Can You Keep a Betta with a Cichlid?

Cichlids and betta are both fish species that are known for being territorial and aggressive towards other fish. Both bettas and cichlids will fight others of their species to death. But can these feisty fish hold their own together in a community tank that is big enough for the both of them to have their own territories?

Keeping a betta and any type of cichlid together, even in a large tank, is not a good idea. Cichlids will harass and eventually kill a betta. They nip at their large, wavy fins, causing damage and eventually death from infection. Large cichlids can swallow a betta whole. 

When you are busy planning how to stock a community tank, it can be difficult to find appropriate tank mates for bettas and cichlids. It is critical to consider fishes’ temperaments, needs, and the size fish will reach as adults. This article discusses why bettas and cichlids should not be kept together and which species are better tank mates for these fish.

Jaguar Cichlid | Source: Deposit Photos

Cichlid Characteristics And Needs

Cichlids are a diverse family of fish. There are African cichlids, like krib, native to the Great Rift Valley. There are also Central and South American species, like discusfish, freshwater angelfish, ram, and dwarf cichlids. 

They are notorious for their aggression towards other fish. Large African cichlids are predatory and will feed on smaller tankmates, like cory catfish and tetras. In community tanks, they require lots of space, plants, and caves to hide in and spawn. 

Cichlids can tolerate a range of water conditions but thrive in warm water with a pH of around 8 and a temperature between 70°F and 80°F (°C-°C). Cichlids prefer a sandy substrate in their tank. 

You should feed them specially formulated cichlid pellets. As cichlids are omnivorous, add variety to their diet with blood worms and finely diced fresh vegetables.

Betta Characteristics And Needs

Wild Betta Alien Female or Plakat | Source: Deposit Photos

Bettas are tropical freshwater fish that is native to Asia. These are popular fish to keep as pets due to their beautiful colors and large, showy, billowing fins. Male bettas use their decorative fins to flare at competitors. 

They are small fish that only reach about 3 inches in length. They need at least 30L of water per individual. Male and female bettas are aggressive and territorial. You should only keep a single betta in a tank. 

Like cichlids, they require warm water in the range of 74°F and 82°F (°C-°C). Bettas like a gravel substrate in their tank. They are carnivorous fish that should be fed betta specific fish flakes. Supplement the protein in their diet with brine shrimp and worms

Can Betta Live With Cichlids?

Although bettas and cichlids have similar requirements when it comes to water temperature, hardness, and pH, they have very different feeding requirements, and their temperaments are incompatible.

Because both these types of fish are aggressive and territorial, they cannot be kept in a tank together. Large cichlids will swallow bettas whole. It would be stressful for bettas to be kept in a tank with cichlids. They would harass them, and dwarf cichlids may nip at bettas fins. Damage to their fins leads to infection and, ultimately, death.

Good Tank Mates For A Betta

Betta fish, siamese fighting fish, betta splendens | Source: Deposit Photos

Bettas need plenty of space in the tank to exist peacefully with other tank mates, especially males, which are more aggressive than females.

They can be kept with rasbora, neon, black skirt and cardinal tetras, gourami, and loach species, like kuhli loaches

White cloud mountain minnows, harlequin rasboras, pygmy corydoras, and clown plecos are great tank mates for a female betta. 

Hatchetfish, silver dollars, mollies, and swordtails can be kept with a male betta. Ghost shrimp, African dwarf frogs, and aquatic snails, like Nerite and Mystery snails, are also peaceful tank mates for bettas.

Tank Mates for Cichlids

lake Malawi cichlids | Source: Deposit Photos

Good tank mates for cichlids are fish with moderately aggressive to aggressive temperaments. They must be able to hold their own in cichlids presence; otherwise, they will live a stressful existence, spending most of their time hiding

Unlike bettas, cichlids can live harmoniously with others of their kind. You can keep a male and three females in a 30-gallon tank. Or two cichlids, a male and a female, in a 20-gallon tank. 

Cichlids can peacefully be kept with many types of catfish. African cichlids can be kept with Synodontis and Raphael catfish. Dwarf cichlids live happily together with Corydoras catfish.

Striped Raphael catfish (Platydoras armatulus) | Source: Deposit Photos

Smaller cichlids can be kept with rainbowfish, most tetra species, and medium-sized plecos, like the blue-eyed panque, bristlenose, and clown pleco. Larger, more aggressive plecos should be avoided. 

Larger South American cichlids, like discusfish and freshwater angels can be kept with larger catfish, like hoplo or big cory catfish

Dither Fish Species

Dither fish are small, schooling species added to aquariums to promote a peaceful environment in the tank. When cichlids and bettas see dither fish, like tetras, danios, and dwarf gourami, swimming in groups, it lures them out of hiding places.

Zebra Danio | Source: Deposit Photos

Adding dither fish to a community aquarium is a great way to reduce fishes’ stress and shyness and bring out the best in your tank ecosystem. Seeing other fish swimming around calmly signals safety and the absence of predators.

Conclusion

Bettas and cichlids have similar tank requirements but are both aggressive, territorial fish. While bettas and cichlids definitely cannot live in a tank together, many other fish can be kept with cichlids and bettas. 

Good tank mates for bettas are:

  • Harlequin rasboras
  • Neon, black skirt, and cardinal tetras
  • Gourami species
  • Loach species
  • White cloud mountain minnows
  • Pygmy Corydoras
  • Clown plecos
  • Hatchetfish
  • Silver dollars
  • Mollies
  • Swordtails

Suitable tankmates for cichlids are:

  • Synodontis catfish
  • Rafael catfish
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Rainbowfish
  • Tetra species
  • Blue-eyed panque
  • Bristlenose
  • Clown plecos
  • Black convicts
  • Jack Dempseys
  • Oscars