Betta fish are very popular aquarium fish because they have been bred for beauty over the years.
Male fish are especially beautiful because they have longer flowing fins than a female.
You will usually see male betta fish by themselves for a very good reason because they are so aggressive and rather hostile.
When people ask me if male betta fish can live together, I tell them there is a short answer and a long answer, so let me give you the short answer first…
Male betta fish were bred for fighting, so they should always be kept separate. Most male betta fish will fight till one of them gives up, which often can lead to the death of the weaker male betta fish. In rare cases, two males can be kept together in a tank with two established territories on each end separated by open space, if the two males were raised together, or if the two males by a very slim chance are not very aggressive.
The very rare cases when males are kept together are what we need to talk about, so let’s dive in and explain the situation…
Why Are Male Betta Fish So Aggressive?
If you look back over a betta fish’s history, you will find a unique and rather strange story compared to other aquarium fish.
In Asia, where betta fish was first discovered, people noticed they were very aggressive towards other critters in their space.
It is still up for debate whether the fighting is in the betta fish gene or because of the way they were bred and raised on their way to the aquarium.
The first bettas that were captured as pets were actually used to fight each other. There were actually organized betta fights to the extreme that citizens would bet money, their house, or even family members on the outcome.
Yes, you read that right.
So, if betta fish were bred to fight for something as valuable as a person’s house or even possession of a person, you would think the betta fish would be fierce competitors.
The most fiercest fighting fish were used and the fight was pretty much to the death every time.
These are the same betta fish that grandfathered the betta fish you see in aquariums today!
The males were the betta fish used for most of the fighting and bred for appearance because the male bettas that were captured were the rarest ones with brighter colors and longer fins.
Female bettas have shorter fins and their colors are not as bright.
How To Keep Male Betta Fish Together
Technically, you are not supposed to so, to keep two males in the same tank, it is best to keep them separate.
They make plastic dividers you can put in the tank to keep two male betta fish from tearing each other apart.
I’ve even read online about keeping two males and several females in the same tank but separated by these plastic dividers.
There was also an instance where a female betta sorority was in the tank and then the male was kept separate in a 2-liter bottle with small holes in it for water flow.
I found another instance on Reddit where someone successfully kept two male bettas in the same tank, unseparated by a barrier.
Each male betta did however have one foot of space on each end of the tank populated with a lot of plants for their own territory.
There was also a foot of open space between the two territories.
- There are also documented cases where the two males were raised together in the same group of bettas so they did not perceive each other as a threat.
- Sometimes if there are territories set up in the tank, it is better to have a bigger male betta so dominance is quickly established.
- In rare cases, you can keep mixing and matching two males, based on personalities, untill you find two males that can coexist.
Its All About Experimentation
If you don’t have the time or commitment to constantly monitor your male betta fish in the same tank, Then we highly recommend you keep just one male betta fish in the tank, separate them with a barrier, or just keep a small 5-gallon tank for each male betta.
If you do have the time to experiment here are some steps to follow if you are going to have two males together:
- Get at least a 30-gallon tank or bigger for two males.
- Keep a backup tank ready in case you have to isolate a male that is too aggressive.
- Put a lot of plants and decorations on each end of the tank – one foot for each territory on each end, with a foot of empty space in between.
- Monitor the situation to make sure the two male bettas stop fighting and stay in their territories at some point.
- If they don’t stop fighting, try to take the most aggressive one and isolate it in your backup tank, then try to find a less aggressive male to try again.
- Try to keep male bettas that grew up together.
If you don’t have the time to set up the right tank and monitor the relationship between the two males, then it is not worth it.
Male betta fish are two aggressive, so you have to be very careful if you don’t want one of them to die.
If you don’t have the time to experiment, then just keep one male per tank or keep them divided in the same tank.