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Which Species Are Best for a Mixed Fish Tank? (And Can You Put a Betta in a Community Aquarium?)

Photo courtesy of Irina Kukuts

Do you want more variety in your fish tank? That’s part of the enjoyment of keeping freshwater fish, is seeing the beautiful diversity in your aquarium.

Unfortunately, some fish just can’t get along (like bettas).

That’s why it’s good to know which species are good matches for living together in a community tank. Here are my suggestions for mixed-species aquariums, as well as advice on adding the infamously aggressive male betta to your mixed fish group…

Best species for community tanks

I won’t keep you in suspense, let’s get right to the list. These are a few species that do well in communities:

Cory catfish

This specimen is an albino, and they often come in speckled or spotted coloring.


These small fish come in many breeds and are popular in community tanks.

Ghost shrimp

Not a fish, but an excellent aquarium addition. It’s good to have species that live at different levels or areas in the tank.


Like tetras, these are another popular small species that comes in a variety of breeds.

Kuhli loaches

Kuhli loaches are an interesting addition, as they look somewhat like a snake or eel at the bottom of the tank.

What about putting a betta in a community tank?

You’ve likely heard that male betta fish are not ideal community members. That being said, you are going to find a wide range of behavior patterns among individuals, so don’t get discouraged if you’d like to add your male betta to a mixed species tank.

The truth is that male bettas are predominantly aggressive with other male bettas and may do well in a tank with other fish species. There’s also the option of adding female bettas to your tank, as they are less aggressive than males in general.

Here’s a quick test you can do to find out whether your betta will do well in an aquarium with other fish:

Put two bettas in separate tanks next to each other, and see how they interact through the sides of their tank. If you don’t have two bettas, you can try putting your single betta’s bowl next to the community tank, and see if he reacts. A betta that mostly ignores other fish or other male bettas is a good candidate for moving to a group.

If your betta seems like a good candidate for a community aquarium, here’s how to proceed:

  • Get a breeding tank that fits inside the larger aquarium (this assumes you already have an aquarium with some fish).
  • Introduce your betta to the environment in the breeding tank only.
  • Watch how the betta reacts to other fish that get near the breeding tank.
  • If the betta appears mostly calm after a few days in the breeding tank, let him loose into the community, under your supervision.
  • Continue to watch the betta’s behavior; you can return him to the breeding tank when you aren’t around, if you are concerned about the safety of your other fish.

You will find that some of the calmer betta fish can integrate just fine with other species. Occasional warning flaring of the gills is nothing to be concerned about, as long as actual fights and nipping aren’t happening (remember that other fish may be enticed to nip the betta’s flowing tail, too).

Obviously, if you see the betta attacking other fish or being nipped, it is not a good candidate for the community tank and will need to be removed to its own smaller aquarium. (Or, if tail nipping by other fish is the issue and the betta is otherwise a good candidate, it could be moved to a tank only with species or individuals that do not nip its tail.)

Here are a few small aquarium suggestions for lone bettas:

And here are the hanging breeding boxes you can use for testing the community waters:

If you have more questions about which fish go well together in an aquarium, ask our team on The Tye-Dyed Iguana’s Facebook page! We sell a variety of beautiful freshwater fish and have curbside pickup for purchases, as well.

Diedra Blackmill is head copywriter and content marketer at Telepath Writing Services. She specializes in writing blog articles, newsletters, and scripts that generate more revenue for businesses. Hire Diedra for your online content.