Do Goldfish Need a Big Tank?
Yes, absolutely! Goldfish can’t live a normal life in small containers – they need their elbow room, too! Just as a person wouldn’t do well cramped up in a tiny closet their entire life, a goldfish won’t either. Most people are surprised when they learn for the first time how big goldfish can get. Fancy goldfish (the kind with the split or “double tail”) can easily reach 6 to 8 inches in length. INCHES.
Single tail varieties (such as the common, comet, shubunkin and wakin) will more than double that, which is why those kinds do best in a tank size of over 100 gallons or, ideally, a pond. If you want to promote healthy goldfish growth, your fish will need some space. You cannot have a tank that is too big when it comes to goldfish keeping. The bigger, the better… especially from your fish’s perspective.
Contrary to popular belief, larger tanks are actually less work than smaller tanks. You see, the water in a small tank gets dirty much faster than the water in a big tank, which means that you will need to do more frequent water changes with a small tank. Goldfish are constantly producing a toxin called ammonia, which is very dangerous in small amounts and deadly in larger amounts.
Doing water changes is the only way to keep your tank from getting polluted, and water changes comprise the majority of the “grunt work” when it comes to goldfish keeping, as you will quickly discover if you haven’t already. So please don’t be intimidated by the thought of having a larger tank, if you are used to small ones. Your fish will thank you for it.
The Golden Goldfish Rule
For fancy goldfish, the general stocking rule of thumb is 20 gallons for the first fish, then 10 gallons for each additional fish. Single-tailed fish need far more room, and at least 40 gallons per fish is mandatory (a pond would be best).
Many of you reading this may not be following this rule. I certainly didn’t, when I was first learning how to keep goldfish. As a goldfish enthusiast, I wanted almost every goldfish I saw, and bought almost every goldfish I wanted, and ended up owning 8 fancies at once. This resulted in disaster for my 10 gallon aquarium. I couldn’t keep the ammonia under control and could never do enough water changes to keep up with the waste load that was being placed on my filter. Worst of all, my fish were constantly sick and dying off. But because I (selfishly) loved goldfish so much, I didn’t want to cut down my collecting habits to accommodate my tank size. I had to learn my lesson the hard way when I lost ALL of my goldfish one by one until none were left, which was unfair to them and stressful and depressing for me. Please, don’t make the same mistakes I did! I know that sounds dramatic, but it really is a life or death issue for your fish.
Do things right the first time and follow The Golden Goldfish Rule.
If you aren’t following the stocking rule, start. Spend the money and get a larger tank for your fish if they are overstocked. If you can’t afford it or don’t have room for a larger tank, consider taking back some of your fish or give them to someone who has the space. Sometimes you have to make a tough decision for the greater good of the collection.
*Sigh* the great matters we have to weigh as goldfish owners.
Some Helpful Stocking Tips:
- Decide how many goldfish you want to own BEFORE you buy the tank. This will prevent you from being stuck with an undersized tank when you want to expand your collection.
- If money is an issue when it comes to picking out a tank, try looking at garage sales or secondhand stores and get an aquarium used. This can help you save quite a bit and you can usually find a decently working tank that more often than not comes with equipment and accessories.
- Stick to the plan. Once you have purchased your tank, don’t go crazy buying goldfish left and right. Don’t keep adding fish when your tank is totally full according to The Golden Goldfish Rule. If you just have to get more goldfish, upgrade your tank size along with them.
- Here’s the best tip yet: buy the biggest tank you can afford! Really, I mean it! Save up, ask for a raise, mow lawns, do what you need to do to get a good size tank. If you are crazy about goldfish, you will want a big family.
There you have it, folks. Remember that your goldfish will thank you for giving them enough room and will reward you by growing big and strong and healthy.
Best of all, you will not be stressed out worrying about why your fish are always sick or fighting. You are actually doing yourself a favor when you do them the favor of getting them a big home.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on goldfish tank size! Feel free to leave YOUR comment below.
And you really should check out our new book, The Truth About Goldfish. It contains everything you will ever need to know about goldfish keeping and more to make sure your fish stay healthy and thriving.
It’s the labor of over 10 years of research and experience and a sure-fire way to make sure you do things right the first time (who wants to learn the hard way, right?!).