Aquarium owners always wonder about the lifespan of their pet fish and how to take care of them. Two of the most common questions aquarium owners ask are: (1) How long do aquarium fish live? and (2) Which aquarium fish live the longest?
Generally, larger fish have a longer lifespan than fish that are smaller. It is a fact, though, that some fish species are just going to outlive others. While some species do have longer lifespans, there are many ways to maximize the lifespan of aquarium fish, which will also be discussed in this article.
In what Aquarium do Fish Species live the longest?
According to Mr. Charles Delbeek, Senior Biologist at California Academy of Sciences’ Steinhart Aquarium, fish can and do live longer in captivity versus the wild due to several factors such as the absence of predators, the lack of disease, and the unlimited amount of food available. Aquarium fish can definitely live much longer if they are kept in the proper habitat and if their owners take good care of them. Most fish that have been on record to have long lives are freshwater fish living in freshwater aquariums. That doesn’t mean that saltwater aquarium fish can’t have long lives because, in recent years, advances in aquarium water quality maintenance have contributed to the longevity of fish.
Choosing the right tank is a crucial first step to ensure the longevity of fish. Newbies mistakenly believe that bowls and small aquariums are okay if you’re keeping fish for the first time, but it is a lot harder to take care of fish in small habitats. The recommendation is to get the largest aquarium that you can afford or have room for.
10 Long Living Aquarium Fishes and their Lifespan
Estimated lifespan: 25 years
The only way goldfish does not reach its estimated lifespan potential will be due to improper care and inadequate housing conditions. Traditional fishbowls should be avoided because they are too small for goldfish.
Estimated lifespan: 10 – 15 years
This omnivorous fish is a playful bottom dweller. This tropical freshwater fish should be best kept in large community tanks, a minimum of 75+ gallons.
This peaceful omnivore is known to predict bad weather, hence its name. When a storm is approaching, this calm fish swims wildly about.
Estimated lifespan: 15 years
This fast-growing freshwater fish is unsuitable for smaller aquariums. The minimum tank size for this carnivorous and aggressive fish should be 1,000 gallons. Most red-tailed catfish reach two feet within a year.
Estimated lifespan: 10 to 18 years
This dark brown, gray, to blackish fish tend to become solidly colored when bred in an aquarium. This is a potentially aggressive fish that needs a large tank, a minimum of 50 gallons.
This omnivore grows up to 6 inches. Also known as the Zebra Cichlid because of its distinctive black and white stripes, it needs a freshwater tank set-up with a minimum size of 30 gallons. This freshwater fish is known for its active and aggressive behavior.
This cichlid variety grows up to 12 inches. This beautiful fish is also aggressive and territorial. You need a tank that has a lot of open space to swim, but also with some plants. When it comes to tank size, it needs 55 gallons or bigger.
Estimated lifespan: more than 10 years
This unusually-shaped fish is easy to care for and does not need a large tank to thrive. This species prefers tall aquariums with a capacity of 20 gallons or more.
Estimated lifespan: 10 to 20 years
Although a voracious predator, it is a very common aquarium fish. They are quite temperamental and should only be kept by seasoned fish keepers. They need a freshwater tank, a minimum of 55 gallons.
Estimated lifespan: 10 to 18 years
Called ‘the king of the aquarium’, this fish has magnificent colors. They prefer soft, acidic water in an aquarium with a minimum size of 75 gallons. Ideally, they should not be mixed with other species that are shy and submissive. Suitable aquarium companions for them are cardinal tetras and clown loaches.
Estimated lifespan: 10 to 15 years
This 7-inch omnivore is easy to care for. It needs a minimum of 30 gallons of tank water. This colorful fish is peaceful but can be territorial, especially during the spawning season.
Estimated lifespan: 20 years
This fish is generally peaceful but needs a big tank – a minimum of 250 gallons. It can grow from 12 to 24 inches. They can generally resist aggressive tank mates and may eat smaller fish species if they’re kept in the same tank.
Estimated lifespan: 10 – 15 years
This undemanding, hardy fish is not difficult to care for. They are fairly tolerant of other fish and don’t expend a lot of energy swimming, preferring to be still most of the time. They are carnivores, so they need meaty food and live food.
What is the oldest Pet Fish of all Time?
Aquarium fish can outlive the average lifespan of people. In fact, several of these fish on our list today have done that.
Here is a list of the oldest aquarium fish on record:
1st Australian Lungfish (Grandad) – Estimated to be 95 years
Sadly, Grandad died in 2017. This Australian lungfish used to live at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The aquarium received Grandad way back in 1933. Grandad came by steamboat from the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, during the World’s Fair. More than a million people have visited this iconic and well-loved lungfish. When he died, the aquarium wrote a special 1,000-word obituary for him. He outlived several generations of caregivers, and the loss was very personal for his caregivers. He needed to be euthanized due to his rapid age-related deterioration.
2nd Australian Lungfish (Methuselah) – Between 85 and 90 years
Methuselah, currently the oldest living fish in captivity, has been in an aquarium since 1938. He was already a fully-grown 4-feet Australian lungfish when he arrived at the Steinhart Aquarium. The Steinhart Aquarium is housed in the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Although Methuselah is genetically programmed for long life, she also has some traits that contribute to her longevity. According to Allan Jan, the senior biologist at the aquarium, she has a healthy appetite, preferring figs and prawns.
3rd Sturgeon (Herman) – 80 years
It is astounding that Herman the sturgeon has lived for 80 years. Herman lives at a special facility in the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in Oregon, USA. In 2017 when Herman, a local newspaper, reported that Herman had survived stabbing, kidnapping, and wildfire. He was severely injured when a group of people tried to steal him. Herman is well-loved and receives about half a million visitors a year. He even has his own Facebook profile.
4th Goldfish (Goldie) – 45 years
Goldie lived to the ripe old age of 45 years, holding the record for the oldest pet goldfish ever. Goldie, who died in 2005, lived with the Evans family of Devon, United Kingdom. The Evans won Goldie at a fair in 1960. In 1990, the couple died, and Goldie was passed on to their daughter Pauline.
5th Black Pacu (Buttkiss) – 43 years
When it was last heard from in 2010, Buttkiss, the black pacu, lived for 43 years in Queens, New York. Buttkiss lived longer than the estimated age for black pacu, which is about 20 years. He was purchased in 1967 by a man named Steve Gruebel. The omnivorous fish is a local celebrity, and neighbors often come to watch him being fed live goldfish.
How can I maximize the Lifespan of my Aquarium Fish?
If your goal is for your aquarium fish to live for a long time, you should start with the basics. When you’re purchasing fish, remember to shop smart and choose species known to have a longer average lifespan. The shop where you get your fish is also a huge contributing factor. You have to make sure that you acquire fish from a reputable supplier, one that sells fish in the healthiest possible state.
Here are the top tips to maximize the lifespan of aquarium fish:
The size of your Tank should be sufficient for the Fish.
Fish need room to grow and thrive. The general rule is the tank should have one gallon for every inch of mature fish. Adding a few extra gallons is ideal. For newbies, the recommendation is to get anywhere from 10 to 60 gallons of freshwater tanks to accommodate multiple species at once. For a saltwater setup, a minimum of 20 gallons is recommended.
Design an Aquarium that’s Tailor-fit to the Species’ Needs.
It is important to have proper tank equipment to keep the fish healthy. A healthy aquarium heavily depends on maintaining clean water, so a filtration system should be in place. Ideally, it should be a three-stage filtration system:
- Stage 1: Sediment filter that removes all particulate matter such as dirt and silt.
- Stage 2: Carbon filter, which protects the reverse osmosis membrane and removes chlorine
- Stage 3: Reverse Osmosis Membrane, which removes impurities such as copper, lead, fluoride, and arsenic.
A tank heater helps maintain proper tank temperature. The size of a tank heater depends on the tank volume, the average temperature of the room where the tank is located, and the temperature requirement of the fish living in the tank.
Reduce Fish Stress.
Aquarium fish can experience stress and become agitated due to several potential factors such as improper pH of tank water, inadequate tank size, aggressive tankmates, low salinity level, high ammonia levels, and more. Signs that the fish is stressed include rapid swimming, hiding, change in color, or lethargic behavior. Stress will impact the digestion, reproduction, and growth of aquarium fish. It may also inhibit its ability to fight infection.
Provide high-quality Food.
It is essential to get high-quality food for your fish. It is also important to remember not to overfeed the fish and only give them food to finish in less than two minutes. Remember to remove uneaten food. The number killer of fish is ammonia, and it usually comes from rotten food bits left behind in the water. Fish can be herbivores, omnivores, or carnivores. Know what the species’ nutritional needs are, and give them variety. It is best to supplement an herbivore’s diet with fresh vegetables. You can supplement omnivores and carnivores’ diets with mealworms or feeder fish.
Test and change Water frequently.
Since an aquarium is a captive environment, things tend to change quickly. Aquarium owners should test the water at least once a week to ensure that the pH, salinity, and ammonia levels are within the proper range. Weekly to bi-weekly water changes is also necessary because fish excrete waste that breaks down into hazardous chemicals that are detrimental to the health of the living things within that environment. An aquarium water conditioner must be used to neutralize chlorine compounds and heavy metals.
Be conscious of Fish Compatibility.
Research the right types of fish that you should be together with within an aquatic environment. Some species don’t get along well, such as males of many cichlid species and redtail and rainbow sharks. On the other hand, some fish need to be together in groups. Commonly referred to as schooling fish, they need to stay in groups of 6 to 10. Examples of these schooling fish are barbs, Corydoras catfish, and tetras.
Conclusion – Which Aquarium Fish lives the longest?
There are several instances that aquarium fish were able to outlive the average lifespan of humans. This tells us that aquarium fish can live for many years. In summary, the fish species that tend to live the longest are goldfish, loaches, and silver dollars. Aquarium owners need to understand what types of fish live the longest and what these species need to thrive.