You Won’t Believe the Lifespan of a Goldfish!

It makes me mad whenever I hear this:

“Yeah, we tried keeping a goldfish once. But of course, it didn’t live more than a few weeks.”

While it’s true that goldfish do have a reputation for being short-lived pets…

… do they deserve it? 

No way!

In this article I’m going to blow your mind about how long a goldfish can live – and the REAL reason so many goldfish die early.

Let’s cut to the chase!

Goldfish can Live to be 40+ Years Old

There, happy I didn’t keep you in suspense? 😉

Yep, in fact:

Goldfish are the longest lived of all aquarium fish.

Just take a look at the chart below:


They are also one of the longest living of all popular domesticated pets!

Goldfish can easily outlive a cat, dog or even a turtle.

Now isn’t that absolutely amazing? 😀

The Secrets to a Healthy Goldfish Revealed

Learn how to keep your goldfish alive and thriving using the only complete, accurate goldfish manual available today –
The Truth About Goldfish.

Tell Me More!
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Oldie Goldies: Check Out these Long-Lived Fish!

Let’s have a look at the proof.

A goldfish called Goldie passed away at the ripe old age of 45 several years ago.

That’s nearly half a century old!

Sadly, Goldie was disqualified from the title of the world’s oldest goldfish in The Guinness Book of World Records because his owners couldn’t provide the necessary documentation…

… So the official crown (get it? off-FISH-ial? Sorry, I couldn’t resist 😉 ) ended up staying with Tish the goldfish.

Tish had passed away a while before Goldie at age 43.

And these aren’t the only champions:

Recently, two comet goldfish fair friends (Fred and George) were recognized for passing the 40 year mark in Britain, outliving the family dogs.

There is no question that goldfish have the ability to live for a very long time.


This brings us to the more puzzling fact…

Most Goldfish Always Die Rather Quickly

So, exactly what is the average lifespan of a goldfish kept in captivity?

I’ve been unable to find any stats to offer a definite answer.


It’s a safe bet that most goldfish don’t make it past a few years once acquired (many don’t last more than a few weeks).  Those who manage to make it to even twice that are somehow seen as “superfish.”

That’s still nowhere near 40 years!

But people think this is normal – that goldfish don’t live long because they can’t.

(We now know that isn’t true.)

By now you should be beginning to see that something isn’t right with this picture.  We have goldfish can live long, but they usually don’t.

What gives?!

Well, good news:

I’m here to shed some light on the 2 main reasons why goldies are only making it to a fraction of their potential lifespan.

Reason #1 Behind Such High Goldfish Mortality Rates

It’s true that some goldfish just aren’t able to live out their full lifespan because of factors out of our control, such as undernourishment during the early years of a goldfish’s life or even the more sinister use of anabolic steroids by farmers.

But high death rates in most cases are caused by one major thing…


Most people – even those at pet stores – honestly have no clue about the needs of the fish they are buying or selling, and in many cases hold to outdated and downright false ideas about what it takes to make this species thrive.

So it is rare that a goldfish will be able to survive in the conditions they are kept in – it isn’t right for them.

Here is a handful of all-too-common no-no’s that cause untimely deaths:

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1. Keeping their fish in the wrong living space, such as a bowl or small tank


Put your goldfish in a bowl?

You are just asking for it to die quickly!

Bowls are extremely dangerous environments for a goldfish.   Because they get dirty so quickly, the small space makes the level of toxins so high that it literally burns the fish alive, often leading to sickness and infection (if they don’t die from the burns first).

They need a properly sized tank in order to do well.

It’s amazing they last as long as they do!

2. Feeding them an improper diet and/or overfeeding

Goldfish (especially the fancy ones) have very specific needs when it comes to what to eat and how often to eat it.

Sadly, goldfish flakes are the go-to staple that often causes constipation, excess protein and overfeeding (it’s about impossible to tell how much you have actually fed!).

Overfeeding causes a host of problems, from throwing off the biological balance of the tank to terminal conditions such as dropsy.

Not good!

3. Not cycling the aquarium first


All aquariums are closed environments.  They need filtration, and that filtration has to have a colony of beneficial bacteria built up over time in order to work.

That’s why we need the cycling process – to give us that good bacteria.

Not cycling the tank is a huge mistake that causes goldies to die from the totally imbalanced water parameters that result from a lack of “good bugs.”

Contrary to popular belief:

You can’t just walk home from the pet store with a NEW fish and put it in a NEW tank that doesn’t have a good bacteria colony and sit back, thinking everything will be fine.

Reason #2 Behind High Goldfish Mortality Rates

This one is something most people never think of.

Picture this:

You do everything right for your new pet, care-wise.  You are the epitome of a perfect goldfish owner.


The fish gets sick and dies within a few months (or less) regardless.

What happened?

Well, it could be that your fish got stressed out from the whole pet store ordeal.

See, they ship the fish around a lot from place to place, and it stresses their immune system.  Then they are exposed to a bunch of other fish, many which are carrying diseases.  When the fish is weak is when it is susceptible to picking up a problem.

So what happened in this case only could have been prevented by buying your goldfish from a reputable supplier or breeder (which is the only way to buy goldfish that I recommend).

Admittedly, this doesn’t happen to all pet store goldfish.

Some are treated better than others.

Some are also hardier than others.

But you eliminate a lot of the risk by not shopping at the pet stores. 🙂

The Secret to Having Your Goldfish Live to the Max

People don’t necessarily do these things because they want their fish to suffer – they just don’t know any better 🙁

In fact:

Most fish owners are horrified when they learn what they have been putting their beloved pet through!

But it gets worse:

There are way more care mistakes than what I’ve brought up in this article – mistakes that people make at the expense of their pet’s life.

I don’t have time to cover all of them in this article, which is why I spent the last 2 years of my life pouring my wealth of goldfish care knowledge into one resource, The Truth About Goldfish.

It has EVERYTHING you will ever need to know in order to master the art of goldfish care to ensure your fish lives its life to the fullest.

Check it out here:

The Secrets to a Healthy Goldfish Revealed

Learn how to keep your goldfish alive and thriving using the only complete, accurate goldfish manual available today –
The Truth About Goldfish.

Tell Me More!
4.5 90% from 13 ratings
Rating 4.5 90%

In Conclusion

We’ve busted the myth that goldfish can’t live a long time.

I’ve also revealed the reason they usually don’t.

Now I want to hear from you.

Did you learn something interesting?

Maybe you want to share the age of the oldest goldfish you ever owned?

Either way, drop your comment below.

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  1. Judie Smith April 8, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    We got our goldfish at a harvest festival over 8 years ago. He’s been in a glass bowl with no filter. I feed him regular goldfish food and he even comes to the side of the bowl when it’s feeding time. We are AMAZED he’s lasting this long!

    • Veska Vlada July 4, 2017 at 11:19 am - Reply

      You’re actually proud of that???

      Rating: 5
  2. Rebecca Gleason Coston May 15, 2017 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    Who this helps so mush all my friends are going to read what i am writing and they will want goldfish to because they live so long. I really want goldfish but if my parents won’t let me i will do the research that proves they are the best pet ever!

    • Clementine
      Clementine May 19, 2017 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      Glad it helped you, Rebecca! Hope you get to have a goldfish soon!

  3. Rachel Hardy August 7, 2017 at 4:44 am - Reply

    It’s quite the story how I ended up with my goldfish.
    Firstly, a friend of mine moved down to North Carolina and she couldn’t take the goldfish she had won at the local fair with her, so she gave her pet to me to care for.
    “Guffy” the single tailed, common goldfish was in a fish bowl and all alone, gasping for oxygen at the very top constantly. I felt horrible about this, so I set out to aquire a better tank and some other fish for tank mates.
    I eventually came home with a 10 gallon aquarium kit and a few days after that, I introduced Guffy and the other three new fish to the new habitat.
    Not one of them was at the top of the tank gasping and they all seemed lively and content, so I thought I was all set.
    Then I learned about how huge goldfish get, and I realized that they would need a tank far bigger than 10 gallons. I felt awful.
    I went back to the pet store and bought the biggest tank my cramped apartment could accommodate, which unfortunately was only a 38 gallon aquarium – but I figured it was still much better than 10 gallons!
    I do the best I can do to take care of them all. They’re my babies, as silly as some think being so attached to fish would be. They actually have very sharp memories. They follow me from one side of the tank to the other, recognize my voice, and hang out and watch me if I sit nearby.
    I love them so much. I would totally give them that 180 gallon aquarium or pond if I could…

    Rating: 5
    • Clementine
      Clementine August 9, 2017 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      Aww thank you so much for sharing your story, Rachel. Kudos to you for doing your best to give them a great life!

  4. Donna Hanson August 14, 2017 at 10:19 am - Reply

    I acquired Chuck & Norris after hearing my Boss telling a friend on the phone she was sick of caring for them. She was actually planning on throwing them into the retention pond behind her home. I immediately confronted her and asked to take them. She brought them over in a small goldfish bowl with a live plant that was nested atop a paper plate with the roots in the water. They appeared healthy, water changes done weekly. These guys were won by her daughters at a church fair 3 years prior. I upgraded them to a larger bowl but not long after Norris died. I researched a little and found Chuck needed a bigger tank and added air. So far Chuck lives and I have had him 3 years. He always comes to the front of his tank to greet me and seems content. I hope he lives a long time!

    Rating: 5
    • Clementine
      Clementine August 15, 2017 at 2:17 am - Reply

      That was so nice of you, Donna! It’s always great to hear stories like this. Thank you so much for sharing and stopping by to leave your comment!

  5. Jon September 9, 2017 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    When I was a kid I won a goldfish at the fair. My Mum put hi in the (small) pond in the garden. He grew big. When they sold their house 25-26 years later he was still swimming around (a lot bigger). Also, even though this is a goldfish site I want to add that our Jack Russell lived until it was 17 (had to be put down because of cancer) and our cat which we took in as a stray at around 2 years lived for another 21 years (also had to be put down sadly). I don’t know what my Mum does to animals but boy do they live long.

    Rating: 5
    • Clementine
      Clementine September 9, 2017 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      Ask her what she feeds them 😀

  6. Kim September 12, 2017 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Bought our son starter tank and added fish later. This was for his 8th birthday present. Shubunkins didn’t hang around long but goldfish still going. Son’s coming up 28 next year. Goldfish has survived moving in to new larger tanks and has changed colour from the standard gold to white with some gold. Mum and dad do the caring for fish and tank cleans these days!!

    Rating: 4
    • Clementine
      Clementine September 24, 2017 at 11:42 pm - Reply

      That’s amazing, Kim! Thanks for sharing! That makes nearly 20 years!

  7. Ron Lakin September 30, 2017 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    I built a small pond (4′ x 3′) about 12 years ago. at first we stocked it with a dozen store bought goldfish. 5 of them have survived over the years. I added more gold fish twice and 2 koi once, all died but the 5 original goldfish. I feed them the flakes once a day in the winter and twice during the summer. I add new water every 3 months (more often in the summer). They have all gotten huge except one has a growth. i was concerned when a wandering turtle hung out for 3 weeks, but he didn’t seem interested in eating the goldfish .

    Rating: 5
    • Clementine
      Clementine October 1, 2017 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      I hope your fish keep going strong, Ron! Those 5 must be pretty tough little guys!

  8. Angie October 1, 2017 at 4:48 am - Reply

    I have three different types in a large tank they are all ten years old and quite large I enjoy them alot and do my best to care for them and there environment.sadly the black one is not looking to good so I’m hopeing it bounces back

    Rating: 3.5
    • Clementine
      Clementine October 1, 2017 at 11:06 pm - Reply

      I hope he does, too, Angie! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Nadine October 11, 2017 at 4:22 am - Reply

    Cool read. We have had our 3 goldfish from the fair going on five years! I was telling my husband how much my fish love me. Its true they just float around in such happiness and follow me around the tank. 2 are orange 1 has a longer feathery tail and the last is bright orange and white. Those 3 seriously sleep on each other and just cant get enough of one another they really are just so pretty and neat to have. I do have a filter and bubbler some plants gravel and a skeleton in their tank and honest to God that tank is always so crystal clear its amazing how clean they keep it. 10 gallon and i feel like sometimes they should he in my 20 gallon lol. I can only hope they live til 40 and im sure my oldest son who is 5 will be the one to want to keep them

    Rating: 5
    • Clementine
      Clementine October 22, 2017 at 11:14 pm - Reply

      Aww, thanks for sharing your story! Goldfish do have such personality, don’t they? If you could get them a larger tank, I bet they’d have an even better chance of living a long time 🙂

  10. Beth October 18, 2017 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Very interesting article. I believed the myths about goldfish not living long, and only having 3 second memories. I got my son 2 goldfish in one of those plastic small tanks, thinking that they only have 3 second memories so why would they need a big tank?! Sadly one died not long after we got him, he’d always seemed poorly though. But the other, Bob, is still doing well (he was 2 this summer) and he has got his own little personality. Some faces scare him but others don’t?! He used to be scared of the neighbour’s cat, but now they both just look at each other for ages! When Bob first saw the cat he’d swim as far away as he could and you could see he was panicked. So he must have learned that the cat isn’t a threat (I never leave the cat alone with Bob!).
    I’m pleased to say that he is now in a lovely big glass tank, he’s got so much more room and is a lot happier. I just didn’t realise how playful goldfish were, he loves to swim up the the filter and let the stream of water blow him back! It’s so lovely watching him in his new tank with so much room to play. I’m ashamed I didn’t realise the importance of a proper tank at first. I’m hoping he lives for many years to come!

    Rating: 4.5
    • Clementine
      Clementine October 22, 2017 at 10:47 pm - Reply

      Your story is very touching, Beth! Thank you for sharing your experience so others can learn too. We all make mistakes along the way of our fish keeping journey, the good news is Bob has a great life thanks to your care and research 🙂

  11. Gilly October 27, 2017 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    We are a prop management company and adopted 2 abandoned goldfish 22 years ago and they are still going strong to this day

    Rating: 4.5
    • Clementine
      Clementine October 29, 2017 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Awesome, Gilly! Do you know what breed of goldfish they are?

  12. suzuki October 31, 2017 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    When I was a kid, I had a carnival goldfish (a comet?) live some dozen years in a decent-sized bowl. We had no bubbles or filter pump, but we regularly changed out the water in the sink. (He seemed to ) (I think our city has pretty good ground water, not chlorinated or artificially fluorinated.)

    He (or she) had temporary mates at different times, but none lasted long. He never showed signs of parasites or petechiae or distressed behavior. He was always pretty interactive, right up to the end, a great pet. (If I remember correctly,

    I’ve had no such luck with any fish since, despite real fish tanks, treated water, bio-filters, etc. 🙁 Still trying!

    Rating: 4
    • Clementine
      Clementine November 4, 2017 at 11:00 pm - Reply

      Every fish is certainly different! I’d recommend picking up a copy of our book to help you on the right path with keeping other fish 🙂

  13. Lucja Falkowski October 31, 2017 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Our fish Goldie passed away 2 days ago. Goldie was 13 years old. Our grandchildren thought he was special. When it was feeding time my granddaughter would let Goldie when he came to the top of the tank. He will be missed.

    Rating: 4.5
    • Clementine
      Clementine November 4, 2017 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry to hear you lost Goldie 🙁 13 years is still a long time!

  14. Lucja Falkowski October 31, 2017 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    Our fish Goldie passed away 2 days ago. Goldie was 13 years old. Our grandchildren thought he was special. When it was feeding time my granddaughter would pet Goldie when he came to the top of the tank. He will be missed.

    Rating: 4.5

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