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Betta fish are hardy pets that are quite easy to care for, the reason most aquarist desire to own at least one. Plus they are intelligent and easy to get attached to.
It’s, therefore, sad to think your betta will one day leave your tank and not come back. Hence, you most likely will do anything to get an extra year or two with your pet.
That said, let’s explore the life of a betta fish; lifespan, life cycle and 6 ways to give yours a longer healthier life.
The Lifespan and Life Cycle of A Betta Fish
Betta fish natural lifespan is 3-4 years with some bettas know to live for 5 years. I personally know of one that lived for 3.5 years. All this while living out of 5-gallon bowl and natured by a teenager with no clue on how to care for a fish.
That said, I’d be surprised to find a betta that lived 6+ years, I don’t think there are really built to live that long.
But how well you nature your betta fish will determine how long he lives. So it’s quite obvious you can extend the average lifespan by one or two years above the average.
Talking of life, this is the general life cycle of any betta:
#1 — Parental Romance
A male betta should build a bubble nest in 2 to 3 days after he is ready to breed.
During spawning, the male and female betta curl their bodies together under the bubble nest, the female lays her eggs, and the male fertilizes them.
When breeding bettas, to achieve the desired characteristic, you will require some knowledge on the lineage of both the male and female. Also for better spawning conditions, a bowl with plants and proper hiding spaces is recommended.
The depth of the water used should not exceed 6 inches so that any hatched fry that tends to sink can come up to the surface to breathe.
Use yucca and tropical almond leaf extract in the spawning vessel to rid body waste.
However, though breeding bettas might be a wonderful hobby, it should not be taken lightly. Only if you have abundant time, resources, knowledge, and commitment will this be a rewarding experience.
#2 — Infancy
Betta eggs hatch within 36 hours but fry stay in the bubble nest until they’ve absorbed their yolk sacks at about 5 days. More than 600 eggs can come from a single spawn, meaning you could end up caring for more than 500 betta fish if most survive!
During this period, you may need to adjust your feeding schedule to reduce the risk of the male eating the eggs and fry. Some breeders will not feed their fish at all during this time while others will feed him a small amount of food every second day.
After five days, either the dad or fry babies should be moved from the breeding tank. When the fry settle in their own space, they will remain in a stage called free swimming or fry stage till their gills are replaced by labyrinth organs at 3 to 6 week.
Fry in free swimming stage needs to feed on baby fish living food many times a day. Infusoria, microworms and baby brine shrimp make the perfect diet.
#3 — Youth
By the time the fry have fully developed labyrinth organs, they already are juvenile bettas, only with immature sexual organs. The fins will continue to develop, and the colors will change till they achieve their natural hue at around 3 months of age.
Their behavior will also change plus the territorial tendencies will begin to manifest particularly in male fry. They will become aggressive to their own kind and any fish that look similar.
When male fry begins fighting, remove them from the tank and place them individually close to each to ensure they don’t get depressed.
All this while make sure you place your bettas in appropriate grow tanks and make sure the temperature and water are the same as what they are used to.
At about one month, you can gradually start switching the diet to frozen-dried and pellet food. However, make sure the food is crushed small enough for their tiny mouths.
Eventually, anytime from 10 to 11 weeks most fry will begin to display adult traits meaning it’s the best time to decide what to do with them if you have more than you can rare.
#4 — Adulthood
The adult life of betta begins pretty early. At between three and 12 months of age they will be virtually adults but only at one year will they completely become sexually and behaviorally mature.
From here onwards, you must keep male bettas from each other and any other long finned fish. The color should be completely developed and relatively stable.
Adulthood is also the period that most constitute the lifespan of a well cared for betta fish. So, anywhere from three months, you can literally start counting down the years given the average life expectancy.
One way to tell old age is setting in is when your betta fish colors start fading or changing slightly.
5 Tips to Increase The Lifespan of Your Betta Fish
There is no doubt that bettas are beautiful with flowing fins and brilliant colors and are fairly easy to care for. But if you want to extend the life of your fish, you need to understand their natural setting.
It’s believed that bettas were first discovered in Thailand over 100 years ago, so they generally are native to the tropical lands in the East.
They are found in still and slow-flowing water with thick vegetation. The water is generally fresh with a pH range of 6.0 to 8.0 in a tropical climate with a temperature range 75°F to 80°F.
A unique feature in betta fish, other than the colors and fins, is their labyrinth organ this help them get oxygen from either in water or on the surface.
Periodically, you’ll see your betta swim to the surface of the aquarium and gulp air. This conveniently allows them to thrive even in small bowls without any additional air supply.
With those basics, let’s get into the hacks.
#1. Feed Your Betta a Proper Diet but Do NOT Overfeed
In the wild, bettas are seen nipping at plant roots but mostly eat small insects, crustaceans and eggs from other fish. However, with aquarium betta, you should consider them entirely carnivorous.
So, to improve the life of your betta, feed him the appropriate food with the proper dietary value. This, because the diet you provide your betta affects their growth rate, color, and lifespan
Unfortunately, bettas are notoriously known to overfeed which is a major cause of many untimely deaths. It is therefore paramount to feed your fish food it can eat in a minute.
To put things into perspective, the stomach of a fish is about the size of its eye, so only a small amount of food is necessary. One or two pellets or a few small flakes are good enough.
Feed your fish once a day with floating food designed to meet the nutritional needs of bettas. Ideally, flake or pellet food rich in proteins and fats is perfect.
Just in case you left on vacation and are worried because you forgot to feed your betta, breath easy coz fish can live for two weeks without food. Actually, you are more likely to kill your betta by overfeeding than starving him.
That said, next time you leave for more than a week, set up an automatic fish feeding machine or have a friend feed him.
#2. House Your Betta in a Clean Tank
Since bettas have a reputation to survive harsh conditions, there is a myriad of myths been thrown about. Hence, bursting some of this fallacies could be the key to extending your betta’s lifespan.
For one, dirty aquarium water is a very easy way to kill your fish. And the water doesn’t just have to be visibly dirty, chemicals from decomposing fish water and uneaten food will contaminate the tank rendering the water toxic.
Plus even though bettas can survive in a small quantity of water, putting too much food will poison the water and kill your fish.
So, to keep your fish alive, you should change at least half the water in your betta bowl or tank every 3 to 5 days.
Follow these steps:
- Fill one container with cold clean water and another with hot water. Mix the hot and cold water until it is the same temperature as the water in your aquarium.
- Add water conditioner to the hot and cold water mix to remove any disinfectants used in tap water that might be toxic to your fish.
- Remove half of the water in your fish tank. In case you want to change all the water from your aquarium and clean the tank, transfer your betta to the container.
- Using the clean water with conditioner refill your fish tank with to the normal level.
Be that as it may, you don’t need to worry so much though, bettas are not very dirty. Unlike goldfish that produce a lot of ammonia hence require hefty filters to keep the water clean. Bettas will only require the weekly water change, and on occasion, a change every other week is sufficient.
#3. Get a Heater for Your Betta Tank
Another misconception is betta can survive in room temperature, which is not completely wrong. They can somehow survive but if you can call it living.
You water should be at least 75°F to behold the beauty of this fish since bettas will swim less if the water is too cold.
If we could go back to betta natural habitat, waters in the tropics -including those in Thailand- are naturally heated due to the region’s climate. So, if you live in colder areas it’s important to use a heater in your tank.
#4. Build a Perfect Home for Betta
One advantage of keeping betta fish is you can put them in small bowls.I recommend housing yours in at least 5 gallons of water.
It’s also not fun to have a large tank considering your betta may get quite lonely. Betta fish only grow to a maximum of three inches long from mouth to tail tip, so a big tank doesn’t make sense especially for a betta rared in solitary.
Add decorations to your betta tank or bowl and use a gravel base about an inch deep. Not only will the gravel add beauty but also act as a filter for uneaten food and excrement.
Another decoration chop is to add plants. Naturally, bettas love vegetation which provides them with plenty of hiding spot especially if you have a group of females.
Plus plants improve the oxygen levels in your betta tank, which just like in humans good clean air will improve the life of your fish.
Some good plants to include in your betta tank are anacharis and java moss. Should you decide to decorate your tank or bowl with artificial plants, use silk type plants.
Bettas have very delicate fins and using hard, plastic plants with jagged ends will shred the fins, especially when your Betta likes to swim through the plants.
#5. Choose Your Betta Fish Wisely
Bettas are available in many different colors with long sleek fins and wide crowns. But take time when selecting your fish from a store because some health issue can hide within the differences.
You don’t want to bring a sick fish home since other than the betta having a short miserable life, it will most likely infect other fish in your aquarium.
Also, make sure you buy your fish from a reputable pet store.
Pale color, ripped fins, injuries and bulging eyes are classic signs of bad health in bettas.
You should, as well, consider buying a less aggressive betta especially if you are going to place it with other nippers (Which is a terrible idea by the way).
Betta fish will always want to revenge the slightest clip from fin nippers or respond to threat harshly. This way, the fish will always get into fights with and consequently lower his chance of a long life.
However, aggression in bettas is entirely depended on genetics and there is no exact way to tell how belligerent a particular betta fish can get.
But, you can start by finding out from the pet store whether a fish you like has a bad reputation, assuming the seller will be honest with you.
The other way would be to watch how he acts when you give him food. You could also allow the betta to see himself in a mirror and see how he reacts.
To test if your betta will make a good companion, put another fish in a bag and place it in the aquarium. If the betta only gets agitated but doesn’t bite the bag, that’s a good sign.
If he tries to bite the bag, he is definitely one that likes to hang alone.
#6. Choose Betta Fish Tankmates Wisely
Betta fish have a reputation for being feisty, territorial and all-around badass tank mates. For starters, never put two male bettas in the same tank they will literary fight to the death.
Male bettas, however, will live even with more than one female betta. Unfortunately, while females are more interactive in a community tank, they aren’t as attractive as their male counterparts and tend to be a less popular choice.
You also don’t want to put male bettas with other nippers. Bettas usually attack scales, gills or tails and will respond if bitten. Plus territorial fish are not ideal meaning they cant be roomies with gourami and cichlids
Bigger fish and colorful fish could also be seen to be intimidating and you seriously don’t want to intimidate a fighting fish!
Some ideal tank mates would be cory catfish, guppies, African dwarf frog, kuhli loaches and ghost shrimp. Although some of them could spend half their lives been chased around the tank. So, closely observe them, make sure no fish is living in stress.
Finally, bettas living with other fish is dependant on having enough space for all the fish. A setup that is at least 20 gallons is recommended plus make sure your betta has at least 5 gallons of personal water space.
Given these 6 hacks your betta will have a better chance of living a little longer than expected.
However, since there are many different reasons you would want to know the lifespan of betta fish.Here are answers FAQs closely related to the lifespan of a betta.
FAQs About Betta Fish
#1 How Long Can a Betta Fish Live in a Fishbowl?
A betta fish will live in a fishbowl although not as long as it would in a bigger more appropriate tank or aquarium. Generally, it will live one to two years on average but if well cared for can live even up to to 3 years.
Since betta is labyrinth fish, they will survive in little water and oxygen situations akin to a fishbowl environment. At the least, better than fish without labyrinth organs.
However it’s paramount to keep your fishbowl clean and free of toxins. Plus closely monitor the temperature in the bowl coz unlike aquariums, they are technically harder to keep warm.
#2 How Do You Know if a Betta Fish is Dying?
There is no definitive way to tell if your betta is dying, but you can tell when he is sick. Plus if your betta is over 3 years old, there are going to be signs of burn out.
If you suspect you betta fish is sick, here are the things to look out for even before you call your Vet.
- Watch out for faded colors: When a betta fish gets sick, his color may look faded. This is one of the classic traits that your betta is not Ok. However, it doesn’t mean your betta is sick every time his color fades. If you are in the habit of changing over 90 percent of the water in your aquarium, your betta may fade when trying to adjust. Or maybe your betta is just outright old, that too can make his color fade.
- Watch out for changes in the fins: A healthy betta should have whole fanned out fins. So any holes or rips in the fins or if the fins appear clamped down to the body is a sign something is not right.
- Watch your betta’s eating habits: If your betta is uninterested in food or has stopped eating, especially if it’s a good feeder, he could be sick.
- Keep an eye on his movement: If your betta won’t move or is lethargic, something could be wrong. However, this is hard to tell if your betta lives in a small bowl or tank since there is not much room to work with. Lethargy results with low energy levels and is characterized by slow movement. You betta may also stay at the bottom of the tank or hide in one of his toys.
- Look out for white spots: Ich, which appears as little white spots around the head, body, and mouth of a betta fish, is a common illness. Ich is a parasite and may untimely kill your betta if not treated properly. So call your vet with the first sign of the spots for proper treatment and care.
Do Betta Fish Get Lonely?
Betta fish, particularly males are aggressive and mostly don’t do well with tank mates, they are quite content with living in solitary.
However, like all bettas they enjoy a few plants and other toys in the tank. That way they have spaces where they get a little privacy once a while.
It’s also not that bettas have poor manners, but rather they simply do not like nor need company hence their lack of friends doesn’t make them bored.
Hence you can throw in a couple of other fish in your aquarium with your betta. Just make sure they are good companions.
Do Bettas Recognize Their Owners?
Bettas are intelligent, and while they can’t recognize their owner explicitly, they can be trained.
Plus bettas can learn tricks like following a finger around the bowl, swimming through hopes or pushing a ball into a goal. Obviously, if you are the one teaching him the tricks, he will recognize you over time.
With time, betta fish will be able to recognize the person who feeds them, and whenever that person is in front of the aquarium the fish will get excited.
Have fun with your betta