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Adding a Betta Fish to a Community Tank

Updated on March 3, 2021

Bettas are very hardy fish and can survive in many tank conditions, so there is no need to specially prepare your community tank for the addition of this type of fish. Although they prefer water on the acidic side (pH 6.0-6.5), they fair well in pH up to 7.5. It is more important to keep the pH constant, than to try to adjust it to the need of the Betta.

Water temperature isn’t too much of a concern, as Bettas enjoy the typical tropical range of 72 to 84 degrees F. They are ammonia and nitrite tolerant, and you will see indications of sickness in other breeds far sooner than you will in a Betta. The major disease concern here is fin rot. Because of the long flowing nature of the fins, bacterial infections have a greater chance to start in a ripped Betta fin, than in other fishes whose fins are closer to the body (this is far more prevalent in poor water conditions).

Can Betta Fish Live in a Community Tank - Betta Tank Mates

Bettas, male or female, can be kept in a traditional community tank provided there are not any fin nippers among the group. Tiger barbs and red tail or rainbow sharks will tear the fins of a male Betta apart. There are many fish that Bettas can get along with in a community tank. The best breeds are placid ones like cory cats, loaches, schooling tetras, glass catfish, Plecos, Gouramis, smaller danios, white clouds, ghost shrimp, snails, and rasboras. Silver Dollars and hatchet fish may be alright as long as there is enough plant material in the tank and there is enough room at the top of the tank. Hatchet fish are top dwellers like Bettas and may skirmish over territory. Silver Dollars are hearty eaters and often decimate plant life in a tank; because the Betta will want to find a home area (usually in a dense plant), there may be a bit of territorial behavior against the silver dollars.

Also, Bettas are carnivores for the most part. If you have guppies or other small live bearing fish, the Betta will make a meal out of the fry. This could be a good thing if you have an overabundance of these fish, as the Betta could be used for population control.

Never ever house two male Bettas together. They will fight to the death. If there are any other fancy finned fish in the tank, the Betta may mistake them for other male Bettas resulting in a fight (this is uncommon as Bettas don’t look like to many other tropical fish, but still may occur). Housing one male with many females is fine, as long as you keep a close eye on them during spawning. Often the male will start attacking the female after eggs have been laid to keep her from eating them.

How to Introduce Your Betta to a Community Tank

Once you have decided to add your Betta to a community tank, it is necessary to make the transition as smooth as possible. Put the Betta in five gallon bucket near the tank, using a gallon of distilled water and the water from the pet store bag (or your own Betta bowl). Now siphon off water from the community tank you wish to place the Betta in, directly into the bucket. Fill the bucket at least three quarters of the way. This will slowly acclimatize the fish to the new water conditions (this works on all new transfers, not just Bettas).

Let the Betta sit in this bucket for about an hour. When you are ready to put him in the tank make sure to scoop him up in a glass or net, and quickly transfer him to the new tank. Pour the bucket water in behind him. Now immediately feed your fish to distract them from the newcomer in the tank. This will help to avoid bullying behavior and allow the Betta to scout out a hiding place. Your Betta will stay hidden for a few hours before venturing out to check the new surroundings.

Watch the tank closely for the next few days. This is the most likely time for a Betta to get fin nipped. If fin nipping occurs, it is best to treat the tank with an antibiotic to keep the Betta from getting fin rot. Try to catch the fin nipping culprit and either remove it from the tank, or feed the tank more frequently as the fin nipping could be a sign of hunger.

Is It Better to Keep a Betta Alone?

The tradition of keeping Betta fish alone in small glass vases began in the fishes’ native Thailand. Although Bettas can survive one to two years in a small tank by themselves, this isn’t really much of a life for the fish. In my opinion, not only can Betta fish live in a community tank, but it is much better to keep them in a community environment where they will benefit from the larger space, physical activity, and higher filtration/better water conditions that aren’t there in a small bowl.


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