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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

note: Not my Photo, from Flickr with share permissions.

I joined back in 2013 but never made a post. Ahaha, so this will be my first but I want to see what some people's opinion on this matter as its quite divided. I been keeping bettas for close to 10 years and in the last 6 years of me keeping them, I have never kept a betta solitary. It has always been in a planted community tank and I honestly never had a betta so aggressive to the point where it was actually hurting or killing other fish. They adapt very quickly to their communities and find a position on the hierarchy for themselves, usually quite high up, if not the big boss.

Here is my 2 cents on it:
There is just nothing natural about a fish living its entire existence alone to me. Even in the wild, under what circumstances does a betta never encounter other life forms? It also makes no sense for a betta to be continuously aggressive towards fish that pose no threat to it, male bettas fight because by being territorial, they hold better opportunities for mates but there is absolutely no benefit in attacking fish that are just part of its habitat.

In a community setting with other fish, snails, shrimp and what not, I feel like they live far more fulfilling lives. They actually do stuff like forage for food, defend and establish their position in the community, sometimes hunt fish fry if available, fight for food, explore and interact with their tank mates. Betta housed alone I feel like are so under-stimulated, they just sit there and only do anything when their human comes to feed them.

While bettas are definitely territorial fish, I think the aggression trait has been blown out of proportion. Along with puddles, eating bamboo and other myths, I feel like a betta being too aggressive to have tank mates is also a myth. It is definitely true that there are fish just incompatible with bettas and the thai-bred fighters are probably uniquely too aggressive but I feel like in general, bettas are totally great additions to community tanks.

If you do believe bettas should be only ever housed alone, what are some of your reasons? What are some successes and failures you had?
 

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honestly i think a lot of the myth comes from people keeping too small of tanks and shoving bettas in with like... guppies. with smaller tanks, yes bettas should probably be housed alone (im talking like 2.5 gal or smaller), just for the fact that smaller spaces will make them tolerate other living things far less (i've had bettas in smaller tanks kill or starve out ghost shrimp in such tanks, which get ignored in larger tanks by the same betta)

My community tank is doing just fine with a male betta in it, and in the past I've had more issues with the other fish pecking at the /betta/ rather then the other way around.

i think some care should be done when setting up a community tank with a betta but is certainly doable and results in a much more active fish. just have to keep in mind that bettas aren't fast or strong swimmers but will go after things that are too brightly colored or have 'flowy' fins. honestly I try to keep the betta the largest thing in the tank just because they are slow swimmers and won't be able to get away from larger fish as easily. (and having a 4 dollar fish kill a 15+ dollar fish isn't such a great feeling)
 
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I never thought of them as solitary, but obviously I would never keep 2 males in the same tank. However, I agree with seemsligit, I think tank size can definitely influence behavior. I had a Betta who literally never even flared at other bettas through the divider, he didn't have a care in the world. He was a great community tank fish as well, lived with cories and guppies with no issue (in a 30 gallon). Chippewa couldn't even have ghost shrimp in his tank without killing them. I do think it depends on the fish but I don't think they're truly solitary either.
 

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Living with different species in a community tank does not mean they are not solitary.
Solitary means living without other members of its own species (with the exception of mating/raising young) In the wild you will not find schools of betta like you would tetra.

Can they make good community fish? absolutely
Are they social fish who enjoy company of their own species? nope
 

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Trilobite, we're talking about the common myth that is told to many beginners that you can't house a betta with /anything/, not just not with other bettas. which is the main reason why people keep insisting on putting them in such small tanks. why get a big tank for just /one/ small fish?
 

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Also consider that the Bettas we usually see in stores are completely bred and "engineered" by humans and won't be found in the wild. Wild type bettas however are found in small groups of a male and a few females if I'm getting it right. I don't have much experience with wild bettas. Betta splendens (our HM, DT, DeT, etc) were bred originally from wild bettas sure but they've since been bred so much further as fighting fish and then for the color and long flashy fins. But they were originally bred to fight (Again if I remember right). Which makes Splendens not a good choice as a betta species only tank. However community tanks should be fine with consideration to species placed with the betta.
 
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Trilobite, we're talking about the common myth that is told to many beginners that you can't house a betta with /anything/, not just not with other bettas. which is the main reason why people keep insisting on putting them in such small tanks. why get a big tank for just /one/ small fish?
Ive heard the myth, but saying they are not solitary fish is incorrect. Perhaps instead of asking are whether they are solitary OP should have asked whether they are good community fish. To which I agree that yes, they can be good community fish, as long as the tank members are carefully chosen.

Telling people bettas are not solitary is even worse in my opinion. If people tell others that these fish enjoy living with other bettas all you will end up with is a blood bath and dead fish
 

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Some species of betta do seem to more gregarious than others, but I would not put them in the same category as fish that need the companionship of conspecifics to thrive. I think it makes sense to describe bettas as 'solitary' fish, being that it's doubtful that they would deliberately seek out the companionship of other species of fish outside of the unnatural setting that is an aquarium.
 

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I don't think they are anti-social fish, but I don't think they are social fish either. I find them to be more indifferent then anything else. It's more a matter of stimulation to have something else in the tank with them then just being in a tank all by themselves.

I have 2 tanks that hold betta (One 20 gallon community tank and one 5 gallon tank). I switch my boys between the two tanks every month so they get new stimulus from being in different environments. Either of them really pay attention to the other fish in the tank, except when food is involved, but I think the stimulus of having something else in the tank is something they emotionally benefit from. When they are in the 5 gallon they don't move around as much, but do make bubble nest and seems generally happy. When in the 20 they always dart around exploring the tank and keeping a watchful eye on their tankmate's food.

Granted I set my 5 gallon up as more of a relaxation tank with lots of tannins in it and lower flow. My 20 long is heavily planted with a much higher flow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Yes yes, I don't mean solitary by being with its own species though I would argue females can somewhat be considered social. I just find it interesting that even on well established aquarium forums the advice continues to be keeping a betta by itself. People are shooed away from the thought of keeping bettas in any setting but keeping the fish lone and isolated. There is this stigma that bettas are vicious and would tear down any other fish when in reality, I would say 99% of bettas are too slow to catch most fish and simply do not have that intense of a aggression. The only strains of Betta with that intensity I would say are the Thai-bred fighters, most Bettas are bred for color nowadays.

I think when people are giving out advice for setups, the standard continues to be 1-5 gallons, 1 betta but I would a argue 10-X gallon community setup. People who get larger tanks are sometimes steered away from Bettas because they are labelled as too aggressive to house with other fish and no one really wants 1 fish in a 10 gallon, that is very unfortunate IMO because Bettas are low waste and can be a very colorful, unique addition to a larger setup.

I think its too bad that Betta fans aren't encouraging others, especially people with bigger, community setups to consider a Betta fish. I, for one, always suggest a Betta when someone with a community setup is looking for a new addition and there is always somebody who goes "omg, it will kill everything in the tank, they can only be a in a tank alone!"

If given the opportunity of a community, say a 10 gallon, do people prefer to house their Bettas alone? For a peace of mind?
 

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I could argue against the "The only strains of Betta with that intensity I would say are the Thai-bred fighters" statement. I have a few of my own (granted they don't make up a big part of the overall population) that aren't technically "thai bred fighters" and they will easily and quite happily tear another fish up in the blink of an eye. I had my female CT Evey completely tear my late CT female Millie up after a divider accident and I ended up losing the other female. Granted, I've also seen bettas be really really aggressive in their own tanks flaring at fingers, etc but do phenomenal in a divided tank. I haven't tried a community myself.
 

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Plakats and short-finned females would certainly be capable of catching fairly fast-moving fish. Even long-finned males can have surprisingly quick bursts of speed. Plus, the betta doesn't have to actually catch another fish to cause it a great deal of stress.

What you have to watch with bettas is their unpredictability. They can have very abrupt changes of mood, and what they tolerate one day, they may not tolerate the next. You can often see this in young females living in a group setting. They reach sexual maturity, and as their aggression and territorial drives intensify, they suddenly start squaring off with fish that they previously cohabitated peacefully with. I see the same thing occur with my wild bettas, as the young fish grow-out alongside their siblings and parents.

There's also no way of knowing how a betta will do in a community setting, without actually putting them into one. I've read a great many posts on this forum, where a hobbyist has set-up a community tank and introduced a betta, only for it to immediately start trying to kill the other fish in the tank. So now the hobbyist is left to set-up a second tank for the betta, and you can see why they would be wary to try again, or recommend such a thing to others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I could argue against the "The only strains of Betta with that intensity I would say are the Thai-bred fighters" statement. I have a few of my own (granted they don't make up a big part of the overall population) that aren't technically "thai bred fighters" and they will easily and quite happily tear another fish up in the blink of an eye. I had my female CT Evey completely tear my late CT female Millie up after a divider accident and I ended up losing the other female. Granted, I've also seen bettas be really really aggressive in their own tanks flaring at fingers, etc but do phenomenal in a divided tank. I haven't tried a community myself.
I am sure there are bettas here and there that are exceptionally aggressive and I totally agree that Bettas are not docile fish but I would say there are even cases of exceptionally aggressive guppies or goldfish that harass their tankmates to death exists. I have had Tiger Barbs nip tails to the bone. Some of it could also be acclimation to tank mates and a proper setup, I believe the majority of bettas are not as aggressive as people make them out to be and would fair pretty well in a good setup.


Plakats and short-finned females would certainly be capable of catching fairly fast-moving fish. Even long-finned males can have surprisingly quick bursts of speed. Plus, the betta doesn't have to actually catch another fish to cause it a great deal of stress.

What you have to watch with bettas is their unpredictability. They can have very abrupt changes of mood, and what they tolerate one day, they may not tolerate the next. You can often see this in young females living in a group setting. They reach sexual maturity, and as their aggression and territorial drives intensify, they suddenly start squaring off with fish that they previously cohabitated peacefully with. I see the same thing occur with my wild bettas, as the young fish grow-out alongside their siblings and parents.

There's also no way of knowing how a betta will do in a community setting, without actually putting them into one. I've read a great many posts on this forum, where a hobbyist has set-up a community tank and introduced a betta, only for it to immediately start trying to kill the other fish in the tank. So now the hobbyist is left to set-up a second tank for the betta, and you can see why they would be wary to try again, or recommend such a thing to others.
You make very valid points but I don't quite understand the unpredictability part, I have never encountered a case where a Betta whose mood swung that drastically or heard of someone with a community tank whose Betta suddenly become aggressive overnight, at least not lurking around the forums. Are we talking about very young fish, like fry that reach adulthood in a community tank? I only ever worked with adult bettas so I am not sure how very young bettas would work, so it could be that, perhaps bettas are not suitable at certain times of their lifespan.

It is true, you risk having a exceptionally aggressive fish by sheer bad luck, I would say that risk kind of exists with just about any fish. Sometimes you get a nasty apple, I had a Tiger Barb that nipped other Barbs to the bone, there was nothing I could do but separate and eventually get rid of it. I would also cautiously wander how a introduction was done and what the setup was if a Betta was killing everything. Tank size often plays a role, if I was a Betta, cramped in a small tank with no personal space, I get pretty feisty too. I also don't think there a is a ton of info on how to introduce a Betta to a community setup, I am no pro or anything, I would say there needs to be a acclimation period where the Betta can see but not harm the other fish, enough plants/decor to break line of sight and enough fish that no single individual is singled out. Granted, I'm sure there have been failures even when everything is done right but I don't believe a few bad marks ruins a painting.

My own experience the last few years has been that they are good community fish and the Betta are more lively when kept in a bigger community setups, I haven't had a tailbiter since and they are definitely more active. I'm sure there are people who are just too nervous for community setups and because a Betta does not require company, its not a must. If the tank is small, I definitely say no, they are still the kings of desktop buddies. I only had bettas do well and I genuinely believe a best setup for a betta is 10gal or greater planted community and is what I always encourage people to establish. But, I am curious however to learn about cases where it has failed, maybe it wasn't planted, maybe the type of tankmates, you know, so I'm not setting people up for failure. Maybe its also a management thing, perhaps someone who doesn't have a ton of time doesn't want to scan a entire tank to make sure every fish is a accounted for, etc.
 

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i currently have a 10 gallon tank with an adult male betta in it. in the tank currently is 9 white cloud betta, 8 cherry barbs, 4 oto catfish and roughly 5 ghost shrimp and an uncountable amount of MTS. (a little overstocked, yes, but it gets a water change twice a week) Even with so many other fish, he doesn't even flair or chase them, even the brightly colored cherry barbs. before i had the barbs, I had orange mollies in the tank who where about the same size as him. He flared at them for a bit, but once again he never chased them or tried to do more then maybe one or two warning bites if they bothered him.

I'm not sure I'd trust my other betta to do the same, but I don't imagine he'd kill all the other fish either.

if I did it again, I would make sure the tank was already stocked with fish and those fish were settled in and comfortable before trying to add the betta. same way you introduce a territorial dog to someone, if they're already in the home they're less likely to get aggressive. obviously it's good to have a backup plan for if **** hits the fan but it is certainly doable with a greater percentage of bettas.

and honestly, bettas aren't the only aggressive fish out there but yet everyone is willing to work around their individual needs. :/ bettas just get the short end of the stick there.
 
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I've certainly seen bettas turn nasty without warning. I may be mistaken, but I believe it's RussellTheShihTzu who had a betta suddenly start stalking the other fish in his tank after previously living alongside them without issue.

I think success in a community setting depends entirely on how well a betta tolerates the continued presence of other fish. All the plants and broken lines of sight in the world will not prevent a determined betta from causing harm to another fish. Based on my experience with my wilds, if a betta takes exception to another fish, they will deliberately seek them out.

I'm not saying that it's impossible to have a successful community set-up including a betta. In fact, I've had one myself. It's just that some bettas will never be suitable candidates, no matter what stock you choose, or how your tank is set-up, and hobbyists need to be aware of the potential risks.
 

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LittleBettaFish is absolutely correct about unpredictabiity.

I've been keeping aquariums since 1959; Betta since 1967 and Betta in community tanks since around 1980. I have any any number of males be fine in a community tank for more than a year when they became aggressive toward any other fish...and not suddenly if you're observant. Most people miss the first sign which is stalking a single fish much as a cat stalks a mouse. By the time the owner realizes something is wrong a fish is dead or damaged.

A person who has a Betta-based community tank without a backup plan is incredibly naive. Always, always have a spare tank and heater on hand should your Betta turn.

As to the question are they "solitary" fish? Who knows...Betta can't talk. But I've never noticed a whit's worth of difference between a Betta by itself and the same Betta in a community tank. IMO/E, a community tank is for the owner. This I say as the owner of eight Betta-based community tanks. ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
LittleBettaFish is absolutely correct about unpredictabiity.

I've been keeping aquariums since 1959; Betta since 1967 and Betta in community tanks since around 1980. I have any any number of males be fine in a community tank for more than a year when they became aggressive toward any other fish...and not suddenly if you're observant. Most people miss the first sign which is stalking a single fish much as a cat stalks a mouse. By the time the owner realizes something is wrong a fish is dead or damaged.

A person who has a Betta-based community tank without a backup plan is incredibly naive. Always, always have a spare tank and heater on hand should your Betta turn.

As to the question are they "solitary" fish? Who knows...Betta can't talk. But I've never noticed a whit's worth of difference between a Betta by itself and the same Betta in a community tank. IMO/E, a community tank is for the owner. This I say as the owner of eight Betta-based community tanks. ;-)
Interesting, I only have communities and I have not ever experienced this, maybe I truly do get the luck of the draw. I definitely do get nips here and there during feeding and I had some unlucky inhabitants get chased and bite but never seen one of mine single anyone out and this stalking behavior. Something I could be on the lookout for and warn others who I convinced to try community.

I would say that regardless of what kind of fish you keep, a backup plan should exist regardless of the breed of fish, not just bettas. That is a given for any type of tank with multiple fish. Even in something mild as guppies, male can harass a certain favorite female to death. Fish get sick all the time, so a few spare hospital tanks should already exist prior to having any fish, especially if you own planted tank as plants do not tolerate salt or medications.

True true, a 10 gallon community tank is also more satisfying than having a 10 gallon with 1 fish in it. I had guppies even longer than Bettas and I would say Bettas also double as a built in cheap population control that is also colorful. Though I would argue aquariums in general are for owners. I do see benefits, or at least perceived benefits. The fish is less idle, most notable during meal time when there is a hustle to get your meal, the Betta will chase, shove, rush and swim around frantically to get food while a lone Betta just lazily swim to the pellet. In livebearer tanks, the Betta will actually hunt fry by flushing them out from plants and they don't just sit there on a leaf for hours like a lot do when they are by themselves. I mean, this could also just be me thinking more activity and stimulation in a tank is beneficial, it could really be all this extra work is actually quite bothersome for the fish but I think it mimics a more natural enviroment.
 

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I completely agree. I always mention the back-up when I post about communities. We have so many who read these threads that I feel it is a good idea to remind them a back-up plan is a must and to not be complacent just because their Betta seems docile.

I've had five or so Betta not do well in community tanks. Some almost immediately were in the back-up as it was obvious the activity was stressful; others were unfazed for a year or more before they started stalking. Over the years 100+ have had no issues whatsoever. I haven't really noticed a difference in activity in solitary and community Betta. Alll of my current tanks are in the same room. I'm lucky that five are within three feet of my end of the sofa which allows a lot of observation and interaction. My husband says I listen to TV as I watch the fish. :)
 

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Yes yes, I don't mean solitary by being with its own species though I would argue females can somewhat be considered social. I just find it interesting that even on well established aquarium forums the advice continues to be keeping a betta by itself. People are shooed away from the thought of keeping bettas in any setting but keeping the fish lone and isolated. There is this stigma that bettas are vicious and would tear down any other fish when in reality, I would say 99% of bettas are too slow to catch most fish and simply do not have that intense of a aggression. The only strains of Betta with that intensity I would say are the Thai-bred fighters, most Bettas are bred for color nowadays.

I think when people are giving out advice for setups, the standard continues to be 1-5 gallons, 1 betta but I would a argue 10-X gallon community setup. People who get larger tanks are sometimes steered away from Bettas because they are labelled as too aggressive to house with other fish and no one really wants 1 fish in a 10 gallon, that is very unfortunate IMO because Bettas are low waste and can be a very colorful, unique addition to a larger setup.

I think its too bad that Betta fans aren't encouraging others, especially people with bigger, community setups to consider a Betta fish. I, for one, always suggest a Betta when someone with a community setup is looking for a new addition and there is always somebody who goes "omg, it will kill everything in the tank, they can only be a in a tank alone!"

If given the opportunity of a community, say a 10 gallon, do people prefer to house their Bettas alone? For a peace of mind?
I have 2 ten gallon community tanks and really, I think the bettas enjoy it. ten gal tank 1 has a older, special needs betta who enjoys occasionally resting on the bottom with the corydoras and watching the amiably. The other betta in the ten gal has long and heavy fins and is a slower, docile little guy. Both seem interested, but very reserved when it comes to tank mates. It really depends on the betta, in all circumstances but for me I feel ten gallons is fine for a community tank with calm nano fish and a betta. Tank-mates are good stimulation, but in no way necessary.
 
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