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Do Betta Fish Get Lonely? Social Needs & Tank Mates

Something that I often wondered about throughout my years of fishkeeping is whether or not my betta fish gets lonely.

Quick Answer

In the wild, betta fish, males in particular, are very aggressive and territorial. These are generally solitary creatures by nature and usually do not exhibit any social behaviors like shoaling or schooling, such as other fish species. It is not in their nature to seek out social interactions.

Keep on reading to find out everything there is to know about betta fish and their social needs, as well as some ideal tank mates.

Do Betta Fish Have Social Needs – Are They Lonely?

It is important to note that there is no betta fish in history that has ever answered this question personally. Therefore, technically speaking, it is impossible to know whether or not a betta fish gets lonely or not when it is solo in a fish tank. However, based on years of observation, it serves the reason that a betta fish does not get lonely.

Once again, betta fish are solitary creatures that tend to spend most of their time alone in the wild. Male betta fish especially are very aggressive/territorial. If another male betta fish invades its territory, it will attack it and chase it away.

lonely betta fish in aquarium with plants

In fact, as far as tropical freshwater fish that people keep in aquariums go, male betta fish are known for being some of the most territorial and aggressive of all. They generally don’t like being kept with other male betta fish.

If we are talking about females however, these are of course necessary for reproduction. During the mating season, male betta fish will seek out females to reproduce. However, this is a natural instinct, the instinct to reproduce and to keep the genetic lineage going, rather than a need for social interaction.

What we can say is that in the wild, betta fish do not seem to exhibit any social behaviors such as other fish. They don’t travel in schools, they don’t have any kind of shoaling behavior, and they don’t readily seek out social interaction from other fish. Therefore, based on this observation, it serves to reason that betta fish are perfectly happy being alone, and that they don’t get lonely.

Social Interactions of Betta Fish

What I want to do now is to take a quick look at exactly how a betta fish might interact with other tank mates, including other betta fish, other fish species, invertebrates, and even human beings.

Male Betta Fish and Other Males

As mentioned above, betta fish are some of the most aggressive tropical freshwater fish that you could have in your aquarium. They are especially aggressive towards other males. There is virtually a 100% chance that if you keep two males together, they will attack and try to kill each other within a very short period of time.

Male betta fish do not like being around other males whatsoever, so they definitely don’t have any social needs in this sense. They would much rather be kept away from other males. Even if you just put a mirror in the tank, a betta fish will still mistake this for another fish, and act accordingly.

Male Betta Fish and Females

Whether or not male betta fish seek companionship from other females is questionable at best. Certainly, when they are put in the same tank, males and females don’t really seem to interact socially. If anything, males may still act aggressively towards females, and on very rare occasions, vice versa.

They definitely don’t play together or interact like human beings would. That said, you do of course need to consider mating season, as both male and female betta fish will seek each other out when it comes time to reproduce. Once again however, this is simply a natural instinct to reproduce and really doesn’t have anything to do with social needs.

Female Betta Fish and Other Females

As far as keeping female betta fish together is concerned, this is doable strictly speaking. Some female betta fish may still be aggressive towards other females, although it is much less likely than male aggression towards other males or male aggression towards females.

If you would like to keep multiple betta fish in the same tank, keeping all females is your best bet, even though this is risky as well. However, just like in the other cases discussed above, there is no evidence that female betta fish really interact with each other, especially not as far as schooling behaviors are concerned.

Betta Fish and Humans

As far as relations with human beings are concerned, this has to do primarily with feeding more than anything else. A betta fish can eventually learn to recognize their owners and may even become accustomed to their presence.

You may even see a betta fish begging for food when they see you come into the tank. If you work hard enough, you may even be able to train your betta fish to jump through a hoop and to perform other tricks. That said, this really also doesn’t have to do with social interaction whatsoever. It’s simply a matter of eating dinner.

Betta Fish and Other Tank Mates

Betta fish also don’t seem to need any social interaction from other tank mates, and in fact, generally prefer being solo. Not only do they not really like being around other betta fish, but they don’t like being around any other fish in general.

For instance, if you have fish in the tank that resemble a betta fish, your current betta fish may mistake them for competition, and still try to attack them. The bottom line is that there is simply no evidence that betta fish get lonely or that they like being around other tank mates.

Best Tank Mates for Betta Fish

Although betta fish generally prefer being alone, this doesn’t mean that you can’t keep them alongside other fish. That said, they do need to be the right tank mates. So, what are some of the best tank mates to keep with a betta fish?

First, small and peaceful schooling fish are best to keep with betta fish. Ones such as neon tetras, ember tetras, and even harlequin rasboras all make for good options. They’re all small, relatively careful, peaceful, and schooling fish.

Next, bottom feeders and sucker fish make for good options as well. As far as betta fish are concerned, they won’t mind bottom feeders too much, because they tend to stay out of the way. Ones such as catfish and loaches of all kinds are great options to consider.

You might also consider adding a variety of shrimp and snails into the tank, as they can be great additions, and act as fantastic tank cleaners as well. With that being said, some betta fish may view a variety of shrimp and snails as food, so you do risk them being eaten.

Final Thoughts

When all is said and done, betta fish just don’t really get lonely. These are highly solitary creatures that spend most of their lives alone. 

Besides when it is time for mating season, male betta fish don’t even really seek out the companionship of females. Therefore, although betta fish require a good deal of care, one thing you don’t have to worry about is tank mates and loneliness.

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