You’re here because you have a question weighing on your mind…
… A pressing question…
“Can betta fish live with goldfish?”
After all, they are both freshwater fish, right?
Well, keep reading to learn the answer!
Problems with Keeping Betta Fish and Goldfish Together
There are quite a few roadblocks to keeping these two species together in the same tank.
(And you probably won’t have ever guessed one of them.)
First, the tank really should be heated.
Betta fish are NOT cold water fish.
And neither are goldfish – well, especially fancy goldfish.
(So when people tell you goldfish are coldwater fish, remember that’s not necessarily true.)
The temperature needs to be above 70 degrees F or it’s just too downright chilly for Mr. Betta pants. You don’t want him to be cold all the time or he could be prone to sickness. :(
Alright, so maybe your goldfish tank is unheated, and you would need a heater if your room isn’t that warm.
The other thing is the betta really shouldn’t have direct contact with your goldies.
A few reasons:
1. It needs to be protected from getting eaten.
See, if the goldfish grows to be its full size, betta could end up being snack.
This is because a goldfish eats any fish it can fit in its mouth.
(That includes their own young!)
So you don’t want to wake up one day and find that your beautiful little betta friend has become sushi.
2. It needs to be in a stress-free environment.
The other thing is the goldfish swimming around in with the betta can stress out the betta fish.
Betta fish can be quite territorial and feel threatened by this.
Some people have had success keeping betta fish sororities (a community of betta fish that have their own social hierarchy that gets established with time).
It’s tricky and takes a lot of forethought, and even then there is still some occasional aggression.
This ain’t ever gonna happen with goldfish and betta fish together.
It’s like trying to mix oil and water.
They’re never going to have that social hierarchy that lets them live together in a stress-free, peaceful setup.
So in my opinion:
It’s not fair to stress out the betta fish all the time in an environment it feels uncomfortable and agitated in 24/7.
3. It needs to be fed. And with its own food.
Trying to feed a betta without having its breakfast gobbled up by the goldfish is no easy task.
Keeping betta fish living with goldfish in the same tank – with direct contact – is kind of like trying to keep a cat in a house full of big, hyper dogs.
But before the betta has a chance to grab its food, chances are a goldfish is gonna get to it first, and this can be VERY frustrating.
To make things worse:
Betta fish have separate dietary needs from goldfish.
… They can’t even eat the same food. They need betta fish food (I use this brand).
So trying to get your betta to eat – before the goldfish snarfs it’s food – AND ensure it gets separate food – is not a task for the fainthearted.
The Best Way to House & Care for a Betta Fish
Your betta fish’s container really should have a minimum water volume size of 2 gallons, which allows the fish to have sufficient swimming space to prevent muscle atrophy.
Recent studies have found that betta fish kept in small enclosures suffered reduced lifespan and health problems due to muscle atrophy (source).
More is definitely better if you can.
For mine, I use this big 3 gallon plastic fish bowl.
A heater is also necessary to keep the temperature stable in the mid to high seventies (I use this one).
By keeping the fish on its own without goldfish, you are able to maintain a lower acidity in the water than would be suitable for goldfish.
(Psst – betta fish like more acidic water.)
Lots of plants is a really good idea, as in the wild betta fish live in densely planted areas with high levels of tannins in the water.
Keeping a soil-bottom substrate (such as by utilizing the Walstad method setup) as well as adding driftwood and Indian almond leaf also help to replicate the natural blackwater conditions of a wild betta’s environment.
Indian almond leaf even helps protect against bad bacteria and fin rot.
Bettas do NOT like much current in the water.
A very tiny air stone is fine as long as it does not cause turbulent water.
The fish should never be blown around.
But if you have enough plants and light, it isn’t necessary anyways as the plants will oxygenate the water.
In the short-term, you can keep betta fish and goldfish living together if you blow a heater or need to quickly move your betta to a cycled environment.
But only for the short-term.
To do that, you need to do the following…
Use a hang-on breeding box with a tight-fitting lid.
Yep, that’s it.
Only for a temporary setup.
This is because this system does not allow the betta fish enough room in the long term to move about.
I love these things, because they allow me to separate more delicate species that would be stressed or in danger living in the same tank with my goldfish, but they don’t require me to set up a totally separate environment with a new heater, a new filter, new light, new plants, etc.
All bettas kept in small enclosures of 1.25 gallons experienced adverse health effects in this study, whereas the ones kept in larger ones had a better success rate.
So breeding boxes are NOT a good long-term home for a betta fish, but they can be useful – temporarily – in a pinch.
My favorite is Marina’s Large Hang-on Breeding Box.
It’s super affordable and holds .8 gallons of water all by itself.
The water coming from the main tank ensures the quality of the water does not deteriorate in a small space with no filter or plants.
I also have their medium size (but I don’t keep betta fish in that, just ramshorns).
I actually use it to keep baby ramshorn snails, my Amano shrimp, and just about whatever other small fish I want can live in there peacefully and temporarily (provided the pH and temperature works with that of my goldfish tank mates).
And the breeding box is totally crystal clear.
This means I get a perfect view of my fish at all times.
Water volume is not an issue because there is a constant – very slow, gentle – flow of water from the tank to it – and back again.
PERFECT because betta fish don’t like strong current.
It is also perfectly temperature-regulated.
The tight-fitting lid prevents any acrobatics resulting in Mr. Betta turning into carpet jerky.
You can also do what I did and place a mini light on top for better viewing and to help some live plants grow.
I think of this thing as a mini-tank without the restrictions of small water volume.
I add substrate, decor, plants, and lights but it’s all part of the main system with my goldfish.
Before you add water or fish:
- Get some plant-friendly substrate (you can use Flourite Black Sand, or even dirt mixed with clay like I’ve done) and pack about 1-1.5″ on the bottom.
- Plant some delicate little plants in it that your goldfish would destroy in one second (I’ve used Pearl Weed).
- Put a piece of plastic bag or a plastic cup with holes in the bottom and slowly fill with water so it won’t get all cloudy.
- Set this full-spectrum light on the top to help the plants grow.
- Connect the airline tubing and pump and you’re all set to jet!
How to stop Mr. Betta from getting stressed out seeing your goldfish swim by through the box?
If your tank doesn’t have a solid back you can put some window privacy film (my preference) or other fabric/paper in between the breeding box and your tank.
Don’t betta fish require softer water than what is recommended goldfish?
Goldfish prefer a pH of around 7.4, give or take a bit.
They can also adapt to a wider range of pH, providing it is stable.
Betta fish also prefer a pH of around 7.4.
And while they do quite well in softer water (water with a lower GH and KH)…
… They can also adapt to living in water that is not as soft – or even hard – providing they are acclimated properly.
It has been proposed that keeping betta fish in harder water causes fin curling.
But other betta fish breeders believe that there is no relationship between fin curling and water hardness, but rather it is due to the genetics of the fish.
(Interestingly enough, many goldfish breeders believe that curled fins in goldfish are a result of genetics as well.)
There is no solid evidence that keeping the betta in water that is neutral or hard will harm the health or lifespan of the fish.
What seems to be much more important is consistency.
Constant fluctuations in water hardness are much more stressful to a fish than one that is stable, though it may be more to one end or the other of the scale.
Don’t betta fish need warmer water than what is recommended goldfish?
Mid 70’s to 80 degrees F seems to be a good range for betta fish.
And as mentioned before, goldfish are not necessarily cold-water fish.
They are less prone to disease in the 78-82 degrees F range.
So keeping the tank on the warmer side can be beneficial for both.
Read More: Goldfish Water Temperature
Is it enough swimming room?
No, in the long term, it’s not.
Unlike goldfish, betta fish do not grow more than a couple of inches long.
They are native to shallow, heavily vegetated rice paddies, drainage ditches and marshes, and are well-adapted to living in such an environment.
But as said earlier, the small swimming space can cause problems with muscle atrophy.
These fish should have enough swimming room to prevent muscle atrophy.
And this box does not provide that.
Breeding boxes can be a useful thing to have around so you don’t have to worry about all the problems associated with keeping your betta fish in with your goldfish directly in a pinch.
What do you think?
I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below!