Image Credit: Karsten Schonherr (CC License)
There’s this stereotype that bettas are aloof and frosty fish unwilling to share the tank with other fish.
Yes, indeed, they would rather have the whole tank to themselves instead of companionship. But it’s also true that hobbyists worldwide have successfully raised them in community tanks with all kinds of creatures.
How is that possible?
Bettas were domesticated some 1,000 years ago. Over the millennium, they weren’t just bred to have arresting looks but also a fiery temperament.
There’s no doubt that bettas are ill-tempered, but we tend to forget that 99% of their rage is allocated for fellow male betta – not just anybody. Do you get it now?
Despite their grumpy attitude and love for solace, bettas can cohabitate with different fish, shrimp, and snail species. Things only get dangerous when you keep two male bettas together in captivity.
In this blog, we will discuss if betta and cory catfish can live together? I’m sure you already know the answer by now. I’ll also touch on my experience raising these two species together, my mistakes, and how I solved them.
Can Betta And Cory Catfish Live Together?
Yes, cory catfish and betta can live together in the same tank. As a matter of fact, they make excellent tankmates for one another. Since they inhabit completely different areas of the tank and remain active at different hours of the day, it’s possible to raise a betta and cory together.
However, there are a couple of things to consider to raise them together successfully. For instance, the tank should be quite big and densely planted.
I’ll tell you all about it, but first, read up on my experience of keeping bettas and cory catfish together in the same tank.
My Experience Of Keeping Betta And Cory Catfish Together
Many moons ago, when I was in college, I had a teal blue betta named Sagar. Sagar is the Nepalese word for an ocean.
Long story short, I decided to add a couple of corydoras to Sagar’s tank because it was looking a little desolate with just one fish. It was a 20-gallon planted tank.
With a fair share of experience and knowledge I had garnered over the years, I knew that the betta wouldn’t be amused with new roomies. So, I made sure they first met each other from a distance.
After observing the catfish in the quarantine tank for a couple of days, I knew they were ready for the big move. I transferred them into a plastic pouch, each with some water, and tied it with a rubber band. Next, I dipped the plastic pouches in the water.
Needless to say, the betta was intrigued. It flared its gill covers and fins as I observed the new creatures from all sides. I thought the worst was over.
But little did I know that it was only the beginning.
The betta ‘rammed’ violently against the catfish repeatedly. It would swim from a distance and headbutt the daylights out of the poor inmates. Still in their pouches, the catfish were hysterical.
I quickly removed the cory catfish from the betta tank and placed them back in the safety of the quarantine tank.
I called my local fish store, and only then I realized that I was doing something wrong. The “method” I used to introduce the two parties was inherently faulty. Apparently, you aren’t supposed to add the betta first and the other fish later, which was precisely what I did.
I was humbled.
The Right Way To Keep Bettas And Cory Catfish Together
As instructed by my LFS, I first removed the betta, rearranged the tank’s landscape so it had an entirely different layout, added the catfish, and allowed them to acclimatize for a while.
I added the betta only at the end. The betta was surprised, to say the least, but to my surprise, it didn’t try knocking out the catfish this time. The gill covers and fins flared out initially, but the betta ignored the new inhabitants for the most part.
A few years later, I used this same hack to add a small group of Venezuelan pygmy corys to my betta sorority tank, and it worked like a charm.
So, despite the rocky start, I have successfully raised betta and cory catfish together on two occasions. Based on my experience, the following are the reasons the two make a great match.
Why Betta And Cory Catfish Make Great Tankmates?
A betta fish and a cory catfish couldn’t be any more different from each other. Whether you’re talking about demeanor, appearance, or preferences, these two species are poles apart. And these very differences make them suitable roomies for one another.
Confused? Keep reading!
Bettas Swim At Top, And Cory Catfish Swim At Bottom
Bettas have poorly developed gills. However, they possess a supplemental breathing structure called a labyrinth, which allows the fish to breathe air from the water’s surface. This is the main reason why betta fish like to swim at the top.
On the other hand, cory catfish are the O.G. bottom-dwellers. They eat, breathe, sleep at the base, and seldom rise to the surface.
Therefore, betta and cory catfish will rarely come in each other’s way. When you’re inhabiting entirely different areas of the tank, the chances of bumping into each other are minuscule.
This arrangement sits particularly well with bettas, who are naturally inclined to be more territorial and aggressive.
Bettas Are Diurnal, And Cory Catfish Are Nocturnal
Bettas are diurnal creatures like us. They sleep or rest at night and remain active in daylight. On the contrary, cory catfish are nocturnal fish. They keep a low profile during the daytime and actively forage at night for some food.
You can say bettas and cory catfish live in different time zones. When one’s out and about, the other is snoozing away. So, the window where these fish are active is small or almost non-existent.
And when you don’t get to interact, you also don’t get to quarrel.
Bettas Are Carnivores, And Cory Catfish Are Scavengers
Bettas may seem like the most delicate creatures in the world, but they are fierce carnivores with a complete set of teeth. It’s a different thing the teeth aren’t visible from a distance.
Quite the reverse, catfish are omnivore scavengers that use their barbels to locate the food and a number of small teeth called cardiform to nibble the food in a grazing manner.
Cutting to the chase, bettas and cory catfish have somewhat different diet plans. While betta likes to feed on meaty food like brine shrimp and bloodworms, cory catfish prefer grazing on algae, leftover food, and fish waste.
So, the point is that the two parties will not compete for food. Also, they eat at different times in different parts of the tank. A tussle over food resources will be a rare sight.
After reading the section above, one might think that a betta and cory catfish together is a match made in heaven – a bona fide duo. But there are certain arrangements to be made from your side to ensure they live happily ever after in your little tank.
Keep reading to know.
Tips For Successfully Keeping Betta And Cory Catfish Together
Bettas and cory catfish have certain quirks that make them a good fit for one another. However, to increase the chance of successful cohabitation, you should first get the number of each fish right. Choosing the cory catfish wisely and investing in a bigger tank are a few tricks you can pull.
Get The Numbers Right
No matter how big or densely planted a tank is, you can never keep two male bettas together. That’s the law of nature. However, cory catfish are social fish that find safety in numbers.
Therefore, you shouldn’t keep more than one betta or just one cory catfish in the tank. I’d suggest keeping at least 3-4 corys together.
Choose Your Species Wisely
9 out of 10 times, when someone’s referring to a betta fish, they’re talking about betta splendens. So, I’ll assume that’s the fish you have at hand.
However, there are at least 160 known species of corydora catfish as of now. Some of these variants can grow large and require an enormous tank.
That’s why I’d suggest sticking with the smaller species like dwarf cory, checker cory, and pygmy cory if you don’t have much space. Always make sure to research the species thoroughly before making any decision.
Densely Plant The Tank
Bettas are introverted by nature. They don’t do well in open spaces. Thus, you need to densely plant the tank, so there’s enough room for the betta to hide when stressed.
The betta will feel safe and secure from the playful corydoras if there are plenty of plants. Since bettas hang out near the water surface, you can add plants like Amazon frogbit and red root floaters. Floating stem plants like water sprite also make a good choice.
Get A Big Tank
It’s no surprise that bettas are subjected to nano tanks 9 out of 10 times. Unfortunately, a betta is the poster child of fish to go inside small enclosures.
If you plan to raise a betta and a couple of cory catfish together, you will at least need a 20-gallon tank.
I’ve seen a few comments saying that some hobbyists have successfully kept them in a 5-gallon tank or something much smaller. But since bettas are territorial and corys need to be in big groups, I’d suggest nothing smaller than 20 gallons.
Aim For Moderate Lighting
Bettas need 14-16 hours of light every day on average. But too much light will overstimulate the betta, causing stress and agitation.
On the contrary, as nocturnal creatures, cory catfish don’t prefer bright lights.
So, don’t go all out when installing lights for these fish. Just stick to moderately bright lights.
Don’t go completely dark at night since catfish come out to scavenge. Having said that, make sure you don’t turn on bright LED lights at night for the catfish since it will mess with the betta’s sleep cycle.
So, that’s all for today’s blog. If you want to read up on a couple of other fish that I’ve raised alongside betta and how, you’ll find this article useful. Likewise, this article discusses the fish you can keep alongside female bettas.