Betta, or Siamese Fighting Fish, are one of the most popular tropical fish to keep as pets for good reason.
These stunningly gorgeous fish with flaring veil tails and bright colors are fun to watch for folks of all ages.
But as a kid, I didn’t know how to take care of mine for the first time, second, third or others, and I never had one live past about three months. Oops.
For many years, I gave up on the idea of keeping betta fish because of these tragic deaths in my childhood.
But as an adult, I’ve wondered how long they should have lived, what I did wrong, and how I could keep them alive into their ripe old age. Of course, that meant studying the betta fish life expectancy and proper fish care.
In Short, How Old Do Betta Fish Live To?
In both keeping betta and researching the subject, I’ve discovered there seems to be no one single answer to this question of how long do bettas live.
However, the lifespan for betta seems to typically be between three and seven years.
How Long Do Siamese Fighting Fish Live in The Wild?
If you wanted to find a betta in the wild, you’d have to go find some shallow freshwater spots like streams, rice paddies, and canals, in Thailand and Cambodia – thus the name of Siamese Fighting Fish.
They have spread into Singapore, and Malaysia thanks to human interference.
Betta in the wild have different coloring than those we keep as pets. They’re duller in colors so they can blend in.
Usually, they’re dull brown with a dark dorsal stripe.
And when they’re fully mature at about 2-years of age, they are 2.5-inches long.
In the wild, they eat mosquitoes, plankton, and insect larvae.
There’s no definitive way of knowing the lifespan of betta in the wild, but the presumption is a little shorter than the lifespan of a betta fish in captivity. Many suggest two years.
The reason? Their fish tanks with us are regulated, but wild living spaces for bettas are prime locations for pollution, which destroys their plants and live food sources.
Also, in the wild, these aggressive little fish are not kept away from other males, so these territorial fish can spend a fair bit of their lives fighting for their territory. The more they fight, the greater the chance they’ll die early.
And, though you might not expect it, wild Betta fish are actually in the vulnerable category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species thanks to the pollution they’re so regularly exposed to along with the loss of their habitats due to farming and development in Thailand and Cambodia.
Betta Fish Life Span in Captivity
While, obviously, the wild betta are amazing and of concern, we’re probably mostly looking for info on captive betta – the colorful, intriguing little fish we have in our aquariums at home.
The most commonly reported lifespan for Siamese Fighting Fish is between three and five years.
This is primarily due to proper care combined with a fish having “average” genes. Just like humans, fish have genetic material that gives them a longer life expectancy than other fish.
What Affects Their Lifespan in Captivity?
There are several things that affect the lifespan of a betta. A few are actually some very common issues that betta face with owners who don’t do their research, including the size of their aquarium.
We’ll take a more in-depth look at this in how to increase your betta’s lifespan.
How to Increase Your Betta’s Life Span
The things that affect their lifespan in captivity are things you can help control to increase their lifespans.
Keep Them in the Right Tank Size
One of the biggest no-nos of the betta keeping world is keeping betta in a tiny tank. All those decorative 1-gallon fish bowls and tiny tanks that sit on an end table may be attractive, but they’re extremely unhelpful to your betta fish.
A healthy betta living alone may need at least 5-gallons, particularly if it’s shallow or wide, allowing them to get up to the surface for air easily.
However, you can get away with a well-maintained 2-3 gallon tank.
Maintain the Right Temperature in the Tank
To thrive, bettas need the warm water temperature to be at between 76 and 80-degrees Fahrenheit.
Water changes aren’t a healthy thing for your betta, so it’s very important to keep this in mind, especially as colder water can expose your fish to bacteria and other things that could kill him or at least shorten his lifespan.
Use an Aquarium Filter
The beginner aquarist may not realize this, but tap water is not sufficiently pure for a betta fish – or other fish, or heck, humans, for that matter! – and a filter is needed to purify and keep the water clean enough that your betta won’t get ill.
The water quality for a betta is absolutely critical for health.
Give Your Betta Space at the Top
If you’ve ever noticed a betta go to the top of the water and hang out, you might have realized that he’s breathing.
There are complicated explanations on how bettas breathe both in the water and through direct contact with air, but whether you want to dive that deep or not, it’s important to make sure you keep some space at the top of the tank for your betta to thrive.
Put a Lid on It
It’s also important to keep a lid on your betta’s tank for a very specific reason: bettas are jumpers.
Some folks have visited lovely, well-kept pet stores but found that bettas have jumped into tanks with others to fight them or simply jumped out, because, well, that’s what they do.
Only Use the Right Tank Companions
Betta are fighting fish. That means they can appear naturally aggressive towards any fish it deems is a threat.
It’s important to keep them only with fish that they won’t fight with – both for their health and the health of the others.
Male bettas should be kept separately from other males, and female bettas should be kept in harems of five or larger to avoid them fighting each other.
Males and females should generally only be put together for breeding purposes.
Feed Your Betta the Right Fish Food
Bettas have some specific dietary needs, though they’re pretty simple to meet.
They eat protein – lots of it – and that’s usually in the form of small insects and insect larvae.
Other options include bloodworms and brine shrimp.
Here is our list of the best betta foods.
Just be careful to avoid overfeeding.
How to Determine a Betta’s Age
You cannot precisely pinpoint your betta’s age, unless you raise it from birth, but there are a few things you can do to estimate.
Look at the Size
Adult bettas are typically 3-inches long – the length of their body, not including tail and fins.
If your betta is smaller than this – say 1 to 1.5 inches long – you probably have a juvenile betta less than two-years old.
Look at the Fins
Bettas are known for their long, feathery, flowing fins, but these don’t start to look this way until adulthood.
The smaller the fins, the younger the betta.
It is important to note, though, that the females don’t develop the same long fins that the males do.
They do grow these fins, but they never get to the “impressive” scale of the masculine fins and tails.
Look at the Color
Betta fish change colors as they age. Juveniles are duller in color and elderly betta start to fade their colors.
If you have a full-size betta that’s got muted colors, chances are, you have an old fellow on your hands. He’s also likely to be hanging out at the bottom of the tank, hiding among your live plants.
FAQs on Betta Fish Life Span
How long do betta fish live without food?
Betta fish can actually live up to 14-days without food. Obviously, this is far from ideal and should never be your aim, but if some kind of emergency arose and they went unfed this long, they could still survive.
How long do they live in a bowl?
It’s hard to give a precise time for betta fish life span in a bowl, but they are significantly less likely to make it to the full average lifespan of a betta fish. In fact, they are likely to not reach the full two-year old minimum of a betta fish life span if kept in a small bowl.
How long do betta fish live in a 1-gallon tank?
Similar to the fish bowl, betta won’t do well in a 1-gallon tank, either. There should be a minimum of 5-gallons per betta.
What is the oldest Betta ever recorded?
The age of betta is a not a regulated thing – i.e. there’s no official record – so we don’t know the oldest betta. However, there have been reports of betta living as long as ten or eleven years.
Do different types of bettas have different lifespans?
While there may be some minor differences between betta species and their lifespans, the most notable difference is that albino betta live much shorter lives than non-albinos.
How long do male betta fish live?
The lifespan for males and females appears to be fairly equal in captivity, though in the wild, males may live less time than females because of fighting more frequently
What is the betta fish life cycle?
In short, the cycle includes parental romance, infancy, youth, adulthood, old age.