How Long Do Tropical Fish Live For?

Asking the question ‘how long do tropical fish live for’ is a little bit like asking ‘when will I be slim?’ The answer to both of them is variable with some personal control, and some genetic factors affecting both. Put simply, there is not just one answer, but many!

How long do tropical fish live for – On average tropical fish live between 10 and 12 years. Smaller fish have a much shorter lifespan than larger fish. Many variables come into play like space, food and water conditions. All can have a considerable effect on the life span of a tropical fish.

Not wishing to discuss my weight management further, though I can say it depends heavily on the availability of cream cakes, I think we’ll go back to concentrating on tropical fish and their variables. These are:

    • Species of fish
    • Tank mates
    • Aquascaping
    • Food
    • Aquarium size
    • Stocking level
  • Water parameters

Interesting Fact: It is believed a fish’s age can be discovered by employing the same method used to age trees as fish scales have age rings decipherable under a microscope.

Species Related Life Expectancy

Assuming that the variables not related to species are at an optimum which we will, for now, the average lifespan of most tropical fish is somewhere between ten and twelve years. The different species, however, have life expectancies of anywhere between five and fifty years. Smaller fish, according to research, live shorter lives than larger fish, and egg layers live longer than livebearers.

To cover the lifespan of every tropical fish available would mean a very, very, long list appearing here that would just ramble on and probably bore you to tears. So rather than risk that, instead we will just note the shortest lifespans, longest lifespans, and some more popular species.

Shortest Lifespan

    • Killifish – 1 to 2 years
  • Betta – 2 to 3 years

Longest Lifespan

    • Goldfish – 25 years plus
    • Clown Loach – 10 to 15 years
    • Silver Dollar – 10 years plus
  • Convict cichlid 20 years plus

Popular Fish

    • Angelfish – 10 years plus
    • Corydora – 5 years plus
    • Cherry Barb – 5 to 7 years
    • Discus – 10 to 18 years
    • Frontosa Cichlid – 8 to 15 years
    • Guppy – 3 to 5 years
    • Neon Tetra – 5 to 10 years
    • Platy – 3 to 5 years
    • Plecostomus – 7 to 15 years
    • Danio – 5 to 7 years
  • Swordtail – 3 to 5 years

Interesting fact: A Clown Loach does not reach its full growth potential until it reaches

8 to 10 years of age.

Non-Species Related Life Expectancy

Whilst each individual tropical fish species has a life expectancy attached to it this does not mean that they WILL live for that long. Lifespans can be shorter or longer than expected for many reasons. When they are shorter, however, it is usually due to the non-species related variables.

Tank Mates – Technically speaking tank mates could fall into both species and non-species related life expectancy as species, just to repeat the word again, is key here. This is because the choices of species, said it again, that you place together could lead to predation and hence a shorter lifespan for the preyed upon fish.

Aquascaping – For some species, the choice of substrate, decor, plants, and spots to retreat to is not important. For others, however, it is paramount. Fish that, for example, sift through the sand for food may accidentally swallow a poorly chosen gravel and as a result, die. Timid fish such as cherry Barbs, some Tetras, and Corydoras will become stressed from not having any place to hide. This, in turn, can lead to them being susceptible to illnesses from which they may die.

Food – There are a few ways in which food can affect the longevity of your fishes life. Quality of nutrition and variety to ensure they get a healthy balanced diet plays a huge part, whilst overfeeding can lead to constipation and in turn SBD (swim bladder disorder). SBD is not always able to be treated successfully and many fish die from this condition. Poor diet, by comparison, will not kill your fish quickly but nor will it help extend their life as it does not contain the nutrition required.  

Aquarium Size – In order to grow to their full size and fulfill their life expectancy tropical fish need the correct size aquarium. Those who are not provided with this necessity often become stunted and deformed leading to a short lifespan.

Stocking Level – Over stocked aquariums with limited room for each fish to swim can be very stressful environments. As mentioned previously, stressed fish are prone to illnesses from which they can die. Also, aquariums with too many fish can have huge issues with their water parameters as described below.

Water Parameters – Pristine water is probably the most important factor when it comes to ensuring that your tropical fish live a long and healthy life. Weekly water changes and aquarium maintenance should be performed on a weekly basis to avoid high readings of nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia. Toxins left in the water will kill your fish, make no mistake.

Interesting Fact: The oldest living aquarium fish is a Sturgeon called Herman who lives in the Sturgeon Center, Oregon, USA. He is an incredible 80 years of age!

Conclusion-How long do tropical fish live for?

It is clear to see that the answer to the question ‘how long do tropical fish live for’ is based on numerous factors both species and non-species related. It is, however, more heavily reliant upon the care that we provide. This can be backed up by a beautiful story, I say story because there is no evidential proof, of a man and his Koi Carp. Not tropical fish, I know, but care principles remain the same.

oldest koi carp
( The oldest Koi carp lived to 215 Years old )

In 1966, Dr. Komei Koshihara, after hearing stories of his beloved Koi Carps heritage, decided that they must have lived a very long life and decided to have them aged. He did this by removing two scales from each Koi Carp with strong tweezers and sending them to Professor Masayashi for examination.

When the results came back Dr. Koshihara was astonished to find out that all his fish had far surpassed their centenary years. Two of them were 139, and the others 149, 153, and 168 respectively. Amazing ages to reach, right? Absolutely, but by no means were they the oldest!

The oldest of Dr. Koshihara’s fish was named Hanako and had reached the astonishing age of 215!! She went on to live another eleven years, dying in 1977 aged a gobsmacking 226 years old. Why? Well, it could only be, as Dr. Koshihara declared himself, the love and care that he had provided and the clear waters of the Japanese mountains. Proving that care, especially pristine water, are the most important factors in getting a fish to live a long, long life!

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