If you have a betta fish, chances are you’re afraid to keep it in a community tank.
While it’s true that betta fish fighting is an important thing to consider, there are some things you can do to keep the peace.
Before you decide what tankmates are best for your betta, it helps to understand the difference between male and female bettas.
Why they fight, and the things you can do to try to keep the peace.
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Why Male Betta Fish Fight Each Other?
In the wild, bettas spend the wet season living in large rivers and rice paddies but that doesn’t mean they spend their time exploring the open water. In fact, in nature, a betta’s territory is only about three feet square.
Large bodies of water provide male bettas plenty of space to secure their own territory. When another male betta gets too close, they may puff their gills and spread their fins to assert dominance.
If two male encounter each other when looking for food, they may nip at one another until one of them retreats.
An aquarium is a much different environment which is why multiple male bettas cannot be kept in the same tank. Because they are so territorial and there isn’t anywhere to retreat to, male bettas will nip and fight one another to the death.
Male bettas will also fight to protect their nest and eggs. When ready to mate, male bettas create a bubble nest on the surface of the water.
The male continues to care for the nest after chasing the female away and will fight off any bettas he sees as a threat to the eggs.
Will Female Betta Fish Fight Each Other?
Female betta fish can be territorial but are not as prone to fighting as males. In fact, if done correctly, you can even house a group of female betta in what’s called a sorority tank.
To set up a community tank of female bettas, start with an aquarium no less than 10 gallons for a small group. It’s possible to keep five to seven female betta fish in a 20-gallon tank together. Make sure you have at least three.
If you try to keep a pair of females, one assumes the dominant role and will bully her tankmate.
It’s essential to give your bettas plenty of places to hide. Living plants are ideal but silk plants work well, too. Add caves and driftwood so that there are plenty of places to hide. Each female should be able to claim a small area of the tank as her own.
Something that a lot of people don’t realize is fish have personalities. So, there are female bettas that may territorial or aggressive. That said, some of the females will be less aggressive than the others and occasionally need places to hide.
When the group is first introduced to the tank, they may nip at each other at first but once they work out their pecking order, things should settle down.
Some fighting every once in a while is normal but it’s a good idea to have a plan B in case you an overly aggressive female in the group. She should be removed and placed in her own tank.
Will Male and Female Betta Fish Fight Each Other?
Male betta fish are very aggressive and will fight females unless they’re looking for a mate. That said, since females aren’t as aggressive, it’s possible to house them together as long as the tank is large enough and the female has plenty of places to hide.
When housing a male and female together, it’s important to be on the looking for mating behaviors. When the male is ready, he’ll build a bubble nest on the surface of the water. After the female lays the eggs, the male usually chases her off so she doesn’t eat them.
Male bettas are more aggressive when protecting the nest so it’s a good idea to remove the female at that time. If not, there’s a good chance the male will kill her.
Will a Betta Fish Fight with Other Fish?
Bettas will fight with other fish but that doesn’t mean they will always fight with every fish the come across.
For example, anything with bright colors that’s about the same size as betta may be mistaken for another male betta in which case a fight is likely to occur. Small, plain looking fish that the betta doesn’t see as a threat are usually safe, especially if they have lots of places to hide.
If done carefully, a betta fish can be a part of a thriving community tank.
To house other fish with betta, the first thing to do is try to figure out how aggressive the betta really is. Each betta has its own personality and some are much more laid back than others.
How can you be sure you’re choosing an unaggressive betta fish? Start by carefully looking at them when they’re in the pet store.
Bettas are kept in small containers that are often stored on top of one another. They can see bettas all around them.
Look carefully at their behavior. Is there a male that appears agitated? Do any of them seem to be bothered at the sight of another fish? Choose one that isn’t puffing its gills or flaring its fins when it’s able to see other bettas.
The goal is to choose a betta that’s more likely to avoid conflict than initiate it. Choosing a fish that appear placid in the pet store is a good start but keep in mind, this isn’t a guarantee that it will do well in a community tank.
To set your tank up for success, here are some things to consider:
- Don’t overcrowd the tank. If your betta doesn’t have enough space to call his own, he’ll feel like his home is being invaded and will likely respond aggressively.
- A 5-gallon tank is too small. Use a 10-gallon tank if you want to keep your betta with three or four other fish.
- Add fish that are calm and not too colorful. Bettas may see these fish as a threat. Docile, plainly colored fish are a better option.
- Add plenty of plants, caves, and decorations where the fish can hide when they need to.
How to Stop Betta Fish from Fighting?
If you have two males in an aquarium together, you really can’t stop them from fighting.
The best thing you can do is provide plenty of places to hide for the less aggressive of the two. This is not a guarantee that they won’t fight but it does provide a safe place to retreat to.
One thing you can do in this situation is to remove the least aggressive of the two and try adding him to a community tank. Get a breeding box and place the betta inside it first to see how he reacts to the other fish and how they react to him.
In the case of a female sorority tank, if you notice one or two of the fish are more aggressive, they should be removed from the group.
What Fish are Compatible with Betta Fish?
There are a few general things to consider before attempting to keep your betta with other fish:
- Make sure the tank is large enough. Exactly how large a tank you need depends on how many and what type of fish you plan to keep. The minimum size for keeping other fish with a betta fish is 10 gallons though 20 gallons is better. Note that snails don’t require as much space.
- Remember, all fish have their own personalities. Some bettas are a little more docile while others are so aggressive, they might not get along with any tankmates.
- The tank should have a lot of plants, caves, and hiding places.
- It’s usually easier to add your betta to an established tank than the other way around so the betta doesn’t feel that the other fish are invading its territory.
- Avoid fish that are known to be fin nibblers.
Now, here are some of the best tankmates for a betta fish:
1. Zebra Snails
If you’re looking something to keep with a betta and you only have a small tank, a zebra snail is a great choice. They don’t breed as quickly and easily as other snails and help eat algae and other debris from the tank. Plus, they’re peaceful and easy to care of.
2. Feeder Guppies
For a betta that’s not too aggressive, feeder guppies could work well. They’re small and can hide easily in the right environment and their blank coloring won’t draw the betta’s attention. Plus, they don’t nip so they’ll leave your betta’s fins alone.
3. White Cloud Minnows
Bettas and white cloud minnows work well together because they come from the same native environment and like the same kind of water and food. They won’t nip at the betta’s fins and the betta won’t see them as a threat.
4. Ember Tetras
These peaceful fish are submissive and won’t try to nip at the betta’s fins. Plus, they’re dull coloring won’t attract the betta’s attention. If your betta gets aggressive, they’re small and fast enough to get away and hide quickly.
5. Harlequin Rasboras
This is one of the best tankmates for a betta fish because they naturally exist together in nature. They share the same habitat and diet plus they have a non-aggressive nature. Chances are your betta won’t see them as a threat.
6. Pygmy Cory
Pygmy Cories are the smallest cory catfish species. They’re peaceful by nature and like to be in groups of three or more. Because they’re bottom feeders, they generally stay out of the betta’s way. In fact, with enough hiding places, your betta might not even know they’re there.
7. Ghost Shrimp
If you’re looking for something a little different, ghost shrimp and bettas can live together peacefully. Ghost shrimp are very pale and translucent so they’re unlikely to draw much attention. They need plenty of places to hide and are good at keeping your tank clean.
8. Clown Pleco
Clown plecos are a good choice for large tanks. They’re submissive, gentle, and armored so they have built-in protection. Clown plecos can grow to be about four inches long so they need a tank that’s at least 30 gallons.
9. Short Fin Mollies
Short Fin Mollies are a great choice for any large tank. They’re peaceful, easy to care for and grow up to eight inches long. Their bright colors may draw a betta’s attention but their size should discourage any fighting.
10. Kuhli Loach
If your tank is at least 20 gallons, a Kuhli Loach is a great choice. They’re peaceful and like to hang out at the bottom of the tank so they stay out of the betta’s way. Because of their unique eel-shape and coloring, these fish are fun to watch, too.
It’s completely understandable if you’re hesitant about including a betta in a community tank because of their reputation for fighting. That said, know that it’s completely possible to keep a betta with other fish.
Male bettas are territorial and will fight one another. In fact, if they’re left together in a small tank with a lot of open space and nowhere to hide, they’ll fight to the death. Bettas may also be aggressive toward other fish with bright colors and long fins that could be mistaken for a male betta.
To have a peaceful community tank that includes a male betta, make sure there’s enough space for your betta to feel like it has its own territory. You should also include a lot of plants, decorations, and caves for your betta and the other fish to go when they need to feel safe.
Choosing the right fish is key. Calm, peaceful fish with plain coloring are best. The betta usually doesn’t see them as a threat and they tend to stay out of its way.