s temperament as you will get some that are more aggressive than others.
It is essential that the species you choose are not known for nipping at the fins of other fish.
Fish that reside in the bottom of the aquarium would be ideal as they are unlikely to annoy or upset your female Bettas. Here are some that would be perfect:
- Yoyo Loach
- Clown Loach
- Clown Pleco
- Panda Cory
- Pygmy Cory
Shoaling and fast swimming species are also a good choice for the tank. This is good if you have aggressive females they would not identify a specific target for attack.
- Gold Tetra
- Blue Tetra
- Red eye Tetra
- Penguin Tetra
- Mosquito Rasbora
Male Betta Tank Mates
With male Bettas you have fewer options for tank mates and you need to be careful when choosing what species to add to the aquarium. Males are highly aggressive and territorial, they really don’t like their personal space being invaded.
Male aggression is also heightened when in the presence of other brightly colored fish that are a similar size. In particular red colored fish should be avoided as this typically indicates aggression within the animal kingdom.
Slow swimming fish are also not advisable as it’s likely they will be attacked.
Long-finned species are not recommended as they will easily be mistaken for another male fighting fish and will likely be killed.
Any small shoaling fish which are not brightly colored would make great tank mates for male Bettas, here is a list of fish which meet these criteria:
- Dawn Tetra
- Green Neon Tetra
- Colombian Tetra
- Head and Tail Light Tetra
- Black Line Rasbora
Fish which occupy a separate area to Bettas are also an excellent choice – these bottom dwellers would be perfect as they will not invade the Betta’s territory:
- Zebra Loach
- Albino Cory
- Bristle Nose Pleco
- Snowball Pleco
- Candy Striped Pleco
Adding plants to the aquarium will increase the habitat’s complexity which has been proven to reduce aggression. Plants will also provide shelter for the other species as well as obstructing the Betta’s field of view for certain areas of the tank.
Betta Sorority Tank Mates
What is a Betta sorority?
A Betta sorority is a tank which contains at least 5 female Betta fish. It is also known as a Betta harem.
Whilst females are less aggressive than males, this depends on each fish as they can still be aggressive and territorial.
Because of this, you should still choose the tank mates wisely. The fish you choose should meet the same criteria as described earlier. They should be fast swimming and shoaling species that are peaceful by nature and are not known to nip fins. They can also be bottom dwelling fish.
It is best that sororities are housed in a larger aquarium of at least 30 gallons. The aquarium should contain plenty of areas for hiding such as plants or ornaments as well as a large space for swimming.
The species that would make great tanks mates in a sorority tank are:
- Cherry Barbs
- Neon Tetra
- Black Neon Tetra
- Cory Catfish
- Guntea Loach
Tank Mates Depending On Tank Size
5 Gallon Aquarium
A 5 gallon aquarium does not provide your fish with a lot of space. We would not recommend that a Betta is kept with any other fish species in a tank this small.
Don’t allow this to put you off getting a 5 gallon tank because you think he will be lonely – they are not a social species and will keep themselves separate from other fish in larger aquariums anyway.
Instead of adding fish we recommend stocking the tank with some live plants for your Betta, like Amazonian Sword Plants or some Java Fern. You might also want to include some artificial plants – just make sure you choose soft silk ones rather than heavy plastic plants as they can damage their fins.
If you do want some tank mates, you could add some non-fish inhabitants like snails or shrimp.
10 Gallon Aquarium
A 10 gallon aquarium will provide plenty of space to add other fish with your Betta.
It should be set up in a way that will provide enough hiding spaces for the tank mates. This can be done by adding lots of plant life and even bog wood logs to obstruct the Betta’s field of view.
All the fish described in the best tank mate section above would be perfect for a 10 gallon set up.
Whilst some soft plastic plants can be okay in the aquarium with Bettas, hard plastics can damage the fish’s fins so stick with real or silk plants.
Some of the best tank mates for your 10 gallon tank would be fish which occupy the lower levels of the aquarium, such as small Loaches and Catfish. Non-fish inhabitants like Snails, Shrimp and Frogs would also work well in an aquarium of this size.
More Tank Mates That Can Live With Bettas
Perhaps you do not want to include any other fish species in your Betta tank, and instead you are looking for non-fish inhabitants.
This section will cover any non-fish inhabitants that with make the best tank mates for both male and female Betta.
These creatures must be large enough so that they do not get eaten by the Betta and small enough that they don’t cause harm to the fish.
Here are some species of snail that would make good tank mates.
- Mystery Snail: These snails will grow large enough that they do not become food for fish. They also come in a wide variety of colors and will eat any left-over fish food or algae within the tank.
- Nerite Snail: They occupy the same area as Mystery Snails but these species require brackish water for breeding so will not overrun the aquarium.
- Malaysian Trumpet Snail: This snail would be a great option as they are active at night when the Betta sleeps and will clean the aquarium. During the day they will burrow under the sediment.
Shrimp would provide the aquarium with additional algae maintenance and can also add a bit of color. Remember that if they are too small then the Betta will eat them. Both Ghost Shrimp and Adult Cherry Shrimp would be ideal.
You might also want to consider keeping you fish with an amphibian. African Dwarf Frogs are a peaceful species and make great tank mates.
We have shown throughout this article that there are fish which are compatible with Bettas, you just need to provide a large enough tank and lots of hiding places.
A 10 gallon aquarium is the smallest we would recommend for keeping Bettas with other fish.
An aquarium of 30 gallons would be the minimum recommended size for keeping a sorority of Bettas in a community setting.
We hope we have provided you with some suitable choices and convinced you to try Siamese fighting fish in a community tank.
What is your favorite Betta tank mate? Let us know in the comments section below…