Introducing A Friend To Aquarium Keeping For The First Time, But He Chose To Keep A Betta Sorority..

  • #1
Hello, I recently convinced a friend to purchase his first aquarium. Oddly enough, he did very well when cycling the tank. He purchased a 10 gallon, and took lots of tall lucky bamboo stocks from a hardware store and added them into the tank. (I did warn him not to submerge the leaves, so the bamboo is sticking out of the top of the aquarium)

As a surprise, I purchased him his first fish, a Female Koi Betta. (I did this because I was introduced into the hobby when another friend of mine gifted me a Betta fish, I figured it was only fitting. ).
I told him to research aquarium builds and species he can keep in a ten gallon tank.

Here is the tricky part however,

he decided to attempt a Betta Sorority tank. I am aware Betta Sororities are not easy for beginners which is why I am here. He recently added 7 more Bettas into the ten Gallon with the current Betta I gifted him, bringing the total number of Bettas to 8 fish. I noticed the aggression between a few of the fish was massive, so I gifted him 10 large java ferns from one of my heavily planted tanks to increase the hiding places in his aquarium.

The main question is, how do you think I should handle this further? I am worried he could make a mistake and become discouraged if he finds one of the Bettas injured or killed. The ferns helped dramatically, but there is still some aggression present.

Should I take a Hands-off style of approach, and let him learn through trial and error, or should I step in and school him on keeping betta sororities since it is a difficult style of tank for a beginner? Thanks for reading.

  • #2
I do not have experience with a betta sorority but I think 8 betta's in a 10 gallon is a lot. I'm sure it can be done but as you say he's new to the hobby. If there is a lot of aggression I would take out the 3 most aggressive betta's leaving a number of 5 betta's in the tank.

  • #3
You need to tell him. It's not good to have your first tank be something that is incorrect! 8 bettas is WAY too many fish for that size. You need to tell him that a sorority shouldn't be in anything less than a 20G long, because the bettas need more room to swim, create territories, and have their own hiding spots. Tell him he made a huge mistake and that a sorority isn't a good idea. Sooner or later there will be a mass death.
  • #4
I would inform him about betta sorority's and how difficult they are and the needs if he still goes through with it and doesn't listen then let him learn the hard way then maybe after the fish get injured he will say "hey my friend knows what he's talking about
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  • #5
After reading your posts, I decided to take an active approach.

I knew I needed to convince him to solve two major problems with his tank, the overstocking, and the aggression.

To handle the overstocking, I managed to convince him to triple the amount of plants he has in his tank. There is far more bamboo now. I also managed to get into his filter and cram it with filter media.

To handle the aggression, I was unable to convince him to remove multiple bettas. However, I was able to convince him to remove the single most aggressive betta and put her in a small tank for herself. He also went out and got decorations for the aquarium to help curve the aggression.

Overall, it seems to be working, the aggression is far less, and the amount of plants has convinced me that waste will be less of an issue.

Thanks for the advice.
  • #6
MORE PLANTS!!!!! Maybe some hornwart?


  • #7
I see you've put the java fern in your sand substrate. Java fern plants have a rhizome which should not be burried or else the plant may die. Maybe you could try tying the plants to the bamboo and get some other plants that will actually do well in the substrate
  • #8
Just tell him what might happen. Don't get discouraged. If he doesn't ask questions that just means he knows what he's doing. I wouldn't bother him about it after that.
  • #9
Is his birthday coming up any time soon? Maybe you could get him a 20 gallon long or a 30 gallon as an early birthday present. You and some of his other friends could get together and give it to him as a group if you feel it is too much for a birthday present.
I would also try printing out some guides to a betta sorority that say they need 20 gallons minimum for him. You could recommend this site to him too.
Keep trying to get him to get some more plants. The tank is nowhere near as heavily planted as a betta sorority needs to be.
To handle the overstocking, I managed to convince him to triple the amount of plants he has in his tank. There is far more bamboo now. I also managed to get into his filter and cram it with filter media.
The overstocking issue is not just about bioload and waste. The main issue is there is not enough space for each betta to get away from each other. Each fish does not have enough space so it is overstocked.
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  • #10
It looks like his research seems to be working. He recently told me he is considering upgrading to a 20 gallon tank. (This is something I only hinted to him so it seems to be out of his own volition rather than my own.) It may not be immediate, but I am glad he is coming around.

Tank update: After observing the individual Bettas, it appears they are all healthy, active and eating at the moment. One betta however seems to have taken a small amount of fin damage in a lower area. I will keep an eye on this fish and offer to hospitalize the fish in one of my tanks if it develops fin-rot. A hierarchy has been successfully established with a the largest becoming dominant. So far there is little to no algae growth present as all of the ferns he received from me were dipped in bleach solution before being added.

Oddly enough, one of his ex'es (they are still very good friends now) is also an avid fishkeeper as well. So that means he will at least be able to take advice from multiple people now.

I am currently looking for some hornwart or another plant that grows quickly to add some extra cover into the tank. I have anacharis in one of my shrimp tanks, but it is rather low in amount and melted easily last time I tried transfering it. Perhaps I will go aquarium shoping with him and show some of the plants found locally.


  • #11
Normally I think 8 community fish in a 10 gal is not too bad if your filtration system is good enough. But Betta are just different. My Betta solo at 10 gal. 8 Betta at 10 gal. No matter how dense is your plant, they will be stressing out. Either give up on some, or upgrade the tank.
  • #12
Wow, I think its pretty, but more plants! Water wisteria, and ludwigia, def some large leafy plant the girls can hide in! Rotala Indica is pretty too
  • #13
Maybe ask to upgrade to a 20 gallon long? Also needs way more plants!! I agree 7 in a 10 gallon is way too many, even then I never suggest a 10 gallon. Thanks for comeing to ask and asking.
  • #14
This was a great read through, best of luck to you two


  • #15
Betta sororities are terrifying IMO! I had one but it failed due to disease and just started it back up again and even though I’ve kept fish for over 16 years and have a heavily planted 20 gallon tank I’m still afraid for failure. So I wish your friend luck with his, as he is probably going to need it!
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  • #16
Update: It is about 3.5 weeks since the aquarium was setup. I decided to check the tank and see what my friend has been up to.

He pulled the rhizomes out of the sand substrate. He also added more Java ferns and more bamboo. He also added some java moss into the tank on some ping-pong balls tied to fishline. To my surprise, the Bettas have largely stopped showing any territorial disputes and have been largely peaceful even while feeding. Some of the fish that showed signs of frayed fins have healed since the last time Ive seen them. *Whew* I'm just glad he was lucky and scored some pretty chill Bettas. I still have a spare tank on standby if he runs into any issues (I prefer to be prepared).

All seven fish have also grown considerably. I will try to upload photos soon of each individual fish the tank next time I see him.

I am honestly quite proud. Aside from some new tank syndrome, and for a person that chose to keep an extremely difficult setup, he seems to be doing a pretty good job. He even recently purchased a breeder container for quarantine, and is even building a preventative first aid kit for the fish. None of the fish showed signs of bloat either, which is common for beginners when they overfeed bettas.

I checked his water parameters and got the following:




He still wants to get a 20 gallon long, but money has been tight for him at the moment. If he doesn't get one by the holidays, he may end up receiving a *surprise* from me and some of his other friends....

I'm just glad I got him as addicted to this hobby as the rest of us. I am eager to see how his keeping skills will develop over time!

I will try to upload s soon.
  • #17
Yay! I can't wait to see the pictures! If you are in the US, then the Petco Dollar per Gallon sale is great. You can score a 20 long for under $90 with all the separate supplies
  • #18
Never forget craigslist and FB marketplace! There's always the off chance you get a 55 gallon+ tank for under $100.

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