Male Siamese fighting fish, also known as bettas, have a reputation for being angry looking and antisocial. The lonesome fish don’t mind a lack of company, and they’re usually content swimming blissfully around their tank. But a few select species of fish and couple of toys can spice things up in a betta’s dull life.
Company of Other Fish
It’s not that bettas have poor manners, but rather that they simply do not like nor need the company of other fish. Their lack of friends does not cause them to become bored, but you may include certain species in the same tank as your betta. Corydoras catfish and otocinclus catfish are the most common fish to share a tank with bettas, because they occupy different levels in the tank. But the comradeship depends on the tank size and the personality of your betta. Anything less than 15 to 20 gallons will be too small, and the crowded space can cause your betta to become aggressive with the corys and little ottos. On the flip side, a larger tank may not even matter if your betta hates the presence of other fish. The only way to tell if the relationship will work is by monitoring the tank closely for the first week or two to make sure your betta does not aggressively attack the other fish. Although they’re not fish, snails generally work well together with bettas.
While they’re not fond of most aquatic life, bettas do enjoy human interaction outside of the tank. They’ll respond to someone standing in front of their tank by rushing to the front and swimming side to side. Some will also follow your finger. New bettas may shy away from you for the first week or two, and some will display stress symptoms in the form of dark and light horizontal stripes on their body. They just need a few weeks to get used to their new owners.
While a lack of toys won’t cause your little betta to become depressed or unhappy out of boredom, they love mirrors on the outside of the tank and pingpong balls floating on top of the water. They’ll look at themselves in the mirror, open their fins and expose their beard to make themselves look bigger and prettier. They dart after pingpong balls and smack them with their head across the tank. Males usually play more with toys because of their aggression. Other toy ideas include a small floating log found at pet stores, floating beads and a picture that mimics your betta’s size and colors. Never add anything to the aquarium unless you know it’s aquarium safe.
It’s generally not a good idea to add fish to your betta’s tank aside from ottos and cory catfish. Tetras are OK sometimes, but they’re not as safe. Most bettas are curious about snails, but they don’t do anything aside from swim around and eye the snails up. Other bettas and aggressive fish, such as dwarf gouramis, are absolutely off-limits, unless you have a divider separating the two. As a rule of thumb, if you do not have the time to watch over your betta in the presence of other fish, do not add those fish. You should never purchase a fish to live with your betta unless you have another tank they can be moved to if the betta rejects them. If you add a toy and it stresses your betta, remove it. Some bettas react negatively to toys.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.