Tankmates for Your Betta
What Fish Will Your Betta Get Along With?
So you've got a betta, and your tank is looking a little lonely. All you have is one little betta, however pretty, swimming around in the vast expanses of his tank.
Of course you want to put more fish in the tank, so your betta can have friends....
Unfortunately, the betta is a fighter. He'll kill many different types of fish if he believes they're a threat to his tank. Below, we'll discuss possible species of fish that your betta will likely get along with.
How Many Fish?
Tank size is important. When adding fish to your betta tank, please remember an important general rule: Your tank should have one gallon of water per inch of fish. If you have a five-gallon tank, you can have up to five one-inch-long fish in it for optimal living conditions. If you want more fish in your tank, you'll need a larger tank.
The reason for this limit is that fish soil the water they live in, and unless there is a very good filtration system, you'll end up with sick or dead fish in a short time.
Please remember that the ideas below are suggestions. Your betta may get along just fine with all of these new tankmates, or he might kill and eat them. Every betta is different, and these are general guidelines.
At one time I had a bit of a problem with snails. Tiny little white snails. I had hundreds of them in my tank. I wanted to get rid of them, but I hate the idea of using chemicals in the tank, so I tried to find a fish that eats snails but works well with my betta.
Loaches are great for eating snails. And once your snail problem is taken care of, you can feed the loaches pellets, and they'll happily eat those as well.
These are schooling fish, meaning they instinctively swim together for safety, so when you buy loaches you will need to buy a minimum of three. My betta doesn't even notice they're there, and they happily go about picking snails off my plants, and they root through the gravel trying to find more.
Update: In most cases, loaches will get along fine with your betta, but I have heard that they can be aggressive sometimes, and on rare occasions will attack a betta, eating his fins. If you plan on getting loaches of any kind, keep an eye on them and remove them if necessary.
One really good tank mate for your Betta is ghost shrimp. These little guys are great for keeping the bottom of your tank clean.
For the most part, your betta will leave ghost shrimp alone. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. If your betta is overly aggressive, you might find that dropping ghost shrimp into your tank will only serve your betta a tasty snack. However, there is still a fairly good chance that your betta will leave them alone, and your ghost shrimp won't pester your betta, and they'll live together well.
Ghost shrimp aren't very expensive anyway, so if your betta does pick them off every once in a while, it doesn't cost much to replace them. In a three-gallon tank, you might put eight to ten ghost shrimp in with your betta, at a cost of about $5.00. Select the biggest shrimp at the pet store, so they are more likely to survive.
Ghost shrimp females do get pregnant very easily, but unless you have a separate tank for them, your betta will eat the shrimp eggs.
The final issue that you'll want to know about is the temperature sensitivity of ghost shrimp. If you have your tank temperature too high, your ghost shrimp will turn pink and die, as they essentially cook to death. 78 degrees is near their upper limit. I've personally had a number of ghost shrimp over the years, and some handle the 78 degree temperature of my tank quite well, while others die within days. You just have to try to find out how well your shrimp do.
Also great for keeping your tank clean, the zebra snail is small and unobtrusive, but quite pretty, for a snail. A single zebra snail will happily clean the algae from a two- to three-gallon tank, wandering back and forth in search of food.
Your betta will normally ignore zebra snails, and if not, the snails have decent armor to protect themselves.
Zebra snails are not known for reproducing uncontrollably, as other breeds of snails do. You know that if you buy one or two, you won't come home one day and find a few hundred more.
I strongly recommend zebra snails if you can find them at your pet store. They're pretty and useful, and make a great addition to your tank.
Bristlenose plecos are great for betta tanks—for a while. They're very shy, so will tend to avoid your betta anyway, and will hide in whatever is available if you come near their tank. They are fairly drab in color, but still interesting fish.
Your pleco and your betta will most likely leave each other alone. And your pleco will attack all the debris and extra food that your betta drops to the bottom of the tank, leaving a nice clean tank.
The downside to plecos is that they grow. That pleco you pick up at the fish store that's only an inch long can grow to seven inches within a year. Your betta may still get along with him, but you will need a tank big enough to handle his size. Other varieties of pleco get along with bettas as well, but grow even larger than the bristlenose pleco, sometimes to over a foot long.
Neon tetras are beautiful fish, with a blue and red stripe that almost seems to glow. Believe it or not, these fish get along fairly well with most bettas. While your betta will spend most of his time at the top of the tank, tetras are mid-tank fish, and so they mostly stay away from your betta.
This does mean, however, that you will need to buy food that your tetras can eat. Hikari makes a great food for them, and your betta will probably eat it as well. It floats on the surface of the tank for a bit, then slowly sinks after a couple of minutes, which is when your neon tetras will start picking at it. Of course, anything they miss will be picked up by the plecko sitting at the bottom of your tank....
There is one caution I do want to make about neon tetras, however. Tetras are schooling fish. You need an absolute minimum of six tetras in your tank, and twelve is better. This means, of course, that you need a tank big enough for them. A one-gallon tank will not do. For these fish, I would recommend a ten-gallon tank, to give a dozen or more enough room.
African Dwarf Frogs
African dwarf frogs can make great tankmates for a betta. If your betta is not very aggressive, they can get along together for years.
There are a few things to consider though. Dwarf frogs are shy, and even more so with big fish like bettas in the tank. Make sure they have are plenty of places to hide.
Dwarf Frogs are also passive eaters. They have their own food requirements, and cannot survive on a diet of betta pellets, so watch that your betta does not eat your frog's food.
Finally, your betta may get along very well with your frog, or it may choose to nip at and chase your frog. If this is the case, move your frog to another tank.
Bad Ideas: Fish Who Should *NOT* Share a Betta Tank
I get lots of suggestions for tankmates. Some of those suggestions are great. Some are horrible. I'd like to put some of the bad ideas to rest.
I apologize if any of this offends you, but when I receive suggestions from pet store employees, who should know better, that endanger a living creature, I get upset.
This suggestion is made about once a week in the comments section. Male guppies are flashy and colorful, a little smaller than a betta, and pretty much certain to be attacked and killed by your betta. Female guppies are fairly drab, so they may work in a tank, but your mileage may vary.
Another bad idea that I hear almost as frequently as the guppy idea. Goldfish are shiny, gold, and (to a betta) very much a threat. And even if your betta does get along with them, goldfish are a bad idea. They're dirty fish, and will upset your water pH very quickly, leading to a dead or diseased betta.
I received a comment from someone named Petco Fish Guy (not his real name), who told me a clownfish would go great in a betta tank.
Let's make it clear. A betta is a freshwater fish. A clownfish is a saltwater fish. They don't go together.
While I'm normally a pretty easy-going guy, this one made me upset. This suggestion came from someone who works in a pet store, in the fish section, and makes recommendations to people in real life, and is considered trustworthy on the subject. This is why I don't buy fish from major chain pet stores.
A Betta Lover's Guide
I was in the same place a few years ago, and kept killing bettas with my lack of knowledge. The betta I bought after I bought this book is still healthy. I can't recommend this book enough. It has everything you need to know to make your betta's life easier, happier, and much, much longer than you'd expect.
What tankmates do you have in your betta tank?
Do you have any suggestions for betta tankmates I haven't listed yet? Submit your suggestion here, and thank you! =)