Oldest Captive Fish, 90-Something-Year-Old Granddad, Dies at Shedd Aquarium

Granddad first came to Chicago from Sydney for an International Expo in the city in 1933

Australian Lungfish
Photo: Shedd Aquarium

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium said goodbye to their most senior resident on Sunday, Granddad the 90-something Australian lungfish.

“The last living link with Shedd’s earliest history was broken Sunday, Feb. 5, when our animal care team made the difficult decision to euthanize Granddad, the world-famous Australian lungfish, after a rapid decline in his health,” the aquarium said in a statement.

Granddad first arrived in the Windy City by way of Sydney, Australia, in the 1930’s for an international expo and has called Chicago his home ever since. Up until his death, the lungfish was the oldest fish being held in any public zoo or aquarium. Over his time at Shedd, Granddad has been seen by over 140 million people, entertaining eight decades of visitors with his curious look and relaxed demeanor.

“Granddad delighted guests when several times an hour he would slowly rise from his apparent torpor at the bottom of the habitat, slowly flap his large pectoral and pelvic fins, and slurp air at the surface. Behind the scenes, aquarists in the vicinity were occasionally startled by the long, loud snorts the fish made as he breathed,” the aquarium added.

Keepers are unsure about the specifics of his age, but it is not uncommon for lungfish to live for 100 years and the Shedd staff believes that Grandad was close, since he arrived in 1933 with a few years already under his gills.

Shedd made the difficult decision to euthanize Granddad, after his organs started to fail and it was clear that his life was slipping away. The death of the lungfish came as a tragic shock to many staff members, who assumed Shedd’s signature fish would outlive them like he had so many others.

Collection manager Michelle Sattler, who oversaw Granddad’s care, said, “He loved to eat his leafy greens. But worms were definitely his favorite, and he would become quite animated—for a very slow-moving fish—on what became ‘Earthworm Wednesdays,’ when they were dropped into his habitat. We loved him. And he will be sorely missed.”

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