Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.
The Longest-Living Exotic Pets
While some people don’t want long-lived pets because they don’t know how their living situation will change in the future, others find it difficult to cope with the loss of a cherished animal. It can be incredible how quickly the years just fly right by, and unfortunately, our pets just don’t live forever.
However, some pets seem to come close and may even outlive their adult owners. A few surprising species can live extremely long lifespans provided, of course, that they receive the top-notch care they require. Unfortunately, some species that are known to have long lifespans don't do well in captivity.
9 Exotic Pets That Live a Long Time
- Koi Fish
- Black Corals
- Sea Urchins
- Capuchin Monkeys
Goldfish are actually domesticated Prussian carp, and they are immensely popular as pets. Unfortunately, this popularity has led to millions of these animals dying premature deaths due to improper care. The popular idea of keeping these fish in bowls is an extremely incorrect way of caring for them due to lack of space and build-up of ammonia from the fish’s waste.
While their typical lifespan is listed as around 10 years, Tish the fish was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest goldfish. He died at 43 years old. Another goldfish, Fred, lived until the age of 40.
Even if these fish are centenarians for their species, it is obvious that goldfish are capable of living much longer than most realize, and the common occurrence of goldfish not even reaching five years old constitutes an ethical problem.
Turtles are famous for being slow-moving and so is their aging process. These commonly-kept reptiles can live for a considerable length of time if they are kept properly. While turtles and tortoises are not terribly difficult to care for, most owners, unfortunately, come up short in their husbandry.
Red-eared sliders can grow relatively large and require a large aquarium or pond to thrive, which many owners are not prepared for. Turtles are overwhelmingly available in the pet trade but most will die prematurely. There are many different types of turtles and all have pretty long lifespans. Here are some popular species people keep and their typical lifespans:
- Sulcata tortoise: 70+ years
- Box turtle: 50 years with some captive specimens allegedly reaching 100 years
- Red-eared slider: 30–50 years
- Snapping turtle: 40 years
Not all parrots, also known as hookbills, have long lifespans. Some smaller birds even have an average longevity of under 20 years. Other small and medium-sized parrots often live on average to 15–30 years. Of course, the largest parrots are famous for their impressive lifespans and easily out-living their owners.
For instance, with the proper care, macaw species can easily reach 50 years, but some reports show individuals that have lived to 75. 100 years has also been reported.
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Here are a few examples of age ranges for popular pet parrots:
- African grey: 50–90 years
- Umbrella Cockatoo: 70+ years
- Scarlet macaw: 70+ years
- Amazon parrot: 50+ years
4. Koi Fish
These popular pond fish are domesticated Amur carp that are closely related to goldfish. They are widespread due to their ability to adapt to cold climates, and they come in a myriad of different color morphs. These fish are relatively easy to care for as long as their water parameters are properly maintained.
Luckily for koi, they are culturally kept in appropriately sized ponds instead of small tanks and bowls that are popular for their goldfish relatives. This has allowed many individuals to achieve longer lifespans. While the generally accepted range is 50 years, many have been reported to reach 100 years, and one famous fish, Hanako, was estimated to be over 200 years old.
Obviously, elephants are not common or feasible pets for the large majority of the population. These exceptionally demanding animals are mostly owned by private zoo and circus owners. The controversial nature of the practice and the massive expense of elephant care will make elephant ownership even rarer in the future.
In Southeast Asian countries, Asian elephants are traditionally kept by workers called mahouts. Elephant longevity is somewhat compromised in captivity, although some individuals have lived past the expected age of 50. In the wild and in some captive worker situations, some individuals have been reported to reach 70–100 years old.
6. Black Corals
Most people have not heard of black corals or are even familiar with what corals are in the home marine aquarium. Corals are actually small, colonial polyps that exist together on a skeleton forming the beautiful "plant-like" organisms that comprise coral reefs.
Black corals are unique because they are non-photosynthetic, and this, unfortunately, makes them "pets" for expert aquarists only. The most popular black coral species are informally referred to as "whip corals," and they form gorgeous and strange spirals.
Amazingly, black corals may be the longest living organisms on Earth, with one species, Leiopathes glaberrima, being estimated to be around 4,265 years old, making it the oldest recorded living organism! Unfortunately, these difficult-to-feed corals will be unlikely to remain alive in most aquariums for even a few years.
7. Sea Urchins
A sea urchin is not the average person's idea of a pet, but they are actually commonly available in the marine aquarium trade. They are sometimes added to coral reef tanks because they are very effective nuisance algae eaters, but they also add beauty and unique diversity to these beautiful home ecosystems.
Sea urchins are echinoderms, along with sea stars and sea cucumbers. One little know fact about these strange creatures is that they have a long natural lifespan. Most species are said to be able to exceed 30 years, with some individuals of certain species having been found to be 200 years old!
Unfortunately, sea urchins are prone to perishing if they are not provided with an adequate food source. They are such voracious algae eaters, they can easily wipe your rocks clean and need supplementing.
8. Capuchin Monkeys
Capuchin monkeys are the most commonly used species in Hollywood films such as The Night at the Museum; therefore, they are very popular. As pets, they are certainly not suitable for even more "advanced" pet keepers because of their excessive social and enrichment demands unless they can be kept in a spacious enclosure with more than one monkey, which is an ideal setting.
These intelligent primates are also used to assist disabled people after extensive training. These monkeys can live up to 45 years old in captivity, so owning one is a tremendous commitment.
The American alligator is a large, carnivorous reptile and the second closest living relative to the dinosaurs after birds. Once listed as an endangered species, they have rebounded, and the resulting protections have made them illegal to own as pets in more states, aside from just general fear of their ability to potentially be lethal humans.
Alligators should only be maintained by experienced reptile owners, but their danger is really overstated. They are relatively easy to care for if there is space for a moderately sized, temperature-controlled pond. The lifespan of the alligator is not well known, but individuals have allegedly exceeded the age of 80 years old in captivity.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Alita on May 20, 2020:
The elephants are not the workers pets
William on April 25, 2020:
People can’t keep these pets with out a permit
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 24, 2020:
KelseyHannon Only elephants might be technically not possible to own without an exhibition business. On this list I have owned black coral, sea urchin, goldfish, turtles, and a parrot. Primates are legal in some states, including the one I live in, as are alligators.
KelseyHannon on March 24, 2020:
Only half of these are pets that North Americans can own. Besides the informative facts in the article, it’s definitely not a pets list.
what on February 25, 2020:
you cant keep some of theese as pets can you?
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on January 22, 2020:
Elephants are kept as pets and are long-lived. I would think someone who doesn't understand this is the idiot.
#this article makes no sense on September 12, 2019:
thanks for posting about pets can't wait to get my pet alligator and watch it live 80 years
Larry W Fish from Raleigh on May 18, 2018:
So interesting, Melissa. I had no idea that some of these lived to such an old age. Thank you sharing such fascinating information.