Goldfish were first kept as pets by the Chinese more than one thousand years ago and by the 17th century could be found in homes across Europe. Goldfish are fun to have as pets as each has a different personality. Goldfish are good for the health as they can reduce stress and lower blood pressure which is why they are often found in medical waiting rooms. Once you have mastered the fundamentals of caring for goldfish, your answer to the question ‘how long do goldfish live?’ will be ‘they regularly have a long and healthy life of 4-5 years and with proper care can even live between 10-15 years‘. In this article we’ll look at ways to keep a healthy goldfish.
Preparing to buy a pet goldfish
Once you have decided to have a pet goldfish, it is best not to rush the purchase but to take your time ensuring that you have a suitable home – pond or fish tank – as this will determine what type of fish you buy and how many. Each fish needs about nine litres of water (two imperial gallons). Never keep a goldfish in a small bowl as the fish will suffer from the lack of space and oxygen and the waste it produces will soon become toxic. The growth of the goldfish is often stunted and this leads to many health problems.
You need a good quality goldfish tank that is large enough to hold the appropriate gallons of water for your fish and to ensure they have adequate space to swim.
Tank size is really important, you need a reasonable size tank for the size and amount of fish you are going to keep. Use our aquarium size calculator to work out the correct tank size to ensure you have a tank with plenty of space.
You also can’t buy a tank and goldfish on the same day. You need to set your tank up in advance to ensure the appropriate nitrate levels are met. Pet stores should not allow you to take a goldfish home without ensuring you have an appropriately setup tank ready for the fish.
Water quality and temperature for the tank/ pond
Goldfish are cold water fish and they can be successfully kept in a tank/ pond filled with tap water with a temperature of 62-72º F. Water quality is very important. The water must be treated first with a water conditioner to remove any chlorine or heavy metals. Goldfish do well in soft water with a higher alkalinity. The ideal pH is 7.0- 7.4.
In order to keep the aquarium clean and ensure top quality water conditions you will want to do regular partial water changes, this process will be different between a tank and an outdoor pond. An outdoor pond will require different levels of water maintenance to an indoor aquarium.
The need for good filtration
It is important that the fish tank or pond has a proper filtration system as goldfish create plenty of mess that soon pollutes the water. The filter will keep the water cleaner for longer and also pumps oxygen into the water, this ensures a good water quality. It is possible if you have a good-sized tank with plenty of water surface to keep a goldfish with no water filter or air pump although we would always recommend some kind of filtration system. A biological filtration system is a popular choice and should provide ample filtration. Some fresh weed and a couple of decorations can also be added to add interest for the fish.
A healthy diet for your goldfish
Gold fish are hearty eaters and will happily encourage you to give them too much food! Excess food in their water produces ammonia and other bad toxins which will make your goldfish ill and reduce the goldfish lifespan. Careful feeding is essential as goldfish do not have stomachs so the correct diet is essential – and this is even more crucial for fancy goldfish because of their shapes and the position of their internal organs.
Buy quality dried food
There are many different types of goldfish food on the market. Beware, because many are low quality and contain cheap fillers with little nutritional value. The most popular types of food are dried ones including pellets, flakes, sticks and wafers. Some are designed to float on the water and others, to sink to the bottom. Breeders recommend you soak the dried food in a little tank water for a few seconds, before feeding it as this ensures that the fishes’ intestines will not become blocked by expanding dry fish food.
Give treats of live food & fresh vegetables
Some goldfish owners feed their goldfish live food such as shrimps, brine shrimp and earthworms. It is easiest to buy live food from your pet shop as it is 100% safe. Live food is also available frozen and freeze-dried and some contains carotene which helps keep the red fish vibrant in colour and can produce contrasting colours in some goldfish.
Goldfish are herbivores and thrive on eating vegetables and these should be given to them once every two weeks. A teaspoonful of finely chopped fresh or frozen garden peas (skins removed), zucchini, broccoli or potato will all be enjoyed by your goldfish. A little egg yolk is another popular treat but will mean that the water has to be cleaned afterwards. Live vegetation in the fish tank is beneficial and the favourite for goldfish is duckweed.
How to buy a healthy goldfish
Choose a good pet shop where the fish are well looked after and are not kept in cramped tanks with poor water quality. Spend time just watching the goldfish as they swim around:
- Do the fish appear healthy and happy?
- Look for a goldfish that is not lethargic or frantically swimming around as these are signs of stress.
- Are the scales on the goldfish in good condition and there are no missing scales?
- Are the fins on the goldfish in good condition? The dorsal fin should be standing upright and not have any growths or damage. The pectoral and anal fins should be equally sized and again, in good condition.
- Check that the goldfish has no lesions or growths and that the water is not cloudy, slightly blue in colour or have a smell as these can indicate the use of medication.
Once you have chosen your goldfish, ensure that the fish is carefully caught and popped in a bag containing an adequate amount of water and plenty of air for your journey home.
Common Goldfish v Fancy Goldfish
There are many different goldfish breeds, with around 30 commonly recognized varieties. That’s not all of them though, with China recognizing almost 200 different varieties!
While the Common Goldfish with its bright orange scales is instantly recognisable and very popular, there are other fancy goldfish species to consider. The Comet Goldfish, looks like a common goldfish but has a pretty flowing forked tail and is also available in white, yellow and red. The Shubunkin is very distinctive as it is slightly longer in shape and has colourful blotches over its body in black, white, brown, red and blue. The Bubble Eye Goldfish is egg-shaped and doesn’t have a dorsal fin, but what will catch your attention is its huge ‘bubble eyes’. The Lionchu is equally dramatic looking as it has a round shape and is pale orange in colour. Why stick with the colour orange? The Black Moor is a stylish looking fish with jet black scales, fins and tail.
When it comes to longevity, the Common Goldfish, Comet goldfish and Shubunkin can all live well over ten years.
Keeping the fish tank clean
Goldfish do produce a great deal of waste so to keep the water in the tank clean and healthy, it is advisable to change 10-25% of the tank water every week and to clean the gravel to help keep your goldfish healthy.
The water can be extracted using a siphon hose and should be replaced with fresh tap water of a similar temperature that has been treated with water conditioner. A common problem is cloudy tank water and there can be several causes for this.
Once a month, you will need to give the fish tank a thorough clean which includes siphoning the gravel as this is where excess food and other mess gathers. You will also need to gently sponge the sides of the tank to get rid of any algae. It is a good idea to regularly test the ammonia, nitrate, and pH levels to ensure that they are steady.
How to help your goldfish live longer
Common goldfish can live up to ten years, but it is more common for goldfish to live four or five years as many are faced with predation and disease as well as competition from other goldfish
Here are the ten top tips to keep your goldfish healthy:
- Ensure the tank is large enough for your goldfish and don’t overcrowd the tank.
- Get the tank properly established fusing tap water that has been treated with water conditioner.
- Feed your goldfish with quality dried food and give fortnightly treats of vegetables.
- Provide live weed in the tank for your fish to eat.
- Keep the tank clean and change the recommended amount of water regularly.
- Regularly clean the gravel with a gravel vacuum – your goldfish can stay in the tank while you do this.
- Don’t stress your fish by removing him from the tank while you clean it, far better to do a regular partial clean.
- Give your goldfish stimulation by adding a piece of driftwood to the tank or creating a ‘hiding area’ with weeds at one end.
- Let your goldfish experience the seasons. Although they do not like water more than 24°C, goldfish are happy with winter water temperatures of 15- 20°c. Never let the water temperature drop below this though as your goldfish will stop eating.
- Check that your fish looks healthy every day. Watch him swim around the tank and while he eats. If there is a problem, act promptly.
In summary to How Long Do Goldfish Live?
Well in answer to the question, how long do goldfish live? The answer is that goldfish can happily live four-five years although the oldest on record lived 43 years. The average lifespan of a goldfish really will depend on how well they are cared for. If you feed your goldfish a well-balanced diet and their tank water is kept clean and regularly treated, your goldfish will prove to be a thoroughly enjoyable pet for a number of years to come and will hopefully live closer to 10-15 years.
According to the goldfishtank.com, 43% of pet owners in a poll said that their goldfish had lived between one and six years. If you follow our tips about cleaning their water and food, it is possible for your goldfish to live for ten years or more.
The usual answer is sadly not long in a small goldfish bowl because the living conditions are not ideal as the water gets messy quickly, producing toxic ammonia. If it is a really small bowl, the goldfish may not be getting enough oxygen and could suffer from stunted growth. If you are planning to keep your goldfish in a really large bowl this could work well.
It is suggested that goldfish can go without being fed for a couple of days but this is not to be recommended. Goldfish should be fed the correct amount of food once or twice a day and if you are going away, you should install an automatic fish food feeder for your fish.
The Common Goldfish, Shubunkin and Cornet are said to live longer than the more exotic types of goldfish.