On offhand, you might think that the best tank mates for a male betta are females of the same species.
Unfortunately, once the female has eggs available to fertilize, the male will most likely kill her during the egg-laying process.
Even though there are some fish species compatible with bettas, finding the right tank mates can be challenging.
4 Fish That Can Live With Female Bettas
When it comes to the question “What fish can go with bettas?”, gender is a very important consideration.
Usually, female bettas are less aggressive than males.
While they are still inclined to be solitary creatures, they can school with other species if the situation is right.
Some female bettas are relaxed and non-aggressive. They will fit into community tanks easily for their full lifespan.
Other female bettas are more aggressive and might need to live alone or with non-fish-based creatures.
Other Female Bettas
Unlike males, female bettas can live readily in groups of 2 to 4 fish. This is known as a sorority. Tanks with multiple female betta fish are called betta fish sorority tanks and will require a little bit of research before going ahead.
Each female will require at least 5 gallons of water, as they can still be quite territorial.
The biggest problem with female betta fish is at some point they will reach reproductive maturity.
Female bettas aren’t structured internally like other egg-laying species. They cannot simply eject the eggs without the assistance of a male.
In this case, the male must squeeze the female so hard, she will most likely die from the injuries.
If a fertile female betta does not mate, the eggs will die and decay within her. This will lead to disease and death.
Personally, I don’t recommend keeping female bettas because their lifespan is measured in months as opposed to the 2+ years you would get with a male betta.
Although female bettas are incredibly sweet, intelligent, and personable, they simply don’t work out as long-term pets.
These colorful livebearer fish make good tank mates for female bettas.
They aren’t especially aggressive, and will mostly keep to their own species.
The biggest challenge with Swordtails revolves around the female’s need for a bit of salt in the water.
Without the aquarium salt, these brackish water fish might not be able to release all their live-born fry into the water.
As with the egg situation in female bettas, if the fry is not released promptly from the female, they will die within her. This, in turn, will kill the female fish.
Neon Tetras offer the best of all worlds when it comes to fish that can live with bettas.
Neon Tetra photo by Brandy Dopkins
First, they are egg layers that don’t require any special care or consideration during the spawning process.
Second, they are inclined to be peaceful creatures and will accept female bettas into their school.
As long as the number of tetras is small, and the female betta good-natured, there shouldn’t be a problem with the school ganging up on her and killing her.
Platies are also livebearers that can live alongside female bettas.
There is a considerable amount of debate on whether or not they need a little bit of salt in the water once they reach reproductive maturity.
Some claim captive-bred Platies have been raised in freshwater for several generations and don’t need the salt.
Personally, I can’t say I believe this because aquarium salt is an old standby when it comes to keeping tanks free of disease.
Depending on the breeder, there may be just enough salt in the tank for good reproductive outcomes, but not enough to qualify as a brackish tank.
If you want to try pairing female bettas with a peaceful live-bearing fish, Platies are a good option.
You may also be able to get away with smaller salt amounts, which will always benefit the betta.
But you have to keep in mind that you also can’t mix male betta fish with female betta fish unless you are breeding betta; otherwise, there will be betta fights and continued casualties.
3 Fish Species that You Can Pair with Male Bettas
The question “Can betta fish live with other fish?” is notoriously hard to answer.
Contrary to popular belief, male bettas are more inclined to be injured or killed by other species of fish because their body, fin, and tail size put them at a disadvantage.
On the other end of the spectrum, male bettas are also aggressive and will eat freshwater shrimp. If they can rip flesh from other fish species, they will also consume that.
Finding the right balance on the aggression level alone is complex. By the time you factor in tank size needs, the number of possible tank mate options gets even smaller.
We can look to natural habitats for an answer to the question “Can bettas live with other fish?”
Harlequin Rasboras often occupy the exact same water as betta fish in wild settings.
As a result, the water quality, temperature, and depth needs are pretty much the same.
Harlequin Rasboras are also fairly peaceful fish. You can keep them in a small group with a single male betta.
While these fish will probably not harm a Veiltail betta, even Rasboaras can become aggressive if challenged in limited real estate tanks.
I would recommend choosing moon, double, or delta tail variant males to go with Harlequin Rasboras. Even though they are a little more aggressive than Veiltails, they are less aggressive than Plakat variants.
Cardinal Fish (Female Only)
As long as females aren’t ready to lay eggs, both male and female Cardinal Fish are known to be peaceful creatures.
Unfortunately, once females are ready to lay eggs, the males will become as aggressive as Tiger Barbs and other egg layers.
This can readily extend to other species in the tank.
Therefore, even if you started a community tank with Cardinal Fish and one male betta, they may start fighting once the Cardinal Fish reach reproductive maturity.
At that point, the betta may kill off individual Cardinal Fish, or the school will gang up and injure or kill the male betta.
Rather than take a chance on this happening, you can try keeping just female Cardinal Fish in with male bettas.
Unlike many livebearers that look like female bettas, the male won’t get confused and try to mate with a female Cardinal Fish.
Otocinclus are small, sucker-mouth fish that usually stay at the bottom of the tank.
As long as they have plenty of rocks and ornaments like live plants to hide under, they will make suitable tank mates for male bettas.
If you plan to keep them with Veiltails, make sure there are plenty of upper-level couches and other supports for the betta to lounge around on.
Since you might need a slightly deeper tank to accommodate the Otocinclus, it can cause some problems for Veiltails.
Fortunately, bettas with smaller tails and fins will do ok in a deeper tank. Just bear in mind, these bettas may also be more aggressive.
While Otocinclus won’t start a fight, they can and will finish it. Temperament-wise, they are similar to Cory Catfish and other suckerfish. Regardless of their size, shape, and psychology; they can easily latch onto other fish that get into their space.
This includes bettas that are having problems staying in the upper regions of the tanks as well as ones exploring other areas.
Depending on the situation, the interaction may lead to minor or major injures and eventual death for the betta.
In general, male bettas with smaller tails and fin shapes swim faster and are much more aggressive.
Depending on the variety, they may also have the agility required to compete with other aggressive or semi-aggressive fish.
Economically speaking, I don’t recommend buying a smaller finned male betta in hopes that you can house it with tetras, tiger barbs, or other conventional tropical fish.
When compared to Veiltails; Halfmoon, crowntail, and other smaller tail-sized varieties cost 2 – 5 times more.
This trend hasn’t changed in the last decade or so since other betta variants became more available to home aquarium keepers.
Even though smaller tails and fins can translate to increased tank mate options, that doesn’t mean it will work out as well as you hope.
Make sure that the betta in question can swim easily in all areas of the tank as well as handle any increased stress that may be caused by more robust filtration.
You can achieve this by putting the betta in as the first fish in the tank and then adding other fish later on. Check out our thoughts on the best betta tanks to help you choose based on your requirements..
Just make sure you have a backup or spare tank in case you have to separate them. Or, be ready to install a tank divider.
Remember, fish skirmishes can lead to death or serious injury in well under 15 minutes.
If you go through all the expense and effort to purchase a betta with smaller fins and tail, then make sure you are ready to separate the fish if a fight starts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you put betta fish with other fish?
Even though the options are very limited, bettas can live with other fish.
Before you select any given fish species, you will need to pay careful attention to various aspects of fish psychology and body shape.
Sadly, far too many “experts” base their answers on color, pattern, and known levels of species aggressiveness.
These kinds of data may be correct for fish with similar body shapes, speed capacity, and agility. It may not apply at all to fish that are shaped like bettas.
I recommend taking a much closer look at schooling behavior as opposed to what just one fish will do.
You should always be aware of how the entire school of fish will respond to the aggressive tendencies of bettas.
If the fish are inclined to gang up on an aggressor, there is every chance the group will kill or injure the betta very quickly. Depending on the species, this can happen in well under 15 minutes.
Is it easier to place female bettas in a community tank?
Overall, it is easier to put female bettas in a community tank because they aren’t as aggressive as males.
Since female bettas also have smaller fins and tails, they can withstand deeper and larger tanks without having problems staying afloat.
Many people have asked me if there are any other fish compatible with bettas.
In general, the answer to this question is “yes”.
On a more complex level, there are many factors that you need to consider before you combine bettas with other fish.
This includes members of their own species as well as others.
Last Updated: February 23, 2022
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