The average betta fish life span expectancy for male and female betta fish is 2 to 4 years in captivity. How long a betta fish will live for depends on a variety of factors. If you want to surpass four years, the two most important elements are how old the betta is when you got him or her, and how they are cared for in captivity. If possible, purchase a betta from a local or online breeder like Aquabid instead of a pet or big box store. These stores will sell male bettas when they are approximately one year old, and female bettas when they are roughly six months old. During this time it is unclear how they have been cared for coming from suppliers, and they may have been susceptible to cramped environments, diseases, and parasites.
With the right environment and care from the onset of a betta’s life, they can live up to 6 or 7 years. Several owners have even reported lifespans of nine and ten years. Because there are so many myths about the proper care for this species in captivity, their life spans are drastically reduced and almost always cut in half. Bettas tend to be a first time fish owners choice (or gift) because of their resilience and beauty. This often leads to betta ownership before doing the proper research on how to care for them. Pairing this with misinformation from pet stores displaying them in plastic cups and selling small tanks and bowls under a gallon, and it becomes a recipe for improper care.
Improving How Long a Betta Fish Will Live
Getting back to the most important elements in a betta’s life expectancy, there are certain things that you can do to help your betta live longer. Make sure you are providing your betta with a rich and abundant diet in protein and fish. Most betta fish won’t even touch regular tropical fish flakes because this food is inadequate to their needs. While betta pellets are a great start, you should also be incorporating freeze dried bloodworms and brine shrimp to really get the nutrients that they need. In the wild, betta fish have abundant access to prey and are active carnivores. In captivity you need to replicate their environment as much as possible, and that means their nutrition habits as well. Just make sure you aren’t overfeeding them either!
For their tank, it’s recommended that a betta fish habitat be 5 gallons, with a minimum recommended tank size of 2 gallons. Make sure your tank has a top on it too, because betta fish are jumpers and could leap right out of a bowl leading to their death. This information and the nutrition requirements above should quickly dispel the myth that bettas prefer small vases and can survive by eating the roots of plants. As stated before, surviving and living a happy and healthy life are two different things. Not following proper care and diet requirements will shorten a betta’s life span and it will also result in a slow, unhappy, and in some cases painful life.
Another leading cause to reduced life spans is poor water quality. Do not use distilled water because it has been stripped of the essential nutrients and minerals that betta fish need to be healthy. If you are going to use tap water, make sure to use a (dechlorinator) water conditioner. You can also use trusted quality spring water or a filtration unit like a Brita for tank fill ups and water cycling. Smaller tanks will also require more frequent cleanings because of their size, it’s simple math! One gallon tanks require frequent water percentage changes and bowls under a gallon will require daily water changes while maintaining a constant temperature which is extremely hard to do. Ammonia builds up as your betta excretes waste into the water and as uneaten food and live plants break down. Diseases from this can harm your betta and often lead to death from poor water quality because of this. Increased pH levels over time can cause a betta to get sick so make sure to keep your fish tank clean and use a filter if possible.
As a final recommendation, betta fish are tropical fish and require a steady warm water temperature in the range of 74-82 degrees fahrenheit. If necessary, purchase a small 25 watt heater for tanks 2 gallons and above to keep the tank’s water temperature consistent. Avoid abrupt water temperature changes and avoid colder temperatures at all costs. Extended time in temperatures colder than recommended (less than 68 degrees) can hurt a betta’s natural immune system and lead to inactivity, refusal to eat, and susceptibility to diseases and death.
Betta Knowledge and Life Spans
If you already knew the information above, then good for you! If not, then you’ve got some work to do and you should definitely read our full care guide. With the right knowledge and passion, you can certainly expect your betta fish to live for at least 3 years. Do note that some are more resilient than others though. While you can reverse some of the damage that may have been done by them living in small cups and coming from an uncertain past, you may never know the full story of their care or breeding.
Please spread this knowledge and awareness on how to improve the lives of betta fish so that others may have prolonged enjoyment and so that we are not being inhumane as pet owners. If you feel something is missing above, or you have further questions about how long a betta fish lives for, or how to improve their life span, please leave a comment below.