Freshwater Fish

57 Of The Best Tank Mates For Betta Fish

While bettas are usually happy to have a tank all to themselves, it’s more fun to build community aquariums. But bettas are not compatible with all species and often fight with other fish. So how do you choose the best betta tank mates for your aquarium?

The trick is to select fish that can coexist peacefully with the bettas and arrange their decoration to maximize the success of the community. Should you go for some tetras or go for a couple of snails? Dive into this article to find out everything you need to know about choosing mates for your betta tank!


Most of us start out keeping betta fish alone, but as the aquarium bug gets going, you may find yourself dreaming of setting up a community aquarium.

This can be a challenge when you have betta fish, as these fish are territorial and do not like to share space with other species. However, with a little planning, you can make it work!


I don’t recommend keeping bettas in anything under 5 gallons, and for community tanks, bigger is definitely better! How big a tank do you need to start a community aquarium? It depends on the type of tank mates you would like to have!

If you just want to add a couple of invertebrates to spice up your little setup, then you can stick with your existing tank, heater, and filter. But if you want to keep a group of females or a male and a variety of community fish, you’ll need a much larger tank.

I recommend planning your dream tank on paper before you invest in equipment and fish. You will need at least a 10 gallon tank to keep a single betta fish and a few other community fish and a minimum of 25 gallons for a group of female bettas.


The size of your tank is important, but how you organize your decor and equipment is key to minimizing aggression between your betta fish and their mates. Use rocks, sticks, plants, and other decorations to create distinct areas and hiding places in your tank. That way, the fish can patrol and defend different territories without fighting.

In large tanks over 50 gallons, you can also use filters and bubble stones to generate streams of water for groups of tetras, rasboras, and school and school minnows. Since bettas do not like to swim in a current, they will avoid these areas and stay in the calmer parts of their tank.


The general rule of thumb for aquariums is to allow a minimum of 1 gallon of water for every inch of fish in the tank. Using this rule of thumb, a fish that grows to 2 inches in length would need a minimum of 2 gallons of water. More space is always better. If you add too many fish, you may have problems with the quality of the water.

In a 10-gallon tank, you could fit a single betta and up to five inches of other fish. Therefore, you could add three to five smaller tetras to your betta tank. But more than that could make your fish feel stressed and overwhelm your filtration system. Your betta fish could mess with other fish if they don’t have enough space.


There’s never a guarantee that things will work out between a betta and other species in the community, and sometimes things turn ugly without warning. Still, there are a few ways to identify good candidate species for your community tank.

The best options are:

  • Peaceful betta -friendly fish that are a similar size (2.5 to 5 inches long) and have short fins and tails.
  • Fish that prefer the bottom of their tank, where bettas don’t usually hang out, or those that are active at night.
  • Fish that school or herd in schools, if your tank is big enough to hold a good sized group (10+). If your betta fish can’t select a fish from the group to choose from, they generally get along just fine in larger tanks.
  • Species with care requirements similar to those of bettas. Choose fish that prefer their water filtered fresh, around 78°F and with a neutral or slightly acidic pH.

Avoid catching fish that:

  • They are aggressive or semi-aggressive community species rather than peaceful. Although bettas are territorial and males tend to be especially aggressive, they do not do well in semi-aggressive or aggressive community tanks.
  • They have fins or long tails. More sophisticated and elaborate community fish may be harassed or picked on by your betta fish.
  • Prefer brackish (slightly salty), saltwater, or high water pH aquariums.
  • They are much smaller than your betta unless you have a large tank with room for them to go to school or bank. If your betta fish can identify another individual, it will go after it. If they can fit another species in their mouths, they may end up eating them.


Follow these guidelines when setting up your community tank to minimize aggression between your betta fish and their tankmates:

  • Always have a hospital or quarantine tank on hand in case you have to remove an injured or overly aggressive fish. Things don’t always go well. I’ve had to return fish to the aquarium store before, and if your betta is particularly feisty or your tank is small, there’s no guarantee they’ll get along with others.
  • Choose peaceful betta-friendly fish and add them to the tank about a week before you introduce your betta to the community. This gives the other fish time to settle in and establish their own territories before your betta joins them.
  • Add your community fish to the tank in odd groups, if possible. This looks more aesthetically pleasing to the eye and reduces the chances of the fish competing with each other (or your betta) when they set up. So add 3 or 5 tetras to your small community tank instead of 2 or 4.


What fish can live with bettas without causing problems? Here is a list and description of the best species to house with bettas. These are all commonly found, peaceful aquatic species with similar habitat requirements as bettas. I’ll also cover some special situations that require a more select list of companions below.


The biggest challenge in choosing mates for your betta in a tank 10 gallons or less in size is that you don’t have a lot of room to work with. It’s best to go with species that stay near the bottom and hide a long time or those that are active at night when your betta is resting.

The biggest risk of adding mates to a small tank is that it can overwhelm your filtration system. You’ll need to pay close attention to water quality and be diligent with routine maintenance if you want to keep your tank healthy.

MOST POPULAR betta fish mates for 5 gallon tanks

Since space is at a premium, it’s best to stick to small fish or invertebrates that won’t compete with your betta. However, you will likely have room for one or maybe two companions at most. Here are the best options for 5 gallon betta tanks:

Mysterious snails (Pomacea bridgesii)

Brightly colored snails with long tendrils that range from ½ to 2 inches in diameter. It can be gold/yellow, violet, blue, black, white or albino. They are soft and feed on algae and debris in your tank. I recommend getting just one snail for a small betta tank, as there may not be enough food to support more.

Nerite snails (multiple species of Neritina)

These eating machines will do a great job of keeping algae from taking over your tank! They have dramatic striped and patterned shells and grow from ½ to 2 inches in diameter. They often come out of the water and hang on top of your aquarium, so a secure hood or lid is essential. A single snail is ideal for a small betta fish tank.

Zebra snail (Neritina natalensis)

>This variety of nerite snail has a shell patterned after a zebra. Some varieties also have swirls or other unique markings that really make them stand out in your tank. They are the same size and have the same care requirements as other nerite snails and make good companions for bettas.

Ramshorn snails (several species in the family Planorbidae)

>These snails are often found in aquariums, and whether you consider them a pest or a companion depends on the situation. They are easily raised and can quickly take over a tank, but they also do well in small setups with shrimp or betta. Their curly shell resembles a ram’s horn and they come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

Malaysian trumpet snail (Melanoides tuberculatus)

One of the most common aquatic snails, the trumpet snail is named for its trumpet-shaped shell. These peaceful community invertebrates do well in tanks of all sizes and can reproduce quickly. Your betta fish can eat the smaller snails, but the adults are usually too big for them to eat.

Cherry Shrimp also known as Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda)

The most popular freshwater shrimp in the aquarium trade, the adult cherry shrimp grows to a maximum size of 1.5 inches. Their bright red color really helps them stand out in your tank and they look just like miniature crayfish. These peaceful algae eaters prefer tanks with lots of plants and places to hide, but one or two should work in a small betta setup.

Ghost shrimp also known as glass shrimp (multiple species of Palaemonidae)

Small freshwater shrimp ½ to 2 inches long with a transparent shell that can be seen directly. These scavengers like to hide in the debris at the bottom of your tank. You probably want to avoid adding more than 2 or 3 shrimp to a small betta tank. If you get young shrimp that are only ½ inch long, your betta fish could end up eating them.

Endler’s Guppy aka Endlers Livebearer (Poecilia reticulata / Poecilia wingei)

These small ½ to 1 inch long fish are related to the ancestors of the fancy guppy and are directly descended from the wild population of South America. They are smaller and lack the elaborate tails of the fancy types, but males can still be brightly colored and have distinct scale patterns.

Female guppies have shorter tails and longer bodies than males, and are larger and lack the bright coloration. They are usually pale gray or brown. You may be able to keep 2-3 guppies of any gender in a small tank with a betta fish. However, your betta fish will eat any offspring that a mixed group may produce.


While schooling and shoaling fish like tetras can be kept in small 10-gallon setups, you won’t have enough room to keep a group of them with your betta. Instead, look for species that you can keep alone or in small numbers. Here are some good options for small betta tanks:

Amano Shrimp also known as Algae Eating Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)

These small 2-inch freshwater shrimp are a good choice for small betta tanks that are densely planted and have plenty of hiding places. You will constantly see your shrimp cleaning the foliage and substrate of your tank. These are very busy guys. They will also come out with a bang every time you feed your tank!

Available at Petco

Dwarf crayfish (genus Cambarellus)

These peaceful 2-inch-long invertebrates make a great addition to community tanks and are suitable for betta companions as long as they have plenty of hiding places. It is better to add them in trios so that they do not compete with each other. They prefer planted tanks but are not very fussy as long as the water is kept clean.

Cory Catfish aka Cory Cats (multiple species of Corydoras)

These peaceful and entertaining scavengers thrive in small tanks as they search the substrate for food. Depending on the species you choose, they can range from 1 to 3.5 inches long when fully grown. Popular varieties include Pygmy, Panda, and Albino Cory. It’s best to keep only one species of cory in a 10-gallon setup.

Pygmy Cory cat (Corydoras pygmaeus)

These little corys grow up to an inch long and have black stripes running the length of their bodies. They are quite shy and prefer to hide around plants and debris at the bottom of their tank. They do occasionally take in air at the surface of their tank, but that is usually a sign of poor water quality. You may be able to keep up to three pygmy corys in a small betta setup.

Otocinclus catfish also known as Otos

>Otos are small schooling catfish that grow to a maximum of 4 inches in length, but are generally smaller. These guys will delight in the algae in your tank and on your plants. They prefer very clean water and tanks with lots of plants and hiding places. While they tend to be shy, they are sociable with each other and are best kept in groups of three. A group of otos is good company for a betta in a small tank, but may need a larger setup after a few years.

Harlequin rasbora also known as Red rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

Metallic bronze colored fish with black markings that grow to a maximum length of 2 inches. They enjoy sandbars together and are particularly dramatic in large groups. However, you probably don’t want to add more than 3 harlequins to 10 gallons with a betta. They look especially striking against a planted backdrop.

Clown Plecostomus (Panaqolus maccus)

A dwarf species measuring 3.5 inches long with dramatic, colorful markings. They enjoy snacking on the driftwood and algae in the tank and will likely eat anything your betta misses. Although you will need to supplement their diet with spirulina or other plant-based fish foods, you should only keep a single pleco in a small tank.

Kuhli Loach (Pangoi ehlii)

Also known as a Coolie, Cinnamon, or Leopard Loach, these 3- to 5-inch-long fish are typically active at night and hide during daylight hours. They are shy scavengers who like to hide in crevices and under rocks. I don’t recommend more than one loach for a small betta tank.

Female fancy guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

Larger than the closely related Endler variety, female fancy guppies grow to about 2 inches long. Unlike the males with their flashy tails, female fantasies are often compatible with bettas because they lack the colorful long tail. As long as they have some plants to hide behind, you can have up to 3 female fancy guppies in a small tank with your betta.

Platy Fish (various species of Xiphophorus)

Closely related to Mollies and Swordtails, Platys are peaceful fish that are lively and come in a wide range of colors and scale patterns. They are usually about 3 inches long when fully grown and can be red, orange, black, blue, brown, or green in color. Unlike swordtails, male platties do not have long, pointed tails and are often compatible with bettas.

Molly Fish (multiple species of Poecilia)

>Mollusks are actually multiple species of closely related life-bearing fish native to streams in South America. They come in a wide variety of colors and scale patterns. These easy-going fish are a great choice for novice fish keepers and generally make good companions for bettas if you choose short-finned varieties. They grow to a maximum of 3 inches, but some varieties are smaller. I would recommend no more than 3 mollies for a small betta tank.

African Dwarf Frog (Hymenochirus curtipes)

If you want something unique for your betta tank, check out these miniature frogs! They are completely aquatic and grow to a maximum length of 2.5 inches. African Dwarf Frogs were the reason I started my first aquarium, and they are so much fun to watch.

They usually hide under rocks during the day and float to the top of their tank at night. You are probably keeping up to 3 frogs along with your betta fish in a small setup. They’ll take advantage of any cracks in your decor, often to a playful effect.


As you know, they are called Siamese fighting fish for a reason! Male bettas don’t like to play nice with each other, and this can be a problem when you’re setting up a larger community tank. While both sexes are territorial, male betta fish will actually vigorously defend their space.

General rules to follow when looking for mates for your male betta fish:

  • Avoid fish that are red or have prominent red markings when choosing mates for your male. They may see these fish as rivals and attack them.
  • Avoid fish that swim slowly or have long fins, such as angelfish.
  • Choose fish that hang low in your tank, or create areas in a larger tank (20 gallons or more) that your betta will not like and will naturally avoid.
  • Species that would not do well with males in a smaller setup often do well in larger 20+ gallon tanks if there are enough of them.


Fish that burrow in the bottom of your tank or hang off the sides are often good choices as partners for a male betta. Some of these species are also more active at night, so their activity will not disturb your betta fish.

Zebra Loach aka Candy Stripe Loach (Botia straita)

These small, 4-inch-long bottom-dwelling scavengers have beautifully stripped bodies that blend in with their decorations and substrate. They are more active during the day than a typical loach, so they are not ideal for smaller betta tanks. If you keep a group of 3-5 with your male betta, he won’t be able to easily pick out a loach. They also need plenty of hiding places in their tank.

Albino Cory Cat (Corydoras aeneus)

These delicate corys require a smooth, sandy or fine gravel substrate to avoid damaging their whiskers. They prefer densely planted tanks where they can hide from bright lights. Albino corys generally grow to a maximum of 2 inches in length and are best kept in groups of 5 or more. However, I recommend keeping them in 30 gallon or larger tanks, so you have enough room for a group.

Bristlenose Plecostomus also known as Bushy Nose pleco (Ancistrus sp multiple)

One of the smallest aquarium catfish, the Pacific Bristlenose grows to about 5 inches long. They are known for the abundant bristles that grow around their mouth and snout. The wild-type fish has patterned brown scales, but captive-bred varieties can come in a range of colors from pale orange to albino. They prefer densely planted tanks of 30 gallons or more.

Upside down catfish (Synodontis nigriventris)

>These entertaining companions are one of my favorite species for 20+ gallon planted tanks. Upside down cats love to rummage for food at the bottom of your plants and decorations. Although they can swim upright, they often prefer to remain inverted. These fish grow to about 4 inches long and you can keep them singly or in small groups of 3.

Candy-striped Plecostomus (Peckoltia vittata)

>Another bottom-dwelling catfish to consider is the territorial candy-striped pleco. These fish have prominent yellow to orange stripes and grow to a maximum of 5 inches. They are native to the Amazon region, where they feed on driftwood and forage along riverbeds. Since they will defend their territory, they are best kept as the only pleco in your 25 gallon or larger tank and should not be kept with many other bottom dwellers. However, they generally get along with bettas in larger tanks.


With a larger tank, you will have more room for small fish that would not normally be a good fit with male bettas since you can have a large group of them. These attractive schooling and sandbar species do well in large tanks and are not conspicuous enough to be considered rivals by their male.

Dawn Tetra also known as Panda or Paraguay Tetra (Aphyocharax paraguayensis)

These silver-colored tetras with black markings grow to about 1 to 1.5 inches long. They can be aggressive towards other fish in the community and are best kept in larger groups of at least 15. When kept in sufficient numbers they clump together, creating a dramatic visual effect. However, I do not recommend this type of tetra for tanks smaller than 25 gallons.

Green Neon Tetra also known as False or Blue Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon simulans)

>Another one of my favorites, neon green is an especially good choice for housing with male bettas. These small fish grow to a maximum of 1 inch and have a metallic blue stripe along their bodies. These fish prefer to stay together and are best kept in groups of at least 10 to deter their male from fighting with them. They are ideal for betta tanks 20 gallons and up and look especially dramatic in large groups of 50+ fish.

Colombian Tetra also known as Red and Blue Tetra (Hyphessobrycon columbianus)

These coin-shaped tetras grow to about 2.5 inches in length and have red markings on their fins and a metallic blue body. These guys are strong swimmers and can easily evade your male betta. Since they like the sandbar, it’s best to keep them in groups of at least 6, and more might be better to reduce aggression between them. You will need to have at least a 20 gallon setup or larger to keep these flashy tetras with your betta.

Head and Tail Light Tetra (Hemigrammus ocellifer)

These small 2-inch tetras get their name from the metallic pink/orange spots on their tails and heads. Their bodies can be light to silver or pale gold in color. It is a peaceful fish that prefers to live in groups of at least 6, so it is best kept with a male betta in a larger tank.

Diamond tetra (Moenkhausia pittieri)


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