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Oldest Living Aquarium Fish Resides at San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Just beyond the jellyfish at the Steinhart Aquarium inside the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park sits -- or rather, swims -- Methuselah.

In the Bible, Noah's grandfather Methuselah was said to have lived to be 969 years old. Methuselah the fish is not quite that ancient, but biologists at the California Academy of Sciences believe it is about 90 years old, with no known living peers.

Methuselah is a 4-foot-long, 40-pound Australian lungfish.

Methuselah the Australian lungfish
Senior biologist Allan Jan feeds Methuselah, a 4-foot-long, 40-pound Australian lungfish that was brought to the California Academy of Sciences in 1938 from Australia, in its tank in San Francisco, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

She -- possibly he; biologists aren't exactly sure -- is believed to be the oldest Australian lungfish in captivity.

Methuselah arrived in San Francisco in 1938, when it's believed she was five years old. She lives a very mellow life in slow-moving 70 degree water; a bit of a lazy river.

"She needs a little bit of space, calm water and nice diet," said curator Charles Delbeek.

As for her diet, a fish of her distinguished age has distinct preferences.

"Earthworms, romaine lettuce and figs. She really likes sweet figs when they're in season. She won't eat preserved ones or frozen ones," Delbeek told KPIX.

For the record, she also likes belly rubs.

If you're thinking that her tank looks small, rest assured that's just the way she likes it. A few years ago, biologists tried to move her to a larger tank with two other Australian Lungfish -- named Small and Medium -- and Methuselah wasn't a fan.

"When she was moved into there, she did not display good behaviors. We decided at her age, it was better not to move her," said Delbeek.

Researchers in Australia are trying to divine Methuselah's exact age through DNA testing.

"We actually take a very small cutting, maybe less than one square millimeter of the actual fin. It's a painless procedure — preserve that in alcohol and then it gets shipped to Australia for testing," explained Delbeek.

Though, at her age, a lady or gentleman never tells.


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