How do you know if your Betta fish is dying of old age? (2023)

Betta fish typically live to be 7 to 10 years old, during which time you'll no doubt form a bond, but unfortunately they can't live forever. As your betta fish gets old and nears the end of its life, there comes a time when you have to say goodbye. But when? This guide helps explainhow to tell if your betta fish is dying of old age.

The most common signs that your betta is dying of old age are lethargy, decreased swimming ability, decreased appetite and slowed breathing. You may also notice a decreased response to stimuli such as sound or movement. If you notice these symptoms along with physical signs of aging, it may be time to say goodbye.

You can tell your betta is getting old by looking at its scales. Age causes the scales on your betta's body to become thinner and less vibrant in color. In addition, an older betta's fins can become tattered or torn as a result of age-related ailments.

These changes in appearance let you know you have an old betta fish and it may soon be time to say goodbye to your beloved pet. There is no cure for old age, but there are ways to improve your betta's quality of life.

How do you know if your Betta fish is dying of old age? (1)

Make sure to read the rest of this article as I'll be covering each section in more detail below.

1. What is aging in fish

2. Signs that your betta fish is aging

3. How to improve your betta's quality of life as they age

4. Betta Fish Behavior Before Death.

5. Tips for saying goodbye to an old betta

Then be sure to check out ourbetta fish care guide.

How Do You Know If Your Betta Fish ...

What is aging in fish

Aging in fish is difficult to diagnose because it does not always have the same symptoms in every species.

All fish have an average lifespan that can vary depending on whether they were raised in captivity or in the wild.

It's important to familiarize yourself with how old your fish will generally get, as you don't want to keep them for much longer than usual as they are likely to be in pain and discomfort.

I'm sure you are probably aware of your betta's age, but if not, how old is your betta?

How old is my Betta fish

Knowing how old your betta fish is will help you understand if it is suffering from the decline caused by old age or some form of disease.

Fish raised in captivity will often have shorter lives compared to fish raised in the wild, but this is not often the case with bettas.

It's not easy to pinpoint the age of a betta fish, so it's best to find out the age when you buy it.

There are a few signs that you are better approaching later life, which will help them get to a tough age (within a few years), but this is not very helpful, especially if they have quite a few more years to live.

To guess the age of your betta fish, the best thing to do is visually inspect it for signs of fading, worn fins, and scales. Also, your betta may be less alert and uninterested in food. These are all signs of age and the changes are not sudden but very gradual.

Any sudden change in your betta fish could indicate illness or disease, which needs further investigation.

How do you know if your Betta fish is dying of old age? (2)

How Long Do Betta Fish Live

Betta fish usually live 3-5 yearsdepending on their environment. Captive betta fish tend to have longer lifespans than those in the wild. Betta fish in the wild have many predators to fend off and water conditions are less favorable.

Let's take a look at the differences and find out why bettas don't live as long in their natural environment.

Betta Fish Age In The Wild

In the wild, betta fish have the potential for longevity, but in reality many fish only live about 1-2 years. There are several reasons for this which I will discuss below.

Betta fish are native to Southeast Asia and live in shallow, stagnant ponds and slow-moving rivers. They have a labyrinthine organ to breathe air from the surface, which allows them to survive in poor water conditions.

Betta fish are also known as Siamese Fighting Fish because of their aggressive nature towards each other. Male betta fish are very territorial and will fight (often to the death), which greatly affects their potential lifespan.

Fish are very sensitive to their environment, and unless you have set up an aquarium that closely mimics the natural habitat of your fish species, they will often suffer from stress to some degree, not get the kind of diet they need, and suffer from disease suffering. or disease caused by poor water conditions.

Betta Fish Age In Captivity

Bettas live much longer in captivity due to better living conditions than those in the wild.

The average lifespan of a betta raised in captivity is 2-3 years, but can be up to 5 years if properly cared for in the right conditions. Some betta fish have lived up to 7 years, with one report of a 10-year-old betta!

Betta fish can live for many years. While betta fish are generally purchased when their beautiful fins have fully matured, they are often sold once their beautiful fin tufts have developed. Adult bettas will look their best and will be less prone to stress and illness in a new environment if transported as adults.

A male betta's fins are usually developed after 1 year, so the fish you bought will probably be a year old. Female betta fins are not as extravagant and often develop within 6 months and are sold from this age.

It's always a good idea to ask how old a fish is before purchasing, but often the retailer won't know the answer or will only provide a rough guide.

You can assume that a fully developed betta is 1 year or 6 months old when purchased.

Signs Your Betta Fish Is Getting Older

There are many health problems that older bettas can suffer from that you wouldn't necessarily expect to see in a young, healthy betta. You can't always see these conditions, but you may notice changes in their behavior.

Like humans, animals can suffer from organ failure and general poor health in old age as the immune system can begin to fail.

Some conditions to be aware of are:

  • Kidney failure (dropsy)– Fairly common in old bettas and can manifest in a variety of ways, such as fluid retention and lethargy. A buildup of fluid can cause your betta to swell and look bloated.Pine cone scales(scales protruding from the body) may be noticeable along with skin lesions.
  • Bacterial infection- All fish are susceptible to bacterial infections, but old bettas may be more prone to it with a weakened immune system.
  • Swim bladder problems– The swim bladder affects buoyancy and your betta cannot swim well without it.
  • Betta Fin Rot- A skin infection affecting the fins and scales, often caused by fighting, but a weakened immune system may be the cause.
How do you know if your Betta fish is dying of old age? (3)

Any disease should be taken seriously, because the cause of the disease may not be due to old age. An old betta will generally show a very gradual change in its health, slowing down over many months.

Here are some other factors to consider when determining if your betta is getting old:

  • General behavioral changes– As betta fish get older, they are much less curious and much less aggressive. Aggression is often a territorial behavior seen in younger betta fish that are sexually active. Betta fish are often mellow in their old age, so you may notice less flaring and other aggressive behavior.
  • Lack of alertness or decreased response to stimuli –An older betta may be less alert or less responsive to things going on around it. Betta fish are quite intelligent and will respond to manystimuli, such as soundsor movements.
  • Mobility– How fast they swim and how much exercise they get. An older betta will show signs of slowing down.
  • Eyesight and slow reactions– How well can your betta see objects in the aquarium? Vision and sensitivity to objects may decrease with age.
  • Signs of aging in your betta's scales– Older scales are thinner and more transparent. They will be a slightly lighter color and lack the vibrancy that younger fish have.
  • Torn or torn fins– Fins of older fish can become tattered or show small cracks for no apparent reason.
  • Loss of appetite– As a fish's body slows down, it doesn't need as much food.
  • Frequent breathing- If you notice that your betta is breathing faster or more frequently and your tank's water parameters are within an acceptable range, this could be a very bad sign that your betta is close to death.
  • sleeping often- Your betta may take regular naps later in life.
  • A curved back- As betta fish age, a hump sometimes forms along their back, giving your betta a curved appearance.
  • Stops making bubble nests- Another sign that a betta is getting old is if they stop making bubble nests. Old betta fish are less likely to show signs of sexual interest, such as building bubble nests.

A betta that exhibits many of the symptoms listed above is most likely reaching the last few weeks or months of its life. Many of these signs, especially when combined, are often related to aging and can be warning signs that it will soon be time to say goodbye.

That said, don't assume that a sick fish is always age-related. If your betta shows no other signs of aging, a sick betta is often treatable and can live for many months or years.

How to improve your betta's quality of life as they age

If you've determined that your betta is starting to decline, it's best to make sure they have the best possible quality of life in their final months.

You can do this in the following ways:

  • Make them feel comfortablebettabowl big enoughso they can swim freely.
  • Avoid poor water quality.Always keep the water cleanby regularly removing waste and not overfeeding your fish.
  • Lower the water level so it's easier for your betta to draw air from the surface when it needs to.
  • Provide your betta with hiding places to ensure their comfort.
  • Don't put them with other fish that they can bully.
  • Make sure they have adequate filtration and a heater.
  • You can also give your betta an occasional treat that improves their quality of life, such as live food or vegetation.
  • Keep track of how long your betta has been alive and how old they are; this way you know when it's time to go.

There are many ways to say goodbye to your aging betta, and by following these tips, you are sure to say goodbye to your aging pet with dignity.

How do you know if your Betta fish is dying of old age?

Betta fish often exhibit certain behaviors before they die, like all other fish and living creatures.

If you're sure your betta is old, it's best not to interfere in these final stages of your betta's life and instead just keep them as comfortable as possible.

A few examples of betta fish pre-death behavior include:

  • Completelylack of interest in food.
  • Swimming sideways or upside down.
  • Your betta can stay at the top of the tank all the time.
  • Your betta can sit or lie down at the base of their tank.
  • Respiration will increase rapidly as organs begin to fail.
  • The color may fade from them due to a lack of oxygen.

You will probably find that your betta fish is now peaceful. The death process can be slow, but it's normal for it to happen when your betta is ready.

How do you know if your Betta fish is suffering?

It's important to make sure your betta fish is comfortable and not suffering in its final days or hours. It is normal to put down a suffering animal, and it should be the same for a fish.

If you've had your betta for a long time, you'll know what its natural behavior is and when it's unwell. A peaceful betta fish usually sits still or hides in a quiet place, but if it is suffering or in pain, your betta will dart around the tank, often swimming into objects that can cause injury.

If your betta is having trouble swimming because of a swim bladder disorder, which I discussed earlier, or if they are just too weak, this is likely causing anxiety and suffering. You can try lowering the filter current to reduce the current or turn it off altogether.

If your betta is suffering due to the complication of infection or disease, it may be more humane to consider euthanizing your fish. Find outhow to humanely and painlessly euthanize a betta fishto avoid unnecessary suffering.


Many fish owners don't care much about the intricacies of their betta's life and health and will wait until they float to the top of the tank before removing and discarding them. Some owners will interact more, feel more connected to their betta and want to give them the best final phase of their lives.

Whichever type of owner you are, it's always good to know if your betta fish is old or young and if a disease is preventable and treatable or more likely due to old age.

Bacteria or parasites in your betta tank can infect other fish or live plants and can be avoided. An old betta may be susceptible to very low levels of bacteria that are harmless to other, younger fish.

I hope this post has given you some helpful tips on the signs of old age in betta fish and how to tell if a betta fish is dying of old age.

As pet owners, we should all want to do the best for every pet we own, and this should be especially true at the end of their lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

A betta that dies of old age will likely look battered and old. Betta fish lose their bright, vibrant colors as they age and generally slow down in everything they do.

You can usually tell when your betta fish will die, as they will stop performing their usual life-supporting tasks, such as eating. They may suffer from internal organ failure and may show physical signs of bloating or may not be able to swim properly if their swim bladder becomes compromised. Normal life cannot be maintained this way and your betta will soon die.


How do you know if your Betta fish is dying of old age? ›

Lethargy is a common behavior in older betta fish. If your betta fish isn't responding to environmental stimuli and is constantly resting, it's a sign that it's dying. Betta fish are usually energetic and responsive pets, which usually respond to noise or when you approach the tank as environmental stimuli.

How do I know if my fish died of old age? ›

Initially, it will try to get away from its tormentors or bite back, but right near the end, it will stop resisting and its fins will become torn. It may also develop some spots as its immune system stops functioning. Then, it will get very lethargic and likely be found dead in the morning.

What does an elderly betta look like? ›

You might notice that with every day, your betta seems to be getting paler or even with daily feeding your fish gets skinnier. These are signs of an aging betta. Tip: As a betta ages, its back may also begin to arch. An old betta's back is usually humped, while a younger betta's back is more straight.

How do I help a dying betta? ›

Clean the tank once every three days. Add either Ampicillin or Tetracycline into the water to treat it. Repeat until your fish's fin ceases to show signs that it is still losing tissue. Put some fungus eliminator in the water to facilitate recovery.

What happens when a betta dies? ›

In some exceptional cases, when a betta fish dies, this means the blood circulation and heartbeats are stopped. But there remains Oxygen in the float among the betta fish body. After the death of betta, fish tissue gradually breaks down. It also adds more gas, especially in the gastrointestinal tract.

Why is my fish not moving but still alive? ›

If fish are experiencing acute stress (i.e., gasping up at the surface, lying on the bottom and not moving, or darting around the aquarium), you can be pretty sure that the water has been poisoned in some way. Maybe cleaning sprays got into the aquarium, or something released toxins into the water.

How long does a betta live? ›

In the wild, they are less territorial due to the large space they live in - they will only spar, not fight to the death. Betta fish grow to be no longer than 3 inches, typically. Their usual lifespan is 2-5 years.

Is my betta fish dead or sleeping? ›

To put it simply, dead fish don't breathe. So, look closely at your betta's mouth and gills. Even during sleep, you should notice your betta draw water in through its mouth and out through the gills. Speaking of which, during sleep, the mouth and gill movement of your betta will be much slower than when it is awake.

What does a sick betta look like? ›

Keep an eye on your betta's fins.

In a healthy betta, its fins will be whole. An unhealthy betta may develop holes or rips in its fins. Another unhealthy sign is if your betta's fins appear clamped down to the body; that is, they aren't fanned out properly.

How old are Petsmart betta fish? ›

The average betta lives about three years. However, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll have your Betta that long. Why? Because a Betta purchased at a pet shop is often one year old already.

How old is the longest living betta fish? ›

The longest-living betta fish in the world was about 10 years. The oldest betta fish in the world was 10 years old. Several people claim to have had betta fish live for 6 years or longer.

Do betta fish feel pain when they die? ›

Fish out of water are unable to breathe, and they slowly suffocate and die. Just as drowning is painful for humans, this experience is most likely painful for fish.

How can you tell if a fish is dying? ›

Staying near the water-surface or piping ('gasping' or mouthing for air) Increased respiratory rate or laboured breathing. Flashing (scraping/scratching themselves against objects) Clamped fins (fins held flat against the body).

Can overfeeding cause betta fish to die? ›

Overfeeding can end up killing your betta fish if not corrected in time. When a betta's stomach is full, digestive juices start to digest the food inside. If this continues for too long, the food will start to rot and produce toxins that can poison your fish.

How do you revive a weak betta fish? ›

If your Betta fish is dying, you can try moving them to a hospital tank and adding aquarium salt to it. This can revive your fish and help prevent them from dying.

Why is my betta laying at the bottom of the tank? ›

Poor Tank Conditions. If you're not seeing other signs of stress, a Betta may be listless and laying at the bottom all the time because it lives in too small of an aquarium and/or is being kept in poor water conditions.

Do betta fish like light in their tank? ›

Do Betta Fish like Light? Yes, they won't like anything too intense, but a standard aquarium light is perfect. Bettas also love aquarium plants, which need an aquarium light to grow and survive.

What to do when your fish dies? ›

Any dead fish should be removed, as its body will quickly rot in the warm, bacteria-laden water. A corpse will pollute water, risking the health of other fish in the tank. If it died from disease the last thing you want is other fish consuming its body parts, so remove immediately.

Why does my fish look dead but is still breathing? ›

In many cases, the fish isn't actually dead but rather suffering from a problem with their swim bladder due to overfeeding. There are plenty of warnings about overfeeding fish, but many people are unaware of just how easy it is to overfeed.

Do dead fish float or sink? ›

After the fish dies there is no more DO being ingested and the air in the bladder starts to dissipate, causing the fish to sink to the bottom. After a few days, the internal organs of the dead fish decompose and a gas is formed. This gas causes the fish to once again float.

Why is my fish playing dead? ›

Some species play dead to fool other fish, often targeting scavengers as a food source. The Central American cichlid is a perfect example. In other species, though, this behavior might hint at a health issue.

How long do Petsmart betta fish live? ›

Betta fish live for an average of three years long. If they live in ideal conditions with the best care, it can sometimes be longer. Keep in mind that they may already be six months to a year old by the time they make it to the pet store.

Do old bettas sleep a lot? ›

Why Do Bettas Sleep a Lot? In the fish kingdom, bettas fall in the more lazy spectrum, requiring longer rest periods than many other pet fish. Their long, ornate fins take a lot of energy to pull through the water, a feature that many other pet fish do not have.

What is the life stage of betta fish? ›

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.

Do betta fish have feelings? ›

Betta fish can experience frustration and depression. While most of them can be happy in a tank alone, their environment still needs plenty of enrichment, such as caves, plants, and room to explore. They also experience stress—especially when their fins are picked at by other noncompatible fish placed in the same tank.

When should I be worried about my betta fish? ›

Here are some things to watch for: Fin Rot: The fins or tail appear shredded. Ich: White spots on the fish's body. Velvet: The fish is not eating or scratching itself on objects in its tank.

What does a stressed betta fish look like? ›

Strange Swimming: When fish are stressed, they often develop odd swimming patterns. If your fish is swimming frantically without going anywhere, crashing at the bottom of his tank, rubbing himself on gravel or rocks, or locking his fins at his side, he may be experiencing significant stress.

What is the best medicine for betta fish? ›

BETTAFIX™ API® BETTAFIX fish remedy is an all-natural, antibacterial fish remedy for Bettas that should be used whenever your Betta exhibits signs of disease, such as wounds, ulcers, mouth fungus, fin & tail rot, slimy patches, and cottony growths.

Do vets see betta fish? ›

Call ahead to the veterinary practice to make sure they include fish among the patients they treat. Then you can feel more comfortable that the experience will be a positive one.” If you have any questions about your fish and their veterinary care, contact your local veterinarian.

How long do betta fish live in a 3 gallon tank? ›

How Long Can Betta Fish Live in a Fishbowl? Betta fish can live for a maximum of 12 months in a fishbowl. Fishbowls do not meet betta's 3-gallon tank requirement and are not ideal for bettas. You'll frequently have to change your fishbowl's water if you choose to keep your betta fish in one.

How long do betta fish live in a 5 gallon tank? ›

In a tank smaller than 5 gallons, your betta won't live out his full life span. In an aquarium, a betta should live for 3 to 5 years. In a cramped 2.5-gallon tank, your betta won't live as long.

What color betta lives the longest? ›

There is some speculation that the red and blue veil tail Bettas are the hardiest and live longest simply because they haven't been selectively bred as extensively.

Do betta fish turn white as they age? ›

Unfortunately, betta fish may only live for two to three years. A minor loss in color is typical if your healthy betta is around this age. So betta turning white, in this case, is perfectly normal. Age-related color loss in bettas is a normal process.

How many times should I feed my betta fish? ›

Betta fish should be fed twice a day. You can take a small pinch of food in the morning, and a small pinch in the evening. You should make sure you do not overfeed them. Extra food will become waste and generate toxins when they sit in the bottom of the tank.

When should you put a fish down? ›

When Disease occurs: The most appropriate time to consider euthanasia, is when a disease occurs. In cases when diseases are highly contagious, or very hard to treat or even untreatable, then the old adage of one bad apple in the barrel, can be synonymous with one sick fish in the tank.

What to do after betta fish died? ›

You can create a safe and effective cleaning solution by mixing 1 part vinegar with 10 parts water and using it to wipe down the inside of the tank. This cleaner will remove any algae or other build-up from the tank's walls.

Why are my fish dying one by one? ›

There are many reasons why fish in your tank keep dying. A few reasons include stress, incorrect tank setup, overfeeding, diseases, and much more. To a beginner, it could look like your fish died for no reason whatsoever.

Should I remove a dying fish? ›

This is a quick answer: Take the dead fish as soon as possible outside the tank. If the dead fish is floating on the water surface, it means that it releases toxic compounds due to decomposition of the organic matter. And this means that it's poisoning the aquarium water where other fish swim.

Can a dying fish be revived? ›

Sadly, a dead fish cannot be revived. However, all is not lost if you have lifeless fillets aging somewhere in your freezer since last summer.

What does a starving betta fish look like? ›

When bettas are hungry, their eyes become clear and their stomachs begin to protrude outwards. If your betta is hungry and you can see its stomach, then they're definitely in need of a meal. Another thing to look out for if you think your betta is hungry is if they are hiding more often than normal.

How old can a betta fish live? ›

What is the life expectancy of betta? ›

Betta fish grow to be no longer than 3 inches, typically. Their usual lifespan is 2-5 years. They have brilliantly colored fins, and various tail types. Common colors include red, blue, black, white and orange.

Why can't I keep a betta fish alive? ›

Poor water conditions: Clean water is a must for any fish, especially bettas. Low water temperatures: Bettas are tropical fish and need water temps between 75 and 80°F. Overfeeding: Excess food can kill your fish. Harassment by tank mates: Aggression—both from or directed at a betta—can reduce its lifespan.

When should I worry about my betta fish? ›

Here are some things to watch for: Fin Rot: The fins or tail appear shredded. Ich: White spots on the fish's body. Velvet: The fish is not eating or scratching itself on objects in its tank.

How long can betta fish go without food? ›

How Long Can Betta Fish Survive Without Food? Most betta fish can survive anywhere between 10-14 days without food. Even though betta fish are generally picky eaters, they have a stomach as small as their eyes, so they don't need a lot of food to survive.

Do dying fish float or sink? ›

Most fish sink to the bottom of their habitats when they die but they become more buoyant as the process of decomposition takes over. Most fish are slightly denser than water, so sink immediately after death.

What color betta fish lives the longest? ›

Did you know? When you see older Betta fish, they interestingly tend to be of the veil tail variety. There is some speculation that the red and blue veil tail Bettas are the hardiest and live longest simply because they haven't been selectively bred as extensively.

What is the white stuff on dead betta fish? ›

Fungal infections are one of the most common disorders for fish. Fungal spores naturally populate fish tanks, but sick, stressed or injured fish can cause a dangerous increase. These infections manifest as a white cotton-wool-like growth on the skin, mouth, fins or gills.


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