Q: B wrote,
I just finished cycling a 10 gallon tank for my betta, Mo. I want to add some other fish. I was thinking of some guppies, a snail and maybe some kind of algae eater. Will this be okay for my tank? How many more fish can I add? Thanks.
A: A 10 gallon tank is a great choice for a betta home. It’s small yet easy to maintain and you can still have enough room for a few other tank mates. Bettas tend to have “personalities” unique to the individual ranging from highly aggressive to docile or even skittish. It may take a little trial and error to see how your betta fares with other fish. While the vast majority of bettas do quite well in a community tank I like to have a contingency plan available for those who don’t handle tank mates well. You may need a back up aquarium, a friend or aquarium club who can take your fish or a LFS (local fish store) that can take unwanted fish. The best thing you can do to minimize aggression is to choose tank mates that have traditionally cohabitated well with bettas in the home aquarium. Some fish that often work well include, otocinclus (algae eaters), small corydoras, apple snails, ghost shrimp and rasboras.
Some species may require more observation like fish with bright colors and/or flowing fins like fancy guppies or platys. It is strongly advised that you have a Plan B in place if you are considering these fish. African Dwarf Frogs sometimes work but can be aggressive at times and also may need to be hand fed to assure they get their share of the food. Female bettas can be kept in groups of 3 or more, however, males and females shouldn’t share a tank.
Some species are to be avoided; these include fish that are aggressive and may nip at fragile betta fins. Fish that are closely related to bettas like the various gourami species or paradise fish should also be avoided. Any fish that do not share the same basic needs as bettas should not be considered as tank mates. These species include cool water fish like gold fish or brackish water fish like mollies.**
Whichever fish you choose be sure to research them properly BEFORE buying them. Many species, like bettas, have very specific needs. Rasboras for instance are schooling fish and need to be kept in groups and apple snails need specific nutrients to keep their shells strong and healthy. Before running off to the store take a few days to research the species your are interested in. When you finally decide on a tank mate always quarantine them in a separate tank for a minimum of four weeks to insure they aren’t harboring bacteria, viruses or parasites.
** mollies can be kept in total freshwater but many aquarists believe they thrive in brackish water so to err on the side of caution I tend to discount them as potential betta tank mates.