Average Lifespans of Different Aquarium Fish Species

Illustration of the lifespan of popular aquarium fish

The Spruce / Joshua Seong

Few reference books include answers to one of the most common questions asked by fish owners. How long should my fish live? The answer varies greatly depending on the species of fish. However, in general, smaller fish have a shorter lifespan than larger fish, and fish that lay eggs live longer than those that give birth to live young.

The two most popular species of fish—bettas and goldfish—are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Bettas on average live little more than two years, while goldfish may live for decades.

Keep in mind that with good care, aquarium fish can live much longer; on the other hand, fish that are not kept in the proper habitat and are not cared for properly will likely have a shorter lifespan.

Short Lifespans

Killifish are among the aquarium fish with the shortest lifespan. They generally only live a year or two. Bettas are not far behind, averaging only about two years. There have been documented cases of bettas living five years or more, but that is not the norm. Livebearing fish such as mollies, platys, and swordtails generally live less than five years.

Long Lifespans

Goldfish are on the other end of the lifespan spectrum. There are many documented cases of goldfish living a quarter of a century. They are perhaps the best example of how poor habitat and care shortens the lifespan of aquarium fish. The majority of goldfish are not properly cared for and as a result, live only a few years. Other fish that live longer include loaches, such as the clown loach and weather loach, which often live 10 to 15 years. Silver dollars and pacus also live 10 years or more, and the ever-popular convict cichlid can live 20 years.

The lifespans of common aquarium fish species span a broad gamut, as you can see. Here are typical lifespans of some well-known fish species, from the Adolfo cory to the zebra danio. 

A

  • Adolfos cory (Corydoras adolfoi): five years
  • Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare): 10+ years
  • Apistogramma (Apistogramma cacatuoides): three to five years
  • Archer fish (Toxotes spp.): five years
  • Armored catfish (Corydoras spp., Brochis spp.): seven to 15 years
  • Axelrods rainbowfish (Melantaenia herbertaxelrodi ): five years

B

  • Bala shark (Puntius denisoni): 10 years
  • Bandit cory (Corydoras metae): five years
  • Banjo catfish (Acanthobunocephalus nicoi): five to eight years
  • Betta (Betta splendens): two to three years
  • Black-banded leporinus (Leporinus fasciatus): five-plus years
  • Black neon tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi): five years
  • Black phantom tetra (Megalamphodus megalopterus): five years
  • Black shark (Labeo chrysophekadion): four to 10 years
  • Black widow tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi): five years
  • Blackfin cory (Corydoras leucomelas): five-plus years
  • Blackskirt tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi): three to five years
  • Bloodfin tetra (Aphyocharax anisitsi): 10+ years
  • Blue gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus): four years
  • Boeseman's rainbow (Trichopodus trichopterus): five years
  • Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus): four years
  • Bronze cory (Corydoras aeneus): five years

C-D

  • Cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi): four years
  • Cherry barb (Puntius titteya): five to seven years
  • Chocolate gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides): four years
  • Clown loach (Chromobotia macracanthus): 15+ years
  • Columbian tetra (Hyphessobrycon columbianus): five years
  • Congo tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus): five years
  • Convict (Amatitlania nigrofasciata): 10 to 18 years
  • Debauwi catfish (Pareutropius debauwi): eight years
  • Diamond tetra (Moenkhausia pittier): five years
  • Discus (Symphysodon aequifasciata): 10 to 18 years
  • Dojo loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus): 10 years
  • Dwarf gourami (Colisa lalia): four years

F-G

  • Festivum (Mesonauta festivus): 10+ years
  • Figure 8 puffer (Tetraodon biocellatus): five years
  • Firemouth (Thorichthys meeki): 10 to 15 years
  • Frontosa (Cyphotilapia frontosa): eight to 15 years
  • Giant danio (Devario aequipinnatus): five to seven years
  • Glassfish (Parambassis ranga): eight years
  • Glowlight tetra (Hemigrammus erthrozonus): five years
  • Gold barb (Puntius semifasciolatus): five-plus years
  • Goldfish (Carassius auratus auratus): 10 to 30 years
  • Guppy (Poecilia reticulata): three to five years

H-K

  • Harlequin (Trigonostigma heteromorpha): six years
  • Hatchetfish (Gasteropelecus sternicla)): five years
  • Hognose brochis (Brochis multiradiatus): 10 years
  • Honey gourami (Colisa chuna, Colisa sota): four years
  • Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciata): 10 to 18 years
  • Jordan's Catfish (Arius seemani): 10+ years
  • Killifish (Fundulopanchax  spp.): one to two years
  • Kissing gourami (Helostoma temmincki): five years
  • Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher): five years

L

  • Lake Kutubu rainbow (Melanotaenia lacustris): five years
  • Lake Madagascar rainbow (Bedotia geayi ): five years
  • Lake Wanam rainbow (Glossolepis wanamensis): five years
  • Lemon cichlid (Neolamprologus leleupi): eight years
  • Lemon tetra (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis): five years
  • Leopard danio (Danio frankei): five to seven years
  • Leporinus (Leporinus spp.): five-plus years
  • Livingstoni (Nimbochromis livingstonii): 10+ years

M-O

  • Marigold swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri): four years
  • Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus): 15+ years
  • Mollie (Poecilia latipinna): four years
  • Moonlight gourami (Trichogaster microlepis): four years
  • Neon rainbow (Melanotaenia praecox): three to four years
  • Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi ): five to 10 years
  • Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus): 10 to 18 years
  • Otocinclus (Otocinculus sp.): five years

P

  • Pacu (Colossoma spp.): 10 years
  • Pearl danio (Danio albolineatus): five years
  • Pearl gourami (Trichogaster leeri): four years
  • Pictus catfish (Pimelodus pictus): eight years
  • Piranha (Serrasalmus piraya): 10 years
  • Platy (Xiphorphorus maculatus): three to five years
  • Pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus): seven to 15 years
  • Powder blue gourami (Colisa lalia): four years

R

  • Rafael catfish (Platydoras costatus): seven to 15 years
  • Rainbow shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum): four to 10 years
  • Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi): four years
  • Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha): five to 10 years
  • Red bellied piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri): 10 years
  • Red eye tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae): five years
  • Red fin shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum): eight years
  • Red hook silver dollar (Metynnis argenteus): 10+ years
  • Red rainbow (Glossolepis incisus): five years
  • Red-tailed catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus): 15 years
  • Red tuxedo platy (Xiphophorus maculatus): four years
  • Red wagtail platy (Xiphophorus maculatus): four years
  • Rosy barb (Puntius conchonius): five years
  • Royal pleco (Panaque nigrolineatus): 10+ years
  • Rummy nose tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus): five-plus years

S-U

  • Sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna): three years
  • Severum (Heros efasciatus): 10+ years
  • Silver pacu (Colossoma brachypomus): 10 years
  • Silvertip tetra (Hasemania nana): five years
  • Swordtail (Xiphorphorus hellerii): three to five years
  • Texas cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus): 10+ years
  • Tiger barb (Puntius tetrazona): six years
  • Tinfoil barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii): 10 years
  • Upside-down catfish (Synodontis nigriventris): five years

W-Z

  • Weather loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus): 10 years
  • Whiptail pleco (Rineloricaria fallax): 10+ years
  • White cloud mountain minnow (Tanichthys albonubes): five to seven years
  • Wimple (Heniochus acuminnatus): 20+ years
  • Yellow tetra (Hyphessobrycon bifasciatus): five years
  • Zebra cichlid (Metriaclima callainos): 10+ years
  • Zebra danio (Danio rerio): five to seven years