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Fish life expectancy?


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Hey everyone,

I know that a fish's life expectancy varies between the types of fishes, but I was wondering if there is any definitive information of the length of life for various species?

Sometimes I wonder whether a death is due to old age, or some other unexplainable reason.

For some unknown reason, i feel as though clowns (which I currently have) live a long life, whereas mandarins (mine which died) do not have long life expectancies. (Replies not limited to the two fish mentioned..)


Any thoughts?

Edited by Dnic
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It's basically impossible to tell with the small fish we have - there is no way to know how long they live in the wild. (can't tag them or track them in the wild.) We can only measure how long people have kept them in captivity which could be shorter or longer than in the wild - no way to know.


The longest lived fish I had was a yellow tang. I had it for over 5 years. It died while I was on vacation and someone thought they would just top off the tank with untreated tap water instead of waiting for my RO/DI unit to make some up. the chlorine killed every single thing in my 100 gal tank. I was sick for weeks over that.

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they were perfectly fine when i turned off the lights when i woke up the next morning i could see

floating fish from my bed, i about started to cry, i had those fish for a year and a half.

so im still wondering why they all died.

Edited by Dr.eclipse
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none of the equipment failed.

no apparent diseases.

unless my sister felt like bleaching my tank or something.


Sadly, my sister bleached my piranha tank when I was in high school. It was ~12 years ago, but it still makes me mad to think about it!


It was a freshwater fish, but the longest living fish I've ever had was a Corydoras sp. that was still going strong at 11 years in my possession when he was sold with a tank.

Edited by rnd4
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I know someone who had a clownfish that was over 15 years old. I've read stories about 25+ year old clowns.


Tangs and clowns seem to be the longest lived saltwater fish, but I think that's probably because they're some of the toughest fish in the hobby.

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Varies tremendously by species. I have a maroon clown in 1 of my tanks that is about 7yrs old.Ummm I should say that I know of...it was not a baby when I got it. Going back to my freshwater days there were some fishes that were basically seasonal.Mandarins are very difficult to keep long term because of their feeding habits/requierments so no surprise there.Like some one else mentioned if they are wild caught who knows how old they might be if they are adult sized?Another reason to go with captive bred whenever you can.

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10 years in captivity for a Blue Damsel (from Austrialia). Bought as an adult, sold when I sold the 50 gal. tank he was in. Still very active and healthy after 10 years. I'd expect around 15 years total life span for this fish.

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One study found that in the wild, surgeonfish (acanthurids), such as the clown tang (Acanthurus lineatus) and the scopas tang (Zebrasoma scopas), can live as long as 40 years (Choat and Axe, 1997). Even in captivity, fish can live a long time. The Nancy Aquarium in France has kept careful records of their fish, and many, from triggers to angels, have lived up to 30 years. This is quite rare for fish kept by hobbyists, however.


Informal talks with hobbyists and fish stores suggest that few fish kept by aquarists live longer than five or six years. Given such a long life in the wild yet such a short one in the hands of hobbyists, we should wonder if there are things we can do to extend the lives of fish in captive reefs.


-Harker, Richard. "The Fish-Friendly Reef Tank." Marine Fish and Reef USA 2003: 116. Print.

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my female clown was the first fish i bought 6 years ago. it has survived three males, and this third one is going to get whacked soon if it doesn't stop biting me every time i put my hand in the tank.


my pink/blue spotted shrimp gobie died about a year after i got it, but i had got it when it was pretty big, and i didn't really know it's diet very well.


my jawfish lasted a night. (jumper...)

my second jawfish lasted two nights (jumped through the eggcrate...)


my kole tang lasted a long time, and is still alive, after i nursed it back to health from nasty hlle (it's currently in someone elses tank since i have a 28 gallon...)


my coral beauty lasted about 4 years, but didn't like the 28 gallon and died :( loved that fish, but the new tank was just too new for it i think.


my YWG is about a year old, yellow tail damsel about 2 years.


my 6line lasted about 3 years, but when i crashed my sps tank with it in it, i couldn't find it after i scrubbed down the rock


foxface, first one was skinny when i got it, lasted a few months but never got fat, and never really ate. second foxface lasted about a year, but all of a sudden had some nasty red mass form under the skin and was dead the next day.

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  • 9 years later...



Species stocking list for my first tank (105 gallons):


Marine Betta-I would expect 30+ years


Ocellaris Clownfish (most clownfish, maybe the designer ones don’t live as long)-I would expect 20+ years


Flame Hawkfish-I would expect 10+ years, maybe up to 20


Any of the Centropyge angels-I would expect 10+ years, maybe up to 17 or 18 years


Royal Gramma / any Grammatidae or Liopoproma or Assessor Basslet-Up to 15 years, I would say average 9-12 years


Yellow Watchman Goby-10+ years





Other fish not mentioned:


Most other Gobies-Up to 5 years, Neon Gobies 2-3 years


Blennies- 5 to 6 years


Fairy and Flasher Wrasses-5 to 6 years


Halichoeres wrasses-8 to 10 years


Lined wrasses-10+ years


Hogfish-Not sure, I assume 10+ years


Large Angels-25+ years


Tangs-20+ years


Lionfish, Scorpionfish, Anglerfish-Not sure, no clue at all


Filefish, Boxfish, Triggerfish, Puffers-Not sure, no clue at all


Damsels and Chromis-10+ years


Eels-30+ years


Larger groupers-35+ years


Soldierfish and Squirrelfish-Not sure, but I assume 10+ years


Rabbitfish (Foxfaces)-20+ years


Butterflyfish-10+ years


Moorish Idol-I would assume 10+, but how many can keep one successfully?




Feel free to agree or disagree!


Isn’t it funny how a small Clownfish can live for the average lifespan of 2 cats or dogs?



















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I had an darwin clown live about 10 years and died for no apparent reason one day and its mate was fine. I was sick.... Its male a davinci eventualy turned female it's about 6 now with a year old darwin mate. I have a female blacker ice that's now about 12 mabe 13 or more her male a black phantom is about 3 she killed the last one and was alone for a long time. I have a female pleco one of the smaller species that's about 12 and fine I've had tetras live 8 to 10 years. I have had many tetras live longer than the suggested life expectancy. My friend has an ice blue red top male mbuna cichlid that I bred from my pair and grew out for her that's atleast 13....

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I think my current clowns must be 5-6 years by now? I am not sure.. I never kept track of when I got them. I just know I got them before I moved to Wisconsin and that was 4 years ago. I had a pair older then that but sold them along with my other fish (just so hard to move everything to another state so only kept one clown pair). 


Unfortunately... many fish (especially those that are not clowns... clowns are survivors!) rarely live their life span out... as usually disease... a crash... from a failure like a heater, leaking tank, or such or power outage.....or an act of god... (hurricane)... get them or poor nutrition. Nutrition is one of the things not often considered enough in this hobby but we are getting much better! 


Also I learned recently... a small goby, Asterropteryx semipunctatus (Starry Goby) being captive bred by Biota... have a life span of OVER 11 years. Actual life span unknown as they were released after 11 years. They are small gobies, about 2 inches, which we normally think of having short life spans... apparently not this one. If a person wants a reallllly long lived pico/nano goby... this is it 🙂


I guess there is a lot we don't know.


Cute to boot!



  • Like 1
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Yea the black and white Darwin clown

I know she wasnt sick no sign of disease or anything idk if she got spooked or something and hit the lid perhaps and broke her neck or injured herself internaly because she was laying freshly dead not a mark on her right on the top of the cabage coral at the top of my rockwork. It's a real mystery.

 Thinking back my other female the blacker ice is older than 12-13  I think because I was just out of high school when I got her may be about 14 and Im actualy prety sure I had the pleco before her so its probly closer to 15 than 12. My memory isn't the greatest for this sort of thing lol I should probly wright it down


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On 2/18/2011 at 3:28 AM, Flicker said:

someone thought they would just top off the tank with untreated tap water instead of waiting for my RO/DI unit to make some up. the chlorine killed every single thing in my 100 gal tank. I was sick for weeks over that

Why would anyone do something like that!?!?

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