Do Betta Fish Get Lonely?
Siamese fighting fish or betta fish (Betta splendens) have a reputation for being hostile toward other fish and other bettas.
And this reputation is not undeserved; bettas were bred to fight eachother.
While betta fish are best kept alone in most situations, there are some tank mates that can live peacefully with a betta.
Keep in mind that each betta fish has a unique personality and aggression level, meaning that some bettas tolerate tank mates better than others.
Other factors like tank size, number of plants, the color of the other fish, and whether the tank mate competes for food with your betta, play a role in whether having a betta tank mate is a good idea.
What Qualities Make a Good Betta Fish Tank Mate
Male betta fish fins are long and graceful, but make easy targets for nippy fish.
Avoid keeping fish like cichlids (including Angelfish) barbs, and other territorial fish, which have a reputation for biting chunks out of fins or chasing other fish around the tank.
Betta fish tend to be slow swimmers and will become stressed out if their tank mates nip or harass them.
In general, smaller nano fish, and invertebrates like cherry shrimp, make better betta tank mates than a fish similar in size to a betta.
Smaller fish tend to be quicker and are good at escaping from a betta fish, especially if given rocks and live plants for hiding.
Some betta fish may also be triggered by colorful fish like male guppies.
Of course, the worst tank mate for a betta fish is another betta fish.
While some aquarists keep sorority tanks with multiple female betta fish, keeping betta fish together (males in particular) is going to result in a dead fish.
How to Protect Betta Fish Tank Mates
1. Add Plants and décor
Live or silk plants, rocks, and driftwood provide excellent hiding places for fish that are shy or bullied.
Plants also add beauty to an aquarium and provide places for beneficial bacteria to colonize, which will help filter your water.
Your betta fish may even use the plant as a place to sleep.
If you want to learn more about aquarium plants, check out my article on the best plants for betta fish.
2. Adequate Tank Space
Tank size is crucial factor in whether your betta fish will tolerate tank mates or not.
More room allows other fish to keep their distance or hide from your betta if he or she becomes aggressive.
Betta fish also appreciate tank space and will explore their surroundings.
A tank between 3 and 5 gallons is a great choice for a single betta fish or a betta fish housed with aquarium shrimp, but if you plan to keep your betta with more than shrimp or snails then a tank between 7 and 15 gallons will provide better conditions for your fish.
Water quality also degrades more quickly with each additional fish added to a tank, so find an aquarium that will comfortable house the number of fish you plan to keep.
The Best Betta Tank Mates
As mentioned, the best betta tank makes are going to be small fish that will not nip at or harass your betta fish.
These are not the only fish that can be kept with a betta fish, but they are some of my favorites.
1. Kuhli Loaches (Pangio kuhlii)
Temperature: 76-82 Fahrenheit (24-27.8 Celsius)
Kuhli loaches make excelllent betta tanks mates because they are active at night and feed primarily at the bottom of the tank.
This means they will not compete with your betta fish for food and will actually eat leftover betta food that falls to the bottom of the tank.
But, Kuhli loaches need more than leftovers, make sure to feed them live or frozen foods, as well as an appropriate sinking pellet.
2. Ember Tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae)
Temperature: 74-80 Fahrenheit (23.3-26.67 Celsius)
Ember tetras are peaceful community fish that reach a maximum length of about 1 inch.
Embers make decent betta tank mates because they are fast and typically avoid swimming near a larger fish like a betta.
Their reddish, ruddy color adds contrast to planted tanks, making them an attractive choice for aquascapes.
Ember tetras are schooling fish and do best in groups of 5+ fish.
If you plan to keep Embers with a betta fish, a tank of 10 gallons or larger is best.
3. Rummy Nose Tetra (Tetras Hemigrammus rhodostomus)
Temperature: 74-80 Fahrenheit (23.3-26.67 Celsius)
Rummy nose tetras possess a strikingly red face, with color extending past their cheeks.
In addition, these fish also have zebra stripes on their tail fins.
What’s not to like?
Rummy nose tetras make great betta fish tank mates because they are small (typically 2 inches) and prefer to being in schools of 5 or more fish.
This means that they will leave your betta fish alone while adding visual appeal and interest to an aquarium.
Like other schooling fish kept with bettas, a 10 gallon tank or larger is best.
4. Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi)
Temperature: 74-80 degrees Fahrenheit (23.3-26.67 Celsius)
Neon tetras are peaceful fish, and are also quick.
Neons are schooling fish, and are one of the most iconic aquarium fish in the hobby.
You may be tempted to put 2-3 in with a betta, but neons are easily stressed and will hide unless kept in a school of 5+ fish.
If you plan to keep a decent school of neons and also a betta fish, a 20 gallon or larger is ideal.
Neon tetras are from the soft and acidic waters of South America, so if your tap water is naturally hard (alkaline) consider keeping a different fish as these fish tend to be delicate.
5. Malaysian Trumpet Snails (Melanoides tuberculata)
Temperature: 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit (22.2-26.67 Celsius)
Malaysian trumpet snails are sometimes considered a pest by aquarists.
This is because they multiply quickly.
But, these snails actually make a great addition to your betta tank because they are voracious scavengers.
Malaysian trumpet snails will “vacuum” the tank’s substrate looking for uneaten food, algae, and dead plant matter.
And, Malaysian trumpets do not eat live plants, only decaying plant matter.
If you want a cleanup crew tank mate for your betta fish, these snails make an excellent choice.
6. Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)
Temperature: 74-82 degrees Fahrenheit (23.3-27.78 degrees Celsius)
Harlequins rasboras make an excellent alternative to keeping neon tetras because they can tolerate harder water (pH’s above 7).
While they do not possess the striking colors of a Neon tetra, Harlequin rasboras have a striking triangular black mark on their body.
Harlequins do best when kept in a group of 5 or more, so tanks below 10 gallons are not ideal if you plan to keep them with a betta fish.
7. Pygmy Corydoras (Corydoras pygmaeus)
Temperature: 74-80 Fahrenheit (23.33-26.67 Celsius)
Pygmy corys are peaceful bottom dwellers that scurry around looking for food in the substrate.
While they may not look like a schooling fish, these corys do best in schools 5+ fish.
These tiny cory catfish rarely get bigger than an inch and are therefore make ideal tank mates for smaller fish or a single betta fish.
When keeping a larger school of Pygmy corydoras with a betta fish, a 10+ gallon tank is ideal, but some aquarists have found success with well planted 5 gallon tanks if water changes are performed regularly.
Temperature: 74-80 Fahrenheit (23.33-26.67 Celsius)
Otocinclus are small (about 2 inches), hardworking algae eaters that prefer living in groups.
In the wild, Otocinclus may live with hundreds of other Otocinclus, but in the aquarium hobby keeping more than 4-5 Otos is uncommon.
Otos are peaceful and make excellent tank mates for betta fish because they tend to hide and will not compete with your betta for food.
If you are looking for an algae eater to keep with your betta fish, a group of Otocinclus is an excellent choice.
Betta Tank Mates To Avoid
1) Other Betta Fish
Male betta fish cannot be housed together peacefully. Instinct drives male betta fish to fight, even to the death.
Even when keeping male bettas in separate tanks, it’s smart to prevent the fish from seeing another male through the glass.
A betta that is constantly flaring and trying to interact with another male nearby will become stressed and weak.
Male and female bettas should not be housed together either.
If breeding is you goal, the female should be added to the male’s tank for a short period of time but should be removed once the eggs are laid and placed into the bubble nest.
Otherwise, the male betta may chase the female around and even kill her.
Cichlids (including Angelfish) tend to be aggressive toward other fish and may nip fins.
3) Barbs and Larger Tetras
Barbs and some tetras are not so much territorial as nippy.
These fish do not make ideal tank mates for a betta, who may suffer fin damage from these quick fish.
4) Male Guppies
Male guppies are colorful and therefore do not make idea tank mates for a betta fish.
Male bettas likely see fancy male guppies as rival male bettas and will attack them.
Female guppies can be kept with a betta fish, but better kept in a separate tank if you plan to breed them.
5) Freshwater Puffer Fish
Puffers have mouths that can crush shells.
They are snail destroyers and have wonderful personalities.
But, they do not make ideal tank mates for betta fish because they also tend to nip fins.
Many puffers are brackish water fish and should be kept in a brackish tank while betta fish are purely freshwater fish.
Goldfish are some of the worst companions you could purchase for your betta fish.
Goldfish are cool water fish that thrive between 62-72 °F while a betta fish should be kept at 76-80 °F.
Goldfish also grow quite large and are voracious eaters, outcompeting other fish for food if the aquarist is not careful.
Goldfish also produce a lot of waste, and significantly increase the bio load of your tank, which will need additional maintenance and water changes.
Goldfish should be kept in their own cool water tank, for their sake as well as for your betta’s.
A big part of picking the right tank mates for your betta fish is gauging your betta’s personality and using common sense.
Different betta fish have different personalities, and some will tolerate a tank mate that another betta will not.
Choosing the right tank mates for your betta fish is important because the wrong tank mates may stress out your betta and affect his or her lifespan.
Consider turning your betta tank into a planted aquarium.
Live plants reduce fish stress and provide hiding places for both your betta fish and his tank mates.
Betta fish have huge personalities and each fish is unique, you may need to test out if a tank mate works for your betta and have a backup tank if things don’t work out.
If you plan to keep your betta fish by himself or herself, or with shrimp, check out my article on setting up a 3 gallon betta bowl aquascape.
3 gallon betta tanks are too small to comfortable keep fish with your betta, but invertebrates like snails and cherry shrimp still make great tank mates in smaller setups.
If you are looking for a name for your betta fish based on color and personality, check out my article on betta fish names.
As always, stay zen aquarists.