Last Updated: September 4, 2023 by Flora Gibbins
While male Bettas have a reputation for starting a fight, they often can’t match other species once they decide to put the Betta in its place.
In fact, outside of their own species, male Bettas are often more likely to be killed or seriously damaged by other tank mates.
Knowing what fish can live with bettas can go a long way to ensuring your aquatic pets remain safe, healthy, and in good condition.
- 4 Fish That Can Live With Female Bettas
- 3 Fish Species that You Can Pair with Male Bettas
- Non-Fish Species Tank Mates ForBetta
- Using Tank Dividers With Multiple Male Betta Fish
- Things to Avoid When Choosing Betta Fish Tank Mates
- Tail Shape: Affecting The Choice Of Betta Tank Mates
- Frequently Asked Questions
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
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.
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.
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.
Check out this video to watch Mr. Betta enjoying some brine shrimp treats, right here…
Non-Fish Species Tank Mates ForBetta
Snails are the perfect companion for all types of bettas.
Since they are small in size, they are especially perfect for Veiltail and other large-tailed bettas that really don’t do well in larger tanks.
I’ve watched several of my own betta fish pokes at snails and play with them.
The snail will simply pull into its shell and wait for the betta to go away.
Unlike freshwater ghost shrimp or an African Dwarf Frog, bettas won’t have an interest in eating the snails.
Snails will also keep the tank free of algae.
Nerite snails may also consume excess food that falls to the bottom of the tank.
Even though bettas will venture into the lower portions of the tank, they won’t consume excess food.
Marimo Moss Balls
While these are plant-based organisms, Marimo Moss Balls are an ideal companion for all types of Bettas.
Smaller balls can easily be pushed at and nosed by curious bettas.
They can also serve as pillow rests for a betta’s long tail, or even a prop for their heads while snoozing.
Using Tank Dividers With Multiple Male Betta Fish
When it comes to the question “Are there any fish that can live with bettas?”, everyone agrees you should never put two males together.
Bettas get their nickname “Siamese Fighting Fish” because the males will display incredible aggression towards each other.
Their unique fighting style has also generated an industry where people gamble on which male will retreat first and be dubbed the loser.
Depending on the training and matching of the pair, these fights can go on for hours.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about male bettas, it’s impossible to keep just one at a time.
They don’t take up much room, have wide color variations, and are incredibly intelligent.
Many times I’ve looked into their tubs at various stores and wound up bringing one home even though I hadn’t planned on it.
While I had the resources in terms of extra bowls, filters, and water from other tanks, I’ve also kept male bettas in the same tank.
The trick to this is using tank dividers. This is perfect if you have bettas with smaller tails that can swim faster and need more room.
As long as the tank is shallow and long, you can easily fit 2 – 3 male bettas in a 5-gallon tank as long as the dividers are in place.
Just make sure that you have adequate diffusion on the filter outlet so that each of the divisions receives a slow return from the filter.
I also recommend keeping the inlet to the filter in a division of its own. This will help keep the bettas from getting trapped on the inlet if its pull is too strong.
Things to Avoid When Choosing Betta Fish Tank Mates
There is no such thing as a 100% proven list of fish that can live with Bettas. A great deal depends on the gender of the betta, its tail shape, health condition, and characteristics of the aquarium.
If you still want to keep other tank mates with bettas, here are some general traits or characteristics you should avoid.
Avoid Fin Nippers
Usually, any sign of life will cause fin nipping tank mates to investigate.
As a case in point,, barbs and most of the species in the tetra family will immediately sample the fins and tails of any tank mates they detect.
Some species are more aggressive about that within each family. Even though Tiger Barbs are smaller, they are far more likely to be aggressive fin nippers than Tin Foil Barbs.
Similarly, Buenos Aires Tetras will chase and nip at just about anything, while an Ember Tetra will be more daring if they are in a big enough school versus the intruder.
Since male Bettas are brightly colored and instinctively show aggression, they have a sad tendency to immediately attract fin nippers.
Once the other species lock onto them, the male Bettas have neither the speed nor the turnaround capacity to fight off the faster swimming, agile nippers.
Avoid Fish that Bash
It is absolutely true that Fan Tails and other deep-bodied fish tend to be very peaceful.
Over the years, I’ve even schooled these fish with Tetras and had no problems.
If Fan Tails get disturbed, they will simply use their weight to bash any aggressor or push them outward through the waves they generate in the water.
This doesn’t work out so well with male Bettas simply because they can’t get away from the Fan Tails fast enough.
Remember, most male Bettas are weighed down by tails that are 2 – 5 times heavier and longer than what they need for power swimming.
At the same time, their steering fins are poorly suited to rapid turns and other maneuvers when compared to other species.
As a result, in the likely scenario where a male Betta shows aggression to a fish that bashes, it is likely they will get hurt or killed very quickly.
Avoid Fish that Swim Fast
Veiltail Bettas are usually cheaper and more common than other variants with shorter tails.
Some hobbyists consider them inferior because they are no longer favored in the aquatic equivalent of beauty contests.
Personally, I’ve always loved the way male Veiltails move and find them far more beautiful than other variants.
Sadly, this beauty comes at a great price, because these fish can’t move very fast, nor are they strong swimmers.
Except for Plakat Bettas, which look much more like wild betta fish, other variants don’t have the speed or agility required to live with faster fish.
Since fast-swimming fish are also inclined to be nippers, they will quickly injure or kill male Betta fish within a few minutes of displaying their gill ruffles.
Avoid Some Shoaling and Schooling Fish
As individuals, schooling fish may become aggressive because they feel insecure.
Depending on the species, some may be more equipped to do serious harm to another fish than others.
A single Buenos Aires Tetra is very close to the ultimate aquatic killing machine when compared to a single Neon Tetras.
Shoaling fish like Harlequin Rasboras may work out alright with a male Betta even if the school is composed of 6 – 10 fish.
Avoid Fish that Need a Lot of Water or Deep Water
Even if the fish species is compatible in terms of aggression and size, it may not work well in smaller tanks.
Consider that many Veiltail Bettas can barely swim in a 3-gallon tank with minimal filtration flow. Putting these fish in a bigger tank is a recipe for disaster on this point alone.
Insofar as compatible tank mates, Neon Tetras and most others need at least 10 gallons of water.
Putting them in a 1.5 to 3-gallon tank will spell disaster for them. Depending on the species, this may lead to aggression and distress not normally seen in the species.
Tail Shape: Affecting The Choice Of Betta Tank Mates
Tail shape and ability to follow through on aggressive traits in male bettas are heavily linked.
Larger tails and fins make for slower swimming and less agility. 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.