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Keeping Bettas with other fish

Posted by yodacroz on 6 February, 2012 at 10:55

One of the more common questions that I get asked on a regular basis has to do with keeping betta fish with other fish. Just the other day someone called and said the their kids had decided that their betta looked lonely. The caller asked what kind of fish they could put with the betta.


To keep a betta with any other fish, you MUST have something bigger than a bowl to keep the fish in. Bettas can survive in a bowl, but there is not enough room or filtration in a bowl for more than one fish. Additionally, bettas can be territorial if they feel cramped.


Once you have your aquarium setup and cycled, you can add your choice of fish. The size of the aquarium will help you determine what other fish you can keep with your betta. A general rule of thumb when considering fish to keep with bettas is to choose ones that do not look similar to bettas. For example, you want to avoid choosing fish that have long or flowing fins. Bettas can not tell the difference between a "betta looking" fish and another betta.


For smaller aquariums, you will want to (obviously) choose smaller fish such as platies, cory cats, or danios. In a smaller aquarium it is important to choose fish that are faster moving. Additionally, you could keep several female bettas together in the same tank. They are not as aggressive as the males. You may also want to provide hiding places or other places where the fish can go to escape from the betta (or each other in the case of female bettas). And as always, carefully observe how the fish interact with each other for the first week or so. If you notice any problems, separate the offending fish as soon as you can catch it.


Some small aquariums come with "betta dividers" so that you can safely house 2 bettas in a small aquarium. The "betta divider" physically separates the fish so that they can not harm each other. It is not recommended to keep male and female bettas together, unless you are trying to breed them. Even when breeding bettas they are not kept together for more than a few days. Males will kill females if the female is not ready to breed.


For larger aquariums, say three feet long or larger you can add fish that look similar to bettas. Bettas are territorial, but only over small areas. I have a friend that kept 5 male bettas in a 4 foot long aquarium for over 2 years. He had no aggression problems from the group. Each fish staked out a corner of the tank, and one stayed near the center of the tank. Each fish had enough room to call his own, and they stayed in their own little part of the aquarium and left each other alone. So it IS possible to keep multiple bettas in the same aquarium but you MUST provide each one of the with enough room. And again, keep a very watchful eye on all of your fish, especially for the first few days, and be sure to remove any that are "misbehaving".


Choose your fish carefully, and be sure to provide the bettas with enough room to get away from each other and the other fish. If you follow these simple guidelines, you should be able to safely keep bettas with other fish.


John Crosby


Owner, Aquatic Escapes Aquariums

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