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