How Long Do Fish Live and What Influences Their Lifespan?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 29th, 2023

Understanding the lifespan of fish is more than just a numerical curiosity; it’s a blend of biology, environmental conditions, and, sometimes, a sprinkle of mystery. Over the years, science has been pretty diligent about examining the factors that contribute to the lifespan of both humans and animals. Fish are an interesting subject in this regard, given the varying conditions in which they live, from aquariums to the wild, from freshwater habitats to the salty depths of the oceans. In this comprehensive article, we’ll cover the lifespan of various types of fish and discuss why they live as long as they do.

How Long Can Different Types of Fish Live?

Fish TypeLifespan
Angelfish10 to 20 years
Bala SharkMore than 10 years
Betta2 to 4 years
Blackfin CoryMore than 5 years
Blennies2 to 4 years
Blue Hippo Tang8 to 20 years
Cherry Barb4 to 7 years
Chromis8 to 15 years
ClownfishMore than 10 years
Convict CichlidApproximately 20 years
Damselfish2 to 4 years
Discus10 years
Gobies2 to 4 years
Goldfish10 to 30 years
Greenland SharksApproximately 272 years
Guppy3 to 5 years
Killifish1 to 2 years
Koi25 to 30 years
Loaches10 to 15 years
Midas CichlidMore than 15 years
Molly Fish3 to 5 years
Neon TetraMore than 5 years
Oscar Cichlid10 to 20 years
Pearl Gourami5 to 8 years
Rainbowfish5 to 8 years
Silver dollars and PocusApproximately 10 years
Swordtails, Mollies, and PlatysLess than 5 years
Yellow/Lemon Cichlid6 to 10 years

Fish Lifespan by Species

The lifespan of a fish is inherently tied to its species. Goldfish and bettas, for example, are among the most commonly kept pet fish. Fish species can be broadly divided into two categories: those that live long and those that have a relatively shorter lifespan. Betas, killifish, swordtails, mollies, and platys generally have shorter lifespans. On the other end of the spectrum, goldfish, loaches, silver dollars, pocus, and convict cichlids have extended lifespans. Interestingly, egg-laying fish are often observed to live longer than their live-bearing counterparts.

selective focus photography of goldfish

Extreme Cases: From Koi to Greenland Sharks

Some fish boast truly astounding lifespans. Koi fish, for example, typically live for 25 to 30 years but have been rumored to reach ages as old as 200 years. Greenland sharks hold the record as the longest-lived vertebrates, with an average life expectancy of 272 years. Some have even been found to live up to 292 years! Unfortunately, most of these long-lived fish rarely reach their potential lifespan due to various factors, including environmental conditions and care.

The Role of Environment: Freshwater vs. Saltwater

Freshwater Fish

In freshwater habitats like the Great Lakes, Lake Sturgeon can live up to 100 years, while Paddlefish have been known to live for 55 years. Most freshwater game fish have an average lifespan of 7-9 years, but larger predatory fish can live even longer. For instance, the bluegill can live up to 10 years, and muskellunge has been known to live up to 30 years.

Saltwater Fish

The ocean is home to some of the longest-lived creatures. The Greenland shark leads the pack with an astonishing average lifespan of 272 years. Sailfish and red drum have respectable lifespans too, at 13-15 years and up to 60 years, respectively. In contrast, the fast-breeding mahi-mahi generally only lives for 4 to 5 years.

Lifespan in Natural Environments

Determining a single, exact lifespan for fish across the board is challenging due to the diversity in types of aquatic environments and temperatures. For example, sturgeons have been found to live more than 100 years, an age quite atypical even for their own species. On average, saltwater fish tend to live for about 20 years, while their freshwater counterparts often reach around 15 years. Intriguingly, lifespan has an inverse relationship with water temperature—the warmer the water, the shorter the lifespan.

Lifespan in Captivity

When it comes to living in captivity, there is a general trend that smaller fish will live shorter lives compared to their larger cousins. However, a well-cared-for aquarium fish could enjoy a lifespan considerably longer than its wild counterpart, primarily because it’s not exposed to predators or extreme environmental factors.


The lifespan of fish is not just a function of their biology but a complex interplay of factors including their environment, diet, and overall care. Whether they’re in the wild or in captivity, understanding these variables can provide insights into how best to maintain their health and longevity. So, the next time you decide to adopt a fish or simply marvel at them during a visit to an aquarium, consider the complex factors at play in determining how long these fascinating creatures will live.


Editorial Staff

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