How long a Betta fish can live for, will largely depend on the level of care and the environment you give them. On average Betta fish live for approximately 3-5 years in captivity. But with the right care and attention, they have been known to live for up to 8-10 years.
In this article, we will be covering everything you need to know to help ensure that your betta fish can be as happy and comfortable as possible; as a happy betta fish is a healthy betta fish.
Buying Your Betta Fish From a Pet Store
One of the most common places to purchase a betta fish is from your local reputable pet or aquarium store. There are other places that can also sell betta fish, but the further away you get from the specialized aquarium industry, the less likely it is that you are buying a healthy fish from quality stock.
We do not recommend purchasing betta fish, or any type of fish for that matter, from service stations, fairgrounds, or even from large bulk/discount chains similar to that of Walmart. This is because these types of resellers are not interested in what’s best for the fish. They are only interested in moving the “merchandise”, and if it dies after being sold, that just means that the customer will have to come back to buy another one.
The extent of the disregard that these types of businesses have for the welfare of their live fish, was brought to light in a video exposé. As of October 2019, Walmart has actually discontinued the sale of live fish in their stores. This decision was made following the backlash from consumers after the release of the video showing the deplorable conditions that they were keeping fish in, the general disregard for the treatment and care of their live fish stock, and the staggering mortality rate that they had as a result.
It is because of these sorts of practices that we implore you to only purchase your betta fish from a trusted and reputable dealer, breeder, or pet/aquarium store.
How Old Are the Betta Fish In Pet Stores?
Even though the average life span of a Betta is 3-5 years, this doesn’t necessarily mean that this is how long your new betta friend is going to be in your life. The betta fish that are sold by most third-party resellers/stores are usually at least a year old already.
Males are given time to grow into their colors and given time for their fins to fully develop. This can mean that when a male betta has been delivered to the store, it could be anywhere between 10-18 months old already.
Females are often supplied at a younger age than males. Most females are supplied to the pet stores at anywhere from 6-12 months of age.
What this means, is that if we were to look at the lower end of a betta fish’s lifespan, you might only have you pet betta for 1-2 years before it inevitably dies. Even less if you were to purchase your betta from a less desirable reseller.
Our Top 5 Tips For Keeping Your Betta Fish Happy and Healthy
It has to be said that genetics can also play a part. A fish bred from a poor quality breeding stock is less likely to be as fit and healthy as a fish who is bred from a healthier and more diverse gene pool. Yet, when it comes to extending the likely lifespan of your little betta friend, there really isn’t any magical trick or hidden secrets behind it.
What’s more important for increasing the likelihood of your betta living a long and healthy life, has more to do with comfort. Stress is one of the biggest issues that all betta fish carers must be mindful of. Stress is a leading cause for most, if not all, sicknesses and illnesses that can affect a betta fish.
If you want your betta fish to live a long and healthy life, it is paramount that you keep them as happy and as comfortable as possible.
Tip 1): Choose the Right Shaped Tank
Notice how the tip was not titled Choose the Right “Sized” Tank? This is because volume and space are not necessarily the same thing. A deeper more narrow 10-gallon tank is no better off for a betta than a standard 2.5-gallon tank. This is due to the depth that a betta feels more comfortable swimming at, and the amount of room that the tank provides the betta to swim around in.
An ideally shaped tank would be a tank that is more shallow and wider, then deeper. In the wild, a betta’s natural environment is similar to that of the rice paddy fields in Southern Asia. This isn’t to say that they only need a small volume of water to thrive. Rice paddies may be shallow, but they are wide and contain a large volume of water for the betta fish to swim around and explore.
To replicate this sort of environment, it would be best to find a tank that can hold 3-10 gallons of water at a depth of 6-8 inches, excluding substrate thickness. This would give the betta enough depth to be able to swim up and down as they choose. It is also shallow enough that they’ll be able to stay close enough to the surface so as to not drown, and wide enough to give them the room to swim around in.
The issue with using a 10 inch or deeper tank, is that betta fish are anabantoids; meaning that they breathe air and need to be able to reach the surface to refill their labyrinth (lunglike organ). They are also surface feeders, preferring floating pellets over fish flakes, and are not prone to swimming to the bottom of tanks that are over 12 inches deep.
What this means, is that betta fish are a top zone swimming fish. They like to remain near the surface to be able to both feed and breathe and would prefer to sleep on leaves, driftwood, or rocks that are closer to the surface, and not at the bottom of a deep tank.
Tip 2): Give Your Betta Somewhere to Play, Hide and Rest
As we mentioned above, a betta’s natural habitat is similar to that of a rice paddy field. Not only does that mean shallow, still flowing waters; it also means reeds, stems, and stalks that they can use to swim in and around.
Adding live plants to your tank doesn’t just make your aquarium look more aesthetically pleasing, it also helps to improve the mood of your betta, making them more relaxed and less stressed. Live plants can give your betta something to interact with, swim around, sleep in/on, and hide among when they feel the need to hide away from predators.
If you do not like the idea of live plants, artificial plants can work just as well. There are hammocks that you can attach to the side of your tank, and almost anything can be used to give your betta fish their own little home to hide and rest in. Just be sure to use plants and objects that don’t have any sharp edges that could catch and tear your betta’s fins.
Tip 3): Maintain Good Water Quality
Water quality isn’t just about water changes, and controlling Nitrogen and pH levels. The water in your aquarium also needs to be kept at a stable enough temperature. If the water temperature was to have sharp spikes, up or down, it can cause shock to your betta’s system, especially if the water goes from one extreme to the other.
- To help avoid spikes from occurring, consider using an automatic heater, rather than an analog heater that you need to turn on and off yourself.
Water flow and filtration go hand in hand. If the water isn’t moving around the tank effectively, areas of the aquarium could develop stagnant water. These pockets of “bad water” can be just as uncomfortable for a fish to swim through as it is for us when we walk into a room that doesn’t get any airflow. It can become hot and stinky, and just make us feel ill.
- One of the best ways to prevent pockets of stagnant water from developing is to design the aquascape in a way to prevent water flow from being blocked by a wall of substrate, rock, or driftwood.
- Another good method is to create a slipstream along one section of the aquarium that pulls water in and pushes it out. If the current is strong enough, it can allow your betta to get some extra exercise by swimming through it. But if the current is too strong, it will bat your betta around, potentially injuring them, and it can kick up the substrate messing up the water quality.
Keep the water well aerated by having live plants or by using airstones. Test the water quality often, monitoring dissolved air levels, Nitrogen content, and pH levels, and perform regular water changes as they are needed.
Tip 4): Keep Your Betta Fish Out of Fights
Many people believe that betta fish are a solitary species that can’t share the aquarium with another fish. This is kind of right, but kind of wrong at the same time. What we mean is that while male bettas need to be kept away from one another, females can live together comfortably. Known as a sorority, several females can be kept in the same aquarium as long as there is enough space for each of the females to retreat to when needed.
So while it may be true that you can not put two males in the same tank, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have any other fish in the aquarium with your male betta fish. Known as tank mates, there are a few species that can happily cohabitate the aquarium with male bettas.
Things to look out for are:
- Large fins/flashy colors – other species that could be mistaken for another male, may trigger the male betta’s aggressive territorial nature.
- Avoid introducing larger fish that could eat the male betta.
- Watch out for the smaller fish that are known to be nippers – these types of fish will bite at your betta’s fins, tearing at them.
- Each species of fish requires a different volume of water, and are comfortable at different depths. Making sure that you do not overstock your tank is crucial for preventing fights. We recommend having a read of our how-to guide for using the online stock calculator AqAdvisor.
Tip 5) Give Your Betta Fish a Balanced Healthy Diet – One That You Can Afford
Providing your betta fish with the best possible diet is one of the best things that you can do for your little buddy. A good diet consists of a variety of feeds, both processed and organic.
For more information on what to feed your betta, please have a read of our article “Best Food for Betta Fish“. In that article, we cover the different types of live foods, frozen, and processed fish foods in greater detail.
There is one very important thing to be mindful of when choosing an appropriate diet for your betta. What is your budget?
A strong budget and quality food go hand in hand. Feeding your betta a poor quality feed runs the risk of needlessly creating health complications. Likewise, if you were to spend more than you could afford, you may not have the funds needed to treat an illness or replace a piece of equipment at a later date.
Always stick to your budget first and foremost. You may even want to look at growing your own live fish food. Growing your own food not only helps to cut costs; it also helps you to control the health value of what you are feeding your betta. Healthy live food equals a healthy snack for your betta after all.
That’s it. The secret to having a happy and healthy betta fish that could live for years; boils down to just these five quick and easy tips. These five tips will help to fight off illnesses, as well as improve the quality of life for your betta. Which in turn, greatly helps to increase the life expectancy of your little betta pal.