Male bettas are brightly-colored fish with large fins, and many pet stores market them as fish that can live in very small enclosures. Unfortunately this can significantly reduce their life expectancy. With proper care, however, bettas can live for several years. Male and female bettas have similar lifespans.
Average Life Expectancy
On average, bettas live about three years in captivity. However, they can live up to five years, and there have been a few instances of bettas living as long as seven years. The care your betta received before you purchased him may affect his life expectancy if he has been exposed to diseases and parasites. Sensitive husbandry, proper diet and prompt medical care when necessary can all increase your betta's life expectancy.
Factors Affecting Health
Water quality is the single most important factor determining your betta's health. Bettas need water that is room temperature or slightly above -- usually about 73 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. When water is too cold, your fish is more susceptible to disease and may stop eating. Clean water free of chlorine will ensure that your betta is not susceptible to diseases and skin problems. Diet is also an important factor. Bettas can survive fine on fish flakes, but thrive when fed a variety of fresh, live foods such as brine shrimp or small feeder fish.
Causes of Death
When bettas die prematurely, poor husbandry is often to blame. Male bettas are especially susceptible to poor husbandry because they are much more likely to be sold in small containers and marketed as bowl fish. Females may be marketed as typical aquarium fish. Male bettas' large, fragile fins are more likely to become infected because of unclean water or rough handling. Bettas may be exposed to illnesses at pet stores or bred by unscrupulous breeders and born with genetic defects. Popeye, a disease that causes bulging eyes, is an infection that frequently kills bettas. While bacterial infections and viruses may cause popeye, the most common cause of this dangerous illness is dirty water.
Betta Health Care
It can be difficult to find competent veterinary care for fish. However, many cities have veterinarians trained in fish care, and the best way to ensure your betta lives a long life is to get him proper medical care when he show symptoms of disease such as bulging eyes, torn fins or changes in behavior. If a fish veterinarian is not available, fish specialty stores may be able to help you diagnose the cause of the disease. Many pet stores sell antibiotics for fish, but you should only use these products if you know your fish has an infection. The first line of defense if your betta is sick should always be to thoroughly clean the tank and ensure the water is the proper temperature.
- First Tank Guide: Betta Care Basics
- How to Care for Betta Fish Like an Expert; David Chipperfield
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.