Can Betta Fish Live With Cardinal Tetras? (Solved!)

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Betta fish have long been popular in the freshwater fish-keeping hobby.  Traditionally Bettas have been kept in small bowls as solitary specimens. Thankfully that trend is now changing and more people find themselves keeping their Bettas in bigger tanks and with other fish.  This new trend has led to an increase in people asking questions like ‘Can a Betta live with Cardinal Tetras?’

Cardinal Tetras make excellent tank mates for a Betta fish. Both species of fish enjoy the same water conditions, will eat the same foods, and have the same basic level of care requirements.  Plus, the vibrant red and blue streaks along the Cardinal Tetras’ bodies enhance the bright colors of a Betta fish.

Can A Betta Fish Live With Cardinal Tetras?​

The simple answer to this one is yes, Betta fish and Cardinal Tetras can live perfectly happily in the same aquarium.

Over the years I have tried this combination of fish on two separate occasions, and both times it made for a visually spectacular tank.  On one occasion I tried it with a red Betta and the other time a bright blue Betta. Both times the effect was mesmerizing as the fish’s colors just complemented one another.

One important factor to consider if you are thinking about keeping a Betta with Cardinal Tetras is aquarium size.  Whilst a Betta will be quite happy in a 10 gallon (38 liters) tank, Cardinal Tetras will need a little more space.  Although the Cardinals are small, they are schooling fish and they like to swim.  A 20 gallon (76 liters) aquarium would be better, and a 40 gallon (150 liters) would be better still.  

The more space you provide the Cardinal Tetras the better they will display and the better the tank overall will look.

How To Set Up A Betta And Cardinal Tetra Tank?​

As mentioned above, tank size is important if you want your fish to display well.

For substrate, I personally would go for a dark substrate as the fish’s colors will really pop against it.  Although sand always looks good, Cardinal Tetras can look a little washed out against it.

Decorations can be whatever fits your personal taste, but I have always found a selection of rocks and aquarium-safe wood make for a natural feel.  Essentially the fish won’t care, providing you put some sort of decoration in the aquarium to give them a feeling of security.

In my experience, adding live plants always makes for a better tank.  Not only do live plants look amazing and enhance the bright colors of the fish, but they also absorb some of the fish waste as they grow.

If you don’t have access to live plants, adding fake plants like these ones will help give the fish that feeling of security.

Neither Bettas nor Cardinal Tetras are too fussy on the water parameters providing the extremes of the scale are avoided.

For aquarium temperature, I would suggest setting the heater to around 76°F (24.5°C).  This temperature will work well for both species of fish.

What To Feed A Betta and Cardinal Tetra Tank?​

The great news here is both Bettas and Cardinal Tetras essentially want to eat the same foods.

Bettas like to eat from the surface or in the upper areas of the tank, whereas Cardinal Tetras prefer to eat mid-water, so choosing a fish food that satisfies both can be tricky.

I have had great success feeding my Betta/Cardinal Tetra tank with Fluval Bug Bites. Bug Bites are made primarily from Black Soldier Fly Larvae plus other high-quality ingredients.  

Bug Bites will float for a bit, then slowly sink down through the water column, making them ideal for both the Betta and the Cardinal Tetras.

If you have a Betta that will take flake foods, these will also work well for the Cardinal Tetras.

Although I feed my Bettas a lot of Bug Bites, I also feed either live or frozen food every day too and Cardinal Tetras will relish these in their diet as well.

I feed a lot of bloodworms and daphnia, but also frozen cyclops and either live it frozen mosquito larvae, whichever I have to hand.  

Betta fish will also eat antsaphids, and fruit flies if you can get them. I order my fruit flies from Amazon (see the current price here)

What Other Fish Can Live With A Betta And Cardinal Tetras?​

Providing your tank is large enough, there are a number of other fish that would work well with both a Betta and a school of Cardinal Tetras.  I have had good success adding Cherry Barbs and White Cloud Mountain Minnows, both of which compliment the colors in the Cardinal Tetras. 

Rummy Nose Tetras also make an amazing addition, but they are a very tight schooling fish that really likes to swim back and forth, so a large tank would be required to achieve the full effect.

As both the Betta and the Cardinal Tetras tend to stay up in the water column, a bottom dweller like a group of Panda Corydoras or Sterbi Corydoras would really complete the setup. 

Any food that passed both the Betta and Cardinal Tetras would be quickly vacuumed up by the cory catfish.

What Other Fish Could Live In A Betta Community Tank?​

You might be surprised to find out how many different fish would work well in a Betta community tank.  The video below has a number of good suggestions.

Will A Betta Eat Cardinal Tetras?​

No, a Betta wouldn’t eat a Cardinal Tetra. Providing the Cardinal Tetras aren’t really small babies, they will be fine.  Any Cardinal Tetras that you buy from your local fish store will be too large for a Betta to eat. Plus, Cardinal Tetras can swim much faster than a Betta, so they are unlikely to get caught anyway. 

Will Caridnal Tetras Nip A Bettas Fins?​

I have been keeping Cardinal Tetras for over 30 years and I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever witnessed fin nipping from them. I currently keep over 100 Cardinal Tetras in a tank with 6, very long-finned, Congo Tetras, and the Congo Tetras fins are in perfect condition. 

My 155 gallon with Cardinal Tetras and Congo Tetras

My Final Thoughts on ‘Can A Betta Live With Cardinal Tetras?’​

From personal experience, I can say not only CAN a Betta live with Cardinal Tetras, but they will thrive together.  

Both Bettas and cardinal Tetras essentially want the same tank setup, the same water conditions, and the same foods.  

Providing you offer enough swimming space for the Cardinal Tetras, this is a tank that will you will enjoy for many years.

About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James

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