Zebra Danios and Bettas: Can They Live Together?

As a fish owner, I enjoy mixing different kinds of fish in my aquarium. However, quite a few times, I failed to do so. For example, there were periods when I tried to introduce Betta fish to my Zebra Danios tank. That ended up badly. As the years passed, I learned a few lessons on mixing Bettas with Danios, and now I am willing to share my experience.

Zebra Danios can live with Bettas in the same tank, although pairing them is not recommended. While bettas thrive in warm temperatures (78-82 degrees F), Danios require cooler conditions (64-77 degrees F). Also, both species are aggressive and can suddenly attack one another in the chase for food.

As we move forward, I will share a few tricks you can implement to increase the chances of coexistence between Bettas and Danios. I will also list the most suitable companions for each species so that you can create your own beautiful community tank.

Can Zebra Danios Live With Bettas?

While Bettas are highly popular and Zebra Danios are comfortable to grow, it isn’t easy to determine whether or not they can share the same tank. The common belief among aquarists is that the two species can coexist.

However, some people argue that they do not make the best tankmates for one another. These arguments are based on these aquarists’ disastrous occurrences in tanks that had both Bettas and Zebra Danios.

Ultimately, your only option where these two species are concerned is to experiment and hope for the best. You won’t know whether or not they can coexist until you put them together. There are too many factors in play that make this pairing challenging to predict. 

Generally, I suggest considering the following:

1. Danios Require Cooler Temperatures than Bettas

The water conditions are somewhat tricky. Both fish can thrive within the same pH range (6-8). The hardness isn’t an issue either. But the temperature should concern you since Zebra Danios prefer slightly cooler conditions. They thrive in temperatures ranging from 64 to 77 degrees F.[1]

Betta fish, on the other hand, thrive in waters ranging between 78 and 82 degrees F. This conflict in temperature requirements is part of the reason why some aquarists discourage beginners from putting Bettas and Zebra Danios in the same tanks.

2. Both Species are Unpredictable

The behavior is an even more significant complication than the water conditions. This is what you should know:

Of the two creatures, the Bettas are the most problematic. People call them fighting fish because they have an aggressive streak. That being said, their violent nature is only prominent when you pair them with other Bettas.

Bettas are not social creatures, which means they do not require the company of other fish. They are particularly challenging when you introduce other Bettas to their tank. This is especially true for male Bettas. Admittedly, they are not as violent towards fish from other species.

In fact, in many cases, Bettas will happily ignore their tankmates. But their behavior is unpredictable. Some Bettas do not restrict their hostility to other Bettas. They won’t hesitate to attack any creature they encounter in the water.

This is why you have to experiment. The only way to decipher your Betta’s personality is to observe its behavior in a community tank. However, try not to generalize your Betta’s characteristics based on its attitude towards other Betta fish.

You would assume that Zebra Danios are a suitable companion for Bettas. After all, Bettas are primarily violent towards other Bettas, and Zebra Danios are obviously not Bettas. Zebra Danios also have the advantage of being peaceful and social, and Bettas respond positively to peaceful tankmates.

However, Danios are also problematic. They are highly active fish whose presence in the water may induce stress in your Bettas. Bettas are not necessarily docile. But they are definitely slower and more relaxed, and they are unlikely to appreciate the fast pace of your Danios.

But that isn’t your biggest challenge. Bettas have long and beautiful fins that are part of the reason why they are so popular. This is an issue because Zebra Danios are fin nippers that could make life difficult for your Bettas.[2]

Between the two, Bettas are more dangerous. If the Zebra Danios nip at the fins of the Betta, the Betta will retaliate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stand much of a chance in this case. The damaged fish will quickly develop infections down the line.

Zebra Danios are shoaling fish that must be kept in groups of at least 6. If conflict breaks out, your school of Zebra Danios will overwhelm the Betta. Either way, peace won’t last long in your aquarium.

3. Danios and Bettas Tend to Compete Over Food

Bettas are carnivores, and Zebra Danios are omnivores. They can both survive on the same diet of flakes, pellets, bloodworms, and the like. However, the fact that they both eat similar meals poses an issue. 

Some aquarists have complained about their Bettas and Zebra Danios fighting for food during mealtimes. And because the Danios are faster, depending on the number of fish, the Betta may starve.

What Makes Danios and Bettas Potential Tankmates?

As you may have already noticed, Bettas and Zebra Danios might not be the best mix. However, one of the most crucial factors is the size difference when it comes to sharing the same tank. In this section, both fish are okay.

Generally, fish will eat anything that can fit in their mouths. This is why you are discouraged from placing species whose sizes vary drastically in the same tank. The larger fish will eventually eat the smaller one.

Where Bettas and Zebra Danios are concerned, this isn’t an issue. Both species have an average size of 2 inches. In other words, you don’t have to worry about either fish perceiving the other as food.

How to Make Danios and Bettas Coexist?

Even though the odds are against them, there are ways to improve the relationship between your Danios and Bettas:

1. Adjust the Temperature to the Betta Fish

Of the two species, Bettas are the most sensitive to temperature.[3] If you are determined to put them in the same tank, the Zebra Danios should adapt to the temperature range the Bettas enjoy, not the other way round. Aim to 78 and 82 degrees F.

Since a delicate balance is required, I highly suggest that you get a heater that doesn’t cause temperature fluctuations. Personally, the only device that I found useful in this case is the Cobalt Aquatics Flat Neo-Therm Heater (link to Amazon). I also reviewed it here.

Danios are hardy and can survive in various conditions.[4] Warmer temperatures won’t kill them. But if you see any signs of trouble, such as loss of appetite and lethargy, you can conclude that the Zebra Danios do not appreciate the temperature. But such a reaction is quite rare.

2. Get a Tank of at Least Ten Gallons

You can keep both fish in tanks of at least 10 gallons. However, the size you need will depend on the number of fish you have. I suggest getting the largest possible tank. If your aquarium is crowded, violence will definitely break out. Do not overstock.

If you feel that your current tank is too small, I highly suggest checking my aquarium kits’ recommendations. In the first review, I’m talking about the precise tank that I use, which gets the job wonderfully done. 

3. Introduce Plants and Decorations

Add as many plants and decorations as possible without crowding the tank. If you have a particularly volatile Betta, the Danios need places to hide. The Betta will also appreciate the foliage. The presence of hiding places alleviates stress.

4. Stick With Female Bettas

It would help if you only kept one male Betta in the tank. If you want multiple Bettas, keep females only. Female Bettas have an aggressive streak as well, but they are not as bad as the males. Where the Danios are concerned, please keep them in groups of six. 

The numbers will give them a measure of protection against the Betta. However, try not to pick too many Danios either. A large shoal might give the fish too much confidence and make your Betta’s life miserable.

5. Keep the Tank Clean and Measure its Parameters

Try to keep the tank clean by performing regular water changes.[5] Use heaters to prevent temperature fluctuations and filters that will keep pollutants out. Dirty tanks are a source of distress for fish, and distressed fish tend to act aggressively. Maintain a clean environment in the water.

On that matter, I highly recommend that you get the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). That affordable bundle will measure your pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites within minutes and signal if something has gone wrong. High water quality is crucial in the Betta and Danio case.

In some cases, you cannot force Bettas and Danios to coexist. Either the Betta will attack the Danios to the point of killing them, or the Danios will destroy the Betta’s fins, exposing the creature to infections.

In situations where one or both fish have refused to behave, you can either add a divider to the water or remove one of the fish. Either way, try not to stretch the boundaries. That may end up with terrible results.

What Fish Can Live With Bettas?

Bettas can live with fish like Kuhli Loaches, Corydoras Catfish, Ember Tetras, Harlequin Rasbora, and Clown Plecos. These species are usually smaller than bettas and feature relatively docile characteristics, making them ideal tank mates for betta fish.

If you are not familiar with some of those species, here is what you need to know:[6]

  • Kuhli Loaches – At 3.5 inches, these fish are the right size, neither too small nor too large. They are suitable tank mates for Bettas because they are nocturnal. They are active at night when the Bettas are sleeping.
  • Corydoras Catfish – Cory catfish are easy to care for. They can live in the same water as Bettas. They are active but also non-aggressive, which means that they can share a Betta’s tank.
  • Ember Tetras – At 1 inch, tetras are relatively small. But that shouldn’t worry you. They are supposed to live in groups of at least six.[7] A school of that size will make it harder for a Betta to oppress them.
  • Harlequin Rasbora – These are also shoaling fish. They are small and peaceful, and if you keep them in a generously sized school, they will coexist with your Betta. But it would be best if you had a tank of at least 10 gallons to accommodate their active personalities.
  • Clown Plecos – Common plecos are bad companions for Bettas because they are so big. Clown plecos are less of an issue because they have an average size of four inches. They are robust and easy to care for, and they can survive an assault from a Betta.

What Fish Can be Kept With Zebra Danios?

Zebra Danios can be kept with Neon Tetras, Corydoras Catfish, Goldfish, Bristlenose Pleco, and Guppies. These species share similar water requirements as Danios, which makes them great companions. These fish are also relatively active, so they are less likely to fall victims to the nimble Danio.

Here is what you should know about these tankmates:

  • Neon Tetras – Neon tetras are peaceful, colorful, and shy. Like Danios, they live in large groups. They do not seek out conflict. So you can trust them to live in harmony with your Zebra Danios.
  • Corydoras Catfish – Cory catfish can tolerate a variety of water conditions. This allows them to thrive in the same water that Zebra Danios enjoy. They have calm personalities that make them a fit for Danios.
  • Goldfish – You have nothing to fear from goldfish. So long as you give them large tanks with plenty of space, they will behave around your Zebra Danios. They appreciate the same temperature range as Danios.
  • Bristlenose Pleco – These plecos are small and easy to care for. They have a bony surface that protects them from aggressive fish. But they have friendly personalities. You can expect them to get along with your Zebra Danios.
  • Guppies – Guppies are active fish. This is good because Zebra Danios are also active. As such, you don’t have to worry about either fish inducing stress in the other. They keep a similar pace. So long as you have a decent number of females in the tank, the male guppies will behave.

If you found this article useful, here are a few related ones that may also interest you:

Conclusions

As a rule of thumb, it would be best not to mix Bettas and Danios. Both species require slightly different temperatures and are considered aggressive fish. Also, Bettas feature broad fins that could be an easy target for the nibble Danio.

Yet, since both species are about the same size, it is possible to grow them in this same tank. If you choose to do so, make sure that you pick a female betta, which is less aggressive than males. You should also adjust the temperature to the betta fish, which is less picky when it comes to water parameters.

References

  1. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/zebra-danio/
  2. https://www.myaquariumclub.com/are-betta-fish-and-zebra-danios-compatible-heres-my-experience-and-my-answer.-20495.html
  3. https://www.petmd.com/fish/care/evr_fi_how-to-take-care-of-betta-fish
  4. https://www.bettacarefishguide.com/betta-tank-mates-list-of-fish-that-can-live-with-bettas/
  5. https://www.petco.com/content/petco/PetcoStore/en_US/pet-services/resource-center/caresheets/betta.html
  6. https://bettafish.org/betta-fish-tank-mates/
  7. https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/betta-tank-mates

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