How Long Can a Betta Fish Live Out of Water?

Many times, you get into situations where you unwantedly end up having your pet fish living out of water. It can be when your tank gets broken suddenly and you don’t have any treated water prepared, or the tank water gets too harmful for your fish and you need to move the fish out of it immediately, or if your fish is too fond of jumping outside the tank, or several other reasons.

We know the first thing that strikes your mind right that moment is how long will your fish be able to survive without water. You don’t want to end up taking the life of your so beloved pet. And so, when it’s a life and death situation, getting the right information is all that matters. Thus, we’re here with all the information a betta fish owner would need during such trouble.

On average, a betta can survive for up to 1 to 2 hours maximum out of water. It is not usually possible for a betta fish to survive longer than that. Even surviving for 30 minutes is rare too. Some weak betta fishes can only live up to 3 to 4 minutes outside water.

Aren’t you having tons of other questions in your mind followed by how long can a betta fish live without water? Keep reading to get all your answers.

How Long Can a Betta Fish Live Out of Water?

A betta fish can survive out of the water quite longer than many other aquarium fishes. Many times, a betta fish will still be observed breathing even after 1 or 2 hours of being out of water. However, if the betta is kept outside for that long, its gills will get damaged and it will still die gradually after you put it in the water.

A betta can live out of water for a maximum of 10 minutes without causing any significant damage to their health. Though it is not guaranteed, some small and weak betta fish might even die within 3 to 4 minutes. It depends on the capability of the fish to tolerate atmospheric air.

Moreover, it also depends on the type and quality of the atmospheric air around it. Usually, based on its South Asian origin, it is estimated that bettas can live longer out of water in moist atmospheric conditions. Hence, the wise thing to do would be to put your betta into the water as soon as possible instead of waiting for its health to deteriorate.

Can Betta Survive Out of Water?

A fish isn’t supposed to survive out of the water as it breathes through the oxygen in the water. However, betta fish is one of the few exceptions that are capable of surviving out of water for a short period of time.

This is possible due to the labyrinth organ of the betta fish. This organ helps the betta to breathe without water with the help of the atmospheric air. The general function of this organ in a betta fish is to collect secondary oxygen from the atmospheric air when the water conditions are poor and deficient in oxygen.

Since the betta fish comes from shallow, musty, and slow-moving water bodies, they often get dirty which requires the bettas to live in a low-oxygen environment. And so, the labyrinth organ helps them survive with the help of atmospheric air.

Thus, by breathing the atmospheric air using the labyrinth, betta fish can live comparatively longer than many aquarium fishes without water. Though the atmospheric oxygen isn’t enough for it to survive more than an hour or two. Because even if their secondary source of oxygen is active, their body demands the primary source which is water.

What Happens to a Betta That Is Out of Water for Long?

If your betta is out of water for too long but still seems to be breathing, it is very unlikely the fate of the fish would be a happy ending. Because even if you keep the fish in the water after that, the fish has the least probability to survive. Generally, in such situations, betta fish die within 24 hours.

In some extremely lucky cases, some fishes might survive when the water is highly oxygenated but definitely with some permanent internal damage. You will be able to see the difference in your fish. The fish will start going to the bottom even after reintroducing it to the water after a long time outside. Later, it will start to show some spasmodic behavior.

If your betta is one of the very few lucky ones who’d survive such a critical situation, it will regain consciousness from the spasmodic condition and will remain weak and calm for a long time. Though in the majority of cases, there is internal bleeding inside different organs of the fish’s body which gradually leads to death within 24 hours.

How to Know if a Betta is Dying?

The primary sign indicating the possibility of your betta’s death is that it will seem to drown at the bottom of the tank. It will not have the strength to lift its body or swim. And it will gradually start to show spasmodic movements. It will look as if your fish is going through a seizure or epilepsy.

The above signs indicate the deteriorating health of your betta fish and the chances of it to dye. However, one of the major signs that clearly indicates that your fish is about to die, especially, after it is kept out of water for a long time is the skin of the fish darkening and several dark brown or black spots all over its body.

These spots take place due to the severe internal bleeding or hemorrhage that usually occurs inside different organs of the fish’s body when there is a severe lack of oxygen for a long time. 

When the betta’s body is in extreme need of oxygen, the brain cuts down the oxygen supply to different organs of the body including the heart. This gradually leads to multiple hemorrhages in the betta’s body and the heart rate gradually falls. Eventually, the fish dies.

Why Betta Jumps on the Surface of the Tank?

Jumping is a natural nature of the betta fish to escape poor water conditions or inappropriate temperatures. When the water gets too uncomfortable for the fish, it tries to jump thinking it will land on a different and better water surface.

However, many times, it doesn’t end well for them as they end up jumping out of the tank in search of better water conditions. In nature, it is a way of evolving and renewal of the ecosystem. When the bettas jump out of water in nature, they try to move to another pond or water body. This is a way of migration for them.

What to Do if Your Betta Fish Jumped Out of Tank?

If you find your betta fish out of the tank, the very first thing you need to do is to put it back in the water. Though it is better to keep it in a different bowl of water. But since you might not always have treated water with preferred parameters for betta fish available, you need to keep it back in the tank and check the tank water parameters immediately.

Your betta isn’t supposed to jump out of the water for no reason. There must be something in the water that is bothering it. It can be the parameter of the water being disproportionate, the temperature, or the levels of ammonium. Many times, bettas also jump out of water when they have a fight with their tankmates or they want to get rid of parasites forming inside the tank.

Investigate what is wrong with your tank and correct it as soon as possible to relieve your betta from the stress. And a further easy precaution for this is to have a lid on the tank with small gaps for air to enter.

Do Bettas Need Surface Air to Breathe?

Unlike other fishes, betta fish doesn’t only survive on the oxygen from the water. It also requires supplementary oxygen intake through the labyrinth organ from the atmospheric air. This organ is almost similar to the lungs of humans. These organs are a result of evolution in the bettas.

Since in nature, the bettas live in poor-oxygenated water than their body demands, their body possesses this extra organ for them to collect additional oxygen from the air. And so, you will often see your betta moving at the top surface of the tank water and breathing air from there.

This is how their system works. They don’t usually take the amount of oxygen they collect from the air from the water even if the water is highly oxygenated. They require both atmospheric air and water for proper breathing.

How Often Do Bettas Breathe Air?

The number of times a betta moves to the surface of the tank water to breathe atmospheric air is not fixed for all. It depends on a number of factors such as the age and nature of the betta, the condition of the tank water, and so on.

Many bettas are observed to take air from the top of the tank every 30 minutes. It is estimated that when the water parameters do not perfectly fit the nature of the betta, this characteristic is observed more. Though, some bettas are even observed taking air only 3 to 4 times a day.

Age plays a key factor here as young bettas don’t have labyrinths; they only have gills. So, they do not really need to take atmospheric air for breathing. But with increasing age, the labyrinth develops within the bettas, and depending on the size of the betta, it compensates for the additional amount of oxygen required alongside the oxygen collected from the water.

Final Words

No matter how much you study, you can never accurately predict how long can a betta fish live without water. Because it always depends on the situation and the state of the betta while it was happening. So, don’t risk it and take action quickly.

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