I had a male betta fish for a long time, and was told by the people at the pet store that I could put in a pleco fish (aka an algae eater) because it would stay near the bottom. Since, he claimed, the betta would spend all his time near the top, the betta wouldn't notice the pleco and they would get along fine.

This worked out for a while, but one day I came home and they had attacked each other and both had died. This leaves me wondering - was it really okay to put the pleco in there? Should I have left the betta by himself? Was there a better type of fish to add to that tank?

  • 2
    possible duplicate of Is it okay to keep my fighter fish all by itself in a bowl?
    – JoshDM
    Dec 2, 2013 at 17:58
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    I agree it's a dupe of that question, though it's worth noting that neither of the answers there currently address whether male bettas can be kept with other species.
    – toxotes
    Dec 2, 2013 at 18:43
  • I agree with toxotes, looks like a different question to me.
    – Joanne C
    Dec 2, 2013 at 19:50
  • Bettas can be kept with other species from the research I've done, but keep a mirror in handy so it can flash its fins every once in a while - it keeps the betta feeling secure of its territory, fighting off "invaders". Make sure the other fish don't include tiger barbs, for example - notorious fin nippers.
    – Don Larynx
    Dec 3, 2013 at 0:11
  • You could keep smaller things then Plecos, but I don’t know if that beta would be aggressive, Is there anything for the other fish to hide in? It would definitely change the sistuation If they had driftwood or something to hide by. Jan 9, 2021 at 8:45

7 Answers 7


Most male bettas will fight with anything that even remotely resembles another male in finnage or coloration. Some will attack any fish indiscriminately, regardless of its appearance. It is inherently risky to house bettas with other fish. Some bettas are too aggressive to be kept with any species, and many community species will damage the finnage of a betta. This species does best when kept solitarily due to its special environmental and social needs.

However, community keeping is possible with careful monitoring and appropriate tank-mates if the betta's personality permits. Communal housing should always be approached on a case by case, individual basis!

Placid males and females can often be housed in a well-planted community tank with mellow, dully-colored fish, as well as some aquatic invertebrates or amphibians. Careful monitoring is demanded, and the positives and negatives of the housing situation should be thoroughly evaluated prior to mixing species, but the community betta is not an impossibility.

Alternately, or in conjunction with other fish, consider offering a mirror as a safe companion.

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    Bettas can coexist with other fish perfectly fine. Obviously 2 or more male bettas is a no-no. Other species of fish in the same family as bettas can be a problem. My betta did not like gouramis (both are labyrinth fish). I have a male betta in with 30 other fish and all get along fine.
    – Keltari
    Dec 10, 2013 at 5:29
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    A mirror isn't a good constant companion, as they don't recognize it as themselves it can stress them out. It's good if you take it away after an hour or so, to give them the illusion that they scared the other betta away. That's why it's usually advertised as exercise for them.
    – Spidercat
    Feb 21, 2014 at 14:55

Short answer: Maybe.

Bettas are often kept in community tanks. Care should be taken to avoid particularly brightly coloured or long-finned fish as this can increase the risk of aggression from the betta. Also, bettas should never be kept with other anabantoids (labyrinth fish) as aggression is nearly guaranteed between such species. Known fin-nippers should also be avoided as they can actually be quite dangerous to the betta. Beyond that, it often depends on the individual betta, the size of the tank, the other fish, and the general conditions.

It is probably also a good idea to have an additional tank available just in case aggression becomes an issue as the fish mature.

Adding the betta last can also sometimes help. If the betta goes in first, then other fish are entering his established territory. However, reversing the roles can help to reduce the likelihood of aggression. Again, no guarantees, just better odds.

Personally, I advise keeping bettas alone. It's difficult to guess how aggressive or mellow a betta will be ahead of time. If you do wish to keep other things in the tank with your betta, considering non-fish tankmates that enjoy similar conditions (water temperature, hardness, current, etc.) might be a good option.

Some common recommendations for betta tankmates:

1) African dwarf frogs - like bettas enjoy warm, calm, fresh water. Just be careful the betta doesn't eat all their food!

2) Snails - Apple snails and mystery snails are common choices, just be sure you have enough water volume and filtration to deal with the amount of ammonia they produce. You could also just throw in a few plain old pond snails. They do fine in my betta tank. :)

3) Shrimp - If you have lots of little nooks and crannies and hiding spaces in your tank, shrimp may be a viable option. Ghost shrimp and cherry shrimp are both fairly hardy and should do well in a betta tank as long as your betta doesn't decide to make them a tasty snack! Ghost shrimp as less likely to get eaten. Cherry shrimp are easier to breed (if that's something that interests you) and are better algae eaters.

4) Small peaceful bottom feeders - Corydoras catfish might be a good fit here if you have enough space to accommodate a small school. (They do best in groups.) They stay near the bottom and, in my experience, tend to be most active at night, so interaction with betta should be minimal.

5) White cloud mountain minnows - I have seen these recommended as betta tankmates many times. They are hardy fish and fast, agile swimmers who tolerate a wide range of water temperatures. Personally, I would reserve them for temperate, rather than tropical tanks, but they may still be a viable option. Again, I would recommend a school of 6-12, rather than a lone fish. This means having a tank large enough to accommodate them.

As an aside:

I would be interested to know what kind of fish you actually had in the tank. Usually, fish going by the common name "algae eater" are either Gyrinocheilus (Chinese algae eaters) or Crossocheilus siamensis (Siamese algae eaters). The Chinese algae eater (often confused with the Siamese) tends to only fulfill the "peaceful bottom feeder" role until it matures. Adult Chinese algae eaters don't tend to eat algae at all and are quite aggressive!

There are also many different types of plecos. However, the "common pleco" will actually grow to a fairly gigantic 18-24" and is generally not appropriate for the average home aquarium. Bristlenose and rubberlip plecos stay relatively small and are generally a far more appropriate choice for home aquaria, but are also harder to find.

  • I am not sure what the fish was, specifically - I went to a local fish store and they told me it was an algae eater pleco and it would stay at the bottom.
    – user53
    Dec 16, 2013 at 20:33
  • Bah! I hate when pet stores give vague, unhelpful information! Chinese algae eaters are also sucker-mouthed fish, so sometimes people (including pet store staff) just assume that makes them a type of pleco. I really wish pet store staff were better at giving specific and accurate information though.
    – symbol
    Dec 16, 2013 at 20:41

We tried putting a male betta in a community tank once. We were concerned that the betta would start attacking the other fish, so we kept a close eye on it. Instead, the opposite happened: the betta went to the corner of the tank at the top, and didn't really swim around much at all. It looked very uncomfortable around the other fish.

I don't know what the other fish said to him, but he was not happy. :)

Although it might be possible to keep them in a community tank, in my experience they do best by themselves.

  • You have to wonder if living in a little cup for much of their lives makes them like this. I've had agoraphobic bettas as well. Others, though, adapt to a tank right away. Dec 3, 2013 at 16:37
  • Offer a mirror. The betta needs to feel like it is defending its territory.
    – Don Larynx
    Dec 3, 2013 at 21:46

I have had plenty of bettas and have always housed them separately. They are not the type of fish you would want to tank with other fish. Now if you are wanting to house them with other fish, make sure they are not the same species or colorful at all. Also a good way to test how your betta would react to being put in a tank with other fish is to get two separate tanks or a tank with split bowls. It makes the two fish feel as if they are in the same tank, but also prevents from them hurting each other. Observe them, if either fish try attacking from behind the glass or showing any alarming territorial or aggressive signals, then its not a good idea. Personally I've done this plenty of times and all of the bettas have gotten aggressive, but its possible I just haven't found the species they are willing to tolerate.


Generally, betas cannot be kept with other fish. I have been told that their individual temperament will determine whether they could get along with other fish; however, since that can only be determined by adding other fish, I would not suggest it.

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    This answer is completely false. I currently have a betta in with 30 other fish and they get along fine. I almost always have a betta in my freshwater tanks. As with any fish, there are species that do no get along.
    – Keltari
    Dec 10, 2013 at 5:26

It is possible, but it will have to be a docile female betta and a bigish tank. Add the female 30 minutes before the other so she can find her territory then add the others and watch for the next week or two to see if there are problems. If there are don't kill the betta instead return it if there's a warranty.

In my fish tank the betta starved the other fish by eating their food, attacked them and completely killed one of my shrimps. Basically in my experience don't even try, but it's your choice.


Thanks for clarifying what betta you want. Last time didn't turn out so well. Anyhow it seems that my research would go along with the 4 rules that I have posted below. I can't tell you if you should have left one betta instead of two because I'd think that you would have had to do more than just one of it. But no you shouldn't have.

  1. Not colorful or resemble a rival colors (guppies)
  2. Not a fin nipper (Tiger barbs are a big NO)
  3. The right size for the size of the tank (No common plecos in a 10 gallon tank since they get to 2 feet in length)
  4. Lives roughly in the same water conditions. (no brackish/saltwater fish)

Ghost/Red Cherry shrimp Although most ghost shrimp are sold as live food for larger fish such as chiclids, they make great pets and tankmates. Additionally, because their bodies are entirley clear, bettas have a hard time seeing them so they cause any harm. Red cherry shrimp, my favorite invertebrae, is also great tankmate for many reasons. Because they only get up to an inch long, they produce very little to no waste meaning you can have 10 shrimp per gallon.

Cories (Corydoras Catfish) Cories (panda, dwarf, albino, etc) are another great choice for a betta tank. Because cories are bottom feeders while bettas swim at the top levels of the tank, there will rarely be any confrontations regarding territory. Additionally, cories are a peaceful bottom feeder, unlike chinese algae eaters which don't even eat algae but instead on the slime coat of its tankmates. However, cories do best in groups of 4 more so at least 10 gallons is necessary. But with a group, you can enjoy the interactions of a schooling group of fish. Loaches loaches are bottom feeders and basically look like a bigger version of cories. Thus, a larger tank is necessary. In fact some loaches can get as big as 16" (clown loach). However, all types of loaches are peaceful. Otocinclus Catfish Photobucket Otocinclus Catfish, or otos for short, have similar needs as cories but are much more harder to acclimate since mainly because most of them are caught from the wild and have not been bred in an aquarium environment. This causes them to be sensitive to any change in water conditions. However, once your oto survive the first 1-2 weeks, he'll live for a long time provided that the water remains stable and clean.

White Cloud Mountain Minnows White clouds are similar to neon tetras in size and coloration but are more peaceful, hardy, and enjoy cooler water. Their temperature range is between 68-78 degrees but can survive in the 50 degree range. Their hardiness makes them an excellent fish for a beginner and their temperment makes them a great tankmate for a betta. However, the temperature of the aquarium would need to be in the upper 70's (78F) to accomodate the bettas needs and the white cloud's needs. Additionally, similar to the red cherry shrimp, white clouds are easy to breed and are believed to not eat their young.