Can angelfish and female bettas live together?

Are you an ornamental fish enthusiast? Angelfish and female Betta fish are popular choices in freshwater aquariums given their unique finnage and colors. But can they share the same tank? In this blog post, we will find whether these two fish can live together and cover topics such as their characteristics, behavior, and habitat. In addition, we will see the best way to take care of these marvelous fish.

Can angelfish and female bettas live together?

There is not a consensus on that. It all comes down to the temperament of each individual fish. If either your angelfish or your female betta fish display aggressive behavior, the best alternative would be to keep them separate and find more suitable tank mates for each of them. If your angelfish and female betta fish are calm there is a chance, they could share the same environment. 

We will now share some specific information on each species regarding their origins, appearances, behaviors, diets, and tank requirements followed by a summary and our final remarks.

Overview of angelfish

Freshwater angelfish are native of South America. Members of the Cichlidae family, they present a less aggressive behavior than other cichlids species. They can live up to 10 years if the tank maintenance is continuous. Pterophyllum scalare is the most common species of angelfish in the aquarium trade.

Angelfish appearance

Freshwater angelfish resembles an arrowhead with its vertically dangling dorsal, pectoral and caudal fins. They reach adulthood in less than a year and can be 6 to 8 inches in height and length (approx. 15-20 cm). 

The most common freshwater angelfish are silver with black bands, but they can also be black, silver, gold, and marbled. The pattern of a marbled angelfish can resemble a koi fish with either irregular bands or black spots. Unlike other species of angelfish, golden and silver individuals don’t present their characteristic stripes. 

Angelfish behavior

Despite being less aggressive than other cichlids, angelfish are known for their combative behavior. Territorial, they display a hierarchical structure fighting to secure their position in the school regardless of the little interaction between them. 

So, it’s better to have an even number of fish in order to avoid the odd one being bullied. Surprisingly, angelfish are among the few fish species that take care of their eggs until they become fry. 

They have a voracious appetite, angelfish can eat all the feed, and in the worst-case scenario, smaller fish such as Neon fish, baby goopies, or similar size fish.

Angelfish diet

In the wild, angelfish are omnivorous. This means that in addition to feeding themselves with small prey such as insects, smaller fish, crustaceans, and larvae, they can occasionally feed on plants too.

Hence, it is important to give them a diet with high contents of proteins so they can thrive. Feed composed of whole fish as the main ingredient, krills, whole shrimp, and spirulina are good options to provide great nutrition to your angelfish. 

The perfect tank arrangements for angelfish

Size matters

Considering the size of an adult angelfish, a 20-gallon (75.5 L) tank per fish is recommended. A 55-gallon (208.2 L) tank is a good size for an angelfish to cohabit with other species. Since angelfish swim mostly in the middle and upper part of the aquarium, a taller tank is preferable to avoid the chance of a fight.

Also, having tank mates that prefer to live in the lower levels of the tank will not trigger angelfish into competitive or aggressive behavior. 

Given their long and delicate fins, it is best to avoid any sharp decorations that could harm your fish. Consider creating an environment that resembles their natural one with natural plants, smoothed rocks giving your angelfish plenty of hiding spots.

Angelfish cultivation parameters

As a tropical freshwater fish, angelfish must be kept in a pH-neutral environment (6.0-7.5) and temperatures ranging from 75 to 84 F (23.9 to 28.9 °C). In their natural environment, angelfish have 8 to 12 hours of light exposure. Thus, an aquarium light mimicking sunlight would be sufficient to fulfill their needs. Regarding water flow, as angelfish are familiar with little water flow, an under-gravel filter or low flow aeration will be enough to keep your fish happy.

Overview of female Betta fish

Betta fish (Betta splendens), also known as Siamese fighting fish are native to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Their natural habitats comprise rice paddies, canals and floodways, and flood fringes in medium to large rivers. Their notorious name stemmed from their aggressive behavior between them and other fish. Oftentimes, betta fish can even fight their reflection! They can live up to 5 years if taken good care of.

Female Betta fish appearance

Contrary to male bettas, female betta fish present shorter fins and wider bodies. This could be advantageous when fleeting from a possible dangerous encounter thus, avoiding some unwanted fin nibbling. 

Generally, their color is dimmed compared to male bettas. However, they can be found in beautiful shades of yellow, red, turquoise, marble, copper, and even multicolor. During mating season, they can develop some vertical stripes along their body. Adult female bettas can measure 2 to 2.25 inches (approx. 5 to 5.7 cm).

Female Betta fish behavior

Female betta fish can live together in the same tank when there is enough space for them when they want to be by themselves. They can live well as a community of 4 to 6 individuals. 

This cohort is known as ‘sorority’, where hierarchy is affirmed and respected. Alpha female bettas flare at others indicating their position within the sorority. The flaring is also accompanied by a head-down posture. 

During mating season, female bettas rarely create bubble nests which are done by the male betta. After mating, female and male betta fish should be separated. Contrary to angelfish, betta fish do not care for their fry after egg-hatching.

Female bettas are less aggressive than male ones, usually fighting each other rather than other types of fish.

Female Betta fish diet

Female betta fish are carnivorous. This means that they need a diet rich in protein including mosquito larvae, bloodworms, shrimp, and raw fish pellets or fish flakes. Live food is a good option to exercise your female betta while providing high-quality protein for their diet. It is important to assure the quality and origin of the raw food you will give your fish, avoiding any chances of contamination by parasites.

Frozen food is also a good option to feed your female bettas. Paying attention to the manufacturer’s instructions is very important! To keep the quality of your tank water and the health of your fish, it is better to thaw the food in a separate container with some water from your tank. 

Since bettas can be messy eaters, it is important to remove any food leftover that might reach the bottom of the aquarium, so the quality of the water is not affected. They are gluttons, so do not overfeed your female bettas.

The perfect tank arrangements for female Betta fish

Out of sight, out of mind

Female betta fish and angelfish tend to move up and down the water column. Betta fish prefers to the surface of the tank while angelfish swim in the mid part of the water column.

Regarding tank decorations, taller foliage near the surface is a good hiding spot avoiding unwanted interactions with other female bettas or different species of fish.

Cultivation parameters

Female bettas need far less space than angelfish. A good size tank is about 5 gallons (approx. 19 L), keeping in mind that the size of a tank must increase if female bettas are living in a sorority as well as with other species.

A good substrate for a betta tank is sand which is less abrasive if they choose to feed on the remains of food that settled in the bottom of the tank. Although hiding spots are a must for female betta fish, do not fill the aquarium with vegetation. Breathing, feeding, and breeding are activities that take place on the water surface. 

Betta fish are used to calm waters so, flow is not a must. On the other hand, a filter is necessary in order to keep the water clean. Female bettas thrive in temperatures ranging from 75 to 80 F (23.8 to 26.7 °C). The ideal pH should be between 6 to 8.

Angelfish and Female Betta Fish comparison chart

Freshwater Angelfish(Pterophyllum sp.)Female Betta Fish(Betta splendens)
Care levelEasyEasy
TemperamentSemi-aggressiveSemi-aggressive
LifespanUp to 10 yearsUp to 5 years
Size6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm)2 to 2.25 inches (5 to 5.7 cm).
ColorVariousVarious
HabitatFreshwaterFreshwater
BehaviorTerritorialTerritorial
Dietomnivorouscarnivorous
Tank size (per fish)20 gallons (75.5 L)5 gallons (19 L)
Tank set-upTall plants, smooth rocksTall plants, sand
Water temperature75 to 84 F (23.9 to 28.9 °C)75 to 80 F (23.8 to 26.7 °C)
Water pH6 – 7.56 – 8
CompatibilitySingly, communities with calm low-level fishSingly, communities with calm shoaling species

Keeping angelfish and female bettas together

The above chart summarized the main characteristics of both angelfish and female bettas. Although they are able to coexist, preparation and caution are fundamental.

A few factors are important when considering keeping both species under the same environment: their individual temperament, the number of fishes in the tank, the volume and height of the aquarium, water temperature, and pH, light availability, and finally, hiding spots.

Given that both fish are territorial, they can see each other as competitors and fight. Fin-nipping can be common and lead to severe damage and/or death. A good idea is to buy them young so they can get used to each other.

5 best mates for angelfish and female betta fish

Here are some fishes that can be excellent mates to live with angelfish and female bettas in a community tank:

AngelfishFemale Betta fish
Zebra LoachesKuhli Loaches
Boesimani Rainbow FishHarlequin Rasboras
PlatiesMalaysian Trumpet Snails
MolliesEmber Tetras
Cory CatfishCory Catfish
Dwarf GouramisShrimps

Conclusion

  • Angelfish and female betta fish can live together with some precautions. The tank should be large enough so both species can have plenty of space and hiding spots. 
  • Their ability to coexist in the same tank also depends on the temperament of each specimen. Attention towards their behavior must be given at all times. Make sure you have a spare tank to separate them in case of fin-nibbling or fights.
  • Angelfish can adjust well to an even number of fish while female bettas can live in a sorority of 4 to 6 individuals.
  • There are various options of tank mates that can display harmonious relationships with both angelfish and female bettas in a community tank. 

If you have any questions related to whether angelfish and female bettas can be kept together, please leave us a comment below. Have you had a successful experience with them cohabiting the same tank? We would love to hear your story!

References

Srinivasan, M.  (2013) A complete manual on Ornamental Fish Culture. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing. Saarbrücken, Germany. 222 p.

Gómez-Laplaza, L. M. & Morgan, E. (1993). Social isolation, aggression, and dominance in attacks in juvenile angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare. Aggressive Behavior, 19(3), 213-222. DOI:10.1002/1098-2337(1993)19:3<213::aid-ab2480190306>3.0.co;2-X

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