How Long Do Betta Fish Live?
How Long Do Betta Fish Live
Siamese Fighting Fish, typically called “betta,” are some of the most beautiful, popular, interesting fish for a home aquarium. They are hardy and easy to care for, come in spectacular colors with showy fins, and are active and intelligent. But how long do betta fish live, and how can you help to extend their lifespans? Let’s find out.
How Long Do Betta Fish Live?
The typical betta fish kept in a home aquarium lives for about 3 years, but they can live longer. Bettas have been documented living in captivity for up to a decade.
If you buy a male betta from a pet or aquarium store, it is probably already about a year old. Mature male bettas sell better because they have long, fully developed fins and have achieved their more vivid adult colors.
Females are often sold as young as six months because their adult coloring isn’t as spectacular.
In the Wild
In the wild, male bettas typically live for only a couple of years. They spend their days hunting for food and aggressively defending their territory while at risk of being eaten by a wide range of other species. Because their lives in the wild can be stressful and competitive, they often don’t survive long.
How Can You Help Your Betta Fish Live Longer?
One of the reasons that betta fish are such popular pets is that they are relatively low-maintenance and can tolerate a wide range of conditions.
But if you want your betta fish to live longer, it’s essential to look after all their needs and provide a high-quality environment that doesn’t stress the fish. Here are some of the most important ways to help a betta live longer.
Betta Fish Tank and Water
In their native environment, bettas live in warm, shallow waters with abundant plant life. Their tendency to live in marshes and floodplains, including rice paddies, is one factor that first led to their domestication because they were more accessible to people tending the fields.
Their natural environment is warm water prone to sudden changes in chemistry and temperature, which is why they are tolerant of such a wide range of conditions.
Bettas have a unique lung-like organ, called the labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe directly from the air. They can tolerate still water with less aeration.
However, just because they can survive these conditions doesn’t mean they are optimal for a betta’s health and longevity. Instead, keep them in the following tank conditions:
- Tank size: 2.5 gallons minimum; 5 gallons or more is better
- Temperature: 76-81°F
- pH: 6.5-7.5
- Ammonia: 0 ppm
- Nitrate: less than 40 ppm
- Nitrite: 0 ppm
While a water filter isn’t strictly necessary, they support healthy water quality and are suitable for a betta. Use light to provide a healthy natural balance of night and day.
Treat tap water with a betta water conditioner to ensure the correct water chemistry.
Keep a lid on your betta aquarium to keep them from jumping out, but never fill the tank all the way to the rim – bettas need access to the surface of the water so they can breathe, even when you have an active filter.
For Best Care of a Betta, Avoid:
Strong Current From the Water filter
Bettas aren’t strong swimmers, and a strong current can stress them and may damage their fins. There are filters designed explicitly for bettas, and they are the best choice.
Direct Sunlight on the Tank
Placing the tank in a sunny window can cause the temperature to rise quickly in the daytime and fall quickly at night, which isn’t healthy for the fish.
Betta Plants and Tank Décor
In the wild, bettas live in plant-rich water. The males defend a patch of vegetation from other males and also use their territory to hide from predators and feel safe when resting.
A betta will be happiest in a tank with many plants, and plants also help create healthy water. Give a betta tank a lot of plants, sticks, and décor to mimic their natural environment.
If you use artificial plants and other aquarium features, make sure that their edges are soft and smooth to keep from damaging a betta’s fins.
To test your décor, run it along a length of pantyhose before placing it in the tank: if it grabs or snags, file down the rough edges before placing it with your betta. Silk plants are an excellent choice for artificial plants for a betta.
Betta Diet and Feeding
In the wild, bettas are exclusively carnivores, living off small insects they hunt on the water’s surface. Like many carnivores, bettas have short digestive tracts and cannot digest most carbohydrates from plants and grains.
There are many different betta food varieties, but it’s important to always use food formulated for bettas and not any other fish because their diet is so specific.
Bettas can be picky eaters, so you may need to try different brands and formulas until you find something they enjoy; try to vary their diet from time to time. Most bettas love freeze-dried brine shrimp or bloodworms and can live on them exclusively.
It’s easy to over-feed a betta, but it’s unhealthy for the fish. If a betta refuses food, it’s often because they overate a day or two before. Get on a regular feeding schedule, once or twice a day, and only offer as much food as the fish will eat in 3-5 minutes.
Consider withholding food from a betta one day a week to ensure that they digest food properly and are not overfed.
If you are going away for a long weekend, it’s better to let a betta go without food for 2-3 days than to overfeed to compensate.
Betta Fish Maintenance
It’s essential to keep a clean and healthy tank to keep a betta fish healthy. Here is a good maintenance schedule that will help a betta live longer.
- Observe the betta for signs of illness or damage
- Feed your betta
- Make sure the water is at the correct temperature and that heaters, filters, and other equipment is functioning
- Change the water in small tanks, or cycle 20-40% of the water for larger tanks
- Vacuum the substrate to remove waste
- Check your pH and bacteria levels
- Consider not feeding your betta one day a week
- Check your tank filters and replace them if necessary
- Care for plants and decorations, pruning and/or cleaning off algae and biofilm
Bettas are capable of associative learning and complex behaviors. This is one of the key reasons why, although they can survive in small tanks with little stimulation, it’s better to give them a larger tank with more to do and explore.
In fact, one study showed that bettas that got better nutrition and exercise lived for over nine years, while bettas in a small jar lived only a few years. Here are some ways to satisfy your betta’s curiosity.
In the wild, bettas spend most of their time just below the surface of the water, prepared to pounce on their prey. There are tank décor items that satisfy this natural impulse, like betta hammocks or floating hiding places that allow them to spend more time near the tank’s top.
Bettas like frozen or freeze-dried foods, but living food stimulates their hunting instinct and provides stimulation as well as a meal. If you can get living food from a reliable, high-quality source, consider feeding your betta more naturally.
Anything new you add to the tank, especially if it floats on the surface, will excite the curiosity of a betta. Floating moss balls or Indian almond leaf will condition the water while adding more variety to a betta’s environment.
Many people like to give a betta a mirror to observe their aggression display. This behavior is fascinating but can also stress and worry a betta, who thinks they are in the presence of a competitor who will not retreat. Use mirrors sparingly.
While bettas should never be kept with each other, they can be good tank mates for a community aquarium and do best with small schooling fish.
Adding a few other fish may create more interest and variety for a betta, so consider upsizing your tank and adding 6-10 tetras, rasboras, or cory catfish.
With proper care, a betta may live happily for nearly ten years. These intelligent fish can also be trained to perform simple tricks, which is a great return on the years you spend caring for them and provides the fish with mental stimulation.