Cory catfish and betta fish are two of the most popular aquarium fish, and here at Keeping Catfish we <3 both!

Finding the right tank mate for your betta can be a challenge though, so here’s everything about keeping betta fish and cory catfish together.

Can cory catfish and betta fish live together?

The latter known for its bright appearance and typical behavior, cory catfish for just the opposite. This might make you think both can’t live together, but luckily that isn’t the case! Keeping betta fish and cory catfish is certainly possible:

Cory catfish and betta fish make great tank mates. Betta fish are known to be territorial, but cory catfish inhabit the bottom layer of the tank, which decreases the chances on confrontation. Cory catfish are peaceful avoiding confrontation and need similar care and diets.

However, there are numerous factors that decide whether it’s a good choice to keep cory catfish and betta fish together. Some factors that decide whether you can keep them together are tank size, the temperament of your betta fish and the species of betta fish / cory catfish.

Betta and Corydoras: Quick Overview

catfish (4)
Cory catfish
siamese-fighting-fish
Betta fish
Habitat
Amazon (South America)
Puddles / Rice fields (SE Asia)
Diet
Carnivorous
Carnivorous
Temperament
Peaceful
Can be aggressive
Tank
>20 gallons
>5 gallons
Size
1-3 inches
2-3inches

Cory catfish information

The Corydoras genus, commonly known as cory catfish, is a genus of fish that has gained a lot of popularity over the last years. Mainly because of its calm temperament and mostly easy care. There are 161 recognized species, some more popular than others.

Care

Most cory catfish species are relatively easy to care for. Since the most common species like the Bronze and Albino cory are all bred in captivity, this species tend to do well in many water parameters and temperatures.

The main things that people often get wrong is to keep cory catfish alone or in pairs. Let me get it straight: cory catfish should always be housed in a group of 6 animals or more.

Small species like pygmy Corydoras and tail-spot cory catfish can be housed in a 10 gallon tank, but bigger species need a >20 gallon tank to thrive.

As a general rule, cory catfish should be housed in a well-planted tank with a rounded substrate or sand. This prevents their barbels from eroding

If you want to know more about cory catfish tank mates, please read my full guide on it. It covers everything from A-Z, including keeping cory catfish with betta fish.

Betta fish information

Betta fish are perhaps the most popular tropical fish in the hobby. Unfortunately, often for the wrong reasons. They are sold in small bottles or , and often kept in very poor conditions. Here’s a small summary of betta fish and how to care for them.

Care

Betta fish have to be kept in a tank with the right equipment. They don’t belong in a vase or bottle. A 5 gallon tank is the minimum.

A filter is recommended, but not absolutely necessary. If you plan to keep cory catfish with these fish however, this is a must. This filter should certainly not create much flow in the tank, otherwise the betta fish will get exhausted.

For this reason, it’s important to put a good amount of hard structures and plants in the tank. This gives the betta enough places to rest and to create its own territorium. You could also buy a betta bed (link to Chewy.com). This is a tool specifically designed to give your betta a resting spot.

In the wild, betta fish eat various insects. Thus, in your aquarium you should feed a variation of meat-based foods. Stay away from generic store brands, as these foods often contain fillers that are bad. I prefer to feed Hikari Bio Gold. This has a varied recipe, and is high in protein. You can get it here at Chewy.com.  

Wild betta fish

You might not know it, but the betta fish that you see in stores and that are sold regularly don’t actually live in the wild. They are a result of decades of domestication or breeding to obtain these colors and forms.

There are many types of wild betta fish, and apart from keeping catfish I’ve made it my mission to promote their beauty and temperament.

A wild Betta splendens. Photo by FranksBetta

Temperament

Betta fish are known to be territorial and aggressive towards each other. Especially males, that tend to fight heavily, sometimes until death.

Males will see their tank as their territory, and can be very protective even towards females or other fish. We can see this behavior in their breeding habits where the male will guard the eggs and partially raise the fry.

Deciding factors for keeping betta fish and cory catfish together.

In most cases, cory catfish and betta fish go well together. Because of their overlapping needs and cory catfish’ peaceful temperament, both are a good match. However, there are still occasions where it isn’t a smart idea to keep them together. 

1. The temperament of your betta fish

It’s crucial to look at the personality of your betta fish before deciding to keep cory catfish along with them.

Yes, different betta fish have different personalities! Some can even identify their owner! This means that there are aggressive specimens and peaceful individuals.

You’ll most likely notice it when you have an exceptionally territorial betta fish. These will try to intimidate (by showing their fins, flaring) everything in the tank. This includes your finger or new objects.

The first days the cory catfish inhabit the tank with the betta, have an eye out for possible aggressive behavior. If these first days go well, there is little chance there will be aggression later on.

Make sure the tank is planted and have a good amount of decoration in it. This will cause less room for possible conflicts and the cory catfish being able to hide if needed.

Cory catfish have strong armor (hence their name "armored catfish"), so they're well able to withstand a betta-attack. However, this causes stress for both species which is not great in the long-term. If this pattern of aggressive behavior doesn't stop, a bigger tank should be bought or both should be separated.

Conclusion: sometimes, certain betta fish just don’t do well with other fish. This can always happen, and you should prepare for it. You can however pick a betta type that is less likely to be aggressive towards the cory catfish:

1.1 Betta type / species

You might not know it, but there are actually tons of different betta types and species. We can distinguish two main groups:

Domesticated betta types

These are the betta fish you see in stores. They’re bred for their colors and fins, making them attractive to look at.

Overall, there are two different types we can distinguish:

Long-finned types – This includes halfmoon, rosetail bettas etc. They are usually not that aggressive or active, because they can’t swim fast due to their fins.

However, these types are often recommended to live in smaller tanks (<10 gallons) due to this. In bigger tanks, these types will get exhausted and they simply don’t do well.

This makes them a less good choice than the short-finned or wild betta types, even though those can be more aggressive.

Short-finned types – This includes plakat betta fish. These fish are suited for many aquarium types, because they are more athletic. This also means they can be more territorial towards other fish.

Overall, which of these two types you pick depends on the tank setup you have (keep reading for more).

Wild betta types

These hidden gems are still quite rare in the fish keeping hobby. Although they’re certainly as beautiful as the domesticated betta!

Wild betta fish are often a little more aggressive and territorial than domesticated betta fish, although this depends on the species. Betta splendens (the wild version) is one of the more aggressive species, and the domesticated betta originates from this species.

2.Tank setup

In order to keep these two very different species together, the tank has to be set up in a way that both can thrive.

Tank size

Betta fish are known to live in small puddles, and are often chosen because they can live in small tanks. They do just fine in tanks of 5 gallons and for most long-finned types it’s even recommended to keep them in smaller tanks.

Cory catfish on the other hand need a tank of at least 20 gallons to thrive. This makes plakat type betta fish better suited to live with cory catfish.

However, if you really want to keep a long-finned betta fish with cory catfish, you should add a lot of plants and hard structures, while minimizing the flow rate of the filter.

Plants & hardscapes

Plants are of vital importance in any tank. Overall, I’d suggest you put in as many plants as possible. Especially if you want to keep a long-finned betta type, plants provide necessary resting spots. For this reason are big-leaved plants live Anubias and Echinodorus recommended.

Cory catfish also need plants in their tank, so on this part both species have the same requirements. Cory catfish often use plants to deposit their eggs

Another way you can add hiding places is by adding hardscapes like wood to the tank. Preferably as close to the surface as possible, so that the betta can easily gasp for air.

Filtration

Betta fish are known to need low filtration, since they don’t pollute that much and are used to living in stagnating puddles. 

Especially flow should be minimized as much as possible for bettas, because they often can’t swim that well.

Cory catfish are also flexible in terms of filtration, but do need a filter with some flow to thrive. This species lives in small often high oxygen streams, and thus lives in very different habitats as opposed to bettas and a stronger filter is a good choice.

Other tank mates

Regarding tank mates, betta fish and cory catfish are quite different. As we’ve discussed before, betta fish are rather territorial. This makes some species not a good fit to live with them.

Cory catfish on the other hand can live with basically any other fish species since they are very calm and peaceful.

Betta fish can’t live with fin-nipping fish like barbs or with other territorial fish like cichlids. This will cause conflicts, stress and ultimately death.

Conclusion: you should keep cory catfish in at least a 20 gallon tank. This means that short-finned plakat betta fish are a better choice. Put a ton of plants in the tank, and choose for a filter with a low flow-rate.

3. Keeping betta females with cory catfish

Betta females tend to be way more peaceful than males. They can live in groups, often referred to as betta sororities

Betta females are also more athletic than males, because of their less extended fins. This makes them overall a very good choice to keep with cory catfish, because they can live in bigger tanks, with more other tank mates.

Also, if you want to keep multiple betta’s in the same, a betta sorority is a better choice. Females can still be nasty to each other though, so be aware. Although with females this is definitely less common than with males.

Conclusion: betta females are not as territorial as betta males, and are less likely to be territorial.

Recap: how to keep cory catfish and betta fish in the same tank

Now that we’ve gone over the different aspects you have to take into account when keeping betta fish and cory catfish in the same tank, I’ll give you some practical tips to achieve the possible rate on success.

Tank setup

For most cory catfish species, a 20 gallon tank is the minimum. Smaller species like C. pygmaeus can live in a 10 gallon aquarium. Betta fish don’t do well in a big tank, because it will cost too much effort for them to swim and gasp for air. Plakat betta fish (short-finned fish) do fine in bigger tank and can endure stronger flow. It’s very important to put live plants and hard structures like wood in the tank. It doesn’t only make your tank more beautiful and increase the water quality, but it creates necessary hiding and resting places for both the betta and the cory catfish. You can also buy a betta bed.

Filtration

Betta fish can live in low-tech setups. They don’t like strong flow and can get exhausted in a tank that’s too big or with a filter that’s too strong.

Cory catfish on the other hand like a good flow-rate. This goes back to their wild habitat, and they live in small streams with oxygen rich water.

This means you should find ‘the sweet spot’ in terms of filtration. I found this to be a filter that does the volume 4-5 times an hour. Considering your tank will be most likely around 20 gallons, an internal filter is fine.

Food

Both betta fish and cory catfish should eat mainly meaty foods. They do well on high-protein diets and have very similar requirements in terms of food.

Good food to feed both fish are live foods, frozen foods and pellets. Here are some of my favorite pellet foods listed:

  • Hikari Bio Gold – This is a high-quality food to feed betta fish. As an overall rule, you should try to stay away from cheap foods at f.e. petco, because they contain more fillers (carbs, plant-based materials) which the betta can’t digest well.
  • Hikari Sinking Wafers – Also from Hikari (they just have quality foods), this food provides bottom dwellers such as cory catfish with the necessary nutrients.

Betta type

Overall, most betta types are very similar regarding their temperament and care. It comes down to your tank on which betta type is advised.

Long-finned betta types don’t do well in big tanks. The ideal tank size is somewhere around 10 gallons, making them the ideal tank mate for dwarf cory catfish.

Plakat type betta fish can be housed in bigger tanks, on the condition that there are lots of plants and hiding places present.

Lastly, we have wild betta fish. You might not have heard about them, but they’re basically the version of the domesticated betta that lives in the wild. These betta fish differ very much in temperament, so it’s a good idea to look into the specific species and their requirements regarding tank mates.

Cory catfish species

Overall, most cory catfish species are very similar in terms of care. The main difference is their size. Some species get only 1 inch big, while other grow as large as 5 inches!

Small species can live in a smaller tank, and are thus a good fit for long-finned betta types. 

Bigger species like Bronze cory catfish or albino cory catfish will need a 20 gallon tank. This means you should heavily plant it and provide enough hiding spots, in order for both species to feel safe and good.

If you want to know more about cory catfish and their size, please read our full guide on it. It gives you a complete overview of cory catfish species and their required tank size. Read the guide here.

So, I hope you learned a lot from this article. Feel free to read our other guides such as cory catfish and shrimp or cory catfish and goldfish, so you can build your dream tank! Also, leave a comment if you have any questions.