Catfish Lifespan: How Long Do They Live?

Catfish Lifespan: How Long Do They Live? Catfish Lifespan: How Long Do They Live?

Some species of catfish can live up to 100 years, and some can even weigh up to 150 pounds or more. However, this isn’t the case for all catfish.

There are more than 3,000 different species of catfish in the world. Most are omnivorous, and some are strictly carnivores. They can surprisingly be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Continue reading to find the answers to your questions about catfish life expectancy and other fun facts about this unique water dweller.

How Long Do Catfish Live on Average?

Their lifespan depends on the species but can be between six and 100 years. Let’s break it down.

  • How long do cory catfish live?

A cory catfish tends to live for about 5-7 years in the wild. In captivity or in a controlled environment, this number is easily doubled. They are very small, between one and four inches in length, and peaceful bottom dwellers.

  • How long do channel catfish live?

The channel catfish is the most common in North America. In the wild, channel cats usually live for about 10 years. However, this number varies widely when kept in captivity. These fish are much larger than cory catfish, between 22 and 52 inches, and more aggressive.

  • How long do blue catfish and flathead catfish live?

The biggest of the bunch, the blue catfish, has an average lifespan of between 10 and 20 years. The flathead catfish lives up to 22 years.

They can grow as long as 65 inches and weigh over 100 pounds. Aptly named, they are a blue-gray color and have multiple barbels, or whiskers, around their mouths.

How Long Do Catfish Live In a Pond?

The best type of catfish for a pond is channel catfish. These catfish live for about 12 to 20 years in a controlled environment, as I mentioned before. This type of catfish is ideal in a pond because it doesn’t affect the balance of predator and prey like some other fish. They’re also a fun fish to hook or catch and release when catfish fishing.

They are bottom dwellers and look for small, hidden crevices to lay their eggs. Some people might see as negative that channel catfish like to dig around in the dirt, making the water look murky.

How Long Can A Catfish Live Out of Water?

Oddly enough, yes!

Catfish can live out of the water for up to 18 hours, maximum. Do they want to? Not exactly, but if there is a drought, they can cross dry land to find water and food sources.

Catfish are equipped with a suprabranchial organ that allows them to breathe enough oxygen outside of the water. Because of this, they can also live in a muddy areas. However, they prefer cool, deep water, between 35 and 70 feet.

Channel catfish, which you would likely stock your pond with, prefer water of about 70 degrees.

How Do Catfish Survive For So Long?

They have a lot of things going for them in terms of survival. They can go for extended periods of time without food. In fact, some catfish eat nothing in the winter. Besides that, they are not picky eaters. They eat fish, eggs, larvae, insects, other fish, plants, algae, etc.

As I mentioned before, they can survive droughts and cold water temperatures, live outside of the water for a few hours, and travel distances to find food.

Additionally, catfish have a defense mechanism that keeps predators away. When stung by a barb, most people experience intense stinging and inflammation.

Luckily, these fish are not aggressive. If you get stung, you probably swam near it, handled it improperly after catching it, or stepped on it.

How Do You Keep Catfish Alive?

The best way to keep catfish alive is to leave them alone. If you are stocking a pond with catfish, ensure the environment is ideal for them. Stock the pond with a decent amount of other small species of fish so that they have plenty to eat.

If they are not pleased with their environment, they will leave and/or not reproduce. Also, keep in mind that they do not like strong currents.

If you are trying to keep a catfish alive after catching it, it is ideal for keeping it in water or on ice. Because they can live without being submerged, a catfish will likely survive the trip home, so you don’t need to gut and clean it immediately.


Catfish are pretty remarkable fish. Two popular questions about them are “How long do catfish live?” and “How long have catfish been around for?.”

As you have learned, they lead surprisingly long lives.

They have been around for about 70 million years to answer the second question.

As much as they travel, it doesn’t sound like they’re going anywhere soon.