The 11 Best Betta Tank Mates (And How to Find More!)

best betta fish tank mates

Bettas are splendid little fish, possibly some of the most beautiful of those that inhabit freshwater aquaria. While they don’t require specialized care, they do require that you spend a bit of thought finding the perfect companions. It’s a little bit more complicated than some make it out to be. But, if you’re looking for great companion critters for your Betta tank then read on and we’ll show you some of the best.

1. Cherry Barbs

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Maximum Size: 2”
  • Required Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Flake or pellets

Cherry barbs make excellent companions when you have a slightly larger tank with a Betta. They’re peaceful, small fish that very rarely nip fins and aren’t going to surge around and surprise your Betta.

In addition to that, the males are particularly colorful and they’re not likely to mess with any of the other companion fish you may add to the tank. Since they’ll school when you begin to get more than four or five of them together they make a great visual accompaniment to the Betta as well.

Cherry barbs thrive in planted tanks but they need a bit more room than your Betta. A school of six can fit with a Betta in any tank which is 10 gallons or larger. But, if the tank is much smaller than that you may want to give them a pass in favor of something smaller.

Cherry barbs are also quite hardy. They adapt well to different water conditions and don’t require any specialized care to stay healthy in your tank. In most cases, they’ll even accept the same food as the Betta which even makes feeding them easy.

There really aren’t any drawbacks to these peaceful fish except for the fact that they’re a bit too peaceful to keep with some of the others on this list. That said, they’re probably the only commonly found barb that’s compatible with Betta, the rest are simply too prone to nipping.

2. African Dwarf Frogs

African Dwarf Frogs
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Maximum Size: 2”
  • Required Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Frozen or live worms

African Dwarf Frogs may not be the first thing that pops to mind when you’re thinking of a Betta-compatible companion, but these cute little amphibians are actually perfect.

Unlike most species of frog, the African Dwarf is completely aquatic. They’re peaceful critters and mostly occupy the bottom of the tank where they’ll be out of your Betta’s way. Their peaceful nature keeps them off your Betta’s radar for the most part. That said, their habit of sitting at the top of the tank on occasion may merit a bit of investigation. Such interactions aren’t likely to harm either of the animals.

The only real problem with keeping them is that these frogs don’t accept flakes or pellets. You’ll need to feed some kind of sinking food like frozen bloodworms to keep them fed. You can easily tell if they’re eating by the look of their belly: a fat frog is a happy frog.

If you keep them along with other fish species, food competition can become a concern. An eye-dropper and spot application of bloodworms has been the best solution in my experience. If there aren’t too many companion fish then you can also thaw the bloodworms in water and spread them over the tank equally. 

The males of the species sometimes “sing” at the top of the tanks in order to attract a mate. I’ve only seen a few of them do it and it seems to depend largely on the frog, but it’s a good indication that your amphibians are healthy and happy. The sound isn’t particularly loud but it can be a bit off-putting if you’re not expecting it.

One final word on these guys: be careful where you get them. Sometimes the African Clawed Frog is sold under the same name. Unfortunately, they’ll also grow to a size to be a threat to any fish which is a suitable companion for a Betta.

The easiest way to tell is to get a good look at their feet: the Dwarves have webbing on all of their toes, the Clawed Frog will have no webbing on their front feet. There are some other differences but that’s the big tell. Nothing against the African Clawed Frog but they’re only suitable for a species-only tank due to their size and voracious appetite.

3. Corydoras Catfish

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Maximum Size: 1”-3” depending on species
  • Required Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Pellets or other sinking food

Corydoras catfish are available in a number of species, but they all have a couple of things in common that make them a great companion for your Betta.

The first is their temperament. Cories are notoriously peaceful, much preferring to scrounge the bottom of the tank and avoid trouble. When combined with the relatively muted coloring of the majority of species they’re unlikely to clash with your Betta in any real capacity.

They’re also slightly armored with thicker scales than most fish their size. These scales allow them to take a couple of nips from overly aggressive Betta without being bothered. It’s a rare Betta indeed that will harass them to the point it becomes a problem.

Corydoras are easy to care for. You may need to invest in some small algae pellets but they’re hardy and do well in the same temperature range that Bettas prefer.

You may wish to avoid the Emerald Green Corydoras when you’re trying to find the right tankmates. They’re not actually from the same genus, bearing the Latin name of Brochis splendens, and get a bit bigger. It’s not that they’ll cause problems, simply that they may take the focus off the Betta and they reach a larger size than most Cories.

Smaller Cories are preferable in most cases. Corydoras julii is a personal favorite, but some people opt for the Pygmy Corydoras and Dwarf Corydoras species. The former is suitable in small groups for tanks under 10 gallons if they’re well-cycled and heavily planted.

4. Dwarf Shrimp

  • Experience Level: Beginner-Intermediate
  • Maximum Size: 1 ½”
  • Required Tank Size: 5 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Flake or pellets

There are two main varieties of dwarf shrimp that are readily available in the aquarium trade: cherry shrimp and Amano shrimp.

Cherry shrimp are actually the basis for a large variety of color morphs. Those available at most local fish stores, with a weak-to-moderate red coloration, are usually cast-offs. The blue one in the picture above is actually the same species as those guys. It turns out they have a genetic complexity that allows for dozens of color variations.

They also get rather expensive if you get into more specialized morphs. But, even a group of a half-dozen pet store-bought cherry shrimp are great companions. They’re highly visible in the tank and tend to be rather active during the day, swimming around and feeding.

Amano shrimp reach a similar size and have pretty much the same requirements. They do tend to eat more algae than cherry shrimp. It’s the fact that they’re mostly transparent with a hint of green and orange is that they’re a favorite for planted garden-style tanks. They’re just less obtrusive.

Both of these species of invertebrate eat detritus, biofilm, rotting plant matter. You generally only need to feed them specifically if you have more than four or five per ten gallons in the tank.

Their small size, low bioload, and appetite make them great for planted tanks where the Betta is meant to be the center of attention.

Betta will eat shrimp fry. A Betta tank isn’t a great place to start trying to breed your shrimp although a few will undoubtedly reach maturity if you have heavy planting. Adults don’t have anything to worry about.

The main thing to look out for is your water’s initial quality. Even in a cycled tank, all shrimp will quickly die if they’re exposed to significant levels of copper in the water column. Check your local water’s testing results before you invest in high-end shrimp or you may have just made some expensive, albeit pretty, corpses.

5. Bamboo Shrimp

  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Maximum Size: 4”
  • Required Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Specialized

Bamboo shrimp are one of the few species of larger freshwater shrimp and they’re a personal favorite for a good Betta companion. There are two things that keep them from being suitable for beginners.

The first is that pretty much any mid-or-top level fish which is quick likes to nip at them. Anything bigger than 1.5 inches can pose a threat to them in the form of taking out eyes or legs. They seem to be rather tasty if that’s any indication.

The other is their unique feeding method: they have fans on their forelimbs that are used to filter the water. Many people make the mistake of trying to feed them algae pellets and end up with a dead shrimp in their tank within a couple of weeks.

Instead, you need to be using some form of a filter and place an area they can easily get in the way of the flow. You’ll be able to tell if you’re doing it right if the shrimp is doing it’s fanning dance regularly.

Otherwise, they’re peaceful and easy to care for. Bettas generally ignore them since they can’t catch them easily due to their extensive fins and quickly lose interest. They make an interesting addition to the tank visually, and they get to be rather large for freshwater inverts.

Ideally, you’d place only the bamboo shrimp and the Betta in any tank smaller than 5 gallons but Cories and Cherry Barbs are suitable companions if you’re keeping your Betta in a tank which is 10 gallons or larger.

6. Kuhli Loaches

  • Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Maximum Size: 4”
  • Required Tank Size: 15 gallons 
  • Dietary Requirements:  Flakes and pellets

The Kuhli Loach is often mistaken for a small eel. These bright, striped fish are a bit lively but tend to be bottom-dwellers so they’re unlikely to stress your Betta. They’re relatively easy to care for but there are some caveats to that which can trip up a beginner.

The main thing to note is that they’re prone to disease and sensitive to medications. Any tank with Kuhli Loaches added should have any new fauna quarantined for a week or so. If your Loaches get sick then there’s going to be trouble.

They need quite a bit of room if you’re using them as a companion for your Betta. Betta can be territorial and you need to break up the line of sight with heavy plants and obstacles like driftwood and rocks. Provided they have a place to hide you’ll be in good hands.

Like most species of Loach, Khuli’s do much better with a group of three or more. That means a larger tank than you would usually use for a Betta. If you follow the guidelines I’ve laid down in this list you can create a varied community tank within the larger space, however.

You’ll also want to note that Kuhli’s are bottom-feeding scavengers. Pellets, flake, and frozen foods need to make it to the bottom of the tank for them to eat.

They’re more interesting than most of the fish which can be kept with your Betta. So, despite the caveats, they’re another personal favorite companion for our heavily-finned fish.

7. Neon Tetra

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Maximum Size: 1 ½”
  • Required Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Flake and pellets

Neon Tetras are a personal favorite of mine, but they’re only suitable for larger betta tanks as a companion. That’s because they become insecure and easily stressed in any group smaller than six. If you can provide the space, they’re a perfect companion.

Neons tend to be easy to care for. They readily accept flake and pellets, they’re relatively calm despite being schooling fish, and they’re hardy. No special care makes them easy to maintain in a tank with a Betta.

They’re also quick enough to easily outpace even the feistiest Betta.

Neons have a reputation for being touchy when it comes to water quality. That shouldn’t stop you from keeping them, just make sure that your Betta tank is cycled and that you perform regular water quality testing. They can acclimate to a wide variety of conditions. It’s sudden changes that will kill them.

Overall Neon Tetras are a great choice to be companions for your Betta. They’re easy to care for, take almost any food, and can exist alongside them easily. 

8. Otocinclous Catfish

  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Maximum Size: 1 ½”
  • Required Tank Size: 5 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Specialized

Otos are one of the best fish to place with Betta, but their care is a lot more advanced than most on the list. Don’t let this turn you off of them. It actually doesn’t require much extra time on top of your normal feeding/cleaning schedule but most don’t know how to keep them.

The problem, if you can call it that, is that Otos feed almost entirely on biofilm. New aquaria are generally too clean for them and the majority of them won’t eat anything else. A mature, planted aquarium is required for them to eat.

If you can get past that small hurdle, however, then they’re excellent Betta companions. They’re small, lively, and clean up the tank as they go along. They’re also bottom dwellers and unlikely to come into contact with your Betta at all, let alone stressing them.

They’re naturally shoaling fish, which means they need a group. I prefer to use at least three, but groups of six or more are ideal if you plan on going to a 10 gallon or larger tank.

While Otos have their specialized dietary needs… a mature tank is actually something that your Betta needs to thrive in captivity. That alone makes them a good “canary in the coal mine” for your centerpiece fish. Their duller looks will also keep them from stealing the show from a prized Betta.

9. Harlequin Rasbora

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Maximum Size: 2”
  • Required Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Pellets and Flake

Harlequin Rasboras actually coexist with Betta in the wild, making them an excellent choice. They’re a small, schooling fish that are lively but not known for fin-nipping.

Harlequins are another favorite for those who do extensively planted tanks. Their coloration and schooling behavior, along with a small size, makes them an excellent accent on a green background. They should be bought in a group of at least six to encourage schooling but ten or more are better.

Harlequin Rasboras are a beginner’s fish. There are no two ways about it. They’re hardy, easy to feed, and peaceful. All of those make them an excellent addition to a Betta’s tank and generally a great fish for those new to the hobby.

If you’re a bit hesitant about some of the others on our list then the Harlequin Rasbora is exactly the fish you’ve been looking for. They can even be used to create a biome tank with your Betta, which is an awesome bonus.

10. Bristlenose Plecostomus

  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Maximum Size: 4”
  • Required Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Algae wafers

Bristlenose Plecos are another fish that goes great in a larger tank with your Betta. At least twenty gallons are required and there’s quite a bit of disparity in size in the species. They range from 4”-6” and some sources have even said 8”. In my experience, they generally hit around 4.5” and stop there but that’s not always the case.

Bristlenose Pleco should be kept as a single specimen per tank. Like all Pleco, they like to fight for dominance and that’s a huge pain for the fish owner. Bristlenoses are otherwise somewhat sedate and aren’t the best algae eaters, they’re mostly pretty and might scrape some brown algae off a tank.

Make sure to drop in an algae wafer for them every few days, especially if you have other critters that are eating algae. Otherwise, you risk your Bristlenose starving.

They’re hardy, like all Pleco but they prefer some water movement. Larger tanks are a good idea since they’ll often sit near the filter intake to enjoy the flow. Otherwise, they’ll just be tooling along for the most part. Bristlenoses pose no risk to any other fish in your tank which makes them nice for community tanks.

They’re good companions, just make sure that you have room for them as they’re much larger than most of those on this list.

11.Mystery Snail

  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Maximum Size: 1 ½”
  • Required Tank Size: 5 gallons
  • Dietary Requirements: Pellets or algae wafers

Mystery snails, and the commonly available Nerite snails, are great companions for your Betta. They’re protected from its investigation by their shell, although curious Betta will pick at them occasionally.

I prefer to keep one per five gallons. At that level of occupancy, their bioload is pretty much negligible. They’re great for cleaning up scraps and most of them will readily eat brown algae and excessive biofilm on plants as well.

All of this makes them great for Betta tanks. They’re easy to find as well, the only problem with keeping multiples is that Mystery Snails tend to breed rapidly. If you’re not prepared for breeding them it may be best to stick with one as sexing them is rather hard.

They’re a great little addition to the tank, however, and come in a few different colors. The blue and black snails tend to stick out less than the more common golden color morph. Give them a shot for an easy, safe Betta companion.

Picking Betta Companions

The above is far from a comprehensive list of fish that are suitable for keeping with a Betta. The truth is that there are a lot of them and you’ll be able to discover more as time goes on.

When you’re examining a fish or other aquatic animal to see if it’s an appropriate fit you’ll need to take every animal involved into account.

Understanding Betta Aggression

Male Bettas have a fierce reputation, but the truth is that they mostly just want to relax and float around. They have a few triggers, however, that any fish you keep with them should avoid.

The first thing you need to understand is that they’re territorial. 

That means you need to break up the line of sight. Fish that are bottom-dwellers like Cories will have fewer problems than those which are mid-level swimmers.

Breaking up the line of sight is easy and your Betta tank should have extensive plants anyways to oxygenate the water. Especially if you’re planning on keeping fish that don’t breathe air. The important thing about them is that they’ll help keep your Betta’s “territory” smaller. They’re unlikely to try and claim a whole tank if the fish around them are constantly in and out of the plants as well.

Secondly, you want to find peaceful tank mates. While Bettas are mostly gentle with other species, they’ll also go after slow and colorful fish. They’ll also nip fins, which means you’ll want to avoid any schooling fish that have veil-tails or elaborate fins.

Colors should generally be muted to avoid aggression as well. Some otherwise suitable fish, like fancy guppies, will end up being attacked by your Betta in small spaces.

As a general rule, all of the following are unsuitable due to the Betta’s aggression:

  • Danio
  • Most Barbs
  • Any Veiltail Morph(ie: Mollies, Danio, Guppy, etc.)
  • Fancy Guppies
  • Endler’s Livebearers
  • Multicolored Tetra

If the fish you’re thinking of fits any of those categories they’re right out when it comes to cohabitating with your Betta.

Betta Are Fragile

Bettas are hardy fish when it comes to the environment but their beautiful, elongated fins also make them a target. Fast, small fish will hit them and others will nip constantly.

Because of that, you’ll have to avoid any aggressive fish. Even the little ones will stress your Betta out and anything much bigger than an inch is going to cause serious damage. A Betta’s fins are a liability for pretty much everything but looking pretty so be careful who you put in there.

Because of that, you’ll want to avoid any of the following:

  • Freshwater “shark” Species
  • Any Cichlids, including Dwarf Cichlids
  • Catfish
  • Bichir
  • Eels

The above generally get large enough to do serious, and eventually fatal, damage to your Betta. Keep them in another tank.

Betta Companion Checklist

Anytime you’re considering adding a fish into your tank with a Betta, go down the following list. If everything checks out then you’re likely to have a good pairing.’

  • Is the fish peaceful or does it have a reputation for aggression?
  • Is the fish a bottom dweller?
  • Is the fish likely to attract attention due to its colors?
  • Is the fish over 4 inches in length?
  • Is the fish overly active?
  • Does it have long fins?
  • Can it inhabit a normal tropical tank?

Compare that to the information you already know and you’re good to go when it comes to selecting tank-mates for your Betta.

Keep in mind that Betta aren’t social fish. They do just fine alone and adding more animals into the picture just complicates the matter. If this is your first aquarium you need to be careful and make sure you’re able to meet the requirements of all of the animals in the tank.

Forming Betta Connections

Your Betta doesn’t have to live alone, although they’ll be fine doing so. They can be the centerpiece of a thriving tank if you’re careful about your companion fish and other animals. Each has something to offer to their environment, after all.

Have you found the right companion for your Betta?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

shares