Bettas are beautiful fish that are often misunderstood by pet owners.
When you see them in the pet store, they’ll keep in small containers of stagnant water.
While they can survive in those conditions for a short time, they will be no means thrive.
If you want your betta to live as long as possible, there are a lot of things to consider.
Let’s take a closer look at how long bettas live and what you can do to make sure they thrive.
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Average Lifespan of a Betta Fish
The average lifespan of a betta is about 3 years.
While you might think that bettas in the wild fair better than those in captivity, the opposite is actually true. Bettas in captivity tend to live a year or two longer than those in the wild.
While there are a lot of reasons for this, here’s the main thing you need to know. A betta in captivity can live a surprisingly long time if well cared for in the right kind of environment.
What is the Oldest Betta Fish?
It’s difficult to say for sure how old the oldest betta is because there isn’t an official record and you can’t really know for sure how old a Betta is when you buy it.
That said, it’s been reported that the oldest betta fish is about 10 years old.
You might be wondering how you can tell the age of your betta fish. While there is no way to pinpoint an exact age, there are a few things you can assess to make an educated guess.
One of the first things to look for is size. Adult bettas usually grow to about 3 inches long. Keep in mind, that’s the length of their body not including their fins. If your betta is only about 1 to 1.5 inches, chances are good that you have a juvenile.
Long, feathery fins are what bettas are known for but they don’t actually look that way until they’re approaching adulthood. Young bettas also have shorter, less impressive fins. In fact, the smaller the fins, the younger the betta.
It’s also worth noting that female bettas never develop the long, flowing fins that males do. They do have a feathery appearance and get longer with age but never to the extent of a male. A betta’s sex is usually found on the container they’re sold in in the pet store.
If you’re wondering how to tell if your betta is aging, take a look at its color. Their colors begin to fade as they age and will be much less vibrant than when they were a juvenile.
Activity levels also decrease in older fish. If your betta starts hiding among the plants or stops swimming over to greet you when you approach the tank, it’s likely old age is starting to set in.
How Long Do Betta Fish Live in the Wild?
Typically, bettas live about 2 years in their natural environment. Their lives are much different in their natural habitat.
Bettas originally live in river basins in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia. The can also be found in rice paddies, small streams, and even drainage ditches.
While you might think these areas are constantly wet, they do go through significant dry seasons which causes the betta’s habitat to change drastically. The spent a large portion of their lives jumping from puddle to puddle to find larger bodies of water.
How Long Betta Fish Live in Captivity?
The average lifespan of a betta in captivity is 3 years, though it’s not unusual for them to live for 4 or 5 years.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to a betta’s lifespan, some that you can control, some you can’t.
As we mentioned, one of the biggest things to consider is how old the betta is when you buy it. The younger the fish you bring home, the longer you’ll have your colorful pet.
You should also make sure you buy a healthy fish. One way to do this is to make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller. That way, you know that the fish wasn’t exposed to any diseases that could shorten its lifespan.
How do you know if a betta is healthy?
Make sure there’s not scale or fin damage and monitor their behavior. Healthy bettas are usually more active when there are people around. For male bettas, bright coloring is a sign of a healthy fish.
Genetics are important, too. Some things you can’t control no matter how careful you are.
Betta Fish Life Span Without Food
Bettas can actually survive for up to 14 days without food. That doesn’t mean they’re thriving or even healthy, but they can get through.
This is in part because of how they live in the wild. During the dry season when they’re jumping from puddle to puddle, food is scarce. So, they’re able to go for quite a long time without eating and still survive.
That said, you probably shouldn’t go more than a week without feeding your betta. Any longer than that and they’re used up all their reserves and have gone into starvation mode.
Don’t worry if you forget to feed your fish for a day or two, they’re able to withstand that without any negative effects.
In fact, it might be beneficial to skip a meal or two every once in a while to make sure you’re not overfeeding.
How To Help A Betta Fish Live Longer?
When you see bettas for sale, they’re usually kept in small bowls or plastic containers. And, knowing that they do survive dry seasons in small puddles, you might think that they will do just fine in a small bowl or vase in your home.
The reason that bettas are kept in small containers in pet stores is because they can’t be kept in a large tank together like other fish. The only reason they’re sold this way is to save space.
In reality, bettas need a much better home if you want them to live to their full potential. Here are some things you can do to make sure you give your betta a proper home:
- The absolute minimum tank size for a betta is 1 gallon but even that is really too small for them to thrive. A 5-gallon tank is optimal because it gives your betta enough room to swim and you can keep it on a table or countertop.
- Get a real betta filter. Although you never see bettas in a proper tank when shopping for one, healthy water is important if you want them to live to their full potential.
- Do regular water changes. Full water changes are ideal but you should at least swap out 20% of the water in your betta tank every week.
- If you want to add another fish to share the tank with your betta, you need one that’s at least 10 gallons.
- Test the water regularly and make the necessary changes when needed to keep pH, nitrates, and nitrites in check.
- Make sure you don’t overfeed your betta. Constipation is a huge problem for them.
- Don’t let uneaten food sit in the bottom of the tank as it will contaminate the water. Use a tank vacuum or remove the top surface of the substrate when doing full water changes.
- Monitor water temperature carefully. Bettas naturally live in warm water. An ideal temperature for them is 75 to 80 degrees.
- If you’re having trouble keeping the water temperature high enough, get a small heater.
- Bettas are smart. They’re much happier if they have a tank that’s stimulating. Add decorations, rocks, and plants so they have a lot of different places to explore. You can even get them exercise mirrors and leaf beds!
Bettas are beautiful fish that make great pets because they’re pretty easy to care for. That said, a lot of people misunderstand bettas because of how they’re displayed in pet stores.
While bettas can survive in small bowls or vases with unfiltered water, this isn’t really a healthy environment for them. In fact, a betta in a small bowl will most likely not make it to the average lifespan of 3 years.
If you give your betta a nice size 5-gallon aquarium or bigger, they’re more likely to live beyond 3 years. Some have been reported to live as many as 9 or 10 years.
Proper tank maintenance is important, too. Use a proper filter and test the water weekly. At a minimum, you should do partial water changes every week. This will help your betta grow and give it enough room to swim and be happy.
Feeding is important, too. While bettas can go about a week without food before they use up their reserves, about 4 or 5 days is the maximum amount of time to wait before feeding them to avoid any ill effects.
If you’re looking for a great pet fish that’s beautiful to look at and will keep you entertained, you can’t do much better than a betta. With proper care and the right genetics, your betta might live to a happy old age of 10 years.