Easy Ways To Maximize Betta Fish Life Span – Guaranteed

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What’s the Lifespan of a Betta Fish, Anyway?

Believe it or not betta fish don’t have to be doomed to a lifespan measured in weeks or at most months. Even though they are fairly low maintenance pets, you can maximize the typical betta fish life span by taking some relatively simple steps.

You see the average betta life expectancy is around two to three years. But if not kept in optimum living conditions, they’ll lead short and miserable lives that won’t come close to anywhere near that.

Now if you visit any betta fish forum online you’ll find some asking questions repeatedly like

How much and how often should I feed my betta?

What should I feed my fish to insure they thrive and not just survive?

How often should I change their water or clean their tank?

What about filtration?

These are common questions. Others too are seeking answers to questions like those to insure their bettas live a good long time. So how can you help your bettas enjoy a maximum life expectancy? Let’s see if we can’t shed some light on topics like these with some answers laced with helpful tips.

Size Does Matter – Tank Size That Is

Exquisite finnage aside, bettas are modestly sized fish measuring in at around two inches in body length.

But as diminutive as they are, they still need to be housed in adequate quarters. Those tiny pint sized bowels you see them in at Walmart won’t cut it.

Even a gallon jar isn’t exactly ideal either. No, the ideal tank size for any respectable betta is a 5-gallon tank. And the minimum you can get by with 2.5 gallons although you really can’t guarantee a longer healthier life with that considering the fluctuating temperature and possible higher ammonia concentration.

So yes, tank size does matter. Rule of thumb: The bigger the better because keeping them in a 5-10 gallon tank means better water quality, better filtration and more comfortable, stable water temps.

Water Quality is Critical

Did you know that poor water quality is the primary reason bettas get sick and die? And if you’re going to insist on keeping bettas in smaller one gallon bowls the key to success is 50% water changes twice a week. You can even get away with not testing your water for ammonia, nitrates and nitrites if you replace it often enough.

Tip: When removing half the water you want to get the dirtiest half. To do so get yourself a turkey baster. After you’ve removed the fish use it to remove any leftover food or fish poop that’s accumulated on the bottom or in the gravel.

Finally you wouldn’t have to worry so much about changing your water as often if you installed a quality filter in your tank. Although with your smaller tanks filtering may not be an option. Besides some bettas just don’t like the water flow filters create in their tanks. In those case betta keeping success and your pet’s longevity rests with the 50% water changes twice a week.

Conditioned Tested Water

Again given the importance of the water, it’s assumed you know putting your betta in chlorinated tap water isn’t a move designed to prolong their life span. And you may yet not be able to tie how your fish is behaving to specific water quality issues either. But that’s okay. And also why it’s wise to regularly test the water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels using an API liquid test kit. It’s an easy way to do so plus the results are fast and easy to understand.

Tip: The ideal test results would be ammonia 0 ppm, nitrite 0 ppm, nitrate 5-20 ppm. Drastic deviations from that make it crystal clear when water quality needs attending to.

Proper Feeding

Bettas are gluttonous carnivores and consummate beggars who have adapted to living off limited amounts of food. Still some have smaller appetites than others and some are super finicky eaters. Which means there are few hard and fast rules when it comes to feeding time.

Which is better freeze dried or live? Could knowing the answer make the difference between vibrant, healthy, thriving bettas and those that are just hanging on? To find out check out this page with four videos exposing some favorite betta fish food and their reaction to it.

But in general, if you’re serious about raising healthy bettas, you’ll want to feed them a variety of quality foods. A diet of frozen bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp and good quality pellets (like for instance OmegaOne betta food) is more than adequate. However if you want to go above and beyond for your fish, live foods like glassworms, brine shrimp or bloodworms are probably the best. Just not that easy to come by.

Tip: 3 to 4 bloodworms is a betta meal. More than that is overfeeding. And remember more problems are caused by overfeeding than underfeeding. It’s called killing them with kindness.

Then too uneaten food will just foul their water. And do I need to remind you that poor water quality is one of the leading causes of premature betta death? So be sure to remove anything that remains uneaten and left to fester by your fish.

Tip: A “fasting” day once a week, where you feed nothing for 24 hours, is an excellent idea. And don’t worry. Bettas can go for days without eating with no ill effects.

Tropical Water for a Tropical Tank Critter

Temperature is another essential requirement for healthy betta living. Bettas, being native to Asian tropical regions like Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia, thrive on heat. Just so it’s stable heat around 80 degrees F. Which is why you shouldn’t find it surprising at how listless they are when the temps fall much below 75 degrees F or so. All the more reason to have a bigger aquarium that can be heated properly and safely. Because more water tends to offer more stable water temps.

Tip: Oh and since they can gulp in air bettas can better tolerate higher temps than most fish.

Anyway, the appeal of these gorgeous fish is obvious. I mean who can ignore the flaring of flashy fins that reflect light in a brilliant array of colors? Just like peacocks put on a display to bedazzle their audience, bejeweled male bettas are shows offs too — capable of similar visual feasts.

Still, as you have just read, more than just keeping your bettas inside a glassed sanctuary, they need the right conditions so they can thrive in a healthy environment. One that will keep them engaged and living longer. Which is why it should be no surprise that bettas forced to lead a cold, couch potato lifestyle in tiny bowls while being fed high fat foods aren’t going to exactly push the longevity envelope.

But if you feed them right, house them right, and attend to the water quality there is no reason your finny friend shouldn’t be around for years to come. In other words that’s how you increase the betta fish lifespan from mere months to several years. Helping them live to a ripe old age, at least in betta years.

About Lucas
Putting a name with a face I'm Lucas Smatana. Like you I'm passionate about betta fish and hope to share my enthusiasm. The idea here is to make sure you get helpful info and useful ideas on betta fish care that really work. To insure your betta keeping experience is a good one both for you and your fish. So that you and your pet enjoy a long, happy and healthy relationship.

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42 Responses to “Easy Ways To Maximize Betta Fish Life Span – Guaranteed”

  1. bobby says:

    i think this is a good idea because bettas are realy smart fish and need to be kept in a large amount of water 10 to 2.5 weel to tell you the truth i keep one of my bettas in a 1 gallon and its been about 1 year and the other 2.5 with a heating light how long do you think that there going to last

    • admin says:

      It’s hard to say how long your fish might last, Bobby. But bettas kept under the right conditions, think pristine water conditions, can last for three or four years or longer. It’s also hard to tell, unless you know the breeder, how old they were when you got them.

  2. michelle says:

    I have had my male betta for about 4 years. I have him in a 1.5 gallon tank with an air stone. He is fed two times a day, with four pellets at each feeding. there have been many times that his tank has gone more than a month without a cleaning, and up until recently, the tank has been completely emptied and refilled, during cleaning. He seems like he is thriving anyways.
    We always use filtered warm water and add special water drops to the tank before putting Fishsticks (his name) back in the water. I am assuming that he is older than 4, because who knows how long he was at a store before his puchase as a gift to me. Even though I have not done things the way you suggest for a longer life span, I seem to be doing something correct.

    • admin says:

      Good for you and Fishsticks – love the name by the way. And I’d agree your fish is thriving with your maintenance routine. Proof there is no one right way. Although a good thing you do is not overfeed which helps keep his water quality higher both from the waste produced and left over food rotting perspective. Four years is a good long time because as you point out, he wasn’t a fry when you bought him. Fishsticks is one lucky betta to have such an attentive owner. :)

  3. andros says:

    how would i keep a warmer temp in my one-gallon mini-bow filter tank? it says max 7 watt bulb, does that provide and warmth?

    • admin says:

      Not sure what a mini bowl filter tank is. Hopefully it is NOT what you are keeping your betta in as on gallon is on the small side. For one because they are hard to heat properly. And as far as using a light to warm the water that’s a bad idea too. Reason being you don’t want to keep a light on 24/7. You betta deserves some dark shut eye time just like anyone else. And when you turn the light off POOF! the heat source goes away meaning the water temp will drop. And temperature fluctuations like that over time aren’t good for maximizing your fish’s lifespan either.

  4. Tracey says:

    When I bought my red veiltail fighting fish (Kaida) from a pet shop closing down, a shop I had gotten all my previous pets from it’s no so surprising that all the fighting fish were sick in some way but because of my autism I couldn’t imagine buying a fighting fish anywhere else. So I bought Kaida(means little dragon) even though I knew he had fin rot. Kaida is in a 22 litre tank with heater and air stone. Once a week, I take out Kaida from his tank and do a complete water change. Am I doing the right thing for my fighting fish?

    • Lucas says:

      Lets see….Heated water. Check. Water movement. Check. Big enough tank. Check. Water quality. Check. Although I’m not a huge fan of complete water changes because any good bacteria developing will go down the drain, but some do this and have their fish for years. The key to bettas is water quality. And as long as your fish is thriving, seems you are doing right by Kaida!

  5. Meg says:

    So I inherited a betta fish named Mr. Moe from one of the seniors at my boarding school when she moved out a few weeks ago. He lives in about a 1-gallon bowl, which I know isn’t ideal, but there’s not a lot I can do about that. I don’t have access to any frozen or live foods, but I was wondering which is better: pellets or flakes? Or should I be feeding him both? Also, how long can I expect to keep him in that type of environment (I think he’s between 6 and 9 months old)? thanks!

    • Lucas says:

      Mr Moe huh? Does that mean the next two will be Mr. Larry and Mr. Curly? Sorry. Couldn’t resist. And you’re right. The one gallon set up isn’t ideal. But if you are diligent about water changes it will do. Some swear they’ve kept betta fish successfully in such cramped quarters for years. Then the obvious answer to which to feed, flakes or pellets, is whichever the fish will eat. Some bettas turn up their noses to one or the other. Still if all you can feed are flakes or pellets, having a number of brands on hand can offer some much needed variety. And soaking pellets a bit to soften them up is another good tip. As for the how long question, that depends. It could be three or four years, if you are careful to maintain the water quality. Much less if you aren’t.

  6. Miranda says:

    I got my little buddy, Sanguine, almost three years ago. He was not a fry when I got him. Recently, my roommate decided to feed him when I was not in the room and her overfeeding gave him both constipation and swim bladder disorder. Sanguine started to look better and was swimming around a bit, but now will not move. He just lays in the bottom of the tank and breathes. Do you know of anything that I can do to help my son?

    • Lucas says:

      Ah, room mates trying to be helpful sometimes are not. For constipation the typical solution is to feed a bit of blanched green pea. And be sure to use frozen rather than canned. Canned peas has added salt. But just gently microwave your pea. Cut off a small piece. And see if you can’t induce your betta to take it. But this will help flush out his system and normalize things. Good luck!

  7. Rah says:

    My betta (Bluthor) died today… I’m so sad. He loved me.

  8. TAMMY says:

    HAPPY TO SAY MY BETTA BENTLEY, IS DOING GREAT! HE WILL BE 2 IN AUGUST.
    I JUST KEPT UP THE SALT BATHS & PEA FEEDING & REDUSED THE TIME IN THE SALT BATHS EACH TIME. NOW HE IS REGULAR SIZE & COLOR. – I STILL DO THE SAT BATHS @ LEAST 1 TIME A WEEK & HE LOVES HES PEAS!! ACTUALLY BEGS FOR THEM & EATS THEM RIGHT OUT OF MY HAND.
    I KNOW HE HAD DROPSY BUT SOMEHOW THE SALT BATHS & PEAS WORKED!

  9. brittany says:

    my betta sticks food into his mouth, takes it under water then spits it out. is it anything to be concerned about? or does he not like food floating above him?

    • Lucas says:

      My guess is you’ve got a picky eater on your hands. This is more common than you might believe. And frustrating. See if his appetite doesn’t improve after a couple of days of not feeding him. If he still isn’t taking a shine to what’s on the menu, you may need to switch to something else. Hikari betta bio-gold is a popular and usually well received. Worst case you might try something frozen like blood worms to keep him going. But he shouldn’t dictate the menu. Sooner or later he’ll find something to his liking. Or hunger will overcome whatever it is he’s giving two fins down to. Oh and be sure to retrieve the uneaten food. Otherwise you’ll have water issues to top things off.

  10. Morgan says:

    Im planning on getting my Betta, Macabee, some type of water conditioner. Im not sure exactly what it’s called but I’ve heard it helps alot. I was wondering if it’s safe to add the conditioner while Macabee is in the tank. Im scared he will die of shock or something if I dont take him out.

    • Lucas says:

      I’m not exactly sure what you mean by water conditioner. This term usually means what you use to remove chlorine and the like from tap water. That is perfectly safe. If you are referring to something else, again, I’m not sure I can comment helpfully. But I’d think anything to tweak the water shouldn’t cause any type of shock and should be safe for Macabee.

  11. Liz says:

    I inheirted Fishy Boy FB (not sure if boy)from son who got divorced. He has survived two cat incidents (broken tanks and thrown to floor in shattered glass). Oh, forgot accidental fall into garbage disposal. He has quite the personality. This all happenend quite a while ago, but I just now noticed some fine, clear thread like fine stringy things hanging and floating from all of “his” fins, wings, etc. Is that a problem? What is it? He is in the kitchen counter and loves the action and responds to the movement and seems very healthy.

    • Lucas says:

      Geez you sure FB isn’t a cat what with his NINE lives! :) And I won’t even ask how he ended up in the garbage disposal. He is certainly a character of the game. What you describe doesn’t sound like anything to be worried about. Everything you point out points to a feisty, healthy male. BTW, if he has longish, flowing fins he’s likely a boy and properly named.

  12. Rae says:

    I’ve had my betta for about a week now, he is solid white with a little bit of pink tint to his fins..I thought he looked really pretty when I got him, his fins were really full( he’s a half moon betta, I think is what they called him) and he was really feisty and loves to watch everything, but now his fins are looking shredded and I think he may have fin rot. He’s in a 2.5 gallon tank with a filter, he’s still really active and is eating properly still…what can I do about his fins and is his coloring normal? ( now that I think about it)

    • Lucas says:

      How often are you changing water? If you suspect fin rot the first line of defense if improving the water quality. That alone can produce an amazing improvement in the health and appearance of the fins.

  13. jasper says:

    my beta died today:(. i am very sad. i have had him for a little more than 2 years. my dad and i changed his water yesterday- only a partial change.i know that i am only seven but i took good care of him. he lived in a 1 and a half gallon tank, my dad added his water conditioner, and he was feisty until the water change. what did i do wrong????

    • Lucas says:

      Oh Jasper I am so sorry. And I’m also sorry to say that no one can tell for sure what went wrong. A guess, and only a guess, there may have been something in the water that conditioner didn’t eliminate? But if you had it him two years you clearly did lots of things right. I’d encourage you to get another betta. Obviously it won’t replace the one that died, but it will be special in different ways.

  14. Todd says:

    SO I AM LOOKING at my daughter’s 2 gallon fish bowl (with filter) and notice that there is NO FISH! She has a Beta named Bubbles for all the Bubbles that were in his little jar at the store. I can’t find Bubbles anywhere. I took apart the filter. I moved her rock and plant, still no fish. So we decided that it must have JUMPED OUT. We looked around on the floor – nothing. So I gently tilted her shelves forward and sure enough it had jumped out and was stuck to the BACK of the shelves. As I leaned the shelves back further it fell to the ground. Then it moved. I yelled at my daughter to pick it up and put it back in the water. There is no telling how long it was out of the water. It is not as playful as it was before the unfortunate incident. It’s fins have taken quite a thrashing. I wonder if some may still be stuck to the shelf. Although I am sure his life span has been adversely affected, he seems to be fairly resilient. Its only been two days, but if it survives I’m thinking a name change is in order – maybe Lucky.

    • Lucas says:

      Poor Bubbles. But thanks for sharing his harrowing adventure. Which points to the need to keep your tank or bowl covered. Because bettas can be escape artists. Only it’s an escape from life to an almost certain death. And trust me. It’s no fun to find their dried little body somewhere in the vicinity of their former home.

  15. Malissa Williams says:

    Hi Lucas,
    I adore my little betta Perry. Ive had him for about 2 yrs. He is in a filtered, heated 10g tank with lots of plants, two little castles and a floating log. He loves it! My worry is that he is bored and lonely in there. Is it healthier for him to have a few cory cats or some little shrimp with him? Some other life in there? Or are they truly solitary fish? His tank is by my computer and he seems to really interact with me and enjoy the company. He hangs out on his “leaf hammock” and stares at me. Lol!

    • Lucas says:

      Sure hope Perry understands how lucky he is to have such a caring owner, Malissa. Sounds like the perfect betta pad. And it’s good to see you are concerned about his mental stimulation. But he’s probably not lonely. Because the flip side of communal living would be the need to constantly defend his space from threats (real or imagined) presented by other tank mates, no matter how benign their intentions. This would be stressful for Perry. And would leave him with less “hammock” time although a cory may not be viewed as much of a threat. Of course you can easily offer him some mental stimulation. Do some tank landscaping. Move his castles around. Get extra ornaments you can add or subtract from time to time. This will suggest to him there is new territory in his domain that he needs to explore. Doing so can keep him better engaged. Just an idea for keeping his mind in the game. :)

  16. Barbara Tomlin says:

    I have three bettas, each in their own bowl. On Nov. 9, I will have had them for one year. I also have a 120-gal. african cichlid tank, a 120-gallon parrot fish and silver dollar tank, and a 55-gallon Mickey Mouse Platy and cory tank (planning on adding a few more tropical fish to this tank). My question is….can I put one of my bettas in the 55 gallon tank with the platys, or will the fish nip on him? And thanks for all of your great information on bettas!

    • Lucas says:

      Wow! You’re pretty serious about fish! LOL I’m not so sure that the placid platys are necessarily nippers. And 55 gallons is a lot of water – so this could work. Meaning there would be plenty of territory that could be left unclaimed by your betta. Bettas can co-habitate with some fish in the same tank. Guess it also depends on what other fish you are planning on adding. But my question would be why mess with success? Betta fish tend to prefer to lead solitary lives. And if you’ve had the three amigos for a year and they’re doing well they are likely satisfied with their current living conditions and may not wish for a change. Just a thought.

  17. Debby says:

    My betta fish is constantly “overshooting” his pellets of food. Can he be blind ? His eyes look perfectly normal, as does his body. He always “shark attacked” when fed, but now he swims just fine, shows no other symptoms, but hits beyond the pellet of food each time, and has to back up and try again, over and over, sometimes as much as a dozen tries, just to get a single pellet of food. Sometimes, after numerous tries, he just gives up ! Although he has never eaten any pellets that were wet (just spits them out), at times I have given him one, hoping. No go. He still does his usual “shark attack” when he is fed, but lands past the pellet each time he goes to eat one. I have had him at least 2 yrs. Physically he looks fine. Nothing other than this feeding behavior seems different. He seems to poop okay, too. I am worried that soon he will not be able to get even a single pellet to eat. Recently he seems to try less times, before giving up, and then I remove the pellet from the water, so it won’t rot or anything. This has been going on for some time, and he has not getting much to eat at all, for a month or more. What do I do when he just gives up totally ? How long can a betta survive, once he gets to the point where he eats nothing? Is there any kind of food he wouldn’t have to “catch” in his mouth, to obtain nourishment ? He is not showing any of the usual signs of swim bladder disease, or any other disease I have read about.

    • Lucas says:

      Wow, this is a tough one. Sounds like you’re ruled out other problems. For sure it’s not SBD.

      If he is lunging at the surface for his food he may well be having vision issues, sorry to say. I’ve never had a blind betta so I can’t be sure. It’s like he’s guessing where the food should be.

      Let’s look at some tests and questions to answer.

      Diagnostic Question…are his eyes cloudy or white? If so could be some sort of cataract.

      Diagnostic Question…does he crash into the side of the tank or other things in the tank?

      Diagnostic Question…if you put a mirror on the side of his tank does he flare as if he “sees” another male? He should. If not…

      Diagnostic Question…does he follow your finger? Sometimes if you move your finger along the side of the tank a betta will follow it. But they have to see it to follow it.

      Assuming the worst it doesn’t mean he has to starve. One thought would be add some smell to his food perhaps. Seachem Garlic Guard can be used to do that. And yes, seems bettas do like a little taste of garlic. I’m not saying that is going to work, but it might be worth a try. Although his dislike for “wet” food may be an issue with that. Another would be to ask how’s he do with frozen bloodworms or other frozen foods? Again not the perfect diet but if he isn’t eating at all, sooner or later that is going to catch up with him.

      Sorry I know this isn’t exactly an answer but it is some things to try to figure out what’s wrong.

  18. Christy B says:

    Hi Lucas,
    I’ve been reading thru your advice on bettas and just wanted to say how helpful you’ve been to everyone!! I’ve enjoyed reading your kind responses. (-;

    I have not been a very good betta keeper )-; I purchased a water heater for bettas at our local pet store today…sadly, my fish did not survive. I don’t know if it was the temperature change that hurt him, which was to be 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the current room temp, or the fact that I didn’t rinse the heater before adding it to the tank. I think I shall go purchase another betta after I clean out the tank & heater.

    • Lucas says:

      So sorry to hear about the death of your pet. It may well have been the temperature change, although I can’t be sure. Room temp would have been kinda cold – depending on where you live of course. I also kinda doubt the heater itself had anything on it that was fatal to your fish – but it is still a good idea to rinse first. And yes, betta keeping skills are not something we are born with. The good news is they can be learned to the benefit of your next betta. And thanks. Glad you like the site! :)

  19. Amy says:

    Hi Lucas,

    I have a 15 gallon fish tank and plan to make it a community tank. Would you recommend what type of fish can I have along with my male betta, Red Tail? If I add the water filter, is this going to be too much water movement for my Red Tail? Currently, Red Tail is living in 1 gallon bowl with consist water changes. After reading your insightful article, it was a wake up call. I will provide a better living evironment for my friend now. Thanks for your article.

    • Lucas says:

      Sounds like Red Tail is in good hands. And that his current set up isn’t all that bad. With the filter he’ll likely be alright – 15 gallons can absorb a lot of water movement. You might just watch him to see if he’s struggling keeping all his fins going against a current or something. Finally when it comes to companion fish, you might check this article out. Glad I could help if in some small way.

  20. Lenorra says:

    I have 4 betas all living in separate square vases.(They were wedding center pieces, kids wouldn’t let us leave without them) My question is do they get smaller? If so why?

    • Lucas says:

      Smaller? You mean do the fish diminish in size? I’d think not. But I’d hasten to add they would probably be happier in bigger quarters. Not sure how big a square vase is but something you could actually heat to keep the water temps where they need to be would be much appreciated by these guys. Good luck.

  21. I am sad because my boy, Nouveaux, died last night. I only had him for a year and a half. I cleaned his 2 gallon tank yesterday after 6 weeks which I knew was too long. I was on vacation for a week and just did not have enough time to get to it before I left. I really feel bad about it. I am glad you have some good tips to use for the next Betta. I love their personalities and each one I have had is different. They brighten my mornings with their fantastic water acrobatics. This one seemed to know when I was up to feed him. I have one question, is it okay for them to have sunlight in the morning? We have one window that is bright and the sunlight almost appears to be direct although it is not. Could this be part of my problem with too much bacteria in the water.

    • Lucas says:

      Sorry to hear about Nouveaux. As you’ve learned poor water quality is the number one killer of these guys. And I loved the term water acrobatics. Good way of describing it. I don’t believe the sunshine is an issue. It may, and that’s may, mean more algae growing on the side of the tank – although this sounds like bright indirect lighting to me actually. But as long as the water temps do not go up and down even direct sunlight shouldn’t matter. Good luck with your next finny water acrobat.

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