Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Fish > Betta Fish vs Goldfish: Key Differences (With Pictures)

Betta Fish vs Goldfish: Key Differences (With Pictures)

betta fish vs goldfish

Betta fish and goldfish have a lot in common. They often give an enthusiast their first experience in this hobby. Many people usually associate the two species with fishbowls, but that doesn’t mean they’re meant to live under those conditions. Each one has evolved from a wild fish to one with many varieties. The goldfish alone has 70 subspecies and 180 variants that could be of interest to you.

You may wonder which fish is the best one for a beginner or maybe even a child. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you so that you can make an informed choice. As similar as they may seem, these two species are quite different once you get down to brass tacks. Let’s dive into the facts to help you choose.


Visual Differences

Betta Fish vs Goldfish - Visual Differences
Image Credit: Left – UNIKYLUCKK, Shutterstock | Right – Hans, Pixabay

At a Glance

Betta Fish
  • Scientific Name: Betta splendens
  • Average length (adult): Up to 2.5 inches
  • Lifespan: 3–5 years
  • Temperature: 72–82℉
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Compatible With Other Fish: Variable
  • Care: Easy
  • Scientific Name: Carassius auratus
  • Average length (adult): 1–19 inches
  • Lifespan: 10–30 years
  • Temperature: 68–72℉
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Compatible With Other Fish: Often with other cold-water species
  • Care: Easy to Moderate


Betta Fish Overview

Pink Betta Fish
Image Credit By: gogorilla, Shutterstock

The betta, or Siamese Fighting Fish, is native to southeastern Asia. Enthusiasts selectively breed them as either ornamental or competitive fish. Ornamental breeding is more lucrative, with 55 varieties coming from Indochina alone. It’s also a driving force in the pet industry, which explains the wide range of prices that these fish can be.


A betta fish is well-known for its aggression, particularly in males. Its fierceness is legendary, with the mere sight of another male causing an exaggerated display of flaring and posturing. Not surprisingly, you should only keep one male to a tank. The other concern is for the betta itself. Combative species, such as Tiger Barbs, will nip at its long fins, making it vulnerable to disease and infections.

You should only add a betta to your existing aquarium if it contains peaceful species, such as platies and swordtails.

Tank Set-Up

You’ll often see bettas displayed in small bowls, sometimes near other males, to instigate their aggressive displays. We strongly urge you to opt for a larger set-up of at least 10 gallons or more. Consider where these fish live in the wild. You’d typically find them in dense wetlands like marshes. Replicating that habitat in your home means creating a well-planted tank with plenty of cover. Anything less is cruel.

Bettas prefer slow-moving water. Running a small air stone will provide adequate gas exchange at the surface while providing a suitable environment for your fish. We also suggest adding some hiding places. Avoid any pieces with sharp points or edges to keep from injuring your betta.

betta fish surrouned with aquatic plants
Image Credit: YanCabrera, Pixabay

Water Chemistry

Bettas prefer life on the warmer side. A heater will ensure that the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much and stress your fish. A pH range of 6.8 to 7.5 is ideal for bettas and many other tropical fish species if you plan to have a community tank. We recommend checking the pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates weekly. Many variables can change these parameters quickly and endanger your fish.

Health & Care

One of the best things about bettas is that their care is easy. The bi-monthly water changes you perform for other tropical fish will go a long way toward keeping everyone healthy. The key to keeping any species is stability. Avoiding drastic temperature and water chemistry changes will minimize stress and vulnerability to disease.

Bear in mind that bettas are carnivorous. To ensure an adequate nutritional intake, you should supplement their diet with quality protein sources, such as bloodworms and shrimp. Just be sure to siphon out any uneaten food to avoid fouling the water.

Suitable for:

Betta fish are excellent choices if you want to keep a single fish or add one to your existing aquarium. It’ll make a colorful and exciting member to your school. They are quite tolerant of tank conditions, given the habitat where their wild counterparts live. The only overriding requirement is that you keep them with other peaceful species to minimize conflicts.


Goldfish Overview

Goldfish in aquarium with green plants
Image By: dien, Shutterstock

Like the Siamese Fighting Fish, the goldfish has a long history of domestication and selective breeding, going back about 2,000 years to China. Goldfish are native to eastern Asia. However, the goldfish swims in cooler waters than the betta, hence, the differences in care. While you can add a Siamese Fighting Fish to your aquarium, the goldfish does best with others of its kind.


The goldfish is a mostly friendly fish. Just about any variety will get along with one another. You can generally group the many kinds into either slender-bodied fish or fancy ones. It’s best to stick with one type. It’s not unusual for faster, sleeker varieties to chase the slower-moving, long-finned ones and bite at their tails. One other reason to group them is because of each particular variant’s feeding behavior.

Goldfish are voracious eaters. It can become an issue if slower, less aggressive fish miss out on getting adequate food. We suggest stocking fish with the same degree of food motivation to prevent problems.

Tank Set-Up

The goldish has the same unfortunate legacy of being raised in bowls. This setup is an even worse choice because of their feeding behavior. It doesn’t take long for the water in a fishbowl to go bad. Therefore, we recommend keeping your goldfish in a proper tank instead of a bowl. These fish vary widely in size, from the smaller 1-inch variety to the pond species that can grow over 10 inches long.

You can also keep goldfish in ponds, which provides an excellent habitat for these larger fish. Some varieties are surprisingly cold-tolerant.

Goldfish in an aquarium
Image By: Hans Braxmeier, Pixabay

Water Chemistry

A strong point in the goldfish’s favor is its tolerance. Goldfish can do just fine if you skip a meal and can handle less-than-ideal water conditions. However, they do best if the tank or pond is cleaned regularly. Regular water changes are also a part of routine maintenance to keep these fish healthy. Adding a water conditioner will ensure the conditions are right.

You should test the water chemistry regularly to ensure the pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates are at safe levels. Remember that goldfish are messy, making this task even more critical.

Health & Care

Stable, clean conditions are the best way to keep your goldfish healthy. Just because they are more tolerant doesn’t mean you should skimp on their care.

Obvious signs of illness include:

Suitable for:

The care of most goldfish is easy. The difference is that you’ll probably have to clean the tank more often. That means doing more simple things, such as cleaning up after the fish with water changes. Bear in mind that the larger the tank, the more stable the conditions are.

If you're new to the world of goldfish keeping or are experienced but love to learn more, we highly recommend you check out the best-selling book, The Truth About Goldfish, on Amazon.The Truth About Goldfish New Edition

From diagnosing illnesses and providing correct treatments to proper nutrition, tank maintenance and water quality advice, this book will help you to ensure your goldfish are happy and to be the best goldfish keeper you can be.


Which Species Is Right for You?

The most important consideration about which fish to keep is your initial investment. Bettas can live happily in an existing tank with peaceful fish. You can also keep them alone in a smaller aquarium. On the other hand, goldfish require more frequent care because of their feeding behavior. If you want to get fancy varieties, you’ll need a bigger tank to accommodate them.

Remember that bettas are tropical fish and need a stable environment. On the other hand, goldfish are cold-water species that may not need some of the equipment you have to get for bettas, like a heater. The other advantage goldfish offer is being able to house them outdoors in a pond. In any case, regular maintenance is key to keeping either one of these fish healthy.


Featured Image Credit: Top: Betta Fish (Jeravano, Shutterstock) Bottom: Goldfish (JuanCarlosPalauDiaz, Shutterstock)

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets