Betta fish (or Siamese Fighting Fish) are found in most pet stores around North America. They are sold in cups and can be easily identified by their beautiful colors and large fins.
If you are interested in keeping a betta fish, you have probably wondered how long they live when kept as a pet. Unfortunately, many betta fish don’t live to their full potential, resulting from years of misinformation regarding their care.
But how long does a betta fish live when kept in perfect conditions? Let’s find out.
Wild Betta Lifespan
Wild bettas originate from parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Contrary to popular belief, bettas don’t happily live in puddles but instead are found in streams, rice paddies, drainage basins connected to the Mekong and Chao Phraya rivers.
In ideal conditions, wild bettas live up to 2 years in their natural environment. A big contributor to premature death is, extensive dry seasons requiring them to find larger bodies of water.
They are known to jump between puddles of water until they find a significant water source. While bettas are hardy, they will succumb to these poor living conditions in time.
Domesticated Betta Lifespan
The average lifespan of a betta fish is between 2 and 3 years. However, under perfect conditions (and a little bit of luck), bettas have been known to live as long as 6 years.
Factors Affecting Lifespan
There are an assortment of factors that can affect the lifespan of a betta fish…
Aquarium Water Quality
Water quality is often the culprit when it comes to a betta’s short lifespan. Betta fish live longer lives in water that is between 78-and-80 degrees Fahrenheit and filtered with a low-flow aquarium filter.
Untreated water from most taps contains chlorine and other harmful contaminants, so it’s important to add a water conditioner like Prime, to water prior to incorporating it into your aquarium.
Betta Fish Diseases
Diseases affecting betta fish often coincide with poor water quality. Cold water can weaken your betta’s immune system, making them more susceptible to diseases.
Poorly filtered water and untreated tap water can damage your betta’s skin and fins, which can lead to infection or disease.
Betta fish can survive without food for approximately 14 days. Don’t confuse survival with health, though, because they are not thriving without appropriate energy and nutrition.
Your betta fish might eat regular fish flakes, but they will be healthier on a diet of bloodworms, brine shrimp, and high-quality betta pellets.
Pet Store vs. Specialized Fish Store
Where you purchase your pet betta from can have a large impact on their survival. First, most male bettas are already a year old when you purchase them from a pet store because that is when they are the most eye-catching. Secondly, they are often kept in small cups of poorly maintained water.
Reputable stores specializing in fish are often more conscientious about where they purchase their betta fish from and will even raise them in community tanks alongside more docile fish species.
What are Perfect Conditions for Betta Fish?
Now that we have looked at the lifespans of wild and domesticated bettas, and the factors affecting their lifespan, let’s look at what is considered perfect living conditions for betta fish.
- Water Temperature: Between 75-and-80-degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for fighting off disease and other ailments.
- Water Changes: Between 10-15% of the aquarium water should be swapped out each week with fresh water that has been conditioned appropriately.
- Water Parameters: Like with all fish, bettas need to live in water that is free of ammonia and nitrites with a small amount of nitrates (5-10 ppm). This is accomplished after fully cycling your aquarium.
- Aquarium Size: Don’t let the tiny plastic tanks sold at most stores deceive you, 5 gallons is the minimum size recommended for betta fish.
- Diet: Betta fish need to be fed a high-protein diet. Frozen worms and brine shrimp are great options, but a high-quality pellet fortified for bettas will suffice, too. It’s important to not overfeed your betta fish, only feed them what they will eat in two minutes.
- Hiding Spaces: Betta fish are prey in their natural environment. For this reason, you should have plenty of soft cover in the form of live plants for your betta to hide in. This will reduce stress, another contributor to premature death in betta fish.
- Companionship: Betta fish are territorial and will fight other bettas or fish they perceive to be a threat (like Gourami, Swordtail, and Guppies to name a few), resulting in severe injury or death. For this reason, Bettas should be kept alone.
Betta fish are living creatures that require our care to live a long, healthy life. By monitoring water quality, signs of disease, offering a high-protein diet, and choosing to purchase your fish from a reputable source, you are doing your part in ensuring your betta has the best life possible.