Last edited - December 8, 2018
Although many believe that bettas can only be housed by themselves because they'll "kill" anything alive in the tank, bettas CAN be housed with other fish/invertebrates. In fact, there are quite a few species that can successfully coexist with a betta. The general rule is that a betta can live with anything as long as it's
If a possible tankmate qualifies for all 4 conditions, then they should make great tankmates with a betta. Another important condition is the betta's personality. Because every betta has his or her own unique characteristics, whether or not a tankmates will peacefully live with the betta varies widely. An overly aggressive betta should only housed by itself while a shy/ peaceful betta can possibly live with guppies or other colorful fish. However, bettas are solitary fish meaning they do best by themselves. That's how they live in the wild. Additionally, adding fish to a betta tank may cause the betta to become aggressive because it thinks that another fish is swimming over his/her territory. But that doesn't mean you can't get your betta a tankmate. As long as your betta doesn't show any signs of distress or become aggressive, everything will be alright. It's up to the owner to decide whether or not to get a tankmate. Now, on to the common tankmates!
Fish listed here are the best possible tankmates you can have with your betta.
African dwarf frogs
African dwarf frogs make excellent betta tankmates. Because frogs look nothing like bettas (obviously), there's little to chance of a fight to occur. The betta will just let the frog do whatever frogs do. Additionally, african dwarf frogs produce little waste meaning that you don't have to worry about nitrates/nitrites/ammonia. The only problem is feeding them. Since they aren't particularly good swimmers, the betta will usually his own food and then proceed with eating the frogs food before the frog notices that food is ready.
Snails make great tankmates with a betta because of its hard shell which protects it from curious bettas maybe even hungry bettas. Apple snails come in a variety of colors and can get up the size of a softball. For this reason, you could need more than a 2.5 gallon tank to house a betta with an apples snail. Another type of snail that fits well with a betta is a nerite snail. These snail only get up to around an inch in length and are excellent scavengers. They are also great algae eaters and have interesting shell patterns. However, all snails are highly sensitive to copper so any medicine containing copper cannot be used in a tank with snails (or any invertebrate for that matter). A better choice would be to have a hospital tank and put the sick betta there to treat and leave the snails in the main tank.
Ghost/Red Cherry shrimp
Although most ghost shrimp are sold as live food for larger fish such as cichlids, they make great pets and tankmates. Additionally, because their bodies are entirely clear, bettas have a hard time seeing them so they cause any harm. Red cherry shrimp, my favorite invertebrate, is also great tankmate for many reasons. Because they only get up to an inch long, they produce very little to no waste meaning you can have 10 shrimp per gallon. Additionally, they are easily bred so that 10 will become 100 in a month or two. You can keep 10 and then sell the rest for a huge profit. Not only that, but they are one of the best algae eaters, behind the amano shrimp. If you had a choice between ghost shrimp and red cherry shrimp, definitely choose the red cherry shrimp. However, make sure that there is plenty of cover and that the betta is well fed or else your shrimp may become an expensive appetizer.
Cories (Corydoras Catfish)
Cories (panda, dwarf, albino, etc) are another great choice for a betta community tank. Because cories are bottom feeders while bettas swim at the top levels of the tank, there will rarely be any confrontations regarding territory. Additionally, cories are a peaceful bottom feeder, unlike chinese algae eaters which don't even eat algae but instead on the slime coat of its tankmates. However, cories do best in groups of 4 more so at least 10 gallons is necessary. But with a group, you can enjoy the interactions of a schooling group of fish.
Similar to cories, loaches are bottom feeders and basically look like a bigger version of cories. Thus, a larger tank is necessary. In fact some loaches can get as big as 16" (clown loach). However, all types of loaches are peaceful. I recommend khuli loaches(4"), dwarf loaches(2.5"), hillstream loaches(3"), and zebra loaches(4").
Otocinclus Catfish, or otos for short, have similar needs as cories but are much more harder to acclimate since mainly because most of them are caught from the wild and have not been bred in an aquarium environment. This causes them to be sensitive to any change in water conditions. However, once your oto survive the first 1-2 weeks, he'll live for a long time provided that the water remains stable and clean.
White Cloud Mountain Minnows
White clouds are similar to neon tetras in size and coloration but are more peaceful, hardy, and enjoy cooler water. Their temperature range is between 68-78 degrees but can survive in the 50 degree range. Their hardiness makes them an excellent fish for a beginner and their temperament makes them a great tankmate for a betta. However, the temperature of the aquarium would need to be in the upper 70's (78F) to accommodate the bettas needs and the white cloud's needs. Additionally, similar to the red cherry shrimp, white clouds are easy to breed and are believed to not eat their young (the betta might though). White clouds are a very good choice for a tankmate and for a beginning aquarist.
Fish listed here are suitable to live with a betta with no problems but should be a second priority to the fish listed above.
These tetras share the same water conditions as bettas, low pH, high temp, and soft water. However their colors may cause the betta to become aggressive. Their speed though counters this problem in that they can easily avoid the bettas attack. Additionally, tetras enjoy being in schools so 5+ in a 10gallon tank is necessary for healthy tetras. Make sure to have plenty of hiding places for any fish to escape to.
Plecos (not common pleco)
Plecos make excellent algae eaters but questionable betta tankmates. The only reason why they are are questionable is because of the tank size. Common plecos can get up to 2 feet, the length of a 10 gallon tank. And since most betta owners don't keep their betta in an aquarium more than 10 gallons, common plecos are a no. However, there are some smaller species of plecos. For example, clown plecos, bristlenose plecos, pit bull, and rubber lipped plecos max out at around 5 inches. So one can fit in a 10 gallon tank. Additionally, the armor plating on these algae eaters will protect themselves from any betta aggression.
If you really want to have guppies with your betta, your best bet is to get feeder guppies. Although really inexpensive, they are dull colored so they won't look as vibrant as fancy guppies. This is why the can be housed with bettas. However, because they are sold as feeder fish, many of them will be sick and can transmit whatever disease they have to the betta. As long as you get healthy fish, they should be good tankmates.
Rasboras make good possible tankmates for the same reasons as neon tetras. They enjoy soft water and low pH. And similar to neon tetras, rasboras enjoy being in large groups. One difference between rasboras and tetras is that rasboras are more peaceful than tetras. However, their colors are less vibrant than those of a neon tetra.
Fish listed have been successfully kept with bettas but are not recommended
The only condition where keeping a common pleco with a betta is even possible, let alone recommended, is if the tank is 30+ gallons, and that's before they're fully grown. Because common plecos can get up to 2 feet in length and produce plenty of waste, a tank of that size is extremely necessary. Unless you really want to house a pleco and betta together and are willing to get a tank 30+ gallons, then I don't recommend getting a common pleco. You can definitely get other types of plecos that stay small, such as clown plecos, bristlenose, and pit bull plecos. Or you can get other bottom feeders such as otos or cories.
There are certain requirements you must consider before thinking about housing guppies with a betta.
Chinese algae eaters
Another bad choice overall for all types of community tanks. Not only do they suck on the sides of fish, but they don't even eat algae. As they get older, they become more aggressive and seem to enjoy the taste of the slime coat of fish. Without this slime coat, all fish become more susceptible to disease. I do not recommend getting this fish at all.
Unless you're trying to make a female sorority tank (which needs at least 5 females), or having a divided tank, don't even think about trying to house bettas together. There's a reason why they are called siamese fighting fish, they fight with each other. Usually, in the wild where they live in thousands of gallons of water fights are not to the death as many people believe. In their homeland, whoever wins takes the territory and the loser swims away to live another day. In an aquarium, the loser tries to swim away but the tank too small. The loser is unable to escape and the winner continues the beating until the loser finally dies a painful death. Even a divided tank is dangerous since bettas are super athletic and can jump over a divider that's 1 inch above the surface.
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