How long does a fish live?
Bowl, marbles, water, fish food, fish…..Done! This is the process many believe is the key to having a fish tank. Unfortunately, this is why many find their precious fish upside down 2 weeks later and are shaking their heads, questioning themselves. Well, how long does a fish live? For this article we will focus on fish that people keep as household pets.
How long does a fish live depends on 2 primary factors: type of fish and type (or quality, if you will) of owner.
Assuming all other things being equal, such as proper care, which we will get to shortly, the type of fish will usually give you an idea of its lifespan. This varies significantly as some fish, such as the pygmy gobi, which is believed to the shortest lived organism with a spine, have an average life of around 2 months, while koi fish typically live 20-40 years, and some have made it to 200 years! Life expectancies for common household fish are as follows, although we note there are numerous other types of fish that can be kept at home:
Goldfish: 6-20 years
Cichlid: 2-15 years (typically depends on size)
Oscar: up to 10
Guppies and barbs: 1-2 years
Beta: 2-5 years
So the next step, which you actually have some control over, is how you care for your fish, which too depends on the breed as different breeds eat differently, need different water temperatures, and need more space, amongst other factors. For example goldfish typically like cold water (65 degrees), eat fish food made of plant material and algae, and need at least 10 gallons of water per fish to even be reasonably comfortable. In contrast Datnoids, a type of cyclid, need water temperatures between 80-85 degrees, eat other smaller live fish, and can live with 12 or so other cyclids in a 55 gallon tank.
The amount a tank needs to be cleaned also varies by the type of fish, and believe it or not some fish actually need “dirtier” water in order to survive. This is quite the opposite for saltwater tanks, which require a tremendous amount more effort from the owner to begin with, and need to have about 10 percent of their water changed every two weeks. In contrast, some freshwater fish tanks literally require no water changes if they have an abundance of live plants and a relatively small amount of fish in them.
At the end of the day you, your preferences, and your willingness to put in the time and effort, are the only things that can answer “how long does a fish live”? With the right upfront steps and research, and a certain level or interest and willingness to work and dedicate time, you can have your fish living at or above their expected lifespan. Be careful though, as many who try this find it more difficult than it sounds. Good luck!