Betta fish are known for aggressive behaviors. Some cultures actually call them “fighting fish” or “Siamese fighting fish” due to the fact that two will fight if put into the same tank. Despite this personality quirk, bettas are fantastic pets that are incredibly intelligent and rewarding. Still, you may want something a little extra in your tank to accompany your fish. This may lead you to wonder if betta fish and shrimp can live together.
In common situations, shrimp will be able to live with betta fish temporarily until they become your betta fish’s meal. In uncommon situations, shrimp can make great betta tank mates ONLY if your betta is tolerant of their presence. Shrimp are generally nonintrusive and will not cause any conflicts. This peaceful accompaniment makes shrimp a great choice, especially if you have more aggressive male bettas but still want additional aquatic animals in your enclosure. Still, it is important to remember that bettas are intelligent and have unique personalities so what one tolerates another may not.
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Betta Fish and Shrimp Behaviors
Bettas are notorious for fighting their tank mates and have been known to eat other creatures, including brine shrimp which actually make up a good portion of their diet in the wild if they have access to them. It may seem a little strange that shrimp in general would be suitable as a betta roommate.
Shrimp are small, unassuming, and generally not prone to behaviors that would trigger a betta attack, so there is little worry in introducing them. Plus, as morbid as it sounds, ghost shrimp are rather inexpensive so if it does not work out, there is much of a financial loss.
If you’re hoping to house more ornamental shrimp such as cherry reds, blue dreams, or king kongs; you’re looking at a very expensive experiment.
What Shrimp Are the Most Suitable for Betta Cohabitation?
There are generally a few species of shrimp that are good candidates for betta cohabitation: Ghost shrimp and Amano shrimp – possibly Cherry Shrimp. These few are the least likely to trigger conflict and will thrive in similar conditions to those of a betta fish.
Ghost shrimp are generally regarded as perhaps the best option. They are fantastic beginner friendly shrimp and generally keep to themselves, meaning they will not be out and about much to annoy your betta. Ghost shrimp thrive in groups of two to four and will get lonely if kept solo, so be sure your tank can handle multiple additions. They also breed frequently, but generally a betta will eat the babies before they mature due to their tiny size. Ghost shrimp, in maturity, are large enough that a well-fed betta will not eat them, but if your betta is hungry this may become an issue so be sure to maintain a good feeding routine to prevent tragedy from striking.
Lastly, Amano shrimp are another amazing choice. Amano shrimp are not brightly colored like Cherry shrimp and are one of the largest pet shrimp species. These shrimp are big, keep to themselves, and are generally rather noticeable by bettas. Additionally, they live two to three times longer than the usual one year lifespan of a pet shrimp, too!
Cherry shrimp are a bit of a harder addition, as they are a lot smaller and are brighter in color, your betta will likely see them more likely than a Ghost shrimp. Cherry shrimp males are unsuitable for betta enclosures, as they are quite small. Females, which are the ones that are larger will generally be okay if your betta tolerates shrimp.
How to Set Up a Tank to House Bettas and Shrimp.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to ensure your betta and shrimp cohabitation is successful is to make sure the tank is properly set up to support their mutual survival. Aside from the basics like pH and temperature, there are some things you can do to help prevent conflict and keep everything peaceful and happy.
For starters, try heavily planting your tank. If live plants are not your thing, silk plants are a great option since they look realistic and mimic the texture of natural plants. Try to avoid plastic plants, as they are stiff and hard which can be damaging to your betta’s fins and tail if they brush against them.
Heavily planting the tank helps create a sort of natural barrier between the two species. They will have to interact less and therefore have less chance of becoming at odds with one another. Plus, bettas love having lots of plants and thrive in such conditions! Heavily planted tanks have been shown in studies that bettas feeling happy and secure, helps soothe aggressive tendencies, as well!
Along the same idea, having a lot of hiding spots is a must. If your shrimp can get away and hide often, the betta is less likely to become irritated. Bettas also generally enjoy being able to hide and having plenty of options will help them feel safe and mimic their natural environment.
It is vital that you have a good routine of feedings if you want your betta and shrimp cohabitation to be successful. bettas are incredibly hungry creatures and if you do not feed them regularly, they are more likely to decide the shrimp living in their tank look tasty. Offer a well-balanced, nutrient rich diet to your betta and watch for hunting behaviors around the shrimp to help prevent them from becoming a snack.
It is also a good idea to investigate tank sizing. Generally, a betta will be fine in a 5-gallon tank and shrimp do well in the same. However, when housed together it is a good idea to have no less than ten gallons. This prevents overcrowding and helps ensure your betta will not feel particularly threatened or territorial due to the shrimp’s presence which will keep your shrimp safer from potential attacks.
Here is a great example of a setup from Rachel O’Leary:
What Shrimp Cannot be Housed with Bettas?
While there are some great options to cohabitate with bettas, there are some shrimp species that are not suitable for such a tank setup.
The Indian Whisker Shrimp is often confused with the visually similar Ghost Shrimp due to their comparable clear coloration. Unfortunately, these cute little guys are quite aggressive and may actually attack your betta! A bit of a plot twist, there have been accounts of Indian Whisker Shrimp pinching away at bettas as they swim by, doing some serious damage to their tails and fins. This, of course, enrages the cantankerous betta, resulting in a brawl that can prove fatal for both aquatic pets. All in all, this shrimp is better suited for a more relaxed setup sans betta fish.
Vampire Shrimp are another unsuitable candidate, though for an entirely different reason. These cute, lumbering shrimp are as adorable as they are rare and can be a fantastic option for a lot of different tanks if you can find them in a suitable pet store. Unfortunately, due to their three inches or larger size, they can be seen as a threat to bettas, resulting in attacks and mutual stress. Vampire Shrimp are docile animals, but their size alone makes them unsuitable for betta tanks.
Bamboo Shrimp, while visually appealing and of an adequate size, are unsuitable due to the fact that they lack any method to defend themselves against betta attacks. Most shrimp have some form of defense, but these guys are easily intimidated and defenseless, meaning an attack will almost certainly prove fatal. Plus, since they are filter feeders their requirements do not entirely match up with those of a betta, anyways.
Lastly, Pinto Shrimp are extremely expensive varieties that are beautiful and come in a wide range of colors. Unfortunately, they require very specific care and cannot tolerate frequent water changes, meaning they will likely perish with bettas, who produce a moderately high amount of waste. These shrimps are hard to find and are costly, anyways, meaning that if they did get eaten by a betta it would be a massive of cash. Save these for a specialty enclosure where you can enjoy their beauty without risking their wellbeing.
There are other species that are unsuitable and plenty more that would survive in a betta tank. If you have a specific species in mind, be sure to do your research on its care and compatibility with bettas before introducing it into your tank. You might be surprised at what can and cannot make it in a betta environment!
Conclusion: Can Bettas and Shrimp Live Together?
Bettas and shrimp can live happily and comfortably together if precautions are taken to ensure the enclosure is safe for both with adequate hiding opportunities and enrichment. Have a good feeding schedule to prevent your betta viewing your shrimp as food and cross-checking care details of your desired shrimp species before introducing it to your tank is also vital in ensuring the cohabitation venture is successful.
Cohabitating bettas is a bit of a trial and error experience and, unfortunately, many people do experience the loss of shrimp and other tank mates. Play around and see what suits your betta’s temperament the best. Good luck!