Set your goldfish up swimmingly

Goldfish are hardy, fairly simple to care for, and eye-catching, so it’s no wonder they’re popular pets. These passive freshwater fish are ideal for renters who can’t have other types of pets, aquarium hobbyists who love colorful fish, and kids who are ready for their first pets.

While goldfish are easy pets to own, proper care will help them live long, healthy lives. That’s why goldfish pet ownership doesn’t begin with choosing a goldfish. First, you’ll need a proper tank, accessories, and goldfish food to create the correct environment in preparation of your new finned friend.

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Goldfish basics

Did you know that there are more than 200 types of goldfish? One of the largest breeds is the Oranda goldfish which can grow as large as 16 inches in length. On the opposite end of the size scale is the Pompom goldfish which typically maxes out at five inches long. The dimensions of most goldfish fall in between, although the maximum size they achieve depends on factors like care and nutrition.

Some goldfish breeds sport the standard gold coloration and typical fish characteristics, while fancy breeds are recognized by their intricate double fins and unique shapes. Both common and fancy goldfish require similar care. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all types are compatible, and most common varieties should not be housed with fancy types.

When you shop for goldfish, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to choose from several types that are popular pets. Common, Comet, and Shubunkin are some of the most popular non-fancy varieties, while Wakin, Fantail, and Oranda are top choices for those who prefer fancy goldfish.

Goldfish bowl vs. tank with an air pump and filter

Goldfish have been kept as pets for centuries, with the first pets kept in bowls long before electricity was invented. In modern times, many people still opt for a simple goldfish setup with a classic fish bowl. While opinions vary, most pet fish experts agree that a fish tank with filter and pump provides the best home for pet goldfish for several key reasons.

A 20-gallon tank is required for one or two goldfish, which makes the average bowl too small. Additionally, a bowl setup that doesn’t include an air pump that’s powered by electricity won’t have optimal air circulation. An electric aquarium filtration system is also helpful for keeping the water clean and removing debris from a goldfish’s aquascape.

Because of the challenges of keeping goldfish in a bowl, we recommend a tank setup instead. However, if you choose to use a fish bowl, there are a few tips you can follow to make it possible for your goldfish to live its best life.

  • Don’t keep a goldfish in a small bowl for extended periods of time.
  • Choose the largest fish bowl you can find.
  • Monitor the water with an aquarium thermometer. The right water temperature for goldfish is between 68 degrees and 74 degrees.
  • Be meticulous about keeping your pet’s bowl clean. The water should be replaced and the bowl should be thoroughly cleaned every two to three days.

Setting up a goldfish tank

A fish tank with an air pump, filter system, and all the accessories provide the best home for your new goldfish. Understanding the features of the must-have items will guide you as you shop the products you’ll need to welcome your pet to its new home. While you can buy all the necessary items separately, you can also purchase them in an aquarium starter kit that includes the essentials.

Tank size

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A 20-gallon tank is the best starter home for a single goldfish. However, a larger tank that holds 50, 75, or even 100 gallons of water is a good choice for providing ample room, especially if you choose a large breed or multiple fish. If you opt for a larger tank, an aquarium stand provides a stylish and functional way to display it.

Tank design

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Tank design is really a matter of preference. Many designs and shapes are available, from the traditional rectangle to a unique hexagonal structure. The most important aspect of any goldfish tank is space, which makes oblong models with generous swimming length a smart choice.

Air pump

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When a goldfish has adequate oxygenation in its watery environment, it’s healthier and happier. That’s why an aquarium air pump is recommended for a goldfish tank. Choose one that’s easy to install, appropriate for your tank size, and includes all the components you’ll need for setup.


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Goldfish tend to produce a fairly high volume of waste. A reliable aquarium filter keeps the water clean and minimizes the need for thorough cleanings. There are several different types of electric mechanical filters, including air-driven, internal, fluidized bed, canister, and under-gravel. The best one for your needs depends on the size of your tank and the number of fish you place in it.


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Goldfish thrive in cool water with temperatures ranging from 68 degrees to 74 degrees, so an aquarium heater isn’t always necessary. On the other hand, you should invest in a heater if you’ll be keeping your goldfish tank in a cool room where temperatures have the tendency to dip below suitable goldfish conditions.


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Not only does an aquarium light illuminate the tank so you can easily see your fish, it also showcases its beauty. Fluorescent, ultraviolet and LED lights are available. Some models attach to a tank lid or sides and have multiple settings, modes, and colors. A few lights can even be submerged.

Goldfish food

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The best diet for any fish is a food that’s formulated especially for the species. Many top fish food manufacturers make food that contains ingredients and nutrients that are vital to goldfish development and health. Quality goldfish foods are made with vitamins and are infused with omega fatty oils that goldfish need to thrive. Flake food is a popular choice, but pellets are also available and are great for fish that like to root in substrate for food.


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Part of the fun of setting up any aquarium is accessorizing it. Tank-approved decorations, rocks, and real or faux plants are all suitable for goldfish environments and spruce up the appearance of the aquarium. When it comes to a substrate, aquarium sand is the best choice. Small stones or gravel can be dangerous to goldfish that like to dig and scoop up substrate into their mouths.


Q. Is it true that keeping a goldfish in a bowl or tank will stunt its growth?

A. While it’s true that most goldfish won’t outgrow their watery environment, the answer to this question is a bit more complicated. Factors such as care, nutrition, and stress levels all play key roles in how large a goldfish will grow. Many fish that stay small even though they have the potential to grow much larger may not be getting optimal care.

When it comes to tank size, a goldfish’s hormone and pheromone secretions likely play a role in preventing the fish from outgrowing its home. These substances are secreted by the fish into the water, then reabsorbed into their bodies. The result is smaller growth. The good news is that there’s no indication that stunted growth negatively affects a goldfish’s health or longevity.

Q. How often should I feed my goldfish? How much food should I give it at feeding times?

A. Goldfish should be fed two to three times each day. Just a small pinch at each feeding time will do. Avoid overfeeding your fish, as it results in cloudy water and potentially harmful debris buildup.

Q. How long do goldfish live?

A. A goldfish’s longevity depends on the care its owner provides. With an appropriately sized tank, regular maintenance, and quality food, a goldfish may live 10 years or longer.

Q. Can I put other types of fish in the tank with my goldfish?

A. Goldfish can definitely have tankmates, but keep in mind that goldfish are passive and should not be paired with aggressive fish that could hunt them as prey. Plecos, danios, barbs, and platies are all passive fish that will live harmoniously with goldfish.

Q. How do I introduce a new goldfish to an established tank?

A. If you have a large tank, it’s important to add one fish at a time to ensure that the tank’s inhabitants adjust and that the tank doesn’t get too dirty. When you bring your new fish home, leave it in the bag and place the bag in the tank. Gradually add a few scoops of tank water to the bag before releasing the new goldfish into the tank after about 30 minutes. Wait a few weeks to a month before adding more fish.

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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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