Betta fish have developed something of a reputation for being short lived when kept as pets. However, much of this reputation is likely based on improper care over the years.
So, how long do betta fish live really?
When properly cared for betta fish have a lifespan of some 2-5 years in captivity.
That’s quite a wide potential age range and there are a number of reasons for this.
Of course, one factor is how old your betta fish was when you bought it. As it is very difficult to age a betta fish it’s entirely possible that your betta fish sat in the pet store for months before you bought it.
Maybe it was rescued from another keeper who no longer wanted it. Either way, if your betta fish dies below 2 years of age then it may have simply been old to begin with.
Of course, a greater concern is the level of care that your betta fish has received. If you sat around all day drinking alcohol and eating junk food you probably wouldn’t live as long as the person who eats right and exercises regularly.
If you’re concerned about how long your betta fish will live then it makes sense to discuss some of the most important care requirements. In doing so you can feel confident that your fish will live a long and healthy life.
Betta Fish Tanks
One of the most common reasons for betta fish dying early is simply that they’re kept in unsuitable fish tanks.
Such a tank offers a huge number of benefits for both you and your fish…
More Exercise Space
Betta fish may be small and dainty-looking, but like the rest of us they still need some exercise.
A larger aquarium gives your betta fish suitable space to move around in, which contrasts sharply to being trapped almost motionless in a tiny split betta fish tank.
Places to Hide Away
Betta fish may be bright and gaudy-looking but they don’t like to be on display at all times. A betta fish that has places it can hide away is a happy betta fish. Of course, providing this level of privacy is very difficult indeed in a tiny tank.
In larger tanks it suddenly becomes much easier indeed to add plants (either live or artificial), rocks and other decor items. In this way, your fish will feel much more secure – and hence happier.
Slower Temperature Changes
Small aquariums have a habit of heating up and cooling down rapidly thanks to environmental conditions in your home. Betta fish, like so many other tropical fish, dislike any rapid changes like this.
A larger aquarium, which holds far more water, changes temperature at a far slower pace and is therefore beneficial for your pet.
Healthier Water Conditions
Fish waste and uneaten food rot down in your aquarium. Over time, these waste materials can build up to harmful levels. As a result, regular water changes are necessary. The more water there is in your tank, however, the less often these changes are required.
A larger tank can therefore reduce your routine tank maintenance, while also offering a more pleasant place for your fish to live.
Easier to Keep Clean
When fish waste is spread over a larger area, it looks far less unsightly. If you’ve read our substrates article then you’ll also know that a larger tank means more gravel.
More gravel, in turn, means that a larger colony of friendly bacteria can grow, helping to break down waste material and keeping your tank cleaner.
In conclusion, a large tank can go a long way to prolonging the lifespan of your betta fish.
Can Betta Fish Live in a Fishbowl?
One common question that gets asked is whether betta fish can live in a fishbowl. As should be quite clear by now the answer is “no”. There are a number of reasons for this.
Firstly, fishbowls by their very nature are small; far too small for a betta fish to remain happy and healthy.
Additionally, there are a number of pieces of kit that will help to keep your betta fish alive – such as an aquarium heater and filter. Installing these into a tiny fish bowl isn’t easy at the best of times.
While the odd betta fish might survive for a short period of time in a fishbowl, it is important to understand that you’re not giving your fish the conditions it needs to thrive. As a result, your betta fish may pass away much sooner than they otherwise would have done in a more suitable aquarium.
Do Betta Fish Get Lonely?
Betta fish aren’t known for getting lonely, so a lack of “friends” is unlikely to shorten the lifespan of your betta fish. In fact, it could be argued that including other fish in their tank could actually do more harm than good.
Firstly, of course, betta fish are territorial and can be aggressive to other betta fish; keeping two or more bettas together is virtually guaranteed to end in fighting – and even bloodshed.
Secondly, while there are some other gentler species that can cohabit with betta fish, tank mates can cause stress by nipping at your betta fish’s luxurious fins.
In short, if you want to extend the lifespan of your betta fish then keeping them alone is probably the best option.
The size of your betta fish tank isn’t the only factor that can affect the lifespan of your betta fish. To thrive in captivity a betta fish also needs the correct environmental conditions, such as water temperature, water chemistry and hygiene.
Betta fish tend to thrive around temperatures of 78-80’F (25.5-26.5’C) so in most cases you’ll need to provide a suitable aquarium heater.
It is also important to understand the nitrogen cycle of fish tanks. At its simplest fish waste contains ammonia; a highly toxic chemical. This is slowly broken down by water-borne bacteria into nitrates – a rather less toxic alternative.
Lastly these nitrites are broken down into nitrates by more bacteria – a less toxic form still.
Then, through regular water changes, these toxins are removed from the tank, and replaced with fresh water.
If you haven’t been carefully monitoring your water chemistry, and therefore haven’t been carrying out the correct water changes, then this too can shorten the lifespan of your betta fish.
Feeding Betta Fish
Feeding your betta fish the right food can go a long way to helping them live a long life. All too often new fish keepers feed their betta fish just like any other tropical fish – but this can be a mistake. Betta fish are primarily carnivorous in the wild, and so do best on a high-meat diet.
As with people, betta fish also benefit from a range of different foods. In this way they can access all the different nutrients they need; from vitamins to minerals, in order to remain in tiptop condition.
Firstly, and as a good base food, there are a number of dried foods such as flakes and pellets which are formulated specifically for betta fish. In addition to this, however, if you want your betta to live a long life you’d also be well advised to vary their diet, adding in a range of live foods.
Examples of food which are very popular among betta fish include:
- Wingless fruit flies
- Brine shrimps
- Fairy shrimps
Aim to provide a different one of these foods every few days for variety.
Furthermore, effectively feeding your betta fish isn’t just about what you feed your fish but also how you feed them.
Many beginners throw in a huge amount of food and leave their fish to it. Of course, much of this food remains uneaten, and falls to the bottom of the tank where it can negatively affect the water quality.
Instead, feed your betta fish once or twice a day, just a small amount of food each time. Watch what they will eat in just 3-5 minutes, then clean up and remove any uneaten food from their tank.
In this way your betta fish will eat all it needs but you’ll keep the water in good condition.
Photo by Oregon State University
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