Can Neon Tetras Live With Bettas?

Finding compatible tank mates for your betta fish isn’t a simple task. Aquarists know that bettas prefer living alone, and they don’t welcome tank mates easily. However, there are few fish species you can keep your betta with.

Neon tetras are one of the common names we hear when people think about betta tank mates. Can neon tetras and bettas live together in the same tank? Do these two fish species make compatible tank mates?

You can keep neon tetras with the betta fish, but there are a lot of things to take into consideration. Betta fish are very aggressive, and neon tetras are fin nipping fish; hence keeping them together requires a lot of preparation.

Tank requirements for betta fish and neon tetras

Neon tetras are schooling fish, meaning they often swim together at the same time throughout the tank.

Your betta fish may not enjoy a school of tetras whizzing past them. Neon tetras are also fin nippers, which are dangerous to the betta’s beautiful bright fins.

Also, both the fish have different tank requirements like water temperature and water parameters.

But with all that being said, you can still keep neon tetras and betta fish together in a community by following the right requirements.

Let’s see all the necessary requirements you must follow for keeping neon tetras and bettas in a community tank.

Neon Tetras tank requirements

Four red and blue neon tetras swimming in a tank

Neon tetras are schooling fish that enjoy living in groups. So how many neon tetras should be ideal for keeping together? You should keep at least six neon tetras so that they can stay active in the fish tank.

The ideal tank size for keeping a group of at least six neon tetras is 20 gallons. Even though neon tetras are pretty tiny, they are active fish and need a lot of swimming space. Another issue most aquarists face with neon tetras is they get sucked up in the hand or back of aquarium filters. One alternative is to use a sponge filter instead, but sponge filters aren’t the most effective filtering system if you aren’t performing weekly tank cleanings.

Instead, use a mesh cover over the hang or back filters to stop neon tetras from getting sucked up.

Neon tetras prefer low water parameters between 68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and they will live comfortably in waters with pH levels between 5 to 7.

Betta Fish tank requirements

A blue and yellow betta fish inside a fish tank with a gray background

Bettas are tropical fish that are used to living in warmer waters. Since a betta’s natural habitat include slow-moving streams, they can’t adjust well in small and crowded tanks.

Bettas are extremely territorial, so if they see other fish near their territory, they will immediately attack it. A five-gallon tank is ideal for keeping one betta alone, but if you add other fish, going for a bigger tank is always the best idea.

The ideal tank temperature for bettas is between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and they need a neutral pH level between 6.8 to 7.5. Since bettas are from slow flowy streams, you should add a filter with a gentle flow; bettas do not like fast flowing water.

Bettas are also very sensitive to water quality; therefore, you must clean the aquarium weekly. Too much ammonia or other toxin build-ups will stress out the betta and reduce its life span.

How to keep a betta fish with a neon tetra

A macro picture of a blue neon tetra against a green background

As stated in the previous section, bettas and neon tetras belong to different natural environments; they have different temperaments and prefer different water temperatures.

But this doesn’t mean they can’t live together.

Bettas and neon tetras can live together quite comfortable as long as you keep a watchful eye on your tank’s water parameters.

Setting up a tank for a betta and neon tetra

Tank size

You have to get a large tank of at least 30 gallons to house both the neon tetra and betta fish. Because neon tetras are schooling fish, you can’t keep a single neon tetra alone, otherwise, it will become incredibly stressed. Neon tetras need at least six to seven tetras to thrive in the tank.

But bettas can’t tolerate when any other fish try to invade its territory. Trying to keep six neon tetras along with a single betta fish in a small tank will be much too crowded. And remember: neon tetras are fin nippers and would love to nibble on your betta’s flowy finds.

To keep these fish away from one another, you need a large enough tank which is why we suggest at least 30 gallons—a large tank helps maintain a safe distance between the two species limiting potential risks.

Add lots of plants for hiding places

Bettas need lots of hiding places because they are from the shady tropical waters. They prefer a darker aquarium setup with floating plants, live plants, driftwood, rocks, sand, gravel and substrates. Neon tetras also love densely planted tanks since they too require murky waters with hiding spots.

Adjusting water parameters and temperature

Tetras and betta fish are used to living in different water parameters and temperatures. As said above, tetra fish need a temperature between 68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, and betta fish need a temperature between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You should try to adjust the temperature to be around 77 degrees Fahrenheit to make the tank environment ideal for both species. Use a good water heater to keep the temperature stable.

There isn’t a significant difference in the pH level for bettas and tetras, and both can thrive at pH levels between 6.8 to 7.

How to introduce bettas to neon tetra

You shouldn’t add either of the fish directly to the main tank straight after getting it from the pet store. The fish may carry disease or infections and spread it to the other fish. Therefore, keep them in a quarantine tank to observe if they have developed any disease.

While keeping the neon tetra or the betta fish in the quarantine tank, add water from the new tank to acclimatize the fish.

When it’s time to add the fish to the tank, it’s better to add the neon tetras first because of the betta fish’s territorial nature. If you add the betta fish first, it won’t welcome the new aquarium members.

Also, instead of releasing the betta fish directly into the tank, keep it in a container for a couple of hours. It will allow both the fish to get familiar with each other and prevent fighting.

Male betta fish are more aggressive than female bettas, so we advise you to keep female bettas with tetras. Male betta fish might make the tank environment more troubling for the tetra.

How to prevent fin nipping

Stressed out tetra fish are more susceptible to nipping. To prevent nipping, make sure your tetras are happy by giving them plenty of space to swim and various places to hide.

If you’ve given your fish the ideal environment and they still continue to nip at your beta, it’s time to separate them.

How to stop betta fish from chasing neon tetras

The betta fish may chase the neon tetra and try to attack it. The sole solution in such a situation is to use a tank divider. The divider will allot dedicated tank space to both the species and prevent them from invading each other’s territory.

3 signs you should separate your betta and neon tetra fish

If you notice the following signs in your fish, it’s time to separate them and put them in separate tanks or add a divider.

1. Loss of appetite

Bettas and tetras have a very high appetite. Ignoring food is a sign of them being stressed or sick.

2. Physical changes

Physical changes like color loss, torn or nip fins, and lethargy are signs that your fish isn’t doing well with its tank mate. You may also notice wounds in the fish’s body, which may result from the fish rubbing its body against rough tank decorations. Betta fish often rub its body against tank walls or tank decors when stressed.

3. Frequent hiding

Although both fish like to hide, one sign they are stressed out is that they are hiding more than normal and might not be coming out from their hiding spots. Neon tetras and bettas are both very active species, and they love swimming. If you notice your fish is spending most of the time hiding, it isn’t doing well.

Which tetras make the best tank mates?

There are over hundred other tetra species! Not all are suitable to keep with bettas. Let’s see a few tetra types apart from neon tetras that you can keep in the same aquarium with a betta and a few that you should avoid keeping.

Tetras that can live with your betta

Ember tetras

Ember tetras are another tetra fish that make for a good betta companion. These need the same water parameters as the bettas, so keeping them together will be easy. Plus, ember tetras have the same diet as the bettas, so you can feed them brine shrimp, blood worms, frozen food, and dried pellets.

Black neon tetras

Black neon tetras also require similar tank environments as bettas. But another reason they can be great tank makes is their color. Being black fish, they don’t catch the attention of betta fish. As a result, your betta is less likely to notice them and get into fights.

Rummy nose tetras

Another right fish to keep with the betta is the rummy nose tetras. Rummy nose tetras are peaceful fish, and they spend most of the time in the middle of the aquarium, so there are fewer chances of intruding on the betta’s space.

Rummy tetras are also schooling fish so ensure to keep a minimum of six together and in a larger tank of at least 30 gallons.

Cardinal tetras

The final tetra species that make a good betta mate is the cardinal tetras. These, too, can adjust in the same tank with a betta since they need similar water temperatures, eat the same food, and are pretty peaceful.

Tetras that cannot live with a betta fish

Bleeding heart tetras

Bleeding heart tetras are great fin nippers, and it’s the sole reason you should avoid keeping them with bettas.

Black phantom tetras

Although black phantom tetras are very docile, they often create spar or mock fights. Such scenarios often stress out bettas.

Serpae tetra

Another tetra you should avoid housing with the betta is the serpae tetras. These are very brightly colored, and bettas can’t tolerate fish with such bright appearance and flowing tails. Additionally, serpae tetras are also fin nippers which will cause trouble for the betta.

Other tank mates for bettas

Apart from tetras, there are other species you can keep in the same tank with a betta. Here’s a brief look at the list:

  • Ghost shrimp
  • Cherry shrimp
  • Amano shrimp
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Ramshorn snails
  • Nerite snails
  • African dwarf frog


Neon tetras can live with bettas, but you have to provide proper fish care to avoid any unpleasant tank conditions. Male bettas are more difficult to house with other tank mates, so don’t add tetras to a male betta aquarium.

Consider the points we mentioned about betta food, how to keep the tank ready with proper water parameters, tank decorations, tank size, and the like, so that there are least problems keeping neon tetras in a betta tank!


Can neon tetras live with bettas?

Yes, neon tetras can live with bettas as long as you maintain adequate water parameters and keep the fish in a large enough tank.

How many neon tetras can you have with a betta?

The minimum number of neon tetras you should keep with a single betta fish is six. Neon tetras are schooling fish, and need to be kept as groups.

How many neon tetras can I put in a 5 gallon tank with a betta?

Zero. Five gallons is too small of a tank for a single betta fish, let alone additional tank mates. To house both betta fish and neon tetras, you will need a tank of at least 30 gallons.

Richard Parker

Richard is an avid aquarist and has been keeping betta fish and other freshwater fish since he was a young boy. Through Aquatic Buddy, he hopes to help others learn how to care for their betta fish so they thrive in their home environments.

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