This is THE best guide to goldfish care on the planet.
If you’re an overwhelmed beginner wanting someone to show you the ropes, you’ll love this guide.
You can build a healthy goldfish community despite having:
Zero pet sitting jobs.
Zero goldfish-savvy connections.
Zero experience keeping fish.
I’m going to walk you through the EXACT steps you need to take to save your new goldfish from total disaster.
Boost Your Goldfish’s Quality of Life by Choosing The Right Tank Size
Let me begin:
First and foremost, you are going to need…
What size? It depends on the goldfish.
And how many.
There are two main kinds of goldfish: single-tailed and fancy.
Slender, single-tailed goldfish varieties grow so large (over a foot long, in fact) that they need 40 gallons each, and do best in ponds.
I know, it’s hard to believe they can start off so small and end up so huge.
They’ve even been known to outgrow tanks that are 6 feet long!
Fancy goldfish (the ones with short bodies and double tails) reach 6 to 8 inches, so 10 to 20 gallons per fish is the rule of thumb.
Just about any fish safe container will do. Glass, acrylic and even plastic tubs all offer different advantages. Your goldfish won’t care, as long as it has the space it needs.
You’re probably wondering:
“Can I keep my goldfish in a bowl?”
Sorry, but bowls are out of the question.
The bottom line?
My advice when choosing a goldfish tank is to get the biggest tank you can afford.
A bigger tank = healthier fish.
Healthier fish = happier owner.
Now that you know about properly stocking your aquarium, give yourself a high-five (and move on to step #2).
Stocking Up the Equipment You Need to Make Goldfish Keeping Easier
Here’s the deal:
Electricity is a relatively new concept.
For thousands of years, goldfish have been kept in containers without our modern technology.
Filters AREN’T necessary.
But they do help.
Goldfish produce waste, and the toxins from their waste harms or kills them.
If you don’t want to be doing multiple water changes every week to remove those toxins, you will need a filter to help keep the water quality safe.
What size you get will depend on your tank size.
You still will need to change the water. (We’ll get to that later.)
There are carbon inserts you can buy for your filter, if you use hang on back filters. I also recommend getting a place for good bacteria to grow on as well… either inside the main filter or along with it. Sponge filters are a good option for that.
The beneficial bacteria are what help to keep your water safe.
For water changes, you will need a siphon. The kind that connects to the sink are great for tanks above 20 gallons large and will save you lots of back pain from hauling buckets.
Bubble stones are also nice for increasing oxygen.
Rumor has it fish like to play in them too.
Both don’t cost much.
While we’re on the subject…
Aquarium nets can be helpful for rearranging décor in the tank, but I don’t recommend using them on your goldfish (chasing the fish around is stressful and they can get hurt). Clean, gentle hands do just fine.
This is important:
The quality of the water in the tank is probably one of the most critical factors in keeping your goldfish healthy.
Bad water = sick fish.
Using tap water? Don’t forget a water conditioner to get out the chlorine and other nasty chemicals. Prime gets rid of both – and ammonia to boot.
You could watch as your goldies start dropping like flies…
… or you could test the water with a simple kit.
The liquid kind give you the most bang for your buck.
If you choose to purchase a hood with a light, it’s a good idea to have a “lights out” policy at night so your fish can sleep.
Not all tanks need a tank stand, but if you want to view your fish at eye-level then it is a must. Besides, tanks located on the floor can be more tricky to clean. A full tank can weigh hundreds of pounds, so your stand needs to be able to hold that kind of weight.
Regarding temperature, you’ve probably heard this:
“Goldfish are cold water fish. They don’t need a heater.”
That’s not entirely true.
While they are natively river fish, the fancier kinds aren’t very tough.
There is also evidence that sickness is more common in colder water.
As long as there is enough oxygen in the water, goldfish do best in water in the low to high 70’s (F).
Heaters (the shatter resistant kind are the best) also help to keep the temp steady.
Picking Out the Right Food for Your Goldfish’s Needs
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.
… A goldfish floating around from constipation.
Freeze-dried foods, like bloodworms, can also cause this problem.
That’s why I don’t recommend them.
Get a high quality goldfish food like Repashy instead. (Hint: cheaper is rarely better.)
The best ones have lots of protein, fat, and very little fiber. The sinking kind of pellets are ideal.
But here’s the catcher:
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 live plants are a great way to go.
Which brings us to the next step…
Select Tank Decorations for Beauty and Purpose
Here’s something we all agree on:
An empty aquarium is pretty boring.
Shelter gives goldfish a place to hide or rest. Plus it looks good.
Now, you can go completely crazy with buying artificial decorations and blow your wallet on an impressive display…
… But at the end of the day your fish might not even appreciate it.
Sometimes these even do more harm than good.
For example, sinking ships are a notorious cause of injury.
Their protruding eyes are damaged easily on sharp edges. In some cases, they come completely off. (Ouch!)
That’s where soft plants might offer a better route.
Fake plants can be pretty, but they don’t really offer much of interest to the fish.
May I make a suggestion?
Get some live aquarium plants for your tank.
They offer a realism that no fake plant can match.
The tender leaves make for healthy 24/7 snacking. As weird as it sounds, even the decaying parts are good eating!
Elodea (also called Anacharis) is a good choice, but there are many others. In fact, it’s hard to find plants that goldies won’t eat… but Anubias or Java Fern hold up pretty well.
Trust me – your fish will thank you for them!
Whatever plants you choose, be sure to wash it off in chlorinated water to disinfect it.
Should you get a substrate (a layer of sand, gravel or pebbles) to put at the bottom of the tank?
Well, there are pros and cons to anything you would use.
Gravel or river rocks are a popular look, but uneaten food and waste gets trapped in the spaces between them.
That makes them difficult (actually, IMPOSSIBLE) to keep clean.
They aren’t a good choice for goldfish.
Aquarium sand has been successfully used in a thin layer (just enough to cover the bottom). Goldfish will forage through it looking for something to eat.
While not as attractive, bare-bottom is the way most goldfish keepers prefer to go. That way they always know what is going on at the bottom and can keep the water clean.
As soon as you’ve stocked up on all of the equipment you need, it’s time to move on to step 5 of the care guide…
Follow This Simple Strategy to Set Up Your Tank
Congratulations! You’ve gathered your materials. Now it’s time to put it all together.
I can already hear you saying,
“Where should I put my aquarium?”
Glad you asked.
Really, there are a lot of places that will work. You mainly want to avoid areas with high foot traffic and issues with temperature fluctuations.
You will need an electrical source and access to a sink. Keep in mind that you need to be able to get your hands into the tank from above!
Have you figured out where to put it yet? Wonderful! Time to place your filter, air stone and heater where you want them.
But don’t plug them in just yet or you might blow them up. 😉
If you picked out plants or other decorative objects, now is the time to figure out how you want everything aquascaped.
After you fill it with water, use your handy-dandy water conditioner to dose the entire volume of the tank.
Now you can plug in your equipment.
Adding Something Fishy to the Situation
A word of advice:
Most people get a 15¢ feeder fish for their first goldfish.
“Feeders” are really young common or comet goldfish.
And just about all of them harbor disease from overcrowding, causing them to die quickly.
That’s why feeders aren’t meant to be kept as pets…
Starting off with a sick fish (even if it’s not a feeder) from the get-go doesn’t usually end happily, especially for beginners.
Here’s the kicker:
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. All they can 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.
That’s why it’s so common to hear,
“My goldfish are ALWAYS DYING!”
What do you do if you just bought a pet store goldfish?
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.
Salt (for most parasites) is a good starting point
Dose the whole tank at .3% salinity – 1 tsp salt per gallon.
Expect the quarantine time to last 4 weeks.
Goldfish have a bad reputation for being short lived because people don’t quarantine.
And sometimes, even if you do quarantine, the fish is just too worn out to make it.
Now in reality, a healthy, quality fish can live decades.
But you have to start out with one.
Most people think that pet stores are their only option, so that’s where they buy their fish.
Actually, buying directly from a professional breeder online is easy and you don’t even have to go anywhere.
Best of all, your fish may already have been quarantined and will be far less stressed.
Always start off with a healthy fish, if you have the choice. You won’t regret it.
Listen, I get that those chain store cheap prices can look pretty appealing.
You may pay more for one high-quality goldfish initially…
… But you save your money big time by not buying cheap goldfish after cheap goldfish. Not to mention the cost of medicating your sick fish. (It adds up!)
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 30 to 60 minutes to acclimate 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.
There you go!
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.
Here’s How to Regularly Care for Your Goldfish (And Make it Happy)
It would be great if there was an autopilot setting for goldfish care.
That way you could just set everything up, kick back and relax.
But when it comes to pet ownership, you’re totally at the wheel.
Your care (or lack of care) will determine whether they live or die.
The bottom line?
They NEED you.
Their lives are in your hands.
You are the one who determines how clean their water is, how crowded they are, if they have enough food, and what to do when they are sick.
So, you have some responsibilities to tend to if you want your goldfish to thrive.
Providing food for them is an obvious must.
As far as what they eat and how much, that is within your power.
The problem is, goldfish are just so fun to feed! It’s easy to keep giving them more and more and more. Whoa!
They never get full.
But too much food leads to a host of problems.
Whether they know it or not, they need you to be strong enough to LIMIT those rich pellets.
Make sure they always have access to vegetable material so they don’t feel hungry.
And just like cats need their litter boxes changed…
… goldfish need their water changed.
On a regular basis.
This is because the filter converts poisons in the water into a somewhat safer substance, 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 90% of the tank’s water with fresh, clean water every week.
You can do this with that siphon you bought.
It’s ok to change the water every day, if need be.
Last but not least:
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.
Now before you go:
Now it’s Up to You…
Are you ready to give goldfish care a shot?
Then you definitely want to get the new step-by-step care guide that I just put together.
It contains all you will EVER need to learn about goldfish care so you can always know what to do.
Click the link below to take a look: