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The Oldest Aquarium Fish


Some fish are simply going to live longer than others, but what species have the longest lifespans? Keep reading to learn about the oldest fish to have ever lived and to receive tips for maximizing the lifespan of your own aquarium fish.

Winning a fish at the summer fair is a staple of childhood and a learning experience. The excitement of winning was quickly overshadowed by the loss of that fish shortly thereafter, typically resulting from a lack of knowledge on how to care for aquarium fish.

Due to experiences like these, many people assume that fish have short lifespans. While it is true that many fish are fairly short-lived, there are plenty of examples of fish living for many years, even decades. In fact, there is record of a pet goldfish that lived to the ripe old age of 45 and several cases of fish kept in aquariums or research facilities that lived for 80 years or more in captivity.

There is certainly a difference in lifespan between fish in the wild and in captivity, but many fish have the potential to live for quite some time. Keep reading to learn about the oldest fish to have ever lived and to learn some tips for keeping your own fish alive and well for many years to come.

The Oldest Fish on Record

Fish have lived on this earth for much longer than humans, but many of the species that once lived are no longer around today. There are, however, several instances of aquarium fish that have outlived the average livespan of most people.

Here are the five oldest aquarium fish on record:

1. Grandad – An Australian Lungfish housed at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Granddad lived to the age of 95. Granddad was given to the Shedd Aquarium along with several other native species by the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia.

2. Methuselah – Another Australian Lungfish, Methuselah became the oldest living fish after Granddad’s death in 2017. This fish came to the California Academy of Sciences in 1938, already fully grown, and became known for his love of belly rubs and hand-fed figs.

3. Herman – A sturgeon, Herman lived to the age of 80 at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in Oregon. Herman is very popular but has also had several brushes with death during multiple kidnapping attempts.

4. Goldie – Owned by Pauline Evans, Goldie holds the record for being the oldest pet gold fish to have ever lived. Goldie lived to the age of 45 after coming to live with Pauline after her parents died in the 1990s.

5. Buttkiss – A black pacu kept at the Cameo Pet Shop in Queens, NY, Buttkiss is owned by Steve Gruebel. Buttkiss was originally purchased in 1967 but was sold when Gruebal had to fight in the Vietnam War a year later. He was later repurchased and lived until the age of 20.

Goldie is not the only goldfish to reach a ripe old age. In fact, goldfish are some of the longest-lived aquarium fish, as long as they are taken care of.

Here are eight more gold fish that have lived the longest:

· Tish and Tosh – A year before his death, Tish was recognized as the oldest living goldfish by the Guinness Book of World Records. Hilda Hand cared for the fish along with Tosh, another fish won by Hilda’s son at a fair in 1956. Tosh died in 1975 at the age of 19 and Tish in 1999 at 43 years old.

· Fred and George – Keith and Mary Allies won this pair of goldfish at a fair in 1974 when the couple was only dating. They are now married and their pair of goldfish were last aged at 40 years in 2015. It is unknown whether the fish are still alive.

· Splish and Splash – Splish and Splash were owned by the Wright family. Both fish were won at a fair in 1977 and lived for many years. Splish died at age 36 in 2013 and Splash lived to be 38.

· Sharky – Aged 24 in 2012, Sharky was a white goldfish won by Paul Palmer at a local fair when he was four years old. Palmer never expected Sharky to live as long as he did, especially considering the fish his sister won the same day didn’t live for more than a week. Sharky had a near-death experience when he was found face-up in his bowl and flushed down the toilet. Still alive, however, he swam right back up.

· Bob – The last news of Bob comes from 2017 (when he was 20 years old) when his owner spent $250 on a surgery to save his life. After developing a lump on his fin, Bob struggled to swim and his family paid for a 30-minute operation to remove the lump. Bob recovered successfully.

Though goldfish are one of the most well-known aquarium fish species in terms of long lifespans, they are not alone. Keep reading to see some of the longest lifespans in aquarium fish by species.

Average Lifespan by Species

Aquarium owners are always asking how long their fish should live. The fact is that there is no one answer to this question – it varies depending on multiple factors. Generally speaking, small fish have shorter lifespans than large fish, and fish that lay eggs tend to live longer than livebearers.

Two of the most popular aquarium fish species are at opposite ends of the age spectrum. Betta fish live an average of 2 years while goldfish can live for decades. Any fish can live longer than its expected live span, however, with quality care and a healthy diet.

Some of the fish with the shortest lifespans are killifish which only live a year or two. Bettas come next at 2 to 3 years, though some have lived to 5 years or more. Livebearing fish like platys, mollies, and swordtails generally live less than 5 years at best. Other smaller community species like tetras, rasboras, and the like live around 3 to 5 years.

The aquarium fish species that tend to live the longest are goldfish, loaches, silver dollars, and certain species of cichlids. The thing to remember with goldfish is that the majority of them are not cared for properly. There is a common misconception that goldfish will only grow as large as their tank allows which simply isn’t true. Adequate space, high water quality, and a nutritious diet is essential for any fish to achieve a long lifespan.

Tips for Maximizing the Lifespan of Aquarium Fish

If you want an aquarium fish that lives a long time, you need to shop smart. Take the time to do your research to find a species that has a long average lifespan and then design your aquarium to accommodate that species’ needs. When you’re ready to start shopping, make sure you purchase your fish from a reputable source – the local fish store may not be the best option. If you buy your fish in an already-healthy state, it is likely to live longer.

In addition to starting with a healthy fish, you also need to set your fish up for a long and healthy life – this means a healthy habitat and a balanced diet. Different species of fish have different requirements for water temperature, water hardness, pH, and other tank conditions. Making sure your tank meets these requirements and matching your fish’s diet to his preferences is the best way to keep him well.

Here are some additional tips for maximizing the lifespan of your aquarium fish:

· Give your fish more room than he needs. There is a general rule that your aquarium should be one gallon in size for every inch of mature fish. You can use this as a starting point, but it never hurts to add a few extra gallons.

· Reduce stress as much as possible. You may not think of it this way, but fish can be stressed by changes in environment or by aggressive tankmates. If you keep multiple males, make sure the tank is large enough to accommodate several territories with enough decoration to break up sightlines so your fish don’t get agitated.

· Use the proper tank equipment. Filling a tank with water is not enough to keep your fish healthy. You’ll need a three-stage filtration system to remove solid and dissolved wastes from the water and a tank heater to maintain the proper tank temperature.

· Test your water once a week. Things change quickly in an a captive environment like your aquarium, so test the water once a week to make sure everything from pH to salinity is in the proper range according to the species you’re keeping.

· Buy a high-quality food. Find out what kind of diet your fish requires in the wild and then approximate it as closely as you can with commercial and fresh foods. Supplement an herbivore’s diet with fresh veggies and an omnivore or carnivore’s diet with things like brine shrimp, mealworms, and feeder fish.

· Add some live plants to your tank. Even though they don’t breathe air, fish still need oxygen and adding live plants to your tank can help with CO2 exchange. The higher the water quality in your fish tank, the healthier your fish will be.

· Perform frequent water changes. As your fish eats and lives, he produces waste which breaks down and adds dangerous chemicals to the water. Performing weekly water changes helps refresh the water, keeping the environment safe and healthy for your fish.

Though aquarium fish are much different than traditional pets like dogs and cats, they are no less deserving of quality care. Take what you’ve learned here to give your aquarium fish the best care possible to maximize their lifespan.


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