Betta fish are bred for color and long flowing fins, especially for the aquarium.
Betta fish were also bred for fighting where the aquarium betta fish of today originated from.
So….this leads to some quirks in their personality when it comes to keeping betta fish together…
You can keep betta fish together if they have their own territories and their personalities mesh, but this takes a great amount of experimentation.
In General, you are not supposed to keep male betta fish together but you can keep female betta fish together as long as you have at least five females to form a ‘sorority’. The males will fight too much but the females will form a ‘pecking’ order with a dominant female down to the least dominant, each with their own territories.
Even with a female sorority, you need to monitor them at first and make sure one of the females is not being too aggressive. If so, she may need to be replaced with a more passive betta female.
There are exceptions to the rules of keeping betta fish together, like keeping two males together, but it takes a lot of time, a certain aquarium setup, and a lot of observation, maybe even replacing a betta fish that is too aggressive with a passive betta fish.
Let’s dive in and talk about the safest way to keep betta fish together…
How To Setup A Female Betta Sorority Tank
- You will need at least a gallon of water for each inch that a fish grows.
- Female bettas grow up to 2.25 inches. This means you will need at least 11.25 gallons of water.
- You will also have a lot of plants and decorations for each betta fish to establish a territory that will take up some of the water space.
- It is safest to start with at least a 20-gallon tank for a female betta sorority. The more the merrier so feel free to go bigger, especially for betta fish.
- Betta fish are known for their aggression, so the more space they have to establish territories, the better.
- You can use gravel or sand for the substrate.
- You will need a filter for all phases of filtration which are, mechanical, biological, and chemical. You can usually purchase a filter that has all three phases in the same container. It is best to buy a canister filter that fits underneath the tank or hangs on the back.
- You will need a heater since bettas are tropical fish.
The betta’s water parameters are:
- Temperature: 75°-81°F (23.8°-27.2°C)
- Ammonia and Nitrite: 0 ppm.
- Nitrate: <20 ppm.
- GH: 3-4 dGH (50-66.7 ppm)
- KH: 3-5 dKH (53.6- 89.4 ppm)
- pH: 6.5-7.5.
When you fill the tank with water make sure the water is treated with a conditioner to remove the chlorine and other chemicals.
Choosing The Female Betta Fish
The easiest way to choose five females is to choose five that are from the same family and have grown together. They may have already established the hierarchy or pecking order. They should get along easier.
If you have to choose five different females that did not grow up together, you should try to choose females that are of different colors and the same age.
It is not proven by science yet, but several owners have reported that if the females are the same color they see each other as more of a threat.
Sometimes you can find five females at your pet store that are not from the same family but have been in the same tank at the pet store for so long they are used to each other.
Adding The Female Betta Fish To The Tank
- When you add the females to the tank, it is best to add them all at the same time. They will all be curious or surprised and not view each other as a threat right away.
- If you just add some and then another one later, the one you add later may be perceived as a threat by all.
- Once you add your females to the tank, you need to keep a close eye on them.
- There will be at least some skirmishes as one female establishes her dominance and they all will be deciding who gets what territory.
- At some point, they will stop fighting, but sometimes one female may be too aggressive and not stop bullying or picking fights. Just replace her with another that is hopefully less aggressive.
- It helps to have a backup tank in case something like this happens.
Exceptions To The Sorority Tank
- Fishkeepers have reported having success putting two male betta fish together but it can take some experimenting.
- Here are some guidelines:
- Most importantly, try to get a group of betta fish that have grown up together or lived in the same tank for a while so they are already used to each other and may already have their hierarchy or separate groups of males and females,
- Get a tank long enough to have a territory on each end of the tank with empty space in between.
- Make sure there are a lot of plants and decorations in each of the designated territories.
- You can get what are called dither fish that swim in the open like danios to swim in the open middle space and help keep the territories separate.
- You can have 3-4 females for each male. The males will lose interest in each other faster and take interest in the females as long as there is more than enough for each female.
- Have a backup tank or at least one if possible in case one of the betta fish is being too aggressive and will not stop. This is usually between the males. If they continue to keep fighting, they must be separated or one of them will die.
Conclusion: Why You Shouldn’t Go Outside The Majority Rules
There is a reason most people only have a single male/female betta fish or just a female sorority.
First of all, if you have males and females together, they will be constantly breeding. What will you do with all of the fish babies?
It can be quite hard to get two males to live together if they haven’t been raised together. They don’t have to be the same offspring, but as long as they grow up together, they usually don’t perceive each other as a threat.
It can be quite a headache, getting two male betta fish to get along with each other.
Regardless of what you choose, always ask the pet shop you are buying from for help.