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RIP Granddad, the Oldest Aquarium Fish in the World

Granddad the lungfish's favorite day of the week was “Earthworm Wednesday,” when live worms were dropped into his tank for snacking.

Granddad may not have had any grandkids — at least, that he knew of — but that didn’t make him any less loved. Granddad, an Australian lungfish living at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, died last Sunday, the Chicago Sun Times reports.

He was the longest-living fish recorded in any aquarium in any country, and the city has begun to mourn a fish who, for much of his life, already looked somewhat dead.



Granddad wound up at Shedd in 1933 for the Century of Progress World’s Fair, an exposition celebrating the city’s technological innovation. He was already an adult in 1933. At the time of his death, Granddad was thought to be around 100 years old. According to research, Australian lungfish commonly live anywhere from 50 to 100 years.

Granddad’s favorite day of the week was “Earthworm Wednesday,” when live worms were dropped into his tank for snacking. All lungfish are omnivorous and will eat smaller fish, crustaceans, mollusks, insects and, of course, worms.




Born without a true stomach, all lungfish have intestinal spiral valves — corkscrew-shaped intestines primed to absorb as many nutrients as possible. Trainers said Granddad also loved salad greens and gentle pets on his scaly back. Other than these highlights, however, Granddad mostly stayed very still.

As a lungfish, Granddad could breathe air with his highly complex respiratory system. Unlike most two-lunged lungfish, Granddad and other Australian lungfish only have one lung.

But Granddad did the best he could with his one lung, and according to aquarium visitors, his best was more than enough. Watching Granddad surface for air became one of the most notable past-times for aquarium guests, a group that recently included “All About That Bass” country songstress Meghan Trainor.




“For a fish who spent much of his time imitating a fallen log, he sparked curiosity, excitement and wonder among guests of all ages who would hear his story and learn about the incredible biology that makes his species a living fossil and one of the oldest living vertebrate genera on the planet,” Shedd’s president and CEO Bridget Coughlin told the Chicago Sun Times.

Like any respectable old fellow, Granddad donated his body for science — at least, that’s how it’ll be used as researchers attempt to determine his true age.



H/t: The Chicago Sun Times


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Illustration by Fabio Manucci

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