The estimated lifespan of aquarium fish is not something I thought about when I first got aquarium fish. Instead, it’s something that came up at random one day and I did not know the answer. I asked other fish keepers about their experience and did some research online to find the correct answer.
The average lifespan of small tropical fish lies between 4 and 6 years. Larger fish like cichlids or goldfish get older than smaller fish like tetras or barbs. A varied and balanced diet as well as a clean/maintained environment allow fish to live longer.
There are things we as fish keepers can do to keep our fish as healthy as possible. In this article I’ll give you the average age of some of the most popular aquarium fish. I’ll also cover how you can make sure your fish live as long and healthy as possible.
The lifespan of small fish in a tank
Most of us will be interested in keeping smaller fish in tropical tanks. These fish, while small, are capable of living rather long lives. I remember my grandfather proudly telling me that some of the neon tetra’s in his tank were over 6 years old. I bet that’s not what you would have expected of such small fish.
The size of the tank often influences the lifespan of fish, as small tanks are harder to keep balanced. The low amount of water makes the aquarium prone to parameter fluctuations that can cause stress to fish.
When kept in a healthy tank the size of the aquarium does not matter. As long as the aquarium provides sufficient amount for the species of fish it’s fine.
The species of fish is really important in trying to predict how long they will live. Fish like guppies generally live to be between 3 and 5 years old. Other fish like bettas live around 3 years before they pass away. Killifish are outliers as they generally do not live longer than 1 or 2 years. This has to do with the nature of the fish.
What kind of pet fish live the longest?
The common goldfish is among the kind of pet fish that live the longest out of all fish that we can keep in our hobby. When they’re provided with the right care and enough space they can grow really large and live very long.
On average goldfish live for 10 to 25 years! There even are examples of goldfish living way longer than 25 years. A great example is a goldfish named Tish, that lived long enough to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records. Tish lived to be 43 years old.
There’s another notable record listed in the Guinness Book called “Oldest Fish in Captivity Ever“. This record belongs to a public aquarium from Sweden because they’ve had a female European Eel that lived to be 88 years old. While this fish is not really the type you and I would keep in our tanks, I would still consider it to be a pet fish.
I asked a group of enthusiastic fish keepers about their oldest pet and many people have had fish that were over 10 years old. The one that really sprung out to me was this Candy Striped Pleco that’s at least 15 years old! How awesome is that!
The average lifespan of popular aquarium fish
If you already know what kind of fish you’re interested in you’ll probably find the life expectancy in the large table below. I’ve compiled this list from data that’s shared here on The Spruce Pets, for which they obviously deserve the credits. I’ve merged some entries to not repeat myself and keep the table short.
|Betta||2 to 4 years|
|Corydoras||5 to 8 years|
|Discus fish||10 to 18 years|
|Dwarf Gourami||4 years|
|Goldfish||10 to 25 years|
|Gourami||4 to 6 years|
|Guppy||3 to 5 years|
|Killifish||1 to 2 years|
|Mollie||2 to 4 years|
|Neon Tetra||5 to 10 years|
|Oscar||10 to 18 years|
|Platy||3 to 5 years|
|Pleco||7 to 15 years|
|Swordtail||3 to 5 years|
|Tiger Barb||6 years|
|Zebra Cichlid||10 years|
If you’re looking for other fish that’s not on this list, I do recommend hopping over to the site of our friends at The Spruce Pets that’s linked above the table to see if they have listed in there.
How to make your fish live longer
We always want the best for our fish, but there are a couple of things you can do that will make your fish live longer. Providing emotional support probably does not help, so what can you do that helps?
- Provide your fish with enough space to swim happily. You don’t need a pond or ocean, but a bowl will not suffice. Especially if you’re keeping a goldfish you really need to find out how much space your fish needs and try to meet those needs. If a fish has more space it will remain healthier and the environment will be more stable.
- Feed a varied and complete diet. Just giving flakes or pellets could be enough, but regularly mixing up your fish’s diet has great benefits. I wouldn’t directly compare always feeding dried food to only eating spaghetti, but there are similarities. If you regularly supplement the dried food with frozen or even live food, your fish becomes stronger.
- Get some basic knowledge on common diseases so you can spot them quickly and know how to cure them. There’s just a couple of diseases or health problems that can happen to your fish/tank that are easy to recognize. A great example is Ich or white spot disease.
- Provide plenty of oxygen for your fish to breathe. There are some easy ways to improve the flow and oxygen levels in your tank that will improve the overall well being of your fish instantly. As you can read on this page on my site, it’s really not difficult to quickly add more oxygen to your tank and set you up for the long run.
There’s even a last thing you could do if you’re really serious and are keeping more sensitive fish. Some people quarantine all new fish they buy for at least a month before adding them to their existing aquarium. These 30 days give them a chance to inspect the new fish and watch closely whether any health problems develop.
I personally do not do this as it requires a quarantine tank, for which I do not have the space. Just know that every time you add new fish to a group of fish you risk the chance of adding new diseases.