Deadly Betta Fish Life Span Shorteners

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No doubt. Despite your best efforts, turns out there are lots of ways to kill your betta fish. In fact you can turn things every which way but inside out and still end up killing that prized showy male of yours. Which can all work out to make for one remarkably short life span for your betta, and typically bettas in general, unfortunately.

So while it’s not out of the question for a betta to last as long as three or four years with proper care, too many find themselves moving onto the great fishbowl in the sky well before that. Victims of unfortunate betta fish care mistakes and blunders.

Even worse, some in betta-dom pull this off with such ease it’s shocking. And with great regularity too. Meaning they either repeat the same mistakes with each new occupant of their betta tank or come up with new ones each time. I’m not trying to be mean or anything, but you can run through a lot of fish coming down the learning curve that way, let me tell you. Not exactly a way to distinguish yourself as someone knowledgeable in the ways of fighting fish.

Which might be why so many want to know the expected betta fish lifespan. Perhaps so they have something longer than a few months to shoot for, I don’t know.

Yet given the predisposition of betta keepers for the epic fail it might be good to at least cover the 17 top ways to kill your betta fish, the Cliff Notes edition. So you know what not to do more or less.

These are troublesome things I’ve been asked or have seen asked on various online forums and chat groups. Such questions form the fodder for this collection of dumb moves made all to often. Making this a list you might want to refer to, and often, if you are trying to keep a pet store veiltail alive in your home.

With no time to waste and bettas to save, let’s get started.

Seven Dumb Water Moves

Take ammonia spikes for instance. They aren’t good for any fish much less bettas – who like their water quality to be on the pristine side. Besides nothing signals your fish is in for the fight of its life like constantly changing water parameters. Yet all too often there is not a water test kit in sight. And I mean real test kit like the ones API offers, not some chintzy test strips which are about as reliable as a used car bought at a Buy Here Pay Here lot.

Along the same lines are the keepers who aren’t into water changes. For crying out loud, if you aren’t going to test the water the least you could do is change it regularly to provide a glimmer of hope to your halfmoon, no matter how slim, that you care.

Further along the same lines still are the “bettas do fine in a bowl, vase or jelly jar” crowd. That luckless bagged betta, catching sight of it cramped quarters, knows his ticket to the afterlife has been punched. It not a question of if, it’s more like when he’s going to check out, after at best a short and miserable life. Tiny barracks means that ammonia can spike at a moment’s notice. Not to mention it’s nearly impossible to heat them to temps needed for a long life.

Then too, nothing says short life span better than cold water. Hello? Bettas are tropical fish. Just because big box stores find it convenient to house them in unheated ice cube tray sized bowls, doesn’t mean bettas do well without some heat. Plus have you ever stopped to look closely at those hapless saps with fins clamped and hovering as if in suspended animation? Does that say “healthy betta” to you? Yet despite the fact that a decent submersible aquarium heater won’t break the bank, it’s apparently more than some are willing to spring for. Leaving them to wonder when their pet comes down with something what they should do next to forestall the inevitable. Dumb.

Using water straight from the tap is a big no no. It’s got enough chlorine in it to kill even the hardiest of bettas. Which makes water conditioner a must have, not optional, item in your fish keeping tool kit. Because nothing will kill a multicolored crown-tailed male betta faster than water fresh from the tap.

Let’s not forget those buyers of sad Siamese fighting fish who feel acclimating their charges to their new water parameters is for sissies. This is especially bad if the store just takes the tiny bowl housing their bettas and pours it, fish, water, and all (and I think you know what I mean by “all”) into a bag. Then when they get home instead of floating the bag to give the temperature time to equalize, or spooning in tank water for 30 to 60 minutes to give the fish a chance to adjust to the pH and nitrates etc, the betta keeping novice just dumps their new finny friend, questionable water and all, into their new bowl, jar or hopefully tank. The stress on the fish is obvious as it pales on sight. The shock can cause their immune system to wilt at the best. Or result in premature death found floating in the morning at worst.

Then to be sure tank cycling and the nitrogen cycle might be the more advanced class. Yet most have no clue what that is. Nor do they understand why it’s important. Bet your betta does though. As he desperately tries to adjust to too much ammonia, then too much nitrites in the water. Only to start the cycle all over again just when things start to get good when a 100% water change is made in the name of better fish health. Geesh.

So the first clue your shimmering betta’s time is going to be on the short side is signaled by the water quality. Or lack thereof. Easily overlooked. Yet essential if you are looking to maximize the life span of that flowing delta tail male beta of yours. Fish like this need room to roam and they need to roam in water that’s better than simply good enough, warmer than room temp with some stability to it, and that’s not constantly subjecting them to various toxins over and over again. Questionable water like that can after all be quite stressful.

Okay but don’t tune out just yet. There are plenty of other shorteners of life expectancy yet to cover that you won’t want to miss.

Six Dumb Feeding Moves

For example over feeding is another rookie mistake. This is a killer in oh so many ways. If you’re guilty no need to hang your head. It’s a common problem many are guilty of doing. Encouraged in part by overzealous food manufacturers who want you to feed as much as you can so you buy more food for your studly betta fighting fish. Not only does over feeding not pile on the life expectancy years for your lil buddy, uneaten food can foul tank water something fierce. Making for a lethal witches brew so toxic even a bionic fish would have trouble living in it. But it sure is an easy environment to die in.

While on the topic of feeding, also high on this list is feeding the wrong things. Like putting an emphasis on flakes which can expand in their belly like cheese in a can does upon release. Such swelling can derail their swim bladder and cause unbridled betta unhappiness.

Take two would be feeding a diet that is heavy on protein rich things like frozen blood worms or frozen adult brine shrimp and little else. Sure hotdogs may be tasty. But morning, noon and night? Not so much. Of course your bettas will continue to gorge themselves – to death. Or at least to a nasty case of constipation. Because they have a hard time saying no to savory blood worms or yummy brine shrimp.

Now if you are going to insist on putting these kinds of food on the menu would it kill you to add a blanched pea day to the calendar every week? Or maybe a fasting day. Sure that means you’ll have to man up and deny your beggar with fins what he thinks he needs? But giving his digestive tract a day to catch up might be the best thing you can do for him. Yet how often does the nice lady working at Walmart offer this bit of advice to wide eyed newbies?

Then there are betta fish fry that can have an incredibly short life. Spanning only days for an unlucky few. From what I’ve seen far too often amateur breeders fail to plan ahead and don’t have micro sized live food at the ready. Suddenly it dawns on them and in a panic they try to find a microworm culture at Walmart. While heading to a bait store would truly be an act of desperation.

Or they mistakenly think they can use some kind of microscopic flakes to feed their fry. And when their eyes with tails don’t take the bait, the wannabe Aquabid stars are lost in space without a clue as to what to do next.

Either way the results are the same. Fry that go missing for no apparent reason. Truth be told they likely withered up and died from starvation. Scarfed up by the cories kept in their tank to keep things tidy. Good job.

Look. Understanding what to feed bettas when isn’t rocket science. Besides your options have never been greater. Culturing live foods has never been easier. While the quality of pellets from New Life or Attisons has never been higher. Meaning that finny, red-hot hunk of flaring betta-ness should be looking forward to a longer, rather than shorter, life based on the caliber of grub they can eat. Ahhh, if only that were true.

Dumb Sick Betta Moves

Certainly Siamese fighting fish are a hardy lot. Loaded to the gills with survival genes. Yet that doesn’t mean they won’t fall prey to sickness and disease from time to time. Most often due to the ignorance or neglect by their owner. Not to mention that not knowing what to do when disaster strikes can be a serious threat to maximizing the life span of any flashy betta fish. Giving them a shorter life expectancy than some Broadway shows.

Plus it’s painful to sit there and watch your fish all puffed up with its scales sticking out hoping for the best. Trust me all too often the best ain’t a gonna happen.

Or to imagine those are ich tattoos and not the real thing your gutsy pet is struggling with is another misguided hope. Which will all too often lead to an untimely end to something that looked like it had gotten off to a pretty good start.

I know no one wants to see their pet suffer. Should you be called on to play Betta Doctor MD at a moment’s notice, do you have the know-how and a properly stocked first aid kit? Most don’t. Most don’t know what it should even include. And failing to understand even the basics of how to treat a sick betta is another way to grease the skids to the afterlife for your scaly friend.

Three Little Dumb Moves That Don’t Help Much Either

Having covered the major lifespan shorteners of halfmoons, veil, double and crowntails, let me mention three lesser ideas that might affect how long these guys might live in your care.

Something as simple as a lid on his tank can keep your little skydiver with fins in his element instead of all dried up on the carpet. Nothing like a leap into the great unknown to add some spice to life before death. Just don’t expect your Evel Knievel wannabe to pull the rip cord in time so he can make tomorrow’s show.

Plastic plants can tear up delicate fins like there’s no tomorrow exposing them to fin rot. Silk versions or the real thing would be preferable. Besides some tired bettas just like to lounge on broader leaves like you do in your recliner. Take the risk out of the reward by smart plantings.

Not understanding soap being deadly is the final point we’ll cover. Sure you want things sparkling clean and all. But soap isn’t the answer. You will do your fish a big favor to use white vinegar and water or diluted bleach solution to clean your aquatic gear. Then rinse well. Soap residue can leave your fish with a queasy feeling no matter how well you rinse. Which is why Mr. Clean isn’t your betta’s best bud.

The perverse thing about this is you don’t have to perfect all 17 to bring your betta’s life to an abrupt and untimely end. Any one of them has the potential to dramatically shorten the life span of your betta fish. Or you can pick and choose which one you want to go for this time. A bit of tongue in cheek here naturally. But it seems like some do this stuff subconsciously or something. Much to the chagrin of their game little fighting fish.

So if any of this sounds even remotely familiar, that may be the fat lady in the background doing vocal warm ups. Because while it ain’t over ’til it’s over, if you are doing any of the things on this list, it may well be over for your betta sooner than you might imagine.

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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4 Responses to “Deadly Betta Fish Life Span Shorteners”

  1. Teri Myers says:

    I really wished I had read this before I overfed & killed
    my betta he was a gorgeous blue & white half moon.
    Why do the people at the pet store not tell you
    that you can overfeed. They would inform you if
    it was a dog , cat or bird. Is a fish not as important.
    When I took him with me to the pet store they sold me
    medication for bacterial infection that did no good at all.
    So not only did I overfeed but I made him suffer
    treating him for an illness he did not have.

    Thank you for the info. I will take better care if my next
    one. It is just to bad Cloud had to suffer for my stupidity.

    • Lucas says:

      Sorry about Cloud. From what you write he did sound like a looker. Perhaps the person helping you at the pet store didn’t know the dangers of overfeeding. And you are right about over medicating. Or medicating with the wrong stuff. Happens all the time. Which is why water changes are the first thing I suggest. Here too, however, people want to feel they are doing something for their sick pet. And dumping in meds are indeed doing something. Cynically you could say the pet store made a few sales at the expense of your fish.

  2. Terri says:

    I just want to know if it will hurt my Betta to eat fresh vegetables if prepared properly. I have mine in a 10 gallon tank with a divider, filter and heater. I put 2 Cori type fish, one in each side. I have 2 tanks.
    Someone told me to try it, but I want to find out more about it, before I try anything.
    What do you think?

  3. Renee Phaneuf says:

    2 years ago, a lady at my office bought 3 bettas and put them in one of those tiny plastic tanks that have dividers leaving barely enough room for them to turn around. One of the fish died within a month, so she moved them into individual bowls, also very tiny. They were always cloudy, and the poor fish never moved around. The lady who bought the fish left the firm, but left the fish at the office. Two days later the second fish died. I then took it upon myself to make sure the remaining fish survived. Werner, the fish, !now has a 5 gallon tank all to himself with a heater and a filtration system. I am glad to hear that perhaps I’m not as crazy as my coworkers think for putting the effort and upgrading the system. I am concerned however that feeding him twice a day like the food instructions say is too much.

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