Can Neon Tetra and Betta Fish Be Tank Mates?

Betta fish are one of the most popular aquarium fish available. Neon Tetras are as well. But can they coexist in the same tank peacefully? We have all heard that bettas can be aggressive and attack other fish. 

The short answer is yes. In the right circumstances, neon tetra and betta fish can be tank mates.

In many cases, however, introducing the two can lead to disaster. To give yourself the best chance at success please read on!

Neon Tetra and Betta Compatibility Factors

There are several factors to consider if you want to ensure your neon tetra and betta fish get along. These include tank size, water parameters, decor, food, and individual fish personalities. 

Tank Size

Though it is popular to keep bettas in small containers they thrive in five to ten gallon aquariums. Larger aquariums are especially important if you want to introduce companions to your betta. 

Neon tetras likewise should have a minimum of ten gallons due to their social behaviors. Neon tetras are schooling fish, and they will be stressed out if they do not have a large group of other neons. The minimum size a neon tetra school should be is 10 fish.

A general rule for selecting aquarium stock is one inch of fish per gallon. Neon tetras may grow to be one and a half inches long, and bettas may grow to be two and a half inches long.

So, if you have ten neon tetras and one betta you have approximately eighteen inches of fish. 

So the best size aquarium to get would be at least a twenty gallon tank. This would even give you enough extra room to add some snails to help keep the tank clean. This larger aquarium will allow the neon tetra and the betta enough room to stay out of each other’s way.

Water Parameters

What about water temperature and pH? Surely there needs to be some overlap in the two fishes water needs for them to live in the same tank. The good news is that their water needs are very similar.

Bettas should be kept in water that is approximately 78-82° F. While Neon Tetras do best in a temperature range of 72-80°F. As you can see this gives us a narrow range of 78-80°F. This is totally attainable with a good aquarium heater or even better an aquarium heater controller

Fortunately, these two fish have similar pH needs as well. Betta do best with a water pH of 6.5-7. And Neon Tetras with a water pH of 6-7. As such, they both need a water hardness that is slightly soft.  

As you can see Neon tetras and bettas water needs are very similar. This makes them ideal tank mates in this respect. 

Individual Fish Personalities and Species Temperament

We all know that bettas generally do not get along well with other fish. However, understanding the two species’ personalities and habits can help you prevent conflict. 

Neon Tetra personalities and habits

Neon tetras are very peaceful schooling fish. They do best when kept in schools of ten to twenty tetras.

While you might be willing to bet that the betta would be the aggressor in an altercation, neon tetras occasionally fall on the wrong side of the law. Tetras may nip at the long billowy fins of a male betta.

On the plus side, Neon Tetra prefer to hang out in the middle level of an aquarium while betta prefer to be closer to the top. So as long as you have a large enough aquarium and plenty of plants fin nipping should be minimized

Betta Individual Personalities and habits

Betta personalities can vary widely. Males tend to be aggressive while females are much less so. So while not as showy and attractive female bettas have a much better chance of existing peacefully with neon tetras.  

But the truth is most of us want to keep a beautiful, showy, male betta. The interesting thing about betta is that each fish has its own individual personality. You may find that you are one of the lucky ones and have a betta with a good temperament. With careful planning and care your betta will do fine with some tank mates.

There are many betta however, that simply will not share a fish tank with other inhabitants. If you determine this is your betta just accept that fact and learn to enjoy him or her in its own tank. 

This means that it is crucial to have a backup aquarium in case the pairing does not work for your fish. Neon tetras may become stressed or be killed outright if they live with aggressive betta. It is not humane to keep fish in the same aquarium if one is bullying the other.

Can Neon Tetra eat betta food?

Bettas are carnivores and neon tetras are omnivores. This means that while tetras may live on betta food, but bettas cannot live on tetra food. You may even find that neon tetra will preferentially feed on the betta pellets over flakes.

However, both of these species enjoy live foods such as brine shrimp or daphnia. These are great treats loaded with good protein. 

Plants and Decor

The aquarium should be heavily planted to give the neon tetras lots of hiding places. This will help them avoid conflict. Bettas also enjoy heavily planted aquariums for cover as well as habitat. This also gives them somewhere to build their bubble nests. Low light aquarium plants are a great choice for those who don’t want to spend a bunch on expensive lights or CO2. 

While live plants are the best choice for your fish and aquarium, not everyone has a green thumb. If you choose to purchase artificial plants get something thick and wide, such as artificial Anacharis. Choosing thicker plants will ensure there are lots of good hiding spots available.

Manufactured aquarium decor can also be incorporated to ensure that there are enough hiding places for all of your fish. 

Introducing your Betta fish to Neon Tetras

I highly recommend that you establish neon tetras in your aquarium first, then add a betta later. This is due to the bettas territorial nature. Once a betta has established himself in a tank alone he will be far less likely to welcome newcomers. He will consider the whole tank his territory. 

When added he will recognize the other fish and hopefully only claim a portion of the aquarium. This should create a neutral ground for the neons to live peacefully.  

Before releasing the Betta into the aquarium place a container with the betta in it into the water. This will give the betta and neon tetra time to see each other with a safety barrier in place. After an hour or two release the betta into the tank. 

Plan to spend some time watching and checking the aquarium the first day. Watch for signs of aggression from the betta such as flaring gills. A little chasing and posturing to establish territory is OK as long as the betta isn’t causing damage. There is a difference between the betta trying to kill another fish and simply establish himself. 

Remember, have a backup plan in case things don’t go well. Its best to have a small tank ready for your betta if it doesn’t work out with the neon tetras. 

Final thoughts on betta fish and neon tetras as tank mates

These fish are both interesting to watch, handsomely colored, and will make your aquarium buzz with activity. With the right fish in a carefully thought out aquarium, they can be kept together peacefully.                         

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