How Long Do Tropical Fish Live? 6 Ways To Increase Lifespan

The life expectancy for a tropical fish will vary depending on how they are cared for.  There are many factors that will determine how long they can actually live. Food, species, water condition, tank mate, aquascaping, and fish stock are some factors that will determine how long the tropical fish will live.

How long do tropical fish live? Tropical fish will live on an average of between 10-12 years.  Larger tropical fish will live longer than smaller tropical fish.  Life span will vary depending on the aquarium size, water condition, food, and tank mate.  These all have a great impact on how long a tropical fish can live.

Most species of tropical fish can live well over 10 years with proper care.  The better they are cared for, the longer they will live.  Below are 6 ways to increase the lifespan for the tropical fish.

1. Water Condition

Water is the most important factor for tropical fish to live a long life. Like a human needs clean air to breathe and be healthy, a fish needs clean water to breathe and be healthy.

Ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite are toxins that are deadly for the fish. These toxins can build up in the water quickly if you don’t pay attention to the aquarium. It can be caused by overfeeding, too much fish waste, and poor water circulation.

In order to keep your aquarium water in a pristine stage, water changes should be performed. Weekly water changes are required if you have a lot of fish and plants in the aquarium. On the other hand, if there are not a lot of fish and plants, monthly water changes are sufficient.

In addition to water changes, aquarium maintenance is also required. This involves cleaning the water filter, getting rid of algae, removing dead plants, and making sure the aquarium glass is clear.

To help keep the water clean and clear at an almost perfect condition, you can try to use a water conditioner like API ACCU-CLEAR Freshwater Aquarium Water Clarifier, which can be found at Amazon.  Use this product as recommended by the manufacturer and you can have clear clean water at all times.  

2. Food Diet

The quality of fish food plays an important role in how long the fish will live.  Quality food is high in nutrients, which helps the fish maintain good health.

Avoid poor quality food as it does not contain the nutrition required by the fish. In addition, poor quality food can actually cause more harm to the fish than you may think. One of the harms it can cause is swim bladder disorder (SBD). SBD is a disorder that is caused by poor nutrition and overfeeding. SBD can kill the fish from this condition and treatment is not always successful.

When buying fish food, besides good quality fish food, make sure it’s formulated for the fish species. You don’t want to give goldfish flakes to tropical fish as it doesn’t have the required nutritions. Instead, get the tropical fish flakes, which are formulated for tropical fish. This will ensure that the tropical fish gets all the required nutrition, which in turn keeps them healthy.  In addition, some of them are formulated to help keep the water cleaner too.

3. Aquarium Size

Aquarium size will determine how long your tropical fish can actually live.  For that reason, you should get the correct size aquarium for the fish. Tropical fish that placed in an aquarium that is not the correct size will become deformed and their growth stunted. This, in turn, will lead to a short lifespan for the tropical fish.

When an aquarium tank is too small or not the correct size for the tropical fish, they will not have much room to move around. This will lead to the fish becoming stressed and the fish will eventually die from that.

To give the tropical fish the best chances for long life, you should provide them adequate room for swimming. Approximately 1 inch of fish per gallon is recommended.

In addition, make sure you know how large the fish will get when they reach maturity. While you may be able to keep 20 tropical fish in the tank right now, in 1 year, that might not be possible. You’ll need to either get a bigger tank for all the fish or remove some of the fish from the tank.

4. Tank Mate

It’s important to put tropical fish with other fish they can get along with.  By putting them with other species that they don’t get along with, can definitely shorten their life.

Most tropical fish are social fish and get along well with other tropical fish species. They usually stay in a group for protection and to help each other find food.

However, putting them in with other species of tropical fish like the Jack Dempsey and Tigerfish can shorten their lifespan. For this reason, before putting them in the tank, make sure that each species of tropical fish is compatible with each other. Else, you’ll find your aquarium with less fish each day.

5. Aquascaping

For some species of fish, the correct choice of environment you choose for them can mean life or death.  Some species of fish need plants and rocks to survive.  Plants and rocks provide protection from predators and a safe place to sleep. For other species of fish, they can survive without it.

When it comes to tropical fish, they need plants and rocks to survive. In their natural habitat, tropical fish are usually small and they are vulnerable to other large predatory fish. Most of the time, tropical fish will tend to be around aquatic plants and under rocks. This is to escape from predators when needed or to ambush prey.

For this reason, your aquarium should have aquascaping like their natural habitat. Most pet stores and online stores will carry substrate, plants, decors and other objects to put in the aquarium. You don’t need to put a lot of decors, just enough where the tropical fish can go to and feel safe.

6. Fish Stocking Level

An overstocked aquarium is another factor that can shorten the lives of the tropical fish. When there are too many fish in an aquarium, there is not enough room for them to swim. This causes a very stressful environment for the fish. When tropical fish is stressed, they are easily prone to illnesses and other diseases, which they can die from.

Another factor to think about when buying tropical fish is their mature size. They might all fit in a tank when they are a fry but will have no room to swim when they reach their mature size.

To keep the fish happy and stress-free, make sure there are not too many fish in an aquarium and they can swim freely without bumping into each other.

How Long Does My Tropical Fish Live For?

  • Angelfish – 10 to 13 years
  • Betta Fish – 2 to 3 years
  • Corydoras – 5 to 7 years
  • Clown Loach – 10 to 15 years
  • Discus – 10 to 17 years
  • Common Goldfish – 25 years to 30 years
  • Guppy – 3 to 5 years
  • Plecostomus – 7 to 15 years
  • Swordtail – 3 to 5 years


Interesting facts:  A Clown Loach doesn’t fully mature until it reaches the age of 10 years old.

Why Does It Matter How Long A Tropical Fish Live For?

It’s important to know how long each species of tropical fish live for so you can prepare for it.  Some tropical fish can live well over 10 years, while others will live for just a few years.  For that reason, you should prepare for it.

Sometimes, life takes a turn and you may need to move to a new city for a new job or you don’t have the time to care for them anymore. When this happens, your only choice is to get rid of them or find them a new home. Most people will get attached to the tropical fish that it will be hard to let go of. By knowing how long they can live, you can prepare for it beforehand.


Above are all the factors that contribute to how long a tropical fish can live for. Understanding what the fish needs and requirements, you can give the fish a happy and long lifespan.

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