Camile currently lives and works in the Middle East and has experience raising goldfish as a child.
I currently live and work in the Middle East. One day, a friend gave me a goldfish in a bowl. At first, I was hesitant to accept the fish. I raised goldfish as a child, and I knew how much care they required. Not to mention, I knew that a fishbowl is considered inadequate for a goldfish, and I was worried that the fish wouldn’t survive. I didn’t want it to go without a home, so I accepted it. That was five months ago, and my goldfish is doing great.
Please seriously consider your ability to care for a goldfish prior to taking on the responsibility. I did my best to make sure my goldfish was happy despite having limited resources. This article is for anyone who cannot acquire an aquarium and/or technical equipment for keeping a goldfish.
How to Take Care of a Goldfish in a Bowl
These are the guidelines I followed to ensure the best possible environment for my companion:
- Oxygenation: I maximized my water/air surface area and introduced beneficial aquatic plants to increase oxygenation levels.
- Nutrition: I did not overfeed or underfeed, and I offered the vitamins and nutrients necessary in a varied diet.
- Environmental enrichment: By adding diversity to the habitat, I encouraged explorative behaviors which come naturally to goldfish.
- Water quality: I performed frequent water changes with properly treated tap water, maintained healthy water temperatures, and regularly cleaned habitat accessories (e.g., substrate).
[Fish bowls] are NOT easy to care for. In fact, it becomes easier to care for aquatic pets, the larger the environment you keep them in.
— Keith Seyffarth
Adequate Space Requirements
Goldfish require space, so buy the biggest habitat you can afford with the largest surface area. Consider upgrading affordably by shopping at garage sales for used aquariums.
Although genetics determine the size of a fish, keeping a goldfish in an inadequately sized space stunts their growth, decreases their life expectancy, and can cause physical irregularities and disease. Common goldfish can grow beyond 12 inches in length, and the oldest known living goldfish was 43 years old. It is recommended that you provide 10 gallons of water minimum per goldfish.
Goldfish are high waste producers. The smaller the habitat, the easier it is for toxic ammonia levels to build up, thus increasing the need for frequent water changes. According to PureGoldfish:
Goldfish bowls are difficult, if not impossible, to filter in order to balance the nitrogen cycle—a critical aspect of goldfish keeping. Unless the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH and chlorine levels are all regulated, a goldfish cannot live for very long.
Adequate Oxygenation Requirements
When the air pump blows air into the aquarium, it circulates stagnant water. Air pumps and air stones do not actually generate oxygen; instead, air bubbles break the tank water surface and encourage gas exchange. So, what should you do if you cannot afford a water circulator or pump?
Optimize Surface Area
When filling a tank or a bowl, fill your water up to the largest diameter. The larger surface area allows for more carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange, thus increasing oxygenation. A larger surface area may lower your overall habitat volume, so adjust accordingly.
DIY Air Pump for Fish Bowls and Aquariums
How to Care for Goldfish in a Bowl Without a Filter
Aquatic Plants Increase Oxygenation
Plants provide oxygen to all living things. Adding an aquatic plant to your goldfish's home will provide necessary oxygen and will decrease nitrate, a byproduct of ammonia. Freshwater aquarium plants also give the bowl a beautiful, natural look, and they absorb gases that could be harmful to your fish. Gravel, or substrate, will offer freshwater plant species the ability to root down in a tank. A substrate should meet the following criteria:
- large enough to prevent ingestion
- approved for use in aquariums
- natural material—chemicals won't leach into the water
- suitable for rooted plant growth
- rinsed prior to use
Gravel serves the dual purpose of trapping waste particles, which can either contribute to healthy nitrogen cycling or trap food and release toxic gases when your fish forages. It is important to carefully clean gravel with each water change.
Acquire commercially available plants from fishless holding tanks to reduce the potential transmission of disease. Remove bacteria, fungus, and organisms using the following recommended methods:
- Potassium permanganate bath for bacteria and fungus (10-minute soak).
- Alum for snails and snail eggs at a ratio of 1-2 tablespoons per gallon of water (soak for two days).
Please be advised that plants with low light requirements are solid considerations for your fish's habitat. Any supplementary lighting (natural or electrical) can cause water temperatures to rise, which can be deadly.
Plants can spread fungus, bacteria, and organisms into your water if not treated properly. Some plant species are considered invasive and should be cleared by region before use.
Best Plants for Goldfish Habitats
Hardy. Requires low light; can grow partially or fully submersed. Grows upwards and does not require substrate. Will grow at room temperature.
Check local regulations due to invasive potential. Hardy. Can grow rooted in substrate. Proliferates quickly. Requires moderate sunlight and nutrient-rich water.
Tolerates extreme temperatures and low lighting. Improves poor water quality and processes nitrates.
Survives in dim light. May attach to rocks. Can be used to make a moss wall using non-toxic materials.
Always feed your fish according to their appetite and size. Only offer as much food as your fish can consume within one minute. It is better to underfeed your fish rather than overfeed; overfeeding can actually lead to numerous health issues. Any food that has not been consumed will become waste and affect water quality.
Try softening your dry food or pellets by soaking them in a cup of lukewarm water prior to feeding. Doing so will prevent gas or constipation in your fish, which is often triggered by dehydrated foods.
Dietary Options for Goldfish
Frozen vegetables (i.e., spinach)
Hard-boiled egg yolk
Spirulina flakes or pellets
Goldfish generally do well in schools, which is characteristic of their inquisitive, social nature. If you are caring for a single fish, take care to diversify their environment. Without environmental enrichment and stimulation, goldfish will become bored.
Consider enhancing your fish's habitat by adding a dark or textured background in one section. Dark backgrounds may help your fish feel safe. Be careful not to change your fish's environment too frequently or drastically. Adding anything inside the tank, such as structures, hideouts, plants, and pebbles, will reduce your fish's habitat space, so adjust accordingly.
Water Quality and Treatment
Since fish bowls are small, toxic levels of waste and ammonia can build up if there isn't a proper filtration system in place. It is advised to change a minimum of 50% of the water daily (never remove all water from the tank), in addition to cleaning substrate to remove toxic food and fish waste.
Tap water should stay exposed to air overnight to allow for chlorine, a volatile vapor, to evaporate. Always treat water before introducing your fish into it, and carefully match water temperatures to prevent shock.
How to Clean Your Habitat
- Avoid touching your goldfish when you change the water or clean the bowl.
- Transfer your fish to a separate holding tank.
- Remove the waste from the substrate by slowly moving the pebbles. Drain some water and push the waste out.
- Give the bowl a good cleaning. Don't forget to wipe off ornaments and plants. Do NOT use soap or chemicals.
- Add the pretreated room temperature water (minimum of 50% exchange).
Important Upgrades to Consider
If you aren't able to keep up with the water changes and cleaning yourself, a small pump and filter will keep the bowl clean for longer. They will fit in a small bowl, and you won't need to replace the water as often. Always consider MORE space when caring for a goldfish. The bigger the habitat, the better.
- A Guide for Goldfish Care
- Common Goldfish
- Challenges of Keeping Live Plants in the Aquarium
- Choosing Live Plants for Goldfish Aquariums
- Keeping a Fish Bowl
Simo on August 22, 2020:
I bought 2 gold fish here in Abu Dhabi since March 2020. Until now they still alive. I just put in a bowl without oxygen. Every 3-4 days I changed the water. Guys! I was worried for the pellets food. I can't estimate the amount to feed them. What's really amout food given everyday? Any suggestions please.
idkwhotolistento on July 10, 2020:
Dude, I live in Dubai and bought 2 goldfishes like an hour ago and then I go thru this article and There are ppl in this practically screaming 'DONT KEEP GOLDFISHES IN A BOWL' This is my first pet in my whole life and then aftr reading this I have a really gud hunch these things are gonna die tmrw
P.S Theyre names are goldie and nemo
Wade Nichols on November 05, 2019:
Under "Adequate Oxygenation Requirements", our host, Camile, accurately points out that air pumps and air stones do not generate oxygen. They do a good job of circulating surface oxygenated water and bringing up stagnant water to be oxygenated (which is important because water will only take on so much oxygen at the surface, but the stagnant water underneath doesn't.) That said, if you do put an air stone in your bowl, you also greatly increase the contact area between the water and air because, if you consider the surface area of each bubble passing through the water, one can often double the air to water contact surface. If you do decide to use an air pump and bubble stone, the finer the bubbles the better. A lot of fine bubbles create much more air to water contact than larger bubbles that do little but circulate the water.
Wade Nichols on November 03, 2019:
Many species of fish in nature grow in size according to the size of their environment. My family used to run a fish farm where we hatched and grew baby trout, which we then sold to the forest service so they could use them to stock lakes and reservoirs of different sizes. We also raised some trout to adulthood for family consumption. If we put them in a fairly small pond with a lot of other fish, they would stay small, but if we put them in a big pond they often got quite large. In the big reservoirs, they grew rather huge. A lot of pet fish do the same thing--growing according to the size of their enclosure.
fish queen on July 04, 2019:
I named my fish don't die because all the fish before him died within a week hope this works
L on May 27, 2019:
I just got a goldfish. from my sister, they'd been cleaning where'd it been, and I found out for two weeks they kept it in a vase with just an air pump. my point, I didn't like that, I the tank they gave us(10 gal) is too big for our room, so we did an emergency purchase of a plastic fish bowl(3 gal) I think, an put the air pump in there for it, so far it is doing okay, it's only temporary...we did get a thermometer too, along with goldfish pellets, but the thermometer was broken. still would a 5 gal tank, work. it's biger than others, they had it outdoors.
Anonymous fishkeeper on April 03, 2019:
I’ll admit it: I used to be obsessed with telling people that goldfish shouldn’t be kept in bowls. But then i realised that some people managed to keep a stunted goldfish in a bowl for over 10 years. This shocked me. So then after further research I realised that stunting isn’t bad and that the fish’s organs don’t continue to grow and the fish doesn’t experience pain when stunted. I also learnt that with a filter, pump and the right amount of water changes a goldfish can live in a bowl...for its full lifespan. Obviously they shouldn’t be kept in a plain bowl of water or a wine glass and shouldn’t be overstocked. But sometimes a bowl setup can be done in the right conditions, as long as the water is good and the filter is cycled: it can work.
Please don’t hate me, but I’m telling the truth. As long as the water stays stable and clean with 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and under 30 nitrate, that’s all that matters.
The nameless on April 03, 2019:
How long can a goldfish live in a 3 gallon bowl with a filter, air pump and weekly 90% water changes for? Could it live it’s full life span? I’ve read that stunting in goldfish isn’t actually that bad and that their organs don’t continue to grow or anything and it doesn’t affect their lifespan.
CodieLCSW on March 27, 2019:
Hi! My son "won" two goldfish at the fair three summers ago
One died after two years. The other is kicking it it a small bowel on my counter. I scrub it monthly to keep it clean it is healthy as hell! I had a Beta in the habitat for years prior. Gold fish are champions!
Me on March 05, 2019:
Are those little UG bowl filters designed for goldfish bowls worth trying? Along with a mini air pump maybe?
Bdubb on February 26, 2019:
I have 8 goldfish in a 1 gallon bowl with no bubbler no plant and I only change the water once a month and they have survived for 12 years now. I know they are happy because I can see them smiling when they are playing. The weird thing is though they randomly change size and color and it usually happens overnight when I'm sleeping.
Stacey Jarial on November 18, 2018:
i have had my fish for about 6 years and they have barely grown. They live in my pond, the water is oxygenated but not filtered in case any animals see them and eat them. Is this normal or should I be worried? They are fantail fish, common goldfish and black telescope goldfish.
M. on November 16, 2018:
To all the people who say they kept their goldfish for a "long time", 10 years is actually a very short time. A well cared for goldfish will grow to 40-50 cm long and have an average lifespan of 50 years, which is a LIFETIME COMMITMENT. Even the severely handicapped "fancy" goldfish will grow to a size of 20-30 cm long and have an average lifespan of 25 years, which means they live much longer than your average pet dog or cat.
I have nothing against fishbowls, but goldfish are simply terrible fish for bowls. Get a feeder guppy instead!
Feeder guppies are one of the best bowl fish. They are cheap, colorful, and (most importantly) stay small (4-5 cm). They live on average 3-5 years with good care (so, no long term commitment required!), need only about 4 liters of water per fish, and prefer room temperature (18-24 °C) so heater is not needed. If you add a layer of gravel at the bottom and throw in some tpondsnails and enough live plants, then you don't even need to change your fishbowl, because the snails will break down uneaten food and fish waste and the aquatic plants will use the waste from your fish and snail as nutrients to grow. (Just make sure you don't overfeed.)
Martin Ho on June 23, 2018:
For all the haters so dead set against fish in a bowl, please read: "The Ecology of a Planted Aquarium," by Diana Walstad.
Sehajman on June 15, 2018:
I live in Delhi and I have buyed a new flood fish but mother told that I don’t want any wire around i have not attached filter in bowl and fish is always at the top of the bowl
Febin Brow on April 08, 2018:
Denn on April 08, 2018:
As I live in Maui my fish stay outside all year 'round in their pond that is irrigated with fresh water twice daily. I have pond weed and other aquatic plants that thrive and I rarely have to feed as they eat mosquito larvae, pond weed, and all sorts of other little insects that land in the water. Platies and Mollys do best and breed frequently even when the frogs decide to jump in - its a perfect system, especially to control mosquito-borne disease. I use a large goldfish bowl inside with pond plants when I want to breed but I agree - bowls are like dogs that are chained up all day - a form of incarceration even if they get conditioned to it. Fish actually panic when their environment goes from a large tank/pond to a small bowl. Build a pond if you can - a fountain and a waterfall is even better and all those negative ions are good for you and your fish. Good luck!
Harpe on February 14, 2018:
My sisters fish survived 4 years in a 2 and 4 Gal fish bowl!
She had three Walmart goldfish!
When we moved the fish didn't like the new treated water and died:(
They thrived in the spring water though!
Anu on December 06, 2017:
5 flakes for each gold fish or for 2 goldfishes? I have 3 goldfishes with me so how many flakes should feed them?
John on November 23, 2017:
Very helpful. Thank you for the information!
Rohan on November 22, 2017:
it was really a good story
Rebecca on October 24, 2017:
I've kept goldfish and bettas in bowl/small tanks without filters when I was a kid. Both of the bettas lasted ~5-6 years, and one lived through 2 different diseases without dying. Some of the goldfish would die early, but that's because I was an irresponsible kid and wouldn't feed them/didn't dechlorinate the water properly.
One of my feeder fish (back in the old days you'd put tiny fish in a new aquarium to cycle it. They'd all die within a few weeks, usually) stayed alive and started growing in the big tank I had as a kid. He survived through several tank changes, a six-year-old (me) putting him in a plastic bag full of chlorinated tap water, and several otherhuge fish-killers. Turns out he was a baby Koi and we moved him out to a pond once he was the size of my hand (6 inches or so). Beautiful fish, lived a long time, but died after 8-10 years. At least half of his life was spent in non-filter tanks.
Not sure why people in the comments are screaming about how fish will die in bowls and without air filters. Just change the water regularly, for crying out loud.
Obviously, do your research on a fish before putting it in a bowl. Fish that are meant to grow to large sizes (like 6 inches or more) might want a larger tank, but a filter might not necessary.
Matt on October 23, 2017:
I have a 40gal tank and all I have in it is a betta and a gold fish with out air bubbles I want to know if they live?
dundeeeeee on October 22, 2017:
why all the haters, man. i got me a 2lb sunny livin in a fishbowl, and a baby croc too...crikey!
Dillon on October 21, 2017:
Is this article a joke? Did you also know you can keep a cat alive in a small box? All it needs is to be able to turn around. This is the same mentality as keeping a fish in a small bowl.
Peggy Cassidy on October 18, 2017:
About 13 years ago, I was visiting a friend. Her and her mother had one gold fish in a bowl. It wasn't a real big bowl. I remember her telling me that the fish was about 8 years old. I was surprised. They most likely took real good care of the fish.
Coty on October 17, 2017:
This is absolutely horrible advice. Glofish get anywhere from 8 inches to a foot long depending on breed. A bowl will stunt their growth. The myth of fish growing to the size of there tank is EXTREMELY detrimental to their health. Stunting prevent growth which is where this myth starts. But as time goes on they can suffer deformation of bones and even ruptured organs. It's a very slow very painful way to die. To the person who wrote this. You are Severely misinformed. To anybody reading. DO NOT FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS. Goldfish can live for up to a decade with proper care. Some have lives to 40 years. Being kept in a bowl is simply UNACCEPTABLE.
Di on October 10, 2017:
Hi. My family recently got a 1 gallon bowl with rocks etc for cheap so we thought we'd start a collection of a few guppies. In all fairness, I thought it was 2 gallons. And then we planned to upside to a 10gallon. We got a couple feeder goldfish to trial with since we are first timers, but... now we're attached and I'm worried about the fish being so many in one small area. I wasn't worried until today they are spending a lot of time at the surface. It's 4 goldfish and a vety small bottom feeder (he is fine). The goldfish seem to be swimming around up top but I'm not sure if they're still looking for food or need more oxygen. We switched half the water already, hoping to cycle oxygen. Anyways... I'm freaking out so were borrowimy a small air pump and buying an aquarium later today. I will eventually use this bowl again probably for very small guppies in the future, but I can't see keeping these guys in there much longer.
Shreya on October 08, 2017:
My comment is - it is nice way to keep our goldfish fit
Bri on October 01, 2017:
I had to rewrite this like 5 times so I'm just gonna sum this up as best I can. GOLDFISH CANNOT SURVIVE IN ANYTHING LESS THEN 30G, PER FISH. they cannot have gravel. They NEED a filter and or air pump. 25% water changes a week. Never use soap on anything in the tank. Don't ever do a full tank change unless fish had a disease such as velvet (looks like a coat of white slime) , dropsy (looks like belly is a pinecone, scales are facing down, etc. goldfish have lots of ammonia, whichever an burn them severely something enough to kill them, so please if you're ever getting a fish (including a betta, they aren't any different and cannot thrive in bowls without a filter or heater, and no in the wild they do not and cannot survive in a puddle) DO YOUR RESEARCH! Thanks
Virginia on September 28, 2017:
I have a home made outside pond with gold fish in it Do I need a air pump or can the fish live in the pond without a filter or air pump
Flippy on September 26, 2017:
I just got a goldfish and I have no idea what to do. I keep it in one gallon hoping it is enough. Hopefully it won't implode. I love my dear fish. It'll probably only last for a day though. Thanks for your help! I'll keep on trying to help my little flippy and be hopeful!
Fish Hemsworth on September 23, 2017:
If a fish does not have a memory longer than a few seconds, how does it suffer? By the time it knows what is going on, it forgets and starts over.
notsharingmyname on September 22, 2017:
Don't listen to this article. DON'T BUY A GOLDFISH YOU DON'T WANT ONE. Goldfish are very misunderstood fish. They are very commonly put into bowls and are thought to die in a few months. Goldfish can't live in a bowl under any circumstances, no matter the type or size of your goldfish. Goldfish don't grow to their surroundings, they stop growing as a survival mechanism, but there's a catch, their organs don't stop growing. Basically putting a goldfish in a bowl will make them implode. You might be wondering, how much space does it take to stop them from imploding? The answer you want doesn't exist, they need 30 gallons if they are the fancy variety and 45 gallons for the single tailed variety, and this is per fish. You probably want to blow this comment off, but your selfish and ignorant if you do.
P.S no fish can live in a bowl, there isn't enough surface area to get air, and an airstone can't help enough to fix it. Also if you don't use a filter they won't get beneficial bacteria, which is very important.
Goldy on September 18, 2017:
I have a goldfish in a bowl, feed it twice a day. Since I donot have a filter I change the water once a day.
Jumayin on September 08, 2017:
Thanks cause I'm getting one tommorow
Goldfish keeper on September 08, 2017:
Fish should never be kept in a bowl. If you put a goldfish in a bowl you are stunting it, meaning it's body isn't growing but it's organs continue to out grow it's body. Stunting a goldfish can lead to many health problems for your fish such as buoyancy problems. Depending on the kind of goldfish you buy you'll need 20 gallons per fish at least. You also need good filtration for your fish ammonia and nitrites sould be completely 0 while nitrates should be between 5 and 10 when you test your water to keep the fish healthy and happy, if you put a fish in a bowl ammonia will build up very quickly causing the fish to stress and eventually die slowly. This article is bragging about having a goldfish live for six months but with proper care your goldfish can live up to 25 years! Goldfish are a huge commitment if you can't care for them properly you shouldn't keep one that goes with any animal. You can find many proper care guides online please do not listen to the ones where they keep them in bowls.
fish stuff on September 06, 2017:
when you put a goldfish in a bowl your basicly watching it slowly die as its internal organs get to big for its body.
Fish on September 04, 2017:
I don't know who's side I'm on because I just won a fish from the fair and I don't know what to do.
Fish on September 04, 2017:
I like fish
Sachin munavalli on August 13, 2017:
Thanks for your suggestions it's very helpful..
Allie on August 02, 2017:
This article is incorrect! FISH SHOULD NEVER LIVE IN BOWLS PERIOD! I have worked for an aquarium for years and went to school for marine bio. I know my stuff and fish should not be kept in bowls. Just because something "survives" doesn't mean it thrives. Goldfish should be living for YEARS not months and need water changes every other week at least.
If you really cannot have a filter on your tank, a bubbler will still disturb the water enough to keep it oxygenated, but you would need to do more water changes.
P. S. please never, ever, feed your fish bread. They cannot digest it properly.
Hannah on August 01, 2017:
I'm sorry but one fish per litre is rediculous- at LEAST have 10 and even then is way too small
Hi on July 30, 2017:
Do not keep your goldfish in bowls, while they may survive they will suffer. 20 gallons per goldfish is the minimum. No exceptions.
dia15nyc on July 24, 2017:
This helped a lot! Thank you!!
no really it happened on July 23, 2017:
i had a goldfish that lived for 5 years, i found him in a mud puddle when i was a kid. r.i.p pudg
Lizzy on July 14, 2017:
I really needed to know those things because my 14 fish died now all my fish are healthy and alive "thank gosh"
goldfish on July 08, 2017:
After reading your article, I am impressed and start finding more stuff like this and reached to a result where there are lots of videos of beautiful girls swallowing goldfish. It's amazing!
Katie ...... on July 05, 2017:
I don't have a fish bowl or tank but I have a fish where should I keep it?im keeping it in a wide vase but I'm feeding it bread crumbs. Is this good for the fish?
Kei on June 26, 2017:
DONT KEEP GOLDFISH IN SMALL TANKS. Gold fish are messy fish which create a lot of ammonia ( their poop has this).
Ammonia will burn thier gills and they will die.
Goldfish need 10 gallons at least per fish NOT a liter.
GOLDFISH REQUIRE AN OXYGEN PUMP AND A FILTER. If you cannot provide this don't get a fish as it is torture for them.
Ashleigh dyer on June 17, 2017:
My grandma is getting me some goldfish for my birthday and I was wondering if five can live a long time without a air pump
Jane on June 17, 2017:
When I was a young girl I had two fish in a bowl. Every evening I got a pail of pond water from a pond on our farm and kept it in the house over night. Good old Dad would cut a hole in the ice in winter, most winter days I took 2 days of water in at a time.
In the morning before school I moved the fish from the bowl to the pail, dumped and washed the bowl. Then put the fish back in the bowl. One fish lived over two years.
If we went away on holidays my Grandmother would take care of my fish for me. Looking back I realize I was fortunate the adults in my life helped me look after the fish
Nandini on June 15, 2017:
Thanks it is too helpful for me...
Gray on May 31, 2017:
Is it okay to just have a styrofoam for a goldfish, it is huge anyway
your boi on May 17, 2017:
I have a gold fish and it is a very big thing and his name if jeffery
Verbena on May 05, 2017:
I have goldfish in a bowl without a pump and they are healthy and going on five years...so I don't know where this info comes from.
Molly on April 27, 2017:
This article is very poorly researched and is contributing to the spread of very dangerous misinformation. Hardly anything here is correct in terms of fish care. I wont go into specifics, as they've already been listed well here in the comments, but please, if you have a goldfish do not follow this advice.
Goldfish are very BIG, high maintenance fish and they cannot live in these conditions very well or for very long. The lifespan of a properly taken care of goldfish is 20+ years. In this kind of setup, it's impressive if they live even one.
Goldfish simply cannot live in a bowl. An adult common goldfish will easily grow longer than a foot. To keep a goldfish in a bowl is to neglect and abuse a lovely, intelligent animal and give it a painful life leading up to a premature death.
Alison on April 25, 2017:
This article is absolutely sickening. The information is completely incorrect. I set up an account here JUST to leave a comment on this awful article. Goldfish should live 15+ healthy, happy years, not "a few months". Please take this horrible article off this site.
Concerned Compashionate Person on April 25, 2017:
Don't do the stuff suggest by this article, it is horrible and abusive advice.
Let's start with the just plain wrong things.
(1)Not having an air pump: Goldfish use their gills to get oxygen out of the water, they cannot breathe air. If you do not have a pump or *extremely heavily planted tank* your goldfish will be suffocating. If you see them gasping at the surface, that means you are killing them because of lack of oxygen in their water. They can feel pain, and they will be suffering.
(2) Keeping a goldfish in a bowl: goldfish cannot adjust to the size of their tank, it is just a myth. Do people who grown up in apartments stay as midgets their entire lives? No. Goldfish don't do this either. They cannot control how big they get and need an absolute minimum of 15 gallons of water per goldfish to live comfortably.
(3) Only changing the water every few weeks: this is wrong as well. If you want to keep a fish humanely, you need you learn about the Nitrogen Cycle in aquariums. The fish poop out ammonia which good bacteria will convert to nitrates and then nitrites. This cycle doesn't start automatically, you have to actually work to get this to start in your tank and check the chemical levels everyday. If you have any ammonia in the tank, it will burn the fish's gills and eventually kill them. This hurts them a lot and they will suffer. Anytime the ammonia or nitrites are above 0 parts per million (ppm) you need to change 25% of the tank water. If your cycle has not properly started, this means you have to change the water every single day or the fish will be in a lot of pain and get organ damage.
If you are thinking to yourself that this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But if you don't want to take proper care of your pet, then you should not own one. So many of these comments are terrible, people are telling you about how they abuse their pet every day. Don't listen to them, literally just go Google the Nitrogen Cycle or how goldfish get air and you will see that this article is shit and should not be trusted.
Camille, if you don't know what you're talking about, please don't write about it. You are telling people to abuse animals. I'm mechanical engineer just like you and can tell you that this kind of stuff is out of our field of training. Please talk to a marine biologist or do some research and revise this article or delete it.
Sharkb8 on April 24, 2017:
I don't even know where to start. This article is wrong on so many levels. What next, two male bettas together?
CrookedFingers on April 13, 2017:
This article is wrong on so many levels. Goldfish can live up to decades, not effin' months, and they get to about 30 cm long! And no they do not adapt to smaller living conditions, they just suffer until they die. Please look up pictures of stunted goldfish if you enjoy animal cruelty, you'll really get a kick out of them. There's nothing subjective about this, if you keep your fish in subpar conditions they will live a short, stunted life. Sure, every fish is different, I mean, some people survive small pox too! How would you like it if I gave it to you? You may very well survive. And please do not compare goldfish to betta, for frick's sake. Bettas do not get foot long! I don't understand why people insist on putting goldfish in bowls when you can get used aquariums for so cheap, or fish way better suited for small tanks. Also, waste doesn't magically disappear under pebbles, and you shouldn't completely rinse the whole tank, ever. Please look up the nitrogen cycle. I'm all for low maintenance tanks, I have three zero-tech, zero-water change aquariums, but with endlers, a betta and shrimp in them, not flippin' goldfish.
Christitian on March 24, 2017:
This article is very good! My gold fish is living well right now but i don't follow the rule "Every Three Months, Clean the Bowl" but instead i always clean my fish bowl every 2 - 4 days.
Ally on March 20, 2017:
This article says nothing wrong in it people in the comments saying that the goldfish will grow to big and break there spine this is wrong goldfish adapted to there size of bowl if this wasn't the case i am pretty sure that you would have to have a license to own one like other fish that NEED the correct size bowl. I have a betta fish and it has been living in a bowl with no filter and it is perfectly healthy when i brought it it was in a bowl at the shop and they said it was 6 months old so my betta fish is 1 year old and it is fine.Betta fish and gold fish are similar but if you are looking for a simple fish to look after choose a gold fish or betta.
Adam on March 11, 2017:
The world's oldest goldfish fish lived 43 years in a bowl so it can't be that bad
Bullfinchie on March 10, 2017:
(Molly) has the bestest ADVICE...EVERYONE ..READ her post.(8 weeks ago) Quality of life is what EVERY one NEEDS.....GOLDFISH TOO!
sourav patel on February 24, 2017:
can i keep 6 tennis gold fish in a 10 inch bowl
Divya on February 17, 2017:
Thank u for ur advice
Joey on January 29, 2017:
This article is subjective. All goldfish are different and can tolerate different conditions - much like humans. Therefore, some goldfish may be able to live in a bowl with any pump or oxygen, and others may not be able to sustain such conditions. I had a goldfish live for eight years in a regular bowl without any air pump and throughout it's life it was active and healthy. After it died, I replaced the water and bought a new goldfish. I kept the new one at the same conditions I kept the old one - it died after a week. You never can predict the lifespan of a goldfish or how to care for it; it's not one size fits all. Don't overthink things: feed it, clean the bowl every few days, keep it in water (obviously), and hope for the best.
J.E. on January 17, 2017:
Even when kept in good conditions, gold fish will only grow to a proportional size of their tank. Unlike other aquarium fish, goldfish excrete hormones such as aminobutyric acid (GABA) and somatostain, that acts as signal of how many other fish and what sized body of water they are in. They do not die from their spines bending and they do not outgrow their environment - they are not as fragile as some here believe and live quite happily in a well-kept bowl. Equating their feelings and thoughts to anything remotely human is ridiculous.
Fishy on January 14, 2017:
I had a common gold fish as a kid and it lived for 13 years in a regular fish bowl. No filter. We cleaned the bowl once a week and fed it once a day. Super easy!
Molly on January 10, 2017:
This article is full of dangerous misinformation about goldfish. A goldfish can never live in a bowl under any circumstances.
First off, goldfish get big. Common goldfish grow to over a foot long as adults. They need a HUGE tank or preferably a pond.
Second, fish waste going under the pebbles is not a good thing. It doesn't disappear, it stays there and ruins the water quality over time. Also, goldfish are prone to swallowing and choking of gravel. Goldfish are best kept in an aquarium with sand.
Third, fish flakes are not a quality food for goldfish. The gulping at the surface has been linked to causing swim bladder disorder which is often fatal.
Fourth, you can't just let the water sit for 4 hours. For the chloramines in tap water to leave, the water needs to sit for closer to 24-48 hours before it's safe.
Fifth, keeping a goldfish alive for a couple months is not something worth bragging about. Goldfish live a very long time if actually given semi-decent care. The lifespan of a goldfish averages at around 20 years. The oldest recorded goldfish was 43 at the time of death. A couple months is like bragging that your kitten lived a year or two.
Overall, please do not take anything in this article as good advice in terms of goldfish keeping. A goldfish in a bowl will never live anywhere close to it's full lifespan, and much of that life will be spent suffering. If you can't handle getting a very tank tank or a pond, then you can't handle getting a goldfish. Please settle for a different pet and spare the fish.
Nishita Biswas on December 26, 2016:
Thanks for the information. It will help me to take proper care of my goldfish.
Taylor on November 30, 2016:
helpful for going to get goldfish to sale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Eddie on November 28, 2016:
I have a goldfish that has lived for seven years only on oxygen weed ,fed every two days and whole tank is fully washed every two weeks .. The tank is 15litres with pebbles and oxygen plants are replaced every 1.5 months..he seems happy looks heathy and swims around like the flash...for that kat that is such an expert maybe he was a goldfish in a previous life..get off the grass mate..
Bigfigelow on November 19, 2016:
Well, after browsing around here I feel like I must add my story... Adopted my Mom's Comet fish Nana, when Nana was 3ish. She lived happily in a small 2ish gallon, decorative bowl with silk plant and 1/2 - 3/4" round stones... No filter, no air pump, just water changes. She continued to live happily 5 more years with us on our kitchen island, with one upsize to a bigger 3ish+ gallon bowl, silk plant and more 1/2-3/4" stones. Her demise happened 4 days after my girlfriend (who rarely preps any food), hammered 4lbs. of chicken (on a Monday night) with a heavy saucepan on the island Nana lived on, (I was so mad at her for stressing Nana out like that, "Are you trying to kill Nana fish?!...WTH!? Lisa!!" Sure enough Nana went downhill pretty fast after the hammering incident. The night she was obviously dying and did die, I noticed about 3-4 days worth of fish food on the bottom (never, ever, have seen uneaten flakes like that before). I'm no expert or fish whisperer, but Nana was her active, happy self on Sunday and dead on Friday... After what I believe we're 8 active, happy years... She maybe grew an inch in the 5 years we had her (to about 3ish inches - tip of nose to tip of tail)... I never did any research on goldfish (until now, cause she is gone). I just did what I thought was right to keep her alive, well and what I believe as happy... Coincident with hammering incident, maybe... I do believe that played a part in her passing... I am sad :( RIP Nana Fish...
sunneej on November 17, 2016:
Goldfishes don't belong in bowl? Please, if you cared so much about the fishes, you'd just leave them alone in natural habitats rather than keeping them in a fake tank where they are kept solely for your poor sense of entertainment. The mindset just astonishes me; 'what I do is okay (i.e. keeping the fishes in the tank out of the natural habitat), but when others do something different (keeping the fishes in a bowl), it is wrong'.
Raven on October 17, 2016:
Horrible advice. Goldfish don't belong in bowls. PERIOD. If you can't afford or have the space for the large tank they require, DONT GET THEM!
Rebecca h on October 10, 2016:
Just wanted to throw Something in here.I won 3 gold fish at the fair for my granddaughter who is 2.the first 6 months I didn't have a pump or filter bit I kept the water clean and fed then regularly and even though some thought I wad weird I would always talk to them.well it's been almost a year and happy to say they are still swimming..I did get then a pump and filter and it had improved the quality of the tank..and in response to fish remember I honestly believe that because when they see met it's like when my dog sees me after working all day..they get really excited..If I could post a video I would...thanks for reading....Rebecca h
j on October 07, 2016:
It makes me incredibly sad that you're encouraging this and spreading further misconceptions about goldfish. Under the proper conditions, a common goldfish's average life span is 30 years.
Emma on October 02, 2016:
Thanks for the advice I just won 2 fishes at a carnival and I'm going to be sure to follow these steps!!!!Thanks!!!!!
Anonymous on September 27, 2016:
Each goldfish only needs 1 litre?!
Shall we shut you in a cupboard for your whole life and see how happy you are??
You've also mentioned nothing about tap safe to get the chlorine out of the water and the fact that goldfish can live for over 20 years if looked after properly although they never live this long because they grow too big for their UNFILTERED BOWL, bend their spine and die.
Oops on September 11, 2016:
I'm very sad to see this type of information being encouraged. I hope any readers can give what I have to say a chance - I've had great luck with my fish and have helped many others succeed similarly.
First and foremost, I feel it should be established that fish are not disposable. They are not decoration, they are not senseless little toys. Though I understand there is a stigma around them, I hope I can encourage fish/animal keepers to give these little guys a chance. Fish of all kinds feel pain. Goldfish have been used in studies to show that no, they don't have a 3-second memory span, and have been shown to successfully navigate mazes for a bloodworm reward. They also remember this maze when introduced to it a week+ later. I can additionally personally attest to the fact that they recognize distinctions among people who they see frequently(I believe there's some recent research done there as well); they are simply more than what most people know to give them credit for, and I'm not quick to blame them. There is mostly ignorance on the subject, not ill will, so I hope to disperse that. Are they as smart as your cat or dog? Objectively, no. Regardless of this, they are wonderful little creatures who feel, and fear, and want to thrive instead of simply survive. I personally feel that we should want to provide the best environment for them, not the one best for us. We force them into our lives, after all.
I want to touch on a fact that the writer made sure to mention, their goldfish living for 5 months. That is impressive in regard to how quickly these abused animals normally pass, but considering that properly maintained fish may live for 30+ years (the oldest is 43, I want to say), this is not something I find worth being praised for. I've heard at my workplace of goldfish that live for a year, and the folks are always impressed with themselves. I am always displeased to say that their fish is simply surviving - it is likely suffering stunting, swimming in stressful levels of ammonia, malnourished, and its clock ticking down. Just because it lives, doesn't mean it's living well. We as people can survive just as well in a closet. Give us food and water and we will live, but we don't prefer that, do we? Is it okay that we allow this suffering on a little life that had no say in the matter?
Let's have a little aquarium lingo lesson, here. There is something highly important in fish keeping called the 'nitrogen cycle'. I'll go ahead and explain it in the most simple of ways, and then turn to how it is important. Fish food, poo, and their act of breathing produces what's called ammonia. Ammonia is highly toxic, and is the #1 fish killer. Bacteria in the water naturally establish, and turn this ammonia into nitrite (with an 'i'. I remember it like the roman numeral for one ('I'). ). Nitrite is also deadly to fish. Finally, different good bacteria convert this Nitrite into NitrAte, with an A. This last stage is nowhere near as toxic as the previous two.
Basically, your deadly stuff in the water gets turned into less harmful stuff as good bacteria set up in your tank. This means less cleaning, less fish stress, and happier environment. If you have live plants, they eat the stuff up. The overall process from ammonia to nitriate to nitrate is also much more swift, as the good bacteria are ready for action in the tank.
Why does this matter? In a bowl, or in too small of a tank that you are too frequently cleaning too much of, there is no room for this cycle to establish. Anything that needs too frequent or too deep of a clean kills your good bacteria and restarts your natural cycle. Not only inconvenient for you, but stressful on your fish, as they once again have to endure an excess of ammonia and nitrites before getting to the safer nitrates. The whole process of unsafe to safe can take weeks, or many months. If you're cleaning your whole tank, or taking more water out of the tank than not, or removing filter media before its time is up, you're likely killing your cycle. Stress, dirty water, sadness. So while you could theoretically do your best to keep up with the fish waste by doing very frequent, very large water changes, you would just be siding with a lesser evil.
It is true though that goldfish don't need an air pump. Oxygen entering the water is done by any disturbance at the surface, so a filter will do just fine. And yes, your fish need a filter. And yes, you have to do tank maintenance on top of the filter running. The filter can get out the big chunks of stuff that you can see, but it can't change the makeup of the water (it doesn't take out ammonia or nitrites, the deadly ones).
As a side note, goldfish who survive for some time in stressful waters are likely only acclimated to the ammonia, which is not necessarily a good thing. It is still wearing down on their health, and too high of a level of ammonia will absolutely still kill them.
Admittedly, I'm not sure what the point of the pebbles hiding the fish waste is. It's not like that would stop the waste from dissolving into ammonia - if anything, I suppose it would just hide it so it 'looked better'. I don't find that to be an extremely necessary or valid point.
While plants do help by taking out some of the bad and replacing with oxygen, they are no substitute for proper filtration and water changes.
I'd also like to mention a few things about the variety of goldfish. In the images shown, there are a few types of goldfish that I can spy - there's orandas, a ryukin, and a fantail. Those are all 'fancy' goldfish, aka, the silly shaped ones. These guys can get 8 - 10 inches in size - that's almost a footlong of fish, if you can believe it. They're enormous, they're bulky, and they're beautiful. It sounds a little ridiculous to put store bought little fish in a 29 gallon tank, but they will fill it before you know it; in the right conditions, some of them can reach their full length within a year. What we see in fish in inadequate space is known as 'stunting', and as it sounds, it is a painful and deadly issue that stunts their growth. They are restricted in space and do not follow natural growth patterns, and that means they may suffer spinal deformities, organ issues or failure, etc. There is really no need to not allow them the room they need, and more on top of that preferably.
Comets and other sleek bodied goldfish (koi, shebunkin) grow even larger and are even needier. They are really meant to be pond fish. They enjoy cooler temperatures than fancies, will readily eat algae and plant life, are swift and need lots of room to swim and maneuver, and are just as messy (if not moreso) than fancies. They're often bought as beginner fish because they're cheap and small (due to being sold as feeder fish), but they will quickly grow to be extremely expensive and needy if a pet owner tries to keep them indoors and alive, simultaneously.
All in all, I hope this has not come across as offensive or hurtful toward any goldfish keepers or the author. My goal is only to inform and have pet owners and their critters enjoy a wonderful, healthy life together. These are not easy fish, they are not beginner fish. There are more humane ways to teach your children about responsibility without causing something to suffer.
Wildlife defenders on September 01, 2016:
No sorry your feeding wrong information just like them on thecwin a prize store.u neef to givevfish room to swim.goldfish are messy and obe litter of wsrter do u want me to make u live down the toilet 24/7
Austin on July 30, 2016:
This is ridiculous. Go to a local fish store and ask about what the nitrogen cycle is. Would you keep your puppy in a shoebox? Its pure cruelty. Would you keep your child in the corner of a closet and clean his poo once every 3 months? Imagine how that feels. Now thats your goldfish.
Mertin on July 23, 2016:
1. They r fish.
2. Everyone complaining about article can write their own, this is Murica!
3. Goldfish being put in an outdoor pond or lake is a bad practice, don't spread invasive species, also annoying when u catch one, lol.
4. I'm just going to assume that gold fish don't naturally live 20 years since they r very low on the food chain.
5. I hate it when any type of carp, even the smaller goldfish end up in places they do not belong because a few times I have caught almost foot long ones in different lakes.
6. Because of this I would guess other fish don't eat em in lakes. Carp can ruin ecosystems btw.
7. Goldfish mainly should be for kids to teach them responsibility, so what the author says is fine, don't criticize him.
Laila on July 23, 2016:
Is it true that we should not put aquatic plants on shubunkins fish cause they will destroy it?
FluffyFox on July 09, 2016:
Had someone just leave a goldfish on my car in a wal-mart bag...out of nowhere...kind of sad and mean if you ask me...
Sam on July 03, 2016:
Wow. Promoting abuse because a bigger tank is inconvenient to you. Thank PetHelpful. Now I know where I stand with you.
Me on June 24, 2016:
Goldfish are one of those animals that are constantly growing when they are healthy and fed enough.
What about bowls?
Well, fish grow to the size of their bowl!!!
Wait, that doesn't add up...
If a goldfish is always growing then why would it stop in a bowl?
When goldfish feel that their habitat is not suitable they make a chemical that stops their growth. In the wild this is done in the dry season to make sure the fish won't run out of food before the rains come back.
But it's also a double-edged sword: It's not good for them. It'll cause other health issues and kill the fish if the fish is exposed long term.
Sure, goldfish can live in a bowl.
But should they?
These are fish that live in huge lakes and ponds (at least their ancestors do).
These are fish that have the abliltiy to live for 20 years or more.
These are fish who's genetic make up make it possible for them to be abused.
And, being humans, what do we do? We abuse them.
Ammonia exposure is abuse.
Keeping a fish in conditions where it can't grow is abuse.
Fish should THRIVE not just SURVIVE.
Take a look at all of the people who have the most colorful and the healthiest goldfish. Those that have their fish live for 20 years. Do they have a filter? I'd hope so!
Yes, goldfish can live without a filter.
Yes, ammonia is NOT going to be taken out of the tank without a filter.
Yes, ammonia is highly toxic.
Just get a filter. Seriously. It's not hard.
And get a real tank.
If you want a small fish tank (2.5 gallons or more!) get a betta.
RevaJade on June 15, 2016:
This is really good information! Thank you! I used to have lots of goldfish, they all died unfortunately. But I am getting back into having fish. I have a betta and a plecostomus fish right now. I am going to get some guppies and goldfish, not putting them in the sam etnak of course. Thank you so much for this wonderful information!
renraw on May 01, 2016:
their carp.. that means they can" air breath" they don't need a pump.
Sriket on April 26, 2016:
I have a fishbowl with a goldfish and a pair of Angelfish. The problem is that whenever I feed them, the goldfish ends up eating all the food leaving behind nothing for the angels. Moving the goldfish into another container for feeding poses a risk of frequent water change and might have adverse impact.
Please let me know as to how should I deal with this?
medusachic on April 21, 2016:
The author should be ashamed for adovocating such poor and abusive fish keeping practices. If you managed to keep your fish alive for 20-30 YEARS in those conditions and it got to it's full size - which is 10-12"+ THEN you would be entitled to write and article about it.
Goldfish can live for years in poor conditions, just the same way that you could keep a kid alive in a closet for years and the kid wouldn't die, but the kid sure wouldn't thrive, and his growth would probably be abnormal and stunted and the kid would probably die at a young age if he was never allowed out of the closet - just like a goldfish kept in a bowl.
Goldfish are incredibly hardy, which is why they can withstand such poor conditions, but you should be ashamed for advocating them. If you had taken any time to research your pet when you first got it, you would have given it a proper set up or tried to find a new home for it that could accommodate it's adult size.
Shame on you.
anonomus on April 03, 2016:
i just need to know from an expert!!
Miss Cellany on December 27, 2015:
Goldfish can live for many years if properly cared for, a bowl is not large enough. My goldfish lived 10 years in a 27 gallon tank but may have lived longer in a pond. 1 liter won't be enough - goldfish can grow to 10 inches long or even larger than that.
Mariah on October 25, 2015:
Thanks guys I was so worried but not anymore
Faisal on August 25, 2015:
Thanks a lot bud.. i'm going to buy a pair of goldfish now..
Kathryn on May 30, 2015:
Fish should not be kept in bowls.
However, if you must put your fish in a bowl, and it's a tropical fish, there are small circular heaters that you place underneath the gravel to keep the bowl warm. You need to change the water EVERY DAY or at least every 2 days. You CAN actually use tap water, just condition it with tap water conditioner.
Even if the water looks clean, ammonia builds up that is in invisible and toxic to the fish. Even if they do not die instantly, it will poison them over time. Ammonia is invisible waste from the fish itself and the fish's food. You also need to fish out water food the fish does not eat within a few minutes to help prevent this ammonia build up.
Comets (the smaller goldfish) SHOULD NOT be kept in bowls. They need a minimum of 20ish cycled gallons (you can get away with ten if it's well filtered and has a lot of surface area and you do water changes often and on schedule). They need lots of room to swim and zip around. If you do not know what cycling a tank is, you need to do this in order to take easier and better care of your fish.
You may wonder about bettas (another common bowl fish). Bettas will have a much better, happier, easier life in a tank. You can keep your betta in a tiny tank if you like (2.5 is the lowest recommended but you can do 1.5 if you change the water often and have some plants for them to hide in and a heater). Bettas can get stressed and unhappy in open spaces. So they need to have plants (silk plants, plastic are too harsh for their thin little fins) and maybe some décor/hides that they can hide and play in!
If you must keep a betta in a bowl: change the water every day, have some silk plants/décor to help them hide and play. Feed them two or three pellets twice a day and fish out any pellets that they do no eat. These fish do need a heater.
An easy way to tell if plants/décor are too sharp for bettas is to feel them. Are they rough enough that they would cause a run in pantyhose? If so, they are too rough!
Both of these fish that are commonly put in bowls need conditioned water, an appropriate filter (overhang filters are too strong for bettas and they need a sponge filter, goldfish need a strong filter and you need to use a filter strong enough for the number of gallons your tank has). Both of these fish also need tank tops, to prevent them from hopping out and landing on your counter or floor!
Always condition the tap water you use! Conditioning tap water is much cheaper in the long run. Just get a concentrated bottle of tap water conditioner, measure out how much you should use for the number of gallons you have, and mix it into the water. Let it filter/settle and float your fish in your tank to allow it to adjust to the water temperature. DO NOT USE FISH NETS FOR BETTAS! Their fins are too delicate. Release your fish into the changed water after you float it.
I suggest learning about fish husbandry before taking on any fish, and looking into the specifics
Brian on April 07, 2015:
To all the people bragging that their fish lived for 3 years, goldfish kept in a properly sized and filtered aquarium can live for an average of 20 years.
To put that in human terms, it's like considering yourself a good parent because your kids lived to be 10 years old.
raven on January 10, 2015:
Goldfish don't belong in bowls lol. Ever.
How Does No-Filter Affect My Fishtank Generally?
An aquаrіum wіth lоtѕ оf рlаntѕ and vеrу fеw fіѕh саn ѕоmеtіmеѕ ореrаtе wіthоut an fіltеr, but that is not аn іdеаl ѕіtuаtіоn. In аddіtіоn, dереndіng uроn the type оf fіѕh, your fіѕh tаnk mау not bе аffесtеd.
Sоmе fish аrе аblе to ѕurvіvе іn a bit cooler water. Hоwеvеr, thеrе are ѕоmе fish thаt аrе еxtrеmеlу ѕеnѕіtіvе tо tеmреrаturе, fоr example, angelfish аrе vеrу sensitive, they mау nоt ѕurvіvе іn a tаnk wіth an fіltеr.
Sometimes, a filter does not matter. A proper setup should not build up anything harmful that quickly. However, most types of filters do have the added benefit of increasing oxygen exchange in fish tank water. Again, that is something that under most conditions will not rapidly fluctuate if everything else is in order.
The larger your volume of water (and less surface area), the slower your tank’s heat will change. Obviously, the closer the surrounding atmosphere’s heat to your tank’s ideal temperature will reduce risk.
9 Steps to Goldfish Care for a Healthy, Long-Lived Fish
1. Choosing your New Goldfish
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
The funnest part of goldfish keeping is getting new fish!
You’ll want to pick out a fish that you not only fall in love with at first sight, but is healthy to start with.
Unless you have solid nursing skills it takes to revive a sick fish (which is definitely NOT an easy thing to do), I recommend getting off on the best foot possible by purchasing a fish that isn’t obviously unwell.
(Note: if you already have purchased your goldfish, then you are already in knee-deep and you can skip this step and move on to the next point.)
If you’re shopping at your local pet store, you’ll want to look for fish that meets the following criteria:
- Swims around actively and normally (no floating or sinking problems) Looks perky and is constantly on the move, trying to find something to munch on Doesn’t have severe genetic defects like a collapsed mouth, bent back or missing anal fins Isn’t in the same tank with sick or dead fish that can transmit disease Isn’t living in dirty water conditions (that could lead to infection) Doesn’t show obvious signs of illness (bloody looking fins, white spots, red marks, etc.)
But here’s something else to be aware of…
The kind of goldfish you get can make a HUGE difference in the size of tank you will need in order to let it grow to its full potential.
Slim-bodied goldfish like Commons, Comets and Shubunkins may start out small (they are usually sold as very young fish), but can grow to be around a foot long. This is why they are commonly kept in ponds.
So if you’re tight on space, a fancy goldfish is probably a better fit for you.
(Fancy goldfish are the kinds with two tails and a shorter body, and they don’t get nearly as big so they don’t require quite as much room).
Fantails and Black moors are some of the hardier fancies and are great beginner fish.
Once you have chosen your new finned friend, it’s time to take it home and do some quarantine!
2. Quarantining to Rest & Treat Your Fish
Regardless of where you bought your fish from, all fish need to be quarantined. Quarantining is when you put the fish in a separate tank (preferably cycled) for a time before introducing them to your main tank.
Why exactly would you want to do that?
- Quarantine is giving your new fish a period of time to “rest up” in a separate area before being introduced to your other fish. (If you don’t have any other fish already, you don’t have to do this in a separate tank). That way they don’t catch anything from your existing fish while they are stressed after shipping. Their immune systems will be really low right now, making them prone to illness.
- Quarantine allows you to treat for all the common goldfish diseases your fish might have to help prevent them from coming down sick later. (If your supplier has already fully quarantined their fish – and I mean FULLY, including using microscopy techniques, then you don’t have to treat for all the diseases.)
Nearly all pet store goldfish are already sick or are on the verge of sickness.
The pet stores can’t afford to quarantine each shipment of fish for weeks and treat them for the host of diseases they are carrying before offering them for sale. So all they do is ship ’em in and ship ’em out.
They may look good now, but they have been passed through many stations and very stressed by the time they’ve arrived at their final destination. By the time they get home, they’re all but spent and are harboring a host of pathogens invisible to the naked eye.
These pathogens may not cause any problems to begin with – but as they multiply to out-of-control levels, the fish eventually succumbs.
That’s why it’s so common to hear,
“My goldfish are ALWAYS DYING!”
To recap, if you get your fish from a pet store, you are going to need to treat your new fish for disease yourself. And if you already have fish, you are going to need a separate tank to do this in so your new fish doesn’t contaminate the others. Do otherwise at your own risk.
3. Getting Your First-Time Aquarium Supplies
How you set up your aquarium will have a HUGE impact on your success as a goldfish keeper.
“Can I keep my goldfish in a bowl?”
Sorry, but bowls are out of the question. You can read why here. (Don’t worry, I’ll wait.)Are you back? Great!
A good tip when choosing a goldfish tank is to get the biggest tank you can afford.
A bigger tank = healthier fish.
Healthier fish = happier owner.
That depends on the goldfish – and how many you want to keep.
(It’s not as straightforward of an answer as some may tell you.)
See, the main thing is not the container, but the quality of the water that’s in it.
You’ll need more than a tank to have a thriving goldfish…
- Filters provide a place for beneficial bacteria to grow on that keep your water quality in good shape for longer. The beneficial bacteria are what help to keep your water safe. You will still need to perform water changes even if you have a filter though. For water changes, you will need a siphon. The kind that connects to the sink are great for tanks above 20 gallons and will save you lots of back pain from hauling buckets. No matter how great your filter is, you will always have to do some level of water changes. A heater keeps the temperature steady, preventing changes that can stress your fish. Especially recommended for fancy goldfish. (Read more on why goldfish do need a heater.) An aquarium light will keep your fish and plants thriving (as well as show them off).
There are also some other things that can make your tank a better home for your fish (after all, the more interesting you make their environment the better):
- A sand substrate is a much safer alternative to regular pea gravel (NEVER use aquarium pea gravel with goldfish – it is a choking hazard for them). Sand gives something for the fish to forage in and makes the tank look nice without adding the risk of choking. If you want to use gravel, read what kind is best and how to set it up properly here: Goldfish GravelBubble walls are also nice for increasing oxygen and adding some sparkle to the back of your tank. They require an air pump and airline tubing to work. Certain kinds of filters do not oxygenate the water much, so supplementing with an airstone can be very beneficial. Live plants for goldfish beautify your tank and provide safe hiding places for your fish (many decorations can be dangerous to goldfish as they can leach contaminants in the water and goldfish can get stuck in them). Be sure to get plants that are goldfish-friendly or you will have just purchased a very expensive salad for your fish!
How do you set this all up?
You can learn everything you need to have for a fully functional aquarium in this guide to setting up a goldfish tank.
It will get you off to a fantastic start!
Now that you know about properly setting up your aquarium, give yourself a high-five (and move on to step 4).
4. Adding the Right Water Conditioners
So you have everything set up and running now.
Added water to tank? Check.
You’re not ready to add your new fish yet.
Your water (if it is from the tap) contains chlorine and chloromines, which will burn your fish alive.
This has to be removed using a water conditioner. I like Prime because it also cuts the toxicity of ammonia and nitrite for 48 hours, two parameters that are very prevalent in new aquariums.
But even once you add your water conditioner, there’s still something else you need to know…
A Word of Caution:
At this point in the process, many people will wait 20 minutes (or 24 hours, depending on what the pet store employee has told them) and then put goldfish in. Who wants to wait, right? But within a week or so, their fish is seriously ill – maybe even dead.
This is because they did not cycle the tank first… … or they did not do enough water changes to compensate for the lack of an established filter.
Goldfish produce waste which quickly becomes toxic to them. Only two things can detoxify or remove it: water changes or a colony of good bacteria. Beneficial bacteria can help convert this waste into non-toxic forms through a process called the Nitrogen Cycle.
Something called a ‘fishless cycle’ is done before adding any fish to build up a colony of good bacteria.
If you have fish already, it’s too late to go through this process. Expect to be doing very frequent water changes and supplement with a beneficial filter starter bacteria culture (this speeds up the process) at least every other day for a few weeks until the colony gets established in your filter. (But an established filter won’t ever do ALL the work for you – it just cuts it down some.)
Now that you know your water will be safe for your new pet, it’s time to add fish!
5. Acclimate Your Goldfish to their Aquarium
Now that you’ve got your beautiful new goldfish, here’s how you introduce him, her or them into the tank.
Float the bag in the water for 20 minutes to match the temperature.
Open the bag. (Please DON’T dump the yucky water from the bag into the tank.)
Using clean hands, gently scoop up the fish and transfer it into the aquarium.
It’s common for new fish to hide at the bottom for a bit as they adjust to their new surroundings.
They might just be a little skittish for a time. But they’ll perk up after a bit.
If your fish have recently been shipped, you’ll want to make sure you don’t feed for 24 hours. Once you start feeding, feed very sparingly to avoid causing water quality problems.
Which brings us to the next point…
6. Properly Feeding your New Pet
Feeding your goldfish is a SUPER important aspect of goldfish care.
First (and most obviously), goldfish need food at regular intervals to survive.
But more importantly, how much you feed affects your water quality and your fish directly.
A healthy diet = a healthy fish.
But the problem is that there is a lot of confusing information out there on exactly what is the proper way to feed.
Which is why I put together a complete guide on goldfish food.
Then you’ll know exactly what and how to feed your fish, setting you up for success.
Overfeeding is a serious killer of goldfish. And it’s hard because goldfish love to eat… and eat…
But I address how to deal with this in the most safe way possible, while ensuring your fish doesn’t feel bored or hungry all the time.
Some goldfish foods are just a bad idea no matter what.
Take commercial flakes, for example.
As soon as they hit the water, flakes start leaching their ingredients, which can lead to water quality issues.
The fish also end up ingesting a lot of air as they eat them – but the main problem is the low quality ingredients they contain.
… A goldfish floating around from constipation.
Get a high quality goldfish food instead. (Hint: cheaper is rarely better.)
Pellets or gel food provides all of the nutrients goldfish need, AND they are digestible.
The best ones have lots of protein, fat, and very little fiber. The sinking kind of pellets are ideal.
No matter what you buy, processed foods (which are very rich) can’t make up a complete goldfish diet.
It would be like a person eating a cheeseburger every meal!
He’d be sick and overweight.
Fibrous veggies should actually make up the majority of their meals.
That’s why lettuce, spinach and kale are great ways to go.
So check out the feeding guide and then come back to read step number 7!
7. Routinely Caring for Goldfish: Water Changes for a Healthy Fish
Wouldn’t it be great if goldfish keeping was a one-time, “set-it-and-forget-it” thing?
Well, the truth is that there’s more to it than setting up a tank, adding fish and putting some food in every so often.
See, just like cats need their litter boxes changed…
… goldfish need their water changed.
This is because the filter converts poisons in the water into a somewhat safer substance (nitrate), but it can’t totally get rid of that substance.
That substance will just build up and build up until it starts harming your goldfish.
Replacing a percentage of your tank’s water with fresh, clean water regularly.
You can do this with an aquarium siphon.
Now, exactly how much and how often depends on your stocking densities in your tank, the amount you feed and your water test results (if your nitrate levels are over 30, you might not be changing enough water often enough).
Keeping an eye on your fish is important to make sure that there are no weird things going on with them.
Pay attention to how they are swimming, where they are spending their time in the tank, and how they look.
Fortunately, watching your goldfish is fun and enjoyable! (That’s why we keep them, after all.)
Whenever you notice a change in appearance or behavior, do a water change.
A day shouldn’t go by where you don’t check on them, because sometimes a lot can change in a short period of time.
8. Testing Your Water for the Critical Parameters
Regularly testing your tank’s water is a big part of taking care of your fish, ensuring that their environment stays safe for them.
Poor water quality is a HUGE killer of aquarium fish, but the problem is that the water may look just fine. It doesn’t have to look cloudy or gross to be extremely toxic to your fish.
That’s why we use test kits.
Test kits are the only way to know what’s going on with your water.
After you add fish, your water quality changes over time. By testing the water periodically, you can ensure that nothing gets out of control before it is too late.
It is recommended to test your water every single week in an established aquarium (one that has been set up longer than 1 month).
The biggest levels to check are ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, KH and GH levels to make sure they are within recommended ranges.
It’s a good idea to check your pH every day. That’s because the pH can suddenly dip without warning (called a pH crash), leaving your entire tank wiped out.
I use a pH and ammonia alert combo pack in my tank to keep an eye on things without having to test the water daily (a pain). All I have to do is look at it when I feed the fish.
9. Identifying and Treating Disease Problems
Goldfish are living creatures, and sometimes they can get sick.
It can happen because of their environmental conditions being less than optimal.
It can happen if you added a new fish without quarantining them, infecting the others.
It can even happen for no explained reason (often because the fish brought something in with it to start).
Dealing with disease is something most fish keepers have to face at some point.
Even though it’s not fun, sometimes it’s a part of the package.
The sooner you catch something, the better the chances are that you will be able to help turn things around. Being able to recognize when something is different about your fish QUICKLY can make or break its prognosis.
Check out our article on goldfish disease for more information on abnormal symptoms so you know what to look for.
Advantages of Keeping a Goldfish in a Fishbowl
A goldfish in an aquarium can live for more than a decade. Of course, this species of tropical fish have an average lifespan of about 20 years. To achieve optimum lifespan, it must be provided with an ideal living condition that looks like the natural one.
Such parameters are too daunting to achieve with a fishbowl. But first, let us look at the brighter side of a bowl environment.
Ease of Maintenance
Nothing hurts both legs and hands other than goldfish maintenance. You need to check on them frequently. You need to give them food. And, even study their psychology to know when they are depressed or not. Aquarists will tell you that they walk with their pets in the brain just like they do with kids.
A bowl calls for keeping only one fish at a time. Once you have designed a lucid timetable of when to change your water, give it food and alternate the temperatures and pH, you are good to go.
Additionally, fishbowls are not weighty. You can carry them around even in bags whenever you are breaking for a long holiday. So insane, don’t you think? But yes, your goldfish is like an eyeball that deserves better care.
A Fishbowl Fits any Place
Other than being cute, fish bowls are not as spacious as aquarium tanks. They can fit almost everywhere in your house. The place you put your pets matters a lot. It should be an easy-to-reach point in the house where you can conveniently balance the required parameters even in the middle of the night.
With a bowl, your fish can sleep next to you on the stand of your bed. Otherwise, as an upcoming aquarist, fish bowls are the starters pack due to their low costs.
Can we keep a goldfish in a bowl without a filter?
We took our kids to their elementary school fair last night, and of course our daughter went right over and won herself a goldfish. We bought a little fish bowl for it, but I thought I read that it's not good for a goldfish to stay in a bowl without a filter. Is this true?
You don't necessarily need a filter, but I would suggest buying a live water plant (normally about $3-5 at pet stores) and putting it in the bowl to act like a bit of a filter. However,if you add more fish to the bowl, it will likely need a filter.
A plant will help but a very small amount not near What a filter could do but also a tiny tank is not big enough to dilute the waste
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I had 4 goldfish over the years. They lived in a large fishbowl without a filter and thrived for years.
4 years is not near how long you're supposed to live poor fish they probably suffered there's supposed to live 10 to 20 years and how big was yours like 3 inches they're supposed to be 10 to 12 inches in the fancy varieties around 8
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figher has lung like us to respire through air
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fighter fish can live in bowl without filter bcos is do not avbsorb oxygen thorugh water, fighter absorb oxygen directly through air
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u can keep fighter in very small bowl rather than gold fish which respire through gill, it availabele in differnt colour also
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Yes the fish will live longer with a tank and filter. Yes it will also live in a bowl you will need to clean it more often.
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My sister won a goldfish at her school carnival, too, and she has kept it in just a plain bowl with some pebbles and water. No filter. This fish has survived for about six months now. If you don't have a filter, you will just have to change the water more often.
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Goldfish bowls really shouldn't exist, to be honest. Goldfish can grow very large and some have lived up to 30 years! The recommendation is that you give a goldfish 10 gallons for every inch it is. So if your goldfish is 2 inches long, ideally it would have 20 gallons. While that seems a little excessive for most people, a ten gallon tank with a filter would be a great place to start. As other people have mentioned, goldfish are considered "dirty" fish. They produce a lot of waste, and need their tanks cleaned fairly often. Also, don't use a water heater if you upgrade its tank. While many fish prefer slightly warmer water, goldfish actually prefer slightly colder water, because colder water holds more oxygen which goldfish need a lot of. The filter will also help with making sure your fish has plenty of oxygen, so I would highly recommend that it has a filter. Cheers and best of luck raising your new fishy friend!
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As a veteran fishkeeper, absolutely. Goldfish are sold when they're young and relatively small, but they grow up to be the size of koi! The bioload for just one goldfish is absolutely huge, and the probability of both stunting your fish's growth and giving it ammonia poisoning is too great for you not to get it both a high powered filter, but AT LEAST a 30 gallon tank. Please, look into goldfish and the nitrogen cycle if you would truly like to teach your daughter about proper fishkeeping.
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Yes. Goldfish, as well as most fish, need a filter. It helps pump oxygen into the water and keeps the tank cleaner for longer. All fish need filters.
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Yes this is true. A small tank would be better.
How to Keep a Goldfish Happy and Healthy
Last Updated: October 20, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Doug Ludemann. Doug Ludemann is the owner and operator of Fish Geeks, LLC, an aquarium services company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Doug has worked in the aquarium and fish-care industry for over 20 years, including having worked as a professional aquarist for the Minnesota Zoo and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. He received his Bachelor of Science in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from the University of Minnesota.
There are 23 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.
This article has been viewed 225,647 times.
Goldfish can be wonderful pets but they don't always have long lives because people don't care for them properly. To make sure your goldfish stays happy and healthy, it's important to give it a proper home, take care of its daily needs, and enrich its life with items in its tank and attention. Here are some tips for making sure your goldfish is healthy and happy by caring for it properly.