While they’re one of the most popular tropical fish you can own at home, one of the biggest concerns is what to expect from the average Betta fish lifespan – do they live a long time?
It might be that you’re researching to find a fish that will keep you company for a few years, or you might be concerned that your Betta fish died prematurely.
The average life of a Betta fish isn’t as long as some other popular fish species.
However, there are some things you can do to give them the longest and healthiest life possible.
So let’s explore the life expectancy of Betta fish, and how you can extend it.
Do male or female Betta Fish live longer?
Female Betta fish tend to live longer than male Betta fish, although the difference in averages is only a few months. Both the male Betta lifespan and female Betta lifespan are commonly given as 2 to 4 years, but females do tend to live that little bit longer.
The difference is even more noticeable in captivity because female Betta fish tend to be sold at a younger age.
Female Betta fish are often sold from around six months, whereas pet stores prefer to sell male Betta fish at 1 year.
That’s because males are more colorful, but that color only comes in after the first year. So if your Betta fish is going to live for around three years, you’ll only enjoy two of those years at home if you buy a male.
With a female, you’ll get slightly longer. These are of course averages – there’s no definitive lifespan.
Betta lifespan in the wild
The Betta fish lifespan in the wild is around two years, which is shorter than in captivity. While Betta fish in the wild enjoy more freedom, they also endure more stress and have to hunt for their own food – potentially going for days without.
How long Betta fish live in the wild also depends on any other fish they’re competing with, and on whether they spend time looking for a mate.
But the biggest concern is the natural pollution in their habitats.
Betta fish are now considered a vulnerable species in their natural habitat around Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. So how long Betta fish live in the wild is changing, with the average decreasing as pollution intensifies.
It’s important to note that the Red List hasn’t been updated since 2011 – it may even be endangered now.
How long do Betta fish live in captivity?
The average Betta lifespan in captivity is 2-4 years, although it can be exceeded and many can live to 5 years. Betta fish in captivity live longer than those in the wild because they don’t have to hunt for food and they don’t suffer from the same pollution.
So if you have any concerns about keeping fish in captivity, remember that you’re actually giving them a longer life than they would otherwise enjoy.
As long as you provide a suitable living environment, with enough space for your Betta to swim freely and with the right water parameters, your Betta should live a longer life.
One unusual thing to consider – Betta fish like to jump and may jump out of their water. In the wild, this isn’t as much of an issue, since they can actually use their muscles to ‘twitch’ their way back into the water.
In captivity, if they jump out of the water they tend to have a much more dramatic fall, and there’s no way they’re getting back into the tank without your help. If you don’t notice it, then your Betta fish will likely die.
So while it’s uncommon, being in captivity can be more dangerous if you have a Betta that likes to jump from its tank.
What kills Betta Fish?
There are many different causes of early death in Betta fish. The most common include poor water conditions, incorrect water temperature, overfeeding, stress, and illness. It’s important you monitor your Betta fish and their water parameters carefully and on a regular basis.
Here’s a quick rundown in more detail of some of the most common causes:
- Poor water conditions
It’s important that you monitor the condition of your Betta fish’s tank, and make any adjustments. There should be zero ammonia and nitrite, and less than 20ppm nitrate. The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.
Keeping the water clean is key here, so perform regular water changes. Also, make sure any old food is removed when you clean the tank – otherwise, it can break down and release ammonia into the tank, which can poison the fish.
If your water changes aren’t lowering ammonia, check out this guide that explains exactly what to do next: How many water changes does it take to lower ammonia?
My Betta tank struggles to maintain pH levels (which I manage with API pH Up) but the temperature is always displayed on the wall above the tank thanks to my digital thermometer.
- Incorrect temperature
Betta fish are susceptible to temperature shock. While temperatures that are too warm or too cold are both a problem, it’s colder water that is more likely to kill. It causes the Betta fish’s body to shut down, eventually going into a coma before dying.
Always make sure any water changes are done with new water that’s as close to the tank’s temperature as possible, which should be between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. And keep an eye on your heater, as it will need replacing as soon as it develops a fault.
Betta fish are known to have problems regulating their food intake. If you put food in their tank, they will likely eat it, even if they’re already full, which can make them unwell. It also means more fish waste, so the water becomes dirtier.
And as above, any uneaten food will make the water toxic over time. A recommended food intake for Bettas is around 6 pellets per day, and many people suggest splitting that over two feeding sessions 6-8 hours apart.
Stress can be caused by a number of different issues, including other fish in the tank, not having a mate, lower quality water, malnourishment, or changes in the environment. One of the biggest causes is not having enough space to swim freely. A single Betta fish needs at least 5 gallons, ideally more.
Stress leads to illness in any fish, and over time this can lead to an early death. So be careful to look for signs of stress – erratic swimming, or limited movement – and try to identify and rectify the cause.
While illness in Betta fish is normally a result of one of the other issues above, sometimes they may just have a hereditary disease.
You can try to help your Betta fish through any sickness by keeping the water in the perfect conditions and providing a high-quality diet, but otherwise, there may be little you can do.
If your Betta fish doesn’t encounter the above issues to excess, then they will likely die of old age.
Signs of old age are that your fish may just stop interacting with you as much, or with other fish if in a shared tank. They may stop making bubble nests, and they may lose color.
If your Betta fish has been alive for over two years and you start to notice these signs, then it may just be that they are reaching the end of their natural life.
Betta Fish lifespan record
There is no official record for the longest a Betta fish has been kept alive. The general consensus is that around 9-10 years is the maximum. With good care, a Betta fish’s life expectancy can go beyond the 3-year average to 5 years, but more than this is rare.
How long your Betta lives will depend on how much time and effort you invest into its care.
To give your Betta fish the best chance of a long life, you’ll need to regularly check the water parameters and make sure that you are making any necessary adjustments in a timely fashion.
While you no doubt want your Betta to live a long and healthy life, remember that it’s not possible to defy nature.
If your Betta fish lives with you for 3 years it has done well, especially if it’s a male that was likely already one year old when you bought it.
How long can a Betta Fish live in a fishbowl?
The average lifespan of a Betta fish in a fishbowl is less than one year, sometimes as short as a few months. A fishbowl is a poor environment – Betta fish need at least 5 gallons of water, and a proper filter to maintain their water quality.
Unfortunately, some people still keep Betta fish in a fishbowl because they think it’s a more attractive solution, or they falsely believe that it is happy because it is swimming to the surface.
That’s because it’s gasping for air, and while that’s normal to an extent, it shouldn’t be excessive.
Living in a fishbowl will cause a Betta fish stress, which will considerably shorten its lifespan.
What are signs that your Betta Fish is dying?
A Betta fish dying of natural causes will start to be more withdrawn. It will seem less energetic and will interact less with its owner and other fish. It will stop making bubble nests, it will likely lose its color and its fins may curl over.
If you notice these signs in your Betta fish and you’ve had it for a couple of years or more, there is little you can do to prolong its life.
Just maintain the water parameters as much as possible, and try to feed it on its regular schedule – though it may be less interested in food.
Read more: Why is my Betta not opening his fins?
Signs that a Betta fish is dying from non-natural causes include a sudden change in swimming pattern (either stopping to preserve energy, or swimming erratically) and general behavior which seems stressed.
If your fish seems to go into a coma, it may be suffering from body shutdown – likely as a result of cold water.
When your Betta fish does die, it won’t float. It will sink to the bottom of the tank, although it will likely have spent its last days at the bottom anyway.
If left alone for a long time once deceased, the decay will cause the fish to begin to float.
Can a betta live 7 years?
A Betta fish can live to 7 years, but it takes a combination of hard work from the owner in maintaining the perfect living conditions and some luck. Even with the best-maintained water parameters and high-quality food, most Bettas will average 3-4 years.
If you want your Betta fish to live as long as possible, use an aquarium testing kit to monitor the parameters of the tank, and keep the temperature of the water between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Ensure that the fish is in a 5-gallon tank or larger – it must be larger if shared with other fish.
Life expectancy of Betta Fish varieties
The average lifespan of a Crowntail Betta mirrors the typical lifespan of most Betta fish – you can expect them to live for 2-3 years on average, maybe longer with good care.
The King Betta’s lifespan tends to be 2-3 years, similar to most other Betta species, although they can last to 4 or more years if they are looked after. They tend to average marginally longer lives than Crowntail Betta.
Galaxy Koi Betta
The typical lifespan of a Galaxy Koi Betta is 2-3 years, generally with a maximum of 3 years, though every individual fish is different.
Halfmoon Betta fish have been known to have a slightly better average lifespan than some other variants, so their average is 2-4 years.
Halfmoon King Betta
Halfmoon King Betta fish are typical of the species and will have an average lifespan of 2-3 years, slightly more if well looked after.
Blue Mustard Betta
While the typical Blue Mustard Betta fish will live for around 3 years, similar to other variants of Betta, they can be a little hardier – their average is sometimes listed as 3-5 years.
Glofish Betta tend to live for 2-3 years, similar to many other Betta variants. In rare cases they can live longer, with a combination of care and luck.
Similar to the Blue Mustard Betta variant, the Betta Macrostoma is likely to live for 3 years but can often live as long as 5.
The Plakat Betta fish is another Betta variant that can live as long as 5 years with proper care, but 3 years tends to be the average.
The Veiltail Betta is a more typical Betta fish variant and will normally live for 2-3 years with proper care.
There are many species of fish that have longer lifespans than Bettas but don’t let that put you off.
Betta fish are wonderful, colorful, and packed with personality, and if you care for them properly you can help them to enjoy a much longer life than they would get in the wild.
I would recommend monitoring your Betta’s water tank parameters at least once a week using an aquarium testing kit.
That way, if there’s anything that could affect your fish’s quality of life, you can catch it quickly and sort it.