How long do betta fish live for?

Betta Fish: Species Profile: Care | Diet | Sexing | Breeding

Betta fish are a gorgeous looking freshwater fish that can live for around three to five years under optimal conditions. The best ways to ensure your betta fish has a long and happy life include give them a large enough tank of warm, filtered water and clean this regularly.

Keep males separate and give females lots of room, treat any signs of illness in new fish and feed your fish a diet of protein-rich food twice a day.

How long do betta fish live for?-Betta fish live for an average of 4-5 year with adequate aquarium conditions. However, if you provide optimal aquarium conditions then they can live for 6-8 years. The lifespan of a betta fish in a home aquarium is down to you and how you care for it.

Quick Links

How Long Do Betta Fish Live For?

Betta fish, also known as Siamese Fighting fish, are some of the most beautiful fish that an enthusiast can own. These are wonderful for first timers and can make a lovely gift.

If you are looking to buy one and make an investment in a fish tank and other supplies then you are probably wondering, ‘How long do betta fish live for?’

Far more interesting than goldfish, they also take a little more care and attention than the hardy little orange guys. If you put in a little effort and follow the tips below you should have happy healthy betta fish that will make lovely companions for you for years.

Betta fish are a popular breed to own, and because of their unique look, can make for a stunning live decoration on your desk or in your home. They come in a variety of breeds including the Crowntail and the Veiltail. Different species have different colors and tail shapes, making each one quite unique.

They tend to have more personality than simpler freshwater fish like neon tetras or guppies and can interact with owners on a far more engaged level. You can even find yourself getting to know your fish and forming a bond with him.

So, how long do Betta fish live for?

The short answer is around three years.

But there are lots of factors affecting this number. If you give them optimal conditions your Betta fish may live for around 4-5 years in total (although they are usually around a year old when sold).

Let’s have a look in more depth at what affects their life expectancy, and tips to help you give your fish their optimum habitat and conditions for longevity.

A little bit about Betta Fish

Betta fish are native to Thailand and Cambodia and still live in the ponds, canals and rice paddies of these countries today. They are listed as ‘vulnerable’ on some international endangered lists, due to pollution of the waterways destroying plants and food sources and threatening the fish themselves. The ongoing loss of habitat through farming is also threatening the species.

TOP TIP:Do not feed more than the fish eats in 2-3 minutes, or else uneaten food will spoil and make the tank dirty faster.

They can be found in other nearby regions such as Malaysia, Singapore and even Brazil where they have been introduced by humans, and have taken to the natural environment and warm climates of these parts of the world.

They were initially bred to be fighting fish, which was, unfortunately, a popular ‘sport’ similar to cockfighting (and still is in some parts of the world).

Stunningly beautiful fish, they come in a range of patterns and colors including blue, purple, red and pink, with the males generally more vibrant than the females. For this reason, the males are usually the most sought after by fishkeepers.

Tail Shapes

Apart from their beautiful colors, one of the most well-known features of the betta fish is their gorgeous tail. Different tail shapes characterize the different varieties of betta fish.

Betta tail types

There are at least ten different types of tail shape, including:

  • Veiltail – this is the most common type and is characterized by a long, flowing tail that swoops downwards
  • Crowntail – these little guys have a spiky crown look, with shorter webbing between each of the spikes
  • Combtail – these are similar to crowntails except the tail’s rays are longer than their webbing
  • Double Tail – characterized by two distinct tails that are separate at the base of the tail. These fish tend to have a larger dorsal fin as well
  • Halfmoon – this fish has a gorgeous tail which when flared makes a 180-degree half-circle shape. There is another variety called the Over-Halfmoon which have tails that flare into a shape that is even greater than a half moon.
  • Delta – these have a narrower tail which widens towards the tip, giving it a triangular appearance
  • Rosetail – this fish is similar to the half-moon but has extra branching and ruffling of the rays of the fins, making it look like the petals of a rose
  • Feathertail – similar to the rosetail but with an even greater ruffled appearance
  • Dumbo Ear – not technically a tail type, but a variety worth collecting, this little guy has over-sized pectoral fins, looking like elephant ears.

Betta Fish Anatomy

Even tiny fish like these gorgeous little guys are complex on the inside. Newbies to keeping an aquarium might think that a fish is a simple organism that you can’t really do much to affect the health, wellness and longevity of, but this isn’t true.

Understanding how your fish works will help you to get to know him better and will also help you to pick up on early signs of illness that you can actually take action upon, ensuring your fish stays well and happy.

Betta fish have a lovely streamlined body shape which makes them ideal little swimmers as well as fast hunters. Their mouth is upturned so they can catch prey on the surface of the water such as small insects, and they also have tiny little teeth.

                                        ( Image Credits @Bettafishworld.com)

The scales protect your fish’s insides and also helps with swimming, then there is another layer of protection from a sheen of mucus over the fins. This protects against disease and parasites.

It is important not to handle your fish too much because you can strip him of the mucus layer and the protection it provides.

The fins help your fish to balance and steer through the water. The caudal fin, which is the back betta fish tail is most prominent and has actually been bred to be bigger and more elaborate in domestic species. This would slow them down too much in the wild and they wouldn’t survive as well.

Betta fish are one of the few fish with internal anatomy that includes a labyrinth organ. This cool sounding organ allows them to breathe some oxygen from the water’s surface, which has become necessary through evolution in the wild, as their water pools can become very shallow.

Top Tips:Betta fish are carnivores and are naturally aggressive fish!

Betta fish have become quite adaptable over the centuries in order to survive.

He will need to use his labyrinth organ from time to time, so make sure that your fish has a little room at the top of the tank to come to the surface for a breath of air when needed. Remember Betta Fish can jump as well, so don’t make this too close to the lip of your tank if it’s an open one.

Internally your betta fish also has a small stomach and a very necessary swim bladder. The swim bladder helps with buoyancy so you need to careful not to overfeed your fish as this will affect the swim bladder.

You need to make sure that your fish doesn’t become bloated or constipated through overfeeding. Twice a day, with only as much food as he can consume within two minutes is best. Many betta fish enthusiasts also recommend leaving a day without feeding every so often to help with digestion.

Betta Fish in the Wild

Betta fish are carnivores and are naturally aggressive fish, quite territorial. In the wild males especially will defend their own space and can fight to the death to protect it.

In their native habitat, although they live in shallow water, they are in trenches that go for kilometers, which usually gives the fish their own individual territory. When males meet each other they will fight until one back down and retreats to another territory.

In the wild, these fish probably don’t live on average as long as they do in captivity, basically because they don’t get the optimum conditions. Fighting more often also reduces their life expectancy.

Betta Species Profile

Scientific NameBetta splendens
Family NameBelontiidae
TemperamentPeaceful-Unless 2 males are being kept together
Care LevelEasy
Color Assorted
OriginCaptive-Bred
Size3"
Water Conditions75-86° F, KH 0-25, pH 6.0-8.0
DietCarnivore
BreedingEasy
Tank LevelSwims at all levels but mid-top mostly
Ideal FoodsBetta colour enhancing Flake foods, mini betta pellets, Live foods
JumpersNo
Ideal First Fish?Yes, hardy, inexpensive and easy to feed
CostFrom$5 -$60

Betta Fish Mates

Betta fish are known as fighting fish because of their aggressive territorial nature. The males especially will not share space.

The best way to keep betta fish is to have a good amount of personal space for each fish, but females you will find won’t need as much and in a suitably sized tank will be able to co-exist.

Betta males should ideally be kept in separate tanks. It is possible to house them in large enough tanks to let them retreat happily to their own personal territory, but separate tanks for each male is one of the best ways to encourage a long stress-free life for your fish.

Bettas will happily share tanks with a number of other fish, including rasboras, loaches, bristlenose plecos, neon tetras and snails.

Betta Fish

Betta Fish Life Expectancy

Under the right conditions, betta fish should live on average for around three years, although some unverified reports have them living up to ten years. It can be common for a male betta fish to live to around four or five years in the best conditions. Female fish generally live for a few months more than the males.

Betta Fish Natural Habitat: How to Create the Best Environment for your Fish

Betta fish are usually sold in small containers such as bowls or four-litre tanks. While you can continue to keep your fish in a tank this small once you get it home, it will be much happier and live longer in a larger space.

 (Perfect Betta Tank On Amazon)

Ideally, each betta fish should have at least 20 litres of personal space.

Betta fish will thrive most in clean, warm, filtered water. Although freshwater fish, you will need to use a heater in the tank, as they are used to water that has been warmed by lovely Thai days. Ideally, the temperature should be kept between about 24-27 degrees Celsius.

The water should be filtered and also changed regularly to keep it as clean as possible. The right filter should clean the water, aerate it, and convert any nitrite or ammonia build-up into less harmful parts.  

Clean your filter regularly and make sure that it is always working.

Betta fish thrive best when they have plants in their tank which provide oxygen. Some of the best plants to pair with your betta fish include java fern and java moss, as well as anacharis. These are easy to take care of, generally hardy and won’t take over the tank. Plus, they really seem to make fish happy.

Top Tip: Bettas do well in tanks with some dense plantings, because the cover helps them feel secure and can minimize aggressive behavior.

Make sure that your plants are clean and healthy as well, and remove any old plants. Your fish shouldn’t really be eating the plants much (although they may nibble at them a little) so their plants will last longer than in other tanks.

Plants also provide hiding places and give the fish a more interesting and interactive environment.

What are all those bubbles at the top?

Male betta fish naturally create little clusters of bubbles called bubble nests that will sit at the surface of the water. It’s part of their natural breeding process – if paired with females this will be where she will lay the eggs, as the air bubbles provide protection for them.

Even without the presence of female fish, a happy and healthy male will make bubble nests from time to time because he feels like it.

When Bettas are mating they often lay still for long periods of time. This isn’t always for the reasons you may think. Read ‘ Why is my betta not moving?‘ to find out all the possible reasons why their not moving.

What Should You Feed Betta Fish?

The best food for your fish should be tailor-made for the betta breeds, like these floating betta pellets you can get from Chewy.com. This will affect how they grow and develop, their color and vibrancy and, of course, how long they live.

While good quality commercial fish pellets or flakes can be ok for your betta fish, you should check that the main ingredient is protein. Betta fish are carnivores and thrive on insects in the wild, so need a constant source of good protein as well as fat to keep them healthy in the tank.

Betta fish have their own unique personalities and can be picky when it comes to food. Some will take frozen food. However, if you can, source live food for your betta fish such as:

  • Mosquito larvae, which are their favorite food in the wild. It can hard to source mosquito larvae but you might be able to find some floating in stagnant water sources. These will keep for a couple of weeks in a container in the fridge. Make sure the water isn’t dirty as this could bring disease back to your fish.
  • Microworms can be cultured easily be yourself at home and should keep your fish happy.
  • Live brine shrimp can also be harvested at home in your own hatchery if you are an avid betta fish keeper. If you are not quite as dedicated you can get canned or freeze-dried brine shrimp at Chewy.com.
  • Bloodworms, but these don’t contain the full nutritional range of amino acids that your betta needs, so should be used as a treat or in combination with other proteins. You can get freeze-dried blood worms from Chewy.com too.
  • Earthworms, which can be easily found at home and kept in a jar in the fridge. You will need to cut these up into bite-sized pieces for your fish.

There are some great home recipes for food to feed your betta fish here, which can save you some money and help you to cater specifically to what your pet likes.

Make sure that you don’t feed your fish too much, this is good advice for any fish. Too much food leads to bloating of the swim bladder, which stops them from being able to swim as well as they should. This will reduce their lifespan.

A good rule of thumb is to only feed your betta fish what it can consume within about a two-minute period, then do this twice a day.

While they have been known to last up to two weeks without any feeding, this really isn’t recommended. If you are going away make sure you put your fish in the care of someone who will stick to your feeding schedule.

For more information on the best types of foods to feed your betta read our complete feeding guide.

How to Buy the Best Betta Fish

When you are choosing a betta fish, make sure that you buy from a reputable supplier, and look for healthy specimens. Signs of a healthy fish include:

  • Bright colors
  • Fins that are free from tears and rips
  • Clear eyes
  • The fish responds well to your presence, such as a hand on the tank.

If fish are not at their optimal health, they will be paler in color, may have bulging eyes, torn or ragged fins or injuries to their bodies.

When betta fish are sold, they are not brand new – females will generally be around six months old, with males up to a year old, because this is when they are big enough and beautiful enough for selling.

This means that even if you look after your fish as best you possibly can, it may only live for two years after purchase.

Betta Fish Illness

Look for a healthy fish as mentioned above before buying one, as the last thing you want to do is bring any disease back to your home tank.

Fish that have torn fins or tails, or scratches or other signs of injury to their bodies may have been in fights prior to you purchasing them. They may be suffering from an injury which will affect their health and lifespan.

Betta fish can be affected by disease as well as bacteria, so it is essential to keep your tank clean and wash thoroughly any live food that you have sourced from nature before giving this to your fish.

Betta fish can become infected in their aquarium from a number of different health conditions, but most of these can be either prevented or easily treated if you know what to look for.

Betta fish can suffer from the following illnesses or conditions:

  • Fin and tail rot is a fungal disease which your fish can catch through dirty tank water. The symptoms of this include the fin and tail rotting away, as the name indicates. This can be treated with antibiotics and many fish recover from this illness.
  • Columnaris is a bacterial condition which also affects the fins and tail, causing them to fray and become ragged. You may also see ulcers, lesions, white spots on your fish’s mouth and growth on the gills which is a sign of infection. This condition can also cause breathing problems for your fish. This condition can be the result of leaving fungal conditions untreated, but this can also be treated with medication.
  • Redmouth is a disease which causes bleeding inside the mouth and eyes of your fish. It can be kept out of your tank by disinfecting the water against the bacteria which causes the condition. This disease can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Dropsy is a condition that attacks your fish’s kidneys and is usually fatal for fish. It is a bacterial infection which can be prevented by keeping your tank clean and feeding your fish a healthy and nutritious diet.

You also need to watch out for parasitic conditions as well in your fish tank which can also attack your fish. Parasites include anchor worms, white spot, and velvet. These can be avoided by keeping your water super clean and always treating new fish before introducing them to the community.

Final Thoughts

Betta fish are a gorgeous looking freshwater fish that can live for around three to five years under optimal conditions. They can be easy to look after, but if you choose to keep them in a smaller tank and keep your care to a minimum they won’t last as long (or look as good).

The best ways to ensure your betta fish has a long and happy life include:

  • Give them a large enough tank of warm, filtered water and clean this regularly
  • Keep males separate and give females lots of room
  • Watch for signs of illness in new fish
  • Feed them a diet of protein-rich food twice a day
  • Give them plants for oxygen and to interact with.

These lovely little guys have strong personalities and many owners can become quite attached to them. Like all pets, treat them well and they will repay you with a long life and years of enjoyment and companionship.

If you enjoyed this article you will find our latest Betta post really interesting. Why is my Betta Fish Not Moving!

About the Author

Jacinta Lane

Hello, My names Jacinta and I hope you liked the article that you've just read as it's one of my articles. I have been keeping fish now for well over 15 years as a hobby but also work as a full-time aquatic writer and full-time mum of 2.