If your betta’s tank is being overrun by algae, you may be looking at putting a pleco into the aquarium to help out.
Bettas can be territorial and aggressive with other fish, yet bettas and plecos still make great tank mates.
This is because plecos dwell at the bottom of the tank out of the betta’s way, are often herbivores and eat the algae on the tank so there is no competition over food, are smaller so they are not seen as a threat by the betta, and are peaceful.
Can Bettas Live with Plecos?
Bettas – also known as Siamese fighting fish – have an aggressive and territorial nature. Bettas can be extremely territorial. While some can be chill and will leave other fish alone, others will attack anything that they feel is invading their space.
Because plecos are peaceful fish and generally mind their own business, they make one of the best tankmates for bettas.
They also tend to not trigger a betta’s aggression as they are not brightly colored and don’t have flowing fins, so they are not seen as a threat. (e.g. the betta doesn’t register plecos as competition for females that it has to chase off)
Bettas are carnivores and typically hang around the top and middle of the tank looking for food, whereas plecos will generally stay at the bottom of the aquarium or will attach themselves to the glass.
Betta can sometimes go down to the bottom of the tank, but this typically only happens if you don’t have plants or decorations higher up in the aquarium that they can rest on.
Because they generally stay in different areas of the tank, there is a reduced chance that the betta will try to bully the pleco or vice versa.
Not only that, but because plecos are mostly nocturnal and betta are active during the day time, the two fish will typically encounter each other less often. This helps reduce any conflict between the two species.
Also, because even the smallest plecos require a 10 to 25 gallon aquarium, there is enough room in the tank for both fish to have their own territory. (Keep in mind only a few, rare plecos will work in 10 gallon aquariums – do your research before getting a pleco.)
Which Plecos Can Be Kept with Bettas?
The plecos which stay the smallest, eat algae, dwell at the bottom of the tank, and can live in the same water temperature and pH levels as bettas make the best tankmates.
The betta will likely still try to flare his fins at his new tankmate, but this behavior is harmless. Even if there is a bit of conflict between the two, it’s still not necessarily cause for concern.
All plecos have an armor-like skin which makes them more resilient against any nips from your betta.
Just make sure you don’t put more than one pleco in the same aquarium.
The clown pleco is a member of the Loricariidae family and is also known as Panaque maccus.
Clown plecos are one of the smallest plecos, growing to around 4.5 inches. Because of this, they’ll fit nicely in any aquarium that’s at least 20 gallons.
They have a beautiful, brown and yellow striped pattern that looks like reflections of light coming from the surface of the water. They don’t have bold zebra stripes or spots like some other plecos, but in my opinion they’re one of the best looking plecos.
They are bottom dwelling and generally shy and will typically spend most of their time hiding, though, so you may not see them for months at a time.
This species originates from South America, where they make their home in the slow moving waters of the Amazon River basin in Colombia and Venezuela. In these waters they can be found hiding among rocks and roots as well as in crevices in submerged tree logs.
I have personally kept this pleco in a 29 gallon tank with my betta, so I can say from experience they work well together.
Bristlenose Plecos are a good choice for adding to a tank with a betta. Bristlenose Plecos grow to around 5 inches, which is small enough to be comfortable in a normal sized aquarium. (20 Gallon Long is the smallest it should be kept in, compared to 75 gallons for the common pleco.)
Bristlenose Plecos are bottom dwelling fish and spend most of their time near the bottom of the aquarium, so they’re less likely to invade your betta’s personal space.
They have a peaceful temperament and will not harass your Betta or eat your plants. The bristly whiskers on their face help them find food. They do need a piece of driftwood added to their tank, however, in addition to the algae wafers you’re feeding them.
The rubber-lip plecos are another great choice for keeping in a betta tank. They grow up to 5-7 inches, so you need a 25 gallon aquarium to keep them happy and healthy.
Rubberlip plecos are probably the best algae eaters in the pleco world. They really go above and beyond what most other plecos will do – including eating black beard algae.
They have a peaceful temperament, and they aren’t prone to trying to bully other fish.
These fish are not demanding when it comes to water parameters. They do well in both soft and hard water. So they can be kept in the same water conditions as bettas:
- pH: 6.5 – 8.0
- Temperature: 72°F- 79°F
Rubberlip plecos are very sensitive to copper, so make sure you don’t use any products that contain copper in your tank. Look for things that say they’re shrimp safe, and they should be fine for rubberlip plecos as well.
Chubby plecos have a peaceful temperament, and do well in a community tank. They can sometimes be sold as “Rubber Plecos” but are different fish from “Rubber Lip Plecos”.
Chubby plecos are generally bottom dwelling fish, so they will be less likely to come into contact with the betta or try to push them around.
Bettas and chubby plecos can work well together in a tank as long as you follow a few basic guidelines:
Keep in mind that the pleco will grow to around 6 inches and will need a 25-30 gallon aquarium (at least).
Chubby plecos also need a piece of driftwood in their tank, which should give the betta more than enough places to hide if they feel threatened.
If you do want to keep them with your betta, then make sure you have plenty of hiding spots for both fish to reduce the risk of stress. Decorations and real or fake plants will work great for this.
Chubby plecos also prefer a current in the water (just ensure it is not too strong for the bettas).
Zebra plecos are another one of the smallest plecos, growing to around 4 inches.
They have an interesting black and white striped pattern so look good in the tank. As with clown pleco, the pattern could attract the betta so they need hiding spaces.
They are another fish that likes a strong current in their water, though, which is something that betta don’t so much like.
Queen Arabesque Pleco
Queen Arabesque Plecos get to between 3.5 and 4 inches in length and need a tank that’s at least 25 gallons in size.
As with the zebra pleco, they have an interesting black and white pattern on their body. This makes them a wonderful addition to the tank but could trigger the bettas.
They are carnivores and eat driftwood, blood worms, and brine shrimp.
As with other plecos, they’re nocturnal, so they won’t generally be active at the same time as your betta.
Pitbull Plecos are really shy fish. They will hide all day and come out at night. They make a great addition to any tank, but their small size is definitely not for everyone.
But the most important thing about keeping Pitbull Plecos is that they should be kept in a group of at least 3, preferably 6. A group of 6 should have a 30 gallon tank to live in.
They also need to be kept in a tank with sand. This is where they will burrow when scared, instead of just hiding under something like your regular pleco would do!
They eat plants, and bloodworms. Their diet can be supplemented with algae wafers and shrimp pellets.
Which Plecos Should Not Be Kept with Bettas?
Some plecos are less suitable tank mates for bettas as they grow quite a bit larger than the bettas and can become territorial and aggressive with them.
Common plecos to around 15 inches but can reach 24 inches long.
They are omnivores, eating vegetation and live food, and scavenge the tank for food. They do not eat algae as they get older.
As they mature they can become territorial and aggressive.
Royal plecos grow to around 16-17 inches, but some types such as the black royal pleco can grow up to 24 inches. They require a 125 gallon aquarium, so they’re not a good candidate for most of the tanks you’d keep a pleco in.
Leopard Cactus Pleco
These plecos grow to around 9 inches long. As suggested by their name, they are yellowish and brown in color and are covered in brown and black spots.
They prefer an open space at the bottom of the tank and are not suited to living in a planted tank.
Betta and plecos make excellent tank mates because they typically are asleep when the other is awake and stay in different parts of the aquarium.
You will want to pay attention to which ones like a lot of current or get large and aggressive, however.