You may already have a Betta or you may be thinking of getting one and an important thing to factor into any pet is how long they will live but exactly how long is a Betta fish lifespan?
On average, Betta fish have a life span of 3 years but they can live to 5. Some reports suggest that the oldest living Betta reached 10 years old but this has proven difficult to confirm.
There are numerous factors that affect how long your Betta will live.
Let’s break it down.
Getting A Betta Fish
Bear in mind that your Betta isn’t a baby when you buy them.
The males are generally around a year old when their fins and color are well developed, and the females will be at least 6 months old when sold. Your first step to getting as many years as possible out of your Betta comes from where you buy them.
Try to avoid pet shops where the fish appear unhealthy or in less than ideal situations and find a Betta breeder.
The next step is care. The way you care for your Betta will directly impact how long they live so we will be going over a list of ways to increase their lifespan.
1) Picking A Healthy Betta Fish
First, there are various ways to identify a healthy fish.
The Betta should be responsive to stimuli like you placing your hand on the side of the tank. They should be moving around and not just lying at the bottom of a tank.
Their eyes should be clear and should not look like they are bulging. The Betta’s color should be vibrant and not dull. Their fins should be free from any tears or discoloration, often a sign of fin rot, and their body should not have any sores or injuries.
Any wounds put the fish at a risk of infection and this coupled with the stress of moving into a new home can spell trouble for a new fish owner.
2) Appropriate Tank Size and Setup
To avoid any problems you will want to ensure your fish has a good sized tank.
Despite what many believe, Betta fish cannot thrive in tiny tanks. The reason I use the word thrive instead of surviving is that Bettas are generally fairly hardy fish that can put up with some not so ideal situations.
But just like you could survive living your life in a room, it would be far from ideal. The bigger the tank you can offer the better.
In your tank, you will need clean de-chlorinated water with conditioner, a filter and a heater to keep your fish healthy.
Add some places for him to hide and make sure any added decorations don’t have sharp edges that your Betta may rip his fins on (soft silk plants are a good option). If you have some experience with live aquarium plants, consider adding some to your Betta tank.
These plants can help with good water quality.
An aquarium light will help you see your Betta and also help any live plants grow.
You will need to do partial water changes at least once a week (twice if your fish is particularly messy). Avoid removing more than 20% of the water volume as the new water will be a change to your fish and too much of it can shock their system.
Keep an aquarium test kit on hand to check how the water is doing. This will help you correct any problems before they start causing issues with your fish.
3) Surface Air
Bettas are classified as labyrinth fish. These types of fish can breathe in oxygen not only from the water but from the air as well.
For this reason it is very important that there is a layer of air between the surface of the water and the lid or glass top of the tank. There must also be vents or openings that will allow fresh air to come in.
You will notice your Betta rising to the water’s surface to gulp in air. This is totally normal behavior.
4) Proper Diet
Your tiny Betta requires a specific diet that is designed for them. Buy food that is made especially for Bettas, not something that is for say goldfish.
A good quality pellet will give your Betta everything they need and is very convenient to feed. If possible, avoid feeding a flake food as this form of food will cause a lot of waste in the water.
They dissolve fast in the water and if your fish does not eat it quickly enough then you will have wastage. Your Betta fish will appreciate some variety in their diet.
Eating the same thing every day can get boring, so you can include things like bloodworms or brine shrimp (either fresh or freeze-dried).
Betta fish are predators in the wild and while all fish sold in stores have been captive bred, some still get a kick out of doing some hunting.
You will want to make your fish’s tank a stress-free environment as consistently high levels of stress can seriously affect their health.
Make sure your Betta has plenty of places to hide so that he doesn’t feel vulnerable and don’t keep the lights on 24/7. Just like us, Betta fish sleep at night and in the dark.
6) Tank Mates
One of the first things you will learn about Bettas, sometimes also called Siamese fighting fish, is that males can absolutely not be housed together.
It doesn’t matter how big your tank is, you will either have only one fish left behind after the encounter (or even worse, none) or you will have two incredibly stressed fish. This doesn’t mean your Betta can’t live with other tank mates, though.
Just make sure to research this thoroughly.
A few good options are shrimp (ghost shrimp, cherry shrimp etc), a school of neon tetras, and cory catfish. I have also had great success with harlequin rasboras and if they are available to you, snails are a suitable option.
Steer clear of anything that has a reputation for being a ‘fin-nipper’ like tiger-barbs or anything that your Betta could confuse with being a competing male. Fancy guppies are a prime example.
While you can’t take your Betta out for a walk, it is still important that these guys are moving around and getting enough exercise.
The first step in promoting this would be a large enough tank but sometimes Bettas will still prefer to float around. Ways to increase their activity, and enrichment, is to feed occasional live food and even adjust your flow rate slightly on your filter.
DO NOT make the flow strong, your Betta will be highly unimpressed if you do, but a gentle current will encourage them to swim against it.
Summary on Betta Fish Lifespan
To summarize, your Betta should live for about 2 years after you first purchase them.
If provided with good care, you may be able to squeeze another year with your aquatic friend. By buying a healthy Betta, housing them in the right tank, avoiding conflict with other fish, making them feel safe, and feeding them a good diet, you will be providing the best care possible!
Avoid over-feeding your Betta as this is a leading cause in early fish deaths.
Keep an eye on your Betta for any strange behaviors that may indicate illness. The sooner you can identify the problem and sort it out the better. Set a routine for yourself in terms of feeding, water changes, and tank cleaning and make sure to stick to it.
If you are wanting to get as many months out of your Betta as possible, you must keep in mind that prevention is always better than cure.
Bonus Tip: Do yourself (and your Betta a favor) and keep a cover on their tank. Betta’s are jumpers and you do not want to come home one day to a parched pet that has been sitting on your carpet since you left that morning.