Bettas and Neon Tetras – Can They Live Together?

It is no secret that betta fish are one of, if not the most in demand fish to grace the popular hobby of aquarium fishkeeping, but additionally, neon tetras are too! Due to the immense popularity of both fish, the question many freshwater fishkeepers have is whether or not they can live together.

Well, in short, yes, they certainly can live together. However, there are a few considerations and the circumstances have to be absolutely right for the relationship to work. There are many different types of Betta fish, and unfortunately, they all have pretty much the same aggressive temperament. 

There have been many cases where introducing both fish to the same tank has resulted in a complete disaster. So, read carefully to ensure that you take the right steps. Also, there are other compatible Betta fish tank mates, for you to consider, but in this article we are focusing solely on Neon Tetras and Betta Fish.

What Makes Bettas and Neon Tetras Compatible?

To make Bettas and Neon Tetras compatible you must follow certain steps closely. For example, the tank size, water parameters, tank décor, food, and personalities of your fish will all play a huge role in the compatibility of both types of fish.

Betta and Neon Tetra Tank Size

Betta fish tend to thrive on their own, meaning that they don't need a particularly big tank. In fact, most people keep Bettas in small containers. However, in order to host other small fish, you will need a 10+ gallon (45 liter) tank.

The reason for this is because it will give other Betta tank inhabitants a lot of space to swim around freely and it provides distance from an aggressive male Betta fish. The larger the tank, the less the risk of these two species going head to head!

Neon Tetras need a tank of 10 gallons or more regardless of other inhabitants due to their sociable nature. They are schooling fish and will become easily stressed if they do not have large groups of Neon Tetra to live with. Between 6 and 10 Neon Tetras is an ideal number.

Neon Tetra will typically grow anywhere between 1 and 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) in length. This means that whilst having a 10-gallon tank is nice, the ideal size tank to accommodate a school of Neon Tetra and one Betta fish is 20 gallons or more. Having a larger tank will also reduce the possibility of your Betta attacking the Neon Tetra residents.

Below is a graphic displaying the classic tank dimensions of a 20 gallon betta fish and neon tetra tank:

Correct Water Parameters

Water temperature and pH level are perhaps the most important factors in keeping your aquarium healthy. Fortunately for those wanting to house both Neon Tetra and Siamese Fighting Fish (Bettas), their water requirements are very similar.

Bettas will need water that is between 78-82°F (25-27°C), whilst the Neon Tetra requires the water temperature to be 72-80°F (22-26°C). If you have a high-quality tetra aquarium heater, then you can certainly achieve a consistent water temperature that fits the requirement of both fish - 78F (25.5°C) will work for both.

When it comes to pH levels, these fish share many similarities. Betta fish enjoy a pH level of 6.5-7, whilst Neon Tetra prefers a water pH of between 6-7. Both fish will need a slightly soft water hardness as suggested by the pH levels.

Below is a graphic summarizing the water parameter requirements for both fish to live comfortably together:

Sharing such similar water requirements is brilliant, and it makes your life as a hobbyist so much easier when you are setting up their aquarium, which in return, makes Neon Tetras a pretty good Betta tank mate.

Betta and Neon Tetra Food and Decor Requirements

Now that it is clear both fish are very compatible when it comes to their tank set up, we should have a look at what food both fish eat and whether it is the same (or similar). Additionally, it is important to see whether or not they require the same plants and decor as one another.

Betta and Neon Tetra Food

When it comes to each of these fish and their diet, Bettas are carnivores and Neon Tetras are omnivores. This is not particularly ideal as Neon Tetras can happily eat Betta food, but Bettas can not eat or live off Tetra food. So, watch out that your fish are not snacking on each others food.

Fortunately, they both enjoy live foods, such as brine shrimp, or daphnia. This is brilliant as both of these food sources are very high in protein and contain the essential nutrients both of these fish require. The below graphic showcases a visual representation of ideal foods to feed both neon tetra and betta fish:

Tank Decorations and Plants

Neon Tetras, like most other small and peaceful fish, will require a lot of hiding spaces within your aquarium. These hiding spots will help them in avoiding any potential conflicts.  Bettas also need hiding spaces too as it mimics their natural habitat and they need coverage too. Plants and other natural covers are fantastic for Bettas to build their bubble nests.

Low light aquarium plants are brilliant for both Bettas and Neon Tetras and they are low maintenance too, requiring far less CO2 and expensive lighting. Alternatively, artificial plants will do a similar job. Try and acquire thick and large artificial plants that offer good shelter.

Personalities and Temperament of Neon Tetras and Betta Fish

Bettas have picked up somewhat of a negative reputation amongst hobbyists, and for good reason too. They are aggressive fish, especially towards each other, and are also extremely territorial. However, when they are housed correctly with other compatible fish, they can behave pretty well, so understanding each species' habits and temperament is pivotal in preventing any conflicts.

Neon Tetra Behavior

Neon Tetras are incredibly peaceful by nature, they enjoy the company of their own too, by ideally living in schools of 6-8 or more. Despite having such a peaceful reputation, they have been known to hold their own when it comes to altercations.

If your male Betta is antagonizing your Neon Tetras, don't be surprised to see a Tetra give some back in the way of a nip to the fin or headbutt. However, this occurrence is extremely rare. Tetras will typically swim around the middle level of your aquarium, while Bettas much prefer swimming close to the top of your fish tank. So, if you have a large enough tank, with plenty of plants and décor, you shouldn't experience any aggression between the two.

Betta Fish Personalities

Betta fish have varying personalities. Male bettas usually are more aggressive, whereas female betta fish are more peaceful fish. Unfortunately, the male Betta will typically be the more bright, colorful, and beautiful of the two, while female Bettas are much more likely to live peacefully with Neon Tetras.

Having a flashy, beautiful, and unique male betta is awesome, and each betta fish will have a totally different personality type to the other. So, you may be lucky and get one with a peaceful nature and good temperament. Fortunately, despite your betta's personality, as long as you follow the right plan and take care of them, both of these fish can be harmonious tank mates.

Unfortunately, sometimes, on extremely rare occasions your Betta fish will just simply not live with other fish and it is impossible to allow them to as it can lead to stressed neon tetras or they can even be killed in the worst case. If this is your betta, you will just have to keep it alone and away from others.

Introducing Bettas to Neon Tetras in your Tank

The most effective strategy for adding both Tetra fish and Betta fish to the same tank is to have the Neon Tetras live in the aquarium first, then, once the tank is established, add your Betta. Bettas are naturally territorial and aggressive, so adding them after will likely lessen the chance of them being territorial over the already comfortable Tetras. A male Betta or even female Betta that has been introduced to a tank first will almost always consider the aquarium as his or her territory.

In an ideal scenario, your Betta will notice all the aquarium fish and claim a small area of the aquarium as their own. Once this has happened and the tropical fish are all aware of who's area is who's, they should coexist peacefully. When you release your Betta into your tank, you should place it in a see-through container first so that it can see and get used to its new tank mates before being completely free in your aquarium. After an hour or so and with no signs of aggressiveness, you can let your Betta swim around freely in your tank.

Now, you will need to be observant and dedicate a large amount of your time to monitoring your tank, and more importantly the behavior of your fish, both your Betta and Neon Tetras. If you see a bit of chasing that is fine, as your Betta will be trying to establish himself, but if things become more violent then remove the Betta.

Final Thoughts

Both of these fish are awesome! They possess truly unique, beautiful colors and behavioral patterns. Additionally, they are small and perfect for 10 to 20-gallon aquariums, but we recommend a 20-gallon aquarium to avoid any funny business! Fortunately, neon tetras are one of the best tank mates for Bettas, which is great as their appearances complement one another extremely well and Neon Tetras will also busy up your aquarium as you will likely keep them in large groups.