How Long Do Betta Fish Live As Pets?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 16, 2023
3 min read

Whether you’re considering getting a pet betta fish or you already have one, understanding the lifespan of betta fish will help you know what to expect. Knowing how to keep your betta fish healthy and care for them properly can help them live a longer life.

Fish as a species have general needs, but betta fish — also known as Siamese fighting fish — are unique and need even more specific care. Because they come in a variety of colors and are typically cheap to purchase, they make popular pets. But, many people don’t realize the commitment they’re making when choosing betta fish as a pet. 

Betta fish lifespan. Betta fish on average live to be 2-4 years old. The length of your betta fish’s life is directly related to the environment you keep them in. By maintaining a clean tank and watching their diet, you can help them live a longer life.

The role of tank quality. Betta fish are primarily presented in pet stores in small, vase-like jars that allow the roots of plants to extend into the water. This is because of their aggressive, territorial nature. Keeping betta fish separated is the best way to keep them healthy in the short term.

However, a small container is not enough to allow your betta fish to thrive. In fact, betta fish require at least 2 cubic feet of space in a tank to be healthy. The bigger the tank, the better.

Keep your betta fish’s water clean but not sterile. Your fish need good bacteria to grow in the water to help maintain their health. Live plants also contribute to good water quality. When you change the water in the tank, only do 10%-15% at a time to allow for the introduction of fresh water without shocking your pet’s system with a dramatic change.

Nutrition for your betta fish. While other pet fish are content to have flakes of fish food, this won't do for betta fish. In the wild, they hunt insects to eat. Special pellets are designed to provide betta fish with the specific nutrition they need. Vets also recommend you supplement their diet with treats like:

  • Freeze-dried tubifex worms
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp

The following tips can help your betta fish live as long as possible.

Maintain a low-stress environment. Stress affects all of us, and betta fish feel it, too. Seeing rival fish in their tank or in a nearby tank can cause stress. This is because betta fish may perceive a threat but not feel like they can avoid the other fish or escape. For the same reason, male betta fish cannot be housed together.

All fish like to hide, so betta fish need real or plastic plants to nestle between when they need a break or want to hide. If you have other pets, like cats or dogs, keep them away from the tank so your betta fish doesn’t feel threatened.

Consider which breeds share a tank. Talk to your local pet store or veterinarian about which other fish breeds are compatible with betta fish. You may also consider the difference in having male versus female fish. If your betta doesn’t adjust to life with another fish, try a bigger tank or separate tanks. 

When you adopt a new fish, keep them separated for about a week. By ensuring that your new fish is healthy, you can avoid spreading diseases to your current betta fish. This also allows time to acclimate to a new environment. 

Find a fish veterinarian. You may not think that your betta fish can get sick, but it is possible. If you want your betta fish to live a long, healthy life, keep in contact with a vet in your area who is familiar with bettas. Because not all veterinarians treat fish, you’ll want to do some research and find a specialist in your area.

Signs of betta fish illnesses. Signs of possible sickness include:

  • Being disoriented
  • Swimming in an odd pattern or upside down
  • Not eating
  • White spots appearing on scales or gills
  • Discoloration
  • Trouble breathing, indicated by staying at the surface of the water
  • Bulging eyes
  • Mucus appearing on the body
  • Rubbing against hard surfaces
  • Isolating from other fish
  • Sores
  • Bloating
  • Change in shape, size, or appearance

If you have any concerns about your fish’s health, check with your veterinarian. Illnesses that can affect beta fish include:

  • Physical injury
  • Parasites 
  • Bacterial infections 
  • Fungal infections 
  • Fish pox (wart-like growths) caused by a fish herpes virus 
  • Ammonia or chlorine poisoning due to poor water quality