I don't have personal experience with paradise fish. However I am very interested in hearing what others have to say about them, as I did quite a bit of research on them not too long ago!
To be clear, I am talking about
: Macropodus opercularis
This paradise fish can also be called the blue paradise gourami or just paradise gourami. It seems that they can be either blue with red stripes, red with blue stripes, or have an albino variation.
There are a few other "____ paradise fish" species that are different in behavior and needs from opercularis.
Interesting contrasts to bettas:
- subtropical. No need for a heater, these fish are found in a wide range of temps and more than likely will be happy with your home's ambient temperature. This would definitely be nice for someone who can't afford to run a heater.
- different community concerns. You can keep a male with females, which would be impossible with bettas, and possibly even another male in a big enough tank with LOTS of cover + females. But they are frequently described as being super nasty to other fish..?? While others say they have no issues with aggression in their tanks. Sounds like a mixed bag, similar to bettas.
- need more space. They are larger overall and while yes, bettas DO swim and many DO enjoy having space, it seems like a paradise fish truly needs a minimum of 10g. (Some sites say 20g minimum.) Bettas tend to stop and lounge, paradise fish look like they are constantly on the move.
- less variety. Bettas have been bred to the point that we've got a full rainbow of colors, huge variations in patterns and fins. Paradise fish are pretty, and they have stripes. But they are all about the same.
I will say, though uncommon, I've had a few bettas that just didn't care about people, hardly notice you at all. So while bettas are typically very people-oriented, not every one is. I'd say it depends a lot on the individual paradise fish and setup they live in, as to how well their personality may show or what experience someone has had with them. I saw videos online where they were in a tank and completely ignored the camera, another video where the fish displayed very "betta-like" behavior and wanted the human to pay attention to him. I'd say if you have a LFS where you can go and see them in person, and you want a friendly fish, look for the one who keeps looking at you.
I think it's very interesting that these are one of the oldest aquarium fish to ever be kept by humans, yet you don't see them much. At least I haven't. Perhaps that in itself is telling as to why they aren't more popular: difficulties in keeping due to aggression, etc? They are supposedly very hardy, so I can't imagine that is the issue. I wouldn't be surprised if they make a comeback with the increasing knowledge available to the fishkeeping community. It's getting easier to give fish the environment they need to thrive.
As for which one I would choose, it would depend on:
- if I was looking to house a lone fish, or wanted it with others, possibly even others of it's own kind
(a betta can be fine in a community, so this is also greatly influenced by the next items:)
- size of tank I was setting up
- if I wanted it heated or not
- if I had any desire to breed the fish, or wanted to avoid that
(paradise fish in a group may = babies. I really like keeping a lone betta where I know I'm not going to end up with unexpected babies that I feel suddenly responsible for! But if I have the proper setup to try raising baby fish I'd go for something easier than bettas, so paradise fish might be the winner there!)
A betta will probably be your winner if you are looking to create a small aquarium, and have the ability to properly heat it. There are tons of bettas out there with fantastic personalities, you'll be able to tell when you see "the one" in the store. If you don't see one that grabs your attention on the first shopping trip (and likewise you grab his), just wait until you do! It's worth it.