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How Long Do Betta Fish Live? (Average Lifespan Data & Facts)

Oliver Jones

Betta fish are tropical freshwater fish prized by hobbyists for their natural coloring and graceful swimming. They’re delicate and therefore need more attention and care than most types of fish.

They’re also known as the Siamese fighting fish. Betta fish are native to Southeast Asia

But they have been introduced to other parts of the world. They’re found in several countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines and other countries

They are considered popular aquarium pets. In this article, we will look at the average lifespan and some facts about this type of fish.

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What’s the Average Lifespan of Betta Fish?

Betta fish can live for several years. But, the average lifespan is between 2 and 5 years. The lifespan depends on several factor such as the quality of the water in which the fish are kept and the amount of care the fish receive as we shall discuss later in this article.

Betta_panpilai paipa_Shutterstock
Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

Why Do Some Betta Fish Live Longer Than Others?

One of the most popular fish to have as a pet is a Betta fish. Many people choose to take one home and set it up in a fish tank. But, not all Betta fish live a long time.

What do you think determines how long your Betta fish will live? Is it their environment, general health, or breed? Let’s look at several factors that determine how long your betta fish will live.

1. Fish Nutrition

The nutrition of Betta fish is crucial as it will determine the lifespan in a great way. Betta fish need a rich and varied diet comprising:

  • Fish flakes
  • Blood worms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Pellets

Betta fish will also eat live foods, such as krill, mosquito larvae, and daphnia. But, they don’t consume much. Betta fish like eating in the dark. So, put foods in a shallow dish on a well-lit aquarium or in a fine mesh food bag.

Also, feed your betta fish at the same time every day bearing in mind that they like to eat in big groups. Betta fish will eat most foods, but if they don’t like one, they won’t eat it.

Once you learn their feeding habits and the right diet to give your fish, you are sure to have your fish lifespan prolonged.

feeding aquarium fish
Image Credit: best time photos, Shutterstock

2. Environment

When you study any organism, you find that the environment where it lives matters. If an organism lives in a stressful environment, it’ll more likely die young.

The environment that betta fish live in has a profound effect on their longevity. Betta fish of all color varieties can live in the same tank. But, each color has its environmental requirements.

Similar to most tropical fish, betta fish are coldblooded. So, water temperature is a crucial environmental factor affecting their health. Betta fish like to live in groups. They prefer quiet, dark, clean water to bright, noisy, dirty water. They also like soft and well-filtered water.

betta fish surrouned with aquatic plants
Image Credit: Pixabay

3. Aquarium Size

Size does matter, especially when it comes to a betta fish’s lifespan. A larger aquarium will offer your fish a larger swimming area, making it live longer. Unlike other species of fish, Bettas require a large swimming area to live their best life. Apart from offering more room for your betta fish, a larger aquarium will also be easier to maintain.

There is a direct correlation between the size of your aquarium and how long your Betta fish will live. A large, healthy Betta fish can live for years in a well-kept 10-gallon aquarium. But, if kept in a 1-gallon bowl, your Betta fish may only live for a few months.

Dumbo Betta Fish_panpilai paipa_Shutterstock
Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

4. Betta Fish Size

Larger betta fish live longer than smaller ones. The truth is that smaller betta fish are more likely to suffer from issues related to their environment.

If something goes wrong with their living conditions, they are more likely to die of stress or other complications. On the other hand, larger betta fish can handle factors such as temperature fluctuations or water quality issues better.

Delta Tail Betta Fish_Khairil Azhar Junos_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Khairil Azhar Junos, Shutterstock

5. Betta Fish Sex

Sex is another factor when determining how long a Betta fish will live.  Male bettas are smaller though their size increases as they age.

Females have a larger body with less color.  Also, they live longer than males.  A female Betta can live up to 3 years or more. But, a male can live for about a year or a little more.

red and blue female bettas
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

6. Betta Fish Genetics

Genetics plays a big role in life expectancy of the Betta fish. A fish that is bred from long-lived parents will carry on this trait. Betta fish that live longer than others have been bred this way.

Betta fish inherit many genes from both parents. Some parts of these genes make them live longer. But, do genes alone explain this long lifespan?

The basic rules of genetic inheritance are that genes get passed on from generation to generation. If the genes don’t specify a trait directly, they specify a set of traits, some of which make betta fish live longer.

red betta fish
Image Credit: Pixabay

7. Betta Breeding History

The breeding history is a crucial factor. Betta fish that live long generally come from lineages that have been around for a long time. Betta fish are a species of fish that have been bred in captivity for various color mutations.

Some people have bred them to have elongated fins, while others have bred them to be short and stubby. Betta fish that have been bred for short fins live longer than their counterparts with long fins.

male and female betta
Image Credit: finchfocus, Shutterstock

8. Plants in the Aquarium

Plants are an excellent addition to the aquarium as they’re beneficial in many ways. Some plants are good at removing excess nitrates from the water, while others help remove phosphates.

When plants remove nitrate and phosphate from the water, it benefit’s your betta fish’s health by increasing oxygen levels. In turn, it increases their longevity.

Tannins in plants can also help improve the overall water quality in your aquarium by turning ammonia into less toxic substances.

Pink Betta Fish
Image Credit: gogorilla, Shutterstock

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The 6 Life Stages of a Betta Fish

  • Fry Stage: The first stage of the betta fish life cycle is fry. The stage lasts from four days to two weeks. At the fry stage, the young betta fish are fully protected by their egg sacks. As they grow, they’ll shed their protective egg sacks and move on to the next stage.
  • Infusoria Stage: It can last anywhere from two to six weeks. During this time, the fry will eat only infusoria until they are big enough to consume small insects. Infusoria are single-celled organisms found in dirt, mud, and decaying matter.
  • Free swimming Fry: After the infusoria stage, the fry are fully developed and can take care of themselves. They’re able to survive in relatively low water quality and high temperatures. The free swimming fry can be eaten by larger predatory fish if not protected. They’re protected by a male or by being kept in a well-planted aquarium. Free swimming fry can last up to six months.
  • Juvenile: When a fish is six months old, it’s known as a juvenile. At about 2 inches long, it’s small and is not considered an adult until it has matured to about 2.5 inches. Juveniles are brightly colored. The male is distinguished by its large, bright blue “horn.” The female has a more subdued look and may have small spots. Juveniles eat fish flakes, bloodworms, and brine shrimp.
  • Early Adulthood: At this stage, the fish are sexually mature, and their fins are well-developed. Young adults have a shiny, black appearance. During this stage, they greatly desire a mate. Females begin to show their colors, and males may display their fins or pectoral fins.
  • Adult Betta: You can recognize an adult betta fish by its bright, golden body. It’s often topped with multi-colored stripes. Betta fish are most active at night, though in warmer waters they sleep during the day.

Their physiology allows them to change color depending on their mood. It helps females attract mates.

Half Moon Betta Fish
Image Credit: at.rma, Shutterstock

How to Tell Your Betta Fish’s Age

Have you recently brought your beloved pet home and want to find out its age? Betta fish are a lot of fun to have in your home. Although the natural lifespan of a betta fish is short, it’s still possible to estimate their age with some simple math and observation.

Here’s how you can tell how old your betta fish is:

Check the Betta Fish’s Size

The size of the betta fish will be a big indicator of age. The older they get, the larger they grow.

Young betta fish are nearly microscopic. Their bodies are less than 0.2 inches or 5 millimeters. Most adult betta fish are between one and two inches or 25 to 50 millimeters.

But, size doesn’t always indicate age. You also need some other factors to help you determine your betta fish’s approximate age.

Double Tail Betta Fish_Buddy BIGPhotographer_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Buddy BIGPhotographer, Shutterstock

Inspect the Betta Fish’s Fins

The fins are a good indicator of age, but, you need to make sure you understand what to look for.

Betta fish have three fins of the same length (the dorsal, anal, and ventral fins). If the dorsal fin has long fleshy rays, the fish is older. If the dorsal fin is short and bent, the fish is younger.

Your betta fish’s fins will grow in stages. The early stages will look like gill covers. The later stages will have a few more well-developed fins. If you can see fins, your betta fish is an adult. However, if you can see their pelvic fins, this is a sign of being quite young.

If your betta fish has had a few fins fall off, this can also indicate old age. If half your betta fish’s fins are missing, it’s considered old. But, if your betta fish has lost some fins to disease, this isn’t considered old age.

Male Betta
Image Credit: ivabalk, Pixabay

Assess your Betta Fish’s Color

A young Betta fish may not have any coloration. Usually, betta fish are clear and sometimes tinted with brown or gray. Some betta fish have a turquoise or gold iridescence. Anything less vivid than this should be regarded as an immature fish.

Betta fish spend most of their time underwater. Thus, many of their natural pigments are absorbed. Even pale ones will develop a yellowish or brownish tinge as they age. Betta fish come in different colors. Some of them are transparent, while others have a green or blue hue. While color and translucency are no guarantee of ripeness, they are a clear sign.

If you can see the fish’s light when its dark, that means it’s mature. To tell how old it is, look at the color of its fins. Betta fish with transparent fins are mature. They range from white or translucent to blue or green.

Why? Transparent fins are a sign of maturity. The translucent, blue, and green fins are a sign of immaturity.

red betta fish_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pixabay

Check for Changes in the Betta Fish’s Body

The art of telling fish’s ages is as ancient as the fish themselves. But, like all good art, it has evolved. The most obvious way is to look for visible signs of aging. Some betta fish become elongated, with curved fins. Their skin becomes thinner and more transparent. Their scales grow larger and thicker.

Unfortunately, these signs are only visible under close examination. And, sometimes a fish ages in a way that’s harder to see. Some betta fish become shy and reclusive, spending most of their time hiding. Other betta fish stop eating completely. Some fish only eat from time to time.

These signs of age also vary in their sensitivity. A fish’s flesh and scales may appear similar to someone untrained in identifying a fish’s age. But, if you’re experienced, you’ll notice the changes easily.

betta fish
Image Credit: Pixabay

Check if your Betta Fish has Cataracts on its Eyes

The cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataracts are quite common in fish as they age, particularly in the betta fish. Usually, the cloudiness is transparent, and the fish’s eyes will appear cloudy and milky.

The cloudiness increases over time. Eventually, the lenses become opaque, like a contact lens. It’s usually noticeable if the betta fish is swimming upside down.

The betta fish is a good pet, but like all fish, their eyesight will deteriorate as they age. While cataracts aren’t a problem in young betta fish, they’ll become progressively worse as the fish ages.

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Conclusion: Betta Fish Lifespan

Betta fish are known to be one of the most popular tropical fish species in the world suitable for beginners, thanks to their tolerance to many kinds of water conditions. They are also one of the best schooling fish species. You can house several of them in a relatively small tank.

Their social behavior and other interesting facts make them attractive to many hobbyists. Once you know how long they live and factors that affect their lifespan, you are now ready to keep one and provide favorable condition for their longevity.


Featured Image credit: Kosit Pajuthai, Sshutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.