One of the first questions people ask when considering adopting these little fish is, “How long do betta fish live?”
On average, betta fish in captivity live between 2 and 4 years old.
Because so many factors determine your fish’s lifespan, you’ll get answers ranging anywhere from a mere 2 years to a whopping 6.
Read on to find out how living conditions and care factors play major roles in your betta’s lifespan.
In Captivity vs. in the Wild
Bettas’ natural habitat is in the tropical environments of Thailand (formerly known as Siam) and other Southeast Asian countries. The fish 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 why they are fiercely territorial, earning them Siamese Fighting Fish.
While many people may think that bettas live longer in the wild than in captivity, the opposite is true.
Betta hobbyists work rather hard to imitate bettas’ natural habitat and can protect them from factors that would be outside of human control in the wild.
Because of this, 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 calls home are often unregulated and fall victim to pollution, damaging what would be their natural state.
In fact, as of 2011, pet betta splendens 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.
In the wild, bettas’ exposure to other betta fish also accounts for some life expectancy reduction. More encounters lead to territorial acts of aggression between male betta fish, but betta keepers can keep male bettas from fighting (more on this later).
Because bettas in captivity can be closely monitored and cared for, good betta owners can eliminate environmental factors like fighting or pollution and create a happy life for their pet betta fish.
With an ideal natural habitat, bettas tend to live much 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.
Suppose you’re simply checking the boxes on your fish care (i.e., feeding them regularly, monitoring for illnesses, keeping things clean, and using a proper tank setup).
In that case, your fishy friend should be able to reach this comfortable, mid-range lifespan.
In a perfect world, bettas 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 a divinely perfect environment combined with 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 on your way to taking proper care of Betta fish by showing an interest in learning about them. If you are just starting this Betta fish adventure, you should look at the basic Betta fish guide here.
After giving that a quick review and preferably printing it out for later reference, 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, to keep your Betta fish happy and healthy, you need to provide something similar to their natural habitat. Bettas 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.
Betta Fish Lifespan in a Bowl
Confining your betta fish to a 1-gallon fishbowl, even with proper heating and lighting, will dramatically reduce your fish’s life expectancy and quality of life. 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 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 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 not, it can cause constipation and other ailments that could seriously hurt and 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 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 when changing your fish’s water or moving it around. Temperature shock is real.
So make sure the two little bodies of water you’ve created for your fish are at the same temperature before moving them over.
Avoiding unnecessary stress and taking extra precautions like floating your betta can help extend your fish’s life in the long run.
While Bettas are relatively robust fish compared to some other types, they still need clean and non-toxic water to thrive. Ammonia is a leading cause of unhealthy Betta fish.
DO NOT just fill a tank with tap water and toss your fish there. Get a water conditioner, like Bettasafe, and use it to treat your water for at least 15 minutes before you put your fish in it.
The Best Way To Extend Your Betta’s Lifespan
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 they 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!
Other Techniques To Help Your Betta Live Longer
Giving your fish the correct environment and nutrition go a long way, but sometimes caring for your betta goes wrong before you make it home from the pet store.
To make sure your betta fish reaches its full potential, make sure you buy a healthy betta fish and prevent fighting between betta fish.
Make Sure You Buy a Healthy Betta
Take a good look at your betta fish before you buy it. Inspect everything from its tank to its behavior to ensure you’re not buying sick or mistreated fish.
How Old Are Betta Fish When You Buy Them?
In pet stores, betta fish are usually about 1 year old when you buy them. Betta sellers wait until their fish have reached full maturity to sell them because that’s when their vibrant fins look the best.
Some breeders will sell betta fish at 6 months old, and pet stores may even have baby bettas as novelties.
The fish’s age doesn’t matter as much as some other factors.
Keep an Eye Out for the Following:
- A Dirty Tank — the water and tank your betta fish lives in should look clean and clear. If you see floating debris, you can assume that your betta has not been cared for correctly. Do not buy a betta that has not been cared for correctly!
- The Betta Fish’s Fins — should be free of holes or tears
- Your Betta Fish’s Color — your fish should be brightly colored and free of any discoloration
- The Betta Fish’s Size — do not buy a bloated betta fish or any fish that is much bigger or smaller than 3-inches long. Of course, females are smaller than males, and betta babies will be smaller than full-grown fish.
- Changes in the Betta Fish’s Body — your betta’s scales should be flat, smooth, and shiny. Do not buy a betta if you see missing scales, white patches, or any kind of lumps or bumps.
- Betta Behavior — your betta should have clear, bright eyes, and if you place a finger near its tank, it should react. Avoid buying a betta if it is hiding or laying listlessly at the bottom of the tank. Instead, look for a fish that is active and curious.
Preventing Fights Between Male Betta Fish for a Full Lifespan
As their nickname of Siamese fighting fish suggests, betta fish fight — sometimes to the death. Male betta fish will fight over territory and mates, so you should never put two male bettas in the same tank.
In fact, bettas do best when they are the only fish in your tank. You should only introduce another betta to your tank if you are trying to breed a male betta and a female betta.
Even then, your bettas will need to be separated after breeding occurs.
Keeping your male betta fish away from other bettas is one of the best ways to ensure longevity.
Still Have Questions?
We get it! One article cannot give you all the answers, but we hope you better understand what your betta fish needs to live a long and healthy life.
As a parting gift, we’ve answered just a couple of frequently asked questions to get you started on your betta keeping journey.
Do Female Betta Fish Live Longer Than Male Betta Fish?
No, the female betta fish lifespan is the same as the male betta fish lifespan. All betta fish live an average of 2-4 years.
Female betta fish won’t die from fighting, but male bettas are always at risk when they are around other male bettas. To ensure your male betta fish lives a full and complete life, keep it away from other fish (except during mating)!
How Old Is the Oldest Betta Fish?
The world record for the oldest betta fish is 10 years old, though there are rumors in the betta keeping the community of a fish who lived to be 15!
Experienced betta keepers feel they have won the lottery when a fish lives to 8, so if you’re just starting out, you can be proud of keeping your fish alive for 2 or 3 years from the day you buy it from the pet store.
Of course, the other articles on our website can also help you maximize your fish’s lifespan!