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Betta fish can make the most amazing pets. These fish captivate us with beautiful colors, flowing fins, and a larger-than-life personalities. Whether you already have a betta fish or are considering adding one to your life, knowing its expected lifespan is an important thing to research before diving into a new commitment.
In this article, I’ll teach you all about the natural lifespan of the betta fish, and how to give your pet the longest, healthiest life possible. Let’s get started!
The Average Betta Fish Lifespan (How Long Do Betta Fish Live)
You probably want to keep your beta fish alive for as long as possible, and the best way to do that is to keep him or her healthy. The average betta lifespan is between 2 and 5 years for healthy specimens. This is really an oversimplified answer, however, so keep reading to learn more!
The 8 Factors That Affect Betta Lifespan
Keeping a betta fish healthy can be more challenging than many beginner fish keepers realize. It’s always best to research the needs of any animal before you bring it home, but if you’ve already bought a betta fish, it’s never too late to improve its quality of life!
Let’s take a look at the 8 most important factors that affect the longevity of a betta fish:
- Age At Purchase
- Tank Size & Setup
- Water Quality & Cycling
- Temperature and Other Parameters
- Tank Mates
Understanding each of these factors, and how they can affect your fish’s lifespan, will help you provide your fish with a longer, healthier life. So let’s dive right in and start learning!
1. Age At Purchase
This might seem like an obvious point, but the age of your betta fish when you buy it needs to be factored in too. Male bettas can already be about a year old when you bring them home. Female fish tend to be sold a little younger, often at around 6 months old.
Accurate aging is not easy, but a male betta fish with a small body and fins is still a young betta. If it is already about 3 inches long, with fully formed fins, you can assume your male betta fish is an adult.
2. Tank Size & Setup
Betta fish tank size is one of the most heated issues in the aquarium hobby. It is a fact that betta fish can survive in small aquariums, but how small is too small?
Well, plastic cups or a one-gallon tank, are just too small. Sure, they may survive for a while, but it is not fair to keep these beautiful creatures in such a confined space. This will most likely reduce their lifespan.
Betta fish live longer in tanks that hold at least 5 gallons. Even then, it takes some experience to maintain stable water conditions in such a small tank. I would wager that no tank is too big for a betta, so the bigger the better!
Betta fish are not very active animals, so the issue has less to do with swimming space than it has to do with stability. Water quality and parameters can swing very quickly in a tiny tank, and this puts huge stress on the fish.
There are some other important points regarding the tank that have nothing to do with size:
- Bettas can jump surprisingly high, so a securely fitting cover is super important!
- Bettas need to rise to the water surface to breathe air, so a long, shallow fish tank is better than a deep one.
3. Water Quality & Cycling
Water quality is incredibly important for maintaining any species of fish, and that goes for betta fish too. But what is water quality, and how do we monitor it?
Poor quality water is toxic for betta fish. It is caused by chemicals that are introduced to the tank. This could be directly in the form of chlorine and heavy metals in tap water, or indirectly from fish waste and uneaten food.
Use your aquarium water test kit to measure the concentrations of these chemicals and to make sure your tank is set up and cycled before you add your betta fish.
The most effective way to maintain great water quality for your betta fish is to use a good quality aquarium filter and perform regular partial water changes. This will maintain the nitrogen cycle and reduce the concentrations of nitrates in the water while allowing you to suck up the waste that collects on the bottom of the tank.
Of course, you want the new water you add to be safe and healthy for your fish. Out of the tap, your water probably contains harmful substances like chlorine and chloramine. Pick up a bottle of water conditioner and follow the recommended dosages to make your water fish-safe.
Treated tap water is perfectly fine for betta fish, so don’t be tempted to use distilled water as this lacks the necessary minerals fish need to stay healthy.
- Ammonia: 0 ppm
- Nitrite: 0 ppm
- Nitrate: less than 20 ppm
4. Temperature and Other Parameters
Betta fish live in warm, tropical climates. If you live in a tropical area, your betta might do fine in an unheated tank, but most of us need to use an aquarium heater to keep the water warm enough.
Cold water will stress your fish, making them lethargic and prone to disease, while water that is too hot will speed up their metabolism and make them age faster.
Sudden water temperature changes can be very stressful, so try to match the water temperature of your prepared water when performing partial water changes.
Just like water quality, parameters are not something that can be seen with your eyes. The only way to monitor these parameters is with your aquarium test kit. If you don’t already have a test kit, get your hands on a set as soon as possible.
Betta fish are fairly adaptable, so it’s better to maintain stable conditions within the suggested range than to continuously adjust your parameters to achieve specific values.
- Temperature: 76-82°F
- pH: 6.5-8
- GH: 5-20dGh/ 70-300ppm
- KH: 4.5+ dKH/80 ppm +
5. Tank Mates
Bettas aren’t known as Siamese fighting fish for nothing. These beautiful creatures are notoriously territorial, and physical injuries and death will result from keeping male betta fish together in the same tank.
Some fishkeepers have success in keeping female betta fish in small groups known as sororities. Female bettas can also be very aggressive, however, so always have a backup plan in case the fish need to be moved to separate tanks.
Other tankmates can be just as dangerous for your betta fish. Often, the easiest way to keep betta fish is in a tank all of their own.
Betta fish can do great in community aquariums, however, you just need to avoid any fish that are large enough to eat your betta or any fish that is prone to aggression and fin nipping.
Tankmates to Avoid:
- Other betta fish
- Tiger Barb
- Large cichlids
A healthy, balanced diet will increase the lifespan of your betta fish. With all the foods available on the market, however, it can be tough to choose the right betta fish food!
Betta fish are carnivores in nature, feeding on small aquatic invertebrates and flying and crawling bugs that fall into the water. This means they need a high protein diet to thrive. A bug based food like Fluval Bug Bites is a great option.
Best Betta Food
Fluval bug bites is made of various insect and shrimp ingredients making this a high quality source of protein
Choose a high-quality food product that is designed for your fish’s needs. Betta pellets should be your fish’s staple diet, but supplements like brine shrimp are very important too. The ultimate supplement is live foods, but frozen foods are also a great option.
Betta fish can be pretty greedy. Do not overfeed your fish as this can result in obesity which will reduce the betta fish lifespan.
Provide only as much food as your pet can eat in a minute, and remove the excess. Feed your fish twice a day, but consider feeding them 6 days per week as a one-day fast is said to allow the digestive system to clear itself.
Suggested Supplemental Food Sources:
- Blood worms
- Brine shrimp
- Tubifex worms
- Mosquito larvae
Betta fish have been selectively bred for over a century to produce the amazing colors, patterns, and fins we see today. Unfortunately, selective breeding reduces genetic diversity, and this can make betta fish prone to certain diseases.
Genetics is a real wild card and not something that you can really manage as a fish keeper. The more unusual breeds with larger fins, like rosetails for example, tend to be weaker fish because it takes more energy to move around the tank and rise to the surface to breathe air.
Always buy your bettas from reputable breeders, online shops, or pet stores that have the fish’s well-being in mind.
Betta Fish are one of the most beautiful varieties of freshwater fish available in the hobby. Easy to care for with plenty of varieties!
Diseases can affect any fish, even healthy, genetically fit individuals. They are far more likely to affect fish that are under stress, however.
So what is stress? If there are problems with any of the factors listed above, your fish will be under stress and prone to disease. Many diseases are curable, but prevention is way more effective!
Diseases can also be brought in with new fish or plants so it is best to quarantine new fish before adding them to your betta fish tank. Introducing tissue culture plants is also a safer bet as they are less likely to carry harmful pests.
As much as you may want to provide a poor fish in a cup with a great new home, the sad reality is that sometimes these fish are in a very weak state, especially if they have been kept that way for a long time. If possible, try to buy your fish soon after it has arrived at the local pet store.
When choosing a betta fish from the local pet store, look out for the following signs:
- Healthy fish should be active and inquisitive
- Floating, sinking, or problems staying upright are sure signs of trouble
- Avoid fish with tattered or clamped fins, and bulging or cloudy eyes
Top Tips For Increasing Their Lifespan
Now that you know more about 8 of the most important factors that affect how long betta fish live, you’re well on your way to encouraging a long, healthy life for your pet. Here are some great betta fish care tips that you can use!
Create a Natural Habitat With Plants
The foundation to caring for any fish species is to recreate the conditions that they are adapted to in the wild. Bettas are fresh water tropical fish from South East Asia1. Their natural environment includes habitats like rice paddies which are shallow and full of aquatic plants.
Bettas are labyrinth fish, which means they breathe air from the surface. it is very important to keep at least part of the top of the tank open if you plan on growing floating plants.
Growing live plants increases oxygenation, improves water quality, and creates a more natural home for your pet. Bettas love a hiding place where they can rest, and a leaf hammock is an ideal solution. Plastic plants are an option, but only soft plastic materials should be used as sharp points can tear your betta’s fins.
Give They Live In A Larger Tank
Just because betta fish can live in small tanks doesn’t mean they deserve to live in a tiny fish bowl. They will enjoy living in a big tank, either on their own or with other fish around them. A great fish tank to try for a solo Betta is a Fluval Spec V.
The Best Betta Fish Tank
Best filtration, best light, perfect size and with everything you need to get started. It was made for Bettas!
Treat Problems Early
Take action if you notice any problems with your betta fish. Good old aquarium salt is a useful treatment for many problems, but consult your veterinarian if you are unsure.
Keep The Tank Clean
You can wait up to two weeks between water changes, but a 15-25% water change about a week apart is much better for smaller tanks.
Remove any uneaten food or decaying plant material as soon as possible. Try to limit stress on your fish during tank maintenance as much as possible.
Slow The Flow
Betta fish do not enjoy strong water flow, so your choice of filter is very important.
A sponge filter works great, but they tend to be a little bulky. Small canister filters or Hang on back (HOB) filters that do not create a strong current are great alternatives.
Internal power filters tend to create a pretty strong current, so you might need to break up the flow by placing hardscape or ornaments in front of the outflow. Whichever type of filter you use, just watch that your fish can swim comfortably without being washed around.
How long do they live as a pet?
The average life expectancy of a healthy betta fish is 2 to 5 years. The betta fish life span depends on many factors, however. Some factors like genetics are outside of your control, but there are many ways to help increase your pet’s lifespan by providing great care.
How long will they live in a bowl?
A betta’s life expectancy tends to be shorter if kept in a bowl. Their lifespan is often less than a year in such a small home. If you have a betta in a fishbowl or other small container, I would definitely recommend upgrading her/his home to a tank of at least 5 gallons.
Can they live for 10 years?
There are unconfirmed reports of bettas living as long as 10 years, but these are very rare and unusual cases!
How do you know if they are dying?
There are many signs of ill health that can indicate a dying betta fish. A lack of appetite, trouble swimming, and physical signs of disease are all things to look out for.
Keeping a close eye on your pet betta fish’s behavior and appearance is the best way to catch problems early.
What kills them?
The biggest killer of Siamese fighting fish is disease caused by stress. Many stressors can affect the betta fish lifespan, including the way they are kept at pet stores and the type of fish food they are fed.
Providing your betta fish with a long and happy life is something that everyone wants for their pet.
Apart from some factors which are outside of your control, keeping a healthy betta fish should be no problem once you understand the needs of these colorful tropical fish. I hope this article will help you manage your fish’s health and provide it with the long life it deserves!
Do you keep betta fish? Share your thoughts on their life span in the comments below!
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.