Not Your Average Goldfish: Fish with the Longest Lifespan

While your goldfish may not have made it past the one-year mark, there are tons of wild fish species that can live as long as 500 years and beyond. And though we may worry about the day that little Goldy has to be flushed down the toilet, these fish are happily living long lives under cover of the sea. 

The ocean is undoubtedly full of mystery, and some of these fish far surpass anything that we could ever even imagine. We are going to show you ten of our favorite fish with the most extended lifespans you’ve heard of.

(You might be interested in reading about the Largest Fish in the Ocean)

Top 10 Longest Living Fish

Human beings live, on average, to be about 79 years old these days. And while that’s considered a long, full life in our terms, you might not feel so accomplished after reading this list of the longest living fish. 

10. Greenland Shark

10 longest life span fish greenland shark

For this list, we decided to save the best for last. While there are tons of microorganisms, plants, and other living beings that can and have outlived the Greenland shark, this animal ranks near the top of sea creatures in terms of lifespan. 

Native to the North Atlantic, the Greenland shark thrives in cold water and moves very slowly as a way to preserve its energy for feeding time. The oldest recorded Greenland shark was about 400 years old.

Though its ability to survive several decades is quite impressive, this shark does have the downfall of slowly losing its sight due to a parasitic crustacean that eats this specific species’ corneas.

9. Clam

9 fish with longest life clam 2

Clams are such familiar sea creatures that we can often underestimate their potential. Clams are not only popular dishes among humans, but they are also commonly hunted and eaten by other animals. 

Between the constant harvesting by fishermen and attacks by predators, many clams don’t live to be that old.

However, when left to their own devices to grow and thrive, it turns out that clams have the ability and potential to live over 500 years. More commonly, many clams exceed the age of 100. 

Scientists have continued to perfect the aging process for many creatures, including the clam. They determine a clam’s age by its size, but also by the number of growth rings found on its shell.

8. Carp River

8 fish with longest life carp river fish

The carp river fish is closely related to the ornamental koi fish. On its own and within average reasoning, the carp river fish is not super impressive. Though it tends to live longer than the typical goldfish at up to almost 50 years, some exceptional cases have allowed this species to hit record numbers. 

For example, the oldest recorded carp river was born in Japan way back in the 1700s. It didn’t die until the late 1900s, making it 226 years old at the end of its life. 

That being said, while most of these fish don’t live that long in the wild, it is possible for the carp river to have an extremely long life if intentionally and adequately cared for.

7. Red Sea Urchin

7 longest life span fish sea urchin 2

Red sea urchins are little, spiny invertebrates that make their homes across shallow coastal waters. These creatures have a unique look to them and often add to beautiful ocean scenery. 

Many red sea urchins can live to be 100 years old. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, still more individuals can reach the age of 200 years or older, assuming their living conditions are optimal and their aging happens slowly. 

Because the ocean is so vast, it’s hard to know for sure if there are still red sea urchins surviving from the 1800s, although many scientists and experts believe that it’s possible based on studies and the continual availability of aging techniques. 

In fact, some experts even believe that the red sea urchins appear to be immortal, aside from the fact that they are often harvested by fishermen or attacked by predators. Because of the studies that have gone into this creature, if red sea urchins were to be left alone, it’s believed they could go on living for an extremely long time.

6. Freshwater Pearl Mussel

6 fish with longest lifespan freshwater pearl mussel

The freshwater pearl mussel goes through quite the fascinating maturing process. When they are first born as tiny larvae, they have to find a host fish to attach to and receive protection and nutrients from. After this stage, the young bury themselves in the sand to allow for further growth. 

The growth process of the freshwater pearl mussel is prolonged, so it makes sense that the oldest living among the species can be as old as 130 years. Between the ages of 10 and 15, the mussels reach maturity. Over the next 75 years, they remain sexually active and can produce a whopping 200 million larvae.

Though that number may seem like a lot, the pearl mussel’s population is often in decline. Many of the larvae do not survive, and other impacts from humans have caused the mussel to be almost extinct in some areas of the world.

5. European Eel

5 longest life span fish european eel

While the American eel typically only lives about 20 to 25 years, with many of them only reaching the age of 5, the European eel far surpasses the former species by reaching the age of over 80 years. 

The European eel likely spawns in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean, somewhere near the Sargasso Sea. However, their tendency is to migrate to the inland waters where they spend their lives eating and growing. 

This eel will transform through many life stages. You can track these stages based on the changes in their coloring. Once they have reached maturity and it comes time for them to spawn, they return out to sea. At this point, they are likely 60 to 80 centimeters long.

4. Bigmouth Buffalo 

4 fish with longest life bigmouth buffalo

While the bigmouth buffalo fish was recently just another large freshwater bony fish, scientists have recently discovered the oldest one to be about 112 years old – meaning it has outlived the vast majority of humans on the planet of its time. 

Previous fish of this species have been found to live on average around 26 years, which is still pretty impressive for a fairly common fish species. However, this new aging, due to radiocarbon dating, blows that number out of the water. 

At this long lifespan, the bigmouth buffalo fish can grow to be almost 80 pounds. That makes it both a large and old fish!

3. Bowhead Whale

3 fish with longest life bowhead whale

When it comes to long lifespans, the bowhead whale ranks high as one of the longest living animals on the planet. As humans who will likely only live seven or eight decades, it’s hard for us to fathom that this sea creature can live to be over 200 years old.

While it’s challenging to get close to these 100-ton, 60-foot long swimmers, scientists have been able to analyze their aging based on collected blubber and eye tissue. 

Animals this large that live this long might come with the assumption that they must be vicious meat-eaters. However, like most other whale species, the bowhead whale simply strains plankton from the ocean’s surface, water columns, and the seafloor.

2. Sturgeon 

2 fish with longest life sturgeon

The lifespan for the average sturgeon fish is actually pretty impressive, mainly because of the difference between the male and female within the species. While the male only lives for an average of 55 years, the female actually can live anywhere from 80 to 150 years. 

This long-living fish may have a decent lifespan, but that’s a bonus to the species considering only about 10 to 20 percent of adults within a population become sexually active during a season. 

However, it’s good to note that the females can lay as many as 7,000 eggs per pound of fish, so it seems to balance out the few females that do reproduce in a season.

1. Orange Roughy

1 longest life span fish orange roughy

The orange roughy strongly reflects its name, given the orange hue of its scales. This predator fish is known for living near undersea mountains where the currents are strong because it brings their prey right to them.

Though these fish aren’t anything too special – people eat them, and they don’t grow to be unusually large – they do have a surprisingly long lifespan. The orange roughy can live as long as 150 years, making it one of the longest living marine fish species. 

This longer lifespan makes sense, considering the fish doesn’t reach sexual maturity until at least 20 years old. Some experts think ages 30 or even 40 might be more accurate. At any rate, the orange roughy is often at risk of overfishing since it takes so long for their ability to reproduce. 

A Few More Fish With Long Lifespans Worth Mentioning

In terms of science, there are individual living beings, such as plants, that are determined to be biologically “immortal.” What this means is that the mortality of the species doesn’t increase once it has reached maturity. It seemed a little unfair to add an immortal animal to the list, so we just wanted to mention this and a few others. 

  • Immortal Jellyfish
  • Queen Angelfish
  • French Angelfish
  • Lionfish

As humans, we’re usually pretty impressed when someone reaches the old age of 100. On top of that, we’re all used to having pets that survive only a fraction of our lifetime. 

That being said, the numbers we’ve seen listed above in these wild animals in nature seem completely unbelievable. It just goes to show that if you look close enough, nature and science can show you some truly amazing things. 

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