We all know that when it comes to life and death there are very few certainties other than that both will happen. However, that doesn’t stop us asking the question, especially when it comes to choosing aquarium buddies, what pet fish live the longest?
Have you heard about George? George was a common goldfish that lived to a grand old age of 44. Keith Allies age 75 won his beloved goldfish at the fun fair. He gave it to his then 18-year-old girlfriend, Mary. Read about this amazing story here!
The answer to our question, what pet fish live the longest? The answer is never simple and will vary greatly depending on the species and the level of the care they will receive. You can, however, state as a kind of general rule of thumb that:
- Large fish will more often than not live longer than smaller fish
- Fish who lay eggs will more often than not live longer than live bearers
Here are just some of the examples of the longest lifespans that you can expect.
1. The Common Goldfish (Carassius Auratus)
Colorful, inexpensive, and readily available, it is hardly surprising that 90% of the world’s fish keepers are estimated to have started out in the hobby with this fish. They are personable, a delight to watch, and thrive well in a group.
An active fish that can swim fast, when the fancy takes them, Goldfish can be kept in a pond or aquarium. Care for them is relatively easy and when done right leads to, yes you guessed it, an incredibly healthy lifespan of 10 to 40 years. Sometime the odd fish can live like George over 40 Years.
Tips for achieving a long and healthy life for your Common Goldfish include:
- The correct size aquarium – Common Goldfish need at least 20 gallons or 75 liters per fish. This is due to their abilities to grow up to 7 plus inches.
- The right filtration and maintenance – As Common Goldfish create a lot of waste it is advisable to provide filtration greater than your aquarium needs. Maintenance is also imperative with gravel vacuuming and 15% water changes being performed every week.
- A balanced and nutritious diet – Simply providing your Common Goldfish with a flake or pellet may not be enough to ensure they live a long and healthy life. Added nutrition such as brine shrimp, bloodworm, shelled peas, and boiled vegetables are also advised.
- Provide the correct temperature – Although there are lots of debate over whether or not Common Goldfish can thrive in tropical aquariums as well as cold water, it is best to keep them at their optimum temperature. This is around 23℃ or 74℉.
2. Discus (Symphysodon)
With its regal beauty and majestic colors it is no wonder that the Discus is known as the King of the aquarium. They are calm, peaceful, only occasionally showing aggression to their own, and can, with care, share an aquarium with other species.
Discus live a remarkably long life of between 10 and 18 years providing they are given the right care. Captive bred Discus are easier to keep than their wild-caught counterparts due to less need for a fastidiously pristine water quality.
Tips for achieving a long and healthy life for your Discus include:
- Buying from healthy stock – It is imperative that you don’t impulse buy Discus, but rather shop around. You should always also ask your stockist about their water parameters so you can mimic them when you prepare your Discus aquarium.
- Keep Discus in shoals – Discus are a true shoaling species and need to be kept in groups of preferably 8 plus. Single species will become stressed directly affecting their lifespan.
- Perform 25% water changes weekly – Whether wild caught or captive bred Discus need as near to pristine water conditions as you can possibly get. For ease of providing this, Discus aquariums are best kept bare bottomed making them easier to clean. How to correctly do a partial water change here.
- Feed your Discus well – Discus eat a lot and will benefit from a nutritious and varied diet. Tropical, color, and spirulina flake are all recommended as a basic, whilst live and frozen foods should be offered as treats.
3. Clown Loach (Chromobotia Macracanthus)
A genuine favorite with freshwater hobbyists the Clown Loach is a long and lean attractive catfish with distinctive whisker-like barbels and a pointed nose. They are peaceful, co-exist with other species perfectly, and will rid your aquarium of those pesky pest snails.
Growing up to the rather large size of 12-14-inch plus, the Clown Loach can live up to an amazing 15 years plus. They are a fantastic, active, and fascinating addition to any aquarium.
Tips for achieving a long and healthy life for your Clown Loach include:
- Excellent water quality – Clean, aerated, and warm water is essential to the Clown Loaches life expectancy. Frequent water changes and maintenance are not just advisable, they are imperative.
- A Large aquarium – 100 gallons plus is needed for this rather large growing catfish that requires lots of room to swim. They also need plenty of hiding spots such as caves, tubes, and other hidey-holes for them to relax in.
- Careful netting – Along with their whisker-like barbels, Clown Loaches also have a sharp spine beneath each eye. These are used as a weapon by this amiable fish when they need to defend themselves. These spines, however, can get caught and damaged when this species is being netted so care must be taken. After all, an injured fish is a sick fish that may not fulfill its life expectancy.
- Be ready for Ich – The Clown Loach is prone to the disease Ich so care should be taken when adding new fish or plants to their aquarium. This is an imperative piece of advice as Clown Loaches can be sensitive to medication. This makes them difficult to treat should they need to be.
4. Jack Dempsey (Rocio Octofasciata)
Named for the American heavyweight boxer William ‘Jack Dempsey’ Harrison, this cichlid is certainly a bruiser of the aquarium. They are predatory, boisterous, and in general, just too much for the average fish community. They are, however, also a beautiful fish that, for this alone, can be forgiven its sins.
With a body that sparkles in blues, cyan, and golden, the Jack Dempsey can reach up to 8-9 inches in size. They also live for an incredibly long period at 10 to 15 years. To live this long, however, they need the correct care.
Tips for achieving a long and healthy life for your Jack Dempsey include:
- Give them lots of space – Put simply the more space you allow the Jack Dempsey, the more accepting he will be of sharing his aquarium with others. This means he will not be getting stressed or fighting which could shorten his lifespan.
- Allow them to be a predator – Give your Jack Dempsey live foods as well a high-quality cichlid pellet diet. This will allow them to hunt as they would naturally keeping them healthy and happy.
- Choose tankmates with care – Due to the tendency of Jack Dempsey’s eating fish smaller than themselves, they need large companions only. However, these should be passive species that will not bother your Jack Dempsey, but can still hold their own.
- Think twice before trying to breed – From picking a mate to looking after their young the whole breeding process can be violent for the Jack Dempsey. This risks injury and possibly even death if you do not know what you are doing.
5. Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon Innesi)
So far the longest living pet fish have all been big hitters in both size and personality. However, there are also smaller species thought of, by some, as simply aquarium fillers that also reach a ripe old age.
One of these is the gorgeous Neon Tetra who, surprisingly to many, is capable of living for between 5 and 10 years. They are certainly one of the more popular aquarium dwellers with over two million per month being sold in the USA alone. Read our Tetra Guide for more reasons why they make great pet fish.
Tips for a long and healthy life for your Neon Tetras include:
- Keep water parameters stable – Though the Neon Tetra is a hardy fish and easy to care for they are sensitive to any changes in their water. Not doing so could result in your Tetras developing Neon Tetra disease for which there is no cure.
- Keep them in a large group – The larger the number of Neon Tetras you have in your aquarium, the safer and less stress they feel. A minimum of 15 to 20 is recommended to keep them happy.
- Give them plenty of room – Although Neon Tetras are no bigger than 1 ½ inch they still need plenty of swim room to be their active, happy, and healthy selves. 20 gallons is recommended for a shoal of 20 but as always, when it comes to fish keeping, bigger is better!
- Feed a variety of foods – As simple ‘aquarium fillers,’ it is very easy to just throw some flake in for your Neon Tetras and leave it at that. However, they are omnivores that require a varied diet to achieve their maximum lifespans and their diet should reflect this. Bloodworm, daphnia, and brine shrimp are all excellent options.
Read our fun article entitled: 35 Perfect Names For Neons
Conclusion: What pet fish lives the longest?
Whilst the above species certainly have long lifespans that are amazing, they are nowhere near receiving the longest living ‘pet’ fish title. Rather, that honor falls to an amazing Koi carp named Hanako!
Hanako, who spent her life in a pond at the base of Mount Ontakein in Gifu, Japan, was the beloved pet of Dr. Komei Koshihara. Here she was hand fed and petted on a daily basis, and would even swim to the edge of her pond when called. Hanako reached an amazing 70 centimeters long, weighed in at 7.5kg, and achieved the ripe old age of 226!
Now that, I’m sure you’ll agree, is one long living fish!