Average Lifespans of Aquarium Fish

Gold fish in water tank
Tadahiko Hisatomi / Getty Images

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): 5 years
  • Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare): 10+ years
  • Apistogramma (Apistogramma cacatuoides): 3 to 5 years
  • Archer fish (Toxotes spp.): 5 years
  • Armored catfish (Corydoras spp., Brochis spp.): 7 to 15 years
  • Axelrods rainbowfish (Melantaenia herbertaxelrodi ): 5 years

B

  • Bala shark (Puntius denisoni): 10 years
  • Bandit cory (Corydoras metae): 5 years
  • Banjo catfish (Acanthobunocephalus nicoi): 5 to 8 years
  • Betta (Betta splendens): 2 to 3 years
  • Black-banded leporinus (Leporinus fasciatus): 5+ years
  • Black neon tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi): 5 years
  • Black phantom tetra (Megalamphodus megalopterus): 5 years
  • Black shark (Labeo chrysophekadion): 4 to 10 years
  • Black widow tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi): 5 years
  • Blackfin cory (Corydoras leucomelas): 5+ years
  • Blackskirt tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi): 3 to 5 years
  • Bloodfin tetra (Aphyocharax anisitsi): 10+ years
  • Blue gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus): 4 years
  • Boeseman's rainbow (Trichopodus trichopterus): 5 years
  • Bolivian ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus): 4 years

C-D

  • Cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi): 4 years
  • Cherry barb (Puntius titteya): 5 to 7 years
  • Chocolate gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides): 4 years
  • Clown loach (Chromobotia macracanthus): 15+ years
  • Columbian tetra (Hyphessobrycon columbianus): 5 years
  • Congo tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus): 5 years
  • Convict (Amatitlania nigrofasciata): 10 to 18 years
  • Debauwi catfish (Pareutropius debauwi): 8 years
  • Diamond tetra (Moenkhausia pittier): 5 years
  • Discus (Symphysodon aequifasciata): 10 to 18 years
  • Dojo loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus): 10 years
  • Dwarf gourami (Colisa lalia): 4 years

F-G

  • Festivum (Mesonauta festivus): 10+ years
  • Figure 8 puffer (Tetraodon biocellatus): 5 years
  • Firemouth (Thorichthys meeki): 10 to 15 years
  • Frontosa (Cyphotilapia frontosa): 8 to 15 years
  • Giant danio (Devario aequipinnatus): 5 to 7 years
  • Glassfish (Parambassis ranga ): 8 years
  • Glowlight tetra (Hemigrammus erthrozonus): 5 years
  • Gold barb (Puntius semifasciolatus): 5+ years
  • Goldfish (Carassius auratus auratus): 10 to 30 years
  • Guppy (Poecilia reticulata): 3 to 5 years

H-K

  • Harlequin (Trigonostigma heteromorpha): 6 years
  • Hatchetfish (Gasteropelecus sternicla)): 5 years
  • Hognose brochis (Brochis multiradiatus): 10 years
  • Honey gourami (Colisa chuna, Colisa sota): 4 years
  • Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciata): 10 to 18 years
  • Jordan's Catfish (Arius seemani): 10+ years
  • Killifish (Fundulopanchax  spp.): 1 to 2 years
  • Kissing gourami (Helostoma temmincki): 5 years
  • Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher): 5 years

L

  • Lake Kutubu rainbow (Melanotaenia lacustris): 5 years
  • Lake Madagascar rainbow (Bedotia geayi ): 5 years
  • Lake Wanam rainbow (Glossolepis wanamensis): 5 years
  • Lemon cichlid (Neolamprologus leleupi): 8 years
  • Lemon tetra (Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis): 5 years
  • Leopard danio (Danio frankei): 5 to 7 years
  • Leporinus (Leporinus spp.): 5+ years
  • Livingstoni (Nimbochromis livingstonii): 10+ years

M-O

  • Marigold swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri): 4 years
  • Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus): 15+ years
  • Mollie (Poecilia latipinna): 4 years
  • Moonlight gourami (Trichogaster microlepis): 4 years
  • Neon rainbow (): 3 to 4 years
  • Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi ): 5 to 10 years
  • Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus): 10 to 18 years
  • Otocinclus (Otocinculus sp.): 5 years

P

  • Pacu (Colossoma spp.): 10 years
  • Pearl danio (Danio albolineatus): 5 years
  • Pearl gourami (Trichogaster leeri): 4 years
  • Pictus catfish (Pimelodus pictus): 8 years
  • Piranha (Serrasalmus piraya): 10 years
  • Platy (Xiphorphorus maculatus): 3 to 5 years
  • Pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus): 7 to 15 years
  • Powder blue gourami (Colisa lalia): 4 years

R

  • Rafael catfish (Platydoras Costatus): 7 to 15 years
  • Rainbow shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum): 4 to 10 years
  • Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi): 4 years
  • Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha): 5 to 10 years
  • Red bellied piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri): 10 years
  • Red eye tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae): 5 years
  • Red fin shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum): 8 years
  • Red hook silver dollar (Metynnis argenteus): 10+ years
  • Red rainbow (Glossolepis incisus): 5 years
  • Red-tailed catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus): 15 years
  • Red tuxedo platy (Xiphophorus maculatus): 4 years
  • Red wagtail platy (Xiphophorus maculatus): 4 years
  • Rosy barb (Puntius conchonius): 5 years
  • Royal pleco (Panaque nigrolineatus): 10+ years
  • Rummy nose tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus): 5+ years

S-U

  • Sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna): 3 years
  • Severum (Heros efasciatus): 10+ years
  • Silver pacu (Colossoma brachypomus): 10 years
  • Silvertip tetra (Hasemania nana): 5 years
  • Swordtail (Xiphorphorus hellerii): 3 to 5 years
  • Texas cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus): 10+ years
  • Tiger barb (Puntius tetrazona): 6 years
  • Tinfoil Barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii): 10 years
  • Upside down catfish (Synodontis nigriventris): 5 years

W-Z

  • Weather loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus): 10 years
  • Whiptail pleco (Rineloricaria fallax): 10+ years
  • White cloud mountain minnow (Tanichthys albonubes): 5 to 7 years
  • Wimple (Heniochus Acuminnatus): 20+ years
  • Yellow tetra (Hyphessobrycon bifasciatus): 5 years
  • Zebra cichlid (Metriaclima callainos): 10+ years
  • Zebra danio (Danio rerio): 5 to 7 years