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Should You Keep A Cichlid And Betta In The Same Tank?

Cichlids have been growing in popularity for years now and although there are a huge number of different types of cichlids out there, some of them are not in the top 20 most commonly kept fish within the fish keeping hobby.

Then you have betta fish that have seen a huge spike in their popularity over the last two decades with the trusty betta fish currently being the second most commonly kept fish in the world.

Due to this, we have been seeing more and more people reaching out and asking questions about keeping cichlids and betta fish in the same tank as each other.

With both fish species having an aggressive reputation within the community, we wanted to publish our own dedicated article on the topic to try and help as many of our readers as possible.

The short version is that you can keep some types of cichlids in the same tank as a betta provided the tank is large enough and there are plenty of fish hides and live plants most beginners will struggle to control aggression in the tank.

Are Cichlids Aggressive?

Cichlids are considered to be one of the most aggressive groups of fish that you can keep in your aquarium.

That being said, there is a huge amount of difference between the various species and subspecies of cichlids out there with some being much more aggressive than others.

The Electric Blue Acara and the African butterfly cichlids are two of the more peaceful cichlid species out there with both fish still looking great.

These are two of the more common cichlids that people will keep in a community tank but keep in mind, they are still cichlids and can be aggressive in certian situations and tank setups that are not suitable for the fish.

Are Betta Fish Aggressive?

Betta fish have a reputation for being one of the most aggressive freshwater fish out there however this isn’t always the case.

The males are definatley more aggressive than the female bettas with many male betta fish being hyper aggressive and terratorial in their tanks.

Some males and most females have an above average level of aggression but a small number of male bettas and some female bettas can be pretty placid.

Unfortinatley, it is difficult to know the personality of a betta fish until you actually have it and put it in your tank making it difficult to know if a betta will work in a community tank or not.

Due to many bettas being purchased due to their unique colors and patterns its not like a neon tetra that you can return to your local fish store and get one that looks the same.

Aggression levels of some betta fish do tend to fade if they are kept in larger aquarium tanks though.

Can You Keep Cichlids And Betta Fish In The Same Tank?

Some species of cichlid can be kept in the same tank as a betta fish but it really depends on the type of setup you have, the size of your aquarium and the number of fish that you are keeping.

You should never heavily stock a tank with betta fish and cichlids in and we would recommend that you follow the general rule of 1 inch per fish per gallon of water in your tank and then half the number of fish you can technically keep in the tank to reduce aggression levels.

You really should be adding fish hides, live or fake plants, and rocks or other decorations that you can use as sight breaks in your tank to allow you betta and cichlid to avoid each other with ease if they wish.

Trying to stick with female bettas and female cichlids can help keep aggression levels in your aquarium to a minimum too due to the female bettas and most species of cichlid being less aggressive than their male counterpart.

What Tank Size Do You Need To Keep Cichlids And Bettas In The Same Tank?

The recommended minimum tank size you should be looking at keeping cichlids and bettas together is a 55 gallon aquarium however we would recommend going up to a 75 gallon or 100 gallon aquarium if possible.

The larger the tank, the more space your fish have to move around, the more likely they are to avoid each other, and the less likely aggression levels will get out of control.

You could technically keep cichlids and bettas in a smaller aquarium however we would not recommend it as the chances of aggression getting out of hand is much higher and your fish will be much more stressed out which can lead to other health problems.

The specific type of cichlid you keep will also come into play too as something like a African Butterfly Cichlid can need a tank over 75 gallons when fully grown but a African Butterfly Cichlid can do well in a 30 gallon tank.

We covered the inch of fish per gallon method earlier in the article but another way that you are able to workout a potentially suitable tank size for bettas and cichlids in the same aquarium is this method…

Check the minimum recommended tank size for your cichlid species and then add at least 30 gallons to it. We personally prefer the inch of fish per gallon method but some people use the plus 30 gallon method too but this tends to work better with smaller species of cichlids.

Do You Need To Keep Hides And Plants In The Tank?

While its not 100% necessary to keep plants and hides in your tank if you want to keep cichlids and bettas together we would highly recommend it.

Hides and plants give your fish a place to go to get away from each other, help reduce stress levels, look great, and can provide some benefits to your water quality too.

Some of the best plants to keep in a cichlid and betta tank are Java Fern, Hornwort, Anubias, and Java Moss.

As for hides you can use anything from driftwood, huge rocks, coconut shells, or even just some PVC pipes that have been cut to size and placed in your aquarium.

You really should be looking to have at least 2-3 hiding spots for each cichlid and betta in your tank too just to make sure they always have a place to go if they feel threatened or need some time out.

How Do You Set Up A Tank For Cichlids And Bettas?

Setting up a tank for cichlids and bettas really isnt any different than setting up a regular freshwater aquarium.

You will need to cycle your tank before adding any fish to it and we would recommend using a high quality filter like an Aquaclear, Fluval, or Eheim canister filter.

As for substrate you can use anything from sand to gravel to rocks however we recommend avoiding anything too small as cichlids tend to sift through substrate looking for food which can stir up the substrate and cloud your water.

You will also need to add some decorations to your tank like plants, rocks, or driftwood and make sure you have plenty of hiding spots for your fish.

One other thing we recommend doing is adding a divider to your tank so you can keep your cichlids on one side and your bettas on the other until they get used to each other.

This isnt 100% necessary but it can help reduce aggression levels, give each fish their own space, and make it easier to feed them too.