10 Safe Betta Fish Tank Mates

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It’s a myth that there are no betta fish tank mates or companions that can coexist with male or female betta fish. There are actually many other species of fish that can live with a betta in what is appropriately called a community tank.

While males cannot share the same ecosystem because of their territorial aggression, females can coexist together in what is called a sorority. Females are still aggressive, but sororities establish a pecking order with 5 or more females in the ecosystem.

Inexperienced caretakers often want to add a boyfriend or girlfriend, but male and female bettas should not be housed in an aquarium together except during breeding. Keeping betta fish with other fish species can be tricky too, unless you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Betta Fish With Other Fish: Something to Consider

Throughout history the betta splenden or Japanese fighting fish was continuously bred for its territorial aggression. This aggression has never gone away, even in those bred in captivity.

For this reason, some betta fish are so aggressive they may never be able to cohabitate with other tank mates, while others are so withdrawn or calm they could actually be picked on by other fish.

If either of these are the case, it’s better for your betta to live solo than under constant stress. During any new introductions, always have an exile tank ready to go in case you have to quickly remove your betta to safety. You should monitor the introduction for at least 72 hours to assess compatibility.

Before Getting Your Betta Fish a Tank Mate…

Most owners decide to explore tank mates for their betta’s because their fish appears bored, or because they want to liven up the tank. While tank mates aren’t required for bettas, they can add extra viewing pleasure and experience to your fish husbandry. A community tank can actually be healthier for your betta because of the larger tank and water quality.

In order to thrive, betta fish should have a minimum of 5 gallons of water for their ecosystem. This means that adding certain tank mates starts to detract from the necessary environment. Other companions will need more than 5 gallons to thrive without the addition of a betta.

Increased cohabitants means increased bioload, or the amount of inhabitants creating waste. As waste breaks down it turns into contaminants like ammonia which can increase the pH of your tank’s water and make your fish sick. Therefore a filter and heater are necessary.

10 Betta Tank Mates

Below are ten recommended companions that can live with bettas. They require a similar water pH level of around 7.0 – 8.0 and tropical temperatures in the range of 72 – 81 degrees fahrenheit:

1. Marimo Moss Ball (Japanese Moss Ball)

Marimo Moss Ball and Betta Fish

Photo by Beckie

Scientific Name: Aegagropila Linnaei
Color: Green
Level: Beginner
Tank Size: 5 Gallons or More

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A marimo moss ball is a really cool living plant, and living plants can make awesome tankmates for betta fish. They are almost indestructible (you don’t need a green-thumb), making them especially good for beginners. Marimo moss balls can also live for over 100 years, growing at only 5 millimeters in diameter per year! Crazy right?

Key benefits include: low cost, longevity, little maintenance, algae eaters, nitrate eaters, produce oxygen, and are a favorite to other betta tank mates like the ghost shrimp covered below. If you want to start slowly, the marimo moss ball (dense algae ball) is an excellent addition to any tank.

2. Mystery Snails

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Scientific Name: Pomacea Bridgesii
Color: Golden, Blue or Dark Brownish
Level: Beginner
Tank Size: 5 Gallons or More

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Snails don’t get enough credit for being as cool as they are! They are one of my favorite tank mates for male or female bettas alike. Mystery snails are a great addition because they feed on uneaten food and clean up algae, helping with the aquariums cleanliness. They also don’t reproduce asexually like the nerite snail which can quickly become a mess with snails everywhere!

Mystery snails are plant-safe and do well with bettas because of their docile nature. Sometimes a betta will be curious or even nip at a mystery snail, but they have a hard shell they can retreat into if needed. Adults can grow to around two-inches in size, with an average life span of one year. You’ll love watching them navigate around the tank, using their siphon for air at the surface, and watching their tentacles meander around.

3. Ghost Shrimp

Ghost Shrimp and Betta Fish

Photo by Kai Schreiber

Scientific Name: Thalassinidea
Color: Transparent
Level: Beginner
Tank Size: 10 Gallons or More

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The ghost shrimp or glass shrimp is appropriately named for its see-through appearance and is an invertebre. Ghost shrimp are virtually invisible in tanks without close inspection by the naked eye. They make fantastic betta fish companions. Recommended introduction is in a group of 2-4, with 6 or more leading to potential breeding.

Ghost shrimp are easy to care for, inexpensive, and they are scavengers who will scour your tank looking for excess food to eat off the substrate. They can grow up to 1.5 inches in length and an average lifespan of 1 to 1.5 years with proper care. These translucent critters are really fun to watch, love moss balls and other live plants and help keep your tank clean.

4. White Cloud Mountain Minnows

White Cloud Mountain Minnow and Betta Fish

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Scientific Name: Tanichthys Albonubes
Color: Silver-Green with Red Caudal and Dorsal Fins
Level: Beginner
Tank Size: 15 Gallons or More

The white cloud mountain minnow is related to the carp and is a great betta tank mate because of its docile temperament. They grow to an average length of 1.5 inches and prefer an upper range temperature of 76 degrees fahrenheit. White cloud mountain minnows prefer schools of 5 or more and are very “hardy” fish that live up to 5 years or more with proper care.

In the wild, or in the White Cloud Mountain in China, their habitat consists of plenty of rocks, wood and aquatic plants. Try to replicate this in your tank which is also enjoyed by the betta fish. For an inexpensive tank mate, you’ll enjoy their coloring and schooling.

5. Cory Catfish

Cory Catfish and Betta Fish

Photo by Corin Royal Drummond

Scientific Name: Corydoras
Color: Bronze
Level: Beginner
Tank Size: 10 Gallons or More

Corydoras (cory/cories) catfish are good additions to a community betta tank. They are easy to care for and enjoy the same water conditions as bettas. Corydoras live on the bottom, feeding, and can live alone or in schools (4 or more recommended) depending on the size of your tank. They range from 1 – 2.5 inches in length.

The average lifespan for cory catfish in captivity is 2-3 years and their temperament is non-aggressive. This makes them a perfect companion for betta fish. For the most part, they are very active and can liven up a tank that is otherwise still. If you want to be extra cautious, you may even look at the pygmy corydoras which is duller in color and only grows up to 1 inch.

6. Harlequin Rasbora

Rasboras and Betta Fish

Photo by Stefan Maurer

Scientific Name: Trigonostigma heteromorpha
Color: Orange to Pink Body, Distinct Black Triangle, and Red Hue Fins
Level: Beginner
Tank Size: 10 Gallons or More

The rasbora is a shoaling fish that prefers to live with a school of 5 to 6 in a tank. They’re a great tank mate for a betta as long as your tank is 10 gallons or more to give them plenty of space for necessary activity. Rasboras also love tasty brine shrimp just like the betta.

If you decide to introduce your betta into a tank with the harlequin rasbora, you can expect rasbora’s to grow to around 1.5 inches in length and live on average 5 years. This species is also very peaceful, adding an additional quality to coexistence with the betta splenden.

7. African Dwarf Frog

African Dwarf Frogs and Betta Fish

Photo by Lotzman Katzman

Scientific Name: Hymenochirus Boettgeri
Color: Grey or Brown and Spotted
Level: Beginner-Medium
Tank Size: 10 Gallons or More

African dwarf frogs are excellent betta tank mates too because of their peaceful personalities. They are also relatively easy to care for. Dwarf frogs can grow up to 2.5 inches in length and live on average 5 years. Males tend to be slightly smaller than females and the species also enjoys at least a pair together.

They are very active and like to explore their surroundings which is nice if your betta tends to be on the lazier side. The frogs come to the surface to get air since they have lungs and not gills. If you’re lucky you’ll even witness them shed their skin, (every 1-2 weeks) which is a speedy process that ends with the frog eating it. As for eating, you’ll also love watching them stuff their mouths with food using their little webbed feet!

8. Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras and Betta Fish

Photo by Motohide Miwa

Scientific Name: Paracheirodon Innesi
Color: Neon Silver-Blue with a Red Neon Stripe
Level: Beginner-Medium*
Tank Size: 10 Gallons or More

Despite advising betta fish owners to avoid tank mates with bright colors, the neon tetra can do well with betta fish because of their speed. In your community tank you will need to add more than one, neon tetra prefer to school (shoaling) in packs of 6 to 10*. A long narrow tank is recommended for plenty of horizontal space.

Typical lifespan is 5 years in captivity, and they can grow up to 4 centimeters in length. In prolonged periods of darkness, you may witness their red stripe fade or disappear completely. Neon tetras are fascinating to watch as they swim together and navigate about the tank looking for food or safety. Neon tetras also like heavily planted tanks with lots of places to hide.

9. Clown Plecos

Clown Plecos and Betta Fish

Photo by Plantedtank.net

Scientific Name: Panaque Maccus, Dwarf Loricariid
Color: Light Brown to Black Body with Orange to White Stripe Coloration
Level: Beginner-Medium*
Tank Size: 15 Gallons or More

Another algae eater than can make for a great betta companion is the clown pleco. *Make sure to avoid the Common Pleco however, because it has the ability to grow up to two feet long! The clown pleco is the dwarf member of the species making it a suitable tank mate at a maximum length of around 4 inches, compared to 24.

It’s a hardy and easy to care for fish, enjoying an average life span around 10 years in captivity. They like to explore and have tough skin in the event a betta fish does get curious and attack.

10. Kuhli Loach

Kuhlii Loaches and Betta Fish

Photo by AJ Cann

Scientific Name: Pangio Kuhlii
Color: Pink to Yellow Body with Dark Stripes
Level: Beginner-Medium*
Tank Size: 20 Gallons or More

Another cool fish that can live with a betta is the Kuhli Loach because of their docile temperament. They are long and shaped like eels and love to disappear into tiny crevices. Kuhli loaches tend to mind their own business, love brine shrimp and need at least a 20 gallon tank* to be happy.

Other loaches, such as the clown loach* can grow over a foot so make sure to avoid this variant! If you have sand as your substrate, loaches may even burrow deep into it making owners fear they have disappeared.

Female Betta Fish Can Be Tank Mates

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Females can coexist together as tank companions in a sorority. A sorority is simply a community tank of female betta fish with 5 or more members. The minimum recommended tank size is 10 gallons (long horizontal tanks are better than tall vertical tanks).

Female bettas are also aggressive, territorial, and unpredictable at times so it’s important to monitor behavior and provide plenty of hiding spots. Younger females tend to react better than elders who are used to seclusion.

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Betta Tank Mate Checklist

  • Never place two males in the same tank unless there is a non-transparent divider. Females however can coexist together in sororities of 5 or more.

 

  • Quarantine all new fish in a separate tank for 4-6 weeks. This process significantly reduces the risk of transferring diseases to your betta or other fish currently in the tank.

 

  • When adding tank mates to your bettas tank, monitor it closely. Sometimes it is better to introduce a betta into an established community tank to prevent increased aggressive and territorial behavior.

 

  • Have an exile tank and net ready. Should anything go wrong during introduction you can quickly and safely remove your betta (or other tank mate) from danger.

 

  • All new tank mates must have similar care requirements including: water pH, nitrite and nitrate levels, and temperature to name a few. All of the ones listed above meet these requirements. Always follow acclimation procedures nonetheless to reduce stress and shock.

 

  • Some of the betta fish tank mates listed above will require different food than your betta. Ask questions and purchase the correct food when purchasing a new fish.

 

  • Stay away from tank mates that have bright coloring and long fins. This will likely increase the territorial aggression in your betta fish. Bettas have been known to mistake other fish bettas too.

 

  • Never add other tank mates that are aggressive or fin nippers. Your poor betta will be a target for them with their beautiful tails.

 

  • Add plenty of silk or live plants and other tank decorations for hideouts. Community tanks can increase stress. Therefore, it’s important to afford your betta and other fish plenty of hiding spots and places to retreat to.

 

  • Other tank mates may require a larger minimum tank size than you currently have. This must be taken into consideration.

 

Recap

Despite common misconceptions that betta fish can only live alone, all of the species listed above can be suitable betta fish tank mates. Due diligence must be exercised however because of the varying temperaments across the betta splenden (fighting fish) species in both males and females. Even if you do everything right, there’s no guarantee your betta won’t become an aggressor or a victim.

Quarantine all new tank mates, including a betta if you’re introducing them into a community tank. Monitor the situation closely for 48-72 hours or more. Be sure to look for signs of stress in your betta and the other companions. This may be in the form of the following: lack of appetite, visible wounds (e.g. fin tearing), nonstop chases, and extended periods of quarreling.

Prolonged stress and fighting will only lead to sick or dead fish. Make sure you follow the checklist above, especially for ample hiding spots and tank size recommendations. In situations where the environment appears unsafe, be ready with a secondary tank or container to remove your betta. If your betta fish doesn’t want a tank mate don’t worry, they’re not a shoaling or schooling fish and will be okay on their own.

Have any helpful advice or questions? Add them in the comments below:

11 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    How about zebra danios? Would think they would be fine with a Betta, and would certainly liven up a tank.

    Reply
    • Bryan

      Zebra danios are a shoaling fish meaning they do best in groups of 5 or 6 or more, and are very active and top feeders like bettas. Bettas also need to get to the surface for air, creating potential territorial issues. They would need a minimum of 15 gallons or larger to accommodate them and the betta with lots of hiding spaces for the betta. They can coexist together depending on your individual betta’s aggressiveness and temperament, but aren’t necessarily the best tank mates for a betta fish. In short, yes they can, but be prepared to monitor closely how they react together.

      Reply
    • Bryan

      Fancy guppies are not a good tank mate because of their long fins and coloring. Betta fish can easily mistake them as another betta species and will become very aggressive and nip at their fins and fight with them.

      Reply
      • N

        It all depends on the personality of the Betta and the size of the tank. My Male Veil Tail Betta is housed in a 55 gallon community tank with many different fish, including fancy guppies, and everyone lives together peacefully. If you have a large enough space and a Betta that is not aggressive, Betta’s can live with many different types of fish in perfect harmony.

  2. Daniel

    I have a Crown Tail Male Betta. Would he get along ok with a Fiddler/Red Claw crab? I’m setting up a Crabitat (air pocket) in the tank for it and want to make sure the Betta wont mess with it. The tank is 10 gallons

    Reply
    • Bryan

      I wouldn’t recommend them for co-existence because the crab if it got the betta would do some serious damage and betta fish are very curious. Since your tank is 10 gallons, why not divide the tank in half with a tank divider? Fiddler crabs need aquarium or marine salt too and like to climb out of tanks a lot, not to mention they need shallow water and the ability to get onto land surfaces too.

      Reply
  3. Jeane

    Personally I don’t think white cloud mountain minnows are good tankmates for betta fish. WCMM are coolwater fish and bettas are tropical. My betta tank is at 78 degrees, some people keep them at 80. If I had WCMM I would keep them in an unheated, room-temperature tank. If you have the WCMM at the upper end of their temperature range, and the bettas at the lower tolerance of theirs, neither of the fishes are going to be at their best.

    Reply
  4. Katie

    I had recently gotten 4 females. Would a pectus catfish be a good companion till more can be added I lost two of my female bettas out of illness they had from the store I got them from (they had been in the same water for over a month) they won’t get a new shipment till Thursday and Marhion is picking on Ilisia tearing her back fin apart but I don’t have another tank to keep them separated.

    Reply
    • Bryan

      For now, I would recommend separating the two females instead of placing another tank mate in there. Place one of your females in another tank or temporary container (even a plastic Tupperware container can work temporarily). With only 2 females, one will continue to pick on and dominate the other until they eventually cause significant damage or kill them. For a female sorority, you need to have at least 4-5 females to combat this problem so I would wait until you can replace the one’s who died. Sometimes sororities are hard to establish if you have particularly aggressive females.

      Reply

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