If you’re keeping your male betta on his own, you might think he seems kinda lonely? In actual fact, bettas don’t mind being on their own. They prefer their own company to that of other critters. But, if you don’t like the idea of keeping a betta on its own, there are other creatures out there that could benefit the aquarium and liven things up.
Things to Consider before adding tank mates to your betta aquarium:
These are some of the aspects you should take into consideration before adding new inhabitants to your betta’s home.
Make sure there’s enough room to keep multiple inhabitants. The more creatures living in the aquarium the more excrement, which means a higher chance of an ammonia buildup and poor water quality.
No seriously, different bettas have different attitudes. Every fish is different. Bettas, most of the time, are calm, passive fish, but their title ‘Siamese Fighting Fish’ isn’t around for nothing. Time and time again, bettas will attack and kill fish that even slightly resemble another betta, such as anything colourful, bright or with large fins.
Male bettas hate their own kind, they really do! Not so much the females, they get on fine together. Male bettas are very protective about their territory and if a female comes along, they don’t want any other guy getting in the way. Male bettas will even attack females if the mating conditions aren’t right or if he has a current spawn. The only time a male and female should be put together is for the purpose of breeding. Even then, once the female has laid her eggs, if she is not removed from the aquarium the male betta will attack her! Crazy.
Before introducing another fish to live with your betta, consider:
- Does the fish, in any way, look like a betta? Finnage, size, very bright colours and shape are all something to think about. If you think there is a resemblance, it’s probably a good idea to give it a miss or do some research to see if anyone knows about how the betta fish react to specific breeds.
- Will the fish nip at the betta? Bettas have long, delicate fins, and some small fish will take the chance to nip at them as a food source if the betta’s guard is down.
If you don’t consider these points, then there is a good chance the fish will try to take a bite out of each other.
Fish that can live with a betta
The (non-fish) critters named below are very unlikely to cause a disturbance in your betta aquarium, but there are many aquarium fish that will also live happily with your betta. Some people keep small, upper swimming fish with bettas, such as the Neon Tetra, White Clouded Mountain Minnows, Guppies, Mollies and Rasboras.
As much as these fish are known for being great in a community aquarium, they don’t always do well with bettas. They often dart about, which can stress the betta. They may breach the betta’s territory and sometimes even nibble at the betta’s fins.
Sometimes the danger can be the other way round. As mentioned beforehand, if these fish are colourful (like a molly, for example), the betta will see it as one of his own and attack the fish!
The following is a list of fish that have been known, in most cases, to live harmoniously with bettas.
Catfish, Plecos and Corydoras
Catfish and bottom feeding fish are usually the best fish to keep with bettas. They don’t resemble what a betta would class as a threat. They swim at the bottom of the aquarium and are often reclusive and hide. They’re non-aggressive fish.
Most, if not all, plecos are placid around other fish and are very unlikely to get in the way of your betta. The first thing you should consider, however, is the size that the fish will grow to. We don’t recommend keeping pleco with your betta if your aquarium is less than 40L. The smallest aquarium pleco available grows to a minimum length of 8 inches. Your betta and pleco will be happiest together in a large aquarium.
Plecos are great at keeping algae away, it’s their main job. That said they may also need to be fed algae wafers (here are some that we recommend). This is especially true if they’re in a 40L aquarium, as it may not produce enough algae to keep them naturally well-fed. They do poop a lot as well, so make sure you have a filter that can cope with the number of fish in the aquarium. Some plecos do have bright colours and large fins, which a betta might take the wrong way. This is something to take into account when picking a pleco to live with your betta!
Here is a list of some easy plecos to keep. Remember, some plecos can grow up to 2 metres long!
- Bristlenose Pleco (8 inches max)
- Clown Pleco (5 inches max)
- Green Phantom Pleco (7 inch max)
- Mustard Spot Pleco (5 inches max)
- Red Fin Dwarf Pleco (2 inches max)
This is just a small list of aquarium plecos that don’t grow too large. Some are harder to get and more expensive than others. There are more species available, so investigate further if you want more choice. If you have any of your own recommendations, let us know in the comments!
Some Aquarium Plecos to Avoid:
- Sailfin Pleco (has large fins, grows to a large size)
- Common Pleco (grows to a large size)
- Gold Nugget Pleco (very colourful)
Corydoras are small bottom dwelling fish. They’re a good option to keep with bettas as they are placid and won’t approach a betta’s territory. It’s important to take into account that corydoras need to be kept in a group. They are shoaling fish and you should have a minimum of four of them in one aquarium. This means if you decide to keep corydoras with your bettas, your betta’s aquarium should be no less than 45L. Corydoras are great at scavenging and eating bits of uneaten food in the aquarium, but bettas are greedy so it’s unlikely there’ll be any uneaten food, so feed them with sinking food pellets.
Most aquarium corydoras grow to similar sizes and will be fine to keep with bettas. There are a few that will grow to about 20 inches. Here are a some good types:
- Panda Corydora
- Peppered Corydoras
- Three Stripe Corydoras
- Arched Corydoras
- Pygmy Corydoras
- Skunk Corydoras
- Adolph Corydoras
This is just a small list of aquarium corydoras that don’t grow too large, some are harder to get and more expensive than others. These are just some common ones. There’s a large variety of corydoras, the only thing to keep in mind is size.
There are some species of catfish that’ll be perfect for a betta aquarium. They’ll keep it clean and keep away from your betta. Some species of catfish are even known to hide under aquarium substrate! Your betta may never know he’s even got a roommate. Some species of catfish can grow to a very large size, as in 4 to 5 foot long. We won’t mention these species below, only the small, friendly aquarium companions.
Again, this is just a small list of ones that won’t grow too large. These are some common names. There’s a large variety of catfish, the only thing to bear in mind is size.
Much like catfish, loaches are bottom dwelling fish with long thin bodies, somewhat resembling the eel. They tend to be quite shy and some will even hide away under aquarium substrate. However, there are a few species than can get aggressive. Immediately below is a list of potential loach companions, followed by the botia loaches to avoid.
- Kuhli Loach
- Dojo Loach
- Horseface Loach
- Panda Garra Loach
- Reticulated Hillstream Loach
Avoid any type of Botia Loaches, for example:
- Zebra loach
- Yoyo loach
- Skunk loach
- Angelicus Loach
- Clown Loach (clown loaches are not Botia BUT can be aggressive and can grow to a large size)
Be sure to avoid loaches with the classification ‘Botia’. These fish are known to be aggressive. They may not necessarily be aggressive towards bettas, but it’s probably not worth the chance.
Here’s a list of potential (non-fish) friends that should co-exist with your betta:
An important note: If you have decided to keep a betta without a filter or heater — which isn’t a great idea itself — then this list isn’t for you. Every critter on this list will NEED a filter and a heater to be able to live with your betta. Other fish aren’t as hardy as bettas and may not survive without a filter or heater. Here are our articles on filtration and heating.
Snails are great little guys to put in with bettas. The fish probably won’t even realise they’re there. Make sure they aren’t too little or the betta may attempt to eat them. That said, there’s a few types of aquarium snails that’ll go great with your betta!
Apple Snail / Golden Apple Snails
Golden Apple Snails are the gentle giants of aquarium snails! These guys are the biggest snails on the list and if kept well enough for long enough, they can reach up to 15cm in size. They’re great because they clean up well: they’ll scavenge the aquarium and eat old food bits and algae, and boy will they do it fast! Be aware that they can poop a lot, though. You shouldn’t keep golden apple snails in aquarium less than 30 litres.
Turret snails, or Malaysian trumpet snails, are a great snail if you have a fine substrate in your betta aquarium. They grow to about half an inch, just about big enough that a betta won’t eat them. These guys are great at cleaning up; they sift through the gravel and eat up bits of algae and uneaten food.
NOTE: Turret Snails can get out of hand quickly. If there’s too much grub about for them, they’ll breed and breed, sometimes to the point where it’s bad for the aquarium. If the population gets out of control, there will not be enough food and they’ll die, which will increase the ammonia in the aquarium. If there is an unhealthy amount of snail in your aquarium, there is a way of combatting it! Read below about the Assassin Snail.
Assassin snails are different from the other snails on the list. They don’t eat old food, plants or algae. They eat other snails, hence the name. They are often introduced to a tank to “clean up” when other snail populations have gotten out of hand. It’s unlikely they’ll totally eradicate other snails, but one or two can keep other species in check. Unlike the other snails here, they reproduce slowly.
Most freshwater aquarium shrimp tend to be quite small. Some of the ones on this list won’t get bigger than 2 inches. Depending on your bettas temperament and how large the shrimp are when put into the aquarium, the shrimps may become more of a quick meal rather than a ‘tank mate’. The shrimp on this list are not expensive and should co-exist well given that the aquarium is large enough and there are few places for the shrimp to hide.
Red Cherry Shrimp
Red cherry shrimp are great tankmates for many reasons. They only get up to an inch long, so make sure that there is plenty of cover and that the betta is well fed or else your shrimp may become an expensive appetizer. They produce very little to no waste, meaning you can have 10 shrimp per gallon. They’re good for cleaning up, as they’ll also eat any algae in the aquarium. They do breed quickly: their population can multiply to 10 times the initial figure within 2 months.
Ghost shrimp aren’t as exciting as red cherry shrimp, but do grow to a larger size (2 inches), meaning your betta isn’t likely to pick them up as a meal. They also have a transparent body, so bettas have a hard time seeing them. Ghost shrimp are typically sold as live food for large fish, but can become a good tank mate in your betta aquarium. They’re great at cleaning up too and produce minimal waste.
Amano shrimp have been known to live with bettas, but sometimes get a little too friendly around fish. This isn’t a problem with most aquarium fish but as we know, bettas can be aggressive. If you decide to keep amano shrimp, make sure you have a fairly big aquarium (about 30 litres) to allow the shrimp to stay away or hide. These are the largest shrimp on the list but won’t grow bigger than 2.5 inches. These guys are good scavengers and the best shrimp to get when it comes to cleaning up algae.
African Dwarf Frogs
These little guys bear no resemblance to a betta. In fact, put them in to live with a betta and it won’t bat an eyelid. There’s been no cases of bettas attacking these frogs. Dwarf frogs are interesting and fun to watch. They’ll settle on the bottom of the aquarium to hide, so they’ll never get in the betta’s way. When the coast is clear, they’ll suddenly dart to the surface of the water for oxygen and then back down to the aquarium bed.
African Dwarf Frogs produce little waste and are great to keep with bettas but there is one difficulty — feeding them. As much as these critters are awesome, they’re a pain to feed. If you just drop the food in the aquarium for them, chances are the betta will get to it before them. You don’t want to overfeed your betta in the process of feeding the frogs. The most effective way to feed them is with a pipet. Fill the pipet up with water and bloodworm and squirt it in the direction of the frog. At the same time feed the betta so he doesn’t go after the frog’s food.
Let us know what you keep with your betta
We love to hear about other the betta setups that other people have. Let us know which tank mates you keep with your betta in the comments, or send us a photo of your betta’s tank mates.