Many people buy a betta and a tiny bowl, dish, or plastic pet keeper to keep it in. However, the betta can and does thrive in a community tank. There are a huge number of reasons to choose to keep your betta in a tank rather than a dish. He is likely to have a great life and you can find that he looks great next to a number of other fish!
Why Would I Add My Betta To a Community Tank?
There are a number of reasons that a betta should be put into a larger tank. These mostly have to do with water quality. The more water you are dealing with the better the water quality will be. The better the water quality the better the life the fish will have. A small dish or container is an easy way to have your betta fish sitting in poison caused from its own wastes all day long. The only way to eliminate this is extremely frequent water changes which can be stressful on your little guy. So, bigger is indeed better. For more information on it check out the article Betta Care: A Vase or a Tank.
Having a large tank with just one little betta in there can be a bit lonesome, so this makes adding friends ideal. Of course, most bettas act as though the friends are for you and in reality they are likely making the tank more appealing to you rather than to him. However, most male bettas can do really well in a tank.
While most male bettas are laid back enough that they will do well with many community tank members, there are a few exceptions. It is usually pretty easy to know the personality of your male betta if you have had him for a short while. If he is laid back then he will make a great community member, but if he is always fighting with himself, your shirt, or other things near by then he may be too aggressive for a community tank. If you are buying a new betta then check out the article Tips For Choosing a Betta For Your Community Tank for more advice on getting a laid back betta.
Make It a Great Tank For Everyone.
The betta will love it if you offer him some plants (he will often lay on them or hide in them). He also likes floating objects (our male batta lays on a piece of driftwood floating in his tank) and plants. You also want to provide hiding places for tank mates while still leaving a decent size swimming area for any swimmers.
Males can not be kept with other bettas. Some people report having success keeping two laid back males together in a large tank or keeping a male and a female together without any problems, but it really isn't recommended. It is one of those things that could go fine for weeks or months and then there could be a fight. You also can't put a female and a male in a tank and hope they will breed because their methods for breeding are a lot more complicated than that. Female bettas can be kept in small groups in a community tank, but males should never be kept with another betta.
Even desktop tanks can make a better home for your betta than a jar, vase, or dish. With that in mind there are a few things you can add in there with your male betta to make it interesting. Check out Male Bettas: Tank Mates For Small Tanks for more information.
If you are wanting other fish to go with your betta a larger tank is going to be important so that everyone has room. Most of the fish that go well with the male betta need to be kept in groups and aren't suitable for a small tank (six neons and your betta shouldn't fit in a 10 gallon let alone your 5 gallon!).
- Ghost shrimp and Amono shrimp are great additions for your tank. You can add up to 12 ghost shrimp in most 20-40 gallon tanks. They need a fair amount of floor space so you don't want more than that. You can add 3 or 4 amono shrimps in addition to ghost shrimp or instead of ghost shrimp.
- Snails can also be added. Keeping a few of different kinds and or colors can be a great look and give you lots of interest.
- Otocinculus catfish are great algae eaters, don't get very large and do well in all tanks with good water quality. You can add 3-5 in most tanks.
- A note about African dwarf frogs. African dwarf frogs are great little creatures to add to your tank. They work great with bettas and they are highly recommended in a ten gallon tank. However, they shouldn't be kept in a tank with water more than 14 inches deep. They aren't very good swimmers and they have to get to the water surface to breathe so you need to make sure that your tank isn't too deep.
- Tetras are often a good match. There are a few exceptions. Any "skirted" tetra or other tetra with longer fins (such as the serpae or phantom tetras) should be avoided because the betta may nip at these fins and cause stress to the tetras. Consider neons, cardinals, black neons, rummynose, glowlight, emperor, bleeding heart, red eye, or x-ray tetras as options. Other tetras of similar shapes will also work as long as they don't have real long fins. These are all peaceful swimming fish that aren't likely to bother your betta and he isn't likely to be more than curious about them (he will eat dead ones though). You should keep a shoal of at least five to six of one species of these types of fish.
- Glass catfish are interesting and peaceful and can also be kept with the male betta. They need at least three members to feel comfortable.
- White cloud minnows and their color variations are also good choices. There need to be at least six and you should consider avoiding long finned or tailed varieties. These also need about six members of their own species to feel comfortable.
- Rasboras come in a few different varieties and are peaceful for your betta. They do need a group of at least six of their own species to feel comfortable.
- Platies and swordtails are often good choices. You should note that your betta will quickly devour any young (most find this to be a good thing because they aren't over run by baby fish). If you don't want them to reproduce then keep only males. As a rule you probably should avoid the brightest reds because they may confuse your betta. Instead go with muted color versions of these fish. You should also keep three or more together. If you are getting both males and females then choose two or three females for every male. If you are keeping a single gender choose the males, but make sure they aren't too flashy in their colors! You should avoid mollies and guppies (the other common live bearers) because these fish often nip and chase the betta and the betta may confuse them for another betta so it is just an all around bad idea.
- Kuhli loaches are small and peaceful and won't take notice of your betta. He isn't likely to take notice of them either. They should be kept in a group of three or more.
- Plecos (plecotomus) are also something that can be kept with bettas without any worry. However you should make sure that you have the space for such a fish. Dwarf plecos (such as the rubber lip and the bristlenose) grow up to five inches and need at least 20 gallons. Other plecos need a huge tank because many grow as large as 2 feet. You will need at least 75 gallons for a common pleco.
- Corydora catfish are anohter option that are peaceful and won't bother your betta or the other way around. You will need at least three friends when keeping cories though they don't all have to be the same species (an albino, julii, and peppered will group together just the same as three albinos).
A male betta is often a great fish to keep in a community tank. His color and fins tend to outshine many other freshwater species and can make him a beautiful focal point. As a rule of thumb you need to avoid fish with large fins and or bright colors that he might consider a betta. You should avoid gouramis with male bettas because they are both labyrinth fish and may be aggressive toward one another. You should also avoid getting fish that may nip at his long fins including guppies, barbs, and danios. With that in mind, your tank can be absolutely beautiful with a male betta in it.