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If I have a 30 gallon (ca. 113 litres) tank that is medium planted. Would it be OK to keep two male bettas, or one male and one female betta?

I have read a lot of stuff online about keeping a group of females and such, however I am wondering if I can specifically have only two bettas where one of them must be male.

Additionally I intend to include 10 neon tetras, two snails, and a few shrimps of different variety.

  • Not really an answer but sometimes if you want to see how a betta reacts to another fish then you can put them both in separate smaller glass containers and put them right next to each other. If the female seems to avoid the other fish or if the male flares up and starts freaking out then they shouldn't be in the same space. – maple_shaft Nov 13 '13 at 22:04
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I don't have direct experience with bettas, but I've never heard that pairs will work long-term in any male/female combination. There's research that suggests they prefer to be alone or in large groups, rather than with one other fish. From Social partner preferences of male and female fighting fish (Betta splendens), by J.L. Snekser, S.P. McRobert, and E.D. Clotfelter in Behavioural Processes:

Despite high levels of conspecific aggression by both sexes (e.g. Goldstein, 1975 and Jaroensutasinee and Jaroensutasinee, 2001b), in most situations Betta chose to spend significantly more time with other fish rather than swimming on the empty side of the test tank. Two exceptions to this general preference were seen: males did not spend significantly more time with a single female test fish and females chose to spend significantly more time on the side of the test chamber that was empty than spend time with the single male fish.

In other words, lone females went out of their way to avoid lone males, and lone males didn't seem to care much one way or the other about lone females. A pair of males was found to be the most aggressive combination.

The paper also mentions that, in the wild, you'll find about 1.7 bettas per square meter. And that's in the wild: remember most domestic bettas have been bred for aggression and are probably even less tolerant of their neighbors. A typical 30 gallon has a 0.27 square meter footprint (91cm by 30cm), so I'd say that's not enough room for a pair to establish their own territories. (I'm not personally sure if the females are territorial, but if not they probably prefer to avoid a male's territory when they're not breeding.)

As for compatibility with neons, nothing I've heard makes me think it won't work unless you have a really aggressive male. That many tetras should feel safe in their shoal, so I wouldn't expect to see much fin-nipping from them; and 30 gallons planted means they won't constantly be in the betta's personal space. And the bioload from this community would be perfectly safe for this size tank. One thing I'd suggest you check though, if you haven't already, would be water parameters: neons tend to live in cooler waters than what I've heard about bettas. You might find cardinal tetras a better fit if the bettas need more than say 75 degrees F or so.

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  • Would it therefore be okay to keep 1 betta in the tank with small schoolfish (dalmation mollies and neon tetras? or too colorful)? @toxotes – Don Larynx Nov 16 '13 at 4:40
  • @DonLarynx If you're asking if it's okay to keep a betta without other bettas, absolutely yes. If you're asking if it's okay to keep one with other species, I think so, but it depends on the what species. I saw your question along those lines, just haven't written up my thoughts yet. – toxotes Nov 16 '13 at 15:15
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    @toxotes bettas get along with most fish. I have bettas in with neons right now, and with mollies in the past. Male bettas should be kept away from other bettas, other labyrinth fish, fish with long flowy fins (fish that look like bettas). – Keltari Aug 6 '15 at 13:05
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Bettas are highly territorial and no matter what sexes you keep together they will fight. The males are solitary in nature ( like in elephants), while the females might live in schools/small groups. Males and females come together to breed only.

It is not wise to keep any form of Bettas together, specially males, they'll fight and kill each other.

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  • What if I keep them in a 60 gallon that is 120cm in length and is heavily planted, would that still cause fights? Is there absolutely no minimum dimensions that would cause them to live ok? – Quillion Jan 20 '14 at 14:25
  • Excellent and sorry for breaking the rule. I'm totally with you :) @Quillion still not advisable. Rule of Thumb is females can be kept together, while males are best advised to be kept alone. What you could do is, release a male and check if he's building a bubble nest ( bubble accumulation at one corner of the tank) and if he does that, he's a mature male and will take on anyone who intrudes his territory. But some sources does mention of keeping a group of Bettas ( 1 male and several females) along side guppies, where guppies act as diversions. So try the one male phenomenon. – Ram Adavan Jan 21 '14 at 6:21
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I do not actually think putting a 2 betta fish with tiny tetras is a good idea and there's the fact the male will harass the female

My suggestion is to reconsider having bettas together or with other fish

But hey sometimes you might hit a lucky betta

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  • In all honesty I have never encountered such an accident. I kept various bettas for 6 years now, and they seem to get along with every kind of fish that is smaller than them. As soon as you put larger fish like goldfish or red finned shark, then they usually just hide in corner and become lethargic, but with small fish they do not mind. Even fancy guppies were good match. That is of course given the fact that aquarium was very heavily planted and big. I prefer to understock rather than overstock. – Quillion Aug 25 '14 at 13:11
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I feel you should experiment with many fish because many say certain fish are aggressive and certain fish can't be with certain fish. I can say that I have betta male with a female in a tank with tiger barbs, tetras( 4 different types ), guppies, Molly's, platys, red fin sharks , cat fish , crawfish, alge eaters, angel fish, kissing fish, and gouramis (3 types) plus a few other fish and all seem to get along just fine. I'm not gunna lie I have lost a few fish in the past but to where I am now where all my fish get along its worth it. All have adapted to each other fish. I have a lively community of fish. Take the risk because the outcome of it all is awesome to see

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  • Can you edit this to include the size of the tank and what plants and/or shelters are offered in the tank? – James Jenkins Aug 2 '15 at 10:48
  • @alba Im really surprised you have bettas in with gouramis. They are both labyrinth fish and the betta would view it as a competitor. I tried to introduce gouramis into a tank with a betta and as soon as the plastic bag with the gouramis hit the water the betta was attacking them on sight. – Keltari Aug 6 '15 at 13:01

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