Last Updated: February 23, 2023 by Flora Gibbins
Neon tetras are the quintessential aquarium fish – they are gorgeous, easygoing, and easy to care for, making them the ideal option for fishkeepers of all experience levels. Betta fish are another uber-popular choice of fish pets, thanks to their splendid colors, flowing fins, and charming personalities.
If you are like most people, you are a fan of both of these fishes and might even be considering housing them together. So, can you keep neon tetras with betta fish?
Yes. However, there are a few things you need to know. Read on.
- Neon Tetra and Betta Fish: Are They Compatible?
- A Brief Overview of Neon Tetras
- A Brief Overview of Betta Fish
- Can Neon Tetras Live with Bettas?
- Factors to Consider When You Want Neon and Ember Tetras to Live With Betta Fish in the Same Tank
- Choosing the Ideal Betta for Your Community Tank
- How to Safely Introduce a Betta to Neon Tetras
- Watch This!
- Frequently Asked Questions
Neon Tetra and Betta Fish: Are They Compatible?
There is no straightforward answer to this question. If the question were, “Can neon tetras live with bettas in the same tank,” the answer would be yes. However, just because you can house the two together does not necessarily mean they will make good tank mates.
Species compatibility is dependent on several factors, including but not limited to:
- Inherent temperaments/behavior
- Tank size
- Tank conditions/water parameters
In the following sections, we will take a closer look at what both neon tetra and betta fish require to thrive. This should help you make an informed choice when deciding whether or not to keep these two beautiful species as tank mates.
A Brief Overview of Neon Tetras
Neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi) are arguably the most popular fish species among aquarists all over the world. A big part of what makes the neon tetra so appealing is the fish’s beautiful red and blue stripes that make for a stunning visage inside the aquarium, especially when they are moving together as a school.
Neon tetras are also relatively easy to care for, which is why they are often the fish of choice for beginner aquarists.
The neon tetra is native to the Amazon basin in South America, with the highest populations being found in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. These regions are heavily forested, meaning not a lot of sunlight reaches the waters below where the neon tetras reside. Consequently, the neon tetra has evolved to thrive in slightly cooler waters, with temperatures of between 68 and 78° F being ideal.
Additionally, the trees that make up a crucial part of the neon tetras’ habitat often drop branches and leaves into the water. This plant matter releases tannins that stain the water brown, making for blackwater conditions. As a result, neon tetras are adapted to living in slightly acidic waters.
Another major reason why neon tetras are such a hit among fish-keeping enthusiasts is their easygoing nature. These peaceful fish can get along with just about any other fish. However, their small size and calm temperament make them highly susceptible to predation. This is why neon tetras evolved to be schooling fish, as moving as a group significantly reduces the chances of a single fish being preyed on.
Since neon tetras need to be in a shoal to survive, experts recommend not keeping less than 8 of these fish at a time. Naturally, this means you will need a larger community tank if you intend to keep neon tetras.
A Brief Overview of Betta Fish
The betta fish is one of the most iconic fish in the aquarium trade. Gorgeous and with an attitude to boot, it is no surprise that almost every fish keeper has either kept a betta or considered keeping one at one point.
Bettas originate from the tropical regions of Southeast Asia, meaning they are adapted to living in slightly warmer waters with temperatures of between 78 and 80° F. Additionally, bettas prefer softer waters with a neutral pH.
Betta fish are infamous for their love of violence, explaining why they are also called “Siamese fighting fish.” The betta fish’s aggressive temperament is a far cry from the neon tetra’s peaceful nature, which is why you might be wondering whether it would be a good idea to keep these two fishes together.
However, while all betta fish are predisposed to violence, the male betta is more likely to attack other fish. Male bettas prefer having the entire tank to themselves, whereas females can peacefully coexist with one another and even with other fish.
Since betta fish are solitary critters, you can get away with keeping one in a smaller tank.
Can Neon Tetras Live with Bettas?
At first glance, bettas and tetras appear to be polar opposites and thus incompatible. After all, one is a peaceful fish that needs to be in a group to thrive, while the other is an aggressive, territorial, solitary fish.
So, in light of their differences, can tetras live with bettas?
Despite their inherent differences, betta and neon tetra also have a few similarities that make housing them together viable. For starters, both are tropical freshwater fish species, meaning you can optimize the water parameters to be ideal for both.
Additionally, and most importantly, bettas are not the bloodthirsty villains that some fishkeepers make them out to be. In fact, female bettas are incredibly tolerant of other fish; it is the male betta fish you have to watch out for. Nonetheless, not all males are super aggressive; some are pretty docile, making them ideal candidates for a community tank.
As such, when looking to make tetras and bettas tank mates, you will need to understand the temperament of your betta fish and a few other factors that we will discuss below.
Factors to Consider When You Want Neon and Ember Tetras to Live With Betta Fish in the Same Tank
As we have established, bettas and neon tetras can make good tank mates if you pay close attention to certain factors. They include:
The typical betta fish can make do in a five-gallon tank, with a 10-gallon tank being ideal. Since neon tetras are schooling fish, you need to keep them in a group of at least 8 for them to be happy, with a larger group being even better.
As you can imagine, a shoal of neon tetras requires a larger tank to survive. A big tank ensures these active fish have enough room to swim around. Additionally, a big tank prevents ammonia levels from spiking too quickly. Most importantly, a larger aquarium reduces the chances of territorial aggression by the betta fish.
When it comes to tank size, the rule of thumb is to have a gallon of water per inch of fish. The average neon tetra is 2 inches long, while bettas can reach 3 inches in length. Therefore, if you intend to keep 8 neon tetras with a betta, that means the smallest size tank you can house them in is an 18-gallon tank.
Of course, a larger tank is always preferable, with many experts recommending a 20-gallon tank as the bare minimum when looking to keep these fish together. This is because it not only makes the fish happier but also makes maintenance a breeze.
Talking of maintenance, please avoid using a mechanical filter, such as a hang-on-back, canister, or sump filter. That is because such filters tend to suck in the tiny neon tetras. Consider using a sponge filter instead to prevent that from happening.
However, you will need to perform water changes more regularly.
One thing that neon tetras and bettas have in common that makes them such appealing choices for aquarium fish is their hardy nature.
However, simply because these fish can survive in suboptimal conditions in the wild does not mean that you shouldn’t go out of your way to create ideal conditions inside their tank; unless you want to drive them to an early grave.
As such, you must ensure that the water parameters inside your community tank are ideal for both your betta and neon tetra if you want them to thrive and blossom into beautiful fish.
Fortunately, the tank requirements for betta fish overlap with those of the neon tetra. Since both are tropical freshwater species, so they can be comfortable in temperatures between 76F and 82F, a neutral pH of 7.0, and water hardness between 2 and 10DH.
You will be pleased to learn that the dietary requirements of betta and neon tetras are somewhat similar, making providing both species with proper nutrition a breeze.
Bettas are carnivorous, whereas neon tetras are omnivorous. That means that the former can only get their nutrition from animal sources while the latter obtain their nutrition from both animal and plant sources. As such, a neon tetra can eat almost everything you feed your betta. Nonetheless, not all tetra food is suitable for bettas.
Choosing the Ideal Betta for Your Community Tank
The only way bettas and neon tetras can make good tank mates is if your betta has a calm temperament and is somewhat social.
In that regard, the safest option would be to use a female betta since female bettas aren’t nearly as aggressive and territorial as the males. Moreover, female bettas form sororities, meaning they don’t mind being social.
Unfortunately, the female betta isn’t quite as visually stunning as the male betta.
The male betta not only has longer fins but also has brighter colors, making him more aesthetically appealing. Fortunately, as mentioned, males have different personalities — some are super aggressive while others are calm and somewhat social.
The best way to find a social male betta is to look for one that has been raised in a community tank. Such individuals are used to sharing their space with other fish, making them less likely to exhibit aggressive or territorial behavior.
How to Safely Introduce a Betta to Neon Tetras
Considering the male betta’s territorial instincts, adding him to the tank first is a bad idea since he’ll claim all the space, essentially making it a betta tank. Consequently, you will not be able to introduce tetras without a fight breaking out.
Therefore, adding the school of tetras first to the tank would make more sense. Unlike bettas, the peaceful tetra will not attack any newcomer. Another benefit of adding bettas last is it prevents them from claiming the entire tank, thus preventing territorial aggression.
Another tip would be to use a tank divider to establish individual territories. Ensure that the betta’s side is smaller so that he becomes used to ruling a smaller territory from the get-go.
Let the fish get accustomed to seeing each other through the transparent divider. Remove it only when you are confident that the betta does not mind the tetras’ presence.
Fun Fact: Let’s try pairing neon tetras with ember tetras this time! Read our post: Neon And Ember Tetras: Light Companions Or Dark Nemesis?
Frequently Asked Questions
Can bettas live with tetras?
Yes. You can house neon and ember tetras with a betta, but only when the conditions are right. First, you must ensure that your betta has a calm temperament and is used to sharing a tank with others.
Which other tank mates are ideal for a betta?
The ideal betta tank mates are bottom-dwelling fish species since they (bettas) typically love staying close to the water’s surface. They can also coexist with non-fish species, such as snails and shrimps.
However, avoid housing them with long-finned or brightly-colored fish, as it triggers fin nipping behavior in bettas. Females betta exhibit fin nipping tendencies, too.
What is the ideal tank size for a betta and tetra tank?
Don’t go for anything less than a 20-gallon tank.
Bettas and tetra are fascinating fish that create some of the most visually appealing aquarium displays. However, these fish are rarely kept together due to the inherent differences in their behaviors.
Keeping these gorgeous fishes in the same tank is possible. Just make sure that you stick to the guidelines provided in this article to enjoy your neon tetras and betta fish interacting with each other without any aggression.