Fish are great pets, and depending on the species can make a friendly companion for a long period of time. Compared to a dog, cat or even lizard, fish require much less attention. An aquarium can add a calming feel to any home but still requires constant cleaning and care. A good fish owner may have their pet live for years, with some species able to live for decades.
Here are some of the longest-living species of fish that are also popular pets. Different species require different needs, so learning how to properly care for your fish can drastically extend its life.
10. Midas Cichlid: 10 to 12 years
Midas cichlid is native to Central America, most abundant in lakes and large bodies of water in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. They are large fish that can reach around 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35cm). Colorings include brown, gray, and black with a bar pattern. The bar pattern disappears when in an aquarium habitat, and they are mostly solid color in captivity. A variety of color morphs also exists of this species due to selective breeding.
Easily kept as a pet they can live up to 12 years if cared for properly. They are omnivores and need to feed in several small amounts a day. This species is highly susceptible to toxins in the water so their tank should cycle around 20-35% of its water weekly. Midas cichlid should be kept alone due to their aggressive nature, but can also be kept in pairs. Bigger tanks are best for this species of around 200 gallons.
9. Frontosa: 8 to 15 years
The frontosa is a cichlid species native to East Africa in Lake Tanganyika. Most of the day this fish lays at the bottom of its water source, rising every morning to feed on vegetation. They can grow to a size of up to 1 foot (30 cm) and a large hump sits on the top of their head. Coloring includes a black or white body with dark vertical bars running vertically on them.
When kept in an aquarium only larger species should be housed with the frontosa since they have an aggressive nature. Tanks should be at least 70 gallons and filtered regularly. Their bright coloring and large size make them a good show fish. When kept in a large tank and cared for correctly they can live up to 15 years.
8. Firemouth: 10 to 15 years
Firemouth cichlids are a freshwater species perfect for beginner fish keepers. Like other cichlid species, this fish has a long lifespan, capable of living up to 15 years. Bright colors and easy care routines make this a popular species to keep as a pet. Originally they are from Central America, inhabiting rivers within Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. In the U.S they are considered invasive and can be found in Hawaii, Arizona, and Florida.
This species reaches around 7 inches (17 cm) and needs a tank size of around 15 gallons, more if not left alone. Like all cichlid species, they are territorial and will become aggressive with other fish if not given enough space. Infections like ich disease are common for this species but are easy to treat.
7. Catfish: 15 years
Catfish in the wild can have an extremely long lifespan, but not everyone is suited for aquarium life. There are more than 3,000 catfish species categorized into 36 families.
Here are some of the best catfish pets that have the longest lifespan:
- Red-Tailed Catfish: 15 years
- Armoured Catfish: 15 years
- Rafael Catfish: 7 to 15 years
- Jordans Catfish: 10+ years
- Banjo Catfish: 12 years.
Often, catfish do not have scales and have whisker-like barbs around their mouths. The species of catfish above are all small and able to fit in a home-sized aquarium. Freshwater that is filtered daily is best to keep them alive longest. Most catfish are scavengers and will eat plant life or meat. Fresh meat like worms, shrimp, and cut fish are best.
6. Clown Loach: 15+ years
Clown loach is a popular fish amongst fish owners and is loved for its bright colors and long lifespan, living sometimes longer than 15 years. This peaceful fish has an orange body with black stripes and red fins. When full-grown they are around 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) long. Their natural habitat is on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia. They live in freshwater but can also inhabit brackish waters. Worms, born shrimp, and snails make great food, best fed several small meals a day. The clown loach is active in the day or night, unlike other loach species, which are mainly nocturnal. Keeping their tank clean and properly filtered will help this species thrive and live a long life.
5. Figure 8 Puffer Fish: 15+ Years
Figure 8 puffer fish (Tetraodon biocellatus) is perfect for beginners and can live past 15 years when taken care of properly. Originally from South Asia, they live in brackish waters such as rivers near coastal areas. Breeding of this species is not done in captivity so most of these pets will be imported from areas like Thailand or Malaysia. Figure 8 puffer fish can live in freshwater but will have a longer life when put in a brackish water tank.
Around 3 inches (8 cm long) when fully grown, they are a greenish-yellow color with brown spots covering their back. Pufferfish hunt and feed on organisms like mussels, cockles, oysters, and krill in the wild. A diet of flakes is not recommended as they will live longer when fed frozen meats and other fresh foods.
4. Oscar Fish: 10 to 18 years
Oscar fish is a member of the cichlid family, and are a popular pet kept in freshwater aquariums. They were originally from South America, found in the Amazon river. Today, they inhabit many aquariums around the world and are capable of living up to two decades. In some areas, they have become invasive since they are sometimes released into the wild from the aquarium. Their diet can consist of meat since in the wild they are a predatory species. Vitamin C is needed to keep them healthy, as in the wild they will feed on fruit that has fallen in the water.
Oscar fish have stocky and oval-shaped bodies. They are black with red or orange coloring on them. Oscar fish are loved for their intelligence, but you should be wary of keeping them with other fish due to their aggressive nature.
3. Discus: 10 to 18 years
Found in the lakes and rivers native to South America, the discus fish is a popular species kept as a pet. They are less commonly owned due to their diet and habitat needed. Discus fish need warmer waters that must be changed weekly. They can grow large and need a tank of at least 75 gallons. They are calm-natured but can be aggressive since they are also cichlids. High temperatures and low pH is needed as their preferred water type.
Discus is a trophy fish and comes in a variety of bright colors like orange, blue-yellow, and red. Patterns vary as some can be solid colored and others will be painted with a striped pattern. These fish are notoriously difficult to keep, but if cared for correctly they can live up to 18 years.
2. Goldfish: 10 to 25 years
One of the most popular and recognizable fish kept as pets is the goldfish. Found all across the world this species is native to East Asia and is a member of the carp family. Kept in captivity and local ponds, the goldfish was first kept in imperial China, and selectively bred for its bright colors. Today, they are still bred selectively and occur in many different variants.
Some of the goldfish types found today include:
- Common Goldfish
- Telescope Goldfish
- Celestial Eye
- Comet-tailed Goldfish
When kept in small tanks goldfish remain small, never growing larger than 6 inches. Slow-moving freshwater habitats are where they can be found in the wild growing up to 2 feet in length. Keeping a clean tank, proper diet and an interactive environment can help keep this species alive for up to 25 years. 45 years is the longest this fish has ever been recorded living.
1. Koi Fish: 20 to 25 years
Koi fish are a popular carp species with an easy-care routine. Native to the Black, Caspian, and Aral seas, they have been domesticated and introduced to areas across the world. Their gentle nature, beautiful colors, and simple care routine make them one of the most popular fish species to be kept as a pet. Originating from China, they were brought to Japan as a gift of food, and slowly became a popular species in the culture. The average length is between 24 and 36 inches and weighs around 35 pounds. Jumbo koi have also been bred with the largest being up to 91 pounds.
Koi are brightly colored, with some of the common varieties including bright orange, white, yellow black, and red. In the wild, this coloring makes them more susceptible to predators like cats, birds, and raccoons. On average, this species can live up to 25 years when properly cared for, but some instances have shown koi are capable of living to extreme old age. The oldest to ever live in captivity is Hanako, who lived for 226 years.
Summary of Types of Pet Fish That Live Long
Here’s a recap of the 10 types of fish we looked at that can enjoy long lives as pets.
|1||Koi Fish||20-25 years||China|
|2||Goldfish||10-25 years||East Asia|
|3||Discus||10-18 years||South America|
|4||Oscar Fish||10-18 years||South America|
|5||Figure 8 Puffer Fish||15+ years||South Asia|
|6||Clown Loach||15+ years||Indonesia|
|8||Firemouth||10-15 years||Central America|
|9||Frontosa||8-15 years||East Africa|
|10||Midas Cichlid||10-12 years||Central America|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Nataly Reinch/Shutterstock.com
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