Neon tetras and betta fish get along together in community fish tanks as long as certain conditions are met. Female bettas are more peaceful than males. With a male betta, it’s always a gamble whether he will get along with any other fish.
Natural Habitat of Neon Tetra and Betta
Neon tetras come from the Amazon basin in South America. The water is cooler than most other parts of the rainforest. Their water is crowded with plant life, making the water brown with tannins.
Bettas come from Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand. They live in marshes, shallow drainage ditches, and rice paddies. Their water is full of plant life, sometimes getting brown. They evolved the ability to breathe air when water conditions become poor.
Neon Tetra and Betta Water Parameters
The general consensus is that both neon tetras and bettas like soft water, although some fish keepers insist that neon tetras do best in water that is too hard for bettas. It is essential to have an aquarium filter in a tank with neon tetras, since they are far more sensitive to poor water quality than bettas.
Some fish keepers also claim that neon tetras like the water from 68 to 78 degrees F. Bettas do best in temperatures of 78 to 80 degrees F. If you can keep the water temperature at 78, then bettas and neon tetras will do well together.
Neon Tetras and Male Bettas
Keeping neon tetras and male bettas can be a controversial topic. It seems just as many longtime fish keepers will be for having a male betta in a tank with neon tetras, and just as many will be against it.
The main problem is that male bettas are completely unpredictable. If you have already tried adding other fish, and the male chased, fought, or even ate them, then the male needs to be kept alone or only with bottom feeders like kuhli loaches, Corydoras catfish, and Plecostomus.
Neon Tetras and Female Bettas
Female bettas are underappreciated. They can have just as vibrant a personality as a male betta, even though they lack the brilliant colors or long, funky fins of the male. Females can make great community tank mates.
Females are more tolerant of other fish in general. Keep in mind that each betta has a unique personality. Some females are nearly as aggressive as males. Always provide a lot of hiding places in a community tank in case things get heated.
The betta I had that I remember best was a red female that my Mom named Jackie. She lived with a common Plecostomus and danios. They were in a 20-gallon tall tank, and everyone got along for years.
Tank Size for Neon Tetra and Betta
Never keep neon tetras in any tank less than 20 gallons large. They need to be kept in small schools of at least six, and they need room to swim. They also need a place to hide if the betta gets aggressive – or a place for the betta to hide if the school of neon tetras gets aggressive.
Neon tetras die like flies if kept in a smaller-sized tank. Smaller tanks also mean that it’s harder for the fish to get out of each other’s way. This makes both the neon tetras and the bettas nippy and prone to chasing.
My Personal Experience
I do not recommend keeping a male betta with any other fish except bottom feeders and small danios like leopard or zebra danios. Although there have been many people who keep a male with neon tetras or other fish in community tanks, like my Dad, I’ve not been one of those people.
My Dad had a large tropical community tank when I was a kid. He always had a male betta in there. Some males got along with other fish, but then there was a particular red male who fought just about anything in his path. The swordfish really set him off.
Fortunately, the tank was large and Dad had lots of decorations and plastic plants to serve as hiding places. The tetras spent most of the time in the middle or bottom of the tank, while the betta mostly kept to the top.
In my twenties, I kept bettas and tried keeping other fish with male bettas. Big mistake. Although I never tried neon tetras, I did try other small fish like guppies. The males went after everything from small gouramis to female guppies.
Other Tetras and Bettas
Tetras need a tank at least 20 gallons large, and plenty of hiding places. These tetras include:
- Black neon tetras: not as colorful as neons, but more peaceful. They also need to be kept in a small school of at least six.
- Rummy nose tetras: They are very peaceful, but can grow two inches long. They also need to be kept in a small school.
- Glowlight tetras: Also called glow tetras, they are generally peaceful and hardy, but need to be kept in a small school of at least six. They also can live in temperatures up to 82 degrees F.
Tips for Keeping Peace in a Community Tank
Make sure all of the fish are getting enough fish food. Neon tetras are faster swimmers than bettas. You may need to feed the betta by hand, dropping food one bit at a time, right over the betta’s head to be sure he or she feeds. Fed fish are less likely to eat the yummy fins of the other fish. Bettas have been known to kill and eat neon tetras. Hungry bettas can be dangerous.
Add plenty of hiding places in the tank. These can be live or plastic plants, decorations, driftwood or rock tunnels. The decorations should not take up more than 40 percent of the tank, since your fish will need room to swim around to stay healthy. Make sure the decorations are smooth so they do not injure the betta.
It’s always good to have a tank divider handy in case World War III breaks out in your tank.
Introducing Fish to Other Fish
It doesn’t matter if the betta is first in the tank or the neon tetras. If adding a betta, it’s best to have a five-gallon quarantine tank to make sure he or she is healthy enough to add to the community tank.
It’s normal for new fish to hide once they get out of the bag. Neon tetras will feel more secure when they can be with other neon tetras. Bettas are often more curious.
If you cannot use a quarantine tank, float the bag the fish is in for at least half an hour, adding a little aquarium water every few minutes. If a betta starts attacking the neon tetras while they are still in the bag, you’ll need to eventually get a new tank for the betta.
So, Are Neon Tetras and Bettas Good Tank Mates?
They can be. You have more chances of the fish getting along if you use female bettas rather than males. The fish need to be well fed to reduce the chances of nipping. Tanks should be at least twenty gallons long, with plenty of places for the neon tetras or the betta to hide.
About the author
Hi, I am Rena.
I grew up in a house surrounded by fish tanks.
I have spent my life caring for and writing about fish.
I have studied journalism and worked for online and print magazines.
You can find the articles I wrote here