One of the first questions that people ask when considering adopting these little fish is “How long do betta fish live?” However, because there are so many factors, you’ll get answers ranging anywhere from a mere two years to a whopping 6. Read on to find out what living conditions and care factors play major roles in this number. That way, you can determine if you can give this pet the care necessary to reach the higher end of that range.
In Captivity vs In the Wild
Bettas’ natural habitat is in the tropical environment of Thailand. They often claim sections of rice paddies and other slow-moving bodies of water as home. When they are displeased with their placement, they’ll jump over to an adjacent spot, hoping to find better conditions. This allows them to self regulate and is also the reason they are so fiercely territorial, earning them the name Siamese Fighting Fish.
While many people may think that bettas live longer in the wild than in captivity because hobbyists work rather hard to imitate their natural habitat, the opposite is true. Well cared for betta fish have a 1-2 year longer lifespan than their wild counterparts. However, it’s important to note that this is not primarily a failure of the environment. The waters that betta call home are often unregulated and fall victim to pollution, damaging what would be their natural state.
In fact, as of 2011, betta spendens were declared Vulnerable (one step above endangered) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This Red List placement is mainly a result of chronic pollution and habitat loss.
However, Betta’s exposure to other Betta fish also accounts for some of the life expectancy reduction. More encounters lead to territorial acts of aggression between male betta fish.
On the other hand, because bettas in captivity can be closely monitored and cared for, eliminating outside factors like fighting or pollution can damage their ecosystem. Essentially, good betta owners mimic the ideal natural state of the betta fish. As a result, they tend to live a good bit longer.
What’s a typical Betta fish life span if properly cared for?
Expect something more along the lines of a 3-4 year lifespan.
If you’re simply checking the boxes on your fish care (ie. feeding them regularly, monitoring for illnesses, keeping things clean, using a proper tank setup), your fishy friend should be able to reach this comfortable, mid-range lifespan.
In a perfect world, betta could probably live for nearly 10 years. However, don’t lose heart if your Betta fish misses that milestone. Such a lifespan would rely on some divinely perfect environment natural-born perfect fishy DNA. If you see your fishy make it to that widely accepted 3-year mark, by all accounts you did a pretty good job!
If you’re going above and beyond in terms of care, an age range of 4-6 years can be achieved. This age range accounts for some less-than-godly fish DNA, but still expects you as the pet owner to put in some elbow grease to take exceptional care of the pet. This betta fish life span is one that seasoned betta fish hobbyists try to shoot for. However, even amateur aquarists can achieve it if they are willing to put in the effort for their feisty fish friend.
So let’s talk about a few ways you can try to prolong your betta’s life span…
Increase a Betta Fish Life Span? Show Me!
You are already right on your way to taking proper care of Betta fish by showing an interest in learning about them. If you are just starting on this Betta fish adventure, you should take a look at the basic Betta fish guide here. After giving that a quick go over, and preferably printing it out for later reference, take a look around the rest of this website and others like it. A considerable amount of effort has been put into providing you with the best “how-to” information on the proper care of your Betta fishy!
In general though, to keep your Betta fish happy and healthy you need to provide, you’re going to be shooting for something similar to their natural habitat. They need that beautiful, tropical 78-80 degree weather in their water world!
For a more in-depth guide on tank setup, check out this article. But we’ll include the highlights below.
You need an aquarium that has plenty of room. 2.5+ gallons per Betta is the minimum! And something around 5 is ideal. We cannot stress this one enough. Sure, you can get away with a 1-gallon fishbowl with no heater if you are in a relatively warm home. But, as a pet owner, you don’t want to “get away with” your poor pet care.
Confining your betta fish to a 1-gallon fishbowl, even with proper heating and lighting, will dramatically reduce both the life expectancy and quality of life for your fish. Putting a betta in a 1-gallon tank is equivalent to signing up for a >1-year life span. So please ignore the absurd pictures of bettas being placed in vases and the like as table decorations that you find on Pinterest. Remember, these are living things and as such, they should be cared for properly.
Chances are, you would be advised to refrain from adopting a large dog if you live in a studio apartment. The same principle applies here. If you can’t provide the space a pet needs to be happy, you shouldn’t get the pet. If all you have is your coffee table, with no space, heating, or lighting, get a book, not a fish–it’ll last longer.
PS. Remember how we mentioned that betta fish like to jump? Make sure your tank has a lid, or your betta might meet a very early end.
Proper nutrition is key to keeping anything healthy. Betta fish are meat eaters! That is, they are carnivorous in nature. In the wild, they feed on brine shrimp and small worms. In captivity, these are generally used as snacks, and their diet is much more regulated. Sticking with the right Betta-specific pellets that you can find in a pet store is more than adequate. These Betta-specific labeled fish foods have a higher protein content than everyday, standard fish flakes.
Remember, your food MUST be betta-specific. If it is not, it can cause constipation and other ailments that could seriously hurt and possibly kill your fish.
Temperature plays a big role in betta health management. Remember, these fish are tropical. They need that beautiful, tropical 78-80 degree Fahrenheit weather in their water world! Most people don’t keep their houses at that temperature. I for one, prefer something closer to 70 degrees, which is well outside of the betta’s comfort zone.
So chances are, you will need to look into getting a tank heater for your little guy. If you’re looking for a fish that doesn’t require this type of equipment, look into getting a non-tropical fish, like a goldfish.
Note: Temperature is also important to keep in mind when changing out your fish’s water or otherwise moving it around. Temperature shock is real. So make sure the two little bodies of water you’ve created for your fish are the same temperature before moving them over. Avoiding unnecessary stress and taking extra precautions like floating your betta can help in the long run as far as extending your fish’s life.
While Bettas are relatively robust fish compared to some other types, they still need clean and non-toxic water to thrive in. Ammonia is a leading cause of unhealthy Betta fish. DO NOT just fill a tank with tap water and toss your fish in there. Get a water conditioner, like Bettasafe, and use it to treat your water at least 15 minutes before you put your fish in it.
Above all else, the number one trick to keeping a Betta living to see old age would be… honest attention to your fishy’s needs. You will have fun and learn quickly if you are observant of your Betta. Keep reading and learning on places like this website while carefully watching your fishy friend. Bettas make it somewhat obvious if the are in need of something.
As was mentioned before, take a look around this site. You will be sure to find all (if not more) of the specific information you need to keep your Betta fishy happy and healthy!