Friday, January 11, 2013

The Community Tank Myth

A Betta splendens in a community tank with neon tetras. Photo by Tumblr

One of the most common myths plaguing Betta fish is that they are brutal killers that will tear apart any fish or other creature placed in its territory, making it impossible to establish a community tank with this solitary species. This myth is often perpetuated by pet stores and pet supply stores to sell low-volume, typically less than 1 gallon, overpriced Betta fish tanks.While it is true that two male Betta fish should never be placed in the same undivided tank, no matter how many gallons it contains, it is untrue that all fish species are incompatible with Betta splendens. It should also be noted that female Betta fish are able to be grouped together in what is called a sorority, so long as there are at least 5 to 7 females in the tank and that there are no overly-aggressive ones that will disturb the sorority balance.

When considering the establishment of a community tank with a Betta fish, it is important to take tank volume into account. While many pet stores still advertise the old rule of one inch of fish per gallon, this is a misleading way to figure out how large of a tank is needed to build a community. If this rule was taken literally, it would mean that in order to have 10 one-inch fish in a single tank then a 100 gallon fish tank would be needed. However, this is not the case since there are many deciding factors that determine the minimum volume needed for various communities. Such factors include filtration, bioload, and the presence of live plants.

Because of these varying factors, there is no minimum for community tanks. Since a community tank can technically include merely having a single Betta fish and a single snail, it is also a loose term. Generally, though, most community tanks that will contain more than one fish living together will need at least 10 gallons. A small sorority of female Betta splendens, for example, cannot live in less than a cycled 10 gallon fish tank.

Depending on the desired tank mates, the required care for each species, and other wants for a community tank, a different minimum volume is needed. Because of this, it is important to do research behind each species that will be considered and added into a community tank. Schooling species are often popular with Betta splendens but those usually require around groups of 5 to 6 at the minimum each and different species produce different bioloads. Keeping this in mind is just as important as considering compatibility with Betta fish in order to run a healthy, happy, community fish tank.

Considering Stock for Your Community Tank

Because, like people, all fish have different personalities, they may not always get along with each other even if they are compatible tank mates. This is especially true when it comes to Betta fish, with individual Betta fish possibly being more territorial than other Betta fish of the same species and thus they may attempt to kill any addition to its territory while others may have the opposite reaction. This should be kept in mind when attempting to stock a functioning community. A school of tetras, for example, may be purchased and incompatible due to personality reasons and what to do with the incompatible fish needs to be taken into consideration.

The following are generally accepted tank mates for Betta splendens:

Barbs: Schooling fish

Cherry barb

A cherry barb. Photo by

Corydorus Catfish: Schooling fish

Albino cory
Habrosus cory
Habastatus cory
Julii cory
Leopard cory
Panda cory
Pygmy cory

Corydoras julii, a sociable catifsh. Photo by

Guppies: Schooling fish

"Feeder" guppy
Non-colorful female guppy
*fancy guppies should be avoided because their colorful tails can cause Betta fish to aggresively attack them

A non-fancy female guppy. Photo by

Loaches: Schooling fish

Khuli loach
Yoyo loach

A yoyo loach. Photo by

Platies: Schooling Fish

Non-colorful platies

A non-colorful platy. Photo by Tumblr

Plecos: One-per-tank

Bristlenose pleco
Bushynose pleco

A bristlenose pleco. Photo by

Rasboras: Schooling Fish

Galaxy rasbora
Harelquin rasbora
Rasbora brigittae
Scissor-tail rasbora

A pair of galaxy rasbora. Photo by

Shrimp: Non-Schooling

Amano shrimp
Cherry shrimp
Ghost shrimp

A ghost shrimp. Photo by

Snails: Non-schooling

Apple snail (also called mystery snail)
Malaysian snai
Nerite snail
Pond snail

An apple snail, which is often mislabeled as a "mystery" snail in stores. Photo by

Tetras: Schooling fish

Black neon tetra
Black phantom tetra
Bloodfin tetra
Cardinal tetra
Ember tetra
Glowlight tetra
Head and tail light tetra
Neon tetra
Pristilla tetra
Rummy nose tetra
Von-rio tetra
X-ray tetra

A school of Glofish, which are genetically modified zebra fish. Photo by Tumblr

Please note that some of the schooling fish can be placed by themselves but prefer to be in a school, while others must remain in a school. Various cory catfish can school together.

Before stocking, all species must have research done on them in order to determine what good mixes are. Finding out their bioloads (high or low), water conditions, live plant needs, and other details that may pertain to the type of tank being considered is a requirement for a successful community. Betta fish should be added after establishing a community inside the tank because otherwise the Betta may become territorial and not welcome any newcomers. Be sure to watch the other fish too--tetras have been known for picking on Betta fish by biting their tails. This can sometimes lead to death or infection.

Before adding fish to a community, it is also necessary to quarantine the species in order to ensure a healthy addition. Diseases can easily be spread in a tank through careless adding of new tank mates and can potentially wipe out an entire community.


F., Christine. "Neon Tetras & Bettas." Nippyfish. N.p., 2 Mar. 2011. Web. 08 Jan. 2013.

F., Christine. "Quarantine New Fish." Nippyfish. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2013.

Soup, Angela. "Betta Fish Compatibility." Betta Info. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2013. <>.


  1. I think you carried a decimal wrong. If the rule is one inch of fish to one gallon, then 10 one-inch fish would need a 10 gallon tank, NOT a 100 gallon tank that you claim. Only off by a factor of 10, though.

    1. I was thinking the same thing....then smiled at the 20 fish in one of my tanks thinking "Yeah...glad that's not true because I'd might as well live in Sea World."

  2. After 1 week of 4 female bettas in a community tank of glofish, they started killing off the glofish in a brutal fashion.

    1. it all depends on their personality. My male betta is very relaxed and is in a large tank with a few tetra and is fine

  3. Hi! I would just like to mention that you can keep male guppies with mellow bettas. I have a little school of fancy guppies with my betta.

  4. So I have a female Betta who has been the only fish in a 1 gallon bowl , we recently went to a 25 gallon tank and we just got 3 red tetra's (was recommended) the betta doesn't seem like she is picking on them just playing more so - she doesn't seem to be agressive - its been several hours since we introduced the new fish in the tank we even took her out for a while and let the tetras get use to the tank and then added our betta again. but i dont know if they are trying to bite at her or if they are literally just playing.

  5. I have a ten gallon cycled tank with five plants, a male betta, and six neon tetra that have thrived together for 3 years now. Tank is beautiful and healthy. Pet store refused to sell me the betta and tetra at the same time! Don't let them fool you. I have never had a healthier betta before!

    1. I am going to try putting some Neons together with my male Betta (who I just purchased) Pet stores are saying "no way will it work" - but I've read testimonials of others who have done it with success such as Kiera's comment above. If I find they just won't work out together I do have other community tanks where they can go to. I just think with the black background that I have with my Betta tank that the colors of my Betta who is white with bright red trim and the colors of the neon will be absolutely stunning. I just hope I'm not setting myself up for a disaster but nothing ventured - nothing gained. We shall see !!

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  8. I put a dragonscale betta male "Draco" along with a Tiger Nerite snail "Tigger" (lol very original) in a small 7.5 gallon aquarium yesterday (there are also assorted Anubais, Java ferns and dwarf hairgrass in the tank with eco-complete gravel and small river rocks I cleaned). Today my sister gave me her last adult Neon tetra "Delta" to put into my tank so I put Draco into a fish bowl with his water and put Delta into my tank with some of his water. I'll let him get used to the tank for a few hours then I will put Draco back in and see how they go together. There are enough hiding spots that they should be fine and Draco seems like a very relaxed betta, but we'll find out soon.

  9. We have a 30 gallon tank and cycled it through a few times with 6 glofish danios. When we went to the pet store to get some more fish, my fiancé fell in love with a Betta that they had in a tank with the glofish at the store. We ended up getting 3 more glofish and the one Betta, and soon we’ll add a baby plecko. That will probably be it for us.

    The Betta has been nice to the glofish (and vice versa) so far. We introduced the three new glofish first, and let them calm down, before introducing the Betta. The lady at the pet store also recommended having pellet food alongside the glofish flakes to minimize aggression during feeding time. So far, it’s worked perfectly.

    Maybe we’re just lucky, but it truly is a beautiful mix in our tank! My fiancé loves the bright colors, and they’re all relatively easy to care for.

    We do not use a black light or glofish light, but I imagine it wouldn’t be an issue if you did.

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