The average betta fish lifespan for male and females is 2-4 years in captivity. How long a betta fish will live depends on a variety of factors though. The two most important elements are how old a betta is when you get him or her, and how they are cared for in captivity.
If possible, purchase a betta from a local or online breeder instead of a pet or big box store. These stores will sell male betta when they are approximately one year old, and female bettas when they are roughly six months old. This will affect how long you have them.
Buy a Healthy Betta Fish
It’s always unclear how they have been cared for when coming from suppliers, and unknown breeders. This means they may have been subjected to cramped environments, diseases, and parasites which can shorten their lifespan.
Getting a healthy betta from the start is a key factor in how long they will live. Buying a young betta is important if you want to have them throughout most or all of their life too. Healthy betta fish will have bright coloring (males), no scale or fin damage, and be active and feisty upon your presence.
How Long Do Betta Fish Live: Wild vs Captivity
- Betta fish live in the wild, on average, 2 years
- Betta fish live in captivity, on average, 3 years
What is the Oldest Betta?
With the right genetics, environment, and care from the onset of a betta’s life, they can live up to 6 or 7 years or more. Several owners have even reported lifespans of 9 and 10 years, but that’s not realistic for every betta.
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 keepers choice (or gift) because of their resilience and beauty. This often leads to betta keeping before doing the proper research on how to care for them.
Betta Fish Life Span in Bowls
A betta fish’s lifespan will almost always be significantly reduced if you house them in unfiltered and unheated bowls. This is especially true if they are under 2 gallons in size. Stick to eating cereal out of bowls, not housing any fish in them!
Pet stores display betta fish in plastic cups because of their aggression and territorial nature. This is a temporary habitat since cohabitation is tricky with females and other fish, and not possible with males. Also, just because pet stores sell small tanks and bowls (e.g. 1 gallon) this is not the correct habitat for them.
Improve How Long a Betta Fish Will Live
Getting back to the most important elements in a betta’s life expectancy, there are certain things you can do to help your betta fish live longer.
- High-quality food, that’s high in protein and fiber
- Habitat size of 5 gallons (2.5 gallons minimum)
- Tank cover to prevent leaping out to their death
- Tap water with water conditioner to remove harmful chlorine
- Consistent water changes, cycling, and cleanings
- Filtration to oxygenate and remove ammonia and bad bacteria
- Heater to maintain 76-81 degrees Fahrenheit water temperature
- Allow easy access to the water’s surface for air
- Plants and hideouts to feel safe
Provide rich and abundant food that’s high in protein and fiber. 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, frozen, or live bloodworms and brine shrimp to really get all of the nutrients they need.
In the wild, betta fish have abundant access to prey and are active carnivores (insectivores to be exact). In captivity, you need to replicate their environment as much as possible, and that means nutrition too. Avoid overfeeding them, because it can lead to complications too.
The recommended habitat size for a betta fish is 5 gallons, with a minimum recommended tank size of 2.5 gallons. They also need lots of spaces to hide and rest, while feeling safe. Make sure your tank has a top on it too because betta fish are jumpers and often leap right out of a bowl leading to their death.
Another leading cause to reduced lifespans 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.
Use tap water and make sure to use a (dechlorinator) water conditioner to make the water safe for a betta. 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! A 1 gallon would require daily water changes while maintaining a constant temperature which is extremely hard to do and leads to constant stress.
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. Keep your betta fish’s tank clean and consider using a filter to reduce ammonia, nitrites, and nitrites.
As a final recommendation, betta fish are tropical fish and require a steady warm water temperature in the range of 76-81 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, purchase a small (e.g. 25 watt) heater with a built in thermostat for tanks 2.5 gallons and above. This will help to keep the tank’s water temperature consistent.
Avoid abrupt 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 betta care guide. With the right knowledge and passion, you can certainly expect your betta fish to live for 2-3 years.
Some betta fish are more resilient than others though. While you can reverse some of the damage from living in small cups and coming from an uncertain past, you may never know the full story of their care or breeding. If your betta fish lives a year or two from the time of purchase, you have likely still been a good fish mom or dad.
If you feel something is missing above, or have further questions about how long a betta fish can live for, or how to improve their life span, please leave a comment below.