Can Neon Tetras Live with Bettas?

Can neon tetras live with Bettas? The answer is yes, but there’s a catch, no pun intended. Bettas can be aggressive towards other fish, but neon tetras are great at avoiding bettas by occupying the mid-section of a tank. That alone is not enough to justify a peaceful co-existence, and a lot will be required on your part to make it work. There are things outlined in this article to guide you because such a union is not always straightforward. So, let’s dive in.

Before you even think about whether the two fishes are compatible, it is good practice to know each one’s relevant mannerisms.


The female bettas are not as aggressive as the males, but the problem is that they are as good looking either. Most people get aquarium fish because they are colorful and easy on the eye, and this is why male bettas are a preferred fish tank resident. In rare cases, you may find one that is not as aggressive, but sometimes you’ll have to give in and let one betta occupy a whole fish tank. In such a scenario, get another tank to act as a backup once the betta starts bullying his neighbors. Hopefully, you’re not the type to play deathmatch at the expense of the lives of other creatures.

The reason behind the betta’s aggression is because they view other colorful fish as rivals looking for a fight, and so they attack. Neon tetras are naturally beautiful and colorful, and so they easily become victims when placed in the same environment.

Neon Tetras

This type of fish is social and sometimes will nip the fins of other fishes, in this case, a grumpy betta who will respond with excess force. Naturally, bettas will stick around a fish tank’s top area, while neon tetras will occupy the middle section. This is why a bigger tank facilitates peaceful living. A solution for the nipping behavior among the neon tetras, introduce a lot of plants in your fish tank. A neon tetra is happy when in the company of 20 of his relatives because they are schooling fish. The recommended minimum number per tank is 6 to 10 per every territorial betta.

(For more information on compatible tank mates for neon tetras, check out our article – Best Tank Mates for Neon Tetras)

are neon tetras hardy

What to Consider Before Pairing Neon Tetras and Bettas in One Tank

How big is your fish tank?

Bettas are carnivorous fish, while neon tetras are omnivorous. Even in the wild, lions tend to be more temperamental and territorial than herbivores such as gazelles. Similarly, bettas are territorial and will fight any fish that invades their privacy and sometimes eat the intruder. So, it is essential that for the two to co-exist in the same tank, the space has to be large. That way, everyone can stay in their own space and live as peaceful neighbors.

Experts recommend that each inch of fish should live in a gallon of water. Considering that the minimum number of neon tetras required for a betta is 10, it’s correct to conclude that you’ll need at least 15 gallons to ensure peace between the two. In this case, a bigger fish tank will be advantageous for all parties, including yourself.

A large fish tank will have enough room for beneficial creatures such as snails, who are known to be efficient fish tank cleaners. If you’re wondering which is the perfect variety of snails to get for this cleaning role, then consider the nerite and ramshorn snails.

Their water needs

Neon tetras do well in water that has a temperature range of between 72 to 80-degrees Fahrenheit. Bettas, on the other hand, require water whose temperature is between 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that these two types of aquarium fish are able to survive in the water with the same favoring temperatures. To achieve such an atmosphere, you need to invest in an effective aquarium heat controller to avoid freezing or frying your beloved pets to death.

What again makes bettas and neon tetras perfect tank mates is that they both need water with a slightly soft hardness. The former needs pH levels of 6.5 to 7 and the latter 6 to 7 pH levels.

Fish food

As mentioned earlier, bettas eat meat while neon tetras will enjoy a little bit of everything from plants to meat. It is possible for neon tetras to enjoy food meant for bettas but not vise versa. A good way to approach this is to provide each one with their respective foods.

On top of that, treat your neon tetras with a vegetable that has gone through blanching. When doing this, remember to remove the vegetable after a few hours or a day to avoid it rotting in the fish tank.

Other nutritious meals include live food such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and daphnia. It is completely healthy to feed your fishes frozen versions of these foods. However, bloodworms tend to be toxic when eaten in excess. The known side effects of fish overfeeding on bloodworms include swim bladder disease and constipation.

Which type of fish do you place in the tank first?

Obviously, these will be neon tetras because then when you add a betta, he’ll be new to the aquarium, and maybe he might be humble. If you make the mistake of placing a betta in the fish tank first, he will establish a territory, and when you add neon tetras, later on, they will be seen as invaders. That alone is a good reason for the betta to be aggressive, and fish will never be happy under the stress of a bully.

Putting a betta into a tank that other fish have already occupied is an efficient way to tame his aggressive nature because then he’ll have no choice but to keep to himself in a smaller section of the tank.

Consider the gender of the betta

Female bettas are less aggressive and don’t feature long fins like their male counterparts. Therefore, they will live more peacefully with neon tetras because there will be no fins to nip and female bettas are more tolerant of trespassing neighbors.

Female Bettas are less aggressive than males

How to reduce stress for the bettas

Bettas probably view the schooling fish the way an older brother will be stressed by their sugar high hyperactive annoying little brother. In an effort to reduce stress for the bettas, introduce enough hiding places when decorating your fish tank. Here the sky’s the limit in terms of hiding place décor, and you can use plants, wood caves, and other ideas. Sometimes bettas just need peace and quiet; no wonder they are so territorial. The hiding places also act as protection because schooling fish can harm anything that’s in the way as they go through their synchronized swimming antiques.

You should also note that keeping two male bettas in one fish tank will end in disaster. They might fight to the death over territory.

How many neon tetras should you have?

It is highly forbidden to keep only one lonely neon tetra. This fish is interesting because if it’s in a small group, it becomes stressed and resorts to fin nipping, which leads to a confrontation with a betta. However, if you keep them in a school of six or more, they tend to be happy, and the fin nipping behavior reduces significantly. Few neon tetras will become aggressive from the stress and go looking for trouble in betta territory. For that reason, a good number should be ten neon tetras to one betta.

(Check out our guide on caring for neon tetras here!)

Tips for Introducing the Neon Tetras to the Bettas

First of all, you should place the neon tetras in the fish tank first, then introduce the betta later on, as pointed out earlier. It is good practice to put the betta in a container and then plunge it into the water tank to get the two acquainted. The container will act as a barrier to protect either party from aggression brought on by shock.

Let the betta stay in the container for about an hour before releasing him into the tank. After doing this, it is essential that you carefully observe what transpires during the first day of the meet. You should expect the betta to chase neon tetras about the place in the act of establishing a territory. Flaring gills is a sign of aggression from the betta. As long as he’s not trying to kill his new neighbors, the neon tetras, everything else is normal. Sometimes he may appear to show aggression when he’s just declaring ownership over territory.

In Conclusion

In order to answer the question, can neon tetras live with bettas, you need first to understand each of them and what causes the incompatibility. As mentioned before, bettas are naturally aggressive fish. Still, they attack neon tetras because the latter appear colorful, which confuses the betta into assuming that it’s a rival betta about to attack. This becomes apparent when you realize that neon tetras are schooling fish, so they move about in formations that look like fighting moves. As much as neon tetras are known to be the aggravators, it will be up to you to create a conducive living space where these two beautiful fish tank darlings can co-exist peacefully.