5 Signs of a Pregnant Goldfish: How to Tell if Your fish is Expecting

Does your fish look FAT?

Could it be that your goldfish has goldfish babies on the way?

Animals reproduce in two ways: either they give birth to live young, or they lay fertilized eggs.

Goldfish, unlike other species of fish such as the guppy, are not live-bearers, meaning that their babies do not start swimming around as soon as they are born.

This means that they have to “lay” eggs instead.

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The eggs will remain outside of the goldfish’s body until they hatch and the baby fish become free-swimmers.

How to Tell if Your Goldfish May be “Pregnant”

1. Chubby stomach

Round, chubby bellies on goldfish are sometimes spotted either at the fish store or in your own tank.

Female goldfish may get a plump, gravid look.

Not swollen – just kinda chunky.

If the fish is swollen, bulging drastically or has pineconing scales, you may actually have a sick goldfish on your hands instead instead of a pregnant goldfish.

Problems like abdominal infections or organ failure can make a fish “blow up” far larger than normal.

Viewing the fish from above can be very helpful to check for pineconing scales – scales that stick out from the sides of the fish (see our article on dropsy).

A fish might start to look a bit more swollen behind the gills and in the abdomen if it is just starting to come down with dropsy or another illness.

Of course:

A goldfish that just looks a bit fat could also very well be overfed.

(Psst – most goldfish are overfed!)

An overfed fish ends up storing too much fat in their body, which isn’t good for their overall health.

If your fish is overfed, you may want to check out our article on feeding.

Finally:

Your fish may still look completely normal and still be carrying a load of eggs.

2. Eggs coming out when picked up

If you reach your hand in the water to pick up your fish and a bunch of eggs come streaming out as she wriggles around in your hand…

That’s a sure sign your goldfish is “pregnant!”

This also means there are a LOT of eggs in your goldfish, and she is in prime spawning shape.

A male fish might be just the thing to help her lighten her load.

It isn’t recommended for anyone other than seasoned breeders to try to “squeeze” the eggs out of their fish.

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This can cause potential damage to the fish, as well as considerable stress.

3. Being chased by other goldfish

Chasing only happens once female goldfish, who are ready to release their eggs, start releasing special pheromones into the water.  This signals to male goldfish that she is in breeding condition.

Here’s how it works:

Chasing is often mistaken for bullying, and is most common in the spring and summer months.

Males will pursue the female from behind, trying to nudge her underneath her stomach.

That releases the eggs so he can fertilize them with his milt.

4. Lopsided belly when viewed from above

Looking at the fish from above, a rounder, more lopsided belly can be seen on many female goldfish.

This is oftentimes from the eggs filling one side of her body more than the other.

5. Male goldfish with breeding tubercles

This isn’t by any means a guarantee your fish is “pregnant.”

But during spawning season, males will often show breeding tubercles on their gill covers and pectoral fins.

These look like tiny white dots.

It just means there is a possibility your fish have gone into spawning season.

Common Myths About Goldfish Pregnancy

Goldfish can get pregnant

Goldfish can’t carry live babies inside their bodies, and therefore cannot classify as “pregnant” at any point in their lives.

More on this later.

Fish that sit at the bottom are pregnant

Fish that sit at the bottom – most of the time are actually doing so because they are not feeling well.

Or suffering from poor water quality.

Female goldfish will show “nesting behavior”

Goldfish do not nest.

They are fish, not birds.

When they do lay eggs, they throw them EVERYWHERE – there is absolutely no consideration as to where the eggs will go.

In fact:

They will even eat their eggs the first chance they get.

That said:

You can make a “nest” for your goldfish if you suspect they are going to throw eggs soon.

That way you can take them out of the water before they get eaten up.

Here’s a great tutorial:

Sluggish behavior indicates a pregnant goldfish

No.

Sluggish behavior – not just a bit less of a “waddle” as they swim, but a truly sluggish attitude – is a sign of a health problem in most cases.

A pregnant goldfish refuses food

If your fish is refusing food, it’s because it’s sick.

A healthy goldfish, even one carrying eggs, will always have an appetite.

Can a Goldfish Really be Pregnant?

Technically…

To be pregnant, an animal must carry actual live babies in its womb.

Unfertilized eggs do not count as babies because they are not alive!

Only after they are fertilized can they begin to grow and turn into little goldfish.

So, can female goldfish carry live young inside them, making them “pregnant?”

No.

Goldfish cannot actually be pregnant because they cannot carry live babies inside of their bodies.

They release unfertilized eggs into the water where the male fertilizes them and they wait to hatch.

They are only alive once they are outside of the mommy goldfish’s body and fertilized by the daddy, meaning that mommy goldfish never is pregnant to begin with.

She only is carrying potential baby goldfish until then.

Then What About that Belly?

So, what if your goldfish has a big round belly?  Does that mean she is pregnant?

No – but she may either be full of unfertilized eggs waiting to come out… or overweight!

During breeding season, female goldfish will often grow larger around the middle as, in response to the warmer weather and romance floating through the waters, they swell with eggs.

Sometimes egg impaction can occur when the female goldfish do not have any males around to help them breed, and this may result in a highly abnormal swelling of the abdomen.

Other illnesses can also cause bloating, so if your goldfish does not seem well it may be a good idea to investigate possible illnesses.

If your goldfish is overweight, you are probably feeding too much!

Cut down on the frequency and size of portions (and feed a good quality food) and you should see improvement in your goldfish’s waistline.

Let’s Hear Your Thoughts

Do you suspect your fish is carrying eggs?

Learn something new?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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2018-09-21T21:00:18+00:00

13 Comments

  1. Stephanie May 16, 2015 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Hey I would like to know if I can use sand in my gold fish tank instead of those rocks

    • Pure Goldfish May 31, 2015 at 1:16 am - Reply

      Yes, you can. In fact I recommend sand over rocks any day.

  2. Hector Mauricio Mena Lopez June 25, 2015 at 1:22 am - Reply

    im a goldfish beginner is my goldfish carrying eggs and why sometimes stays upside down thank you for answering!

  3. Mildred Rodriguez August 24, 2017 at 6:30 am - Reply

    My fantail fish keeps hiding in between rocks and I’m starting to think she’s about to lay down eggs can that be true

    Rating: 3.5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish August 26, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      Usually they get chased before laying eggs by a male in the tank.

  4. Amy McMaster September 3, 2017 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Hi i have two black moor goldfish one is fine no weight gain but the other one seems too have put on loads of weight around the lower tummy area and is laying down alot sometimes on its side in the same hiding place. This fish in particular poos alot but ive notice white stuff coming out of it. Also when its feeding time the fish becomes active please help very worried

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish September 4, 2017 at 7:13 pm - Reply

      Are the scales prickling? It may be dropsy.

  5. sarah February 22, 2018 at 9:16 am - Reply

    hi, our goldfish (alone in the tank) has just laid a heap of eggs. Should we leave the eggs, remove, or quickly get a mate?

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish February 25, 2018 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      The eggs will be infertile if no male is present. Remove them or they will foul the water.

  6. Caitlyn B July 19, 2018 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    I’ve owned my two fish for about a year. One a male bronze fantail I think (not sure about name sorry), and the other a female orange fantail. My fantail has been rather fat and has been growing increasingly in the past 5 months. My tank is cleaned regularly and there are large rocks and plants. I’m not sure if my fish is pregnant/ full of eggs, but the male does follow and chase her around all the time and has been doing so more months now. What should I do? Is she pregnant? Should I change anything??

    Rating: 4
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish July 20, 2018 at 4:35 pm - Reply

      Maybe try laying off the food for a bit and see if she reduces size. This can also encourage her to reabsorb extra eggs.

  7. Alyssa July 20, 2018 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Hi I am new to this goldfish breeder I have a male and a female since my female is almost passing my male when I first got them they were lovey dovey and still are they chase each other around and they kiss each other and themselves on my tank I have but my female\\\’s belly isn\\\’t showing yet could be be having eggs in her body or are they just playing around?

    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish August 5, 2018 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      They might be just playing, goldfish do like to interact with each other.

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