How Long Do Betta Fish Live? 5 Tips to Increase Their Lifespan

Bettas are one of the most popular freshwater fish around, especially with first time fish keepers.

There are many varieties, each having different tail shapes and colors, from the Crowntail Betta to the Veiltail Betta.

The males are the most sought after, because of their vivid colors and long flowing fins. They often have great personalities, so it’s easy to become attached to these little fish when you keep them as a pet.

So how long can you expect a Betta Fish to live? The short answer is roughly 3 years; however there are many factors which contribute to the lifespan of this fish.

In this article we’re going to take a look at their average life expectancy and how you can increase the lifespan of these beautiful fish.

How Long Do Betta Fish Live (In Captivity)?

Betta in an Aquarium
If Bettas are cared for properly and given a large enough tank to live in, with clean water, they usually live for an average of 3 years.

However, this doesn’t mean that when you buy your fish that you can expect to have it for 3 years. Male Betta Fish only tend to be sold in pet stores when they are around 1 year old. This is when their colors and fins have properly developed. Females are sold slightly sooner, usually at around 6 months old.

Females tend to live for a few more months than males do, but people normally keep males due to their bright colors.

Because your fish is usually 6 months – 1 year old by the time you buy it, you can expect him to live for around two – two and a half years old.

However, it’s not uncommon for Bettas to live until 4 or 5 years old if they are given the perfect tank conditions and cared for properly (more on this later).

How Long Do Betta Fish Live (In The Wild)?

Rice Fields in Thailand
Bettas live in rice fields in Thailand

In the wild, Bettas live in shallow freshwaters such as ponds, streams, rice paddies and canals. They are native to Cambodia and Thailand, but have spread to other regions now such as Singapore, Brazil and Malaysia through human introduction.

It is presumed that the lifespan of Betta Fish in the wild is slightly shorter than those in captivity. This is because the waters in which they live are not as regulated as a fish tank; they can become polluted, which can destroy food sources and plants and therefore reduce the lifespan of the fish.

In the wild, males are also exposed to other males more frequently. They got their name ‘Siamese Fighting Fish’ because they are highly territorial and aggressive to other fish which come into their space.

Being exposed to other males more frequently increases their chances of fighting, which increases the chances of dying earlier.

Wild Betta Fish are actually in the vulnerable category on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to the amount of pollution they are exposed to and a loss of their habitat due to expansion in farming and development in Thailand.

How to Increase Your Bettas Lifespan

Crowntail Betta

So now we know how long these fish live for in the wild and in captivity, we can start to think about how to maximize the length of their life. It’s really quite simple and if you follow all of the advice below, you’ll increase their chance of having a longer life and also improve the quality of their life.

Make Sure You Buy a Healthy Betta

When you pick your Betta, it’s really important to choose one that is healthy (you don’t want to bring any disease back to your tank).

Buy your fish from a reputable store. Avoid buying any fish which have any of the following – these factors can indicate the fish haven’t been well looked after and therefore may be stressed and aren’t likely to live long.

  • Pale in color
  • Ripped or torn fins
  • Bulging eyes
  • Injuries or scratches on their body

You should be looking for a fish which is:

  • Bright in color (especially if it’s a male)
  • Has clear eyes
  • Responds when you place your hand on the tank

We mentioned earlier that these fish are usually adults by the time they are sold in pet stores, so it is also worth asking how old the fish actually are.

Keep Them in an Appropriately Sized Tank

Betta Fish

Betta Fish require a tank which is at least 5 gallons.

When you buy your Betta from a pet store, you’ll often find them being sold in cups or tiny 1 gallon tanks. The males are kept in these containers in shops because they will fight with one another if they are in the same tank.

However, just because they are sold in these containers does not mean this is an acceptable sized tank.

You may have heard than because in the wild Bettas live in really shallow waters, a small tank is fine for them. This simply isn’t true. The thing to remember is that these shallow bodies of water which they live in (in the wild), run for miles and miles so they have plenty of opportunity to swim and escape other territorial males.

A 5 gallon tank is the absolute minimum that you should keep this fish in.

If you’re keeping a female as part of a community then you’ll likely need a larger tank. If you’re unsure which size tank you need, think about how many fish you want to keep and the requirements for each species.

Keep Males Separate

Male Bettas

This might sound obvious, but to increase the life expectancy of male Betta Fish – keep them in separate tanks.

We mentioned earlier that they have a reputation to be aggressive and territorial. Just before the 19th century, wild species were bred to create aggressive fighting fish which is how they got their very nickname; the Siamese fighting fish.

Bettas were used as a form of entertainment, much like cockfighting, as they battled it out in tanks. Unfortunately this is still common practice in Thailand.

In the wild if two males are competing for space, they’ll fight for a couple of minutes and then one of them will back down and find another territory.

In a small tank, the fish may fight until death because they don’t have anywhere to escape to. Female fish aren’t as aggressive and can be kept together with caution if they have enough space to claim as their own territory.

To ensure your fish has the longest happiest life possible, keep males separate in tanks. You can either keep them in a tank on their own, or in a community tank with compatible species such as Rasboras. Bettas and Rasboras naturally coexist in the wild so they are a great choice, as are Neon tetras, Loaches, Bristlenose Plecos and Snails.

Use a Filter and a Heater

It’s a common myth that because in the wild Betta Fish live in rice paddies, that they can tolerate unheated dirty water.

The waters in Thailand are naturally heated due to their climate, so it’s important to use a heater in your tank. They are used to temperatures between 75-80°F.

It’s also essential to use a filter. They will not thrive in dirty, unfiltered water. A filter will clean the water, converting the buildup of ammonia and nitrites into less harmful compounds, and also keeps the water aerated.

Even with a filter, it’s still important to carry out regular water changes to remove the buildup of nitrates.

Provide Them with a Good Diet

Women Feeding Betta

If you really want to increase the lifespan of your Betta, one of the most important factors to consider is their diet. The diet which you provide, affects their growth rate, color and lifespan.

Bettas are carnivores and in the wild they eat plenty of insects. This can be difficult to replicate in a fish tank, so if you can’t get hold of many live foods for your fish, there are plenty of foods that you can use instead.

The most important nutrition for them is protein and fat. You can choose a quality pellet, frozen food or flake food but your best option is to choose one specifically formulated for Bettas.

Ensure that the first ingredient listed is a protein to make sure the food has a high nutritional value. You don’t want too many filler foods because they have short digestive tracts and can’t process fillers well.

If you really want to give them the best diet possible, then you can make your own homemade fish food, and ensure it is high in protein. You can use ingredients like bloodworms and brine shrimp to create the perfect mix.

Whilst we’re on the topic of food, it is so easy to overfeed fish; this can lead to bloating. Bloating can affect the swim bladder so they will be unable to swim and ultimately will die if not treated.

Only feed your Betta what it can eat within two minutes, twice a day. This will ensure they stay healthy and live for as long as possible.

Use Plants to Provide Oxygen

The last tip we have for creating the best possible environment for your Betta, and therefore extending their lifespan, is to include plants in your setup.

The benefit of having plants in your aquarium are not dietary based as they are for other fish. These fish are carnivorous so any nibble they have at the plant will be just that; a nibble!

Using live plants increases the oxygen levels in your tank and enriches the environment. It will also replicate their natural environment so you’re more likely to see their natural behaviors.

Using plants also provides them with plenty of hiding spots; this is ideal if you’re keeping a group of females.

Some of the best plants to include in your Betta aquarium are:

  • Anacharis – This plant can survive in a wide range of conditions and grows really quickly; it’s almost impossible to kill.
  • Java Fern – They only grow to around 8 inches tall so won’t completely overrun the tank; keep in mind not to bury the roots though.
  • Java Moss – This is great to grow carpet walls, or achieve some aquascaping; it’s also really easy to take care of.

FAQs about Bettas

How Long Can A Betta Fish Live Without Food?

A Betta can survive for up to two weeks without food however this is not something we ever recommend doing. If you’re planning a vacation, try to find someone to keep up with the regular feeding schedule, or use an automatic fish feeder.

How Long Do Betta Fish Live In A Bowl?

If you keep your Betta in a bowl you will reduce their life expectancy significantly. We do not recommend this. Betta Fish that are kept in a bowl usually live for less than one year.

How Long Do Betta Fish Live In 1 Gallon Tank?

You should expect a Betta in a 1 gallon tank to live for less than a year.

How Old Is The Oldest Betta Fish?

It is rumored that the oldest Betta Fish lived to be TEN years old and was raised in laboratory conditions, although there is no evidence to confirm this.

Summary

You can expect your Betta Fish to live for around 2 years from when you buy them. But it is possible that they will live for another year or so if you give them the best possible care.

Make sure you choose the right sized fish tank, keep males separate, maintain the ideal water parameters and feed them a great diet.

If you do all of these things you’ll provide your Betta Fish with a healthy life and you’ll be rewarded with brightly colored, happy fish.

Do you have a Betta Fish or are you planning to get one? Let us know in the comments section below.

Robert Woods Portrait
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third generation fish keeper and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and the Nature Conservancy.

32 Comments

      • Hi I feel so guilty that I started with a 0.5 gallon tank that says for Betta fish. So I bought 4 of them. Now I find out this is not enough room for a Betta Male. Why does Pet Smart sell these? Anyway I don’t have room for 4 five gallon tanks. I have bought 3 gallon tanks. Have not change there homes yet after reading this. I have all the fresh food for them and plants and some places to hid. I just hate setting these up for them to die in. I just hate that they will die in a year in a small tank of 3.5. Allen

  1. My fish just died about 25 minutes ago. I was thinking of getting another. Mine was in a 1.5 gal tank and lived about a year and a half in my care. I will take all this into consideration to make sure my new fish lives longer.

  2. Good morning, we were given a male Betta two years ago in one of those tiny cups. We immediately bought him a five gallon tank with heater filter etc. I’m wondering what life span might be as he still appears very healthy and active?

    • Hi Lynn, it’s hard to determine how his lifespan will have been affected, all you can do is provide him with the best possible conditions now and moving forward. Thanks, Robert

    • Hi Kristina, if you follow all the tips in this article you should start to see a difference. When you say he doesn’t seem to be well, can you expand on that? Does he have an physical symptoms? Thanks, Robert

  3. Our Betta fish just died after 5 1/2 years. I think it is not so much about the size of the tank (5 gallon), it’s keeping their lives interesting too. We switched tanks 3 times. (The air filters kept breaking and we couldn’t find a replacements that would work so would have to buy a new tank. Also being the only pet for my two children we changed plants, and stones. But the hiding place rock thing with a hollow area would never change. We tried adding zebra fish and he was not a fan and hid more. He had a new lease on life when they died.
    Today is day one for our new Mustard Tail. <3

    • i went with the fluval sucks water over conner then flows through aqua ball then to a 10Gallon this tank is distilled water therefor into the shop vac container fliter my 55 gallon had betta and albino plecko as also 35 baby african chilids, this tank showed me to make the rock wall many places to hide. all fish lived about 4.5- 5yrs, power was out for 4 days due 2 blizzard as that then once it came on i shored it out. cost was $ 675- 755

  4. My betta fish has raggedy looking fins,they used to be long and flowing. What have I done wrong? And will they grow back. He is in a 28 litre planted tank with a snail for company.

    • Hi Jacqueline, if it possible that the Betta has fin rot? This disease starts off with ragged looking fins. If this is what it is, perform a 50% water change and use medication to treat your tank. You’ll be able to pick up medication from your local fish store. Thanks, Robert

  5. Our Betta is going on 5 years and currently not looking well, pale and always on the bottom of the tank. What can we do keep him alive longer if possible? He is in a 3 gallon tank and has been since we got him.

    • Hi Kristen, if you follow all the tips in this article you may be able to extend his lifespan slightly, however they typically only live for an average of 3 years, so he’s done well! Thanks, Robert

  6. Hi, I’ve been feeding my beta mosquito larvae and he’s been very active since I started doing that, and gotten bigger too.. Is one type of insect enough or do you think they require a variety?

    • Hi Josie, I always recommend feeding a good variety of food. You can still feed him mosquito larvae once a day, and for the other feed, give him a different food. Thanks, Robert

  7. I work in a day care center-about 1 1/2 years ago each classroom was given a beta as a class pet. Along with a tiny bowl. My daughter had tank-I think its 3 gallons- that she had in her college dorm that she no longer needed so I “inherited “ it. My classroom is the only one with the original beta. I’m also the only one with a live plant.

    • What live plants do you have in your tank? I want to get my son a betta fish and would rather have a live plant than a plastic one. Thanks!

    • Hi Fran, there isn’t really a largest tank size. The bigger the better. In the wild, these fish have miles and miles of water to swim in. Thanks, Robert

  8. We have had our betta named Dave for 2 1/2 years, I did not know any of this until now, and will remember this when I do get another one.With that being said, he is in a small tank on my kitchen table, I use distilled water and change it weekly, feed him 3 times a day, small amounts with food made for betas, that helps with health and enhancing his color and he still is doing great 😊

  9. I haven’t heard of this previously but I got a 50 gallon tank with fish already in the previous owner said that the 4 yoyo loaches killed his male Siamese fighter because he tried going in the yo yo loaches hole is this true ?

    • Hi Raymond, it all comes down to the specific fish’s personalities. Most Yoyo Loaches are ideal tankmates for Betta fish, and they aren’t usually aggressive, however I have heard stories before of them attacking Betta fish. Thanks, Robert

  10. My college daughter brought home a white Betta named Ghost and asked if we’d keep it. We did, but it’s tail and fins got shorter and shorter and we thought they were being damaged by the plastic plants he liked to sleep in. So I bought him a live plant and only then started doing some research. We came to find out he had fin rot and treated his water immediately. Wow – what a difference. It turned out he was only a ghost of himself. His fins and tail started growing practically the day we started treating him and his personality blossomed. We now have a really handsome, friendly, and social guy who swims and plays and comes to the side to “talk” to us any time we stop by. So glad we figured him out before it was too late!

  11. I have a male beta named Eros and he used to be really active and happy swimming and playing and attacking his food. We’ve had him about a month and now he’s less active I tried switching his tank and changing it around . He just like to lay on the bottom or at the top on his plants . He’s not showing any other symptoms , his fins seem to be fine . He can float on top or stay on the bottom so it’s not swim bladder. He just doesn’t do much and when I feed him he seems completely uninteretested. I tried flakes I tried beta pelllets and blood worms , no change in his interest. He used to attack any food that entered. Any advice ?

    • Hi Deanna, here are a few things to consider: is he in a large enough tank? The minimum size we recommend is 5 gallons. Did you allow the tank to complete the nitrogen cycle before you added your Betta? Have you tested the water parameters? The ammonia and nitrite levels need to be at zero and the nitrate levels should be low. If all of the above are met, are you carrying out partial water changes on a weekly basis? Thanks, Robert

  12. I’m gonna get a new betta this weekend. My 15-gallon tank has been sitting with zero fish for over a year and a half. So the new fish will have a mansion of a tank all to himself. I bought a new heater that arrived yesterday. My previous one only extended down about half the length of the tank (it’s a tall tank). So the top was warm and the bottom was cold (until summer). So of course, my previous bettas liked hanging out at the top. This new heater is one of those 78+/-2°F constant temp heaters that can be put at the very bottom. After 24 hours of being in my tank, my thermometer is reading right around 76°F which hasn’t changed since soon after I dropped it in. Now that winter is coming, I would imagine this temp is what the betta will get pretty much all the time until the weather warms up.

    So apparently, 76°F is at the bottom of the specified betta range. Not ideal but not bad. Perhaps a benefit of this somewhat cool temperature is that the betta’s metabolism won’t speed up and it could mean a longer life? But he may not be all that frisky until summer temperatures arrive, which is a bit of a drag. But maybe he’ll surprise me.

    My question: Are there increased odds of diseases occurring at 76°F? I don’t plan on adding other fish.

    • Hello, your Betta fish will be fine at that temperature. As long as it stays within the recommended temp, that’s fine. It’s when it is lower or higher than this that there are increased chances of disease or stress. Thanks, Robert

      • Good to hear, Robert. I ended up getting a little galaxy koi betta last Saturday. He is very active at 76° and charges all over the tank like a maniac. He has already built a very impressive bubble nest and is adding to it as I type. I did add six neon tetras the day after I got him because one small fish in the big tank looked sorta ridiculous. He mostly leaves them alone, choosing instead to focus his aggression on his own reflection.

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