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Can Pleco & Betta Fish Live Together? Vet-Approved Compatibility Facts & Alternatives

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By Lindsey Stanton

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Although some people think you can put any fish together in a tank and they’ll be fine, this is not true! Fish are like all other pets in that some get along, while others will irritate, harm, or even injure one another. You should always research before deciding to put multiple fish in the same tank. This will help you ensure that your fish will coexist peacefully.

Bettas have a reputation for being incompatible with others. While there are some fish that bettas won’t get along with, there are others that they can share a tank with. The plecostomus, or pleco, is unfortunately not one of these fish. The pleco and betta cannot live together in the same tank without problems on a long-term basis. Read on for more details on creating harmony in your tank.



Why Don’t Plecos and Bettas Make Good Tank Mates?

Plecos are not considered good tank mates for bettas on a long-term basis for several reasons. For one thing, many pleco species are peaceful when young (usually when they’re purchased) but tend to get more aggressive and territorial when they’re older. This makes them a long-term risk for bettas.

Other issues that make them incompatible long-term companions include the following:
  • Contrary to popular belief, plecos are not herbivores. They can attack other fish and are known to remove the slime coat from tank mates at times. A slow-moving betta can make for an easy target.
  • Plecos have a high bioload and are exceptionally messy (even though they are marketed as “cleaner fish”). Many species grow way too large for an aquarium that a betta would be typically housed in. For example, the common pleco grows big enough to require a 150-gallon tank!
  • Plecos have spines that can sometimes get caught in a sponge filter, which most people prefer to use with bettas.
  • Male Plecos in particular are aggressive when they are guarding a potential breeding site and will readily attack other fish.
Bristlenose Plecos
Image Credit: TTONN, Shutterstock

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What Other Fish Are Good Betta Tank Mates?

While plecos aren’t good tank mates for your betta, other species may be more suitable for cohabitation. These include the following.

1. Kuhli Loaches

kuhli loache
Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

These long, slender fish look like eels. They spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank and aren’t aggressive, so they won’t bother your betta. They should be kept in groups, though, and they need a burrowing substrate to thrive. They often only emerge at night to eat.

2. Emperor Tetras

Image Credit: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shutterstock

Although they are smaller than bettas, emperor tetras are also much faster.They don’t school as readily as most other tetras, and a pair will be happier with each other than in the company of other tetras. This may make them an appealing choice for a small aquarium.

3. Harlequin Rasboras

Harlequin Rasbora
Image Credit: InsectWorld, Shutterstock

The harlequin rasbora needs to be kept in a group of at least six. Interestingly, one of the reasons they are compatible with bettas is that they are commonly found together in their natural habitat and therefore are used to living together.

4. Ember Tetras

Image Credit: nektofadeev, Shutterstock

Similar to the harlequin rasbora, the ember tetra is a small schooling fish. Unlike emperor tetras, they prefer company and should be kept in groups of six or more (10 is ideal). They will keep to their small group and are fast enough to swim away from an aggressive betta.

5. Otocinclus Catfish

otocinclus catfish in aquarium
Image Credit: PRAPHAKORN LIMRAT, Shutterstock

Unlike most catfish, these peaceful schooling fish are herbivores. They are prolific algae eaters and tend to stay out of a betta’s way. Although they are bottom dwellers, they tend to prefer hanging out near plants and will often rest on them. They are quite timid, but a large school promotes confidence and makes them more lively.

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What Fish Shouldn’t Live With Bettas?

It’s important to keep in mind that not all fish are good tank mates for bettas. As mentioned, Plecos aren’t a good mix, but other fish should be avoided too. Some fish that should never be kept in the same tank as a betta include the following.


Goldfish in freshwater aquarium_
Image Credit: luckypic, Shutterstock

Goldfish and bettas don’t make good tank mates. Unlike some other species on this list, their incompatibility has more to do with habitat than aggression. Goldfish are messy and like cool water. Bettas prefer warm water and easily get sick in lower temperatures.


Image Credit: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shutterstock

Gouramis are actually related to the betta. Their similar temperaments mean they shouldn’t be housed together or you risk aggression between them.


cichlids in aquarium
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

The many fish that make up the cichlid family are known to be aggressive toward other species, including bettas.

Tiger Barbs

Tiger barb
Image Credit: Grigoriev Mikhail, Shutterstock

Tiger barbs are aggressive and attracted to the fins of the betta. This is not a good combination, as they tend to destroy the betta’s fins anytime they are kept in the same tank.

Other Bettas

dumbo halfmoon betta
Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

You should never keep two male bettas in a tank together. They will attack one another and may even kill each other in the process.



Final Thoughts

While there are compatible tank mates for bettas, most plecos don’t fulfill the role as sensible long-term tank mates. As they age, they tend to get aggressive. This, coupled with their high bioload and in some cases, extreme space requirements, render them incompatible with bettas. Other fish are safer alternatives when it comes to incorporating a betta in a community setup.

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Featured Image Credit: Ron Kuenitz Shutterstock

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