Bettas are often sold for small bowls or dishes. They are often considered "first time" fish and "beginner fish" or even "apartment fish". However, bettas also do really well in community tanks, especially female bettas. Female bettas are found in more and more stores. They have lovely colors, are a bit smaller than their male counterparts, and they have great personalities. Even without the dramatic fins of the males they are lovely and they are great fish to add to a community tank.
The Laid Back Female.
Most females are pretty laid back, but you should make sure that yours is one of them before you put her in a community tank. You should "test" her by placing bright colors near her. If she reacts by flaring up her gills or fins then you should avoid putting her in a community tank. If you have yet to buy a betta then check out the article Tips For Choosing a Betta For Your Community Tank before you buy a betta.
A Small Tank.
The smaller your tank the fewer options you have for your female betta. None the less you can put some things in a small tank defined as 10 gallons or less. You will find a complete list at Female Bettas: Tank Mates For Small Tanks.
Can I Keep a Male and a Female?
Many "beginner" fish are easy to breed and you put a male and a female together and get babies (guppies, mollies, swordtails, and platies) or can at least be kept together (tetras, barbs, rasboras). However, you can not keep a male and a female together in the same tank. Bettas are territorial and their breeding process is much more complicated than many other fish. It is important that you avoid putting the two together unless you will be dividing the tank. Even if you have a very large tank, best leave this one alone.
Keeping Females Together.
You can keep female bettas together. If you place two together you are likely to get them fighting for seniority (alpha pack syndrome fish style). However, if you put them in odd numbered groups they will work out a hierarchy that won't leave anyone picked on or any one killed. Choose three or five fish for tanks under 55 gallons. You can get larger numbers for larger tanks. Just make sure that you are keeping an eye on how many fish (in inches) you are putting in your tank. You should only keep 1" of fish per gallon of water with only a few exceptions.
Tank Mates That Work.
In addition to keep female bettas together you have a lot of options. Here are some great suggestions. As a basic idea you shouldn't put females in with fish that have really long fins that might be seen as a male betta. You should avoid really bright colors that also look like bettas (bright reds and blues that cover the majority of the fish). Finally you should make sure that the fish you choose aren't likely to pick on your females.
- Shrimp can be added. You actually have a number of cool options that you can put in with your female. Ghost shrimp are the only dwarf shrimp that should be added because others are more colorful and more likely to be seen as food. Amono shrimp are also a shrimp you can add (some consider them to be dwarf shrimp, but they grow to about 2"). You can also keep larger shrimp such as the African Filter Shrimp or the Bamboo Shrimp (the Asian Filter Shrimp). These shrimp are much larger.
- Snails of all sorts can be added. However, choosing ones that breed slower is a good idea so you don't become overwhelmed with snails.
- Otocinculus catfish (otos) are excellent little algae eaters. They only grow to about 1.5 inches, they don't suck slime off of fish (like the other sorts of algae eaters) and they are really herbivores where other "algae eaters" eat some algae and a lot of other foods. You should keep three or more of them because they are social creatures.
- Tetras come in a huge variety and usually make excellent tank mates. Most tetras will do just fine with your female bettas including black skirts, phantom tetras, and other tetras with longer fins. These are usually poor choices for males, but do better with females. Most tetras need at least a group of five so they don't stress out. Often larger groups are better.
- Glass catfish are interesting and the often do very well with the betta. They are peaceful, but they should be kept in a group of three or more.
- White cloud minnows come in a few different colors and varieties and do well with bettas. You should keep them in a group of six or more.
- Rasboras also do a great job with bettas. They too come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes. They like to be in a group of six of their own species.
- Platies and swordtails do well with female bettas. You may want to consider choosing ones with lighter colors, though females don't get as excited over bright colors as males and they are much less likely to be violent. I like to note that I don't recommend guppies or mollies because these two tend to chase female bettas and may even nip at their fins.
- Khuli loaches can also be kept with female bettas. They should be kept in a group of three or more, they should not be kept with small snails if you want to keep them, and they may eat smaller shrimp (ghost shrimp as well).
- Plecos are common and they don't care about bettas. The female bettas (or male betta for that matter) won't really notice them either. However, you should choose dwarf species such as the rubber lip or the bristlenose for a tank smaller than 55 gallons. Other species get up to 2 feet and a 75 gallon may even be recommended.
- Corydora catfish are adorable and they do well with bettas. You want to have at least three, but a larger group will also do well (according to your tank size, particularly your floor size).
- Upside down catfish can also do well with female bettas. It is interesting to watch them feed from the surface of the water and they make an interesting focal point. They need to be kept in a group of three or more.
- Danios are a fish many recommend for keeping with bettas. I never recommend them for your male betta because they nip at long fins. However, they do do better with female bettas as long as they are kept in a group of three or more.
- Dwarf gouramis often do well with female bettas. They should never be put in with males because they will fight with them (both are labyrinth fish). However, they don't mind the females. At first the females and the gourami are likely to scare each other, but they will warm up well. You should only keep one male in your tank unless you have a very large tank. Many stores only sell males because they are lots brighter.
- Honey gouramis. Honeys aren't really considered dwarf gouramis, but they don't get very large. They are also one of the most peaceful gourami. Go ahead and get a few of them!
You should still be careful not to overstock your tank. It is so easy to get excited about fish and end up with way too many. Add to that the fact that a properly stocked tank looks so bare and the temptation rises. We are so used to tanks at the pet store being full! One inch of fish per gallon is a good number.
Your female betta or bettas will make great tank members. There are tons of different options to fill up your tank and have a great looking tank all around them. Their personalities often make them one of the favorites.